2018 LSB Contest: Week 4 Wrap Up

With only 4 days remaining in the 2018 LSB contest the action is heating up and the big guns are starting to fire.  At the time of this posting there are 151 entries (more than double the total from last week) which are still pretty evenly split between the big 3 categories.  Even the diorama-based District 18 is up to 16 entries compared to just 3 last week.  I was very surprised to see that the robust turn out still pales in comparison to the 2017 iteration in terms of the sheer number of entries.  With just a few days to go, the total number of bikes would have to more than double to make up the difference.  Quantity isn’t everything though and I’d call this year a great success regardless of the statistical outcome. As you can see on the list below, last year’s turnout was unprecedented and the numbers were bound to decline somewhat from that record high.  340 entries is madness…that’s got to be some kind of record for any Lego related contest.  This year’s iteration is already the third most popular of the group and is in striking range of second place with one full weekend still to come.

2009: 207  (this is the least accurate number, many bikes/builders have been deleted)

2010: 146

2011: 122

2016: 67

2017: 340

2018: 151+

I have to admit that I’ve fallen way off on my commenting and I’m not sure if I’ll catch up.  I think the optimum window for constructive criticism has closed, there simply isn’t enough time remaining for the builders to implement feedback before the deadline.  Of course the critique might still hold value to the participants regardless of the time frame, offering them something to consider for next year’s event, but my primary goal was to help out the new participants and early birds.  It’s difficult for the judges to also act as hype men and I hope that my enthusiastic critique was encouraging in the early stages.  This update will be my final words on the contest, I’ll leave it to our own Ted Andes to wrap up the proceedings once the dust has settled and the winners are announced.  Even though I’m sure I’ll miss out on some great last minute entries, the prize-snipers don’t do much for me and I’d like to leave some room for the judges to put their critical stamp on the proceedings. Ted, as soon as you recover from the madness, I hope we’ll see an article from you and the boys.

As you might expect, the bikes are getting better as we go along so let’s get to my favorites of the week.  The usually reliable ABIDE category took a dip this week and it was surprisingly easy to select my favorite bike, the “Red Devil” by robbadopdop, it was one of the few bikes in the pool that I wouldn’t change anything at all.  It ticks all the boxes for me: looks like a bike, innovative parts use, looks fast, and every detail sings.  I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Carter Baldwin’sTesla Arrowhead“, because of it’s innovative use of stop-motion that really ups the ante in terms of presentation.  However, it wasn’t my favorite of the week because in the ABIDE category the bike is still the focus and I found Carter’s offering to be too similar to his entries from last year and for my money the Red Devil leaves the competitors in the dust.  I think Carter might possibly have been better served holding back his game-changing  background for the District 18 category where the background matters as much if not more than the bike.

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The ENFORCE category remains mired in boilerplate, and my decision for the week’s best was a tough one.  There were a number of very good bikes, but very few that I would categorize as great.  In the end I selected the “D-18 Scout” by perig perig mostly because it doesn’t follow the standard black-and-white highway patrol model  most of the participants have opted for, going instead with a pretty effective camouflage pattern.  I love the insect-like shape of the bike and the unconventional orientation of the operator.  The entry violates my ad nauseam complaint about stock handlebars, but the rest of it is so good that I can overlook it.  I’m still quite surprised that out of the 60+ reviews I’ve left, nobody has called me out on using the same stock handlebars myself for all three entries last year.  The reason I hit it so hard in my critique is because I believe every part matters in a build this small and the best piece of advice I received on my bikes last year was to ditch that particular part.  I’m not saying it should never be used, but I do think builders should at least try and improve upon a detail that is so prevalent in official sets.

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The strongest entries for the week all seemed to be stacked in my least favorite category and it was good to see REBEL have it’s moment in the spotlight.  I was torn between a couple of bikes, there was a little something for everyone this past week, from hamster wheels to a lightning octopus to an HR Giger design , but I finally settled on the “Mole Patrol” by Tammo S.  It’s just a tight build from the nose to it’s wonderfully bulbous ass.  The combination of angles and textures take it over the top for me, and the curved sewer wall was a nice touch too, even if it seems a little unfinished.  Much like the “Red Devil“, there isn’t a thing I’d change about this bike.

