Bricks LA Update (Part 3)


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.


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.

30 thoughts on “Bricks LA Update (Part 3)

  1. You had me at Repo Man. RIP Bud.

    Thanks for throwing my little teaser out there, I hope to get some more details posted over the weekend if I can grab some time. BricksLA should be a sweet, sweetback ride of a crazy trip, lookin’ forward to driving us both off the edge of a cliff with you, Thelma.

    Your landscaping pales in comparison to that shot of the cave. All I could see was the Genesis cave from Wrath of Khan and you saying, “Can I cook or can’t I?”

    Wait a minute; Marcus Garvey, Dr. Carol Marcus? Marcus?! Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!!



    1. “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.” That’s a criminally underrated flick.

      You really nailed the Mallort crest, I went and looked at the source material and that’s no easy target to hit, much less hit a bullseye. The gaps that do show up here and there are hidden well with the black background, it must look even better from a couple steps back, perfect for the convention environment. I love your solution for the S shapes next to the top corners of the shield, that was clever. Since it’s Chicago inspired and had a red outline, I was expecting to see the sausage/hot dog element, I thought that was the unofficial logo of the Chi-town contingent. I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole racing pit in person, you’ve been a bit of a tease, you saucy wench.

      Yeah the landscaping is shameless boilerplate but I feel like it’s okay for a convention model because the tourists in the audience don’t know it’s boilerplate and many of them will no doubt find it delightful. As for the cave, yeah the Genesis lighting really elevates the whole thing and it’s nice and strong even in well lit room. The photos really don’t do it justice in terms of the swirling effect, I probably should have used a video instead but I didn’t think about it until after the posting. Maybe I’ll add one to the comments later. Now I’ve just got to figure out some kind of action going on down there, a suitable actor for the lighted stage. Rutherford suggested I make the floor water and put a row boat and a tiny pier inside, but you have to bear in mind that he’s a boat-apologist and tries to insert them into every diorama, whether they make sense or not. If you’ve got any suggestions, let me know.

      Cheers Louise


      1. “It’s all part of the cosmic unconsciousness.” Definitely underrated. The new Criterion Collection release is outstanding, even the snozzberries taste like snozberries!

        A boat? Really? gak.

        Well, some ideas for the cave. You could take the mass appeal approach and cater to movie buffs by going actual Genesis cave down there. You could build Smaug’s lair with treasure but I would have an overwhelming urge to kick you in the nuts for going Tolkien on us. You could build the Wampa cave but then I’d definitely kick you in the nuts and have an overwhelming urge to not stop kicking you for going SW on us. You could build three Minis like The Italian Job, no one would get it but I wouldn’t destroy the daddy bags for it. You could build Mr. Hankey or Lemmiwinks for any ass spelunking aficionados out there. Ooooh, you could build Kirk Douglas poking in while Leo’s stuck under debris; absolutely NO ONE would get the Ace in the Hole reference, “I met a lot of hard boiled eggs in my life, but you – you’re twenty minutes.” Easier references, the Bat cave might be as exciting as Mike’s boat. The “Killer Rabbit” from the Holy Grail, silly. Indiana Jones STILL running with the golden statue followed by the stone ball would be hilarious. Of course, you could have six female cave divers being eaten by crawlers like the Descent, but tearing necks out of minifigs might not play well to the con. Pickaxes though!

        IDK maybe just a hidey hole for the Garvey crew implying they’re smugglers/pirates. Yar!


      2. Actually, a very old Indy with the statue and a walker followed by a small rock as if it was ground down after chasing him for almost 40 years might get a chuckle. Nothing to do with the dio, but who cares?

        Goonies cave, but some ass hat already did that.

        Ooooh, Jesus… nevermind.


      3. There’s the ever ubiquitous teeth surrounding the cave opening… “This is no cave. It’s a giant rock worm with indigestion!… Run! Back to the Ship!”


      4. That’s not a bad thought Ted but I’m in full boycott mode on all things Star Wars, I’m redlining on the media and Flickr saturation. Your recent kick-ass fighter was the only SW model I’ve looked at in ages, the theme is actually one of the few things I’ve said no to in the collaborative process. One of the cronies came up with a speeder bike design and the front forks seemed like a direct callback tot he forks on the ROTJ bikes and I had to put the kibosh on them. That one little detail will make a lot of people assume the theme is Star Wars. Although I’m sure if I replaced the Ghana flag on the Garvey with the rebel symbol and exclusively used SW minifigs the project would be much more popular because the rubes can immediately grasp what it is rather than have to put any thought into their observations.

