Dancing with the ocean

We spent most of last week in Oceanside, CA, enjoying the ocean and visiting Legoland.

Legoland, for those who haven’t visited, is an impressive experience.  The rides are mediocre and the lines to get on them on horrendous, but the sheer amount of things that can and have been made entirely out of Lego pieces is mind-blowing.  So, in a way, you really get two trips to Legoland: one is the experience of waiting an hour for a two minute ride, the other is getting a chance to see just how creative you can actually be if you set your mind to it.Image

I like to think Einstein would find a sculpture of his face made entirely out of little pieces of interlocking plastic blocks somehow fitting.  No pun intended.  In a way, Lego sculpture harkens back to the days of 8 bit graphics programming.  It’s a way of taking chunky pixel blocks and making something that looks smooth out of them.  My first programming was done in BASIC and Logo, both of which produced 8 bit graphics.  Logo wasn’t hard to produce graphics and animations in, but BASIC was pretty nightmarish.  Anyway, end result is I looked at the Lego sculptures of giant spiders and Einstein heads and playful foxes and Star Wars scenes through the eyes of a programmer.  It made me wonder if Lego will ever make a set based on characters from the old 8 bit games.

I’d send the idea to them, but I know they won’t accept any external ideas.  Last year, I had an idea for a Lego series: Lucha Libre wrestlers fighting for freedom.  There were all kinds of places Lego could have taken this idea.  Central American folklore is chock full of colorful characters and monsters that could have been used for heroes and villains.  It would be kind of like Ninjago, only with Mexican wrestlers and chupacabras.  It would have been epic.

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Imagine this guy as a minifig.  That’s Fire, by the way, and he actually set his gloves on fire for the photo.

Alas, a Lego rep told me they have a group internal to the organization that comes up with all their ideas.  Oh, well, I can still dream, right?

So, back to Legoland.  It’s a spectacle, to be sure, but it’s also very different from the Lego I grew up with.  Sure, the kits were always there, but the emphasis was always on creativity and new ways to connect those chunky blocks into new and exciting toys.  Now it feels like Lego is more interested in collectors and fanboys.  The sheer amount of kits out there is amazing and the way people collect them just to watch them increase in value is disheartening.  They’re toys, they should be played with, not stuck on someone’s shelf.

We also spent some time on the beach.  Oceanside was pretty damned chilly last week.  The air temperature hovered right around 62F to 65F and the ocean was in the same range.  Doesn’t sound too bad, but try taking a dip in a 60 degree ocean sometime.

Still, my Viking blood called out to me and I spent the better part of an hour dancing with the ocean, ducking under breakers, riding swells, getting knocked over and generally having a great time.  I firmly believe if you’re near the ocean you should take some time to swim in the ocean, even if it means it will take you four or five hours to warm back up again.  Which, coincidentally, is exactly how long it took me to change from bluish back to my normal pinkish.

During this time, my son got his first chance to play in the ocean.  Me being me, I took the opportunity to give him an object lesson in Kenpo’s horse stance.  For those of you unfamiliar with the horse stance, stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, bend your knees and drop a little.  It’s a common stance in most martial arts and, once your legs get used to, it gives you a stable stance that’s easy to move around in, but hard to push you out of.

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Yes, that’s Elvis Presley and Ed Parker.  Elvis was a black belt in Kenpo and actually trained under Ed Parker, the man who brought Kenpo to the mainland.  I’ve seen some videos of Elvis practicing and I can’t say I was overly impressed, but he was a black belt.  Presley’s stance is way too wide to be really effective, but Parker’s is pretty spot on.

So, my son and I are in the waves up to our waists and he keeps getting knocked around by the breakers until I told him to use his horse stance.  Voila!  He finds he can handle the smaller waves pretty easily now.

The differences between Legoland and the ocean are, obviously, pretty staggering.  Legoland is exactly what Lego wants you to see.  It’s amazing, but it’s a programmed and neatly ordered kind of amazing.  The ocean is amazing for it’s sheer, raw, natural power and while I was playing in the waves I realized I like the raw power over the programmed experience.

In some ways, this is what I was trying to get to with my last post, even thought it probably didn’t come across as anything other misongeny.  There was a time in this country where we sought out the adventure, now it seems like we seek out the programmed experience.  At one point we wanted to find the new and exciting and now we just want the latest trend.  Instead of finding our own way, we let someone else decide what we need.

Watching people going to and from the beach was something of an eye opener for me.  I saw a guy on a bicycle riding his dog down to the beach.  He’d built a platform on the top bar of his bike so his dog, an extremely happy looking pit bull, could ride up front and hang her paws over the handle bars.  I also saw a girl with lavender hair and a lace dress trucking it down the sidewalk on beach cruiser.  Her dress kept trying to get stuck in the wheel and she just kept moving it out of the way and carrying on.  Both of them changed the rules and did what they wanted and everything seemed to work out just fine for them.

Kind of made me want to tell my office job to piss off and move to the beach and live for a little while.  Maybe I could be like Fire.  I’m a pretty big guy and decent fighter.

Or maybe I’ll just grab my skateboard and take my 43 old body out for a spin.  You’re never too old to have some fun.

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