Friday Night Fights [Round 19]

*This special edition of Friday Night Fights is brought to you by constant reader Christopher Hoffman who volunteered his services as match-maker for Round 19.  The selection has the added benefit of giving W. Navarre another shot this week, with a model that was not designed in a rush for a contest that he wasn’t completely satisfied with.  If you have a suggestion for a future match-up don’t hesitate to reach out to me through the comments, the contact form here on the blog, or Flickrmail.

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another rope-a-dope edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is a Mesoamerican throw-down with political control of Tenochtitlan and a small fortune in cacao beans on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the point of no return, it’s “Nitro” W. Navarre and his “Chinampa“.


And fighting out of the blue corner, from the blood-stained shores of Lake Texcoco, it’s Tirrell “The Bludgeon” Brown and his “Chinampa“.


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 before announcing the next bout.

Last week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the used record store, as influential bands went toe-to-toe to determine the best album cover.  In the end,  Anthony “The Wookie” Wilson and his “OK Computer“. roundly thrashed his opponent to the tune of an 8-2 victory over  “Nitro” W. Navarre and his “Kansas Album Cover“.  Mr. Wilson records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while Mr. Navarre falls to (0-1).


Dr. BadMOC or: How I Learned to Stop Wondering and Build Poorly

The hits just keep on coming constant reader, another brave soul has stepped forward from the crowd of paste-eating mankinder to let his voice be heard.  The Manifesto is proud to present an article by noted TFOL Aaron Van Cleave, a.k.a A Plastic Infinity, a.k.a Lego Lemniscate, and I certainly hope it isn’t his last because he’s a far better writer than I am and he classes up the joint with his mere presence.  You may remember Aaron for his bold use of color and odd choice of subject matter, from such popular creations such as Turaga Retei-atomnSymbiote City, and Unidentified SHIP.  Take it away Aaron!

When I first discovered this blog, one of the articles that really stood out to me was the first issue of Michael Rutherford’s Fire for Effect column: Unique is not Special.   I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t read it to do so; my article is a sort of spiritual successor and you won’t get as much out of it without the conceptual basis Michael sets down. In essence, his article examines how the term “unique” being too closely associated with the term “special” has resulted in “a culture where CRITICAL FEEDBACK IS DISCOURAGED.” That’s a general observation that could be applicable to many different subcultures, but a salient point was that it includes FOL culture. That’s us!

At the risk of overvaluing Michael’s article, I need to point out that he tenaciously covered most of the nooks and crannies of his topic. Couple that with the thorough discussion by the Manifesto’s regular readers, and there doesn’t seem to be much left to say on the subject that wouldn’t be parroting someone else’s statements. If there’s something more to say, I certainly don’t know what it is.

So what am I even doing here, then?

Good question! This article is an exposé of sorts about a social experiment I’ve been running for a couple of months now and some of the interesting observations it has yielded. I use the term “social experiment” lightly because it’s really more of a satirical art hoax (I didn’t want to muck around in the Marianas Trench of social experimentation ethics, but this hoax was technically a social experiment. That makes it dangerous, even at such a small scale, because the medium through which it worked was people unconscious of their involvement. If you’ve interacted with my photostream in any way in the last two months or are already feeling offended, know this: I’ve taken all precautions to protect the privacy of anyone who was involved prior to the posting of this article, except Deus, who consented to publication of his remarks). This project was not intended to glean social data but rather to direct public attention to the important issue at hand: Critique. What better way to do so than provide MOCs that would be easy to critique?


Without further ado, here was my plan:

  1. Build a terrible build and post it in all seriousness
  2. Observe reactions
  3. Figure out how to make a worse build
  4. Repeat twice for a total of three bad builds
  5. Expose plan, explain issue

The initial objectives I set included:

  • Crafting builds so poorly that onlookers would have trouble honestly responding positively
  • Providing plenty of mistakes for prospective critiquers to point out
  • Keeping things flexible; basing building decisions on how the previous MAC (My Awful Creation) had been received

Unlike an experiment, the general outcomes of my actions were quite predictable, barring a few surprises. I went into this expecting drastically reduced stats on all posted MACs. People are a lot less predictable on an individual level, but I had three hypothetical groups I expected any commentator to fall into:

  • The Bold: Not buying it and quite vocal about letting me know.
  • The Brash: Confidently or confusedly buying it; convinced it’s actually good.
  • The Beautiful: Probably not buying it, but not letting on. Not necessarily uncritical (whether a comment was Brash or Beautiful could only be guessed at, but comments’ tonal quality provided a reasonable basis for making the determination).

