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The Songs of Distant Earth


BrickFair 2014

Posted by Lyichir , Aug 04 2014 · 432 views
BrickFair, BZPower, BronyCon and 1 more...
This past week has been a whirlwind so I figured it would be worth summarizing it both so that people who didn't make it could have an idea of what it was like and so that my experience can be recorded for future reference.

This year, unlike past years, Brickfair started on Wednesday. Apart from setting up MOCs, greeting other BZPower members, and attending the opening ceremonies and bingo, not much happened that day. I did pick up and build the set I won in one of the BZP anniversary raffles, and bought some things from some of the vendors as well.

On Thursday I attended Mariann Asanuma's Mini-Con panel and found out about what that was all about. Having a Mini-Con at the center of the convention is a wonderful idea and I'll have to plan better to create mini versions of my MOCs (and myself) next year. I had planned to attend Zatth's "How Lego Impacts Our Lives" panel but ended up leaving before it started due to uneasiness with some of the attendees. I hear it was good, though, and wish I had stuck around.

On Friday I attended Peter Espersen's panel about Lego Ideas and the Exo-Suit, which was okay but didn't tell us a lot that we didn't already know from posts about the project as well as the Cuusoo panel from the year before. I also managed to buy the parts to make a mini version of our Atlantis submarine MOC for the Mini-Con as well as a bunch of other useful parts. That night was the World of Lights event. We had missed most of the practice the previous night but we made up for it by purchasing a tiny blacklight which made our submarine look amazing once the lights went out.

On Saturday I went through with my plans to attend BronyCon for a day... and they didn't turn out that great. My train to Baltimore was delayed, so by the time I arrived at the convention center the Voice Actor Q & A had already started. Bummed, I proceeded to awkwardly meander around the vendor hall for a while as I waited for the two panels I wanted to attend in the afternoon. I got a small amount of merch and a ridiculous number of StreetPasses. But when I finally headed up to the site of the other two panels I had planned to attend, I found out that those two panels were only for young kids and their parents. Frustrated, I took an earlier train back to BrickFair and managed to make it to the tail end of The Lego Movie, which was a nice pick-me-up after a day gone awry. Looking back my time at BronyCon wasn't abysmal, but it wasn't worth the expense I had taken to follow through with those plans, and unless the two events are different dates next year I'll be sticking with BrickFair.

Sunday was fairly uneventful, as the public days usually are, but I had a good time regardless. I spent most of the day alternating between checking StreetPass and demonstrating the features of our submarine MOC to attendees. At 2:00 I finally managed to contribute a hat to the BZP hatpile, having missed it every other year. Right before closing I managed to pick up Benny's Spaceship for a good price from one of the vendors. After Brickfair closed I went to the BZPower fancy dinner, but the service was abysmal (with an hour-long wait, slow service, a substitution in my order that I didn't okay, and only a half-apology and subsequent rudeness from the manager) and I ended up leaving early since I didn't want my frustration to cast a shadow over everyone else's evening. My mom picked me up and took me back to the restaurant at the Holiday Inn, which is better than that Longhorn Steakhouse will probably ever be. The manager there (an amazingly friendly guy who I had met earlier that weekend) got me a free drink, appetizer and dessert, no questions asked.

All in all, it was far from a perfect weekend, but I still enjoyed myself and left with some decent loot. I hope next year's BrickFair is even better.



Posted by Lyichir , Jul 13 2014 · 463 views
Bionicle, BZPower, Kevin Hinkle
It just occurred to me that Kevin Hinkle proposed a "Bring Back Bionicle" design for this year's BZPower T-shirt contest. And now evidence is mounting that Bionicle will return next year.

Kevin KNEW, man. He KNEW and did that just to mess with us.

It's a shame he won't be at BrickFair to interrogate about Bionicle's return (along with 2015 Monorails, which are totally a thing that has leaked and not something I'm making up out of the blue, no sirree).


