Friday Night Fights [Round 43]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another cup check edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of Shrute Farms, with keys to the Trans-Am and several bushels of premium beets on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the plastic shores of Denmark, It’s Lasse “The Vampire” Vestergård and his “Rasmus Klump15740618984_11859f38ce_o

And fighting out of the blue corner, from Instagram on Avon, it’s Iain “Heavy HandsHeath and his “Battlestar Galactica“.

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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 a self-selected battle battle of Order Lepidoptra, with access to several well stocked walk-in closets and immunity to bug-lights on the line. In the end, the bout was scored a dismal tie with 4 votes cast for each competitor.  Both Stephen “The JuggernautJuby and Mitsuru “The Big NastyNikaido established records of 0-0-1.  This is truly a dark day for the long running feature and everyone involved in last week’s debacle should feel ashamed of themselves.

In case you’re not quite tracking on the theme of tonight’s match-up, I will refer you to the following video.

 

n. a thing or person regarded as upholding or defending an attitude, principle, etc.

I have good news for those of you who are on the lookout for fresh Lego related blogging content.  Yes indeed, a new banner has been unfurled over the digital battlefield, raised by constant reader and veteran builder Ron L. Mitchell.  If nothing else it will help pass the unpredictable and often lengthy interval between articles here at the Manifesto.

The name of the place is Ron’s Brick Bastion and it currently feature’s two posts that should give you a good idea of what to expect in days to come.  Although there isn’t an “About” link like I have here or a mission statement of any kind, the artist formerly known as Archon Caledonia provides a thumbnail sketch in the first article entitled “Genesis”.

This is about Lego. This is about Adults and plastic bricks. It is regarding the hobby of brick building, conventions, user groups and communities online. It may showcase some of my stuff from time-to-time or techniques I have found helpful along the way. I will likely showcase other builds I find inspirational and definitely discuss trends and the hobby in general.

Although he doesn’t make a point to bludgeon you over the head with it, the blog has a distinctly Christian perspective to it that will no doubt be appealing to a large swath of Lego fandom that is most visible on MOCPages, but reaches far beyond.  It’s certainly a unique approach, at least I have not come across a blog like it that I can remember, but don’t hesitate to link me to some examples in the comments if you have.  If you know Ron at all, this shouldn’t be surprising, I have committed several quotes to memory from his greeting statement on MOCpages and “I put the fun in fundamentalist” has always been a favorite.  I’m a connoisseur of these greetings, as you may know, and Ron’s got a few gems: “I am the designated driver for the AFOL’s of MOCpages.” and “…even goldfish for a time.”  Like so many of us, Mr. Mitchell is also an aspiring author with a passion for Sci-Fi, so who knows what we might see as the blog develops over time.

Admittedly, I find it very difficult to endorse Ron’s incorporation of the word Brick in the title. I’m of the belief that there should be a minimum 5 year, world-wide moratorium on the use of that word as it relates to the hobby.  BrickFest, Brickarmz, Brickheadz, Brick Plumber, Brick Nerd, Brother’s Brick, Brick Time, Bright Bricks, Bricklink, Brick Bash, Brick Con, Bricks and Beers, Bricks, Brick Fiesta, Bricks to Bothans, Brick-Buttocks, Brick Boilerplate, Brick Boner…it’s altogether too many bricks, it’s too easy!  I know we can’t use the word LEGO without incurring the wrath of our corporate overlords, but is it too much to ask that we employ some of that boundless creativity we’re always gas-bagging about?  If I seem a salty about the topic it’s because I’m a little annoyed that Ron chose to walk his own road instead of grabbing his own recurring column here, when this blog-of-blogs is so obviously desperate need for more voices than my own and the occasional offerings from Ted and Wolff.  Of course I’m being hypocritical because I myself chafed considerably when I had to blog for other people and adhere to their often Byzantine structure. In his defense, Ron assured me that he’s got some projects in the works for the Manifesto and I hope he makes good on those threats.  If not, it could be time for the touch of death!

So bon chance, Ron, everyone at the Manifesto wishes you well as you embark on your trip across the blogging cosmos.  May the solar winds fill your sails, oh Captain my Captain.

Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!

Genesis 27:29

And the Winner of SHIPtember 2018 is…

File this under excessive tardiness but our foundational traditions must be observed regardless of conventional time frame.  Your winner of SHIPtember 2018 is…Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing, a man and a mustache who every constant reader of this esteemed blog should be familiar with by now.  He’s the same MAN who took top honors in both 2017 and 2016.  The rest of you losers can go home now…try harder next year!

