Monthly Archives: July 2009

What Stanisław Skalski did on the first day of the September Campaign

Ciamek (Piglet) has incorporated his Polish PZL P.11c fighter into an interesting diorama that tells a fascinating story.

Polish PZL P.11c WW2 fighter

Stanisław Skalski was a Polish fighter ace during World War II, credited with 18-22 victories over Axis forces. Escaping to the UK after the Nazi/Soviet invasion of Poland, Skalski later even commanded an RAF squadron.

Click the photo for lots more pics of Ciamek’s LEGO creation, and be sure to read the full story.

Comic-Con 2009 wrap up: LEGO themes that never were & exclusive set revealed

Though San Diego’s annual Comic-Con is about the popular arts in general, the presence of the LEGO fan community there has expanded in the last several years. This year, The LEGO Group rented an exhibitor space that was about twice the size of last year’s space and was in the center of all the action. In addition to kid’s play tables, there were two daily raffles oriented toward adult collectors (I don’t know many 8 year olds who would pay $50 for 3 minifigs). My personal highlight at the LEGO booth was that I actually built the Star Wars Dropship/AT-OT and helped with the giant Ultimate Collector Series Millenium Falcon, then got to see them on display in the fancy cases.

Prohibition Theme

Enhanced version of my photo by bluemoose

BrickJournal, the quarterly LEGO fan magazine, had a table that included several adult fan creations and its own fan panel on Friday morning of the convention. One of the highlights of the panel for me was LEGO set designer Mark Stafford sharing some of LEGO’s theme concepts from back in the ’80s and ’90s that were not pursued beyond the development phase, and simply aren’t going to happen as official themes, which is why he was allowed to display them (Above: 1920s-1930s Prohibition theme). As a history person, I envy him the ability to pour through the LEGO archives for hidden gold.

At the SandLUG meeting on Saturday night, Mark said there are additional photos in slides, but nobody can find a projector that works on those slides, so he hasn’t been able to get a good look at them. Which brings me to the other great highlight, which was meeting lots of great people both at the convention and those who made it to the SandLUG meeting, including Megan Rothrock (LEGO set designer), Joe Meno (editor of BrickJournal), Steve Witt (LEGO community relations), and Joel Baker (new model designer at LEGOLAND California).

Josh’s post from late last week already showed some of the great new themes and sets that were displayed at the LEGO booth, but some of you wanted to know what was actually inside the Comic-Con Exclusive, so here’s the pic of the contents still in the packaging:

SDCC09 Exclusive

I would have built it for you and taken pics, but this is the only one I managed to pick up in the raffle and it’s destined for another Brother Brick.

Capt. Slow’s plan to build a LEGO house goes ’round the Web at record speed

James MayThe BBC is reporting that Top Gear host James May will attempt to build a two-story house entirely out of LEGO for his Toy Stories show.

The show is looking for volunteers to help build the house, as well as unused bricks with which to build the house. (Though if you have unused bricks and you’re reading this blog, I’m sure you can think of better things to do than donate them to James May.)

Via several readers, and the entirety of the World Wide Web.

The Brothers Brick is now old enough to play with LEGO SYSTEM

Today is the fourth anniversary of The Brothers Brick!

I said last year that 2007-2008 was the year that The Brothers Brick transitioned from “just a LEGO blog” to a full-fledged LEGO fan community. While this community that we all belong to continues to grow, 2008-2009 may be the year that The Brothers Brick transitions from “just a LEGO blog” with a large fan community to trusted LEGO news source.

Unlike years past, the broader LEGO fan community didn’t experience any major crises during 2008-2009. Brickshelf is still around, and little plastic bricks continue to be available just about everywhere. Nevertheless, a number of interesting trends emerged in the last 12 months.

Power to the people!

Two key events in 2008-2009 demonstrated how much power organized groups of consumers can have in their relationship with the company that produces their favorite little plastic bricks.

The headline: Dear LEGO: We want 7979 Castle Advent Calendar!.

In news that shocked and saddened LEGO Castle fans outside Europe, The LEGO Group decided not to release 7979 Castle Advent Calendar in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries.

The set was the first to have the jester, peasant girl, and new witch.

While many of us promptly found other channels to import them ourselves (Josh and I ordered five or six from Italy), we collectively worked to find a way to get the set to more fans elsewhere.

LEGO heard our hue and cry — thousands of votes on our poll, 80+ comments on my “Dear LEGO” post, and 100+ comments in a thread on Classic-Castle.com. Although changing LEGO’s supply chain and marketing plans proved impossible, North American LEGO Community Team member Steve Witt tracked down a pallet of sets in a distribution center in Tennessee, and managed to prevent the sets from being shipped back to Europe or destroyed (!).

Thanks to this community activism and the quick thinking of community advocates like Steve, hundreds of LEGO Castle fans were able to get their hands on this lovely set. (Here’s hoping we don’t have to repeat this for the rumored LEGO Pirates Advent Calendar this year!)

