I can tell by the pixels & by seeing a lot of shops in my time
November 27, 2014 2:15 PM   Subscribe

LEGO’s letter to parents, and how not to tell a fake when you don’t see one
According to the website of the Independent newspaper, LEGO UK has verified the 1970s ‘letter to parents’ that was widely tweeted last weekend and almost as widely dismissed as fake. Business as usual in the Twittersphere — but there are some lessons here about dating type.
posted by Elementary Penguin (53 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh geeze, more looking at pixels. It's always the pixels.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:26 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, so long as photographs tend to be edited in Adobe Photoshop or GIMP (raster image editors) or sent through rasterized image formats, I think pixels are pretty relevant.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:29 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Indy, without any forensic investigation at all, eventually established this by the frankly cheaty method of phoning LEGO and asking.
posted by ODiV at 2:36 PM on November 27, 2014 [46 favorites]


How many pixels do you really need to look at it when it's clearly in poorly word-processor-set Times New Roman? Other than the Lego logo on the bottom, the overall look and feel is like the kind of note that gets taped to the breakroom fridge about not cooking fish in the microwave.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:44 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also not a fake.
posted by spacewaitress at 2:45 PM on November 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


How many pixels do you really need to look at it when it's clearly in poorly word-processor-set Times New Roman?

Might be time to rtfa.
posted by howfar at 2:47 PM on November 27, 2014 [63 favorites]


Well that was much more interesting than I expected. Quite a detective story. And I will never look at a lowecase f quite the same way.
posted by localroger at 2:49 PM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh, and Dan Rather is holding on line 2.
posted by localroger at 2:51 PM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


Hah, that shows me. Well, it still looks fake.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:51 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Lego keeps correspondence, especially those concerning ideas, patents, etc. I would imagine they keep legal stuff. Like a lot of kids who grew up with them in the 70's, a friend and I sent in a letter, we got a reply, very ohlovetheideaofairtanksandsubmarined but legal jot after that.

One day, no air tanks with faceless workers cap and by Christmas next you have little policemen and scuba kits and bath tub rescue cutters.
posted by clavdivs at 2:52 PM on November 27, 2014


The short Indy article about it is worth a look.
posted by marienbad at 2:55 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Occasionally, there are moments when I'm proud to be Danish.

(Also, I believe my family - my can't-remember-how-many-grands-father, specifically - knew Ole Kirk Christiansen, and there are some old wooden building blocks in the family that have the raised pillar things on them (but are flat hollow on the bottom) which I've been told come from that connection. I do definitely know for sure that I have family working for LEGO now, though.)
posted by Dysk at 2:58 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think every Dane knows someone who works for LEGO, Dysk ;)
posted by kariebookish at 3:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, LEGO was great in the '70s, but more recently...
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2014


the frankly cheaty method of phoning LEGO and asking

I'm just glad a news organization did it's job of checking sources to provide a definitive answer instead of offering both sides of the story--sources say it's real but some internet photoshop and type folks say it's fake--and letting the reader decide.
posted by immlass at 3:49 PM on November 27, 2014 [17 favorites]


This is the level of forensic investigation that should be applied as standard to everything claimed on Twitter, dammit.
posted by Bwithh at 4:00 PM on November 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


Maybe everything is a fake. What about that?
posted by thelonius at 4:01 PM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe everything is a brilliantly-constructed-from-Lego fake. That's wayyyy more interesting.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:11 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


/points at people who said it was fake

Ha ha!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:18 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sure, LEGO was great in the '70s, but more recently...

