Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Lego Architect Book Review.

The Lego Architect
by Tom Alphin
Ever since the creation of the plastic brick in 1949, building creation and recreations out of the interlocking brick system has fascinated fans for generation. So it's not surprising it has branched out to architecture. Seeing many beautiful creations of buildings using many interesting techniques of Lego building to recreate these iconic sites. With this interest saw the introduction of the product series by Lego with Lego Architecture in 2008 and onwards.

This book by Tom Alphin, takes a look at the many different types and techniques of architecture and Lego creations. In each is a reasonable length of description on the history and definition of the type of architecture which is used. The interesting aspect of the book is the inclusion of building tips to help with creating your own model. I have never personally seen this in any Lego book before and I do wish to see more of it in more variety of Lego subjects. 

The Prairie House model
After the definition a number of amazing Lego model recreations by other great Lego builders which relate to this type of architecture that's mentioned.

After this there is a section to build your own little model as Tom Alphin has designed some great small Lego instructions to follow. Unusually the models you can create only uses one colour, white. It is interesting why he may have used a single and plain colour; as he might have been referring to architect design models which are normally used by architects to show and display their designs before it is built. 
The uses of the white can also be very helpful on obtaining the parts you need to build the models as a great source of this would be the Lego Architecture Studio set. However, not all the parts you need are in the set. Although using the Studio is most likely the easiest option you will still need to get a few additional pieces especially if you wish to make all of the models in the book. If you wish to do this I would advise to get more than one Lego Architecture Studio set.

The Art Deco
Movie Theatre model
Overall the book is interesting and full of information and Lego ideas to think about. The book is a beautiful addition to your bookshelf and a interesting read to past the time with. If you like the Lego Architecture series, architecture or architectural history. Worth a buy. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Adolf Hitler - The Monster and Tyrant

On the 20th April 1889 Adolf Hitler was born in a small town in Austria, Braunau am Inn. His father, Alois was a customs official while his mother, Klara, came from a poor family. Alois was a overbearing man and Adolf frequently found himself the wrong side of his anger. Adolf left school with no qualifications at 16. 

Hitler always dreamed of a career as a artist. He applied to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts but was rejected in October 1907. He then moved to Vienna after the death of his parents and spent his time there sleeping in hostels and painting postcards. Here he developed many of his views of anti-semitism and desired to unite Germany and Austria.

Hitler in Vienna selling postcards
as a failed artist.
In 1913, Hitler moved to Munich to avoid military service. He loved Germany and wanted to prove his loyalty. In August 1914 he was given that chance, Hitler enlisted in the German army to be party of the Great War. He served in both France and Belgium, where he was decorated twice for bravery. In 1916, Hitler was wounded at the Somme. Then in 1918, he was wounded a second time after a gas attack. While in Pasewalk, Germany surrendered. The Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated days before armistice and many of the members of parliament were given poisoned chalice. 

Hitler and many others were angry by what they saw as a betrayal by the Jews and the socialists at home. In June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed and Germany were forced to accept sole responsibility for the war. As well as this, Germany had to pay a large amount of reparations and huge chunks of their territories were divided among the victors. Again like most, Hitler hated the treaty. He then decided to go into politics by joining the Germany Workers's Party (later known as the Nazi Party). Hitler completely agreed with their Nationalist and anti-semetic beliefs.

Hitler doing one of his
many hateful speeches.
Using his oratory skills, Hitler raised through the ranks of the Nazi Party. In February 1921, he spoke before 6,000 people in Munich.

Anton Drexler, founder of the Nazi Party, became unsettled by Hitler's popularity. He formed an alliance with a socialist party while Hitler was in Berlin. Drexler's attempt to undermine Hitler failed as he resigned and rejoined only when he was given control of the party in July 1921.

In 1923, the German Government was at the edge of collapse. The economic situation of the country was worsening as inflation increased. By that year a loaf of bread raised from 250 marks to 200 billion.

Wishing to see Germany to be great again under his control, Hitler encouraged revolution. On the 8th November, Bavarian Prime Minister Gustav Kahr addressed a collection of businessmen at a beer hall in Munich. Hitler and a load of his SA soldiers stormed in and forced Kahr to pledge his support. The next day Hitler led 3,000 men into the streets. However the police were waiting for them. Violence followed which resulted in the deaths of 16 Nazis and 3 policemen. Afterwards Hitler was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison for treason.

Hitler in prison writing
his book, Mein Kampf.
Within the 9 months of imprisonment in Bavarian fortress of Landsbury am Leck, Hitler spent his time writing his book, Mein Kampf. Mein Kampf outlines Hitler's views of the superiority of a white Aryan race and his cruel perspective for the Jews. He also describes Germans prosperity under Nazi control, for example, military expansion, elimination of the "impure" races and dictatorial authoritarianism. It was published in July 1925.

