Friday, April 26, 2013

No Ice cubes in France but They Got the Louvre

Sorry for the delay in the blog but we just returned from France and I’m still separating night from day.   France is a spectacular country, and the food is out of this world--sumptuous sauces, omelets, fish, and fabulous wine--they got everything there but an ice-chilled drink.  Even iced tea is served with plain water because they say the French freezers are tiny, and there's not much room for anything at all.  But I barely mentioned it--only a few times--because there's so much to do, particularly in Paris, and you can’t see the city without visiting the Louvre.   
The Louvre.
The Louvre
The place is massive with three buildings shaped in an open rectangle, each building extending one entire city block.  It is so packed with wonders that some say it takes a month to see it all.
Great.  We had just spent a few hours in the D’Orsay Museum wandering around the hundreds of impressionist paintings, but our guide said the Louvre was quite the opposite, a very stressful place to be.

We breezed through in twenty minutes. 
The Winged Victory

We didn’t mean to.   
We thought we were taking our time, but time is the thing with the Louvre.  It takes ages just to get inside.  From the Metro we crossed into this amazing garden that stretched many acres before crossing an endless footbridge and then hiked another half mile to the entrance. “We’re here,” I announced, and my husband grimaced.  This was an ordeal.  As we reached security, we unloaded our bags on the moving belt and then pushed ahead to the lobby—bigger than a football field.  We joined at least a thousand others trying to buy tickets as I mentally reviewed our list of things to see.   The Mona Lisa was on top, of course, followed by the statue of The Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo.  After those, who knew how much of the day we’d have left? 

Caught in the crowds, we steadily followed the posters of Mona Lisa’s face and an arrow pointing ahead.  As we reached her room, we looked up, and there stood the Winged Victory—the marble statue symbolizing victory for the goddess Nike!  Oh so that’s how Nike got its name...   Neat, I thought and crossed the Winged Victory off our list as we entered the room to view da Vinci’s genius. 

Yes, there she was—the Mona Lisa behind bullet-proof glass.  The painting was small but clear.  I stared. Was she smiling?  It sure looked like it to me.  An enigma, I finally decided, turning away and heading back to the hall before starting our search for Venus.  She wasn’t far away, just down a ways a bit, and in minutes we were staring at the armless statue we had seen in pictures all of our lives.  
Venus de Milo
“So we’re finished? I asked my husband, studying my watch.  “In twenty minutes!I couldn't believe  it.   "Then I just beat my mother’s record in the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.  That had taken a full half hour.”

Guilty that we should be seeing more, we found the crown jewels, admired the golden framed murals on the ceilings and walls, then left the museum, deciding that we wouldn’t tell a soul how quickly we succeeded.
Apollo Gallery with Crown Jewels
  And it’s a good thing we maintained our code of silence.  As we entered the hotel, we ran into two other women from our trip, who were also from Orlando, and who had used their precious hours visiting Euro-Disney. “Disneyland?” I asked in disbelief.  “When you live next door to Disneyworld?
“Well we saw the Louvre,” I announced, head held high and unmistakably proud.  “But Disney?” I asked again.  Americans, I almost muttered.  They don’t know culture when it smacks them in the face.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Is There Life After Death? Yes, Ma'am. Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You

Traffic Alert:   Two pterodactyls were seen crossing I-75 near Ocala, Florida followed by a gangling herd of Brontosaurus babies.  Cars backed up for 50 miles in both directions.
Woolly Mammoth

Could the ancient species actually be returning to life?   According to Time magazine, 10,000 to 100,000 animal species die off each year, but scientists now have the means of bringing them back—though thankfully not the dinosaurs.   They need intact DNA, and the doddering giants have been gone too long to recreate.
But they can bring back the woolly mammoth, and other species are now ripe for re-introduction.   

Some are already in the de-extinction pipeline, like the passenger pigeons (extinct since 1914), the Tasmanian tiger (extinct since the 1930s), the Pyrenean Ibex that used to reside in Spain and Portugal until 2000, and the Gastric Brooding Frog, native to Australia and gone since the 1980s.

