Accepted entry for the “Comics” category.
Author: LettuceBrick (Nice Try)
Accepted entry for the “Comics” category.
Author: LettuceBrick (Nice Try)
Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another defenestrating edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the tiny brutes, with a lucrative sponsorship from Cemex Inc. and the critical blessings of Le Corbusier on the line. Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.
Fighting out of the red corner, from the feet of Poseidon at Götaplatsen, Gothenburg Sweden, it’s “Madman” Magnus and his “Government Building”.
And fighting out of the blue corner, from somewhere over the rainbow, it’s “relentless” Are J Heiseldal and his “Høyblokka 2“.
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 digital multipeds, with state of the art heat-sinks and the lamentation of the enemy’s women on the line. In the end, Nicola “The Sledgehammer” Stocchi and his “Tallneck” scored a decisive 8-4 victory over “Malevolent” Max his “Punisher“. Stocchi scores his first victory (1-0) while Max runs his record to (0-1).
It’s not too often that the sight of a model will inspire me to bolt to the Legoratory and make a copy for my own satanic purposes, but the next model in the Spotlight has done just that. From the Technic panel forks, to the turrets, to the radar, this pint-sized death machine called “The Tangent-Class Assault Cruiser” speaks to me…and it says: “We need more ships! Raise me a mighty navy! Do it, you bumpkin!” Oh wait, that was Rutherford shouting at me through the window…I thought it was the boat. Surprisingly, Tangent is over 5 years old now, and I would have completely missed out if I hadn’t stumbled upon it while searching for a Friday Night Fights match-up. This kind of discovery is one of the best things about running the Manifesto.
I’m about halfway done and I’m already trying different variants, it’s a fun design to riff on and it is going to be difficult not to add to the fleet. I don’t think I can give builder Multihawk a greater compliment, thanks for getting me to the table, good sir!
The only thing that bothers me is the two shades of green, it makes my OCD tingle. My copy will not have that problem and in fact will not be green at all. Has any model online or in person inspired you, constant reader, to build your own? I hope to hear from you in the comments. Forget indirect inspiration, I’m talking about duplication, with or without mods.
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 legendary curmudgeon and old-school MOCpages raconteur, Shannon Young. I had the good fortune of meeting Shannon at Seattle’s Brickcon in 2007, where we hung out a bit and ventured forth on one of the best field trips I’ve ever experienced at a convention. Most of it is not fit for publication, at least without getting some waivers signed, but it culminated with a pilgrimage to the grave of Jimi Hendrix, along with fellow AFOL’s Jon Palmer, Mark Neuman and a small group of complete strangers. Of course we left a Jimi Minifig at the grave. It was the second most fun I’ve ever had in a cemetery, and Shannon was a great tour-guide to the city, even if he drove like a maniac and his brakes were iffy at best. We vowed to go to Bruce Lee’s grave at the following year’s convention but unfortunately that never worked out. We were able to Collaborate for my Highway 44 diorama in 2009, it took some serious wrangling but it was worth the effort. When I asked, Shannon used to always tell me: “I don’t dance to your music, Goldman”. Eventually though, he did, even if it was only payback for MOCtag, which we’ll talk about later. I can certainly understand his hesitance though, it ain’t easy to dance to Rush.
Shannon was way more active on MOCpages and was one of those cats who never embraced Flickr or any other spot where builders gather. He was one of the first builders I knew who combined a talent with the brick and an outspoken, sometimes controversial voice in public. Every once in a while he would combine the two, like his wonderfully irreverent take on Christianity called “Pyramid Scheme”. So let’s have a reminisce about one of the most infamous and celebrated characters of MOCpages, shall we, constant reader?
The first model we’ll be looking at tonight is “Shannonia”,one of the first examples of a micropolis I can remember seeing online. I suppose it’s closer to nano-scale because at this resolution humans are too small to be represented with brick. In traditional Micro-scale, humans are represented as 1×1 cylinders, or minifig-trophies. Right away it reminded me of Sim City, one of my favorite games from back in the day and it had a big impact on me at the time. Debuting in 2007, it was very impressive to see the mountains and coastline included alongside the typical urban layout. Taking inspiration from his hometown of Seattle, Shannon began with a humble patch of buildings and expanded it into an award-winning sprawl. If you like construction-journal style Lego writing, I can’t encourage you enough to take a trip through the City of Shannonia Visitors Center on MOCpages. Not only is Shannon a skilled builder, but he also has a way with words and his account doubled as his own personal blog. There are a lot of frustrated would-be novelists in our hobby, and he was one of them. I had the good fortune to read a little of his work and it was clear he’s got some real talent. The Shannonia series is nice because you can see the humble beginning stages of the project and take a tour of each individual point of interest on the map. Each building has it’s own story, even if it’s a brief one, which is something that you can’t always say about more modern micropolis efforts. The greatest compliment I can give a builder is to let them know their model inspired me to build something, and Shannonia made me take a hard look at creating my own micro-city.
