2017 The Manifesto Year in Review

“And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne” constant reader, as we collectively celebrate another successful trip around the sun.   Here in the Manifesto HQ all is quiet…rountRee and Rutherford are sequestered in the lounge, donning their carefully constructed outfits for the much anticipated Father Time / Baby New Year cosplay spectacular.  I’ll leave it to you to guess how the roles are distributed, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.  In any case, the bar is fully stocked and the vomitorium has been steam-cleaned for your post-revels convenience.  Before the party gets started and the traditional games of grab-ass and jai-alai begin, why not join me for a statistical look back at 2017, your favorite blog’s second year of existence.

Let’s begin with the most important numbers, the total number of views, visitors, likes and comments.  I take the most pride in the last number, because for my money the Manifesto is all about the celebration and promotion of the lost art of conversation.   When you strip it all away we don’t really re-invent the wheel here, but what we are good at is active discourse, even if it’s mostly from a half dozen usual suspects.  And even though we are without question one of the smallest, shabbiest blogs in all the land, I doubt there are too many (if any) who can boast larger numbers of comments.  It is most impressive to me that even though we had significantly fewer articles posted this year (105 / 70), we managed to wrack up better stats across the board than our first year of operation in 2016.

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Here’s how the year broke down by month, I think it’s interesting that even in the stretch between August and October when there were no fresh postings, the blog still did decent numbers (relatively speaking) in comparison to the dead months from the year before.

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And now we move on to a short list of the most popular articles of the year.  Initially this data point seemed like a buzzkill because on my own fucking blog I should be able to at least crack the top ten! I don’t count the pinned Blog or Die! contest announcement and frankly I’m lucky to be sitting in the number 12 spot.   But after putting my considerable ego in check I think it’s actually something to be celebrated.  I want to issue a big THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to submit an article, you have no idea how much I appreciate it and clearly the readers responded in a big way.  It’s also quite interesting to note how a certain Mr. Van Cleave smoked the competition like a cheap cigar, no other contributor even came close to his gaudy numbers.  Cheers Aaron, you almost single-handedly made this year one to remember with your Art Hoax masterpiece and without a doubt you drew more eyes to the blog than anyone in it’s brief history.

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My favorite statistic of the bunch is without a doubt the global breakdown of where the Manifesto views are coming from.  Unfortunately most of these people never say a word on the blog, and some of the hits are no doubt bots, but I find it fascinating and inspiring nonetheless.  Malvides!  Paraguay! Gibraltar!…the international flavor is palpable, unbeatable and it’s great fun when I’m able to pair up an AFOL to his or her country like Kyle Vrieze in Bermuda, Angka in Indonesia and Gilcelio in Brazil.  I never expected to get much play at all outside of the US and Canada so all of this is delicious gravy.  Now if I could only get these far-flung readers to comment!

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If you’ve ever been curious as to the identities of the biggest gasbags on this august blog, wonder no longer.  The only surprise here is that King O’ Gasbags Rutherford is as low as he is and Wolff is as high.  I’m glad to see a young guy like Wolff crack the list because God knows we need a break from the geriatric crew from time to time.  What is absolutely crystal clear is that rowntRee should start a formal column on the blog, he’s practically conducting his own mini-blog in the comment section.  Art School Girlfriend, you need to formalize our relationship and give the people what they want!  Ditto to our beloved resident contrarian and bullshit artiste, Vitreolum, nothing would please me more than to give you your very own shiny podium from which to hold forth. Just like the guest-writers I’d like to offer a big THANK YOU to all of the people on this less than comprehensive list, without your commitment to keep the conversation going I would likely not bother with running this dump.

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And we’ll conclude our statistical review with an unlikely bit of information, I always assumed our busiest day was Monday, when people returned to their places of employment and studiously began their weekly quest to avoid work.  The only conclusion I can draw is that the Friday Night Fights are more popular than I imagined.

