Category Archives: Geek on the Street

LEGO Americana Tour-Geek on the Street


This is the US Capitol Building. Not the real one, obviously, but a replica built to scale, entirely out of LEGOs. Which is just incredible. This is part of a tour currently going on of famous American structures built entirely out of LEGOs. It’s the LEGO Americana Tour, and for a good portion of March (7-22) it is here in Salt Lake City, at Fashion Place Mall. Well, when someone says historical buildings made out of LEGOs, well, I come running. I love history, and I love LEGOs, so something like this is just awesome. Plus, it was a great free activity to take the kids to, which is always a bonus.

There were 10 structures in all made entirely of LEGOs. They had the Liberty Bell, The Capitol Building, The Washington Memorial, The Old North Church, Independence Hall, The Statue of Liberty, The Jefferson Memorial, The White House, The Supreme Court, and The Lincoln Memorial. Each structure was pretty amazing, and a reminder that with enough LEGOs, one really can build anything. I didn’t get pictures of each one, partially because I am lazy, and partially because any time we take all 5 kids out, at some point it becomes this weird sport that is a perfect mix of wrestling and a foot race. In any case, we did get some highlights, and those are going to be the bulk of this post, plus at the end, I present a mystery about one of the structures.



The first structure we really noticed when we walked into the Mall was the US Capitol Building. It was massive. The first one we actually passed was the Washington Memorial, which somehow kind of just blended in like it was a column or something, but once we noticed what it was, it was pretty cool too. The Capitol, though was just really large, and the attention to detail was pretty cool. All the columns, and each window and the mural carved into the front of the building, it was all there. In this picture you can get an idea of how large the LEGO structure was compared to two of my children. They had a drawing right next to it where you could guess how many individual LEGO pieces were used to make the structure. My son, Johnny, told me he guessed 1,000,000. He is convinced he is going to win with that guess. We’ll see.

Independence 1


This was Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed back in 1776. I mean, this is a replica, obviously, and not the actual Independence Hall. This one was my wife’s favorite of all the models they had there, and I love how simple it looks compared to a lot of the structures. This was America’s humble beginnings, and I like that. My daughter is showing here how much respect she has for history as she makes a face for the camera. How sweet. We’ll have to work on that.



This is the Liberty Bell, complete with the crack in it, which was the first thing Johnny looked for when he saw it. At least he knew what it was and why it was significant. All the models at the show were scale models. The scale for this one, however, was 1:1. That’s right, this particular structure is the same size as the actual Liberty Bell. That’s pretty cool. Now I feel like I don’t really need to go to Philadelphia and see the real one. This was pretty detailed as well. It even had the old, and now incorrect, spelling or Pennsylvania with only one “n”, Pensylvania. That was a more common spelling of the name at the time.



Jak’s favorite, as you can tell from his facial expression, was the Statue of Liberty. In fact, when he saw this one from a distance, he went ahead and ran aways from us and straight for it (this was the beginning or our wrestling/foot race sport). This was probably my least favorite because the others all looked so real, but this one didn’t, because of the face. The game was very cartoony. I understand how amazing it is to have the whole thing made out of LEGO bricks, but it was just out-of-place.


LincolnMemorialCloseUpLast up, was Johnny’s personal favorite, the Lincoln Memorial. Last month, around Presidents’ Day, Johnny was telling me that Lincoln was his favorite President, which is awesome, because i love Lincoln. I asked him what Lincoln was famous for, and his response was a little surprising. He said, “He made Gallaudet, the first deaf college.” I looked at him and said,”What else?” Then he smiled and did a face palm, and said, “He freed the slaves.” Don’t be too hard on Johnny, he is deaf, and his dream is to someday attend school at Gallaudet University, so remembering that Lincoln had that tie first, for him, makes sense. Lincoln, of course, did not found the University, but he did sign their first charter back on April 8, 1864, which, coincidentally is the same day that the 13th Amendment was passed in the Senate (it would sit in the House until passed on January 31, 1865). This charter made Gallaudet the first institute of higher education for deaf individuals. It remains the only one to this day. There are plenty of schools that have great programs for the deaf and hard of hearing, but Gallaudet is the only whole college for deaf people.

