in which witness is borne: birds, politics, fiction and critical art theory

I did not know coral was so hard to grow.

Sunday, January 08, 2006
Pop quiz! Which public city aquariums in the US grow their own coral in-house?

the answer: well, I can't remember exactly. But the list isn't long. And it includes Chicago, Monterey Bay, New York, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Hawaii.

We waltzed past the security checkpoint in the Shedd Aquarium into the elevator that shuttled us into the coral reef exhibit, blissfully ignorant of the fact that this was a special thingie with separate admission--admission that we never paid. Oh well! Facing us now were floor-to-ceiling walls of blue light, branching, massive, brain and other corals of every color in the spectrum--and they were undulating, alive. We were looking at an ecosystem which in a wild sea situation would take, oh, nine hundred years to grow--and the invisible hands at the aquarium had done it in five. Evidently growing this stuff takes like seventy horticulturalists and marine biologists and about eight different types of gro-lights and temperature gauges and swirling currents that swish up against the baby coral plants just so. Actually corals are animals but they only stick to one spot their whole life so it is easy to think of them as plants. S. wished for a camera for like the ninety hundredth time today. I wished for nothing.

Except maybe an ichthyologist. The Shedd does this funny thing with the exhibits where they give you demographic and lifecycle information about a select species among the eight or nine that might be sharing the same bit of watery real estate, and leaves you to sort of guess about the other guys. I find it quite tyrannical, actually.

As jaded as I've become about the spectacle and the simulacrum, I should have found this entire aquarium yawnworthy. Instead I was engrossed and found myself in love with boa constrictors all over again. Oh, and penguins. God damn those attention stealing penguins.
6:49 PM :: ::
  • I think of the ocean as an alternate reality. Something of an underworld...though not the Hades type.

    The canyons, fissures, hills and mountains formed by the coral I visited in Mexico were astonishing. They are this gorgeous landscape that has a border. You are floating above them, within arms reach of the waving purple and bulbous yellow when suddenly there's a drop-off into darkness for hundreds of feet below.

    By Blogger Kan, at 7:56 AM  
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