austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

And we'll sit in the trees and eat bananas all day

Another part of the museum's Darwin's Birthday exhibit was the getting of people back in touch with the wildlife of Michigan, so, they had quite a few snakes and frogs and turtles and small reptiles on exhibit in a meeting room defined by a mural of Upper Peninsula Glory. That mural showed people extracting ore from the mines for, off in the distance, an abstracted shimmering city with a Capitol Dome, Statue of Liberty, Mackinack Bridge, and of course, a zeppelin. The reptiles drew a lot of interest, mostly from people not afraid to touch them.

They also had experts who'd tell you what they could determine about fossils if you brought a fossil in. bunny_hugger had just one such, a rock from the Lake Michigan shore which she thought had the shapes of quite a healthy array of brachiopods. The geologist --- from her university, although I learned after she didn't notice his badge saying so --- agreed they were brachiopods and that the fossil likely dated to around 300 to 500 million years ago.

bunny_hugger is also, it turns out, a wizard at identifying animals by their skeletons, particularly if she can see their skulls. Quite a few skeletons were on display and she was just short of perfect on them: the only one she missed that I recalled was noticing a canine skull smaller than a wolf's and guessing coyote before fox. As for spotting rabbits (and she impressed one volunteer by noticing the skeleton was of a European rather than North American breed), squirrels, and weasels, she was unstoppable.

One of the rooms --- with cornices that show how the building is old and has fancy architectural features like cornices --- with the dinosaur skeletons on display also has those inset dioramas of taxidermie animals. Some of them were of the kinds of environment found in Michigan, but they went afar to include desert and even a rain forest exhibit. And that latter is how we discovered they had a coati as part of the display. It's labelled ``coati mundi'', but you can't expect museums to get things like that quite right.

Still, and in the face of an upcoming business trip, it leads to this heady thought: had Charles Darwin been born two weeks later, I'd have no idea there was a stuffed coati on display in East Lansing. Take that, contingencies of history.

Trivia: The March 1949 opening of Houston's Shamrock Hotel featured an NBC-broadcast dinner at the Emerald Room, featuring a dinner service at the ``astronomical'' (according to one writer) price of $42 per plate. (Dinner was beef and a fruit cocktail dubbed ``pineapple surprise''.) The opening and broadcast were a chaotic shambles. Source: The Big Rich: The Rise And Fall Of The Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, Bryan Burrough.

Currently Reading: Oxygen: The Molecule That Made The World, Nick Lane.

PS: Reading the Comics, February 13, 2013, as it's time for another of these comic strip roundups. Roundsup?

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