Hi there! After five glorious years, I have decided to retire this blog.
Feel free to visit my Flickr or YouTube channels instead.
Or follow my latest blogging exploits over at the Brothers Brick.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sugar and spice...

...and all things nice, is apparently not what little girls are made of after all. Andrew Lee (onosendai2600) gives us a better perspective...

I would imagine that if you messed with these Rockstar devil gals, you're 29 dimensions of compatibility would probably turn into 9 levels of Hell!

I must award this collection an immediate 3 golden Hawkings, since I know Andrew doesn't even get out of bed for anything less than that...


Friday, January 29, 2010

"The Living Brick" is 1 year old today!

Amazing: 12 months, 270 posts and 4 decent jokes later, and its still going! How did that happen? I guess time flies when your spending countless hours slaving mindlessly over the computer having fun.

To mark the occasion, Lego Stephen Hawking made all the other MOCs this excellent nanoblock chocolate cake, decorated to look like our blog...

They were not amused.

They are all purists.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

None shall pass!

Continuing the past week's strongly Oriental theme, here is an awesome Bionicle-built samurai warrior by Cameron G, aka ((Primus)) (...uhoh extraneous punctuation, #here #we #go #again!)


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Big in Japan!

If you weren't already aware, The Brothers Brick has just revealed the new collaborative themed display for BrickCon 2010 in Seattle this October. The theme is called "Big in Japan", and it celebrates every aspect of Japanese culture.

This is going to be a kick-ass display! However, its going to take some serious effort. Hence the very early announcement - to give us all time to let the creative juices simmer and plan some awesome big creations. Stay tuned for more details and plenty of inspiration. Or you can just start Googling right now to get up to speed. For starters, I recommend a search on "katamari"!

Unlike the Zombie Apocafest theme of 2009 and 2008, which was largely locked into mini-fig scale, Big in Japan will almost certainly cover a variety of scales, from mini-fig city scapes up to gigantic battling robots! Nothing is set in stone, though. Creativity and awesomeness are the only requirements! But the current thinking is that models would cluster around three broad categories: Traditional (historical, samurai, ninjas, etc), Modern (think "Toyko" with giant monsters thrown in) and Pop Culture (inside the Japanese psyche, including anime).

My own contribution to this theme is already underway, and will be called Miyazakitopia. This is a diorama paying tribute to master animator Hayao Miyazaki. The first phase, "Totoro and friends" is already complete, and was unveiled this evening to coincide with the announcement...

I am greatly honored to be a part of this effort, and very pleased with how my own contribution is progressing. This year you will see a shift in my style of Lego creations, from 'enlarged miniland characters' to more sculptured pieces at about 2X that scale.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Once again Dave and Johnny Xandegar have put their very organic large-scale character building skills to great use in this rendition of the big-sworded androgynous half-demon InuYasha from the Magna series of the same name.

Lots of really great details here. The wind-blown hair is pretty striking. But I also like the way they have tackled the costume: not only does it feel very billowy, but if you look closely, you'll see the clothing actually has thickness relative to the skin (look around the wrist and chest). This really adds to the three-dimensionalty of the whole piece.

Now if we could just do something about that <cough> MegaBloks baseplate! ;-)

Once again, nice work guys!

(...<cough> MegaBloks! <cough>...)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Its like the 80's never went away

Just a couple of quick finds to share, then I'm off to nurse the headache I got from going to see Avatar in 3D. I'm a big fan of bright pink, and these two creations with their pink and black color schemes made me go all Olivia Newton John-stalgic for the Era of Neon...

Phantom mask by Unknown
(spotted at Brickvention 2010, photo by Time Prowler)

Pinktron by Moctagon Jones

Now I finally know what I would do with a time machine: Go back and get Lego to make Pinktron an official product line! Hey, that would be a totally justifiable case for intering with causailty. Grassy gnoll, shmassy gnoll.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nanoblock: A review, consisting of many small parts

Yesterday I introduced you to "nanoblocks", a miniaturized "Lego clone" building system from Japan. We laughed, we cried, we bought the t-shirt. Well this time, I'm going to document my first hands-on experience with this product, to try and give you a flavor of what its like, and how it compares with Lego.

