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Monday, July 31, 2017

Mega Construx Destiny Iron Song Ghost Shell unboxing & review! SDCC 2017 exclusive

I thought 2015's Halo-themed convention exclusive set was nice, but this takes things to an even higher level still.  The packaging alone is stunning and the figure is near perfect.  I'd say the buildable ghost shell itself may even be the least impressive item here.

The very brief bonus edit at the end of the video will only be fully appreciated by some of the more dedicated players of the game :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

All 25 LEGO Collectible Minifigure series -- 400+ figures!

It has been almost a year since the most recent (and first) video of my wall o' minifigures, and with a full new column filled up I thought it'd be a good time to revisit the scene and also take more of a proper trip back through history in contrast to my previous focus on the layout & construction of the display.
The very next series that comes out will require me to compress everything to the left for the first time, but that'll take care of the space needs until 2019.  After that, I'll need to reduce the sizes of the plates to fit!

Friday, July 28, 2017

LEGO Power Miners Titanium Command Rig 8964

Happy Flashback Friday everyone!  Here's a large set I remember seeing on shelves towards the end of my last dark age.  I never realized what all it could do.

Looking at sets from this theme recently has me realizing something peculiar.  Power Miners invokes a ton of nostalgia in a notable, vocal segment of my viewerbase.  It seems to be 2000s version of Classic Space in that way, having captured the hearts of a generation of LEGO fans.  However that nostalgic love clashes with a major factual reality of the theme, and with parallel distaste for some aspects of modern sets.

People frequently complain that LEGO prices have gotten so much higher than they were in "the good old days."  However, adjusted for inflation, the widely loved Power Miners series averaged a cringeworthy $0.15 USD per part!  Many of these sets had an unusually high percentage of larger-than-normal parts, but still, 8708 Cave Crusher was an Earth-shattering, wallet-obliterating inflation-adjusted $.22/part!  Folks say that licensed themes especially have driven prices sky high, yet obviously Power Miners was a LEGO original IP with its exorbitant price/part ratios.  

I also regularly hear laments about today's sets focusing too much on action features to the detriment of everything else, and much of this feedback comes from teens for whom "the good old days" means the 2000s.  When I look at this shining lime green & bright orange star of that decade, I see action features positively dominating every build.

Nostalgia certainly bends perceptions, but has it led to double standards that are completely beyond the realm of reason?

New 2017 Mega Construx Halo ODST Drop Pods reviewed

Hey, hey!  I managed to catch these online before they went out of stock!  They're not yet at stores in my local area, though evidently they've been available in some regions for months, along with the cryotubes and a number of other sets I continue to wait for most impatiently.

LEGO City Jungle Buggy review 60156

Here's one of the smallest sets in the Jungle Exploration line, released with what in the US is the second wave of Summer sets for City.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Updated LEGO NEXO Knights year 2 battlefield display!

Well, then!  The last time I showed this space I was pretty embarrassed about how plain & empty it appeared, but no more!  With the season 4 sets added, it's absolute mayhem!  Based on my experiences with this display, in the future I think I'm going to keep these sorts of dioramas more shallow (speaking of physical dimensions) to improve accessibility.  It gets tricky reaching the back and center areas without knocking anything else down, and maneuvering the camera around is especially challenging!

LEGO Ninjago Movie Cole's Quake Mech polybag review 30379

What a tease, LEGO can be!  Previously they released the 4-stud-wide minature London Bus as a promotional item, and only months later did they come out with the real deal.  I'm 95% certain we'll be witnessing the same pattern with this mech, and I'm eager to see how they solve the monowheel stability challenge on the big one.

LEGO Architecture Arc de Triomphe review 21036

Some of the use of gray in this model is probably debatable, but I think it's a very worthy representation of the source material.  It's shockingly small, though, especially for the price.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Still working on my latest custom LEGO building!

In the past 7 days I've uploaded 18 reviews & builds of new official sets, but I've also made time for MOCing!  I've finished the visible interior detail for the first floor of my newest structure and made my first substantive progress on the next level.  Productive times!


LEGO Ninjago Movie set reviews so far

LEGO releasing whole themes worth of sets yet again at LEGOLAND locations and nowhere else, not even normal LEGO brand stores, has put (or rather kept) me at a tremendous forced disadvantage. Many viewers asked for weeks when I'd review the new stuff when other people already have it all, why I wasn't reviewing the new stuff when other reviewers were already done.  Well, I don't happen to live within a convenient distance of one of the two places in the entire country to actually sell any of the new sets, so all I can do is either wait, or pay big markups & shipping fees on eBay and wait.  Perhaps I should get a hotel in either San Diego or Florida two weeks before every release season.  Yes, I am salty.  Very salty.  I don't like having no fair chance to do good work on a timely basis.


