Ted Talks – “District 18” (Final 2018 LSB Contest Wrap-up)

Another building contest hosted by the LEGO Speederbikes group on Flickr has come and gone, and the winners are now posted.  It’s the second time that I’ve been involved with hosting the contest, and from my perspective it was another successful year.  Last year’s contest was always going to be tough act to follow with 336 total entries.  That said, the number of total entry photos still topped out at 268 (2nd highest ever amount).

 

Since contest formats are what dictate the quantity of entries, I went back to determine the count of actual builders that participated in each contest.  Here is my best estimation… and I spent way too much time trying to figure this out:

 

2009: 92 participants / 207 entries (2.25 epp; entries per participant)

2010: 88 participants / 146 entries (1.66 epp)

2011: 75 participants / 122 entries (1.63 epp)

2016: 67 participants / 67 entries (1.00 epp)

2017: 116 participants / 336 entries (2.90 epp)

2018: 105 participants / 268 entries (2.55 epp)

 

The 2018 contest still comes in 2nd place in both participants and entries.  I was surprised that the number of participants was that high this year, based on the entry count and having a fairly similar format to last year’s contest (although it wasn’t required for “District 18” entrants to also enter the individual categories).  It appears that a lot of people only entered 1 or 2 bike categories, and then bailed out on the “District” category.  Perhaps a diorama was a little too ambitious for most people.  Still, to those 34 people that still stepped up to the challenge we salute you!

 

Overall Perception:

I know some Manifesto readers had expressed that the builds didn’t excite them as much as last year, but I saw some interesting and encouraging things on a couple fronts:

  • At the top of this list were the great critiques and collaboration that occurred from all around. It was good to see the community take another step-forward in bringing back “critique culture” to MOC sharing.  We can’t thank Keith and Rutherford enough for spearheading that effort, and Werewolff, Hoffmann and the rest of the Manifesto readership who chimed in as well.  Kudos to all.
  • As a whole, I thought the speederbikes were built more compactly than in years past. There was a noticeable reduction in the number of entries that seemed way too big, or looked more like a hovercar.  Many repeat contest participants also built their bikes smaller this time around.
  • NPU continued to impress, especially with the larger variety of new parts that have come out year after year. Speed Champions, Mixel joints, and Constraction Fig panels FTW!!! Some speederbike silhouettes may have felt the same as in years past (“boiler-plate?”), but the ways they are getting constructed is getting further and further refined.  There were so many impressive brick-built bikes, and impressive usage of the pre-fab bike chassis too.

 

Even though determining the total number of participants from past contests took up a lot of time, I was able to see some other interesting before-and-after trends from some repeat participants…

 

Stepping their game up

Some contest participants have definitely evolved their personal building style and have improved skills year-over-year.  Some examples:

Intentor

 

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From 2016

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From 2017

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From 2018

 

Zen Thorga

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From 2017

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From 2018

 

“The more things change, the more they stay the same…”

Then I also noticed there were some builders whose style gave me the feeling of having “déjà vu all over again.”

EliteGuard01

JM-500 Long Ranger

From 2017

JM-LR800 MP-HSAB (Revised)

From 2018

 

captainsmog

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From 2011

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From 2018

 

“Great Swap-out, Dude!”

Everyone should know I’m a big fan of the well-executed entry swap-out (since I did it myself during my 2016 contest win). Of all the entrants this year, Pico made the most significant move.  His original Space Police bike entry was solid, but it was a little “too solid” and on the larger side.  His replacement was a classic Space Police design that was one of the most compact speederbikes in the contest, packed with wonderful greebles and well placed stickers.  It is one of those builds where everything seemed perfectly placed to me.  That Fabuland Bunny Bike was also a solid entry for Abide too, which replaced his Tequila Delivery Service bike:

 

Pico’s Enforce

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The Original

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The Swap

 

Pico’s Abide

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The Original

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The Swap

 

“NPU? Don’t mind if I do!”

There was a lot of Nice Part Usage (NPU) this year, and called out by a lot of you in your comments and critiques.  These pics below call out some NPU solutions that I am personally planning to “steal with pride” for my future MOC’s.

 

I really liked the way James Zhan used the Friends handlebar as a kickstand (on the other hand, the windshield is kind of comical when you think of the practicality of it…)

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This back array of engine exhaust pipes (beneath the backpacks) from Jon Lie was the perfect solution to a project I’m currently working on for Brickworld Chicago 2018…

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I’m always a fan of spoiler part usages, so this paired configuration by GeekPerson naturally caught my eye.  I’m sure I this configuration could come in handy.

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“Walk the plank!”

The use of 1×4 and 1×6 tiles also caught my attention… but I guess it would have been harder not to notice those big planks of plastic strapped to the sides of a speederbike.  Using that part never crosses my mind when I’m building a speederbike … just like it never crosses my mind to get those soggy chickpeas and beets that are placed on salad bars.  Who eats those?  I guess as in all things it is a matter of personal taste, and these gents integrated them better than I would have imagined.

