Bricks LA Update (Part 2)

The master life clock (no, not that life clock) is counting down to Bricks LA and there will be no extension, there will be no mercy for the tardy. If I don’t finish the diorama in time for the convention those microscopic charges lodged in my neck are going to blow, and open up both of my arteries.  At the time of this posting my watch is reading 27:18:40:19 and I’m starting to experience the horrible tyranny of the clock.  While I have no doubt that I’ll be able to achieve my primary goal of covering the table in an interesting way for the cronies to decorate, the jury is still out concerning how good it will actually be.   I started a list of things that I’d like to revise but quickly trashed it because it contained every major feature of the diorama.  The only way is forward, at least for now, I’ll look back later with a critical eye if I have the luxury of time for revision.   27 days and change may seem like a decent interval to work with, but once you mix in the business of the holidays and a little traveling there is not much time for building at all.

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As you can see in the photo below, the cliff-line has doubled in height since the last update and now features a narrow staircase in the back.  The scene really needed a transition between the layers and it creates another interesting space for to give the minifigs a sense of motion.   While I like the idea of two distinct zones within the layout, I don’t want them to be completely isolated either. I considered building a ramp or small road instead of the stairs to accommodate small vehicles but it changed the frontier vibe too much.

I’m not sure I made the right call with the placement of the staircase and if I have time for one of those major revisions I mentioned earlier, I might relocate the whole thing closer to the viewer.  Where it sits now it’s actually very difficult to see from the front of the table.   Most of the attendees on public days are kids and as much as I’d like to say I don’t care about the audience, it would be cool if the kids could actually see what’s going on.  It doesn’t help matters that the table I’m bringing with me is a good bit taller than the standard convention folding variety.  That’s not going to change though, I’ve grown quite fond of my setup and it’s ease of transport. I guess the stairs will be a bonus detail for the cronies who end up hanging out behind the project as they inevitably do in these situations.  Experience tells me that there will be at lest two or three guys sitting back there eating sandwiches and consuming various beverages at any given moment.

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I’ve just recently borrowed more of those sweet corner tiles that you see in use near the base of the staircase, so I’ll go back and add those along with some jumper plates so the minifigs don’t slide around so much.  I’m also not completely sold on using dark gray for the steps of the staircase, it might benefit from a contrasting color to make things a little more visible.   I considered using the same sand-green 1×2 plates you see at the top of the plateau, or maybe more dark tan if I have enough.

In the dozen or so conventions I’ve attended over the years I’ve never seen a MOC card design that I liked, they always seem intrusive where dioramas are concerned and just too flimsy.  I think they work best with small stand-alone models but even then they can look odd, out of scale or distracting and sometimes because of sloppy placement they don’t communicate the information effectively either.  Why spend time and effort to create a scene just to drop a folded piece of paper on top? With that in mind I decided to build the MOC card into the left hand corner of the cliff.  As of now we don’t have even a working title for the project so I left the top lines blank.  The provisional focus of the action is going to be a sort of back-woods sci-fi wedding, where  a myriad of human and alien contingents converge on this desolate frontier location to witness the secret nuptials.  If you have any suggestions for a suitable title don’t hesitate to express yourself in the comments.

As you can see I’ve moved the Garvey to the back corner of the plateau, where I intend to use it as an eye-block for the minifig wedding action in the fore-ground.  To further serve the narrative I’m going to switch the hatch & ramp feature to the opposite side of the ship and have the bride and her father walking down said ramp to the assembled throng of alien tribes waiting for the ceremony.  I could leave it the way it is now and simply turn the ship around, but I also want the flag of Ghana to be visible to the viewer because it’s one of the ships best features. If nothing else it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of the ship’s modularity, and the switch-out shouldn’t take too long (fingers crossed).  This is likely not the Garvey’s final position either, I may straighten it out completely and have it run along the back edge, it all depends on how Zach’s new freighter will fit into the picture, and how much space is left over.  I don’t want to create too much unusable land behind the Garvey, as whatever I put in that awkward triangular space will be largely invisible to the viewer unless I make something rather deliberately tall.  While envisioned as a solo venture, this project has morphed into a collabo and as a result the focus has shifted away from the Garvey and it’s ultimate placement will reflect that.

