Although it’s been open for more than a year now, I went for the first time today to the newly rebuilt California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. My visit there was an interesting contrast to my first visit, some years ago, to the newly rebuilt De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
Although I can’t find it now (I think it was on my old Word Press blog), my review of the De Young Museum was that, on the outside, it looks like a series of stacked chicken coops but that, on the inside, it is an exceptionally lovely museum, with beautiful flow and lighting. And since I go to see the art and not the exterior, it’s basically a very satisfying experience to visit the place. It makes the art accessible, which is all one can ask for.
I have the exact opposite view of the newly rebuilt Academy of Sciences. On the outside, the designers managed to create a facade that is both classical and streamlined in a very modern way. It nestles contently on the eastern side of the Park’s main concourse, and is a chic, appealing visual treat. Inside, however, it is utterly chaotic. Various exhibits all seem to struggle to occupy the same space. There is no flow whatsoever, which is disastrous for a building that is meant to cater, not only to crowds, but to crowds composed, in significant part, of highly kinetic little children.
The underground aquarium, for example, is a maze of short tunnels, each of which has exhibits placed randomly in the center of the walkway, as well as along the sides. Tossed about by the milling crowds, it is impossible to discern where one is or what one is seeing. Although I grasped, intermittently, that there was some overarching geographic organization (e.g, fresh water, salt water, tide pools, etc.), everything was so noisy and chaotic, I couldn’t make sense of the exhibits. The old Academy may have had a pokey rectangular layout, but it sure was easy to move through, to see things, and to understand.
Nor has the Academy improved the food problem that always vexed it. For as long as I can remember, the old Academy offered vile food at a shabby underground food court dominated by a stuffed grizzly. The new Academy now has three food venues: a fancy hot dog stand, a buffet style restaurant, and a very pricey restaurant. Oh, did I say that only the last named was very pricey? Forgive me. They all are. If you want anything more than a $3.00 pork bun, feeding a family of three in the Academy will run you close to $50. The prices are justified by the fact that everything is organic this and organic that, but the fact is that the all-organic ham and cheese sandwich tastes remarkably like an ordinary ham and cheese sandwich, only $4.00 more than I usually pay. Of course, the food prices are consistent with the admission prices. It cost me almost $50.00 to take my two kids there, which is a pretty hefty price tag for an experience that left me with an eyeball popping headache.
The new Academy also disappointed me for a very personal reason: they’ve done away entirely with the old gem and mineral collection. Although not of the scale or caliber of the amazing gem and mineral collection at the New York Museum of Natural History, this was a lovely, little gathering of precious, semi-precious and simply interesting stones. For me, it was always one of the highlights of a visit to the Academy, and I sorely missed it today.
Speaking of all-powerful centralized government, if you haven’t thought long and hard about the implications of Obama’s appointing a “Food Czar,” you should.
What I also disliked about the Academy (and what I also dislike about the newly, and nicely, refurbished San Francisco Zoo), is the hectoring tone all these places take. In the old days, the message was, “Aren’t these natural wonders great?” Nowadays, the relentless message is “These natural wonders are great, but you’re destroying them by your very existence.” I don’t take kindly to spending massive amounts of money only to be insulted.
The only part of the Academy that I thought was wonderful, although it too had design problems, was the rain forest dome, which was almost, standing alone, worth the price of admission. It’s a clear plastic dome that has a spiral walkway that takes one up through three levels teaming with trees, plants, birds, butterflies, moths, frogs and lizards. It’s truly beautiful and really well done. The only down side is that the only way to get out is to stand in line at the very top, waiting for an elevator. The lines are long and chaotic. Additionally, since the elevator is at the very top of a rain forest dome, it’s incredibly hot, steamy and, as with the rest of this echo-y, clamorous place, incredibly noisy.
I will say that what made the trip there a much greater pleasure than it would otherwise have been was the fact that I met up with my brother-in-law and niece there. My two were delighted in the company of their cousin, and I always feel lucky when I get to spend time with my brother-in-law, no matter where that time is spent. What a nice man he is.
