Friday Night Fights [Round 41]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another tooth-splintering edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of St. Astrid’s Fall, with heavy reinforcements and the blessings of the God Emperor on the line. Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the Forge World of Magnos Omicron, it’s Faber “The Magistrate of MayhemMandragore and his “Blood Angels Captain In Terminator Armour”.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the Tomb World Seidon, it’s Marco “Mad DogMarozzi and his “Crusader“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was a self-selected battle battle of the shipwrights, with at least a month’s worth of bragging rights and a dram of top-shelf whiskey on the line.  In the end, Mark “The Machete” B. and his “JDS Asagiri (DD-151)” absolutely mollywhopped “Lock and Load” Locutus666 and his “JDS Asagiri DD-151“ to the tune of 9-1.  Mark B. scores his first victory (1-0) while Locutus666 runs his record to (0-1).

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Friday Night Fights [Round 31]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another kick in the head edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the digital multipeds, with state of the art heat-sinks and the lamentation of the enemy’s women on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the deepest recesses of study-hall, it’s Nicola “The Sledgehammer” Stocchi and his “Tallneck”.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the core of the MCP Cone, it’s “MalevolentMax his “Punisher“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of the snowflakes, with spiked eggnog and access to the mistletoe on the line.  In the end, Aaron “The Argonaut” Van Cleave and his “Christmas Day” scored a highly questionable 6-2 victory over Keith “Goldmember” Goldman and his “Blue, Blue Christmas“.  Van Cleave scores his first victory (1-0) while Goldman runs his record to (0-1).

Friday Night Fights [Round 23]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for a belated Halloween edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the pumpkin patch, with untold children’s souls on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the basement bar of the WackLUG headquarters in Los Angeles, Andrew “ChromeLee and his “Happy Halloween“.24216896708_4c06866404_h.jpg

And fighting out of the blue corner, from the distant shores of Mata Nui, it’s Anthony “The WolverineWilson and his “The Wanderer.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner before announcing the next bout.

Last time, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the clash of the dioramas with discount Pancake House coupons on the line.  In the end, “Fabulous” Fabio Maiorana and “The Red Room” scored a highly contested 8-5 victory over “Relentless” Revan New and his “Abandoned Factory.  Fabio records his first win (1-0) , while Revan starts his fighting career in the hole at (0-1).

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Constructive Criticism: Mecha-Marco

Welcome back to the Manifesto’s regular feature where I provide a builder with some feedback that is hopefully both entertaining and helpful.  The format is simple: a reader submits a model for evaluation, I come up with at least one good thing about it, at least one bad thing and one random observation that falls outside the first two categories.

Today’s volunteer victim on the rotisserie spit is constant reader and friend of the blog Marco Tagliaferri (a.k.a. Tagl).  you may remember him from such interesting and popular builds as: Prospector, Blue Ray S4, and the unforgettable AMPD.  As per standard operating procedure, Marco’s most recent model, entitled MTG S3 Wanderer is the subject of our weekly conversation.  The unpleasant truth is that I saw this model when it was posted a few days ago, and it didn’t do much for me.  It’s not a bad design by any means, but it didn’t do anything to distinguish itself from the vast ocean of similar mecha out there.  Maybe I’ve become too jaded after a decade of looking at models…but it seems to me that there are a handful of subject matter (especially in Sci-Fi) that have been done to death, like VTOL gunships, pointy starfighters and grey chicken-walker mechs.  I’m not saying those topics should no longer be experimented with, because there is always an opportunity to reinvigorate the form and I would never tell a builder they shouldn’t build something.  However, if a builder is going to tread one of those well-worn paths then it’s important to say something new and like it or not, the margin of error is much smaller.  So let’s talk about the “MTG S3 Wanderer“, what went right, what went wrong and the name game.

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It’s worth mentioning that the Wanderer was constructed for a building challenge / gift exchange called the Mecha Telephone Game.  Its riff on the popular Starfighter Telephone Game (created by Mike Yoder) where an AFOL builds a starfighter…mails it to the next player who puts their spin on the design and mails it to the third player…and so on. So when you evaluate the Wanderer, you really should take into account this model, by Lu Sim (a.k.a. messymaru), which was Marco’s inspiration.  You can see both in the photo below.

