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

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

 

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

 

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

2010: 88 participants / 146 entries (1.66 epp)

2011: 75 participants / 122 entries (1.63 epp)

2016: 67 participants / 67 entries (1.00 epp)

2017: 116 participants / 336 entries (2.90 epp)

2018: 105 participants / 268 entries (2.55 epp)

 

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

 

Overall Perception:

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

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

 

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

 

Stepping their game up

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

Intentor

 

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From 2016

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From 2017

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From 2018

 

Zen Thorga

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From 2017

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From 2018

 

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

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

EliteGuard01

JM-500 Long Ranger

From 2017

JM-LR800 MP-HSAB (Revised)

From 2018

 

captainsmog

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From 2011

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From 2018

 

“Great Swap-out, Dude!”

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

 

Pico’s Enforce

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The Original

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The Swap

 

Pico’s Abide

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The Original

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The Swap

 

“NPU? Don’t mind if I do!”

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

 

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

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

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

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“Walk the plank!”

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

 

Fabz

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ff

LEGO7

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Carter

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… and Carter

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… and Carter again…

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Category Action:

ENFORCE:

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

Winner – oOger

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ABIDE:

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

 

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

Winner – P.B. (Deltassius)

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REBEL:

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

 

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

Winner – Djokson

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DISTRICT 18:

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

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

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

Winner – W. Navarre

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

 

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

 

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

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More districts that I was hoping to see:

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

 

Closing Thoughts:

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

 

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

 

2018 LSB Contest: Week 1 Wrap Up

The first week of the LSB contest has flown by in the blink of an eye and unfortunately the turnout so far has been tepid at best.  I do realize that it’s too early in the process to be alarmed and that most established builders prefer to wait until the very end to unveil their masterpieces.  That said, 7 entries in as many days seems to be a much slower pace than the last year, when there were 17 entries after the first week.  I don’t really have a theory as to why there seems to be a drop-off this year, maybe it’s fatigue with the topic, a lack of promotion on big blogs, a lack of the familiar front-man Cole Blaq, declining participation on Flickr in general, the Manifesto’s crappy prizes or even intimidation.  Some of you might be thinking “Intimidation?  Who would be intimidated by something as innocuous as a speeder bike contest?”  but there is some evidence out there that it might be a factor.  For example, Mike M. is an established builder of considerable skill who has been featured on this blog and many others.  In the comment section for his entry he had this to say:

“I shy away from lego related contest, not only is the competition fierce,but I know its filled with badass builders, and I’m way outa my league I’m sure, contest not over yet!!!”

While Mike did indeed offer up a viable contest entry, I doubt he’s alone in his line of thinking.  A few builders witnessed the quality level and competition last year and they appear hesitant to enter, fearing that their skill set is not up to the task, or that they will be crushed by veteran builders.  Instead of rising to the challenge, they shrink or worse still, refuse to engage.  Another prospective combatant, Dan The Imposter who has yet to enter the arena had this to offer in the announcement thread:

“I hope I can still be good enough to stand a chance!” 

Still another perfectly able builder Deltassius had this to say:

“Not going to lie, after last year’s builds I am a little intimidated. I liked this contest more when I didn’t know any better!” 

While Ted and I tried to offer encouragement from the sidelines, it would have been nice to see more voices (including the other two admins) jump in the conversation to urge these nervous Nancys to sack-up and get in the game.  Plenty of great builders got their asses handed to them last year by the likes of Carter Baldwin and there is nothing wrong with that, in theory it should only improve performance in the future.  I’m not sure what the solution is to the intimidation factor, but it’s a shame to lose potential participants over something so silly.

On to the bikes….I have to admit that I’ve been underwhelmed by the early crop of entries, although competent, none of them are particularly memorable.  We need a hero, we need the “Ice Breaker” as defined by Ted in one of his Talks:

Guest #1: The Ice Breaker – The “Ice Breaker” is the personal hero of every contest host.  They enter the contest first, and now you can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Their entries offer you an early gauge of how the contest will go, and if you need to course correct if they are way off the mark.  Allowing people to swap entries until the deadline also relieves much of the risk of being the “Ice Breaker”.  It lets them rework their entry if a better idea happens to comes along…like one from…

I was hoping F@bz might be the Ice Breaker, when I saw him dive in early.  He possesses both the requisite mad building skillz, and a huge Flickr following that might bring fresh competitors, but his offering was kind of mundane.  While the saddle blanket is without a doubt a cool and clever detail and the bike as a whole is competently constructed, it doesn’t exactly bowl me over.  I won’t even get into the Chinese knockoff figure.

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Although there are a couple of  entries that have an interesting idea or detail here and there, the only other bike worth mentioning at the one week mark is this shark carcass bike by  Marcel V.  Much like F@bz’ speeder, it relies heavily on a single gimmick to carry the build and the rest of it is pretty standard boilerplate.  It reminds me of a La-Z-Boy recliner with a dead shark strapped to the bottom.

