And the Winner of SHIPtember 2017 is…

Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing, who also took the top spot in 2016.  The rest of you losers can go home now, try harder next year!

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I would love to tell you who won the SHIPtember People’s Choice award for this year but as usual, Simon Liu has wandered off to the next shiny thing and probably won’t think about it until just before next year’s contest.  I thought about tallying up the votes myself but that sounded too much like work and it’s a useless exercise because Zac was clearly going to win the challenge anyway. Sure the BASILISK seemed to be leading the way and it was an exciting and worthy SHIP…but we’ll never know because Simon is awesome at starting things but not so awesome at finishing them.  Maybe he’s busy with the Canadian branch of C4C, that would be a pretty good excuse.  I’m probably in the tiny minority of people who are bothered by his inability to close out the proceedings, but I’m old and cranky so why are you still standing on my lawn?

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For you SHIPtember enthusiasts it is worth noting that creator of the BASILISK and  friend of the blog Pico van Grootveld completed the official poster of last year’s offerings.

So a heartfelt congratulations from the Manifesto to Zac Lowing and all praise to Brama.

Friday Night Fights [Round 25]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another ACL tearing edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the Vipers with control of the snake-pit and  NoVVember bragging rights on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from beyond the lighted stage, it’s Don “The DragonWilson and his “Devil’s Advocate“.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm Sweden, it’s Andreas “Lionheart” Lenander and his “Dragonfly“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the wild blue yonder, with global air supremacy on the line.  In the end, Justin “Henry” Vaughn and his “Crater Express Moonbase Taxi” body slammed Derek “The Action Figure” Schin and his “Aero Pirates“ en route to a bruising 8-5 victory.  Justin Vaughn scores his first victory (1-0) while Derek Schin runs his record to (0-1).

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Fire for Effect: What’s love got to do with it?

This is the improbable eighth salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect. Without any further ado, take it away Mike…

As most of my readers (all eight of you) already know, “Fire for effect” is the specific command one utters in order to summon a large (or at least decisive) amount of artillery fire against an enemy who’s exact location and disposition are known.  In this respect, I am wandering slightly afield with today’s fire mission.  Today’s installment would really be more accurately characterized as “counter battery fire”.  When enemy artillery fire comes in on your position, you try to identify the source of the hostile fire, and then to direct your own artillery fire against it (by use of task built radar systems).  I’m calling today’s fire mission “Counter Battery” because, I am inspired specifically by the work of another author.  I dedicate this fire mission entirely to him with all due respect.  His work was topical, relevant, and touched a nerve in me.  Even as I call for fire, I want him to know that it is only with the utmost respect that I offer this counter volley.

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Back in July, I read an article written by one very pissed off Australian AFOL called Jay.  Jay (who runs a very nice blog by the way) was angry because every year, TLG distributes “Exclusive Minifigs” via some kind of random draw system at the San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC).  Specifically, he said he was angry because he really, really wanted some of these figures, but he could not secure them at the price he wanted.  The title of the article was basically his thesis: “San Diego Comic Con exclusives are terrible and LEGO needs to stop them.”  Here is a link to the article itself:

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I liked the article.  It lacked structure, but the author took refreshingly unambiguous position.  Sure, in the comments, I fault him for not providing supporting arguments, to reinforce some of his underlying assumptions… but overall, I liked it.  More importantly though, I was taken with the other readers responses.  The empirical evidence suggests pretty clearly, that his thesis resonates with many AFOLs.   Out of 73 comments, 25 were statements of absolute agreement with the author’s thesis.  That’s a lot.  Only 6 were clearly statements of disagreement.  The remaining 42 comments were either unclear, impertinent, or they were the author responding the comments of others (also a pretty cool practice in my opinion).  25 to 6.  Most commenters were basically saying: “damn right TLG needs to stop!

The readers gave a lot of minutely different reasons for disapproving of this practice.  But when you boil it down to gravy, the majority of people were complaining that they couldn’t get the figures and this  makes them angry.  Here is a quote from the author that sums up many people’s feelings on the issue:

“I am continuously disappointed that LEGO are still engaging in this awful practice. Please stop screwing over your most passionate fans while you enrich resellers and scalpers. It’s anti-fun and anti-fan behavior.