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There was some minor discussion around the water cooler that 2018 was a down year for the annual challenge, but there were definitley some memorable gems to be found in the inky blackness between the starts.  To my eyes, I found this year in general to be more interesting than usual because no single identifiable style dominated the field.  Even though the numbers might have been down in terms of overall participation, I think creativity and uniqueness was extremely high this year.  There were no endless fleets of lozenge-shaped HomeWorld inspired starships or generic, geriatric Star Wars designs or any other franchise for that matter.  After pouring through the results (my own results because as is customary, Simon Liu has not yet wrapped up the proceedings almost 4 months later) I thought I’d share them here.  I don’t want to drag Simon too much because I’ve done it enough in past years and he truly is one of the most generous people I’ve met in my Lego related travels.  That said, the natives seem to be restless this year and complaining about his laissez-faire leadership style more than I’ve seen before.  It’s a shame because SHIPtember is obviously one of the most dependable, influential and long-lasting challenge/contests we have in the genre or in the hobby at large.  Completing the month-long challenge is a rite of passage for most “serious” sci-fi builders and every year it draws in new talent and provides a nice stage to get your models actually looked at and commented on.  I almost wish Si would pass the torch to somebody more motivated rather than let it continue to deteriorate like so many other things in community.  Listen, I’ve experienced my fair share of suffering the slings and arrows of running contests and challenges…it’s largely a thankless job that requires time, followthrough, straight up cash homie and a good deal of all-purpose hassle over any number of issues (mostly shipping in my case).  I don’t blame Simon in the slightest for burning out, but I do blame him for not finding a way to breathe some new life into SHIPtember, either personally, or by getting some help.

If you’re curious, these are the highly unofficial results I came up with on the old quasi-reliable abacus.  The public was tasked with listing their top 3 favorite SHIPs of the year and these are your winners.  It was both interesting and kind of cool that a digital SHIP took home top honors in 2018, maybe that’s progress?  I think it’s the first one to ever do so, but I could certainly be wrong.  At the time of posting Simon was not available for commnet to confirm or disavow.

1st Place People’s Choice: Pleurotus Flight by Inthert, with 7 first place votes.

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2nd Place People’s Choice: Xylethrus-AMV by Halfbeak with 6 second place votes.

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3rd Place People’s Choice: MOTH by Oscar Cederwall (oOger) with 5 third place votes.

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In case you’re curious my favorite was the Doomsday Disco by the one true king Pierre E Fieschi.  Concept, style, presentation and cool name, it checks all the boxes for me.  It might not be the most unique or fanciest but he’s my go-to guy for all things SHIP related and I’d never cheat on him with some Jenny of the moment in high heels and fishnets.

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So you three weirdos enjoy your well-earned spots on the medal podium, but we all know who wears the crown…every year.  Every.  Year.

Friday Night Fights [Round 42]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another Haishu Uchi edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of Order Lepidoptra, with access to several well stocked walk-in closets and immunity to bug-lights on the line. Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, it’s Stephen “The JuggernautJuby and his “Atlas moth (Attacus atlas)

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the mean streets of Kurashiki-city, it’s Mitsuru “The Big NastyNikaido and his “Mecha-Moth“.

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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 a self-selected battle battle of the St. Astrid’s Fall, with heavy reinforcements and the blessings of the God Emperor on the line.  In the end, Faber “The Magistrate of MayhemMandragore and his “Blood Angels Captain In Terminator Armour” narrowly eliminated Marco “Mad DogMarozzi and his “Crusader“ to the tune of 9-6.  Mr. Mandragore scores his first victory (1-0) while Mr. Marozzi runs his record to (0-1).

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Dropping Ballast on Flickr

Since Flickr/SmugMug has become a recurring topic of conversation recently, I thought I’d add my unsolicited two cents to the discussion.  Until recently I really haven’t given much thought to the platform as a whole, it has simply been good enough since I joined in 2006.  Other than the interval when Flickr made the terrible decision to eliminate the ‘notes’ function, I really haven’t had much to complain about in almost 13 years of use, and to their credit, they were ultimately responsive enough to their customer base to reinstate the feature recently.  Flickr may not the perfect solution where the community at large is concerned, but it has been a stabilizing force in the hobby when Brickshelf, LUGnet and MOCPages all ceased being viable options with room for growth.  So while I acknowledge that the recent decision to limit free accounts to 1000 photos is both irritating and restrictive to many users, it’s still the best option we have in this era of echo chambers and tribal splintering.  I appreciate the fact that not everybody has the money to pay for an account and that they find the principle of having to pay to post photos online to be unfair, but Smugmug is just another company trying to turn a profit and they’re under no obligation to provide us with a free community hub or place to hang photos.  As I’ve said before in the comments, if somebody comes up with a better option I’m willing to jump ship, but I’ve yet to see anything more than good intentions and declarations of good things to come.

