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…

 

The Culling of the Flickrsphere or How SmugMug Changed a MOCer’s Refuge.

It must be a full moon because the Manifesto has new content from an old friend of the blog.  You may remember Werewolff Studios from his frequent offerings in the comment section here, or his memorable Blog or Die! essay from 2017.  Our fanged Australian correspondent has some thoughts on recent developments in our shared hobby, so without further ado, take it away Mr. Wolff!

Greetings all! Resident lycanthrope here, and I hope you’re all doing well. I won’t waste much time here, because I want to get into the meat of this post and I’ve spent too long procrastinating as per usual.

Procrastination-300x232So, for those living under a rather large pile of rocks, you’ve probably all heard of the recent shake-up over on Flickr, namely the culling of the one free terabyte of space originally offered to all free users. Following on from this, they proceeded to limit available photos on free accounts to 1000, which seems an awful lot larger than it actually is.

I’ve been wanting to write something about this for awhile, but held off for a number of reasons. One was too see how the community at large would respond, another was to wait until I could collect my thoughts fully.

Mostly though, I reckon I was waiting for someone much betterer at article writing than me to smash out a response. Ah well. I guess you’re stuck with my crock of half-baked nonsense.

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Now, first things first, I completely get the business side of this move. Storing the countless millions of photos that fill the Flickr-sphere can’t be cheap, and a push for pro accounts seems like a relatively logical step. Plus, it’s not like everyone’s being left out to dry. Pro accounts were 30% off during the month after the announcement and the actual removal of user’s data will only start to take effect on February 5 next year.

Wait…removal?

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Yep, now we come to the main part of this whole mess. Starting in February, free user’s with over a 1000 photos will have all their images deleted, from oldest to newest, until the number reaches 1000. Post any more, and away goes another photo, never to return.

Understandably, this has left quite a few users upset (including several here, I’m sure). I too have been left feeling rather dejected (despite my current photo level sitting at 108), and what’s left me feeling flatter than roadkill is the realisation that the safe haven for the Lego community that Flickr has become has started to crumble.

For me, it started with MOCpages, and through that website I began to find my little place in the online community. I met people, made friends and had discussions with others whose interests aligned with my own. For a pretty introverted kid, it was brilliant.

But over time, I began to notice the ‘Pages decline. Though I’d always said I’d stick with it until the end, I began to realise that more and more people were leaving the site. They were fleeing the sinking ship and hopping on board the HMS Flickrtastic. Eventually I bit the bullet and made a Flickr account, intent to have it as a back-up.

Then came Decisive Action 3, and everything changed.

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All of a sudden, the dying website of MOCpages had it’s life support kicked into gear. The activity bar started to crackle back to life, and every attack window brought a wealth of discussion and conversation that could go on for ages. And then there were the private groups, both on and off of the Pages, racking up the ideas and plans for global domination.

Heck, the private group for the Host of Immeasurable Destruction, Dooming Enemies Nationally (*wink wink*) racked up over 3547 comments, with over 29 conversation threads by the end, and it wasn’t even the main group! And it all happened over four months.

The proof was in the numbers. Builders were coming back, and there was fresh blood at every turn. MOCer’s who’d only heard of MOCpages in passing suddenly had accounts and were posting regularly. The main page actually had rotating posts, to the point where you had to plan exactly when was the optimal time to upload, to ensure that your nation got the most MILPO possible. It was intense and it was brilliant.

Note that word ‘was’.

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Yes, dear readers. I’m sure those that were playing, or even those spectating , remember those days of pure frustration. Despite giving the absolute best possible staging ground, the old site refused to meet the demands it’s occupants put forth. For some unexplained reason, the servers decided to change. Then the classic ‘Bonk Smash Thud’ message became as common as missed attack windows.

Carefully laid tactics and time-based attacks were abruptly ruined by downtimes, builds disappeared off the homepage after being there for mere minutes, trolls dragging them down into the abyss. Were we hacked? I’m pretty sure we were hacked at some point.

And then, near the end, our valiant Overlord Goldman contacted Mr. Sean Kenny directly, using the website that Sean was the most active on; Twitter. After receiving nothing back, our Overlord tried again, a little more forcefully, trying to get something, anything, out of the captain of the leaky site.

Welp, he certainly got something.

He got blocked.

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No response, no acknowledgement, no answers; just blocked. That was it. Keith and the DAS decided to end DA3 shortly after. It just wasn’t sustainable and nobody was enjoying the experience to the level that they should’ve been. Was it disappointing? Of course it was. I personally had a whole plan laid out to backstab my team, than backstab the backstabbers. I had builds in the pipeline, ready to go for the sudden MILPO boost I needed.

