This 19th of November marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place several months before, was the bloodiest battle of the American civil war and many of the dead were hastily buried in temporary graves. They were subsequently reburied in what was to become the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The Address was one of several speeches that marked the official consecration of the cemetery.
Gary Brooks (Gary the Procrastinator), who is no stranger to TBB, has expertly recreated the scene of President Lincoln giving the speech. At the time, the reception of the speech was mixed, but it has gained a prominent place in the history and culture of the United States.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lasse also took the time to make the back of the display interesting as well, by including a map of the world.
“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.
My latest creation, which I hastily whipped together last night, is a rendition of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. The book and water base I already had from a previous creation, which I hope to eventually photograph. It was great fun matching the figures to the painting, though now in the light of day with a more critical eye I see that I made a few mistakes, such as Washington being positioned too far back in the boat. The trickiest bit of the endeavor was figuring out the flag–I don’t think my poor white capes will ever be the same again.
Alex Eylar has been putting his film education to good use lately in a series of vignettes depicting the early years of Tinseltown both on-screen and off. As you would expect from an Eylar model, both the lighting and composition of each shot is exemplary. The series is now 15 entries deep with no sign of slowing and these are two of my favorites: Harold Lloyd’s iconic clock scene from 1923′s “Safety Last” and a recreation of the very first Academy Awards ceremony from 1929. The entries include some interesting factoids so if the history of the movies is your bag, be prepared to roll deep into Mr. Eylar’s photostream.
From French builder 74louloute comes this amazing diorama of 1930s aviator Henri Guillaumet, a mail pilot in South America who crashed in the Andes and lived to tell the tale. The scene here is brilliant, and the builder is the first I’ve seen to use tiles and the new inverted tiles together to make a super thin smooth wing, and it works marvelously.