LEGO City Jungle Air Drop Helicopter playset review 60162

Months after its limited release overseas, the Jungle set everyone's been asking me to review has finally made it to North American stores, where it's apparently a Toys R Us retail exclusive.  Was it worth the wait?

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes Justice League Flying Fox Batmobile Attack review more words!

Jeebus!  Some licensed sets these days have stupendously long titles!  I feel the highs of this set are quite high indeed, and the lows not too low.  The main build looks to be inspired by a ray (the fish) and appears imposing from most angles, but it's shockingly hollow when viewed from straight on.  It's at very sturdy, though.


New LEGO Minecraft sets reviewed

Just two new Minecraft sets have been released this season.  One is pretty good, the other a valiant design effort against absolutely impossible odds.


Mega Construx Halo Maverick Series figures reviewed

This new series is, of course, nowhere to be found in my area and not available from any on retailer I can find, but thankfully there's a combination of eBay and people who live in the rare "lucky" regions that get new Mega products within 1 or 2 months of their release.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Music shop MOC update

As I squeezed just a tiny bit more MOC work into my schedule I found myself lamenting the shortness of "custom building season."  The last big LEGO new product release season ended just over a month ago for me, but the downtime was also abridged by the arrival of the entirety of the latest NEXO Knights series, a number of important Mega Construx releases, and the significant effort that went into the i-Brix engagement. Already the next string of major reviews is due to start any day now.  I thought I had adjusted my workload & priorities sufficiently this past season, but LEGO's ever-increasing rate of product development & production is outpacing my ability to adapt.  I'm going to have to cut deeper.  I must do more custom work.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

LEGO Creator London Bus speed build & review videos 10258

Here's the latest large-scale vehicle from the Creator line in all of its bright red glory.  Though it has nearly 1,700 pieces, its scale proportional to the source material is much smaller than most (if not all?) of its modern "advanced model" peers.


Mega Construx Halo Wolverine Charge review

The Mega Bloks Halo line, as it was then known, started out licensing designs from the original Halo Wars game of 2009.  Here we are eight years later, Halo Wars 2 is out, and Mega Construx, as it's now known, continues to cover the RTS side of Microsoft's stare sci-fi franchise.

I got something related to the LEGO Ninjago Movie!

In spite of LEGO's completely wack release schedule decisions (which I rant about at the end of this video), I have in my possession an official Ninjago Movie item!  Take THAT, LEGO!  You think you can keep 99.999% of the world's population from having a fair opportunity to purchase your merchandise when you first officially release it?  Ha! Your Grinch-like plans have been foiled!

LEGO Power Miners Thunder Driller from 2009! set 8960

It's not Thursday for a properly timed throwback, nor Friday for a flashback, but my complex video prioritization algorithm (in my head) put a set from a popular discontinued theme in the queue, leading to many bursts of nostalgia among viewers!

LEGO Creator Mini Piggy Bank 3-in-1 promotional set review 40251

It's a pig, or a rat, or a raccoon!  No?  Check out the video to see what I'm talking about.  Whatever this thing is and can be, it's a free promotional item, and it's cute & fun.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why I'm Not Quitting YouTube

Earlier this year YouTube lost one of the nicest, most mature, genuine, & original LEGO-related channels as a result of, as I understand it, uncalled-for drama & betrayal by members of "the community."  A couple weeks ago, quite by chance, I learned of yet another YouTuber in my previous hobby calling it quits due to the never-ending tide of random anonymous commenter ugliness and an atrocious work-to-reward ratio.  Then came the whole sudden announcement of that 12 million subscriber channel owner calling it quits because, as it turned out, he had been hating what he was doing for a long, long time.

It's Rough Out There...

This kind of stuff sucks.  Especially the first example above.  There's a lot of it going on, too.  YouTube/Google itself, like nearly every company that profits off user-generated content, has done a horrendous job of fostering even the most basic semblance of humanity on its platform.  It has, however, done a fantastic job of funneling viewership away from hard-working independent producers who make quality content and towards a mix of heavily corporate-sponsored media groups and channels based on what most fully-functioning adults would consider senseless lunacy.

Staying relevant as a video-maker on YouTube today requires, on the whole, either more work or more luck than ever (or both).  It's still possible to put out low-effort and/or non-unique content and get tons of viewership if the secret algorithms magically decide they want to recommend you all over the site or to notify more than 1/40th of your subscribers when you upload a new clip.  However, there's simply no reliable way to earn that sort of privilege.

