Archive for ‘miniatures’

March 4, 2011

dream (il)logic

by Megan Abbott

Now and again, I go through phases—frequently as a result of poor (yet legitimately pharmaceutical) choices—of bad dreams.

I am in the middle of such a phase (including an especially terrifying one involving angry squirrels). And it’s a real drag right now because I’m revisiting one of my favorite true crime books, the highly contested Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel. A retired LA cop, Hodel  devotes hundreds of pages to proving that his father, George Hodel, is not only the killer of Elizabeth Short, AKA “The Black Dahlia,” but possibly scores of other women in Los Angeles in the 1940s (and earlier, and later).

I have conversations with folks about this book at least every few weeks. It seems there are many of us who are haunted by its particular blend of truthiness, utter throw-the-book-across-the-room implausibility and the humming ring of real, and deeply haunting, truth.

Going back to bad dreams, though—well, this book gives me very bad dreams. It’s a disturbing, exotic and strange world George Hodel lived in—doctor, lothario, friend to surrealists, decadent. And Steve Hodel renders it well.  (Do read Craig McDonald‘s wonderful Toros and Torsos novel and the book Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder for more on this world.)

The point is, I cannot possibly read this book before I go to sleep.  Instead, I am watching Larry Sanders, or reading The Believer’s first-rate film issue (more on that in the days to come). But it reminds of conversations Sara and I have had about the possibility of “directing” our own dreams (and about lucid dreaming). Can one “will” bad dreams away—or more pointedly set the stage for good ones?

This is all a long (sleepless) way of saying, speaking of surrealism, I got a postcard in the mail from my dad:

The caption is “Gadget Dance, 1936,”  and it’s Depression-era timestamp is significant. But the main thing is, I smiled very widely when I got it, and have placed it above my computer.

This picture, like so many of those Busby Berkeley musical numbers from the 30s, are sometimes what we think of when we think of dreamscapes. So my goal tonight, is to dream my way into this.

Personally, I want to be the washing machine girl in the back, with the balloon bubbles. (Who can tell me what the girl behind the oven and next to the radio is supposed to be? Jack, I’m asking you!).

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February 17, 2011

fancy panties and wolves: meet Karolina!

by Megan Abbott

Today, we welcome a special guest, novelist and screenwriter Karolina Waclawiak. I first discovered Karolina through “Safe As Houses: An Ode to Britain’s History in 1:12 Scale,” a fascinating piece she wrote for The Believer, where she serves as assistant editor.

The essay tells the story of the elaborate special dollhouse created by famed architect the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary in the 1920s. The greatest craftsmen and artists of the day participated in the effort, contributing everything from a working lift and a 1923 Silver Ghost limousine to a fully stocked wine cellar complete with 1,200 thimblefuls of champagnes.

Best of all, the house includes a 171-volume library of rarely-seen, original short works written exclusively for the dollhouse by world- famous writers, from Arthur Conan Doyle to Thomas Hardy (Virginia Woolf declined to participate). The piece was haunting, lovely, like peering through the glowing windows of the dollhouse itself.  And we’re lucky enough to have Karolina herself here today….

When Sara and I started the blog, we conjured the idea of having guests, when they arrive, answer a questionnaire, and Karolina kindly complied:

  1. what is your greatest fear? Wasting time.
  2. what is your favorite way of spending time? Being outside and taking everything in. I like to observe locations and I use that in my writing. I’m a very visual person and writer.
  3. what is your most treasured possession? My lime tree and blood orange tree. I live in Brooklyn now after a long stint in Los Angeles so it’s necessary for me to be able to have some memory of it in my house at all times.
  4. when and where were you happiest? Yikes. I’ll let you know when it happens.
  5. what is your greatest indulgence? Fancy panties
  6. where would you like to live? Somewhere where the temperature never dips below 65 degrees and never hits above 75 degrees. Let me know if you’ve heard of such a place and I’ll be there tomorrow.
  7. what is the quality you are most drawn to a person? Curiosity.
  8. how would you like to die? I’m not sure exactly but it should warrant a Dateline episode.
  9. what is your secret superstition? I’m afraid of cats crossing my path. My Polish father taught me to make a scissor cutting motion after one does and spit three times. I’ve done it in front of many people so I’m not sure how secret it is.
  10. what was the best dream and worst nightmare you ever had? I used to have two recurring dreams as kid. One was awesome. One was terrible. The awesome one was based on the movie Fortress. I frequently have dreams based on movies I’ve seen. Anyway, it involved me swimming in caves. I know it’s supposed to be “best dream” and it’s from a movie about a kidnapping but trust me, constantly revisiting cave pools is pretty awesome. Worst, same dream era – I’d say age 12 – I’m wandering through a burning city where packs of wolves were being deployed to find all the children and kill them. I was alone in the city and trying to find my way out, everything was grey or on fire. Somehow I would always stumble out the other side of this place and onto my neighborhood street where it was fall and all the bright foliage was so beautiful and formed perfect lollipops of colors but they always started melting. It was the basis for the first short story I ever wrote and after I wrote it I never had the dream again. I would like to know what they both mean.
  11. what song do you most hear in your head? Upside Down by Diana Ross
  12. what do you read/watch/listen to when you are feeling badly? Oh man, Morrissey for sure. And the Magnetic Fields. I like to wallow.
  13. what do you consider to be the greatest elixir/restorative? Walking. Being in nature. Sun on your face. Everything my mother always says works. It works. Oh and sex, but she told me that too.
  14. what’s something you never told anyone? I live in an unhealthy haze of nostalgia.