In the old days criticisms of Lego could be lots of different things, now they are just one big peice.
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


The Graphic Systems C/A/T had been out for a couple of years when this piece was printed, so it could have been set on one of those. Equally, there were a few systems of letterforms on clear acrylic (kind of an optical step up from Letraset) which could be used for quick jobs. All of these evaporated without trace when photosetters appeared.
posted by scruss at 4:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I absolutely LOVE that all of the smug naysayers have been proven wrong. The sentiment of the letter is beautiful, poignant in any decade, and right in line with how I've always felt about Lego.
posted by brand-gnu at 4:31 PM on November 27, 2014 [18 favorites]


I saw this around a few days ago and my immediate thought was "that certainly looks like a modern word processor document rather than something 40 years old." Then I decided not to spend any further time thinking about it because internet detectives were probably on it and I would hear the verdict on metafilter one way or another.
posted by 256 at 5:11 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


God I love every case of the Internets detective squad being proven wrong on calling something fake or trying to figure something out. I'm just so tired of the smug bullshit, especially after the reddit Boston bomber and assaulted lady face scrubbing thing among many others.
posted by emptythought at 5:54 PM on November 27, 2014 [15 favorites]


Of course it looks like it could be produced today. Every Lego brick ever made is 100 percent backwards compatible. I have bricks that are 40 years old that are indistinguishable from bricks that I've bought in the last few years, and they still fit perfectly.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


This fit neatly with my memory of early Lego so I never doubted. Yay, Lego Corp.!!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:20 PM on November 27, 2014


I think that medium.com post was a fake. I mean, just look at the font!
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:29 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Awesome. I had seen this on FB and the Twitters but hesitated to repost it because it seemed too good to be true. I have zero ability to detect fake historical typefaces and I know from these kinds of things that every idiot who's seen a DVD of Helvetica thinks he's a typesetting expert so I didn't even bother to see what people were saying about it. Glad to see that the cynics were wrong for once.
posted by octothorpe at 7:06 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's also something to be said for the overlap of the "fake and gay" crowd with the "eww this is tumblr bullshit I hate social justice warriors they ruin everything" crowd. I'm not saying the venn diagram would be a perfect circle, but it isn't a peanut.

Like, there's a contingent of people who wanted this to be fake, not just that wanted to know if it was fake or not or suspected it to be for various reasons. They had an actual motivation to prove it was other than the thrill of the chase or whatever.

I'm not saying the people in this post are necessarily approaching it from that angle, but plenty of people were. "Lego isn't run by dumb tumblr feminists so this must be fake".
posted by emptythought at 7:55 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


As someone who grew up in the seventies, it's not really surprising that this is real. In some ways gender roles for kids seem more constrained now than they were then.
posted by octothorpe at 8:00 PM on November 27, 2014 [24 favorites]


Sure, LEGO was great in the '70s, but more recently...

Well really, Lego still makes the general sets, you can buy them on their website and -- get this! -- they're much more reasonably priced relative to what you get than the licensed ones. You can get a pack of 600 or so bricks for around $30.
posted by JHarris at 8:08 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Right, but now we also have Lego Friends.
posted by Dr. Send at 9:47 PM on November 27, 2014


We've had a few of those. Other than the weird minifigs they've been pretty good sets - the different brick colours are nice.
posted by Artw at 10:18 PM on November 27, 2014


Maybe everything is a fake. What about that?

"Nothing is true, everything is permitted."
posted by radwolf76 at 11:11 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


"As marketing blurb, it now seems oddly defensive and curiously drab, but laboured long-form copy was an accepted trope of the period; people had more time to kill back then"

In the middle of a 4000 word article about the fine detail of the typesetting of a short note from a toy company.

A fascinating 4000 word article, but still, the irony.
posted by logopetria at 11:56 PM on November 27, 2014 [22 favorites]


God I love every case of the Internets detective squad being proven wrong on calling something fake or trying to figure something out.

In the aftermath of the loss of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo last month, over at NASASpaceFlight.com (despite the name, not a NASA site) there was a massive thread, starting around about here, in which a group of armchair experts conclusively, positively, and confidently determined that SS2's engine had blown up.

The FAA then announced that the engine and fuel tankage had been found intact.

(Of course, this simply led to vast amounts of speculation on little or no evidence as to details of the design of SS2 or what the deceased co-pilot might have been thinking. After all, once you've got up a head of steam speculating, why stop?)
posted by Major Clanger at 12:01 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


In some ways gender roles for kids seem more constrained now than they were then.
In many ways, it feels to me. And it makes me sad.

