Kill it with fire!

It’s very rare to come across a LEGO photo that makes me stop and ask aloud “what the hell is that?”  At first I thought it was a dildo or perhaps a flexible flashlight, or even some sort or sentient rolled up umbrella.  Never did it occur to me that I might be looking at a spaceship, but according to builder Cath_Bailey , that is precisely what “Interloper” is.  The builder has a pretty valid point that most starships today are well-built but often uninteresting because of excessive use of boilerplate.  Take the current fad of Homeworld inspired designs that are frequently stunning but have also homogenized the state of the art into one big lozenge-shaped ship with fat stripes and bold colors.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the esthetic and the game and I don’t pin this on new builders either.  It was just as bad in my early days and the boilerplate was just as entrenched.  When I came into the hobby everything was a Lego theme build like M-Tron, Blacktron and Classic Space, none of which did a thing for me because I lacked the key ingredient of nostalgia to really embrace the trend.  So I appreciate Cath_Bailey when he or she writes :

When looking at other ships, I’ve been hard pressed to find any that are unconventional. Hopefully this changes. When I think of space, I think of otherworldly things, not traditional, man-made structures.”

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I dare say the builder accomplished the mission of creating something non-traditional, this doesn’t look like any starship I’ve ever seen.  There is a video of the model, but unfortunately the builder elects not to show the viewer the back side.  Having access to the entire ship might have changed my opinion of the design or at least increase my ability to identify it’s purpose.  We get a glimpse of the back, as the disembodied hand turns the light switch on and off, but the rest shall remain a mystery.  The video also shows a modest base and stand for the Interloper, but it isn’t noteworthy because it doesn’t add anything to the model itself.  For those of you who are new to the hobby or don’t recognize the parts involved, the segmented body of the ship is made up of large inside-out tires.  I remember first noticing the technique back in 2008 with Jordan Schwartz’s The Wretched Egg: different tire, same technique.

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Just like InterloperJordan Jordan also went for something unconventional and succeeded with a monster instead of a space ship.  Alien ship…Lovecraftian monster…I’m not sure there is much difference when the goal is to break the boilerplate and create something that you hope has never been seen before.  What I find interesting is that I don’t love either model, but I blogged them because I was drawn to both by inherent strangeness of the images.  If you can’t look away, that counts for something.

While we’re killing things with fire, let’s make sure we hose down this model with the flame-thrower.  The builder is the always entertaining Djordje and the horrid creature is called an Abyssal Crayworm.  NPU (Nice Part Usage) doesn’t even begin to cover it here, this is a stunning model that will likely hit every blog worth it’s salt.  Djordje calls this scuttling atrocity an “unassuming ocean floor scavenger“, but I think it’s quite assuming.

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Remember, constant reader, when in doubt, kill it with fire!

 

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.

The Amazing Starships of Matt Mazian

Although it took me a long time to come around, these days I’m a pretty big fan of digital building.  Full disclosure, I used to think of it as cheating because it seemed like a completely separate endeavor to have the luxury of every part in every color at your fingertips.  Building is supposed to be difficult, damn it and chock full o’ limitations that force you to be truly creative.  I was also convinced that the program allowed you to cheat by requiring no interior structures or solid connections. However, after speaking to a few really great digital-only builders and trying my hand at the usual programs with limited success, I think about the topic differently now.  I still consider the two styles entirely separate, but each as it’s own inherent value.

Some of the of the most creative and innovative building I’ve seen in the Sci-Fi genre in the last few years has come courtesy of digital building.  One of the best examples is the work being done by relative newcomer Matt Mazian.  I wish I could tell you more about him, but Mr. Mazian’s Flickr profile is empty and he doesn’t seem to have much to say.  Matt lets his building do the talking and I think you’re gonna like what he has to say.

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The Antares Starship was just posted today and it immediately stopped me dead in my tracks.  In the old days I would have shrugged and thought “yeah, but it’s digital” and moved on, but today I just opened up another window to blog it.  While the Antares doesn’t feature the unique geometry of his previous builds, Matt makes the most out of a fairly traditional starship shape.  Where the build really separates from the pack is when you flip it over to see the dark gray texture of the underbelly.  The look recalls several franchises: Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars and Mass Effect to name a few, but without being too literal about it.  What franchise fanboys don’t understand is that nobody wants to see another god damn X-Wing, they want to see something inspired by the X-Wing.  I really appreciate the builder’s perfect use of little pops of color to catch the eye on an otherwise drab color scheme.  The colored bucket handles were the perfect choice to break things up.

