Taking Control of Personal Myth

A lovely friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Stacee Reicherzer, posted a blog on her website that raised a thought-provoking question: When is a good time to part ways with our yearbooks? She recounts her own break-up with her high school yearbooks, and that moment when the yearbooks no longer had power over her personal myth:

I’ve pulled them out occasionally, seen the smiling or brooding faces in headshots, the group photos of various teams and organizations, and the candids of kids I barely remember engaged in various activities. Peppered throughout the yearbooks are optimistic words about the fun and rigor of campus life and extracurricular activities.

And I feel…nothing: no nostalgia, no sense of connection, no real experience of this as a representation of my life.

I still have my yearbooks. I’ve moved several times since graduating high school, and I still carefully pack them into boxes and take them to my next home. I then unpack them, and, without giving them a second glance, put them on the top shelf of my Mythology/Depth Psychology bookshelf. Yes, I have one of those.

I also have a lot of stuff. Each time I move, I approach the process with a mixture of trepidation (moving is a pain in the ass) and exhilaration at the prospect of getting rid of things. Emphasis on “things.” They’re just stuff, right? Mementos of forgotten memories, memories of forgotten times, time-keepers of my life.

But they’re actually so much more than that. Those things are the artifacts of my personal mythology. My life narrative is tied up in those things, and after the memories have long faded, those artifacts can help me reconnect to those nostalgic, halcyon days of suck. (I’m not being hyperbolic; other than friends I’ve kept in touch with since high school, I have few good memories of anything prior to roughly 24.)

Stacee advises,

If the memories that are evoked by perusing a yearbook aren’t joyous but are instead either painful or simply stale, the yearbook no longer has a function in our lives.

The act of throwing something away is something I don’t take lightly, but it occurs to me that the simple act of discarding (or recycling) those artifacts are a symbolic act of me taking charge of my personal myth. In choosing to shed the memories of the past, I’m making the choice of the narrative past I choose to carry into my future. I have the memories inside of me, and some lucky folks get to be part of the story-circle when I recount those times, but there’s a point when it’s a good idea to let them go. Those things that we move from home to home, even in forgotten boxes, are physical manifestations of our memories. If we see them in front of us, we will always have the visual reminder of those memories.

Yearbooks are a particularly complex artifact, because, unless you’re fortunate enough to be your own editor, they’re someone else’s version of you. Those are even more toxic visual reminders if you’re trying to streamline your personal mythology. They’re not even your story.

Perhaps it’s time to think about the fate of my yearbooks, and my trunk of mementos, and my photographs stacked pell-mell in a box. Chances are, at least one of the other 2000 people in my high school class still has a copy of that yearbook. I can’t entirely escape the narrative, but I don’t have to carry it around any longer.

My thanks to Stacee for inspiring this contemplation! Image courtesy of the Baltimore Sun and this interesting article about yearbooks and colleges.


The Pussy Hat

In the lead up to the Women’s March last weekend, Pussy Hats were a thing. Women and men unified in the quest for pink yarn, a set of needles or a hook, and set out to make pink hats with little points on top.


A sea of pink decorated the marches. Samantha Bee joked that if you want to get white women unified in a cause, you should just give them a craft. (I think there’s some truth to this statement; it’s not just a satirical comment.) I did set about making a pussy hat, but didn’t finish. So instead, I wore my pink Mickey Mouse/Cheshire Cat ears. I figured that a literal pussy hat would suffice to represent. I’m still going to finish the hat, and I’m still going to wear it with pride.

Before the march, a couple blogs were sent out about how the pink hats were in fact acts of gender normalization. In one article, author Holly Derr writes,

Not to rain golden showers down on the pussy parade, but I’m not sure that pink, cat-eared hats are a great symbol for the largest women’s march in years. The infantilizing kitten imagery combined with a stereotypically feminine color feels too safe and too reductive to be an answer to the complex issues facing women today. For example, while the March claims intersectionality as central to its platform, and the Pussyhat Project claims to be speaking for both cis- and transgender individuals, the latter’s conception of what it means to be a woman is remarkably narrow.

Which, of course, gave me pause. I’m no fan of pink, because I do feel that it is overused as a color of girlhood, but I am a huge fan of having animal ears on my hats. The accusation of this being both infantalizing and stereotypical is a fair assessment, and was that something I wanted to endorse?