 

Fabz

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ff

LEGO7

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Carter

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… and Carter

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… and Carter again…

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Category Action:

ENFORCE:

For me, this category had 3 different speederbike building strategies fighting it out at the top; oOger building with large figure panels, Pico building up a motorcycle frame, and Guy Smiley building and shaping his bike with system parts.  They all had thoughtful part placement, sticker placement, and image presentation.  When oOger posted his bike, I felt that was the moment the “gauntlet was thrown down” in Enforce.  Pico went back and swapped out his entry some time later, and I remembered thinking “I didn’t think anyone could catch up to oOger’s bike, but this classic Space Police bike is wicked!”  Of course the final weekend always has some surprises in store, and Guy Smiley didn’t disappoint with his SWAT inspired speederbike.  The only gripe was how dark that photo was.  After adjusting my monitor a bit, I could see all of the wonderful details.  Those white “hover pads” were delicious.  oOger’s bike was in the top 3 for all four judges (no small feat), and that sealed his victory.

Winner – oOger

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ABIDE:

Abide was by far the toughest category to judge, due to all of the diversity of designs and themes.  Abide set itself up to be an “anything goes” category (that is, apart from added weaponry).  There were two definite strategies at play; building bikes that were job specific, and those that were “everyday” bikes.  Each of the judges’ final “Top-10” lists seemed equally split along those lines, so both approaches were appreciated.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a water-world vibe from many entries… and speaking of water, those turd references were definitely sinkers and not floaters.

 

To me, it felt like Halfbeak’s messenger bike was the one that “threw down the gauntlet” in this category, and perhaps in the overall contest as well.  It was such a unique speederbike design that caught a lot of early attention.   The other one that caught my attention as it was entered was Sean Mayo’s steampunk bike, having a lot to do with the unique parts usage and the presentation.  Otherwise, I went over every single bike entry a couple times over in this category to determine who else would be included in my Top-10 list. I think it was just the nature of the category.  In the end, it was “P.B.”, known by some as Delatassius, who carried the day… (watch out, all you DA3 players… better get to know your enemy)

Winner – P.B. (Deltassius)

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REBEL:

The original thought for creating the Rebel category was “wouldn’t it be cool to build some roving speederbike gangs?”, and that evolved into the whole “District 18” concept.  That said, we still wanted to see anyone’s interpretations of the “Rebel” category beyond that initial “gangs” idea.  Leading the pack were the bikes that were intimidators, and the bikes that represented the “larger than life” personalities of their riders.  No matter the interpretation, Rebels want to be noticed (… it’s just that they don’t want to be caught).

 

F@bz, Carter, and Djokson had some of the notable entries for me fighting it out at the top of my list.  Early in the contest F@bz delivered a NPU laden bike, which is his proclivity.  I haven’t seen those flexible spike parts actually flexed in many MOC’s.  Then Djokson’s bike delivered with his signature style of Bionicle parts integration, and its alien vibe.  Finally, Carter’s signature hands-in-tubes construction was brought back once again, with the added touch of throw-bot visors.  For me, his Rebel bike was his most successful out of his 3 entries, and successful in integrating that 1×6 tile.  The deft placement of a well-built “assassin droid” that could straddle the back end was a very smart play. Tim Schwalfenberg also got his sleek bike entered just in time during the post-deadline grace period (Tim also had grace in his acceptance of the missing the deadline; however others opted to petition _zenn, who made the call to extend, as he felt sympathetic to the poster confusion).  This category was decided by a single point, which edged Djokson across the finish line first by a claw tip…

Winner – Djokson

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DISTRICT 18:

The districts were so much fun to take in, and very tough to judge.  These are the thoughts that were going through my mind when judging the dioramas (and not in any order of priority or weighting).

  • Quality of the speederbikes (and were all 3 types present in the scene)
  • Quality of the District (overall design, and building skill/techniques)
  • Was their any action?
  • Were the speederbikes clearly the focus of the action? Were they easy to see?

If any District scored lower than expected, it was likely due to missing the mark a little on one of those areas.  On the other hand, overcompensation in one category could also carry a District higher up the rankings.  It wasn’t an easy decision.

Winner – W. Navarre

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All of the entries we were impressive, considering that the contest entry period only ran for 33 days.  We knew that was going to be a challenge for many, with both time and available parts supply, and why we decided to allow digital entries.  Not too many people took advantage of that, but it was still good to see that there were digital entries posted in all categories.  In the end, including digital entries really felt like a non-issue.

 

For me the story of “District 18” was one of unrealized potential.  There was so much anticipation based on the bikes people already posted, only for their dioramas to never materialize.

 

Felipe Avelar came out of the gates very strong, teasing us all with a tempting array of speederbikes just waiting to be swooshed.  I thought for certain we would see something from him in the “District 18” category, but it never came to pass.  Perhaps his daughter was having too much fun playing with them, and he didn’t have the heart to take them away.