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I’m very optimistic that we can capitalize on this year’s momentum and make 2018 even better.  I think the new, slower posting pace has yielded clear dividends and we’ve certainly brought in more new voices than ever before.  You will continue to encounter all the boilerplate content you’ve grown to expect from the Manifesto and I’ve got some hopefully fresh ideas in the works to keep the action fresh in coming weeks and months.

So Happy New Year, constant readers, please accept my heartfelt thanks for making 2017 the best year yet for the Manifesto, you guys (and the occasional gal) make it all worthwhile.  Best wishes to you and yours for a safe, happy and prosperous 2018!  Now we’ll begin the traditional hallway melee! Gird your loins, it’s on Rutherford, you fascist rat bastard!

 

Attack of the SWAG: Blog or Die! contest edition

I’m sorry to report that with just over two weeks to go, the Blog or Die! contest has fizzled out like a roman candle since that initial 8 day flurry of good quality entries.  In a shameless attempt to re-light the fuse I humbly present a picture of the bulging prize package that awaits the category winners.  The only thing missing are the three $50 E-gift certificates to Lego.com, I thought about scribbling out an I.O.U. with crayon but it looked pathetic, even by my low standards.  had no idea that getting people to commit and compose their thoughts would be such a challenge, I thought that by the midway point we’d have double the submissions, I mean who doesn’t want the chance to score 50 bones to spend on Lego in exchange for a relatively small investment in time and effort? Rutherford theorizes that I didn’t advertise the contest enough and although he’s right that I could have done more, the advertising we did post on a variety of platforms generated a lot of measurable interest in terms of hits, favorites, and comments indicating a desire to participate.  I think the time of year I chose to conduct business may have been a bad call, my thought was that people have time off of school and to a lesser extent work and would therefore be more likely to write two pages of material or assemble a simple comic but maybe the summer would have been the better call.

I”m hopeful that we’ll see a last minute flurry of entries like you tend to encounter in most contests involving the brick.  Some people look at the 45 day time frame and think, “that’s plenty of time to bang out a few pages” and then they look up and it’s almost too late.  So if you know anyone who’s got a strong opinion and a basic ability to string words together, please slap them on the back of the head and direct them this way, maybe you can inflame their passions with the magnificent SWAG.

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Besides complaining about nobody coming to my crappy house party, this is a friendly reminder that each of the 3 category winners will receive the following treasure and that the deadline will be strictly enforced.

+ A SWAG pack of Manifesto promotional materials including a T-shirt, stickers and Vegas-style poker chips.

+ A copy of Jordan Schwartz’s The Art of LEGO Design: Creative Ways to Build Amazing Models, with chapter 12 personalized by yours truly.

+ A $50 e-gift card for use at LEGO.COM.

The deadline remains January 15, 2018, 11:55pm (Pacific Standard Time). Late entries will still be posted to the Manifesto, but they will not be eligible to win a prize.  That gives you over two weeks to submit an entry and get in on the action.  With only 8 entries to compete against (7 of them residing in a single category!), the odds of victory are prettydamn good, if you have the skill and the stones to throw down.

To the 6 brave souls who have stepped into the arena, The Manifesto thanks you, I’ve really enjoyed reading and re-reading your submissions.  In turns I’ve been inspired, educated, and above all entertained and I think the readership has responded well in the comments.  If nothing else the contest has met two of my goals even if it wasn’t to the degree I’d hoped. The first is a selfish one: to provide content for the blog while I try to get a big diorama ready for a convention, to help me keep the lights on while I can’t contribute as much as I’d like.  The second and more important goal was to bring some new voices to our self-aware echo chamber, and we’ve added Price, Wolff, Jake, Barrett and Primus.  That’s a victory because I’m not sure they would have bothered if not for the contest.
So let’s see some action these last two weeks!  I’d like to have at least one entry in each category.

