Yes indeed! Thank you, to everyone who participated in making the Manifesto’s first annual Blog or Die! writing contest a big success, to include the 11 participants, 3 interviewees and everyone who took the time to comment on the entries. At it’s best, this blog is all about the conversation and you folks made this past month and a half one of the most talkative periods since we opened for business. Since you know I love the numbers, at the time of this posting the contest generated 4,074 views and a staggering 425 comments. In the beginning I set an informal, unspoken goal of twenty entries and even though it didn’t seem like we’d hit that mark until the very last day, we even managed to squeak past it. The quality level was delightfully high, there wasn’t a bad entry in the group and I’m delighted we were able to feature a variety of new voices and topics on the blog. The only superior outcome would be if some of you stick around in the coming weeks and months and keep delivering the goods that made this contest special As I’ve said many times over, both publicly and privately to the writers: the Manifesto door is always open for your contributions. I’d like to offer a special salute to Caleb and LettuceBrick who entered all thee categories and everyone who had multiple submissions: Cameron (who had 4!), Aaron, Ted, and Jake.
Let’s get on with it already! These are your official Blog or Die! results.
I have decided to list my top 3 entries to recognize additional builders, but please be advised that only the #1 spot in each category will earn an official prize-package. In case you’re curious, I read each submission three times: upon first posting, again before writing the official review, and one final time before rendering the results. I did read the comments to enhance and inform my reviews, but I did not take them into account for the judgement process. I did not place any importance whatsoever on the number of hits or reviews, as you know I’m fascinated by the numbers of any given situation, but I included them only as a curiosity or point of interest for like minded readers.
ARTICLE CATEGORY (11 entries):
1. Hidden in Plane Sight by LettuceBrick
2. The End of AFOL by JakeRF
3. The Fourth War, or How Decisive Action Changed the World by Nick Barrett
COMIC CATEGORY (7entries):
1. ATTACK of the SPAMBOTS! by Aaron Van Cleave
2. Bloody Deckers by Vitreolum
3. Time Well Spent by LettuceBrick
Interview Category (3 entries):
1. 73 Questions by Cameron (-Primus-)
2. Mecabricks Interview by Caleb Inman
3. A Conversation with Dan Kees by LettuceBrick
People’s Choice Award:
Place your vote in the comments section below for your favorite contest entry regardless of category, and I will award an identical prize package to the contestant with the most votes. Your deadline to cast a ballot is 1-22-18 at 11:55pm Pacific Standard Time (PST). Please note that the first place winners you see on the list above are NOT eligible to win this People’s Choice Award, but the second and third place finishers ARE. Please include the title of the entry and the author when you vote, for maximum clarity.
Every participant is entitled to a free poker chip and sticker should they like to claim them.
HOW TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE:
Email me directly at: Legomankeith@aol.com Put the word “Prizes” somewhere in the subject line and we’ll get things rolling ASAP.
Fair warning, I have to put in an order for the T-Shirts (winners must select a size) so although the E-Gift Cards will go out immediately, there will be a slight delay for the delivery of the highly coveted SWAG packages.
There is no new information after this last statement, just re-prints of the reviews posted on each individual entry, collected in one convenient place for your leisurely perusal. Once again, please accept my sincere appreciation to everyone involved with Blog or Die! You guys rock!
Oh, and don’t hesitate to leave me feedback about the rulings or suggestions for improving the next iteration of contest, constructive criticism is always welcome.
COMPILATION OF OFFICIAL REVIEWS:
Entry # 1
Title: Stop, Collaborate & Listen
Author: Primus (Cameron)
Views: 237 Comments: 19
Favorite Quote: “I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in a few of these collaborations; therefore, I am a leading authority on them.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “…and I have to wonder if that is a direct result of the Bionicle universe and the catholic understanding shared with all of your kindred.” – Matt rowntRee
Single Sentence Summary: Bionicle builders are into collaboration too and the results rock.
1. I was completely oblivious to the fact that Bionicle builders were out there collaborating like the rest of us and I found the general topic very interesting. The collaborations ranged from what I think of as a relatively simple fly-in style grouping with a common theme, to the Bio-Saints project which I found both involved and inspiring. The article left me wondering what other collaborations I’ve missed because I wasn’t looking in the right place. So you get high marks for the premise and bringing the knowledge.
2. Despite your claims via email that you’re not an accomplished writer I find your conversational style very easy to consume and the article has a good narrative flow to it. I appreciate your repeated use of the TM symbol and your inclusion of the Bionicle vernacular without bludgeoning your reader with it. Your selection of photos was spot-on and well balanced with the volume of text. I never had the urge to skip on down the page or otherwise check out of the article.
3. The article introduced me to a few intriguing builders that I didn’t have on my contact list before, namely Lord-Oblivion, [Rhymes_Shelter] and Cezium. I have to admit that it’s only since I started blogging for TBB and then the Manifesto that I developed a true appreciation for the genre because I made it my business to try and expand my horizons. Before that I really only followed the work of Bryce McGlone, who made frequent and excellent use of Bionicle parts but I wouldn’t qualify him as a Bionicle dude. Getting such a late start though, I’m woefully ignorant of the deeper cuts on the record, I certainly know the Mike Nieves and the other big names but this article helped fill in some of the gaps.
1. Although I really liked your repeating pattern of examining a single model from each collabo, I would have like to see a little deeper critique going on. I went back and checked and you didn’t say anything remotely negative or suggestive about any of the models, and while they are all very well built, I do think there is almost always room for improvement or variation. I know you’ve got an eye for this stuff and good taste, but I can’t quite believe there is nothing you would change about them. I think we all grow through critique and you do a disservice to these models when you don’t go all in.
2. The mystery at the heart of the article, this clandestine collaboration, is annoying because it never goes anywhere and I can’t really convince myself that you have no idea who the great and secret puppet-master is, no matter what you say in the comment section. And if you do know, and you’re not telling then it’s even more annoying. Or if I’m supposed to guess it’s you…then that’s annoying too. You suggest that you were contacted anonymously but what does that really mean? A brick through the window with an attached note? You have no clue? There is no evidence or relevant details at all? If it was you, then you really missed a golden opportunity to provide insight into the process of running a collaboration because the article would have been better for it. Instead though you appear play coy, and keep your cards close to the vest. Coy is rarely fun. Oh, and Hoffman was correct when he suggested in the comments that you missed an opportunity to include a photo to represent your puppet-master. If it is a legitimate mystery then I think the topic of your next article has been established.
3. I wish you’d taken a deeper dive into the collaborative process, after running a project or two myself because I’m terribly curious to know if there are common themes / problems / processes involved. It might have been better to gather a few quotes from the other builders involved, or perhaps shifted categorically from the “article” category to “interview”. It’s a group effort but we’re only getting a limited view of the inner workings.
You were first out of the gate and everyone who has run a contest knows the value of a Judas goat leading the rest of the herd to slaughter. I give you credit for stepping up and the real reward of this endeavor for me is pulling in a new voice to the blog. As I mentioned above, I enjoy your writing style and narrative voice and I hope you stick around to contribute again, even if it’s only in the comment section. It’s great to have you on board and this article was just the kind of content I hoped the contest would generate. Even though this was the first entry it’s much closer to the top of the list than the bottom.
Entry # 2
Title: Ted Talks: “Sweep the Leg!”
Author: Ted Andes
Views: 141 Comments: 17
Favorite Quote: “Starting my collection out of my dark age, I always viewed contests as the ‘Lego rich getting Lego richer’. The people that have the good parts selection are going to have the good builds. Doing the best you have with what you’ve got usually won’t even get you a cookie.” – that’s some good candor.
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “my wife was certain she had busted me visiting a lewd sitr when she found forbiddencove.com in the browser history only to find out is was a LEGO site.” – JakeRF
Single Sentence Summary: Sensei Ted’s step by step advice on how to win a building contest.
1. While I don’t worship at the altar ofcompositional structuralism like Rutherford, I do appreciate the way you deliberately laid out your concept and the detailed breakdown of each piece of advice. Most importantly you backed up your claim with a pretty bulletproof strategy for trying to win a contest, with many concrete examples from your own experience as judge and conestant. I was really looking hard for that one slim paragraph that really didn’t bring anything to the table but I couldn’t find it. I think anyone new to the community and more than a few veterans would absolutely improve their results if they rigorously applied these 7 Habits of Highly Successful builders. In fact your advice immediately brought to mind a couple of builders from the LSB contests and I wondered if you had them in mind while composing the essay. Beyond the structure, I actually think you’re the best pure writer of the group through the first 8 entries. Perhaps not always the funniest or unconventional, but reading your article I got the feeling you hammered on this thing into shape, nothing about it seemed stream of consciousness or off the cuff. If you didn’t do multiple re-writes I’d be very surprised and more impressed by your work. You went the extra mile and applied most of your 7 steps to this written entry and I appreciated it. You also doubled the word count requirement which is appreciated. Some people see the minimum as the end-goal and you set the bar high very early in the competition.
2. Upon first reading I was a little let down by your media choices, dismissing them as boilerplate, obvious choices. I guess I wanted to see something new and obscure, but when I went back for a second, more definitive reading I really came to appreciate them. I watched that Burgess Meredith clip 4-5 times, I’d forgotten what a good scene that is, both actors really elevate their game there. Each clip or photo is perfectly matched to the piece of advice you’re offering and the fact that you threw in a Martha Stewart clip was a purely gangsta move on your part. You managed to get my wife’s attention and a chuckle, and she reads the blog on a sporadic basis at best, so you get unexpected points for that too. My personal favorite is that delightful still shot of crazy-eyed Dutch at the end…that’s totally how I see Carter Baldwin when I know he’s in a contest with me. Oh shit, he’s gonna kick my ass!
3. What I enjoyed most about your article was reading it with an eye for improving my own game, when it comes to challenges or contest, and honestly trying to evaluate my shortcomings. I think I’ve identified some holes in my swing and I’m interested to revisit this list in 2018 when I’m sure to find myself thrust into one melee or another. The dangers of turd polishing were definitely applicable and also the “Commit” section brought to light my stupid reluctance to use stickers. As you suggest I’m always saving them for some future project like they are precious silver bullets you can only fire once, rather than a replaceable commodity like any other element. There were other things I plan on using like the 1 Day Rule but the point is that I was able to learn something from the article that I can put to practical use and I really appreciate that. I thought I was done with the topic of contests between the two articles you refer to in your opening statement, I thought we’d tread that ground enough but you proved otherwise in a humorous and motivational fashion.
1. There was a lack of concrete visual examples. I would have liked to see a little bit of Lego in your media, specific contest entries that illustrate each of your posts. You could have showed us a speeder bike that was really close to the winner’s circle but missed out because he or she failed to adhere to one of your patented 7 habits. Maybe you were hesitant to want to call people out for their shortcomings but I think it would have been a bold choice and more meaningful because it came from a guy who judges contests and declares winners. I thought you missed a golden opportunity to use one of my speeder bikes, or that of a constant reader just think of the smack you could have laid down. The media was good, but I like to see at least a little bit of actual Lego action.
2. I’m hesitant to include this one because tone is such a difficult thing to quantify and explain but sometimes your piece reminded me of a cheesy motivational email I would be subjected to when working for an insurance company. Kind of an “up with people”, almost forced levity vibe. I’ll give you an example, when I read this quoted blurb I mentally slipped into a Ned Flanders voice: “This can really raise the level of competition, amp up the competitive spirit, and be a helluva lot of fun… but it may also lead you astray from achieving victory if you get too caught up in it.” Again, this comes down to personal preference, if it was an academic paper I’d give you an A but the cheese-factor was higher than I’m comfortable with.
3. This one is NOT your fault but You put me in a very tough spot Ted, because I would really prefer not to give the victory to a guy who already writes for the site, my main goal was to attract and reward new talent but I didn’t want to exclude anyone (except Rutherford) so when I finished your article, I thought…damn, that’s pretty fucking good, I hope somebody steps up big time and gives me a reason not to give Ted the win. That’s kind of crappy of me, I suppose but it’s all the more kudos to you for forcing me to make a tough decision. Again, this isn’t a mark against you necessarily, but it does fall under the heading of “Bad” for me.