(Spoiler alert: Lego wins! Just kidding, this is not a contest. So everybody wins. Kind of like competitive sports in Kindergarten.)

For my first nanoblock haul, I chose two animal sets, a budgie and a llama, and one more set called Big Tree (although the Japanese caption says its a tropical tree, which explains the US flag of course, right?!). The larger sets are boxed, while the smaller sets are bagged. Raw bricks in single colors are also available, in jars. The two packs ran at ¥550 a piece, the larger set at ¥1250 (that's about $5.50 and $12.50).

The bags are tough, glossy, high quality affairs, and also re-sealable (for portability) thanks to a zip-lock top. I did not want to throw away the bag! Note the nice color picture, English name, and brick count.

Inside the bag, I found the pieces, nicely bagged by color (it is the best sorting method, after all!) including a baseplate, which was an unexpected bonus since its not shown on the packet. The instructions consist of a single glossy sheet and are printed in black and white.

Comparing nanoblocks to Lego blocks, some interesting differences emerge. There are no bricks and plates - its all just plates. Also, in this set at least, there is an exact 1:1 correspondence between type and color (all 2x2 browns, all 2x4 yellows, etc). Not sure if that is significant. The 1x1s come in both square and round varieties.

Size wise, a 2x4 nano plate is an exact size match for a 1x2 Lego plate. The studs are taller than with Lego or Modulex, and the underside lacks tubes - just a dividing flange.

Nanoblock instructions are a much simpler affair than Lego instructions. What would constitute a 12 page color booket in Lego is reduced down to a single B&W sheet. This certainly cuts down on cost, and bulk. But it makes construction more "interesting"! Colors are labelled, so you unless you can read Japanese, you want to hang into the packaging, to use as a color guide! (Full scan available here)

Because everything is plates, models are simply built up in successive layers. Each step combines several layers. Its designed so successive layers hold the prevoius layers together. But working with such tiny bricks, a hard flat surface is a must!

Amusingly, stuff carried over from one step is always shown white in the next step, which takes some getting used to. Also, the vertical guide lines (for getting the layers lined up correctly) are a bit tricky too.

I got a bit of neck and eye strain working through these instructions, but it only took about 10 minutes to complete the Budgerigar. The bricks actually stick together really well (not as snappy as Lego, but nowhere near as slack as MegaBloks). They are made from ABS, but are more softer/bendier than Lego. They don't 'snap' as much as Lego - they are more 'push on'. One plus is the lack of tubes means you can actually connect some pieces at arbitrary distances (and this is exploited in some sets).

...完成! (Completed!)

And very adorable it is too. I like the way smaller bricks allow more detail to be packed into such a small space. My son said this looked like an exact scale model of a budgie! He decided to construct the llama set, refusing any assistance, and managed it without any trouble. So its not beyond kids ability.

Another nice surprise was the large quantity of spares you get in each set! In which case, I would liked to have seen instruction sheets for a couple of alternate models. However, there is a nanoblog that shows ideas for other models. (...or, God forbid, you could actually use your imagination!)

So there it is - my review of Nanoblocks. Obviously they're not going to surplant Lego or anything (so purists, you can put down your pitchforks now!). But the smallness, good color palette, and simple brick types, makes for a great little table-top diversion for any brick maniac or bored office worker!

To see the entire Nanoblock product line, visit the Nanoblock website.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's the opposite of a MegaBlok?

...why, a Nanoblock of course!

The Japanese are masters of miniaturization. Whether its trees, phones, cars, gizmos, or even pets. Its a fundamental part of their culture. And for good reason too.

But what would happen if they miniaturized Lego? Well, they have! And the result is Nanoblock...

Nanoblock is made by the Kawada toy company in Japan, and appears to just be a smaller derivative of their Diablock Lego clone system (which ain't no Lego but does have has some pretty cool things going for it).

Nanoblock seems somewhat reminiscent of Lego's own Modulex bricks (now a part of Lego history, but still occasionally put to excellent use). Although, while Nanoblock's color palette is pretty good, its nothing like the rich color palette that Modulex enjoyed.