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Thankfully there is finally some action in the DISTRICT 18 diorama category, although I’m a little surprised how similar many of the entries look with their 7-11 sized buildings and conventional roadways. For my selection I ended up going with an offering that perhaps has my least favorite bikes, and some custom graphic shite I could do without…but it grabs me in a way that none of the others do.  I’m referring to “Decommissioned Industrial Area KT17″, by Alessandro G.  I love that brown girder that runs through the middle and the gull-wing overhang.  There are dioramas that are more detailed and offer better minifig action (like FonsoSac’s awesome street demolition), but I love the simplicity on display here, it’s the only entry that seems immersive to me.  Sometimes less is more.  I could also do without the text on the image, the font is annoying and the placement (especially in the upper right corner).  This diorama hits all the right notes for me and it definitely elevates what are mostly forgettable bikes.  I want to see more of this world.38686454170_a5a368f1fe_o.jpgSo congratulations to Ted, Zenn, Cole and all the participants for another spirited speeder bike throw down! I was indeed entertained.  I don’t envy the job ahead for the judges, it won’t be easy to select winners from so many great entries.  I look forward to getting back into the arena next year.

2018 LSB Contest: Week 3 Wrap Up

The annual Lego Speeder Bike (LSB) contest has rounded the final turn and is staring down the final straightaway to the March 5th deadline.  As many constant readers know, I’m all about the numbers and week 3 of the showdown saw another impressive jump in total entries to 69 across all categories.  That number has gone from 7 to 36 to 69, which one might expect as a natural expansion curve, but the number I didn’t expect is the even distribution of bikes in each category.   Abide, Enforce and Rebel each have 22 entries at the time of this posting, and the Distcrict 18 category understandably lags way behind with only 3 entries dude to it’s elevated level of difficulty and requirements.  A slightly deeper dive into the numbers reveals that 33 builders have entered the arena, with the number of entries per builder breaking down like this.

10 players with 1 entry.

13 players with 2 entries

7 players with 3 entries

3 players with all 4 entries

Having reviewed every entry in the pool I feel pretty safe in saying that the overall quality of the entries has increased as well, as you might expect.  For most people, more time spent refining a bike means a better bike.  The only thing I find troubling about the numbers is the number of people sitting on 3 entries after 3 weeks.  When I competed last year there were also 4 categories and I allotted a weeks building time for each one.  While I realize not everyone would adopt this strategy I do think it takes most people about a week (or weekend) to conceptualize, build, photograph and post a bike.  Obviously the goal can be completed great deal quicker as the three guys who have posted in the District 18 thread prove, but the results of such a fast approach has proven to be less than stellar.  In fact, all 3 entries in the diorama category are forgettable and disappointing.  That may seem a harsh thing to say, but I feel a little better saying it because I left them all detail reviews days before this posting, so my objections are old news.  I would also point to the relatively low numbers of favorites and reviews.   All 3 entries are variations on the same theme: cop chases rebel while abider looks on.  The basic premise is about as interesting as the stock handlebars featured on 80% of the bikes.  Beyond the basic theme, the contestants are flat out not putting as much effort, respect or creativity into the background as they do the bikes…which while fine for the individual categories, is a poor decision for the District 18 category.  I’m obviously biased because diorama is my preferred genre of building, and it probably pains me more than it should to see people going through the motions instead of trying to break through the boilerplate and give the audience a show.  I want to see some dioramas like last year’s offerings from Carter, Zach, Jeff, and I’ll arrogantly attach my own name to that list.  Whether the image goes edge-to-edge like the examples I just showed you or not doesn’t matter to me, so let’s not rehash that old argument about which is the better approach.  The bottom line is that the 2018 competitors need to step up their diorama game, 2017 is laughing at them.