While I’ve got your attention with shiny objects…you may have noticed that I’ve begun the review process, with each entry receiving a standard-format response. I have NOT decided on the winners yet, I only have an informal mental ranking that I do not share in the reviews.  I’m still hoping to see more entries to evaluate but I’m trying to keep the quality of each review high and the best way to ensure that is to not end up writing them all at once.  I’m a big fan of quick and decisive closeouts when it comes to contests and pushing the reviews out there now will hopefully facilitate a speedy resolution and provide the good folks that entered with a little entertainment and feedback in the meantime.  I do realize that some observers may see this as a way to gain a competitive advantage by seeing what I like and don’t like but I don’t see it having a big impact, you’ve still got to write a good article, build a good comic, or conduct a good interview.  I will post all the reviews again in a single article for easy comparison, after the January 15th deadline.

Friday Night Fights [Round 31]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another kick in the head edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the digital multipeds, with state of the art heat-sinks and the lamentation of the enemy’s women on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the deepest recesses of study-hall, it’s Nicola “The Sledgehammer” Stocchi and his “Tallneck”.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the core of the MCP Cone, it’s “MalevolentMax his “Punisher“.

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

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the snowflakes, with spiked eggnog and access to the mistletoe on the line.  In the end, Aaron “The Argonaut” Van Cleave and his “Christmas Day” scored a highly questionable 6-2 victory over Keith “Goldmember” Goldman and his “Blue, Blue Christmas“.  Van Cleave scores his first victory (1-0) while Goldman runs his record to (0-1).

Rendezvous With Geisel

Digital Dreams  is a veteran builder from the UK who has flown largely under the radar (at least my radar), unrecognized by the warm and embracing communitay, but the big blog’s loss is definitely our gain here at the Manifesto.  For today’s spotlight offering we’re going to examine a Digital gem from 2014.  Recently I was feeling inexplicably and inexcusably maudlin for a simpler time in my misspent youth and I started googling images of the main library at the University of San Diego, nicknamed “The Spaceship”.  No, I didn’t quite have the grades or motivation to actually attend the well regarded school but I dated someone who did and I’d meet her for lunch every Thursday between her rigorous class schedule.  Our designated rendezvous point was always the magnificently futuristic Geisel library, of Dr. Seuss fame.  The place made me feel like I’d stepped onto the set of Logan’s Run or Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, indeed as if I’d stepped into the dystopian future.  Some people have their spirits moved by cathedrals or skyscrapers but for me it was Brutalism, always Brutalism and in sunny San Diego the pickings were pretty slim in when it came to that architectural style.   When you apply that style to a library, it really doesn’t get much better for me.  I’ve been to the famous main branch of the New York public library and it can’t hold a candle to the Geisel, in part because you can’t actually walk the stacks, the books are all inaccessible in a downstairs vault and you have to wait in a lobby for your selected tomes to be brought to you.

I’d always make it a point to arrive a little early and enjoy a bit o’ the halfling’s leaf before wandering around the building and grounds.  As I strolled I would imagine all sorts of  bizarre and unlikely scenarios, some of which would turn up in my pitiful attempts at writing science fiction.  I wasn’t into Lego at that point but if I had been I would no doubt have tried at least a micro-scale version of the imposing edifice.   So you can imagine my delight when my google search revealed that not only was there a Lego version of the building out there, but it was a spectacular, perhaps definitive example of my beloved library.

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Strangely it was actually this next photo of the footbridge that I encountered first and it might as well have been a time machine because it immediately transported me back to 1987, when I rocked an epic mullet and drove my beloved ’79 RX-7.  I always appreciate it when town builders who favor large structures take the time and care to include at least a little of the surrounding grounds.  It’s fine to show a car or a spaceship out of context, but buildings really suffer from that treatment.  Everything is where it should be at the digital Geisel, the bike racks the staircase entry the planters, it’s all there in meticulous, sometimes understated detail.  This was the exact lunchtime rendezvous point, right where the red-shirted minifig is standing. You can hear the distant echoes of this concrete palace in my Logan’s Run diorama from a few years ago.  It’s not too often that I find such a personal connection with a model, much less a digital one, so hopefully you’ll excuse my nostalgic musings.

