Two for Tuesday: Adrian Egli

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is an O.G. savant that you may not be familiar with, in part because he’s never been one to seek the spotlight and in part because he hasn’t posted much in the last few years (with the exception of convention photos).  As a connoisseur of fine models you should get to know him though, because he’s responsible for some of the greatest large-scale bridges online and helped push the envelope in the formative days of LUGNET and Brickshelf.  Above all that, Adrian Egli is just a good dude who deserves some props in a hobby that tends to forget the soft-spoken, urbane gentlemen that walk among us unnoticed in the herd of sweaty, often churlish mankinder.

I had the good fortune of meeting Adrian Egli on two seperate occasions: BricksWest 2003 and BrickFest PDX 2007.  Both encounters were unfortunately unremarkable, like driving a Hyundai or drinking a Rolling Rock and fall into the “drive by” variety of conversation that characterize all too much of the convention scene.  After nearly every one of the dozen cons I’ve attended, I’ve left feeling like I’d missed an opportunity to really connect with some of the people I wanted to.  Also, I think it’s fair to say that Adrian was a somewhat awkward guy back then or at the very least shy in public situations with idiots like me.  During both meetings Mr. Egli made solid eye-contact, politely listened to me ramble my praise about his bridges and thanked me for the complements.  But so say that there was a connection, or that we became fast-friends like other people in the TfT column would be a lie.  Adrian also didn’t seem that interested in my space ships (can’t say that I blame him) and the conversation just kind of died on the vine.  I think it might be different if I met him today, because back then I was a wide-eyed greenhorn and he’d already accomplished a great deal in terms his involvement in LUGs, LTCs, conventions and all that larger community stuff.  My convention-based interests were limited to enjoying intoxicants with like-minded sci-fi nerds and people-watching all the magnificent weirdos our hobby has to offer.  But drive-by conversation aside, the builder and his builds made a lasting impression on me.

For tonight’s first shot, we’ll be examining the bridge that first captivated me over a decade ago when I first became aware of Adrian’s work on LUGNET, where I would often read his posts about building curves, LTCs and trying to get a LUG off the ground in our mutual home town, San Diego.  I’m going to date this bridge in the very early 2000’s, I wish I could offer a more precise date, but his Brickshelf account is gone and the dates on Flickr refer to when he uploaded the shots, not when they were originally posted online.  You’ll find very little commentary or statistical information in Adrian’s Flickrstream, which is a shame, but very much in line with his humility about what he builds and his quiet demeanor.  I would also like to mention that San Diego is an underrated city for bridges, it has a little bit of everything and you can certainly see echoes of them in Adrian’s work.

For my money, this lovely curved suspension bridge encapsulates everything that makes Egli’s work so memorable and important to the history of the hobby.  Of course you’ve got the curved road, which might not seem that difficult today, but back then this was like alien technology to many of us, or purely theoretical in nature.  Then you’ve got those striking V-shaped support stands, which are impressive creations in their own right.  Lastly you’ve got the suspension factor, something I still don’t see done very often.  And yes…yes…we all know the boilerplate axiom that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, that size alone should not be a determining factor for brilliance.  But look at the size of this thing in comparison to the furniture and the fireplace in the background…if that doesn’t impress you more than a spaceship you can fit into the palm of your hand, you’re either lying, possess questionable faculties or you’re a god-damn communist.  This model also doubles as a legitimate piece of home furnishing!  Talk about a conversation starter, I don’t know if I’d have the heart to tear this thing down if it were mine, this thing should be preserved for permanent display by a convention or that oddball Lego museum I hear strange whisperings about.  For my money, this is a wonder of the ancient AFOL world and an important slice of action that showed me what was possible and stoked the fire of my imagination at a crucial moment.

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For our second shot, I selected this little number, again from the mid 2000’s.  It doesn’t have a name, none of them do, they are named after the seasons Winter StudySpring Study …etc, there is no tedious backstory to distract from the build.  I like his naming conventions, and the implicit notion that a particular model took an entire season to build, it kind of drives home the committment involved to see such a project through.  What’s also lost in the ‘bigger isn’t better’ argument is that many people who like to play that particular trumpet don’t have the attention span or endurance to build something on this scale and complexity.  Yes, some can’t afford to build something this big but it’s not the limiting factor.

I cannot overstate the personal importance of this bridge and the inspiration it provided to my own build, Zero Hour on Highway 44.  I didn’t quite have enough space or gray brick to pull off a bridge at this scale so I opted for a double-decker highway, but without Adrian’s work I don’t know if I would have dreamed big enough to build something this ambitious on my own.  I’d previously built a slightly larger project, but that was with major contribututions from two other builders and it didn’t have nearly the same height.  At the time, I thought seriously about reaching out to Adrian to see if he wanted to collaborate, but as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I didn’t feel like I knew him well enough and that it wouldn’t be his bag.  If I had it all to do over again I would change that, and I don’t rule out working with him somewhere down the line.  San Diego is only a short drive from Vegas…