I dig the decidedly non-building civics lesson you slipped in there and there, it seems basic but so many people fall into the trap of not reading the room correctly, or at all. I’ve fallen victim at times, over the years, and my biggest regret in the hobby socially was actually the result of getting too fired up about a contest…so those bits hit home. Hopefully those pearls of wisdom will save somebody needless embarrassment.
Entry # 3
Title: Glomshire Knights: A tragedy of Errors
Author: Dennis Price
Views: 113 Comments: 10
Favorite Quote: “I just grew tired of it. Making a webcomic can be a grind, although it is fun, but the hardest thing in the world to do is be genuinely funny. I think I can be funny in a snarky, smart aleck sort of way, but being funny is hard work.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “We all speak a language of bricks and connections, but how many in our little hobby also know how to dissect an anecdote or a punchline and tell you what worked and what didn’t and why?” – Christopher Hoffmann
Single Sentence Summary: See the triumphant rise and harrowing fall of the Glomshire Knights comic.
1. The thing I appreciated most about this article was the unwavering candor on display, you really opened up to the audience in full measure. There was never I time when I felt like you were holding back or exaggerating or sugar coating the experience for the reader. Not everyone would bring up the less flattering aspects of a beloved project, the bit about the convention jerks or declining interest from the viewing public. You were unflinchingly honest and it paid huge credibility dividends within the scope of this contest, it’s one of the hardest things for a writer to accomplish. It was as if we were sitting at a bar with some beer and chicken wings as you spun your tale, so kudos for the easy, candid conversational style. We’ve only met in person once, but you write with the same voice and style with which you speak and interact. That may seem like a small thing, but too often writers slip into some alter-ego voice that makes you wonder if they actually wrote the piece themselves. Before I read a single word I took the quality of writing for granted with you considering your occupation and I wasn’t disappointed. The essay flowed really well and it was one of the few that I think I enjoyed even more on the second reading.
2. Perhaps the best compliment I can give you is that when it was over I still wanted to read more. Even though you doubled the minimum word count it seemed like you could have gone even deeper into the process and I wouldn’t have lost interest. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the history and evolution of the comic, you did a marvelous job of letting us into your twisted and humorous world. So you get points for delivering on the promise of your thesis. I specifically enjoyed the section sub-titled “Meager Skills = Mediocre Content”, it was kind of the Cliff’s Notes version of the entire piece and the link you threw in to the Rozum piece was a great choice and I think it could provide real inspiration to aspiring Lego comic creators and I hope the readers took the time to check it out.
3. Even though it wasn’t the focus of the article I loved your inclusion of your early videos, I watched “The Quest for Space” a half a dozen times and “Let’s Ride” was funny too. If you ever have the urge to go that direction again, you’ve always got a spot open here to showcase it. You should have dropped “The Quest for Space” right into the article instead of the link.
1. Although I enjoyed the candor on display and the look inside the world of Glomshire, the essay kind of bummed me out. It’s not a happy tale and it reads like you were defeated by the experience and by the end of the article I felt vaguely depressed and defeated myself. Even the subtitle is a downer “a tragedy of errors”, I had never considered the comic that way and I was surprised to read that you did. I’m not saying every entry has to be positive and uplifting, far from it, but sometimes I heard Eeyore’s voice inside my head instead of yours. I was left wondering if a reader considering undertaking a comic series of their own would be inspired by your article or discouraged? Between your negative experiences with some convention attendees, your own disparaging self evaluation, burnout, the death of your father and the declining interest in the comic, it was heavier than I expected. Again, I’m not going to hold it against you when it comes down to the final judgement, but it did register as something that would fall into the “bad” part of the review. Maybe if you’d balanced the shitty comments with some praise you’d received it would have helped. I was hoping you’d end on a high note and I thought you were headed that way, leaving open a return to action, until the last bit where you threw out the line “but don’t bank on it.”. Realistic I’m sure, but again, kind of a drag. I know the comic enjoyed popularity for quite a while, I remember all the comments and every builder I know of “a certain age” has at least heard of Glomshire. Also, since you went halfway there I wish you had given a little more detail on the negative interactions at the convention. I know you probably don’t remember the conversations verbatim, but it might have been fun to reconstruct one for comedic effect.
2. It bothered me more than it probably should have that you didn’t respond to any of the comments generated by the article. You were the only competitor to adopt such a policy and it kind of stood out. I didn’t notice it at first but when I tallied the numbers at the top of the page I couldn’t believe there were only seven comments, but then I read all of them and realized there were no reactions, rejoinders or retorts of any kind. You really elicited some thoughtful feedback and questions from the usual suspects, and although it is certainly NOT a requirement for participation I do think it is good form to mix it up with the constant readers and I do give the comment section some weight when I make my judgments. You don’t lose points for your reluctance to communicate but you didn’t gain any bonus points either.
3. I wish you’d included more examples of the GK comic or perhaps some ‘behind the scenes’ shots if you have any of your Legoratory and setup for photography. The story had such an impressively long run that It might have been nice to show an example from the early days to contrast with the end. Speaking of the process I think it might have been interesting if you’d included more of the nuts and bolts of the comic process, maybe what kind of camera and lighting you used (even if you think it’s not up to par), or perhaps a screenshot of the ‘Comic Life’ program. In a story about comics, I found myself wanting more comics…maybe your favorite cell or two? I do like the selections you included I just wanted a little more of it.
I never expected to read the words “Rescue from Giligan’s Island” in any entry for this contest, but what a delight. I’d forgotten Tina Louise didn’t appear in “Rescue” or the other TV movies because she thought wrecked her career. What an idiot, as if such a thing was possible, GI was her career. I think I’ve seen every episode at least 6 times, so thanks for the trip down memory lane and I can TOTALLY see it’s influence on GK. In case you’re wondering Mary Ann, always Mary Ann, unless I was feeling a little kinky, then Mrs. Howell.
Entry # 4
Title: When a Pen and Brick Unite
Views: 179 Comments: 20
Favorite Quote: “Already, you want to know more about this strange place, what the blue cones on the trees are, why the water’s orange and why the middle building seems more important than the others.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “I feel like my resistance to the storytelling aspect of the hobby has caused me to miss out on a quintessential Lego experience that is deeper and more meaningful than the day-to-day build & post mentality promoted by sites such as Brickly.” – VAkkron
Single Sentence Summary: How to craft a well balanced Lego comic.
1. I thought your media choices were masterful, the Stallone meme and slow clapping video made me chuckle, and you turned me on to Russel Coight, I especially enjoyed his gun safety episode. I’ll have to check out more of his work when the dust of the contest has settled, I like his deadpan delivery. I also appreciated that you threw one of your own models into the critical fire in a self deprecating manner, listing all the shortcomings so that the reader had a negative example to go along with all the positive ones. You’ve clearly demonstrated the ability to critique your own work and doing so in the article was a good call. The other models you selected to illustrate your points were solid choices as well. You also nailed just the right balance of images to text, something the other competitors struggled with a bit.
2. Your passion for writing really comes through loud and clear, you did an excellent job articulating what it is about storytelling through Lego that you find so compelling. Your enthusiasm for the topic was infectious and by the end of the piece I was entertaining ideas of taking another shot at a comic myself. So you get bonus points for motivational writing, you and Ted were the only participants that really fired me up to try something new or do something better. TIP 2: It Doesn’t Have To Be Complex, was especially effective. I can’t tell you how often I obsess over whether my models are complex enough for their own sake and it was good to have the notion reinforced that complexity for it’s own sake isn’t necessarily something to strive for, that as you say “So long as the build is considered and prioritised, the set doesn’t have to be the greatest thing conceived by anyone ever.”
3. I was happy to see you worked a poem into the closing of the article, it fit the theme nicely and was well constructed. It left me wanting to see what it would be like if you made a comic with poetry instead of prose. An illustrated poem, if you will. It also made me nostalgic for the DA2 poetry thread (what was it’s name?…I forget), you really brought more to that game than just your participation as a player on the map. Well done.
1. I was with you up until the final section (TIP 3: Remember That This is a STORY), where I think you kind of lost power to your engine and coasted to a kind of unsatisfying stop. It seems to me that a comic is a 50/50 split between the word and the brick and you gave short shrift to the Lego side of things. Worse, you’re almost cavalier in your dismissal of the topic: “I won’t go into the intricacies for writing a good story as it’s wonderfully subjective (and mostly luck, to be honest)”. The part of your article that focuses on the Lego aspect is also wonderfully subjective, so I was a little disappointed that you didn’t give us any insight into the process of writing or a little comparison and contrast with other builders. You’re skilled at both poetry and prose and I think it was a missed opportunity not to speak about your writing process. I want to know things like: do you outline first, how much do you revise, is there a magic balance between words and images. I know when I’m blogging I have some rough rules about how many images I’ll stuff into an article but how does that work with a comic? I’m not even sure I agree with the advice that you do offer: “The reason why Ludgonious and Marley’s builds work so well is because the story is lined up exactly with what’s being shown.” Does it have to line up exactly? Or is the narrative there to go beyond a literal interpretation of the image. I’m not sure you need to repeat what is visually obvious and I would have like to see some depth to the concept.
2. I think the proportions of the article are a bit skewed, you use well over a third of your total word count before we even get to the first tip. While I enjoyed the personalized back-story that comprised your somewhat bloated introduction, I think you could have whittled it down to something equally effective while devoting more time to the nuts and bolts of your thesis. I was excited to get to the tips & tricks section and you took just a little too long to get there. By no means did it ruin the article, but it was kind of like eating a small but delicious hamburger with a giant bun. I would preferred to see a deeper dive into each of the tips, maybe with more concrete examples of what to do and what not to do. By the time the article ended it seemed like you barely scratched the surface of the topic and you gave us only a tantalizing hint of your deep seated knowledge of the comic form. I didn’t come of the away from the essay feeling like I had a better understanding of how to make my own Lego comic.
3. The following line troubled me “I’ll go to the grave thanking Keith, Ron, Michael and Matt for Decisive Action 2, for providing the opportunity for a young scamp like me, with zero experience, to join the world of online MOCing.” Although I’m incredibly flattered and I appreciate the sentiment more than you probably realize…reading about myself even for that short blurb really took me right out of the article’s flow. If you’re going to mention the host, better to do so in a humorous fashion where you’re taking the piss out of me instead of slathering on the praise. Even though you’d probably think I live for the praise, it actually makes me feel a little uncomfortable in the context of the contest. To some of your audience it no doubt appears that you’re sucking up to the judge to improve your score, and that’s never a good look. I had the same problem to an even greater extent with Nick’s essay on DA, which reads as a love letter to the judge.
*Also…you didn’t answer a few of your comments and I like to see full engagement from the writers. It wasn’t listed as mandatory, but it’s always good form.
I’m not sure whether or not to praise you or curse your name for leading me down a rabbit hole to this video….Wolffy…
Entry # 5
Title: The Fourth War, or How Decisive Action Changed the World
Author: Nick Barrett
Views: 181 Comments: 28
Favorite Quote: “id more powerful players leave him be because of the strategic insignificance of Australia, or because we couldn’t bear to be the one that snuffed the poet?”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “This was an incredibly entertaining read. I don’t get any of the references, but that doesn’t matter.” – Christopher Hoffmann
Single Sentence Summary: A nostalgic examination of the Decisive Action 2 Lego wargame.
1. You more than tripled the word count requirement for the category and while I’m all too familiar with the concept that more doesn’t equal better and the law of diminishing returns, I would have been happy to read another 3000 words. Maybe that speaks more to my ego and a desire to soak in more adulation for something I created, but I didn’t really create DA, Rutherford did. In the first version, all I did were the basic math calculations and internet stuff Mike hates. In DA2 I think of it as a partnership with the players, I might have made it all work but the players brought the drama, comedy and occasionally the sheer stupidity. So size may not be everything but a topic as large as DA2 needs a deep dive and one of my consistent gripes about the other entries is that they didn’t plumb the depths of their topic as well as they should have. It is more than just sheer word count though, out of all the writers who stepped into the arena for this contest, yours is the narrative voice and writing style that I enjoyed the most. Your entry is also the one that I read the most. I’ll consider it a big loss to the blog if you don’t contribute something else as time passes and if I had my way you’d be a semi-regular like Andes and Rutherford. Really, you should be writing for TBB, if you ever catch the blogging but you should go knocking on their door too.