The only way to really appreciate the model is to check it out at MOCpages, where Digital Dreams has made the most of the otherwise dodgy site’s one great advantage: story telling.  You’ll find, among other things, a much better backstory on both the building and the model than I could hope to provide here, and more importantly you’ll see the fully detailed interiors, comparison shots galore and schematics.  He’s also included a few thoughts on the building process which are a pretty insightful look into the daunting process of creating the digital Geisel.  I’m pretty sure there are larger and more intricate digital models out there but at 117000 pieces this one has got to be towards the top of the list.  You’ll also find some cool animated GIFs as well.  The presentation amplifies the model in the best possible way.

If you have a nagging feeling you’ve seen the Geisel before, it was used in the frequently overrated but popular film Inception, where it co-starred as an evil arctic base.  for my money it was the best part of the movie.  Was it a dream?…Was it real?…I couldn’t tell you constant reader because I feel asleep 3/4 of the way through.  Such a deep film…so very deep. Everyone remembers the hallway fight but I submit that the only thing worth remembering were the brief seconds my beloved library graced the screen.  Inception…the film that found a way to make dreams boring.

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If you dig the Geisel you should check out the rest of Digital Dream’s photostream, he’s got some crazy cool shit to get lost in.

Bricks LA Update (Part 3)

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According to the the Master Life Clock I’m down to just 13:23:49:37 to complete my portion of a collaborative diorama for the Bricks LA convention, and in a surprising turn of events I’m feeling pretty good about the situation.  With just under two weeks to go, the bones of the layout are finished, the lighting has been installed and the minifigs have been selected.  I’m confident that I’ve achieved my basic goal of creating an interesting environment to highlight both the Marcus Garvey and the models of my WackLUG cronies in attendance.  There will be no substantive changes from this point forward and this will likely be the last update before rowntRee and I load it into an unmarked van and rocket down the I-15 towards good Mexican food, tense situations and Lego glory.

So what’s new?  Well, since we last examined the project I’ve added the second and final plateau where the Garvey will perch, a glowing fire pit, two more rough-hewn staircases and the cave o’ mystery has been lit and extended.  I’m relatively happy with all of these developments with the possible exception of the upper cliff wall, which turned into more of a straight line that I would have liked.  My original intent was to add some small rock formations out in the muddy area but I’ve just about exhausted my once considerable supply of dark grey/bley slopes of every size.

In case you’re curious the cave’s illumination is provided by one of those boilerplate outdoor LED Halloween lights that swirls around, creating an enticing effect for younger viewers and mankinder alike.  It’s so bright that I had to experiment quite a bit with the orientation to make sure that little Johnny and Jenny don’t get blinded by the dancing lights while still providing the desired effect. The light in the fire pit is a cheap Ikea Ramsta that is convenient for this particular application because it is battery operated and you can turn it on or off by easily by pressing on the dome.  Initially I wanted to add some movement to the diorama (maybe a rotating radar dish), but that goal fell by the wayside due to a lack of access, time and budget.  I don’t have any working Lego motors in my bloated collection, it’s a part of the hobby that I’ve studiously ignored over the years but one that I’d like to embrace in the future.  Incorporating motion into a model seems dicey to me unless you’re talking about a train or monorail. I think it’s all too easy to venture into that sad, ratchety tin-toy in a retail store window territory.  Mindstorms and Power Functions have always seemed prohibitively expensive when I’m standing in the Lego store examining the box. When it comes time to open my wallet, guilt inevitably sets in and I immediately think of better or more practical things to do with that kind of money, but it might be time to make the investment in 2018.   I know builders are doing some really amazing things with the products but I’ve never really seen them applied to a sci-fi diorama so I think there is room there for some innovation.

Of course there is still some work to be done, but I no longer feel the oppressive ticking of the clock.  So much so that it makes me wonder if I should have been more ambitious in my thinking from the outset.  Even though I’ve got the better part of two weeks left, between Christmas and various obligations I’m probably better off finishing early than stressing bout being late.  The repetitive and often tedious landscaping work is finally done and now I can have fun adding the little details that gives life to a scene.   The short list includes reworking the cave to have some kind of focused activity, adding plants, developing small minifig accessories for the wedding party (benches, tables, outdoor kitchen etc.) and reconfiguring the Garvey so that the loading ramp is on the side of the ship that faces the viewer.  If I’m still feeling energized I might mess with the cliff line and see if I can add a little more variation.

