Friday Night Fights [Round 8]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another Punch and Judy edition of Friday Night Fights!  Gotham City isn’t big enough for both of this week’s adversaries, when the dust has settled there will be only one Clown Prince of Crime left standing.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from beautiful Bainbridge Island, it’s Taylor “The Tornado” Walker and “The Joker”.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from “Lando System”, it’s Kevin “The Rhino” Ryhal and  “The Joker’s Wild”.

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

Last Week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the battle of La Grange, and after a tightly scored bout, only one Texas trio won the pink slip and the keys to the Eliminator.  In the end, -derjoe- and his “Eliminator” scored a 6-4 victory over j-p-30 and his “Eliminator”.  -derjoe- records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while j-p-30 falls to (0-1).

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“I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.”

Yes, yes!  A thousand times yes.  We thank you VAkkron, for this video delight, starring the disembodied head of Isaac Newton.  I have not laughed so hard at a Lego related clip in a very long time.  Not only is the bust a great build, but there is something wonderfully low-budget about the presentation, it reminded me of the old music video for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer” or the opening sequence of MST3K.  I was one of the lucky ones to see this build take shape and I must congratulate the builder on his ability to embrace constructive criticism, even in the face of a catastrophic drop and the necessity to completely re-work the entire facial structure.  After all the talk on the blog about the value of criticism, it was nice to see a builder really embrace it with a trusted crew of homies who had no other interest but seeing the builder succeed.  It was fun to be a tiny part of that process and watch the model develop.

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Although I had some early access to the model, there was no indication that a video presentation was in the works.    I think I’ve played it a half a dozen times already and I keep imagining it with other songs; it must have been difficult to settle on just one.  Don’t get me wrong, VAkkron made a fine selection, but indulge me for a moment, and try it with a little Sledgehammer in the background, you won’t regret it.  It’s just the video for now, but photos of the build will be posted soon to the usual haunts.  Isaac Newton is far and away VAkkron’s most challenging work to date and it’s always great to see a builder really lean in and take on a challenge. I hope the metrics ultimately reflect the quailty of this effort.  I’m all about the numbers…I’m shallow like that.

“Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”

Of course there is no way of knowing if this “Alien”  bust by Mihai Marius Mihu is hostile or not, but as the Captain of this starship,  I’m not taking any chances.  We will not be violating Manifesto quarantine protocols to bring this thing on board the ship.  No sir, we will not.  There is also no doubt that the model is “structural perfection“, its curves and textures are worthy of your favorite superlative.  What we are seeing here is a builder just entering his prime with a toolbox full of techniques and the artistic vision to use them.  It’s very exciting to look at Mihai’s powerful work today and know that the best is yet to come.  I was going to catalogue all the amazing details of the model, but to do so seems ridiculous, one look should sell you on its greatness.  It’s time like these that I wonder if the generic Lego-blog boilerplate is best: introduce the model, say something complementary but forgettable and get out of the way.  Instead, I’ve worked very hard to find one nitpick.  The section just above the bridge of the nose seems off to me, you can see a field of studs behind the trans-blue and trans-red bars and I find it distracting.  This isn’t an anti-stud rant, I absolutely love the way Mihai incorporated studs on the collar (and there are a lot of them), I wouldn’t change those studs for anything.  But the area in question looks unfinished to me because the rest of the build is indeed so purposeful and so dense with clever detail. While I like the blue bars near the top of the head, I don’t think they are as effective right above the nose.  There is also a small field of studs just below the trans-blue of the nose that seems a little rough as well.

Forget the nitpicking though, it’s all about those spooky eyes and the trans-blue elements underneath them.  “Alien” is a breathtaking model that stopped me in my tracks and had me immediately opening a new tab for WordPress.  Usually I leave the shiny A-list stuff to the big blogs, but this time I couldn’t resist.  Well done, Mihai, this thing looks alien indeed and I thank you in advance for all the great models to come.

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Friday Night Fights [Round 3]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another punch drunk edition of Friday Night Fights!  Tonight’s featured bout is a cat-fight for the ages, featuring two big time fighters in the prime of their careers. The ladies control the action inside the ring, you control the results.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from beautiful Joensuu, Finland, it’s Pate “The Cyclops” Keetongu and his  “Agatha of Four Colours“.

And fighting out of the blue corner, from the beating heart of the cosmos, its constant reader  Letranger “Le Loup” Absurde and his “Machiko Noguchi“.

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

Last Week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was a civilized confrontation between Gentlemen duelists.  Wily veteran Simon “The Cyborg” Liu and his “Good Samaritan“ scored an 8-4 victory over  Cath “The Interloper” Bailey and his “Plasma Caster“.  Simon records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while Cath falls to (0-1).

