Ted Talks – “Brickworld 2019: Age of Discovery”

Hey Kentucky! Welcome back to the Manifesto and more importantly to our regular feature Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes shares his wit and wisdom on a wide variety of topics.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

Credit Lia Chan

When I made my very first drive up to Brickworld Chicago in 2016, I thought for sure that it would also be the last time I would ever get to attend a LEGO convention.  Instead, this year’s trip has made it four Brickworlds in a row (and three BrickUniverse Louisville events sandwiched in between). It is a testament to the wonderful, expanding family of builders that I’ve made there that I keep coming back, and to my wonderful and supportive wife who “holds the fort” while I am away. This year’s convention theme was “To the moon, and beyond…”, but for me it was an “Age of Discovery”.  I will be sharing some stories of these discoveries, as well as of the general atmosphere, interactions, and occasional oddities that make the Brickworld experience what it is.

 

Return of the White Brick… Mystery Solved?

I dedicated a lot of my Brickworld 2018 coverage last year to the appearance of the White Bricks.  They made their appearance yet again for the third year in a row.  We were aware of at least 5 that were placed around the display hall this time:

1) Adrian Drake – Fake moon landing, placed by his Tesla roadster

2) Nick Della Mora – Gun of Thrones, placed by his micro games

3) Rob Hendrix – Alcohol train, placed by his actual Malort train

4) Samuel Hatmaker – Infinity Gauntlet with “Oh Snap” tiled inside of the box, placed by his displays in the GayLUG area

5) Daniel Ross – Luke’s X-Wing making the Deathstar trench run, placed by his Millennium Falcon

With a little bit of deductive reasoning (including clues from past White Brick MOC builds), I have been able to determine who is responsible for creating and distributing them. No, I will not be unmasking this person in this or any article. However, if I could place a bet on who I think it is, I wouldn’t hesitate in putting down A LOT of money.

 

So people actually read the Manifesto?

Yes.  People actually read the Manifesto, despite the low hit counts that Keith laments from time to time, and those kids who gave him the stink-eye when he handed out Manifesto swag at Bricks LA.  I noticed quite a few things at Brickworld this year that appeared to have been influenced by my Brickworld 2018 write-up:

  • Reposting of the “White Brick” write-up onto the Brickworld blog – Bryan Bonahoom reached out to me to request a “family friendly” version of the article to post on the website, and I was happy to oblige. It basically meant toning down the description of the “dick with crabs” MOC that rowntRee received.  I also thought I saw a few more non-BW tokens of appreciation being placed on displays around the hall (anyone else see those “Overlooked Innovator” trophies? Perhaps another mystery for us to figure out?…).
  • Back-massages! – At the end of last year’s article I listed a bunch of suggestions, and at the very top of that list was “back massages”. Lo and behold, this year we had a back massage station set up near the front of the hall. I had a hearty laugh when I heard them make that announcement over the PA system.  I knew that I had better get over there, and either pay-up or shut-up.  At the station it was Tammy Eyerly who was the one volunteering her time and skills to work out the muscles in our aching backs, and all donations she received went to charity. Classy.
  • Drunk builds were cancelled – The aftermath of last year’s build(s) was a disaster. My suggestion had been to incorporate a breathalyzer into this unofficial event.  Harsher measures were actually taken.  Even though last year’s “bad drunk” offender didn’t attend this year, the event was cancelled.  The main reason that was given to us was a lack of available rooms.  This was likely true, as there were quite a few other events scheduled at the Renaissance on Saturday night (wedding receptions, etc.).  However, drunken wagon rides around the display hall were still in play during “World of Lights”.
  • The return of Kaleta! – Dave K. had commented last year that my write-up of BW18 and the impending BW changes were enough to get him back to the show, and indeed it was. It was so awesome to see his return, and getting to meet his son Elliot. I really enjoyed the guided tour they gave me of all their alphabet starfighters that they created together, and learning about all their “scoundrel” pilots. Spending that time with them on Sunday was a personal highlight for me.

“El-ee-ot.” Credit Dave Kaleta

At the very end of Brickworld during the Sunday teardown, I also got to meet Kevin Huxhold who is a renowned Bionicle/creature builder.  He probably had the worst ever table location in the hall to display his MOC’s, as it was at the very front corner of the hall where pretty much no one goes… even him, as the people displaying next to him said they hadn’t seen him since set up.  I myself didn’t even realize there were builds being displayed over there until late on Saturday, and he had some amazing creature builds too.  When I did finally see him on Sunday, I went over to introduce myself and he said, “You write stuff for KeithLUG, right?”  Right on, man!  Right on!