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Another reason I wanted to talk about Adrian this week is because in addition to being a great builder, he also suffers from epilepsy and uses the brick for a way to cope with it.  I stumbled on this article  in the San Diego Union-Tribune a couple of years after meeting him and I appreciate his bravery for putting it all out there in the hope that it might help somebody suffering in silence.  Normally I would never reference a person’s medical condition in a blog post, I’ve only done it once before when Chris Giddens had his public bout with cancer so I don’t write this lightly.  Much like Chris with his condition, Adrian is comfortable talking about epilepsy and advocating for his peers in a public forum, so I figured he wouldn’t mind me mentioning it as a part of this story.  Although I can only think of one other builder who suffers from epilepsy, I don’t think this kind of relationship between the brick and health is all that unique.  Whether it’s cancer, epilepsy, autism or clinical depression, I know from my travels both online and in person that a number of us suffer from serious ailments and use building as a form of therapy.  If you don’t want to click on the article, here is the relevant quotation:

Adrian Egli of San Diego also has continuing difficulty with convulsive seizures. Not yet 40, Egli has been unable to work full-time and is soon to go on Social Security disability. His hobby, which he credits with helping him overcome depression, is building structures with Legos.

Egli said he got epilepsy after being struck by a car when he was 5. He went years without a seizure, and was even considered cured. Then he had a convulsive seizure in a ninth-grade class.

Suddenly, students didn’t want to be near him. “I felt like a freak,” Egli said.

Egli spoke at a meeting-related press conference sponsored by UCB Pharma, a maker of epilepsy drugs. The company is trying to address the stigma of epilepsy by sponsoring a program to place service dogs with those with epilepsy.

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Photo credit: Joe Meno

For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.

Even though it’s nowhere nearly as bad as Dan Rubin’s now infamous pink version from a previous installment of Two for Tuesdays, Adrian is sporting the uniform of the damned…a polo shirt.  The color and lack of corporate logo certainly help his case and it is accessorized with a perfectly serviceable belt…but I simply cannot go on the record endorsing this most hated style of shirt.  Adrian, you’re better than this, leave the polo shirt for golfers, prep-school attendees and low-level corporate yes-men.  At your age you still manage to have it all: good teeth, a full head of hair and a distinct lack of a spare tire that plagues so many of the early generation of builders.   Please don’t let that go to waste my friend, there are other more humane options out there.  I hate to pick on a guy with epilepsy but master bridge-builder or not, old school AFOL or not, I’m afraid it’s time to…

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Two for Tuesday: Jon Palmer

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is my personal Lego spirit-animal, and O.G. Spacer, Jon Palmer.  Like too many of the builders featured in this column, Jon has drifted out of the scene, but you won’t find a person who had a bigger impact on the hobby in it’s formative years.  Jon had a hand in all of the sci-fi boilerplate we take for granted now From Moonbase to geodesic domes to the SHIPyard (an early pre-Flickr archive of SHIPS).  In the age of LUGNET, when things could be a little stuffy and insular, Jon was always super friendly and above all, funny.  Sometimes we tend to take the hobby way too seriously, myself included, but never Jon, he could find humor in almost any situation.  It’s a cliché, but he really did have a talent for bringing people together in a positive and creative way.  I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Jon on a half-dozen occasions,  even at my homestead here in Vegas, and that’s really the acid test for my fellow nerds, would I want them in my home?  Jon is one of the few people I’ve met who could move in, if he needed to.  Hands down my best convention experiences were the BrickCons in Seattle where Jon and I had a chance to hang out, it was the first time I appreciated offsite activities more than those of the convention hall. As a builder, very few people were as personally inspiring to me, his 2002 spaceship Bison, for instance, was just as important and influential to me as the Dragonstar. It may look dated by today’s standards but it was a breath of fresh air ten+ years ago in an unusual color scheme.  Outside of Rutherford and Rubino, my two cronies since high-school, nobody had a bigger impact on me in the hobby than Jon.

For tonight’s first shot, we’ll be examining Jon’s often duplicated geodesic dome from 2006.  I can’t stress enough how popular this model once when he first posted it online, people were blown away.  As a fan of 70’s Sci-Fi, it certainly made a lasting impression on me.  My build table is not ideal to make one, but I have one of those ‘some day’ projects in mind that involves about 5 domes of varying sizes.  Because he was a community minded kind of dude, Jon thoughtfully shared the building process in a series of photos.  Check out the link and maybe you’ll be inspired to make your own.  The cost may be a little steep but the result is magnificent and sturdy.  I still see this design pop up every now and then at a convention and it always looks fresh, but I don’t think anyone (including Jon) has really done much with the interior space.  I have a small section of the structure built to keep me inspired and I’ve been slowly accumulating the parts over the years.  I’d like to see how much of the dome can be closed off without annoying gaps or sag.  The dome is one of those rare models that captures your attention, even from across a crowded convention hall, surrounded by other amazing things.

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For our second shot, we will take a brief look at one of the biggest building fads the hobby has ever seen, rather than a single model.  Most of Jon’s stuff has been lost to the digital ether, the photos available on Flickr only represent a fraction of his output.  In 2002 Jon was in important part of a small group of Spacers who created and developed the Moonbase concept, the very popular first attempt at a modular, collaborative, convention-based standard.  The ghost of Moonbase can still be spotted now and then, but it’s a shadow of it’s former glory.  At it’s height, every major convention had a sprawling layout with monorails, giant towers, moon-track and smoking volcanoes.  Like every fad, Moonbase eventually jumped the shark and became a kind of parody of itself, but it’s importance in the history of the hobby and conventions cannot be understated.  As with the geodesic dome, Jon thoughtfully compiled the instructions and examples first on his personal site Zemi.net (now defunct) and later on Flickr, so that anyone can easily get in on the action.  Whether it was minifig scale or microscale, Moonbase united builders from across the planet and that’s pretty cool.  The possibilities were endless and the standard was scaled to be very attainable, even for new builders with relatively small connections.  You could make just a corridor or an end-cap, and still feel like you were a part of the display.  When I think of Palmer, I think of inclusion and innovation.