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More districts that I was hoping to see:

  • I really wanted to see one from LEGO 7, based on his aquatic themes speederbikes (like his Lantern Taxi that I’ve already linked). I think combining his speederbikes into Shmail’s apocalyptic water-world could have made a winning combo.
  • Klikstyle had some spectacular vignettes that I thought for sure were building up to becoming a district.
  • Per_ig delivered some speederbikes that could have been right out of a colorful version of the Ma.K universe.
  • Spac13 had me thinking that he might deliver on a Jurassic World diorama.

 

Closing Thoughts:

My mission statement for the contest, if forced to write one, would have been “to inspire lots of people to build cool things, and have fun doing it”.  The number of participants indicated that we did inspire lots of people to build once again.  I know that the contest also delivered on the “build cool things” part of the mission too.  I hope it was enjoyable for both the participants and spectators alike, but that is not for me to decide.

 

What I enjoyed most was whenever someone was told that their entries were their “best MOC yet!”  Contests are at their best when they can be the unexpected spark for a person to build something new, as well as a pushing them into building something they wouldn’t otherwise have considered.  I’m glad that the contest could be the catalyst for many such builds this year.  Keep on building!

 

Ted Talks – “The sun shines bright…”

Friend of the blog Ted Andes returns with his in depth analysis of the recent BrickUniverse-Louisville fan event in Kentucky.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

Ted Talks – “The suns shines bright…”

“…In the military you could look at someone’s “fruit salad” and judge how “salty” they were. I think me and Nate are the “bootest” of the show batch. Until I can count more shows than fingers, and get more badges, I’ll be bush league.” – Charley

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I am not a military man, so I am always leery about the “cultural appropriation” of any military jargon.  Rutherford has earned the right to use it here on The Manifesto, and honestly I’m not all that savvy with it.  However, that opening quote is the perfect lead-in to this article. Charley (No. Not that Charlie) is the man leading the charge to establish a local LUG here in Louisville, KY.  It comes from the After Action Review (AAR) of his first time displaying at a Lego convention.  It also shines a light onto an interesting paradox – the smallest cons aren’t always the best cons for making a displaying debut (or at least for your psyche).  The underlying format of those small cons can really make a huge difference for both the tenured builder and the newly enlisted AFOL alike.

Re-Con:

To call BrickUniverse-Louisville (BU-Lou) a “Lego convention” is not entirely accurate based on the expectations of most ABOL’s.  BU-Lou is just one stop of a lengthy “Lego Fan Expo” tour that roams around the country.  When wunderkind Greyson Beights came up with the format for his traveling Expo, he mentioned studying the “European-style LEGO conventions” as opposed to the ones in North America. What does that mean?  It means that the “public comes first”.  I had heard that about European cons before, from my European Flickr contacts.  It’s the reason why many European based builders travel to the USA instead to get their “builder-centric” convention fix at BrickCon, Brickworld, BrickFair, etc… 

 The overall mission of BrickUniverse was summarized by Greyson during his interview with brickfanatics.co.uk“… the benefit to the local community is threefold. First, we provide a great experience to AFOLs and TFOL with games and seminars—an experience that is seldom available on such a large scale. Second, we show families (both parents and children) the endless possibilities with LEGO bricks. They see what there can be built, how they can use LEGO bricks to learn engineering or History (Medieval LEGO!), and so much more. Third we help the local community and economy, which at times can be in a drought and could use some rain so to speak. Whenever you plough some 15,000 people in a central location over a span of only two days, you’re bound to see the local economy thrive.”

Now this “great experience” can vary from location to location. It all depends on how many AFOL’s they can expect to display at any given show. BU-Cleveland is actually one of their more builder focused conventions (with awards, seminars, etc.).  For BU-Lou, it’s still the fan-focused experience.  Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different, and it could always grow up to be more than that.  One great thing about the public-Expo format is that it enables LEGO conventions to test the waters in many LEGO-starved markets across the country.  BrickUniverse even holds an event in the much maligned Tulsa! (…are you reading this, John Palmer?). I believe Greyson is working towards scheduling 12 BrickUniverse events across the USA in 2018.

At the smaller BU-Expos, creating a “great experience for AFOLs and TFOLs with games and seminars” translates into building challenges for the public, and giving them multiple play-brick locations.  The “great experience” for the displayers at BU-Lou was limited to an ill-timed emergency evacuation alarm during Friday’s set-up (it was due to a water pipe bursting at the KY Expo center).  So there were no mixers, no opening/closing ceremonies, and no seminars that were so hot that they set wheelchairs on fire.  That said, each local displayer was still given a coveted “Brick Universe Louisville 2018” badge brick for their “fruit salads”, and a LEGO themed book from No Starch Press; a very nice and appreciated gesture (a copy of Mike Doyle’s “Beautiful Lego” is now sitting on my bookshelf).

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The Nerd-tastic Four! – by AdamDodge

Continue reading “Ted Talks – “The sun shines bright…””

Ted Talks: “Sweep the Leg!” (Blog or Die! Entry #2)

Accepted entry for the “Article” category.

Author: Ted Andes

Word Count: 2,090

Ted Talks: “Sweep the Leg!”