After being released he hoped to be elected. However, in 1928 the Nazis only won just 2.6% of votes.

Although, after the American stock exchanged collapsed in October 1929 and the foreign loans on which Germany relied on were stopped and repayment was called in. Unemployment rose to 6 million and parties on both sides saw support increase dramatically. That same year Hitler met 17 year-old Eva Braun, a German Catholic girl.

Hitler led the Nazis to become the largest party, with over 37% of the popular vote in the elections of July 1932. President von Hindenburg was concerned about the Communist's growing support. This persuaded him to give Hitler the post of Chancellor in January 1933. By March he was given dictatorial powers from the Enabling Act. This allowed him to pass laws without the Reichstag. Other Political parties, organisations and unions who were associated with the Nazis were disbanded.

The Army leaders were concerned with the SA who has helped Hitler to power. SA was considered as a group of thugs and Hitler needed to separate himself from them. In June 1934 the leader of the SA, Ernist Rohn and hundreds were assassinated in one night. This was to become known as the The Night of the Long Knives. Hitler couldn't tolerate opposition to his plans to suppress workers rights and make Germany ready for war. The army approved of his plans and when President Hindenburg died in August, they supported his promotion to Fuhrer.

The "Final Solution"
(the Holocaust) saw the death of
6 million Jews.
Since 1933 the Nazis had excluded the Jews and other "undesirables" from the public life. However, in September 1935, at the Nuremberg rally Hitler announced laws denying Jewish people citizenship and to marry or have sexual relations with people with German blood or decent. Hitler characterized the laws as an effort to achieve the "final solution". Under the new laws, Jews became targeted for persecution and was the direct course of the Night of Broken Glass. In November 1938 many Jewish residents and shops had their windows smashed and some were burnt down. Around 100 Jews were killed and thousands were arrested. From this time and on-wards huge numbers of Jews were around up and taken to concentration camps. Until the end of the conflict in 1945 over 6 million Jews were murdered within these camps by the SS. 

Hitler wished to see Germany great again and territorial expansion was part of achieving this. In March 1938, Hitler led his Nazi troops into Austria, achieving his dream to unify the two countries. Main countries, like Britain and France ignored Hitler's invasion at a attempt to prevent war. In September Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister) organised a conference in Munich and here all of Hitler's demands for Germany empire expansion was granted. Later that year Nazi troops marched into Czechoslovakia and took Sudetenland.

Hitler the looked east to Poland. Although before he could do anything he had to make a deal with Stalin's USSR. In late August 1939, the two powers agreed to a non-aggression pact. On 1st September the invasion of Poland began. Hitler was confident that Britain and France would not retaliate to help Poland. He was wrong, Britain and France declared war on 3rd September.

Poland was soon taken by Germany. Hitler's Blitzrieg tactics allowed the German army to take countries with a brutal single stroke. 

On 17th June 1940, France surrendered allowing Hitler to take revenge for the German defeat from two decades ago. Hitler ensured the French submitted at Compiegne in the same train carriage Germany had been forced to sign the Armistice which ended the First World War.

Churchill, Roosevelt & Stalin
making a alliance agreement. 
Despite the Nazi/Soviet Pact, Hitler hated the communists. Hitler was growing extremely suspicious of Stalin. Hitler planned to defeat and invade Western Europe before turning on the Soviet Union. However, when Soviet troops marched into Baltic States in 1941, Hitler decided to turn on them and invade the USSR. Hitler believed the Red Army would be defeated in a few months. He was wrong and to make it worst he declared war with another supper power, the US.

Hitler took control of the operations of the army in the Eastern-Front, convinced he was the only one to make the invasion successful. He directed the army from his headquarters which was thousands of miles away from the action. However, in February 1943, at Stalingrad, the German forces could not hold the city as they were outnumbered, freezing and starving. Hitler blamed the officers on the ground for ignoring orders. As he was the main person in command of the troops, he saw criticism for the first time because of the defeat.

Germany was losing control of the Eastern-Front. German forces retreated from Russia and in June 1944, the Allied forces landed in Normandy on D-Day. Hitler saw the invasion as a good thing and believed his forces could take the US and Britain out of the war.

The Wolf's Lair after
the 20th July Plot (Operation Valkyrie)
With the major turn of the success of the war was in favour of the Allies, many of Germany's loyal commanders now wanted Hitler dead to end the war for good and save lives. Hitler became increasingly paranoid as he had already had five attempts on his life. On 20th July 1944, saw the closest one yet. Hitler met with his military leaders at the Wolf's Lair Headquarters. Lieutenant Colonel Claus von Staufferberg left a bomb in a briefcase in the conference room. The blast killed three officers. However, Hitler escaped with minor injuries as he was shielded by the oak table which took much of the force of the explosion.  

