museum of folly | stuff and nonsense

7 museum of folly

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Fun with history

Education department

The museum’s educators are pleased to introduce a new family program called “Fun with History!” As a first assignment, students should listen to this report by Steven Short on PBS Radio station KALW’s CrossCurrents program.

Short’s topic is Chief Marin, for whom Marin County is named. The students should pay particular attention to this assertion:

“Marin was successful with his own people, with the conquistadors, and then with the Americans.”

The assignment: research when the conquistadors and when the “Americans” were in California, then answer these questions:

  1. According to Short’s report, how old was Chief Marin when he died in 1839? Round your answer to the nearest multiple of 100 years.
  2. And how many English-speaking Americans (as distinct from the Spanish-speaking Californios) would he have had the opportunity to “be successful with” at that time? Round your answer to the nearest vehicle size that they could all fit in (subcompact, compact, midsize, fullsize, or minivan).

Have fun with history!

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Shown: Crossing I (1994) by Enrique Chagoya. Acrylic and oil on paper.

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Album covers, late 20th century

Special exhibitions

FAQs

Visitor Services department

Where are you located?
We are in the Civic Center district, between the State Hysterical Society and the city’s new tech history museum, The Museum of Modem Art. There is no mistaking our facade. The main entrance is on Bouvard Avenue near Pecuchet Street.

What are your hours?
The Museum of Folly never closes. A unique feature of our museum is the availability of beds in several galleries as an amenity for overnight visitors.

Is there a coatroom?

Just throw your coats on one of the beds.

Is there a free entry day?
Entry is always free, although there is sometimes a modest charge to exit.

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Flash Cake, 2009

Contemporary, Operations department, USA

flash drive cake

USA
Mixed organic materials, including sugar, butter, flour, and colors
Via cake wrecks

According to the original owner of this unique object, an image of a man playing golf was submitted on a flash drive to a cake shop. That image was, however, not used, as the following dialogue ensued:

“Hey, Jill, what am I putting on this cake?”
“Oh, check the counter; I left the jump drive out for you there.”
[calling from the back room] “Really? This is what they want on the cake?”
“Yeah, the customer just brought it in.”
“Okey dokey!”

MoFo is pleased to have acquired this unusual flash cake for our permanent collection. It will be on display briefly as our conservators feel an urgent need to stabilize the object against data loss.

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Hanging Bush

Contemporary, USA

gw bush says, it's tough, it's hard, it's hard work

It’s Hard, by Thomas Christensen, 2009
Digital image, black and white pixels
Lent by the artist

As the USA prepares to inaugurate a new president, we at the Museum of Folly are preparing to add contributions from the outgoing executive to our Hall of Quotations. This has been a difficult assignment for our curators because there is so much material to work with. Our new building is ample, but its space is not unlimited.

This president has been so creative with language that at times he seems to challenge the very concept of communication. And this is clearly by intent. As he noted in a speech in Beaverton, Oregon, on Aug. 13, 2004, “I hope you leave here and walk out and say, ‘What did he say?'”

Language has been a constant concern of the president. As he noted on Nov. 1, 2006, “Anybody who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words.” Which, no doubt, is why he was heard to inform British Prime Minister Tony Blair that “The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

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How to write a lede

Publications department

The museum’s Publications department is always after the curators to liven up their writing for our membership magazine. Avoid dull, plodding openings, they urge — instead, find a lively hook. In journalism this is called the “lede” — it’s spelled that way to avoide confusion with “lead” as in “leading” and “lead type.”

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St. Charles of the Flowers, 2008

Historical

charles baudelaire, by thomas christensen

By Thomas Christensen, based on historical photos by Nadar and Etienne Carjat
Digital image, colored pixels
Via the Sleep of Reason

This image of nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) is part of a set of contemporary hagioagraphic portraits of historical figures that occupies a wing in MoFo’s historical galleries. Known among MoFo staff as St. Stupid’s Corridor, the wing is often recommended to visitors who are agonized by convulsions of laughter, because of its sobering effects.

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MoFo Bookstore

Bookstore, Our building

Indonesian Jester Puppets, perhaps 19th c.

Historical, Indonesia

central java indoenisa wayang colek rod puppet jesters or clowns

Indonesia, Tegal, Central Java
Wood, cloth, and mixed media
via Asian Art Museum; From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection

Jesters or clowns are among the most popular figures in the folk puppet traditions of Java, Indonesia. The rod puppets (wanage golek) — not to be confused with the more aristocratic shadow puppets (wayang kulit) — are made of brightly painted, carved wood, and are often dressed in batik clothing and bedecked with sequins and beads.

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Reproduction of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1990s

Contemporary, USA

picasso, les demoiselles d'avignon

New York City (publisher), Hong Kong (printer)
Fragment of a page from a book; ink and colors on paper
Via the New York Times

The Museum of Folly was, regrettably, unable to purchase the original painting by Pablo Picasso of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). This reproduction was torn out of an art history textbook.

David Galenson, an economist at the University of Chicago, has proposed an exquisitely stupid method of determining the greatest artworks of the twentieth century. He simply counts how often a work is reproduced in textbooks. “Quantification,” Galenson complains, “has been almost totally absent from art history.” Using this method, Galenson has definitively determined that the top five most important artworks of the twentieth century, in order, are:

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