Posted by: philosodad | October 23, 2009

Atlanta Zoo

I haven’t visited a museum in Atlanta since the Highlander was born. We went to the Aquarium when he was still sling sized, but I don’t think he remembers it very well. But we did get a chance to go to the zoo a couple of months ago.

Slacker that I am, though I didn’t take any pictures.

The thing about visiting a zoo with a toddler is that he has completely different tastes than you might think he has, or that the zoo people think he has. So, for example, when given the opportunity to visit the “childrens” zoo, with the kangaroo and the little train and the climbing wall, the Highlander passed. He wanted to see what was up the hill.

So up the hill we went. The Atlanta Zoo is set up in sort of large loop on a large hill on the south side, inside Grant Park and near the Atlanta Cyclorama. The Cyclorama boasts the “worlds largest painting”, which commemorates the sacking, looting, and burning of Atlanta by the United States Military. I’m not actually looking forward to explaining the Civil War to the Highlander or the Phoenix, especially since I’m in a mixed marriage. Grrl means well, but she’s from Connecticut. She just doesn’t get the War of Northern Aggression thing. And skeptically speaking, this is a topic I’m torn on. I mean, yes, slavery was evil, but on the other hand, are we politically better off in an involuntary union of States than we would be in a voluntary union of States?

Fortunately, the zoo doesn’t raise any of these questions. It’s just a nice, shady, well vendored strip of concrete leading you past various fair sized enclosures containing animals of various descriptions. We skipped the Pandas, since the line was about 50,000 people long, and went straight on up to see the Komodo Dragon.

You’d think that a 8 foot long lizard would freak a two year old out, especially when it’s only 3 or 4 feet away. You would be wrong. The Highlander was fascinated by the giant predatory reptile. He asked me all about it, what it was doing, why it was doing it, why it was sleepy, why it was a reptile, why reptiles sleep a lot, why reptiles are ectotherms, why they evolved that way… and so on. So we pushed on to see the orangutans.

You would think that a 2 year old would be pretty relaxed about a orangutan, especially an orangutan that is 30 or 40 feet away, on the other side of a mote, in a tree. You would be wrong. The Highlander is terrified of monkeys and apes. He hates monkeys like I hate emperor scorpions or pickle-and-onion sandwiches. His dread of monkeys is such that, after visiting the zoo, he has been convinced that there is a bad monkey at the gate of our house every night. And as far as he was concerned, once that orangutan reached out its arm and levered itself over a 5 foot gap by it’s fingertips, it was a monkey.

As were the gorillas. And of course, all the monkeys.

He was able to look at the smaller monkeys, but as he said, “No daddy. I no like it!”

Not a rocking success. So we went on to the tree house. The tree house was pretty cool. It is in a tree, as advertised, and the deck of the building opens into an open air aviary. The birds were not separated from the vistors by anything (except their own good sense) and so it is possible to get fairly close to them. Highlander loves birds, especially large birds, and especially up close, so this went well.

From here we went down the hill, past the Giraffes (“I no like him”) the Zebras (ditto), Elephants and various other savanna creatures that the Highlander was not happy about. Fortunately, there were flamingos right by the exit. You would think that a two-year-old wouldn’t care for a bunch of stupid, smelly, boring birds standing around looking smug.

You would be wrong.

ZooAtlanta is located in Grant Park, about a half mile south of I-20 on Boulevard*, in Atlanta, GA, and is open at 9:30 every day except Christmas and New Years. I’m told they have Pandas.

* Yes, Atlanta has a street named Boulevard. No, it is not Boulevard Place, Boulevard Avenue, Boulevard Road, Boulevard Street, drive, parkway, highway, circle, or even Boulevard boulevard; just plain Boulevard. This gives Google Maps fits.

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Responses

  1. “War of Northern Aggression”, huh? Wow. Just, wow. I bet you think the Civil War wasn’t about slavery too. Speaking as a born and raised resident of the state that sent the most Union soldiers of any in the North and was home to the great American general who burned Atlanta down (New York, Sherman) I really hope your kid gets his education about the Civil War from his mom rather than his deluded dad.

    • “Speaking as a born and raised resident of the state…”

      ———-

      Huh. And here I thought that only southerners were stupid enough to still be fighting that war. I guess I was wrong.

      Just a quick reading comprehension note for you: you should read an entire paragraph before you decide what the viewpoint of the speaker is. If you had read the sentence where I mention slavery as a crucial issue in the civil war and my own attitude about the political value of that war, you wouldn’t have had to “bet” whether or not I thought that the civil war was about slavery, you would have actually known. Of course, then you would have missed your opportunity to sneer at me.

      On the other hand, you would have had some clue what you were talking about and who you were talking to.

      I mentioned the Cyclorama because I find it odd that a city would boast about having “the worlds largest painting” when the subject of that painting is the sacking of the city. It’s picking a scab, just like the whole “war of northern aggression” culture that permeates the south. The place of the war between the states in southern culture is something that yankees–aside from a few throwbacks like yourself–generally don’t get. Mostly, people from north of the Mason-Dixon line have better things to worry about.

      Atlanta is a fairly cosmopolitan city. We boast about having the worlds busiest airport, plenty of national and international business, a very eclectic, young, and forward thinking population. Grant Park and the whole Grant Park area is charming, upscale, and occasionally even hip.