Enough speculation. Here is what actually happened, what I learned, and why it’s of concern to YOU as an FOL.


For my first MAC, I settled on a working title of “this is a test” fitted to a diorama of a scientist in a laboratory. The test was, “How bad do I have to build before people start bashing me?” I love double entendres!

The building process was surreal and brief, though not as brief as the finished product might suggest. I’m tempted to say it took less than an hour and a half, but it might have been closer to two hours.

Fun fact: It actually takes longer to think about what would look good, then determine the polar opposite, than it does to intuitively determine what looks good during the building process. DOING the good building, of course, almost always takes more time (case in point: the angled panels that form the backdrop of this build would look much better if they were level and tiled, but it takes longer to make a stable framework for that and put down all the tiles). Fundamentally, bad building will almost always take less physical effort, but it often takes a great deal more mental effort.

So what was the product of all that effort? How was the MAC received?

Raw numbers first! Since being posted over two months ago, it has accumulated 95 favorites, 14 comments, and over 5,900 views. For reference, my builds generally average 150, 25, and 12,000, respectively, placing This is a test on the low end of the spectrum. However, that’s a large disparity, and an easy one to judge from. Later on we’ll be dealing with much closer numbers, so it will prove useful to determine which of the three values-favorites, comments, or views-gives the best indication of the subject quality. Is it comments? Nah, they can express disapproval, or any number of other things. Views? Nope, the number of people who viewed something gives no indication of their feelings toward the object viewed. By elimination, favorites are the heaviest factor. This makes sense, as they are synonymous with “Likes” and are bestowed solely as a token of approval. Judging solely by them, a reduction from an average of 150 to 95 favorites is no 50% dive but pretty steep nonetheless!

To someone who averages lower, that’s still pretty darn good and probably seems pretty darn unfair, too. Ninety-five is pushing 100, and almost 6,000 people had their eyes assaulted by my skinny triangle scientist! As you can guess, that’s just a result of me being a five-year builder with a decent amount of seniority. If someone far older and more established like Tyler Clites or Nannan Zhang had done this instead of me, their results would be better than I could have gotten if I’d built at my best. The de facto power of following and reputation; something that always needs to be calibrated for.

Moving on to the subjective, let’s take a look at those 14 comments. The non-qualitative words “interesting” and “creepy” were used most often, along with “innovative,” “weird,” “crazy,” and “unsettling.” Skirting around the quality of the build with Beautiful comments was definitely the most socially appropriate thing to do, but there were two or three others who expressed varying levels of criticism, from tentative implication to polite directness. Then there’s Bold Deus Otiosus, who totally passed the test with uncommon brutality: “I thought you said you have higher standard. [sic]” For the record, he didn’t know what I was doing, but he does know me personally to a certain extent. You can always count on a friend to point out your flaws!

Having considered all that feedback at the time, I decided it was time to take things to…


The next level.

The building process for this horrifying Mario was incredibly swift; only about 45 minutes all told. It’s hard to say for sure because I was so giddy the entire time due to how awesome that pun is.

I should have kept my mind clear, because it was at this point that things started going wrong… Being only a day younger than the first MAC, Mario’s also had about two months. Two months to receive 106 favorites, 10 comments, and just over 6.4 thousand views. Remembering to judge by favorites, you’ll notice that going from 95 to 106 is a marked improvement, which for awfulness’ sake translates into regression.

I had thought the speed of construction was evidence that this MAC would be even worse than its predecessor. Less time = less quality, right?

But as you can guess…

…that logic runs counter to what I asserted earlier on about bad builds requiring conscious mental effort. Sure, this build was abhorrent in terms of technique, but I wasn’t really focusing on how to maximize the perversion of shape and color. Furthermore, I still had one more bad build to go, but was now cornered in by a formulaic “worsening” procedure.


Trying to further degrade the quality on a purely technical level after Mario resulted in this LDD screenshot of a blocky camel with mismatched minifigs. It was supposed to be “The Final Straw,” but it’s clearly too satirical for anyone to take seriously. These builds wouldn’t work if they were received as jokes; they needed to be taken as seriously good or seriously bad to generate serious praise or serious critique.

I was genuinely snagged on how to effect this and even considered it impossible for a brief time, but didn’t want to just throw in the towel without giving it a final shot. Looking back, the problem was that I hadn’t inwardly cemented all the theoretical particulars of my experiment. I intuitively realized that the builds needed to be taken seriously, but was too confused to be able to express that clearly to myself. Fortunately, by this point I was engaged in some private discussion about the ongoing project. Input from various sharp-minded individuals was very helpful in assessing what had gone wrong and what needed to be done.