I read this and thought: So what?  This question leapt to the forefront of my mind in an instant.  So what?  I repeated the question allowed this time, speaking to nobody in particular.  Flinging the question directly out into the dimly lit smoke-filled lounge where I was sitting… and then, the incredibly talented Mrs. Tina Turner put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and with one of her trade mark fleshy smiles, she and asked the musical question: What’s love got to do with it?  Then she sang and danced a bit.  When she was done, we sat in silence, sipping our drinks… and again, I asked myself: What’s love, but a second-hand emotion?

The author suggests in this quote that he (and AFOLs in general) somehow matter “more” because we  are passionate (or dedicated, or committed, or whatever) to the product.  He (and many others) suggest that their opinions should matter BECAUSE they are big time AFOLs.

And THAT notion is the fulcrum on which his thesis and my counter thesis pivot.  The notion that AFOLs matter to TLG was the spark for this FFEs thesis… right here… ready? It’s really short, so don’t blink…

AFOLs don’t matter to TLG.

We don’t matter one at a time, and we don’t matter when we gang up and get ready to rumble (cue the Warriors trailer, but instead of the Warriors, picture several morbidly obese bearded AFOLs running from the baseball bat wielding gang!) I’m not buying it.  If you try to collectivize it, and say that AFOLS as a population… passionately… consume a whole lot of Lego… and TLG knows it… and that make our opinions more relevant… you’re still deluding yourself.  Our eclectic and factious little tribe does not constitute a large enough share of Legos annual sales to actually influence TLGs marketing decisions.  Many AFOLs, like Buzz Lightyear, have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.  I’m with Woody on this one:

Just to be clear, I’m not saying I’m glad TLG does exclusives.  And I’m not saying it isn’t annoying that they do exclusives.  In fact, I’m not really talking about the “SDCC Exclusives” question at all here.  Jay’s article is an illustration of a larger, and more important assumption that many AFOLs share, and THAT assumption is what talking about here.  I’m talking about a prevailing belief amongst AFOLs that TLG acts (or should act) on the opinions of AFOLs.  I think this assumption is silly.

My argument today is what most scholastic debaters would describe as analytical in nature, as it does not rely on specific published information.  There are no detailed statistics or pie charts and there are no quotes by published experts.  It is not evidentiary.  This is because (honesty in lending here…) I rarely do any actual research in these diatribes.  This will be at best, a description of a research project that might be interesting if anybody actually did the research.  This argument, like almost everything else I have written here will be a prima facie deal.  I will offer a series of basically mundane assertions, each of which should appeal to you, constant reader, because they correspond with your own observations and experiences.   I am going to try to jockey these limited assertions into something vaguely resembling a syllogism because… it creates clarity and forces me to be logical even if my initial thought process is not logical.  Or phrased differently, if I cant make the syllogism work… it might be the universes way of telling me that “my dog just don’t hunt”

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So… here is a list of my assumptions.  These are all the basic assertions that I believe, and that when linked, will support my thesis:

  1. TLG is an ethical organization, but, the single strongest influence on their decisions is profit.
  2. TLG profit is massive. So massive in fact, that TLG is forced to consider not simply specific numbers, but larger concepts like “market share” and “strategic trends
  3. TLG knows that adults purchase, and have always purchased, more Lego than children do.
  4. The term AFOL is separate from the notion that adults purchase most Lego.
  5. TLG can only identify a small number of AFOLs as being separate from other adult Lego buyers.
  6. There is no accurate data source for AFOL numbers or activities.
  7. Because the AFOL market share is not KNOWABLE… it is foolish to assume that TLG acts upon it.

I will develop each of these points in a second, but just so I don’t lose you, here is a quick list of negative assumptions (NAs) that I DO NOT DISPUTE.  I won’t develop these assumptions, but I don’t deny them.  They are part of the landscape, but they are not germane to my assertions.

NA1.      AFOLs do buy more Lego than most adults… but only on a per capita level.

NA2.      TLG does know AFOLs exist… they just don’t care, or regard us as uncontrollable distractors.

NA3.      TLG does pay the AFOL community some small attention, because that is an inexpensive way to create the image of a socially engaged company (an artificial image is pleasing to the larger non-AFOL but still adult Lego purchasing population).

NA4.      Most of us… people… humans… everyday… have an exaggerated sense of self-importance (but this is extra, extra true when discussing Goldman!).

Still reading.  Really?  Well I can’t throw stones… I mean hell, I’m still writing so really, what am I going to say about you still reading?  I’ve wasted even more time than you so far!  Let me develop my assumptions while you jab holes in them… I can hear the hiss of escaping air even now!

