Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer Trippin', August Edition: Just Another Lego Convention

It's my last trip of the summer, and where do I go? To a Lego convention, of course! I decided to try out Bricks By The Bay, California's 5-year-old Lego extravaganza. This year, BBTB was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is attached to the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara (the hotel I'd be staying at) and is across the street from Great America and kitty corner from the 49ers' new stadium.

Thursday, August 7th: My plane took off from Portland at dawn. (That's dawn in the photo above. Dawn and window smudges.) Landed in San Jose around 8 am. I took a shuttle to a light rail station, and rode the light rail to the hotel/convention center.

Palm trees? This must be paradise!

And so began the convention. I had signed up for two Lego workshops that day: Animation (morning) and Sculpture (afternoon). Going in, I was less excited about the Animation one because I've already had some experience doing Lego animation, and I've also gone to other workshops expecting to be taught something, only to be disappointed. 

I was not disappointed with this one! It was led by a Lego animator named David Pagano. He showed us a few of his own impressive videos, gave us tips, and let us play around with an ipad and its movie-making program. My table partner and I made our little minifig do all sorts of fun things, including "walk across a balance beam" and "get abducted by an eagle."

When Animation was over, I decided to see if I could check into my hotel room a little early. I could!

Hmmm. Nice decor, there. What is this, The Giver?

Square-shaped sink.

The view from my window. Useful for seeing whether or not the pool was crowded. Un-useful because of Marco Polo

After a quick snack, I headed back to the hotel's second floor (I was on the 5th) for the Sculpture workshop. The class was being taught by Mariann Asanuma, who used to build things for Legoland. She is incredibly talented. Unfortunately, the workshop wasn't what I was hoping for. First Mariann talked about making sculptures and showed us many examples of sculptures. Then she talked a bit about mathy things. Then she passed out bags of Lego and told us to try to build this Lego guy.

(He's missing an arm here because Mariann removed it to show how it was attached, I think.)

I was just like ???, because I didn't feel I had even learned how to do what she was asking. Plus, we didn't have instructions, only these diagrams that didn't make sense to me, and a bag of Lego pieces. The only thing we had to go on was her model, and all 24 of us taking the workshop had to share it. To make matters worse, our bags didn't contain all the pieces we needed (I guess there was maybe a miscommunication with whoever ordered the pieces.)

But since this wasn't school, and since nobody was going to grade me, I just started building a Lego guy with what I had. And while mine (right) didn't end up looking exactly like Mariann's (left), I had fun trying.

After the workshop, I had dinner, then I went to the convention center's theater for the "Opening Ceremonies." It took a long time for the people in charge to scan all our badges' barcodes (to enter us in door prize drawings) and start the ceremonies. (Over the weekend, we had four large-group meetings, and not one started on time.) They talked to us a bit and gave away some door prizes, but I did not win any. In fact, I did not win a single door prize all weekend. But I wasn't sad -- one less thing to (not) haul back on the plane!

I was really impressed by how kid-friendly Bricks By The Bay was. Much moreso than either Brickcon or Bricks Cascade. There were kids everywhere! I didn't mind having kids there, save for one or two who were obnoxious. A lot of the kids were talented builders; I was amazed by many of the MOCs (creations) I saw. I was also happy to see several girls there, as well as more women than I typically see at a Lego con. (Though some were moms of the kids in attendance, they still seemed to enjoy The Lego.)

After the opening ceremonies, I went to the con's lounge room/"chill space," where they had poured out enough bricks to cover four tables.

I started building a ship, but soon realized that there were very few brown pieces to be had. So I made a rainbow ship. With a shark on top. Because.

* * * * *

Friday morning, I was able to get into the exhibit halls and set up my MOCs. 

I had brought three. Two new...

(The bear and the snowflake. I didn't make the orange legs.)

And one old...

Now that he's visited three West Coast Lego conventions, Scrooge gets to retire for a while.

I spent some time pawing through a pile of Lego-for-sale at one of the vendor's booths. I came back to my hotel room with these: 

And used them to build this:

A secret... uh... pirate hideout... fort... thing.

Friday afternoon, they had a variety of events going on, things like round table discussions, mini-workshops and also games, but the only one that interested me was train jousting. That's where two battery/motor-powered Lego trains, each carrying a lance, go at each other on parallel tracks...

Who doesn't love a good battle?

After the train jousting demo, I went back to the exhibit halls to look at the MOCs again, including all the new ones that were being added & set up. Below is just a small sampling of my favorite MOCS at BBTB. For more photos, visit my BBTB Flickr Album.

I just really like that flamingo.

Disney's Main Street! Yesss.


Cloud Cuckoo Land!

Quirky & cool.

Grumpy cat!

This almost looks real!

These two trains were so incredible. They took turns running (they, plus a third train, were on a timer system) and when they did lap the loopy track, they were a sight to behold. Things on the trains twirled, twisted, bounced, and did all manner of crazy things.

Okay, it's probably better if I just show you, so here's a video:

I love Victorian architecture!