That feedback and my own ruminations on what constitutes a bad build led in all different directions, but ultimately left the conviction that a successfully bad build needed to look unintentionally bad, as that obvious intentionality was what caused The next level, and to a lesser extent This is a test, to “fail” as bad builds. I also came to the critically helpful revelation that those builds had been widely known subjects (a stereotypical scientist and Mario) and no matter how badly they were built, as long as I could be said to have built something resembling them, they’d still be recognizable, eliminating a whole category of awfulness I could have been exploiting: an ambiguous and ill-conceived concept!

Here’s an expansion on that train of thought: Building an easily recognizable subject, like a pop culture figure or common object, strengthens the basis on which a viewer attempting to interpret the build can make a reasonable assumption of artistic intentionality. Essentially, it would be incredibly difficult to build Mario or something equally recognizable in any “bad” way-no matter how bland, uncreative, repulsive, or bizarre-without those bad qualities being attributed to… *** STYLE ***.


Continue reading “Dr. BadMOC or: How I Learned to Stop Wondering and Build Poorly”

Ted Talks: “Squidman LIVES!”

It’s a banner week here in the home offices of the Manifesto because it marks the second full week without Rutherford (Mr. gasbag will return next week) and the second written contribution by one of our valued constant readers.  This time it’s friend of the blog and master of the speeder-bike Ted Andes, who will be sharing his recent experiences at the biggest convention in the United States.  The series is titled “Ted Talks” but that’s a little optimistic on my part, Ted has not committed to anything more than this one-shot essay, but after reading these anecdotes I hope he considers it.  You may remember Ted from  his many popular models such as “Intrepid”Trail Blazer and my personal favorite, “Hammerhead”.  Without any further ado, take it away Ted!

“Over the hills, and far away…”

I’m guessing most of you at this stage have read an article or two about attending a LEGO Con, or perhaps you have been to one yourself.  I just got back from BrickWorld Chicago 2017, and I thought I’d share some interesting anecdotes of my own… from the perspective of a middle-aged AFOL.

35395528156_fef777d77c_o.jpg(“World of Lights” Photo courtesy of Patty )

“You’ll always remember your first time.”

BrickWorld 2016 was the first LEGO Con I ever attended.  I always thought that BrickCon would be my first someday, but once my eyes became locked into BrickWorld’s “come hither” gaze, it was destiny.  She was only a short-ish 5-hour’s drive away, and holding out for a cross-country romance with BrickCon was just living in a dream world…  sorry to leave you “Sleepless in Seattle”, BC.

I didn’t think I’d actually ever attend a LEGO Con in reality.  As a married dude, I always try to sync my vacation days with my wife’s so we can take those fun trips together to faraway lands (I hear Matango Island is beautiful in the spring…).  She’s not into the hobby, so dragging her with me to a LEGO Con would always be an impossible sell.

When she took a new job last year, all of a sudden I had a ton of extra vacation days piled up compared to her (I had been saving some in case we needed to relocate).  I had days to burn.  The one week that she said would be best for me to take a solo vacation coincided with BrickWorld 2016.  Wait, what!? Once I made that realization, just 6-weeks before BW and on the last day you could request a display table, it was crunch time.  After some prodding from Simon Liu, I pulled together an impromptu speederbike collab for BrickWorld. Christopher Hoffmann and others joined the cause, and fun was had by all…

“She let you come back!?”

When you finally do get to the Con, and meet so many people that you had only known through the various on-line LEGO social networks, it is just like seeing some old friends again.  You cast aside your better judgement and stay up until at least 3am each “night”, chatting, drinking (if you’re of drinking age), and eventually partaking in general mischief.  I won’t divulge all of the BrickWorld shenanigans that go on, because there are just some things you “dear readers” are not allowed to live vicariously through (get your butt to a Con!)…

…and also, because I’d like to be allowed to go back again.  At BW16, I accidentally “butt-dialed” my wife at 4am after one of “those nights”.  I was trying to set my phone alarm so I wouldn’t sleep through hotel check out (which I did anyway).  Through some 1-in-a-million chance, I hit the option to dial back the most recent number.  Ugh.  I really am surprised she let me come back again this year.  Lessons definitely learned, and I was a saint at BW17… honest. I even joined the Pub Scouts…

“Psst… Is he your son?”