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Of Kayaks and Pultrusion

My next guest in the velvet-lined smoking lounge at Manifesto headquarters is Bruce Quillis: builder, connoisseur of fine cannabis and kayaking enthusiast!  This colorful micro-scale vignette caught my eye as I scanned the matrix this evening on my never-ending quest to bring you quality distractions.  The earth-tone strata look great and even though it’s not my favorite technique the 1×1 trans-rounds for water looks pretty good here.  The kayak design is simple but effective (like most quality micro-scale builds) and I really dig the decorative oar Bruce incorporated into the black frame, it really classes up the joint.  Kayak oars typically have two paddle-blades so it might have been better to put two oars back to back with a connecting element like a Technic pin.  Since I’m complaining anyway, I kind of wish there were some rocks mixed into the water but then the scene would have to be a little bigger to give the rocks scale and that way lies madness;  sometimes less is more.  What can I say, it’s roasting here in the wasteland and I’d rather be kayaking down some nameless river far from here.

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I was not previously familiar with the work of one Mr. Quillis so I took a leisurely stroll through his brief but entertaining catalogue that stretches back about 2 years.   One model stood out from all the rest and immediately captured my imagination immediately.  Predictably it’s a diorama…a very clever and no doubt accurate diorama that depicts Mr. Quillis’ place of employment.  I can’t possibly explain it any better than the builder himself, directly from his Flickr Page:

“Fiberglass Pultrusion Line.  I know that probably no one will understand this, but this is my stupid job.  Making fiberglass products by pulling fiberglass rovings and mats through resin and then a die that heats and shapes it. Makes me wanna blow my brains”

…out?  I think most of us can empathize, I know working retail on Christmas eve made me fantasize about all manner of unspeakable acts. The main reason I’m such a big fan of this diorama is because it demonstrates a process and it does so quite effectively.  It’s like a workplace motivational poster: “Safety is no accident!”  Bruce, if you’re reading this you might as well try to inject some levity into this bleak situation.  It wouldn’t be too hard to turn this image into a workplace safety poster and hang it up in the shop one day without explanation. Think about it, your co-workers would probably dig it.

There is nothing like art born from painful personal experience, but I hope your job pays well, brother.  I especially enjoyed the saw and the dripping red dye, where is the first aid kit?  Seriously, that might have been a nice detail, but maybe not accurate?

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I also found a couple of funny images in my wanderings through the house of Quillis and they seem like a perfect way to conclude our daily conversation.  What can I say?   I enjoy the comedic stylings of both Cheech & Chong and Harold & Kumar.  Until next time, constant reader, remember to stay hydrated (it’s a wasteland out there), stay cool and always pass the dutchie on the left hand side.

Make it a DUPLO

Until researching this post I had no idea the word “DUPLO” comes from the Latin duplus, which means double. I did know that DUPLO bricks are twice the length, height and width of traditional Lego bricks, but now the name makes sense.   I also discovered that DUPLO is manufactured in Nyíregyháza, Hungary and the basic brick has been around in one form or another since the their rather limited debut in 1969.  It is very rare that I come across DUPLO themed models in my internet travels and what I do find is typically less than intriguing.  While visiting my Vegas legoratory today, fellow KeithLUG member Andrew Lee drew my attention to a builder on Instagram that specializes in the oversized bricks.  Bjørn-Magne Stuestøl,  a.k.a Duplobuilder , has amassed quite a collection of large-scale sculptures that are instantly identifiable and no doubt delight his young children.  Bjørn has also amassed a rather large following on the popular app.  Until Andrew pointed me to Instagram I had no idea there was a LEGO nerd contingent there.  I probably should have known better, the hobby seems like it’s everywhere now on every concievable platform.

Although I regularly use DUPLO bricks as unseen internal support structure for my large-scale dioramas, I typically don’t have much use for them as elements.  I once tried my hand at a DUPLO-centric model for the 2011 edition of the MocAthalon building competition on MOCpages and the results were disastrous.  The contest features teams made up of 5 builders each who construct models in a variety of categories that are in turn scored by a group of judges.  I didn’t appreciate a particular judge’s score and I made one of the biggest mistakes of my decade in the hobby: I rage quit the game.  It was not a good look, the score was perfectly reasonable in hindsight and even writing this article makes me cringe a little at the keyboard.  I’m not going to make excuses for why I did it, my team was off to a good start and I let a personality conflict with one of the judges get the best of me.  It earned me the contempt of the judges, the other players and worst of all my teammates.  The whole thing was ridiculous but I deserved every minute of the misery that followed.  About the only good thing I can say about it is that I still like my entry for the DUPLO category called “Yo DUPLO Game Show!”, which was equal parts Yo Gabba Gabba! and your average Japanese game show.

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To add insult to injury a former fanboy of mine was also in the competition and was motivated by my antics to build a scathing and beautifully accurate diorama to immortalized the whole sordid affair.  Entitled “Boned”, the model was a perfect way to close out the event and his miniaturized version of my “Yo DUPLO Game Show” diorama was very well done indeed.  Many thanks Chairman Zhang, I owe you one buddy.  Looking at it for the first time in years, the floor is a very interesting design.  When it first debuted, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate the finer details and immaculate lighting.  At least Nannan was kind enough to give me a full head of lustrous black hair.

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I’ll end our brief and personally embarrassing exploration of DUPLO with a SHIP (Seriously Huge Investment In Parts) by dark_syntax.  “8 Belle Space” is better than I thought possible for a starship constructed entirely from DUPLO and it was even competitive with some of the System builds from the annual SHIPtember building contest.

