Constructive Criticism: The Devil is in Z Details.

For those of you not familiar with the series, Constructive Criticism focuses on builders that usually reside just outside the spotlight’s glare of the big blogs or right on the border.  There is no escaping the inherent arrogance of the notion, but these are builders who I think need to be pushed and encouraged to take the next step with their models.  Many of them already have a nice Flickr following and it should be noted that my advice is entirely unsolicited. I’m also going to offer my usual disclaimer that I’m a fan of the builder’s work and in no way is this article meant to be mean-spirited.

This could potentially be the last edition of the series because effective after this post, I will no longer be selecting builds to opine about, a builder must request an evaluation in the comment section.  Although the majority of people whose work I have reviewed up to this point have reacted positively, I’d feel better about the process if the victim was self selected.  I will also be switching to a standardized (Good/Bad/Whatever) format that I had luck with in the past, on a long-dead MOCpages group called “Ask Keith“.  The format is simple: a reader submits a MOC for evaluation, I come up with at least one good thing about it, at least one bad thing and one observation that falls outside the first two categories, that is more often than not a non sequitur.

Today’s victim on the rotisserie spit is Sebastian-Z, you may remember him from such popular and outstanding builds as: Modern House 4, Lego Music Teacher’s Town House and Illuminated Bar.  Sebastian’s most recent model, entitled “Cheeseburger in Paradise – Salad in Hell” is like a fast-food cheeseburger, it smells good and the first couple of bites are ok, but the buyer’s remorse sets in before you’re done.  While I didn’t pay one thin dime for the opportunity to view “Cheeseburger“, I still feel disappointed and I want my money back.  So let’s talk about what went right, what went wrong and the smooth jazz stylings of multi-platinum selling artist, Kenny G.

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the good the bad and the ugly - 1966 - the good

Straight out of the gate, the concept is a winner: paradise is a cheeseburger, hell is a salad.  Unless you’re a vegan or an anarchist, it’s a universally accepted axiom.  Anyone who has ever been on a diet can certainly can certainly vouch for the truth in the imagery.  So we’re off to a good start!  Heaven’s gate is pretty nice and definitely iconic, it establishes the location right off the bat.  The phrase “simple but effective” comes to mind, not everything has to be the wheel reinvented.  The gold wings are a nice touch too and it’s great to see them echoed as bat-wings on the gates of hell.  The sculpting of the cloud-base is effective and although I thought the street light was an odd choice, it somehow works.

What I really appreciate was the builder’s decision to use a kitten as an incarnation of old scratch.  Kittens can of course be satanic in their own way, but in general it is just so much more interesting than choosing the official Lego devil, a custom-fig or some kind, or a potentially overwhelming brick-built design. The devil isn’t supposed to be the focus here but the builder manages to get some comedic mileage out of him anyway.  I laughed, so mission accomplished there.  I have to say that even though he features prominently in the next section, the Kenny G minifig is spot-on and is instantly recognizable from a great distance.

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Right off the bat, the cheeseburger doesn’t have any cheese.  I see a burger, lettuce and mustard, but where is the classic corner of cheese hanging out the side?  Come on man, it’s not enough to use a Lego-designed “official” burger.  I think the plate was a bad choice too, you can’t see the bottom of the burger.

It seems to me that if you’re going to have Kenny G and his sax serenading you in hell, then you should have a corresponding musician for heaven.  I know there is an angel singing but I guess I’d be happier about it if she had a harp.  Jimmy Buffett maybe?  Since he inspires the model maybe he’d work, but Kenny G is more likely to get through the pearly gates than Buffet.  Elvis maybe? mariachi? When you get down to it, Kenny is just a bad choice, sure his music is sleep-inducing, but is that such a bad thing?  Millions of people have trouble falling asleep at night so really he’s a nice, less expensive alternative to sleeping pills.  Also, I bet Kenny has helped a bunch of old people get it on with a little red wine and a spliff, which is surely not a bad thing.  Ultimately his music is forgettably smooth but it actually performs a service in this grim world.  To me, this classic version of heaven is where you’d find Kenny G, as you drift away eating your cheeseburger on a cloud.  On the topic of music, both of the black demon statues should have guitars, having only one makes my OCD tingle.

I think it would have been more effective to use the same minifig for the main character in each scene, to better illustrate the contrast.  One version with a happy face and one with a sad face.  Right now, the guy in heaven looks like he’s sleep deprived or addicted to drugs and the guy in hell looks like that were-rat from Harry Potter, and it’s distracting.

As for hell…it looks like a bad stage set up for an 80’s heavy metal band.  What are those red sections on the side of the gates, some kind of blood-cloud?  A blood lake?  I’m not sure what’s going on there but it’s distracting.  I’m very rarely a fan of skeletons, they just immediately turn everything into a Scooby Doo cartoon and they look strange here with chains attached to the bottoms of their feet.  They don’t look like manacles, they just look weird.  I have to mention the salad too, it doesn’t really look like a salad, it needs a good deal more greenery to get the notion across.  If ‘salad‘ wasn’t in the title, I doubt I would have made the right connection.  Perhaps a more Satanic salad would have worked? Worms, weird plants? hands?  Eyes?   I guess the fundamental idea of a salad being hellish is the problem.  Sure I’d rather have a cheeseburger but salads are awesome too.  I might have gone with kimchi…sure it’s harder to depict in Lego but it always makes me wretch.  I had a Korean buddy in college and I had to choke that stuff down on social occasions with his buddies and his family.  Hell is kimchi.

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I’d like to see more of this type of model, for lack of a better term the “two sides of the same coin” style.  Elspeth De Montes has an entire series in the same general style called “Then & Now” that  you’ve probably seen on Flickr and elsewhere.  Contrasting scenes, polar opposites, I’m not sure which name best suits the style but I dig it and I want to see more.  I hope Sebastian-Z takes another shot at this type of presentation, but applies more of the exacting detail he uses in his home interiors.

So that’s the new format and the new selection policy.  If you’d like to have one of your models get the (good/bad/whatever) treatment, just sign up in the comments below.

Oh, and if you doubt if Kenny G is gangsta, check out the video evidence.