Monday, October 27, 2003

Our first toy story! 

Here is our first toy story submitted by a real person! (We have had a few others that were submitted by the likes of Auguste Rodin and Wally Cox, but they turned out to be test missives submitted by the web designer…)

Story: When I was but a wee tyke (somewhere in the vicinity of five or six years old), I inherited a large, stuffed bear from my older sis. The bear, 'though pre-owned, was in pristine condition (and, incidentally, taller and wider than I was) until I decided its pristine plump-ness would make a perfect trampoline. I jumped and thumped on its poor ursine carcass until one of the eyes popped off. My mother (who, I assume, was keeping watch on her possibly insane son) said, "That's not very nice. How would you like it if the bear jumped on you and your eye popped out?" Fearing for my then-perfect vision, I stayed a respectable distance from my one-eyed crash pad for the rest of the day. It's almost 40 years later and I can still clearly remember the nightmare I had that evening: A monstrous, stuffed, one-eyed bear chasing me, trying to grab one of my eyes to replace his.

I don't think I ever played with that bear again.

--Neal, Los Angeles, CA


Why is it that so many of the really memorable toy stories have this sort of dark twist to them? (We at LATDA are in R&D for an exhibition on this very theme…Neal – you may become part of that exhibition!)

When I was a child, I read every piece of juvenile fiction that had to do with dolls. I read the Rumer Godden classics including the Miss Happiness and Miss Flower books; Hitty: Her First Hundred Years; The Lonely Doll; as well as any number of forgettable titles. When I ran out of titles in the juvenile section of our local library I started searching the adult fiction card catalog. An observant librarian stopped me from checking out a book called The Deadly Doll – I think it was a piece of pulp fiction.

Anyway, one of my favorite stories was an obscure book called The Village of Hidden Wishes, by David Fletcher. I read this book when I was about 8 or 9 and was never able to find it again. Every so often I would describe it to others, having forgotten the author and title, in hopes that someone would recognize it and lead me to it. In my senior year of college, I paid my first visit to the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. As always, the book came to mind and I described it to someone there. As I was talking and walking by the shelves, I suddenly stopped and reached towards a book with a blue spine. It was like an automatic writing impulse. My hand went straight to the book that I had been searching for over the past twelve years or so. As this was in the days before abebooks.com and Ebay, I had no way of purchasing this now-out-of-print book. But when I re-read it and made a note of the title and author, I was able to continue searching for my own copy. Eventually a librarian heard my story and ‘de-accessioned’ a copy from her library that had not been checked out since 1964.

It was a story about two sisters who owned two dolls that looked just like them. They foolishly wished that they could trade places with their dolls for a day and mentioned the fact to the proprietor of the local doll hospital. As they had deposited their dolls in the hospital for repair due to less than attentive care (their dog had savaged the dolls), Mr. Moon was less than sympathetic. The upshot of the story is that the girls do indeed trade places with the dolls and are tossed in the toy cupboard to face the ire of the rest of their neglected toys. The ringleader of the angry mob was Big Teddy. (Neal, did you ever read this book?)


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Noho 

It keeps rising in the LATDA horizon. Actually not just from the horizon, but from all directions. It has been suggested as a possible site from no less than four different and unconnected people. There are many aspects that lend credence to the idea – the CRA involvement, the new Metro link station, its proximity to the studios and connection to the animation community. All in all, a pretty amusing location…

Here’s a report I emailed on 7/16/03:

On Sunday I decided to do a little reconnaissance in North Hollywood. I actually found a vacant building that would make a very charming museum...it was two stories and a total of 11,000+ sq. ft. It was one block from the Metro station and surrounded by vacant lots. I took down the number and will try and make an inquiry. Unfortunately it was only for lease, not for sale. But then again, we don't have that kind of capital yet anyway. But it always helps to have a vessel in which to visualize one's dream.