Could Collectible Masks Return? An Analysis

Posted by Lyichir , Jul 06 2014 · 932 views
One suggestion I've seen a lot regarding a potential Bionicle return is the return of mask packs. I would normally be quick to dismiss such a notion given the utter failure of the original collectibles packs. But given some thought, and comparison with modern Lego lines, I think a similar product might actually have the potential for success.

The original Bionicle mask packs were a failure largely because they didn't offer much play potential on their own. A mask is just a mask (albeit usually with a head piece and axle to go with it). There is no play potential without an accompanying Bionicle set. Later series of Collectibles tried to fix this by offering ammunition for some sort of launcher, along with the launcher itself (to allow for independent play). But these were far less attractive than the masks, due to the fact that they were largely interchangeable. They lacked the distinctiveness of differently-shaped masks.

Lego has had more success with blind-packaged products since then with the Collectible Minifigures, which offer a clear advantage in that they are each a complete product. Even if you have nothing but a Minifigure (no other Lego), they are still a poseable figure with personality and charm.

So perhaps by including a figure of some sort, you could make a diverse range of collectibles a success! Matoran are the obvious option—while they were completely underpopulated in previous Bionicle waves, perhaps by randomizing them you could allow for as much diversity as shown in media like the Mata Nui Online Game.

Unfortunately, that introduces another issue. How many Matoran would people be willing to buy? If they're all the same build, just in different colors and with different masks, they'd be far less appealing than the diverse waves of Collectible Minifigures. And Matoran would be a building toy by any definition, which would prevent them, legally, from having any differences in part count, limiting the potential for diversity. The Minifigures, on the other hand, qualify only as figures, even though they require minor assembly. For those wondering, this is the same reason why individual Star Wars minifigures can't be sold—they would occupy the same legal definition as action figures, and the trademark for Star Wars action figures is held exclusively by Hasbro.

So something's got to give. The first option I considered was to include some sort of accessory. But that wouldn't be enough, I think, to make Matoran appealing despite being recolors—especially if they were randomized. Moreover, any substitute for mask packs would have to include at least 30 varieties: six shapes in five colors (omitting the six "natural" masks of your given Toa team). And to make distribution fair, all thirty-six would have to be included in a given shipment, which would be nigh impossible given that a Matoran-sized blindbag would inevitably occupy more space than a Minifigure bag. Then it hit me—what if randomization itself wasn't necessary?

Collectible Minifigures, after all, are not the only impulse-sized sets that could replace the mask packs. Enter the Mixels. This year, there are three waves of nine Mixels each—27 sets in all. Each one is distinct, having a unique appearance and personality. And they can do this because they're not blindbagged figures, but rather individually marked building sets. 27 sets is much closer to the 30 mask varieties you'd need. Perhaps the Mixels business model would be a better one than the CMFs.

So what I ended up with isn't mask packs, but the end result is similar. With three waves of 10 Matoran-sized figures, you could both create a full range of masks over the course of a year, and as a bonus, create a diverse population for your Toa to protect. Online, each Matoran could include a bio to help flesh out the world, and you wouldn't even have to guess to get the mask of your choice in the color of your choice.


The reason I'm not posting this in any of the existing topics about a Bionicle return is that it's both unlikely, and not fleshed out enough to be practical. Realistically, we'd see more than six new masks in a year—after all, we'd be likely to see villain sets as well, and in fact if the sets follow release patterns from the past nine years, the villain sets will likely be interspersed with the hero sets. The release schedule I've proposed is buggy as well—the second series of sets would end up having to include mask shapes and colors from the summer wave of "canister" sets before that wave is even released, which could easily harm the sales of those characters who were in a sense, "pre-empted" by small, impulse sets. I certainly don't see this happening if the theme comes back next year.

So why post it at all? Because I put a lot of work into brainstorming it. And because, even if only hypothetically, it shows that a diverse range of masks (and with it, a more robust variety of cheaply-priced Matoran) may be more practical than I might have previously considered.