However, the real question was this; was it justified? Yes, it was. For me, this was the last straw. The Pages were crumbling too fast. The story-telling group I was a part of had dropped in it’s activity as well, and there just wasn’t any real reason to stay. I had to try going somewhere else, refocus my time on a website that mattered. So, with that I packed my bags and leapt onto the still floating life raft that Flickr had extended.

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Flickr was my refuge. Though I was (and still am) admittedly more involved with the art community there, I had friends to talk with again. I had activity, I had more followers, I had room to grow. That shift in thinking really helped me at the time, despite only being a few months ago.

And then SmugMug came along and decided to switch everything up.

That room to grow was suddenly stifled. I had had plans to migrate my 43 episodes strong Insurgency story over to Flickr, but now I couldn’t. Doing so would bump me up over the 1000 photo limit, and any future episodes would demolish past ones. If I truly wanted to migrate everything over, the Pro account was the only option. It was a strongarm grip to pay up or stay quiet.

True, it wasn’t as bad as the MP crash. I still had people to talk to, and there was, and is, little wrong with Flickr’s software when compared to the Pages. But still, I could feel the first gentle rocks against the ship, not dissimilar to those I’d felt before.

How long will SmugMug be satisfied with this push for Pro Users? Will they decide in a few months to drop the photo limit to 800, or 500, or 50? Will they ban photo-posting from free accounts? Will they stay quiet as the community cries out for changes? I’m not sure, and that’s a scary thing.

I think, in the end, it seems like an uncertain time for those in this Online Lego Community. There doesn’t seem to be an entirely reliable place to turn to, a website that meets the needs of this little internet niche. Instagram is an option, but for a more story-focused builder like myself, it’s not ideal. Our good friend LukeClarenceVan had started building a website that shows an awful lot of promise (seriously, go check out the MOCshare discussion page here), but he’s understandably busy, and it’ll be awhile before it’s fully up and running.

The MP refuge is starting to shift, the Flickrsphere is adapting. The future of this community sits on somewhat loose ground, without a space to set its foundation. Who rightly knows how it’ll all turn out?

Thanks for reading all.

Wolff.

Tales of a BrickLink Vendor: The Starving Artist

Welcome back to the Manifesto’s irregular feature by the highly irregular BrickLink vendor Chris Byrne.  Please recall that Chris didn’t seek me out to pimp his online store, I asked him to write the following article and I hope it won’t be his last. What you’re about to read is as close to advertising as you’ll ever see on this blog of blogs. Chris was kind enough to include a discount for you guys, even though I told him it was a terrible idea and begged him not to.  So if you have any burning questions you’ve always wanted to ask a BrickLink vendor, have at it in the comments.

Use the phrase MANIFESTO at checkout to get 10% off your BrickLink order at www.bricksonthedollar.com

Without any further ado, take it away Chris!

I bet you thought I was dead. Nope, just worked to death. Last we spoke, I had opened my retail store Warminster Brick Shop and was pulling myself out of debt caused by an all-too-comfortable BrickLink path. Opening the store was just what I needed to turn everything around. I now have a steady stream of used parts from the store which are going into my BrickLink store, several ongoing consignors for my Fulfilled By Clutch program selling your parts in my BrickLink store, and I am living debt-free. There is one reckless path that I am still following though, and that is the subject of this post. My LEGO Artwork passion project which has not, and may never pay for itself. The AFOL Poster Subscription Service.

Every month since January of 2017 I have commissioned artists from around the world to produce an original piece of art that I can sell in poster form. The prompt is simple, “pick a LEGO set and re-imagine it in your own style.” I have released 25 posters from 19 different artists and there are many more to come. Unfortunately, my tallest hurdle in this project has been getting these posters in front of the right eyes. There are plenty of AFOLs, but how many of you would really buy a very nice piece of paper instead of just buying more bricks? But perhaps I am being to harsh. Who has wall space for 25 different 11″x17″ posters? I tend to produce goods and services that I myself would enjoy as a customer. While I would buy (almost) all of these posters for myself, I can’t expect every AFOL to love or even like most of them. If I am to settle for AFOLs buying their favorites, then I just need a wider range of buyers being aware of the releases.

Something interesting happened about a week ago. I was feeling proud of my latest poster release and I was feeling the crush of MailChimp’s monthly fees weighing on my lack of motivation to send out emails. I sent out an email to my list with a simple message: here’s my October 2018 poster and here’s a link to buy it. It was either the art itself, the direct, in-your-face way of presenting a call to action, or a combination of both. I sold a bunch. I’ll be doing that more often. I’m also signing that artist on to do a suite of posters in the next year.