She goes on to write,

Furthermore, the Pussyhat Project is engaging in a form of gender essentialism, which asserts that the gendered characteristics of femininity are directly linked to the biological characteristics of femaleness and, specifically, the presence of a vagina. This binary is one that feminists have fought against for years, arguing instead that femininity is a social construction assigned to femaleness and that females can be feminine or masculine or any combination of the two, as can males.

Gender has become a tricky conversation, and it’s one that I honestly can’t discuss. I’m  comfortable with my gender and sex, and American culture rewards me for also being willing to play within certain expected norms (such as being straight, a mother, and willing to wear a dress). This has afforded me a place of privilege. But I have enough compassion and empathy in my heart to know that the struggles of many of my friends and family are real…but I can only provide sympathy as an outsider. That’s a difficult place to have to reside.

So what message do I want to send with the Pussy Hat? I like the fact that they’re pink and distinctive. This means that they’ll stand out. Imagine, now that the march is over, seeing a woman wearing this hat. It’s like a call to solidarity. When I was driving up the New Jersey Turnpike on my way home from the march, I would see women in line for the bathroom, and it was like, “Yep. We’re in this together.” And, for me, the issues we’re marching to protect aren’t just those for women. They are the issues of common sense and compassion that will have an impact on EVERYONE. To reduce the hates down to a gender issue ignores the larger message that they’re trying to send. Plus, it ignores the fact that women chose to do this. This is how women chose to express themselves: by throwing stereotypes back into the face of the people who reduce them to stereotypes.

What are your thoughts on the hats and what message they send?

I also see something else in the hats. I see pink Bat Hats. Yep, like Batman.


So, I’m going to be like Batman, and be the vigilante hero America deserves.

The Women’s March

I’ve never done anything like this before, gathering in a protest. Sure, I’ve been plenty pissed off about things, but nothing ever quite ignited the fire like this recent election. Judging by the number of folks I saw in Washington, DC, this weekend, their fires have been ignited too. 

There’s a lot of rhetoric around the march that it and the entire of the New Women’s Movement is about protesting Donald Trump. That’s far from the truth. It’s about protesting a president who continues to make abusive comments about non-white men, a culture that accepted the abuse by voting for him, and a cabinet full of folks that have all mentioned wanting to repeal some facet of equal rights. 

We’ve accepted a lot since 9/11, and all Americans have been suffering. Obama made some progress and headway in trying to make things better, but was met with so much opposition that nothing ever passed that was perfect for everyone. Someone was still going to get hurt. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that there was support for a candidate who promised change rather than more of the same–that’s what got Obama elected the first time. 

But now, politicians are promising to target certain groups and rights, leaving enough of us marginalized. 

This is the first time in my lifetime that there’s been this much energy behind a cause. Even Occupy pales in comparison. We just couldn’t say no. We had to be involved. We have to do something.

When I first heard of the march, I knew I had to go. Specifically, I had to go to the one in Washington. So I did. I was joined by a friend from Pacifica and his wife. He’s been an activist a lot longer than I have–I think he said his first march was 1963–but remarked that this was by far the largest one he has ever seen.

The rally started with some excellent speeches and events. The crowd was larger than expected. The organizers kept doing speeches in an attempt to convert the event into a rally. Except that they didn’t tell anyone that is what they were doing. So people just started marching. The set route went by the wayside. People walked over the Mall, the Washington Monument, the buildings around the Mall, streets… the crowd just made it happen.

And everyone stayed groovy. I was worried at one point that people were going to lose their cool, because they didn’t know about the change of plans. It also seemed in the moment of confusion that we didn’t know how to make the march start. Yet the energy of the March and the Movement couldn’t be contained. It carried us forward. 

I’ll make another post about some of the stuff I posted on Facebook and share my photos. But for now, let me say one thing:

I’m grateful that I felt called to be a representative for all of us, and I promise to continue doing the work. It is my hope that, regardless of political beliefs or religious convictions, we can can unify around the good of humanity, for the entire planet. Our decisions and actions today will impact generations to come. Our decisions and actions today know no national borders, have little respect for personal security, and really could give a damn about your moral values.

