The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 4 of 4]

It’s the last Matango in Paris, constant reader, the dream of SHIPtember is over for this year.  I realize there is still about a week left on the calendar but it will not be enough time to make any meaningful progress.  I spent the last week hammering on the build, trying to adopt one of Pico’s designs, but it just lead to greater frustration.  I can’t really blame the failure on lack of parts availability in orange, the challenging subject matter, or even the divided time between building and blogging.  At the end of the day I simply lost interest and became ambivalent about the model and that is the death of any creative project.  The comments both on the Manifesto and Flickr gave me a boost of energy last week, but it quickly went south when I couldn’t find the right way to push the design forward.  Sometimes models just don’t work out, and you have to know when to cut your losses.

Many of you suggested I abandon the time restrictions of the contest and proceed at my own pace, to value the ‘art’ over the collective experience.  That’s a reasonable take on things and normally I’d be on board with that course of action, but SHIPtember is all about embracing restrictions and going through the same pressure-cooker as everyone else. What I’m not willing to do, however, is push forward a piece of crap just meet a deadline.  I chose what Simon calls “the hard road” but my orange Ford Pinto couldn’t handle the action and it sits broken down on the side of that hard road.  Matango definitely had potential and I’ve saved the legs with an eye towards revisiting the concept some day, but for now it’s back to the bin and back to the blog.


So in the end I chose the Manifesto over the Matango, and that has me thinking about the future of both activities as it relates to my free time.  There is no way I could consider another project the size of say Bucharest and remain committed to this place.  Right now I don’t have a strong urge to build, so running the blog is a nice way to stay connected to the hobby and indulge my interest in writing.  Long term though, I’m not so sure how to strike the right balance.

Best of luck to the rest of the SHIPwrights who are still in the fight!  I applaud your perseverance and I now I’ll have the time to encourage you from the sidelines.

The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 3 of 4]

Matango! is in trouble, constant reader, the fight against the clock is not going well and the local Teamsters seem to be spending more time riding motorcycles and writing blog entries than actually building the ship.  Several issues should be readily apparent from the photo below, but I’ll go through them anyway, that’s the whole point of the exercise.


I kept the concept art in the photo for reference, but from this point on, the model will look less and less like it’s inspiration.  With days ticking past, I decided to abandon any notion of accuracy to the source material.  I wasted far too much time trying to figure out both the crew cabin and the nose, without any real success. I’m gonna take a second and complain about the shitty availability of parts in orange, but only a second because I think a more skilled builder could have figured out a better solution for both areas.  And…I should probably have figured that out ahead of time when I selected an all orange piece of concept-art.  So, ultimately I went the easy route and plugged in the 1-piece helicopter nose.  I dig it, I’ve always liked that window pattern but I admit that it’s a bit of a cop-out, a brick-built solution would have been ideal.  The biggest downside of the canopy is that it’s not as wide as I would have liked.  Simon is right, when he says the hard road is the better road through SHIPtember, but I need an easier route from this point forward, if I have any chance to make the end of the month deadline.

I flipped the cargo pods on their sides, to give the whole thing a slightly lower profile.  I’m still not completely happy with the look, but I’m not ready to redesign them either.  With so much left to do, and so little time to do it, going backwards would be a mistake.  I may switch them back to their original orientation, this is by no means final.  Nothing is.  In case you’re wondering, the legs are still in the game-plan but I didn’t want to crowd the update photo with them.  The legs are just waiting for a frame.

I included the SHIPruler in the photo so you can see how far off I am at this point.  The wings are going to push out further to the left and right but I’m not sure that they will get to 100 studs.  Front to back is even worse right now.  This is the two-headed tyranny of the calendar and the ruler.

All that said, the greater threat to Matango’s chance of completion is my growing apathy towards the project.  I’m not excited to look at it anymore, now it’s entered the realm of obligation or on especially bad days, a chore.  I’m frustrated with my inability to translate the subject matter and I don’t have a clear vision of where to go with the design.  I’m going to keep building until the end of the month and see what happens, and perhaps beyond the deadline if I still think it’s a concept worth developing.  I have one more BrickLink order on the way and that might re-energize me.  The bottom line is that the Manifesto is taking up more of my free time than I thought, and I just don’t have the time to write and build with the same level of investment.  Tune in for the exciting final volume in this SHIPtember series to see what happens!

Oh, and feel free to provide building suggestions in the comments.  Flickr has been zero help in that department, but it’s not just me, I don’t see a lot of good critique going on, just encouragement.  Encouragement is cool, and I’ve received my share and more on this project, but I get some really useless comments too.  When you boil it down, people generally have only 3 thoughts on Matango!

  1. That’s a lot of orange / you’re gonna need a lot more orange.
  2. That’s huge!
  3. The legs won’t support it.

None of those statements are particularly helpful or insightful, but at least they too the time to leave their thoughts?  Here’s a thought for you…


UPDATE:  Friend of the blog and crazy-good builder Pico van Grootveld was generous enough to work up a few sketches to help me find a way forward with Mantango!  His treatment of the legs is both daunting and delightful, and the little motorcycle is completely rad!  Thanks Pico!  I’m both flattered and grateful that you took the time to assist this less-than-humble SHIPwright in his time of need.

