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.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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