BW17 was my second Con in a row where someone had innocently inquired “Is he your son?” about an AFOL builder standing next to me.  As a married dude with no kids, it’s a harsh reality check (dude, you’re soooo old now!).  Christopher was my “son #1” at BW16, and then Rocco Buttliere became “son #2” this year… At least when I hang out with Tyler Halliwell at BrickWorld, our height difference doesn’t beg that question…

Workshops and Presentations

I didn’t get around to attending many workshops or presentations this year, but I did make it a point to “Paint with Mel” Finelli.  Why?  Well, why not?  … P.S.  SQUIDMAN LIVES!!!



Awards… oh my.  First off – go back and read the “Fire for Effect” article “Give me the prize!” “Give me the Prize”.  Here’s what I said in the comments: “Guess what? I am also for the poorly defined, WTF-judged competitions too, as long as you know that it’s WTF up-front…”  Well, BW17 awards nominations delivered in the “WTF?” category once again.

The elephant in the room is that I had TWO MOC nominations in the “Best Land Vehicle” category; One for “Mr. Mechtorian’s Mobile Menagerie” which was voted as the eventual winner, and the other for “The Aerie” Mobile Launch Tower.  The first nomination was the one I had hoped to get.  The 2nd build I was certainly proud of (the thing is oozing SNOT), but lord knows which category it really belonged in, if any. I just mounted the tower onto tank treads because I thought it looked cool, and prepared for another “N-4-N” year (Nominated 4 Nuthin’).

Usually at BW, it is one nomination per category, per person.  So why did this “space oddity” of two nominations happen?  From what I hear, the nomination process for BrickWorld is as unnecessarily complex as one of Rube Goldberg’s machines , so who can say?  I chalk it up to it being the first-time BW used electronic balloting. The voting pages for most categories only showed MOC pictures at the top, then the MOC names with voting buttons at the bottom; No builder’s names. Perhaps if they included them, they would have caught the double-dip and things wouldn’t have gone down that way.

Gil Chagas  and Caleb Wagoner’s vehicles were both certainly worthy of nomination…Gil’s MOC was old-ish but it was still new to BW.


Caleb’s Honda Civic (I mean Subaru WRX) has yet to be uploaded to his photo-stream, but here is a shot courtesy of Nick Brick.


There were also some other mysterious nominations in the both the replica and group display categories as well… but I wasn’t involved, and who cares at this stage, right?… well….

“Ride the Tiger”

Some BW parents would tell you (repeatedly) that all of their kid’s creations were worthy of nomination.  I had to listen to so many stories about last year’s injustices, then the primping and preening of their kids for when the judges came by to pick the nominations this year, then the pimping of their kids for face time with the various YouTube podcasters (you’re a saint for putting up with that, Mr. Hanlon)…  Newsflash! The parents are hella serious about their kid’s builds, and the nominations!  Otherwise, their special snowflakes might melt!

I took my chances this year, and let random fate determine my display table locations… and I was surrounded by some great examples of this Little-League, helicopter-parent dynamic.   Just wish they would have had the courtesy to bring some orange slices…

“The kids are alright…”

“Tiger Moms” aside, the great thing about this hobby is that as builders, we are all peers regardless of our ages.  There are some really great, unsung teen builders out there (and with great parents).  I ended up chatting with a lot with them, and chatting with their parents too… most of which were my age anyway.  Damn, I really AM old!  Shout outs to #1 Nomad  Kingdomviewbricks and  John Imp , and their cool parents that offered me some pizza slices and spicy beef sticks.  Who needs orange slices?…  Respect.

Also, a shout out to Digger, my #1 BrickWorld fan. I met him last year, as he really loved the speeder-bike rally. I took the time to hang out, and show him how I put together some of the different models.  When I ran into him again this year, he had a big smile on his face. “Mr. Andes! I hoped you’d be back again this year. Can I show you the speeder-bikes I built?”…  Heck yeah!… but please. Call me Ted.

“I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone….”

“There was no train station. There was no downtown… My city had been pulled down, reduced to parking spaces”.  So my primary co-collaborator on the Great Steambug Migration had to leave early Sunday morning, and to my surprise took their town backdrop with them. I’ll just say that I didn’t need any caffeine to wake up.  That woke me up just fine.


It was their 1st con, and they weren’t aware of the rule that you can’t take down displays before the end of public hours.  For my collabs, I always come prepared just in case something happens or someone backs out last-minute, so “no-harm, no foul”. I bring this story up not to vilify, as I have much love for my co-collaborator, but just to say “stuff happens” at a con… and that “stuff” provides the perfect fertilizer in which things can grow….