Whining is finished now. This is where I put in all the links for the things I read today, many of which readers brought to my notice (thank you!), but that I really didn’t get a chance to think about.
I think I am the last conservative blogger in America to link to it, but link to it I will. You must read Angelo Codevilla’s America’s Ruling Class — and the Perils of Revolution, which pretty accurately spells out the state of American politics. You won’t be less worried or frustrated when you’re done reading it, but you will be enlightened.
Did I mention whining a couple of paragraphs above? That’s actually something important to think about. Although I do it all the time, I’m aware that whining is not an attractive quality. A couple of PR and public policy experts have figured out that Israel has been whining lately. The whines are completely righteous and justified, but they fall into a vacuum of ignorance. Listeners are not sympathetic. It turns out that the effective way for Israel to deal with her plight is to do exactly what the Palestinians and their fellow travelers have been doing for so long: she needs to demonize the opposition. And what’s so great about this tactic is that, rather than making things up, as her enemies do, all that Israel has to do is broadcast the opposition’s actual words and deeds. When people see what Israel is up against, as opposed to just hearing how Israel suffers, they become remarkably more sympathetic to Israel’s situation and dire security needs.
By the way, those same Palestinians who have managed to convince just about everyone in the world that the Israelis are worse than Hitler, have managed to hide from the world’s view the fact that, with Israel as their enemy, they are living high on the hog, enjoying standards far in excess of those Arab Muslims in lands that don’t have the good fortune to have Israel as their next door neighbor and enemy.
I loooove Andrew Breitbart. Seriously. I’m just crazy about the guy. I think he is one of the most brilliant political thinkers in America right now. He’s figured out what the PR folks are talking about: show the opposition’s ugly side, using real footage of them being really ugly. And to that end, immediately after the NAACP made waves complaining about unprovable and almost certainly non-existent Tea Party racism, he came out with actual footage of vile racism courtesy of — the NAACP. Genius. Sheer genius. Here’s just one example of the ugly, discriminatory race obsession that characterizes the NAACP and its fellow travelers:
UPDATE: Andrew Breitbart jumped the gun. The snippet he got was taken out of context and, when put back into context, shows Sherrod explaining that, having once been a racist, she’s learned the error of her ways. It also appears that the NAACP audience, which should have been the real focus of this video, as the video was a counter-attack to the NAACP’s decision to lambaste the Tea Party on racism grounds, murmurs approvingly when Sherrod reveals her new, enlightened views of race.
If you need it, here’s a little more on the Democrats’ entire ugly obsession with race, one that turns on its head Martin Luther King’s vision of an America in which people are judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Oh, and here’s one more thing about that race obsession, and how Obama’s administration uses it to consolidate power, while sowing civil dissent.
When I wrote my post about burqas as a weapon, not just a type of clothing, I dragged in discussions of mosques and minarets too. I entirely forget to mention in that article the mosque that is plotted for Ground Zero. Pat Condell did not forget:
Even the New York Times periodically recognizes that federalizing school funding with no regard whatsoever for the situation at the ground is unfair, disruptive and damaging. What staggers me is that these same NYT types are incapable of recognizing an overarching principle, which is that reactive government closer to home is always more understanding than directive central government far away.
Whether you’re in the military or not, don’t believe this administration when it claims to love the military and cries crocodile tears over its sufferings.
It took me almost half a lifetime to figure out that the NRA has always been right: “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I needed to see crime rates soaring in London, in Chicago, and in Washington, D.C., as well as the chaos in post-Katrina New Orleans neighborhoods that did not have gun owners to finally understand this simple principle. More and more, statistics are revealing the obvious: a law-abiding, armed citizenry is safer than a law-abiding unarmed citizenry. Contrary to liberal fears that arms will automatically turn us into Liberia or some equally horrific anarchic society, it’s clear that what effects such a change is leaving arms only to the criminals.