One cool thing about these tiny bricks is that you can create far more detailed models in a more compact space, and at less expense. But what I really love about the approach they've taken with this product line is that its almost entirely basic brick types, and the sets are all really well designed, very detailed, pixel-art versions of familiar objects (animals, landmarks and vehicles for the most part). It kinda feels like its targeted at adults!

...of course, I cannot say to what extent the Japanese mindset factors into this. But I just dig everything about it! They even have a blog with suggestions for new models, including a foaming glass of beer! Definitely not one for the kiddies. Well, at least not until they reach drinking age (ie. 13).

So by now you're probably wondering "Hey, that's kinda neat. But I wonder if they're really any good?". After all, we've all encountered the Horror That Is MegaBloks, at one time or another!

Well, fear not dear Reader, for I shall be your guide. With some considerable effort, I have been able to acquire some Nanoblock sets. And in the next installment of The Living Brick, I will be giving you an in-depth, hands-on, trousers-down, review of this intruiging new addition to the universe of construction toys.

Stay tuned!


Equum mortuum flagellare

I don't think I ever covered this excellent brick-built horse technique developed by the very talented Polish builder and LUGPOL linch-pin zgrredek (aka "Polish Lino"!)...

But fellow LUGPOLian Qworg_ (the underscore is silent) has repurposed this technique beautifully in this Roman style chariot...

For me, the use of authentically subdued tones such as tan and dark red for the chariot, combined with the very 'energetic' galloping pose of the horses, just makes for a very classy piece of work.

(You may remember Qworg_ for the Pegasus' Fortress, his literally out-of-this-world entry in the recent Collosal Castle Contest...)


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Excuse me while I put you hold!

Apologies for not posting in a few days. I have been immersed in finishing a Lego project, and real life has also intruded (boo! boo, real life - you suck!!) But a couple of fun things are in the pipeline for later this week, I promise. And you know, if you happen to stumble across anything you'd like me to feature here, I'm all ears. I am not below letting other people do my dirty work!

Currently the web seems to be awash with endless Lego mosaics of people's ugly mugs, thanks to that new iPhone app that's going around (boo! boo, iPhone - you're indispensible!!). But I'm expecting that meme to blow over soon. To quote Chris Rock at an MTV award show a few years back, "Here today, gone... today!"

In fact, things are so bad this week that omg I am going to feature a Lego creation by the wife, Mrs Jelly. I guess you could say she is an AFOL, if by AFOL you mean Absolutely F**king Over Lego! Anyway, she has only ever made one thing out of Lego, and it had to be one of the Bronte sisters (since Mrs J is very well-read, and also a total girl). But I think she actually did a very classy job. For a one-hit wonder!

And it's been sitting on the bookcase for about 5 years now! But it doesn't stop there. It has a neighbor. Back in the day (when we weren't too busy amassing Lego, living off curry, having big hair, and fiddling with Rubiks cubes), a dear college chum of ours converted a standard minifig into this marvellous sig-fig of Mrs Jelly. As far as I know this is the oldest sig-fig on the planet, clocking in at about 24 years old (anyone out there care to beat that record?). Which basically makes her Queen Among Nerds!

Ok, back to work (both the real variety and the fun variety!)...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Imagine that!

The most amazing thing about James Cameron's new 3D Sci-Fi blockbuster movie Avatar is that I've not managed to actually see it yet. Go figure! Well when would I get the time anyway between writing this blog, teasing the cat, and my booming monkey assassin rental business?

Anyway, its certainly started to capture the imagination of Lego builders, as there seems to be a steady trickle of Avatar-themed MOCs appearing now.

But just to set an impossibly high standard by which all other Avatar models shall now be judged, teenage builder Imagine Rigney from Hawaii has created this amazingly detailed and acrobatic Avatar diorama...

The blue alien dude on top of the blue alien birdy thingy (I got the names right, yes?) is a particular treat. Check out Imagine's full photo set for closeups of this and all the other elements of the model.

The very appropriately named Imagine was also the creator of this amazing version of Howl's Moving Castle last year, which also demonstrates the same characteristic attention to detail and ambitious scale. This is one to watch, for sure!

