Category Archives: Seasonal

Spirit of Christmas Future

…And a happy new galactic year!

Rudolph and company are all very well for Earthly Christmas travels.  All around the world on a sleigh pulled by eight to nine flying reindeer is doable when your distances are only thousands of miles.  But in the galactic future, the Big Red Guy is going to need an upgrade.

The idea of Santa calling on the aid of warp-dwelling transgalactic lifeforms such as Hyperspace Reindeer has a lot of awesome story potential but it’s difficult to build.  No, Father Christmas is going to need a spaceship.

Enter the Spirit of Christmas Future.

Santa drives a Vic Viper, obviously.  This is only my third or fourth Viper, and I’m pleased with how it’s turned out.  And this from the guy who built his first Vic Viper and said to himself “Right, done that now.  Can’t see myself building another one.”

Since in the spirit of goodwill to all men, Santa has to visit all the factions of the Classic Space universe, even the Spyrius, he can’t have a spaceship in any of those colour combinations.  White with green and red accents works great against a black background but when I combined it with my icy planetary backdrop I wished I’d gone with more green and red.

Storage compartment for presents

There’s even a storage compartment for presents in the back.  Unfortunately it won’t open any more than that because engines, but the thought is there.  I can’t rebuild to correct it because that would drastically mess up the overall profile of the ship, and I won’t change the engines for the same reason.  But there it is.

Alongside Santa’s spaceship, the scene was crying out for some Ice Planet goodness, so I built a little Krystovian Christmas scene adjunct to go with it.  Stockings hung by the reactor with care, the reactor itself having a lot of the look of a Christmas tree, presents, hot tea and Christmas cookies.  Sounds good to me, except I hope that reactor is properly shielded!

Old Obi-Wan makes a pretty good Commander Bear, and I followed through on the slight Star Wars subtext by using Rei and Finn’s heads as well.  Ice Planet needs at least a few black people, after all.

Advertisements

2017 Retrospective: Top 10 Personal Best

2017 has been a good year for my building. Looking back in this blog’s archives at some of my creations from the beginning of the year in preparation for this post, I’ve been amazed at how far my building technique has come in only a year. My photography seems to be improving as well, with the use of card backgrounds, less blurriness and a slightly more professional touch. I still use the same 7-year-old digital camera (which might need an upgrade as it has about the same pixel resolution as my mobile phone) and I could do with a better approach to lighting, but my earlier pre-background build photos look very strange to me now.

Anywho, I thought it would be fun to do a sort of retrospective as my final post of the year, picking out my personal favourites among my builds of 2017.

The usual disclaimers apply. This is my personal list of favourites, and I’m using a fairly idiosyncratic set of choice criteria. These are not necessarily those builds that are technically most innovative or most complex. I’m sure I’ll miss some builds that other people remember with fondness; I did have a hard time restricting the list to just 10.

My other difficulty was ranking them. Some of the relative ranking of these builds is completely arbitrary, and there are several models in joint eleventh and twelfth place that could easily have made the list and didn’t; among these are the Beagle space rover, the steampunk SHIP Dark Pegasus and the Blacktron A’Tuin-class dropship. Other Honourable Mentions: the Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX and the Starfleet Voyager 2.0.

On the list are two dragons, two other creatures, four spaceships and two mechs, which is a fair summary of my building style right there.

Ready? Here we go…

10: Buck Rogers Thunderfighter (August)

You might have to be an AFOL to fully appreciate the nostalgia value of this, but I’m still quite proud of my work on this. Incorporating minor Technic functionality (something I stink at), this LEGO version of the iconic fighter from the early 1980s’ Buck Rogers in the 25th Century represents one of only a handful of times I tried to produce a LEGO model of a spaceship someone else designed.

Among a selection of models that did or could have won a place in this list, the Thunderfighter’s Technic functionality shut out the A’Tuin-class Blacktron dropship with its complex hexagonal construction to come in at number 10.

9: Blacktron Thunderbolt (September)

 

While neither of my two SHIPs made the Top 10 list, two of my sub-SHIP large space vessels did. Both my first SHIP Liberator and to a lesser extent Dark Pegasus suffered from being overextended and a little contrived in order to meet the 100-stud base requirement of SHIPhood. When I forget about the 100-stud limit and just concentrate on having fun building a large model I seem to end up with a better class of product.

The Thunderbolt was more primitive in technique than my other large spaceship on this list, but I do like the way it looks. And that humungous dinosaur-killer railgun on the front seems perfectly suited to the Blacktron.