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First and foremost, Marco had a tough act to follow, Lu Sim’s mech is really cool, despite the low hanging dingus-gun.  I think Marco did a damn good job creating something that was inspired by the original while simultaneously taking it in a new direction and making it his own.  Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the color blocking on the Wanderer (as you’ll read later), it looks much better when you see the two mecha standing together.  When viewed through the lens of the game, Marco’s contribution is obviously a success, I’d be proud to have one stomping around my bookshelf and I’m sure Caleb was happy to receive it.  It must be difficult to strike the right balance between honoring the inspirational model and putting your own stamp on the design so I appreciate the effort.

Constant readers of the Manifesto are quite familiar with my mecha foot-fetish, it is the feature by which I determine the quality of giant robots and walking war machines.   I’m happy to report that Marco did a nice job on the feet, it’s probably his Italian heritage, all the finest shoes come from Italy, who produce over 205 million pairs per year.  The mecha-feet have a great texture that is sufficiently machine-like without being busy.  There is a nice transition into the ankle and they look good from every angle, were some mecha have feet that only look good in the front and the heels are often blocky, unsightly affairs.  I kind of like how the front of the foot and the back are essentially the same, that seems unusual to me and although I wouldn’t have expected that decision to result in a good-looking foot, it does.

Traveling up the model, the legs are pretty good too.  The proportions are nice and I like how Marco transitions from the highly detailed feet to the more plain armored sections of the upper thigh and beyond.  The lower legs are visually complex and that slowly changes as the greebles creep up the side of the legs and then disappear as the armored sections take over.  The smooth curves of the knees and the calves are very effective, and I like the light gray/dark gray color blocking on the legs, it looks much more controlled than the other sections of the mech.  There is only one thing about the legs that I don’t like, the tumor-like cones that stick straight out of the hips.  I think a lower-profile treatment would have worked better, like a radar dish or some kind of armor plating.  Generally speaking I think a mech’s shoulders should be wider than it’s hips, otherwise it messes with the basic form silhouette too much.

The back is an often overlooked aspect of mech building, I’m not sure if it’s because the back is hidden in most photos or if it’s the last design element and gets the short shrift.  Marco does a fine job here, I dig the big cannisters formed by the wheels and radar dishes, it isn’t reinventing the wheel but it looks good.   The buttocks area is not as exciting but the use of minifig hands is a nice touch.  Finally, the transition between the top of the mech and the back is handled well and it looks especially pleasing from the side-view where you can really appreciate the curve.

And finally a brief word on the model’s articulation, which is a point of interest unique to mecha building.   Although you can’t really tell from this photo the mech can rotate at the base of the torso and the guns can move as well.  It’s not a super-flexible model but it does have a little bit of poseability and that’s always a selling point for mecha.

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I’m not a big fan of the torso, I don’t like the way the curved-pieces sometimes work against each other.  I would have liked it good deal more if the torso was smoother with a smaller variety of curved pieces.  It looks kind of jumbled, like a clay model that you want to smooth-out with your thumb.  Unlike the back, I don’t like the transition between the top of the torso and the front, again it’s jagged and the dark gray plate is distracting, like it highlights a bad transition instead of disguising it.  I’m also not a big fan of the gun-mount, it looks tacked on and insubstantial.  The torso isn’t terrible, nothing on this model is terrible, it just seems liked a missed opportunity.

Speaking of the guns, they seem too scrawny for such a robust platform.  I would rather have seen some big weapons at the shoulders and no dingus-gun at all.  The design of the guns seems really dated to me, like they would have passed or even been praised a decade ago but the bar has been raised.  Specifically, I really don’t like the blocky ammo box hanging below the left side weapon, it really looks harsh from the front and it doesn’t add anything to the build.  The guns are also the area where the color-blocking fails, the armored panels on one side are distracting and the white hinges on the other side equally so.  I know the mech that inspired the Wanderer had white missile-pods but I think the white on Macro’s mech is too broken up, not solid enough for my taste.  I wonder if it might have been better to include a missile-pod on the Wanderer, just on one side to have a more obvious tie-in between the two models.