 

If you are a “constant reader” of the Manifesto, you may have read past articles about award motivation (“Give me the prize!”“), or about tips for throwing a good building contest (“Party Hosting Tips”)… But what about how to actually win them, you ask? Gather round, young grasshoppers. It’s time for me to lay down some advice on how to compete at the highest level, and how to take down those heavyweight champions of the world.

Who am I to give that kind of advice? I’m just some bum in a fedora hat and black leather jacket… a bum who clawed his way out of the unwashed masses of “also-rans” to win 7 building contests (and counting) and place in the prize categories of at least 5 more. Yo Adrien! Be warned that once you are armed with this advice I’m about to give you, victory is still never assured. It is still dependent on how the contests are judged and who else shows up to compete. However, if you DO want to be a champion of the MOC-tagon, then it’s time that you started training like a champion. Now “Bow to your sensei!

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Hit the gym
Your gym training ritual is still built on the foundation of becoming a better builder: “Wax on. Wax off.”… Oops, I mean “Build your collection – Build some contest MOC’s – Get critiqued – Repeat”. Over time, you will develop your signature style and a bevy of NPU techniques in your personal arsenal. Whenever you lose a bout, put down those sour grapes, pick yourself up, and learn from the builders who are winning these contests. What have they got that you haven’t got?…

Know your enemy
For each contest you enter, study the genre, the judges, and the competition (and the rules too; don’t be “that guy”). See what has been done before. Learn what defines the genre. Learn the judges’ style preferences. Learn the techniques and tricks of the top builders of the genre… then look for their blind spots. What haven’t they done before? Are there any ruts that your competition have fallen into that you can exploit? Will they be overconfident and rely on their old bag of tricks? Can you anticipate what they will do?

Choose your “finishing move”
Aw man! You just thought up the most awesome idea for the latest contest? Good… Now get it out of your system and think up a new one. Odds are it was the most obvious idea that half of the other entrants will end up building too. You can either try to be the best at executing that obvious idea, or instead you can kick it up a notch by adding a twist. Most of my winning entries were never that first idea that I had.

For that added twist, I try to think up a “fusion” idea that takes the contest genre in a new and different direction. For the “Rock n’ Roll Steampunk” contest, I built a snow covered floating island instead of the typical verdant grassy knoll. I also merged a steam train with a steamboat. For speeder bikes, I fused them into the Wild West setting of the “Lone Ranger”. Judges tend to gravitate towards builds that have a good mix of both the familiar and new.

Don’t “settle” for second best
Now that you’ve finally come up with your true killer idea, it’s time to get building. As your build comes together, remember that what’s “good enough” to meet the rules is not necessarily “good enough” to beat your competition. You aren’t competing against the contest rules. You are competing against your fellow builders. Be aware of what they actually do, and make any needed adjustments during the fight.

I see too many builders who appear to settle. They give the impression that they think their contest entries are like raffle tickets. They think they have an equal chance of winning as long as they just enter something good enough by the deadline that meets the rules. Nope. Building contests are won on merit (typically), and not random chance (typically). The folks who settle like this are the contest’s cannon fodder, barely worthy of a participation brick badge. It’s even worse is when they are the “turd polishers” too, writing elaborate descriptions and backstories for their inferior MOCs. If they put that much time and effort into the building as they did in overcompensating they might stand a better chance. So keep buying those raffle tickets, chumps. I’m sure you’ll win someday… Or you can wake up, like I did, and tighten things up. “Push it to the limit!

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As I’ve said in a prior article, I used to think 2-3 really cool NPU ideas/shapes for a build were good enough, and I “settled” by neglecting the details on the rest of it. That all changed with my M-Wing victory. I realized that you have to give equal importance to the entirety of the build. Now I’ve established a “one day” rule for myself; Every time I think the build is done, I let it rest at least 24 hours. If I don’t come up with any further improvement ideas in that time, then it likely is done.

Get some good sparing partners
Getting an early critique from others on your WIP (work in progress) can be helpful to identify those areas of your MOC that you might be “settling” on. This isn’t something that I normally do during a contest, but I know it has helped others. You can send a pal a private e-mail with the WIP photos, or use the private image feature in flickr and send a link. You can even expand these sparring sessions into some live build-chats with a bunch of other folks from your ‘dojo’. This can really raise the level of competition, amp up the competitive spirit, and be a helluva lot of fun… but it may also lead you astray from achieving victory if you get too caught up in it. Remember this when you join up with the Cobra Kai dojo – YMMV (your mileage may vary). In the end, it’s Johnny that gets to the finals and is still the dojo’s favorite to win.

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Commit
The “commit” part is to build your MOCs like you are never going to take them apart… Ever. Get those stickers/parts that you need to finish the model in style. You hear those builders saying “I’m not going to Bricklink any parts this time” for their entry? That mentality is for suckers who don’t want to win, or suckers who want to have a ready-made excuse for when they don’t win (the exception being people who already have a crap-ton of bricks in the first place, and likely already have all the parts they need… if they could only find them).