        I did consider littering the cave floor with every skeleton and bone I can scrounge. Maybe put a few captives in restraints or cages, but never actually show the moster. I don’t know, I haven’t come across the right answer yet but luckily I have enough time to experiment. I’m sure Rutherford will chime in soon with a 5000 word treatise on why the cave should have boats.


      5. I hear ya’. Kids are going to see what they see… If it’s any consolation, those speederbikes would have been called pod-racers anyway.

        The other thing the cave reminded me of is “Land of the Lost” (70’s TV version). Perhaps some floating crystals and Sleestaks are in order (and some moar dinosaurs!!!)


      6. Yaaaas! Enich the Elder, pylons, crystals, Fucking CHAKA!!! Marshall, Will, and Holly! Come on, dude, there’s crazy and then there’s fucking awesome crazy. Everyone’s doing it. XD


    2. You forgot the most obvious tie in of them all… Keith’s middle name!

      Keith Marcus Goldman.

      So we have The Marcus Garvey, Dr. Carol Marcus, and Keith Marcus Goldman.

      The trifecta.
      Three perfectly aligned data points.
      Bases loaded.
      Three for the win.
      Third time is a charm.

      Illuminati confirmed!


  2. The cave lighting (and photo of it) is frickin’ awesome. I definitely get the Start Trek vibe, but in that 60’s technicolor special effects kind of way.

    “…statistically speaking, people don’t like convention coverage whether it’s pre-convention buildup or post-convention wrap-up”.

    That is most likely true. I’d guess only 1 out of every 10 AFOL’s have ever been to a LEGO convention… and that might be generous. I think writing about the convention can be done, but it all boils down to knowing your audience. From TBB’s perspective, you have to assume that a) most readers have never been, and b) most may not ever have the chance to go. If not for me having more vacation days that my wife starting in 2016, a) & b) would still have be the case for me. As long as things are written from the perspective of “let me bring you along with me”, as opposed to “here’s what you missed out on, and everything that you just “had to be there” for” (since many readers will never ever “be there”), I think it can work. It’s a tricky balance to be sure. I think when people write about the highlight builds and community stories, it is more entertaining than attempting a wrap up of every MOC displayed…

    Anyway – I’ve been enjoying seeing the WIP take shape. Rally love the grassy steppes look on top of the cliffs, and the fire pit too… and you know I just can’t wait to see that final epic swoosh shot of the Garvey!…


    1. I guess that is the way most people approach convention coverage, that was more or less what Becraft told me when I would ask about it. I guess I”m in the minority on the issue because I can remember reading anything I could about conventions before I was able to attend my first one. At that time the idea of flying across the country to attend one seemed like a fantasy, and until one happened in my back yard and I was off to the races. Maybe part of the problem is that most convention coverage is kind of a bland by-the-numbers affair where they cherrypick the best models and only report on the positive aspects of the event. I’m not saying mine is any better but I strive to entertain the audience as much or probably more than informing them and that’s not the perspective of most blogs. You’re right of course, finding the right balance is the key and I’m hoping to make the LA wrap up an interesting one. My goal is to get both rountRee and Rutheford to write down their thoughts as well and hopefully come up with something worth reading. I’d like to get a new contributor to chime in but as the Blog or Die contests has proven, it’s difficult to get people to write. If you have any thoughts about what you’d like to read about in convention coverage, please let me know.

      I hadn’t thought about, but maybe the end of the con would would be a great opportunity to swoosh the Garvey. Good call Ted.

      It’s not to late to boycott Kentucky and get out to LA, I”m sure your wife would understand, there are free Tshirts, and poker chips involved.


      1. Tempting… but I should get my “B.o.D Hat Trick” if I stick it out here in KY and I get that interview done. With everyone else just submitting in the article category so far, I may be up to my ears soon in t-shirts and poker chips…

        It will be an interesting show here – 10 displayers total. I’ll be the one carrying the torch for all things sci-fi; space, speederbikes, steampunk, dieselpunk. I will finally get to see Paul Hetherington’s builds in person too (he’ll help take in the slack on the Superhero stuff)… I think everyone else is architecture, art, and city.