Before I get into the bike spotlights, I’d like to discuss a disturbing trend that is one example away from being the unofficial theme of the contest…poop.  Maybe the builder, Nick Poncelow is right, and that I’m just not down with toilette humor but his plumber bike from the abide category really put me off.  I just don’t get it…the plumber took a dump on the seat of his bike?  Is that the plumber you want walking around your house?  I think the idea of a toilette shaped seat is funny but a dookie?  Not so much.  As if that wasn’t enough, contestant GolPlaysWithLego sneaks a poop emoji into the presentation of his bike.  It’s a great bike, why tell me it’s a steaming pile of shite?  Am I old and out of touch with is issue?  If you have an opinion on this alarming and creeping issue in the contest, please leave your crappy takes in the comments.

Now it’s time for my favorite build in each category for week 3.  The ABIDE entries were a mixed bag but I really like the Downtown Ride by Faber Mandragore, especially after a couple of small but important revisions he made to both the bike and the base. I continue to be amazed by the percentage of people who are actually taking advantage of the feedback from the audience.  The camera angle on this official shot doesn’t really do the bike justice, so if you dig it, make sure to follow the link and take a look at the other photos.  I still think the base looks a bit generic, but it’s cut above most of the other entries who treat the vignette/stand as an afterthought.  I also dig the special effects, they’re noticeable without being overwhelming or distracting.

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The ENFORCE category had a couple of good entries this week but my favorite is the L.E.V. 5 by oOger, whose name always make me think of the word booger, which is unfortunate because I’m a big fan of his work.  This entry checks all the boxes, clever parts use, exotic parts, good stickering and it looks cool from every angle.  Many builders tend to avoid developing the bottom of the bike, but oOger goes the extra mile.  If you’re going to go for the boilerplate highway-patrol pursuit bike look, you can’t do much better than this. It looks fast and aggressive and ready to intercept a rebel or an abider jacked up on meth.  I’m not a huge fan of the helmet (ant man?) but I like the way you can see his eyeball through the face-mask.  I’m still not completely sold on the base, although it is an unusual part choice.  Even if it doesn’t make sense to me, it ultimately looks pretty cool and I suppose that’s all that matters.  It certainly makes me want to see more, and I hope the builders incorporates it into his District 18 entry if he chooses to do one.

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Rebel remains my least favorite category and it contains fewer bikes that I find interesting.  I admit to being burned out on the Mad Max, post apocalyptic vibe, which isn’t really fair to hold against a builder but I’m going to do it anyway.  This entry by F@bz was one of the exceptions, I can’t say enough good things about it, and he’s really the first competitor to take maximum advantage of the vignette/base.  With the Volkswagen badge and the banana-yellow color scheme, it seems like it would be better suited to the Abide category, but the context and choice of driver helps to move the needle towards rebellion.  I also appreciate the backwards cap on the driver, so many people use hair, which immediately robs the bike of any sense of movement.  The background may be of the boilerplate concrete urban variety, but it’s pretty sweet boilerplate.

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If you’ve been reading this series of wrap-ups you’ll know by now that my favorite aspect of the contest this year is watching builders improve their entries based on the feedback provided by roaming critic gallery.  Week 3 brought so many examples of constructive criticism in action that it’s no longer noteworthy in terms of these wrap up posts.  It has almost become the norm.  Even if I didn’t see any more examples of builders using feedback from this point on I’m ready to call this contest a success in terms of spreading the gospel of the critical process.  The number of good quality comments is increasing each week as more people seem to be willing to offer suggestions and opinion even if it’s occasionally a negative one.

With one week to go I expect to see the veteran prize-snipers take their shots and the District 18 category to finally attract some great entries.  If you’re still on the fence about entering the contest you’ve still got time to get in on the action, and none of the categories have a clear winner yet.  Rutherford, get off your ass and build a bike already!

2017 The Manifesto Year in Review

“And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne” constant reader, as we collectively celebrate another successful trip around the sun.   Here in the Manifesto HQ all is quiet…rountRee and Rutherford are sequestered in the lounge, donning their carefully constructed outfits for the much anticipated Father Time / Baby New Year cosplay spectacular.  I’ll leave it to you to guess how the roles are distributed, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.  In any case, the bar is fully stocked and the vomitorium has been steam-cleaned for your post-revels convenience.  Before the party gets started and the traditional games of grab-ass and jai-alai begin, why not join me for a statistical look back at 2017, your favorite blog’s second year of existence.