And finally there is the matter of the cave.  I’m not sure what’s going on there yet, how far back it will ultimately go or what the minifig action will be.  For now it is slowly developing at it’s own pace along with the rest of the model.  I tend to work on it when I’m bored of the repetitive plate and slope stacking.  There is certainly enough potential room down there for a good sized tunnel or additional chambers, or maybe even a road or railway.  Because the roof of the cave is so low, it’s difficult to see back very far, so I’m hesitant to put too much effort into that area which (like the staircase) will likely not be seen by most viewers. Just like the cliff wall, it seems intuitive that there should be some transition to the surface, so I’d imagine another rough hewn staircase would be in order.  I’m also not sure about the color of the cave floor, something with better contrast might be in order.  This area also seems like the best opportunity to include some lighting elements.  No matter what the final look and function of the cave is, at least the kids will have the best view for this particular detail.  With that in mind it might be a good chance to inject some comedy into the proceedings.

I’m not authorized yet to show the pictures, but Jeff is working on a sort of flat-bed hover tow-truck thing and Andrew Lee is working on a biker gang.  Brendan Mauro has jumped in on the action to contribute a cool parabolic satellite dish and hopefully some other details if he has the time. As for rowntRee, he has his own fish to fry but I’m still hopeful he’ll come up with something for the party before all is said and done.  And Rutherford….well he’s more worried about crafting a presentation for the convention than contributing to the diorama. But that’s to be expected really, Mike is more into talking about building than actually building.

Unrelated, I just noticed that Miro Dudas is attending the con so there is a decent chance of having 4 SHIPtember offerings in the house, which I’m sure you’ll agree is pretty damn cool.

I’ll close with yet another invitation for you, constant reader, to join us at Bricks LA when the master life clock reaches zero.  If you find yourself in the greater Los Angeles area the weekend of January 5th, 2018, you should swing by the Pasadena convention center and introduce yourself.  We’ll have SWAG and beverages and you can tell Rutherford in person what a terrible gas-bag he is.

Bricks LA Update (Part 1)

It’s been two weeks and a day since I committed to attending Bricks LA, and as I mentioned in this self congratulatory post, I’ve begun work on a diorama to share with my fellow attendees and the great unwashed masses who will pack the Pasadena Convention center in desperate search of a Lego fix.  I can hear the familiar questions now…is this Star Wars?  Is this Halo?  How long did it take?, How many bricks?, Do you live in your parent’s basement?,  are you sure this isn’t Star Wars?  As I mentioned in the first article, I’m planning on taking advantage of my SHIPtember offering from earlier this year, the BSL Marcus Garvey and use it as the centerpiece of the diorama.  I don’t typically keep models assembled for any length of time and one of the downsides of that policy is that I don’t have a catalogue of creations to draw from in an “emergency”.  I have managed to amass a decent sized collection of models by a rogues gallery of fellow builders, but I’m hesitant to use them for several reasons.  The most obvious one is that with very few exceptions the models in question have been previously posted and unlike Rutherford I don’t really dig trotting out a reliquary of greatest hits.   And of course, most of them don’t really fit the vibe of this current project. The Garvey is only a couple of months old and it’s never traveled to a convention so I figured it’s fair game.

Because experience has taught me that people are not really into my smaller builds (for better or worse they expect me to show up with the big action), I’m planning on a 4’x8′ layout that encompasses the entirety of my Legoratory table.  It’s the same footprint as Bucharest, Logan’s Run and Zero Hour but this new effort will certainly lack the vertical impact of those dioramas.   When your starting point is a 132 long ship, you need a large background to give it any sense of scale and perspective.

As of the time of this posting, I have a barely adequate 37 days and 35 minutes remaining to accomplish this task and for that…I must unfortunately embrace the boilerplate wholeheartedly.  That means there is no time for fussing about trying to come up with a new fancy technique or waiting patiently for artistic inspiration to strike…like lightning!  There is no time to conjure the muse, she’s a capricious wench at the best of times.  No, building under the guillotine of a hard deadline means reaching into the back-catalog of ideas and hopefully rearranging them into something that at least vaguely resembles a new build.  If something truly creative or original happens along the way, so much the better but the fundamental approach is different without the luxury of unlimited time.

