Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Adventures in Tucson - The Flandreau Planetarium

Grace Flandreau died with great riches, much of which she left to Tucson.  Her friends decided that a planetarium would be a wonderful use of the money.  Her biographical plaque didn't say why. I was left with a hole in my fountain of knowledge, a hole which grew deeper as the afternoon went on.  We had a wonderful time, my boys and I, and I'd hate for you to end with that impression.  It's just that it could have been so much more.

Miss Vicki and Scarlett and I went to the opening of the new projection system last Fall.  The speaker was delighted with his new toy, whose computerized technology was hidden from our view.  All we saw were two boxes resembling slide projectors, nestled in niches near the ceiling. 
It was much less fascinating than Hector Vector, which it replaced.
Even the worker bees loved Hector.  Can you see his Santa hat?
But Hector was lowered into his pit in the middle of the auditorium, and a tentative young man took us on a pedantic and puerile tour of our sun's planetary system.  There were interesting graphics outlining orbits and constellations, but he didn't explain any of them.  He related dry facts without ever mentioning that the images he was projecting on the ceiling were real photos taken by real satellites.  Only when an image revealed black parallelograms did he think to tell us that the cameras hadn't been over every part of the planet, and that was why those areas were dark. 
I had to stop to realize that all the pictures which had come before were not computer graphics.
There were questions from the crowd, and he made a valiant attempt to answer most of them, but there wasn't much substance in the replies.  Little kids were opening their brains to science, and he was leaving them flat. 
His lack of enthusiasm annoyed me, so I let my mind wander back, as I sat in the dark to the Rose Planetarium in New York City right next to the Museum of Natural History.  I spent many wonderful afternoons in that square block of Manhattan.  I've eaten hot dogs on the steps of the Museum, and I've wheeled my ancient father in his Transporter ("It is not a wheelchair Goddammit!") to the front of the start show line. 
We were escorted to an elevator then ushered past hundreds of patrons who had been waiting patiently and we were seated in the front corner of the viewing area.  "Primo seats, Sir," was the attendant's parting comment.  My father true to form, wondered why he was being patronized. 
There wasn't much similarity in the depth or the breadth of the NYC program when compared to that in Tucson. But, for the day after Christmas, it was a perfect way to while away a few hours.
Lest you forget that we had a really good time, let me share one of my favorite signs in all of Tucson.

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