Bionicle Return Woes

Posted by Lyichir , Jul 02 2014 · 416 views

Ugh... Ever since we first had hints of a Bionicle return I've been dreading this. Now that leaks are in the wild, newbies are posting them everywhere they can, including BZP, despite the rules forbidding it and the fact that the leaker could lose their job for such a critical breach of contract. At the same time, I've seen a lot of people dismissing them because they "look shopped" despite the alleged source of these leaks involving what would be a photoshopped image even if it were real (in that case, it would be shopped by THE LEGO GROUP). Personally? I think the leaks are real (given that faking them would require a great deal of work including poorly photoshopping well-designed graphics as well as faking more than a year of non-trolling interaction, not to mention making legit Hero Factory leaks in previous years), but I also want to try to inhibit their spread. So I end up trying to play both sides, explaining the rules to passionate newcomers but also trying to explain to friends that maybe they'll look a little silly if they nitpick leaks that may well turn out to be real.

And this is only the start—if the leaks ARE real, I'm due for a long period of dealing with Bionicle fans eager to dance on Hero Factory's grave, smear people like myself who tried to temper people's high hopes or evidence-free predictions for five long years, or at the very least view Bionicle's return as "destiny". Not to mention the folks who are furious when they find out that the new sets use the Hero Factory building system. It's gonna be interesting. I might end up withdrawing from BZP again if the level of discourse gets as bad as it did five years ago, when Bionicle itself ended.


Or maybe BronyCon after all

Posted by Lyichir , Jun 30 2014 · 406 views

Why? Well, on top of the fact that it might not be the best use of my money (since BrickFair will itself be plenty of fun, and I've already PAID for five days of that), a new expense has recently shown up on my radar. That being... Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions! That's right: the Pokémon Facebook page just announced an orchestral concert featuring music from the Pokémon series. I had a great time at The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses two years ago, and this concert will be premiering in D.C. a few weeks after BrickFair, so there's no way I can afford to miss that.

In other news pertaining to expenses, BrickFair AND this concert, I finally found a place that I can send my 3DS to to have it repaired. My 3DS has had a few issues lately, most significantly an R button that doesn't function reliably and a charging port that only charges when pressure is applied to the AC adapter. The repair facility I found seems less expensive than sending the system to Nintendo themselves, and less risky (since Nintendo warns that if they can't repair the system they might replace it, which could endanger all my save data). As a bonus, the site I found (which I have used before, with my older DS) promises to have the system repaired quickly, so that I can have it back in time to soak up all those delicious Streetpasses at BrickFair!

EDIT: Looks like I will go through with my BronyCon plans after all. I had forgotten that my family would be at Family Camp during the time that concert would be in D.C.

I'll have to catch that concert at another stop on the tour. Oh well, BronyCon will be fun too!


BrickFair, BronyCon, and related musings

Posted by Lyichir , Jun 28 2014 · 538 views
BrickFair, My Little Pony and 2 more...
I've been trying to figure out my plans for BrickFair VA this year and am seriously considering cutting out on Saturday, August 2, and catching a train up to Baltimore to spend the day at BronyCon instead. BrickFair is one of the highest points of my social life each year, but it still wears me out each year and try as I might, I can't avoid being mega-awkward even around my fellow FOLs. I'm worried that an extra day of BrickFair, like we're getting this year, might just push me to my breaking point.

The alternative I'm considering is to spend the Saturday of BrickFair (which, being the first of the public days, manages to be both super-stressful and overwhelmingly uneventful compared to the other days) at BronyCon instead (which holds a number of interesting panels and events on Saturday). Baltimore is only a short train trip away from D.C., and if I buy tickets early I can get them for a pretty decent price. And my experience at Cloudsdale Congress (a small MLP convention in Northern VA) last year was pretty uniformly positive, so if BronyCon is similar it'll serve as a welcome respite from the chaos and drama of BrickFair.