While I am quite definitely expecting this movie to be nothing more than a digitally busy, 3-hour effects extravaganza with 1-dimensional characters and a boiler-plate Hollywood plot line, I expect I will still go and see it anyway. Just so people will shut up at me about it!

(...at this exact moment, I can hear Tommy's voice in my head going "But its 3D man. Three Dee! Its the frikkin' FUTURE, man! 3D!")

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In space, nobody can hear you being disassembled

Regular readers of this blog will assume I have simply taken leave of my senses by featuring a minifig based vignette, but this entry for the Brickforge Cosmic Conflicts contest by Tsukumogami will just have to be my guilty pleasure for the week. That and the fatty Greek food I scoffed for dinner (...which may have been prepared by a fatty Greek, I cannot say).

The diorama is called Spaceship Attack. I guess what drew me to it was the color scheme (lime green and dark tan!), nice work rendering the tentacles bursting through walls and floors, intricate greebling on the back wall, great freeze-frame action, great photography, plus the 'impending doom' of the minifigs (an added bonus!).

The sudden and mysterious appearance of this builder seems to be somehow nicely explained by the Japanese origin of the term "Tsukumogami", which you can read about here. Doesn't that just scream to be a theme in a Miyazaki movie or something?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For whom the bell trolls

The things I love about :jovian: (aka Steve Vargo) are...

1. His Lego creations are deliciously dark.
2. His Flickr profile description is disturbingly erotic.
3. His inability to settle on one punctuation symbol for his alias is hilarious!

While his latest creation, this goat-herding Mountain Troll and creepy meth-abusing side kicks, is less dark than his normal fayre, I am drawn in by the color scheme. Mmmm...

Here he is on pest control duty. Those pesky humans...

Sorry, that's all the verbiage for tonight. I am rushing to complete a project of my own, in between school meetings, work deadlines, otter wrestling and such...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wow, these guys look completely stoned...

Moai by Arcadia X Joker

Woah, dude. I feel, like, I'm just a giant
head on a beach somewhere.
Yeah, me too. Its awesome!
And like, that little dude down there looks
like he's made of Lego. Check it out, man!
Yeah, little duuude, heh heh eheh...
I really hope he doesn't take a whizz on me.
That would, like, totally suck.
Huhuhuh huh huh, yeah, that
would be a pisser, man.
Ahaha hah hah!
Uhuhuh, huh huh huh...
Its so tranquil here though. Just my giant
head, the sand, the waves, the trees...
What trees?
Oh yeah, right. I forgot. Bummer.
Yeah, bummer.
Poor little dead dudes.
Yeah, all the little dead dudes.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

This game's gonna be a game changer!

I'm really not one for videogames, period. My idea of a great videogame is Adventure on the Atari 2600. That was great game. It was in color *and* fitted in 4k of memory (including the Easter Egg!).

However, today my son and I got the chance to play test Lego Universe - for a two solid hours - and I have to admit that now I've seen it in the flesh, all my prior doubts about this product have been dispelled.

I think this was the first time in many years that I actually found myself thinking "Yeah, I could imagine sitting down the playing that game on a regular basis". At which point my brain went into complete ambivolence overload!

Unfortunately I can't discuss specific game features, for fear of being eaten in my sleep by a swarm of vengeful Darkling minifigs. So for now I will simply review the game with a single word: AWESOME.

Fortuntately, plenty of public footage of the game is emerging now, so I recommend anyone within the sound of my voice check out the videos on the Lego Universe YouTube channel. The trailers are pure Hollywood nonsense, but there are now also videos of actual gameplay demonstrations from this year's CES expo.

For me what differentiates LU from other Lego-branded videogames is that its (obviously) a MMORG. None of the monotonous linearity of your typical platform game. You are free to explore vast realms of gamespace, choose your short-term activities and long-term goals, or interact with other players in real time. Plus the whole thing is child centric and there's even in-game Lego building!

Or to put it another way: It is significantly less of a total waste of time than a normal videogame!

And from the perspective of a Lego fan, I think this product is going to be a huge win for the Lego brand, and anything that keeps the Lego company strong and healthy gets my vote. Lego is a truly cross-generational product, and so is LU.