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I started this project because I had always been fascinated by the artwork of the Surma Brothers. They were featured on The Brothers Brick & The New Elementary a few years ago and they later had a spread in Bricks Culture Magazine. Marcin and Przemek Surma of Poland have created over 100 pieces of art following the same prompt. In 2015 they went on a hiatus from their LEGO-themed art. I craved more. In starting my poster series, I managed to book Marcin to do my March 2017 poster for Sail N’ Fly Marina, cementing my place in the LEGO art selection…as far as a google search goes.

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To be honest, I really don’t know how to make this project turn a profit. I would definitely have quit by now if bringing new LEGO Art to the world on a monthly basis wasn’t so thrilling to me. What was there before I started having these created? The Surma Brothers, the art of Guido Kuip, and the Ice Planet 2002

artwork that I know you saw at least once by Blizzard artist Luke Mancini. If there are more artists who have been creating artwork like this with a LEGO theme, please let me know, but I found there to be a real lack of choices in late 2016. All of my posters are available individually or through a monthly subscription. I would also like to put out a coffee table book which would feature all of the artwork to date, the rough drafts, info on the artists, and depictions of the original LEGO sets. I have a feeling that the book will sell better than the posters and may quite possible be the thing that pays for the art, making the poster sales the supplemental income for the project.

So now you know why I do it. All there is left to do now is to check out the artwork that has been released so far and provide me feedback. What do you like, what do you hate, who would you like to see create my next poster? As always, all can be seen at bricksonthedollar.com or more specifically for this article, afolposter.com.

When next I write you, it will be about the LEGO T-shirt subscription that Kevin Hinkle and myself have been producing for 5 months now.

Chris Byrne

Shout-out: Return of the Twees

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After dusting off my membership card, it appears that I still have writing privileges here, although I have no article for you constant readers this time. I come instead bearing news of the return of fellow important laygo blag, Twee Affect. While the rest of the laygo community was yabba-dabba-do-ing over the latest Lego Ideas announcement, I was diligently checking their web site’s home page until the action on my F5 key loosened like an AWFOL’s purse strings at the prospect of a new Star Wars miniature figure. Poasts at the Affect over the last couple of years have been few and far between (something it has in common with this blag) but the past week has seen a barrage of new content with the promise of more to come. While short, the Affect’s art-icles often address topical issues in the hobby, interspersed with valuable insights about soap. Just the intellectual medicine that this community desperately needs, but probably doesn’t deserve.

The current resurgence comes courtesy of Kevoh, who writes from the perspective of a man playing catch up with MOCs he’s missed from his past few years of inactivity. I’m sure the ever-discerning readership of the Manifesto will get a kick out of his musings in the absence of Manifesto content (speaking of inactivity, the cobwebs around here are now officially SHIP-sized). One of Kevoh’s latest poasts concerns the supposed lack of interaction in the laygo community, and I hope you prove him wrong by offering some valued opinions.

After Action Review: Bricks LA 2018

Mike Rutherford  returns to blogging, with his unique observations concerning the recent Bricks LA convention. Without further ado, take it away, Rutherford!

I love After Action Reviews.  They are one of the first things any U.S. soldier experience.  You practice some task over and over.  Then you execute that task under stressful conditions, usually involving a lack of sleep, a lack of information, and a lack of time.  You execute this task while another group of people pretend to be your mortal enemy (an opposing force, or OPFOR), harassing you, disrupting your efforts, and exploiting your laziness or your lack of attention to detail… steeling unguarded equipment… kidnapping hapless team members who wander off to pee behind a tree… engaging in all manner of mischievous behavior (oh, and also “killing you” in accordance with the rules of the training event).  All this goes on while dispassionate “Observer Controllers” (evaluators) watch, check the time, and scribble in their notebooks.  By the end of the event, your entire team is ragged, sleepy, cranky, and often smelly.

With the exception of that dam OPFOR, the whole deal resembles what a Lego Convention staff goes through.   At least at the several conventions I have attended…

Well, in a training event, the end of the event is the precise moment when a well-run After Action Review is crucial.     An AAR is a semiformal discussion here all the participants discuss the event.  The guys who executed the task, the pretend bad guys (OPFOR), and of course the Observer Controllers.  And in a good AAR, it really is EVERYBODY who participates.  From the lowest ranking soldiers to the commanders.   If you were there… and you did a thing, or saw a thing, or are responsible for a thing… you better be ready to discuss the event.   Because the harsh crucible of experience has taught us all that “even the little guy” might be the one to see that one crucial detail that resulted in success of failure.

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It also has to happen quickly.  Right after the training event.  Before you change into dry cloths, or pack up your gear, or get back to the unit headquarters.  Before you get a good night’s sleep.  Before your memory fades, and before your mind replaces uncomfortable knowledge with more pleasing versions of what went down.  With a good AAR, you need to strike while the iron is hot.  While people are still stinging from the errors that were made, or still glowing from the satisfaction of getting it right.  Quick, clear, concise.   Because in a week… most of these lessons will be forgotten.  The important lessons must be captured in writing quickly, and organized for detailed review in the weeks and months before the NEXT training event.  THAT is how improvement occurs.  Shit.  Guess I should have written faster…

Continue reading “After Action Review: Bricks LA 2018”

73 Questions (Blog or Die! Entry #21)

Accepted entry for the “Interview” category.