 

Skully got Boned

Last year I didn’t get to participate in the game demo of “Clunkers” by 1×5 Games (a.k.a. rowntRee & Flor), so I made it a point to block-out my calendar for the demo this year.  Well, the boys’ demo kinda got hosed.  First they were left off the sponsor slides during the opening ceremony presentation.  Then the demo was scheduled against the Charity Auction show, and then the room name was listed wrong on the display screens that were around the convention center.  Even still, I got to play a cozy round of Clunkers with Heath, Ryan Wilhelm, and a young guy who had played the game last year.  That veteran of the earlier version seemed to really like the changes they made to the game, and I know I am itching to give it another try.  The game is really heading in the right direction, and hopefully it’s a sign of great things ahead for the dynamic duo…  Space Nut Solitaire!

Got Malört? Credit Shane

 

They’re here. They’re queer. Get used to it.

You’d literally have to be living under a rock not to realize that the LGBTQ+ community is well represented within our FOL community. There was a mixer organized for the LGBTQ+ attendees this year, and I heard that they had over 30 people show up.  Some of them were surprised by the amount of representation themselves.  One person who opened the door to the mixer thought he had entered the wrong room when he saw so many people there…  Unfortunately, the people still living under a rock are also represented within the building community.

GayLUG made its debut at Brickworld this year, and they had reserved their own table section in the display hall.  “Coming out” in the display hall also meant putting a target on themselves for whatever small mindedness might be put out on display. Some in GayLUG were worried about this and set up a hidden camera to watch over the displays.  As if on cue, one such small-minded person took it upon themselves to attach a printed 2×4 tile of a TRUMP campaign poster onto one of the GayLUG displayer’s MOCs, and place another one on an adjacent table; a deplorable and cowardly act.  A harsh reminder was put out over the PA system that political statements and vandalism of other people’s displays are grounds for being banned from Brickworld (as it should be).  On the off chance that the small-minded person is reading this, know that your actions have no place in this community.  If that wasn’t clear enough, I hope you finally got a clue when the new owner of Brickworld thanked his husband during the closing ceremonies (assuming that you kicked out already, and were still there for the closing).

Fortunately the vast majority of us in the building community are kind and generous souls (at Brickworld this year, we raised over $28,000 for charity!).  Just prior to Brickworld, I learned that one of the GayLUG displayers couldn’t afford to even split a hotel room with someone, and he was originally planning to sleep in a rental car.  That was something I could not abide, so I got my room switched over to one with two double beds and I had him stay with me.  I learned later that he was considering cancelling his entire trip just before I made the offer to him to stay with me.  It would have been a shame for such an amazing person not to have come.  Getting to know “Wildflower” over the course of these 4 days was another major highlight for me, not only at Brickworld but in my life.  His immense talent is only outdone by his generous and caring soul (one of the main reasons for his current economic situation). The end result was that he left Brickworld with 2 award nominations, and an outpouring of love that this picture of his white brick can attest.

 

World of Lights Walk – “Oh, Balls!”

Heath Flor stood in for rowntRee during the traditional World of Lights “art school girlfriend – art critique walk”.  The clear lighting winner was Brian Williams’ display, whose lighting made the undulating brick surface next to his sea vessel look like actual water.  Adrian Drake’s disco lighting of Deep Space 9 was a close second.  After that, it was all balls.  The Great Ball Contraption was actually using glow-in-the-dark balls this year, and that was a highlight. The lowlight was the glow stick that was inside the inflatable orb that a pack of EmpireLUG guys were holding over their heads, while chanting “BALL! BALL! BALL! BALL! BALL! BALL!” everywhere they went, and videoing it all for YouTube. Glad they saved me the trouble (it’s not posted yet, but I’m sure it will be soon).

 

“Control the Action!”