Of course, the question is, can the Lego company pull it off? Will this thing really scale up to millions of users? Will it succeed only being available for the PC and not on consoles? Only time will tell. But my son did remind me today (chuckling as he did so) about an exchange he witnessed between me and some LU team members at BrickCon last year...

OJ: "How do you plan to make LU successfully complete with Runescape?"
LU: "What's Runescape?"

Isn't the first rule of business "Know you enemy"?!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There's always a bigger brighter fish

When I first saw this fish, which John Langrish described as "Megan's LEGO Fish", I naturally assumed it was by his Brickjournal co-conspirator and former Lego set designer Megan Rothrock. If you check out her portfolio, you'll understand why.

So when I found out the Megan in question was actually John's better half, Megan Kilduff, and that this was her first attempt at Lego, and that it is going on display at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Center in Vancouver, I was doubly impressed!

I suppose seeing this model in the fishy flesh might be an excuse for me to actually get off my sorry arse and drive across the Canadian border, seeing as how I've lived within spitting distance of it for 13 years. I'm that lazy. Plus I don't speak Canadian. And all the Canadians I know all seem so grateful to have escaped through that tunnel, and I hear there are crazy violent drug cartels over there, and didn't the swine flu come from there? That's that border, right?

(I guess I am SO due for a slapping now, right Dawn? I didn't mention bacon once, though. Except just then. Whoops...)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nyeaaah, get outta my dang robo-yard you robo-kids!

This robo-geezer by Felix Greco kinda reminds me of how old and incompetent (that's incompetent, not incontinent!) I feel when I finally discover someone has been posting on Flickr but I've only been following them on Brickshelf (sorry Felix!). Otherwise I'd have featured this months ago...

It was therefore also a nice suprise to see his cute little cat and mouse in suits. I assume the reason they look so peeved is because the economic downturn has forced them to get crummy jobs as telemarketers. I'd be pissed too, if my prey was also my supervisor!

Next up: A frank and honest discussion about why Brickshelf even still exists in the same time/space continuum as Flickr, and whether using both makes you the moral equivalent of a Republocrat. Or should that be Demoblican, I don't know.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"You can't really dust for vomit"

Steven Marshall has started posting pictures of prop designs used in the new Lego Rock Band video game. Bear in mind these are (for the most part, as far as I can tell) photo-realistic computer renderings, not actual physical Lego models. But that doesn't make them any less awesome!

Obviously there are quite a few drum kits. This is to be expected. After all, the game is called Lego Rock Band, not Lego Progressive Folk Collective...

Of particular note are the curvy leather seats and couches - they look almost real enough to bounce up and down and spill popcorn in!

Hopefully this will finally be a version of the Rock Band franchise where the amps really do go up to eleven, and you really can make everything sound louder than everything else!

I just still can't believe some of the artists that got Lego-ized for this game (Freddy Mercury? Ozzy Osbourne? ...priceless).

What a shame I am so retardedly useless at videogames that I refuse to play them. Maybe, just maybe, this is the one that will bring me out of my digital Trappist period. Hmmm, now if only I actually owned a console...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Get that woman a sandwich, stat!

Andrew Lee (Lord of the Vipers!) has created this excellent statue of Sonora de las Sombras for the very peculiar Mexican religious festival of The Day of the Dead. Hang on, wasn't that like 2 months ago?

The thing I dread about this festival is not bizarre images such as 'Saint Death' but the icky sugar skulls that my kids get to make at school, and then bring home to slowly ingest over the course of the ensuing weeks, like a couple of oversized ants! Yuck!

Weak brique clique critique

Oh yes, I was bored so I made a Lego version of those "fanboy matrix" things that are popping up all over the place at the moment. Please to enjoy...

Just be glad I didn't come after you (yet), MindStormers!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bowled over

It is funny because it is topical and because the duck gets dead!

(MOC by z the lego man)

Top 9 of '09

Well what a wild ride its been! In the 11 months this blog has been running so far, we've seen 250 posts featuring some just bloody stellar Lego creations from all corners of the globe. I don't even want to think how many thumbnail-images-scanned that translates to!

