Free Lunch Studios

Tom Gordon

Tom Gordon's Blother

May 18, 2006

Dork Cred™ #2 -- Brickin' II: Electric Boogaloo
Lo, the indescribable joy of being rendered a quivering, invalid fetus for half a week, completely worthless to the world (or more so than usual) upon consumption of the wrongish foodstuff. Aging undependable meatware, as soon as the technology's commercially available, you're effin' history. For I anticipate the imminent bio/nano/cybernetic transcendence with all the sulky-faced eagerness of a nine-year-old waiting for Santa Claus to deliver plastic battery-powered swag on Christmas morn. (And what happens when Mom and Pop -- or the bleeding-edge scientists finally reaching immovable natural boundaries to god-level software design and geneering -- come clean with their spoiled-rotten kid? WAAAAH! It's not fair!)

First thing's first. Here's approximately fifty percent of a sketchbook doodle for an imagesmithing Internet forum of sorts (which shall remain nameless), under a discussion thread where the Deeeeep Artiste in question is asked to come up with two words to best describe his or her visual oeuvre, and then post a drawing utilizing such terms. The remaining half-- to be shoehorned later with blasphemous electronic witchery -- is in a Coop-ish, lapdance-smothery vein, and therefore much too embarassing for this site (which is really saying something). Suffice it to say, the first word was 'tech' -- and that I have a real knack for ribald alliteration:

Bonus round! Upon a typically corrupt Zip disk, I recovered a bit from my waning days of overly-greasy greyscale Photoshop colorizin'. Y'see, most of Limbo-dwelling "One Small Step" was accomplished with this (in retrospect, rather exhausting) technique, and while I think this particular piece also rates placement in the 'Artwork' section of Free Lunch, unfortunately the similarly epileptic ink wrangling belongs to somebody else. Ah well... see one Chinese dragon, ya pretty much seen 'em all, right?

Regarding the subject header: when perusing the Internet, one of the depressing things you notice rather quickly is that there are communities of people who defiantly clung to ideas you yourself gave up long ago, for one specious reason or another. For example, yours truly just loved playing with Legos -- for the uninitiated cave-dwellers: plastic pegged bricks that you could snap together to form any number of shapes. The original generic five-colored ones were a ubiquitous part of early childhood; regularly I'd pool my (then) meager assortment with that of my neighbor's and we'd indulge our inner Robert Moses, improvising crude cityscapes with the stuff.

But the real fun/obsession began when the space-themed sets were introduced! With their complex specialized moving parts (such as gears, hinges, wheels and turntables) and accompanying cutesy little figurines (there were medieval ones too, which came in handy for all manner of role-playing silliness), no longer was one confined to piling up the same rainbow-hued ziggurat arcologies, over and over again. Now, I could engineer devilish machines and functional vehicles, while in the process inventing an entire narrative universe for the perpetually grinning astronauts to live in.

Within each of us, I think, there's a fundamental desire to be a worldbuilding 'god' -- it's the reason why the 'Sim' line of games and DIY software construction set deals such as Neverwinter Nights and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion sell today. By the historical accident of my birth, I was merely stuck with little bits of plastic, instead of zeroes and ones. C'est la vie.

So by the time adolescence rolled around, a good-sized trunk in my room contained the component parts of at least two Galaxy Explorers, two Starfleet Voyagers, an Intergalactic Command Base, a Solar Power Transporter, a Robot Command Center, a Space Supply Station, an All-Terrain Vehicle, a Gamma-V Laser Craft, two Walking Astro Grapplers, several dozen smaller sets, and a small army of p-suited smilers. And all of these were mere fodder for plastic Frankensteinian monstrosities of my own creation -- I was certain before long that one of them would gain me eventual employment with the company; why, in a grand fit of delusional presumption, I'd even mailed them off a resume, complete with photographs and instruction booklets! Child labor laws? Whazzat?

At this point, it was gently impressed upon me by a friend that such activity, however pleasurable/insane, was unlikely to gain me any measure of future independence, access to higher strata of intellectual accomplishment, or curry favor with the (un)fairer sex. Well, okay, I believe his wake-up-call was more along the lines of "get a frickin' life, Tom!" But the end result was the same. Fearful for what lay ahead, I quickly abandoned that weirdly immature part of my life, and instead concentrated on refining drawing and computer skills -- two other interests of mine that were more likely to find gainful use in the much-vaunted Coming Global Economy.™

And that extra effort did pay off. Certainly my illustrative work improved dramatically once that chronovorous Lego monkey was off my back; within months I'd evolved from a crude, flatly amorphous proto-Japanime style to something that actually resembled the real world.

But... did I 'grow up' or just 'sell out?'

Twenty-something years on, it's difficult to say. An entire culture of adult Lego enthusiasts -- people much like myself back then, who nevertheless said "phuck off" to their practicalspeaking buddies -- has come into being and flourished since. Most notably this fellow, who'd built Malcolm Reynolds' Serenity to much fanfare last year (though IMHO, his rendition of Robert Heinlein's "Gay Deceiver" is a work of infinitely greater genius).

Armed with disposable income of their own, and 21st Century resources, these hobbyists have entire workshops of Lego parts in their cellars, and virtually plan projects on their computers (a la CAD) using open-source LDraw libraries -- which they then exchange and/or collaborate with like-minded others over the 'net. And of course, there's the well-documented influence in the physical sciences, with more than one hardware engineer admitting that tinkering with plastic bricks in his youth set him upon a path which eventually led to MIT, and his present position designing robots for the Pentagon. (Deep sigh. Naturally, those stories are particularly annoying.)

IAE, I seem to be fumbling here for one of those smug, easily-summarized 'morals' -- like what you'd hear tacked on to the conclusion of that afforementioned horribly lame 80's cartoon. Just this: don't be quite so hasty to excise things you care about completely from your life, because you'll probably regret it later, when the entire planet gets wrapped in an easily-accessible communications net -- and you discover you really weren't the lone freak after all.

Yes, that'll do nicely. And Knowing Is Half The Battle! Et cetera.

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