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Review: Lego Architecture Fallingwater

One of the best gifts left under the tree by my lovely wife Sarah this year was the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater Lego Architecture Kit.

I’ve previously purchased and assembled all the other (smaller, much cheaper) kits in the architecture series, and had been very impressed both by how such iconic buildings were summarized in so few bricks, and also by the clever tricks used to subvert the trap of visual pixelization – specifically, designer Adam Reed Tucker makes extensive use of pieces like these:

…to make connections like this:

…which are halfway in between the two positions where standard brick connections would lie. This serves to double the pixel grid (and therefore, the resolution) the designer can work within. This is such a smart way to keep detail while avoiding high brick counts and cost-prohibitive kits.

While this is obviously a technique inherent in the standard brick designs – I had not seen it employed to such powerful effect before. The Empire State Building kit in particular is packed with clever connections like this. Ok, cool. Give me a second to pack up my nerd boner.

For those keeping score at home, the architecture series up to this point has featured:

As the list above illustrates, the brick counts (and pricetags) have been steadily creeping up, and I had yet to rationalize to myself the benefits of laying out the cash for the Fallingwater kit – so I was super excited to receive it as a gift.

I tore into it pretty quickly, but took my time putting it together, doing a few pieces here and there whenever I walked by over the course of my time off around the holidays.

On the eve of heading back into work, I’ve finished the model, and it definitely gets my recommendation. While the expanded brick count and resolution meant that designer Tucker didn’t have to resort to half-scale brick tricks as on some of the other architecture kits – there are some really terriffic touches to this set that set it apart. Some of the things that I really liked about it:

1.) Assembling this kit really made me wake up to why people are always freaking out about the design of Fallingwater. Up until now, I’ve been operating in “OK, I GET IT! FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT! FALLING WATER! WALL CALENDAR EVERY YEAR, COOL SIGNATURE. I GET IT! ENOUGH ALREADY!” mode. Actually constructing all the asymmetric outcroppings and fitting them together to form the final design is a great experience, and this opened my eyes to yet another learning experience that legos can offer: the closer study of celebrated designs.

2.) The uncommon detail in the landscape, providing all the variance of elevation and detail of water, cobble, grass, and trees while finding the right balance between support and the hollowing of the base (Saving brick cost). It’s also interesting (to me, at least) that all of this landscape detail was achieved at smaller than ‘standard’ lego landscape scale.

3.) The point where I first realized that the building and landscape bits would slide together but be removable was pretty nice, but when I realized each of the floors of the building proper were built modularly – to slide apart and back together easily without ‘unsticking’ any bricks – was when I really appreciated the attention to detail that went into this design.

So to answer the question Sarah posed as she walked by the mess of tan bricks littering our kitchen table earlier in the week, was all that worth it? Yes! And thank you!

As an aside, this is a part of an attempt to post some bit of personal writing at least once a week in 2010. I’m going to start out by writing about things that have been piling up around me to see if I can remember how to write and then take it from there. We’ll see how it goes!

One of the insane revelations I had while writing this is that kids are reviewing lego kits (and toys in general) on youtube. For some reason, it never dawned on me that this was occurring, but I love that it is. Is that toy any good? Check youtube, and a few 12-year-olds will let you know.

Avatar Arithmetic

Kuffie? Usha? Ushtice?

My wife played the current number one song on Billboard’s Hot 100 for me today, because she “thought it would make [me] mad.” The song is Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok,’ and she was right, primarily because I was dumbfounded by how glaringly it rips off Uffie’s ‘The Party‘ (Or more specifically, the Justice remix which I am familiar with).

Consulting Google (“Uffie Kesha Rip”) and Twitter (“Uffie Kesha”) searches, everyone agrees.

The one thing I didn’t turn up in my quick searches was a Ke$ha / Uffie / Justice mashup, which seems so obvious. Here’s my 30 minute effort (MP3). Bravo, self, bravo.

And for comparison, a bit of the real Uffie song…

…and a bit of the real Ke$ha Song:

It’s that first part that is just shameless.

Zach Curd points out that this is a “thing” now – as he put it: “the kind of ‘I’m a bratty girl’ singspeak.” As proof he passed along this music video which has convinced me the world is over. That is all.

Absolutely surreal excerpt from a New Yorker profile of Vampire Weekend

I stumbled upon the following bit in the latest issue of the New Yorker and had to share, because the full article isn’t available online anywhere (Abstract can be found here). Google’s experimental OCR converter did most of the transcription work.

Anyway – this whole thing reads like a scene from a modern-day Spinal Tap. Weird music industry insanity crossed with internet startup hucksterism with a dash of awkward standoffishness. I love it.