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When building a diorama for a SHIP, you basically have two options for the setting, rural or urban.  Sure you can mix the two but in my experience one style is usually dominant.  I’m kind of burned out on the classic futuristic hangar approach or some kind of techno-ziggurat so I opted for a more natural setting.  I’ve amassed a decent quantity of dark blue tile over the past few years and I was itching to put them into use.  It made sense to start from the lowest point and build my way up (unlike my usual random approach to building things) so I tried to work in a subtle curve into the flow and break things up with little islands of mud.  Normally I’d at least try to break the grid and float some terrain at odd angles but in this particular instance, the baseplate is my friend. Things can get alarmingly jostled during interstate travel and I want to give the layout the best possible chance of survival on it’s way to the venue.

I wish I had enough dark brown to line the lower banks with, but looking at what I have on hand, a combination of old/new brown was the most logical choice.  I’m not ruling out a Cracklink order but I’d like to avoid it if I can, to save money for other things like SWAG and on-site refreshments.  After the mud went down, it was time to get a little elevation into the mix, so I began work on a rocky terrace.  I’m not a huge fan of your standard issue rock-vomit that features slopes going every which direction so I opted for this simpler one-direction technique I’ve used a couple of times in the past to good effect.  it’s not very inventive and certainly not state o’ the art, but I enjoy the look and it has the benefit of allowing me to gain elevation quickly.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be happy just to cover the entire footprint and I’m not terribly worried about the vertical aspect of the diorama.  In a normal situation, planning for an eye-block would be of primary importance in these early stages, but I’m just going to let it emerge on it’s own as the project advances.  I did begin an olive green retaining wall in the background, with small gaps between the slats, but I’m not convinced yet that it will still be around by the time the building is complete.  I might take advantage of the gaps by putting some indirect lighting behind the wall, but it’s just a vague notion for now.

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There has been one alarming development, in laying all that brown plate for the terraforming, I was amazed at how many 1×2 plates snapped like the bones of a brittle old man with osteoporosis.  The photo below is just a small sample of the carnage, I’d conservatively estimate that I lost 25-30 of these basic parts over the course of decidedly routine usage.  They were all of the newer reddish brown variety, I don’t think I lost a single example of the older color.  It’s disappointing, not because of the cost (they go for about 2 cents a pop), but rather because I expect a higher quality standard from our benevolent Danish overlords.

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The biggest challenge I face with this project is a familiar one for me; the lack of an overriding creative vision to guide me.  Simply put, I have no freaking idea what this thing will, or should look like when all is said and done.  I know I want to use the bulk of the SHIP to divide the scene into two separate areas, each with it’s own character.  I know I want a largely rural setting, and some lights and motion…but what the final form will look like is a largely a mystery and so is the story that will go along with it.  Instead of planning like a normal person, I started laying brick without a guiding blueprint.  This isn’t unusual for me, I typically start blazing away in the heat of inspiration and worry about the details later, safe in the knowledge that I have the luxury of time for a re-start or two along the way to get things right.  I have no such luxury for Bricks LA, the reset button is broken and I have to push past indecision and uncertainty to make the deadline.

When I started building I didn’t envision this project as a collaboration, it seemed rude to ask people to spend time and effort building something in a creative vacuum, without a clear picture of the target to inform their work.  Building for a convention is a unique monster though and it has been my experience that involving cronies in the mix is essential to the collective onsite experience.  Things are always better with like minded idiots.  With that in mind, I’ve asked friends of the blog and WackLUG members Jeff Cross and Andrew Lee to come along for the ride if this WIP shot looks at all compelling to them. I’m also hoping Zach Clapsaddle will defy the odds and show up, bringing along  his special brand of magic, but that seems to be up in the air for now.  As for rowntRee, he’s (of course) invited to participate but he’s got his own kettle o’ fish to deal with, working on a racing pit for his engorged Victor Viper.  I hope it all fits in the van, buddy.

If, by chance, you find yourself planning on attending Bricks LA, let me know and I’m sure I can find some pace on this bloated layout for your contribution as well.   I’ll update you on the progress in the coming weeks.  Any advice or constructive criticism you have is welcome in the comments, but if your words of wisdom require a massive revision or restart, don’t expect to see them implemented.

 

Ted Talks: “Squidman LIVES!”