...But I'm Okay

In the face of all of the bad stuff that's so easy to dwell upon, I find myself more thankful than ever for my YouTube situation.  Viewership numbers are well off the highs of The Good Old Days (TM), but still fantastic. Bored, bratty trolls & perpetually, senselessly angry haters still exist, but my skin is thicker than ever and the overwhelming majority of commenters on my videos are cool people.  Let me just drag that last point out a little farther.  The LEGO & brick-built construction crowd is, on the whole, one of the coolest groups I've seen in my 25+ years online.  There's just a tremendous amount of what I consider normalcy, which is particularly unusual on the Internet today.  I see people who can give constructive criticism, disagree with each other with civility, and recognize that toys are just toys & not sacred religious artifacts to war over.  I see young kids, teens, and adults alike sharing their enjoyment of a hobby equally, letting their imaginations wander, being silly, and getting into character in the fanciful worlds of their favorite themes.

Balancing Multiple Balancing Acts

One of the big risks for YouTube stress comes from over-eagerness to please fans or to focus on whatever type of content will generate the most views.  Thankfully I do not suffer from either of these.  If I did, I would have a huge permanent Star Wars layout, 1/4th to 1/3rd of my city would be discarded to put in a giant airport runway, half of my videos would have titles beginning with "TOP 5," and I would shove my face in the camera incessantly while making exaggerated expressions of awe and narrating in kind.  "Awesommmmme!"  Of course I pay plenty of attention to viewer feedback as it'd be crazy to not do so, but I don't stop doing things I enjoy to start doing things I hate just because one person suggests it and a handful of others hit thumbs up.  If I find myself doing something I don't like, I just stop.

Another thing that leads to content creator burnout is acting.  Specifically, I mean acting out a manufactured, usually over-the-top persona for the sake of entertainment.  Some YouTubers enjoy acting, and I see nothing really wrong with it.  Others hate it, hate themselves for it, and hate the trapped feeling of building up a fanbase that expects you to constantly be something that you're not.  I, myself, don't have a YouTube persona.  I'm just me.  Because I know JANGBRiCKS in particular is watched by an extraordinarily wide range of ages, I do take extra care to avoid language that kids & parents alike have said they find inappropriate.  However, that's a simple matter of showing basic respect to my audience. Staying away from a word for poo that starts with a 'c' doesn't change who I am.  I don't fundamentally try to act how I think anyone wants me to.  I don't try to act "cool."  If I say something in a video that makes you cringe because it's not in line with this instant's fleeting guidelines for what people of my exact age and position are supposed to say, according to a specific online clique you associate with, well, so be it.  I guarantee I didn't say it just for that video, and I guarantee I would and do say it in real life among actual, real-life, friends and family.

Personal Demons

Speaking of friends & family, over the years (JANGBRiCKS isn't my first solo gig) they helped empower me to combat the single biggest risk to my online ventures, which is my own work ethic.  I'm what many would call a workaholic.  When I'm not doing something productive, I start to feel guilty.  I'm readily willing to sacrifice sleep and general physical & mental well-being to get a job done.  It's not noble.  It's unhealthy and unsustainable.  Thanks to my support network, though, these days I'm able to simply take a break  when I need to, without beating myself up about it.  It's a novel concept, but important.

The biggest struggle that I've not been able to overcome is a lack of enough hours in a given day.  There's a lot that I want to do that I'm not reasonably able to, and that always bothers me.  It's one problem I don't think I'll ever be able to fix, but at least it's manageable.  I might not be able to create time out of thin air, but of course I can always shift priorities around and get creative with my schedule.  When really needed, pulling an all-nighter isn't such a terrible thing, just as long as long as I don't make a habit out of it.

A Good Place

Ultimately, I'm happy with who I am and what I do, I have a lot to be grateful for, and the biggest threats to the YouTube channel you all know me for are presently well managed.  For now at least, it's full steam ahead with no major obstacles on the horizon.  Of course, I'd really appreciate it if someone could invent an affordable time dilation device, but if nobody does, I'm still not quitting YouTube.

Monday, July 17, 2017

LEGO NEXO Knights - The Heligoyle reviewed 70353

Here's something you've heard me say plenty of times in recent memory:  This is the last set in the theme, for now!  I tried to get ahead of the August 1 major release explosion by ordering NEXO sets from the UK (at great shipping expense, of course) where they actually came out about a month ago.  I've also previously and regularly expressed my displeasure over the extreme irregularity of the releases and distribution of new sets, yes?  Yes.  Okay good.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My i-Brix wireless LEGO (compatible) lighting odyssey

Two years ago, a campaign showed up on Kickstarter promising a way to deliver lighting into and/or onto LEGO models without attaching any wires, flipping any tiny switches, or ever replacing any batteries.  Sadly, it did not receive enough backing and failed to fund, but the creator returned for a second round with a more polished product, and this time it's a success!  After emphatically pleading "help me to help you," I was able to get a two-day loan of a prototype unit, and I dedicated the entirety of those two days to nothing but testing, photographing, filming, and posting about i-Brix, because I believe in it that strongly. It was a busy & stressful couple of days, but well worth it.