Starting my collection out of my dark age, I always viewed contests as the “Lego rich getting Lego richer”. The people that have the good parts selection are going to have the good builds. Doing the best you have with what you’ve got usually won’t even get you a cookie. To even that playing field, you have to go and buy those needed parts and stickers that make your model look its best. For the M-wing, I bought the smoke colored canopy, stickers to put on the canopy and wings, and the mini-figure pilot. I do draw the line on cutting parts, and most contest rules do too anyways.

Back to stickers. If the contest allows, get them (or make them) and apply them. What’s that you say? You don’t wanna, because you’re a “purist”? You don’t wanna because you plan to use those parts again for something else? With that lack of commitment, I guess you don’t wanna win either. “It’s a waste of life!

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Making your own stickers is easier that you think if you have a printer at home. This is all it takes – Once you find a cool graphic or font to use, go buy some print-on address label stickers (the ones that are 2-5/8 inch x 1 inch). With the size of most Lego parts, you usually won’t need to print out anything larger. This also allows you to “print on demand” without wasting an entire sticker sheet. Just print what you need, peel, and save the rest of the sheet for later. Generally the white labels are the best to use. I’ve tried out the transparent/translucent address labels, and they are only really good on white or light gray parts.

You may also want to apply some shiny clear packaging tape over them. This is to give the sticker some strength, protect the printing, and give it a shiny look to match the shine of the plastic surrounding it. To do this added step, it is handy to have an already spent sticker sheet that you can use to put it all together. You can temporarily apply the printed label to the left over wax paper, then apply that shiny tape over the label, and then cut around the printed graphic to complete your sticker. I use the scissors of a small Swiss army pocket knife to cut around the graphic, and then the tweezers to peel off the backing and apply the sticker…. “It’s a good thing.”

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You could even go the extra mile and buy some custom parts. I bought some chromed parts out of Europe for one of the speederbike contests, although I never ended up using them (part tolerances, ugh). You could buy some custom screen printed bricks too. For on-line build contests though, I think the stickers get the job done. If your build will be shown in public, you may want to get custom printed bricks done instead (if allowed in the rules).

Discipline your image
This means taking good photos, with good lighting and clean photo editing. This means going the extra mile, stretching the rules, and building sweet dioramas. However don’t let that overshadow the model itself (that can lead you back down the path of “turd polishing”)

Photography and photo-editing merit their own dedicated articles. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you out, especially if you are on flickr. In the end, you will have to find the solution that works best for your situation. To get the win, you will likely need to practice your photography and photo-editing just as much as building.

And finally, “Sweep the leg!”
Well… not exactly. “Sweep the leg” in the context of this article means that you need to do the things that you may not want to do to win… like waking up at the crack of dawn, and cracking open some raw eggs to guzzle down. To have any chance of winning, you can’t be lazy. You have to do those little things that give you an edge, and that sharpen your gladiator sword. It does not mean resorting to underhanded tactics against your competitors, or poor sportsmanship. That’s just bad karma.

What’s even more important that winning the contest is maintaining a good standing within the building community. You want to be competitive, not combative. It’s that community that judges these contests too (especially in FBTB contests with open voting). If you ever want to be invited back to compete, don’t bite off a piece of your competitor’s ear. “Fly high now!

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Victory!
All of this advice alone isn’t enough to get you the win, but it paves the way to become a consistent title contender. Along with this knowledge, you still need that competitive fire within you to improve your building skills, that “Eye of the Tiger”, and a little bit of luck. Rocky didn’t win his first championship bout, but he gave it a good fight against Creed that kept the people talking about rematches and sequels. The Karate Kid took his lumps, and his limp, and eked out a dubiously edited victory (…C’mon man. There’s no way that he actually gets past Dutch).

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“Blog or Die!”
… and what about this “Blog or Die!” contest thingy? “Get them a body bag… yeahhhhhh!!!” because this article just laid the competition flat on their backs. You think you’ve got what it takes? Then get off your backsides and show me what you’ve got! MATANGO!

Hey Mr.Miyagi! We did it! We did it! Alright! Woohoo!”

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Ted Talks: Building Buddies

Welcome back to another rousing edition of Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes tackles topics that are near and dear to his heart.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

 

“Do any of you have non-human building companion(s) that are always with you when you are building?” 

Way back during the speederbike contest (you know the one), halfbeak posted the picture below of his dog Saffie.  That got me wondering how many other FOLs build with their dogs, or other kinds of pets …excluding those hairless monkeys some of you call children…

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halfbeak – Saffie helping build the speederbike chase

 Our dachshund Pepper was my “building buddy”, and “playing Legos*” was our thing to do together.  She was by my side anytime I went down to the basement to build, and she would get upset if I went down there without her.  I’d just say the word “Legos*”, and Pepper would run to the basement door and paw at it, eager to get downstairs.

Her enjoyment was all about chasing the light reflections that occurred when I opened/closed my storage bins.  Sometimes I’d get so focused on building and forget she was down there under my feet.  But then I’d open a part drawer, and she’d start barking and pawing at the reflections (she was crazy about chasing laser pointers too, and the word “Legos*” sounded a lot like “laser” to her)… As for our other two dogs, well they couldn’t have cared less.