The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 2 of 4]

Today is September 8th and I’m already falling behind schedule on Matango!  I made the admittedly strange choice to begin with the legs, and it’s been an uphill battle from there.  The conventional wisdom, as Simon indicated in his recent SHIPtember article, is to begin with a sturdy Technic frame and build out.  My mind doesn’t work that way though, I have a tendency to start from weird places, like building a temple from the roof down.  And as for the Technic frame, I’ve managed to build 4 SHIPs over the years and not one of them has used a Technic frame.  I’ve got nothing against them, or the people who use them, the proof is in the results, the process works and has resulted in some of the best SHIPs in the community armada.  My plan is to use a Technic frame at some point, but not until I know how big the entire vessel is going to be, and not until I have some of the major features roughed out.  I’ll connect everything at the end, which is probably a shitty plan that will leave many of you shaking your heads, but I’m a special snowflake and this is how I roll.

So after I finished prototype of the leg, I duplicated the leg and began a Bricklink order for the parts I need to make them entirely orange.  Once the legs were finished I wasn’t sure what to tackle next so I picked what I thought was the easiest feature to replicate, the huge octagonal cargo containers.  My initial design was two studs wider and the pattern on the door looked better, or more like the concept art in any case. I was pretty happy with them at first, and they fit snugly enough that I didn’t have to brick them in, which could pay off later by allowing for a photo of the cargo container open. However, when I compared the containers to the legs it was very clear they were just too wide and I had to make an adjustment.  The containers are hollow except for one beam that runs across the center from top to bottom.  There are no matching rear doors at this time, but I have the parts on hand to replicate them if need be.  I’m still not convinced I’ve got the dimensions of the containers quite right, but I’m done tweaking it for now.  I still have no idea how to treat the back of the ship, the concept art leaves that entirely to my imagination, which is kind of liberating within the broader concept of trying to recreate another person’s design.

As promised in Volume 1, here is my first Bricklink order, placed a couple of days ago and apparently it has already shipped from Illinois.  I mentioned a projected budget of $60 and I bragged about being good at sticking to my budget…because I’m an idiot.  Clearly I’ve already crushed the projection and I’ve already started looking at a second order from a different vendor.  I have a lot of orange, I’ve been collecting it for years, but not nearly enough to satiate hungry Matango!


The next section I tackle will be the nose, it’s probably my least favorite feature of the design so I’ll probably take some liberties there too.  I want to figure out how wide Metango is going to be, so I can start adjusting some of the proportions and begin figuring out a frame.  Feel free to leave me your sage advice and well-earned mockery in the comments, your feedback is always valued at the Manifesto.

The votes have been tallied and the official theme song of SHIPtember 2016 is…

Wish me luck, constant reader, I will certainly need it.  These challenges all come down to time management and how I decide to split my free time between the blog and the SHIP will make all the difference.

The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 1 of 4]

Today is September 1st and the starting gun has fired for Simon Liu’s annual community building challenge, SHIPtember.  Well, for some paste-eaters it started weeks or even months ago, because some people simply will not follow the rules…it literally hurts them to do so.  “But I have school!” “But I have type-2 Diabetes!” “But my booty is bleedin’!”…the excuses are legion and the excuse makers don’t seem to understand that building together, under the same restrictions, is the whole point of the exercise.  Everyone has a good reason not to build, everyone is busy with “real life”, but most people don’t complain about it and ask for exemption from the rules.  In my experience the worst part about running an event like SHIPtember or any other AFOL endeavor involving deadlines and rules is that people immediately start whining about the hard edges and plead for exceptions to be made.  Inclusion is a noble goal and kudos to Simon for being so patient, but fuck me Freddy!  If you can’t make it happen this year, how about you just keep it to yourself, or build a SHIP on your own schedule and not reference SHIPtember.  Most of the people who complain and beg for the rules not to be applied to them, rarely come up with interesting results anyway.

For those of you not in the know, the premise of SHIPtember is pretty simple: to create a spaceship out of Lego that is a minimum of 100 studs long.  If you’re interested in a more detailed explanation, Adrian Drake put together an informative article about SHIP-building a few years ago that covers everything from how to begin, internal structures and detailing.  Building a SHIP is a rite of passage for many sci-fi builders, and SHIPtember provides a good incentive to take your best shot with a group of like-minded souls who are typically willing to give advice and encouragement.  This will be the 5th SHIP I’ve attempted over the years, and the 2nd for SHIPtember.  Two years ago I decided, in my arrogance, to not only build a 100 stud spaceship in a month, but also a 4x8ft diorama to go along with it.  In the end, neither one was very good, but I had a great deal of fun along the way. I’m hoping that by sticking to just the spacecraft this year, I’ll have better results.

The photo below represents my progress on Day-1.  As you can see I have my SHIPtember ruler ready, so I know when I hit the magic number and I’ve also pulled some concept art (courtesy of Ben Mauro), minifigs and my bin of random orange parts.  I’ve also selected the wheels for the landing gear, although that is subject to change as I actually get into the building process this weekend.  I’ll probably start with the landing gear and see how it goes, but I don’t have a plan in place yet for how to approach the model.  Having a structured plan is always preferable, but I typically just jump in and start building.  I’ve set a budget for this project at $60 and I’ll keep you updated as to how I spend the cash.  People don’t typically talk financial numbers with a project, but every large model I undertake gets a set budget that I’m pretty good about sticking to.  So this is what day-1 looks like, stay tuned to this feature for more SHIPtember action, I will be updating my progress at least once a week.  If we’re lucky, we might even hear from Mr. Liu himself on the topic.  Simon’s got a full plate with running the show and building an entry himself though, so we’ll have to hope for the best on that one.



I just figured out I have polling options here on the Manifesto and I can think of no better time or place to put it to the test.  So please, constant reader, won’t you indulge me and take part in this first survey to determine the official song of SHIPtember?