Let’s begin with the most important numbers, the total number of views, visitors, likes and comments.  I take the most pride in the last number, because for my money the Manifesto is all about the celebration and promotion of the lost art of conversation.   When you strip it all away we don’t really re-invent the wheel here, but what we are good at is active discourse, even if it’s mostly from a half dozen usual suspects.  And even though we are without question one of the smallest, shabbiest blogs in all the land, I doubt there are too many (if any) who can boast larger numbers of comments.  It is most impressive to me that even though we had significantly fewer articles posted this year (105 / 70), we managed to wrack up better stats across the board than our first year of operation in 2016.

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Here’s how the year broke down by month, I think it’s interesting that even in the stretch between August and October when there were no fresh postings, the blog still did decent numbers (relatively speaking) in comparison to the dead months from the year before.

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And now we move on to a short list of the most popular articles of the year.  Initially this data point seemed like a buzzkill because on my own fucking blog I should be able to at least crack the top ten! I don’t count the pinned Blog or Die! contest announcement and frankly I’m lucky to be sitting in the number 12 spot.   But after putting my considerable ego in check I think it’s actually something to be celebrated.  I want to issue a big THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to submit an article, you have no idea how much I appreciate it and clearly the readers responded in a big way.  It’s also quite interesting to note how a certain Mr. Van Cleave smoked the competition like a cheap cigar, no other contributor even came close to his gaudy numbers.  Cheers Aaron, you almost single-handedly made this year one to remember with your Art Hoax masterpiece and without a doubt you drew more eyes to the blog than anyone in it’s brief history.

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My favorite statistic of the bunch is without a doubt the global breakdown of where the Manifesto views are coming from.  Unfortunately most of these people never say a word on the blog, and some of the hits are no doubt bots, but I find it fascinating and inspiring nonetheless.  Malvides!  Paraguay! Gibraltar!…the international flavor is palpable, unbeatable and it’s great fun when I’m able to pair up an AFOL to his or her country like Kyle Vrieze in Bermuda, Angka in Indonesia and Gilcelio in Brazil.  I never expected to get much play at all outside of the US and Canada so all of this is delicious gravy.  Now if I could only get these far-flung readers to comment!

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If you’ve ever been curious as to the identities of the biggest gasbags on this august blog, wonder no longer.  The only surprise here is that King O’ Gasbags Rutherford is as low as he is and Wolff is as high.  I’m glad to see a young guy like Wolff crack the list because God knows we need a break from the geriatric crew from time to time.  What is absolutely crystal clear is that rowntRee should start a formal column on the blog, he’s practically conducting his own mini-blog in the comment section.  Art School Girlfriend, you need to formalize our relationship and give the people what they want!  Ditto to our beloved resident contrarian and bullshit artiste, Vitreolum, nothing would please me more than to give you your very own shiny podium from which to hold forth. Just like the guest-writers I’d like to offer a big THANK YOU to all of the people on this less than comprehensive list, without your commitment to keep the conversation going I would likely not bother with running this dump.

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And we’ll conclude our statistical review with an unlikely bit of information, I always assumed our busiest day was Monday, when people returned to their places of employment and studiously began their weekly quest to avoid work.  The only conclusion I can draw is that the Friday Night Fights are more popular than I imagined.

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I’m very optimistic that we can capitalize on this year’s momentum and make 2018 even better.  I think the new, slower posting pace has yielded clear dividends and we’ve certainly brought in more new voices than ever before.  You will continue to encounter all the boilerplate content you’ve grown to expect from the Manifesto and I’ve got some hopefully fresh ideas in the works to keep the action fresh in coming weeks and months.

So Happy New Year, constant readers, please accept my heartfelt thanks for making 2017 the best year yet for the Manifesto, you guys (and the occasional gal) make it all worthwhile.  Best wishes to you and yours for a safe, happy and prosperous 2018!  Now we’ll begin the traditional hallway melee! Gird your loins, it’s on Rutherford, you fascist rat bastard!

 

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.

arvo_thedoll

 

 

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.