60 Brick by Brick: Portrait 2.0

I didn’t have any idea about this week’s #60BrickbyBrick until I was bumming around Target a few days ago and found an old LEGO polybag containing a minifigure I hadn’t previously been able to acquire. Then, with my new street baseplates, I saw a picture in my head. My mood lately has been a little dark and solemn, so I wanted to capture that as well. What follows I call “Melancholia“.

Melancholia - 1

The figure I acquired is the one you see. He comes with a “hoody” piece, which is new for LEGO and currently only exists on two figures, this one, and another very similar to it. Hopefully we will see more with different colors and hair styles. But for now, it works. Anyway, it took me a while to figure out how to do a background until I noticed that the streets themselves could be my background, albeit, shot with a high enough angle. From there it was just a matter of lighting and focus and voilà! In the editing bay I stripped away all color and lightened up the figure’s face and the street sign a bit as they turned about a little too dark. In all, a very simple picture, but one that was actually a little difficult to get right.

I did a second version, which was just a little clever editing with a transparent gif to simulate rain in case the first version wasn’t sad and goth enough. So I give you “Melancholia with Rain“…

Melancholia - 2

Bad rain effects aside, which do you prefer? If I had the set up, i.e., a real workspace in which I could do anything, I would do actual water for rain, but that remains outside my purview at the moment. Anyway, I like this as it turned out.

With that, another week of #60BrickByBrick is finished! (To read what I’m on about and to see previous pictures, look under the “LEGO” heading at the top of the page.)

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#Birthday31

Here is a brief list of what I would like for my birthday, should you feel compelled to gift me something on the occasion of my thirty-first.
These first three are a little expensive, and so might make good group gifts if you know people who know me. To whit:
LEGO Ship in a Bottle ($70) https://shop.lego.com/en-US/Ship-in-a-Bottle-21313 (I actually want two of these…one for display and one for parts).
Otherwise:
iTunes Gift Card for movies I want to add to my collection
Cinemark/AMC gift card for movies I want to see in the once and future theater
LEGO gift card for smaller sets I would like to add to my collection
Cash-y Money for various wants that I can’t currently afford. paypal.me/PhilipJoelMartin
(No Amazon gift cards please. I don’t have a Prime account and would prefer to shop locally.)
Thanks.
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60 Brick by Brick: Portrait 1.0 (and 1.5)

If you’ve been following along my blog, then you know I am working on a #60BrickbyBrick challenge, wherein I build a new something each month from one of the 60th anniversary sets by LEGO, and in the off weeks, continue my LEGO Portraits. Well, last week I did so and you can see that build in my last post. This week was a portrait week.

I first had the idea for this week’s shoot in the beginning of this week, but didn’t have time, predictably, until today to execute my idea in between loads of laundry. Ah. Such is the adult fan of LEGO’s life. A little adult obligation and a little LEGO fun. Anyhow, there was actually a seed part for this photo, which I will get to in a second, but it was also a chance to photograph a bit of my new CITY street baseplate and do a micro build. First I’ll show you the resulting photograph, then break it down a bit.

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So this is what I ended up with. I call it “Early Morning Trash Run” and I just love it. A lot of LEGO builders will begin with a single part, usually called a seed part, and build around that, sometimes to force creativity and sometimes just to have fun. In this case, my seed part was the dark colored trash bag you see in the foreground in front of the recycling trash can. For whatever reason that part popped in my head and I decided to use it. Now, that part has been used variously as a Santa’s Sack or a trash bag or just a loot bag for a traveler, but in this case is acting as a trash bag. I then, more or less, imagined the complete scene you see above. All that was left was a matter of building.

The new CITY baseplate is what you see in grey in the bottom of the picture, the extreme foreground, and what all this is built on a little corner of. I will show a behind-the-scenes pic in a minute and you will see what I mean. Beyond that, the fire hydrant was a micro build that needed to be there to give some contrasting color and something more interesting in the photo, and dog about to pee on it is just classic and funny. Add a wine bottle in the recycling trash can and a sleepy person bringing his trash bag and all you need is a wall behind for a background.