Author: Cameron (-Primus-)

Word Count: 3,218

Judge’s Notes:

* This entry was submitted before the deadline (Mon, Jan 15, 2018 8:41 pm), but I didn’t have a chance to post it until today.  In fact, I somehow lost it and had to be reminded by the author himself earlier today.  My apologies good sir, I was asleep at the wheel!  The entry is valid and accepted for final consideration.

** This is the last official entry, the deadline has come and gone.  Formal reviews of each submission will follow throughout the week and final results will be posted no later than (Sun, Jan 21), in a dedicated article that will include every review for easy comparison.

*** To all the intrepid writers, interviewees and comic designers of the Blog or Die! contest I thank you for your participation, effort, skill, entertainment and patience. The Manifesto salutes you!

It’s en Vogue

 

Because I haven’t seen many (if any) entrants into the interview category, I figured I’d give it a go, constant reader. And what’s a better way to structure an interview than to parrot the style of a popular magazine (Vogue)? Or at least, I think it’s a popular magazine? IDK, my girlfriend reads it. As a forewarning, this is gonna be a long (but hopefully enjoyable) article, constant reader. It may even give Rutherford a run for his money.

Anyway, here’s 73 QUESTIONS, featuring the illustrious Jayfa.

  1. What’s your online handle? Jayfa
  2. What’s your IRL handle? Joss F. Woodyard
  3. What’s your age? 20
  4. What’s your location? Newcastle, Australia
  5. Are you in school/college right now? University Conservatorium of Music, Newcastle (University of Newcastle)
  6. What do you study? Bachelor of Music
  7. If I wanted to find your works, where would I look? @jayfa_mocs on Instagram; Jayfa on Flickr
  8. How long have you been building with LEGO? Probably since I was 5 years old or so. My parents tried getting me into Lego even earlier but I wasn’t interested until my older brother got a Bionicle for his birthday and I was like “I need that.” And from that point onward I’ve kinda been consistently into it.
  9. What’s your secret to taking Instagram by storm? Probably just posting frequently, responding to critiques, getting consistently better over the course of the year. There’s probably a bit more to it than that.
  10. What’s your favorite LEGO theme currently? Probably Elves, honestly. Like, I don’t buy it for the sets but the parts they come with are so, so good.
  11. What was your favorite Lego theme previously? I mean, that’s pretty obvious. It’s always been Bionicle whenever it’s out. I was so stoked when Bionicle came back in 2015. I bought ever single set over the course of the two years. That includes ones that weren’t even released in Australia.
  12. What’s your favorite MOC of yours? Um, it’s probably a tossup between Dagon & Dragonfly

 

  1. Why are they your favorite? Dagon it’s kind of just been my golden goose and everyone seems to have liked it. Dragonfly I feel like is one of my most solid and well-built MOCs in a long time. because it seems
  2. What’s your favorite MOC of someone else’s? One of my favorite MOCs I’ve ever seen is Kulgai by Brickthing. I thought that was so cool when I first saw it:

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  1. Why is it your favorite? It was like before I seriously got into MOCing that I saw it. Seeing his MOCs is what really pushed me to do more MOCing (I only just started posting to the Internet in 2016). What really impressed me was his parts usage, I thought it was cool that he used mermaid tails as leaves. Just really clever parts usage.
  2. What your favorite MOC of mine? Easily the Midnight Dragon