2. I’m amazed that you were able to paint such a complex picture of DA2 without several crucial elements readily available for use. It had to seem like an uphill battle with no access to the map or rules or poetry or the vast number of conversations to mine for rhetorical gems. What you didn’t mention in the article was that when the game was over Mike and I left MOCpages entirely and the group vanished like a fart in the wind along with our accounts. While I made it clear from the get-go that I was only back on the site to conduct the game and nothing else, I’m sure Mike’s departure was a bit of a shock. In retrospect and after talking to fellow player Lauchlan Toal I’ve come to regret this decision, I wish I’d kept my account active so that people could copy the game and the format verbatim for their own use, or be inspired by. I think over 300 models were generated and a couple thousand conversations, I’d forgotten what a juggernaut the game was for that half a year. So kudos for piecing together as many of the fragments as you did, you managed to highlight many of the key models and some of the graphics as well. It was a true delight to poor over your spreadsheet in detail, I’d heard rumors that such things existed but it was nice to actually see one for myself.
3. Your photo selections were steel on target, you managed to hit on quite a few of my favorite models and builders from the event and I was delighted to see the Meteors of Madagascar graphic, I’d completely forgotten about that. It was a good call to include the great builds for the readers who had no connection to the game but can still appreciate a good build. Your balance of images to text was perfect, I never felt like you were padding the article to make it appear more substantial than it was. Even though this is the “good” section I almost wish you’d selected some of the crappier models, in their own way they were just as important to the game as the shiny ones. I know it sucks to name names but including one of Topsy’s low resolution tree-fighters might have been a good illustration of how there are many ways to be powerful in the game and that it doesn’t all rely on popularity or a slick build.
1. Straight away this article put me in a very tough spot, and just like DA2 it forced me to deal with gamesmanship that I didn’t expect to encounter when I planned the contest. I never entertained even the slightest notion that a contestant would choose me or one of my endeavors as the subject for this particular category. I thought (and hoped) I might see a comic entry that mocked me in some way and I thought I might get at least one person ask for an interview (I would have rejected the request), but I didn’t anticipate an article on DA2 or any other project I’ve been associated with over the years. You speak of both the game and my conduct in such glowing terms that to declare you the winner seems as though it would reflect poorly on me, that I picked the entry that praised me the most. Right or wrong, I would feel guilty for the selection. I’m even second guessing my decision to include a photo of the map because I was so lured in by your piece that I wanted to contribute to it in some way to help you overcome the lack of citable source material. I said in the rules that I wouldn’t be editing anyone’s work and I broke the rule for you. It’s completely my fault, my error but that’s the danger of appealing to the host’s ego, sometimes it works too well. It’s a real shame because this really was one of my favorite entries, regardless of category or personal connection.
2. The article was not easily accessible to the average reader who did not participate in or even watch the game, and a couple of the comments reflected that. I think you might have been able to focus less on the nostalgic aspects of the experience and more on the nuts and bolts. I’m sure Rutherford would have loved to see his mission statement mentioned somewhere in the article. Sure it would have demanded an even longer treatment and you already clocked in over 3000 words but some of the strategy recap sections are no doubt impenetrable to people who didn’t play the game, especially the references to the world court and the combat system. Maybe you could have substituted a few of the personal anecdotes and the blow-by-blow account of the strategic gameplay in favor of a more comprehensive explanation of the game mechanics? That might seem a little dry but you’ve got the writing skill to make it interesting and it might have been interesting to contrast DA with the slew of other Lego wargames that have dotted the landscape over the years. In the end, even though I loved the article I don’t think it had the kind of mass appeal that a winning entry should have.
3. Against my better judgement I’m going to use part of Rutherford’s critique for this last ‘bad’ point, since he isn’t allowed to compete or judge I consider him a decent impartial judge who has an intimate connection to the topic and thinks about this stuff way too much:
“But what effect did this activity have on YOU as a builder? What (if any) effect did it have on MOCpages? There was some odd stuff in the exercise. Pressure. Limits. Specificity. Rules designed to create harsh dynamics. Head to head competition… a Zero Sum scenario… unambiguous win/lose outcomes… published for all to see… every 7 days… Not always fun. Often frustrating.
In the end, were these good things? Bad things? Did these factors enhance or inhibit creativity? Productivity? Communication? Was the shy builder emboldened to speak out, or lashed into even deeper silence? Were all equal before the lash? And if so… was that a kind of social justice? Or was it just tyranny with a good sound track?”
When I read your article I didn’t have any of these questions lingering but once Mike brought them up I really wanted to know the answers. It would have been interesting to see you look at the bigger picture and impact of the game on both the MOCpages population at large and yourself as a builder. You hint at them and drop a tease here and there but there were certainly unanswered questions at the end. This specific criticism kind of dovetails with the other two points, but honestly I was having trouble coming up with this third point of criticism, I enjoyed the essay that much. I was going to say something about your failure to include some of the competitions low points , but I’m not sure if it would have made the article demonstrably better.
This final observation has nothing at all to do with the blogging contest, but I want to specifically thank you for reminding me just how much fun DA2 was, not just for me but for at least a handful of people. Unfortunately the ending of the game, where it appeared to me that the players conspired to end the game in a tie (because friendship is magic) left a bad taste in my mouth and it has taken far longer that I would like to admit to dissipate. This article brought back all kinds of memories and the vast majority of them were positive and caused me to chuckle: the attack window, the players, the world court, watching the map change from empty whiteness to a rainbow, the tactical blunders…everything. It was more than just triggering a memory though, the quality of writing and your narrative style just ushered me right into the action. If you’d asked me a month ago if I’d consider running DA3 in 2018 I would have probably laughed and shook my head. Rutherford finds himself unexpectedly busy these days and I wanted to have more participation out of him for the third version, since it’s his baby ultimately and I think he makes the best front man for the operation, so I thought it would have to wait at least another year. But after seeing the vigorous, infectious enthusiasm in this article and some emails I’ve received from former players who don’t comment here on the blog (but read your piece), I’m committed to running DA3 or maybe DA2.5 (if Rutherford can’t return) sometime in 2018. So even if you don’t win the Blog or Die contest, at least your entry resulted in a prize for a bunch of people. I hope to see you on the battlefield, General Barrett.
Entry # 6
Title: Talking to Myself
Views: 282 Comments: 27
Favorite Quote: “I don’t blame them, it is a Bionicle MOC, after all. Maybe if I wrote for their blog or included a Star Wars minifig they would have blogged it…”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “who doesn’t love a massive codpiece?!” – Matt roontrEE
Single Sentence Summary: An examination of selected critically unacknowledged works by the author, and commentary on the writers of TBB’s tendency to blog their own models.
1. All the sick burns! Although I’m very appreciative of my time at TBB, I also take pleasure from a good joke at their expense because just like MOCpages, TBB should be a hell of a lot better than it is. So This article was tailor made for me in a way you had no way of knowing, so kudos for the sarcastic surgical strike, you hit just the right nerve with me and judging by the comments a lot of other folks too. Reading your article was like watching a good standup comedian, I could picture you pacing back and forth on a comedy club stage, smoking a cigarette and casually tossing out the jabs. Every paragraph had a great zinger at TBB’s expense like my pick for favorite quote: “I don’t blame them, it is a Bionicle MOC, after all. Maybe if I wrote for their blog or included a Star Wars minifig they would have blogged it…” Ouch, the truth hurts. That was just one of my favorite examples but there are too many to mention in this blurb. So you get big points for humor, this was funniest of the entries.
2. This observation is closely connected to the first one, but I give you a lot of credit for being honest and taking a fucking strong position (until the end…). You say right up front that you were “compelled” to write the article and that comes through in spades. I think candor and willing to take a stand on an issue are key components to comedic writing and you went for it! I know that both here on the Manifesto and in the community at large there is a large number of people who share your viewpoint in this article but I think less than 5% would actually have the stones to say it out loud. Even though this is a crappy dive-bar of a blog, our kind are largely a bunch of gossipy yentas and I guarantee someone from TBB is going to be pointed in this direction and although you joke about it, there’s a decent chance that you won’t be blogged again, or perhaps blogged a lot less frequently. You titled the article “Talking to Myself” but you’re talking to TBB too. It will be very interesting to see if your next major effort is. I know you won’t lose any sleep over it but I also know you don’t care…because there is no way that you could write this article and not really care about the topic. That’s what makes it so effective and so funny. So you get BIG points for me for the candor and having the aggression (as Mike says) to commit the idea to digital paper. From my perspective you took the biggest risk of all the contestants and I appreciate that, this is one of my favorite submissions.
3. This point is going to be short and sweet, I very much enjoyed the structure of the piece and the quality of writing in general. Even though it lacked a Rutherfordian “THESIS GOES HERE!” neon sign I think your message was crystal clear and I enjoyed the fact that you dabbled in stream of consciousness within the structured section of (present model, talk about model, zing TBB) I thought it was instightful When Hoffman suggested in the comments that your style was imitative of my own. I think he was on to something and I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I’d give you the victory simply because you imitated my style the best….but I don’t feel inclined to penalize you for it either. Whether you set out to ape my tone or not, the article still rocked. Even though the sarcastic burns won me over, my favorite paragraph was your biographical section where you talk about your dad a little bit. You’re a good writer and any time you’re in the mood to blog you’ve got the key to the backdoor.
1. Although I love the premise and your sharp stabs at TBB, by the end of the essay it seemed like a one trick pony and I was left wanting more, a deeper exploration of the topic. You point out what seems like a big error in their philosophy but you don’t really do much more than scratch the surface of the problem. The piece would have benefitted from a single paragraph where you explicitly spell out (without excessive sarcasm) why you think blogging your own stuff is bad. You hint at it, but you never actually tell your audience what the downside of the policy is. I have my own strong take on why the practice of self-bloggage is bad but I want to hear why YOU think it’s bad. You don’t offer any explanation as to why the writers tend to blog their own material or even attempt a counter-argument to then address and refute. You might even have compared the situation it to other blogs to see if it’s the community norm or if they really are doing business differently at TBB. So while the article was definitely funny,it could have been a little more insightful and made a better argument.
2. I think your selection of underappreciated models was excellent except for one striking exception, the Vern Vermillious. When I looked at your other creations I thought they were absolutely rad (especially Lich Lord Gvar Zhogvol and HERAKLES, and certainly worthy of the spotlight treatment from the Blog of Blogs, but Vern….eh, not so much. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some nice features and clever parts usage with the train-wheel legs, but I never would have blogged that one during my brief tenure at TBB and I wouldn’t have blogged it here either. The proportions are wonky (a characteristic you celebrate but I found off-putting), and it looks too sort of generically Bionicle to catch my attention. And why doesn’t it have knees? I tried to imagine Vern walking at it wasn’t a pretty mental picture. The robot is not a terrible effort by any stretch of the imagination but I think you could have found something more compelling to include like Kreger or maybe even Rooster. Did Vern kill your chances at a victory or ruin the article? No, but it did stop me dead in my tracks to think “I don’t know about this one, I think TBB was right to ignore it” and your article drifted a little from “yeah, suck-it TBB you guys don’t recognize diverse quality” to “This dude is complaining too much, he can’t self-evaluate his work”.
