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.


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.


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.


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!

Friday Night Fights [Round 38]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another bolo-punch edition of Friday Night Fights! This week’s bout is the battle of the rovers, with crater naming rights and a fresh bottle of oxygen on the line. Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from a cafe on the Champs-Élysées, it’s “FabulousF@bz and his “Yamaha Paladin Rover”.


And fighting out of the blue corner, from his double stuffed recliner in the AFOL retirement home, it’s “Badass” Billyburg  and his “Big Wheel Rover“.


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 stag party, with access to a pile of acorns and an exemption from hunting season on the line.  In the end, Joe “The Punisher” Perez and his “Stag“ scored a staggering (thanks Aaron) 11-1 victory over Tim “Lionheart” Lydy and his “The Ravenstag”.  Perez scores his first victory (1-0) while Lydy runs his record to (0-1).


2018 LSB Contest: Week 1 Wrap Up

The first week of the LSB contest has flown by in the blink of an eye and unfortunately the turnout so far has been tepid at best.  I do realize that it’s too early in the process to be alarmed and that most established builders prefer to wait until the very end to unveil their masterpieces.  That said, 7 entries in as many days seems to be a much slower pace than the last year, when there were 17 entries after the first week.  I don’t really have a theory as to why there seems to be a drop-off this year, maybe it’s fatigue with the topic, a lack of promotion on big blogs, a lack of the familiar front-man Cole Blaq, declining participation on Flickr in general, the Manifesto’s crappy prizes or even intimidation.  Some of you might be thinking “Intimidation?  Who would be intimidated by something as innocuous as a speeder bike contest?”  but there is some evidence out there that it might be a factor.  For example, Mike M. is an established builder of considerable skill who has been featured on this blog and many others.  In the comment section for his entry he had this to say:

“I shy away from lego related contest, not only is the competition fierce,but I know its filled with badass builders, and I’m way outa my league I’m sure, contest not over yet!!!”

While Mike did indeed offer up a viable contest entry, I doubt he’s alone in his line of thinking.  A few builders witnessed the quality level and competition last year and they appear hesitant to enter, fearing that their skill set is not up to the task, or that they will be crushed by veteran builders.  Instead of rising to the challenge, they shrink or worse still, refuse to engage.  Another prospective combatant, Dan The Imposter who has yet to enter the arena had this to offer in the announcement thread:

“I hope I can still be good enough to stand a chance!” 

Still another perfectly able builder Deltassius had this to say:

“Not going to lie, after last year’s builds I am a little intimidated. I liked this contest more when I didn’t know any better!” 

While Ted and I tried to offer encouragement from the sidelines, it would have been nice to see more voices (including the other two admins) jump in the conversation to urge these nervous Nancys to sack-up and get in the game.  Plenty of great builders got their asses handed to them last year by the likes of Carter Baldwin and there is nothing wrong with that, in theory it should only improve performance in the future.  I’m not sure what the solution is to the intimidation factor, but it’s a shame to lose potential participants over something so silly.

On to the bikes….I have to admit that I’ve been underwhelmed by the early crop of entries, although competent, none of them are particularly memorable.  We need a hero, we need the “Ice Breaker” as defined by Ted in one of his Talks:

Guest #1: The Ice Breaker – The “Ice Breaker” is the personal hero of every contest host.  They enter the contest first, and now you can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Their entries offer you an early gauge of how the contest will go, and if you need to course correct if they are way off the mark.  Allowing people to swap entries until the deadline also relieves much of the risk of being the “Ice Breaker”.  It lets them rework their entry if a better idea happens to comes along…like one from…

I was hoping F@bz might be the Ice Breaker, when I saw him dive in early.  He possesses both the requisite mad building skillz, and a huge Flickr following that might bring fresh competitors, but his offering was kind of mundane.  While the saddle blanket is without a doubt a cool and clever detail and the bike as a whole is competently constructed, it doesn’t exactly bowl me over.  I won’t even get into the Chinese knockoff figure.


