Omnibus: “Not a bird, not a plane, I’m just a mean old night owl”

The always plush Omnibus is leaving the station, constant reader and you’ve got a window seat for all the action.  There is a snow owl airbrushed on the side of the bus, refreshments have been provided and “Fly By Night” is blasting from the speakers.  So grab the last empty seat next to Rutherford and we’ll take a short tour of Owl country.  We will discover together what our warm and embracing community can do with the beloved nocturnal bird of prey, in its many inspiring forms.

Our first stop is in Canada, to view the rarely seen owl in flight.  One look at the the photo and you can tell you’re not in the company of the average paste-eating mankinder.  This is the work of renown Montreal LEGO artist Ekow Nimako.  You can read a pretty informative  interview with Ekow here, which profiles not only this “Silent Knight” commission from 2015 but also his earlier work and background. I dove into his catalogue of pictures and didn’t come out of the trance for about 20  minutes.  You can expect an article on more of Mr. Nimako’s work somewhere down the line, for there is indeed much to explore.  For now enjoy two of Ekow’s investigations of the common barn owl, which are anything but common, including a construction video of Silent Knight.

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Let’s stay off the perch and in flight with good friend of the Manifesto, Jordan Schwartz and his “Owlet” from 2010.  At the time of posting, the use of non ABS LEGO products like cloth capes and Ewok glider-wings was very unorthodox and drew many exclamations of N.P.U. from  appreciative viewers.  The eyes and banana-beak are very striking and somehow the build still looks fresh 6 years and 10,000 hits later.

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Now let’s switch gears entirely and examine some mechano-owls like this eye-catching “Cyber Owl” from the ever reliable and always original, Mihai Marius Mihu.  I love the builder but I hate the name, it’s just too difficult to say and impossible to type from memory.  In my head I call him “Miti Mata Mulu”, which isn’t too cool.  The build is very cool though, the trans-clear plates on the chest were a brilliant choice.

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Continue reading “Omnibus: “Not a bird, not a plane, I’m just a mean old night owl””

“I’ll rip your bloody arms off!”

Australia is home to some of the most talented and acerbic builders our shared hobby has to offer.  From Shannon Sproule to Karf Oohlu and Tim Gould, the good people of the “lucky country” produce models with a unique and often humorous perspective.  So it’s always a real treat to discover a new (to me) Australian builder like Legolanded Here and his most recent work entitled “Aunty Jack“.  This lively figure represents a breakthrough for the Woodford-Queensland resident, none of his previous models have quite this level of sophistication so it’s nice to see him take his work to a new level.  The inherent strangeness of the model pulled me straight down the rabbit-hole and into the oddball world of this beloved 1970’s Australian T.V. character.

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I wasn’t familiar with “The Aunty Jack Show”, it only aired for two seasons and never in America, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I made it through about half of an episode on YouTube before I gave up and decided I’d need more beer to get through the rest.  If I had to take my best shot at describing the show it would be a combination of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Geraldine Jones from the Flip Wilson ShowAunty Jack is certainly larger than life and even my brief viewing of the show made it clear that the builder has done a top-notch job capturing her likeness and in-your-face attitude.  I can tell you that the funniest bits of the show are indeed when the intimidating and frequently violent Aunty Jack threatens to dismember the various people in her life.  From Wikipedia:

“The lead character, Aunty Jack was a unique comic creation — an obese, mustachioed, gravel-voiced transvestite, part trucker and part pantomime dame — who habitually solved any problem by knocking people unconscious or threatening to ‘rip their bloody arms off’. Visually, she was unmistakable, dressed in a huge, tent-like blue velvet dress, football socks, work boots, and a golden boxing glove on her right hand. She rode everywhere on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and referred to everyone as “me little lovelies” — when she was not uttering her familiar threat: “I’ll rip yer bloody arms off!”, a phrase which immediately passed into the vernacular. The character was devised and played by the multi-talented Grahame Bond and was partly inspired by his overbearing Uncle Jack, whom he had disliked as a child,[

I also really dig the fact that Legolanded Here attempted to recreate a specific photograph, it certainly made my job of evaluation and comparison a good deal easier.  There isn’t much to complain about with the build, except perhaps for the pose because it seems like Aunty Jack should be hunched over the bars at a more severe angle.  The jacket could do with a little more detail to make it look wind-blown but I don’t really like the effect in the photo anyway so I actually prefer the LEGO version.  What we can see of Aunty’s signature Harley is brilliant, although I wish the bars were bent back just slightly and I’m surprised the builder didn’t go with a white custom decal to match the original instead of black.