3. You took your foot of the accelerator. I was with you right up until the end, laughing and nodding in affirmation all of it…until I read the following line from your closing remarks: “Especially since my griping really only applies to one of the bloggers there”. That’s a copout and it’s far from accurate, I can easily think of a half-dozen bloggers there who never fail to promote their own stuff: Salvesberg, Zhang, Heath, Jensen, Gillies…and that’s just the worst offenders. It took the edge right off of your rhetorical blade and made it look like you’d changed your mind and suddenly didn’t want to offend anyone. Then to top it off you get all coy on us and refuse to name the singular blogger who inspired the entire rant. If you’re gonna call someone out, do it. Name names, point fingers. You spend a thousand plus words self righteously slagging TBB to the delight of the cowd (and definitely yours truly) and after the corpse lies bleeding on the arena floor you turn around and say “but it’s all good”. But it’s not all good, your thesis was a spot on and you backed off of it at the end. If you were really going for the victory you should have gotten more aggressive in your approach, done some research and let us know just how often the worst offender published his or her own models. There is strength in the numbers and the research and I think it would have been much more devastating than your well crafted zingers. Maybe finding someone else who’s work has been studiously ignored might have been good. People complain in the shadows about the same thing all the time, the readers were clearly with you, gathered behind you with pitchforks and torches and you say….”The rest of them at least seem to be trying to blog about others as much as they do themselves.” It was like watching John Wick, but instead of the final violent orgy of gunplay, you get the assassin sitting under the bodhi tree eating a sandwich.
I’m not sure whether to praise or bury you for including that video. I hate that video, it’s the perfect smarmy, self important encapsulation of all the bad things about TBB. It’s deeply conflicting because in a perfect world I would never want that thing anywhere on the blog, but it’s a key component of your story and it’s not going anyway…so…thanks? I’m glad I watched it but I also wish I’d never seen it. You’ve left me very conflicted and it ended the story on a weird note.
Entry # 7
Title: The End of AFOL
Author: Jake RF
Views: 310 Comments: 29
Favorite Quote: “I know what you are all thinking. Very few people fit completely into any of these new categories, so maybe we should just stick with our catchall AFOL tag for everyone. You are wrong. You must pick a side and join your exclusive new group. It is time to categorize and separate from each other. You can only be friends with LEGO enthusiast if they are just like you and hold the same core values.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “AFOL is like asshole pronounced with the absence of teeth.” – Angka
Single Sentence Summary: An examination of the shortfalls of our lexicon and suggestions for improvements.
1. You manage the difficult task of breathing fresh life into what seemed initially like a tired concept. When I read your title and thesis I must admit that I mentally shrugged and was prepared to be disappointed but you really made the most of it and I found myself laughing and enjoying it despite my initial prejudice. As long as I have been a part of the hobby, I remember people have been complaining about the nomenclature but rarely in such a humorous fashion. I think you nailed the sub-categories of Lego nerd with precision, even if there is a great deal of overlap as many of the commentaritat pointed out. I don’t think your point was to be exhaustive but to generalize for comedic value and stereotype in order to make a point. You also did a good job of taking the piss out of everyone, even the “coolest” subset of Lego nerds (the ABOLS) gets a jab or two for slavish devotion to studlessness and high-minded attitudes, something we clearly deserve. Just like Primus with his TBB blogging rant, I appreciate the fact that you took a strong position on a cultural topic and through the two fisted attack of sarcasm and satire, you all but forced the reader to engage with the topic with fresh eyes.
2. Even though your ratio of text to visual aids may be skewed a bit heavily towards the visual, I thought your media selections were inspired and probably the best of any entry. Each picture or video matched its category flawlessly, my personal favorite was the “ideal box art” for ABOLs, maybe it’s playing right into my own self image but that’s exactly how most builders look at a set. I also “enjoyed” that craptacular review of the Hoth Assault and the MSIB hoarding video, they fall into the category of being so bad they are actually good. Even the sorting time lapse was oddly hypnotic and soothing. So you get points for your media, they were seamlessly integrated into the article and took what was already a very funny article and put it over the top.
3. Although I generally don’t take the comment section too seriously into account when judging these entries, I thought your piece inspired some of the best conversation. Of course more responses does not necessarily equal quality responses but you manage to trigger both in your readers. You obviously touched a nerve and inspired people to really engage with ideas like cultural compartmentalization, our need to label each other, status and cultural norms. In terms of this blog and this contest I think the ultimate goal is to ignite the conversation in an entertaining way and you came through big time. I had as much fun wading through the comments as I did reading your piece, they were almost an extension of the article itself. You didn’t just answer the comments out of politeness or decorum, you interacted with each person to really take apart the topic and explain your position.
1. I take great exception with your taxonomy of coolness because you’ve got the bottom of the list all wrong. To set the record straight, the correct order is clearly:
1. ABOL 2. ASOL 3. ABOLT 4. APOL 5. ACOL. Sure Train guys are humorless and the very antithesis of cool but nobody in the four corners of our shared hobby is lower than a collector. They never open the box, they hoard multiple copies… they are truly worthy of our scorn in a way that the others simply are not. Even the historically maligned train guys look down on them. Great Ball Contraption enthusiasts look down on them. Mindstorms geeks look down on them. You say it yourself “They are hoarders and should be avoided at all costs, except by ASOLs, who should see the easy mark and quick buck to be made.” How can I trust you as an authority on such an important and cherished topic as the lexicon when you can’t even get the ranking of coolness right? I’ll even ease up on you a little and admit that numbers 2-4 are purely a matter of taste, I could accept almost any arrangement in that range but the bottom of the barrel?…iIt simply has to be collectors.
2. I didn’t really have a problem deciphering your tone or sarcasm but it seemed like some of the readers did. I like to think sarcasm is more of a surgical tool than a strategic weapon, and again, much like Cameron’s article on TBB I think you went a little overboard to the detriment to the point you were trying to make. I’m not a hyper structuralist like Rutherford so I don’t mind that you waited until the conclusion to really state your position but I think if you’d eased of the snark just a little you might have been more effective in getting your point across with clarity.
3. Although you were well over the prescribed word count, it almost feels like you gave the topic short shrift when combined with your comedic focus. This article felt light to me, like you had your thumb on the scale when checking the weight. I wish there was more meat on those bones to chew on, the category descriptions just barely scratched the surface. I think each sub-group of Lego nerds could have been expanded on both for laughs and to support your point, maybe including a real world example of each kind of Lego nerd would have added something to the topic. I know that’s kind of personal and you don’t want to offend people but you were going for sarcasm anyway and I think you’ve got the skill to tackle it with enough sensitivity so as not to be cruel. Or maybe just an anonymous anecdote from your own experience with each kind of fan either in person or online. I think your paragraph about train-guys was my least favorite, they are the low-hanging fruit of the community and I think the joke fell flat there. It’s like making fun of the fat kid in school with glasses and bad acne, if you’re gonna go there, be clever about it.
I have to thank you for inspiring a new acronym for repeated use in my own personal Lego lexicon, an I’ve already started to pepper my commentary with it. Yes, Keith’s Own Creation is primed to take not only the Manifesto, but the very world by storm. “Say, did you happen to see the new KOC today? No, it’s not on TBB but it’s one hell of a KOC!” That KOC is triumphant, it might be the best KOC of the year!” So thanks for putting me in touch with my very own KOC, you’re the only participant to make me rediscover the value of KOCs. The lexicon is all what we make of it, and I’ll make mine a KOC.
Entry # 8
Title: AFOL Follies
Author: Ted Andes
Views: 278 Comments: 43
Favorite Quote: “I’m writing an article for an obscure LEGO blog.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “I like the comic. It was simple, direct, and it has an element that many comics rely on. That correspondence between the grief of the characters and the grief of the reader. When people empathies with the characters… they dig it.” – Rutherford
Single Sentence Summary: A glimpse into the Andes household as it relates to the Manifesto.
1. Taking the actual content of the comic out of the equation for a moment, I was blown away by the quality of presentation. It looks exactly like the newspaper comic strips I grew up with. The cool title font , the signature, the date, the border and layout were all spot-on perfect. This is going to be a very short point of praise, but it was the first thing that hit me and I thank you for setting the bar of presentation so high. The photography was lights-out too.
2. You hit just the right note with the content of the comic: the classic Lego nerd husband / long suffering wife interplay, as Roontrei said in the comments it hit close to home in the best possible way. You nailed the silliness of the entire enterprise, and offered sort of a meta commentary on the process of engaging with the contest and the blog in general. The bottom line is that your entry made me chuckle and that’s the entire point of the category, to entertain the viewer in three panels.
3. Surprisingly, you scored my wife’s enthusiastic endorsement, which is definitely not an easy thing to accomplish. She has at least scanned all the entries and yours was by far her favorite. I like to take her opinion into account because much like your spouse, she’s not really that into the hobby except as a bemused observer and her impartiality is a valuable tool to me in the judging process. The married dynamic is a classic one and you clearly hit the mark in that regard. So kudos from the wife. Kudos also for generating such a vigorous discussion, I didn’t think your comic would generate such a deluge of responses (35!) or that it would develop into an engaging conversation about the nature of Lego comics themselves. In some ways you brought more to the table in that regard than the two essays devoted to the topic.
1. Strictly speaking you broke the rules Ted: “Construct a 3 panel (minimum) Lego comic using LEGO elements only (no clones, no custom parts) and at least some text to go along with it.” The Manifesto poster on the wall is clearly NOT a LEGO element, it’s a clever, well executed but decidedly non-Lego attempt to curry favor with the judge. So although I did approve the entry and you are eligible to win the category, if it comes down to your comic vs. an entry of similar value I’m afraid the decision will go against you. Fortunately for you, there is no competition…yet.
2. Although I’m a big fan of minimalism, especially where the comic genre is concerned, I think you might have stretched yourself a little more with the actual build. I’m not expecting genre-bending innovative techniques or a reinvention of the wheel but you’re a kick ass builder and nothing in the image really kicked my ass. The studded floor really bothered me, even though I’ve evolved beyond slavish devotion to studlessness, I found the shag carpeting kind of distracting. I think if you’d just included a rug pattern or even a different color for the ground it would have been an improvement. That single round plate under your wife’s foot is annoying too, because you can achieve the same desired effect of placing the minifig on an angle without the additional plate.
3. I was confused by the text bubble in the third panel. Are they thinking exactly the same thing? Is the top sentence for you and the bottom for your wife? It’s probably clear to everyone but me but I had to puzzle at it for a while and that was kind of annoying. I’m prepared to find out that I’m the only one who was befuddled and perhaps I shouldn’t hold it against you at all, so take this one with a grain of salt. I’ll take an informal survey before I make a final decision, or maybe you can clear it up in the comments.
I should probably have shoehorned this into the “Good” section but I really appreciate the way you posed the figs, it’s subtle but very effective. How does your wife feel about your caricature of her? Did you put together her minifig or did she? Was she involved in the process of the comic at all? I hope you take another shot at the genre in the future Ted, you’ve clearly got a talent for it, no matter what the metrics on Flickr may indicate. Maybe you should create a Star Wars comic and delight everyone.
Entry # 9
Title: Just Something I WIPed Up
Author: Aaron Van Cleave
Views: 284 Comments: 29
Favorite Quote: By posting this image to an Internet-accessible location, Aaron Van Cleave, aka A Plastic Infinity, henceforth referred to as “the author”, has laid exclusive claim to every whole or partial configuration of more than two Lego Brand Building Blocks connected to each other pictured within the image, regardless of color, each of which henceforth referred to as a “technique.”.
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “Being annoyed at someone else posting a technique first is a self-centered reaction. Childish, almost. Like a braggart at a schoolyard, claiming they started some trend while no one was looking. The other kids just ignore him because at the heart of it no one cares.” – Christopher Hoffmann
Single Sentence Summary: A humorous commentary on the problematic nature of our cultural tendency to claim ownership of a “technique”.