This year I finally took matters into my own hands to “Control the Awards Action!” by participating in one of Brickworld’s many competitions; The LEGO Derby.  This was the opportunity to exact my revenge on all those parent-assisted winners of the Pinewood Derby races of my youth.  For those not in the know, basically every year at Brickworld (at least the ones I had been to) the Fitzgerald family sweeps all categories of the LEGO Derby (“restrictor plate” and “open”, youth and adult).  This year I had them in my sights and was going to take them on.  Beforehand, I brainstormed with rowntRee on what the best wheel system might be for the “open” class, and he helped me zero in on the LEGO train wheel bogeys.  Then I procured a weighted brick and built a sleek block of ABS to surround it.  Competition day arrived on Thursday… and the Fitzgerald family didn’t; they were a no-show. Per my “Sweep the Leg!” Manifesto article, you can only compete against those who shows up.  The competition ended up being a round-robin race between the 6 cars that did show up for the “Open Class” and my racer won most heats (maybe all of them?).  Now I am the one to beat, and I’m looking forward to defending my title next year!

 

Other Stuff

  • I got award nominations for Best Vignette and Best Original Train (the Intrepid made an encore appearance), and we also got a nomination for Best Group Layout for “Cienasis Rendezvous”. No nomination for me in sea vessel for the Rhapsody (must have been that bulky sail), and in the end no wins for me in the building categories.  The winners in those categories were all worthy though.  No complaints from me, and in my opinion no major nomination oversights as in past years.  Yes, there were still epic builds that got passed over, but it looked like they were still recognized by those other people who were handing out tokens of appreciation.
  • Interestingly, this year they split the awards for Best Train into Best Replica Train and Best Original Train, and added Best Group Train Layout and Best Individual Train Layout. They also gave out two Judge’s Awards, a Best Inclusive Display award, and a “Best in Show” award based on the feedback from the public.  That one went to the Great Ball Contraption, and now it can no longer win that award.  Based on popular demand, next year they will add a best “Constraction Figure” award category.  Barnacle Builders, Rejoice!!!
  • My streak of getting at least one new person to attend Brickworld each year continues. A second-cousin of mine actually lives nearby and is a huge LEGO fan. She hadn’t ever been to the show, and I got to meet her there. My Louisville pal Charley also finally made it to his first major LEGO convention. Hopefully his brain didn’t explode. I should see him at the next Louisville MOC TALK in July and I’m looking forward to hearing all the build the ideas that he brought back home with him.
  • As for those convention questions that I usually get each year, such as “Is he your son?” and “Were you in Ghostbusters?” that streak was finally broken… as was the streak for me hearing the oft uttered phrase “It’s a pod race!!!”

 

Closing Time

The end of Brickworld 2019 also marked the end of an era.  After a run of 13 years, Bryan and Kathy Bonahoom officially turned over the reins of ownership and management of Brickworld to Mark Larson.  It was an emotional moment for all involved.  There may be a few readers out there who have mixed feelings about the transition, or perhaps even one-sided, but you have to show an appreciation to anyone who can create and manage a convention the size and scope of Brickworld Chicago.  It continues to draw in builders in from around the world, and has been the foundation for building a large chunk of the FOL community. It also continues to grow.  Fun fact; the square footage of the display table surfaces this year was equal to the square footage of the entire venue for the first Brickworld.  Impressive.

So with that, I will close out my Brickworld round up for this year.  I’m already looking forward to Brickworld next year, with big collab ideas, a new LEGO Derby car design, and spending time with old friends and making new ones.  Happy trails to you all, until we meet again!

 

A Short Confession by Ron L. Mitchell

Welcome back to the Manifesto, constant reader, after some serious deliberation and a lengthy blackout here at the dive bar, I decided to pony up the annual fee and get the blog viewable for another trip around the sun.  A handful of you guys were squatting in the dark anyway, drinking roonTree’s bathtub gin, carving obscenities into the wood flooring and gambling for each other’s shoes, so I thought the least I could do was pay the electricity bill. I’m not sure how active I’ll be (if at all) in the coming weeks, but with 225 posts there should be enough content in the dusty archives to keep the average reader interested.  As usual, if you have something Lego related that you’d like to post here, just let me know through the Contact tab or shoot me a Flickrmail an I’ll make it happen.

I can offer you one small offering of new material however.  A while back I posted about Ron L. Mitchell’s new blog, Ron’s Brick Bastion.  Unfortunately it look’s like Ron has been a little silent lately as well, but maybe this posting will inspire him to re-ignite the engines.  Today it’s my pleasure to present Ron’s reaction piece to my original post.  Take it away, Mr. Mitchell (née Archon Caledonia).

