Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pheaturing Jonathan Bender

Hello, how are you? Welcome to the Phile, I am your host, Captain Jackass. So many people (let's pretend) asked me where I am going to be working at the Magic Kingdom but Disney doesn't want me to say. So, are you ready for a Swashbuckling ride through the Spanish Main? Hey, it’s a great day of you’re a nutcase loner. The Unabomber’s house in Lincoln, Montana is up for sale. How's the weather where you are? It's cold here in Florida. It’s so cold in that travelers are requesting seconds on TSA pat-downs just to stay warm. Cold weather can cause fights over control of the thermostat. I like to keep the house cool, at 65 degrees, but my wife likes to keep it at 70 degrees. So we compromise — and keep it at 70 degrees. Oprah made her final book club selection before her show ends. After this year, she’s sworn never to read again. Me, I have a book club but I never read the books. Just kidding, Jonathan Bender.
Oprah was honored at the Kennedy Center, along with Paul McCartney. McCartney brought us Sgt. Pepper, and Oprah brought us Dr. Phil. So, I was thinking about Sarah Palin the other day. Between the made-up words and wildly shooting at anything with four legs, Sarah Palin is turning into Elmer Fudd. Speaking of Palin, I posted an interview request on her Facebook asking if she would want to be interviewed for the Phile. So, I recommend everybody post on her page that she should be interviewed here. WikiLeaks head Julian Assange says that if arrested, he will release secret documents, including information on UFOs. Arrest him, I want to see those documents. Oh, I just read he was arrested. He said he’s going to release damaging files on BP and Guantanamo Bay if his website is shut down. Excuse me? No one besmirches the good names of BP and Guantanamo Bay. Here's some news from a Nation of Shopkeepers: A scientist in the U.K. has figured out that April 11, 1954 was the most boring day in history. Which is why I’ve started calling “Skating With The Stars” the “April 11, 1954 of TV shows.” Apple is working on new 3-D technology that can be seen without special glasses. But it’s not ready yet, so if you want to experience 3-D without having to wear 3-D glasses, go outside and look at something. A new study found that good-looking people are more likely to have daughters than sons. And ugly people are more likely to have cats. Okay, today's guest you might know has written a book about LEGO's. Logan and myself are really into LEGO's so we are always out looking for new LEGO sets. And I can't help to think there's more and more original sets coming out. Take a look at this set.

And I couldn't believe it when I found a LEGO inspirational poster.

Don Meredith
April 10, 1938 - December 5, 2010
Turn out the lights.

Ron Santo
February 25, 1940 - December 3, 2010
A baseball player, not in the Hall of Fame, with no scandals who had both his legs amputated thanks to diabetes, THIS is why someone ELSE should make up the Obits.

Today's guest is a freelance writer who writes features for newspapers and magazines. His first book, "LEGO: A Love Story", is the 11th Peverett Phile Book Club Book to be pheatured. Please welcome to the Phile... Jonathan Bender.

Me: Hello, Jonathan, welcome to the Phile. Thanks for letting your book "LEGO: A Love Story" to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. It is the 11th book to be pheatured. So, how are you?

Jonathan: I'm doing great. Still busy with book promotion and wishing I had more time to build with LEGO bricks.

Me: Did you know there's a basketball player with the same name as you? I wonder if he likes LEGO's.

Jonathan: I do. He was entering the NBA draft when I was graduating from college. I thought about submitting my name in the hopes that I'd get called to the stage at Madison Square Garden. There's just not much call for a 5'3'' point guard these days.

Me: When did you start to write the book, Jonathan, and what made you want to write it? Is it something you have thought of doing for a long time?

Jonathan: I began researching the book in February of 2008. I had dreamed of being a LEGO Master Model Builder when I was a kid, so the idea of immersing myself in the world of talented builders as an adult journalist allowed me to return to that childhood dream.

Me: How old were you when you first got your first LEGO set and what was the last set you bought? I loved LEGO's when I was a kid and my son Logan is a LEGO nut! Do you have any kids who are into LEGO's as well?

Jonathan: I got my first LEGO set at the age of six -- it was just a box of blue and red assorted bricks and slopes. The last set I bought was Robo Attack [http://shop.lego.com/Product/?p=8970], I'm saving my money for a Christmas binge. I'm glad that you and your son can share a love of LEGO, I'm working on my 14-month-old daughter. She's just starting to get into DUPLO.