1. You selected a great topic, one that has the additional benefit of never being discussed in depth and bludgeoned to death on the Manifesto. Although I do enjoy our longstanding, ongoing conversation about constructive criticism, I was very happy to see a fresh subject introduced that had some meat on the bone for commentary. You touched a nerve because most builders who have been around for any length of time or a certain skill level have come up with an original technique worthy of emulation, and I think if they were being honest they would acknowledge feeling a sting when they see people copying their design without credit. Hoffmann accurately called it out as school-yard behavior in the comments but I also think it’s human nature and it takes a mature person not to get at least privately bitchy about it. Anything that inspires emotion and strong reaction is great fodder for an essay or comic, especially for a blog like the Manifesto. Beyond just selecting a good subject, you took the most critical step by making it personal and honest, even if it didn’t cast you in the best light. Candor is key! It’s irritating when somebody takes your ideas without credit and you copped to it, not everyone would have done that, preferring to keep the topic neutral and academic.
2. As a person who has the character flaw of cutting corners whenever I can, I applaud the inherent lazy brilliance of taking your leftovers and cooking up a fine seven course feast. It was a very clever combination of topic and build strategy. It kind of subverted the expectations of the category where I expected either top-notch building or skillfully applied minimalism. I never expected a heady mix of brilliance and crap in equal measure. This entry, perhaps more than any of the others strikes an interesting balance between the text and the art.
3. I really liked the layout and your placement of the text bubbles, I was never confused as to who was talking and I liked the way it transitions from black & white to Lego background, to white to black/gray. In lesser skilled hands that might have been distracting but you turned it into a strength. The legal disclaimer at the bottom was a great addition, even if I had to grab my old man specs and squint at the super tiny print. I get it, you had to make it that small to simulate the real thing. I really liked the brick-built “LATER” frame, it was simple but effective and I also like the “S.W.I.P.E.R” frame with it’s non-Lego effect, you have a light touch on the rheostat, mixing all of these styles without creating visual chaos.
1. The minifig with the blue jacket was both distracting and off-putting, specifically the head. That character is supposed to stand in for the average reader, and the facial expression seems like a strange choice. I was distracted trying to figure out which set it came from, if it was some Harry Potter minifig who was hypnotized or a Star Wars figure in pain or terror…the expression didn’t always jibe with what the character was saying or the attitude he was supposed to express. Also, it left me wondering if the white skin / blonde hair was an intentional decision, if you were offering commentary on the racial makeup of the average builder. It was especially confusing when you changed the head from old-school yellow to Caucasian about halfway through the comic, I spent too much time trying to figure out the reason for the change and concluding I was either too stupid to get it, or that it was meaningless. Either way it was irritating.
2. Speaking of minifigs and character I’m not sure if I like the way you kept changing the narrator from purple-clad minifig to plant monster, to bumblebee man?, to eyebot, to junky cyborg man. I think it might have been more effective if you’d stuck to a single narrator to stand in for you, no matter which one you chose, but that’s only a guess, I’d like to see both approaches before saying with any certainty but it did occur to me. I do understand that your method was a way to insert even more unused tablescraps, but I wonder if you could have done that while maintaining just a little more clarity between the reader stand-in and the narrator.
3. Although I thought you really nailed the writing aspect, I’m didn’t like the first bubble in the frame with the giant cyborg. You write: “I thought he’d pay this tab, so I’ll be running long. I need to get back to obsessing over an imaginary system of technique ownership.” I had to read it a few different times to figure it out, but that might be a ‘me’ problem. I didn’t immediately connect that you’d changed the narrator again and I had to sort of go back before I could go forward. This final point on the ‘bad’ side is the weakest, I really liked the article over all but it did take me out of the rhythm of the comic for a minute.
You made me think about my own attitude about technique and credit, which has evolved over the years, sometimes in uncomfortable ways so I give you credit there. You are very good at generating introspection and awkwardness in equal measure, something I value a great deal in terms of the blog, but it does make me wonder about you. I hope we get to meet one of these years, so I can read you as a person with a little more clarity.
Entry # 10
Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Author: Ted Andes
Views: 147 Comments: 14
Favorite Quote: “It’s awesome because we made it! Matango!!!”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “So, uh…is Redneck-Set-Modular-Cosplay-BanjoCon based on real events? I can’t wrap my mind around how horrifying that would be to personally experience.” – Aaron Van Cleave
Single Sentence Summary: A humorous look at the contrast between original convention displays by veteran builders and generic set-driven displays builds by new builders
1. You picked a great topic that was ripe for examination in a comedic way. Anyone who has ever attended a Lego convention has probably noticed at least one if not multiple versions of these Café Corner style train/town layouts. It’s a bad look in a setting that is designed to celebrate originality and creativity, anyone can build an official set and slap it down on the table. I’ll go a step further and say that this simple three panel comic is a much better delivery system to address the subject rather than a long form, long winded, Fire for Effect style examination that leaves no stone unturned an no term undefined. You said everything that needed to be said with an economy of style and verbiage that is to be applauded.
2. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to so expertly reduce a bloated 32 square foot diorama to a minimalist 6×11 stud vignette. The tiny version of the Marcus Garvey was especially delightful, it was instantly recognizable even if a few details were off. The greatest compliment I can give is that it made me want to immediately go to my collection and see if I could do any better at the same scale. I very much doubt it, but you inspired me to try. I do admit to being curious what the olive green 1×1 plate is supposed to represent on top of the plateau but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the model.
3. Your selection of minifigs was of critical importance to the success of the comic and you nailed it…well, with one exception. Your selection of laughing Samurai Jack for me was a clever interpretation of my Flickr avatar and the rest were just as good: the Amercian soldier from the Super Man set for Rutherford, the artist with his palette for roontRee and the drunken alien for Andrew Lee were all spot on. I don’t know any of the cats depicted in the middle frame but you captured the stereotypes, I still laugh when I look at the pig from Angry Birds, it was an unexpected delight, as was the dismayed Ted-fig. Even for a reader that doesn’t know any of the parties involved, I think the comic still works by showing a group of wacky characters having fun vs. a crew of less wacky characters having a less fun time.
1. You recycled the desk from your first entry, and that was kind of a let down. I understand why you did it: you already had it built, it was a callback to the last comic that also featured the Ted-fig, and it made sense for the story…but it also flirts dangerously with the spirit of this rule:
“+ Original material is required, no previously posted work will be permitted. Plagiarism will result in disqualification and rigorous public shaming by multiple parties.”
I could make the argument that the desk and wall are previously posted items. I won’t disqualify it because I’m not that kind of fussy pedant but it would probably make a difference if I was trying hard to choose between your entry and one where it isn’t an issue.
2.Although as I stated above I like the concept, the specific execution (much like your other comic entry) pandered a little too much to the judge’s ego and sense of self importance. Again you put me in a position where I wouldn’t feel good giving you an award because it was so tailored to my entertainment and my direct experience. The decision wasn’t quite enough to deny you victory, but it definitely worked against you and made victory an uphill battle. I know you’re not really in it to win it, you’re motivation is to have fun, support the contest and entertain the people, but these reviews are based on the assumption that the creator is all about the prize and I’d never feel good about giving it to an entry that makes me part of the story, it opens me up to accusations of cronyism.
3. I don’t think you put as much effort into the depiction of the Café Corner micro-model as you did with the Marcus Garvey diorama. The carousel was nice but without the text it never would have occurred to me that you were referencing a Café Corner layout. It was also missing a train, there is always a forgettable choo-choo rocketing around the block, well, at least 90% of the ones I’ve seen. I realize the point is to make the second model less interesting than the first, but I wonder if you could have made it a little more iconic? A tough task to be sure, but so was making the tiny Garvey.
I’m still puzzling over your choice of the googly-eyed black dude on the left. When asked (by me) on Flickr, you explained that it represented the Ghanian crew of the Marcus Garvey or more confusingly Jeff Cross who is neither Ghanian or black. This matters not one single bit to the casual reader but it threw me off, causing me to pause and puzzle over the answer instead of flowing through.
Entry # 11
Title: Not My LEGO®
Author: Cameron (-Primus-)
Views: 319 Comments: 34
Favorite Quote: “Now, the obvious answer to the first question is “OF FUCKIN’ COURSE IT’S LEGO, IT’S RIGHT THERE ON THE BOX.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “4. What is coming out of that Pokemon-Bionicle-Tiger things butt?” – Jake RF
Single Sentence Summary: The article poses the question “Is Bionicle Lego?” and examines both sides of the argument concerning the legitimacy of the product line.
1.The best thing about the article for me was that it motivated me to examine my own bias on the topic and I think that’s a sign of effective writing. I’ve come a long way in my attitude towards Bionicle and frankly it’s builders, with most of the change coming after becoming a blogger for TBB and now with the Manifesto. I’ll discuss that change in a separate comment later, this isn’t really the place for it but the important part is that not only did you inspire me to answer the question you posed but to go beyond and recognize that I used to answer the question very differently and subsequently try to figure out why I once held those negative beliefs and why they changed. Your entry was thought provoking and not just entertaining.
2. The article introduced me to Jayfa, and his fine stable of Bionicle builds. I may be jaded when it comes to conventions but I never seem to grow tired of discovering new Lego action and adding a skilled builder to my contact list. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that your interview subject in a subsequent entry was the very same person, it was a nice connection. I only wish you’d included more unfamiliar builders, I’m sure you know of a few more you’re holding back on.
3.The research! You get huge props for actually digging out a quote, even if it was only one, it was one more than just about everyone else. I didn’t even mind that I had to put on my old man specs and squint at the screen. It was so much more effective than just guessing it was true or making a claim without any citation or support. Although exact sales number and a source from Lego might have improved it, or numbers from other themes of the same time-frame. It may have been a simple no-brainer to you, but I appreciated it.
1. I thought your photo examples of what makes something Bionicle could have been more effective. In each of the three instances I knew right way what your conclusion was going to be. I’m not sure if better examples are out there, but it occurred to me that there have to be models that blur the line more dramatically that might actually make the decision a coin toss or at least arguable. It all seemed to boil down to what percentage of system parts was allowable, and your definition seemed to be around 20%
2.I know you were trying to inject some humor into the proceedings (and it largely worked) but when you adopted a more structured “serous” approach for this entry in comparison to your first, some of the humor seemed unnecessary and perhaps even worked against your argument, not logically then tonally. This doesn’t seem to be a casual topic for you, there is a strong opinion and desire to defend your preferred aspect of the hobby and I’m down. But the mix of humor clouded the message a little for me. I know I’m not one to critique somebody’s flippant or acerbic style, but I found it at odds with the serious quality of the article. You approach the topic with care and purpose, but also never hesitate to call anyone who disagrees with you an idiot (paraphrasing). Here are some examples;
“Get with the times, gramps!”
“Therefore, the interlocking brick system argument seems pretty weak”
“Therefore, not a solid argument”
“a great way to be intentionally obtuse.”
“to ignore the integral part Bionicle played in tapping into a market Lego was struggling with would be asinine.”
“being jealous doesn’t make something not LEGO, it just makes you crotchety”
There were more examples but I think you get the idea. It’s good to be funny, but when you’re trying to make a point in a serious way, it’s best to let the reader decide if the counter-argument is “asinine, crotchety or obtuse”. For the record I agree with most of what you’re saying but tonally it came off a little jarring at times.
3. You made the mistake of tantalizing me with the once source you cited and left me wanting more! Hardly anyone does that in these articles and it would have been great to see something besides Wikipedia, although I do consider it a valid reference how cool would it have been to see something from Lego, and it’s probably out there somewhere. It also might have been interesting to get some quotes from other prominent Builders or even a Lego-rep or employee on the topic. Would it have been difficult, probably but again, you opened the door with actual facts and patents and it made me hungry. It should be obvious that I’m not going to hold this against you, but I was struggling to come up with a third negative point. Some may wonder why it’s so important to have 3 if I don’t have 3 legitimate complaints, but I place perhaps undue importance on being consistent in the format and I think of it more as encouragement to do more than a knock on the writer.
Both in the article and the comments the word MOCist was thrown around as if it’s normal. Is MOCist a thing? Where have I been? Why didn’t JakeRF mention “MOCist” in his diatribe about our questionable and often embarrassing lexicon? MOCist? That sound suspiciously British, and reminds me of both ‘Stalinist’and ‘Creationist’….MOCist you say?. You’re employing that term ironically or for comedic effect right? You Bionicle guys don’t actually call each other that, do you? Either way it’s now firmly imbedded in my personal lexicon and I can’t wait to use it in person: “Well met, fellow MOCist!” “My favorite MOCist is Oucho T. Cactus”, “Who is the MOCist responsible for this turd?”