There’s the rub: I only had so many “brick” bricks available to me because most were being used in another build I haven’t photographed yet. So I had to build, literally, as much wall as I could and position it just so. SNAP! and a little editing and there you go, a nice little portrait that tells a quick little story.

Here is the behind-the-scenes look.

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In this photo you can see that the wall is not very big and all of this is on a very small corner of the baseplate. But that is the magic of photography: you don’t actually need very much in fact to tell a fun story. A creative angle of photography and, as I said, a little editing, and presto! you’ve got what you need. I don’t yet have an idea for next week’s photo, but that is the excitement for me…getting an idea and then executing it.

Anyway, I do have another pic that I took, this just as a practice for a LEGO set I built. I have been wanting a Star Wars Imperial backdrop for a while, featuring the iconic white and grey walls that are all over the Death Star and Star Destroyer hallways. So I found a set that had been released for San Diego Comic Con a few years ago that featured said walls, and then built my own from the instructions. The resulting piece of corridor is delightful, but I had to see if it actually worked in camera. I am pleased to say that it seems to. We will see in the future if it needs to be tweaked for future pics or if it works as is. But enough talk. I give you “Imperial Conversations”.

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In the foreground a pair of Imperial Officers talk, while in the background a pair of Stormtroopers stand sentry. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, behind them is my Imperial wall, completely brick built. As I said, I am happy with this little build and it yielded a bonus pic for this week, so win-win as far as I am concerned.

I hope you enjoyed my pics and and a look at how they were created. Come back next week for more #60BrickbyBrick!

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60 Brick by Brick: Build 0.1

I posted earlier today about LEGO, and without rehashing, this is my first LEGO build of my #60BrickbyBrick challenge. To read what I’m on about, hit the LEGO link at the top of the page and find the article “Brick  by Brick: 60 Years in the Building”.

IMG_2851So here is the LEGO set I started with, the second smallest of the new 60th Anniversary LEGO sets available, with only 186 pieces. The challenge is to build something with only those pieces available. This turned out to be quite a challenge! The set actually came with an instruction booklet, which would have allowed me to build the car, robot, and parrot shown on the box, but I didn’t want to go the curated route. I wanted to build something unique and fun, like I used to do before all the pieces in the world were available to me. So I did.

Earlier today I received another fun order of swag, and with it something that got me in mind of the post-apocalyptic. You can see the box is already asking about the future, so I went with that theme for this build. IMG_2852

With these pieces, I began. First, a minifigure emerged, part of the reason I bought this set and not the smallest of them, this one came with a person.

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This person begins androgynous, with a choice of either “girl” or “boy” hair. I opted for the helmet, because the air is probably a little toxic in the post-apocalyptic environment this person inhabits, but the boy look because I am a dude. So…what to build, little man?

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I decided on a vehicle, after first deciding that I didn’t have the requisite pieces needed for a shelter of some kind. So I tinkered and built and rejected this piece for that. IMG_2860Eventually I decided to go as eye-searingly colorful as possible because I wanted to hearken back to a time when I couldn’t color coordinate an all-black or grey vehicle with artistic color touches. Also, all I have is ALL THE COLORS so that works. Any vehicle needs wheels, so I got a few. Interestingly, the largest tire manufacturer in the world is LEGO, not any of the brands meant for larger, human-size wheels. I find this hilarious. Anyway, I continued to build. Halfway through (and forgive my lack of iterative pictures, I always get caught up in the build and forget to take interim pictures) I decided my post-apocalyptic man needed a robot companion, so I built a simple, if sad looking, robot.

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At last, the vehicle, too, was finished.

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With seat for my little pilot and room behind for his robot companion. It’s difficult to see, because, again, I didn’t document well, but my robot wouldn’t actually fit without some modification to the vehicle, so I had to remove the seat. However, the rest of the vehicle is as appears here. So what next??

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Only time will tell. I seriously had fun, like I was 9 again, building with LEGO on my bedroom floor, only this time I was at a table like a sensible adult because my knees won’t do floors anymore.

I hope you enjoyed the February #60BrickByBrick. Come back for more in March!

