Friday, March 27, 2015

MELO Round 1 - The Misty Mountains Cold

Our next song, The Misty Mountains Cold, inspired a lot of builders in round 1 of the MELO. Here are some of my favorites.

IMO the best of these was Dodge's The Journey Begins. I love how he made this so it could hang on a wall. He advanced to round 2.

Andrew JN's Goblin Town was my other favorite of these and also easily advanced.

Timothy Post had an interesting take on Thorin, but did not advance

Jack the Jedi's Escaping the Goblin Kingdom was a nice scene but did not advance.

Moving ahead in the Hobbit, Trevor Turco was inspired by the phrase "dungeon's deep" to make the Elvenking's dungeons. He advanced.

Joepwnage brought us to the doorstep of Erebor but went no further.

And at last A Sargent brings us into the mountain itself, also advancing to round 2.

Another nice scene of the treasure chamber by Xander, but this one just missed advancing.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

MELO Round 1 - Into the West

The next song for round 1 of the 2014-2015 MELO was Into the West, the closing credit song from Return of the King. Can I go off on a little bit of a rant here? There is no way that this song, or any closing credit song - or, a more proper name would be "music to leave the theater by" - should ever be considered for best song Oscar. It's simply lazy for the director to get some great songwriter/performer to come up with some great song and then do the easy layup and get an oscar. IMO for a movie to be "best song" it should actually be part of the movie proper (i.e. the movie before it fades to dark and credits start rolling). Another nominee that year, A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow, from A Mighty Wind. If you've seen that movie (and if not, you should), you'll know that that song was an integral part of the story of that movie, and perfectly fit its role. Also that year, the Triplets of Belville was driven by the music rather than dialogue, and the key song from that was another one better worthy of "best original song". Okay, rant over, Into the West is certainly a beautiful song and the lyrics point to the final journey of Frodo. Three different builders gave us Grey Havens scenes. Sadly, no one was gutsy enough to build a scene from the TNT miniseries Into the West set on the American frontier during the late 1800's.

Joseph Olsen built this excellent Grey Havens scene and sailed into round 2.

Jacob Syrups built the same scene, but did not score quite as well and so his ship has sailed away.

Tomsche Murrath took a micro approach to the Last Ship's sailing, but also did not advance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MELO Round 1 - Edge of Night

The next song to inspire round 1 entries of MELO 2014-2015 was Edge of Night. This is a really interesting song, where context and melody really shape the tone. The original poem from Fellowship is all about going out for a walk before coming home to a nice warm fire. In the film, the lines about home and hearth have been removed, but still if you just read the lyrics, there is a lot of hope:

Home is behind, the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadow to the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight
Mist and shadow cloud and shade
All shall fade, all shall fade
A straight-forward reading says that, yes, night is falling, but the stars are coming out, and night shall fade away come morning. But in the film this is sung with that haunting tune by Pippin while we see scenes of Faramir's forces being slaughtered, intercut with an uncaring Denethor, so the tone is completely different. Watching it on screen you get the feeling that everything is falling into darkness, and all that is good and noble in the world will fade away in the coming triumph of Sauron. It's that feeling of despair that drove most of the MELO entries. Here are a few of my favorites.

Mate Paton thought of the siege and near-fall of Minas Tirith and advanced to the next round.

Dominik the Builder also went to the RotK context, illustrating the charge of Faramir - a nice scene though it did not advance.

J-rod Smith went to a different context altogether, seeing Lake-town as being on the edge of disaster. His was the third-highest score of the round 1 entries and easily advanced.

Ian Diller left Tolkien's world altogether, simply keying off the song's tone of imminent disaster with his Last Stand in the Badlands. He advanced.

A few of the entries looked more at the lyrics, suggesting setting out from home on an adventure. Saequis still stuck to movie inspiration, showing Pippin singing to Denethor, but he illustrated the line "Home is behind, the world ahead", but he did not advance, so faded from the MELO.