2018 was an abysmal year for me in terms of building and by extension, posting to Flickr. I only managed one finished model at the tail end of December, in large part because the lion’s share of my Lego related free time was taken up by DA3 on MOCPages.  There were a few disastrous collaborative and solo projects that went up in flames behind the scenes but nothing I cared to share with my fellow builders at large.  So I haven’t paid all that much attention to Flickr in quite some time, but I went back to it over the weekend with relatively fresh eyes and a sense of curiosity, and that’s what I want to talk about for the bulk of this article.  To the point, I was surprised to discover that I had 768 contacts, I just don’t look at that particular statistic very often and it seemed like an absurdly unmanageable number. A high percentage of the people I follow came as a direct result of my time spent blogging for the Brother’s Brick.  Back then I had a policy of following just about anyone who showed a modicum of skill or even a vague promise of developing skill with the brick.  I was forever on the lookout for young or obscure builders who were about to break onto the larger scene.  At that point in time I also had a hard-core reciprocal policy of adding anyone as a contact who added me.  When you write for TBB, all of a sudden everyone wants to be your contact, especially when you’ve displayed a willingness to blog more than just the obvious glossy choices.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and are thinking some version of: who cares how high that number gets?  The more the merrier, everything and everyone really is awesome in our hobby!  In essence, I’m curious if there is any value in pairing down my contacts to the point that I can increase my own sense of “community” with my fellow builders by making it more likely that I’ll communicate in a meaningful way with the ones who mean most to me.  Too often it seems as though important or interesting people and models slip past my radar because they are surrounded and obscured by the never-ending shit-show of cube dudes, minifigs and perhaps worst of all, photos of unopened sets. I think with fewer contacts I’ll be able to communicate better and more frequently with the people I care about….to stop grousing and do something productive.   So I decided it was time to trim the fat, excise the necrotic tissue…drop some digital ballast.

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It was an interesting process and I was surprised how many marginal or average builders I kept, and how many high-viz and/or highly skilled builders I let go.  I cut anyone that I didn’t like personally where in the past I would follow people regardless of how much of an asshole I thought them to be.  Fortunately that ended up being a pretty small and select group of people but it was actually fun to surgically remove them like the human-shaped tumors they are.  During the procedure some interesting trends emerged pretty quickly during the great culling, although none of them were absolute of course, I would make exceptions for people I’d met before or who I find entertaining regardless of skill….but there was definitely a fast-track to the digital guillotine.

  • An excessive quantity of cube dudes.
  • An excessive quantity of Star Wars or Marvel themed models.
  • Even a single example of a “Nerdly“.
  • An excessive quantity of Minifig-photography.
  • An excessive quantity of Classic Space models or overt product nostalgia.
  • An excessive quantity of photos of unopened sets or other official product.

Although I never set out with a prejudice against Castle-themed builders, I ended up dumping a disproportionate number of them despite their often elevated skill level.  I have a developing theory that Castle building must be the easiest gateway into the hobby, I think it’s the easiest theme to be good at and achieve a level of notoriety the quickest.  Unlike other themes there is an easily discoverable and digestible collection of well-established building techniques that a novice can access and master in a relatively short period of time.  The result has been a homogenization of the genre where the vast majority of models end up looking like knock offs from the Luke Watkins Huchinson school of building.  It’s a fine style, Hutchinson is awesome (I kept him as a contact) and it was clearly groundbreaking and hugely influential style but I’m tired of it, there has to be more than that parts-intensive, super dense, mumblety-peg buildings with everything set at an odd angle and a very specific color palette and boilerplate terrain.   I’m tired of the boilerplate, even when it’s done well and until something changes I want to see less Castle when I go to Flickr.

I also cut anyone with a Brickarmz laden minifig as an avatar and anyone with SS bolts in their screen name.  That was a considerable number of people, as it turns out.  In general I cut a good deal of builders whose favorite theme was modern military and I think some of the criticisms I have of the current state of castle building apply to Military: the talent has never been higher, but creativity has rarely been lower.  I think Trains are more innovative these days and that’s saying something.Culling.png

In the end I cut over 500 builders, a massacre by most accounting.  Once the scale of the bloodshed was apparent, I decided to save (by favoriting) a single photo from each of the people I eliminated from the list, even though that proved challenging at times.  That way I can chop away with relative impunity, knowing I have some reference point to return to if I need it.  I’ve included a smattering of those builds here for your enjoyment.  I’m sure it’s not surprising to you well-healed constant readers but it turns out that just about anyone is capable of at least one good model, but that kind of surprised me.