Assumption 1. For as long as I have been paying attention, Lego has always come across to me, as a highly ethical company.  They held out against the sirens call of “war toy profit” for ages!  Lots of other lousy brands went to the low hanging fruit of military themed building toys… but Lego?  They made limited concessions, but they held tough to “no modern war themes” even in the face of almost certain loss of market share.  That’s commitment to an ideal dammit!  I just don’t see much of that.  Hell yes I would buy Chick-fil-A on a Sunday if they were open!  They are losing profit… in the name of a moral value?  Astounding by today’s standards.  So ETHICS?  Yep, TLG has, in living memory demonstrated a strong ethical element in their decision-making.  But ultimately, that lesser god, ethics, is subordinated to the oldest and strongest of the gods of the market place pantheon: PROFIT!

I give TLG props for holding out as long as they did… and I call them out… for selling out… with the introduction of the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Arc franchise action.  The Star Wars guns… Oh thank you TLG for those!  Modern, vicious and menacing in appearance.  But at the same time, it was kind of the end of innocence.  Gone were the days of “romantic violence”… you know, medieval weapons that are only used of impaling, cleaving, and hacking.  Gone were the happy days of black powder weapons and the marginal cruelty of low velocity irregular iron projectiles.  The era of fully automatic directed energy weapons had arrived… along with the affiliated profit margins!  Those kits all sold like gang busters, and still do (even as TLG attempts to back away from the cruel guns and replace them with those tragic spot light looking devices).  The point being that it is PROFIT and NOT ETHICS that ultimately directs TLG’s decision-making.  So for example, hurt feelings don’t matter to them…

TLG is going to engage in marketing behaviors based on impact of profit in terms of market share, and not on the notion that some ill-defined subset of the adult purchasing population disapproves of their actions.

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Assumption 2. Again, I own it… some really soft math coming up.  Hell, I better just get away from the word “math” all together here.  I got NO numbers for you.  NONE… so let’s go with relative amounts instead.  If you read Jays assertions regarding amounts of money he considers relevant to this discussion, he applies some decidedly dicey math (hey… it’s more mathy than my own thinking!) and derives an amount of 60K in on-line sales (its down in the comments below his article).  He hangs his assertion of relevance on this amount.  I counter with the entirely subjective assertion that this amount is paltry (no Keith, not like chicken.  That’s poultry).  Double this amount.  Multiply it by 10… it’s still chicken feed (or poultry feed).  I offer that these numbers… when compared to the galactic numbers TLG deals with (and which I haven’t even tried to locate) are infinitesimal.  The decision to offer or not to offer “exclusives” is not about immediate profit.  They are “promotional” items.  They are meant to get people’s attention.  Introduce the product to people who might not otherwise think about Lego.  Maybe to increase brand exposure or some other “non-immediate” agenda.  Like advertisements, these exclusive offers COST TLG some cash… and they MIGHT generate profit… but only indirectly.

So what?  How does this assertion relate to my thesis?  It’s about scale.  I’m saying that the tiny derivative numbers generated by counting the sales of exclusive figures on-line after the moment of initial distribution, falls short of the significance of profit residing in “market share” level numbers by orders of magnitude.  Why is TLG giving stuff away at SDCC?  It’s not because it’s an efficient method of distribution!  SDCC is TINY!  The largest fan driven comic event in the world… is TINY!  I don’t know WHY TLG does it… but I think its more likely to be about marketing than direct sales.  Maybe they are giving away Lego at the COMIC event in order to make MORE comic book consumers recognize and consume MORE LEGO.  Maybe it is an attempt to make comic industry players recognize and like Lego as a product.  Maybe they are trying to cook up a buzz at a gigantic week-long commercial marketing event.  All of these possible agenda are only relevant in terms of “market share” or “market demographics”.  Big strategic numbers… where tiny glacial movements can still result in massive amounts of revenue.   Of course, in fact… I certainly don’t know why TLG does it (again… no reliable data) but I’m saying that it’s NOT to make an immediate profit.  In fact… don’t they literally GIVE the stuff away?  Or at least sell it for even tinier prices?

The endorsement (or even the opinion) of the AFOL community does NOT enter into TLGs decisions regarding these low density high effort marketing maneuvers.  Further, those opinions SHOULD NOT MATTER… because we don’t buy enough Lego to matter… the profit AFOLs contribute is not MASSIVE, and TLG looks at MASSIVE numbers.