Jake Andrews took this line as reason to justify Bilbo setting out on his adventure, illustrating different scenes from the Hobbit. He advanced.

Kevin Moyer did much the same with Frodo's journey. He also advanced.

Graham Gidman also advanced with an unnamed figure leaving home to set off on adventures.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Smaug's awakening

I'll go back to MELO in my next post, but I just saw Sweetsha's Smaug's awakening and had to post it first.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Still more MELO round 1 - Gollum's song

The next source of inspiration in the MELO Round 1 was Gollum's Song. Here are some of the best, IMO.

Tim W. built Gollum's Cave. This was my favorite of these and easily advanced to round 2.

My second favorite was Graeme Straughn's To Catch A Fish... So Juicy Sweetttt!!. This illustration of the scene from the Two Towers also easily advanced.

I'm not sure where exactly Bane of Seagulls' End of the Road is set--presumably when Sam and Frodo first meet Gollum at the edge of the Emyn Muil. This also advanced.

Theomatic's Forbidden Pool was a nice entry, though it did not advance.

Finally, Pieter Dennison had a very different take. Rather than illustrate a scene from Gollum's life, some of the lyrics in the song made him think of the story line of the video game Middle Earth; Shadow of Mordor. His unique take, You are banished from death.. was one of the top scoring entries in round 1, moving on into round 2.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More MELO Round 1

Continuing with Round 1 of the 2014-15 MELO. Here are a couple of the entries inspired by the song May It Be.

This song got several builders thinking about Aragorn. P Andrei was the most impressive of these and advanced to Round 2.

Professor B interpreted this with a figure (maybe Gandalf?) pushing away the shadows of the night, and he advanced to Round 2.

Monday, March 16, 2015

MELO 2014-2015

Hey, the Middle Earth LEGO Olympics is just about done, and now I'm finally getting around to blogging about it. You've probably already scene the finalists, but rather than jump straight to them, let's go back to the beginning. The first round was open ended - anyone could build a MOC based on one of six songs from the Peter Jackson movies. 73 entered, and the best 32 went on to the head-to-head match-ups in round 2.

I think there were only two entries inspired by In Dreams.

Mark McPeek's In the Dreams of the Hobbit advanced to Round 2.

Reese Hawthorne's When the cold of winter comes.. just missed advancing.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, RIP

Hey all,

Someday (really) I'll get back to blogging Tolkien LEGO creations. In the meantime, check out the 2014-15 Middle Earth LEGO Olympics. I need to start highlighting all of the great MOCs that have been produced for this contest, and will get to them soon, I promise.
Anyway, I just saw the news of Leonard Nimoy's passing (via BrickNerd), and wanted to note it somehow. What better than to remind everyone of the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. You will be missed, Spock. Thanks for your more serious work, but also for this bit of silliness.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

In the neighborhood

"Who was that?"
"He's a bit early."
"That's what I said. But he said he was in the neighborhood."

Merry Christmas from Shannon Faulk.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What are you going to do know, Bowman?

What are you going to do know, Bowman? by Matthew Oh, based on one of the Hobbit movie posters.

Rapid-fire book reviews

Dang. I have this stack of books that I've wanted to do nice long reviews on before Christmas, to maybe give some recommendations for gift-giving, but now I find myself just a couple of days away from the 25th. So I'm going to do some short reviews for now, and then in the new year I really promise to go back and do longer takes on each of these.
I'm posting this same post across all of my blogs, btw.

