Sunday, October 09, 2005

Review: The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide by Allan Bedford

I spent countless hours of the most formative years of my childhood playing with LEGOs. I was really good at building spaceships and houses, and nothing else. It got to be frustrating after a while. I always assumed that I just didn’t have the patience or the imagination to create a three dimensional masterpiece like you'd find in the photos on the LEGO boxes. But after reading Allan Bedford's The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide, it now looks like maybe all I needed was a good reference guide.

There are many how-to books and web sites out there that contain instructions on how to use LEGOs to build certain types of projects, but up until now there hasn't been much available that gives builders the (pardon the pun) "building blocks" necessary to aid in building their own creations. Enter The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide, an "instruction manual" for building with LEGOs.

This book is full of methods, tips, and usable techniques that just about anyone can apply to their own projects. If that wasn't enough, the book also contains helpful information on such topics as design, engineering, architecture and color. And all of this information is organized in easy-to-follow chunks, with accurate illustrations, and straightforward and understandable writing.

The coolest feature of this book is the Brickopedia. The Brickopedia is a categorized list of LEGO pieces that includes an illustration of each piece, its size, subcategory, part number and a description of the piece. Though it's not a complete list of LEGOs (nor is it supposed to be), it gives you a pretty good look of what's available.

So for all you kids who want to move beyond building the pre-designed kits, adults who may have been away from LEGOs for a while and want to brush up on your building skills, and to adult hobbyists like myself who never learned the proper techniques as a kid, The Unofficial Lego Builder's Guide is a great resource to have on hand.

The book has 13 chapters and two appendices. Here's a list:

Chapter 1: The LEGO System: Endless Possibilities
Chapter 2: Back to Basics: Tips and Techniques
Chapter 3: Minifig Scale: Oh, What a Wonderful Minifig World It Is!
Chapter 4: Miniland Scale: The Whole World in Miniature
Chapter 5: Jumbo Elements: Building Bigger Bricks
Chapter 6: Microscale Building: More Than Meets the Eye
Chapter 7: Sculptures: The Shape of Things to Build
Chapter 8: Mosaics: Patterns and Pictures in Bricks
Chapter 9: Technic: Not as Technical as It May Seem
Chapter 10: Putting It All Together: Where Ideas Meet Bricks
Chapter 11: Beyond Just Bricks: Other Things to Do Besides Building
Chapter 12: Sorting, Storage, and Sitting Down to Build Something
Chapter 13: Making and Using Tools for LEGO Projects
Appendix A: Brickopedia
Appendix B: Design Grids: Building Better by Planning Ahead

Friday, October 07, 2005

CD Review: Blindside - The Great Depression

Undoubtedly the greatest Christian rock band to ever come out of Sweden, Blindside is back with The Great Depression on Wasa Recordings. I first heard Blindside a few years ago on a local radio station. It was either "Caught a Glimpse" or "Sleepwalking" (I can’t remember which) from the band's major label debut Silence. Specifically, I remember they were loud. And being from the school of “louder is better,” I decided I should probably check them out. Well, it’s three years later and I’m finally getting around to it. I’ve been a little busy!

The Great Depression is really an interesting album. It took me three listens, but I’m really into it now. The band incorporates multiple musical styles, and though they are usually on the harder side, no two songs on this album sound the same. Blindside is a band that sounds as comfortable playing pop-punk as they do playing hardcore. Sure, they have the hardcore thing down pat, but they are also talented songwriters who write catchy tunes like “Ask Me Now,” “Put Back the Stars” and the album’s first single “Fell in Love with the Game.” Blindside also benefits from pop and alt-rock influences in such tracks as “When I Remember,” “This Time” and the fun dance number “My Alibi.”

And though not a theme album, much of the album’s lyrical subject matter comes from vocalist Christian Lindskog’s experiences while visiting South Africa earlier this year. This, as you could probably guess, gives the lyrics a “heavy” feel, which nicely matches the tone of the music throughout the record.

From front to back, The Great Depression is a very strong release. Blindside’s high-energy delivery and substantive songwriting make for an enjoyable listen.