Eventually, I had to place cardboard along the basement wall, because Pepper would get “happy tail” injuries.  She was so excited to chase reflections that she’d wag her tail hard against the coarse concrete wall (and dachshunds wag their tails a lot to begin with).   The end of her tail would get rubbed raw, and then little blood dots would be splattered all over the place.  At first, I thought it was some dirty/rusty water somehow being sprayed out from our nearby sump-pump.  That “red spot mystery” took us few weeks to figure out.

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Cardboard vs. butcher paper

Unfortunately, we had to put her down in June 2015 due to an inoperable cancer tumor.  Seeing the photo that halfbeak posted above reminded me of the huge void that Pepper’s passing left in my building area.   After she passed, it took me some time to want to go down into the basement and build again.  I lost a true friend, and I still I keep that cardboard along the wall as a tribute to her.  I’m not sure if there was ever a bigger “Pet-FOL” than her, but I’d love to hear your stories too.  Plead your cases down in the comments below.

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Pepper – Note: She was also as smart as heck, feisty, and an avid hunter.  In this shot, she caught the scent of a mole and was probing the snow for it with her snout.  If I recall correctly, her kill list included 17 garter snakes, 3 moles, 1 vole, 3 chipmunks, a couple birds, and a baby rabbit (ooh, that was a rough day, but at least she’d be considered a friend to Elvis)…she never caught a squirrel though, despite numerous attempts.

The other “FOL + Pet” tag teams that I’m aware of…

– Of course we have to start this list right with the person who the Manifesto is all about…

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– I remember rowntRee mentioning his dog(s) name in the Manifesto comments somewhere.  Here’s a photo of Coda in his “Matt Cave”.

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– A local Louisville builder I know, Charley Harper, builds/sorts with his pet rabbit “Commander Carrot” by his side.

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Millie McKenzie’s cat actually did bomb her photos.  Of course, we all know cats can’t resist slapping around toys on a string.

when pets attack

Lia Chan has a least two cats to help her out with her builds too

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Shannon Young and the greatest threat to the city of Shannonia.2905651363_75db68a70b_o.jpg

-The building of cathedrals is serious business for  Stefan Johannes Kubin and his cat.

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– And I don’t know who “LovinLego” is, but they’ve got a sizable Legoratory… and a cat running the show.

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Adam Dodge and his SHIPtember collaborator.

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John Patrick measures his SHIP attempts in dog lengths…

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Marcos Bessa felt inspired by the pug in his life, and decided to build one all for himself…except without all of their trademark wheezing and snorting.

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Joel Baker was inspired by his pup Zoe, and he made her a brick buddy too.  Dachshund pups, FTW!  He said that “she is good around LEGO now, but she used to try to pick up bricks and move them around the room”

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– You can count Dunechaser in the both the dachshund and pug camps…

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– And of courseLino would have a pet dachshund.  Since Lulu  has no interest in the Lego (or at least no interest in destroying his MOC’s) I wasn’t going to count him at first.  However, I then saw this picture of them being a luchador tag-team, and that earns major bonus points.

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Final thoughts…

There are couple things that I noticed when I was trying to research other builders and dig up these photos:

1) There are a lot of people who have named their dogs “Lego”.  When they call for them outdoors, I wonder how many people yell back “…my Eggo!”

2) There are quite a few other builders that have dachshunds too.  Way to represent, fellow wiener lovers!… Umm , wait.  That didn’t come out right…

3) Finally, I’ll end with this Public Service Announcement. – No pet in the world is impressed with photos of minifigs posed in real world environments (or Duplo), so leave your pets out of it.  That concept is lame, and you should feel lame.  You already put them through enough embarrassment by dressing them in your silly costumes.  Enough is enough.  End the abuse!

Sarah McLachlan – “In the Arms of the Angles”

(full disclosure: despite the levity of me linking this video, we actually donate to our local Humane Society, and have adopted a rescue too. Such a great dog)

So who else?

We need stories.

We need pictures.

We need videos.

*…and I don’t want to hear any crap about “It’s Lego, not Legos”, so “lighten up, Francis”.  I didn’t get it correct in all my other articles just to forget that now.  That’s a phrase I’m quoting, and me saying it to my dog was not going to erode TLG’s intellectual property by her ever repeating it. “Bark, bark.”

Ted Talks: Rock ‘N’ Roll Star

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What truly motivates you, constant reader, to build your MOC’s and share them with the masses?  We already know you enjoy building your castles, and trains, and SHIPs (oh my).  You also do it to help your fellow builders with tips, share techniques, and provide positive feedback… for the good of the building community.  What more could anyone ask for, right?  Gee, Wally. How altruistic of you.

C’mon, people… you know, and I know, there is something else stirring underneath the surface…

It starts out as a little burning ember at first.  You’re hooked on getting the MOC views, and now you are yearning for a little more recognition. Fanned by the faves and encouraging comments from other builders, it burns brighter and grows inside you.  Eventually it consumes you, in a raging inferno that craves the FULL ATTENTION of the community!  You’re not looking for mere recognition from your peers anymore.  You’re looking for acclaim!  It is your DESTINY to become one of the “LEGO ROCK STARS”!!!