“We can rebuild! We have the technology.”

I had brought enough spare brick to build an impromptu backdrop.  No reason to get distraught.  I got started “building that wall”, and then Gil comes over to say good-morning.  He sees the situation, and offers to help out… then comes Tyler H. … and then Michael (aka Kingdomviewbricks).  Soon we had four people doing a speed-build backdrop of a ruined ant-farm wall.  Crisis averted, and friendships built ever stronger…

In fact, if you aren’t helping someone else rebuild/improve their MOC’s at a LEGO Con, then you are really missing the point. I helped at least 5 people myself this year, at least that I can recall.  Sometimes it’s providing those few extra technic pins to snap together display sections (which also repairs your personal relations with a LUG).  Sometimes it’s helping a person rebuild a MOC that was completely obliterated on the trip there (yes, I’m talking about you, Sci-fi Dude).  Sometimes it is helping the displayer you are sharing ½ a table with, who is jamming plates onto his MOC so hard that it topples over your own builds time and again.  Turns out that the guy only had the use of one of his arms due to an accident, so rather than get mad I lent him the two of mine…  If building is fun for you, then there should be no hesitation in helping the people around you build anyway (and no hesitation to accept that help when offered to you).  Dig in!

“Duplo green” is people!

As much as a LEGO Con may seem like it’s about the brick connections, it’s really about the personal connections we make.  That is what you will remember most in the aftermath.  Our ubiquitous friend Simon Liu gets that.  He lives that.  That’s why he is involved in seemingly every sci-fi collab project at BrickWorld, and countless more at other Cons and on Flickr.  That’s also why the green DUPLO of ToroLUG always has such a hive of activity buzzing around it… and like most people there, they will always make room to add one more connection (i.e. you) to the pile…Leg Godt!

(…and shout-outs to all of those people I didn’t call out by name – a person should only do so much name dropping in one article…)

Great Debates! LEGO vs Hobby Modeling

The Manifesto is proud to present the first installment of what will hopefully develop into a regular column by noted TFOL, Achintya Prasad.  If you dwell exclusively in the lands of Flickr you may not be aware of him (he’s on Flickr but not as popular as he should be), but Mr. Prasad has amassed quite a following of admirers on MOCpages, where he is well known as a builder of outstanding military models.  What makes him unique though is his dedication to the power of debate and détente between community members, running groups devoted to the topic.  As it turns out, Achintya is also an aspiring scribe and unlike so many of you who have expressed an interest in writing for this venerable blog….he actually came through.  Bested by a teenager, the shame of it all.  If you are not familiar with his work and you’re too lazy to take the links, here is a sampling of Prasad Heavy Industries most popular offerings.

So move aside you rubes, and let the man come through. Writers live and die on feedback, so don’t hesitate to engage in the comment section with your usual vigor.  Take it away Achyntia!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first ever out-of-left-field discussion of the intricacies an existential analysis of the hobby we all love, LEGO. In this first installment, we are going to delve deep into perhaps the biggest rivalry you have never heard about: LEGO versus Hobby Modeling. To give some perspective on my position, I have been involved in both LEGO and Hobby Modeling projects, and have seen the methods and processes of both interest areas. So, with that cleared, let the analysis begin!
To be clear, when I talk about Hobby Modeling, I’m talking about all forms of plastic building kits, from the likes of Revel to Hasegawa. While many associate Hobby Modeling (hither forth referred to as HM) with model aircraft, the truth is that the community has expanded into numerous fields, from warships to classic cars. While this comparison is still quite apples to oranges, we shall still pick apart the two fields and see what each area is actually made of.
LEGO’s cornerstone is the LEGO brick. The quintessential element, the humble 2×4 red brick is a staple in the minds of millions across the world. Of course, if you’re reading this, then you know LEGO is far more than that, crossing into the complex world of mechanical and structural engineering via the Technic system and other LEGO branches. Finer details, sometimes known in the trade as “greebling” is accomplished by miscellaneous pieces, from tiles to minifigure utensils.

HM, on the other hand, doesn’t quite have such an internationally recognized standard. Unlike branches such as Technic and Power Functions, HM primarily focuses on static display, coupled with skills in painting. Detail work of models is also done via water or oil based decals, designed to offer fine, natural looking detail without the thickness of stickers. For the most part, a HW box will contain anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of tiny plastic elements, attached to sprues.
Both branches, in the material sense, do share a common component: plastic, though to varying degrees. LEGO is world-renowned for its military grade precision in its factories, from the injection molding machines to the robotic transporters. HM, on the other hand, prefers to handle the challenge of assembly of even base elements to its enthusiasts; “flash” (or extra plastic left over from the molding process) cleaning is a vital step before the assembly of any model.