Although there are a couple of  entries that have an interesting idea or detail here and there, the only other bike worth mentioning at the one week mark is this shark carcass bike by  Marcel V.  Much like F@bz’ speeder, it relies heavily on a single gimmick to carry the build and the rest of it is pretty standard boilerplate.  It reminds me of a La-Z-Boy recliner with a dead shark strapped to the bottom.


It’s also worth giving some love to the contest’s first digital entry, by Luke, not only is it a nice looking ride, but the builder showed that he’s able to absorb apply constructive criticism.  He took good advantage of the contest’s rather liberal policy of allowing builders to improve and replace their entries right up until the end of the competition.  Ted Andes mentioned somewhere in the proceedings that the unspoken mission of the event is to promote feedback between builders, and that’s great, but I think it should be very much spoken, and spoken loudly…it’s really what separates this contest from so many of it’s brethren.

Unfortunately my favorite speeder in the LSB group pool isn’t even entered into the contest, it’s apparently from a Star Wars movie that I refused to see and it looks pretty great.  The builder is Inthert, and I sincerely hope he takes a crack at an official entry because he’s obviously got the mojo for it, providing of course he can break away from the pre-packaged theme.  The bike did draw my attention to a sort of confusing aspect of the contest, that there are quite a few bikes in the pool that have nothing to do with the contest, which seems both odd and unfortunate to me.   It made me wish that the contest existed in it’s own separate group, because I’m never sure whether or not I should comment on half the bikes in the pool.  I feel more jackassy than usual offering my constructive criticism on stuff that isn’t meant for the contest.  I’m also confused as to why you would post a speeder bike and not enter it?  I don’t know if it’s a reading comprehension issue or lack of clarity in the rules but I see a few people who don’t seem to be putting the bikes in the proper threads to ensure their eligibility for judgement and possibly a prize.


I’m confident things will pick up in the coming weeks, but at the quarter mile post I was hoping for a little more action.

Battle For District 18: The Lego Speeder Bike Contest returns

The Manifesto is a proud sponsor of the 2018 Lego Speeder Bike Contest that started today over on Flickr.  The familiar trio of Cole Blaq_zenn and friend of the blog Ted Andes are back in action, providing the arena, some rad brick-built trophies and assorted prizes.

By far the most fun I had with Lego in 2017 was the annual LSB contest, it inspired me to get off my ass and start building again.  Unlike many challenges where people work feverishly in relative isolation, last year’s event saw a great deal of teamwork where builders would provide each other with constructive criticism and encouragement.  For once the social aspect of the contest was almost equal to the raw output of cool models.  There was also an interesting arms-race that developed where dioramas came to the forefront (even though they did not factor in the judging) and builders engaged in an escalating battle to one-up each other.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I’m sure this year’s iteration will generate it’s own unique character.  So if you’ve got some free time in the next month (the contest ends midnight March 4th), you really have no excuse not to give it a shot.  One of the best things about LSB is that it’s very low-impact in terms of time and the amount of building required.  For the first time digital entries are permitted so throw those excuses out the window and get working on your bike.

For more information, check out the on LSB GROUP Flickr.



Remembering the King of all Swoosh Videos

The swooshing of Lego spaceships is a time honored tradition that has it’s roots (for most people) in the carefree days of childhood when nothing was better than running around like a sugared-up jackass with your favorite space fighter making engine and laser gun noises.  As teens and adults, most people limit their swooshing to hastily taken still photos where the greatest variable seems to be facial contortions and wardrobe.  Indeed, some artistic souls, like Graybandit2000 have mastered the art form to the point where it seems little innovation is possible or even necessary.  I’m not a swooshing man myself (I have a face made for radio), but I can appreciate a good swoosh when I see one.


I’m not sure who was the first builder to apply the concept to video, but maybe one of you will educate me in the comments.  Swoosh videos became an all too brief fad a few years ago and most example seemed to be directly associated with the oft discussed SHIPtember.  Indeed, the practice became so popular that even the tribe of notoriously humorless train-guys tried to get in on the action, but as usual, they didn’t quite…get it.

