Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is one of my two oldest Cronies in the hobby, Ryan Rubino. While he might not be known to many of you, I like to think Ryan represents a certain demographic within the hobby, a quiet guy who builds well but whose efforts go largely unrecognized. Along with our mutual friend Rutherford, Ryan and I go back to high-school and I can’t think about my earliest days in the hobby without thinking of Rubino. We began building with Lego right before internet use became widespread and we would get double-prints of our photos developed and snail-mail them to each other. We are indeed spoiled now to easy and instant gratification when it comes to sharing our models, but back then it was an annoying process that took weeks. The upside was that we were really only building for laughs and to entertain each other, not some greater audience. I have referenced BricksWest 2003 on the blog before as my first convention experience, but without Rubino that experience doesn’t happen. I can vividly remember standing in the hotel lobby holding our cardboard boxes full of models and debating: should we just bail on this thing and go see a movie? If it were up to me, we probably would have bailed because BricksWest was a poorly run, unfriendly shit-show that bears only a surface resemblance to the conventions we enjoy today. My point is that Ryan has always been an encouraging and often steadying influence on my Lego experience. Without him pushing me I wouldn’t have written my first post on LUGNET when I did and I would have bailed on BricksWest after we were treated like low-guys at the door.
As you know, Tuesday means double-shots and the first model we’re going to examine is Ryan’s best remembered model, the “Battle of the Leviathans“. This image has over 300 favorites on Flickr and it appeared on all the usual blogs and in two different coffee-table books including Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark. The build represents a breakthrough for Rubino, who’s creativity was liberated by the advent of the curved slopes that make up most of the whale’s impressive shape. Although he had experienced success before with “The Omicron Weekend” collaboration I’ll talk about next, he was unfortunately overshadowed by Rutherford and I, in part because Ryan is content to reside just outside the spotlight and in part because Rutherford and I have big mouths and we like to run them. The “Battle of the Leviathans” was a different story though, it was widely praised by the community and it belonged entirely to Ryan. There were big plans in the work for an entire Predator & Prey series, but as you’ll see, things didn’t quite work out as planned.
For the second shot I had to go with the most defining and fulfilling collaboration I’ve ever participated in, “The Omicron Weekend“. Rubino designed the wheel-shaped research station that drove the entire effort and at the time it was the biggest object he’d attempted by a wide margin. Originally Ryan was developing the structure for an independent project, but once we three merry idiots decided to take a collaborative effort on the road, the wheel quickly became the focus of the build. Even though it was placed to one side, it was the thematic center of the diorama and we went through several ideas before we settled on the final configuration. Unfortunately this is one of the best photos we have of the wheel, there are some better quality close-ups, but photographing the diorama was a real pain in the ass and the final shots really didn’t do justice to the project. The 4ft diameter wheel was over a year in the making and featured a fully decked-out interior with removable roof-panels to display at the BrickCon 2007 convention in Seattle. Beyond the build, Ryan was indispensable on the trip to Seattle and just like our first convention experience, he was able to keep the project moving forward after a near disastrous fist day on the road and a bad hotel experience. Once again, Ryan was able to keep me on track when my urge was to bail out or stab someone with a rusty knife.
If it seems like I speak of Ryan entirely in the past tense it is because we’ve lost him…no he hasn’t died…he’s quite healthy, but like many great builders before him (Jon Palmer), his job has murdered any interest in building for fun. Since 2010 Ryan has worked in the Merlin model shop, just a short drive from Legoland California. If you have visited any of the Legoland theme parks from Carlsbad to Dubai and everywhere in between, there is a good chance you’ve seen Rubino’s work. We used to think that Omicron was pretty big until Ryan started working on some of the biggest Lego builds on the planet. From small ambulances to giant temple complexes to full-sized great white sharks, Rubino has had the opportunity to build a diverse and challenging set of projects over his six+ years with the company.
Ryan’s unexpected decision to sell off his entire collection (minus the whale & squid) had a much bigger impact on me than I expected and was part of the reason I took a break from the hobby the last couple of years. It felt like an important era had come to an end, and although we’re still great friends, one of my two best cronies in the hobby doesn’t have much use for it anymore, even as a spectator…and that sucks So the purpose of this article is to give a farewell toast to Rubino, a largely unsung AFOL, who was my photo-editor, convention wing-man and constant source of encouragement with my own building. I always used Ryan as a litmus test for Lego nerd groups. If a good-old-boy’s club like the original Builder’s Lounge or the short-lived Sci-Brick wouldn’t have him as a member then I wasn’t interested either. So knock back your shot in honor of Rubino and all the unsung builders who give this hobby life. Also, if you’re interested in working for the Merlin model shop, then let this be a cautionary tale because as I mentioned before, Ryan’s story is not unique. Building for a living is great fun and you do amazing things, but it just might kill your interest in building for yourself. One final note, if you’re into great animal photography Ryan is still a pretty good follow on Flickr, he’s really developed his skills and has developed a much bigger following in his new hobby than his old one.
For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder. Ryan, much like the subject of last week’s Two for Tuesday is kind of like an action figure. While he does not have the physique or lustrous hair of a typical action figure, he is always found in the same basic garb. And no, constant reader this isn’t his work-only look, this is the man in his natural state, regardless of location or situation: baggy jeans, discount hiking shoes and a raggedy movie-themed T-Shirt. In this case a T-Shirt promoting a film about a bunch of oily Greek dudes enjoying a murder-festival and true bro-mance. I’m sorry Rubino, my good chum, but the verdict is clear…