Probably the biggest build-related regret I have in the hobby was the failure of the Lord Mandrake Memorial Sea Tower, a collaborative project involving myself, Palmer and Ryan Rubino back in 2008.  Ryan and I were fresh off the Omicron Weekend and we were fired up to work with Jon, who we both considered to be a mad genius.  Ryan’s famous Leviathans model was originally intended for the this ambitious undersea diorama, with Jon building the tower itself and yours truly providing the canyon and seafloor terrain.  We were a couple of months into building and things were really shaping up, when Jon abruptly moved from Seattle to Tulsa and subsequently lost all interest in building.  There is no dramatic story or unsolved mystery, like many builders space to build was an issue and other real life considerations got in the way.  I blame it on the geography, I have a deep and abiding hatred of Tulsa and all things Tulsa related to this day.  It’s the city that ate Jon Palmer and it should be razed to the ground and salted to make sure nothing grows there again.  If I could wave a magic wand and bring one single builder back to the hobby it would be Jon, for me the hobby is a worse place without him and I’ll certainly never enjoy BrickCon in the same way again.  Well, truth be told I guess I’d bring nnenn back because he’s dead and I’m sure his family would be thrilled to have him back, but second would be Jon.

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For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.

Jon is actually a pretty stylish dude, often without really trying, so I had to go the extra mile to find just the right photo.  Anyone who knows me is aware of my extreme aversion to ‘cosplay’ and more specifically ‘cosplayers’.  Most people like attention in some way or another but cosplayers take it to a whole new attention-whoring level.  The entire core of the hobby is based on the premise “look at me!   No, really, look at me!“, and it may be the one group of nerds who has a higher concentration of special snowflakes than Lego people.  The most insufferable in-law I have is a cos-player, so I’ve seen them up close and personal and it’s nothing but narcissism all day long.  I love Halloween as much as the next person, and costume parties are great, but I’m sick of cosplayers invading other hobbies and I really hate when they try to insert themselves into ours.  The only time I’ve been tempted to violence at a convention was with a dickhead cosplayer who looked like a kabuki-jedi who would run his mouth about the models without having brought anything of his own.  I think it was less about the quality of the models and more about his need to feel superior.  Just go away…I don’t care how cleverly made your gender-swapped Ant-Man X-wing pilot costume is, you’re annoying and you should leave. The same with steam punk people, save it for your own convention, nobody cares how many brass buttons you can fit on your codpiece.  Go push your tchotchkes somplace else.

Getting back to Jon though, this is the rare kind of cosplay I can appreciate.  Jon was the Space Coordinator for the BrickCon the year this photo was snapped and it was his job to handle the Moonbase layout.  This vibrant one-piece certainly looks like a suitable Moonbase uniform, without being derivative of a specific franchise and it’s orange!  Having your rank spelled out on your sleeve may not be as cool as a mission-patch but it rocks in a very 1970’s kind of way.  As you can imagine Jon was easy to find on setup day, which made it easier for newcomers to figure out who was in charge and join in the Moonbase fun…a frequent problem at conventions…most coordinators suck at their jobs.  This one is an easy decision.

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Two for Tuesday: Matt Bace

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is an empty bar-stool, because much like Elvis, the builder in question has apparently left the building.  In doing so he has deleted all of his Lego content from the internet, which is a shame.  Matt Bace still resides on MOCpages, but only as a ghost, preserved  for the moment in the legion of comments he left behind on other people’s models.  I’ll tell you up front I have no idea why Matt left the scene, I was not able to find any final statement or even a discussion of his departure. In fact, had Christopher not mentioned it in the comments section of the recent Poland article, I never would have known he left.   Unlike the previous subjects of Two for Tuesday, I don’t know Matt Bace beyond our brief but always friendly communication on MOCpages and Flickr. I never met him in person, so there will be no personal anecdotes in this installment, just a salutary raise of the glass to a guy I wish was still around.  It seems like the assholes never leave, and the stand-up guys fade out, wander off or just disappear one day.

Obviously we’ve lost a skilled builder who raised the bar with LDD creations that ran the thematic gamut from giant battleships to this remarkable Analog Equalizer.  In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a digital builder who stretched himself quite as far, tackling diverse subject matter and scale with such compelling results. The real loss though, was Matt’s influence on other builders and his frequent encouraging comments.  In my brief bit of research for this article, I came across a dozen example of builders citing Matt as inspiration for their own efforts.  From personal experience running the Decisive Action war games on MOCpages, and looking at hundreds of models in the process, there were two commenters whose names came up again and again, with good advice and praise: Clayton Marchetti and Matt Bace.  We go on at length here at the Manifesto, about critique and communication and I can’t think of a guy who better personifies those values.