By far the most irritating thing I discovered in the process of culling my Flickr contacts was the alarming number of good friends who were inexplicably no longer on my list, people who I’m certain I never dropped and would never drop.  I always suspected that builders had gone missing out of my contacts over the years, there were many instances where I would be very surprised to find out that I somehow wasn’t following a well established builder or friend. But after thoroughly examining each and every person on the list, I’m now convinced of it.  Take long time crony Brian “mondaynOOdle” Kescenovitz for example, we’ve been buddies for over ten years, we’ve collaborated on several projects and he’s stayed at my palatial estate in Vegas…and yet I didn’t find him anywhere in the ranks of my 768 contacts.  I thought he’d slipped back into a dark age for the last 2 years, only to find out I’ve missed 10 models.  Then there’s the awkwardness of adding him again, so much so that I felt the need to send him an email to explain it.  Although there is no way to know how many friends and favorite builders have fallen off my list, but I was able to identify 7 of them before I ran out of gas on the topic.  So if you see me add you in the next couple of weeks it’s not because I hate you, (although I hate some of you) , it’s because Flickr has decided we’re not a good match and I’m trying to right that wrong.  I’ve included a shot of one of Brian’s latest efforts, because it’s completely rad and maybe you missed it too.  He remains one of my favorite all timers and I think I’ve just found my subject for the next Two for Tuesday article.

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The “last upload” statistic on the contact list also proved to be an interesting if occasionally discouraging piece of information to consider.  One guy in particular left me with an uneasy feeling when I noted his lengthy absence, Worker201. Leigh has been around the hobby as long as I remember and was also one of the few valuable crontributors remaining on the Brother’s Brick roster until recently.  Even though he was never exactly a prolific builder, Leigh was a regular and valued voice in places like LUGNET, JLUG, and AFOL 16+ on Flickr.  I reached out to him just to let him know he was missed but I’ve yet to hear back so if anyone has an update on Leigh they can share, please let me know in the comments.  I’ll throw in a photo of one of his models since some of you might not be familiar with his work and I frankly need some photos to pad this rambling article.    There were other examples of this phenomenon, where people just seemed to abruptly drop out of the hobby, too many in fact, but I think that’s also a product for me being as old as dirt and knowing so many builders at this point.14482873791_f1d643a206_o.jpg

One positive thing to come out of the process was that it forced me to really take a hard look at the work of builders who I considered to borderline cases for the guillotine.  Most were either young or new people and folks who might not have the best presentation or super-polished models but have good ideas and the promise of growth.  I tried to make it a point to leave some encouragement as time permitted if they showed any hint of recent activity in the last year or two. Looking back I was much better about that kind of behavior or communication when I was an invested citizen of MOCpages and I don’t feel the same urge on Flickr to reach out to those types of builders anymore.  I’m not sure why that is, but hopefully I can change that a little bit because the only way to make the Flickr experience a better one is by putting in the same type of effort.

So long story short I’m now down to just 200 builders (and counting) on my contact list and I’m armed with a determination to leave more comments for them and focus on the stuff and people I care the most about.  Why 200 you ask? No good reason, but I’ve read a few articles that say you can’t really maintain more than a hundred friendships in real life and I figured I can double that for the online world. Look, I’m not advocating that any of you follow my lead here, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a massive, super inclusive stable of builders to flow, but I think this was a necessary step for me in my recent (last couple of years) quest to redefine the hobby to make it more enjoyable.  I will leave you with a gentle nudge of encouragement to look at your own list, you may find some surprises.

Down the FTC Rabbit Hole: Secret Origins

If you conduct a search for “Fire Truck” on MOCPages the resulting figure seems to be an impossibly small number of creations, just 932.  Before checking, I would have guessed the total amount to be at least 10 times that number.   I suspect that much like the rest of the site, the search engine has been hacked or compromised and there are many…many more undocumented Fire Trucks out there that are largely invisible.  However, I did come across a far more interesting factoid when I filtered the results to display the “oldest” Fire Truck creations.