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After posting this article I was reminded by several of you that the greatest DUPLO model of all time is without a doubt “My First DUPLO Bar” by BrickManGraeme and the good folks at ToroLUG.  The model was created for BrickWorld 2015, and I think we can all agree that nothing is better than a fully stocked bar after public day.  I apologize for the glaring omission, the look on Simon’s face says it all…well played my Canadian homies.  I’ve also included a shot of an ambitious and operational DUPLO mini-golf layout that was great fun for the participants of this year’s Brickworld.  Thanks to constant reader Christopher for including a link to the course in the comment section.

Let us never speak of this again.  Next time you’re tempted to rage-quit I urge you to remember my cautionary tale of personal embarrassment and avoid doing so at all costs.

Constructive Criticism: Mike in the Middle

When I was planning this blog I made a list of ideas that might separate the Manifesto from the rather large pack of competitors out there.  One of those ideas was to find a way to engage and encourage the builders who are not given their due by other blogs because of flaws like less than perfect photography or lack of advanced technique.  Frankly I find it boring to just cover the hottest hits by today’s greatest artists…that’s the equivalent of top-40 radio which has never done much for me.  You don’t need this blog to tell you that Tyler Clite’s latest model is immaculate, you’ve already seen it in your photo-stream, Facebook feed and at the other blogs you frequent.  There isn’t much point in dissecting Tyler’s work because it’s typically genius, highly polished and its value is self-evident.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to give props when they are deserved, but I find it more interesting to engage with a model or a builder that perhaps just needs a little constructive feedback or a push in the right direction.  Most comments these days are shit, useful only because even monosyllabic praise can help boost the ego, whether rookie or veteran.  With that in mind I’d like to talk about an underappreciated builder whose work I have always enjoyed over the years, but who has also frequently frustrated the perfectionist in me: Mike M.  The native Floridian’s latest build is entitled “consumed“, and it caught my attention immediately for both good and bad reasons.

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We’ll start with the good stuff, the textured floor is really effective, both for its reflective properties but also because it looks like it would feel terrible walking across it bare-foot like the subject of the photo.  It’s a small detail, but it adds to the tension of the scene, which is great even if it reminds me of a first-year art school project.  Usually I’m not a fan of using the same texture for floors and walls in a single build but it works quite well here, adding to the depressing quality of the room.  The brick-built figure is basic but very effective in a mannequin sort of way.  The forward tilt of the head is a nice touch, although the feet seem massive the more I look at them and using the same part for the hands and feet might not have been the best choice.  At first blush though, this scene has an effective creepy vibe and something to say: the timeless message that TV corrupts your mind, body and spirit.  Mike frequently has a strong point of view a a point he’s trying to get across and I wish we saw more of that from builders, an attempt to reach for something more than surface content.

However, just as I really start digging this model there are things I can’t abide like the design of the televisions.  The decision to go with old-style brown cabinets suggesting wood is an odd one, but if you’re gonna go that route they need more detail (knobs, antenna, speaker) and having some sets studded and some smooth is distracting.  I understand that going with black-framed TVs risks having them blend in with the background but the sets don’t earn their place in the diorama.  My biggest complaint is with the home-made TV screen stickers that are not cut very consistently and are curling up at the corners.  While I’m definitely a purist, I don’t push my arcane religion on other builders but I do sort of expect non purist solutions to have a higher level of quality than what I’m seeing here.

I’m not sold on the face either.  I like the round decorated tile Mike selected, it’s an interesting choice that gives the figure some character, but the rubber band makes it look like a mask.  Maybe it’s supposed to be a mask, I’m not sure, but you don’t typically see a mask strap that goes around the front of the face like that.  I think the builder would have been better served to attach the tile to the face more conventionally, which would in turn necessitate a change in parts for the cranium, but I think it could have been better.

Mike’s photography can be frustrating because he’s capable of getting some truly great shots and others end up making me irritated because the quality of the photo takes away from the effectiveness of the scene, as in the photo below entitled “Cletus Kasady”.

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This scene has great cinematic or comic book style  shot composition, but the blurry victim in the foreground takes away from the power of the image.  Even with a fuzzy picture this model earned Mike 80 favorites on Flickr, but I have to believe that it would have performed even better with a clear shot.  It’s definitely worth noting that in his profile the builder states that he doesn’t have a “bad ass camera or Photoshop” and may not care all that much about good photography.  It is possible to work wonders with a mediocre camera (or phone camera) and minimal post processing, you just have to be willing to take a large number of shots.  To be fair, most of his photos are of decent quality, but I think Mike could maximize his obvious creativity and great sense of framing if he worked at it.

To round out my list of unsolicited petty grievances with Mike M, I also think he relies too much on masonry profile bricks.  We all have our beloved go-to parts that show up again and again  and again in our work, but sometimes you need to make a conscious decision to either not use them, or use them in an unconventional way.

I’ll close with a few of my favorite builds by Mike M, who has made a great deal of progress over the years and always has something interesting to share.  I can’t encourage you enough to take a trip through Mike’s photo-stream, you’ll be well rewarded and don’t forget to leave a comment.  Everybody likes a good comment.

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