Keith has been after me for a while to write for his blog.  I tend to procrastinate.  I have good Ideas but tend to not get them in a completed form, or maybe it just takes a while to get there.  Keith gave me a promotional, for which I thank him, and it spurred me to look at the drivel I started and try to finish it.  It was to no avail!  Humor requires a foil, a self-deprecation, a turn of commonality.  I told you what I wrote was drivel?  Yep, the asinine meanderings of a CBD oil marinated sitcom writer made me look bad.  So, I decided to do this.  I decided to come clean and maybe through admission of this problem I could get a handle on it.  I saw a shrink on TV say something like that once, maybe it was Frazier, I am unsure.  It stuck with me.  So here goes…

Constant readers, I have a confession to make.  No, I am not Bricks Noir!  I am not that talented with the digitally aided design stuff.  I acknowledge the talent and time that goes into that work, but, no.  It is not I.  Rather my confession before the magnanimous Manifesto league and support group regards the fact that I have a bad attitude.  Yes, my name is Ron and I have a bad attitude.  (Hi Ron).  I can hear it now, that semi-mocking slightly superior tone she took when I shared with a former beauty queen I short term dated that I was a Lego nerd…dweeb…otaku.  Not that she even knew what otaku was.  She semi dreamed of being a Cosmo girl, a swim suit model for Sports Illustrated…you know, something that would be really important and world changing!  Whereas, I just wanted to have some challenging fun building MOC’s of cool stuff.

I should not still have a bad attitude!

It was decades ago…

But occasionally I hear the same condescension and sad disappointment in the tone of people I want to respect when I tell them my hobby; or more likely my wife of over 30 years tells them my hobby.  “You…still…play with Lego…how…urm…sweet.” Sufferin’ sassafras and succotash!!!!  What’s your hobby?  Oh, you collect dolls?  You drink exotic wine, you make craft beer, you change the oil in your 1968 Camaro SS but it never leaves your garage!?!?  Okay, I know.  Calm down a bit, Ron.  Use your brain for something other than the trigger on a knee jerk reaction.  You asked what I did for fun and I told you.  I like to make things out of ABS blocks, bricks (though Goldman hates the term), Lego system IS my hobby!  MY hobby…

Okay, so bad attitude.  Christian’s should not have a bad attitude, they should be all lovey dovey and hunky dory kumbaya singing, turn the other cheek types.  Correct?

My response to that is that Jesus took a rope, made a whip out of it and tore up a Wal-Mart set up in the temple grounds driving out all the employees and customers alike.  Saint Nick, the guy most people recognize as Santa Claus, or the root of that legend, got ticked off in a church meeting and punched the lights out of another member of the council.  Peter hacked off a guy’s ear with a sword!   Remind your Sunday School teacher of that, why doncha.  Yet…it is Lego we are talking about.  It is a kid’s toy intended to entertain youngsters.  I do wonder what ole Ole would think of what his toy became.  I wonder what he would think of the new sets, special parts, the turns and twists of his legacy in ABS?  I would like to see his reaction to the massive conventions and large dioramas, third party parts and to Bricks Noir’s projects…maybe not.

I sit here at my laptop on this snowy day in the Ozarks with my bad attitude all stirred up.  I heard that tone again recently.  The one that questions your adult maturity because you still play with toys.  They keep that look on their face until I show them videos from the last convention attended, videos of the sheer massive crowds, pics of the ISS in Lego, models of buildings in New York, flowers and frogs by “he who shall go unnamed on the Manifesto but who could care no less for a poorly run website called MOCpages”, how there is this huge world wide community of TFOLs and AFOLs…and it reminds me that despite all…I am still Otaku.  I am still a dweeb.  I am still a bit socially awkward, I am an introvert after all!  Maybe that is why I like Keith and the Manifesto.  I have a bad attitude, too.  I like sarcasm and sass, trash talk and…. Constant reader, Ole named his toy Lego.  It means, as we all know, to “play well”.  So I look at my reflection on the dark corner of my laptop and remind myself that I, the Lego Otaku, the ABS Ascetic, the Hermit of Plastic, needs to play well.  I can have the bad attitude but still play well with others.  My last work evaluation shows that I play well with others!