So without any further ado, here is a countdown of my personal TOP NINE favorite MOCs of 2009. All of these appeared in '09, and most (but not all) have been featured here previously. It was hard to pick just 9 from all the great work folks have produced this year, including so many new friends. Sorry you couldn't all make the list! Anyway, drum roll please OchreBot (drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...)

#9 "Plastic Anatomy" by Jordan Schwartz (Sir Nadroj)

I had the pleasure of meeting Jordan and his family at BrickCon this year. I will be greatly surprised if we don't see this talented and industrious young chap designing offical Lego sets in the future. Which is going to be awesome! This particular creation is my favorite of his works, since I love seeing Lego human sculpture and this is a rather unique take on that!

#8 "Snowie" (from "Tin Tin") by Marcos Bessa from Portgual

Macros created this as part of the "LUS Olympics" Portugeuse bulding contest, which is a great showcase for all the talent and originality of our Portugeuse and Brazilian friends. The Jelly family are huge Tin Tin fans, and this model is just delightful.

#7 "Tron Light Cycles" by Stefan (2x4) from Austria

Stefan has developed a skill for crafting accurate micro versions of SciFi vehicles from TV and movies, and his various collections have been featured here many times. Like the previous MOC, these light cycles were also built for a contest ("MOC Olympics" in this instance). I really have to marvel at how well he captured the style and motion of the cycles, when considering the constraints under which they had to be built!

#6 "Red Squirrel" by the Vuurzoon family from Holland

Not previously covered here since it already got plenty of coverage on Brothers Brick, but this is one of the best animal MOCs I've seen all year. The "fluffy" tail really makes the whole thing perfect.

#5 "WunderKammer" by Guy Himber (V&A Steamworks)

This one is as much about concept as it is about execution. Guy had the brilliant idea of recreating the "Wonder Cabinets" of old, and then giving it his unique brand of steampunk treatment. But the stroke of genius here was to make this a collaborative effort, with different builders contributing items, resulting in a wonderfully anachronistic array of artifacts. Guy, it was a honor to be a part your experiment!

#4 "Cube Dudes" by Angus MacLane

As with #5 above, here I am honoring the concept as much as the creation. Angus developed this new style of Lego 'caricature' as a way to achieve better facial detail, allowing him to capture the 'essence' of almost any TV or movie character imaginable. Cube Dudes were definitely the Lego 'meme' of 2009, with many other builders contributing their own 'dudes' based on their favorite characters (I think the count is over 300 now, over half of which came from Angus himself!). As someone who focuses on building character-based Lego, the real thrill of Cube Dudes for me was getting to see so many other builders leaving their 'comfort zones' to have a go at this kind of thing, and to such great effect (but especially Larry Lars!).

#3 "Leopard Linger" by Bram Lambrecht

I got to see Bram's latest sculpture up close and personal at BrickCon this year (but somehow totally failed to meet the man himself <facepalm>). Bram's contributions to the 'science' of Lego sculpture are pretty significant, and utilized by other builders on a regular basis. His own software was used in the creation of the particularly absorbing piece you see above, but this fact does not diminish the artistic talent that belies it. Bram, I tip my hat to you, sir!

#2 "Leviathans" by Ryan Rubino

Not much to say about this really, other than its got fab sea animals in it, doing battle! But it has all the essential "non-rectilinear" hallmarks of any great Lego animal sculpture.

#1 "Alice in Legoland" by Tyler Clites (Legohaulic)

Everything Tyler produces is just so classy, from the concept, to the execution, to the presentation. The above MOC exemplifies this beautifully: It is iconic. And, as is often the case with Tyler's work, the devious use of unusual bricks to achieve its devious effects is just downright deviously devious in its deviousness! The rest of us, well, we're all "just a pack of cards"!

So there it is, my personal picks of the year 2009. I can hardly wait to see how 2010 unfolds now. Y'all keep building now, ya hear? So I can keep blogging your creations. Because the last thing any of us needs is for this blog to devolve into some kind of self-absorbed, non-Lego-themed stand-up routine! Well, non-Lego-themed at any rate...