8: Elemental Dragon of Classic Space (January)

I was actually amazed to discover that it was this year that I built this thing, as it seems like it was ages and ages ago. Nonetheless, there it is in the January 2017 Archives, and it just had to make the list.

I had unreasonable amounts of fun with building this, combining as it does two of my favourite things to build: dragons and Neoclassic Space. I still love the whole concept of a Classic Space dragon, and it might be fun to reprise the idea with the more advanced building techniques I use these days almost a year later. It’s the unremarkable technique on this, in fact, that means it’s stuck at no. 8, though I considered it my best model for a considerable part of the year and it’s still one of my lifetime favourites.

7: Centaur (December)

Pulling out all the stops in built-figure modeling, my recent centaur edges out the Classic Space elemental dragon by virtue of superior technique and the way it’s proportioned. Centaurs are challenging no matter how you build them, and I flatter myself that this might be one of the better ones at this scale. It even has a suggestion of abs.

6: LEGOtiel (October)

Easily winning the “Longest I’ve kept a model in existence before breaking it up for parts” award, my LEGO cockatiel lasted almost a full two months on the current-model display shelves. Cockatiels aren’t a common subject matter for building, if the all-seeing Eye of SauronGoogle is to be believed, and I was pleased with how this turned out, even if it was a little more fragile and a little less poseable than I’d really have liked. Completely different to my usual run of overgunned Blacktron cruisers and ferocious mythical creatures, but a lot of fun to build. Our real-life cockatiel was a bit freaked out by it, though.

5: Spacewhale (August)

Highest-placing large (50+ stud length) ship on the list, the Spacewhale is a mere 24 inches long: practically a minnow next to the 37 3/4 inches of a 100-stud official SHIP. It’s by far my most complex and advanced sub-SHIP, though, with proper internal framing, a pleasing shape, a unifying colour scheme and lots of interesting details.

And it marked my first ever construction shots and multiple-day build, something I still find difficult to do.

4: The Ninja and the Dragon (April)

April’s The Ninja and the Dragon was one of the first times I paid almost as much attention to building the scenery as I did to building the model itself. Along with the fact that this has an upright-posed Eastern-style dragon (both less common than the alternatives), I think it’s the subtleties that really make this build. There’s a story there, and for once I’m not going ahead and telling it; the model works all the better for the lack of having its meaning tied down.

One of my first explorations of LEGO-as-art as well as LEGO-as-a-hobby, this comes in at number 4.

3: Repainting the House Divided (November)

Part of the attraction of Classic Space, apart from the nostalgia of it, is its innocence and everyone-getting-along spirit, and I tried hard to capture that in this build. Definitely the build on this list with the most overt “message”, it still works as a model because the message is subordinate to the build, which works on its own terms.

I still find the idea of a Blacktron and a Classic Space astronaut falling in love charming, and the way they are getting ready to repaint their own section of the corridor in each other’s colours adds a nice layer of subtle message to the build.

It’s also my highest-placed scenery build and the only model on this list that doesn’t involve some kind of vehicle or creature (Minifigures don’t count).

2: Mechnotaur (May)

“What? Nothing steampunk made the list?” I hear you cry.

Well, at number 2 we have my birth month’s steampunk mecha-Minotaur, without which the list would definitely be missing something. If I’d built a better Theseus battlesuit to go along with it this might have made number 1, but the unfortunately leggy and slightly messy Theseus suit dragged this down. That and the fact that the balljoints in its legs wouldn’t support the weight of the body to allow me to pose the Mechnotaur fully.

I still love the concept behind this, and as far as story potential goes it’s the Mechnotaur that takes the number one spot. It’s a minotaur. It’s a mech. And it’s steampunk. What more could you want?

1: Q-Mech (November)

Number 1 is last month’s Q-Mech, from my self-invented Classic Space universe rescue service Q-Tron. Advanced techniques in the cockpit shield attachment, enough greebling to look functional without being overwhelming, an original concept… This model has almost everything in it that I like. And it’s space. And it’s a mech.

Given the amount of people that have pinned this since I shared it on Pinterest, other people seem to favour it as well. Mind you, they also like the Isstrebitel’-1 and my model of the Vostok space capsule, and those are considerably further down my personal list.

The Q-Mech has since been broken up for parts, of course, but it’s still my favourite of my builds of 2017, and probably of all time (so far).

