Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids, Oh My!

Another vacation day in Chicago. I went to the Field Museum to see their exhibit on Mythic Creatures. This exhibit was SO COOL.

Covering the well-known creatures like dragons and unicorns to lesser known and cultural-specific creatures, the exhibit showed their origins, told their stories, and gave me a sense of where they belonged in history.

This is called a Bunyip. It is an Australian man-eating swamp monster that has since been softened into a well-known children's book creature.

Unicorns, for hundreds of years were thought to be actual animals and what I found fascinating was reading Marco Polo's description around 1300 of a unicorn he finally encountered. Having only heard descriptions, he was dismayed to find them to be stocky, lumbering, thick skinned and hairy and not at all the gentle animal that would lay its head in a maiden's lap! Natural historians believe he must have encountered a Sumatran Rhinoceros. The horns believed to belong to unicorns were often the tusks of male narwhals (Arctic whales).

Part of the exhibit was looking at fossils and seeing how easily one could imagine some of the more fantastic creatures when seeing some of the bones of less-fantastic (though just as hard to imagine) creatures laid out on display.

The picture of a Griffin, whose body frame corresponds quite nicely to fossil remains of the Protoceratops.

Below Left - the Rhinoceros skull thought by many years to have been the skull of the dragon that terrorized the town of Klagenfurt, Austria. A statue replica can still be seen in the town center.

Below Right - the skull of a dwarf elephant. The sinus cavity that leads to the trunk in the center of the skull was thought to have been where the Cyclops's eye was.

In addition to seeing many artistic depictions of mythical creatures, the exhibit had Greek coins depicting griffins from between 495 and 350 BC, Greek coins depicting a Pegasus from between 650 and 510 BC and Coins from all over Europe with pictures of dragons on them from between 600 and 1995 AD!

Seeing and reading about how all these creatures came to be believed in or used in story telling was fascinating. The only two things that disturbed me at all were the Giant Squids (there are Colossal Squids too!) and the Aepyornis, a half-ton bird that lived in Madagascar. One doesn't need to use any imagination to be enthralled by the pretty implausible constitutions of these monsters!

For a pretty complete tour of the exhibit, if you can't make it downtown before it leaves on Tuesday, click here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Peanut Butter and Jelly, a Bag of Chips, and a Fruit Rollup

It is that time of year! The days are starting to get shorter, school supplies are one of the biggest commodities, and Labor Day is just around the corner! Like many of us, I am struggling to make the most of it - forcing myself to enjoy every last minute - anxious to make it last.

Calm is all nature as a resting wheel.....

Complacent fictions were they, yet the same.....

Days undefiled by luxury or sloth....

In other news: Birds in France, not having gotten the memo about climate change, aren't migrating quickly enough to satisfy their needs worry top French ornithologists; The most recent discovery of a bigfoot turned out to be another hoax - a rubber gorilla suit in ice; And a wild dolphin is apparently teaching other members of her group to walk on their tails, a behavior usually seen only after training in captivity.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Frank Lloyd Wright

"Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities." - Frank Lloyd Wright.

Other notable things he left us:

A friend and I took a tour of his home and studio today. What an eccentric man! He built his house wired for electricity, though it didn't come to the area for another two years; he used optical illusions to make space look larger (a balcony had decorative bands placed closer and closer together so from the ground the space above looked larger); and he built his grand piano into a wall so as to maintain the feel and action of a grand, without taking up the space in the room.

As you can see, it was a beautiful day.

In other news: Teachers in one district of Texas will be allowed to carry concealed guns to school; Two US men say they have found the body of a Bigfoot; and Olympic viewers are clogging exercise equipment help lines by trying to get their machinery set to keep pace with Olympians while they watch them on TV.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Day Off in Chicago

Despite the exorbitant entry fee for the Shedd Aquarium, I visited today, along with tons of loud-mouthed children and foreign tourists. It was really cool - and really gross - and quite creepy.......

A Dwarf Caiman. Falls under the category of "creepy."

A River Otter - my favorite. Definitely under the "cool" category.

Giant Japanese Spider Crabs. Spectacular. Then creepy when you think about them running around your kitchen at night.

I have no name for this turtle. He was just so funny looking!

Strawberry Anemones in the foreground, a California Moray in the background. Gross.

The tank in the middle of the Aquarium - you can see a shark, a sting ray and Waldo. Enjoy.

In other news: Tobacco may help treat cancer; the 37th Francophone Scrabble World Championships are taking place in Senegal this week; and completely unexpectedly, Lindsay Lohan wears see-through shirts.