Down the FTC Rabbit Hole: Secret Origins

If you conduct a search for “Fire Truck” on MOCPages the resulting figure seems to be an impossibly small number of creations, just 932.  Before checking, I would have guessed the total amount to be at least 10 times that number.   I suspect that much like the rest of the site, the search engine has been hacked or compromised and there are many…many more undocumented Fire Trucks out there that are largely invisible.  However, I did come across a far more interesting factoid when I filtered the results to display the “oldest” Fire Truck creations.

The very first Fire Truck on The Pages was posted on March 2nd of the site’s inaugural year of 2003 by none other than the absentee slumlord himself and self-proclaimed “lego artist” Sean Kenney.  It was part of his initial MOC-dump on the site’s first day of operation, and the truck was actually built in 2002 so it’s one of his earliest models. So what’s the significance you ask?  Well, the FTC (Fire Truck Cabal) is one of the oldest, most powerful and deeply cryptic organizations to vie for influence on the crumbling site.  Completing the trinity along with the LCZ (League of Christian Zealots) and the HSA (Home School Alliance), the FTC continues to hold sway over the radiated landscape to this day, and only a site-wide catastrophic event would be enough to end their dominance.  From the very beginning of MOCpages people have wondered just who the power behind the FTC is, and what (if any) agenda they were sworn to promote.  What I’m saying is…I think I’ve finally found the dark, corrupted heart of the Fire Truck Cabal and it both explains a great many things…and only begs more questions.

www.brickshelf.com_gallery_seankenney_Cars_FDNY_110.jpg_SPLASH.jpg

Just remember this nugget at the bottom of Sean’s MOCpage if you’re tempted to ask questions or conduct your own research into the shadowy digital recesses where you don’t belong:

I also created this website, MOCpages. If you have a MOCpages question, please do not contact me directly”

“…If that railroad train was mine…I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line”

I’m happy to report that old school curmudgeon and longtime KeithLUG crony Shannon Young has returned to the fold after an extended absence and he’s got a message for Sean Kenney that will resonate with many of our readers and manages to crystallize my thoughts concerning the current dilapidated state of MOCpages more eloquently than I could ever hope to.  It’s nice to see a fellow traveler with roots in same dirty small town with his own set of baggage like the one I’ve been hauling around since the demise of DA3 and longer.  Of course We’ll both get over it in the fullness of time, but for this particular moment everything about the image you’re about to see feels right.  I’m also happy to report that Shannon has been recently spotted haunting the comment section here on the Manifesto while resolving to make 2019 a more active one.  Welcome back you intolerable bastard.

For our younger readers that might not be familiar with this famous photo, Johnny Cash once played a concert at California’s San Quentin Prison in 1969, and this was how he responded when a photographer suggested they do a “shot for the warden”.  Shannon has chosen the perfect image to serve as his MOCpages tombstone, and send one last message to it’s warden before departing.  We’re long past constructive suggestions, volunteerism and gentle pleas for some small scrap of attention…unfortunately the finger is all we have left.

Screenshot_2019-01-05 The Skunk Works is closed for business MOCpages com.png

Again, for the younger readers or those who are relatively new to the scene this departure from a crumbling site might not hold the same weight or dare I say gravitas that it does for us crusty veterans, but let me assure you that very few builders were more important and influential in the formative, vital years of MOCPages (see the first link in the article for more info).  The reason this image resonates so profoundly for a certain group of builders is that MOCpages used to be a place worth caring about, with a thriving community that launched any number of fresh ideas, contests, games and collaborations that influenced much of what we now perceive as boilerplate.  I wanted to capture this image before it was reported for a TOS violation by a brown-shirted home-schooled zealot or a member of the dreaded FTC (Fire Truck Cabal)…or Nick Pascale.  There are so many possible narcs to choose from, it’s difficult to pick just one.  If Shannon and I seem bitter about the current state of affairs, it shows you how much we once cared about the place and what an important engine of creativity it used to be before Kenney let it diminish without a conversation.  Perhaps the worst thing about Shannon’s departure is all the accompanying text that will disappear along with the models.  He was (is) one of the rare builders who is admired as much for his way with words as his way with bricks and the comment section was can’t-miss reading back in the day because Shannon was not afraid to mix it up with his fellow nerds.  I wish I had an example I could link to, but he’s burned it all down and I can’t say as I blame him.  Since writing is in his blood, I selfishly hope Shannon will deign to grace this ramshackle site with a column or two, the place would be better for it and Flickr really isn’t designed to exploit what he does best.

There is simply no substitute currently available that can provide the same format and features that MOCpages once did.  Sure this posting may appear crude, perhaps offensive or over the top to many of you, but for those of us who were invested in MOCpages it’s the perfect salute to a sinking ship that has all but slipped quietly beneath the wine-dark waves.  As a side-note, although he left without the same fanfare, our own uncle roonTree recently departed the site as well (he is after all a documented master of the Irish Goodbye) and I want to thank him for pointing me towards this image because it deserves to be preserved and I haven’t seen it pop up on Flickr yet.

In the interest of ending this rant on a more positive note, I’ll hopefully tantalize you with a few of Shannon’s greatest hits, which are available on Flickr, having him back in the game is a great way to start the new year.