The presentation detracted from this model a little bit, although I liked the 4-in-1 style which made it much easier to review for this article.  The photo seems just a little too blurry, it’s certainly passable but I guess I’m spoiled to the current trend of really crisp photography.  The background color was a bad choice too, it’s too close to the color of the model and it even makes the white seem dull when it should pop in contrast to the gray.

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The naming of models is a difficult matter…choose the right name and it’s far more likely that you’re work will be remembered, especially if there are similar examples to compete with.  If you choose to go with no name at all, you might not get blogged, or worse (gasp) the blogger might name your model for you.  Choose a bad name and people will mock you…probably not to your face, but make no mistake you will be mocked.

When I see model like Wanderer that shares a name with a popular song, I can’t help but make the association.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not.  When I first looked at Marco’s mech and saw the name, this song leapt into my head in a millisecond and it was annoying.  In this particular instance it’s a 1961 pop song by Dion who sings the praises of some kind of hobo man-whore.  I find the song to be super annoying, it gives me bad flashbacks of being a kid and having to sit through the terrible sitcom ‘Happy Days’ because there were only 4 channels and the other options were somehow worse.  Damn, I’m getting old.

By the way, if you watch the video there is a dude in the crowd that bears a striking resemblance to the 2 for Tuesday graphic.  Our favorite bartender Lloyd is in the house!  It seems like Dion’s feet are nailed to the floor, he moves so awkwardly…and those goofy backup singers.  Is this even real?

So the bottom line is that the Wanderer is nice, but it’s a near miss for me, it doesn’t do enough to take a tired form and make it fresh.

We will close with this boilerplate reminder…if you’d like to have one of your models get the (good/bad/whatever) treatment, just sign up in the comments below.

 

Two for Tuesday: Kyle Vrieze

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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 checks in from exotic Bermuda, where the triangles will wreck you and so will the Goslings Black Seal Rum.  I’m speaking, of course, of the indomitable Kyle Vrieze, whose remarkable builds you’ve been enjoying since 2004 when he made his first post on LUGNET.  If you’ve ever been to the BrickWorld convention in the last decade, the chances are good that you’ve seen one of his signature mecha and assorted Sci-Fi boilerplate in person.  You would remember Kyle because he looks like an action figure and stands out in stark contrast to his fellow Lego nerds because we tend to run pudgy or gangly, without much in between.  I’m not saying all Lego nerds are fat, that would be a cruel stereotype.  Many of us are in shape so don’t start yelling about how much you can bench in the comment section or how you run marathons.  Or maybe you should?  In my experience there are a lot of fatties in the hobby (myself included) and my point is that Kyle makes us look good when he poses in our group photos.  And dude loves to pose.  He’s got tickets to the gun-show and he’s not above firing off those guns in public.  More about the raging biceps and fashion later, let’s stick to the brick for now.

Kyle hasn’t posted anything yet this year so I had to reach back to December of 2015 to find his most recent model, the simply titled “Fighter 14“.  The silhouette is one that Kyle has revisited over the years, but each version get more refined and interesting.  There are almost too many angles to count but he somehow wrangles them into a cohesive and striking design.  Kyle manages to reign in the chaos just enough without taking off the edge and the result is a very aggressive looking war machine.  Naturally, it also sports some ‘roided out missile-pods, which is Kyle’s signature feature whether the platform is a spaceship or mecha.  In fact, the more I think about it, the missile-pods are just an extension of his ripped biceps.  This is the point in every Two for Tuesday posting when I urge you to take a trip through Kyle’s back catalogue if you’re not familiar with his work.