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  1. Why is it your favorite? It’s one that I remember seeing a very long time ago and I always thought it was so goddamn cool and I’ve always been a sucker for parts-spam MOCs. Like, before I knew Bricklink existed it was such a weird, foreign concept to me and like seeing someone do it was like really surreal. Also I just really love that old gold color.
  2. What’s one thing you’re looking to improve in 2018, MOC-wise? Mostly polish on my MOCs because a lot of the time this year I kinda rolled them out without sitting back, looking at it and thinking “OK, are there any last things I want to do this?” Which is why I’ve updated so many MOCs throughout the year as I wasn’t happy with their build.
  3. What’s one thing you’re looking to improve in 2018, not MOC-wise? Probably just being more committed at University.
  4. What’s one thing you’re looking to do less of in 2018? I can’t really think of anything for that, can’t think of any one thing I’m looking to do less of. Being lazy? Do less of being lazy?
  5. What’s one thing you’re looking to do more of in 2018? MOCing, honestly. I’m just going to be doing that all the time. It’s just so much fun. It’s a great escape from everything.
  6. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about building? Honestly, COLOR BLOCKING. It was pretty late in the year that the concept of color blocking was made apparent to me and since then I feel like my builds have gotten incrementally substantially better.
  7. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given about building? Personally, it’s to be open to criticism and be receptive to it, even if you don’t listen to it to a T.
  8. How do you feel when people criticize your MOCS? I LOVE IT. I will take a really in-depth, harsh criticism any day over a “WOW, nice MOC!” I live for those critical comments so if you got them, please give them to me.
  9. Do you think criticism is helpful when it comes to MOCing? Without a doubt, yes.
  10. Why? There are just some things that you don’t pick up yourself, ya know? Like, there are some things that you overlook when you look at a MOC long enough, you just kinda get used to the way it is in front of you. It can be really really helpful when someone points out that the arms are too short or there is a gap that you might have missed.
  11. Do you often criticize other people’s MOCs? Hell yeah, ratblasting for the win.
  12. Do you think they appreciate it? Most people actually do, and I really like that about this community, especially the small community we have on Master Piece because a lot of the people there are really really open to criticism and are aware of how much it helps them, which I think is really good.
  13. Do you think criticism is healthy for the Bionicle community? I do, yes. I feel like more people should be open to it.
  14. Do you think that the best builders are ones who can take and give criticism? I don’t necessarily think you have to be good at giving criticism to be a good builder but definitely you need to be able to take it.
  15. Do you think that builders that actively ignore constructive criticism are shooting themselves in the foot?
  16. Why? Because it just hinders you as a MOCist. IT’s a barrier, if you will.
  17. Do you think I’m asking a lot of targeted questions? No comment
  18. It’s almost like I have an agenda, isn’t it? No comment,
  19. Do you think that the Bionicle community is more critical than the overall Lego community? Well, I can’t really say so because I’m not really that in with the overall Lego community. Most of the time though I only see the “WOW, Nice MOC!” comments that I talked about earlier, but I’m sure there are a lot of niche subsections where people can get good criticism.
  20. Why? I can’t really judge as I’m not that involved yet.
  21. As a relative newcomer to the community, what do you think has been the biggest boon on your building and why is it criticism? I remember when I first posted a MOC to the TTV message boards, which was the first place I had ever posted anything, it was my self-MOC, and I was like “This is the best thing I’ve ever made and probably ever will make, it’s so good” and when I posted it half the comments were about how certain parts of it looked like ass. At first I was pretty salty, but then I kept posting more and more MOCs and got more and more criticism and decided to finally start listening to some of it and I got better. I got better fast.
  22. Can you name a recent MOC of yours that I can feature it in this blog? I’m probably going to have my Queen Phosperantidae [note: I hope I didn’t butcher that spelling] posted by the time you post this entry so might as well plug that one. [additional note: at the time of this article’s writing he still has not posted the MOC, so the Keithlug audience is getting an exclusive sneak-peak]

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(Image credit: Jayfa)

  1. Please describe this MOC to me: That’s not really a question? Anyway, I bought Nocturn [At this point just assume all of the bracketed bits are notes: Nocturn is an old Bionicle set] about a year ago and it finally arrived before Christmas [shout out to the Australian Post] and when it got here I realized how much I fuckin love glow-in-the-dark pieces. So I decided I was going to order as many of them as I could find from one Bricklink seller. And then I decided I was going to build something with them and this was the result.
  2. What meaning do you derive from this MOC? That’s a weird question. What meaning do I derive from it? It’s a fun build using more old parts than usual.
  3. Do you think this was a successful MOC? I posted it in Master Piece and people seemed to like it there and I’ve posted it on Facebook and they absolutely adored it there, so I’m gonna say it’s been pretty successful so far. We’ll see how it goes when I post it to Instagram and Flickr.
  4. How do you define successful MOCs? Well, honestly, the amount of attention it gets on social media is kinda secondary to me as to what the people I respect as builders think of it. That’s like the biggest thing for me. If I can get someone that I really look up to and take lots of inspiration from to leave a comment on a MOC and say they really like how it turned out, that’s like, that’s what really means a lot to me.
  5. So then you think success is gained via respect of your peers and not through self-awarded accolades? Respect of your peers, easily. I don’t need other people to validate my success, but it sure helps.
  6. Who do you think are the 3 most successful Bionicle Builders in the past year (you can include yourself)? For starters, I suppose I wanna say Alex Park because he’s been whipping the last couple of months of 2017. He’s really starting to pull himself together and I really love the style of his builds recently. He’s been listening to a lot of good criticism, which is really important. I mean, obviously DJOKSON is up there as well, because like, he’s been around for a long time but he still posts so consistently and builds at such a consistent quality, which I really admire. And I can say the same about Red as well. I have been loving what Red has been putting out.
  7. Name a MOC of one of theirs that you’d like to discuss? Kinda leading off of that last question, I’d like to talk about Red’s Chaz Chokkuthruz the Greatspear of the Lizardfolk