My next build, however, will hopefully eclipse the Q-Mech and really show what I can do. The answer to “what’s your best build?” is nearly always “the next one”, after all.

~~~

And that’s the full list. I’ve provided links to the original posts (the titles) so you can trip with me down Memory Lane.

It’s been a good year for building, and a whole new year of possibilities is just around the corner. Who knows what I’ll be looking back on this time next year?

All Terrain Elf Transport

Forward the AT-ET!

In a rather different vein from my previous Christmas build with the candle and the angel, this one is pure fun and silliness.

As a Santa minifigure is still on my list of “stuff to get at some point”, my options are almost as limited for the other kind of Christmas build as they are for building some any sort of Biblical scene.

We’ve got some elves, though.

Okay, they’re the Emily Jones variety, not the Santa’s Workshop variety, but up to a point an elf is an elf is an elf. It’d be rather amusing to have Santa Claus leading a whole clan of Legolas’ kin into battle on dragons, but that’s another build. And I don’t have a Santa yet to do it with.

The words “Christmas elf mech” bounced through my mind like a rogue superball…

I’ve built an elf mech once before, but not a Christmas one (though it was posted on the old LEGO.com Galleries not here), and I thought about several options for making it Christmassy. I initially contemplated a steampunk Father Christmas mech (somehow a steampunk Santa has to go by his British name), but if I was going to use an elf for a pilot that didn’t seem quite right.

“Maybe I could make it shaped like a reindeer or something”, I thought, and the idea of a sort of chibi AT-AT popped into my head.

Of course, the All Terrain Elf Transport has antlers and a red nose, and somehow Santa Claus red seemed the only possible choice for a main colour. It’s not really in keeping with the colours of the various LEGO Elves, but that’s okay. They’re not necessarily in that world right now, and Santa’s colours overrule here anyway.

Farran’s green outfit made him the best choice to actually drive the AT-ET, but Azari wanted in as well. As hers was the only cold-weather mantle fabric element I could find I let her.

Anyway, have a rather reindeeroid AT-AT derivative, and enjoy!

Building the Advent

“Down into Darkness”. An Advent build

Bending my personal rule about not incarnating the Son of Man in plastic, I spent the afternoon of the first Sunday in Advent on this brick expression of the idea of light in darkness.

Thanks to our celebration of Christmas being set at what in the Northern Hemisphere is the darkest time of the year around the Winter Solstice, and to Scriptural metaphor about Jesus being the Light of the World, lights are a big part of what our modern Christmas looks like. And if I have personal issues about the undesirability of creating a poseable plastic Jesus, even as a baby in a manger, I can do something connected to the Scriptural story of Christmas without needing to compromise my iconoclasm.

A candle in the dark would be a possibility, and it occurred to me that those 1×1 scrollwork bricks would make a pretty good dribbly candle, especially combined with a couple of 1×1 cones in trans neon orange for the flame.

Building up a suitable dark place was a bit more of a challenge, especially with my other recent black-using build still standing, but with some dark red highlights and quite a lot of black slopes I built a fairly nice caverny chamber in which to stand my candle.

It didn’t seem like enough to just have a candle in the dark, though. My focus this Advent season is on the event of the Incarnation itself: the wonder of God stepping down out of perfect Heaven into our darkness and mess. If I was going to communicate that idea a mere candle wouldn’t do it.

I initially had the idea of something like this build but with a minifigure coming down into the cavern, but even for an ultimately symbolic build that was a little too close to a violation of my personal Plastic Jesus ban, so I thought about candles instead. But candles on their own don’t communicate the whole “coming down” idea, so I needed to work on a way to do that.

Building a plastic angel feels like less of an issue than building a minifigure Jesus, and adding the angel above looking down conveys just the right aspect of descent that I was looking for.

I don’t know whether I’ll do any more specifically Advent builds this year, bringing this year’s personal Christmas Story focus to my building, but I like the way this one turned out.

“The true light that gives life to everyone was coming into the world”.

Morituri te Salutant

We who are about to die…

So I built a Roman gladiator.

Well, technically gladiator denotes a warrior that fights with a gladius, or Roman short sword, and this guy is armed with a trident, but the word has come to refer to any arena fighter from the Roman era.

This type of gladiator, fighting with a trident and a weighted net, was called a retiarius. Apparently based on a type of ancient fisherman, the retiarii‘s mobile, hit-and-run style of fighting placed them towards the bottom of the various gladiatorial styles’ pecking order. The crowds apparently favoured styles that would get in close and trade blows, not hang back and jab with a spear.