Joseph Campbell once told Bill Moyers that the most important myth of our era is that of the planet. That includes all her people, the environment, and her physical geography. Let’s unite in love, and not be assholes.

More to come…

For Carrie and For 2016

Like so many other folks, I grew up watching Star Wars. My first celebrity crush was Mark Hamill (later replaced by my true, undying love for Spock, sealing the deal on whether I’m more Trekkie than Warsian), but Princess Leia was my first role model of some sort. I’d say “feminist role model,” but the reality of Leia’s character is marred by sexism. Han Solo spends a significant part of the trilogy pursuing Leia despite her resistance, jealous of Luke, and ultimately joins the Rebellion because of her. Leia could shoot a blaster, but was still squeezed into a tiny, metal slave outfit that’s become the fetish fantasy of many fans.

I really fell in love with Carrie Fisher after seeing her her one woman show for HBO, Wishful Drinking. She’s very honest in the most vulnerable sort of way, shedding light on the experience of being Leia, which included some notable lines like “There’s no underwear in space” and “Galaxy snatch,” as well as being told that she needed to go to Fat Camp to get the part. She talks about her mental health and alcoholism. It was the first time I’d gotten to hear her authentic voice. Not only did she become human in that moment for me, but she became one of those celebrities who I felt would “get me” if I ran into them in a coffee shop and didn’t act like a bumbling idiot.

In the media blitz of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Carrie made the talk show junket, beautifully using her voice to illustrate issues surrounding her memories in a way that distances the audience and forces them out of their fandom and into their awareness. I’ll call it “Carrie-splaining.”Here’s Carrie Fisher Carrie-splaining on GMA a year ago.

My Facebook feed is full of Carrie memes today, from memorials to honoring Carrie by normalizing mental illness and taking down a fascist regime. Word of her passing is hitting hard. Not only was she a true love, but her passing comes at the end of a year when a lot of notable people have died. I’d barely moved into my new apartment, I was still surrounded by unpacked boxes, when I saw the news of David Bowie’s death. There’s even a meme about how this tore the fabric of the universe (in which case, The Doctor has some ‘splaining to do). The deaths this year have been influential people: Bowie, Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Gwyn Ifill, Gene Wilder, Prince… For some reason, each more surprising than the last. In our media-saturated culture, we didn’t see them coming.

2016 has been a notably difficult year. I’m sure someone will do a Year in Review (I’m looking to you, NPR). There’s something happening that suggests a major shift on the horizon. This shift has been coming, but the exit of the artists and the entrance of the Trump Administration gives 2016 a difficult flavor. 2017 already feels a little less bright, and it isn’t even here yet. There’s some serious shadow shit going on; the American Shadow is strong and needs to be addressed.

Carrie, along with everyone else who left us in 2016, left us with some valuable words and memories. We can carry these into the next year and beyond in our Bag of Holding, reaching in whenever we need a little light. These folks are beside us on the journey through time. As long as we remember, there’s always hope.

I don’t take credit for this, but it’s posted on the Daily Mail.Somehow, this seems appropriate as we near the 50th anniversary of this album.


Moana: “We Know the Way”

I’ve been listening to the Moana soundtrack on heavy rotation lately. It gives me a connection to the film while I wait to go see it again. One song that I keep coming back to is this one, “We Know the Way.” Spoilers will come after.

Last night, I wrote about Moana and the ocean. This song appears at that crucial moment in the film when Moana learns that her ancestors were sea voyagers. The scene, which involves a cave in that epic sort of way would make Joseph Campbell proud. We can learn so much of ourselves when we go into caves, or at least that’s what the myths tell us. Moana goes into the cave at her grandmother’s advice, because Moana is trying to learn why the island is dying. She is instructed to bang the drum and listen to what the cave tells her. The cave sings “We Know the Way” to her.

Here’s a lyric excerpt:

We read the wind and the sky
When the sun is high
We sail the length of the seas
On the ocean breeze
At night we name every star
We know where we are
We know who we are, who we are

The wayfinding tradition is that they learn how to read the stars, the ocean, and the wind to navigate the sea. Because they have been landlubbers for so long, they’ve forgotten how. The secrets weren’t passed down. When Moana’s father tried to venture beyond the reef, he didn’t know how to sail, so when he encountered a storm, he lost his best friend to the depths. He never forgave himself, and when he became the chief, he put an end to voyaging past the boundary of the reef. Moana, whose name means ocean, couldn’t ignore the call.

