Holding Forth

Published on June 20th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Congratulations Legos. You’ve Won This Round.

UF_TinyLegoKit_062015So it turns out that I hate Legos.

Yep. I said it. I’m that guy who hates Legos. Not all Legos mind you because that would be racist. It’s those newfangled tiny Legos the size of a grain of salt that I hate which, come to think of it, could be construed as racist as well.

In all honesty I’m not racist. I’m probably ageist but, perhaps speciest, most likely the bestest but these are all topics for another time.

When I was a boy Legos were generally just a bunch of…well Legos; a haphazard mess of random interlocking blocks that one could buy in bulk without a lot of specialized pieces. Granted they could be a bit dull and I generally came up with some sort of craptacular looking house or car or city that looked like it was planned by a five year old but that was because it was, in fact, planned by a five year old. That however wasn’t the point. These constructions weren’t perfect but they were mine, the product of my imagination and limited by nothing more and…well theoretically nothing less.

Sure there were Lego kits back then but my parents were too broke to buy them. Instead of Legos I had the much less popular version known as Lagos produced by the inmates of a Siberian prison or some other dark and soulless place bereft of joy and competent machinists.

For years my most beloved Lagos toy was the Millennium Fulcrum; a spaceship so named because it provided the backbone of the economy from wherever it was made in the hopes that it wold leverage them into the first world. If memory serves The Fulcrum finally lost so many pieces that it became essentially unusable and looked like a miniature version of something the former Soviet Union would actually produce if it were capable of galactic travel. The Fulcrum eventually became amalgamated into the other Lagos I’d tossed into the scrapheap and condemned other such kits like the Dual Wing Fighter (sponsored by Always Maxipads) and a version of the Love Canal (Now With a NEW Cancer Ward!!!).

UF_Lego_Onion_162015

Here is a blurry picture of a Lego piece that measures just over a quarter of an inch in width. For scale is a medium sized onion because I could not find a banana.

These days Lego kits are abundant. And that’s all well and good if you or your five year old can keep track of 15,000 miniscule pieces the size of a fire ant while attempting to build a giant replica of a fire ant. Unfortunately most of us, children and parents alike, can’t competently perform either task. It’s axiomatic. Despite the best of intentions one piece inherent to the integrity of the Lego cat or car or spaceship will be lost 24 hours after the box is opened. It doesn’t even matter if the little plastic bags the pieces come in remain unopened. Some key piece will inevitably be lost rendering the entire $30 box repugnant to any child or OCD parent such as myself.

It’s a brilliant and devious marketing ploy and for that I commend the makers Legos.

The beauty of the old system of Legos was the fact that it didn’t really matter if a block or piece got wedged between the no-mans land of a couch cushion or sucked up by an enthusiastic vacuum cleaner. Sure there were some specialized parts but I wasn’t all that worried about the fact that my spaceship didn’t have a matching translucent blue tile the size of a pinhead, or a steering wheel or even an entire wing. I obsessed for a few minutes, maybe tried out a new curse word or two but generally got on with my life.

More importantly I didn’t feel it to be a tragedy of such proportions that it required the intervention of my parents. It was the 80s and there was already a space shuttle missing its wing, as well as a few other parts if I remember correctly, so I could pretend that my shuttle was just that much more authentic.

The entire glory of Legos when I knew them was that they were just a series of blocks and those blocks held limitless potential. Given enough of them a kid could build absolutely anything. More often than not what I came up with looked like something Frank Gehry and Tim Burton would create after a night of fervent substance abuse. The possibilities however, that we could create something unique and amazing without a template, were endless.

I’m aware that the original blocks can be purchased in Lego stores or online. I’ve seen the bins upon bins of pieces, most of which are also so specialized that their purchase requires more forethought than I have, or plan on giving, to any endeavor in my life.

That is not my real complaint however and neither is the fact that when a kid is confronted with a wall of Lego pieces or a replica for Stonehenge (NOW with PLAGUE Victims!!!) the kid is going to go for the kit of Stonhenge every single time. It’s a wise marketing move on Lego’s part and while I could rant about how it usurps creativity in lieu of instruction I won’t because my real issue is that I have to deal with the ramifications of corporate Lego.

UF_TinyLegoKit_062015

This is the kit that made me hate Legos. Not pictured is a kit from the realm of Lego Friends that also made me hate Legos. Also not pictured is a banana for scale.

Take a look at this picture off to the left. No really take a look at it and please don’t go back to the beginning of the post. I need you here.

Note the print for Ages 7-12. There’s a reason for it and that’s because anyone under the age of seven doesn’t have the fine motor control or patience to put together a Lego project of this magnitude and anyone over the age of 12 has found something better to do with their time.

Kids under seven do however have the ability to nag their father unremittingly for instruction from a man who does not posses the motor control, teeny tiny fingers or patience necessary to complete a venture of this scale without a bottle of cough syrup, a Quaalude and a pair of tweezers.

To make matters worse note that a mouse, a cat and a dog are shown on the cover of the kit.

Now I ask you to guess what cannot be made if you manage to build a mouse, a cat or a dog? Depending on what you’ve already built the answer is neither of the other two!!! That’s right if you and your child are able to piece together a cat after hours of labor (and to the ultimate detriment of your relationship) you must take the cat apart in order to build a dog or a mouse; an idea that goes over with a small child about as well as eating an onion for breakfast.

Maybe I’m just being old and bitchy. After all what kid in his or her right mind would want to build and play with a mouse and a cat and a dog at the same time? It’s not as if any of them interact in cartoons or the real world, or that, in concert all three could provide a youngster with the means to build a story and engage her imagination.

My daughter is always up for a challenge. Unless of course she isn’t. Darcy is tasked with doing new and different things each and every day with varying degrees of difficulty. It’s part of what life is like when one is five.

UF_Banana_062015

Here is a picture of a banana. For scale.

There is a time and place for everything, a time to reap, a time to sow, a time to put together Lego pieces and a time to throw them into the trash and pretend that they were never bought.

If I wanted a mind numbingly and frustrating task to perform with my daughter I’d start teaching her Latin or to write in Sanskrit. The fact is that I’m not that patient at the best of times. It’s one of my many failings as a father. There are times however when I really just want to enjoy an activity with my daughter for the simple pleasure of doing something together that doesn’t result in her tears, my search for OTC intoxicants, an outlay of sixty dollars for the purchase of two more of these damnable kits or some combination thereof.

So with that I say “Congratulations Lego”. You’ve won this round and probably the next two or three but I refuse to buy my daughter another Lego kit after that. Unless of course I’m really tired, or crabby, or my daughter cries a lot…but after that it’s really on.

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