Sunday, May 30, 2010

Museums and Ukuleles

Breakfast time. I was taken out to a fantastic we shop for some poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, bacon, and all sorts of deliciousness.

It was a hard choice between that an banana pancakes with bacon on them. Bacon on pancakes. There's a lovely idea. Now it looked as if they were talking about bacon pancakes, and while it sounds vial to me at the moment, I do wonder just how it would play out. Experiments must be conducted.

After breakfast Angie had to go practice with her ukulele group, and I headed off to the museum to explore. Now I can honestly say, museums? I have seen jut about enough museum. There are a great number of things that I would rather do than wander through museums. Yet, as the rain was pouring down heading along the waterfront to the dry and warm interior seemed like a good option. And it was free. Being free was a big factor in this too. If it turned out being not so great then I could just bail and find some other streets to wander.

Walking in, I headed to the information centre. If you want the French, Japanese, or German information guide – free. English? Three dollars. Very well then. I need no such information. Well, none that I can't read in French anyway.

About thirty seconds into the museum I was more than delighted that I came. There, in a large tank, was a colossal squid. The only colossal squid on display in the world. Now, in all fairness, it was only four meters long, so a small one all things being equal, but still fantastic to see. Beak, eye, tentacles. While it would be amazing to see one of these creatures swimming around live, as all attempts to capture them, or their spawn (round aquariums only if you want a squid to live. Who knows why?) this is as good as it gets.

A three dimensional video played in an adjoining room, it showed the squid as it was suspected to move deep below the ocean's surface, projecting illumination from light organs near its eyes. Fantastic evolution, is what that is.

The squid was captured by a fishing vessel. When they pulled up the line, they found it wrapped around one of their catch, ever so slowly trying to eat it. The exact line was, “now that the squid was so close to the surface it didn't have long to live.” I wasn't sure if this was because they had all plans of capturing it, or if deep ocean squid can't actually survive at that depth. Either way, it ended up within the storage tank here at the Wellington museum.

And if giant delicious animals aren't your thing, there's also the greatest tech demo I've ever seen in a museum within a hallway called “The Wall.” This is a digital screen as long as the hallway, not all that unlike what I saw in the Japan purple omni-dome in the Expo. Along the other wall is a set of terminals where you can scroll through pictures, add your own from a usb key, or use the webcam to take a short video or a picture. By sliding five images into a selection you can send them from the terminal over to the wall. Using a special wand, or lightsaber as some may think of it, you can point and select images on the wall, resize them, move them around, or set them on an animated run from one end of the wall down to the other end.

Like a small bird, I am easily enamored with my own image, and the ability to put myself on this wall? Well I became distracted. Thirty minutes passed before I finally decided that I'd done enough and that I should probably move on to the next exhibit.

Up the elevator I went to see the art. There was some of the best, and worst, modern art I'd seen in some time. One piece was a black canvas with a red cross painted on it. The lines were created, I can only assume, by pieces of tape laid on the canvas. Where the lines converged, you could see where the tape came together. It was not quite as crisp as the other sections. I was reminded of Atari video games, but the inspiration was probably something as a far more religious nature, as video games would not come into being for a half decade still to come.

Little quasi-holographic people danced around on a model ship showing how the voyage to New Zealand may have played out. And stories explain the lives of those who immigrated to find a better life in this part of the world.

There was also a video explaining the struggle to bring the Kakapo back form near-extinction. The video seemed to be better at home as part of a South Park episode, than at a museum. Which makes it all the better. Some sneaky person did what I thought of doing, but opted against. They filmed it and threw it up on YouTube for the viewing pleasure of the world. I looked in the gift shop to see if you could buy the film, but as that was not an option there is still this site:

When I met up in the museum front hall, after the Ukulele practice was at an end, I was told that I could not let leave. Not until I watched the video “The Way Things Were.” This threw you into a junkshop set where a video played out as little antiques came to life, complementing the New Zealand history. A large cow head hung on the wall. I was waiting for it to come to life, and when it did it was accompanied by an image of slaughter houses, an animal's belly being sliced open, blood flowing out.

