A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about museums

Tokyo - more bots!

View RTW Oct - Dec 2014 on tdeits's travel map.

On Saturday we headed out to Odaiba - an artificial island that is a tourist destination and office park that looks just like the future. Our first stop was the National Museum of Emerging Science It's a spectacular hands-on science museum that has quite a bit of material that is at a fairly adult level as well as stuff for younger folks. Here's the really amazing live globe that is a good 20 feet in diameter that displays various global features such as weather, temperature, ocean currents and more in a mesmerizing format.


The exhibits have a decidedly philosophical tone in part and just plain cool tech as well. Here are a couple of faves - a mechanical version of the internet that routes messages to destinations in the form of black and white balls


and Asimo (more bots!) who gets decidedly more agile every time I see it - in this picture it is hopping forwards and backwards on one leg.


Even more bots! Another exhibit explored the 'uncanny valley' - the idea that as robots become more lifelike they actually look creepier than more artificial constructs. Here's an example from the exhibit. This robot is controlled by an operator who converses with the audience; the robot can move, breathe, has facial expressions and is really, truly creepy.


There are arcades, giant ferris wheels, shopping malls, auto museums and other attractions within walking distance so this is really a cool place to spend a day. So we did - then ate some sushi and crashed again. The good news is that Robin and Michele were just as tired as I was so I knew I had had a good workout as well as good fun.

Posted by tdeits 17:00 Archived in Japan Tagged museums science robots odaiba Comments (0)

More Perth

and Science!

sunny 79 °F

I took another day to explore Perth. I had two goals; one to visit the Perth Art Gallery and the other to visit Scitech, Perth's hands-on science museum. Science first, naturally!

Scitech is a very nice facility, probably a bit larger than Impression 5 in Lansing, but then it serves a metro region of about 1.25 million folks. Here are a couple of shots of some of the activties


The air cannon target shows the air vortex from the cannon pretty clearly and the hive is fun to watch. The tube to the outside is full of bees coming and going; I watched for a while and I don't think I ever saw a bee change her plans and reverse direction. They also bump heads with oncoming bees almost every time; I'm guessing it's a recognition thing.

I thought this was quite a cool activity. It uses a projector and some clever software to create a live contour map of the material in the table below.

They have a new exhibit coming called Innovation Central


so naturally I chatted with some of the staff about this exhibit, which it turns out will be an exhibition of innovative items. I learned a new word as well; Chindōguz, which is Japanese for completely useless inventions designed to solve real-world problems. They will be a major facet of the new exhibit. We also had a chance to talk about our Innovation 5 project and agreed that keeping kids engaged as they age out of traditional science museum activities is a worldwide challenge.

There was one exhibit that puzzled me - not the exhibit, just the credit


So I had to find out what a 'Men's shed' was. It turns out to be a community of Australian maker spaces which (with government funding !) are for blokes only!

On to the Art Gallery of Western Australia. (since it's no longer Tuesday). A pretty interesting collection very much focused on the art of Western Australia. There are some pretty iconic Australian images such as this


and frankly, some real drek, like this


There is a fairly limited selection of early work by indigenous artists, but they are better represented in later eras and some of them are pretty pointed criticisms


This is a reference to the tragic history of Rottsnest Island that we visited just the day before. Prior to becoming a tourist destination, Rottsnest was used to incarcerate indigenous peoples, often on the flimsiest excuses, and keep them indefinitely. It was a terrible chapter in Perth's history and clearly not forgotten by some today. Indeed, the issue appears to be live today; here is a protest sign I found stuck by the side of the sidewalk when I was strolling around Perth


I wandered back to my place with a lot to think about.

Posted by tdeits 07:18 Archived in Australia Tagged art museums science innovation makerspaces rottsnest Comments (0)

Louis Vuitton Museum - what all those handbags can buy

I have a cold. :(

overcast 49 °F

Yes, the infinite variety of the global microbiome finally caught up with me and I have a cold. It has slowed me down a bit both with sightseeing and with blogging, but I'll put this one up because it's fairly straightforward.

I had an ulterior motive in visiting the Pompidu Center show about Frank Gehry. The next day was the first opening for public viewing of the new Frank Gehry-designed Luis Vuitton Foundation Museum. I snagged a ticket for the first opening at noon and headed over. My route took me through the famous Bois de Boulogne, a forested park in central Paris (picture below). It's famous for being beautiful and also for its denizens of negotiable virtue, one of whom half-heartedly offered me some unspecified form of entertainment right there in the trees. Sadly, I was late for my tour and so proceeded doggedly on.


Well, it's a pretty spectacular place. I wandered around the interior for quite some time - here are some shots.


There are only a few art pieces in place as yet; here's one.


There were a lot of empty galleries as yet; luckily I had a can of spray paint along....