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  1. Why did you pick this MOC? Just because it really embodies the use of retro parts. And it’s not even just Bionicle retro parts, there’s like a few really groovy System parts put in there. Like, all of the parts used are from the same era, and it feels so wholesomely representative of that time and yet it is so, so well done.
  2. Do you derive any worth from this MOC? I mean, yeah, I think it’s an inspiration. It’s very well done in concept and execution.
  3. Does it matter to you if this MOC has a storyline? Not really, honestly.
  4. Why? It’s kinda neat to see some kind of background to a MOC every now and then. I’ll be like “Oh that’s cool that they thought that out,” but it’s definitely not necessary for a good MOC. I consider it like two separate hobbies really. By all means if you like to write and you like to MOC then go for it, but I don’t think you need to have one to do the other.
  5. Does it matter to you if this MOC has more than one picture shown? Not really, I don’t mind if MOCs only have one photo as long as it’s a good photo.
  6. Why? I personally suck at doing that because I feel like I want to show off my MOC’s poseability, but if it is meant to be a statue, which is totally fine if it is, then it’s totally fine to have just one photo.
  7. Do you think that you have a distinct MOCing style? Not really, honestly. I can vary in styles a lot, mostly because when I build I tend not to mix System, CCBS, and Bioncle all at once. I kinda just pick two of them at a time, which I think can lead to very varied looking stuff. That’s just my opinion though, to others I might have a very distinct style.
  8. In 3 words or less, describe your MOCing style? I can’t say this without sounding like a pretentious asshole, but “Varied and Unique.”
  9. Do you think I have a distinct MOCing style? I think back in the day you kinda did, like if I look at your older stuff from the early 2010’s and older, it’s very clear you did. It’s really interesting to see how much your style has changed and you’ve been branching out with your past few MOCs, but I really like that. Nice to see more color usage too haha.
  10. In 3 words or less, describe my MOCing syle? Builds Black Robots
  11. Can you name a MOC of mine that you’d like to discuss? I’m just gonna say the teal TechnicFig dude with wheel feet

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(Image link)

  1. Why did you pick that MOC? I just thought it was so cool because it was the first time I’d seen TechnicFigs used in a Bionicle MOC and I just thought it was done really well.
  2. What stands out to you the most about that MOC? The proportions of it, the way you posed it is really dynamic, and I’m also a sucker for the teal pieces. Thank god that’s coming back.
  3. Do you think constructive criticism from my peers helped me while I made that MOC? I can’t speak for you but I’m guessing so, yes.
  4. Do you have any constructive criticism to give me for that MOC? It would have been good if you had edited out the technic cams you used to hold it up or used a clear piece instead.
  5. These are a lot of questions, aren’t they? YES, it certainly is.
  6. Why do you make so many serpent MOCs? I built the first one, it was successful and it was a lot of fun. And I feel like the elves pieces really helped it out. The second one I made was originally going to be a different creature but then the head worked out really well so I was like “yea, I’m going to make another one of these.” I’m probably going to make an orange one that’s a lot bigger at some point if I have the time and money.
  7. And when you’re not making serpents, why did you start doing the Plague Mech series? For the first Plague Mech, I took inspiration from Astorix’s Mizaka. It was an older MOC but the way the cheese slope pieces were used was really really cool and I wanted to try it out myself. I just started making a torso and it looked really cool and then I made some really gangly-ass robot limbs for it. I struggled with the head but eventually settled for this bug like head. And people really liked it. The second one kinda happened by accident and then I was like “You know what, I might as well start making more of these things because people tend to like them.”
  8. You wouldn’t happen to have a collage of the Plague Mechs would you? I do, I will send it you after the interview is done

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(Image Credit: Jayfa)

  1. Do you think you’ll be able to complete the whole series? I really hope so, and if I don’t do it myself I’m probably gonna do it with help from other people who will make contributions and stuff. Which I really like the idea of because a lot of people seem to be keen to givin it a shot for themselves.
  2. Do you think constructive criticism has helped you with the making of these MOCs? Abso-fuckin-loutely. Like, if you look at Dragonfly V1 versus his most recent interation, the difference is ridiculous, all because I listened to the criticism people gave me.