It’s a banner week here in the home offices of the Manifesto because it marks the second full week without Rutherford (Mr. gasbag will return next week) and the second written contribution by one of our valued constant readers.  This time it’s friend of the blog and master of the speeder-bike Ted Andes, who will be sharing his recent experiences at the biggest convention in the United States.  The series is titled “Ted Talks” but that’s a little optimistic on my part, Ted has not committed to anything more than this one-shot essay, but after reading these anecdotes I hope he considers it.  You may remember Ted from  his many popular models such as “Intrepid”Trail Blazer and my personal favorite, “Hammerhead”.  Without any further ado, take it away Ted!

“Over the hills, and far away…”

I’m guessing most of you at this stage have read an article or two about attending a LEGO Con, or perhaps you have been to one yourself.  I just got back from BrickWorld Chicago 2017, and I thought I’d share some interesting anecdotes of my own… from the perspective of a middle-aged AFOL.

35395528156_fef777d77c_o.jpg(“World of Lights” Photo courtesy of Patty )

“You’ll always remember your first time.”

BrickWorld 2016 was the first LEGO Con I ever attended.  I always thought that BrickCon would be my first someday, but once my eyes became locked into BrickWorld’s “come hither” gaze, it was destiny.  She was only a short-ish 5-hour’s drive away, and holding out for a cross-country romance with BrickCon was just living in a dream world…  sorry to leave you “Sleepless in Seattle”, BC.

I didn’t think I’d actually ever attend a LEGO Con in reality.  As a married dude, I always try to sync my vacation days with my wife’s so we can take those fun trips together to faraway lands (I hear Matango Island is beautiful in the spring…).  She’s not into the hobby, so dragging her with me to a LEGO Con would always be an impossible sell.

When she took a new job last year, all of a sudden I had a ton of extra vacation days piled up compared to her (I had been saving some in case we needed to relocate).  I had days to burn.  The one week that she said would be best for me to take a solo vacation coincided with BrickWorld 2016.  Wait, what!? Once I made that realization, just 6-weeks before BW and on the last day you could request a display table, it was crunch time.  After some prodding from Simon Liu, I pulled together an impromptu speederbike collab for BrickWorld. Christopher Hoffmann and others joined the cause, and fun was had by all…

“She let you come back!?”

When you finally do get to the Con, and meet so many people that you had only known through the various on-line LEGO social networks, it is just like seeing some old friends again.  You cast aside your better judgement and stay up until at least 3am each “night”, chatting, drinking (if you’re of drinking age), and eventually partaking in general mischief.  I won’t divulge all of the BrickWorld shenanigans that go on, because there are just some things you “dear readers” are not allowed to live vicariously through (get your butt to a Con!)…

…and also, because I’d like to be allowed to go back again.  At BW16, I accidentally “butt-dialed” my wife at 4am after one of “those nights”.  I was trying to set my phone alarm so I wouldn’t sleep through hotel check out (which I did anyway).  Through some 1-in-a-million chance, I hit the option to dial back the most recent number.  Ugh.  I really am surprised she let me come back again this year.  Lessons definitely learned, and I was a saint at BW17… honest. I even joined the Pub Scouts…

“Psst… Is he your son?”

BW17 was my second Con in a row where someone had innocently inquired “Is he your son?” about an AFOL builder standing next to me.  As a married dude with no kids, it’s a harsh reality check (dude, you’re soooo old now!).  Christopher was my “son #1” at BW16, and then Rocco Buttliere became “son #2” this year… At least when I hang out with Tyler Halliwell at BrickWorld, our height difference doesn’t beg that question…

Workshops and Presentations

I didn’t get around to attending many workshops or presentations this year, but I did make it a point to “Paint with Mel” Finelli.  Why?  Well, why not?  … P.S.  SQUIDMAN LIVES!!!

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 “FEED THAT MONSTER!”

Awards… oh my.  First off – go back and read the “Fire for Effect” article “Give me the prize!” “Give me the Prize”.  Here’s what I said in the comments: “Guess what? I am also for the poorly defined, WTF-judged competitions too, as long as you know that it’s WTF up-front…”  Well, BW17 awards nominations delivered in the “WTF?” category once again.

The elephant in the room is that I had TWO MOC nominations in the “Best Land Vehicle” category; One for “Mr. Mechtorian’s Mobile Menagerie” which was voted as the eventual winner, and the other for “The Aerie” Mobile Launch Tower.  The first nomination was the one I had hoped to get.  The 2nd build I was certainly proud of (the thing is oozing SNOT), but lord knows which category it really belonged in, if any. I just mounted the tower onto tank treads because I thought it looked cool, and prepared for another “N-4-N” year (Nominated 4 Nuthin’).

