New Ideas

Killer Raccoons 2! (Premiere night at Graumans Chinese Theater in Hollywood)

Summing the past few weeks up. After creating the “I Think I Can Team” at the Olympics and “Professor Galaxy,” I did a series of six small idiomatic dioramas based around popular phrases such as “thrown under the bus,” and “that train has left the station” and “two birds with one stone.” Much more potential for dioramas based around literary devices such as idioms, clichés, parables, proverbs. My friend Eric McLuhan and I have put this area “on the backburner” (an idiomatic phrase) as ideas move ahead in the main area of dioramas.

The next diorama was no more than a half-a-Saturday project for my filmmaker friend, Travis Irvine. He has just completed his film Killer Raccoons 2! and it is now in post-production. The diorama Premiere of Killer Raccoons 2! is dedicated to Travis and a fantasized opening for it at the world’s most famous theater for openings. The diorama was completed within six hours and I think that time of creation has a direct relationship to the amount of creativity being (channeled?) into a creation. Whether a book, a film, a piece of music or a diorama.

* * *

After I finished the Killer Raccoons 2! (a 6″ x 3″ mini-diorama) my friend Rick from Palm Desert sent his usual hard-hitting link to some piece of news not circulating in the general media. Steph and I had met Rick as the bartender at our favorite place in the desert, the Corktree in Palm Desert. Rick had lived an interesting life as a type of hardened desert rat and we became good friends over many stories at the bar. (A wooden bar no longer than fifteen feet in length) We have kept in constant email contact since we left the desert three years ago. He sent me a powerful piece by the journalist Ben Stein. It evidently has a large Google history as well as some needed verification on the Snopes site about the truth of what is called his last column from Morton’s Steak House.

Not only is it a beautifully written piece, but (I think) says a lot about our world today in the terms of false idols worshipped. It is the time of false idols it seems to me. The particular column from Stein had a large effect on me just a few days ago. I print it in full below with an immediate note from one of Rick’s list friends who has a son or daughter in the air force.


Thanks Bo, I will forward this. Our kid is 33rd Fighter Wing, Wizards, Eglin AFB

From: Pete Adriance <>
Date: Friday, February 9, 2018 at 3:04 PM
To: <>
Subject: FW: Ben Stein’s Last Column.

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column called ‘Monday Night At Morton’s.’ (Morton’s is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

Ben Stein’s Last Column…
Correctly attributed

How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today’s World?

As I begin to write this, I ‘slug’ it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is ‘eonline FINAL,’ and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world’s change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton’s, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to.. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars.. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton’s is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today’s world, if by a ‘star’ we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded… He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament. The policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard–or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But, I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York … I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will..

By Ben Stein


The above got me thinking about some way to present what Stein is telling us in a dioramatic setting. Our idols need to be placed as a symbol across from their opposition symbol. The two ideas for dioramas below were created today with Stein’s thoughts in mind and diagrammed out in Page on our Mac. Basically, the diorama consisting of an oblong box with opposition symbols of heroes on both extremes of it. left and right, west and east.

The Real Battlefield 

A football field turns into desert in Iraq. The football goalpost changes into a bombed out building somewhat resembling the football goalpost but another version of it altogether. The goal of the battlefield on the left is winning a game. The goal of the battle on the right is winning one’s life.

Two Theaters

Theater of Operators / Theater of Operations. Inside Oscar night and Academy Awards Ceremony on the left half of the diorama. A theater of operators. On the stage in front, are two gigantic Oscars on both sides of it. On the right side of the diorama, a bombed out inside of some movie theater in the middle east. On its stage, two grand images of the nation’s dictator have been toppled. The standing Oscars on the left appear as toppled the statues of a dictator on the right. Use of figures in the scenes? Or, no figures? Maybe it is the scene after Oscar night events when audience has all left and trash piled up. And, on right, the soldiers have just left the theater after destroying the idol on stage.

* * *

The ideas for the dioramas above mixed with the discovery just today of the most interesting and important diorama site I’ve ever seen. It is Box Dioramas.Com and I am still attempting to digest the incredible dioramic artwork presented on the Box website. I encourage interested readers to avidly pursue all parts of this website to begin to understand what the art of dioramas is really about. It is all close to the feelings I have on the evolving media that might be termed dioramic art. Its methods and techniques borrowed (partly) from screenwriting and cinematography and set design and (partly) from historic roots of making miniatures and partly from the world of psychology. Work with the hands = a craft. (The old Shaker saying about hands to work and hearts to God) The desire to create true craft in today’s world? Relation of production to consumption.

John of Gaunt, 1359 / Ray Anderson 

The art of dioramas listed on the Box site so close and in tune with those I have felt myself but did not know of others who had these same feelings about dioramas I have had. Masters I discover on the Box site express the same feelings I have about dioramas. Of all of the modeling forms, it lends itself to be the most creative. This is so because the true builders of box dioramas (of the type listed on the above Box site), are the true artists of the world of modeling. Perhaps not the best builders of models. But the greatest artists creating new expressions through models. Such as Ray Anderson and Sheperd Paine. These two are on the site and worth one’s time if they want to learn about two of the greatest creators of dioramas in history. There is a fantastic YouTube seminar with the great diorama makers. Most, associated with miniature military modeling and from the Chicago chapter of the military modeling group in America. The story of Ray is chronicled here and worth time to read. For example, he spent a week in the UCLA Library researching a part of one of his dioramas. There is also most of the examples of his work on the Box site above.

Look for a longer post on the amazing Box Diorama site in the near future. Just one of the people I’ve met on it – Ray Anderson – has already taught me more about my interest in modeling scenes or dioramas than anyone else. I almost feel like that teenager again. Reading the articles of John Allen in Model Railroader Magazine in the 50s and 60s about his legendary model railroad in Monterey, California. I was hooked to modeling realistic looking scenery and dioramas like John Allen modeled them. He was a renegade model railroader who created scratch-built areas on his model railroad when it was impossible to find kits to express what he wanted to on his model railroad. This means that he never truly accepted the world of kit modeling that the industry was spewing out each year. Dioramas and the scenes of Allen were not worthy of support for they had no allegiance to any particular “master” in this hobby/craft/religion(?) called modeling.

The master – of course – in the end was the need to create model kits for modelers to consume. Rather, than creating things scratch-built, not from kits from simply from pieces collected at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Never pre-made kits. Only if they are part of a diorama. But never by themselves in the new form of dioramas. John Allen was a model railroader who created his railroad layouts from a series of dioramas. Things were happening on his Gorre and Daphetid Railroad and we could see it happening in all of the dioramas going on within the small world he has created. Allen never bought into the idea of buying all the kits from the model manufacturers. He would create his own. Become a builder of scratch built models or models using materials gathered rather than those pre-assembled for the modeler in a kit.

In the end, it is difficult for kit modelers to “think outside the box” (a decent idiomatic phrase here) since they in fact buy boxes of models.

Creators of dioramas never purchase these model boxes. Even though the models waiting to be assembled inside of them become better and better models as technology increases. Their pieces modeled more accurately than before, using finer manufacturing methods.

Yet the creation of dioramas is such a far more misty, vague and evolving art form. Not starting with a particular manufacturer’s kit.

What is the template for that original image that become an opposition symbol in a particular diorama?






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