Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dusit Zoo

My dad wondered why we would want to go to a zoo in Bangkok when we have a world class, FREE zoo at home. I don't know, maybe because they might have different animals on the other side of the world. Also, Henry Rollins said we should.

(Warning: Adult themes relating to Bangkok, if you know what I'm saying. NSFW. *wink wink*)



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Turns out that they have a lot of the same animals, just in a different setting. Meerkats in St Louis, for example, are indoors, and water monitors don't roam free.

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Here's one you probably THINK we have in St Louis, but we do not.

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Can you spot the difference? We have Grevy's Zebras in St Louis and these are mountain zebras. I'm 99% positive that this is a Hartmann's mountain zebra, but I didn't take notes. The Grevy's zebra is a different genus (Dolichohippus) than the plains and mountain zebras (Hippotigris). Good times.

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The best of all was the Red-shanked Douc Langur. These monkeys are native to Vietnam and Thailand, and excuse me while I squeal. THEY ARE THE CUTEST MONKEYS EVER! Look at them, they look like they have little red pants on! That picture is not very good, but check out some action cam of a baby Douc Langur. We spent ages watching these monkeys. I had a hard time picking a video, so if you click through to my YouTube channel, you can see another one of the baby monkey.



The Dusit Zoo, if you're from St Louis, is kind of like Grants Farm or Tower Grove Park/Botanical Garden. It started as the private garden of King Rama V next to his teak mansion. After his death, the land was neglected until the reign of Rama VII, when the revolutionary government requested that the land be made a public zoo. Rama VII agreed and even donated some animals. The current park is like a combination zoo and botanical garden.

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Overall, I was really impressed with the Dusit Zoo because the animals look well cared for and healthy. It's a very popular zoo with a good reputation. None of the animals looked stressed, until we got to the elephants.

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It's pretty cool that you can feed the elephants, but one of these juveniles was doing some serious bored/stressed pacing. I'm not an expert, and Thai people respect elephants a great deal, so I'm hoping that they rotate the elephants instead of leaving the same three chained up all day.

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Here's something you won't find in many zoos/botanical gardens: an air raid shelter!

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You can go inside, too. Around the outside are pictures/descriptions of the damage done to Bangkok, and of Thailand's involvement in World War II. We didn't even know they WERE involved in WWII. Nutshell version: Military dictator Phibun allied Thailand with Japan to get back at the French. If I go any further than that, it will turn into a dissertation. It's very complicated, and you probably don't care.

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Bonus goats! (and my Dad)

So there you go. If you find yourself in Bangkok, Thailand, check out Dusit Zoo, because Henry Rollins says so. Remember to take pictures of yourself pointing at animals, because I totally forgot to do this. Admission to the zoo is 50 Baht for locals, 100 for tourists (don't get your panties in a bunch, 100 baht is $3 and some change.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toynbee Tiles

Michelle, I didn't forget your suggestion! Michelle T. suggested a blog about Toynbee tiles YEARS ago, and I was fascinated by the idea but never managed to find one. The thing about Toynbee tiles is, they are a big mystery,they are usually located in the middle of busy intersections, and many have been lost to erosion and repaving over the years. I knew from my research the St Louis had at least three at one time, but despite spending a lot of time on foot in the downtown area, I'd never managed to spot one. UNTIL LAST NIGHT. We were walking back to our car after Monster Jam at the Edward Jones Dome and walked right over this Toynbee tile at Olive and 6th. I said, "Oh my god, it's a Toynbee tile!" and everyone did a 180 while scrambling for their camera phones. My people know a blogging opportunity when they hear it.

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The origins of the Toynebee tiles are mysterious. According to Wikipedia, they first started appearing in the late 1980s. No one knows for sure who created them, and many copycats have popped up over the years. In fact, the bit at the bottom of this tile that's hard to make out says, "You must make + glue tiles!" Few new tiles have been spotted outside of the Philadelphia area since 2002. St Louis is one of the original locations for Toynbee tiles, and this is one of the classic examples of both design and message. The most well-documented St Louis tile was at Market and 7th, but I have not been able to find any online documentation of that one since 2007, and even at that time it was very worn. The other is/was at Market and 8th.

Toynbee tiles, as well as anyone has been able to figure, are made from linoleum face taped to tar paper. Asphalt glue is used to adhere them, and then some combination of sun and automobile traffic adheres them to the road. Most of the original tiles are some variation of the one above. Toynbee may refer to the historian Arthur Toynbee, or to the Ray Bradbury short story "A Toynbee Idea". Kubrick's 2001, obviously, refers to the movie 2001: A Space Odessey.

Beyond that, the motivation and message are a matter of intense debate and speculation. If you are interested in more information about the Toynbee tiles, I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry linked above, as well as this fantastic article from Wired magazine. If you know of any other surviving Toynbee tiles in the St Louis area or elsewhere, I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grossology!

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's the thing: I hate Valentine's Day. I think it's a ripoff and a scam that either exploits people in relationships (mainly men) or makes single people feel bad. I have an awesome boyfriend who is nice to me all the time, not just on a greeting card farce of a holiday. I blow my nose at you, Valentine's Day! I fart in your general direction! Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!

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So guess what Francis and I did this weekend? We went to learn about boogers and farts at Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body at the St Louis Science Center. You see what I did there? Eh?