Usually at BW, it is one nomination per category, per person.  So why did this “space oddity” of two nominations happen?  From what I hear, the nomination process for BrickWorld is as unnecessarily complex as one of Rube Goldberg’s machines , so who can say?  I chalk it up to it being the first-time BW used electronic balloting. The voting pages for most categories only showed MOC pictures at the top, then the MOC names with voting buttons at the bottom; No builder’s names. Perhaps if they included them, they would have caught the double-dip and things wouldn’t have gone down that way.

Gil Chagas  and Caleb Wagoner’s vehicles were both certainly worthy of nomination…Gil’s MOC was old-ish but it was still new to BW.

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Caleb’s Honda Civic (I mean Subaru WRX) has yet to be uploaded to his photo-stream, but here is a shot courtesy of Nick Brick.

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There were also some other mysterious nominations in the both the replica and group display categories as well… but I wasn’t involved, and who cares at this stage, right?… well….

“Ride the Tiger”

Some BW parents would tell you (repeatedly) that all of their kid’s creations were worthy of nomination.  I had to listen to so many stories about last year’s injustices, then the primping and preening of their kids for when the judges came by to pick the nominations this year, then the pimping of their kids for face time with the various YouTube podcasters (you’re a saint for putting up with that, Mr. Hanlon)…  Newsflash! The parents are hella serious about their kid’s builds, and the nominations!  Otherwise, their special snowflakes might melt!

I took my chances this year, and let random fate determine my display table locations… and I was surrounded by some great examples of this Little-League, helicopter-parent dynamic.   Just wish they would have had the courtesy to bring some orange slices…

“The kids are alright…”

“Tiger Moms” aside, the great thing about this hobby is that as builders, we are all peers regardless of our ages.  There are some really great, unsung teen builders out there (and with great parents).  I ended up chatting with a lot with them, and chatting with their parents too… most of which were my age anyway.  Damn, I really AM old!  Shout outs to #1 Nomad  Kingdomviewbricks and  John Imp , and their cool parents that offered me some pizza slices and spicy beef sticks.  Who needs orange slices?…  Respect.

Also, a shout out to Digger, my #1 BrickWorld fan. I met him last year, as he really loved the speeder-bike rally. I took the time to hang out, and show him how I put together some of the different models.  When I ran into him again this year, he had a big smile on his face. “Mr. Andes! I hoped you’d be back again this year. Can I show you the speeder-bikes I built?”…  Heck yeah!… but please. Call me Ted.

“I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone….”

“There was no train station. There was no downtown… My city had been pulled down, reduced to parking spaces”.  So my primary co-collaborator on the Great Steambug Migration had to leave early Sunday morning, and to my surprise took their town backdrop with them. I’ll just say that I didn’t need any caffeine to wake up.  That woke me up just fine.

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It was their 1st con, and they weren’t aware of the rule that you can’t take down displays before the end of public hours.  For my collabs, I always come prepared just in case something happens or someone backs out last-minute, so “no-harm, no foul”. I bring this story up not to vilify, as I have much love for my co-collaborator, but just to say “stuff happens” at a con… and that “stuff” provides the perfect fertilizer in which things can grow….

“We can rebuild! We have the technology.”

I had brought enough spare brick to build an impromptu backdrop.  No reason to get distraught.  I got started “building that wall”, and then Gil comes over to say good-morning.  He sees the situation, and offers to help out… then comes Tyler H. … and then Michael (aka Kingdomviewbricks).  Soon we had four people doing a speed-build backdrop of a ruined ant-farm wall.  Crisis averted, and friendships built ever stronger…

In fact, if you aren’t helping someone else rebuild/improve their MOC’s at a LEGO Con, then you are really missing the point. I helped at least 5 people myself this year, at least that I can recall.  Sometimes it’s providing those few extra technic pins to snap together display sections (which also repairs your personal relations with a LUG).  Sometimes it’s helping a person rebuild a MOC that was completely obliterated on the trip there (yes, I’m talking about you, Sci-fi Dude).  Sometimes it is helping the displayer you are sharing ½ a table with, who is jamming plates onto his MOC so hard that it topples over your own builds time and again.  Turns out that the guy only had the use of one of his arms due to an accident, so rather than get mad I lent him the two of mine…  If building is fun for you, then there should be no hesitation in helping the people around you build anyway (and no hesitation to accept that help when offered to you).  Dig in!

