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Play With Your Blocks

For those of you that have been under a metaphorical rock for the last ten years, here's a free news brief: Legos are a big deal.

The popular building blocks have been around for many years. I played with them. My son plays with them. My grandkids (grandkids?, that was an awkward word) will play with them.

Toys change over time. I used a cap-gun, kids today use Air Soft. I played Atari, today it's Angry Birds on the I Pad. Regardless of the toy, it is powered by imagination. My wife and I joke about our first toys being a rock with a string tied around it. Yes, that's absurd, but the point is, it's about the playing, not the toy itself.

Well, welcome to 2012.

Years ago, some marketing genius at the Lego company decided to tie their wagon to the popular Star Wars franchise. I don't know if they're publicly traded, but I wish I had bought stock at the time. They make about a gazillion bucks a year selling themed Lego sets. Halo, Indiana Jones, and specialty sets called Bionical and Ningaco. It's the Star Wars ones that intrigue, and befuddle me.

In my day, Legos didn't come with instructions. It was pretty self-explanatory: They snap together. If it's not to your liking, you unsnap and start over. That was kinda the fun of it The blocks were block-shaped. If you wanted to simulate a curve, it was time for your young mind to explore fractal theory and reducing angles. Otherwise known as playing.

The resulting masterpieces were functional, if not pretty. Did I mention that they came apart, too? After building battleships, tanks and jets, my father would get on The Red Phone and go to Defcon One. Atomic Slippers flew across the living room, hit ground zero by the sofa, and nuked my "army". I retreated and reassembled my forces for counter-attack. Of course, usually that was right before dinner, and the enemy was taking a nap. Round One to the old man.

There was a little life lesson there. Tibetan monks take days placing colored grains of sand in intricate patterns. These Sand Mandalas are usually destroyed a few days later. Why? There is pleasure in creation, then in enjoying your work. Yet, nothing is supposed to last forever in this realm.

Enter: The Death Star.

As part of the Star Wars Lego franchise, You can build very accurate models such as X Wing and TIE Fighters. Imperial Walkers and The Millennium Falcon. Then, it gets even more absurd by scale. Ever wanted to command an Imperial Star Destroyer? I hope you've been working out. The kit has thousands of pieces and is over three feet long. The aptly named Death Star, grotesque in it's complexity, destroys helpless planets like Aldreran. And it vaporizes imaginations.

There are a lot of kids in our neighborhood, but I have NEVER seen a couple of ten year old boys try to hoist a Star Destroyer over their heads and make "whooshing" and "zap" noises. I think you know why. "Toys" like that are made to look at, not to play with. If you ever priced these things, you'll know that The Galactic Empire doesn't want your child to go to college. The Emperor has other plans for your child.

He wants your kid to read and follow instructions. Your kid will build something using someone else's imagination. It will sit on their shelf, like a trophy to a victory they did not earn. The Lego model will gather dust, and be regarded only on occasion, unused and uncared for. Just like your kid's left brain.

Oh, and if you're an unimaginative, boring adult, you're not left out. Lego also makes over-priced architectural models of famous buildings and landmarks. If you can think very, very small, A Frank Lloyd Wright house may be in your future. I find it a bit ironic that people come to United States universities to learn engineering, while adults here think it's nifty building a plastic replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. News Flash: That bridge was built a hundred years ago already. Try something new.

Ahhhh, to dream. To aspire to go beyond the ordinary. To create and innovate.
What the hec is that all about?
Just follow the directions that came with the kit. Or The Emperor will be displeased.


I noticed the architecture ones at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. I think I will get one of the small kits for my architect friend for Christmas this year. :)

Incidentally, I looked it up and Lego Group is a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. So much for getting in on the action there. :(

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