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You have to go a little further back in time to really appreciate Matt’s innovative design style.  This orange and teal number is called the O-Shadow Starfighter and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in the genre.  It kind of reminds me of nnenn’s work in both shape and color, but even more unconventional.  I don’t throw the comparison around lightly, this guy really has a different take on spaceship design, even if some of it based on concept art.  This O-Shadow in particular manages to do the hardest thing within Sci-Fi building: to look truly alien.

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I don’t want to spoil all the fun of discovering Matt’s vision, so I’ll leave you with the Turtle Aeroship from 2014, the year he hit the scene.  I may not know much about Mr. Mazian but I think it’s safe to expect great things from him in the future.

 

 

 

Open Fire!

Greetings fellow LEGO nerds, My name is Keith Goldman  I’ve been building models and expressing my jackassy opinions online for over a decade now and I hope to bring some old school perspective to this new blog.  The KeithLUG Manifesto is your window into the LEGO fan hobby with an emphasis on compelling models, criticism, history, humor and personal interest stories about the people who build.

With that in mind, for my introductory post I thought I’d set the time machine to 2003, when LUGNET was the community hub and I attended my very first LEGO nerd convention, Bricks West 2003 at LEGOland California.  Dan Jassim was already a titan of the “Space” genre when I hit the scene and meeting him in person along with his magnificent Dragonstar was an important early experience for me.  Not only was the model an eye-opener in terms of technique and design, I couldn’t have picked a better builder to have my first interaction with. Dan was (and is) incredibly generous and didn’t blink when somebody he’d never met before asked him to pick up his model.  Instead he just handed all four feet of it over with a grin and some basic instructions about how best to hold the pleasingly robust construct.  Dan shared both his construction techniques and his Star Blazers inspiration with anyone who wanted to chat and handled even the most irritating, boilerplate questions with good humor.  Whether it was a fellow builder or the unwashed masses of public-day attendees, Dan was a great example of how to share the hobby with interest and humor.  The same could not be said of all the AFOL’s at Bricks West 03′, many of whom unwittingly introduced me to the affliction of Asperger Syndrome.

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Although the Dragonstar is 13 years old, it can still hang with most of the entries we see each SHIPtember on Flickr, the annual building challenge to create a 100+ stud long starship.  Good form never goes out of style and what the Dragonstar may lack in modern parts and techniques it more than makes up for with sheer good looks.  The color blocking and details are on point and the texture is so remarkable that it transforms a pretty basic hull design into something special.  This groundbreaking model also boasted a full interior and Dan wasn’t too sloppy with his presentation either.  In an era when more often than not a  wrinkled sheet passed as a viable background for many model, Dan was one of the few builders adding backgrounds and effects to his crisp photos.

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I was so inspired that upon returning from the convention I created my own ship, the GHOUL, which enjoyed a good deal of success in 2004 and  in turn inspired several builders to make their mark as well.  The Dragonstar was the first link in a long chain of large-scale space ships and Dan’s attitude towards his peers was just as important to forging the chain as his skill with the brick.

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Nostalgia can be a tricky business, it’s all too easy to slip on the rose-colored glasses and bask in the reflected glow of yesteryear.  On the other hand, it’s important to know just a little of your AFOL history and the work of builders who preceded you.  While the state of the art has no doubt improved since the Dragonstar’s debut in 2003, the venerable starship still kicks a great deal of ass.  It’s good to know that Dan is still swinging over a decade later, producing clean, thought-provoking models. If you’re new to the scene I can’t recommend Dan’s work enough, he is truly one of the O.G’s of the hobby and a great example of how to present both yourself and your model at a LEGO convention.  Dan also offered one extra value worth more than his weight in gold: he made all of us look less dorky by association alone.

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Did I mention he’s also a rock star?  So thanks for joining me here at the KeithLUG Manifesto, I hope you find it to be time well wasted.