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Yes, I know, I am preaching to the choir.  You, gentle reader, understand the battle.  You recognize that there are those who do not understand or even worse do not want to understand.  Well, I don’t want to understand Magic the Gathering!!!  My investment in Lego parts and elements is more important to me than a retirement portfolio, sports memorabilia and man cave esthetic!  My Pinterest has sections on storing Lego and cleaning modular buildings, how to mod a 9volt power supply and which batteries work best in trains.  Aw well, maybe I just am too passionate for my hobby.  Maybe I let such things just get under my skin…or maybe I have a real problem.  But then again, it is why I am here, with Keith, hanging around with Matt Roontwit in the virtual world, thinking about Decisive Action: the game, and knocking back the hot wings waiting for the drunks to need a ride home…

 

Friday Night Fights [Round 43]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another cup check edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of Shrute Farms, with keys to the Trans-Am and several bushels of premium beets on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the plastic shores of Denmark, It’s Lasse “The Vampire” Vestergård and his “Rasmus Klump15740618984_11859f38ce_o

And fighting out of the blue corner, from Instagram on Avon, it’s Iain “Heavy HandsHeath and his “Battlestar Galactica“.

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

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was a self-selected battle battle of Order Lepidoptra, with access to several well stocked walk-in closets and immunity to bug-lights on the line. In the end, the bout was scored a dismal tie with 4 votes cast for each competitor.  Both Stephen “The JuggernautJuby and Mitsuru “The Big NastyNikaido established records of 0-0-1.  This is truly a dark day for the long running feature and everyone involved in last week’s debacle should feel ashamed of themselves.

In case you’re not quite tracking on the theme of tonight’s match-up, I will refer you to the following video.

 

n. a thing or person regarded as upholding or defending an attitude, principle, etc.

I have good news for those of you who are on the lookout for fresh Lego related blogging content.  Yes indeed, a new banner has been unfurled over the digital battlefield, raised by constant reader and veteran builder Ron L. Mitchell.  If nothing else it will help pass the unpredictable and often lengthy interval between articles here at the Manifesto.

The name of the place is Ron’s Brick Bastion and it currently feature’s two posts that should give you a good idea of what to expect in days to come.  Although there isn’t an “About” link like I have here or a mission statement of any kind, the artist formerly known as Archon Caledonia provides a thumbnail sketch in the first article entitled “Genesis”.

This is about Lego. This is about Adults and plastic bricks. It is regarding the hobby of brick building, conventions, user groups and communities online. It may showcase some of my stuff from time-to-time or techniques I have found helpful along the way. I will likely showcase other builds I find inspirational and definitely discuss trends and the hobby in general.

Although he doesn’t make a point to bludgeon you over the head with it, the blog has a distinctly Christian perspective to it that will no doubt be appealing to a large swath of Lego fandom that is most visible on MOCPages, but reaches far beyond.  It’s certainly a unique approach, at least I have not come across a blog like it that I can remember, but don’t hesitate to link me to some examples in the comments if you have.  If you know Ron at all, this shouldn’t be surprising, I have committed several quotes to memory from his greeting statement on MOCpages and “I put the fun in fundamentalist” has always been a favorite.  I’m a connoisseur of these greetings, as you may know, and Ron’s got a few gems: “I am the designated driver for the AFOL’s of MOCpages.” and “…even goldfish for a time.”  Like so many of us, Mr. Mitchell is also an aspiring author with a passion for Sci-Fi, so who knows what we might see as the blog develops over time.

Admittedly, I find it very difficult to endorse Ron’s incorporation of the word Brick in the title. I’m of the belief that there should be a minimum 5 year, world-wide moratorium on the use of that word as it relates to the hobby.  BrickFest, Brickarmz, Brickheadz, Brick Plumber, Brick Nerd, Brother’s Brick, Brick Time, Bright Bricks, Bricklink, Brick Bash, Brick Con, Bricks and Beers, Bricks, Brick Fiesta, Bricks to Bothans, Brick-Buttocks, Brick Boilerplate, Brick Boner…it’s altogether too many bricks, it’s too easy!  I know we can’t use the word LEGO without incurring the wrath of our corporate overlords, but is it too much to ask that we employ some of that boundless creativity we’re always gas-bagging about?  If I seem a salty about the topic it’s because I’m a little annoyed that Ron chose to walk his own road instead of grabbing his own recurring column here, when this blog-of-blogs is so obviously desperate need for more voices than my own and the occasional offerings from Ted and Wolff.  Of course I’m being hypocritical because I myself chafed considerably when I had to blog for other people and adhere to their often Byzantine structure. In his defense, Ron assured me that he’s got some projects in the works for the Manifesto and I hope he makes good on those threats.  If not, it could be time for the touch of death!

So bon chance, Ron, everyone at the Manifesto wishes you well as you embark on your trip across the blogging cosmos.  May the solar winds fill your sails, oh Captain my Captain.

Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!