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Continue reading “Fire for Effect: What’s love got to do with it?”

MOCpages, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Firetrucks

It is my great pleasure to hand over the airwaves to friend of the blog, matt rowntRee, who has graciously agreed (after a great deal of cajoling and mocking) to share his wisdom on the current state of MOCpages.  With any luck this will not be his last article for the Manifesto, but for now lean back and enjoy matt’s take on a topic that has been burning up the comments section.

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First off, let me welcome you aboard the cruise ship here, pay no attention to the hole.  Or the slight tilt.  But the band is playing down on the Lido deck and we’re still serving drinks, albeit without alcohol much to Lloyd’s displeasure.

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But that’s so we can include the kids in our little voyage.  I mean, why would you NOT want to include them unless you’re admitting that you’re a godless pornographer looking to destroy impressionable young minds.  Is that what you want, sicko?  Is that why you’re here reading this drivel knowing full well who wrote it?  Is that why you are morbidly curious about this “fine” vessel?  Is that why the Shirley Temple you just ordered tastes like Kool-Aid with a hint of almonds?  Yes, remember folks that on this voyage we have to take into account the fragile minds of children.

(That one’s just for you Keith.  😉 )

Sound fun, constant reader?  But wait, there’s more!

Here are your monogrammed towel and rose colored glasses because our only port of call is a fine little island that goes by the nickname Castle Rock.  There you’ll find such wonders as a pigs head on a pointy stick with flies buzzing around it, a young man that talks to it, several tribes at war over a pair of glasses, and one boy named Piggy wearing a boulder for a hat.  Don’t worry if he doesn’t feel like talking, he’s just dead.  At the end of our time there, we will have ourselves a glorious little bonfire which may attract some curious soldiers on a transport to wonder how these children could become so feral and violent.  Don’t mind the warship, it’s only irony.

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You want an update on Mocpages?  Curious as to what’s going on there?  Want the latest scuttlebutt about a site where I can’t say “scuttlebutt”?  Wondering why someone that you, constant reader, here know to be zealous about artistic freedom would have some insight as to the social experiment that takes “LEGO Dark Ages” literally?

Well, you’ve come to the right place then!

But as with all things on Mocpages, I am the man to ask only by default.  All the lifeboats were filled and most everyone rowed to bigger, brighter, less sinking sites.  Good for every one of them!  You as well, constant reader, if for some reason you find yourself to be included in that wave of saved souls.  However, I have to ask why you left.  Was it the glitches like the INactivity bar?  Was it the comical Bonk, Smash, Thud-ism prevalent during contests with timeframes?  Was it the uploader that never ever EVER works, even though it does?  Was it technical, or was it something else?

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You see, constant reader, I have to tell you honestly that I don’t believe you when you say that it was technical issues for one reason:  They really only exist as minor annoyances.  Does Mocpages need upgrades?  Abso-fucking-lutely!  Without any doubt, the site is stuck in 2002, and it painfully shows its age.  It’s why many rowed their way to Sweden Flickr and Facebook.  At least that seems to be what they have said when asked, as if being courteous and non-confrontational, respectful and mindful of other points of view as if avoiding any sort of boat rocking on this unsinkable vessel.  The problem is that those sights are not Mocpages, that perfectly suited page set up ripe for conversation and display, that hive of active groups engaging in contests and community, that premier site devoted to the one single bond shared by every one of us:  Sharing our LEGO creations.  Hell, that’s even the motto at the top of the page there!  So what is it that made you flee a sinking ship?  Was it even sinking?  Had it hit the iceberg just yet or is it still blissfully full steam ahead?  If Mocpages is archaic, slow, and technically annoying, then why does anyone care?

I have the answer to that as well.

It’s simply perfect.  And you all want it to work.  It’s beautifuuuullll!

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But just like Pantera’s Box it cannot be closed.  We have all seen that Mocpages is the best platform for what the community needs and wants.  However, it is broken.  Well, sort of.  Not really, but it has issues.  Fixable, but seeing that everyone has pretty much left the liner, there is little reason to patch the hole that doesn’t seem to be taking in any more water, if it even was in the first place.  No ballast, no hole below the waterline.  Or I may simply be imposing my bias towards the pages there as they better suit my own style of building, a concession I would readily admit.  But something as open to all styles like that should by design be open to evolving and expanding, welcoming all manner of expression to freely converse and hopefully improve.  Again, I would freely confess that my expectations are far greater than actualities.  But as Keith’s art school girlfriend, I think they should be.