Steampunk LEGO by Guy Himber
No starch press, 200 pages, 2015
Guy is certainly one of the preeminant AFOLs in the steampunk genre, and he's gathered together a collection of models by a lot of other great builders. If you don't know, steampunk is kind of the sci-fi of the Victorian era. The neat thing about this book is that rather than just being page after page of photos of LEGO models, this is put together more like a scrapbook made in the late 1800s. The pages have interesting backgrounds that look like parchment, maps, or pages out of old books. The fonts are often flowing script, or look like they were banged out on a manual typewriter. The images are 'attached' with those photo corners you might see in your granparents' photo albums. The pictures are sometimes in full color, but often in black and white or sepia tones. And the text is all by the fictional chronicler reporting back to Queen Victoria. The result is a very enjoyable volume that stands out from some of the other books that highlight great builds, but sometimes become repetitive (particularly if you have already seen them online). The audience here is probably for the older teen or adult with some interest in this genre, but really any interest in great LEGO models presented interestingly. I highly recommend this book.

LEGO Play Book by Daniel Lipkowitz
Dorling Kindserly (DK), 200 pages, 2013
This book brings together eight builders and lets each of them loose for a chapter based on a given theme. Barney Main builds fairy tales, Tim Goddard microscale, Pete Reid and Yvonne Doyle team up to make animals, and so on. Some of the chapters have a story connecting the models, and others are more collections. My son and I got this from the library when it came out (I really thought I'd reviewed it already) and we had so much fun going through it. We renewed the subscription three times because we were reading through a few pages each night at bedtime, just savoring the experience. He's 5, I'm 45, and we both thought it was great. Probably the main message was to encourage kids to be creative. If you have a kid who is in to LEGO, get them this book. You won't regret it.

LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History by Gregory Farshtey with Daniel Lipkowitz
Dorling Kindserly (DK), 256 pages, 2013
While DK has put out a few books like the LEGO Play Book just mentioned, they are more known for putting out books that are little more than catalogs - big compendiums of all of the LEGO Star Wars sets, or all of the LEGO Harry Potter sets, or all of the LEGO Batman sets, etc. I'm generally not a fan of these. This book falls in that category. It's kind of a rehash of Standing Small, a book DK put out a few years ago focused on minifigs, or the LEGO Minifigures Character Encyclopedia, though that was exclusively on the Collectible lines. This book is unique in that, rather than grouping all of the castle figs in one place and all of the Star Wars figs in another, it goes through, well, year by year, just like the title says. So you see groups of figs in chronological order. It's not a comprehensive listing like Christoph Bartneck's Unofficial LEGO Minifigure Catalog, so it's not useful as a reference book, but it is kind of fun to page through and see the evolution of the fig from the classic smiley to today's very detailed figs. Probably the best part is the inclusion of some of the prototypes and other precursors to the modern fig. A nice coffee table book, but probably not something you'd sit down and read. An okay gift for the casually interested person, but I'd rather give them the LEGO Play Book to show them what you can do when you're being creative.

The LEGO Neighborhood Book by Brian Lyles and Jason Lyles
No starch press, 200 pages, 2014
This book focuses on building in the Cafe Corner style. The book is about 10-20% discussion of building style and sources of inspiration, about 30-40% pictures of models by the authors, and about 50% detailed building instructions to make a few large buildings and also some detail features like lampposts and benches. The models are great, and the instructions are really clear. If you like the Cafe Corner sets and want to make more of your own, this is the book for you. Definitely for older teens and adult builders, simply for the scale of the projects involved.

Brick Shakespeare: The Comedies by John McCann, Monica Sweeney, and Becky Thomas
Skyhorse Publishing, 342 pages, 2014
Okay, here's where reviewing is no fun. I absolutely hated Brick Shakespeare: The Tragedies by these authors, and I'm not much happier with this one either. This book is essentially a collection of four LEGO-illustrated plays - A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Much Ado about Nothing, and The Taming of the Shrew. These are put together in much the same style as the Brick Bible books by Brendan Powell Smith. It's just that, well, the models and photography aren't very good. As I said when I reviewed the previous book, if this were five years ago I might feel differently, but there are so many high quality LEGO books on the market now that I just can't recommend this. I suppose if you are really into Shakespeare you might want this, but I wouldn't rush out to get it.

