“I love Los Angeles, and I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

The appeal of Andy Warhol has always been somewhat baffling to me but I do think his quote works well within the context of this article.  You see constant reader, I’m jonesing for some Lego action, I love plastic and I want to be plastic surrounded by other like-minded plastic people.   I want to reconnect with old AFOL Pokemon and add some new cards to my deck.  For a variety of reasons I missed the convention scene entirely last year so I’m determined to kick off 2018 the right way with a short trip down Interstate 15 to check out the festivities at Bricks LA.  Growing up in southern California, I always thought of Los Angeles as my beloved San Diego’s older, chlamydia-riddled sister, but I’m willing to put all of that baggage aside for a weekend of questionable antics with the usual suspects. The convention is in it’s 3rd year and since it’s one of only two options within driving distance from Vegas,  I’m all out of excuses for not checking out the scene.  It might not be the big action like Chicago, Seattle or D.C., but when I consider the dozen or so cons I’ve attended over the years, more often than not the most memorable ones were the regional ones.  One big advantage of a smaller con is that you don’t have so many drive-by conversations “Hey, how are you, what did you bring?” and you really get to know people and have a chance to hang out.

Constant reader Matt rountRee will be joining me for the road trip and if we’re very lucky so will noted Manifesto columnist and all around gasbag Michael Rutherford.  When the stars are in the right alignment, we form a distinctly American power-trio with the mutant power of making even obscure conventions like the one in Orem Utah a blast.  So if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area between January 5-7 of 2018, you should absolutely stop by and join us for the biggest Manifesto gathering to date at the Pasadena Convention Center!

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I’ll be bringing along The Marcus Garvey, my SHIPtember offering from this year, along with a throwback from 2008, ChiefLUG’s oMICROn Weekend.  It is also my intent in the next 50 some days to create a modest diorama to showcase the Garvey, and I’ll likely document that process here on the Manifesto as it progresses.  Generally speaking I don’t keep models assembled for more time than it takes to photograph and post them, but I’ve held onto the Garvey to show some visiting AFOLs and it seems like a good opportunity to get a second use out of it.

God only knows what rountRee will be schlepping to L.A. besides a flask of Jamesons, his battered VLUG cap and a home-made shank, but I would imagine his contributions will include the infamous Bushmaster, and if we’re lucky his Speeder Bike Contest entry from the beginning of the year.  If you do make it out to LA, don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to walk the hall and critique models with rountRee, to see the hippy bullshit-artiste in action.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll never look at models the same way again.  If you play your cards right, you might even hear him imitate Rodan with broadcast clarity.  Don’t be put off by the fact that he looks like a cannibal (those teeth!), Matt is very approachable and pliable with liquor.

If Rutherford does make an appearance, it will probably be with his standard kit: some pocket lint, half a tube of Mentos (The Freshmaker) and this dusty relic from 2007 that he drags to every con but can’t be bothered to post in his own photostream…because he’s lame.  I’m sure he’ll even bring one of his cherished copies of Brick Journal’s sold out, first edition to prove how awesome the model is.   He won’t mention the fact that I built everything under and around that model, or that Ryan Rubino took the cover photo because Rutherford can’t handle technology…no, no, he’ll stand there grinning from ear to ear, basking in the nostalgic glow of his beloved VTOL ambulance.  I would assume Mike’s SHIPtember entry will also make the journey, reduced to the component level by baggage handlers and his own terrible packing skills.  At least the design is so very simple that reconstruction shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes tops.  Seek out Rutherford at your own peril, once you get him talking it’s very difficult to extract yourself without great effort.

If all that isn’t enough to convince you to come and hang out, I’ll also be judiciously doling out some prime Manifesto SWAG to constant readers, cronies and a small cadre of convention-goers who prove their worthiness over the course of the weekend.  So why not join us for Bricks L.A. in January, it’s not like you have anything better to do.   Quite frankly, if you read this blog you can’t be that busy.  Yes the timing is less than ideal, right after the holidays, but won’t you be ready for a break from your loved ones just about that time?  Don’t you want to be figured prominently in the after-action reports from the field?  Ponder these questions, in the small hours of a long winter’s night.