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It’s also worth giving some love to the contest’s first digital entry, by Luke, not only is it a nice looking ride, but the builder showed that he’s able to absorb apply constructive criticism.  He took good advantage of the contest’s rather liberal policy of allowing builders to improve and replace their entries right up until the end of the competition.  Ted Andes mentioned somewhere in the proceedings that the unspoken mission of the event is to promote feedback between builders, and that’s great, but I think it should be very much spoken, and spoken loudly…it’s really what separates this contest from so many of it’s brethren.

Unfortunately my favorite speeder in the LSB group pool isn’t even entered into the contest, it’s apparently from a Star Wars movie that I refused to see and it looks pretty great.  The builder is Inthert, and I sincerely hope he takes a crack at an official entry because he’s obviously got the mojo for it, providing of course he can break away from the pre-packaged theme.  The bike did draw my attention to a sort of confusing aspect of the contest, that there are quite a few bikes in the pool that have nothing to do with the contest, which seems both odd and unfortunate to me.   It made me wish that the contest existed in it’s own separate group, because I’m never sure whether or not I should comment on half the bikes in the pool.  I feel more jackassy than usual offering my constructive criticism on stuff that isn’t meant for the contest.  I’m also confused as to why you would post a speeder bike and not enter it?  I don’t know if it’s a reading comprehension issue or lack of clarity in the rules but I see a few people who don’t seem to be putting the bikes in the proper threads to ensure their eligibility for judgement and possibly a prize.

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I’m confident things will pick up in the coming weeks, but at the quarter mile post I was hoping for a little more action.

Battle For District 18: The Lego Speeder Bike Contest returns

The Manifesto is a proud sponsor of the 2018 Lego Speeder Bike Contest that started today over on Flickr.  The familiar trio of Cole Blaq_zenn and friend of the blog Ted Andes are back in action, providing the arena, some rad brick-built trophies and assorted prizes.

By far the most fun I had with Lego in 2017 was the annual LSB contest, it inspired me to get off my ass and start building again.  Unlike many challenges where people work feverishly in relative isolation, last year’s event saw a great deal of teamwork where builders would provide each other with constructive criticism and encouragement.  For once the social aspect of the contest was almost equal to the raw output of cool models.  There was also an interesting arms-race that developed where dioramas came to the forefront (even though they did not factor in the judging) and builders engaged in an escalating battle to one-up each other.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I’m sure this year’s iteration will generate it’s own unique character.  So if you’ve got some free time in the next month (the contest ends midnight March 4th), you really have no excuse not to give it a shot.  One of the best things about LSB is that it’s very low-impact in terms of time and the amount of building required.  For the first time digital entries are permitted so throw those excuses out the window and get working on your bike.

For more information, check out the on LSB GROUP Flickr.

ENFORCE ABIDE REBEL

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Attack of the SWAG: Blog or Die! contest edition

I’m sorry to report that with just over two weeks to go, the Blog or Die! contest has fizzled out like a roman candle since that initial 8 day flurry of good quality entries.  In a shameless attempt to re-light the fuse I humbly present a picture of the bulging prize package that awaits the category winners.  The only thing missing are the three $50 E-gift certificates to Lego.com, I thought about scribbling out an I.O.U. with crayon but it looked pathetic, even by my low standards.  had no idea that getting people to commit and compose their thoughts would be such a challenge, I thought that by the midway point we’d have double the submissions, I mean who doesn’t want the chance to score 50 bones to spend on Lego in exchange for a relatively small investment in time and effort? Rutherford theorizes that I didn’t advertise the contest enough and although he’s right that I could have done more, the advertising we did post on a variety of platforms generated a lot of measurable interest in terms of hits, favorites, and comments indicating a desire to participate.  I think the time of year I chose to conduct business may have been a bad call, my thought was that people have time off of school and to a lesser extent work and would therefore be more likely to write two pages of material or assemble a simple comic but maybe the summer would have been the better call.

I”m hopeful that we’ll see a last minute flurry of entries like you tend to encounter in most contests involving the brick.  Some people look at the 45 day time frame and think, “that’s plenty of time to bang out a few pages” and then they look up and it’s almost too late.  So if you know anyone who’s got a strong opinion and a basic ability to string words together, please slap them on the back of the head and direct them this way, maybe you can inflame their passions with the magnificent SWAG.

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Besides complaining about nobody coming to my crappy house party, this is a friendly reminder that each of the 3 category winners will receive the following treasure and that the deadline will be strictly enforced.

+ A SWAG pack of Manifesto promotional materials including a T-shirt, stickers and Vegas-style poker chips.