The series was considered to be such an important part of Australian television history that all the original broadcast master tapes and original negatives of the filmed segments were placed in the National Archives in 1985.  Not bad for a show that only managed to hang on for a dozen episodes.

I’ll leave you with the Aunty Jack Show theme song and while I can’t say that it’s all that catchy,  there are threats of dismemberment and who doesn’t love that?  A word of caution to our younger or more conservative readers: if you examine Legolanded Here’s photostream in any detail you will no doubt encounter penis related custom parts, adult situations and glory holes.  In short, you will find everything good about Australian humor. G’day, constant reader.

 

Behold a Dark Pyramid

As a resident of the Nevada wasteland, it isn’t too often that I run across a model that reminds me of my less than beloved home town.  When I look at the next model in the Manifesto spotlight I’m not transported to a bleak and foreboding Martian landscape, I stay right at home in bleak and foreboding Las Vegas.  To my admittedly heat-addled brain, “Dark Pyramid” is an apocalyptic vision of a possible future, with Sin City’s alien-infested Luxor hotel at the center of the action.  Builder of great renown, Paddy Bricksplitter, does an admirable job of framing the shot  and the result is one of the best forced perspective treatments I’ve seen in a long time.  The modest scene suggests a much larger story, accomplishing that difficult trick of making the viewer want to see more of everything.  This image would have been right at home on a pulp Sci-Fi novel cover from the 1970’s, even the title Dark Pyramid is perfect for the time period.  In his write-up, Paddy says the build was inspired by pre-production art for the films Alien and Galaxy of Terror, its lesser known clone that traded Sigourney Weaver for Joanie from Happy Days.  I never thought I’d see a model influenced by Galaxy of Terror in any way, but I’m delighted with the obscurity of the reference.  The bones of this diorama are so good that you could easily swap out the astronauts for a couple of iron age beef-cakes and you’d have a Conan book cover, in which he explores the black pyramids of Stygia with his swarthy companion Juma.  I can imagine any number of minifigs substituted for the two guys below, such is the power of the image.  This model is also a good example of how you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in terms of technique to achieve great results.28529667762_303128ddbf_o

For those of you not acquainted with Galaxy of Terror it has a quite a cast, including Freddy Krueger, My favorite Martian and Captain Spaulding.  What more could you ask for, constant reader?  It is difficult to believe this film came out 4 years after Star Wars and featured special effects sequences from pre-Star Wars Roger Corman films. If you’re staying in tonight you could do worse than a tall glass of your favorite adult beverage and this B movie delight from 1981.  Scream Freddy, Scream!

Friday Night Fights [Round 3]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another punch drunk edition of Friday Night Fights!  Tonight’s featured bout is a cat-fight for the ages, featuring two big time fighters in the prime of their careers. The ladies control the action inside the ring, you control the results.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from beautiful Joensuu, Finland, it’s Pate “The Cyclops” Keetongu and his  “Agatha of Four Colours“.

And fighting out of the blue corner, from the beating heart of the cosmos, its constant reader  Letranger “Le Loup” Absurde and his “Machiko Noguchi“.

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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 MOC that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner before announcing the next bout.

Last Week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was a civilized confrontation between Gentlemen duelists.  Wily veteran Simon “The Cyborg” Liu and his “Good Samaritan“ scored an 8-4 victory over  Cath “The Interloper” Bailey and his “Plasma Caster“.  Simon records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while Cath falls to (0-1).

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Raytheon Plays the Taiko

Gaze in wonder at this untitled work by Hong Kong builder Vincent Cheung (Yan and Vincent), for verily is it a delightful display of color, culture and texture.  I wish I could provide more context for the diorama, where it was displayed and what it represents but currently there isn’t much information available on Vincent’s Flickr-stream.  If someone in the audience can translate the sign in the photo below, all of KeithLUG shall rain kudos down upon you.  I reached out to Vincent for a comment and I’ll update the post if he responds.  What I do know is that the Taiko depicted below is beautifully designed and so is the demon working the sticks .  The drum heads feature a perfect rendition of the iconic tomoe symbol, the shell has an intricate mosaic and even the wooden base looks great.  You can almost hear the driving beat as the red Thunder God rocks out.