Brick Fairy Tales by John McCann, Monica Sweeney, and Becky Thomas
Skyhorse Publishing, 264 pages, 2014
This book has LEGO-illustrated versions of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and nine other stories (some longer, some shorter), but my comments are the same as they were for the Brick Shakespeare book. Avoid this.
I should say that I really don't like writing bad reviews. I'd like these to be better, I really would. I don't have anything against the authors, except that I want them to go on line and see what is actually being built out of LEGO these days so they can strive to do better.

There are many other LEGO books I don't have that have come out in the last year, and there's no way to cover them all. Here, though, are some that look particularly interesting to me. As soon as I get them I'll write full reviews.

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark by Mike Doyle
No starch press, 340 pages, 2014
I completely loved book 1 and am looking forward to getting book 2. In book 1 Mike was really focused on LEGO as artwork, and he brought together works by others to show just that. For this book he publicly called for people to submit or suggest artistic MOCs with a much darker theme. I've seen many of the creations that were submitted, and I look forward to seeing how they all came together in the book.

Art of the Brick by Nathan Sawaya
No starch press, 248 pages, 2014
We're all familiar with Nathan's creations, and you may have even attended one of his traveling exhibitions that have been in art museums all over the world. This book appears to be the companion piece to the exhibit.

Art of LEGO Design by Jordan Schwartz
No starch press, 288 pages, 2014
Jordan was certainly one of the most creative builders around at a very young age. He even got a chance to go to Denmark as a LEGO intern, and I believe he designed a few sets during his internship (I should probably check the details on that). He seems to have dropped out of the hobby for a few years, but he's back with this book that looks at the process of designing MOCs, including interviews with the builders of the work shown.

Revolution! by Brendan Powell Smith
Skyhorse Publishing, 2014
Okay, I'm recommending this one without ever seeing a page of it. We know Brendan from his decade-long project to illustrate the Bible, but last year he came out with Assasination!, focused on assasinations and attempted assasinations of American presidents. I wasn't only impressed by the illustrations - I expected those based on Brendan's previous work - but also by the writing, which was both informative and engaging. Anyone with any interest in history would enjoy it. So, I suppose this is a complete assumption, but I'm going to guess that Revolution!, a LEGO-illustrated history of the American Revolutionary War, will be similarly enjoyable on multiple levels.

Brick City by Warren Elsmore
Barron's, 256 pages, 2013
I've flipped through this one in the store and it looks really good. This is focused on models of well known buildings and other landmarks from around the world, such as the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, etc., mostly at microscale. Perhaps my only concern is that it's a smaller book, whereas bigger pages would make some of the details easier to see. On the other hand, it's hard to carry a large coffee-table sized book with you, so this is nice too.

Brick Wonders by Warren Elsmore
Barron's, 256 pages, 2014
Again, I've looked through this one and it's on my wish list as well. Whereas Brick City was more about modern structures, this one is broader in scope, with ancient structures such as the Pyramids and Babylon, natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, and even modern things such as the International Space Station. Again, the models look great and the photography is great as well.

Brick Flicks by Warren Elsmore
Barron's, 160 pages, 2014
This is another one that I'm listing without ever seeing it. I actually didn't know this one existed until I was getting the links for the other two by Warren. Based on the strengths of those, though, I'm looking forward to getting Brick Flicks. My only concern is that it appears to be 40% shorter than Brick City and Brick Wonders.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chibi Grond

The Brothers-Brick Chibi Contest has inspired lots of cutesy-fied scaled down vehicles, but I really had to laugh at Vitreolum's Grond.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hobbiton Open-air Museum

Ivan Storm imagines that centuries after the War of the Ring, the Shire has become a tourist destination for men from around the realms of Arnor and Gondor, who are particularly excited to visit the Hobbiton Open-air Museum, wit displays about Frodo, Sam, Meriadoc and Peregrin.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Tolkien LEGO fans in Toronto can have a treat. If you go to the Toronto Eaton Centre (looks like it's a shopping mall), the Smaug sculpture by Eric Varszegi that was seen at ComicCon is on display.