“Duplo green” is people!

As much as a LEGO Con may seem like it’s about the brick connections, it’s really about the personal connections we make.  That is what you will remember most in the aftermath.  Our ubiquitous friend Simon Liu gets that.  He lives that.  That’s why he is involved in seemingly every sci-fi collab project at BrickWorld, and countless more at other Cons and on Flickr.  That’s also why the green DUPLO of ToroLUG always has such a hive of activity buzzing around it… and like most people there, they will always make room to add one more connection (i.e. you) to the pile…Leg Godt!

(…and shout-outs to all of those people I didn’t call out by name – a person should only do so much name dropping in one article…)

“O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams”

One of the many highlights of attending the BrickSlopes convention in June was this model by Kyle Ransom.  When I hit the showroom floor after setting up my own stuff I had no expectations in terms of the models I was about to see.  With regional cons you never know what you’re going to get because the vast majority of participants are what I like to call low-key locals.  Often these good folks don’t have a robust online presence in the hobby, they are active in the local LUG and active builders but they don’t focus on forums and blogs and such.  They are however, essential to the success of small conventions in largely unsung volunteer roles and they are the ones that fill the tables.  When rabble like KeithLUG roll into town it’s a bonus (I think), but you can’t count on those yahoos as the foundation of your event.

Once I’ve registered for an event I routinely scan the “AFOL Attendees” list to see who is coming and have a guess at what they might be bringing.  For BrickSlopes I have to admit that I didn’t recognize most of the people on the roster but one name jumped out at me, for images like this, this and this.  You can imagine my disappointment at not being able to locate any evidence of Kyle’s work after touring the convention floor several times or failing that, to locate the builder himself.  In the meantime there was a model I was drawn to several times, to study from different angles and speculate in the absence of any information (there was no MOC card).  I even dragged rountRee over for a look or two, such was the pull it had on my attention.  Of course it turned out to be Kyle’s post-apocalyptic tower diorama entitled “Paradise Lost“.  I remember thinking that it looked underdeveloped and a little sloppy in places, but there was a creative spark at work that was notably absent from many of the models surrounding it.  The entire build suggested larger ideas and storylines and just a bigger LEGO landscape.  I was more than willing to look past the rough edges (or entirely absent back wall) and admire the talent behind it, but it was also frustrating in its unrealized potential.  The biggest issue was that it just sort of emerged from the table, there was no landscaping or context to help fill in the gaps.  I think it would have looked really cool sticking up out of a vast lake or sand-dunes, or rubble-strewn streets.

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In case you’re too lazy to go to Kyle’s Flickrstream, you really should read what he has to say about the project, it’s one of the most candid observations of a model I’ve read in ages.  After reading it, I was reminded that every ambitious build that makes it to a convention has a unique story behind it.

“O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams

That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.”

Any words I may try to write in describing this build and the creative/spiritual/personal journey that accompanies it would be insufficient in my mind. But here is a little bit of backstory. This was my display for the Brickslopes 2016 convention. The idea itself had been in my mind for quite some time, but a trip to Memphis Tennessee awoke an urge to express my thoughts on poverty and those that live in it. Inspired by my own personal experiences and slums from around the world, I began building. Five sleepless days later, on the day of the convention, I was finished. I packed up and headed down. The two hour drive proved disastrous for the build, and upon unpacking at the convention center it was entirely destroyed. I spent the rest of the day rebuilding, haphazardly mind you, the display. Several times in this entire process I reached a point of despair. My desperate desire to present a build that represented what I wanted mixed with the frustration of its fragility led me on a roller coaster of a week.

Looking back, each part of this build added to a journey for me. Disappointed initially by the build for several reasons including how quickly it was built, lack of stability, and other things, as the convention went on I realized what a metaphor this was. I had set out to build a fallen society, one that was haphazardly built, with no society stability and with complete disregard of the impoverished. Because of how quickly it was built and the collapse and rebuild the day of, the build had become more accurate to my creative vision than I could have ever set out to create. Leading me to a new respect and dedication to the ‘process’ of building over the final product.”