Now, examining LEGO and HM in a much wider aspect, we get into something known colloquially as “Kit-bashing.” It’s the bane of any child or parent attempting to ensure a LEGO kit is completed correctly, and the downright insanity that plagues the first HM projects, where the amateur rips the pieces off the sprue before even consulting the instructions. Both, however, tell an interesting tale of the fundamental difference at the heart of LEGO and HM: focus. Put it simply, LEGO is accuracy, and HM is precision. When you’re putting together a 1/72 scale model of an SR-71 Blackbird, you know the final product will look like a Mach 3 spy plane, unless you saw off the tails. What really counts HM are the details; making sure each individual dial in the cockpit is painted and labeled, and each landing gear strut might as well have come from SkunkWork’s planning division themselves. LEGO is far different. It’s simply impossible to recreate that same Blackbird with that level of detail at that scale. Instead, a LEGO builder must attempt to find accuracy in the final looks of the aircraft. Preserve the dark exterior and basic shape, and forget about any realistic attempts of finer detailing (unless you paint your pieces, in which case, shame on you!) Examining Kit-bashing, you see a similar technique. Kitbashing for HM is a very precise game, where elements from other kits are often filed down or otherwise modded to fit another kit, via putty or other techniques. LEGO, using its own universal dimensions, completely does away with any compatibility issues, again because the focus of the LEGO brick is on accuracy. The turbine inside that SR-71 is built with a similar, compatible piece as the third gear in a transmission of a power functions tractor-trailer. The same can’t be said for the detailed components of an HM kit.

Before moving on, I’d like to bring special attention to a comparison that really drives home the accuracy vs precision argument. Below you will see two images, one of a 1/36 scale F-14 Tomcat built by the world’s premier LEGO aircraft builder, Ralph Savelsberg, and the other being a 1/32 scale Tomcat from Tamiya, an HM model company. Excusing the slight differences in scale and image quality, the point is seen clearly. The use of LEGO curved slope elements lent a fuselage shaping almost precisely to what we see in Top Gun. Tamiya, however, simply molded the shape to the exact specifications of the plane. Ralph nailed the paint job of the aircraft as a whole, but the Tamiya model managed to incorporate every panel gap, every warning label, and every bolt. Both are outstanding models, but each play to a completely different strength. Working inside the confines of the square LEGO universe, Ralph recreated the rippling, muscular body of the Tomcat, while Tamiya model managed to take Tom Cruise’s aircraft and throw it into a shrink ray. To the casual observer, these differences are hardly noticeable. To us enthusiasts, however, the differences draw the definitive line between LEGO and HM (unless you aren’t a purist, which is a discussion for another time).

From aircraft builders to even the most dedicated train builders, the differences are stark and apparent. I remember the day the Emerald Night Train kit was released. I watched the LEGO interview of the designer behind the project, and distinctly remember his pride in announcing several new train wheels. For years LEGO hadn’t done much for the train community, with few new elements for train enthusiasts to choose from. For HM, however, that has never been an issue. Think the train wheel included in your S2 class Baldwin locomotive is too small? That’s fine, just purchase a Soviet IS class steam locomotive and switch the wheels (actually, I have no idea how trains work, so apologies to the facepalming train fans, though the point still stands). The Kit-bashing of HM, while tricky in terms of compatibility, offers something LEGO fans today dream about: a larger, more specialized component pool.


