Friday, August 14, 2009

Mission Accomplished

As one of my many, many responsibilities as a parent in the vonBloggenschtern household, it is up to me to be not only the uber-mater, but the Cultural Minister.

And I'm not talking the usual fare - art exhibits of The Great Dutch Masters, edu-mack-ay-shu-all science presentations, blahdee blahdee blah.

I'm talking the Culture of Weirdness.

It is my mandate and mission to research, seek out and present any havens of oddities that we might stumble upon during any of our various family vacations.

It doesn’t take a lot of doing; one just needs the right resources. Like my dog-eared copy of “Roadside Attractions”.

Like the World Wide Interwebs, when you Google the following phrase, "Weird things in ___(insert city here)". One might be pleasantly (?) surprised by the embarrassment of riches at one's fingertips.

It is because of the above research that we have explored the somewhat unsettling yet intriguing hoarding expo (cleverly marketed as "Collections") in Salt Lake City.

It is because of my investigations that we ended up in Lucas, Kansas to witness the 8th Wonder of the World, The Garden of Eden:

behold the backyard shed-cum-mausoleum

where the owner/creator of this awesomeness is preserved on ice

And as if this marvel wasn’t enough for one town, Lucas is also home to The Grassroots Folk Art Museum. The day we were there, we were lucky enough to have the lovely Marionette as our personal docent, and whoo lordy, the stories she could tell. There was rock carving sculptures; there were jewelry pieces with cameos made out of dessicated chewing gum. There were sculptures made entirely out of aluminum beer can pulltabs.

In St. Louis, I dragged my men folk to the Bowling Museum. Don’t get me wrong here; I am in no way a bowling officiando. I enjoy a few frames as much as the next person, but I’m not fanatical.

But the curators of this museum certainly are. And they do not disappoint in the weirdness of lauding all the untold glories of Ten Pin.

There is various documentation of bowling through the ages. There are team shirts. There are newsletters and posters and political bowling-themed propaganda. There is a workable alley.

The piece de resistance, however, is their gallery of womens’ champions, where a series of sizable oil-based portraits dangle from the ceiling. There must have been about 100 of them; their cat’s-eye bespectacled grandma faces follow you everywhere.

After this last glut of ‘culture’ tucked under their belts, the vonB’s thought there were forever sated .

Silly billies. The Culture Minister of Weirdness never rests.

Enter Venice Beach’s “Museum of Jurassic Technology”. This gem caught my eye while I was doing a quick read-through of a Southern California tour guide. The write up stated that the museum had nothing to do with either dinosaurs or technology.

My spidey-senses tingled.

This was a must on our "To Do" list.

It all started innocently enough.

The museum has a very unassuming storefront in muted colors; you would miss it if you drove past quickly.

Once inside, the tone goes from reasonably normal to uncomfortably awkward with lightening fast speed. We knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore when we quickly perused the mini-brochure given to us when we paid our donation fee:

“The learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar, guided along,

as it were; a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life.”

“Like a coat of two colors, the Museum serves dual functions. On the one hand, the Museum provides the academic community with a specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, with an emphasis on those that demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities. On the other hand, the Museum serves the general public by providing the visitor a hands-on experience of ‘life in the Jurassic’.”


Rather than exhibit their wares under ‘conventional’ museum conditions, all displays here are surrounded by near blackout conditions, with small diode-like light sources highlighting the wares. Dark, thick, velvet curtains cover the walls to muffle any ambient noise, and great care is taken to ‘frame’ some of the smaller pieces. Most everything is interactive, and there are slideshows going almost non-stop in the various nooks and crannies around the convoluted floorplan. I cannot be certain that the ghosts of Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price are not lurking about. Althought it's been 2 weeks, I am still trying to process all of the sensory overload we experienced. It was exciting, enthralling, unnerving and puzzling all at once. Some of the highlights included:

. The mini-theater that shows obscure European documentaries

. The Tea Room, serving ‘tea’ out of a fantastic-looking samovar, with pre-fab cookies slapped onto a serving plate.

. The extensive exhibit of the life, times and works of one Geoffrey Sonnebend, “Oblescence:
"Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter”, which takes the process of memory and applies it to something mathematical with Cones of Oblescence and dissecting Planes of Experience.

. Amazing figures carved within (!) the eye of a needle

. The skull of a wolf, fitted with a special lens that makes it appear as though a little man is sitting in the wolf’s mouth, making howling noises.

. The Micromosaics of Henry “Harold” Dalton, mosaic artwork so minute it can only be seen through a microscope.

And my personal favorite, “Garden of Eden on Wheels”, a series of dioramas of various trailers in trailer parks, along with ‘collections’ culled from various solicited US recreational and mobile home trailer facilities (i.e. the shit that people left behind – why it was ever kept defies logic. Even my logic.)

A quote from this series comes from the book “The Movable Dwelling and How It Came to America” by JB Jackson:

“Nine times out of ten, the deserted dwelling is a chrysalis from which its inhabitants have happily escaped to some brighter or more alluring prospect”

What an articulate summary of the absolutely obvious.

Several times during our visit, the Dukes would come up to me, desperate, panicked, repeating their signature phrases, over and over:

“This is seriously creepy” , rasped Duke 2.

“Are we going soon?”, pleaded Duke 1.

It was finally when the Baron sidled up beside and whispered in my ear that my heart went pitty pat with glee and I knew this had been yet another successful foray:

“This is the weirdest f*&king place you have ever dragged us to”.

Mission accomplished.

Next cultural mecca?

Two blocks down.

In and Out Burger.

All hail the Cultural Minister.


Audrey at Barking Mad! said...

Bowling museum? Seriously, such a place exists? Wow.

And In-N-Out Burger? I grew up on those. What I wouldn't give for one of those right now. Just the thought of a juicy Double-Double is ALMOST enough to get me on a plane out west. Almost.

formerly fun said...

Wait a minute I wasn't part of the weirdness tour was I???

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I really need to see the wolf skull!

Grandma J said...

Now I want a double-double from In n Out...right now, for breakfast!

Daryl said...

"Rather than exhibit their wares under ‘conventional’ museum conditions, all displays here are surrounded by near blackout conditions, with small diode-like light sources highlighting the wares."

Like, Dude-ess, this is SoCal ...

and In & Out Burger is da bomb!

Even the word verif. is in on it .. its wartar .. get it water .. wartar .. or maybe a hint next time go to LaBrea ... tarpits .. armpits ..

Fireblossom said...

oOooo, I'm next after La Daryl. Be still my beating heart!

All hail, indeed! In and Out Burger is the summit of all human achievement. I'm serious.

You know, I once went to a gypsy tea room with Geoffrey Sonnebebend. While we were waiting for Madame Gina, he poured out his heart to me. All of his feelings and hopes for the future. I can't remember a word of it. (I never was good at math. But Mr. Krebauer and I had an understanding, and so I received an "A" all the same!) No sooner had dear Geoffrey knelt, all melty-eyed before me, than Madame Gina's heavy crystal ball was propelled off the table in the next room and came rolling at some speed through the waiting area. It picked off Geoffrey and also an entire family of eight from St. Louis, the Richard Webers. But as any kegler can tell you, the ball must take out the five pin, and this one didn't, and so here I am to tell the tale today.

Your blog is elegant in the extreme, my dear.

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