 

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Brick by Brick: 60 Years in the Building

red-brick--201606--gl--footerThis year is the 60th anniversary of the LEGO brick. As any of you know who know me, I love LEGO. I find it interesting that I have been around for half the life of the LEGO brick given how much joy and entertainment LEGO has brought to me, personally. My love of LEGO really took off when it bought the license from Lucasfilm to produce Star Wars LEGO, though I had been building X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon long before. Suddenly my two favorite things coincided and I was in geek heaven.

For nearly 31 years I have built, photographed, bought and sold, and enjoyed LEGO in many different ways. This year, for their anniversary, LEGO has produced several new sets, each with a different theme, to return to their roots of unlimited imagination and creative building. Sure, constructing an X-Wing according to the directions is fun, and you end up with a cool (dis)play model, but sometimes just staring at a pile of bricks and putting two and more together until you create something unexpected is even more fun.

To that end, and to foster a new era of LEGO building and photography for myself, I bought one of the smaller 60th anniversary sets. To commemorate LEGO, and challenge myself to be creative throughout the month(s), I want to use the set to construct a random creation and photograph it. Given the 60th anniversary, I want to create 6 unique builds from this one set, one build per month for each decade of LEGO, debuting at the end of the month. For the other three weeks of the next six months, I want to continue to photograph my minifigures in unique ways. When I finish, I should have built and documented six builds and eighteen minifigures.

This sounds like fun! And, I will start building today! Follow my instagram @philredbeard to see iterations of my builds, but for each final model and minifigure photo, I will post them here on my blog.

Perhaps join me on the journey, #60brickbybrick and if you do, contact me on social media and let me see your creations!

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Self-Improvement

It is the quiet of morning and I am listening to one of my favorite film scores (Pirates of the Caribbean) and am contemplating life.

Last week, I was challenged on Twitter* to examine my life and discuss the intentional and permanent changes I had made in myself. Few things are permanent in this life, but some of the decisions we make can be. My father tells me of a time of in his life where, as a child, he decided to react a certain way to a situation, and that decision has stayed with him his entire life.

Intrigued I thought about it, and shot off a tweet, but want to examine my choices a little more here.

The most obvious permanent change I have made in my life are my tattoos. Barring painful and expensive reversals, they will be with me until the day I die. I have two of them, one on the underside of each forearm. The first one that I got, on the left, I lifted from the pages of a favorite book, the Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien. It says in the Elvish “aurë entuluva” and means “day shall come again”. The passage it is taken from tells the terrible tale of Hurin, warrior among men, who is fighting in rage-filled desperation against the forces of the Dark Lord Melkor. He is slowly being overwhelmed by the Dark Lord’s army, and with each smoking stroke of his sword Hurin cries out “Aurë entuluva – day shall come again!!” A battle cry that even should he die, the Dark Lord will not win forever.

This passage inspires me in my struggle against my own Dark Lord: Depression. No matter how dark and terrible the battle, day shall come again. Depression does not win! To companion the first tattoo, I delved into the Elvish and wrote a corresponding phrase “auta i kelomiâ” which means “night/darkness/the abyss is passing away”. Again, it is a battle cry for me against depression. On the one arm, striking a blow, “day shall come again!” and the other, following the blow with one of it’s own, “night is passing away!” For me, a powerful two-punch combo.

But what are the less obvious changes?

I guess second to my obsession with all things Tolkien, which inspired the first permanent change in my life, the next has been a life long tango, that is, my dance with organized faith. Early in life, even before I was born, I was involved in a Christian church of varying types. After I was born, my parents insisted on taking me to church every time they went. This was a life long choice that was made for me, and as soon as I could make the choice for myself, I didn’t go back for about seven years.

Recently I started attending church again. I still do not know what exactly I believe for myself, and how much I believe it. People around me talk of love for God, or Jesus, or whatever you want to call the divine being, and that for me remains a mystery, but I understand a great deal about Christianity’s holy book, The Bible. Thus I have begun teaching small parts of it that I do understand, at least a little, and live the questions for the rest. I don’t know what my future with religion looks like, and whether this second trial will be any more long lived or permanent than the first, but despite that I think my life will always be entangled with the Christian faith. I cannot seem to escape it. It makes up a significant portion of how I think and my moral compass and predates a lot of the morals I have decided to hold that are similar to Christian principles.