6403470579_db81f1c323_o6551034015_5311f63209_o3239751375_c82fb8bc33_o2701310395_3e27e47a56_o

And finally, I’ll leave you with a tune from that same concert where the infamous photo was taken.  Welcome back Shannon, it didn’t seem right having to rely on just the Australian Shannon, and at least some modicum of balance has been restored to the universe.  Long Live Shanonia!

Born to die in Berlin

The grossly underappreciated builder Matt Mazian posted just two models in 2018, which is actually cause for celebration because it’s double his typical output for any given year since he started posting back in 2014.  The deceptively simple Berlin class interceptor hits all the right notes for me, it has an unconventional design (at least in the middle), great striping and use of color.  The misaligned arrow near the nose looks so much better than a perfect one would have and the pop of red on the engines is a tiny detail but it draws my eye every time I look at the image.  I’m not entirely sure that the teal highlight color (or is it sand green?) is a legit lego color, but it’s a great choice.  Still not sold?  Maybe you think it’s too simple?  Then I’ll resort to a little argumentum ad verecundiam for this model’s greatness.  Maybe you’ll take the word of renowned builder and artist Pierre E Fieschi who commented “Awesome design! very original!!”.  I should have just quoted Pierre to begin with and moved along.  I can easily envision a wolf-pack of these interceptors preying on freighters or lumbering capital ships.

44881397424_82983c3fb8_o31733682738_9a318c14d7_o(1)

Matt also produced the “Delta Shuttle” in 2018 and as much as I want to like it, I can’t quite get there.  Maybe its too thick, maybe it’s too blocky…it looks like a failed attempt to capture a B2 bomber.  I have puzzled over the model for quite some time trying to figure out it’s mystery, I get a weird feeling like I should like it but I can’t quite convince myself…like the music of bands like Arcade Fire, or Bon Iver.  My esteem for the builder is high enough that I’m willing to puzzle over the models I don’t particularly endorse.  I do like the engines, the ailerons and the clean lines, but the rest of it recalls a flying ziggurat, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t quite get there for me.  It probably says something about both the build and me that I spent so much time studying a model that I’m not really into, I’ll be very interested to read your comments on the design.

I’m not sure if I’ll post again before the end of this terribly bipolar year, so I’ll take this opportunity to bid a less than fond farewell to 2018 and wish you constant readers the very best of luck and good health in 2019.  My lego related resolutions for the new year are to build more (it won’t be difficult after producing only one model this year), write more and hopefully launch DA4 in late spring/early summer. For the remainder of the year, all well drinks at the Manifesto are half off, except for the Malort.

 

 

 

“Space Jam!”

The following paid programming is brought to you by by familiar blog contributor and bon vivant Ted Andes.  Take it away Ted!

45262696254_ed2afa8431_o.jpg

For those still trying to fill the void that the indecisive action of MOC Pages admins left behind, there is an awesome sci-fi contest going on over on Flickr that has a little something for everyone.  Micah came up with this great idea for holding a “Sci Fi Olympics” (inspired by that “summer joust” the castle guys do).  Dubbed the “Space Jam!”  it’s a broad ranging Lego Sci-Fi building contest with 6 categories, running from December 1st through January 31st.

Category Descriptions:

Star Fighter – Build a star fighter that has at least one play feature of function. The play feature does not have to be anything super fancy (it could be as simple as retractable landing gear), but creativity with the play feature will be taken into account in judging.

Drone – Build a drone that can fit within a 10 stud by 10 stud base, and is no taller than 10 bricks high..

Microscale Sci-Fi City – Build a microscale futuristic city. The only restriction on this category is that the scale of the build must be recognizably smaller than minifigure scale.

Extraterrestrial – Build a biological creature from another world. This can be from your imagination, or from a movie, tv show, video game, etc.

Space Lab – Build the interior of a futuristic research laboratory that is conducting experiments, either in outer space or on an alien planet.

Robot (Collab Category)  – When properly maintained, robots can be functional for hundreds or even thousands of years… In this category you and your team of 3 will build 3 models (one by each team member) telling the story of your robot over a span 1000 years. All 3 builds should be one story about the same robot. The robot’s role in society might change. The robot’s appearance might change somewhat. But ideally it should still be recognizable as the same robot between builds. All 3 builds will be judged together and one team will be selected as the winner.

The boys at Beyond the Brick are sponsoring some awesome LEGO set prizes, in addition to the custom trophies built by the judges.  Here is a pic of the trophy that I built for the Drone category…  Wouldn’t you rather see that sitting on your shelf, then some homely anorexic elf?

46255478672_c0210c20a7_o.jpg

Further details can be found on the “Space Jam!”  contest group on Flickr.   Get in on the “Space Jam!” and spread the sci-fi love!

“Woah-ho-ho… I don’t play defense.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

giphy

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

Wait…removal?

hang-on-a-sec

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

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

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

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

Then came Decisive Action 3, and everything changed.

Flag Montage

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

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

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

Note that word ‘was’.

8agO(1)

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

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

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

Welp, he certainly got something.

He got blocked.

42681483961_67ceef4de4_o

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

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

mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading all.

Wolff.

Tales of a BrickLink Vendor: The Starving Artist

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

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

Without any further ado, take it away Chris!

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

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

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

thumbnail.jpg

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

thumbnail.jpg

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

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

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

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

Chris Byrne

Shout-out: Return of the Twees

3883122068_eb15183001_o

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

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