This brings me to my little mystery, or conspiracy theory. If you take a close look at President Lincoln’s hands at the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll notice that one hand is clenched in a fist, while the other hand is more relaxed and open. According to the National Park Service website, the clenched hand represents Lincoln’s strength and determination to see the war through to the end, while the relaxed hand is more open representing his compassionate, warm nature. Many members of the Deaf Community have a different theory. They say the clenched hand is in the shape of the letter “A” in the manual alphabet, while the open hand is in the shape of the letter “L.” The NPS website dismiss this theory as false, and claim the meaning of his hands is only the meaning they provide. However, Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the Abraham Lincoln statue, has another famous work in Washington, DC. On the campus of Gallaudet University is the statue of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, the first teacher of the deaf in the United States, and his first student, Alice. This Gallaudet is the namesake for the University. This statue was also sculpted by Daniel Chester French. It is possible that he was exposed to a little ASL as he sculpted this for the school, and that he was exposed to the fact that Abraham Lincoln was the president who signed their charter, allowing them to bestow degrees upon their students. It seems like a solid enough connection to make this theory at least plausible.

In any case, the LEGO Americana tour is here until March 22, and is well worth your time if you are into LEGOs or into history or into both. If you’ve gone already, what was your favorite LEGO structure there? Let us know in the comments.

Geek on the Street: Life, the Universe, and Everything

Living in Salt Lake City is really great for a geek like myself. There are so many geeky things to go and see and do, it’s fantastic. A lot of things are probably not as well-known or as well publicized as Salt Lake Comic Con, or Salt Lake Comic Con’s Fan Xperience, or FantasyCon. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth going to and checking out. In this edition of Geek on the Street, I took a trip down to the Life, the Universe, and Everything symposium, which was held at the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. This was my experience.

First of all, it takes a lot for me to venture down south. There’s a weird feeling in Utah County, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Something happens when you cross the Point of the Mountain, and you are just in a different world. That being said, this symposium, combined with the possibility of taking Frontrunner down, which is a real live train, none of this Trax stuff, was enough for me to take the trip.


Waiting for the train. Look how excited I am.

Unfortunately, that is the last picture I will have in this post. There are a couple of reasons for this. Number 1, I am awful at remembering to take pictures of things. I just forget for whatever reason. Or I don’t think of it, or however you want to look at it. Number 2, LtUE is not like comic con or FanX. There isn’t a lot of cosplay, or a lot of spots set up to take pictures, so there wasn’t a lot to take pictures of. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

It really was a different experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I went down there. Part of me was picturing a Comic Con but on a much smaller scale. I guess in some ways it as like that, but not really. Yes, it had panels, like Comic Con has. Yes, it had a vendor floor like Comic Con, and an artist area and it had a game room, but each of these were different from the Comic Con counterparts. After going on Saturday, and really enjoying my time there, I guess I would say that Comic Con is just for fun, but LtUE is for people who are serious about this stuff.

What stuff?  Let me explain. If you are unfamiliar with Life, the Universe, and Everything, it is a premiere symposium for people who write Science Fiction and Fantasy. This was, I believe, the 34th annual LtUE, so it has been around for a while. I would imagine it is in Provo because BYU is in Provo, and BYU has produced a huge number of great SCi-FI and Fantasy writers. 2 massive examples would be Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson. Those two would be enough, but there have been many others to come out of BYU, so the location makes sense. This gathering is not just for fun, although there is plenty of that to be had. Most of the attendees were there because they are aspiring writers who either want to start writing genre fiction, or have already written something and are now looking to make some connections to get it published. There are rooms set up for pitch meetings and quite a few publishers there, looking for some great authors to pick up here. Many of the panels had to do with furthering your career, like how to pitch your ideas, how to find an agent, or whether you are ready for an agent, and so on. There was the occasional Why are there so many sequels or Villains in film panels, but for the most part, the panels were designed to help you move your writing career along. It is a great opportunity for any aspiring writer to go and network.

Your humble blogger here, has aspirations, maybe someday, to write some fiction, so I found a lot of the information helpful. I am by no means ready to hire an agent, or try to get anything published. Mostly I write this stuff, and that’s mostly for fun. I don’t think I’m even very good at this. It is amazing, though, to be surrounded by these creative types. It makes you want to be creative and write so much. These are the real deal geeks, and I mean that in the highest respect. These are the geeks I aspire to be. They read a ton, and they write a ton. It makes me want to be a better geek. Maybe, now that I have the blog up and going, and people seem interested, maybe I am ready to branch out into fiction. Maybe I will chicken out. However, if I keep going to things like this, I might get up the nerve to finally do it, and maybe, I will just get enough guts to let other people read my stories. That’s what these kind of gatherings do. They make you feel like it is safe to share, that you can do it. That is the best part, or it was for me.