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Tuesday means double-shots, and for our second round, I couldn’t very well pass up Matt’s masterpiece, a 1:200 scale model of the USS Kitty Hawk that would have been over 5 feet long in the brick.  I’ve included the builder’s take on the USS Missouri as well, because it was just as influential at over 4 feet, the average length of a SHIP, which we’ve been talking about so much lately.  If you’re not a digital builder, (like me), then it is difficult to understand how important these models are.  I remember seeing it when it was posted and being impressed, but again, while researching this article I saw so many references to both of these ships.  Builders from all over the globe talk about how much they learned from seeing how these warships were constructed and talking to Matt, who was apparently quite willing to offer advice and insight into the process.

I was not able to locate a photo of Matt, so we’ll depart from the format here and abandon any notion of fashion critique.  As I said in the opening I’ve never met Matt and I don’t know the circumstances of his departure, so instead I’ll conclude the proceedings with his take on Rutherford’s hero…General George S. Patton, who was also very fond of the word “attack!”  We salute you, Mr. Bace, for your compelling builds and contribution to the warm and embracing community.  If you have any information about Matt’s departure that you’re at liberty to share, hook us up in the comments.

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I’ll close with a call for suggestions how to best preserve what’s left of Matt’s work online.   You may have noticed that the majority of the photos I used for the article are quite small.  With the exception of the equalizer, I wasn’t able to find anything large to work with on Google.  I’m far from an expert in ferreting out content like this, so if there are other  resources or places I’m not aware of to find and preserve Matt’s photos, let me know.  If nothing else we could start a Flickr Group to slowly accumulate what’s left.  Beyond the technical side of things…should the builds be preserved?  Maybe Matt wanted it all gone and we should respect that wish?  What say you, constant reader?

Two for Tuesday: Dan Rubin

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is the only lawyer I know who also has an art degree, proving he may be one of the few who posesses a soul.  Of course I’m talking about long-time crony and member of KeithLUG, Dan “Happy Weasel” Rubin. Dan has quite a long and distinguished Lego fan-resume: he’s a senior contributor TBB, he’s been a multi-term Ambassador, he’s run a prominent forum, he’s been a theme coordinator for a major convention, he’s an OG member of WAMALUG and he’s won multiple convention awards for his building prowess.  I’m sure the list is actually much longer, but those are the highlights.  I’ve had the good fortune to hang out with Dan at three conventions and we’ve collaborated a couple of times over the years.  We’ve also experience the kind of bonding that can only be achieved through the low-budget convention experience.  We crashed on basement floors and shared cramped hotel rooms with very weird fellow Lego nerds, to include one dude who thought it was cool to hang out in the hotel wearing nothing but a pair of tight red booty shorts.  I’m no prude but I am a believer in timing, and being able to judge a room.  They were Kodak moments.  Magic moments.  And Dan was there for more than one night of convention shenanigans and when I think about my early convention experiences, Dan always comes to mind.

Mr. Weasel and I came into the online hobby at roughly the same time, when LUGNET was still the community hub, but the end was near.  We both had our own second tier sci-fi factions, which was the trend du jour back then, following the examples of guys like Sandlin and Giddens who popularized the idea with PCS and 3vil.  Dan’s faction was called the Galactic Inquisition and for our first shot we’ll go back to 2004 and this VTOL gunship called Rapier.  I’m pretty sure Dan was the first builder to come up with the rotary cannon design you see on the nose and it was frequently copied.  I still think those antenna bases on the nose are terrible, but the build still holds up quite well after 12 years.  Those big chunky intakes and engines are a hallmark of Rubin’s style, whether it was built for a faction or not.  Dan was also one of the first sci-fi builders to really embrace the color tan, which was only recently available in any usable variety of parts.  If you like this style, Dan has a great stable of Galactic Inquisition builds, and the Emissary series might also be of interest, just follow the links and immerse yourself in some old school grooves.

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For the second shot, I could have gone with one of the annual BrickFest layouts Dan produces along with his partner in Lego crime, Nick Kappatos.  They collaborate on a large sci-fi diorama each year, with names like “Total Eclipse of the Xenogenetic Heart”, “Faded Giant”, and “Days of Plunder”, while operating under the guise of 3LUG.  There are only two builders in 3LUG, it may seem confusing but the 3 is actually a sideways nut-sack, so it should, in fact, read as “BallsLUG“.  Ultimate I could not choose between 3LUG’s many award-winning dioramas, so instead I went with the bold colors and shapes of the Mephistopheles Courier Service – S36 Lapin.  I think it provides a nice contrast with the Rapier and shows how Dan has developed as a builder.