By and large, swoosh videos are pretty uninspired, shaky-cam affairs that are sort of instantly forgettable.  This is sad when you take into account all the comedic and auditory advantages video has to offer.  I think the collected works of Monty Python alone would provide nearly endless inspiration to would-be directors, but most people refuse to apply the same creativity to the videos as they do to their Lego models.  Even when the creators get the music right, the results are frequently out of frame, out of focus and ultimately out of bounds.  One enterprising builder had the foresight to bring a trampoline into the mix and yet the final product still managed to disappoint.  I don’t think you can really maximize the value of a trampoline without the entire affair ending in injury or some form of disaster. Most of the videos seem to feature teenagers literally running around in bucolic settings, with a death-grip on their precious SHIPs.

For my money, the greatest swoosh video to date, is 2013’s simply titled SWOOSH, by Jacob Unterreiner.  Jacob seems to have dropped off the map in the last year or so, which is a shame because he was really hitting his stride as a builder.  Even though I’m pretty sure he and I shared some unkind words at some point (no doubt my fault), I always enjoyed his work immensely.  The model he’s clutching, PHOENIX, is worth a look too, it’s pretty rad and has some great color blocking. While we wait for Jacob’s triumphant return to the scene, let’s enjoy the king of all swooshing videos and pause to consider this underrated and underdeveloped sub-genre of the hobby.

Feel free to include your favorite swooshing still shots or videos in the comments.



In Praise of SUPERHAWK

Next month marks the 10 year anniversary of a kick ass model that once rocked the very foundations of MOCpages, back in the mist shrouded before-time, when the site was actually relevant and home to a vibrant cast of builders, malcontents and Euro-trash.  I’m talking about the mother fucking C-107 SUPERHAWK! by Chris DeBree.  Clocking in at 169 studs long, I think this beast could still hang in there with the upper tier of the 2017 SHIPtember offerings.  Sure the photos are blurry, the background is kind of sad and some of the shaping is a little rough by today’s lofty standards, but back in the day I can assure you this was state of the art sci-fi building.  The engine technique may seem like boilerplate to the more jaded members of the Manifesto audience but this is one of the first uses I can recall.  Still not sold?  It also sported a fully realized (if spartan) interior that included accommodations for a crew of 43 carefully chosen minifigs, with room for a beefcake battle tank for good measure.  There were also an impressive list of working features including but not limited to: movable rotating Gatling cannons, cargo ramps, hatches, landing gear and flaps.  With the possible exception of lighting, which wasn’t really in vogue back then, the SUPERHAWK had everything a scif-fi fan could ask for and the numbers reflected it’s awesomeness: 136,759 views, 821 likes and 361 comments…numbers that would be impressive on Flickr today or any other photo-venue of choice.  Sure it’s had 10 years to accumulate those gaudy stats, but the lion’s share were generated the first year and it’s good enough for the 13th spot on MOCpages’ listing of it’s all-time most popular models.  Only Kelso’s Invisible Hand, and Garry King’s Battlestar Berserk, two classic SHIPs, are higher on that list.  Perhaps just as importantly, the mighty warbird also inspired a legion of imitators, none of which are really worth posting but it motivated a number of people to not only build, but think big and push what they thought of as possible.  Believe me when I tell you constant reader, this model was directly responsible for dozens of craptacluar drop-ships and they all worshiped at the temple of SUPERHAWK.  Still not convinced I see…how about some 10 year old celebrity endorsements?

El Barto: “This thing is wild! The design has elements of a F-16 in the nose and an F-4 Phantom in the tail, two of my favorite fighters. But this takes it to a whole new level. Unbelievable job!”

Stuart Delahay: “This is a thing of beauty. The sheer scale, the lines and shapes, the fact it actually carries 36 troops and a sizeable crew (I despise ‘dropship’ mocs that are huge then hold three figs). Well done sir, quite rightly one of the most popular mocs on the site.”

Brian Kescenovtiz: “This really is quite an amazing ship. Wonderful details everywhere you look…fantastic job Chris!”