        LEGO Artist, Self Portrait

        Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all, wherever you are and whatever you celebrate. (I’d say Festivus, but the least time I aired out some grievances in jest it didn’t go over to well)


      2. Paul is also carrying the Lady Gaga contingency, although I’m sure there’ll be much competition in that department down Kentucky way.


      3. Heatherington deserves to be boiled in his own oil for that Gaga model, I’ve never been so tempted to destroy somebody’s convention model. Blasting that stupid song for 8 hours straight is a crime against humanity.


      4. Oof. That I did NOT know… and my display will be right across the aisle from his… Looks like I’m in for a rough ride then. Time to invest in some noise cancelling headphones.
        … Last year it at BU-Lou it was the constant on-repeat playing of wholesome songs like “Bernadette” and “If I were a carpenter, and you were my lady…”… So Gaga may actually be a step up.


      5. Yeah, I recommend you get the upgraded headphones, it’s not like he keeps the volume low. I’ve never seen a model produce such anger in it’s fellow builders. In Texas there was a kid who had a full size Iron Man statue and he played the Sabbath tune over and over…at least it was a good song to begin with, the Gaga thing was truly a torture tactic and hopefully I’ll find a way to pay him back one of these years.


      6. No, no it won’t.

        I will pass on a cure for Lady Gaga and any other cacophonous mutilation however. As you’re listening to it, sing it in a Walken voice. Trust me, it makes every insipid song out there 93% better.


  3. I will never understand how carrier pigeons can be the enemy of artistic excellence. That seems like the pure DEFINITION of it.

    Looking forward to the characterization and minifigication of this YOC*! I hope I can actually wait 2 weeks… I might need you to send me a 4th WIP ahead of time. Looking at these has been a blast, particularly since you are the king of an entire genre that I will most likely never get into, i.e. diorama layouts. This one is not the scant, urban industrialism of your two former layouts. This one tells a story through its barren, untouched natural landscape, and a phenomenal one at that. Interesting to hear you reached the limits of your grey Lego collection, but I’m still encouraging you to make a little bit more terrain in the dark tan areas. I won’t force my vision on yours, but if you happen to wake up tonight dreaming of softly flowing plateaus, natives dancing by starlight, witch doctors stirring a tribal brew… Ideas.

    This is the stuff of legend, and I wipe my sandals at all those who ignore these build-up diorama WIPs. There’s something to be said from learning from the master who is willing to teach, even if you don’t like the fact that they are better. I’ll face the facts. I know that you, and Isaac Snyder, and all the other gents who post WIP or building process posts are way better than me. And I just soak it right up. So I can’t wager a guess why other people aren’t inspired by this stuff, but they must not share my eager desire to learn. Even though I never put that newfound knowledge into practice. xD

    *YOC= realizing acronyms are stupid and calling your creation mine just makes no sense.


    1. Well, normally carrier pigeons would be the ally of artistic excellence but the downfall, of course, is Rutherford. He ends up killing them by overloading them with his “thoughts”, a bird can only carry so much, even when your talking about paper. Look, all I can tell you is that the pigeons who did show up were behaving so oddly that they had to be put down. The whole thing was starting to draw too much unwanted attention to the project so I had to cut him out of the loop entirely. So much for the romance of the carrier pigeon.

      Glad you enjoyed the KOC (Keith’s Own Creation), looking at it now it seems more like a Castle layout but once the other futuristic elements are in place hopefully that will change. I hear you about the dark tan areas needing some rocks, maybe I can migrate some from the lower staircase area but even then it’s slim pickings.

      Don’t know about the stuff of legend but more importantly I think it makes a good “clubhouse” for the cronies to hang out around at the convention which is always a nice thing. It’s fun to walk around and check stuff out but having a sort of base camp is also nice to have, especially on public day when you have to watch your models anyway and make sure the small stuff doesn’t disappear. As I’ve mentioned before the table with model is tall enough that you can sit behind it and have a sandwich with beverage in relative privacy even as the unwashed masses team around you.