Once I rediscovered this gem from 2009 in Dan’s photo-stream, I couldn’t resist it.  Again you see the chunky intakes, but it’s the color scheme that gets me every time I look at it.  It’s times like this where Dan’s art background shines through, most people would not combine these colors and they are perfectly blocked.  Dan says the colors were inspired by a pair of sneakers, which is the kind of thing you don’t hear every day.  There are 5 years between the two featured models and you can see that Dan was committed to keep improving right along with the parts selection available to us. That cockpit is so very….Matango!3946350668_fdeee6eca6_o

Mea Culpa, constant reader, I have a nasty habit of fucking with my friends at conventions by hiding their models during public day, and Dan is no exception.  Most builders, understandably, don’t like interacting with the public and they tend to wander off during public hours for meals, conferences, local attractions and the like.  This makes for the perfect time to hide a model and it seems to plant the notion in the builder’s head that the responsible party must be a member of the unwashed masses and not another AFOL…and certainly not Goldman.   In fact, Dan provided the best reaction I’ve ever seen in nearly a decade of pulling the same boilerplate prank, and it really cemented a tradition. So Dan is out to lunch on one of the public day’s for BrickCon 05′ and I swipe a starfighter he was quite proud of and put it in an empty box under the table where my stuff was displayed.  When Dan comes back from lunch he immediately spots the theft and starts looking around in surprise.  That surprise slowly turns to irritation, then sadness and finally anger as he starts pulling over everyone in arms-reach to tell them about the theft.  It was like watching somebody go through the grief process at an accelerated rate.  Then I watch as he goes to convention management to report the theft, and at this point I’m feeling a little bad because I really didn’t set out to waste the time of the convention organizers whose event I was so greatly enjoying, but the guilt didn’t last long.

I let Dan stew for a while, then I borrowed a local builder’s phone and called Rubin, while crouching under my display table.  In my best disguised voice I told him; “If you ever want to see your spaceship again, you better meet me in stall number 3 at 2 o’clock.  Be ready to pay.”  So Rubin rounds up a posse of his buddies (including me) to go and confront the thief in the bathroom.  Rubin’s AFOL sidekick Fradel even kicked in the door for dramatic effect, to find the stall empty.  Originally I planned to leave the ship inside the stall, but too many standard issue Seattle homeless dudes with obvious mental health issues used the main bathroom for a variety of reasons, including eating bread and painting the stall with fecal matter, so I couldn’t bring myself to risk it actually being stolen…or violated.  Instead I produced the ship from my pocket and waited for him to notice.  Fortunately for me, Dan reacted well to the joke and everyone had a good laugh.  While not every case has been as hilarious, it never fails to entertain and I finally got Rutherford this year in Utah.  With his typical focus on his own ego, Rutherford was actually proud that someone took his model, that it indicated a certain level of quality.

You may be asking why I’m divulging my secret and won’t it be more difficult to pull it off nest time?  I wanted to tell the Rubin story and doubt I’ll ever get caught with or without this admission.  In a way, it’s a tribute to our hobby that people just don’t expect their models to be stolen at a convention.  It happens occasionally with small builds and minifigs but they are very much the exception.  And when it does happen, they blame the public, never their fellow builders.

Now…just between us girls, I would never do this kind of thing to a random convention attendee or someone I just met, but anyone else is fair game…especially dudes who dress like this…it’s your legal counsel, Dan Rubin!

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For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.

Dan has a large collection of cool nerd T-shirts I could have picked but I deliberately went for this one.  The reasons should be obvious, it’s a polo shirt…a polo shirt.  The standard uniform of shitty service jobs and golf courses.  I’d rather wear a bowling shirt or a sports jersey than a polo shirt, and that’s saying a lot.  Polo shirts should be collected and destroyed in a polyester fueled bonfire.  I know pink is a perfectly acceptable color for men’s clothing, and it went through a brief fashion trend when it was considered “gangsta”, but this particular porcine hue isn’t doing Dan any favors, it makes his skin look pink.  Dan’s skin isn’t crayon pink, but it looks like it here.  Also, I like a stylish watch, but I can’ really evaluate it fairly from this angle, so no points for that.  Dan looks like he’s dressed for a company lunch at El Torito, on a special “team building” day when the “home office” stooges come in and make everyone nervous.

Dan, burn that shirt, it’s stealing your soul…even when you’re not wearing it.  Do it now!  Even if you decide to keep it, I’m afraid your fate is sealed…now…

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Two for Tuesday: Shannon Young

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is legendary curmudgeon and old-school MOCpages raconteur, Shannon Young.  I had the good fortune of meeting Shannon at Seattle’s Brickcon in 2007, where we hung out a bit and ventured forth on one of the best field trips I’ve ever experienced at a convention.  Most of it is not fit for publication, at least without getting some waivers signed, but it culminated with a pilgrimage to the grave of Jimi Hendrix, along with fellow AFOL’s Jon Palmer, Mark Neuman and a small group of complete strangers.  Of course we left a Jimi Minifig at the grave.  It was the second most fun I’ve ever had in a cemetery, and Shannon was a great tour-guide to the city, even if he drove like a maniac and his brakes were iffy at best.  We vowed to go to Bruce Lee’s grave at the following year’s convention but unfortunately that never worked out.  We were able to Collaborate for my Highway 44 diorama in 2009, it took some serious wrangling but it was worth the effort.  When I asked, Shannon used to always tell me: “I don’t dance to your music, Goldman”. Eventually though, he did, even if it was only payback for MOCtag, which we’ll talk about later.  I can certainly understand his hesitance though, it ain’t easy to dance to Rush.

Shannon was way more active on MOCpages and was one of those cats who never embraced Flickr or any other spot where builders gather.  He was one of the first builders I knew who combined a talent with the brick and an outspoken, sometimes controversial voice in public.  Every once in a while he would combine the two, like his wonderfully irreverent take on Christianity called “Pyramid Scheme”.  So let’s have a reminisce about one of the most infamous and celebrated characters of MOCpages, shall we, constant reader?