The next shot probably doesn’t seem that impressive, and if I was going strictly by how pleasing the model it, it would have made the cut. This humble diorama is the first installment in a hugely popular and unique community building project called MOCtag. It is ironic that Shannon considered himself such a curmudgeon and yet he created something that was inherently positive and inclusive. In Mr. Young’s own words:
To start the game, I am It. Below will be one line to open a story, accompanied by a MOC to illustrate it. I will then tag someone, who must continue that story with an appropriate MOC. They then tag someone, who continues the story with a MOC of their own and tags someone else. And we’re off and rolling.
So I’m not going to talk about the actual model, it’s the least interesting thing about MOCtag and at the time it was posted I found it down right irritating. I was pre-selected by Shannon to be the first person tagged after his initial model got the ball rolling. We talked about it having a minfig focus so the reveal was a big surprise. Instead of adapting to the larger scale, I turned Rory the Chicken into and gave him a minifig girlfriend. The entire project was pure chaos from the beginning, and it didn’t take long before the train went off the rails entirely. It was simultaneously the beauty and the great flaw of the effort. While the story made no sense at all, the subsequent builds were interesting to say the least. It was like a great stream of consciousness experiment and it drew in some of the greatest builders on MOCpages, people like Jordan Schwartz, Mark Kelso, Shannon Ocean, and Alex Eylar. Unfortunately many of the participant’s don’t have MOCpages accounts any longer so a great deal of content was lost over time but MOCtag produced some entertaining and frequently bizarre work, along with some crap to be sure, but that’s the way of all popular fads. And popular it was, MOCtag had a huge following of commenters, and it spawned a half a dozen copy-cats and a sequel somewhere along the line. It remains to this day one of the most original and compelling community challenge ideas I’ve ever encountered and it was a blast to participate with Shannon and my fellow builders. I do wish Shannon had tried to regulate things a bit more, I encouraged him to be the Rod Serling who edited the stories and introduced each one, to give the whole thing more direction and cohesion. Shannon, however, would have none of that formalized structural bullshit, he just wanted to unleash the idea and revel in the chaos. Mission accomplished, this is one idea that I would like to see get an updated treatment, if the old curmudgeon ever comes out of his self-imposed exile, I’ll encourage him to do so.
Unfortunately, Shannon seems to have dropped off the radar entirely in the past few years, with his last post to Flickr dated 2012. The last Lego-related image he posted was a thoughtfully depressing farewell to his good friend and fellow AFOL Heather Braaten. I don’t want to read too much into that, I have no idea why Shannon left the scene, but I will say that her untimely death had an understandably huge impact on a large segment of the hobby and there are several prominent people who simply stopped posting new models after Heather’s passing. Whatever the reason for his departure, I hope Shannon enjoys his break and gets back to building one of these years, because his creative mojo and smack-talk are greatly missed. I reached out to the Shannon while writing this post a few weeks ago, but his old email address is no good and I have yet to get a response on Flickr. If and when I do hear back, I’ll post an update to this story.
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. This photo contains not one but two Shannons, the two most popular and well-regarded Shannon’s in the short history of this hobby. The Shannon on the left…the one who looks like a Russian gangster is constant reader Shannon Sproule AKA Shannon Ocean. He’s dressed like he’s looking to push some product so we’ll leave him alone.
The Shannon in question is the Shannon on the right, so let’s focus on him. The jacket is entirely unremarkable and forgettable, the perfect jacket to wear when you rob a liquor store because nobody will remember it in their description to the police. Ditto the jeans, they are the definition of generic. The necklace though…it’s a favorite accessory because he’s wearing it in just about every photo that exists of him online. At least it’s not gold, and at least it doesn’t have an embarrassing dongle of some kind hanging from it. It seems very Seattle, so I guess he’s fits in well with his fellow citizens. The T-shirt is a Grateful Dead number, which I’m going to count as a negative because to me they are the quintessentially overrated American band. I like none of their songs, I’ve seen them live once and I remember nothing except the smell of patchouli and the hippy chick dancing in the row in front of me. So reluctantly we say….
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 Indonesian builder Angka Utama, whose stable of fine automobiles have been burning up the streets of Micropolis since 2010. I think I appreciate Angka’s work so much because as a kid we were too poor to do the LEGO thing so my go-to toy was cheap-ass Hot Wheels, purchased from the local grocery store…and if I’m being honest, sometimes shoplifted from the local grocery store (I was a terrible kid). So every time I see one of Mr. Utama’s models it brings me back to those pumpkin-orange track segments that also made for great weapons to duel away the afternoon with my jackassy friends. The sound of a well places slap on the thigh or upper arm was a thing of beauty. See…I can be nostalgic too.