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Of course it wouldn’t be the Manifesto if I didn’t point out some facet of the design that might be improved upon. The orange and white rock-vomit standing in for Mt. Fuji isn’t terribly impressive in technique and it doesn’t hold its own with the rest of the big pieces of the diorama.  I also put the water in the same category as the mountain, it’s too simplistic for my taste, especially when compared to the Taiko, Thunder God, roof and tree.  Those two sections in question work well from a distance and in terms of color, but they leave me wanting more.

In case you were wondering, the little smiley-faced characters in the corner are called Taiko drum masters, from the Japanese drumming video game of the same name.  The arcade scene hidden in the back is delightful and the mini game machines are very accurate.  Perhaps I’m looking too deep for meaning and it’s simply a tribute to the game, a kind of Taiko Temple.  The build also reminds me of a rose-parade float, but I doubt that was the intent or inspiration of the diorama.

A big thanks to constant reader L’etranger Absurde  for the recommendation, the numbers it has accrued on Flickr thus far do not accurately reflect the model’s quality.  L’etranger thought it might be a good prospect for the Constructive Criticism series here on the Manifesto, but I wouldn’t presume to advise Vincent too much, judging by this new build and the two classics below, I think he’s got things well in hand.  The more I think about it, the areas of complaint I have for the Taiko build are probably very specific stylistic choices, because Vincent is clearly capable of top drawer, high-resolution work.  It doesn’t really change my complaints about the model, but I acknowledge that the decision to go low-res was deliberate. Once look at the hair on the Beast tells you that Vincent is a craftsman and anything I could add to his work would be nit-picky at best.5917081259_c4c4b8a59a_o

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I’ll leave you with Taiko drumming to set the mood.  Until next time, constant reader.

“You want your little baby socks…for your little baby feet.”

Over the span of many years spent looking at LEGO mecha (robots, drones, etc.), I’ve concluded that the single feature that separates the good builds from the great ones is the foot.  Poseability is a close second but nothing screams mastery of the genre to me more than a nice pair of robo-feet.  More than a fetish on my part, I submit that most mecha have unlikely, under-detailed or just plain ugly hooves.  Constant reader the next time you look at a mech I urge you to check out the feet, more often than not they are blocky or just plain wrong in some way.  Never has the concept been better illustrated than the latest build by the usually reliable Gamabomb.  The thumbnail for “WARMATE” got me very excited, until my gaze drifted down to the feet.  My first thought was that those things would sink into the mud like crazy, causing the legs to snap off at the knees when it tried to move. The lower legs look like stilts that would cause the war machine to collapse at the first indication of a strong breeze.

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It really is a shame because the rest of the design is money, from the Xenomorph style head to the beautifully detailed arms to the exacting sticker work.  I’m not sure if the stickers are official LEGO stock or custom, but the little triangles are just the right answer.  In fact, there is great texturing everywhere you look, the head is almost a build within a build and it’s so inspiring that I can easily imagine it as a detail on other models like a tank or  a spaceship.  Gamabomb also hit it out of the park with the Photoshopped image above.  The choice of background, shadowing and logo all combine to elevate the build beyond the common fare.  That’s where the nu-school has it over the old-school in spades; for the most part they have a much greater skill set when it comes to presentation.

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I mentioned that the ability to strike a pose is also paramount to quality mecha design and Gamabomb gets an average score there.  WARMATE seems a little static from the waist down and I wish it could hold its rifle with a little more panache.  The thigh gap on this model may be admirable, but those feet!..it looks like the builder just quit when he got to the knees and that’s a damn shame because the rest of it is stunning.