The first model we’ll be looking at tonight is “Shannonia”,one of the first examples of a micropolis I can remember seeing online.  I suppose it’s closer to nano-scale because at this resolution humans are too small to be represented with brick.  In traditional Micro-scale, humans are represented as 1×1 cylinders, or minifig-trophies.  Right away it reminded me of Sim City, one of my favorite games from back in the day and it had a big impact on me at the time.  Debuting in 2007, it was very impressive to see the mountains and coastline included alongside the typical urban layout.  Taking inspiration from his hometown of Seattle, Shannon began with a humble patch of buildings and expanded it into an award-winning sprawl.  If you like construction-journal style Lego writing, I can’t encourage you enough to take a trip through the City of Shannonia Visitors Center on MOCpages.  Not only is Shannon a skilled builder, but he also has a way with words and his account doubled as his own personal blog.  There are a lot of frustrated would-be novelists in our hobby, and he was one of them.  I had the good fortune to read a little of his work and it was clear he’s got some real talent.  The Shannonia series is nice because you can see the humble beginning stages of the project and take a tour of each individual point of interest on the map.  Each building has it’s own story, even if it’s a brief one, which is something that you can’t always say about more modern micropolis efforts. The greatest compliment I can give a builder is to let them know their model inspired me to build something, and Shannonia made me take a hard look at creating my own micro-city.

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The next shot probably doesn’t seem that impressive, and if I was going strictly by how pleasing the model it, it would have made the cut.  This humble diorama is the first installment in a hugely popular and unique community building project called MOCtag.  It is ironic that Shannon considered himself such a curmudgeon and yet he created something that was inherently positive and inclusive.  In Mr. Young’s own words:

To start the game, I am It. Below will be one line to open a story, accompanied by a MOC to illustrate it. I will then tag someone, who must continue that story with an appropriate MOC. They then tag someone, who continues the story with a MOC of their own and tags someone else. And we’re off and rolling.

So I’m not going to talk about the actual model, it’s the least interesting thing about MOCtag and at the time it was posted I found it down right irritating.  I was pre-selected by Shannon to be the first person tagged after his initial model got the ball rolling.  We talked about it having a minfig focus so the reveal was a big surprise.  Instead of adapting to the larger scale, I turned Rory the Chicken into and gave him a minifig girlfriend.  The entire project was pure chaos from the beginning, and it didn’t take long before the train went off the rails entirely.  It was simultaneously the beauty and the great flaw of the effort.  While the story made no sense at all, the subsequent builds were interesting to say the least.  It was like a great stream of consciousness experiment and it drew in some of the greatest builders on MOCpages,  people like Jordan Schwartz, Mark Kelso, Shannon Ocean, and Alex Eylar.  Unfortunately many of the participant’s don’t have MOCpages accounts any longer so a great deal of content was lost over time but MOCtag produced some entertaining and frequently bizarre work, along with some crap to be sure, but that’s the way of all popular fads.  And popular it was, MOCtag had a huge following of commenters, and it spawned a half a dozen copy-cats and a sequel somewhere along the line.  It remains to this day one of the most original and compelling community challenge ideas I’ve ever encountered and it was a blast to participate with Shannon and my fellow builders.  I do wish Shannon had tried to regulate things a bit more, I encouraged him to be the Rod Serling who edited the stories and introduced each one, to give the whole thing more direction and cohesion.  Shannon, however, would have none of that formalized structural bullshit, he just wanted to unleash the idea and revel in the chaos.  Mission accomplished, this is one idea that I would like to see get an updated treatment, if the old curmudgeon ever comes out of his self-imposed exile, I’ll encourage him to do so.

Unfortunately, Shannon seems to have dropped off the radar entirely in the past few years, with his last post to Flickr dated 2012.  The last Lego-related image he posted was a thoughtfully depressing farewell to his good friend and fellow AFOL Heather Braaten.  I don’t want to read too much into that, I have no idea why Shannon left the scene, but I will say that her untimely death had an understandably huge impact on a large segment of the hobby and there are several prominent people who simply stopped posting new models after Heather’s passing.  Whatever the reason for his departure, I hope Shannon enjoys his break and gets back to building one of these years, because his creative mojo and smack-talk are greatly missed.  I reached out to the Shannon while writing this post a few weeks ago, but his old email address is no good and I have yet to get a response on Flickr.  If and when I do hear back, I’ll post an update to this story.

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For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.  This photo contains not one but two Shannons, the two most popular and well-regarded Shannon’s in the short history of this hobby. The Shannon on the left…the one who looks like a Russian gangster is constant reader Shannon Sproule AKA Shannon Ocean.  He’s dressed like he’s looking to push some product so we’ll leave him alone.

The Shannon in question is the Shannon on the right, so let’s focus on him.  The jacket is entirely unremarkable and forgettable, the perfect jacket to wear when you rob a liquor store because nobody will remember it in their description to the police.  Ditto the jeans, they are the definition of generic.  The necklace though…it’s a favorite accessory because he’s wearing it in just about every photo that exists of him online.  At least it’s not gold, and at least it doesn’t have an embarrassing dongle of some kind hanging from it.  It seems very Seattle, so I guess he’s fits in well with his fellow citizens.  The T-shirt is a Grateful Dead number, which I’m going to count as a negative because to me they are the quintessentially overrated American band.  I like none of their songs, I’ve seen them live once and I remember nothing except the smell of patchouli and the hippy chick dancing in the row in front of me.  So reluctantly we say….

