A modern re-imagining of the old-timey curiosity cabinet. That's the concept I had the pleasure of running with as the set designer for the Mental Floss on YouTube channel. My interpretation of the challenge was that it needed to be visually action-packed, but also engaging enough for our host, John Green, to interact with freely. My job (obsession and joy) then became drafting that panorama and procuring the pieces to what has since become a singular spectacle of geekery, vintage oddities, and relics of pop culture present and past. But without question, the ongoing highlight of working on this assemblage has been tucking in a bevy of special staff-loaned pieces, visual jokes, and gallery wall of rotating art to keep things ever more interesting with each episode.
From this varied and peculiar collection, the following 11 things are some of my favorites from the set we call "The Salon."
1. Model of Anatomical Male
Conceptually, this anatomy model is just really cool: Half musculature, half vascular, visible skeleton. What puts him over the top is that he's posed in way that suggests either vintage muscle mag or that he's dramatically shaking his fist at whoever it was that ganked his skin suit. Regardless, this guy is pure swag.
2. Wooden Fandom Dolls
The Venn diagram of John and Hank Green's fanbase and the energetic participation of those people in various other fandoms is basically a circle. We love fandoms. When I found the John and Hank, Dr. Who, and Sherlock wooden doll sets, I had to have them immediately. What makes these guys special is the amount of character conveyed just through simple brushwork: The hairlines, clothing detail, and sonic screwdriver props are amazing. The icing on this nerd cake is that by request, artist Kimmy Fiorentino was happy to fanboy my Hank Green doll in a C.G.P. Grey logo shirt. Purchased from Etsy shop: Maddasahatterr.
3. Super Mario Bros. Potted Piranha Plant
Chosen because potted things are welcoming as well as a basic decor move, but we also like to keep a loose grip on the element of danger as much as possible. This classic 8bit fire-spitter is the perfect combination. Purchased at Etsy shop: Geekapalooza.
4. Circus Sideshow Nesting Dolls
This beautifully hand-painted set specifically appealed to me because of John Green's previous work specializing in genetic anomalies. I nearly passed on it having convinced myself there was no way they looked as good as they did online. Instead, they’re even more stunning in-hand. Purchased at Etsy shop: Gravlax.
5. Resin-Encased Bat
This little fella is in no way a standard-definition favorite. Initially I thought the bat would help temper the potential Daycare Effect from the inclusion of a lot of toys and action figures. However, when it arrived I found myself unable to even remove him from his little box. He's on both the set and this list because the one person this thing squicks more than me is John Green, something I find mischievously enjoyable.
6. Special Edition Wonder Woman Action Figure
Another fantastic thing this project has allowed for is the indulgence of my own geekery. I'm a Wonder Woman fangirl and this 1941 replica is the best doll ever produced of my all-time favorite pop culture heroine. While that is a pretty glowing endorsement, unless Neko Case is ever made into a proper action figure of this caliber, the title will likely hold strong.
7. Hello Kitty Specimen Jar
I think of this jar as a handcrafted request for a scientific case study. Why? Because Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth, is British not Japanese, and a purported grade schooler who in reality is pushing 40. (Again, am I really the only one that finds her lack of a mouth incredibly disturbing?) Regardless, her global popularity is only growing stronger and stronger with time and nothing is more suspicious than cuteness.
8. Bust of Ron Swanson
On the show we deal in facts. Nothing says Certified Authority Beyond Reproach quite like this nicely detailed official bust of Ron Swanson from television’s Parks & Recreation. Purchased from official NBC Universal store.
9. Medieval Portrait of The Family Green
This painting is my all-time favorite work of Vlogbrothers fan art. It features John throwing our home fandom’s (a.k.a. Nerdfighteria, for the uninitiated) salute, alongside his wife, Sarah, known as "The Yeti" for her policy of on-camera avoidance, and their son, Henry, whose likeness is so adorably captured that it hits right in the feels with every glance. Painted by artist Brie Lee.
10. Captain Picard's Inferno
A great example of my reveling the role of Puppet Master. For those who've longed to see Ensign Wesley Crusher—or his alter ego, Sparks McGee—finally flip the script on Jean Luc, this endless Wet Wil-y is for you. The expression on Captain Picard’s face = perfection. Enjoy. (And you’re welcome, Wil Wheaton.)
11. Bow Tie Sculpture Guy
At first glance the bow tie, jacket and hairdo all suggest that it must be the Eleventh Doctor Who, Matt Smith. Wrong. Both the subject of this sculpture and the sculptor himself is none other than Mr. Raoul Meyer, a character ever so slightly less epic than Dr. Who. Meyer was John Green's high school history teacher and most recently the writer of both U.S. and World History courses for yet another show in the Vlogbrothers YouTube Empire, Crash Course. This very special piece is on loan. I’m only hoping to have the strength of character to see to its return as promised.