Now I think it’s time for a bit of updating as you all have been patiently and anxiously awaiting, likely begging even with baited breath no less.  That nervous tick of frustration compels you to know, like ripe fruit in front of you.  So close.  So very close.  Or you are just simply bored going through your daily routine in the morning before setting off to your job and want me to get to the damn point because you have some shit to say about Mocpages and this jerk keeps yammering.  (Don’t worry, I know that answer too.)

So, are you ready?

Are you sure?

Then in the immortal words of Herb Tarlek, “Mmmmmokayfine.”

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Nothing has changed.

Yes, you heard right, folks, and you heard it here first!  Not a goddamned thing has changed with Mocpages!  Still the same old glitches, still the same old uploader, still the same old spectacular cast of dozens (except of course those that are rowing vigorously), still the same castaways on their little island nations looking for power with Piggy’s spectacles regardless of who broke the conch shell (c’mon guys, read your classics!), still the same rose colored glasses, still the same man behind the curtain (shhhh, don’t wake him), still the same Pandora’s Box open to the world, and still the same rowntRee fighting the only causes worth fighting for, lost ones.

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(God, I hate that sappy movie.)

Is it sad to know that Pandora’s Box actually gives us all a bit of hope?  Yup, I can see it’s still at the bottom of the Box there.  And it’s why I haven’t completely jumped ship.  I have been over there for actually five years now (had to look it up) and have been riding the meteoric decline since.  The great exodus was right in front of me and I still saw that the site was worth the effort of sticking around (Surf Chernobyl!)  And over the past couple years, there has been a revival of voices (the remaining ones, that is) that have all but demanded that Sean wake up and fix the technical issues.  The hope is still there and I even have proof!  We started a group where we could gather ideas and suggestions (hence the name) to present to Kelso to present to Sean, all done in the hope that Mocpages was worth saving.  There were some great ideas fleshed out into feasible positives and a host of easy changes to operations that could be tasty and attractive.  Even for Sean!  Yes, we took into account that it had to appeal to him rather than be a whine fest of MP denizens demanding more now.

Well, Sean rolled over a bit.  And then promptly went back to sleep.  Apologies, Mr. Kenney for disturbing you, we’ll genuflect softer next time.

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Actual changes can be summed up easily with LukeClarenceVan the Revanchist (Lachlan Toal) and Chris Roach being made site wide moderators to help Mark “I’m pulling out my hair with all this bullshit” Kelso and Chris “I’d pull out my hair if I had the time” Phipson.

So, four people now occupy the prestigious position of Mocpages moderator.  They have all been granted complete power to enact changes and control issues, they can step in and take action under any circumstance to affect results in Sean’s absence, and they can repair all the technical problems as Sean has granted them full access to do so as necessary.  Okay, all that was complete bullshit as it is just four mods left to clean up the mess that opening the Box created.

There is only one other change of note.  The occupancy/activity has been reduced from over twenty pages (28 mocs each) when I joined to what is now four pages at best.  And most of them are filled with, yep, you guessed it, firetrucks.  Yes, you know your site is doomed when firetrucks invade the homepage.  I’m pretty sure it’s one of the signs of the apocalypse, the eighth seal perhaps, real wrath of god type stuff.

So where does that leave us, constant reader?  Because if you’re really interested in what’s going on over at a FREE website, then why aren’t you over there interested?  You all know it not to be LUGNET, it obviously was more than an exclusive sounding board and offered pics to share.  You know it wasn’t Brickshelf, it allowed more depth than a simple photo dump.  It was the best of both worlds; Flickr became the clubhouse by default.  But why is that?

My experience on Mocpages was tame by most standards and I’m not compooter savvy enough to know otherwise; it likely afforded me a bit of wiggle room when throwing in some sound reasoning to any argument.  It still however did not prevent me from getting booted out of a group there for pointing out their bias.  But I know that Vitreolum and Bricks Noir have both been “chase(d)…round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before (they’ve been given) up!”  Seriously guys, read the classics, but if you insist:

So that’s it.  All that is going on over at Mocpages is the same.  And it’s been the same over the past fifteen years.  And it’ll be the same over the next.  So, you want to know more?  Then get over there.  If everyone’s so curious, then go check it out.  But the only thing that really has changed in all the years is that everyone left.  For whatever reason, no one stays.  Blame Sean, he’s certainly culpable in letting it fall into ruins.  Blame the bands of roving mobs dictating policy based on their juvenile sensibilities, they are definitely the loudest voices since no one else there is speaking, let alone against them.  Blame me for trying more indirect approaches after seeing that kicking down the front door only let more flies in to swirl around the rotting pig’s head.  But if you’re not there actively engaging, then I’m not sure how anything I say will be enlightening.  There are no more players and there is no game, the lights are on but there’s no one home.