I wish I could wrap up this WIP process with some examples of what my co-conspirators are working on but they haven’t been terribly forthcoming with the action or interested in these WIP articles.  The cronies are under the gun too and struggling to finish their own contributions to both the diorama and the convention in general, without worrying about my self-important nonsense.  With a project like this I typically form a Flickr group for the participants and take a more formal approach with the collaboration but this time seems unique in a way that’s difficult to define.  Instead of one stop shopping at FLickr, the WIP action and converstation has been spread out over video chat, group texts, emails and even messenger pigeon when it comes to Rutherford.  This form of communication is far from ideal and kind of fragmented in a way that is probably the enemy of artistic excellence.  I don’t know if it is the result of the short time window or the mix of people involved but this venture has always seemed less fixed and more fly by the seat of the pants.  The lack of formal structure can be a little frustrating at times but the fault lies entirely with me and my Laissez-faire approach to leadership. From the very beginning I didn’t really want to slip into the familiar and often frustrating role of project leader, so I simply didn’t.  Instead I doled out some intentionally vague guidelines and left the builders alone to create.  As far as I’m concerned the worst part of the gig is telling people no…telling them that their creative vision doesn’t jibe with mine and I’ve been more reluctant than ever to do so with this group.  Instead I’ve been content  to get my piece of the story built on time and to a level of quality that I’m happy with.  Fortunately I’ve got a great deal of faith in the cronies I’m working with so I’m confident things will turn out well, even in a vacuum of leadership.  So if you’re looking for the rest of the details that will no doubt make this diorama sing (Zach’s spaceships, Andrew’s bikes, Jeff’s robot hand), you’ll have to wait for the photos to come out of LA in a couple of weeks.  At least you won’t have long to wait.

What I can include has nothing to do with the project, but is cool nonetheless.  Your old uncle rowtRee has been feverishly working in his basement Legoratory on his own SHIPtember inspired diorama and he has recently posted evidence of his progress.  Using his renown questionable judgement, rowntRee put the photo in the comment section of the last update.  So I’ve included it here because I very much doubt anyone went back and looked at it, as interest in this WIP process has been scant at best.  In fact, the numbers indicate that most of you don’t actually give a rip, which is sort of understandable.  When I briefly wrote for TBB they always told us that statisically speaking, people don’t like convention coverage whether it’s pre-convention buildup or post-convention wrap-up.  The editor’s theory was that it was a form a jealousy that people don’t care about a party they are not invited to…but I’m not so sure.  If you have a theory, let me know in the comments.

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For you trivia fans, there will be 4 SHIPs on display in LA from this year’s SHIPtember challenge.  Along with the Garvey we’ll also have the Bushmaster, the Demeter and even the Juno 2.0 Orbiter.  So I’ll end the proceedings with one finial invitation for you to join us for some Bricks LA antics, SWAG and the first round is on me.  Thanks for hanging in there during the WIP process, even if I didn’t incorporate your specific suggestions I do appreciate the feedback.

Friday Night Fights [Round 30]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another yuletide edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the snowflakes, with spiked eggnog and access to the mistletoe on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from a tiny dorm room in a respectable college, it’s Aaron “The Argonaut” Van Cleave and his “Christmas Day”.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the plush Las Vegas Headquarters of KeithLUG, it’s Keith “GoldmemberGoldman and his “Blue, Blue Christmas“.

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

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the Brothers Brick Blades, with experience points and Treasure Type J on the line.  In the end, Deus “El Diablo” Otiosus and his “Functional LEGO sword (DEADLY!!!)” scored a decisive 7-4 victory over Nick “The Brick” Jensen and his “Complex Solution”.  Deus scores his first victory (1-0) while Nicky Bricky runs his record to (0-1).