The very first Fire Truck on The Pages was posted on March 2nd of the site’s inaugural year of 2003 by none other than the absentee slumlord himself and self-proclaimed “lego artist” Sean Kenney.  It was part of his initial MOC-dump on the site’s first day of operation, and the truck was actually built in 2002 so it’s one of his earliest models. So what’s the significance you ask?  Well, the FTC (Fire Truck Cabal) is one of the oldest, most powerful and deeply cryptic organizations to vie for influence on the crumbling site.  Completing the trinity along with the LCZ (League of Christian Zealots) and the HSA (Home School Alliance), the FTC continues to hold sway over the radiated landscape to this day, and only a site-wide catastrophic event would be enough to end their dominance.  From the very beginning of MOCpages people have wondered just who the power behind the FTC is, and what (if any) agenda they were sworn to promote.  What I’m saying is…I think I’ve finally found the dark, corrupted heart of the Fire Truck Cabal and it both explains a great many things…and only begs more questions.

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Just remember this nugget at the bottom of Sean’s MOCpage if you’re tempted to ask questions or conduct your own research into the shadowy digital recesses where you don’t belong:

I also created this website, MOCpages. If you have a MOCpages question, please do not contact me directly”

“…If that railroad train was mine…I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line”

I’m happy to report that old school curmudgeon and longtime KeithLUG crony Shannon Young has returned to the fold after an extended absence and he’s got a message for Sean Kenney that will resonate with many of our readers and manages to crystallize my thoughts concerning the current dilapidated state of MOCpages more eloquently than I could ever hope to.  It’s nice to see a fellow traveler with roots in same dirty small town with his own set of baggage like the one I’ve been hauling around since the demise of DA3 and longer.  Of course We’ll both get over it in the fullness of time, but for this particular moment everything about the image you’re about to see feels right.  I’m also happy to report that Shannon has been recently spotted haunting the comment section here on the Manifesto while resolving to make 2019 a more active one.  Welcome back you intolerable bastard.

For our younger readers that might not be familiar with this famous photo, Johnny Cash once played a concert at California’s San Quentin Prison in 1969, and this was how he responded when a photographer suggested they do a “shot for the warden”.  Shannon has chosen the perfect image to serve as his MOCpages tombstone, and send one last message to it’s warden before departing.  We’re long past constructive suggestions, volunteerism and gentle pleas for some small scrap of attention…unfortunately the finger is all we have left.

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Again, for the younger readers or those who are relatively new to the scene this departure from a crumbling site might not hold the same weight or dare I say gravitas that it does for us crusty veterans, but let me assure you that very few builders were more important and influential in the formative, vital years of MOCPages (see the first link in the article for more info).  The reason this image resonates so profoundly for a certain group of builders is that MOCpages used to be a place worth caring about, with a thriving community that launched any number of fresh ideas, contests, games and collaborations that influenced much of what we now perceive as boilerplate.  I wanted to capture this image before it was reported for a TOS violation by a brown-shirted home-schooled zealot or a member of the dreaded FTC (Fire Truck Cabal)…or Nick Pascale.  There are so many possible narcs to choose from, it’s difficult to pick just one.  If Shannon and I seem bitter about the current state of affairs, it shows you how much we once cared about the place and what an important engine of creativity it used to be before Kenney let it diminish without a conversation.  Perhaps the worst thing about Shannon’s departure is all the accompanying text that will disappear along with the models.  He was (is) one of the rare builders who is admired as much for his way with words as his way with bricks and the comment section was can’t-miss reading back in the day because Shannon was not afraid to mix it up with his fellow nerds.  I wish I had an example I could link to, but he’s burned it all down and I can’t say as I blame him.  Since writing is in his blood, I selfishly hope Shannon will deign to grace this ramshackle site with a column or two, the place would be better for it and Flickr really isn’t designed to exploit what he does best.

There is simply no substitute currently available that can provide the same format and features that MOCpages once did.  Sure this posting may appear crude, perhaps offensive or over the top to many of you, but for those of us who were invested in MOCpages it’s the perfect salute to a sinking ship that has all but slipped quietly beneath the wine-dark waves.  As a side-note, although he left without the same fanfare, our own uncle roonTree recently departed the site as well (he is after all a documented master of the Irish Goodbye) and I want to thank him for pointing me towards this image because it deserves to be preserved and I haven’t seen it pop up on Flickr yet.

In the interest of ending this rant on a more positive note, I’ll hopefully tantalize you with a few of Shannon’s greatest hits, which are available on Flickr, having him back in the game is a great way to start the new year.

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And finally, I’ll leave you with a tune from that same concert where the infamous photo was taken.  Welcome back Shannon, it didn’t seem right having to rely on just the Australian Shannon, and at least some modicum of balance has been restored to the universe.  Long Live Shanonia!