Entry # 12
Title: Bloody Deckers
Author: Vitreolum (Letranger Absurde)
Views: 121 Comments: 15
Favorite Quote: “We’re totally doing that thing you like tonight!”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “Through intense squinting I discovered that your comic definitely has most of the elements that mine lacked: love, crime, cats. No edgy subplots or existential angst, just a nice slice of life production.”
Single Sentence Summary: In a cyberpunk future, a man commits theft to please his girlfriend and increase his chances of getting some action.
1. The build! Although I have enjoyed all of the comics regardless of the complexity of the build, it was nice to see an entry that went full throttle in that area. The diorama is multi-level, uses a variety of colors and techniques, and most importantly it prominently features giant tattooed boobies. That single decision is probably worth a prize. The Wintermute (great Neuromancer reference) structure is a standout, it is simple but beautiful and the glass elevator is a nice touch. I’m also a big fan of the sushi restaurant down by the polluted water. Although I’m not sold on the color of that water, the use of the dragon wings is inspired, as evidenced by the repeated praise you received on Flickr. You worked in a clear focal point for the narrative action and packed in a consistent level of detail from one side to the other, there are no dead spots or wasted space. It was also nice to see you work in one of your trademark busty busts, it makes for an excellent hologram advertisement. Kudos for raising the bar with your bricksmithing, you reminded everyone that the building is just as important as the writing.
2. I absolutely love the “cover”, the round overview shot with the black background, the filtered effect is damn good and really adds to the presentation. I think it’s an especially fine line when it comes to altering the photos with post production, it seems to be very easy to overwhelm the model instead of just enhancing it. This is going to be a short point, because there isn’t much to expand on, I don’t have any background with photoshopping that would allow me to comment more incisively, but the cover is one of my favorite things about the comic and worthy of it’s own point.
3. I enjoyed the fact that the comic didn’t have anything profound to say, or offer meta-commentary on the blog. It offers a simple, funny story that looks like a page from a comic book. It also doesn’t feature me, which is a plus, unless you were sneaky and I’m really supposed to be the guy in the sewer pipe. The entry looks more like a page ripped out of a comic book, rather than a newspaper comic section. I intentionally didn’t specify in the rules exactly which approach I was looking for because I’m a fan of both, but you nailed you chosen style Even if I thought the two main characters were A-holes, you gave me a chuckle and created a convincing, immersive environment for them to inhabit.
1. When you were building this entry you tagged me in the WIP shots without saying it was for the contest, looking for constructive feedback. Although it might have been a clever strategy, I’m glad I didn’t offer my thoughts because in retrospect it seems like you were operating under false pretenses. At best, it seems like you were trying to bend the rules and gain a competitive advantage by seeing if I liked the model and making changes if required, at worst it seems like you were trying to trap me into saying something you could use later in an argument. I didn’t include any rules against such behavior, and it won’t be counted against you, but it did rub me the wrong way.
2. Your minifig selection was pretty solid but I don’t think there were enough of them. In most cyberpunk depictions I’ve seen over the years the urban streets and buildings are crowded with people, because the future is plagued with overpopulation requiring all the buildings to go vertical. I think you could have doubled or even tripled the number of figs for a more traditional look, and tradition does seem to be what you’re going for with all the references.
3. I think you dropped the ball with the frame showing the boyfriend hacking the ATM’s. The money shooting out of the machines is great but there is no solid connection between the minfig and the act. The deck is laying on the ground while the boyfriend stands next to it at stiff attention. To make matters worse the cable goes from the deck to the figure, wouldn’t it make more sense narratively to have the cable run from the deck to the ATM? In any case, I think the scene lacked the clarity it deserved, and you could have fixed it by simply having the boyfriend holding the deck.
I appreciated the Easter egg hunt, despite the fact that I have the sneaking suspicion I missed most of them. It adds another layer to the enjoyment of the model and almost makes it interactive.
Entry # 13
Title: Time Well Spent
Author: Lettuce Brick
Views: 97 Comments: 9
Favorite Quote: “Spaceships are swooshed, choo-choos are not, and as for the castles, they stay in one spot.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “That simplicity is a powerful source of affiliation between reader and writer. After one quick read… The audiance recognizes truth, and internally “endorses” both the message and the author.” – Rutherford
Single Sentence Summary: A humorous and poetic take on the Lego community’s timeless self-divided nature.
1. The poetry! We joke a great deal about verse around here but I found it’s inclusion into your entry to be very refreshing. As Rutherford mentions in the comment, a well crafted rhyme usually enhances comedic endeavors and that definitely applies here, the poem enhances the build and creates something unique in both the category and the contest as a whole.
2. I really liked the consistency between frames, that each type of character basically uses the same tables and parts, driving home the notion that there are far more similarities than differences between builders. Our Legoratories in real life may differ in size and access to natural light, but the similarities outweigh the differences, so I like the fact that you kept the background the same while the builders changed. I also liked the way you gave each character a distinct prop to help depict the action, even when the action is something sedate like reading.
3. Each quote was perfect, it would have been easy to screw that up and say too much or mess up the tone of each archetype. This whole comic is a study in simplicity and efficiency, and even if it doesn’t end up wining, you should know that it made the short list for final consideration. Bravo, the lack of comments does not reflect on the quality of the entry.
1. This is going to seem a little nitpicky but my devotion to the review format requires a certain level of fussiness in order to hit all the marks and provide each entrant with 3 points of criticism. That said, I kind of wish you’d made the torso of the third minifig visible to the audience. Each of the three characters gets a prop, and that’s cool, but I enjoyed seeing the outfit you selected for the first two and I wondered what the third guy had hidden behind the giant tome. A different hair style might have helped or maybe a hat of some sort to make the figure more iconic. Again, it’s a small complaint but it did stand out.
2. I didn’t think the microspace builds were as interesting or as skillfully constructed as the train layout or castle diorama. The problem is made worse by the number of ships, which is probably one or two too many. The swooshing action is a little bit obscured by all the ships, and it should be a clear focal point. Speaking of the swoosh, putting that particular ship on an angle in the minifig’s hand might have been a more effective choice. It also seemed like the designs were a little repetitive, the ship the character is holding just looks like a smaller version of the big gray ship, and there is a similar relationship with the two ships laying flat on the table. Maybe that was intentional but it didn’t work for me because it was a tiny bit distracting. If you had extended the concept to the other two scenes it might have worked more effectively, with an even smaller castle and train.
3. Speaking of the models, I think you might have used color a little more effectively. The castle layout is just about perfectly iconic, but both the spaceships and the trains might have benefitted by a greater variety of hues. Instead of brown train cars that match the color of the wooden table, maybe some red or orange might have made the build pop. I understand why you did the big spaceship in light gray, that’s definitely an accurate stereotype but using a more vibrant color scheme for the other ships might have helped provide some visual interest.
You made my OCD tingle when you didn’t use grill tiles for the train tracks…were you trying to make my OCD tingle? Were you trying to be a contrarian? You seem like a nice person Mr. Lettuce, and I’ve never done anything bad to you…so why would you do that to me? Excuse me, I need to go take an extra dose of medication.
Entry # 14
Author: Caleb Inman
Views: 102 Comments: 11
Favorite Quote: “Hey, those bottles aren’t going to fill themselves.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “I somehow got 3/4 characters without having a clue what was going on, so you must have done something right on a subliminal level.” – Vitreolum
Single Sentence Summary: An inside look into the social dynamic of the Manifesto and how it looks to the outside world.
1. RoontRee’s character is spot on, you captured Lego Jesus in plastic and I’m really tempted to try and buy it from you, or failing that, copying it myself. The glasses, the hair, the wink and the protruding tongue (great technique) are spot-on, he was the first character I identified at a glance, you managed to capture the key “art school girlfriend” aspect of his tempestuous nature without using a beret. The other character that didn’t require explanation was Werewolff, I love the pose with the pen in his mouth and the orientation of the eyeball tiles. He does somehow bear a striking resemblance to Stephen Hawking, I had to check to make sure he wasn’t sitting in a wheelchair just to be sure. While I didn’t identify the Absurde character, and I have no idea what he looks like in real life, it didn’t take away from the great job you did on the face, it gave me a chuckle and the beard was particularly well chosen.
2. I liked the minimalist setting, it reminded me of a Sesame Street bit or 70’s variety show skit where the window frames just kind of hang in space and it looks more like a set than a scene. The blue construction paper background somehow worked in your favor and actually helped the atmosphere. This is a junky half-assed blog and you translated that very effectively into the brick.
3. Although the decision robbed you of any chance at mass-appeal where your audience is concerned, I dig the way you took a quote from a gasbag Rutherford and turned it into a comic. While it may be too meta for some readers (especially new readers) it definitely gave me a chuckle, because I distinctly remember that accurate description of the blog. I didn’t expect to see such a tactic used in the contest, and I give you credit for originality. I’ll probably use the comic down the line when I’m trying to explain the Manifesto to someone unfamiliar with the blog.
1. As many of the comments noted, this comic was just too much of an inside joke and required too much explanation to even constant readers of the blog. While I appreciated the approach, nobody seemed to get the joke or the quote. I wonder if it would have been more successful if you’d included the entire quote in the title or had Rutherford actually say it to someone in the comic itself. As I’ve criticized other entries it also includes me, which is problematic and I’ve learned that for next time I’ll explicitly state in the rules that participants should not include me in the comics. Again, I’m uncomfortable selecting a winner that features me as a subject, while it’s flattering it also give the impression that I’m biased towards those entries, or easily flattered. I won’t hold it against you but if you’re up against another builder for the award who doesn’t feature me in some way, it’s going to tip the scale of judgment in your opponent’s direction.
2. The third panel, the one featuring Absurde and I, is kind of confusing. Maybe it’s just me, but I had to read it like three times and I’m still not completely sure I’m reading it in the right order or completely grasping the exchange. I think a re-write on that scene might have rendered greater clarity. In a story this short, ever word matters and I think there was room for improvement with the flow and the humor.
3. Even though I’m ready to embrace minimalism, I think you could have improved the building portion of the comic. The lower part of the bar is kind of a mess (I don’t like how you can see through it in spots) and the liquor bottles looked more like lightsabers than glass containers. In fact, now I’m reconsidering one of my good points about the Werewolff character…is that a pen as I initially suspected, or is it a beer? And while the tables were an interesting choice, I thought they were fountains at first and seem like an odd choice. I don’t usually see tables that curve like that and I think the transparency actually works against you in combination with the white floor.
RoontrEe looks like a dog-man, that’s too damn funny. Can I please buy RoontrEe from you? At least consider listing an updated version for this year’s Creations for Charity event. I need it!
Entry # 15
Title: Advice Works
Author: Caleb Inman (VAkkron)
Views: 90 Comments: 10
Favorite Quote: “I’ve seen carefully-worded, politically-correct posts about “comments and criticism are welcome”, but I didn’t want any criticism. I wanted straight-up mockery, swearing and vocalized pain that my model inflicted on their eyes. To my great delight, that is exactly what I got.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “We’ve started to sound like a broken record of constructive criticism here, but this is possibly the best example on this blog of the process in action. Keith has ripped into a lot of builders including himself here, but this is a full, detailed revelation of both sides, what advice was given and how it was acted on. You admitted what is often obvious but not many have the balls to say: “I don’t know.” – Christopher Hoffmann
Single Sentence Summary: An examination of a Lego model improved by constructive criticism.
1. See the favorite comment above, I really can’t say it any better. We talk the concept of constructive criticism to death around here and even actively engage in it from time to time, but until now nobody has taken the time to show the “process in action”. I was kind of hoping this topic wouldn’t come up because I tend to look for the new topics for inspiration but you proved that we’re never really done with any topic, there is always something new to add to the conversation. You get points for difficulty on this one, because it could have fallen flat in the wrong hands.