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(Image Link, latest version on the left)

  1. Do you plan to continue to listen to constructive criticism? Certainly do.
  2. Do you plan on still giving constructive criticism? Yeah, it’s fun, and very rewarding if you like come up with something someone else hadn’t seen in a MOC and they take it to heart and it makes their MOC a million times better, I’m all for that.
  3. What would you criticize about this interview? That it was early in the morning and I stayed up til a ridiculous hour last night so I’m a bit drowsy.
  4. What would you praise about this interview? Some good questions here, lots of thought provoking ones. And I’m enjoying the dig in on criticism.
  5. Do you think I’ll hit my minimum word count halfway through this interview? Probably. I hope so.
  6. Do you think you still need to prove yourself as a builder? Yes, honestly. There are a couple of “big dogs” in the community, if you will, that I feel like aren’t totally on board with me yet, which I totally understand. A lot of the people that are like, more well known in the community have been around for a very long time and it’s a very tight-knit community, so I think that will come with time.
  7. And finally, is there anything you want to say to the fans or friends out there reading this? To my friends, I just wanna say that I thank you all so much for the support that you’ve given me throughout this past year and just for being on board with this hobby of mine. As for the fans, thank you so much for actually liking my stuff and getting me to where I am now. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of you. I love you all very much.

So, there you have it, constant reader. Assuming you’ve made it this far (holy shit that word count), thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. Also I have done my best to parse through his amazing accent in order to transcribe Joss faithfully.

 

 

Bionicle and System (Blog or Die! Entry #20)

Accepted entry for the “Interview” category.

Author: Ballom Nom Nom

Word Count: 1,630

Judge’s Notes:

* This entry was submitted before the deadline (Mon, Jan 15, 2018 10:15 pm), but I didn’t have a chance to post it until today.  The entry is valid and accepted for final consideration.

Bionicle and System

 

…Oh yes, another dogged entry bleating about Bionicle, I can already hear the prospective reader saying. Egad! And yes, I do not deny this claim, other than seeking the indulgence of the noble reader and entreating them to persevere, in the hope that what follows will be worth their while. Should discussion of Bionicle not play this role, I note that the paragraphs below, somewhere, contain a pony.

And now, onward!

Long denigrated as the ugly sibling of the beautiful swan of System, the style of building collectively described under the umbrella of Bionicle (alternatively known as Barnacle, Bonkle, Bonko, Bonk, etc. among aficionados) is in fact greatly underappreciated in the wider Lego community. 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. And, indeed, such expression of the art of Lego building, while clearly not of an identical nature to construction centered about System, nevertheless has its own captivating charm. One sufficiently enlightened in its nuances and subtlety can even recognize it as the superior to System.

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(image credit: the author)

The intrepid reader who is still with me after the preceding sentence may doubt the veracity of the last bold claim — perhaps even shocked! However, I hope to subsequently show the foundation for these ambitious claims, and moreover seek to inform the esteemed reader who may be heretofore tragically unaware of Bionicle and its wondrous superiority to System.

Let’s begin by turning our attention to the basic characteristics of the parts associated with the medium of Bionicle. The quadrilaterally-formed, right-angle-dominated elements of System (whether studly or smooth) these are not — our first category of parts is derived from the Bionicle line of sets produced by the Lego Group from 2001 to 2010. In their unique constituents are a variety of oddly studless parts.

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(image credit: the author)

Several ways of subdividing these Bionicle parts manifest: first, those featuring balls and sockets for the limbs and joints of the robotic Bionicle creature. Extending from the foundation laid by Technic ball-and-socket creature constructions, the parts have specialization and into parts to be used for limbs, necks, and areas built with a range of motion. Typical uses range across the panoply of limbs, from gorilla-like arms to gorilla-like legs, and in exceptional cases orangutan-like arms.

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(image credit: Bricklink)

Second, parts used for providing armor, bulk, and details to the Bionicle sets. Clawed feet, ornate breastplates, wide paneling, rows of spines, and an array of weapons and swords. Here one sees the greatest breadth of Bionicle parts — which the astute reader notes still pales in comparison to the number of System elements — but this is no matter. As a matter of fact, it is a point of advantage.

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(image credit: Bricklink)

Third, masks: parts central to the complex Bionicle mythos (the details of which may be exhaustively perused throughout million-paged Bionicle wikis, should drying paint be unavailable for amusement). Other than each featuring a face of some sort, the informed reader may generally regard these as similar to the second category.

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(image credit: Bricklink)

There are two further-defining characteristics of the parts described above. The first is more incidental: an association with the Technic part system, with connections for Technic pins and axles in lieu of studs and antistuds. The second is more fundamental to what I claim is the aesthetic of Bionicle: parts with complex shapes, which deviate from System bricks in having curved and rounded shapes throughout as opposed to having at most one or two faces of the part, as System slopes and other elements tend to. Parts which vary significantly in thickness and texture, such as for accommodating a ball or socket, or spikes, or various other greebles and decorations — for, as was conventional wisdom for The Lego Group during the turn of the millennium, the Bionicle-constructed character must be riddled with greebles! Parts which could be described with terms such as non-Euclidean, and others shared by mathematicians and Lovecraft alike, which I will forbear from using at length. Parts which, in a word, are interesting in ways that the humble brick of rectilinear shape is not. (Dare I even use the appellation unique? I dare not, good reader).

