Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.
Watch the video, it's amazing.
'The kids who had been given an unfair advantage immediately used their power to try to level the playing field.'
Yeah, I though this was interesting, along with the way it was perceived by the other children. I also like that one of their made-up names for a kid was Marlowe.
When I was in middle school we did an extended history project roleplaying the middle ages. We were assigned a character at the beginning of the project with certain prospects (I was Margaret someone or other). Then we did things like trade our various chickens and devote lessons to court where people were tried for brewing alcohol or some other heinous crime. I guess it paralleled the LegoMarket, but mirroring feudalism.
I think what I actually got out of it was what almost every child gets out of extended school projects (or, for that matter, films that last longer than the lesson) - that just before it all gets wrapped up term ends. I'd be interested if I could remember/read about it now though, see what the teacher thought was happening and how our little court actually worked.
I have just this second finished an article about this whole thing and how fucked up it all was.
When everyone had their Legos, the teachers announced that each color had a point value: The more common the brick color, the fewer the points it was worth, while the scarcest brick color, green, was worth a whopping five points.
I misread "the scarcest brick color" as meaning "the brick colour represented in the fewest kids' collections", but it seems to mean "the scarcest brick color overall".
Legopoly seriously needs a second edition.
What's interesting about *that* however, is how spectacularly that demonstration failed. The kids who had been given an unfair advantage immediately used their power to try to level the playing field.
But yeah, these teachers are quite disturbingly politicised. In particular, the trading exercise was meant to show up the failings of "meritocracy", when I don't see anything meritocratic about controlling the world because you happened to pick the green bricks. If anything, being given a large amount of wealth through a sheer twist of fate that had nothing to do with any real effort on your part is more like aristocracy.
The thing which got me is the conformity that resulted. All buildings in Legograd are the same size, built from the same number of bricks, comrade. How depressing would it be to live in such a place?
Things I immediately notice from the Lego article:
- They took a project that the students had created spontaneously and turned it into something with an externally imposed structure.
- They behaved, throughout, with a clear, politicised motive that in my personal opinion goes well beyond the remit of a teacher.
- The new "equal" system they wound up with was only "fair" by a relatively narrow definition of "fairness" which I had, until recently, assumed was a straw man created by the right. It enforced fairness by eliminating variety.
- They basically took a system they didn't like, replaced it with a system they did like, and declared it "better".
I spent most of my time reading that article thinking "Jesus Christ, this is exactly what American Conservatives and Daily Mail readers are always complaining about, and what I was fairly sure didn't happen".
Most telling, I think, is the line at the start about the kid whose part of the original Legotown was bigger than everybody else's "because it was the fire station". Now I don't know about you, but I actually think that's a pretty good reason to have a bigger house than other people. Same with the airstrip. I kind of feel that the kids were learning much more about society from the original Legotown than from the sanitized "fruit stalls only" version.
- You will want the Dying Earth stories, obviously. They originally came out in The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga, and Rhialto the Marvellous. Various collections exist; anything which contains the four volumes mentioned should set you up nicely.
- His other major fantasy work is the Lyonesse series, set in a forgotten island and replete with Arthurian and other references and recently reprinted in two volumes by the Fantasy Masterworks guys. The individual volumes are Suldrun's Garden (sometimes just known as Lyonesse), The Green Pearl, and Madouc.
- In terms of SF his most significant series is The Demon Princes, the saga of one man's obsessive interstellar quest to kill the men responsible for the destruction of his home. A two-volume reprint is available.
- Planet of Adventure is the story of a crashed spaceman's interactions with four bizarre alien races competing for control of the planet Tschai, and is available in a one-volume omnibus. The second book has the fantastic title of Servants of the Wankh.
- The Alastor trilogy is barely a trilogy, more three standalones set in the same system of worlds, and is also available in an omnibus.
- The Dragon Masters and The Last Castle are two standalone novellas that recently got reprinted as one volume by iBooks.
- Other great standalones include Big Planet, The Blue World, Emphyrio, The Grey Prince, To Live Forever, The Languages of Pao, Maske: Thaery, and Night Lamp.
- In terms of short stories, there are maddeningly few in-print collections I'm aware of, aside from the obvious example of The Dying Earth. Someone really needs to start doing The Complete Short Fiction of Jack Vance, volumes 1-whatever.
Of the above, my favourites are probably the Dying Earth series, The Demon Princes, Emphyrio, and Night Lamp. Night Lamp, in particular, is achingly beautiful, quite recent, and to my mind (since he's decided to stop writing fiction) is his swansong, coming as it does before the forgettable Ports of Call duology.