2. I love that you included screenshots of the actual critical quotes instead of just quoting them in the body of the text. Seeing the little icon next to the blurb definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the piece. Sometimes the delivery system matters to really hook in the reader. To extend that thought I appreciate the logical way you organized the piece, it flowed well and never got bogged down in the details or too many photos of minimal changes. You explained everything well without resorting to Rutherfordian style definitions and repletion of THESIS. From a purely entertainment standpoint this was the my favorite of your three entries, and it goes beyond the challenge to also add something to the blog that people can read long after the contest is over if they are interested into the depth of thought presented here on the topic of constructive criticism.
3. This comment is by it’s nature much more difficult to quantify or even explain but I really enjoyed the tone and character of the writing, it was very much like I imagine you to speak and the whole thing was very conversational in style. It never got boring, it was funny and as I’ve said before considering the dead-horse nature of the topic I was never motivated to ‘skip-on-down’ the page or rush through the conclusion. This is a voice that should be regularly featured on the blog, because while a great many people can craft an effective essay, very few have a recognizable vibe that make you want to read more.
1. As per my second Flickr comment, you never did fix that creepy gap where the eyes show through Izzy’s skin…come on my, you can’t reject one of my genius-level observations and then expect to win, right? Ball-busting aside, I think a second round of comments and improvements would potentially improve the essay by reinforcing the concept. It’s not a big deal though, except that gap is totally creepy.
2. Near the middle of the article you say: “Topsy also joined in the nose conversation, bringing some near-compliments to the table. Unfortunately, her advice on color wasn’t going to work, but I had to make some concessions.” There doesn’t appear to be any reference to color at all, there are plenty of uses of the word “aquiline” but nothing about color. I don’t doubt that Topsy gave you some key insight, but I’m not seeing that reflected in the actual quote.
3. This falls under the category of possible improvement rather than a negative critique, but the essay might have benefitted (at least in the comedic sense) from a negative example. Obviously sometimes as builders we reject critique for a variety of reasons and that could have been an interesting addition to the positive examples without detracting from your thesis. I’m not even sure if you received any questionable or off-bas criticism, so again, take this one as brainstorming more than something wrong with the piece.
I liked you observation about the “big reveal”, especially where the SHIPbuilders are concerned. Sometimes it seems really important and at other times it seems to be the enemy of improvement. Food for thought, and possibly a later article if you’re game.
Entry # 16
Title: Mecabricks Interview
Author: Caleb Inman (VAkkron)
Views: 222 Comments: 18
Favorite Question/answer combo: Q: “I have heard the phrase “render farm” used. Can you describe what that means and how is this the best option for builders who want to render their models?” For the answer, consult the interview.
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “You guys have done an excellent job of making it realistic. It is also kind of ironic. I think when most of us take pictures of our models we are trying hard to get rid of smudges, fingerprints, window reflections, etc. And you guys have worked out ways to add them in.” – Jake RF
Single Sentence Summary: An interview with Nicolas Jarraud, the creator of Mecabricks LegoCAD and rendering software.
1. You selected an unexpected and fascinating subject to interview, Judging by the comments I think it’s safe to say that most of the readers were not familiar with the product/service and very receptive to the information. I can also count myself among those who have been very frustrated with traditional digital building programs and for the first time in a long time it seems like something I’d like to try. Picking a good interviewee is half the battle so you get points for a good choice.
2. A skeptic might say this was an advertisement masquerading as an interview but you did a good job of tempering this issue by your introductory background questions that helped to make the subject more relatable and seem like one of us, as opposed to a faceless salesman (one of them). It also helped that you educated the reader beyond just the sales pitch, for example I had no idea what a render farm was before reading this post. I might have been able to reason my way through it, but it was nice to have a concise, accurate explanation of the term. There were a few of those moments that added value to the interview. The article was accessible to the novice (me) and never turned into a force-fed shameless sales pitch. Kudos for handling the topic and your subject with both respect and a degree of subtlety.
3. Good questions make all the difference, no matter how interesting an interviewee may be, without the right questions it’s easy to lose focus and fail to make the most of the interaction. While you may not re-invent the interview, the questions proceeded in a solid logical, chronological order and I was hard pressed to think of a follow up question when I was done reading. The renders displayed in the piece were well selected and there were just the right amount of examples. Given the topic, I think you made the most of the questions.
1. I think it might have been helpful to have a screenshot or two of the actual program in action, showing the interface in action. I’m not sure if that’s possible or if you asked and were rejected but that was once curious itch I had that needed to be scratched. While I was certainly able to find that information by following the link and experimenting with Mecabricks myself, I know some people are too lazy or apathetic to follow the link and it might have helped to better illustrate the topic for that slice of the audience. It was nice that a commenter included a screenshot, because the interview felt a little incomplete without it.
2. You had a tendency to stuff too many questions into a single block and I think it might have overwhelmed your subject a little bit because on a couple of occasions the answer(s) seemed somewhat incomplete. Considering English is probably his second language Nicolas did remarkably well, but I think you could have helped him out a bit by spacing out the questions to get everything covered.
3. This falls into the category of suggestions for improvement rather than a flaw that needs to be addressed but it might have been fun to include your own experience designing a model with the product and it might have created another series of questions. While the focus should always be on the interviewee, your style is more conversational and it might have been interesting to read about him helping you through a problem or commenting on your experience. Just a thought for next time, because I do hope this isn’t the last interview you conduct for the blog, you’ve got a skill for it.
The article mad me curious as to how you landed on that subject. Were you using the product and thought “hey this would make a great interview” or was it recommended to you? I don’t think you needed to include it in the interview but the result was entertaining enough that the thought crossed my mind.
Entry # 17
Title: Attack of the SPAMBOTS
Author: Aaron Van Cleave
Views: 177 Comments: 19
Favorite Quote: “Hi, I’m love sex.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “The biggest issue is probably the young average age, thanks to all the incomers, and Lego being primarily marketed as a *whispers* toy… And of course, they’re the ones who cry the loudest when they feel threatened by what they refuse to take proactive measures against. The world isn’t perfect, and surprisingly, the internet isn’t a daycare. – VAkkron
Single Sentence Summary: A humorous look at the recent infestation of naked lady spambots on FLickr, as seen through the lens of history.
1. Page 2/4 is pure, uncut mainline action! The entire sequence involving the chainsaw rocket launcher is just poetry in motion, as seen through the lens of Lego. There is nothing that would improve that panel. The progression of cells that show depict the glass shattering on the case looks like it was taken from a professionally produced graphic novel. I just can’t say enough good things about everything on that page, I’m very tempted to have it printed out for my Legoratory wall and send it to you for a signature. I don’t want to make the other comic builders feel bad so I’ll stop gushing now, but I’ve never seen a better action sequence…the blurring, the shot composition, the onomatopoeia, the explosion…I’m all in!
2. By far you had the most creative and effective use of text, the wide variety of fonts, colors, sizes, styles and placement was second to none, and I loved how it was not defined by the cells but sort of had free reign of the entire page. You went right up to the edge of overdoing it where it might have easily become distracting or egregious, it is clear you have a very critical eye for every detail in the presentation, I like to imagine this took you quite a while to pull off. Please tell me that it did or you’re going to make everyone feel bad (see a trend yet?). This entry literally bludgeoned me with it’s greatness and although I have yet to make a formal decision (I really like one of the other entries quite a bit) it’s gonna be hard to deny you just based on the sheer ambition you not only displayed but executed to perfection.
3. The comic works on every level, to include your choice of topic. I too was inundated by Sexy Spambots calling my name every day for a week, they came out of nowhere and were suddenly everywhere, so you get points for timeliness where current events are concerned. You also deftly used the subject as an opportunity for both humor and a little bit of history with jabs at MOCpages and Brickshelf. You didn’t rely on the culture of the Manifesto itself or my dumb ass to try and gain impact, you went for something more universal and ultimately unexpected.
1. Ok, so I’m not the biggest fan of MOCpages bot, I suspect you kept it underwhelming on purpose to reflect the quality of the site, but I also think you could have done that with a better design. Perhaps it should have incorporated some kind of Christian iconography or some fire department trappings to further reinforce the identity of the bot. It wasn’t terrible, or a deal breaker by any means but it did look a little lazy. By way of comparison I thought that your take on Brickshelf bot was marginally better (I liked the beard) and flickr bot was pretty entertaining.
2. Although I understand why you did it, I don’t think the warning was really necessary or all that well executed. It didn’t add anything to the narrative and the humor was flat in comparison to the rest of the story that made me laugh out loud a couple of times. Although your tongue was placed clearly in your cheek with the text, I couldn’t decide if it was an earnest attempt at a warning or not.
3. The red brick basement/dungeon was a little underwhelming. The cobwebs were a nice touch but the junk was more confusing than enhancing of the scene. I kept trying to figure out if it was broken robots, and why a fish? I know your chosen style isn’t hyper-detailed but I think you could have squeezed a little more value out of that final environment, it didn’t look like it was part of the same building as the upper floors.
In the introductory warning you include “Making a phone call” on your list of things that sensitive readers might potentially find offensive or lead to depressing situations. I’ve seen this fear/depression in action with young people, and without turning this into generation bashing I must cop to a sincere and ongoing intellectual curiosity about the topic. Why are today’s youths so scared of using the phone as a tool of verbal communication and follow up question: why is the mere notion of voicemail even more terrifying. I don’t want to turn this into youth-bashing, in many ways I think young people today have it tougher than I did (the whole internet thing and all). I may be old, but I’m also not afraid or depressed by telegraphs and radios, in fact I find them quaint and romantic. Please break it down for me, oh wise one.
Entry # 18
Title: Hidden in Plane Sight
Views: 156 Comments: 15
Favorite Quote: “Surely no one can object to volcano explorers or firefighters repurposing ostensibly military airframes, though the thought of cops rappelling from a large helicopter may be cause for rather more pause.
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “At the same time, I think its accurate to say that TLG is holding back from some fast easy profit by not launching whole hog into the war toy market (as other brands have). A toy company that does NOT exploit a wide, short path to assured profit? That’s uncommon… and I think TLG deserves some credit for honestly struggling against the tide here. They are losing the fight against violence (he he… fight against violence) … but make no mistake, TLG is fighting. That is a dam rare behavior in our unforgiving market place. – Rutherford
Single Sentence Summary: An examination of Lego’s relationship with violence, including an emphasis on comparing generic Lego aircraft sets to real world military aircraft.
1. Like all of my favorite contest entries, you really surprised me with the topic. I kind of thought the broader subject of Lego and violence might come up because it’s part of the trinity of all-timers along with religion and sex but I didn’t expect the angle you took. The Nazis of the Indiana Jones sets and the space-nazis of Star Wars are the low hanging fruit of the argument but you honed in on something more subtle and ultimately interesting. It was fascinating to see example after example of Lego watering down or making military aircraft more palatable to the public. I’d never considered the connection before and if that’s not a sign of an effective piece of writing I don’t know what is.
2. I mentioned it in the “whatever” section too, but the strength of this article is the quality of the writing. You nailed the structure, grammar, humor, research, entertainment value…everything. Some of the entries were kind of tedious to read twice, but this article rewarded a second and even third reading. It was also the most difficult for me to pull a “favorite quote”, there were too many to choose from. There is no fluff here, no word-count padding, it’s wonderfully economical and effective writing.
3. In the conclusion you wrote “So does it matter? Who knows? Does anyone care?” Usually I find it annoying when writers pose new questions at the end of an article, for me the time for questions is in the introduction or maybe in the body of the essay if it makes sense. But in this case I enjoyed you tacking it on to the end and I thought you handled your answer in and entertaining and concise fashion while still leaving the reader with a question to wrestle with since your thesis doesn’t really leave much room for argument. I don’t know if that was an intentional strategy or not but I thought it was smart.
1. This may seem like a cop-out but I wanted it to be longer. The article definitely meets the requirements for the contest and structurally the article is complete, but I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to read more about your observations on Lego and violence.