And this is why I love this museum. They do not apologize for anything. They have exhibits that are hands on, and – well – fun. And fun museums, there are far too few of them.

Also – I learned about the moa. The moa? Quite possibly the first time I ever felt bad about an animal that went extinct. Only four hundred years ago this five hundred pound, 12 foot tall, real life chocobo used to roam around the island of New Zealand. The dodo we hear so much about, though their lives came to an end around a similar time. Why is this? My very quickly grasped as reason? Dodos were hunted to extinction by Europeans, while the Moa was hunted to extinction by the Maori people. The local indigenous (kinda sorta – apparently they ate the 'real' indigenous people) people hunting a species to extinction? Not as damning as Europeans coming in and do it.

The giant Haast's eagle went extinct around the same time, once their main prey was gone.

With a three meter wingspan, the twenty six pound bird of prey could fly up to eighty kilometers an hour.

The Moa. I love discovering things that I had no idea existed. Seriously – it's strange to think that there are these things like giant bird-monsters that people have no idea about. Well – maybe most people know about them? That's fair. But me? It's like a mega emu.

From the museum we headed out see more of the town, while the sun was up and the shops were open. Army surplus stores, geek shops, and bookstores. Clothing shops, and – the girl version of geek shops. You know, the ones with little cute trinkets, and all sorts of paper, things that smell like things that smell good. Mostly wee bits of paper.

Then I came across a figure shop – I went, once more, in search of a Yuffie figure. And as I walked up the stars I mentioned how I might feel like giving back over to that lifestyle when I got home (going to play CCGs and what not in shops, and finding a group to game with there.) About three seconds inside the store put me off on this. Lots of twenty somethings sitting around discussing the various teeny tiny rules and arguing over them, that's not for me. I mean, sure I'll do that with my buddies, but – you know – not in public. Third party perspective change everything.

And watching the uber geek try to flirt with the Chinese girl behind the counter? Priceless.

As it turned out – they did have the Yuffie figure I was after, but it was the most expensive I'd yet to see. Seventy NZD, which is still too much even when converted back into real money. I tell you – it's crazy. Crazy! It was priced higher than all the other figures in the same series. What's with all this Yuffie love? Nonsensical.

And then – as it was getting late, somehow it became eight o'clock as we wandered the street – we grabbed a Kabab. This one? Almost Dresden quality. The lamb was fantastic, and the wrap was well grilled. The sauces? Perfect in amount and flavour. But – it missed out on the cucumbers and the tomato. I can forgive it, but it can not be perfect – not without the cuke.

Just before heading back home, we passed the library where I was to spend Sunday (as Angie had an all day Ukulele thing to do.) I wandered the library and headed straight for their graphic novels section. With a good many I'd never read, but wanted to (rare) I was all set to spend the requisite hours sitting there and being sucked into a multicoloured printed world where all the real action happens between the panels.

Our final stop – a music shop. There, they had a Spongebob Ukulele. There were three – a Flying V, a type I don't know the name of, and a pineapple style. The pineapple style is my favourite of the Ukes, and the art on this one? The most gripping by far. It terrified me that I wanted one. Luckily, there'd be no way for me to carry it around, and as such had to remain on the store shelf.

Back at home? My desire grew. With three such instruments here, I was lent one. For the next hour or so I would try to play, and fail. I learned new chords, and tried to play some of my guitar songs on it. Some worked, some didn't. If you need the bass line you're out of luck – otherwise, once you learn the new chord forms, you're pretty much good to go. It's like a wee little guitar to carry around. I appreciate that it's its own instrument with differences enough from the guitar to make them each powerful in their own right. But I'll never admit that. Not out loud. To me – it's a wee cute toy that can make music. I want one.

But only if it has Sponge Bob on it.

I wonder if they'll have it in Hawaii?

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