Learning the origins of her people is a significant moment for her–it gives her the validation that she can, in fact, heed the call of the ocean. She realizes that if she can revive the sailing tradition with her people, it would solve their food shortage and dying island problem. Her father is displeased by this idea, and threatens to burn the boats. Her grandmother uses this time to fall ill (again, in a perfectly Joseph Campbell pushing-you-on-the-adventure sort of way). Her grandmother tells her to go, and while everyone’s back is turned…she does.

My interpretation of the song hinges on the line,

“We know where we are
We know who we are, who we are”

The very identity of the people is wrapped up in the adventure. By adventuring, they know who they are. They always know where they are, and they’re never lost. Importantly, their collective Self is never lost. It’s a rather popular notion in contemporary culture that “not all who wander are lost.” But what does it mean to be lost really? Can one be lost if one knows exactly where one happens to be?

This is something that I think American culture values in our myths. From pirates, to cowboys, to space explorers, American myth is filled with people who are never lost, yet are constantly on the move. The constant state of being rootless has created a weird phenomenon that Rollo May sums up through his analysis of “the lonely cowboy” (The Cry for Myth). We perpetuate the myth of this character, even if it’s not factually true–we want to be on the move, but it does get lonely.

Moana’s ancestors traveled as a tribe. This is something that is missed in American culture. We may move in our small families, but not the entire extended family. We no longer move in tribes, and seem to value the fact that we don’t. Part of Moana’s boon is relearning the wayfinding tradition so she can reactivate the identity of her people. Imagine what strength we could have as a country if we reactivated our identity as a people, and started to once again sail together as a tribe.

Moana and the Ocean

The other day, I was surfing a Buzzfeed article about Moana and came across a delicious little tidbit:

“Moana” means “ocean,” and it’s a nongendered word.

This is a significant detail in the context of the movie. Spoilers below.


So, here’s the thing: The whole point of the film is that Moana is struggling with the fact that the ocean is calling her. When she’s a baby, the ocean chooses her. She wanders over to the sea, lured by a pretty shell. She reaches for it, and the ocean parts a pathway for her. She follows the trail of shells and meets a column of ocean, who essentially kisses her in the universal symbol of blessing, and gives her the green heart of Tafiti. She drops the heart as she runs back to her father, who is very nervous about the lure of the ocean (although he recognizes that Moana experiences the same call as he does–but this really isn’t a story about father atonement, so don’t get distracted by this detail).

Until she finally heeds the call to adventure, she struggles with the call of the ocean. I wrote about her anthem, “How Far I’ll Go,” in another post. One of the other members of my Doctor Disney trinity, Dori Koehler, wrote this great post about the Call to Adventure and Moana’s message for our country. (Our third is the ever-wonderful Amy Davis. You know, that Amy Davis.)

But think about it this way: if her names mean ocean, that call that she’s struggling with is the call of her Self. So let’s talk about how this film isn’t just about empowerment; it’s about individuation.

Personally, I think that individuation is one of Jung’s best concepts. This is the process by which one becomes a whole in-divid-ual, with a balanced psyche (conscious and unconscious). One of the arguments I get into with older Jungians is whether or not individuation can happen in younger people. One way of interpreting Jung’s theory about individuation suggests that once you achieve it, you’ve achieved nirvana, and you’re done. The way I tend to interpret individuation places emphasis on the process, and brings together the end goal of the process with the hero’s journey of Joseph Campbell. One often overlooked detail about Campbell’s journey is that the hero has to go home and share the boon, and once this is done, the hero goes off on another journey. Stories aren’t written to share with us the next step of the journey. So what if the heroes aren’t just going off into the woods…but rather going on their next journey?

That, to me, is closer to the reality of life. We constantly go from one journey to the next. Each journey builds on the previous to define who we are, adding a facet to our in-divid-uality.

When Campbell writes about what happens to us when we ignore the call to adventure, he’s cautioning us from getting so static that we forget about the journey and forget who we are. That little voice constantly calling us tells us who we are. It’s our heart.