I tried.

I tried here as well, constant reader.  I was tasked with writing an article about Mocpages, but I’m afraid that although I have a unique insight, there just simply isn’t anything worth writing about.  Gertrude Stein would call it the Oakland of the interwebs, there’s no there there.  I am not one to call to arms and go fight the fight as I don’t see anything there worth fighting for.  Lost causes are one thing; Mocpages has simply devolved into a mob ruled monarchy.  And no matter how many moderators are put in charge, it’ll remain that way until Sean is out of the picture.

Or we take it back.  I mean what can they do?  Kick us out of a site we aren’t really on in the first place and certainly one we’ve been forced to not care about.  But for some strange reason, we still do.  And out of my own morbid curiosity, I am wondering why everyone will not give it a second glance.  For academic reasons, I want to know that if all the technical issues were fixed then is it possible for a migration back there.  Would the prodigal community be welcome by the locals?  Is a new uploader, all shiny and chrome, important enough for anyone to go back?  It seems to me that we’ve all adapted to Flickr relatively well, would adapting to Mocpages be out of the question?  If so, why?  We all seem to harbor fond memories of the old gal.  Yeah, on occasion she can be a bitch, but there was in fact something there that isn’t anymore.  Maybe it’s just us that aren’t there anymore.  And if it is more Mobpages than Mocpages, maybe it’s just the wrong mob.  Have we all been on that cruise long enough and are just simply sick of shrimp and Shirley Temples?  Should we just wish it a fond bon voyage from our own island?

As I said, constant reader, I am not one to call to arms.  But there she sits; same old Mocpages where nothing has changed.  But now you have an article telling you not only something you already knew but also absolutely nothing worth reading and somewhat indicting in its tone.  Apologies and you’re welcome.  Will any curiosity drive you to take Mocpages back or is the ease and features of Flickr enough?  Is community there at all appealing in comparison to community on Flickr?  Is there an obligation to one over the other?  Is there any hint of responsibility to this medium that compels you to help the next batch of builders to not make the same mistakes we all did?  Anyone else just simply enjoy a good fight?  Is matt going to relent with all these fucking questions?

Just one more:  Is Mocpages worth starting the fire of revolt over or is simply setting it ablaze the best option?

Either way, thankfully there are enough firetrucks to prevent it from getting out of hand.

“I love Los Angeles, and I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

The appeal of Andy Warhol has always been somewhat baffling to me but I do think his quote works well within the context of this article.  You see constant reader, I’m jonesing for some Lego action, I love plastic and I want to be plastic surrounded by other like-minded plastic people.   I want to reconnect with old AFOL Pokemon and add some new cards to my deck.  For a variety of reasons I missed the convention scene entirely last year so I’m determined to kick off 2018 the right way with a short trip down Interstate 15 to check out the festivities at Bricks LA.  Growing up in southern California, I always thought of Los Angeles as my beloved San Diego’s older, chlamydia-riddled sister, but I’m willing to put all of that baggage aside for a weekend of questionable antics with the usual suspects. The convention is in it’s 3rd year and since it’s one of only two options within driving distance from Vegas,  I’m all out of excuses for not checking out the scene.  It might not be the big action like Chicago, Seattle or D.C., but when I consider the dozen or so cons I’ve attended over the years, more often than not the most memorable ones were the regional ones.  One big advantage of a smaller con is that you don’t have so many drive-by conversations “Hey, how are you, what did you bring?” and you really get to know people and have a chance to hang out.

Constant reader Matt rountRee will be joining me for the road trip and if we’re very lucky so will noted Manifesto columnist and all around gasbag Michael Rutherford.  When the stars are in the right alignment, we form a distinctly American power-trio with the mutant power of making even obscure conventions like the one in Orem Utah a blast.  So if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area between January 5-7 of 2018, you should absolutely stop by and join us for the biggest Manifesto gathering to date at the Pasadena Convention Center!