Let’s continue on to the other category of parts associated with Bionicle builds — pieces under the umbrella of the Character and Creature Building System (hereinafter CCBS), which appeared in themes such as Hero Factory (the spiritual successor to Bionicle), the Ultrabuilds created for themes such as Legends of Chima and Star Wars, and Bionicle’s fleeting resurrection. This system retains ball-and-socket parts, with sets built around a core of parts similar to technic beams with incorporated ball joints and sockets. Atop this skeleton, smooth, symmetric shells attach by sockets. Extensions attach to these shells by their sole other connection point of paired rod holes.

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(image credit: Bricklink)

Our long-suffering reader — for whom I salute the fortitude of, to persist even this far in a discussion of Bionicle — may perchance be curious how such parts are related to those addressed before, other than the superficial similarity of appearing in the Bionicle theme. And it is true that the general aesthetic differs significantly from the greebled, complicated designs of older Bionicle. However, the pleasingly varied shapes of the curved shells, and the skeletal elements intended for ball-and-socket connections allowing movement and varied angles remain. And so, with this core intact, both can be categorized under the inclusive umbrella of Bionicle.

And so, with a hurricane overview of the tools a… ahem… Bionicle builder may employ — which I note are essential to the style and when used in abundance can clearly characterize a creation with the label Bionicle — I may now more successfully contrast with System. As hinted at before, the collective whole of parts deemed indisputably “Bionicle” is a quantity much smaller than the bafflingly large array of System parts. Even if I ignore in the comparison the rarely used parts in each category, putting aside even favorites such as the beloved System camel head and the adorable Bionicle rubber squid ammunition, System still dominates by an enormous margin. (I leave the exact counting for this comparison as an exercise to the discerning reader.) This difference may be claimed by some to be a weakness of the Bionicle-based system, but I assert it to be in fact a strength!

In building with Bionicle, there exists the true struggle of the artist against an unyielding and uncompromising medium, the likes of which are not found in using System. The Sisyphean struggle with odd angles and parts make the success of a completed build all the sweeter, the qualities of the result appreciated all the more keenly, while there is less joy to be found in a more easily accomplished System build. What artistry is there to be had in immediately having available System parts for whatever is desired to be constructed? What character in a sterile build of System that all too easily presents a near-perfect facsimile of the intended design? Compare this to one of Bionicle, which demands ingenuity from the observer, to look past the greebled parts, the textures and gaps to glimpse the true intention of the builder shining through. To be sure, there is beauty in verisimilitudinous System constructions. But the System creation presents all the weaknesses of perfection, while the Bionicle creation wields the might of its deformities — especially given the handicaps it reflects.

Too, there is also how the fewer-dimensional System elements, interlocking as they do, are static and immutable, unlike the malleable forms resulting from ball-and-socket connections. This is a notable dereliction on the part of System, but owing to the age of the venerable brick, from a time where such mobility was not so prized, I ignore this fault with a passing mention, to keep this comparison sporting.

However, this digression does lead inexorably to discussion of the quintessential Bionicle work — the Toa (a foreign word meaning “man who stands yonder”). A treatment of Bionicle without be remiss without such a mention of the fundamental object of study. These armored, humanoid, robotic and certainly not coat-wearing warrior figures touch the very core of the medium. Detractors may insinuate that a strong focus on the same works does not show flexibility. But a fixation with a particular muse is not inflexible or smallminded at all. A Bionicle creator’s enchantment with the nuances of Toa is akin to the reverence past master artists had for favorite works – think of Monet and the haystacks, or Renoir and the lily.

Which leads to my final point, about character. By enshrining humanoids, robots, and Toa, as well as other popular Bionicle forms such as creatures and animals, there is a wealth of character demonstrated, from the builds’ expressiveness to their articulation. Is such character exhibited by System builds? Not in the basic and uninspiring grey castle, nor in the drab two tones of Classic Space, nor in faceless armies of soldiers, nor in porcupine-studded aircraft – No! It is in builds defined by a system where character as become foundational. Builds steeped in the Character and Creature Building System.

And so, patient reader, as this comes to a close, I trust that the agreement on the conclusion is unanimous. Bionicle is, of course, the clear superior of System – there is no contest. In fact, in comparison System may sometimes seem to barely be Lego, with its sea of parts that often resemble third-party components. Only the glorious Bionicle, crafted from its slender selection of parts, may truly ascend to the pinnacle of the Lego art.

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(image credit: the author)

Author’s note: I regret to say there is not a pony, due to budget constraints.