The ocean is calling Moana. The heart of Tafiti is her heart. Her heart is literally calling her home.

Moana’s boon is to restore her people to their Wayfinding tradition. She learns from Maui how to navigate the seas, and she takes her people back on the adventure. As the song of the Wayfinders tells us, they always know home in their heart as they go searching for the next island. The point of her people is to go on the hunt for the islands that Maui raises with his fishhook. To constantly go on questing journeys for the next adventure.

When I sat through the credits of the film, I posted on Facebook the observation that this film out-Campbells Joseph Campbell. Because it does: Campbell may have given us the literary road map of the hero’s journey, but this film takes to that next level: the journey continues. Literally. We continue.

Speaking of heart, I want to give a shout-out to the short film ahead of Moana, called Inner Workings of the Human Body. Do you follow your head? Or your heart?


I would be remiss to not write something about Moana. I took my daughter to see this film as a Black Friday celebration. Let’s start with the trailer, then go through some comments, with spoilers of course.

There’s so much to say about this film that I’m still a bit speechless and struggle to gather all of my thoughts in a way that makes sense. The premise of the film is that Maui, trickster god that he is, steals the heart of Tafiti, the Mother Goddess of all life. His reasoning is that if he gives the key to making life to the humans, then they’ll be able to also make life and can prosper. At least he seems like he had some good intentions, right? He’s punished, though. Cast away on a remote island, and separated from his fishhook, which is the magical tool that gives him his god-like power (remember, he’s a demi-god).

As a baby, Moana, the chieftain’s daughter, finds the heart and is clearly blessed by the ocean for something far greater than herself.

What follows is this totally, and perfectly, Campbellian hero’s journey, except that it’s a very feminine journey. Moana isn’t a warrior (one of my peeves about female heroes–do they always have to be a warrior to have a hero’s journey? That’s so lame.), but she’s someone who feels a call to adventure. Her grandmother teaches her to listen to those voices that whisper inside of her, and when her island starts to die, she finally listens to that whisper. Her anthem, “How Far I’ll Go,” ranks up there with “Let It Go” for Great Disney Empowerment Anthems. It’s about hearing the Call, and struggling to get to the point where she’ll heed it. The song is reprised throughout the film at key moments when Moana unlocks another aspect of herself, with the final reprise wrapped into the song, “I Am Moana,” which is the moment when, after failing to confront the volcano god, she gains the courage to finish the journey.

And then there’s Maui. Maui is a trickster. He stole fire, raised islands, and many heroic deeds. When we first meet Maui, he literally acts like HE’S the greatest gift to humanity. His song, “You’re Welcome,” sings like the anthem for any dude who thinks that all women should be subservient and thankful for all the things that the male heroes do. But he’s incredibly lonely and doesn’t know how to be a hero without his fishhook. When Moana tells him that he’s no longer a hero to humanity and that the people are suffering, she uses this ego to convince him to go on the journey with her to restore the heart to Tafiti. What he winds up learning along the way is humility, that he’s not all that (and a hook of tricks).

The restoration of Tafiti’s heart can be read as a message of restoring the feminine, taking care of Mother Earth, having respect for the delicate balance of life…whatever flavor you prefer. In light of the rather tumultuous year that 2016 has been, restoring her heart and Tafiti’s forgiveness of Maui is one of the most beautiful, optimistic messages I’ve encountered recently. Everyone learns a little something about themselves.

Moana returns to her people with the boon of knowing how to be a Wayfinder. She reawakens the ancient spirit of her people, who were career adventurers, not domestic farmers. Maui learns new respect for humans and their relationship with the gods. The gods liked that Maui would raise islands with his hook, because it gave the people new places to explore. This was the natural order of things, which got out of balance because Maui took the heart.

My daughter loved the film. She’s just over 4, so she was most scared by the volcano god (of course). She’s started singing the songs and tells everyone that she’s going to Moana’s island (she’s had a Moana doll for about a month now, and she was really excited about seeing the movie). It resonated with the both of us in a strong way.