      And in the middle of all of this is this throwback memoriam, this reminder of a culture that the “new” south is trying to throw off and grow past: the Atlanta Cylcorama. It’s weird.

      It demonstrates that politically speaking, the repercussions of the civil war are still with us. There are still real regional separations in the U.S., and real problems with poverty, racial segregation and cultural separatism that stem from reconstruction. At the same time, southern reactionary politics can extend beyond the region. For example, the Bush administration extended the “southern” attitude about medical marijuana to the west coast. This sort of imposed homogeneity may or may not be a good thing, but the power to do that stems from the civil war.

      So I think that it’s a worthwhile question to ask, skeptically: are we better off as an involuntary union of states? Was the civil war, ultimately, worth the price we pay for having fought it? I think it probably was, but I don’t know that it would be if Texas decided to secede tomorrow. It’s a question worth wondering about, given the giant sized political fault lines between “red” and “blue” states today. And one day, I’m going to have to explain to the Highlander why the red states are clustered in the south, and I hope to be able to do it in a way that doesn’t turn him into a regionalist jerk like you, but also doesn’t turn him into a regionalist jerk like 80% of my extended family.

      Now, you might think I’m deluded because I employed a single regionalism in a tongue-and-cheek manner, and that’s fine. But if you would not be deluded yourself, I suggest that you form your judgments with a little more deliberation and a little less prejudice. Otherwise, you’re just living in your own caricature of the world, an echo chamber that reinforces what you already thought and never brings you anything new. And that’s just sad.

  2. Just a couple things:

    I’m not still fighting the civil war, but I do get annoyed with revisionist history. Sure it was a “war of northern aggression” if you want to define it in a sense so strict as to become meaningless. I’m not saying you’re the kind of person who engages in that kind of revisionism, and I agree my response was a bit excessive. However…

    Atlanta is a cosmopolitan city precisely because of the civil war and the North’s victory. There’s just no getting around that.

    It was just as much worthwhile to fight the civil war and end the practice of humans owning other humans in this country as it was worthwhile for the United States to put to use all of it resources to help defeat Nazisim in WWII.

    I know that the civil war gets the soft-focus, whitewashed “brother against brother” treatment these days, as if the practice of humans owning humans and a region of this country using that practice as a fundamental component of its economy and culture was just some unfortunate misunderstanding. But that doesn’t mean that it was any less reprehensible than Nazism and it doesn’t change the fact that the civil war was fundamentally a moral battle. A moral battle where the North was unmistakably on the right side.

    The South had to be defeated in a war in order to make them stop a practice that an empire with a monarchical form of government (Britain) stopped 30 years earlier without a single shot fired. And since that time the South has been consistently on the wrong side of every single great moral question that this country has had to face.

    I’m just not interested in hearing about the South’s grievances vis a vis the civil war, especially when there is a not insignificant segment of the southern society that is completely unapologetic and unembarrassed about that period of southern history. And the fact that that segment of southern society exists really makes it uncool for a more enlightened person to go around spouting their talking points, even in jest.

    Having said all this, I will end by saying that this is still a very useful blog and I do intend to keep visiting.

    • “I agree my response was a bit excessive”

      It isn’t that your response was excessive, it is that your response was wildly inaccurate and provincial. You addressed a strawman of my actual statement, and you are continuing to do so (although you’ve added a red herring to your group of logical fallacies).

      But I’m clear that you’ve formed all of the opinions that you are going to form about the civil war. Some of them are basically wrong, but since you aren’t going to change them and I doubt anyone else cares, I don’t see the point in pursuing the subject.

  3. Few wars are simple right versus wrong, at least until some time has passed and the story has been simplified, and the pain forgotten somewhat.

    The American Civil war is as good an example as any of how wars become messy, complicated, and how (at least outside the South) history is written by the victors.

    As a non-American all I was taught was it ended slavery in the US. It wasn’t till after I graduated I learnt that the Emancipation Proclamation was made after hostilities had begun. I guess because it doesn’t feature that highly over here except in simplified Hollywood re-tellings, we have our own Civil war to learn about.

    Kids are smart, if when they are old enough you put material in front of them that describes what happened in the Civil war. Ask them the big questions, like why did the leadership of both sides made the decisions they did, they’ll figure out it is all a bit more complicated than ending slavery, and who knows they might learn something about how to make decisions that don’t lead to Civil war.

    Afraid I think the states of Europe might be making many of the same mistakes in forming their current union, without the kind of visionary leadership the founders of the US had.

  4. I’m amazed at the fact that the only comments above regard a war long ago fought. As a New Englander (Connecticut, also) who has lived in Atlanta for 20+ years, I found this post much more interesting regarding the youngster’s preference for scales and feathers over fur. This was a very enjoyable post that made me smile – and until I got to the comments, found it not controversial at all.

    How lucky are we that we live in a city where we are ALL welcome and have the ability to raise our children with as much culture as any other large city – teach them the truth about the city’s history and then move on to the cultural attributes that will create well-rounded, culture loving adults.

    The simplicity of curiousity about a reptile makes more sense than the controversy that did not seem to be in the original post, obviously written by adults who missed the simplicity.

    I’d love to hear about a trip to the Puppet museum!

    • The Center for Puppetry Arts is definitely on my list of places to take the kids. I think they’ll get a kick out of it, and I know I will.

      Atlanta really does have a lot to offer everyone, and we’re building a good skeptics movement here as well.


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