Monday, August 19, 2002

This weekend we went all crazy and visited places in Los Angeles we've been wanting to go.

The Bradbury Building - Remember Blade Runner? The building where JF Sebastian lived, where Batty chases Deckard around and gets all mopey with the doves? This is it.

From the visitor handout: "The story of The Bradbury Building is as dramatic as the building itself - inspired by an 1880s science fiction story, designed with an assist from the occult by a draftsman with no architectural or engineering training and built by a mining millionaire as his final monument..."

The Canals of Venice Beach - Venice Beach, the famous part, is not all that interesting. Not unless you're into crowds, stinkiness, stale churros, body piercing and Muscle Beach. What is fascinating is the canal system that was built there.

From the Streets of Los Angeles site: "Venice California was a one man's dream of a place to resemble Venice, Italy. In 1900 Abbot Kinney founded Venice, California. At first Venice was a romantic twenty-mile network of canals, and waterfront homes. Kinney's idea never really caught on, and with the arrival of automobiles as the main mean of transportation, the canals were abounded. Most of the canals were filled in and today the remaining canals are the foreground to a postcard-like neighborhood which attracts tourists from all over the world."

We wandered around the canal streets and had a look at the million-dollar homes that line them. I wondered what it must be like to live in such a place, where a steady stream of gawkers is ambling by your front gate, trying to catch a glimpse of you as you make your morning coffee. It would definitely have its down-side, especially if you are a tragic victim of bedhead.

Here's an interesting site with a big collection of historical articles on Venice, including the somewhat disturbing "Horrendous Amusement Park Accidents".

The Museum of Jurassic Technology - So great. This place is somewhat hidden in Culver City, and somewhat hidden even when you get there. You have to ring a doorbell to be let in, and then you are ushered in to what is really a treasure trove of little delights, small somewhat quirky, maybe even crazy, artifacts and displays from the "Lower Jurassic". What's not really ever made clear is when the Lower Jurassic was. The theory seems to be that we are still in the Lower Jurassic.

Displays include the work of Kircher, who developed, among other things, a magnetic oracle. Spheres with tiny magnetic human figures, suspended in wax would supposedly answer direct questions. Another highlight was a "bell wheel" he had invented. More on the museum and Kircher.

One of the best things about the Museum of Jurassic Technology is the way they present things. You can hear the sounds of displays in other rooms as you wander through. Painstaking diaramas depict the history of trailer life in America, down to the little light in the miniature Airstream.

You feel as you walk through the place that you are inspecting a repository of wonder, of forgotten delights. Everywhere you turn is some neat little gadget or factoid or theory, perhaps charmingly anachronistic, or disturbingly off-kilter. But part of the idea of the place is the theory of museum-going, and what it should be. I thought it was fascinating. Just go check it out. You'll like it.


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