All of this is heightened by the fact that BOTH parties are being followed by separate documentary film crews, who are filming the insanity. How weird is that? One side of the door: a couple dudes with a painfully conspicuous film crew. Door opens to reveal other dude with painfully conspicuous film crew. I want to see those two shots, in split screen.

The whole thing is amazing. I can barely stand it.

The documentary involved having the members of Vampire Weekend Interview what Koenig called “iconic California musicians.” One of the people they interviewed was Tom DeLonge, the lead singer of the pop-punk band Blink-182, which had its flash point of popularity in the nineties. Early one morning, they stopped, with the camera crew, in an office park off the freeway. A woman holding a Chihuahua answered the door, and led the band and the film crew into a lobby decorated with green Chinese dragon sculptures. They went into a garagelike room – DeLonge’s rehearsal space – with artificial turf for carpet and a chandelier in a plastic box hanging from the ceiling. There was a “guitar boat” from a recent tour, with a set list taped to it: “Dumpweed,” “Feeling This,” “Rock Show,” “What’s My Age Again?”

“It’s so hit-filled” Tomson said, admiringly.

DeLonge came in, wearing jeans and a short sleeved gray T-shirt over a long-sleeved white T-shirt. “Is this the whole band?” he asked. “Is this Vampire Weekend? You guys do quality shit. I’m stealing a lot of your stuff.” DeLonge, too, was being followed by a camera crew. “This is a Blink documentary we’re making,” he said. “It’s a Blinkumentary.”

They sat on a couch, and the Vampire Weekend members took turns asking questions. Both camera crews filmed the proceedings. At one point, DeLonge said, “One of the things that I always wondered, when you have some success as a musician, is, How the fuck did that happen? What am I doing that people like?”

After the interview, he led the band into a conference room with a flat-screen TV and launched into a long pitch for an Internet project he was working on – “a prepackaged Web site” for bands, called Modlife. “I term it an ‘operating system,'” DeLonge said. “You could sell music, you could sell movies, you could sell advance tickets, you could do advertising, you could do automated V.I.P. parties. We’re gonna be putting in live auctions, e-commerce.” He continued, “We’re doing it with the White Stripes.” He said Vampire Weekend could do all of its business through Modlife, with the Web site taking twenty-five per cent of the profits. He demonstrated a video chat-room function by talking to a group of his Fans: “Hey, everybody, I’m doing a demonstration with Vampire Weekend. If you want Vampire Weekend to be on Modlife, say ‘Yes!'” The chat-room users started responding: “Yes!” “Yes!” “Yes!” One wrote, “No!”

DeLonge ignored it, and talked about video blogging: “Do you want to do normal blogs – or do you want to do it in the dark and have lasers going and make it look like you’re from space? And not call it a blog, call it a space cam?” He asked, what have you guys been doing for a Web site?”

“Three out of four of us are on Twitter,” Batmanglij said. DeLonge shook his head. “I don’t want to be freaking on the money part,” he said. “But you guys know and I know that you’re trying to live in an industry that’s dying. And so Modlife is trying to give you the chance to survive.” Then he screened a trailer for a movie that his new band, Angels & Airwaves had produced, called “Love” – images of an astronaut in a space station over swelling music.

Batmanglij started giggling, and DeLonge turned and looked at him.

“Uh, I just thought of something fun that we could do with our band,” he said.

“That’s rad,” DeLonge said evenly. “Cool.”

The Vampire Weekend members got up to leave. DeLonge shook their hands and said, “Consider this stuff.” Then he asked, “Why are you guys so mellow?”

They drove out of the office park and past some strip malls. Green Day was playing on the radio. The band members seemed rattled.

“I started thinking about all kinds of things while he was talking,” Batmanglij said. “Like what it means to be in a band. Tom DeLonge is not that old. He’s thirty-three. Seven years older than me – that’s crazy.”

Tomson said, “You gotta hustle.” No one spoke for a while.

Who is the crazy “Social Media Expert” vampire that got to Tom DeLonge and turned him into such a bizarre tech-startup pitchman? I love that his selling point for video blogging is that you can “do it in the dark and have lasers going” and “call it a space cam.” I love it.

Respect.

For 40 years, Archer has given any project without an official catalog number (ie independent releases) an internal (sequential) number that is pressed into the vinyl – meaning this list will be very useful from a music history / chronology perspective.

Kind of insane! The hyper-infomercial feel of the trailer is a bit of a turn off, but we'll see.

Long ago there was a web-app version of this that generated greyscale mosaics you could buy. Needs a "buy this mosaic" button!

Missed opportunities: should've soundtracked the video with Superchunk's 'Detroit has a Skyline too.'

Comic book poses are a pretty easy joke, but the simplicity of this one is top-notch.