Technically, retiarii didn’t wear helmets and were armed with daggers as well, but I didn’t find this out until after the model was complete. However, I probably would have taken the historical liberty of putting a helmet on my gladiator anyway; I don’t think he’d look nearly as good without his helmet.

For once I’ve made a more effective kilt or loincloth-type wrap rather than just put up with the problematic wasp-waist of balljoint connections. Between that and the knee-high boots, I’ve managed to effectively hide the balljoint connections on the legs quite well. The arms, less so. The black and grey parts are supposed to represent gauntlets, but they work only so-so. Especially the hand grasping the trident, which proved incredibly difficult to make work without being totally oversized. A Bionicle or CCBS figure hand would be just the trick here, but I don’t have one. What I’ve done is probably as good as I can manage without. Hopefully it’s not too much of a distraction.

The other hand, the one grasping the net is better. The forearm still looks a little funky, but the three fingers grasping the rigging element of the pseudo-net actually looks fairly naturally posed.

The post title, of course, is the Latin for “We who are about to die salute you”. It’s not a very seasonal creation in terms of the one celebrated by the majority at this time of year, but the first of November is All Saints, and so many of the First Century followers of Christ were put to death in the arena that it makes a sort of sense. Yeah. That’s my excuse.

Independence Planet

It’s quite out-of-the-ordinary for me to be building a Fourth of July-themed LEGO model.

Although I live in the United States, I was born and raised in the United Kingdom, and American Independence Day is the single US public holiday I’ve had the hardest time getting my heart around.

In all honesty, Britain in 1776 doesn’t look to me like the “tyranny” of you Americans’ popular belief, based as it is on half-remembered childhood school lessons. We had pre-Revolutionary (and later post-Revolutionary) France sitting next door inviting comparison, and besides that the citizens of the American colonies seem to have had in large part a lighter burden than those of the mother country. “British tyranny”, as you so delightfully put it, hardly seems fair.

It’s taken most of a decade now to get past my offended national pride at this seemingly mentally-lazy accusation of “tyranny”, together with my secret fear that you Americans might be still holding a sort of grudge about it all with your closely-held popular memories of your Paul Reveres, your Boston Tea-Parties and your “rockets’ red glare” (from missiles fired by one of our warships, as I can’t quite ever forget).

Really, the Fourth of July is a weird time to be a Brit in America, if you have any sense or knowledge of history. I love America, but I love my homeland too, and it’s difficult to enter into the spirit of a holiday which persists in painting my home country as the villain.

For all that my country of birth and my country of residence are now staunch allies, such that your Red, White and Blue flies proudly beside ours, and the idea that we might be deadly enemies is frankly ridiculous; still, every Fourth of July I’m reminded that it was not always so.

However, in recent years I’ve been far better about not working myself into a frenzy over it in the run-up to the Day itself, finding ways to love America even on the Fourth of July that don’t feel like I’m being subtly asked to reject the land of my birth.

Really, it’s nothing anyone else has ever said or done. This is my own love of my homeland running headlong into the reality that it was that country that those early Americans had to fight to gain their independence. I’m quite happy to celebrate American independence; what I feel sometimes like I’m probably not going to be allowed is permission to love my other country too, even on the Fourth when you memorialise that former enmity.

Silly? Maybe. Weirdly insecure? For certain. Neurotic? Perhaps.

Rather English, though. We never want to impose on anyone; I wouldn’t dream of sounding a discordant note of Britannic pride in the midst of the United States’ birthday celebration. Hence my annual patriotic neurosis.

Really, though, I have been getting better. The War of Independence isn’t exactly current affairs even in the UK where it’s so much closer to 2017 than to 1066, and no-one is asking me to choose sides for battle. I’m gradually realising that it really is a free country (still); I don’t need the nation’s permission to be British even on the Fourth.

And there’s much to love about America, land of liberty, welcomer of those “huddled masses” and home of opportunity and an inventiveness that has blessed the world with so many wonderful devices.

America really is great, and not even Donald Trump can take away that proud legacy.

Hence this build.

A deliberate homage to that famous image of the Flag-raising on Iwo Jima, it uses some of my new red and white LEGO Classic Space astronauts, and my slightly older blue Classic astronaut.

Indeed, the whole build owes itself to the way I had my new astronauts arranged on my son’s LEGO display shelves. Independence Day rapidly approaching, it occurred to me that the visual combination of red, white and blue astronauts was very patriotic. “I’m sure I could do something with that, for this holiday I’m actually beginning to come to terms with”.

Thoughts turned to that famous USMC image, and the rest is as you see.

Have a happy Independence Day, everyone.