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I’ll be bringing along The Marcus Garvey, my SHIPtember offering from this year, along with a throwback from 2008, ChiefLUG’s oMICROn Weekend.  It is also my intent in the next 50 some days to create a modest diorama to showcase the Garvey, and I’ll likely document that process here on the Manifesto as it progresses.  Generally speaking I don’t keep models assembled for more time than it takes to photograph and post them, but I’ve held onto the Garvey to show some visiting AFOLs and it seems like a good opportunity to get a second use out of it.

God only knows what rountRee will be schlepping to L.A. besides a flask of Jamesons, his battered VLUG cap and a home-made shank, but I would imagine his contributions will include the infamous Bushmaster, and if we’re lucky his Speeder Bike Contest entry from the beginning of the year.  If you do make it out to LA, don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to walk the hall and critique models with rountRee, to see the hippy bullshit-artiste in action.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll never look at models the same way again.  If you play your cards right, you might even hear him imitate Rodan with broadcast clarity.  Don’t be put off by the fact that he looks like a cannibal (those teeth!), Matt is very approachable and pliable with liquor.

If Rutherford does make an appearance, it will probably be with his standard kit: some pocket lint, half a tube of Mentos (The Freshmaker) and this dusty relic from 2007 that he drags to every con but can’t be bothered to post in his own photostream…because he’s lame.  I’m sure he’ll even bring one of his cherished copies of Brick Journal’s sold out, first edition to prove how awesome the model is.   He won’t mention the fact that I built everything under and around that model, or that Ryan Rubino took the cover photo because Rutherford can’t handle technology…no, no, he’ll stand there grinning from ear to ear, basking in the nostalgic glow of his beloved VTOL ambulance.  I would assume Mike’s SHIPtember entry will also make the journey, reduced to the component level by baggage handlers and his own terrible packing skills.  At least the design is so very simple that reconstruction shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes tops.  Seek out Rutherford at your own peril, once you get him talking it’s very difficult to extract yourself without great effort.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you to come and hang out, I’ll also be judiciously doling out some prime Manifesto SWAG to constant readers, cronies and a small cadre of convention-goers who prove their worthiness over the course of the weekend.  So why not join us for Bricks L.A. in January, it’s not like you have anything better to do.   Quite frankly, if you read this blog you can’t be that busy.  Yes the timing is less than ideal, right after the holidays, but won’t you be ready for a break from your loved ones just about that time?  Don’t you want to be figured prominently in the after-action reports from the field?  Ponder these questions, in the small hours of a long winter’s night.

Ted Talks: Building Buddies

Welcome back to another rousing edition of Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes tackles topics that are near and dear to his heart.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

 

“Do any of you have non-human building companion(s) that are always with you when you are building?” 

Way back during the speederbike contest (you know the one), halfbeak posted the picture below of his dog Saffie.  That got me wondering how many other FOLs build with their dogs, or other kinds of pets …excluding those hairless monkeys some of you call children…

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halfbeak – Saffie helping build the speederbike chase

 Our dachshund Pepper was my “building buddy”, and “playing Legos*” was our thing to do together.  She was by my side anytime I went down to the basement to build, and she would get upset if I went down there without her.  I’d just say the word “Legos*”, and Pepper would run to the basement door and paw at it, eager to get downstairs.

Her enjoyment was all about chasing the light reflections that occurred when I opened/closed my storage bins.  Sometimes I’d get so focused on building and forget she was down there under my feet.  But then I’d open a part drawer, and she’d start barking and pawing at the reflections (she was crazy about chasing laser pointers too, and the word “Legos*” sounded a lot like “laser” to her)… As for our other two dogs, well they couldn’t have cared less.

Eventually, I had to place cardboard along the basement wall, because Pepper would get “happy tail” injuries.  She was so excited to chase reflections that she’d wag her tail hard against the coarse concrete wall (and dachshunds wag their tails a lot to begin with).   The end of her tail would get rubbed raw, and then little blood dots would be splattered all over the place.  At first, I thought it was some dirty/rusty water somehow being sprayed out from our nearby sump-pump.  That “red spot mystery” took us few weeks to figure out.

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Cardboard vs. butcher paper

Unfortunately, we had to put her down in June 2015 due to an inoperable cancer tumor.  Seeing the photo that halfbeak posted above reminded me of the huge void that Pepper’s passing left in my building area.   After she passed, it took me some time to want to go down into the basement and build again.  I lost a true friend, and I still I keep that cardboard along the wall as a tribute to her.  I’m not sure if there was ever a bigger “Pet-FOL” than her, but I’d love to hear your stories too.  Plead your cases down in the comments below.

