I don’t know dude…

A couple of weeks ago, in the comments section of this thread, friend of the blog and skilled builder Christopher Hoffman had this to say:

And if I may make a recommendation, this dude does some unique stuff and only has 2(!) followers on Flickr so far.

Now, I’m always up for a suggestion, especially from a valued reader who contributes regularly in the comments, so I took the link with high hopes.  I was not prepared for what I found on Geng Lee’s Flickrstream, and even though I’ve had a few days to chew on the bone, I still can’t decide if the models are great or bullshit.  I think of the guy as “Murmurdog” because the builder uses the signature to irritating effect on all of his photos.  The name is kind of creepy and interesting but I hate when people put their stupid logos and signature lines on their models.  It seems incredibly pretentious to me, all the more so because the medium of choice is a childrens toy and more often than not the people who use such icons don’t produce compelling models.

On the upside, Murmurdog has his own distinct style, even within a relatively small sample size of creations.  His models and general style of building don’t really remind me of any other builder and that is kind of rare these days.  My favorite of his efforts to date is the Donald Duck image you see below, it’s a wonderful perversion of the classic Disney character with a hidden stomach cavity that contains the brushed gold device you see him brandishing.  I’m probably a little more inclined to like this one because I have a strong aversion to all things Disney and the cult of people who worship at the mercantile temple of the mechano-rat god.  But no matter how much I can appreciate demented Donald, he’s terribly low-resolution and kind of crappy when you get down to the nuts and bolts.  After spending way too much time considering the issue, I was left asking the question: is weird and artsy enough to be considered ‘good’? Or is this some sloppy action masquerading as something more.

On the downside it’s probably worth noting that he’s only got 18 followers (including me) and a handful of favorites.  Perhaps the most damning evidence is that the Manifesto seems to be the first and only blog to pick up his work.  BrickNerd posts just about anything Disney themed and TBB is so thirsty these days they will post anything that is remotely interesting, so if neither one has taken a flier on Mr. Lee, then I think it’s safe to say that the models don’t conform to the widely excepted standard of what makes a compelling Lego creation.  I know it’s stupid to base a decision like this on popularity slone, but people don’t seem to be all that receptive to Murmurdog’s models and that’s probably worth pointing out, if it may seem a little mean-spirited to do so.

In the end I guess Murmurdog and Christopher Hoffman win because I had enough doubt to make this post, but I’m putting the issue in front of the jury of their peers.  What say you, constant reader?  For those of you who refuse to comment because of a language barrier, Aspy-based fear or the all-encompassing death by inches of apathy, I have included a poll to make things easier and less time-consuming.

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I Hate These Things (or) rowntRee is wrong-tRee

I can’t believe it was only a month ago that I was strolling the convention floor at the BrickSlopes LEGO fan event accompanied by famous bon-vivant Matt rowntRee.  Since it was a relatively small convention, we were afforded the opportunity to evaluate just about everything the attendant AFOLs had to offer.  Not content to just smile and nod, we enjoyed a running commentary that was equal parts praise, smack and non sequiturs.  I estimate we were in violent agreement about 90% of the time when it came to constructive criticism, with only a few models that we couldn’t come to a consensus on.  There was however a single display that sparked a spirited debate and made me question the sensibilities, judgement and perhaps even sanity of our good friend rowntRee.  I don’t want to skewer the responsible builder, because that would be a jackassy thing to do (even for me) and the blame-finger shouldn’t be pointed in his direction, but rather towards a hipster German advertising agency.  In 2012 the Jung von Matt agency out of Hamburg released a minimalistic ad campaign for LEGO. The “Imagine” series features iconic cartoon characters from American pop culture represented in simplistic stacks of 2×2 brick and plate.  I have no idea who these particular stacks are supposed to represent, but you get the idea.

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That’s right, its just a stack of bricks and plates….nothing more.  It isn’t clever, it isn’t interesting, it’s a slick ad campaign at best and moronic over simplification at worst.  I understand the point they are making about taking the most basic LEGO parts and turning them into something iconic, but that doesn’t make the end result any less lame.  This is the artistic equivalent of drawing stick-figures or making a friendship bracelet.  Watch the video, constant reader and just “imagine” how pretentious the good folks at Jung von Matt can make these stacks of brick seem.  This reminds me of a Saturday Night Live parody commercial it’s so dumbed down and could the narrator possibly sound more British?

Now “imagine” a bunch of sweaty mankinder decide it’s actually cool and they go out and cover entire convention tables with stacks of 2×2 bricks. We even give them uninspired names like “Block Buddies” and “Brick Buddies” because everything needs to have “brick” in the title if it’s associated with the hobby: BrickLink, BrickJournal, Bricks by the Bay.  If I was thinking straight, I should have called this site the KeithBrick Manifesto for maximum marketability.  Now, “imagine” those same sweaty Mankinder rushing to be the first to stamp their names over all the familiar fanboy franchises.  because if you can be the first to slap your watermark on Brick-Buddy Harry Potter, just “imagine” the kudos that will rain down upon you and how much credit you’ll receive.  Now, “Imagine” how terribly boring it all is, even when the builders break the simplicity of the “standard” altogether and start adding appendages and accessories.  You just can’t put lipstick on a pig and the more the standard morphs the worse it becomes.  Can you possibly “Imagine” how much this fad makes me want to slit my wrists.

Now “imagine” we’re back at the convention and Matt rowntRee defending the table full of row after row of stacked columns of 2×2 brick.  I’m pretty sure he used words like “clever“, “iconic” and “endless variation with a limited palette“.  He also seemed to think it was cool that the display was interactive, that public day attendees would love to play a game called guess the stack of bricks?  Is that black stack of bricks Blade or Darth Vader?  I didn’t hang around the table of Brick Buddies during public hours so I’m not sure if that’s a thing or not, but it sounds dreadfully boring.  Listen Matt, just because I can identify roughly half of those 2×2 brick stacks on the table doesn’t make it clever, it just means I’ve been programmed to identify Robin, especially when he’s standing in between the Batman and Wonder Woman.

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Of course, the first builder that popped up when I searched “Brick Buddies, Justice League” was Simon Liu.  Get out of my head Liu, I can’t take it anymore!  Once again, it’s six degrees of separation with Simon. I should have known he’d be down with Brick Buddies.  This photo has over ten thousand views!  I don’t get it.

So go ahead rowntRee, defend your patently crazy viewpoint in the comments section.  Tell me again how this is actually genius level art and I’m too dismissively highbrow?  Just “imagine” that I’m open-minded enough to consider your nonsense counter-argument.

I anticipate the following reaction from many of you: “who cares, let them do their thing” or “I think it’s cute“.  Yes, it’s true, everyone has the right to build whatever they want, I acknowledge that to be self-evident.  However, it doesn’t stop the Brick Buddies from being tragically, irredeemably lame and when we fill our tables with them at conventions it makes us all look like a bunch of simpletons.