Genesis 27:29

And the Winner of SHIPtember 2018 is…

File this under excessive tardiness but our foundational traditions must be observed regardless of conventional time frame.  Your winner of SHIPtember 2018 is…Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing, a man and a mustache who every constant reader of this esteemed blog should be familiar with by now.  He’s the same MAN who took top honors in both 2017 and 2016.  The rest of you losers can go home now…try harder next year!

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There was some minor discussion around the water cooler that 2018 was a down year for the annual challenge, but there were definitley some memorable gems to be found in the inky blackness between the starts.  To my eyes, I found this year in general to be more interesting than usual because no single identifiable style dominated the field.  Even though the numbers might have been down in terms of overall participation, I think creativity and uniqueness was extremely high this year.  There were no endless fleets of lozenge-shaped HomeWorld inspired starships or generic, geriatric Star Wars designs or any other franchise for that matter.  After pouring through the results (my own results because as is customary, Simon Liu has not yet wrapped up the proceedings almost 4 months later) I thought I’d share them here.  I don’t want to drag Simon too much because I’ve done it enough in past years and he truly is one of the most generous people I’ve met in my Lego related travels.  That said, the natives seem to be restless this year and complaining about his laissez-faire leadership style more than I’ve seen before.  It’s a shame because SHIPtember is obviously one of the most dependable, influential and long-lasting challenge/contests we have in the genre or in the hobby at large.  Completing the month-long challenge is a rite of passage for most “serious” sci-fi builders and every year it draws in new talent and provides a nice stage to get your models actually looked at and commented on.  I almost wish Si would pass the torch to somebody more motivated rather than let it continue to deteriorate like so many other things in community.  Listen, I’ve experienced my fair share of suffering the slings and arrows of running contests and challenges…it’s largely a thankless job that requires time, followthrough, straight up cash homie and a good deal of all-purpose hassle over any number of issues (mostly shipping in my case).  I don’t blame Simon in the slightest for burning out, but I do blame him for not finding a way to breathe some new life into SHIPtember, either personally, or by getting some help.

If you’re curious, these are the highly unofficial results I came up with on the old quasi-reliable abacus.  The public was tasked with listing their top 3 favorite SHIPs of the year and these are your winners.  It was both interesting and kind of cool that a digital SHIP took home top honors in 2018, maybe that’s progress?  I think it’s the first one to ever do so, but I could certainly be wrong.  At the time of posting Simon was not available for commnet to confirm or disavow.

1st Place People’s Choice: Pleurotus Flight by Inthert, with 7 first place votes.

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2nd Place People’s Choice: Xylethrus-AMV by Halfbeak with 6 second place votes.

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3rd Place People’s Choice: MOTH by Oscar Cederwall (oOger) with 5 third place votes.

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In case you’re curious my favorite was the Doomsday Disco by the one true king Pierre E Fieschi.  Concept, style, presentation and cool name, it checks all the boxes for me.  It might not be the most unique or fanciest but he’s my go-to guy for all things SHIP related and I’d never cheat on him with some Jenny of the moment in high heels and fishnets.

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So you three weirdos enjoy your well-earned spots on the medal podium, but we all know who wears the crown…every year.  Every.  Year.

Friday Night Fights [Round 42]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another Haishu Uchi edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of Order Lepidoptra, with access to several well stocked walk-in closets and immunity to bug-lights on the line. Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, it’s Stephen “The JuggernautJuby and his “Atlas moth (Attacus atlas)

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the mean streets of Kurashiki-city, it’s Mitsuru “The Big NastyNikaido and his “Mecha-Moth“.

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

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was a self-selected battle battle of the St. Astrid’s Fall, with heavy reinforcements and the blessings of the God Emperor on the line.  In the end, Faber “The Magistrate of MayhemMandragore and his “Blood Angels Captain In Terminator Armour” narrowly eliminated Marco “Mad DogMarozzi and his “Crusader“ to the tune of 9-6.  Mr. Mandragore scores his first victory (1-0) while Mr. Marozzi runs his record to (0-1).