Mark Stafford (current TLG designer): “Beautiful and inspiring. One of the best ships I’ve seen in a long time, the detailing is great and seems to be there for a reason-rather then just for the sake of it. Great stuff.”

Mark Kelso: “MOC’s like these are few and far between. The design is superb, and the execution (which becomes more and more difficult as size increases) is handled masterfully. In contrast to other reviews, I have seen other MOC’s that are larger and even more complex (visit my home page for links to some of those), But this one is absolutely in their league…which is saying A LOT!!!!!! This is one of those MOC’s to be visited again and again. FANTASTIC job!”

And I’m gonna throw in Nannan Zhang’s comment just because aside from being accurate, it also proves what a humorless bore he’s always been: “Great details, but some overall shots would be even better.”


The Chairman was quite right though, it is indeed a shame the photos are so crappy, because although I’m nostalgic for the SUPERHAWK, I had completely blocked out how bad the presentation was.  Even allowing for the fact that your average builder didn’t care as much about backgrounds and post-production back then, it’s still objectively terrible and no doubt kept the model off the big blogs of the day.  It’s even more of a shame that Chris seems to have completely wandered out of the scene just two short years and two models later (his last posted model was this nifty dune buggy), but with this single epic creation he definitely made his mark on the early days of the hobby and for that, this builder will remain grateful.  So won’t you join me and raise a glass to 10 years of SUPERHAWK?  If you won’t, you’re probably a communist and you should take a long hard look at yourself.


Friday Night Fights [Round 13]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another flying-guillotine edition of Friday Night Fights!  This week’s bout will be fought in the cold reaches of space using advanced technology that might be within reach in say…the next 200 years.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from the well-appointed boardroom of the Sentec Aerospace Bureau, it’s Nick “Nasty” and his “SAB S-44 Kestrel“.


And fighting out of the blue corner, from the red sands of Mars Colony, it’s “The Human X-acto Knife” xiei22 and his “BLUE Phobos“.


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 MOC that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner before announcing the next bout.

On the last Friday Night Fights….

It was the skirmish of the sky-boats, in all their foppish glory with international fishing rights on the line.    In the end, Felipe “O Touro” Avelar and his “Mestiço“ scored a harrowing 6-5 victory over “Jackhammer” JPascal and his “Ramona“.  Felipe records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while JPascal falls to (0-1).


Color Commentary:

For those of you not in the know, this week’s combatants are also competitors in the popular Real World +200 building contest which just concluded on Flickr.  The event brought out some truly impressive starfighters, and what it may have lacked in sheer numbers (33 entries), rarely have I seen a contest with a higher overall level of quality.  There are only a couple of sloppy models, the vast majority are good and several are great.  These happen to be my two favorites, but the match-making was easy this week because I could have selected half a dozen models from the contest.

A few weeks ago when the contest turnout wasn’t looking so good, one of the hosts (and frequent contributor to the Manifesto comments section) went on the Flickr group AFOL 16+ and wondered aloud why that might be.  Of course I had to chime in with my two cents and I came of more harshly than I intended.  The three guys and one gal who ran the contest did a fine job, and I think I let my dislike of the main design inspiration from  TV’s “The Expanse”, and my general attitude towards the 16+ group to cloud my appreciation of the topic. Since the TV show was the primary point of reference mentioned in a pretty vague contest description, the whole thing turned me off and I assumed the same must be true of other builders.  Although I enjoy The Expanse as a show, I think the ship designs are horribly uninspired. However, I also stand by the criticism I mentioned on 16+, concerning one of the first entrants who was allowed to break the rules. As I wrote before, I know the point of the endeavor is inclusion but that kind of shit bothers me. For so many contests, rules are rules…but only until somebody complains.  It should not come as a shock to any constant reader that I’m a grumpy old dick sometimes.

I’ve known the hosts from years of interactions online and in person, and they are all good people who put up some great prizes and clearly inspired some fantastic work.  If you have a chance, check out the other entries, it’s definitely worth your time if you’re at all into sci-fi.  Kudos to Simon, Carter, Kate and Christopher for running a good show.