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For tonight’s second shot I’m inserting myself into the mix, as usual.  I met Kyle at the 2010 edition of BrickWorld Chicago, where he was generous enough to contribute a kick-ass Vic Vic Viper to the nnenn memorial formation.  He is definitely one of the nicest people you can meet in the hobby and I don’t mean “nice” in that Disney-cult, Landru, early days of LUGNET sort of way.  Kyle is always ready to talk Lego or talk smack, he’s equally skilled at both and he’s always ready to grab a sandwich if you are.  If you need any more convincing, you should know that Kyle is also endorsed by the righteous bros of Bro-LUG.  Those talented but feral youths don’t typically accept bro’s over the age of 25 or so but even they couldn’t deny Kyle membership, especially after his performance at an arm-wrestling initiation ritual that I’m not at liberty to speak of.  So if you find yourself at BrickWorld Chicago, seek out Mr. Vrieze and tell him “Keith sent me for a sandwich“.

I had the pleasure of dining with Kyle at the Mirage Hotel and Casino here in Vegas some time later and we hatched a plan for a collaboration, which brings us at last to the second shot.  The photo you see below is nothing like the idea I pitched to him over steaks and beer, I had some vague notion of an underground launch-base in mind and I asked him to build a VTOL fighter or three as the focal point.  In the end I had to shit-can the entire concept, I just couldn’t translate the idea into the brick.  So instead, I said something like “just send me what you can and I’ll figure it out”.  Four months later I finished this diorama, which features three of Kyle’s designs, including the epic mecha you see below along with a robot and a futuristic scout car.

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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.  The photo is entitled “Sandwich Buddies” and let me tell you brother, you have not lived the BrickWorld convention experience until you’ve had a sandwich with Kyle. Traditions matter, people, they matter.  You can’t just have lunch with any random AFOL, or you may get stuck with an Aspy paste-eater or Rutherford, so choose your dining companions carefully. Meals are the rarely spoken about highlight of spending a weekend with your fellow Lego nerds.  Booze, good eats, shit-talking, shenanigans…meal time really is fun time.  Whether it’s Thai food in Seattle or Sandwiches in Chicago, it’s important to make the right choice when dining out.14715664850_cddf63e5aa_o.jpg

Please note that Simon is wearing Chairman Zhang’s brick-badge in the photo…did he just give up trying to correct people calling him Nannan?  Did he murder Nannan and abscond with his badge?  Was it a mundane trade or some kind of friendship bracelet kind of thing?  All I know is that the Chairman used to be Kyle’s official Sandwich Buddy and now it’s Simon.

Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.  Kyle, as I pointed out earlier, looks like a generic action figure…of a wrestler, or a commando, or a biker.  Since you can’t go wrong with a basic black T, the verdict is an easy one.

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And Simon is here because he’s Simon and he’s ubiquitous.  At least he’s got Fry on his chest this time as opposed to that horrible Tie-Fighter tuxedo shirt.

Gundam Style

I was very surprised to find out none of the big LEGO blogs picked up the next featured model on the Manifesto.  I didn’t bother to cover it when it was posted because I figured you’d be seeing this model everywhere and it would rack-up hits like Ichiro Suzuki.  While the number of views are respectable, the rest of the metrics simply do not reflect the greatness of the model.  The builder responsible for this mighty “GUNDAM RX-78-2” is JAN LEGO, it is a name that should be familiar to both hardcore and casual mecha enthusiasts.  Gundam style robots don’t typically do it for me, but this one is so perfectly constructed that I could not resist blogging it.  There are enough Lego versions of this “mobile suit” design out there to easily fill an Omnibus posting, but I don’t think many of them can match this Gundam.  Like so many of the best models our hobby has to offer, this one crosses that glorious threshold where it ceases to look like a Lego construct at all.

For many mecha builders it is the flexibility of a model that separates the good from the great, they value poseability as much as form.  This Gundam checks that box too, it can hold a rifle and strike a pose with the best of them.  Normally I would throw something in here about specific details that stand out, but I wouldn’t know where to start on this one.  From head to toe this mech is packed with impressive technique and detail, I am at a loss for even a nitpick.  Perhaps if I was more familiar with the subject matter I could provide some suggestion for improvement but I somehow doubt it.  As a constant reader you know that I judge all mecha by their feet and although they look surprisingly feminine from the back, the feet are great.  They look like big metal boots.  Giant robot is GO!