In the same neighborhood I passed an interesting place surrounded by auto repair shops. It was a blockhouse covered with cat's claw ivy gone wild and overgrown. The word "Museum" was scrawled in folk-arty type on the side of the building - it caught my eye and I pulled over to check it out. There was a pair of shoes hanging over the telephone wire in front - a pair of clown shoes. The letters 'C-I-A' were painted on a small ivy-cleared sign on the roof. When I got close to the front door (buried under a very dark overhang) I could see a painted clown face in bas-relief. To the left of the door was a small showcase with some very creepy rubber puppets jammed uncomfortably inside the glass. The sign said "California Institute of Abnormal Arts" with a smaller card that read "Dead Puppets Society". Although I have an instinctive dislike for clowns, I knocked on the door while at the same time flashing on the fact that no one knew where I was...

Being a dyed-in-the-wool Angeleno, I have always had a natural distrust and disdain for all things Valley. But I know that it is changing. Sandra Tsing Loh lives out there for chrissakes – how bad can it be? Still, when I was roaming the near deserted streets in dog-day heat, I had a hard time visualizing the lively, animated scenes depicted in the renderings on the NoHo Arts District web pages. But then again, I remember what Old Town Pasadena looked like 30 years ago. I would have never imagined it to be what it is today. But can we wait 30 years?

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Stage fright 

As soon as we set up the blog and I made the first couple of entries, I was seized with writer's block amplified by stage fright. It's not like I have broadcast the fact that we are now 'on blog' or anything, it is just that I was suddenly self-conscious and paranoid about 'telling all' as it happened. Of course, an addendum to that last thought is the fact that nothing HAS happened in this past week. Until LATDA is up and running as a going concern, I maintain a day job with another museum. We opened an exhibition on Friday, so I was focusing on my contribution to the smooth and successful member's reception. Part of my duties entailed locating and receiving some last minute merchandise for the museum store -- PVC sperm and humpback whales. The shipment arrived a bare five hours before the reception, but made it into the store along with a children's version of 'Moby Dick'.

In addition to opening exhibitions, we have launched our annual mail order catalog - a week earlier than last year. This has given us a leg-up on sales and made life busier than usual at this time of October.

So LATDA issues and pursuits had to wait until the weekend. Gary and I took our daughter to visit the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. It was two-fold mission: first to present an interesting alternative to a liberal arts college (she's a high school senior this year) that corresponds with her current interests; and secondly, to view their current exhibition "Mourning Glory" a fascinating display of Victorian mourning clothes. We were treated to a special tour by Judy Yaras, the manager of the FIDM Museum Store and an instructor at FIDM. I was much impressed by the student work on display and tucked away the thought that FIDM might be a good resource for LATDA when it comes time for exhibition design and marketing. The student work showed a lot of innovation and creative energy.

After FIDM we walked over to the Museum of Neon Art. Somehow I wasn't aware that they were a short walk from FIDM within the same block. One would think that this would be a serendipitous location for them -- so close to a school full of design-aware young people. We checked out their current exhibit of Los Angeles street lights. So beautiful! Gary was able to leave some information about the designer of some of the old lamp posts on view. Elin Waite's mother worked for the city of Los Angeles and designed the poles. I talked with the woman minding MONA about how they were able to find their current location. She turned me on to the CRA as a possible source of assistance. I am adding them to my list of people to contact. I know that they recently moved to Chinatown and are in temporary disarray (heard this through the NoHo people), but will make an effort to contact them shortly.


Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I wonder... 

what kind of toys Arnold played with when he was a child?

Monday, October 06, 2003

Greetings from LATDA's Transparency Director... 

Making a museum…it is a fascinating and arduous process, unlike an early glib statement I once made about any fool being able to do it. I now see the definition of ‘fool’ as being something quite different than before. Now I am thinking more of the Fool as defined by the tarot card with the smiling wanderer stepping of the edge of the cliff because his eyes are focussing on some vision in the far distant horizon.

How do you let people know that you are actually staying on course when you don’t have your infrastructure (building, collection, marketing team) up and running? How do you show the work of making connections, spinning multiple projects like so many plates on sticks until the right moment arrives and they are all up at once? How do you show how impassioned you are in your mission?