Tasmanian Tiger

Pyrenean Ibex

Gastric Brooding Frog

I never heard of the frog, but in January scientists had already developed its embryo.
So we're getting more frogs?  Is that a good thing?  And how about the passenger pigeon?  These beautiful birds were colorful and graceful, but will they fit into our already crowded environment?  And will their future upset the food chain so drastically that their reintroduction could cause other species to die, or will they themselves become extinct once again?

Passenger Pigeon
It’s dangerous to start playing God because someone or  something is bound to lose.
Many scientists rightly worry that people might suddenly stop caring about the environment, arguing that if animals become extinct, we can just bring them back again.
But naturalists tell it the other way.  Man has created a giant hole in nature, and it is our responsibility to repair it.   But can we accomplish this without destroying our present ecology?
  In the movie Jurassic Park the grand experiment backfired,  and Time magazine says that maybe the movie is a cautionary tale.  

Our neighbors up the road in Longwood fight a constant battle with wild brown bears.   The creatures lounge in trees overlooking their yards and break easily into screened porches searching for leftover food and other goodies.   Will people now start doing battle with the Tasmanian Tigers?  Will hunters poach the Pyrenean Ibex?   Man has encroached on almost every valuable nugget of land on this planet.  Where will there be anymore room for the new?

Still new species might be nice for a change.   Is the passenger pigeon faster than email?  Of course not, but it’s certainly way cooler.   I’d like to see one for real and be the first to post it on Facebook.  I bet I'll get a whole slew of new friends.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ever See a Chicken Museum?

The Pez Museum

The other day I was browsing around the mall but was tired of shopping.  What?  Believe me, I'm not insane, but it happens once in a Mickey Mouse moon—when my mind starts wandering and I dream about museums.  Museums?  I must be certifiable, but here in Orlando we just got the regular kind—the art, the science, the history.  And I’m itching to see something new.
In Overland Park, Nebraska they’re proposing The National Museum of Suburbia.  Yes, you're reading correctly.  The multimillion dollar structure would pay tribute to the lifestyle that half of America already lives by building a faux suburb with exhibits on bowling, lawn furniture, barbecues, and swing sets.   Anyone yawning yet?  Don’t worry.  The project's stalled because the committee is also bored and doesn’t see the need to pay for something they pass every day.  
So how about something exciting?  There’s the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano, Texas, but that's if I wanted to see dead cockroaches dressed up in costumes and live specimens of the ugliest creatures ever created. 
The Cockroach Musem
No, I wanted something fun, like the Banana Museum in Auburn, Washington, or the International Chicken Hall of Fame in Missouri with the best chicken art around.  And there’s the Pez Museum in California (see photo above) that has every Pez dispenser ever sold—over 900!--and inside the Pez, there's two other museums—The Classic Toy, which displays the Barbie doll and Mr. Potato Head—and The Banned Toys like lawn darts and an atomic energy lab.  Can’t understand why those last two were pulled from the market…
But I was in a serious mood and was looking for something challenging.  There’s the Carhenge Alliance in Nebraska, which is an exact replica of Stonehenge in Britain, except this one’s not filled with giant stones but with gray painted cars instead. 
No, I was searching for something more meaningful, I thought, something strong and serious.  Heading straight to the Devil’s Rope Museum in McClean, Texas, I didn’t find a single devil or any dangling ropes--only barbed wire.  I viewed every detail, angle, and knife-sharp tie I ever wanted to touch.   And I guess I touched too much—walking out with a bandaged-covered hand--and finally yearning for something normal.   
Barbed wire museum
How about a real art museum, I thought, when I discovered the Museum of Bad Art (The MOBA) in NYC.   Here I discovered the true masters of crap.  
Bad Art Museum of NYC
Ah, but there’s more…
There’s the sex and torture museums in Amsterdam and the Spam Museum—not the computer kind but the food in-the-can-kind in Minnesota.  
  There’s even a museum of broken relationships in Zagreb.  By the way, how do you keep love alive in Zagreb?   I was just in that city a couple years ago, but I guess I must’ve missed it.  After I check out the chicken art and  Pez, I’m hurrying back to see.
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