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Small joys, big hopes, in Tiny Town

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  May 15, 2013 01:35 PM

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There's a lot of joy and some sadness, too, in Tiny Town, a small-scale world housed in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The elaborate model was carved and assembled over the course of 68 years by Frank Moshinskie and today it's managed as a modest tourist attraction by his son, Charles. Tiny Town received a flare of attention last year when the magazine Oxford American made a mini-documentary about it. That video was nominated for a National Magazine Award, though it lost out to Mother Jones and the infamous Mitt Romney "47 percent" video when prizes were handed out earlier this month.

To judge from the documentary, though, Tiny Town isn't preoccupied with glitzy hardware. The movie shows Charles--who's no young man himself--telling about how the display began as a decoration beneath his dad's Christmas tree and grew over seven decades into an ensemble that includes scenes from 21 different states in the country. There's a replica of Dodge City from the television show Gunsmoke, a little Niagara Falls, and an island cabin tucked among the trees. Charles says his dad liked to carve figures that move, so Tiny Town includes kids poised on teeter-totters, a sheriff sticking up some poor soul, a floating hot air balloon, and a circling airplane. The whole thing is marvelous, but it becomes more acutely melancholic when Charles climbs into Tiny Town to show the audience around: He's ostensibly a giant, but really the model's smallness starts to reflect our own.

H/T The Paris Review.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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