Me: Back when we were kids they didn't have themed sets like they do now. Now there's Toy Story, Spongebob, Star Wars and others created by LEGO. Do you like the new themed ones or the generic type when you can build what you create.

Jonathan: I like both. I think the minifigures are great in the new licensed sets. The bricks all ends up in a great big box no matter which sets you buy, so I don't believe it limits your creativity.

Me: Logan is into Bionicle, but I don't consider them to be real LEGO's. What is your take?

Jonathan: Bionicle is a product made by LEGO. It's a different building system, but you can find really interesting uses for the parts. It's definitely "real LEGO."

Me: He is also into customizing his figures, which I don't like. Do you do a lot of customizing yourself?

Jonathan: I've only customized one minifig and I still feel a little guilty (and proud). I'd like to do more customizing, I'm just not sure I'm artistic enough to pull it off without destroying a bunch of innocent minifigs.

Me: You've been to LEGOland in California, right? We went there a few years ago and really liked it. We are excited they are building one here in Central Florida. I have worked for Disney for 22 years and I am thinking of going to Legoland to work. What do you think of the park in California, and what do you know of this new park?

Jonathan: I think the park in California is great fun. Miniland is easily my favorite part of the park, I literally spent hours there admiring the scale buildings and looking at all of the tiny jokes hidden among the city scenes. As for the park in Florida, I know it's expected to open next year and I suspect I'll have to engineer a family vacation there.

Me: Have you seen the new LEGO store in New York City?

Jonathan: Not in person, but I should be in New York City next month and it's tops on my list.

Me: Let's go back to your book. I noticed it first when I saw the cover, which is very cool. Did you come up with the concept and design it yourself?

Jonathan: My publisher, John Wiley & Sons, worked with LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya to design the concept. I was really happy with what they created. I think it's a wonderful representation of how anything is possible with LEGO bricks. Nathan is really talented and I was glad that he was able to work on the cover.

Me: In your book you tell of how you went to the LEGO headquarters. Where was that and tell the readers of the Phile how you were invited. Did you get to take anything home with you?

Jonathan: The headquarters are located in Billund, Denmark. I actually sent a request to LEGO to visit after meeting one of their community relations team at an adult fan convention in Chicago. Thankfully, they said yes. I got a minifig fresh off the factory floor and a Castle set.

Me: I have been to various comic book conventions and saw some LEGO displays here in Orlando. You do a lot of conventions, right? Ever been to MegaCon?

Jonathan: I've been to a number of LEGO conventions and each has an incredible variety of LEGO sculptures, art and buildings. I haven't been to MegaCon, but I do think it would be fun.

Me: What is the largest and smallest thing you have ever built?

Jonathan: The smallest thing I've built is a series of tiny cars, each are probably eight to 10 bricks total. Tiny dump trucks and pick-ups. The largest is a black and white mosaic of my wife and I that is 96 x 96 studs wide and high.

Me: Why do you think lego is still popular after all these years? Do you think it's because of the video games and such LEGO has put out? It's crazy, they just don't make bricks anymore.

Jonathan: I think they've done a good job of straddling the digital divide, appealing to a new generation of kids while still remaining true to the principles of creativity and imagination that have always defined the company.

Me: That LEGO Rock Band game is cool, isn't it?

Jonathan: It certainly is cool. Minifigs are just fun to manipulate.

Me: Jonathan, you are a freelance journalist and you have your own blogspot, right? How did you get to become a freelance journalist? That's what I wanted to be when I grew up. Where can a Phile reader read your work?

Jonathan: Correct on both accounts. I began freelancing for a newspaper just outside Boston. After that, I was hired on as a staff writer. Two moves later (Brooklyn and Kansas City), I've built up a network of editorial contacts of people that I can pitch stories. The easiest place you can find my work online is the food blogging I do for an alt weekly here in Kansas City: blogs.pitch.com/fatcity/.

Me: Jonathan, thanks for doing this interview, sir. Go ahead and plug your website and anything else you want. All the best, and let's go to LEGOland when it opens. Whatcha say?

Jonathan: Well, I hope people enjoy the book. My writing Web site is jonathanbender.net. I have a blog for the book at brickbender.com. As for LEGOland in Florida, it's a play date.

Well, that about does it for another entry of the Phile. Thanks to Jonathan for a terrific interview. Go buy his book. The Phile will be back next Thursday (thanks to my training schedule) with producer, songwriter, musician, Jon Tiven. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let alligators and snakes bite you. Post on Sarah Palin's wall she needs to be on the Phile. Bye, love you, bye.

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