A corn maze! I believe this was made by one of the female junior builders.

I appreciated this one because it used one of the retro gears. Love those!

I also spent a while looking at the vintage Lego items brought by some folks who are starting a Lego museum.

Friday night, David Pagano (the Lego animator guy) did a presentation at the evening meeting. That was cool; he gave a very inspirational talk. We also got a glimpse of a never-before-seen-by-the-general-public Lego set, coming out this fall!

Santa's Workshop -- or Santa's Village Of Madness, if I have my way.... ;)

After the meeting, they had different fun events going on; I chose to do the adults-only Dirty Brickster. (Think: White Elephant, but with Lego.) I had brought three small Lego sets, including two discontinued polybag sets. I walked away with some cool Lego-shaped storage containers, a brick-shaped luggage tag, a Lego-shape Nintendo DS games holder, and a Ninjago keychain.

I had so much fun at Dirty Brickster that I decided I wanted to do the all-ages one the next day. But I didn't have another gift to give, so I decided I would buy something (or several somethings) from the vendors who were parked in the exhibition halls.

* * * * *

On Saturday, there were many activities that sounded cool to me. I started off with a seminar called "Making Lego Pinball," then "Brickfilming Visual Effects," followed by "Brick Geometry," which I found very useful. 

After lunch, I participated in the game "Build By The Box," (this is where you have to accurately put a Lego set together without using the instructions). Unfortunately, I didn't do too well. But I'll keep practicing. SOMEDAY I WILL PREVAIL!

Next I went to a lecture on "How To Build Round Shapes," which wasn't quite what I thought it would be. (I thought the guy would teach us how to make a Lego ball. Alas.) 

In between events, I was checking out the vendors' tables for things to take to the all-ages Dirty Brickster. I ended up filling a small box with two types of Lego candy, a Lego-compatible light brick, and three 16x32 baseplates in blue, green, and tan. I was thinking that if nobody wanted my gift, I'd just steal it and take it home.

The gifts begin to arrive...

So Dirty Brickster game #2 began, and a young girl ended up opening the gift I'd brought -- and loved it! (I think she was more excited about the candy than anything.) I opened a Star Wars set, and was perfectly happy when, towards the end of the game, someone stole it, and I was able to steal a Friends set from someone else. 

After the game, we had a dinner break, then we all went back to the main theater for a Lego costume contest and the Awards Ceremony.

Award trophies, awaiting their new homes

At BrickCon and Bricks Cascade, they give awards by category, and the same was true here. So when the awards for Art, Sculpture & Mosaic were announced... and then the awards for Pop Culture... and I didn't win anything, I was a little bummed. (Not surprised, just disappointed; I'd never won one in all my conventions.)

But after going through all the categories, they started giving out "Overall" awards, and to my great surprise, I saw my name up on the screen. My little bear got an Honorable Mention!


Oh man, I was so happy. It made my night.

After the ceremony, there were several late-night events happening. I chose to do 101 Bricks, because I've done the game at BrickCon and have always enjoyed it. You bring along 101 bricks of any type. Then you're given a theme challenge, and you have to use your pieces to build something to the challenge in three minutes or less. This happens 10 times. You're judged on what you built and the pieces you used and stuff.

There were only 6 of us participating in the game, probably because there were other enticing events happening at the same time. Also, the guy leading/judging the game didn't seem excited to be there (I think he was tired, maybe.) Even though my fellow players were great, the game didn't end up being as fun as it had been at BrickCon. Oh well.

* * * * *

Sunday, I slept in. In fact, I didn't go down to the convention (this was the day it was open to the public) until noon. Crowds of people, ahoy!

I briefly stopped by the Lego Parts Draft that was happening in one of the meeting rooms. I was sad I hadn't brought the set to draft, because it had some really cool pieces! Next time....

Then I visited one of the vendors, and spent an hour or so pawing through his pile of Lego for sale (a different vendor than Friday). My bag o'Lego was about halfway full when this kid, maybe 9 or 10, started conversing with me. First he asked about my Kindle, then about my con badge, then what I like to build. Then he announced  he was building a spaceship, and asked me to help him find certain pieces. A while later I moved to another spot around the Lego pile, and before long, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and the kid's there, going, "Can you help me find a 2x3 slope?" This happened several times. I found it amusing. I'm not sure where his parents were.

As 4 pm (the public show's closing time) came near, they tried to start clearing the exhibition halls of people, but (somewhat predictably) nobody wanted to leave the halls. In fact, I noticed a lot of people just blithely ignoring the announcements. "Free Lego sets and cookies for the first 50 people to get out to the lobby, starrrting... NOW!"-- jk they didn't really do that. Maybe they should have.

Closing ceremonies...

Lego cons' closing ceremonies are usually pretty blah, and this was no exception. Everyone's tired, and there's not a lot to really say, but they often stretch things out anyway. They talked about the theme for next year's convention ("Monsters") and mentioned that it might be held in a different location and on a different weekend. Okay. Good to know. Because, as the late, great Mr. Rogers used to say....

I'll be back.


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