Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ice Dinosaur People And The Only Living Bird In New York

Last Thursday The Fella and I arrived home from New York.  We landed with an announcement from our pilot that "Rebecca Gillard" was our new prime minister.  This was surprising and confusing and made my brain hurt and then I got sleepy and then a bit peckish and then they gave us a cookie because we had to wait on the tarmac for ninety minutes but the cookie wasn't very good.

One thing that is good, however, is the American Museum of Natural History in New York (nice segue! Ed.).

This is the museum of "Night at the Museum" fame, but unlike the movie, it didn't have Ben Stiller.  It did have lots of dinosaurs though.

Museums are celebrations of humanity's progress and achievements.  They are repositories of objects that capture the millennia of knowledge and cultural diversity on which civilisation is built.  They remind us of our greatness and our uniqueness in nature.

And what better way is there of saying "In your face, Nature," than taking two of every beast, stuffing them, and letting them gaze upon us with their cold glass eyes?

Or not, if you've run out of glass eyes by the time you get around to the birds.

There were many stuffed birds, but my favorite, for predictable reasons, was the Great Tit.

It was almost as funny as the beaver. heh.

But rest assured that not all animals in New York have been killed and stuffed, or skeletonised.  This little fellow was hopping around Central Park.  I have identified him as a "Thompson's brown-breasted bee-eating shrike dove."  This bird is characterised by an abundant and unruly growth of thick yellow hairs around the beak.

Unfortunately you can't see it in this photo as he has a mouthful of grass.

Now, it's true what John Travolta said.  Not everything, obviously - the man's a Scientologist.  I meant when he said that thing about the "little differences."  And you do notice those little things when you're travelling.

Take, for example, that ancient rule that dictates that any man-made body of water that has a tiled or concrete lining must have coins thrown into it. 

Americans observe this law like everyone else, but also have their own laws.  Other things at which they like to throw money include:
  1. Space exploration
  2. Vitamin Water, and
  3. Anything that confuses them and to which they are unsure of how to otherwise respond.
Which is why this dinosaur footprint is full of pennies.

Despite their differences, like people everywhere, Americans like to touch stuff.  Visitors to the museum have worn the paint off this model, which appears to be the theorised anus on the Yucatan Peninsula that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Besides dinosaurs and dead animals, the museum has an enviable cultural collection.

On the day I visited, it became clear that not everybody learned a lot from such displays.  Picking up an ice-tray in the gift shop that made ice-cubes in Easter Island head shapes, a woman said "Ooooh, look!  You can make ice dinosaur people!"  I'm still confused by this.

Overall, the museum was fantastic.  Even if some of the galleries were less than inspired

and even though I suspect they made up some names to cash in on the Sex and the City craze.


  1. It amazes me how people can spend hours wandering around museums, carefully reading the signs and failing to pick up any information from them. At La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles there are signs everywhere explaining that the bones they've been extracting from the tar pits are from the Pleistocene era, and are NOT DINOSAURS.

    And as we were walking past the dig site (happily open to the public) we overheard a mother saying to her daughter: "So which one of the dinosaurs did you like best?"


  2. Grrr indeed. My favorite overheard comment was in the Evolution Gallery. A woman walked past, shaking her head and saying "This is soooooo wrong." I guess she was upset that the idiots who put together the displays had actually suggested the Earth was more than 6000 years old!

  3. Why would you even go to a museum (other than the creationist one) then? Weird. I mean, stay home or something. Be more room for everyone else then. They didn't have a special "Titanic"-like exhibition on did they?

  4. No. Is that something that should attract creationists?


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