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Assassination! by Brendan Powell Smith [Book Review]

Brendan Powell Smith takes a break from biblical action with a new tome released just in time for the holiday season that features great building and a heaping helping of the darker side of American presidential history. The book is entitled Assassination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents and it is now available through the link or from the usual suspects who still cater to those of us who enjoy a hard copy. Brendan is an old crony of mine who sent me a free personalized copy of the new book knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to keep my big mouth shut about it. The first thing I noticed upon grabbing it from the mailbox was its satisfying heft and a larger format than the Brick Testament editions riding the bookshelf in my Legoratory. The book clocks in at 272 pages, features over 400 photos and retails for about $15 here in the States (depending on how you order it) and you can get a signed copy for about $20.

Assassination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents

Brendan’s building has come a long way since the first edition of The Brick Testament some ten years ago and I think it’s fair to say he’s on top of his game in this book. Creating 400 scenes without getting burned out or taking short cuts seems like an amazing accomplishment to me so I found that the actual quality of the building exceeded my expectations. What I enjoyed most however, was the writing and the depth of information that Brendan provides on each assassination attempt while maintaining a smooth narrative flow. Being a history buff, I thought I was pretty well versed on the topic going in but in each of the 15 accounts (Lincoln, Kennedy and Ford get 2 chapters each) I definitely walked away with more knowledge on the events than I had going in. My favorite chapter of the book was actually the first one which detailed the 1835 attempt on Andrew Jackson’s life. Brendan has always had a knack for selecting just the right minfig for the right character, but never more so than with Old Hickory.

Assassination! sample page

There are a couple of nit-picky issues with the book both of which are cosmetic in nature and more an issue of printing than authorship. Over the course of 400 photos, there is an occasional difference in brightness between photos that can be a little distracting and there were 2-3 instances where the white printing on the black background was faded to the point of being difficult to read. Neither issue effected my enjoyment of the book, which I rank as my current favorite among the current crop of volumes produced by Lego nerds recently. Coffee table books with pretty photos are nice but I actually feel better informed after reading Assassination! and I’m certainly better armed for any future engagements in American presidential trivia.

Brendan Powell Smith

With a great price-point, solid building and great writing I can’t endorse this informative volume enough, constant reader and I encourage you to purchase the tome at your earliest convenience for yourself or as a gift. Perhaps the best testimonial I can give is that everyone I have shown it to has been unable to put it down without laughing and remarking about one of the factoids. If you have friends who are anything like mine, you’ll soon be refusing to loan it out. Let’s face it, people never return books.

Life-size Titanfall R-101C Assault Rifle

I meant to blog this next model back when it debuted in September, but something shiny must have distracted me from the Titanfall R-101C Assault Rifle by our old associate Nick Jensen (Nick Brick). Working features include: removable magazine, moving trigger, sliding charging handle, flip-up iron sights and a detachable HCOG sight that lights up. The rifle is a replica of the one used in the video game Titanfall, and purists can breathe easy because even the sling has the lego logo, although the builder does not specify where it comes from.

Titanfall R-101C Assault Rifle

Annie Leonheart

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Arkøv. at BrickCon last month and he’s as cool as the other side of the pillow and humble too. To say there is some “NPU” going on with his latest model is an understatement, in fact there are so many great details that it is difficult to pick a favorite. I think Arkøv’s description of this beauty cannot be improved upon, so I’ll leave you with the builder’s own words: “From Shingeki no Kyojin, the anime about big naked people eating little people with swords“.

Annie Leonheart

History of the World

In his latest effort, the simply titled History of the World, Lasse Vestergård has wonderfully combined microscale architecture with collectible minifigs to create a timeline starting with ancient Egypt and ending with modern America. I’ve seen many fellow hobbyists construct brick-built display units for their minifigs but never one with such panache or purpose.

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Lasse also took the time to make the back of the display interesting as well, by including a map of the world.

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“And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth… the critic.” My only complaint about this otherwise fine project is with the title, which is a little misleading as the model seems focused on western civilization to the exclusion of the rest of the world. However, when you try and boil down the entirety of human history into a dozen vignettes, you’re bound to leave somebody out.