All I can say is, “Way to go, Disney!” It’s not a perfect adaptation of Polynesian myths, and I’m sure someone will STILL find something wrong with the depiction of Moana. But it is truly a masterpiece of storytelling and animation (Moana has curly hair and Maui has interactive tattoos). I think this is definitely the right story for the right time, much like Frozen was and continues to be. If you want to look at it mythically, the two films go together: one is about listening to the inner voice (Frozen) and the other is about having the courage to let the voice be the guide (Moana).

I leave you with the music video for the celebrity cover of “How Far I’ll Go.” It’s a little too pop for my taste, but it’s worth giving a listen.

Oh, and one last thing: the music was written by the same people who wrote Hamilton. I haven’t seen/heard Hamilton yet, but now I’m totally convinced to give it a try.

Post-Election OMG

unnamedI did finish the Lego Disney castle awhile ago, but the election (the feverish last couple weeks leading up to it and the time since) has moved my attention elsewhere. I’ve spent–literally–every night since Halloween playing Lego: Batman on my Xbox. Well, specifically #2 and #3. #2 is cool because it gives you an opportunity to explore Gotham, and #3 is interesting because it’s more about the wider DC canon (especially Green Lantern) than it is about Batman. For the record, the first Lego: Batman is my gold standard video game by which I measure all others, even the classic games of my childhood Atari and Nintendo days. Whoever had the brilliant idea of having a the player go through a Batman adventure only to unlock and go through the same adventure from the perspective of the villain is totally brilliant.

There’s a lot of conversation that needs to happen about this election. Not so much the “Why the fuck did this happen” conversation but more the “what can we do to make things better?” This election, whether you supported Trump or Hillary, was an exercise in the American Shadow, the nightmarish underbelly of the American Dream. It’s not just our constitution and civil liberties in jeopardy–but the entire fabric of the American myth.

When I was writing my dissertation, I was stuck on the chapter about New Orleans Square. I knew I was going to write about pirates, ghosts, and shadow, but I couldn’t quite figure out why or how. I think I spent more time on this chapter than I did on the rest of the dissertation.

One day, it struck me. I was watching the Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland collection about space and the atom, and the answer hit me in the face as though it had been staring at me the whole time. The Cold War. I had the history of the colonies, the frontier, and the foundations of American utopianism, but I didn’t have the why Disneyland now answer. The Cold War. The heart of the modern American Dream dates back to the mass consumerism of the Great Depression, but the stress, the shadow, the Doubt…that stems from the Cold War.

I was raised as a privileged person. Part of that privilege was the belief that the Cold War was a thing of the past. Yet, somehow, I knew it wasn’t. I intuited that we’d replaced Communism with Terrorism and that we weren’t done with the Shadow. Which is why the chapter was called: The Shadow of Doubt.

Going through this election was a super-impossible challenge. The results of it still have me reeling. It’s difficult to know what needs to be done next, but I suspect the answer lies in the fact that we need to start rewriting the myth. Define the American Dream on the utopian principles that inspired the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) rather than on our ability to have stuff. Our privilege.

It’s not an easy proposition, and I know that. So that’s why I’m playing Batman.

Meanwhile, check out my book, available on Amazon.com.


Lego Disney Castle, Part Two

I’m still not finished yet, but on track to be finished this week. I am intentionally not building it in one sitting to give it some time to sink in.

Phase Three

This one too about an hour to build. This phase gives the castle the first set of walls and the main door. Not too much to see here.


Phase Four

This one also took about an hour to build. This phase is a little more exciting than Phase Three, in that there is a lot more detail than we saw in the previous sections.

This one has a movie reference:


There’s Merida’s arrow, quiver, and the target from Brave. The best part? Those little tan circles represent the three cakes that her mother and brothers eat to turn into bears!

Main entrance chandelier:


A Grandfather clock:


As an interesting bit of trivia, all of the clocks in the castle are set for 11:55, locking the castle in the last exciting few minutes before midnight.

A vase of flowers:


While not technically a movie reference, I can’t help but imagine Bedknobs and Broomsticks when I look at the suits of armor.


And all together:


Phase Five

This phase only took about 40 minutes. Minnie joins Mickey:


And the castle gets some walls:


Phase Six

This one took an hour-twenty (I’m tracking the time, because I’m curious how long the total project takes).