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Pepper – Note: She was also as smart as heck, feisty, and an avid hunter.  In this shot, she caught the scent of a mole and was probing the snow for it with her snout.  If I recall correctly, her kill list included 17 garter snakes, 3 moles, 1 vole, 3 chipmunks, a couple birds, and a baby rabbit (ooh, that was a rough day, but at least she’d be considered a friend to Elvis)…she never caught a squirrel though, despite numerous attempts.

The other “FOL + Pet” tag teams that I’m aware of…

– Of course we have to start this list right with the person who the Manifesto is all about…

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– I remember rowntRee mentioning his dog(s) name in the Manifesto comments somewhere.  Here’s a photo of Coda in his “Matt Cave”.

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– A local Louisville builder I know, Charley Harper, builds/sorts with his pet rabbit “Commander Carrot” by his side.

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Millie McKenzie’s cat actually did bomb her photos.  Of course, we all know cats can’t resist slapping around toys on a string.

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Lia Chan has a least two cats to help her out with her builds too

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Shannon Young and the greatest threat to the city of Shannonia.2905651363_75db68a70b_o.jpg

-The building of cathedrals is serious business for  Stefan Johannes Kubin and his cat.

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– And I don’t know who “LovinLego” is, but they’ve got a sizable Legoratory… and a cat running the show.

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Adam Dodge and his SHIPtember collaborator.

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John Patrick measures his SHIP attempts in dog lengths…

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Marcos Bessa felt inspired by the pug in his life, and decided to build one all for himself…except without all of their trademark wheezing and snorting.

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Joel Baker was inspired by his pup Zoe, and he made her a brick buddy too.  Dachshund pups, FTW!  He said that “she is good around LEGO now, but she used to try to pick up bricks and move them around the room”

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– You can count Dunechaser in the both the dachshund and pug camps…

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– And of courseLino would have a pet dachshund.  Since Lulu  has no interest in the Lego (or at least no interest in destroying his MOC’s) I wasn’t going to count him at first.  However, I then saw this picture of them being a luchador tag-team, and that earns major bonus points.

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Final thoughts…

There are couple things that I noticed when I was trying to research other builders and dig up these photos:

1) There are a lot of people who have named their dogs “Lego”.  When they call for them outdoors, I wonder how many people yell back “…my Eggo!”

2) There are quite a few other builders that have dachshunds too.  Way to represent, fellow wiener lovers!… Umm , wait.  That didn’t come out right…

3) Finally, I’ll end with this Public Service Announcement. – No pet in the world is impressed with photos of minifigs posed in real world environments (or Duplo), so leave your pets out of it.  That concept is lame, and you should feel lame.  You already put them through enough embarrassment by dressing them in your silly costumes.  Enough is enough.  End the abuse!

Sarah McLachlan – “In the Arms of the Angles”

(full disclosure: despite the levity of me linking this video, we actually donate to our local Humane Society, and have adopted a rescue too. Such a great dog)

So who else?

We need stories.

We need pictures.

We need videos.

*…and I don’t want to hear any crap about “It’s Lego, not Legos”, so “lighten up, Francis”.  I didn’t get it correct in all my other articles just to forget that now.  That’s a phrase I’m quoting, and me saying it to my dog was not going to erode TLG’s intellectual property by her ever repeating it. “Bark, bark.”

Friday Night Fights [Round 24]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for a special Veteran’s Day edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the wild blue yonder, waged between two USAF veterans with global air supremacy on the line.  Both entries were first posted in 2006 (continuing this week’s unofficial theme of decade old models), and illustrate the “whimsical” side of the valiant Airmen.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from an unmarked hangar at the Skunk Works, it’s Derek “The Action Figure” Schin and his “Aero Pirates“.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the DARPA wind tunnels, it’s Justin “Henry” Vaughn and his “Crater Express Moonbase Taxi”

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the pumpkin patch with a bag full o’ children’s souls on the line.  In the end, Anthony “The Wolverine” Wilson and his “The Wanderer“ smashed Andrew “Chrome” Lee and his “Happy Halloween“ to the tune of a 9-6 victory.  Anthony Wilson scores his first victory (1-0) while Andrew Lee runs his record to (0-1).

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I’d like to end with a shout-out to another valued Airman, Dave Manhire, who designed the banner of this august blog, and a raised glass to the vets.