You see, back I first bought my house I had track lighting installed over what would be the LEGO city.  At that time I invested heavily into expensive Philips Hue app-controlled color-changing LED bulbs to enable time of day lighting effects throughout the room.  What I didn't have a plan for was how to light the city, itself.  DIY LED lighting with countless wires having to be routed through every structure seemed like an absolute nightmare.  I tried a handful of battery-based systems made specifically for LEGO use and those were also no good for me as having to flip a ton of little switches everywhere just to capture a brief video would be a maddening chore.

i-Brix is the solution I needed, and with it, I hope I'll be able to mostly achieve my original goal of lighting up all of New Jang City.  Skyscrapers will still require some additional work, but most of my requirements will be covered.  Now I just have to wait for the funding phase to close and for the final product to be produced!

Friday, July 14, 2017

LEGO NEXO Knights Macy's Drop Bot Dragon review 70361

I feel like my opinions about this set have taken a major yo-yo ride since months ago when this vehicle/craft/creature/thing was first revealed.  One moment I'm eagerly awaiting its release, the next moment I'm completely over it.  With the physical product now in-hand, I can at last make a truly final determination.

All Mega Construx Pokemon Series 1 Pokeball figures reviewed

From what I've seen at local shops and from what I've heard online, Mega Construx's just-launched Pokemon line has been selling better than any other theme, by a long shot.  I personally contributed to this in my own small way by buying up one of each of the single-figure packs, and I decided to just review all of them in one video.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

LEGO NEXO Knights Axl's Rumble Maker review! 70354

This one has some very unexpected features and one particularly smooth action feature, but overall I think I have to give it a "Nice try, but nope."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Custom LEGO music shop MOC progress continues

I've forgotten about all of my MOC projects!  No, I've given up on all of them!  No, I've given up doing MOCs forever!  I only ever do... wait, let me see what my very last video was... I only ever do NEXO Knights reviews anymore, and absolutely no other types of videos!  Oh how I've changed.  My channel has really gone downhill.  I've totally sold out, to the LEGO NEXO Knights... company.



Friday, July 7, 2017

LEGO NEXO Knights Knighton Castle review 70357

Ah yes, finally something NEXO to make the original Fortrex look dainty!  Lots of figures here and a larger structure than it appears to be at first glance.  I have to also say, the main build here is about 10x more playable than the beloved classic castles of the 1980s.

LEGO System McDonald's Restaurant from 1999 - set 3438

Happy Flashback Friday.  If you follow my haul videos you've recently seen me get a sticker sheet for one of these sets, but what I didn't show was that I also bought a complete set before that to review.  Honestly it's not a great set, but it has a tremendous amount of charm.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

More onboard video from trains around New Jang City

This is I believe the 4th or 5th time I've published footage of a camera riding around on my train tracks, but the first time I've done a video with nothing else.  I experimented with a brand new simple Power Functions-based servo turntable (shown at the end of the video), but rotation cannot be fluid because the PF system deals in distinct steps of input and power.  I may discard this whole concept and stick to the far more stable static mount I used previously and in the inner loop segments in this video.

A POV drive through New Jang City

In recent months I believe type of video most requested by viewers is a minifig-view drive through the streets of my main layout. I believe most folks asking for such a thing had an RC car with a camera on it in mind.  However, RC cars sufficiently small and yet well-controlled at very slow speeds are surprisingly rare.  Even more critically, RC cars can't handle the extremely tight turns of LEGO road baseplates unless you take them extremely wide and just right, which ultimately leads to awkward multi-point turns.  After carefully researching & ruling out every single wheeled option I could find, I turned my attention to tanks, since they are generally slow and can spin within their own length.  Here again I found a shocking dearth of qualified candidates, with just two options passing cursory inspection.  This video here is taken with the second option, the initial design intent of my most recent Planetary Defense Force utility vehicle.

This was literally my first attempt at this style of video and there is much obvious room for improvement. Getting to this point has required a pretty crazy amount of research & experimentation, though, dating back long before the RC search began.  Everything always seems so simple & obvious until you try it!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Custom LEGO military utility vehicle MOC

Hooray, Planetary Defense Force!  I definitely didn't realize early on that I'd enjoy making non-combat vehicles for this theme, but thus far they've been my favorites.  The base of this new thing is intended to be what PDFers would call their "standard tractor," an easily reconfigurable mobility & power platform that can serve all manner of different roles.  I'll definitely make more attachments to use with it over time.
While building this I found myself faced with an significant excess of large wedge plates in LBGray, so I definitely need to make something larger for the PDF, soon-ish.

Mega Construx Destiny EV-30 Tumbler & EV-38 Laurelbearer Sparrows reviewed

Summer Mega Construx sets have been showing up on Amazon generally one at a time and in tiny quantities, but last week saw a whopping two put up for sale.  I know, I was in disbelief, too.  Not knowing how to handle the influx, I decided to take the safe route and still do just one video.