♪♫ “So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star? / Then listen now to what I say”.♫♪ – The Byrds

Look at me! Blog me! Love me! Name a build technique after me! Put my MOC’s onto trading cards… Hire me to be a designer at LEGO!”

 ♪♫ “Just get a [LEGO set] / then take some time and learn how to play.”♫♪

Well, duh!  Starting out, I think everyone understands that essential step of honing your craft.  It’s a long way to the top, if you want to Rock N’ Roll.  There’s not much else that really needs to be said.  If for some reason you are considering a spiritual training camp with an Indian guru to be further enlightened, let me save you the trouble.  Your meditation mantra is this: “Build my collection… Build some MOC’s… Build my collection… Build some MOC’s…”

33357057533_f0c2e9daa1_o.jpgthereeljames – Ommmmm

♪♫ “And in a week or two if you make the [blogs] / the girls’ll tear you apart”♫♪

If you’re a “LEGO savant”, maybe it does only take you a week or two to get your first blog post.  Typically though, it’s a gradual build up, as your skills and parts collection improve over time… but either way, it has finally happened!!!  You’ve made the “Cover of the Rolling Stone”  and have gotten your first “Top-40 hit”.  The web-traffic and views on your photo page have gone through the roof!!!  …But slow down there, “Stillwater”.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You’re still only a one-hit-wonder and merely “Almost Famous”…

If you start racking up more blog hits, you’ll also start racking up the favorites and the followers too.  At some point those builders that you considered “Rock Star Legends” will actually start following you.  Eventually, you build up enough confidence to go out on the LEGO CON-cert Tour with them.  You’ll play your solo act on stage, and then play in a collaborative jam session for the final encore.  Once the public has gone home, you play late night poker after the show with the roadies, sitting around a DUPLO table and trading your MOC’s for a few cans of “The Brown Note”… Rock N’ Roll, baby!!!

6045417123_fe1d4ea2a8_o.jpgcaptainsmog – On The Stage

Fame can be fleeting though, and new acts are always appearing on the scene.  To stay on the radio play lists, you’ll need to keep “Feeding that Monster!” by churning out those pop song hits.  Building a MOC in a popular licensed theme is a smart choice (Star Wars builds are always perineal chart toppers – the exception being “clones on a plate”)… might I also recommend participating in an Iron Builder contest?

♪♫ “Sell your soul to the company / who are waiting there to sell plastic ware.”♫♪

There are plenty of “LEGO Rock Stars” that reached the pinnacle and cashed in to become TLG “company men” and “company women”.  You’ll notice that they seldom get the time to build/post their own MOC’s anymore.  They don’t even want to build after a full workday of pushing brick-shaped pixels around a monitor screen.  Now they are just another Technic gear in TLG’s “hit making machine”.  They are chained to their desks, creating watered-down “Danish pop songs” that can appeal to everyone, especially to kids ages 8-and-Up, and that fit neatly into a certain market-determined piece-count/price-point.  They’re “getting’ hygee with it”… ♪♫ Happy Happy Joy Joy…♫♪

Stinky Wizzelteats – “I’ll teach you to be happy!…  I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!”.

 Even if you don’t catch the eye of the major TLG Label and become a full-time contract-artist, don’t worry.  You can still get a taste of the action as a one-time guest performer.  Maybe you submit a few LEGO set ideas to CUUSO, IDEAS, or whatever it is that “American Idol” reality show is called these days.  If your idea goes “GOLD”, at least there’s still a modest chance the final design will maintain some modicum of your artistic vision.  But first you’ll need to thoroughly humiliate yourself by pimping for those votes… week… after week… after week….  Once you DO hit ‘GOLD’, and if TLG thinks you’ve handed them a bona fide hit, they’ll start pumping out the plastic.  They’ll even give you a 1% royalty on every record sold!  ONE PERCENT!!!

But that’s not the only way to cash in on your “Rock Star” acclaim.  You can also sign on with an independent label, or create your own. Rather than “selling yourself out” to TLG, you’re trying to sell out of your commissioned MOCs, custom printed figures, trading cards, action wear, etc.   You take your “Don’t Tread On Me” concert T-shirts with you on every stop of the LEGO CON-cert Tour, and then sell them on-line when you get home.  If your fans really like what you do, then surely they will pay up and support you, right?  They know you’ve got bills to pay, and more bricks to buy?  Maybe giving away MOAR free prototypes will entice them? Or maybe you need to find some other way to promote your wares? (…might I recommend sponsoring an Iron Builder contest?)

Pine Barons – Clowns “I am just a clown like you, and we fake smiles for pay…feeling so transparent.”

♪♫ “The money, the fame, and the public acclaim… ”♫♪

Up to this point I’ve been talking about “Rock N’ Roll” stars. They still have to crank out that “rock n’ roll” music that appeases the masses… “FREEBIRD!”  …But then there are the “MEGA STARS” that Leg Godt on a whole different level.  They can build whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.  They are the trend setters (sometimes accidentally) and meme creators (sometimes purposefully).  They have been featured performers in Block-umentaries.  You know of whom I speak.