I'm still not 100% decided yet, so if anyone has any thoughts or opinions over whether I should/shouldn't go through with this they should feel welcome to share them here. I'm going to need to make a decision soon if I want to get the best price on train tickets, though.


Re: Bronies

Posted by Lyichir , May 31 2014 · 781 views

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I was happy to see this on my twitter and tumblr. There's still not much I can do on my own to make bronies and non-bronies alike reconsider what the fandom really means—but hopefully by sharing this I can add my voice to the choir.



Posted by Lyichir , May 07 2014 · 969 views
MLP, Bronies, Rant
I get that some bronies are awful people. I get that they have a pretty loud voice.

What I don't get is the amount of hate bronies get AS A GROUP for the sins of a few. To the right wing they're a symptom of the waning masculinity of society. To the social justice types they're misogynistic brutes who took one of the best modern feminist cartoons and turned it into their sex object, all while adopting a persecution complex that belittles the struggles of actual oppressed groups.

Do you know what opinion I don't see often? That they are a large and diverse periphery demographic of a well-made cartoon, among them both bad people and good people.

And it's entirely possible to mostly avoid the bad ones. Mainstream communities in the fandom like Equestria Daily generally do their best to keep things family-friendly. Local meetup groups can set rules to keep their meetups friendly, whether it's by limiting themselves to PG discourse or by limiting their exposure to the younger target audience. Cons are, from my experience, mostly positive experiences where, while you might run into more unsavory folks (as you might at any large gathering or convention), largely keep their tone welcoming and supportive and maintain a positive atmosphere. And most communities do plenty of good, whether it's by inspiring creativity among its members, supporting charities, or just going to the people who bring them the show and letting them know how much they're appreciated.

Seriously, stereotyping is bad. Every time you call bronies as a group "neckbeards" or "perverts" or what have you, you're facilitating a persistent and broad stereotype that affects both the good fans and the bad ones. As an exercise, think about a group or subculture that you yourself are a part of, be it animé fans, gamers, sports fans, or even Lego fans. Now isolate the worst aspects you've seen in a member or members of that group (be it misogyny, cultural appropriation, perversion, rudeness, whatever), and see what it's like to label yourself as that. It's not nice, is it?

One last note to address a common complaint I see: that the good people in the fandom are themselves guilty for associating with the bad ones. This is a false argument. Again, let's relate things to another fandom, that being the Lego fandom. I've seen plenty of misogyny and other bigotry within this fandom through my time on Eurobricks, Brickset, and even BZPower. But I'm not about to quit using those sites (or calling myself an AFOL) because of that. If I did, not only would I be missing out on a lot of the most relevant news and discussion to my interest in Lego, but by divorcing myself from the group, the group would itself become worse due to losing one more voice of reason who's willing to argue with its worst members. Rare is the group or subculture that maintains acceptable attitudes in all its members, but if you isolate yourself from any group that has one or more less-than-perfect members you're going to find yourself awfully lonely. By remaining there to combat regressive attitudes, you can make your part of the world a brighter place.


Getting back into Fire Emblem (and getting back out)

Posted by Lyichir , Apr 30 2014 · 249 views

I'm kind of upset. I've been getting back into Fire Emblem Awakening lately, and had intended to pass down Lancebreaker to Yarne. But when I went into his mission I found that he received a lame skill from Kellam and nothing from Panne. Apparently, I must have gone into that mission and quit long before I had any decent skills on either of his parents, which I didn't know was a problem. And worse, I don't know how many of the other kids I've done that with, meaning a lot of my tireless training and reclassing might have been for nothing.