4,294,967,295 (or) “I find myself growing fatigued”

Gird your loins, constant reader and prepare for some stream of consciousness style rambling.  As I mentioned in last week’s SUPERHAWK article, when I rediscovered the model in question I was actually searching for the #1 “most popular” model on MOCpages.  The creation that holds the honor is Garry King’s Battlestar Berzerk with a whopping 71,501 views, 2918 likes and 245 comments, an epic showing without a doubt.  While I certainly appreciate the gaudy stats and the accolades of my peers in the comment section, the Berzerk never spoke to me.  I found it too similar in shape and style to the Galactica to be interesting and the differences were not that compelling either.  Consequently, the article’s intended goal of reviewing and critiquing the #1 model on MOCpages morphed into a somewhat nostalgic spotlight of the rediscovered classic SUPERHAWK.  I enjoyed writing the article and it certainly generated more hits and comments than I expected so I went over to the ancestral birthing ground of our kind, Brickshelf, with the very same goal in mind, to find the “most popular” model on the site.  Since the Shelf is older than dirt, it doesn’t track likes/favorites and of course it doesn’t have a commenting feature which leaves us with a single measurable indicator of success, the number of views.  And that leads us to the bloated number featured as the title of this article: 4,294,967,295.  It turns out that every model on the first page of Brickshelf’s “Greatest Hits” function has the same exact number of views: 4,294,967,295.  Since there was no clear indication of which model enjoys the greatest popularity, I decided to discard the first page entirely because it seemed to my untrained eye like some kind of glitch in the system.  And just like my MOCpages experience last week, the creations on the first page were not sufficiently inspiring enough to set me typing.

It isn’t until you click over to the first model on page 2 that the number of views begins to vary and no 2 numbers are the same for at least a dozen pages back.  So I decided to use the top spot on page 2 to determine the most popular model on Brickshelf and therefore the subject of this article.  While 4,038,716,609 is truly an impressive number of views and builder suu’s rendition of the Wii is pretty accurate given the parts palette available a decade ago, at the end of the day I just can’t get excited about this model.  Of course I have some nitpicks (the controller, lack of those little rubber feet) but I’m not going to go into them at length because they bore me as the entire creation bores me, as the Battlestar Berserk bores me.  I have nothing against suu or the Wii, it was a fun platform and obviously quite a few people enjoyed the Lego interpretation you see below, but to quote a superior intellect…“I find myself growing fatigued”…just by looking at it’s blandness, much less trying to write about it in any meaningful way.

Yes, I did just compare myself to Ricardo Montalban.   I So I decided to go the SUPERHAWK route and focus what’s left of this article on a model featured on the same page, with an only slightly less impressive 1,870,316,719 views to it’s name.  It’s called “The Doll” and just like SUPERHAWK, it’s almost a decade old.  Rather impossibly, the hobby as we know is already has a driver’s license and it is fast approaching the legal drinking age.  I’m sure many of you will recognize the builders, the world renown Arvo Brothers,  but I was really only aware of the work they feature on Flickr, which does not include “The Doll“.  I also learned they have a very nice website that features the model in question, but I doubt I’ll return there, because I’m lazy and tend to stick to the usual watering holes for my Lego browsing rather than individual sites.  Although I know they’ve been around for a while,  I had no idea the Bros were active back in the days when Brickshelf was a commonly used site, I always thought of them as being a more modern phenomena.  So “The Doll” was a delightful discovery for me and I fervently hope it is new to at least a few of our constant readers.  Of course the shaping and level of detail on the front of the figure is truly remarkable, but it’s the shot of the upper back that I found the most compelling.  It almost seems like a different model entirely from this angle and it really drives home their almost obsessive quality ethic: everything must look as flawless as possible from top to bottom, back to front.  These guys appear to be ruthlessly intolerant of imperfection and I’d love to be a fly on the wall watching them build and argue over whether or not some obscure detail was good enough.  Most brothers I know would just as likely end a building session with fisticuffs and a broken model as create something this magnificent.  Oh, it’s also kind of fucked up and disturbing, something that’s difficult to do with a children’s building toy.