Enough of the old “slap & tickle”, you’re not here to read about my stupid childhood habits, so let’s get on with the sweet Lego action. First up is Angka’s brilliant Rally Kit, which is a sort of generic truck platform that can be customized with any number of modules. Although the racing variant is shown here I can imagine it roving the moon with scientific equipment, carrying troops to the battlefield or transporting sensitive cargo in the urban core. I’ve built one myself and it is a delight to roll around the table. I don’t often replicate another person’s build unless it is for a specific project, but since the time and resource investment was so low, I couldn’t resist. It is going to be very difficult to restrain myself for building more trucks and an environment for said truck to roll around in, but that’s a dark road of ever-escalating ambition that can end up taking months instead of days. It is about the highest praise I can give a builder though and it’s not limited to this model, many of his cars have me reaching for the bin full of fenders. I’m not sure what special ju-ju Anga wields, but there is an ocean of these little 4 wide and 6 wide cars out there and typically they don’t move the needle for me in the slightest. Just like nnenn with his Vic Vipers or Jon Hall with his warbirds, the V.O.A.T. thing just never gets old with Angka’s models. Maybe it is the accessibility of both designs, they seem very attainable to even casual builders. Unlike The Chairman with his uber-rare and expensive parts, or Tyler Clites with his complexity, most people with a modest collection and skill level can play ball.
Unlike most people I feature in this series, I have not had the good fortune to meet Angka. As much as I’d love to explore Republik Indonesia (especially the Prambanan Temple) it ain’t gonna happen and there is nothing in Angka’s photostream that would indicate a trip to Vegas is on his list of things to do. I can share an anecdote though, the year was 2010 and I was perusing The models for sale on Chairman’s Zhang’s laudable holiday tradition, Creations for Charity. I was a little cash-strapped as people tend to get during the holiday season, so I couldn’t throw down on a big model or even a small model by a high-vis builder. You can imagine my excitement when I came across the very reasonably priced Mitsubishi HSR, that had been generously donated by Mr. Utama. It remains one of my favorite models to this day that I’ve ever been fortunate enough to acquire from my fellow Lego-nerds. I was so impressed by the car that I was immediately inspired to construct a suitable background for the sports-car, that like many of Angka’s builds, looks very futuristic. I even saved the box, because how cool is it to get mail from Indonesia?
After scouring the usual sources for a photo of Angka, this is the Bookface avatar was the best image I was able to come up with. If you know of a better one, constant reader, please don’t hesitate to mention it in the always lusty comment section.
Frankly, I can’t tell much here, he might be a cyborg of some kind? Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder. In this case Angka is sporting a T-shirt of indeterminate color, possibly gray and I can’t tell if he’s wearing pants of any kind. In the absence of further evidence, I cannot ask Rupaul for a verdict on this one so we’ll let it slide. Until next time, anda mengontrol tindakan.
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. With that boilerplate out-of-the-way, today’s victim on the rotisserie spit is David Zambito. You may remember him from such popular builds as The Northern Wing, Gatehouse and Twisting Tree.. It seems like he’s been on a hot-streak lately, but when When David released his latest model “Micro Air Force Base“, the results were disappointing. I have a love of the topic and I was hoping from the thumbnail that the builder had created yet another impressive piece.
When it comes to criticism I like to employ the classic sandwich method, so let us begin with what’s good about the diorama. The hangar is well designed and immediately recognizable, although I wish there was at least one more of them in the scene. I also really dig the control tower and the small cluster of buildings in the corner, they really earn their place. The dark-green cheese slope trees are a nice touch and they seem like the proper scale for the environment. Likewise the little green trucks are both iconic and delightful, it’s nice to see more than one in the same scene because the uniformity drives home the idea of a military installation. The rusted back fence is a great touch and I admire the way it mimics the front fence without being a literal copy. The technique may not be new, but it works and that’s all that matters. Overall I really like the way the scene is laid out, from above it looks like a little 3D map, which I imagine was the builder’s intent.
Now let’s turn to what was less than successful. The first thing that jumps out at me is the jagged terrain that alternates between studded and smooth sections seemingly at random and it probably has one too many colors for such a small footprint. Air fields are typically as flat as pancakes, so the varied height doesn’t really work for me. The landscaping as a whole looks like it was created in vertical strips, as if the whole diorama was run through a paper shredder and then taped back together. The flower-stem parts are out of scale and just look weird in this context and the scattered 1×1 green plates are sort of distracting. The fence is a maddening mix of good and bad. I like the flex-tube technique that allows the builder to break the grid with an interesting shape, but I can’t abide all the studs, with studded ground right next to the fence it all becomes muddled. I also think the fence is too close to the air strip and the guard hoses at the gate could have used some detailing.