It's really a letdown, and I might end up quitting the game again because of it. I just don't have the energy to start over but continuing this current file feels like it could be a waste. :(

Source: Video Game General


Job Woes

Posted by Lyichir , Apr 16 2014 · 418 views

Another year, another opening for a set design position at Lego. You'd think that'd be good news for someone like me whose life goal is to have such a career. It's not.
Let's start at the beginning. In High School when I had to finally decide what I'd do with my life (and after failing an architectural drawing class hard, and giving up on studying to be an architect), I realized that my childhood dream of working for Lego wasn't actually all that unrealistic. Through BZPower and other Lego fansites, I met actual people who worked for the company, and they loved it. And I read all sorts of news on the internet about what a great company Lego is to work for. Of course, my interests had changed since I was a kid. Back then, when I was asked what job I wanted, it was to be a Master Model Builder at Legoland. But my building preferences have never favored large-scale models or sculptures—I liked the sets. I liked minifigures. I liked the idea of actually being able to walk into a toy store, and look at a product on a shelf, and be able to say "I made that". So I decided I'd like to be a set designer, and to my guidance counselor, that meant getting a degree in industrial design.
So I looked at some design schools, but as I approached the end of my time in high school it became apparent to me how much my Aspergers Syndrome and Non-verbal Learning Disorder affected my ability to learn and function in school. So I ended up going to Landmark College, a school specifically for students with learning disabilities. And I loved it. They didn't have a design program, but since it was a two-year school I figured that I could get my associate's degree there and then transfer to a design school. When it came time to find a school to transfer to, I looked at a number of options, but so many of the schools seemed so competitive and their programs seemed to ask the world of students. My transfer services associate at Landmark recommended Wentworth Institute of Technology, a school that had an impressive program for getting design students internships in the field.
It turns out, Wentworth was a hellhole. I spent a year there and it was the worst year of my life. I went from being a bright student who was constantly encouraged by my professors to being a talentless hack who couldn't manage to complete even the simplest assignment. And it wasn't for lack of trying—but Wentworth turned out to have zero tolerance for anything short of perfection, and no useful options for a student who needed clear instructions and step-by-step assistance. I withdrew from Wentworth, and went home to see if I could earn a position at Lego through job experience, rather than through education.
It's been a year since then, and I've been stymied at every level. Trying to get a design job? Good luck, if you don't have education or a portfolio. Trying to get a retail job with Lego, and work my way up through the company. Good luck, for someone who can't drive (and maybe never will, since I have a crippling fear of being behind the wheel) and has no retail experience. Trying to get retail experience? Good luck in this market, where there are always more experienced people out of work and looking for the same job. My only work experience was interning at the newspaper (a business my family runs), as a copy-editor, and copy-editing doesn't offer a lot of transferrable skills (and is a dying trade to boot). I've since diversified that to interning for the radio (also part of the newspaper), handing out freebies to listeners. For the past month I was working an unpaid internship with a local toymaker, hoping that could be seen as an advantage if I apply for a design position at Lego again. But I scarcely got to do any design work, and while he was impressed with my skills and knowledge (the first person to recognize such things in me for some time), I don't think I was furthering my future at all by working there.

So I quit, at least temporarily, to try to work on a portfolio to submit to Lego next time there's an opening. And now there is. But just like last year (when I lost my chance at a job with Lego after the first email back from them), I have no portfolio and don't know the first thing about making one. My counselor instructed me to look at ones online, but all I've found there are amazing portfolios that I have neither the skill nor the content to make.
If not for the total lack of other options, I'd be just about ready to give up my dream of working for Lego entirely. After all, no matter how many people say I'm talented or knowledgable about Lego, my experience in the fan community constantly reminds me that there are hundreds of people who are both more talented and more knowledgable than me, most of whom don't work for the company either. I'm an intensely uncompetitive person who wants to apply for one of the most competitive jobs in the world. And I'm just about at my breaking point. I can't tolerate much more disappointment, or one more "no" from a prospective employer. Not with the family paper going bankrupt and my annoying little brother almost done with high school (he'll have a job before I do, at this rate, and then any hope of ever getting respect from him goes out the window). I don't know where I can go from here.

My Bio

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Video Games
Movies and Television
The Internet
Bionicle (Obviously)
My Little Pony

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