Of course, those are the stories of the materials at hand. But the true test of these hobbies are found in the hobbyist. Both clubs are known to have different presences in communities, both locally and online. In terms of local clubs, the LEGO group is by far the more active in communities, with LEGO events scheduled via both LEGO official stores and LUGs. HM’s, meanwhile, are more fragmented, with no real support from concrete stores from the makers of model kits. While this can be attributed to the decline of sales for these companies since the early 2000’s, it shows a clear difference. While hobby shops still keep entire aisles for hundreds of different pots of paint for models, none of that compares to LEGO Land, not to mention the massive site Bricklink and LUGs, officially sanctioned by the LEGO group themselves.
But what does all this mean? How do these two similar yet different hobbies compare? In the end, I think the advantage of expanded areas and development must fall to LEGO. The humble brick is far more than a model builder; it’s a story-teller, one that reflects the ideas and personality of many different builders. HMs, meanwhile, have the advantage in realism. Building a LEGO F-22 Raptor would never end up in a completely accurate scale model, at least compared to the sharp lines and intricate detailing a HM can afford. My personal experience has always been the same: LEGO’s handicaps are its strengths, that is, its universal compatibility system. Quite simply, the blasted system makes it impossible to recreate the small details on a battleship or train. HM, however, allows me to include each individual air vent on a Bofors 40mm, but leaves me high and dry when I want to build something on my own. Really, it’s up to the viewer, which do you prefer? Story telling imagination, or realistic detailing? Is your hobby a sanctuary for your own ideas and thoughts, or is a projection of your skills onto the real world? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday Night Fights [Round 18]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another rear-naked-choke edition of Friday Night Fights!  This week’s bout features two classic album covers in a generational battle of the bands, fighting for record company payola and Grammy awards.   Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the Karma Police Headquarters, it’s Anthony “The Wookie” Wilson and his “OK Computer“.

And fighting out of the blue corner, from the point of no return, it’s “Nitro” W.Navarre and his “Kansas Album Cover“.

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 before announcing the next bout.

Last week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the fanciful joust of the centaurs, where System and Bionicle squared off with a giant feed bag of oats on the line.  In the end  “Never Surrender” nobu_tary impaled his opponent with a commanding 11-2 victory over  “Lion-hearted” Lego 7.  Nobu_tary records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while Lego 7 falls to (0-1).


“You don’t bring me flowers…anymore”

Come to think of it, you don’t write me love-songs either…you lousy bastard, it’s over!  Get your stuff and get out of my life!

While you mope brokenhearted in the gutter with a needle sticking out of your arm, you may console yourself with this beautiful and creepy bouquet from newcomer Barbara Hoel.  Because that’s how I’ll remember your cheating ass, beautiful and creepy.  The actual title of this attention-grabbing creation is “Yesterday’s Flowers“, and I almost missed it because from the thumbnail on my phone it didn’t immediately register as Lego.  This is a tough subject matter, and the builder handles it flawlessly with some interesting choices from both System and Bionicle.  The variety of translucent parts is particularly effective.  The only thing I’m not sure about is the dark gray propellers, they almost break the illusion but it might be due to having gold components adjacent.  It’s a small nitpick though, the overall effect is satisfying.

I wonder if the hobby will ever get to the point when seeing the work of a female builder doesn’t seem like an oddity to me, like getting a glimpse of a unicorn or drawing a royal flush.  They are not nearly as rare as black AFOLs, but considering they comprise half the population you would think we’d have a better mix by now.  Of course from the very earliest stages of the hobby we’ve had these exotic builders in our midst: Deborah Higdon, Millie McKenzie, Mel Finelli, Heather Braaten, Caylin Malloy, Alice Finch, Breann Sledge and my personal favorite (because she’s rad and builds huge, kick-ass dioramas) Anu Pehrson, but it always seems like the gender ratio is hopelessly skewed towards sweaty mankinder.  That list is far from comprehensive but that’s where I ran out of gas and I look at a lot of models. At least the ladies have one good ratio on their sides that the men can’t claim.  There are very few lousy female builders, I can only think of one or two off the top of my head.  The conspiracy theorist in me thinks perhaps the ladies like to find the weak sisters and silence them before they are noticed by the wider viewing audience.  No, that sounds like a more masculine policy.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe the relatively recent proliferation of sets targeted at girls will help improve things for the next wave of builders.  Or AFOL fathers passing on a love of the Lego action to their daughters.  Maybe dropping the slang FFOL would be a good start too, what a horrible word and it’s impossible to say out loud without sounding like a tool.

Yesterday's Flowers

This one is for rountRee, we like to sing it to each other at conventions:

Omnibus: “There is no spoon.”

That low rumble you can feel in your chest cavity can only mean one thing constant reader, the Omnibus is pulling back into Manifesto station to take you on another guided exploration of a single building theme.  In the past you’ve enjoyed tours devoted to board games, Captain America, Owls and an exhaustive (some say torturous) look at float-planes and the men who love them.  In this latest edition we’ll be gawking appreciatively at models inspired by the 1999 ground breaking sci-fi extravaganza, The Matrix and it’s two unfortunate sequels, “Reloaded” and Revolutions“.  It’s the movie that brought us bullet-time, a soundtrack for the ages and Laurence Fishburne in tiny legless sunglasses.  So call for an operator, it’s time to see what the Matrix has to offer.

