Monday, October 13, 2008

Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies

You might actually thank me for that picture above being under-exposed. For yes, that left plate features mice on toast. The one on the right is mouse pie, but you sort of have to take that for granted (unless you want to taste test). Which isn't easy, as this photo is of a display at the utterly wonderful (in the true wonder sense) and confounding Museum of Jurassic Technology that I finally went to yesterday after hearing about it for years. It might be best to think about this unique collection as the dream of a museum of a museum; it's odd (what else?) little store sells copies of the Quay Brothers films, and the spooky half-real world they create in their puppet animation films is a great analog for the museum.

Any student of rhetoric will be fascinated as the museum precisely nails all the cues that vouch for authority while never making us feel convinced what we view is real. One can pick up a phone receiver at a display and listen to a narrator relate the tale of, oh, the Stink Ant of the Cameroon, while one can gaze at a diorama of the rain forest and said stink ant. Alas, the ant has a date with a killer fungus, and the story plays out like this: "The fungus continues to consume first the nerve cells and finally all the soft tissue that remains of the ant. After approximately two weeks a spike appears from what had been the head of the ant. This spike is about an inch and a half in length and has a bright orange tip heavy with spores that rain down onto the rain forest floor for other unsuspecting ants to inhale." So that spike in the ant's head in the display isn't just sloppy diorama workmanship, after all. How convenient.

For the Jurassic leaves you doubting in any truth at all. That's because even the real things it offers seem fantastical, none moreso than the room dedicated to Hagop Sandaldjian, who doesn't even possess a believable name. This Armenian turns out to be real ( I think, and perhaps reality is only what we think?), a viola-ist (hold those musical jokes), a continuous immigrator (thus always a fish out of water), and a sculptor of "statues" so small you can barely see them even when looking through a magnifying glass. That one of Goofy is, well, goofy; if you could marshall the skill, patience, shear painstaking mote of dust at a time construction, would you use it to bring Disney some more attention? Or is it a way to cut Disney down to ridiculous size? Or have gods changed so much, just like truth? Perhaps it's most telling that the Sandaldjian room seems more centered on the film documentary you get to watch about him than the several miniatures waiting under magnifying glasses--it's always the story, the telling of the story, that matters.

Just go, if you're ever in LA. For a town famous as the illusion capital of the world, there's nothing more mystifying, captivating, and oddly charming than the Jurassic.

Plus it's all of three minutes by car from the new Culver City Father's Office. Among all the other goodies, they've got Craftsman El Prieto Dark Sour Ale on tap right now and if you want a sour that doesn't curl your nose hairs, this is the one. It pulls back just in time, with plenty of maltiness and an undercurrent of cherry.

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Anonymous Pam Inglesby said...

Oh, that's one of my favorite places in the world! I just finished Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" which has the same feel to it.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Trekking Left said...

And isn't it ironic that Father's Office has mouse beer?

9:26 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

There's nothing funny about the viola.

10:28 AM  

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