Third permanent change I made in my life was finally getting treatment for depression, and learning to deal with the ongoing effects of my mental illness. Yes, I am not well, and this is rarely obvious. My sickness is one of the mind and not body. It effects me in various ways, and I have written about that throughout the years on this blog that you can find, but it is a Very Bad Thing and it keeps me from enjoying many of the things in life that others take for granted, such as the ability to enjoy things in life. I am much better off now than I was many years ago at the height of my suffering, when my wife divorced me and left me to crumble under it’s weight, but I will never be healed. Full recovery I understand to be impossible. My brain is broken in ways that can only be patched, not perfected. Each night it passes away as day comes again, but it always returns.

I don’t know what the fourth change means, and I don’t remember precisely when I made it, but it was long ago in my teenage years perhaps, but I stopped writing in lowercase, or cursive, and began to write exclusively in print capital letters. At the time I think my handwriting was becoming more and more illegible, and I wanted to make not only stylistic changes, but make it readable. Since then, I have tweaked how I write certain letters (depending on where they fall in the sentence or word) and have developed a consistent font that is all my own. Someday when I can get an iPad and an Apple Pencil, I will digitize my handwriting into a font. That would be fun. But it qualifies as a permanent change I have made in my life that was intentional.

Beyond that, I don’t know. Do learning skills count? Perhaps, if they are unique? What about changeable decisions that are made continually? I have learned skills, and I usually make the decision to color my hair, or get tattoos (and I will again in the future). What about life goals, do they count? I have decided to not accept the status quo and fight for justice and freedom to think, learn, grow, and exist as you are and wish to be. This drives a great many of things I say and do and how I interact with others.

I don’t know.

But that is enough for now, I suppose, to give you more than a tweet to understand the permanent changes I have made in life. Perhaps that gives you more of an insight into the complex individual that is me. You’re welcome.

*(@philredbeard warning: I earn my M for Mature rating)

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A Few Poems

In a bout of creativity, I wrote a few poems. I thought I would share them with the world.

First of all, a tribute poem, in free verse, about the death of AOL Instant Messenger, a program I used for many years at the beginning of the internet, in the long ago times, to chat with friends and family. Just today it was announced that AOL has shut down the service. Wow. Never thought I would see the day.

AIM

Little yellow person
Running ’round the world
Connecting…
Me to you to her to him
To talk
Life, and everything.
Until the twenty year rotation
Killed the connections
In favor of more tenuous tendrils:
Texts and time for faces
Time to run no more.
Rest in the graveyard
Of future things.
Did you leave an away
Message: R U there?

Next up is a little poem contemplating nuclear holocaust. It came to me in a moment at work the other day as I was watching a bubble of water skim across the dishwasher surface. After a brief moment, it suddenly popped, and there was a miniature shockwave that rippled across the water beneath. I live in fear that our stupid president might attack North Korea and start a nuclear war and no one will have the guts to stop him. A silly fear perhaps, but there it is. Here is my poem, also in free verse.

Push the Button

One should not
Push the button
Until one has under
Stood
The cataclysmic collapse
Of a water bubble

Finally there is a poem about the dignity of manual labor. Usually I don’t go in for that sort of thing, but as I was mopping the floor at work the other day it struck me that there is dignity in accepting what we have to do in the current moment and doing it to the best of our ability. As I said, I don’t think manual labor in and of itself imparts dignity or creates a work ethic that is worth anything, but I do think that doing one’s task well is worth, well, something. For better or worth, here is that free verse poem.


Quiet Dignity

Quiet dignity resides within
Back and forth
Back and forth
Simple mop and motion
Back and forth
Back and forth
Sweeping away yesterday’s
Crumbs and beet blood stains
Back and forth
Forth and back
For a change of rhythm
And pacing
Back and forth
Back and forth
Fan dries clean floors
The blades whir
Back and forth
Back and forth

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