But isn't that the whole point of this image showing up on Twitter?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:51 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I instantly reposted this when I found it despite often being skeptical for fakes. I think being just the right age for it to have been in my home, well it echoed exactly how I remember feeling and playing with Legos at that time.
posted by meinvt at 6:21 AM on November 28, 2014


I really enjoy how people think that Times New Roman is a new font from the computer age. For the record, it was created in 1931 for The Times of London, it was their new font which they commissioned because of complaints about the readability of the old one, and it was an upright, or roman, rather than a slanted, or italic, font.

TNR was put in general sale in 1932.
posted by eriko at 6:21 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


We were talking about the way Legos used to be at my grandma's funeral back in March. She always had at least one Lego castle for her grandkids (boys and girls) to play with, and I think she always liked playing with them too.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:45 AM on November 28, 2014


I was a boy in the 70s. My Mom dragged me to fabric and craft stores that little boy me found horribly boring, even though she neither sewed nor did crafts. (She did talk a lot about wanting to do these things.) There were two craft stores nearby. One was really boring. The other one was much better because it had a dollhouse. I liked playing with the dollhouse.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:36 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lego Equality Letter on Snopes: verdict: True.
posted by larrybob at 9:58 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


In some ways gender roles for kids seem more constrained now than they were then.

I think this is the result of increasing freedom. This is the pushback from acceptance. My little cousin is totally excited that he can marry another boy. For older people, like myself, this is surprising, and maybe alarming. But once the old world passes away, the new world will be theirs.
posted by SPrintF at 11:08 AM on November 28, 2014


Fascinating article. Thanks so much for posting.

I think what's more interesting (to me) than all this typographical phenomena (which I don't quite understand completely): what is the psychology of (mostly) men WANTING it so badly to be a fake?

In some ways gender roles for kids seem more constrained now than they were then.

I think this is the result of increasing freedom.


Partially. But toy shelves weren't colored pink and blue when I was growing up.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:30 AM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think this is the result of increasing freedom.

I think it's the result of increasing capitalism.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sure, LEGO was great in the '70s, but more recently...

We are really filling up the Lego Internet Discussion Bingo Card!
posted by grouse at 11:55 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I laughed out loud at this:
The Indy, without any forensic investigation at all, eventually established this by the frankly cheaty method of phoning LEGO and asking.
posted by RobotHero at 1:07 PM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


emptythought: God I love every case of the Internets detective squad being proven wrong on calling something fake or trying to figure something out. I'm just so tired of the smug bullshit, especially after the reddit Boston bomber and assaulted lady face scrubbing thing among many others.

Yup. There are way the fuck too many people who think they are a hell of a lot smarter and more knowledgeable than they actually are, and attacking people publicly under this delusion. I wonder how many of them have apologized equally publicly to fryd_ for claiming they were lying?
posted by tavella at 3:24 PM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


strangely stunted trees:
Well, it still looks fake.
Reality is unrealistic.

The full epistemological conclusions to be drawn from the very justified existence of that trope, which is so very much a product of our times, are left as an exercise for the reader.

(Me, I'm just happy to find out that this particular letter is real.)
posted by seyirci at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2014


I found the discussion of the paper creasing hilarious. All this speculation about color laser printers and cracking inks and so on. Within my arm's reach is a bag of Lego instruction book and brochures. They are mostly from my childhood and now my kids play with them. They all have crappy typesetting, idealistic copy and the old ones have fuzzy creases from heavy use. It never even occurred to me it could be fake, because it looks right.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Same for "Made in Germany" -- I grew up in that era, and as I recall, the only time "West Germany" was specified was in politics and the Olympics. Otherwise, it was just Germany.
posted by tavella at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


See, you're all wrong. It's clearly fake because it refers to "Lego" not "Legos".

/sarcasm
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:01 AM on November 29, 2014


It is very telling that the Lego online shop as a "Girls" category but no "Boys" category.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:16 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


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