Wednesday, June 30, 2010

DC Death March, part 8

Happy Fun Day 8

This was the last day of our summer D.C. trip (excluding the drive back). We went to Arlington National Cemetery first thing - before breakfast even. We saw the grave-sites for the two presidents buried there: William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy. Taft was the last president to have facial hair. Perambulating through the cemetery, we ascended the heights to Arlington House (Dr. J did the honors for that sentence). This was the residence for Robert E. Lee before the Civil War. It is odd to realize how close he lived to the capitol of the country he betrayed. It is unfortunate that you cannot visit the graves of most of the notables buried here for you cannot leave the pavement.

The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame.

Fairly nondescript marker for such a "great" man.

The traitor's house over looking our nation's capitol.

After leaving Arlington, we followed the Potomac to Mt. Vernon. While touring the house, we found out that Washington shared my favorite color: green. The outside of the house looks like it's made out of stone, but George Washington put sand in the paint to make the wood have a texture that mimicked stone. It had a beautiful view of the Potomac just past the ha-ha wall (look that up to find out what it was). Washington and Jefferson had the self-fanning rocking chair invented by Ben Franklin. We went to his tomb and the slave burial ground. In the educational center we saw a film about the Revolutionary War with fog, falling snow, and seats that shook when the cannons fired. We saw his dentures. He had several pairs but none of them were made of wood. We saw the bust that was the best likeness of Washington.

From Bowling Green to a bowling green.

Dudeboy visiting with the sociable Martha Washington.

There was a crypt built for Washington under the Capitol Dome. He chose this spot.

We drove back through DC to the National Museum of Health and Medicine located on the grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It was a lot like the Mutter Museum: lots of preserved medical oddities. We went there to see Lincoln's skull fragments and the bullet that killed him. We also saw a giant human hairball and other weird things. Several exhibits explored different types of war injuries and an extensive collection of historic microscopes.

Big sigh. When we got home I had to take a vacation from our vacation and went to Mane and Pa's for a few days.

Multiple oak cabinets . . . a sure sign of a quality museum.

A true curio cabinet . . . filled with Lincoln assassination artifacts.

Lincoln's blood matted hair.

*This is the last detailed blog entry on the trip, but check back for photos of interesting odds and ends--with an emphasis on odds.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

DC Death March, part 7

Happy Fun Day 7

We went to the National Archives in the morning. There was no photography allowed inside the building. We saw America's most celebrated documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It surprised us how faint the Declaration was. The Magna Carta has several copies in existence; we saw the only one in the United States. They also had a special Civil War exhibit called Discovering the Civil War. One of the weird things in it was a document that showed somebody had been drafted after he had already been killed in the war.

We walked through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. My favorite piece was Typewriter Eraser Scale X by Claes Oldenburg.

We spent the rest of the day at the National Air and Space Museum. My favorite part of it was the air part because it was closer to the ground. Some of my favorite things were Amelia Earhart's plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, a replica of Sputnik, lunar modules, WWI airplanes and pilot uniforms, WWII airplanes like the Mustang, Spitfire, Zero, Messerschmidt. I got to touch rocks from Mars and from the moon. But my very favorite exhibit was the Wright Brothers' Flyer and gliders. As usual, we didn't leave until the museum closed.

The National Archives.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

The Wrong Brother in front of the Wright Flyer.

A French SPAD XIII flown by American ace Arthur Raymond "Ray" Brooks.

A Mitsubishi Zero zeroing in.

Don't mess with the Messerschmitt Bf. 109.

Suits worn by John Glenn and Yuri Gagarin.

Alien discovered.

Friday, June 18, 2010

DC Death March, part 6

Happy Fun Day 6

While we only visited two places today, it was no less busy. First we went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We spent over six hours in the museum, but we still didn't get to see everything. Some of our highlights were: Hall of Human Origins, seeing actual fossils from the Burgess Shale, a coelacanth, a giant squid, tons of trilobites, and Merkin enjoyed a special exhibit on Darwin called Since Darwin: The Evolution of Evolution. There were exhibits on various cultures. And in the Geology section, you could see the Hope Diamond. Of course, there were tons of dinosaur bones.

We finished the day by going to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. First we viewed the Star-Spangled Banner Flag. I knew it was huge, but I didn't know it had 15 stripes (one of those represents Kentucky). They went back to 13 stripes when they kept adding states. Did you know that there several holes cut out of the flag to give away as souvenirs? Then we went to the Lincoln exhibit. Seeing the top-hat that Lincoln wore the night of the assassination was one of the priorities of the trip. They also had his suit. I learned that he had a patent for a device to lift boats over shoals, making him the only president to hold a patent. We saw several other items pertaining to the presidents. And we saw the Gunboat Philadelphia. It is the oldest surviving American fighting vessel. And in the Price of Freedom:America at War exhibit, there are too many items to mention. There were many trains, automobiles, and such in the America on the Move exhibit. And we saw tons of old light-bulbs from Edison's time. These are great museums to visit for a home-schooler, but you really need to live in Washington D.C. to do it justice!

The better to eat you! The giant and ancient C. megalodon.

This giant squid was about 36' long before the preservative solution shrank it a bit.

No caption needed.

This Hudsonian Godwit was personally collected and tagged by Charles Darwin on the Falkland Islands. It was prepared by famed ornithologist John Gould.

Homo floresiensis, or "hobbit" discovered in 2003 in Indonesia.

Trilobites . . . Nuff said!

When two tribes go to war . . . sometimes they can come together. Two bullets fired at Fredericksburg collide.

Lincoln's top hat, worn the night of his assassination.

