Pluralistic: 13 Jun 2021

Today's links

Take2/Polar Lights Hauned Manor 'Play It Again, Tom' model-kit box.

A stroll through Magnolia Park (permalink)

One of the weird ironies of living in the US and having family, friends and colleagues abroad is the vast, iniquitous gap in vaccine availability based on where you live, and, more particularly, whether you live in a poor country or a rich one.

Vaccine Apartheid is a global terror and horror, but that's not the "ironic" part. That would be the American vaccine deniers who have effectively killed the dream of herd immunity, and taken anti-vax from a threat to public health to a threat to civilization itself.

The way this manifests is often quirky and personal – like the news that some of my beloved cousins in Canada and the US have become anti-vax, anti-mask conspiracists, losing themselves in the Qanon cult.

They're never far from my thoughts, but doubly so yesterday. You see, here in LA, we have high levels of vaccination and a general lifting of restrictions that – in contrast to the premature "re-openings" elsewhere that led to lethal outbreaks – feel prudent and safe.

That's given my neighborhood – Burbank's Magnolia Park – a new vitality. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is a couple miles' worth of pedestrian friendly, retail, dominated by independent and idiosyncratic retailers that draw people from all over the city.

Many of these did not survive the pandemic, but a heartening number of them held on, and it's great to see crowds out there on a Saturday. Yesterday, I rode my bike up to one end of the strip, outside Porto's, the regionally famous Cuban sandwich shop, locked up and strolled.

Magnolia Park's retail is dominated by vintage clothes and memorabilia stores, a legacy of our proximity to the studios (Disney, Warner and Universal are all a few minutes' drive), which created demand for wardrobe and set pieces, and a supply of post-shoot surplus items.

It's also got some great restaurants, like The New Deal. Unfortunately, thanks to Burbank's antiquated blue laws, almost no one has a real liquor license (wine and beer licenses are easy to get, but spirits licenses are all but impossible).

The sole exception on the strip is…unfortunate. Tinhorn Flats (AKA "Tinfoil Hats") is a fake saloon with a nice back garden that had one of those rare liquor license, and paired it with mediocre bar food. The best thing about it is its fantastic neon sign.

Tinhorn Flats, ringed with chainlink, doors barricaded with plywood and sandbags.

The worst thing about is that it's owned by mask-denying, covid-denying far right Trumpian conspiracists who defied public health orders, flooded their social media with culture war bullshit, and became a rallying point for every Bircher, Klansman and Qanon in the Valley.

Telephone pole flier for the weekly Tinhorn Flats Qanon rally.

I do mean "rallying point." As Tinhorn Flats waged war – installing generators after its power was cut, removing the boards over the door, etc – it hosted weekly Sat gatherings of unmasked, unhinged conspiracists waving American flags and signs decrying "Hollywood pedos."

They're still out there, every Saturday. If you're one of the many people who comes to our great family owned grocery Handy Market (whose neon is better than Tinhorn's!) for their weekly Saturday parking-lot BBQ, you've seen 'em, screaming about frazzledrip and "small business."

They were there yesterday, between my stops at The Mystic Museum and Halloween Town, two of our three goth superstores (the third being Dark Delicacies) – Burbank will costume you, sell you an articulated bat skeleton and fill your bookshelves.

Then you can tour the museum-grade replica of the horror section at a 1980s video store:

and buy merchandise from a wholly hypothetical slasher summer-camp:

It's such an odd juxtaposition, to be walking around a neighborhood that is making a brave recovery from the lockdown, stopping in at these improbable, scrappy shops, and then walk past these superspreaders screaming in front of the chainlink-surrounded derelict bar.

Polar Lights Haunted Manor model kit boxes.

But my first fully vaccinated Saturday stroll down Magnolia was rescued by a discovery at Halloween Town: the discovery of Round2's "Haunted Manor" model kits, cheeky remakes of the classic "Zap/Action" MPC Haunted Mansion kits of the 1970s.

MPC Zap/Action 1970s Haunted Mansion model kit boxes.

The original models were from the high-water mark of Haunted Mansion merch, the era of the UV-paint-doped "changing portrait" cards, the magnificent board-game, and Randotti skulls, models and plaques.

They ingeniously incorporated rubber bands into their interiors to create pop-up effects, like a corpse that popped out a grave, causing the poor grave-digger to spin about. Between the kinetics, glow-in-the-dark plastic, and a good paint job, these were just fantastic.

MPC 'Play It Again, Sam' model kit comic book ad.

Even if you never owned one of these kits, if you read comics in the 70s and early 80s, you can't have missed their distinctive, brilliantly conceived full-page comics ads. Small wonder that these kits sell for stupid money in the secondary market.

The Take2 models (sold under the Polar Lights mark) are not quite replicas of the MPC models (presumably they couldn't get a license), but they're fabulous reinterpretations of the vintage designs and I love the renaming (i.e. "Play It Again, Sam" becomes "Play It Again, Tom").

Vintage comic-book ad for Pirates of the Caribbean MPC Zap/Action model kits.

Alas, I couldn't find any sign of a Polar Lights remake of the MPC Zap/Action Pirates of the Caribbean models (whose ads were even better!).

After all that, I confess I didn't buy the kits (though I may go back today and rectify that). My daily work-load is so high that I'm lucky if I can manage to carve out half an hour every couple days to read a book, let alone put together and paint a model.

But of all the aspirational hobbies I'm wishing I was engaging in, assembling these models tops the list. Building a "Grave Robber's Demise" kit wouldn't quite be a "nature is healing" moment, but I know it would give me joy.

In the meantime, I hope you get vaccinated, too – and if you're ever in Burbank, be sure to patronize our wonderful indie stores (and don't miss Iliad Bookshop, one of the great used bookstores of the region!).

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Nerve interviews Samuel R Delany

#20yrsago Disney workers' union wins right to wear your own underwear under full-body costumes

#10yrsago A dog with persistence-of-vision LEDs in her shirt writes my novel Makers in the park at night

#10yrsago My head is a 3D scan

#5yrsago Microsoft will buy Linkedin for $26.2B

#5yrsago Rio: your quadrennial reminder that the Olympics colonize host-states with Orwellian surveillance and human rights abuses

#5yrsago China’s online astroturf is mostly produced by government workers as “extra duty”

#1yrago Facebook endorses Terra Nullius

#1yrago Secrets of a seventeen year old scraper

#1yrago Facebook Workplace can block employees from discussing unionization

Colophon (permalink)

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