+ A copy of Jordan Schwartz’s The Art of LEGO Design: Creative Ways to Build Amazing Models, with chapter 12 personalized by yours truly.

+ A $50 e-gift card for use at LEGO.COM.

The deadline remains January 15, 2018, 11:55pm (Pacific Standard Time). Late entries will still be posted to the Manifesto, but they will not be eligible to win a prize.  That gives you over two weeks to submit an entry and get in on the action.  With only 8 entries to compete against (7 of them residing in a single category!), the odds of victory are prettydamn good, if you have the skill and the stones to throw down.

To the 6 brave souls who have stepped into the arena, The Manifesto thanks you, I’ve really enjoyed reading and re-reading your submissions.  In turns I’ve been inspired, educated, and above all entertained and I think the readership has responded well in the comments.  If nothing else the contest has met two of my goals even if it wasn’t to the degree I’d hoped. The first is a selfish one: to provide content for the blog while I try to get a big diorama ready for a convention, to help me keep the lights on while I can’t contribute as much as I’d like.  The second and more important goal was to bring some new voices to our self-aware echo chamber, and we’ve added Price, Wolff, Jake, Barrett and Primus.  That’s a victory because I’m not sure they would have bothered if not for the contest.
So let’s see some action these last two weeks!  I’d like to have at least one entry in each category.

While I’ve got your attention with shiny objects…you may have noticed that I’ve begun the review process, with each entry receiving a standard-format response. I have NOT decided on the winners yet, I only have an informal mental ranking that I do not share in the reviews.  I’m still hoping to see more entries to evaluate but I’m trying to keep the quality of each review high and the best way to ensure that is to not end up writing them all at once.  I’m a big fan of quick and decisive closeouts when it comes to contests and pushing the reviews out there now will hopefully facilitate a speedy resolution and provide the good folks that entered with a little entertainment and feedback in the meantime.  I do realize that some observers may see this as a way to gain a competitive advantage by seeing what I like and don’t like but I don’t see it having a big impact, you’ve still got to write a good article, build a good comic, or conduct a good interview.  I will post all the reviews again in a single article for easy comparison, after the January 15th deadline.

Blog or Die! The Manifesto’s First Contest

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Tell Your Story” image courtesy of Chris Maddison

Constant reader, the time has come for the Manifesto’s first ever writing contest.  So if you’ve been too shy, too busy or too lazy to join in on the action, now is the time to live your blogging dreams on this… the smallest and shabbiest stage in all AFOLdom.  Yes, this is your chance to join the vaunted brotherhood of Liu, Hoffmann, Andes, Rutherford, rountRee, Prasad and Oohlu.  Tell your story…blog or die!

Continue reading “Blog or Die! The Manifesto’s First Contest”

And the Winner of SHIPtember 2017 is…

Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing, who also took the top spot in 2016.  The rest of you losers can go home now, try harder next year!

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I would love to tell you who won the SHIPtember People’s Choice award for this year but as usual, Simon Liu has wandered off to the next shiny thing and probably won’t think about it until just before next year’s contest.  I thought about tallying up the votes myself but that sounded too much like work and it’s a useless exercise because Zac was clearly going to win the challenge anyway. Sure the BASILISK seemed to be leading the way and it was an exciting and worthy SHIP…but we’ll never know because Simon is awesome at starting things but not so awesome at finishing them.  Maybe he’s busy with the Canadian branch of C4C, that would be a pretty good excuse.  I’m probably in the tiny minority of people who are bothered by his inability to close out the proceedings, but I’m old and cranky so why are you still standing on my lawn?

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For you SHIPtember enthusiasts it is worth noting that creator of the BASILISK and  friend of the blog Pico van Grootveld completed the official poster of last year’s offerings.

So a heartfelt congratulations from the Manifesto to Zac Lowing and all praise to Brama.

Hey Everybody, McRib is back!

McRib

Just like America’s favorite extruded, restructured pork product, The Manifesto is back from hiatus…but only for a limited time!  How limited, you ask?  Well, the blog’s initial 3-month run topped out at 103 articles and I’d like to get close to the century mark again, it has a nice ring to it.  You can expect to encounter most of the boilerplate you remember from this blog of blogs: Friday Night Fights, Fire For Effect, Constructive Criticism and of course the mundane staple of all pressed-pork bloggery…the Model Spotlight.  I will continue to give praise, criticism and smack to whatever model that sparks my interest regardless of age, presentation skill or overall quality. 