Stress, sleepless nights, damage during transport, despair that you’re not translating your vision into the brick…it doesn’t matter what scale you’re working on, the convention experience is universal.  I think Kyle’s conclusion that the building process is more important than the final product is an interesting one, but I’m not sure I agree.  If I don’t have that payoff at the end I tend to view things as a failure (see Hub 14), but I wish I shared Kyle’s perspective, I think it’s a little more mature.

This is also a tale of two models and it highlights the differences between an internet posting and seeing it in person.  When Kyle posted the shots online I didn’t initially recognize the model and even after I did it seemed like two different places.  The posting is in black & white (with an artistic splash of color) and features exclusively close-up perspectives that don’t reflect the entire build.  In person the diorama seems more fragile, but also more ambitious.  Kyle made a brilliant choice to take advantage of a lit-up microscale skyscraper that was displayed right next to his tower and include it in the photo. The result is an extremely immersive, cinematic image…but the impression the model gives in person and the one it gives online are very different.  Way to exploit your surroundings Kyle!

I’m not going to sugar-coat it, this model still feels like a near-miss to me, but what a compelling near miss.  I’m pretty sure it won a trophy, so take all of this with a large grain of salt.

 

 

“Invincible Guardians of World Freedom!”

I’ve mentioned a couple of times on the Manifesto that I don’t share the same childhood nostalgia for LEGO that many of you do.  While I certainly owned a shoe box full of LEGO like every other kid on the planet, it wasn’t my go-to brand for burning away a summertime afternoon.  When I think back to the carefree days of my youth I fondly remember toys like Star BirdMicronauts and the mighty two foot tall Shogun Warriors.  Not only did they look cool, they had crazy features like weapons that really fired, detachable space ship brains and wheeled feet.  So when I stumbled upon the work of Marco De Bon it took me right back to 4th grade (yeah I’m old).  Submitted for your approval is Marco’s latest build, “Icarus“.

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LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01
LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

I know some of you may be saying to yourselves “Uh…Goldman, this mecha is rad but it doesn’t really look like any of the Shogun Warriors.” and you’re right, strictly speaking it doesn’t look like any of the giant robots in the photo above.  Nor does it look like the Manga source material that inspired Mattel’s line of toys, Mazinger Z.  However, my brain instantly made the connection to the old toys and that interests me a great deal.  Some of it has to do with the primary color scheme and the proportions but the more I compare the two photos I think the attitude of the pose is a big part of the link between the two.  Shogun warriors always looked like they were ready to kick your ass, and so does “Icarus”.  Just like a great 80’s toy it can also be reconfigured into fighter jets and stuff.

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My only complaint about “Icarus” can be found on the head, specifically the white square behind Sauron’s ring.  Black might have been a better choice for that area or some color other than white.  You can see the corners of the white squares sticking outside the ring and it’s distracting in a way that makes my brain itch.

Obviously the toy and the mech differ greatly and the LEGO model is far more detailed.  The only logical comparison exists solely inside the confines of my skull-case. Memory and nostalgia are perhaps too specific to reference in a blog article for a broader audience but hopefully you’ve come to expect a little free-association on the Manifesto.  If you’re so inclined, I’d like to hear about your experience with these kinds of connections in the comments

Pictured below is “Orion” from May of this year, anther build by Marco De Bon that shares the same vibe and I like to think of him as the Raydeen of the Shogun crew. The Iron Man chest-plate has rarely looked so good and it recalls the toys, as does the forearm shield and the yellow wings.  Again, it’s the pose that sells the model here, the attitude. I’m not well versed enough in mecha design to comment much about the techniques used in Orion.  Whether the methods of construction are mundane or advanced, Marco gets a nice variety of dynamic poses out of the design.

 

I can’t finish a post that references Shogun Warriors without recognizing Mark “The Grand Admiral” Sandlin’s take on Mazinga from 2008, built with the help of Brian Cooper’s Teknomeka Instructions.  It’s huge, just like the toy.  You don’t get more old-school in the hobby than Sandlin and Cooper, they were already titans when I found LUGNET and started posting my own models.  Sandlin is one of the few guys who was able to live the dream of designing a really cool set produced by LEGO in 2008. Cooper is a straight up genius whose builds are truly epic in both scale and functionality.  Brian is responsible for one of my favorite photos of all time, taken at Seattle’s BrickCon in 2007.  Watching Cooper’s famous MechaGodzilla rampage on KeithLUG’s Omicron Weekend is one of my favorite convention memories.