      I don’t think I”m any better than you, I’ve just been at it longer. Don’t discount your own talent and point of view. I’m not sure why people are not interested but it could be because this kind of presentation has been done before, or they are just not into the model without the showpieces being provided by the other contributors. It could be as simple as mot folks just are not into WIPs, but my recent WIP photos during SHIPtember drew way more stats than the finished product so…who knows? Anyway Caleb, thanks for the kind words, it’s a nice confidence booster going into the con.

      I kink of like YOC, I might start using that.


  4. I feel like I let you down Keith, by not commenting sooner on any of the preCon articles. I’ve read all of them, and perused the comments sections…I think it’s just the time of year, super busy with everything going on.

    I’ve had various different collab groups and formats in the past. The way I see this one, it is for sure different than any other one I’ve ever done. It has evolved pretty organically but I do feel at times that it could use a little more structure. I think what is interesting is that everyone has a distinct personality, different visions, different build styles…and combining that into an effective collab is not always easy. What works (format wise) for some will not work for others.

    In my defense, I honestly didn’t want to spam you with a bunch of text messages with several different iterations of the same build. I tend to do that a lot with some of the guys, but most because I know they’re cool with it. Honestly, I think it’s a familiarity thing…I don’t know if you want to be receiving multiple texts from me everyday…didn’t want to overwhelm you. I probably should have communicated better and just asked you; I had about 6 different iterations of the engines that would have been good a good illustration for the blog.

    For my other recent collab efforts, I feel that they have evolved for the better. Getting to know the other builders over time, knowing how to extract the best out of each other, convincing the other homies that the idea of SNOT landscaping is the way to go…at first I think they thought I was crazy, but I could not be more proud of our Moonbase 1989 dio that we created in 2016. I could go on all day about collabs…maybe there’s an article there somewhere…

    That said, I’m hyped as fuck for this Con. I think my builds are some of my stronger work in recent memory. I know that everything will come together and I think the story will be told with visual mastery. I wasn’t even planning on going to this Con until I saw your post. With you and Matt going…I just couldn’t pass it up.

    Let me know if you want some WIP pics if you’re planning on doing another write-up prior to Con; I can throw together something as well as a paragraph or two.


    1. No way Zach, if there is a problem (and I’m not sure there is), it lies entirely with me. Your contributions are rad and the VTOL with it’s landing effects is gonna take the whole scene over the top. As usual, I didn’t have a clear vision from the beginning. As you know, I didn’t even think I was going until a couple of weeks ago (just like you), and my initial thought was to make a “modest” diorama for the Garvey and just do my own thing. I thought it would be cool if Rutherford, roontRee and I all brought our SHIPtember stuff, not exactly a collaboration but something with a common thread even if it would be an invisible thread to the public and even most of the attendees. When I decided to go big with the diorama it was natural to open it up and get some much needed help from the WackLUG crew since we’re going to be hanging out anyway and you guys didn’t seem to have a project or plan of your own. Fortunately it was a really good fit and I know it will turn out fine, but I just wasn’t down with anything too structured or formal on this one, with so much to do and so little time to do it, I didn’t want the responsibility. As for the commo, You guys have a habit of communicating through video chat and it really seems to work well, but that technology always inhibits me and makes me feel awkward and unable to express myself like I would through an email or phone call. I should have just got you on the phone to talk about your stuff, it was definitely proof of the importance of good communication. In the future, text away, I’m always down with your updates. Sometime during the weekend I’m sure we’ll get a chance to talk about how to handle it next time.

      It would be great to have a final update with everyone else’s contributions, I’ll definitely take you up on that and I’ll ask the cronies if they’ll throw some photos my way at the least.

      Thanks for chiming in man, I’m stoked to see you again!


  5. Bit late to the comment party, but I’m really digging this YOC/KOC of yours, whichever one you prefer. The lightning effects are looking good, as is the landscape as a whole. Really looking forward to seeing all the SHIP’s together at the convention (or rather, seeing photos of them…)


  6. My mind is still operating at 60% speed due to the massive cognitive files I downloaded at the con! Like every con I’ve ever attended… lots of unexpected stuff. Taking a few days to collate before I attempt to put any of it into words…

    It was excellent to see the whole crew from the dio, and rowntRees ship is even more incredible in person. My ship on the other hand… Mmmm… looked much better on line…


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