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Posted on Thursday, March 24, 2005 - 7:07 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Recently, after perhaps my tenth or twelvth visit to the Aquarium over the past couple of months, I had an insight. (sometimes I;m a slow learner) Part of the beauty of watching fish is that they can't get away. I enjoy the bird and butterfly enclosures at the Zoo in RO too. You can get a pretty close look at some of them too, although most of the birds are pretty shy and fly away when you approach them. Fish can't. At least they can't go far in tanks the size of the exhibits at Belle Isle.

That's part of the beauty of the BIA. As one person I spoke to recently said, it's intimate. Some of the fish are beautiful striking colors, some are totally camo, and they are all fascinating in their own ways. And they can't go far. You can see them from only a few feet (or inches) away. It's up close and personal. I like that. That's probably one reason my two year old grandson loves to look at the snapping turtle for so long---once for twenty minutes straight, too. Hearing about how big the tanks are at the so-called "state of the art" aquariums makes me appreciate how precious the BIA is. I'd rather see my fish up close. Where they don't have so much room to just swim away. So I don't think the BIA is outdated at all, from an aesthetic point of view. It's just smaller. And bigger is not always better. (Although it's true that there is such a thing as too small also. Some of the exhibits at the tropical end seem to err in that direction.) My point is that old is not always old-fashioned or out-dated. Some designs are timeless classics. Is a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh outdated? Or a 1939 Cord or Lincoln? From an artistic rather than a mechanical point of view, those designs are not outdated at all. Hence the Prowler and the PT Cruiser. I think the only thing that might be improved in the Aq's aesthetic besides expanding some of the tropical sections tanks sizes would be to either open up the space under the dome (as it is shown in some of the old pictures giving a striking look of spaciousness), or put a big circular tank there.

Regarding "watching" fish as an art and science, that is, keeping them alive and healthy, I'm certainly not an expert. But what I've learned recently indicates that the BIA is by no means outdated in this regard, as it is able to keep alive some fish that no one else can, and has many specimens of a size for their species that indicates that they have been kept alive and healthy for a long, long time. Although perhaps some more investment would be useful in filtration or systems, logic indicates that an institution so sucessful in caring for species that are extinct or endangered in the wild and raising more common species to such huge proportions (like our perch, crappies, bluegills, and Gramps) cannot be properly characterized as outdated.

An area where the aquarium is outdated---although I would rather say, could be improved, use if I didn't have time or space to explain carefully what I meant---is in the area of in depth education. Some wireless flat screens showing video and/or didactic and/or interactive teaching and remote controlled headset "guided" tours would go a long way in that area.

This may seem rather pointless to go into now. After all, the aquarium may only be open a couple more weeks. But I don't think so. That is, I don't think it's pointless. Not because I think the Mayor will change his mind (or at least his position), although I wish he would and there is still a (slim) chance he may. But because appreciating the classic, intimate, timeless beauty of this aquarium and its design and size is at once a strong argument for why it should not be closed at all, and, if it is stupidly closed, (by stupid, tasteless, money hungry, incompentent people suffering from delusions of grandeur) why it should be re-opened as it is and why a so-called "state of the art" aquarium where all or almost all of the tanks are huge (or from very large to mammoth) and no conservation work is done would not be an improvement at all.

Remember, this is just the beginning. Detroit is in for some very hard times. Fact is they are already here for a great many people are soon to get a lot worse. There is going to be a bitter, bitter mayoral primary and even more bitter mayoral race. It will probably take a new mayor to save the Aquarium. (Something can still be saved after it's been closed for a while, just like the Hudson's Building could have been saved, and the Train Station may be saved, and countless beautiful old buildings have been saved in many cities like Chicago and Mayor Kilpatrick is trying to save one of the great old downtown hotels)

The Aquarium is an important institution. It also is an important symbol and we should strive to make it that. What does it---and its (apparent) abandonement by the Kilpatrick symbolize? The money hunger of one section of the powers that be, which always tries to maximize its profits while promoting things to buy ever bigger and more expensive (Hummers, Navigators, Expeditions, Superaquariums, bigfoot houses, 50 inch TVs, etc). As if bigger was always better. As if the crass and flashy taste of today is better than the taste of 50 or 100 years ago in all respects. Imagine. It was the Republican T. Roosevelt who established the first national parks and D. Eisenhower who established Anwar Alaska as a nature sanctuary. Look at they now. One thing I'm as sure of as death and taxes. There will not be any new national parks developed under George W. Bush National Park. Some Democrats are apparently just as or almost sa unwilling to subsidize low cost healthy public culture, entertainment, recreation, and culture, like parks, recreations centers, and aquariums. Their abandonement of the poor si symbolized by their lack of concern about those who could not afford to get into a superaquarium. While contantly subsidizing and enriching the owners of stadiums and pro sports teams and big banks and land owners.

It's about all that. It really is. That's why if you talk to people, at least many people, they are so angry. And that's why I don't think we should refer to the Aquarium as outdated. It really isn't at all.
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Vance Patrick
Posted on Thursday, March 24, 2005 - 10:24 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I have a job for you come down to the aquarium this weekend you need to be there with all your passion on this subject. Thanks for your post.

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