The headline: LEGO Pick-a-Brick price increases on LEGO Shop at Home.

When The LEGO Group dramatically raised the prices of many individual bricks available through the online Pick-a-Brick service, LEGO fans here and elsewhere rallied together to express how upset we were with this change.

We talked to our LEGO Ambassadors. We called LEGO ourselves. We sent letters.

In the unprecedented move that followed, a large multinational corporation changed its pricing structure based on direct consumer input.

Enter the n00b!

As the LEGO fan community grows, and as children who grew up with computers are set loose on the Internet younger and younger, the adult LEGO fan community is forced into situations that require interactions with these younger LEGO builders.

Despite stellar efforts by community leader Sean Kenney, MOCpages has become a byword for childish behaviors and ineffective communication. Similarly, children violating Flickr’s 13-and-older terms of service continue to flood LEGO-related groups with blurry photos of Rainbow Warriors, trade requests, and indecipherable chatter.

Plagiarism and outright copyright violations have emerged as major problems, particularly on LEGO.com. Children have even submitted photos to contests of LEGO creations built by prominent adult fans — and won. In the absence of careful moderation (at least looking for plagiarism) by LEGO, the Brick-Busters group on Flickr scours LEGO.com, identifies the real owners, and reports violators.

LEGO plagiarism

How the adult fan community will respond to the broader issue in the long run — are these things a threat or an opportunity? — remains to be seen.

All about you, by the numbers

  • 1,200 registered readers
  • 4,600 subscribers to the RSS feed
  • 3,526,161 visits
  • 8,277,564 page views
  • 1,291,240 unique visitors
  • 1,400 new posts

Readers of The Brothers Brick are just about everywhere in the world.

Geo overlay stats for TBB

Starting last year, I began listing the top 30 countries where our readers come from (seems more interesting than just the top 10). The overall list hasn’t changed very much, but Hong Kong jumps nearly ten places and South Korean edges out South Africa for #30.

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. France
  8. Japan
  9. Poland
  10. Italy
  1. Sweden
  2. Spain
  3. Belgium
  4. Denmark
  5. Hungary
  6. Singapore
  7. Finland
  8. Brazil
  9. Norway
  10. Hong Kong
  1. New Zealand
  2. Portugal
  3. Switzerland
  4. Taiwan
  5. Mexico
  6. Ireland
  7. Austria
  8. Malaysia
  9. Russia
  10. South Korea

I believe the biggest change in our keywords reflects the shift of the blog to trusted LEGO news source. Though we continue to get many links from non-LEGO sites, more and more “sibling” LEGO sites are linking to news stories on The Brothers Brick.

Top Keywords* Top Categories Referring Sites
  1. LEGO blog
  2. LEGO Power Miners
  3. LEGO Architecture
  4. 2009 LEGO sets
  5. LEGO news
  6. 2009 LEGO
  7. LEGO 2009
  8. LEGO Castle 2009
  9. LEGO Star Wars 2009
  10. Custom LEGO
  1. Star Wars
  2. Military
  3. Castle
  4. Indiana Jones
  5. Minifigs
  6. Mecha
  7. ApocaLEGO
  8. LEGO
  9. Custom
  10. Steampunk
  1. StumbleUpon
  2. Flickr
  3. Eurobricks
  4. Digg
  5. Brickset
  6. Nuklear Power
  7. Gizmodo
  8. Classic-Castle.com
  9. BrickArms
  10. MechaHub

* Excluding variations on “The Brothers Brick”.

With the exception of a post covering our post-apocalyptic display at BrickCon 2008 and two very large LEGO battleships, the 10 most popular posts were all news items.

  1. Zombie Apocafest 2008: Children, avert your eyes!
  2. Ed Diment finishes HMS Hood – in 20-foot-long minifig scale!
  3. 10193 Medieval Market Village to be released in 2009
  4. First pictures of 2009 LEGO sets
  5. First pictures of LEGO Power Miners sets
  6. 2009 LEGO Star Wars box art
  7. Possible 2009 LEGO sets [Rumor]
  8. LEGO Star Wars 10188 Death Star pics reveal interior and 21+ minifigs
  9. LEGO and Brickstructures present LEGO Architecture
  10. LEGO battleship Yamato, largest LEGO ship ever, completed after 6 years

Finally, stuff for the historically minded:

Ankh-Morpork’s, um, not finest. I’ll think of something.

For years, Andrew humored my Discworld obsession by periodically blogging creations based on Terry Pratchett’s silly fantasy world, but now I get to do it myself. Sylvain (captainsmog) has created a new line of custom minifigures based on members of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Makes me want to build a Watch House for them. From left to right: Detritus, Littlebottom, Angua, Carrot, Vimes, Colon, Nobby, Visit-The-Unbeliever-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets, Reg, and Dorfl.

captainsmog city watch

Sylvain also built a great robot based on Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa (or Castle in the Sky).

captainsmog laputa robot