“Mega Stars” have followers in the thousands (like > 7,500).  Those large numbers have only gotten worse (I mean better) with LEGO being in the mainstream now.  On a bad day, they get 20 more new flickr followers, 15 of which have empty photostreams and those generic flickr camera avatars. On a bad day, they only get 150 favorites on a new MOC that hasn’t even been blogged yet.

"Fried Chicken!" - A tribute to Freddie Mercury

Ochre Jelly and “Fried Chicken!” (yum)

For their ‘fans’, which even include the “Rock Stars”, there is almost no hope of making any deep personal connections with the “Mega Stars” anymore.  Don’t get me wrong.  They aren’t cold hearted elitists.  They just can’t keep up with all the fan mail, let alone all of their fans’ photostreams to reciprocate the love. I wonder if they even fave other people’s MOCs anymore, let alone comment. (Perhaps they need to hire personal assistants – actually, I know that has already happened…. “Hey mom. Can you check my flickr to see if there is anyone I need to respond to while at BW?”).

When you are a “MEGA Star”, you don’t need to connect with everyone on a one-on-one basic anymore.  “We ain’t one-at-a-timin’ here! We’re mass communicatin’!”   Your MOC concerts are filling MEGA-STADIUMS now! You’re headlining ROCK FESTIVALS!  YOU Control The Action!  You have truly arrived.

Orange Stage at LEGO World

♪♫ “The price you paid for your riches and fame, / was it all a strange game? You’re a little insane”♫♪

Jonatha Brooke – “Careful what you wish for…”

There is a price to be paid for being a “Mega Star”.  To avoid the paparazzi, they have to build their own private LEGO Neverland compounds, and only invite the people over who knew them “before they were famous”.  They have to register at LEGO CON-cert hotels under false names too (…psst… I know who you are Mr. Bricky McBrickface).  When they walk through the LEGO CON-cert hall, they overhear jealous comments about their latest hairstyle, and the MOC’s they brought with them (btw – does TLG print the “Law of Jante” in the fine print of every instructions booklet, or something?)

LEGO “Mega Stars” must miss those halcyon days when they were up-and-coming builders, trading critiques on Lugnet and playing the “open-mic night” at the Corner Café.  I can’t fathom what it is TRULY like to be a “Mega Star”, and I’m too lazy to reach out to some of them and ask.  I’m no “Rock Star” myself either; being put onto a trading card just isn’t my goal in life (however, I’m always down for a lunch box lid).  I’m happy simply being an “Almost Famous” kind of builder; doing just enough to be relevant, but not enough to edge over that slippery slope.  Having seen the various endings to this cautionary tale, I don’t aspire to fly much higher.  I have my “Piece of Mind

 

Boston – “Piece of Mind”

Despite dragging my feet, I still net a couple new random flickr followers a week, for God knows why.  I’m at 1,800 flickr followers right now, which is a little insane, and with no hope of ever keeping up with them all…. Speaking of being “a little insane”, aren’t most creative types?  We’re never gonna’ survive unless we get at a little crazy… (…being A LOT crazy is a whole other matter…).

♪♫ “Don’t forget who you are, you’re a rock and roll star!”♫♪

So, where does this chase for “fame and acclaim” lead in the end?  Right back to the same question I asked at the very beginning: “What truly motivates us to build and share with the community?” Why are we doing all this?  To what end?  When our heads start to swell up from the moments of praise, we should probably ask ourselves this question time and again.

If it IS to become a “LEGO Rock Star”, now’s the time in this article for the reality check.  Remember that “Rock Star” status is mainly limited to within our own FOL Universe, and in our own minds.  It’s no more than that juvenile battle in the “LEGO High School” cafeteria to climb the lunch-table pecking order.  I assure you, no one outside of our FOL Universe gives a rat’s ass.  To most outsiders, we’re ALL just bunch of neo-maxi-zoom-dweebi’s, no matter where we are sitting; man-kinder, women-kinder, and sometimes actual kinder, just playing with toys.  That’s right.  They’re toys; we should be out there having fun with them, and playing well with each other.  Why so serious?

Space Cafe

BricksTreasure – Space Cafe

If our personal motivation is to become better builders, then we need to remember that all of these counts of views, faves, and awards are but arbitrary measures.  The means to become better builders comes from continually pushing ourselves to improve, by learning from others who inspire us, seeking out feedback, and not being overly defensive in the face of an occasional critique.  We’ll rise up by helping others rise up with us.  As cliché as it is, in The End, “the love you take is equal to the love you make”…  But don’t just take it from me.  Take it from the Walrus…

Paul McCartney – Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

“ENCORE!  … ENCORE! … ENCORE! …”

With that, I think this musically themed satire has rambled on long enough.  It’s time for YOU to step up to the mic for the encore, and take over the comments stage.  Bring it on home!  Tell us about your stardom, or just rip on my playlist choices.  If you not a “Rock Star” yet, then you can just give us your best Neil Diamond cover (or whatever it is that your generation listens to these days).  This is your chance to shine!