What will change is the frequency of posting, my old standard of a post a day is simply not sustainable and it is the primary reason for the extended length of the hiatus.  What I will commit to is one new post a week, in addition to the Friday Night Fights.  While I hope to post more often, your expectations of market-fresh content should be moderated, blogging (at it’s worst) is like a hamster wheel and sometimes it has to turn slowly avoid burnout.   As it always has been, the Manifesto remains open to posting the ramblings, rantings and regurgitations of YOU, the constant reader.  If you are motivated to add something to the simmering bouillabaisse here at the Manifesto, simply email me through the blog, Flickr, or if all else fails: Legomankeith@aol.com.  Yes I still have an AOL account, in fact, I wear it like a badge of honor.  There is a rotary phone in my garage too, so sue me for my antiquated outlook.  I firmly believe that the blog only benefits from additional perspectives and please remember that you don’t have to commit to an ongoing series, one-shot offerings are just as welcome.

Since we last spoke 6 months ago here on the Manifesto, I have not been entirely absent from Lego related action, I even managed to slap some bricks together with mixed results.  2016 wound down with a somewhat serious attempt at a 4×8 foot diorama, a train-centric project that I entertained vague notions about displaying at the Bricks LA convention or even a return trip to beautiful Orem Utah.  Ultimately the build succumbed to a combination of apathy, the holiday season (with young children) and that nasty scourge of many rough drafts over the years; a lack of conceptual focus.  In the majority of cases I don’t have a clear idea of how a project will look when finished, or even the central design element that ties everything together.  More often than not I leap into the fray and start building around a specific part or vignette.  Bucharest started with a simple bus bench and concrete island, Logan’s Run started with a modest section of angled-arch bricks stacked in tiers and a vague idea about a hydroponic farm and my Airbender diorama was conceived with nothing more than a determination to finally employ a giant bag of blue boat-sliders without any notion of the beloved cartoon.  In the case of the train layout you see below my motivation was a combination of a desire to use the giant hovercraft skirts that Rutherford good-naturedly pressed on me years ago, and a desire to incorporate motion in a convention-centric diorama.  I launched into the proceedings (as usual) without a clear focus of what the final product would look like, with the hope that things would “work out” and evolve into something compelling.  Instead I wound up feeling trapped, once again, by my inability to break the grid on a large-scale and the necessity for a massive eye-block along the back edge.  The WIP reached the expected tipping point about three months into the process, as all of these large layouts do, where I would have to commit to both significant Bricklink orders and  that still elusive focal point.  Even though the footprint was fairly substantial at this juncture, because of the narrow range of parts involved, sorting it back in the bins wasn’t too daunting of a task.  In the end I decided that the amount of time and effort it would take to fix the things I didn’t like about the diorama were outweighing my desire to proceed without a clear idea of what the hell the thing was even supposed to be.

The new year brought the latest iteration of the successful Lego Speeder Bike (LSB) Contest on Flickr, and it was just right palate cleanser to get the taste of the train-based failure out of my mouth.  I found a great deal of liberation within the relatively narrow confines of the contest, I didn’t have to worry about what “the thing” was supposed to be, because it was all spelled out for me.  I was also energized by the spirit of healthy competition from the field of talented builders who seemed to raise the stakes with each successive bike.  Initially I only intended to enter one category and move on, but wound up running the table, trying my best to keep up with guys like Andrew Lee, Pascal, Carter, Jeff Cross, Zach Clapsdale, and even that notorious degenerate rountRee.  In all the years of entering Lego contests I don’t think I’ve ever been party to such an entertaining and inspiring mix of behind the scenes constructive criticism and smack talk and I know my entries were all the better for it.  It was an exhausting month trying to crank out four dioramas and I was left with a newfound respect for the Iron Builder combatants.  I love Lego as much as the next idiot but thinking about it and building every day is creatively exhausting.  Even though I had some nitpicks with the way the contest was conducted (nothing new there), the LSB contest was a great representation of the best aspects of healthy artistic competition and Ted, Cole and Zenn did a fine job hosting and injected some much-needed life into the Lego-scene for those hectic and fleeting days.  If not for their efforts I might still be without a new build in 2017.  I’ve got nothing cooking in the Legoratory currently, so it’s back to rambling on the blog and looking for the next project….always the next project.

So welcome back to the Manifesto, constant reader and thanks for hanging in there during the prolonged hiatus.  The most satisfying aspect of the first run was the robust activity in the comment section.  One of the primary factors in my decision to turn on the lights again was the distinct lack of satisfying conversation going on in the usual internet haunts.  To be blunt, I think the warm and embracing community is in the shitter right now and all the available taverns where builders “gather” are not worth my time or patronage.  We seem to have retreated into small and scattered cells, conversing in tiny echo-chambers where new ideas and builders are not encouraged.  Talking about the latest Star Wars/Marvel products in 140 characters or less is about as fun as a kidney stone and I’ve grown fatigued of the banal voices mumbling their tedious rosaries and boilerplate to near-empty rooms.  Instead of grousing privately to Rutherford and other cronies, I’ve decided to re-open my own run down tavern and see if the usual stumble-bums belly up to the bar again.   At least I know the drinks won’t be watered down, and our old friend Lloyd is a great bartender.