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I thought that a juvenile sense of humor combined with a solid science education would render me immune to the "gross" of Grossology. A dog fart can send me into fits of giggles, but I have also been known to whip out textbooks and online citations to soothe hypochondriacs of all kinds when it comes to "impolite" science. I expected this to be a hilarious good time, but didn't think anything here was really going to gross me out.

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We were felled by the second station. You see what's going on that picture? YU Stink? Yeah, the idea there is to do a sniff test of various stinky areas of the body to see if you can identify the odor. The domes contain representations of the bacteria that cause the odor. Even the Vomit Station wasn't THAT gross. And no, we didn't. We know what stinky feet and armpits smell like.

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Grossology is full of all kinds of interactive learning. Above you see Francis playing Gas Attack! pinball. The objective there, I think, was to collect up enough starchy points (potatoes, beans, etc) to make a fart.

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We ran into our friends Andy and Joel there, too, and I think here they are trying to shoot debris into a nose to make a sneeze. Or maybe it was just shooting boogers. By the way, the scientific term for picking your nose is rhinotillexomania. Save that for your next trivia night!

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There are also lots of larger-than-life models to climb on or walk through, including a giant nose (complete with nose hairs), a digestive system slide, and a "skin" climbing wall where the hand and footholds are zits, moles, and other fun stuff. Alas, there is a height restriction on the slide and climbing wall. Kids only!

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Finally, a little Action Cam featuring Nigel Nose-It-All and one of the more disgusting display boards. Since this is set to post in the morning, I won't ruin your breakfast with some of the awesome factoids posted on that back wall.



Grossology is at the St Louis Science Center through March 27th and is $9 for adults and $7 for children. I highly recommend it for 11 year old boys in particular, but as you can see, it is fun for all ages. Grossology is a touring exhibit, so if you are in another city, check this website to see if Grossology is coming to a museum near you!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Glore Psychiatric Museum Part 2

Whew that last post was popular! If you're new to these parts and are on Facebook, click the link to the right to become a fan of Craves, Caves & Graves. Then you'll always know when new stuff is posted, plus that's the best way to find out about special events before I blog about them, so you don't miss any fun times. I know you've been eagerly awaiting part two, so here we go. Last week we talked about the history of St Joseph State Hospital and the treatment of mental illness over the years. Today we're going to talk about what the hospital patients did with their time there.

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St Joseph State Hospital was self sufficient in many ways. Patients worked under supervision on the farm, in the kitchens, and in the sewing room. At one time, there were 40 patients working under the supervision of 2 staff members in the sewing room.

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This was both practical and therapeutic. Weaving a heavy rug like this, for example, would let a patient work out their aggression, because it takes a lot of power to weave a tight rug. The rugs were then used around the hospital, or even sold to the public if they had a surplus.

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Patients who worked in the sewing room also made all the clothing and linens used in the hospital, from curtains and tablecloths to surgical supplies. They even made the camisoles, straitjackets, and mitts used as restraint devices.

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Patients also did art projects and crafts, some as therapy and some as recreation. There are several glass cases with various art projects of former patients.

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Above, one of my favorite items. This necklace was made from blue beads and chunks of potato that the patient enameled white. According to the tag, this jewelry became a huge fad in the hospital in the 1970s and was also made with parsnips, peas, and carrots. Below, another favorite. This picture is made of colored eggshells.

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And finally, The Last Supper carved into a piece of copper. I remember doing a project like this in 5th grade.

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There is also a display in the museum from Woodson Children's Psychiatric Hospital, which also has a fully accredited school. Since team sports would have been impractical, they had vocational programs like auto tech and wood shop. Students in these classes rebuilt two cars, the "Yellow Rose" 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo donated after a Kansas City flood, and the "Juke Box Hero" 1987 Toyota pickup, donated by the Toyota Motor Company.

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The Yellow Rose was not designed to start or run, but won many awards in Missouri car shows. The walnut running boards, dash, mirrors, and bumpers were all made by Woodson students in the wood shop.

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Juke Box Hero does actually run (or did) and Toyota engineers helped the students replace the 4-cylinder engine with a Supra 6. The students designed all the graphics, which were then donated by a St Joseph company. Juke Box Hero also won many awards from car shows, as you can see in the picture above.

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Not all the projects displayed in the Glore Museum were of the official variety. One of the best known exhibits, if you're the kind of person who follows this kind of thing, is the "Television Diary".

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As the story goes, in 1971 a male patient was seen slipping a piece of paper into a slot on the back of a working television set. The hospital electrician was called, and when the back was removed from the TV, they found over 500 scraps of paper inside, most of which seem to be letters or daily diary entries.

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It is not known whether the patient was using the television for storage, disposal, or transmittal. This display was created by a psychology teacher and two students from a nearby high school.

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Another well known display at Glore is the collection of 108,000 cigarette packages collected by a patient who thought that 100,000 packages could be traded in for a new wheelchair for the hospital. No tobacco company had such a program, but in 1969 the hospital administration gave a wheel chair to this patient's unit to acknowledge all the hard work he put into this project.

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This last project is one I didn't know about before our visit, but was far and away the most popular item amongst the members of our group. We spent a lot of time pouring over the detail and taking a million pictures.

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This is a bed sheet that was embroidered in a kind of diary style by a schizophrenic patient. You can see how the colors change in the middle of a sentence or even in the middle of a word.

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The Glore Psychiatric Museum is located at 3406 Frederick Ave in St Joseph, MO. Admission is $5 and that will get you into all the museums in the building (including St Joseph Museum and the Black Archives). Glore is also featured in 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die, which I intend to buy tomorrow.