Let’s talk about that air strip, the last place a stud is going to look good or artsy is on a surface meant to launch and receive aircraft. Those random studs on the tarmac would separate an aircraft from its landing gear in short order. As for the two-toned gray brick, I think that works quite well on larger dioramas but it looks odd at this scale. I also can’t figure out why the desert intrudes so badly onto the runway. Perhaps the diorama is supposed to depict life many years after the war, where it sits in a state of decay, but the builder did not provide a back story. Finally I think the planes are unfortunately a weakness when they should be a strength. The small fighters look more like space ships, with various knobby protrusions and the bomber has strange proportions. Both designs would have been a good opportunity to inject some color into the scene, as they tend to disappear on the mottled runway. The fuel truck is a near miss too, it’s not as slick as the green trucks and I don’t like that the fuel tank has a gap in it. I guess my biggest complaint is that the combined effect of the details (some good, some bad) looks jumbled and pixellated, like an out of focus photograph or a cubist painting.
With all those problems, “Micro Air Force Base” is not as bad as this slab of boilerplate from a few months ago entitled “Serpent Towed Trade Barge“. The subject matter is tired, the serpent looks like it was a set design and the water looks like one of those D.I.Y stained glass window kits you make with kids. Slap on some rock vomit hillocks and the mediocrity is complete. It wouldn’t bug me so much if I didn’t know this builder was capable of superior work. Even though I don’t like much about this scene, I do like the way the hillock closest to the viewer penetrates the frame, it’s a cool technique. Don’t worry constant reader, that’s about as mean-spirited as I intend to get this week. It is high time to complete this critical sandwich and say something positive about the builder before we end this week’s dissection.
Let’s not forget the sort of work Mr. Zambito is capable of, because typically it is very inspiring. From big ideas to small, Dave has a strong sense of design and storytelling, just check that fireside scene in the photos-mosaic for evidence of both. Before seeing it with my own eyes, I would have said the classic Led Zeppelin album cover featured below was all but impossible, but David proved me wrong. You can see a mastery of technique in many of his creations and a great deal of creative thought is put into every aspect of the models. For example, the Ron Weasley wig-trees in the church vignette definitely qualifies as NPU…bro. Mr. Zambito has come a long with his presentation skills too, from the messy fabric backgrounds of his early builds to the clean white-space of today. Although too many of his shots still seem fuzzy, as if the brightness setting is turned too high, the photography is improving and I’m looking forward to whatever David does next.
A usual, constant reader, if you know a builder who you think might benefit or be entertained by this regular feature on the Manifesto, please let me know in the comments. A big thanks to friend of the blog, L’etranger Absurde, for this week’s suggestion.
It’s time to get small. TWINLUG’s “Micropolis” Micro City building standard has produced a large number of quality builds since it was developed in 2010 and every major convention these days features a collaborative layout of these tiny urban modules. Portland Oregon’s Christian Benito has been hard at work lately carving out his own slice of Micropolis, block by fascinating block. My favorite module of the new batch is “Tyson’s Junkers & Scrap” and my favorite detail is the owner’s trailer parked behind the building in its own fenced off lot.
Christian has is own blog called Little Brick Root where he details his process of developing a module from concept to final touches with plenty of photos. Each module has a plan and a unique backstory. You will also find set reviews, convention reports and technical advice that is both informative and well written. For more information on how you can get involved with Micropolis, and to see examples of the big collaborative convention layouts, you should check out the dedicated group on Flickr. Even though the group may seem a dormant right now, in my experience all it takes is one or two motivated newcomers to breath new life into any scene. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and put your own ideas out there for consumption, somebody will respond and more than likely invite you to participate. Building a module or two for a convention is a great way to meet and interact with your fellow LEGO nerds. Collaborative projects are a very effective gateway drug into the IRL side of the hobby and make it easy to break the ice with complete strangers. In the mosaic below you will find Devil Doughnuts, Green Leaf Market, CIC Headquarters, Mysterious Storage Tank and a Pollo Loco Taqueria.
I’ll conclude this brief survey of the life modular with one of Christian’s best modules, 2015’s “Babylon apartments”. The terraced greenery is very well done, it looks like it would fit comfortably in my hometown of San Diego along the shores of Pacific Bay or Hillcrest. The build makes me want to see what a taller structure in the same style would look like, or a cluster of very similar modules. I know, it’s always more…more…more, I can’t help myself, constant reader. Until next time, keep it real and keep it modular.