It’s enough to make an ichthyologist out of you

We spent a week with the beloved’s dear friend and her kids, all at this friend’s parents’ place in Carmel-By-The-Sea (yes, it’s everything you’d expect from a town with so many hyphens in its name). The kiddles spent most of the time romping around the house, the garden, or the beach (or watching those who were romp-capable do so, while gnawing on a Baba’s or a Mama’s finger). Great fun was had by all, not least of whom was the lil’ monkey, who ricocheted between replicating the every move of the bedazzling older gal (seven), or directing around the sweet and accomodating younger brother (three). In honor of the lead kid, we dubbed the week “Lucypalooza.”


On our way home, our little quartet stopped in at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we’d been a whole year before, with this same brood. Of course we had to look at the jelly fish right away, the main exhibit that stuck in the monkey’s mind a whole year later. The displays in there are a showcase of lighting design, and even without mind-altering drugs or severe sleep deprivation, the jellyfish are mesmerizing. For better or for worse (depends on your tolerance of high production values/intrusive design), they pipe in spacey-groovy-eerie music, so you can reeeealy get it that these critters are cool.

Of course, just as last year, I found myself a bit too buffetted by the crowds. And this time around, some of the show biz detailing at the Aquarium got to us. The most egregious example of which was the placement, in the freshwater sea otter tanks, of a large flat-screen display playing endlessly looped video of otters romping and frolicking. Just in case the real, live otters directly below the display wouldn’t be captivating enough. If your child doesn’t have a diced and sliced-up attention span before entering the freshwater otter exhibit, chances are s/he will upon departure (real? fake? real? fake? try to watch the real ones move randomly and singly while selected video hightlights of the whole bunch fly directly above the lumpy real ones!). We’ll be steering clear of the freshwater otter tanks in the future. If the lil’ monkey asks after them we may just have to tell her they went extinct.

Still and all, no amount of razmataz can sucessfully obscure the wonder of the living world. That’s what the lil’ monkey kept asking after. “I want to see more real animals,” she’d say, over and over again. Jacques Cousteau would be proud. Her baba sure was.

5 thoughts on “It’s enough to make an ichthyologist out of you”

  1. Such places always leave me with mixed feelings. Our P (ten) is now entirely against the SeaLife centre in town, as they have a turtle that was captured from the sea (many, many years ago) and lives in a fairly small tank. But, then again, the place has a great record for other species. Tricky. I dislike the shop full of plastic animals, which you have to pass through to get to the exit!

  2. Tricky indeed.

    Guy Debord sprang to mind a lot, as we wandered around: “In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” (from his Society of the Spectacle.)

    Of course the zoo and the aquarium’s raisons d’etre are to represent a nature that we, presumably, don’t have the opportunity to experience directly. So that we may be inspired to go out and experience it directly, and/or support its conservation. Presumably.

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium has located stores in several spots throughout its two buildings, so a visitor needn’t go too far before ducking out of the exhibit fray to purchase stuffed versions of the real McCoys swimming about. Or books about them. I’m assuming that some of the proceeds from the sale of this commercial foam helps fund their conservation and research and educational arms. And opposite the stores are little “Take Action” stands, where folks could learn about current campaigns, write postcards to their local elected officials, and so on.

    So there you go. Both/and.

    But the jelly fish are fabu. If someone hasn’t made a screen saver out of video of them, I’d be surprised.

  3. Gosh, I love that aquarium. Some of my earliest memories are from there, though it’s hard now for me to recall what it was all like before the big renovation. Fish and seaweed and things. Argh.

    The otter tank made me laugh, I confess, the last time I was there. While my family was on the upper level taking pictures I wandered down to where they had a little jazz ensemble playing. (They took requests even! Brubeck!)

    Very little beats their jellyfish, though, for sheer fascinating-ness. Jellyfish still kind of terrify me; thanks to Discovery Channel and their insistence that jellies are taking over the seas. AHH. But they’re soooo prettyyyyy.

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