Well, in this time of instant connectivity, the answer is surprisingly simple – BLOGS! Interestingly enough (or not) I have actually been keeping a sort of offline blog for the past three years. I have kept a journal that has been augmented by interactive email entries from friends and relatives. Not all of it is about LATDA, of course. Friends and partners have moved across country, died, gotten ill, gotten married, given birth, changed jobs, traveled the world. The world has enjoyed unsurpassed prosperity, financial disaster, cataclysmic psychic change, extreme corruption, war and atrocity. All in the same short span of time that one toy museum has been gamely struggling into being. Having gone back to see what progress has been made, I am surprised by how much ebb and flow of the process is documented.

Six years ago today, four of us gathered in a room for our very first meeting to talk about LATDA. It was an incredible brainstorming session that brought up everything from rules of incorporation to architectural designs for a donor name wall. The mantra was, ‘It will take us a long time, but ultimately it will be worth it.’

We are now five, and not all original cast members. Perhaps we will be more before the end of the year. This year we finally got our web site up. We are close to determining our first exhibition/installation. We are in the process of assembling our first fundraiser.

But there is still so much to be done! For example, we have been trying to settle on a physical location and have been presented with a wealth of possible sites – Chinatown? Noho? San Pedro? Hollywood? Eagle Rock? Glendale? Pasadena? Each place has its pros and cons, its support groups and possibilities for building a community.

Could we have picked a worse economic climate to begin fundraising for a non-profit organization? I think not! But it is forcing us to think of new creative ways to raise money. One way is to engage the public in our process so that they too will see that we are an entity that deserves its support. And to that end, we invite you to follow us on our journey and to join us when you feel like it. Let us know what you think about anything you read here. If you allow us to, we will share your input.

I will be creating an archive of pertinent entries from the past three or four years, so you can read some of the interesting stories that have been generated by the birthing of this museum. They may make you ponder the mysterious way life has of revealing one’s destiny.


P.S. This is being posted by Maria but she doesn't know how to make the blog say that...

Friday, October 03, 2003

I forgot to ask permission 

I've spent the last 12 hours or so trying to get an interactive form for TOY STORY submissions going, and almost had it yesterday shortly after I began, using work that I and our sys_admin had cobbled together from web-downloaded parts and pieces of perl and cgi back in June. I had forgotten the most important aspect of the script that finally worked: the fact Dru had adjusted the cgi so that it actually worked... Imagine my chagrin when I stupidly overwrote it and it stopped working, just like that. And, doubly stupid, with no backup.

I launched into a new script which Dru had recommended as being better than the first and, after many many many many many many many many false starts and failed attempts I remembered to think about setting PERMISSIONS. Once I remembered the importance of that, and with some help from a new tutorial I found online at widexl.com, and a quick study of the best way to set permissions in Dreamweaver, we were up and working. Widexl.com's Hello.cgi file was invaluable in its simplicity... they have my GRATitude!

The script is from London Perl Mongers, available free here: http://nms-cgi.sourceforge.net/scripts.shtml. Doggone great when things finally work.

Preview the form in use now by cutting and pasting the following into your browser bar: http://www.latdamuseum.org/index2.html . Now to get the thing approved! So 2 interactive things new at LATDA this week: this WEBLOG, and a STORY FORM.

And speaking of interactivity, I don't know how the word got out, but darn if there haven't been some TOY STORIES already submitted! Got a strange and profane entry from one Chuck Eames telling all about how Alex G stopped by and immediately saw the furniture possibilities in steam-bent plywood, and how Ray only wanted to create large hinged playhouses with that medium. A. Rodin also wrote in with a brief memoir of his stint in an Alsace woodcarving factory producing little reeling Balzacs on wheels, which didn't by the way sell... but Kathe Kollwitz's carvings of cuddly forest animals did. Yet today they would all be highly collectible amusements.

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