The exterior is also quite amazing but hard to capture. I have to admit when I took this picture I was reminded of the movie Dune;


Here are few more exterior shots without wiseguy commentary


I also took time to have a bite to eat in the restaurant


and visited an exhibition of models for the project - here are some of the early concepts


After lunch I played with one art piece that was up was an augmented reality tour of the museum. They gave you an Iphone and headphones and then you look through the Iphone as you wander through a narrated walk. I tried to take some pictures showing the reality and the corresponding augmented reality with somewhat limited success. In one, you encounter a percussionist playing the building and in the other a jazz combo is playing on one of the outside decks.


That's it for now. Time to blow my nose (again).

Posted by tdeits 07:10 Archived in France Tagged museums food paris lunch gehry vuitton Comments (0)

Snapshots of Paris

overcast 40 °F

This is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge (is that one word or two-or is it even a word?). I am going to violate chronology a bit as well, probably. Suffice it to say that Paris will do that to you. Which amazing thing are you going to be seeing/eating/smelling next? So here we go.....

I went to the Louvre. It's not a museum, it's a career. It is enormous and despite a large number of Royally commissioned items of monumental sculpture, there is plenty of great stuff to keep one engaged for a very long time. So I'm going to ignore the big stuff and just pull up some smaller bits that caught my eye.

First cool thing - they have carefully restored some of the Medieval elements of the Louvre (the roots of the building date to the 13th century) and you can wander around down there. The conical structure below is the base of the original dungeon. The neon is scattered throughout the restored area for reasons that remain obscure to me.


Second thing - this place is crowded! I can only imagine what it must be like during tourist season. Seriously, Paris is plenty crowded with tourists at the usual tourist spots in November. The good news is that they tend to cluster around the big 3 at the Louvre (Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace and Her Nibs) so places like the medieval sculpture gallery are pretty empty of people but full of some interesting pieces. I liked these two; one for its vigor and the other for her expressive face, often not thought to be a feature of Medieval art.


A few baby pictures. This is a Reubens, a guy known to delight in round, pink, fleshy ladies - here he goes hog-wild with round, pink, fleshy babies.


And I liked these two kids from two adjacent portraits by Van Dyck- they were much more interesting than the grownups.


Sigh, I guess I might as well throw in a picture of Her Nibs - enjoy....


You want to come back in August and check out that scene again? Didn't think so.

On another day (not sure which one) I also visited the Musee d'Orsay. This was the place where the Impressionists got started, hoping to be exhibited here so that someday they might get a call up to The Bigs, i.e. the Louvre. They needn't have worried; the Musee is magnificent and has a fabulous collection - that you can't photograph.

I did sneak one photo of a not-artwork. There is a small exhibit on the evolution of Paris as a city and in particular, how, at the instigation of Napoleon III, a fellow named Georges-Eugène Haussmann was given every planner's dream - complete freedom to knock down whatever he felt like knocking down and building whatever he felt like building. Indeed, the wonderful broad boulevards and much of Paris' current beauty is the outcome of his efforts. Of course, there was some dissent and this poster that I snapped kind of reminded me of the world of the planning commissioner (me being one, of course).

The other picture is of Napolean III's apartments which have been restored in the Louvre - I guess we can thank him for upscale hotel lobbies everywhere....


Well, this is going on a bit more than I planned. Think I'll make it a series of snapshots - stay tuned.

Posted by tdeits 11:40 Archived in France Tagged museums paris plants lisa mona Comments (0)


semi-overcast 69 °F

The best way to get from Santiago to Valparaiso is by bus. I used a company called Turbus and had a window seat on a nice modern two level bus for the 2 hour journey. I did have some trouble figuring out the connections between bus and subway in Santiago, and frankly there is a fair amount of misinformation about this online. Briefly, buses to destinations within the city including the airport leave from a terminal just outside the University of Santiago metro station on line 1. Buses to other cities leave from a station which is upstairs from the Estacion Central stop on the same line. So a trip from the Santiago airport to Valparaiso on the bus requires an intervening short metro trip.

The trip itself was pretty interesting with a fair amount of elevation change and various climate zones.


Here's some of the more arid country near Santiago and fairly high up and, on the more temperate coastal side of the hills, some truly enormous orange orchards.


I have always been intrigued by Valparaiso as it is often compared to San Francisco (my home town). It's a reasonable comparison, but I kind of feel it's more of a larger version of Sausalito, a smaller, equally hilly town in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Sausalito is extremely gentrified and expensive today, but I remember it from many years ago as a child and that memory is the one that seems to best fit the Valparaiso of today.

I actually stayed in a small condo in Vina del Mar, a town just north of Valparaiso proper and easily reached using the local metro line. Here's the view from the condo - nice! Walking around the neighborhood I encountered another very nice Chilean park that also took me back to the park by the ocean in Sausalito, including the palm trees.


