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Monday, March 08, 2010  

Set Up

I've already shared my mixed emotions about those Star Wars tie-in Lego sets that M. Edium has been accumulating for almost a year now, starting with Darth Vader's TIE Fighter. That was fun to put together, and then it was even fun for a while to put back together, until he decided to dismantle the entire thing. It hasn't been back together since, unless you count a brief stint during which a fair number of the pieces were part of a shambling, Frankenstein-like abortion of a TIE Interceptor over the holidays.

That was the great thing about Lego sets during my first go-round with them. You could build more than one thing with them. Now they come with just enough pieces and instructions to build one thing. I understand that the old Gungan Sub set back in 1999, the first year of Lego Star Wars, featured a couple of different optional configurations, but they probably gave up on that concept when it didn't sell well. Never realizing that the problem there wasn't with multiple building choices, but with Gungans.

So here we are. Last month, M. Edium used his allowance and some money he'd earned cleaning the house to buy himself a Droid Tri-Fighter (don't feel bad if you don't know what that is, because it's from those prequel space battle scenes when there are so many pixels swarming around the screen you can't even tell what's going on, let alone what anything is). He and I spent part of that evening and part of the next morning putting together a model of a spacecraft you can't remember, using Legos that have no other use. This week it went back down to its component parts. "It's time," he said. Eventually, "it's time" for everything, usually within a matter of weeks. The mid-scale Millennium Falcon lasted a couple of months after he got it for his birthday, and the giant six-legged AT-TE Santa brought him is still 98% intact, although the inevitable process of erosion as he cannibalizes parts for other projects has already begun.

There's always a sense of mixed emotions when that happens. On the one hand, he's exercising his creativity, learning how to build things on his own, from concept to execution, developing skills that he'll one day need when his bathroom ceiling falls in on him.

On the other hand, that fucking thing cost anywhere from fifteen to fifty dollars and I'm never going to see it again.

I know what you're thinking. "Just reassemble it some time." Sure, I'll just rummage around his 31-quart Lego bin and dig out all twelvety thousand and infinity pieces and slap them together next time I have a spare century. Which is where my other beef is with all these "specialty" pieces in the Star Wars kits. The other day, he got it in his head to rebuild his V-19 Torrent. My dad actually built that one with him, and it took a few weeks' worth of visits. The instruction book is, no shit, printed in two volumes, and the guts of the thing had so many moving parts I keep expecting to have to attach a starter cord to it. All of which are held together by these infuriating little fiddly bits that either sink immediately to the bottom of the giant bin or are accidently inhaled by carpet mites. Which is not so bad, because they're not good for building anything but a V-19 Torrent anyway.

There was some token effort to keep the TIE fighter pieces separate from the general population after that came apart, but it didn't last. Then there was kind of a vague "Star Wars Legos here, everything else there" system, with a one-pint container holding the smallest pieces (about nine hundred fifty thousand of them). Now everything, from the most basic red 2 x 4 brick to the eight hundred separate pieces of the composite universal joint hinge assembly for a V-19 Torrent, is all commingled together in what amounts to 31 quarts of solid plastic hurl.

So what ends up happening is that Lego time slips by without having actually completed anything. Much like the way the time I was planning to write this entry in did the exact same thing. Time to clean up the mess I've made in the living room and get back to this later in the week.

posted by M. Giant 7:09 AM 5 comments


I feel your pain on this exact issue. I have a husband who buys lego sets for 8 and up for a 3 and 5 year old. Needless to say, they don't stay together long. I've decided the only thing to do with the 'leftovers' as i call them is to issue challenges such as 'build an airplane' for a prize. It gets them using the bricks creatively and not stressing me out. Its generally understood that these things never go back together as hard as I might try. A month ago, I tried rebuilding an airport. It was so annoying.

By Blogger Unknown, at March 8, 2010 at 11:46 AM  

Lego Time over and nothing finished. Kid'll never get into Harvard at that rate.

By Anonymous Lego Police, at March 8, 2010 at 1:53 PM  

This is a long story, but I think you will relate (and perhaps be horrified).

When my son was in high school he decided he wanted to give away most of his Lego's. We contacted one of his elementary school teachers, who is now principal of a Title I school, and asked if we could donate 'some Lego's' to his school. Mr. M said that would be great and told us to bring them over. So we emptied box after bin after container into successively larger and larger plastic storage bins until I realized we did not have a bin large enough to hold them all. I went to Home Depot and bought the largest plastic bin they had. It was 5 feet long by about 2 and half feet deep by 2 feet tall. We FILLED it with Lego's - my rough guess was that it was about 40,000 pieces - probably several thousand dollars worth - 10+ years of birthdays, Christmas, Easter, good report cards, money from chores, etc... It took two of us to carry it into the school.

All those years of making Lego's and an engineer father - I was sure he would become an engineer too - he's applying to Library Science graduate programs.

There is still an intact original Millennium Falcon on his book shelf - the only one he never took apart.

Thanks for the memories. I'm not sure why it is so dusty in here now...

By Anonymous Star Girl, at March 8, 2010 at 4:53 PM  

Don't forget the great joy of stepping on the stray pieces in your bare feet. I have no idea how a tiny molded piece of plastic manages to send waves of pain all the way up a spinal cord, but it does. Those Legos are versatile.

Like the poster above, my son's Lego days are in the past, but I remember them well, specifically the Star Wars ones (something that unites the generations, I guess).

The thing I hated much more than that? The countless hours I spent searching for the tiny accessories that came with his various action figures. Freaking Gambit's staff (sounds pervy, but it wasn't, it was maddening though).

You know the strangest part? Like Star Girl I'm sitting here getting a little choked up. I miss those days, in a way. We still have Gambit, and that ever elusive staff, though.

By Blogger Land of shimp, at March 8, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

UberLegoGeek Warning!
See, that's why I complain when my boyfriend buys yet another Star Wars set. Too many grey and white bricks that I can't easily reincorporate into my Lego City needs.

Our bricks are sorted by type into those plastic drawer storage units (the tall ones on wheels). Plates in one, 2x bricks in another, 1x bricks in third, minifigs have their own habitat as well. Then when we build, we just wheel the storage units to where we are working. I don't mind sifting for a particular color if I know all the bricks in the drawer are the same size.

Of course, taking them apart is a matter of discipline. Usually we'll work as a team, one person detaching the bricks while the other sorts them directly into the drawers.

Which might be a little much for a kid, but is really only a major hassle the first time you have to do it.

As far as needing more ideas for what to do with those Star Wars specific bricks (and there aren't as many as those as you would think, Lego is very conservative about making things that are only good for one thing), try Eurobricks MOC pages. There are also a lot of competitions there, which might inspire into larger projects. http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=18587 I love the minis, which are toward the bottom of the page, and there is some steampunk Star Wars from friends of mine in there as well.

By Anonymous Zingor, at March 9, 2010 at 12:14 PM  

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