Don't let Cheney see this. These are hoods that the Lincoln conspirators were forced to wear at all times up to their executions.

A part of "our" assassination vacation. Relics from the McKinley and Garfield assassinations.

The actual chairs from the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DC Death March, part 5

Happy Fun Day 5

This Happy Fun Day was centered around Capitol Hill. The first thing we did was to go to the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. The sculptor, Henry Shrady, modeled the fallen cavalry soldier about to be trampled after himself. That was definitely not a very good choice since he died just days before the dedication. We visited the Supreme Court next. I got to view the courtroom, but there was nothing in session. I really enjoyed looking at models of both the new and old court chambers.

The steps of the Supreme Court

Then we went to Brett Guthrie's office. He is our congressional representative. He wasn't there, but we got to see his office. A member of his staff led us on a tour of the capitol. We walked through a tunnel to get to the Capitol from the Cannon House Office Building. We saw the rotunda, the old Supreme Court Room (this is the scene of the Dred Scott decision), the old Senate Chamber (where Representative Preston Smith Brooks severely beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane), and the House Chamber.

Brett Guthrie's office . . . he had a framed photograph of G. Gordon Liddy and himself. That speaks volumes.

The Great Compromiser Henry Clay. One of the two statues each state is allowed. The other for Kentucky is of Ephraim McDowell

Next we went to the Library of Congress (again through a tunnel). We saw a Guttenberg Bible, the first map with the name America appearing on it, and a re-creation of Jefferson's library (he had a copy of Filson's History of Kentucky in French). The Library of Congress was originally a library for law books. But after a fire set by the British in the War of 1812 destroyed the Capitol, Jefferson sold his personal collection (so he could buy more wine) to the government to reestablish a library. Merkin was quite taken by the building itself. Almost every inch is covered by beautiful artwork.

Minerva in mosaic

We were hoping to view something at the nearby Folger Shakespeare Library, but they were in between exhibits. But I did buy a Shakespeare action figure! So, we went on to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The main exhibit was
Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Power. I enjoyed watching a video of him using a flame thrower to create art. My grandfather Pa would really love this museum . . . ha, ha. Finally, on the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Canadian Embassy to see The Spirit of Haida Gwaii by British Columbian Haida artist Bill Reid.

Performance art by Dudeboy

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

DC Death March, part 4

Happy Fun Day 4

On our first full day in Washington, D.C. we were camera free, as the places we visited did not allow photographs. Our first endeavor was to wait 11/2 hours in line for a tour of the White House (even though we had an appointment). The tour was too rushed for me. I cannot believe how many of our presidents walked where I walked. It was worth the wait in line to feel the history. After the tour we went to the White House Visitor Center. We saw a Lincoln walking around shopping (he also popped up on a tour of the Capitol the next day).

Then we went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We saw several exhibits. There was one exhibit on German propaganda called State of Deception. The main exhibit was tough to go through, but it was very important to see. They had rooms full of shoes to give an idea of the number of victims. There was also a children's exhibit that told the story from a child's perspective . . . Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), the ghettos, and then the concentration camps. We also got to see a survivor talk. Her name was Nesse Godin, and she was from Lithuania. She was liberated from the Stutthof concentration camp by Soviet troops.

On the way to the Smithsonian Visitor Center, we stopped by the USDA Forest Service Information Center. They had a small group of displays, including Smokey's office with an animatronic bear. The Smithsonian Visitor Center is known as "the Castle." We saw the crypt of James Smithson, who donated the money "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."

Finally, we went to the International Spy Museum. It was one of the best museums I have toured. Part of the set up was that you assume the role of a spy and you had to pick out your own identity. I liked the gadgets, in particular a camera watch. I climbed into the ductwork and overheard a meeting of Cuban officials. There were various films to watch, like picking locks and bugging rooms. They also suggested that Francis Bacon was a spy and actually wrote Shakespeare's plays! Well, I think Shakespeare wrote his own plays. At the gift shop I got a "Top Secret" stamp and a sideways viewer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

DC Death March, part 3

Happy Fun Day 3

Continuing our tour of the area's battlefields, we visited Fredericksburg. Here the Irish Brigade, as well as many other units, were sacrificed at the Sunken Road. We were able to view original sections of the rock wall that shielded the Confederate Army from the oncoming masses of Union soldiers. Witnessing the carnage, Lee stated, "It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it."

The Sunken Road

The Angel of Marye's Heights

We left the battlefields behind and finally drove to Washington D.C. Our first stop, and main reason for the trip, was Ford's Theater. The only remaining part of the original building is the fa├žade. However, the reconstruction gives you a great idea of how it looked. In the museum, we got to see the actual single shot deringer pistol that killed Lincoln. Also displayed was John Wilkes Booth's riding boot that had to be cut away for his injured leg. There was also a display of the clothes Lincoln was wearing the night of his assassination. We then went across the street to the Petersen Boarding House. This is where he died the next morning, prompting Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to remark, "Now he belongs to the ages."

Ford's Theater

The Petersen Boarding House

To familiarize ourselves with D.C., we then walked around the National Mall. We saw Washington's Monument, but we didn't go in it. Other monuments that we did visit included the World War II Memorial, the World War I Memorial (not technically a part of the memorial park), the Korean War Veterans Memorial (where we saw Nixon's speechwriter and anti-evolutionist Ben Stein being touristy), Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Dudeboy was very impressed with the size of the Lincoln Memorial. While we were walking past the White House we saw President Obama's helicopter land on the White House lawn. It was a nice way to end the day.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial

Our Norman Rockwell moment

Obama returning from Chicago