Valparaiso is a fishing and naval town, with the headquarters of the Chilean Navy and a small local fishing fleet. Here are some of the fishing boats pulled up at the central fish market in the afternoon as well as a mural next to them that expresses a not uncommon attitude towards factory fishing.


Needless to say, seafood is a prime ingredient in Valparaiso meals. I stopped in an unassuming restaurant for lunch and had ceviche (Peruvian style, with the fish chopped into little cubes) and a seafood stew. The first picture shows the stew as presented and you might imagine that there are a few bits of seafood in a sea of broth, but no - it is a sea of seafood just barely covered with broth; the next picture gives you an idea. It was packed with tiny clams and mussels and other mystery seafood bits and, of course, quite delicious. I guess I should mention that prices are very low in Chile - a meal like this is well under $10.


The town itself is extremely vertical with a downtown along the seafront and very distinctive neighborhoods up each of the flanking hills. You can get up to the neighborhoods by some rather impressive stairs or by way of ascensors - funicular cars, most from the 19th century, that will take you to the top for about a quarter.


Unfortunately, this ascensor, which goes to the Chile Maritime Museum, has been non-functional for months (although there were some guys working on it with welding torches) so I hoofed it up there after lunch. It's a nice small museum with some interesting bits.


I actually wanted to see it because my favorite author, Patrick O'Brian, wrote a couple of his Aubrey/Maturin naval historical novels set in Chile during the time of its independence movement. In particular, he deals with Thomas Cochrane, a British naval officer, who is a Chilean hero of independence in rather uncomplimentary terms. No sign of that in the museum, that's for sure!

A few items of interest. An albatross, a chicken (?) and a nice ship model as well as one of the vehicles used to rescue the miners from the Chilean mine disaster of 2010. Interestingly this was a Chilean Navy operation and they created a rescue squadron for the purpose.


The next day I hopped on the metro again and headed for the Valparaiso museum of fine art, the Palacio Baburizza. It's a nicely restored mansion of a wealthy resident and art collector.


Mr. Baburizza primarily collected Impressionist era paintings but did not manage to select the better-known artists. For example there is a Rosseau in the collection, but it is the 'wrong' Henri Rosseau (there are two- the better known one is famous for his jungle paintings and unique flat style).


The Valparaiso art museum collection, primarily of local works, is also housed here. There is also the occasional howler like this one, 'Youth tempted by vice' - which looks a lot more like 'guy really enjoying vice' and perhaps does not quite send the moral message the artist (or the commissioner of the piece?) was going for.


There are a number of pictures of Valparaiso and environs as well. This one, from 1844 shows the Chilean Navy headquarters, which are still in use.


I like this town. Here are a couple of views from the hills. One of a hillside from the art museum and another which is a reflection from a glass building adjacent to Chilean Navy headquarters.


The glass building is an interesting story. A major shipping company needed to expand and proposed sticking this cube into the middle of an existing historical building, retaining the lower facade. This was viewed as extremely inappropriate in the context but, as often happens, they threatened to pull up stakes and move down the road if they couldn't build it, and so approval was granted. This controversy did inspire the community to seek UNESCO designation as a world heritage site to prevent further such encroachment, which was granted. This, too, though, is not without controversy as it turns out that renovation and rehabilitation of buildings under UNESCO rules can be extremely costly; there are some burned-out homes that haven't been rebuilt in decades because the owners can't afford to rebuild to meet these standards. The two-edged sword of protection.

Valparaiso is also a town that has embraced murals/graffiti. Unlike other cities such as Athens, there is a tacit agreement between artists and taggers. Taggers still tag, but in general they don't do so on wall art. Here are a couple of smaller examples and one truly enormous one.


I really enjoyed my few days in Valparaiso. Not a lot of purely touristic stuff but just a great setting, fine weather (cloudy mornings, sunny afternoons, much like Sausalito) excellent food including amazingly good and cheap fruit - I bought the stuff below for about $5 and it was all perfectly delicious) and great people.


On my last day I decided to take a Chilean cooking class. We went to the market in the afternoon and picked up ingredients and then cooked and drank piso sours (the national cocktail of Chile) and then ate and drank carmanere (the national wine of Chile) among others and ate and drank and.....a good time indeed. Our instructor, Boris, has a cookbook coming out and promised to email me some excerpts.


In addition to the empanadas and ceviche above we also made a corn pudding dish that is quite versatile and tasty - I plan to experiment with it soon!

Wow - I hate to do it but at this point I am going to bring my visit to Valparaiso and the entire magnificent round the world adventure to a close. What could be more appropriate than yet one more wonderful sunset. Goodbye world, hello Lansing!


Posted by tdeits 11:45 Archived in Chile Tagged museums food fishing sunset navy valparaiso ascensor Comments (1)

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