Just like the opening scenes of the film, I’d like to get things started with a bang.  Let’s begin our examination of Neo’s Lego journey with my favorite offering in this rogues gallery of great Matrix models.  “…See your enemy…” is the single most impactful mosaic I’ve encountered to date and that includes a slew of more technically complex lenticular examples that are out there.  As with most great Lego creations, seeing the mosaic in person adds a whole new level of appreciation, the trans orange has the power to draw spectators from across a convention floor.  Simply put the mosaic is stunning and I’d be willing to wager that builder Brandon Griffith has been offered some serious cash for the piece since it’s posting in 2009.  On more than one occasion I’ve been tempted to copy it for my Legoratory wall, since my multiple efforts to abscond with it have not gone as planned.3219830255_a57d13e37f_o.jpg

Perhaps the most obvious and popular choice for the Lego treatment is the tunnel-running hover-ships that populate all three movies.  Although it is my assertion that we have not yet seen the definitive Lego-built Nebuchadnezzar, some might argue that Adrian Drake got the closest way back in 2002.  While his version was certainly very popular at the time of release and featured a full interior, it hasn’t aged well, the available photos are tiny and The Drake such an overbearing lurch in person that I don’t want to promote his stuff beyond a link for historical value.

The Nebuchadnezzar-inspired hover-ship on the left is called “Novalis”, and it was designed by the criminally underrated Paul Meissner along with the “Cerberus” on the right.  For my money “Novalis” is the best model in this very specific hover-ship sub-category.  The angles are just right, the hover-pads are plentiful and it looks ready to fight off  a swarm of robotic Sentinels.  I even dig the blunt nose, it looks both mean purposeful.  The “Cerberus” is a strong effort as well, but I don’t particularly care for the trans-yellow bits and the lines feel more choppy and almost pixellated to me.  I’m also not a fan of the tiled-over dorsal section, I think there was a missed opportunity for more shaping or texture.  Both vehicles are fine examples though and it would be interesting to see Paul revisit the form.


Chris White took a shot at the Nebuchadnezzar and while I don’t particularly like the undersized hover-pads, I do like the decision to go with trans blue and I think he nailed the challenging shape of the fuselage better than most.  If imitation is a form of success, Chris was successfully selling reproductions for several years, at a time when such an endeavor wasn’t as common as it is today with everyone and their mother pitching designs for Lego Ideas and selling models on Bricklink or Ebay.1308088562m_DISPLAY.jpg

Friend of the blog and long time crony Andrew Lee also had the Matrix fever back in the day and his “Ganesha” definitely makes the cut for the Omnibus.  I like how he changed up the color scheme and the nose holds up quite well in the intervening 9 years.  It’s also got a bitchin’ ramp right under the cockpit and a detailed (if sort of stunted) interior.  As with everything Lee builds, it somehow looks infused with heavy metal, booze and a hard to quantify “fuck it” attitude.  3017071476_880a7157bb_o.jpg

The once and future “Porn King of Utah”, Ryan Wood tried his hand at a hover-ship with pretty good results considering it is 13 years old.  Ryan pioneered this particularly effective style of hover-pad which elicited more than a few exclamations of “NPU!” back in the day.  It’s kind of a chibi-version of the Nebuchadnezzar called “The Nacon“, with distorted proportions, but it is important because it inspired quite a few builders to take a shot at their own hovership and that minifig visor technique was widely copied in a number of sci-fi applications.  Unfortunately we’ve pretty much lost Ryan Wood the builder to the Merlin entertainment group, where he presides over the construction of massive projects for the many Lego theme parks around the world and that’s a shame because I miss his creativity and boundless enthusiasm for the action.  He’s is one more example of how that job basically kills a person’s desire to build for fun.


Unfortunately only a tiny photo remains of the “Logos” hover-ship from former wunderkind Bruce Lowell but you can still make out the enticing curves and unique shape.  I’m pretty sure this a microscale creation but I can’t tell for certain.


This 2012 microscale version of the Neb is easy on the eyes, and greatly enhanced by the minimalist background diorama and typically impeccable photography.  It was constructed 5 years ago by the always reliable SPARKART! and it almost seems to float with a View-Master quality to the image.  It’s no mean trick to make a dark gray model pop against a dark gray background but the builder manages the task in style.


Staying small for the moment, enjoy this 2009 microscale Neb from Frankus!.  The proportions might be a little wonky and the tail section seems a little thick, but some people like big butst, and they cannot lie.  It’s too bad Frankus! (I love any screen name with an exclamation mark) stopped building after a short but promising run, he was just hitting his stride when he wandered off.


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