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Dropping Ballast on Flickr

Since Flickr/SmugMug has become a recurring topic of conversation recently, I thought I’d add my unsolicited two cents to the discussion.  Until recently I really haven’t given much thought to the platform as a whole, it has simply been good enough since I joined in 2006.  Other than the interval when Flickr made the terrible decision to eliminate the ‘notes’ function, I really haven’t had much to complain about in almost 13 years of use, and to their credit, they were ultimately responsive enough to their customer base to reinstate the feature recently.  Flickr may not the perfect solution where the community at large is concerned, but it has been a stabilizing force in the hobby when Brickshelf, LUGnet and MOCPages all ceased being viable options with room for growth.  So while I acknowledge that the recent decision to limit free accounts to 1000 photos is both irritating and restrictive to many users, it’s still the best option we have in this era of echo chambers and tribal splintering.  I appreciate the fact that not everybody has the money to pay for an account and that they find the principle of having to pay to post photos online to be unfair, but Smugmug is just another company trying to turn a profit and they’re under no obligation to provide us with a free community hub or place to hang photos.  As I’ve said before in the comments, if somebody comes up with a better option I’m willing to jump ship, but I’ve yet to see anything more than good intentions and declarations of good things to come.

2018 was an abysmal year for me in terms of building and by extension, posting to Flickr. I only managed one finished model at the tail end of December, in large part because the lion’s share of my Lego related free time was taken up by DA3 on MOCPages.  There were a few disastrous collaborative and solo projects that went up in flames behind the scenes but nothing I cared to share with my fellow builders at large.  So I haven’t paid all that much attention to Flickr in quite some time, but I went back to it over the weekend with relatively fresh eyes and a sense of curiosity, and that’s what I want to talk about for the bulk of this article.  To the point, I was surprised to discover that I had 768 contacts, I just don’t look at that particular statistic very often and it seemed like an absurdly unmanageable number. A high percentage of the people I follow came as a direct result of my time spent blogging for the Brother’s Brick.  Back then I had a policy of following just about anyone who showed a modicum of skill or even a vague promise of developing skill with the brick.  I was forever on the lookout for young or obscure builders who were about to break onto the larger scene.  At that point in time I also had a hard-core reciprocal policy of adding anyone as a contact who added me.  When you write for TBB, all of a sudden everyone wants to be your contact, especially when you’ve displayed a willingness to blog more than just the obvious glossy choices.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and are thinking some version of: who cares how high that number gets?  The more the merrier, everything and everyone really is awesome in our hobby!  In essence, I’m curious if there is any value in pairing down my contacts to the point that I can increase my own sense of “community” with my fellow builders by making it more likely that I’ll communicate in a meaningful way with the ones who mean most to me.  Too often it seems as though important or interesting people and models slip past my radar because they are surrounded and obscured by the never-ending shit-show of cube dudes, minifigs and perhaps worst of all, photos of unopened sets. I think with fewer contacts I’ll be able to communicate better and more frequently with the people I care about….to stop grousing and do something productive.   So I decided it was time to trim the fat, excise the necrotic tissue…drop some digital ballast.

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It was an interesting process and I was surprised how many marginal or average builders I kept, and how many high-viz and/or highly skilled builders I let go.  I cut anyone that I didn’t like personally where in the past I would follow people regardless of how much of an asshole I thought them to be.  Fortunately that ended up being a pretty small and select group of people but it was actually fun to surgically remove them like the human-shaped tumors they are.  During the procedure some interesting trends emerged pretty quickly during the great culling, although none of them were absolute of course, I would make exceptions for people I’d met before or who I find entertaining regardless of skill….but there was definitely a fast-track to the digital guillotine.

  • An excessive quantity of cube dudes.
  • An excessive quantity of Star Wars or Marvel themed models.
  • Even a single example of a “Nerdly“.
  • An excessive quantity of Minifig-photography.
  • An excessive quantity of Classic Space models or overt product nostalgia.
  • An excessive quantity of photos of unopened sets or other official product.

Although I never set out with a prejudice against Castle-themed builders, I ended up dumping a disproportionate number of them despite their often elevated skill level.  I have a developing theory that Castle building must be the easiest gateway into the hobby, I think it’s the easiest theme to be good at and achieve a level of notoriety the quickest.  Unlike other themes there is an easily discoverable and digestible collection of well-established building techniques that a novice can access and master in a relatively short period of time.  The result has been a homogenization of the genre where the vast majority of models end up looking like knock offs from the Luke Watkins Huchinson school of building.  It’s a fine style, Hutchinson is awesome (I kept him as a contact) and it was clearly groundbreaking and hugely influential style but I’m tired of it, there has to be more than that parts-intensive, super dense, mumblety-peg buildings with everything set at an odd angle and a very specific color palette and boilerplate terrain.   I’m tired of the boilerplate, even when it’s done well and until something changes I want to see less Castle when I go to Flickr.