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Two for Tuesday: Ryan Rubino

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is one of my two oldest Cronies in the hobby, Ryan Rubino. While he might not be known to many of you, I like to think Ryan represents a certain demographic within the hobby, a quiet guy who builds well but whose efforts go largely unrecognized.  Along with our mutual friend Rutherford, Ryan and I go back to high-school and I can’t think about my earliest days in the hobby without thinking of Rubino.  We began building with Lego right before internet use became widespread and we would get double-prints of our photos developed and snail-mail them to each other.  We are indeed spoiled now to easy and instant gratification when it comes to sharing our models, but back then it was an annoying process that took weeks. The upside was that we were really only building for laughs and to entertain each other, not some greater audience.  I have referenced BricksWest 2003 on the blog before as my first convention experience, but without Rubino that experience doesn’t happen.  I can vividly remember standing in the hotel lobby holding our cardboard boxes full of models and debating: should we just bail on this thing and go see a movie?  If it were up to me, we probably would have bailed because BricksWest was a poorly run, unfriendly shit-show that bears only a surface resemblance to the conventions we enjoy today.  My point is that Ryan has always been an encouraging and often steadying influence on my Lego experience.  Without him pushing me  I wouldn’t have written my first post on LUGNET when I did and I would have bailed on BricksWest after we were treated like low-guys at the door.

 

As you know, Tuesday means double-shots and the first model we’re going to examine is Ryan’s best remembered model, the “Battle of the Leviathans“.  This image has over 300 favorites on Flickr and it appeared on all the usual blogs and in two different coffee-table books including Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark.  The build represents a breakthrough for Rubino, who’s creativity was liberated by the advent of the curved slopes that make up most of the whale’s impressive shape.  Although he had experienced success before with “The Omicron Weekend” collaboration I’ll talk about next, he was unfortunately overshadowed by Rutherford and I, in part because Ryan is content to reside just outside the spotlight and in part because Rutherford and I have big mouths and we like to run them.  The “Battle of the Leviathans” was a different story though, it was widely praised by the community and it belonged entirely to Ryan.  There were big plans in the work for an entire Predator & Prey series, but as you’ll see, things didn’t quite work out as planned.

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For the second shot I had to go with the most defining and fulfilling collaboration I’ve ever participated in, “The Omicron Weekend“.  Rubino designed the wheel-shaped research station that drove the entire effort and at the time it was the biggest object he’d attempted by a wide margin.  Originally Ryan was developing the structure for an independent project, but once we three merry idiots decided to take a collaborative effort on the road, the wheel quickly became the focus of the build.  Even though it was placed to one side, it was the thematic center of the diorama and we went through several ideas before we settled on the final configuration.  Unfortunately this is one of the best photos we have of the wheel, there are some better quality close-ups, but photographing the diorama was a real pain in the ass and the final shots really didn’t do justice to the project.  The 4ft diameter wheel was over a year in the making and featured a fully decked-out interior with removable roof-panels to display at the BrickCon 2007 convention in Seattle.  Beyond the build, Ryan was indispensable on the trip to Seattle and just like our first convention experience, he was able to keep the project moving forward after a near disastrous fist day on the road and a bad hotel experience. Once again, Ryan was able to keep me on track when my urge was to bail out or stab someone with a rusty knife.

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If it seems like I speak of Ryan entirely in the past tense it is because we’ve lost him…no he hasn’t died…he’s quite healthy, but like many great builders before him (Jon Palmer), his job has murdered any interest in building for fun.  Since 2010 Ryan has worked in the Merlin model shop, just a short drive from Legoland California.  If you have visited any of the Legoland theme parks from Carlsbad to Dubai and everywhere in between, there is a good chance you’ve seen Rubino’s work.  We used to think that Omicron was pretty big until Ryan started working on some of the biggest Lego builds on the planet.  From small ambulances to giant temple complexes to full-sized great white sharks, Rubino has had the opportunity to build a diverse and challenging set of projects over his six+ years with the company.

Ryan’s unexpected decision to sell off his entire collection (minus the whale & squid) had a much bigger impact on me than I expected and was part of the reason I took a break from the hobby the last couple of years.  It felt like an important era had come to an end, and although we’re still great friends, one of my two best cronies in the hobby doesn’t have much use for it anymore, even as a spectator…and that sucks  So the purpose of this article is to give a farewell toast to Rubino, a largely unsung AFOL, who was my photo-editor, convention wing-man and constant source of encouragement with my own building.  I always used Ryan as a litmus test for Lego nerd groups.  If a good-old-boy’s club like the original Builder’s Lounge or the short-lived Sci-Brick wouldn’t have him as a member then I wasn’t interested either.  So knock back your shot in honor of Rubino and all the unsung builders who give this hobby life.  Also, if you’re interested in working for the Merlin model shop, then let this be a cautionary tale because as I mentioned before, Ryan’s story is not unique.  Building for a living is great fun and you do amazing things, but it just might kill your interest in building for yourself.  One final note, if you’re into great animal photography Ryan is still a pretty good follow on Flickr, he’s really developed his skills and has developed a much bigger following in his new hobby than his old one.