2. I think you might have beefed up the sections between photos, expanding on similarities between the aircraft. I have the feeling you could really take it down to the nuts and bolts if you wanted to. I’m guessing you wanted the reader to do the heavy lifting here, to observe and compare and make their own assessment of your claim, but it would have been interesting to hear your point-by-point assessment.
3. 3. I got nothing…well…okay, I thought your title was cheesy. Still kind of a weak point so let me ask you this instead, what do you think of 42066, does it correspond to a real world aircraft?
You write like Rutherford, if he had the ability to ruthlessly self edit, and without all the SHOUTING and pedantic structural signaling. This was the only entry that prompted me to wonder whether or not you were a professional writer, or just had to write a great deal for your job. This piece was really tight, probably the best written of the bunch in terms of grammar, structure, and polish. It also looked like you hammered on this one with multiple re-writes, if you didn’t I’m even more impressed. I will be sorely disappointed if this is your last article for the Manifesto.
Entry # 19
Title: A Conversation with Dan Kees
Views: 61 Comments: 5
Favorite Quote: “What is the Lego community’s greatest strength? What about its greatest failings and/or weaknesses? “. For the answer, consult the interview.
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “The printed items of Lego always seem to hold a special reverence, knowing that it ain’t that difficult to do knocks it down a bit but it doesn’t seem to lose any distinction especially in the hands of conscious printers like Dan.” – RoontrEe
Single Sentence Summary: A conversation with the owner of PromoTec Specialty Printing, whos services include printing on Lego elements.
1. You manage to make a topic that I thought of as dull, seem interesting and that was achieved by asking good questions. You didn’t cram 5 questions into one and you found the right balance between open-ended inquiry and specifics. Pulling a favorite question was difficult because you asked some really good ones. Some of my other favorites include: “I know you participated as a vendor for at least one Lego convention. How did that experience compare with your more usual method of sale?”, “Do you have any thoughts on TLG itself and its relationship with fans, both of adult and long-term variety and of the more general customer?” and “I assume the customer provides the design and the materials. What challenges do you face in reconciling the two and what is the most challenging Lego printing job that you’ve faced?” In this category the questions matter more than the answers, so kudos on a job well done.
2. I’ll repeat a variation on the same comment I left for an earlier interview because I think it applies here too: A skeptic might say this was an advertisement masquerading as an interview but you did a good job of tempering this issue by your introductory background questions that helped to make the subject more relatable and seem like one of us, as opposed to a faceless salesman (one of them). Knowing that Dan builds Legoween every year and that he’s been to a convention humanizes him and makes him more relatable beyond just a guy trying to reach a customer.
3. I liked your general breakdown of the interview in to “Standard Quesitons” and “Community Questions”. It’s a very small detail but I think it helped organize and focus the piece. Those boilerplate “how’d you get into lego” questions are just as important as the stuff that appeals to us as builders or as members of the tribe.
1. Even though we try and emphasize the written word around here, many of us are still visual creatures and I wish you’d included a sample of PromoTec’s work in the body of the article. A photo here and there of a printed prick or something more advanced that the interviewee mentioned like the options available for custom minifigs. Dan mentioned the challenges of printing on the curves surfaces of a minifig and I would loved to have seen some of his work, or perhaps a photo of the printing process. I took the link to the PromoTec website in search of just those kinds of photos, but was unable to find any mention of Lego at all much less a product sample.
2. Two or three of the questions had really short and/or uninspired answers: “Do you have an online Lego presence, business or otherwise?” and “I know you participated as a vendor for at least one Lego convention. How did that experience compare with your more usual method of sale?” come to mind immediately. While I don’t hold you responsible for the answers, I think you might have substituted another question or asked a good follow up. When the answer is as long or longer than the question it usually makes for a less interesting interview. Perhaps you could have asked him to compare his product with one of his competitors?
3. I’m a numbers guy and selfishly I wish you’d asked him for some stats. I know it’s rude to ask about profits but I think asking about how long a person’s been in business and how many customers he’s served are valid. Maybe pricing on something basic like a brick-badge, or how long a big convention job takes? I think you are clever enough to have ferreted out some numbers without putting off the guest.
While it certainly isn’t a requirement, and I find the interview to be pretty complete, I came away wishing you had some experience with the product yourself to relate in the intro and perhaps used it to inform additional questions. I’m going to make an order for some Manifesto bricks, so thanks for pointing me in the right direction, I’ll let you know what I think of the product by way of comment in this thread.
Official Contest Review
Entry # 20
Title: Bionicle and System
Author: Ballom Nom NOm
Views: 118 Comments: 13
Favorite Quote: “However, its adherents rightfully know it to be a dazzling and wonderful medium, whose expression can be used for constructing the breathtaking profusion of forms such as armored humanoid robots and slightly different armored humanoid robots.”
Favorite Comment inspired by the entry: “My self-imposed limitation has a bigger dick than your self-imposed limitation.” – Christopher Hoffmann
Single Sentence Summary: Lego Bionicle is superior to Lego System.
1. I love your writing style, probably because I’m super egotistical and it reminded me of my own style…only better. The article was much more refined than my efforts which usually only benefit from a rushed second-pass and nothing approaching editorial standards. Even though your take was wackadoo (see the “bad” section), I was buckled in and along for the ride, I never checked out or skipped down the page, even when I found myself in disagreement with your argument. This entry is amongst the top contenders purely from a writing standpoint, it was smooth, you know how to turn a phrase and you know how to be funny (which ain’t easy). It was also very hard to decide on a favorite quote, the article was loaded.
2. I loved the breakdown of the basic Bionicle component categories. My own experience is limited to a dislocated part here and there but I’ve only purchased one set to get a shield piece and I never actually put the figure together. So there was some real value here for me in terms of the product line simply from a parts-perspective and your photos were well chosen. If anything I would have liked to see more of that breakdown but I understand it was just one aspect of the article.
3. Even though it was satirical in nature I really appreciate the honesty and intensity of this article at the core. Comedic gestures not withstanding, you obviously care a great deal about the subject matter and even though I think your thesis is flawed, you made me care about it too and that’s no small feat. Although my attitude on the topic has certainly evolved over the years I wouldn’t really call myself a fan, but I’m a hell of a lot more of a fan than when I started the contest and I’ll look at the parts a little differently from now on. I’ve never read or heard a better “defense” of the product line and when combined with the other Bionicle articles in the contest, I think it is a very revealing look into the perspective of a tribe within our Lego nerd tribe.
1. Your thesis is crazy-talk: “Bionicle and its wondrous superiority to System.wondrous superiority.” Are you out of your mind? Are you trolling? Although I appreciate a bold claim as much as the next fellow but you’ve completely departed from reality and if not for the quality of the article it would call into question your reliability on the topic of Bionicle. I’m joking with you…a little…but in the immortal words of Cube and Tucker: “Damn!” As I said in the first section, I like the article, it was very entertaining and insightful but that’s like asking “What’s better, a Star Wars X-Wing fighter toy, or a toothbrush with a Star Wars character on the handle?”. You say in the comments that it’s satire, and I buy that because I believe you but I think it was the wrong call, I thought you were serious and obviously I wasn’t alone. The article is very funny and cutting and exposes some of the hypocrisy of System builders, but you should have mentioned your true feelings at the end and said you really think they are equal. I think not doing so may have cost you some comments too, because it sure wasn’t the quality of the writing.
2. You said: “I leave the exact counting for this comparison as an exercise to the discerning reader.” But I’d argue that some hard data might have spiced things up a bit. I would be fascinated to know how many distinct Bionicle parts exist, even if it’s a rough approximation and ditto for the system parts. The research might have been tedious but Brickshelf is pretty user friendly and a wealth of information, and the people there are open to those types of questions in the forums. It might have also been interesting to see an informal breakdown of the percentage of Bionicle parts, how many masks as opposed to claws, shells, hinges etc. That might be asking too much and it might have altered the course of the article, but I’m always ready for some numbers and research in a good essay and I definitely don’t want to do it myself.
3. Your argument about Bionicle being superior because it’s harder to work with doesn’t make sense to me. Couldn’t I very easily counter argue that System is superior because it has more options in terms of parts and connectivity? Or that it’s superior because it affords more connectivity? Building an interesting model out of Duplo or even plastic straws is even harder than Bionicle, but nobody would argue they were superior. This is just one example of how weak some of your arguments are, I could have picked two or three more but I don’t want to do a blow-by-blow takedown because that would be tedious and it misses the point and the value of the article. So suffice it to say that you didn’t convince me of the superiority of Bionicle, even if I was very entertained along the way.
Come on man, after all that you don’t show us a Bionicle pony, or any pony at all? Damn, that’s cold-blooded! Also, I’d never heard Bionicle referred to as “Bonko”, so thanks for adding that keeper to my Lego related lexicon.
Entry # 21
Title: 73 Questions
Author: Cameron (-Primus-)
Views: 308 Comments: 40
Favorite Question/answer: Q: “What meaning do you derive from this MOC?” A: “That’s a weird question. What meaning do I derive from it? It’s a fun build using more old parts than usual.”
Favorite comment inspired by the entry: “What in the world are you talking about? Until the liftarms, technic was pretty much system with holes.”
Single Sentence Summary: An interview with Joss F. Woodyard (Jayfa), an Australian Lego builder who enjoys the Bionicle theme.
1. Brother, your interview clearly touched a nerve! Only one other entry had a greater number of comments but none of them had a greater intensity of comments. Maybe it was some kind of backlash against a perceived over-saturation of submissions devoted to Bionicle? I don’t really factor in the content of comments too much when it comes to final judgement, and the final number is irrelevant but it is noteworthy! My conspiracy theory is that some of the dissatisfaction was actually caused by the previous article but people decided to get out the torches and pitchforks here. It was awesome! I dig it when the readers get riled up, it’s a tiny spark against the threatening darkness of the echo chamber, if you can’t get our resident contrarian to drop an elbow on you, you’re just not trying. The conversation had an interesting turn about halfway through and became about something else entirely So kudos for conducting an interview that generated such a strong reaction, that means you asked good questions and your subject gave honest, occasionally provocative answers.
2. Yes, pictures in an interview, and great pictures! You gave us cool models to look at, and in my particular case a new builder to follow. I hope it goes without saying that your choice of subject was a good one, not only is he skilled in the building action, he’s also got a strong opinion
3. The questions were exhaustive, by the time the interview concluded I didn’t really have any follow ups in mind until I read some of the comments. I also liked the comedic throwaway questions too, it’s difficult to slip humor into the proceedings as an interviewer but you pulled it off. You even surprised me with this question: “What would you criticize about this interview?” Nobody else asked that question, it was an interesting choice.
1. I appreciate the fact that you were trying to go for a fashion magazine approach to the format, but I don’t think it worked very well. There was too much filler, you could have pared it down by as much as a third by combining or just deleting some of the questions entirely and the result would have been easier to digest There were simply too many short answers, that can work well on video or in person but it doesn’t play well on a blog.
2. Although I generally give you high marks for your questions, some of them were downright goofy. Here is a smattering of my favorites: “Can you name a recent MOC of yours that I can feature it in this blog?”, “Do you derive any worth from this MOC?” and “In 3 words or less, describe my MOCing syle?”. The last one falls into the category of being so bad it’s actually good. I guess what I’m trying to say is that your humor is hit and miss, I kept trying to picture two guys having this conversation and it looked a lot like an episode of Monty Python. The trick is in the balance and I think your tone and therefore the entire interview was all over the place.
3. I think enumerating the questions was a mistake. It might have been funnier to make people (including the judge) count them to see if there really were 73 questions. It certainly would have made me laugh. Count this as a missed opportunity rather than a mistake as enumeration certainly fits the style and title of the article.
At the risk of sounding even more self-involved than usual, did you look at my TBB interviews before writing this entry? I ask because I used to always ask the subject which one of MY models was their favorite and why. It was a schtick of mine that poked fun on my tendency to shameless self promote whenever possible. Even if it wasn’t some kind of reference or tribute, that kind of humor always makes me laugh.