A reference to Aladdin (the carpet and lamp):


More walls:


Phase Seven

Just under an hour at 50 minutes. The front is coming together now:


Phase Eight

This one took an hour. I constructed both Phase Seven and Phase Eight during the third presidential debate. Building Legos made the show of the debate much easier to deal with. And perhaps with a bit of irony (given that I was watching the debate), Donald Duck joins the castle cast:


And the walls start growing towers:


Phase Nine

And then I took a couple days off to get ready for a conference this weekend. This phase took almost an hour, and the towers got flags:


To be continued!


Lego Disney Castle

For my upcoming birthday, I decided to get myself the Lego Disney Castle. This is an exclusive set that contains more than 4,000 pieces. I have a profound love of Lego, and it seems that they increasingly turn their sights toward developing model kits, not just free form bricks. That makes my previous posts about why Lego instructions are useful all the more relevant. I don’t often spend my time or money on Lego products any more. For a while, I was obsessively buying the Star Wars models, only to burn out of Star Wars. I’ve sold or gotten rid of most of those sets by now, but I still have my Millennium Falcon, which, until this castle, is my Lego pride and joy.

So I got the castle:


When the castle was released in September, it boasted being the set with the most pieces Lego has ever released. The forthcoming Death Star (!) might actually have a bit more. The price tag is also daunting–a whopping $350 (retail)! Before you scoff at the idea of a box of plastic (by the way, the box itself is as big as my daughter), this set has far more custom parts than I have ever seen in a Lego kit. I can forgive the price and exclusivity. I really can’t imagine Lego mass manufacturing plastic mouse ears…

So last night I started the build. The instruction book is 450 pages, and is a hefty chunk of pages. I’ve noticed a couple new features about Lego kits (I also recently bought a newer set for my daughter’s birthday): one is that the instruction books include an inventory of the pieces that are included in the book, including how many and their part number. This is helpful in case one ever needs to get just a single piece (remember when a kit was ruined forever when it was missing one single key piece?). The other is that the pieces are divided into phases, and numbered accordingly. Given that this castle has 14 phases spread across 30 or so bags, I’m grateful for not having to hunt and peck through all 30 bags. I’m also grateful for not having to have all bags open at once.

There’s another piece that Lego has since designed:


It’s a Brick Separator! I’m convinced that my entire childhood would have been different had I had one of these. One of my complaints with my old bucket of bricks was that certain pieces were IMPOSSIBLE to separate, so I stopped piecing them together. I’m convinced that this tool would have encouraged me to free form build more. (Imagine the possibilities!)

Last night, I started building Phase One and Phase Two. Because I can, I thought I’d share the process. I have a conference next week and I haven’t finished my paper yet, so I think it’s going to take me a little bit to get the whole castle built.


I started Phase One last night at 8:49. This stage included building the foundation for the castle. There’s a lot of detail involved in Phase One; the foundation is 3 layers thick, and it feels like one of the most solid modular foundations (as opposed to a single baseplate) that I’ve ever built on. About halfway through, I found the first film reference:


Yes, those are little Lego frogs. Tiana and Naveen. On lily pads! The castle boasts 14 film references, mostly Princess and Fantasyland films, but it adds a layer of detail that makes this castle even more magical.

I finished Phase One at 10:21, so roughly an hour and a half later, and here’s what I accomplished:


It doesn’t seem like much, but, like I said, it’s a really strong foundation. I’m confident that it’s not going anywhere. Since the final product is over 2 feet tall, a strong base is important.


I began Phase Two at 10:23 with the building of this little guy:


Mickey is one five minifigs that comes in the set. When Disney released the minifig mystery bags over the summer, I got a few of them (I wish I had tried to get more, but I didn’t realize they were a temporary thing…like everything else Disney). I didn’t take a picture of his back, but part of building Mickey includes a little cloth tuxedo tail.

I finished 40ish minutes later at 11:09, and it doesn’t look like much progress:


With any luck, I’ll build a bit more tonight. There’s something truly thrilling about building Legos, and it’s a similar something to knitting a sweater or building IKEA furniture. I enjoy the exercise of taking two dimensional instructions and making the three dimensional product manifest, come to life, and become a tangible object for me to enjoy. So, more to come. Stay tuned!