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I’ve got a weird story about eating meatballs with Cooper, but I’ll save it for another day.  This post has already wandered far enough afield, constant reader.

 

“Big fan of fiery whips and eternal suffering.”

These are the words used by Russian builder Leonid An to describe his latest diabolical effort, “Lungorthin the devil“.  There is much to appreciate in Leonid’s design that fuses Bionicle and System parts seamlessly to create a dynamic figure that threatens to leap off the monitor and drag you straight to hell…where you belong frankly.  The Bionicle elements allow for the typically interesting range of motion and the system parts are used perfectly to shape the monstrous head that drew my attention immediately.  There is some pretty complex technique going on in that cranium, packed in a very small space.  The minifig arms and spiky black claws form a very effective eye-orbit to house the trans-orange spheres.  I do think the trans-orange breast is a little odd (especially so close to the same saucer piece used on the left bicep), but you need a little strangeness to make a demon worth his salt.  The trans-orange chain around Lungorthin’s midsection is a difficult part to integrate into most models but it’s just the right answer here.

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Leonid has tried his hand with demonic action before, like 2014’s “Cepheus“, which came complete with one of the scariest Bionicle based weapons I’ve ever seen.  The photo really enhances the model and I love how the builder was willing to sacrifice half of his work to get this killer image.  It looks like a Norwegian death metal CD cover.  Many builders wouldn’t consider using an image that omitted half of the model but I wish they would, the results can be stunning.  I also happen to think the legs were the biggest weakness  of this hulking figure and maybe the builder was trying to get a photograph that obscured them.  Whatever the motivation I love this menacing, off-center shot.  15296042814_9a5ce95a7b_o

Gloom doesn’t always have to be demonic with Leonid, I’ve included the charming “EmOgirl” at no extra charge to you, the viewing public.  The figure reminds me of Tina from Bob’s Burgers, mostly because of that ingenious technique for the hair and the open-mouthed expression.  I can almost hear that groaning sound Tina frequently makes.  The purse is spot-on as well, which is not something I thought I’d be saying in a post about the devil and the rubber-band laces on the shoes are a great touch. Rubber bands are a difficult part to use effectively because they are just so very un-LEGO-like.26868146902_f9e08579c4_o

While we’re chatting about all things satanic, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer up another anecdote from Bricks West 03′.  Not only did I meet the great Dan Jassim at the rinky-dink gathering of LEGO nerds, I also had the chance to talk with Bryce McGlone, who is one of the early innovators of Bionicle and occasional purveyor of the demonic.  I was lucky enough to be displaying my pathetic gray wall wall next to Mr. McGlone’s masterpiece entitled “Beelzebub”, a ground breaking model during it’s time that elicited one of the single greatest reactions I’ve ever seen on public day.  You’ll have to excuse the wrinkled sheet for a backdrop, as I’ve said before, 2003 was a simpler time when people didn’t care as much about presentation.  It was more important to share the art in some ways, than optimizing the image with custom watermark logos and Photoshoppery.  So I’m watching the crowd on public day, fielding the same 3 eternal questions (how long? how many? how did you do it?) when a single mom and her rotund son stopped dead in their tracks when confronted with mighty Beelzebub.  The kid’s mouth dropped to the floor, a perfectly normal reaction that I had succumbed to earlier in the day, but the mother uttered a sentence that has stuck with me for 13 years: “Look away Daniel it’s Satanic!”.  She had a look of pure, unadulterated revulsion on her face as she physically put her hand over her sons wide eyes and ushered him towards the exit.  Up until then I didn’t think it was possible for a model to elicit that kind of visceral reaction from the viewing audience, it was kind of an eye-opener as were so many things at my first convention.  Way to go Bryce and way to go Satan!

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Finally, constant reader, I can’t discuss the topic of Old Scratch without mentioning my favorite depiction of the dark one in LEGO, Jordan Schwartz’s classic from 2010 with over 40k views to its name: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia“.  If you don’t understand why this model is superb, you just don’t get it and you likely never will.  While it can’t compete with McGlone’s Beelzebub in crazy technique or texture, it does show the fun side of Satan, which is important in understanding his appeal.  5245690990_01a6855146_o