In April 1945, the Soviet army were close to Berlin. Hitler excepted defeat. So he married Eva Braun, who had been his girlfriend for the last 11 years. They got married on the 29th April. The next day they both took a cyanide pill. Hitler then shot himself in the head. Their remains and two dogs were later discovered in his bunker by the Red Army. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

World War 1 Lego/3D Printed book review

World War 1 
by Minifig Battlefields
I have been looking forward to a Lego book about Great War. I was hoping for great photos, amazing builds and interesting content. However with this book by Minifig Battlefields, I wasn't so happy about. I would love to say a lot of good things about this book but I can't, sadly.

The most interesting thing about this Lego book is how it uses 3D printing and Lego to illustrate the history. This isn't a bad thing but there isn't much Lego to be really seen in the entity of the book, apart from the minifigures. I understand that the company mainly sells and uses 3D printed, WW1 military Lego parts and this is another branch of the same thing. However, this gives the book a catalog feel to it, a way of advertising their products. Making the book not much of a Lego one.

The information is the only real good thing about this small book. Its interesting and accurate, and goes through all aspects of the war from the famous of battles, to the uniforms and weaponry each country during it. 

Page layout.
Overall the thing which destroys the entire book is the photos. Most or not all are green screened and badly photo-shopped creating what could have been a great image to something which could have been done better. The worst thing is, a few of the images are ever out of focus or been enlarged making it extremely pixilated. 

Its a shame how a standing idea of the book was great the execution of the book could have been so much better and more perfect in the way it was presented.    

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Guy Fawkes - 'Remember, remember the Gunpowder Plot'

Guy Fawkes being arrested in 1603.
Guy Fawkes was born in April 1570 at York. He was brought up in a family and country of Protestants. However, he was Catholic and refused to attend Protestant services.

At the age of 21, Fawkes sold his estate and went to Europe to fight for Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch. In 1603 he was made captain. That same year he appealed to King Philip III of Spain to support a rebellion in England against James I. Philip refused to give his support.

While fighting for Spain at Flanders, Fawkes meet Thomas Wintour, who asked him to join a plot which would become known as the Gunpowder Plot.

After 18 months of planning, the plot failed when Fawkes was arrested at midnight on 4 November 1605 under the Houses of Lords. With him they found 36 barrels of gunpowder was found in a cellar directly below where the King would have sat to open Parliament the next day.

He was tortured for two days by James I's spymaster, Robert Cecil. After which, Fawkes confessed to it all. He was then sentenced to death - to be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, he jumped from the gallows, breaking his neck and so avoiding the horror of being cut down while still alive, having his testicles cut off and his stomach opened and his guts spilled out. His dead body was then hacked into quarters and his remains were sent to four corners of the Kingdom to serve as a warning.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Google's Art & Culture - Online Galleries

Now Google's Art & Culture is an really interesting and probably is the biggest of the on-line museum and art galleries catalogs out there. Maybe, because Google is a billion pound company or as they have started this project a long time ago and they have built it up to what it is today from there. Now I am not going to take a look at all about this amazing site has to offer, as this would be like reviewing the internet itself, a impossible task.

When the Art Project first started in 2011, the site had a huge collection of scanned works of art. For the first time you could take a close look at works of art and learn about the pieces; and the artiest who made them. You could see the artist brush strokes and the detail of the art work which you might have never been able to do at a art gallery. The project has evolved and now you can do and see so much more. 

At the moment I believe the site is a beta test and might be changed or updated to something even better than what's up at the moment but I see this as really unlikely.

You can take a look at articles, artefacts, art work, museum collection, Google Earth drop-in historic and museum/art galleries; historical accounts on events, people and so much more. 

Now with the artefacts, art work and museum collections you take a close look at individual objects with high detail. The site allows you to look close to objects for the first time. This makes you feel like you are looking at the object face-to-face or with a magnifying glass. Allowing you to see everything from the artist's brush strokes to every tiny detail.

Now there is a fabulous section of the site were you can digitally drop into a historic locations or museum/art galleries. In the same style as the drop-in setting of Google Earth, this allows to take a virtual tour of the location. This gives you idea of what the place it like and also allows to take a closer look of the highlights of the exhibits, giving you a taster of what you can see.

Now I could go on and on about this site as there is so much of it to take about.

The whole site is amazing. However, the only thing that I can say which is bad is the size of the collection they provide you. Now to many that's not a problem and it isn't but it is a problem if you can't search through all which they have. For example you have 1,692 of them. You get a search engine to search things, this is great if you know what you are looking for. However, can't possible know what they have to offer if you don't know and you are simply browsing. In my opinion it would be far easier with a filter system allowing you to select specific theme, century, topic etc. In the way they provide you, you would need to sieve through all what they have to find something you wish to take a look at. The other problem is the search engine itself as if you spell anything wrong, the search engine will not recognize it or give you alternatives search. So at the end you will turn up with your search with practically nothing.

Although it has some problems I must give Google a huge amount of credit. This site is what museums should inspire to with their own on-line catalog or gallery.