The goal with my blog originally, was for me to start writing again. My wife made me do it, because she is a loving and supportive wife, who sees my potential. She wanted me to start with the blog, but she wanted me to go further, so maybe I need to. Maybe it’s time to start down that path.

In any case, I loved my experience at LtUE. I would definitely go again. There are so many networking opportunities and it is so much more intimate in the panels and meeting the authors, than what you find at Comic Con. Comic Con is amazing, but so it LtUE. Just a different kind of amazing. I enjoy both for different reasons. I would recommend LtUE for anyone who is wanting to write genre fiction, or for anyone who has written something and they are wondering where to go next. It will help you take that next step, whatever it is.



Geek on the Street: Black Cat Comics


Welcome to Geek on the Street, a regular feature that covers local geekery on the street level.  This post will focus on one of our local comic book stores, Black Cat Comics.  The store is located in the Sugar House area at 2261 Highland Dr, Salt Lake City, UT and they are open from 11 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday, and 12 pm to 5 pm Sunday.

Black Cat comics opened their doors in 2004 and have established themselves as a staple in the comic book community.  The staff is typically very knowledgeable and helpful.  They are always willing to share their opinions, crack a joke, or help find whatever it is you are looking for.  The store itself is exactly what it says it is: comics.  Don’t expect a lot of extras or fluffy stuff when you come here.  If you are looking for a store that will sell you a bunch of comics related stuff, but very few actual comics, don’t come here.  They are pretty much straight up comics.  The layout of the store reflects this attitude.  When you walk in, at first glance, the store isn’t anything spectacular.  The west wall of the store is lined completely with the latest series and issues of comics, back to front.  The front wall is the location for one small cabinet that houses a few collectible statues and busts.  Toward the front of the east wall is where the kid’s comics are located, then going toward the back is a section for manga, then a small action figure section, and finally a few shelves of graphic novels.  The back wall of the store is where the register is located, complete with anywhere from 1-4 employees depending on the day.  More often than not, one of the employees is actually the owner, Greg Gage. Just to the left of the register is the bargain bins, containing thousands of comics for 25 cents.  The middle of the store is filled with one big section of tables, stacked with boxes, both on the tables and underneath, all containing back issues of series.  When you walk in, like I said, the only thing spectacular about the store is the amount of comics.  Some might view it as a negative that the store carries almost exclusively just comics, but I like it.  I think there are too many stores that claim to comic book stores that focus too much on the other stuff.  I don’t go to a comic book store to look for a collectible ice-cube tray.  I go to find comic books.  Period.

One of the highlights of Black Cat Comics is the super friendly and helpful staff.  I started coming here a couple of years ago when I was working in the area, so it was out of convenience more than anything else.  I have since moved on to other positions that have taken me away from that area, and I don’t really live that close, but I keep coming back because I like the people here.  Greg is one of the friendliest business owners you’ll meet.  He knows me by name there, and always asks about my kids or we talk about the latest movies or announcements or whatever.  It seems like he works hard at employing staff that treat his customers the same way he would, which is smart business as well.  It is also refreshing that the staff there know their comics.  I had a great conversation about women in comics with one of his employees the last time I went in there, and she was an expert.  She knew a lot of the history, and could talk about the current stuff too.  It was cool.  The staff is a major plus here.

The pricing here also seems fair.  I’ll admit, I don’t buy a lot of collectible issues or things like that.  At this point in my life, I can just afford a few current issues that I buy there at the retail price.  However, when listening to Greg make deals on the items he buys from people who bring them in, it sounds fair.  Yes, Black Cat Comics is a for profit business.  This is how Greg makes his living, so they do try to make money off their items.  Just like any other store.  It just doesn’t seem as ridiculous as other comics establishments.

Black Cat Comics is a great store with a loyal following.  The store presentation may be bait underwhelming.  I personally like it, but I can understand how it can be.  In fact, I felt that way when I started going, but it’s grown on me. The staff and selection make up for it though.  Overall, I would recommend Black Cat to my friends, and often do.  Go stop by, check them out.  Tell them Jake sent you.  They won’t give you a discount or anything like that, I’ve just always wanted to say something like that.