Constructive Criticism: More Sparring Required

In the spirit of Rutherford’s recent essay on snowflakes and getting off his lawn, it’s time for another  edition of Constructive Criticism.  For those of you not familiar with the series, it focuses on builders that usually reside just outside the spotlight of the big blogs or right on the border.  There is no escaping the inherent arrogance of the notion, but these are builders who I think need to be pushed and encouraged to take the next step with their models.  Many of these people already have a nice Flickr following, but their work tends to get lost in the shuffle from time to time. I’m also going to offer my usual disclaimer that I’m a fan of Josiah’s and in no way is this article meant to be mean-spirited, especially to a teenage builder.  With that boilerplate out-of-the-way, today’s victim on the rotisserie spit is Josiah N,You may remember him from such popular builds as Science is Fun!, Gates of Bodus Minor and Anne the Toucan.  I’ve been watching Josiah’s recent W.I.P. shots with great anticipation, I dig the subject matter and the bare bones of the model, but I have to say that the final product was disappointing.

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As of the writing of this post, the photo has racked up an impressive 44 favorites on Flickr so if you’re going just by the numbers my negative feedback doesn’t hold much water.  Since Josiah openly embraces criticism on his Flickr profile, I’ll have a go at it anyway.

“I try to improve as much as I can, so if you’ve got any criticism or advice, feel free to tell me, I can take a hit. ;)”

That’s the spirit! It’s also worth noting that Josiah received some great suggestions on his W.I.P. photos, some of which I touch on in my evaluation.  It’s too bad he wasn’t able to incorporate more of them into the final product.  It’s not very common these days to elicit so much feedback and it’s probably a testament to Josiah’s popularity.

I’ll start with what I liked, because I like the core of nearly everything Joshua does with the brick.  The octagonal shape of the build is a great choice and the black roof along with the black base frame it nicely.  I do wish the builder had used collect-a-fig bases throughout because the roof of the interior structure looks better than the roof of the walls.  The main doors are well done and so is the facade of the dojo building in back.  The diorama is dressed nicely with minifigs and accessories, and the statues look pretty cool on the cracked surface.  Again, the concept is great but it the final product looks like a rough draft, like it could have used a little more sanding to take the jagged edges off.

The tree is probably my biggest complaint.  The roots should visibly penetrate the stone floor and reappear somewhere else instead of just laying there on the surface.  The trunk of the tree seems too large in proportion to its height and it could probably use more variations in the height of the leaves.  I’m not down with the studded trunk either, how many trees do you see with uniform studs all over them?  The floor was a near miss for me as well, the dark-tan pseudo peace symbol is fine, but it would probably look better if it was centered and not obscured by the building.   I’ve never seen the cracked floor technique done better than Thorsten Bonsch, so the bar is pretty high and this seems like a missed opportunity to do more with the ground.  Although I appreciate the fact that Josiah decided to include an interior for the small dojo building and I know medieval Japanese buildings were spartan in style, but it’s a little too bland for my taste.  Maybe the inclusion of minifigs or a sword rack or some kind of framework in the walls would have improved the situation.

I had a similar reaction to Josiah’s The Abandoned Train Station from February of this year: great concept, great moments, but ultimately underwhelming.  The roof looks pretty good at first, but not so much when you look at the way it interfaces with the concrete.  It looks too insubstantial and tacked on, even taking into account the apocalypse.  It also seemed like a strange choice to have masonry bricks peeking out through gaps in the concrete walls, like the concrete was plastered over brick.  Then there is the big heavy train car hanging from a single chain.  Why is it hanging?  Is it hanging at all?

As usual I think the train has too many exposed studs, a smattering of studs would be great but it seems like overkill here.  I also wish there was a transition area between the car and the rails, as it is here, the car just lays there with no suggestion of how it moves at all.  I’m all for the greenery, a color sorely lacking in most ‘post-apoc’ themed models, but some earth tones under all that green might have been more convincing, or a change in plants.  I’m guessing Josiah was going for the whole “weeds through cracked concrete” thing but these plants don’t look like weeds.  Even with all its flaws, the diorama has a great mood about it, something that you can’t easily define or explain how to accomplish.

We’ll end things on a positive note with one of my favorite models by Josiah, 2015’s Mountain Monastery.  I think part of the reason my hopes were so high for the dojo is the promise shown here, from the rocky base to the roof the entire diorama is well thought out and inspiring.  23297159560_9895c4f89e_o

Constant reader, if you know a builder who you think might benefit or be entertained by this regular feature on the Manifesto, let me know in the comments.