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4,294,967,295 is apparently a meaningless number, but for a stats guy like me it’s also kind of a drag.  I’m the type of person who likes to know who lead the league in batting average last year, or who had the most shots-on-goal in world cup history and it seems clear the stat-tracking on both MOCpages and Brickshelf is unreliable at best.  Of course, none of these image hosting sites have a comprehensive collection of every model produced so the whole manner of  comparison is a questionable endeavor from the get go, but I don’t care…I still like stats, I still like rankings, I still like lists.  I’ll also grant you that there is no perfect metric for a model and many of you probably don’t like having “art” measured and quantified at all, but it is an interesting way to compare models that can foster both well intentioned discussion and rousing smack talk.   Even as I kid I used to love to argue about Guitar Player Magazine’s ranking of the 10 best rock guitarists, or the Sporting News list of the best baseball players by position or TV shows detailing the top 10 piston driven aircraft from WW2.  Ultimately, my somewhat dubious quest for the #1 most popular model was a failure, but it lead me to a couple of excellent and influential models that at the very least deserve a second viewing 10 years later.

Stay tuned in the coming days, constant reader, for new offerings from regular contributors Ted Andes and our resident foppish dandy, Michael Rutherford.  Please recall that the Manifesto is always accepting submissions for review, so don’t hesitate to send us your rants, no matter how malevolent or benign.

 

Omnibus: “Not a bird, not a plane, I’m just a mean old night owl”

The always plush Omnibus is leaving the station, constant reader and you’ve got a window seat for all the action.  There is a snow owl airbrushed on the side of the bus, refreshments have been provided and “Fly By Night” is blasting from the speakers.  So grab the last empty seat next to Rutherford and we’ll take a short tour of Owl country.  We will discover together what our warm and embracing community can do with the beloved nocturnal bird of prey, in its many inspiring forms.

Our first stop is in Canada, to view the rarely seen owl in flight.  One look at the the photo and you can tell you’re not in the company of the average paste-eating mankinder.  This is the work of renown Montreal LEGO artist Ekow Nimako.  You can read a pretty informative  interview with Ekow here, which profiles not only this “Silent Knight” commission from 2015 but also his earlier work and background. I dove into his catalogue of pictures and didn’t come out of the trance for about 20  minutes.  You can expect an article on more of Mr. Nimako’s work somewhere down the line, for there is indeed much to explore.  For now enjoy two of Ekow’s investigations of the common barn owl, which are anything but common, including a construction video of Silent Knight.

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Let’s stay off the perch and in flight with good friend of the Manifesto, Jordan Schwartz and his “Owlet” from 2010.  At the time of posting, the use of non ABS LEGO products like cloth capes and Ewok glider-wings was very unorthodox and drew many exclamations of N.P.U. from  appreciative viewers.  The eyes and banana-beak are very striking and somehow the build still looks fresh 6 years and 10,000 hits later.

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Now let’s switch gears entirely and examine some mechano-owls like this eye-catching “Cyber Owl” from the ever reliable and always original, Mihai Marius Mihu.  I love the builder but I hate the name, it’s just too difficult to say and impossible to type from memory.  In my head I call him “Miti Mata Mulu”, which isn’t too cool.  The build is very cool though, the trans-clear plates on the chest were a brilliant choice.

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Continue reading “Omnibus: “Not a bird, not a plane, I’m just a mean old night owl””

“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.