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For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder. Ryan, much like the subject of last week’s Two for Tuesday is kind of like an action figure.  While he does not have the physique or lustrous hair of a typical action figure, he is always found in the same basic garb.  And no, constant reader this isn’t his work-only look, this is the man in his natural state, regardless of location or situation: baggy jeans, discount hiking shoes and a raggedy movie-themed T-Shirt.  In this case a T-Shirt promoting a film about a bunch of oily Greek dudes enjoying a murder-festival and true bro-mance. I’m sorry Rubino, my good chum, but the verdict is clear…

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Two for Tuesday: Kyle Vrieze

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge checks in from exotic Bermuda, where the triangles will wreck you and so will the Goslings Black Seal Rum.  I’m speaking, of course, of the indomitable Kyle Vrieze, whose remarkable builds you’ve been enjoying since 2004 when he made his first post on LUGNET.  If you’ve ever been to the BrickWorld convention in the last decade, the chances are good that you’ve seen one of his signature mecha and assorted Sci-Fi boilerplate in person.  You would remember Kyle because he looks like an action figure and stands out in stark contrast to his fellow Lego nerds because we tend to run pudgy or gangly, without much in between.  I’m not saying all Lego nerds are fat, that would be a cruel stereotype.  Many of us are in shape so don’t start yelling about how much you can bench in the comment section or how you run marathons.  Or maybe you should?  In my experience there are a lot of fatties in the hobby (myself included) and my point is that Kyle makes us look good when he poses in our group photos.  And dude loves to pose.  He’s got tickets to the gun-show and he’s not above firing off those guns in public.  More about the raging biceps and fashion later, let’s stick to the brick for now.

Kyle hasn’t posted anything yet this year so I had to reach back to December of 2015 to find his most recent model, the simply titled “Fighter 14“.  The silhouette is one that Kyle has revisited over the years, but each version get more refined and interesting.  There are almost too many angles to count but he somehow wrangles them into a cohesive and striking design.  Kyle manages to reign in the chaos just enough without taking off the edge and the result is a very aggressive looking war machine.  Naturally, it also sports some ‘roided out missile-pods, which is Kyle’s signature feature whether the platform is a spaceship or mecha.  In fact, the more I think about it, the missile-pods are just an extension of his ripped biceps.  This is the point in every Two for Tuesday posting when I urge you to take a trip through Kyle’s back catalogue if you’re not familiar with his work.

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For tonight’s second shot I’m inserting myself into the mix, as usual.  I met Kyle at the 2010 edition of BrickWorld Chicago, where he was generous enough to contribute a kick-ass Vic Vic Viper to the nnenn memorial formation.  He is definitely one of the nicest people you can meet in the hobby and I don’t mean “nice” in that Disney-cult, Landru, early days of LUGNET sort of way.  Kyle is always ready to talk Lego or talk smack, he’s equally skilled at both and he’s always ready to grab a sandwich if you are.  If you need any more convincing, you should know that Kyle is also endorsed by the righteous bros of Bro-LUG.  Those talented but feral youths don’t typically accept bro’s over the age of 25 or so but even they couldn’t deny Kyle membership, especially after his performance at an arm-wrestling initiation ritual that I’m not at liberty to speak of.  So if you find yourself at BrickWorld Chicago, seek out Mr. Vrieze and tell him “Keith sent me for a sandwich“.

I had the pleasure of dining with Kyle at the Mirage Hotel and Casino here in Vegas some time later and we hatched a plan for a collaboration, which brings us at last to the second shot.  The photo you see below is nothing like the idea I pitched to him over steaks and beer, I had some vague notion of an underground launch-base in mind and I asked him to build a VTOL fighter or three as the focal point.  In the end I had to shit-can the entire concept, I just couldn’t translate the idea into the brick.  So instead, I said something like “just send me what you can and I’ll figure it out”.  Four months later I finished this diorama, which features three of Kyle’s designs, including the epic mecha you see below along with a robot and a futuristic scout car.

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For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times.  The photo is entitled “Sandwich Buddies” and let me tell you brother, you have not lived the BrickWorld convention experience until you’ve had a sandwich with Kyle. Traditions matter, people, they matter.  You can’t just have lunch with any random AFOL, or you may get stuck with an Aspy paste-eater or Rutherford, so choose your dining companions carefully. Meals are the rarely spoken about highlight of spending a weekend with your fellow Lego nerds.  Booze, good eats, shit-talking, shenanigans…meal time really is fun time.  Whether it’s Thai food in Seattle or Sandwiches in Chicago, it’s important to make the right choice when dining out.14715664850_cddf63e5aa_o.jpg

Please note that Simon is wearing Chairman Zhang’s brick-badge in the photo…did he just give up trying to correct people calling him Nannan?  Did he murder Nannan and abscond with his badge?  Was it a mundane trade or some kind of friendship bracelet kind of thing?  All I know is that the Chairman used to be Kyle’s official Sandwich Buddy and now it’s Simon.

Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.  Kyle, as I pointed out earlier, looks like a generic action figure…of a wrestler, or a commando, or a biker.  Since you can’t go wrong with a basic black T, the verdict is an easy one.

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And Simon is here because he’s Simon and he’s ubiquitous.  At least he’s got Fry on his chest this time as opposed to that horrible Tie-Fighter tuxedo shirt.