Follow Karolina at @believekarolina on Twitter.

January 5, 2011

Miniatures, Models, and Queens

by Sara Gran

Speaking of movies, I saw IRON MAN 2 last night. There were two interesting things in this movie. One was the great multi-layered use of miniatures/architectural models and the great NYC locations. For mysterious reasons Iron Man has a big exhibition/show/whatever-he-does in Flushing, Queens, home to both the 1939 & 1964  World’s Fairs–you may  know it as the place with the giant open-sided steel globe (the Unisphere). Now, the interesting part is that there was a sub-plot about Iron Man’s father (who as it turns out is Roger Sterling!), in which Father built a giant scale model of the whole Flushing World’s Fair complex (!!) and made a short LOST/Dharma-Initiative-ish film with the scale model as a prime feature (!!). As if that wasn’t cool enough, it turns out this scale model, when rearranged, holds the key to saving Iron Man’s life, or something like that! (And proves that Roger Sterling really loved him after all, but who cares?)

Now this is especially interesting because although they didn’t mention it in the film (at least not that I noticed), Flushing is home to its own outstanding model/miniature–a nearly 10,000 square foot building-by-building model of all of New York City, called the New York Panorama, made by a family of insane people to re-enact famous New York crime scenes with mice, kittens, and puppies in costume. No, not really (but wouldn’t that be cool?)–it was built for the 1964 World’s Fair, held in the same location (I just break in at night and do the kitten thing for fun). I went there with none other than Megan Abbott a few years back, and we had lots of fun pointing out places where we’d lived, gone to school, etc.  They’ve even got the Roosevelt Island tram up and running! It is truly extraordinary. The Panorama is housed in the Queens Museum, a nice place in its own right. So there’s some fun little layers here in an otherwise not-too-fascinating film.

The other interesting thing about IRON MAN 2 was that the women were less stupid and whorish than in Iron Man 1. Did people complain about that or something?

December 20, 2010

Lori Nix and our Miniature Demise

by Sara Gran

I came across Lori Nix’s photographs of a miniature postapocalyptic world on BoingBoing and quickly fell in love. As you may have noticed miniatures are a big theme here around the Medince Show. There is no particular reason for that other than that we love miniatures.

I am also seriously digging Nix’s series of what seems to be a created natural history museum fallen on shabby days. A few words from her website about her methods:

“Currently it takes about seven months to build a scene and two to three weeks to shoot the final image. I build these in my Brooklyn living room. I have miniature power tools throughout the apartment, a chop saw under the kitchen table, a miniature table saw on top. The computer room doubles as a model mock-up room. There are two of us who work on them, myself and my partner Kathleen. We split the work according to our strengths. I come up with the concept, the color palette and the lighting scenarios. I build the structures out of extruded foam and glue and paint and anything else handy. Kathleen is trained as a glass artist, specializing in cast glass work. She can paint faux finishes and gild architectural details with gold leaf. After I’m done building the structure and painting it, she comes in and adds dirt and distresses the walls to make it look old and decrepit.”

November 28, 2010

welcome to the dollhaus

by Megan Abbott

Found in today’s San Francisco Chronicle… as a fan of midcentury and of unusual small things, I find myself wanting to crawl into these scenes. I find myself wanting to add a mini Sinatra, slouched in one of the chairs, collar open, pining for Ava. Smashed whiskey bottle on the floor. Or a John O’Hara- girl in a party dress, makeup smeared, one shoe heel broken.  Or a Hopper-esque office worker, staring out one of the windows, mournfully.

It also reminds me of an Alexander Girard exhibit I once went to at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.  An architect and textile designer, Girard did these great fabrics (and wallpapers and furniture and fonts) for airlines (lavender planes!) and restaurants in the 1960s.

On display at the exhibit and not to be forgotten: an authentic conversation pit (see pix). A great midcentury invention.  It is my secret dream to have one.