 

 

Two for Tuesday: Carter Baldwin

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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 long time crony and friend of the blog, Carter Baldwin.  Just like last week’s guest, Jordan Schwartz, I feel like I’ve watched him transform from a teenager with no end of raw creative potential to a very polished and talented adult.  These days Carter is pillar of the community who has his own legion of admirers and fanboys who eagerly await his next build.  I got a chance to hang out with Carter for lunch at BrickWorld 2010 and looking back, that table was quite a rouges gallery of LEGO nerds: the Chairman, Jordan, Tiler Clites, Nathan Todd, Iain, Robin and even a Rubino sighting.  I have the feeling I met Carter at an earlier convention but I’m old and some of those memories are more blurry than I’d like.  Back when I was a Brother in 2012, I interviewed him for volume 17 of my “Boilerplate & Beyond” collection.  Frankly, the interview isn’t great, I hadn’t hit my stride yet with finding the right question for the right guest, but it is an interesting time-capsule. When re-reading the interview, one of Carter’s quotes jumped out at me:

“Collaborative displays are immensely fun. I’ve always wanted to build huge displays – you don’t need the ego inflation, but it’s likely a direct result of seeing your megabuilds in my formative years. Of course, I don’t have the budget or the brick to build the massive displays that will make The Goldman feel inadequate, so the next best solution is to steal other people’s collections. Making those people build your vision for you is even better.”

He’s absolutely right you know, “Making those people build your vision for you is even better.”  Over the years Carter has done an admirable job of doing just that, whether it was his often imitated Flickr group World in Conflict 2070 or the collaborative diorama Cyberpocalypse or the various combined efforts of BroLUG.  When Carter raises his banner, great builders assemble to help him realize his vision.  Now look at these two mechano stumble-bums, the latest weapons in Carter’s ever-expanding stable of war machines.  The “Brute” Mobile Frame looks like it jumped off the screen of your favorite anime series, but without the little girls in Catholic school uniforms to make things uncomfortable.  I love it when builders find a way to incorporate minfig backpacks, and Carter uses them perfectly here.  The guns are good enough to be stand-alone models, although the one on the left looks a little to big and unbalanced for the frame.  Constant readers of the Manifesto may know by now that I judge all mecha by their feet and although these seem a little small for my tastes, at least they look good.

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I can’t very well talk about Mr. Baldwin without discussing his key contribution to my recent bloated Diorama, A Bus Stop in Bucharest.  Back in 2008 I recruited Carter to help me with the equally boated Zero Hour on Highway 44 and he came through in spades, producing some of my favorite vehicles of the project.  So 8 years later when I attempted a collaboration on the same scale, he was one of the first builders I turned to.  Once again, Carter was not content with providing a single vehicle and sent a small fleet of beautiful Box trucks along with a pair of his classic Satyr armored cars.  Like a few of the other vehicles in the diorama, the box trucks were swallowed up to some degree by the scenery and obscured by flashier super-trucks. It’s a shame because these beauties were the glue that held the whole thing together.  In fact, it was Carter who came to the rescue late in the game when I simply could not produce a good concept for the toxic spill at the center of the action.  I really dislike like building damaged or “ruined” models and I’m not very good at it either.  So when Carter offered to distress one of the box trucks he pretty much saved the whole tamale.  All I had to do was combine it with some of those weird, soft Bionicle doo-dads and everything worked out just fine.  In the years between our collaborations, Carter refined his model-shipping skills too.  When the models for Highway 44 arrived, they were reduced to the component level from a combination of eggshell technique and lack of sufficient bubble wrap.  For Bucharest I don’t think there was any significant damage at all.

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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 somtimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder.  This is one of those times.  Thanks to builder dasnewten for the enlightening photo below.

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“Dude, for the third time…my name isn’t Nannan.”

Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.  Carter is wearing standard issue convention gear for gentlemen of his age, a graphic T-shirt possibly referencing a video game or some such nerd-culture fodder and a cotton blend hoodie that probably smells quite dank.  The ensemble is fashion boilerplate and entirely unremarkable.  Although the focus of this week’s article is not Mr. Liu, his garment demands special commentary.  A Tie-fighter emblazoned tuxedo T-shirt and a suspiciously dangling belt…I’m not sure I have the words to describe the look, but Rupaul does.

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