Two from Uma

Our chief medical officer here on the Brothership has informed me that our stockpile of hemoglobin is critically low, so please welcome newcomer umamen (uma uma) who brings some fresh blood to this venerable blog. We are proudly presenting a pair of Uma’s mecha for your Sunday viewing pleasure, the Gundam RX-78-2 and the MS-06F ZAKU II which were both inspired by the collected works of Pete Corp.

LEGO Gundam RX-78-2

LEGO MS-06F ZAKU II

Arthur, the point man.

MOCpages people’s champion matt rountRee just finished his take on the famous zero-G hallway fight scene from 2010’s Inception and it is every bit as eye catching as the film. The expression on Arthur’s face is perfect and the pose of the bad guy makes for an inspired tribute to the trippy scene. If you follow the link you’ll find some interesting commentary about the build and some pulled-back photos that show how extensive the set-up is.

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Just for comparison’s sake I’ve included Alex Eylar’s (Profound Whatever) take on the very same scene, in minifig scale, from 2010.

Inception

The Imperial Steam Ship – Harbird

And now for a SHIP of a different sort, a steam boat that never was by teen builder Stijn Oom (DutchLego) who makes his third appearance of 2013 on the Brothership. The hull has a very pleasing shape and the builder uses just the right amount of genre boilerplate with the brushed gold trim and wooden sections without things getting too out of hand. It’s great to see an engine that doesn’t seem woefully underpowered as so many Steampunk vehicles do. The string is a nice touch and so is the steam-pipe that curves around the side of the hull. My only gripe is with the stand, it sticks out in a bad way, but the rest of it is so well done that we’ll let it slide….this time…but you better watch yourself Stijn!

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Take to the stars with ice trawler Polynya.

sioka sculpting makes his first appearance in the ivy covered halls of TBB with a S.H.I.P. that has just about everything you could ask for: great color control, fine details like hangar bays and life-boats, powerful engines and that hard to define cool factor. One of the reason’s I was attracted to this model was that it simultaneously looks modern and old-school, like the handsome love-child of Dasnewten and Dan Jassim.

Ice trawler Polynya... Not so SHIPtember

For you trivia fans, the name polynya refers to an area of open water surrounded by sea ice. It is a Russian term полынья which refers to a natural ice hole, and was adopted in the 19th century by polar explorers to describe navigable portions of the sea.

The Ultimate Video Game System

I don’t want to hear about the Play-Box 420 or the Dream Station 5000 or even the hopelessly derivative Intellivision; the greatest video game system of all time is the Atari 2600 and TBB regular Chris McVeigh (powerpig) has finally brought the mighty console to life. Back in the day we only needed one button to shoot/jump/kill and it was red so you couldn’t miss it even if you were all jacked up from too much caffeine and sugar. So set the dial on the way-back machine to 1977, grab your unscratchable copy of Journey Escape and revel in the four-switch “wood veneer” greatness. If you don’t believe me, just check out a very young Heisenberg react to the 2600 in this advertisement from the early 1980’s. Who needs ultra pure crystal meth when you have Mega Force!

I dreamt in pixels that night.

The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane

Thorsten Bonsch Xenomurphy has been hard at work for a full year to bring you his latest masterpiece, “Arkham Asylum“. The brooding structure takes its name from the sanatorium in the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts, found in many of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories of the macabre. Batman and Lovecraft are both huge influences on Thorsten’s work and a merging of the two has obviously inspired him to greater heights. The structure itself is impressive and there is plenty of minifig driven action throughout the diorama to please both fans of Batman and the hot-weather crowd. My favorite detail is the eruption of greenery coming from Poison Ivy’s cell.

Arkham Asylum 1

It would be enough for most builders to create such an outstanding model but Thorsten wasn’t satisfied until he’d created an elaborate and striking 82-page “making-of-book” that according to the man himself: “explains every little step“. Indeed every imaginable topic in the design process is covered in great detail from inspiration to minifig selection to the nuts and bolts construction of various sections. The book also details the contributions of builders like Dave Kaleta and Calin who helped set the scene with some amazing 1920’s inspired vehicles. Thorsten obviously put as much care into the layout and writing as he did into the build itself and the result is a rare glimpse into the mind and creative vision of one of our best builders. You can get a sampling of the engaging work in Thorsten’s Photostream on Flickr or he has thoughtfully made the entire document available as a free download. The reader who takes the time will surely be rewarded and immersed in the details of Arkham.

Making of Arkham Asylum 09

Making of Arkham Asylum 04