I also cut anyone with a Brickarmz laden minifig as an avatar and anyone with SS bolts in their screen name.  That was a considerable number of people, as it turns out.  In general I cut a good deal of builders whose favorite theme was modern military and I think some of the criticisms I have of the current state of castle building apply to Military: the talent has never been higher, but creativity has rarely been lower.  I think Trains are more innovative these days and that’s saying something.Culling.png

In the end I cut over 500 builders, a massacre by most accounting.  Once the scale of the bloodshed was apparent, I decided to save (by favoriting) a single photo from each of the people I eliminated from the list, even though that proved challenging at times.  That way I can chop away with relative impunity, knowing I have some reference point to return to if I need it.  I’ve included a smattering of those builds here for your enjoyment.  I’m sure it’s not surprising to you well-healed constant readers but it turns out that just about anyone is capable of at least one good model, but that kind of surprised me.

By far the most irritating thing I discovered in the process of culling my Flickr contacts was the alarming number of good friends who were inexplicably no longer on my list, people who I’m certain I never dropped and would never drop.  I always suspected that builders had gone missing out of my contacts over the years, there were many instances where I would be very surprised to find out that I somehow wasn’t following a well established builder or friend. But after thoroughly examining each and every person on the list, I’m now convinced of it.  Take long time crony Brian “mondaynOOdle” Kescenovitz for example, we’ve been buddies for over ten years, we’ve collaborated on several projects and he’s stayed at my palatial estate in Vegas…and yet I didn’t find him anywhere in the ranks of my 768 contacts.  I thought he’d slipped back into a dark age for the last 2 years, only to find out I’ve missed 10 models.  Then there’s the awkwardness of adding him again, so much so that I felt the need to send him an email to explain it.  Although there is no way to know how many friends and favorite builders have fallen off my list, but I was able to identify 7 of them before I ran out of gas on the topic.  So if you see me add you in the next couple of weeks it’s not because I hate you, (although I hate some of you) , it’s because Flickr has decided we’re not a good match and I’m trying to right that wrong.  I’ve included a shot of one of Brian’s latest efforts, because it’s completely rad and maybe you missed it too.  He remains one of my favorite all timers and I think I’ve just found my subject for the next Two for Tuesday article.

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The “last upload” statistic on the contact list also proved to be an interesting if occasionally discouraging piece of information to consider.  One guy in particular left me with an uneasy feeling when I noted his lengthy absence, Worker201. Leigh has been around the hobby as long as I remember and was also one of the few valuable crontributors remaining on the Brother’s Brick roster until recently.  Even though he was never exactly a prolific builder, Leigh was a regular and valued voice in places like LUGNET, JLUG, and AFOL 16+ on Flickr.  I reached out to him just to let him know he was missed but I’ve yet to hear back so if anyone has an update on Leigh they can share, please let me know in the comments.  I’ll throw in a photo of one of his models since some of you might not be familiar with his work and I frankly need some photos to pad this rambling article.    There were other examples of this phenomenon, where people just seemed to abruptly drop out of the hobby, too many in fact, but I think that’s also a product for me being as old as dirt and knowing so many builders at this point.14482873791_f1d643a206_o.jpg

One positive thing to come out of the process was that it forced me to really take a hard look at the work of builders who I considered to borderline cases for the guillotine.  Most were either young or new people and folks who might not have the best presentation or super-polished models but have good ideas and the promise of growth.  I tried to make it a point to leave some encouragement as time permitted if they showed any hint of recent activity in the last year or two. Looking back I was much better about that kind of behavior or communication when I was an invested citizen of MOCpages and I don’t feel the same urge on Flickr to reach out to those types of builders anymore.  I’m not sure why that is, but hopefully I can change that a little bit because the only way to make the Flickr experience a better one is by putting in the same type of effort.

So long story short I’m now down to just 200 builders (and counting) on my contact list and I’m armed with a determination to leave more comments for them and focus on the stuff and people I care the most about.  Why 200 you ask? No good reason, but I’ve read a few articles that say you can’t really maintain more than a hundred friendships in real life and I figured I can double that for the online world. Look, I’m not advocating that any of you follow my lead here, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a massive, super inclusive stable of builders to flow, but I think this was a necessary step for me in my recent (last couple of years) quest to redefine the hobby to make it more enjoyable.  I will leave you with a gentle nudge of encouragement to look at your own list, you may find some surprises.