Tear your eyes away from personal electronics

By Marisa Martin

July 7 -- cell phones

Summer at last! Beautiful winged creatures arc and call beyond our doors. Gardens are verdant, and glittering waters entice our children … who stare rigidly for weeks at tiny, glowing boxes in the gloom.

This sad scene occurs in liberal and conservative households alike, where dark electronic pulses in vast dragnets are impossible to evade. Invisible and stealthy, they create diabolical anti-summers, keeping your kid, spouse (or self) sedentary, dull and far from the maddening crowd of reality or anything really interesting.

But there’s hope – and it doesn’t always include convenient electromagnetic pulse attacks. This requires leaving the house, slight physical movements and taking attention from cell phones for brief periods.

A generation of children may not even know about the treasuries of time travel and alternative lives known as “history museums.” They may be lured there by the vast numbers of props, costumes and archaic machines and weapons that will make games like “Sid Meier’s Civilization” more realistic. Or they may actually become interested over our founders and real-life explorer and adventurers. Personally I think the Lewis and Clark expedition was amazing, equal to Burton’s or Livingstone’s. Maybe not quite as colorful as Marco Polo’s account, but ours is much better documented. So there.

Foremost among these museums is the cluster of the Smithsonian, the largest tribe of history, science and natural history museums in the world. If Washington, D.C. is too much of a jaunt for you, they also have facilities and affiliates in 168 other cities and nations. If absolutely nothing in the Smithsonian interests you, then you have officially have no interests.

Most hamlets and burgs have a local history museum, and you never know what you’ll dig up there. In the case of the Saratoga County Historical Society at Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa, New York, you may unearth teeth, pottery or ancient garbage in real archeological digs which are open to the public. If nothing else, you’ll leave history museums immensely grateful that you’re not wearing grommeted shirts with rows of microscopic buttons up the backs – which all need hand-cleaning in buckets.

Specialty historical museums offer something likely to dislodge even the most electronically-fixated, at least for a few moments. Many are light-hearted, slightly campy or nostalgic, and some are even educational.

The droll “Museum of Questionable Medical Devices” collection is housed in the Science Museum of Minnesota. Some of its curiosities include a “foot operated breast-enlarger,” the “Radium Ore Revigorator” and a “Violet Ray Generator” guaranteed to cure “paralysis, wry neck and writer’s cramp.”

Other science and technical museums are sprinkled across the nation, and one the best is the “National Aviation Hall of Fame” at the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio. Acres of aerial gadgetry beckon and shine, from Wright Flyers to the Apollo 15 Command Module, presidential planes and even a flight simulator. Grounded satellites give families a close peek at what has been observing them all this time. Stressing the crucial need of satellites to the continued existence of cell phones should make them at least slightly interesting to teens and the technically-benighted.

Missile & Space Gallery, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Missile & Space Gallery, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Vying for attention in the midst of the fine art universe of New York City, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square” modestly claims their “Captain America Made of Iron!” is the city’s most popular attraction and work of art there. Beyond this, you’ll see an albino giraffe, three-legged chickens and that sort of thing. Once macabre and taboo, gruesome objects like shrunken human heads are looking rather wholesome after the evening’s news on ISIS.

Back in D.C., you’ll find the “International Spy Museum” which, if all else fails, should appeal to boys with its stock of deadly umbrellas and a microphone concealed in a … fake dead rat? The Spy Museum hosts exhibits you’re unlikely to find elsewhere, such as monthly “Global Terrorism, Espionage and Cybersecurity” updates and spy musicals. Yes, this Thursday (July 9) “Code Name: Cynthia” will play at 6:30 – free. Betty Thorpe (Cynthia) was a real spy, who seduced the enemy, stole naval codes from the Vichy government and helped “save her own delicate world from falling to pieces.” Wish I could go.

Code Name: Cynthia – International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.
Code Name: Cynthia – International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.

Other wonders are multi-dimensional experiential sites, involving all senses and physical interaction, better known as “art museums.” While most young people may live near one, they’re more likely to have seen museums as a backdrop for movies than to actually spend time in them. Same for many older citizens, which is sad in so many ways. And silly, considering the millions of hours and dollars trying to develop convincing 3-D and even 4-D digital art. Artists have had this down for at least 6000 years (some claim 20,000) via statuary and engravings.

For a few bucks, American tourists can luxuriate among artworks equal to Europe’s finest at, of all places, a fundamentalist Bible college. Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina hosts 30 rooms of grand galleries by Rubens, Murillo, Veronese, Cranach, Titian, Rembrandt, Ribera, Botticelli, Tintoretto, Van Dyck and many others. Take your reluctant child or spouse and they will find something to fascinate them. Pastor Jones’ spectacular stash is recognized as the largest collection of religious art in the Western Hemisphere, although not many seem to know about it.

Christians pondering the most significant book on earth will find many museums feature rare Bibles or religious objects and art. One of the most spectacular is the “Museum of Biblical Arts” or MBA, in Dallas, Texas. It’s the largest museum in the U.S. to display fine modern and classical art around biblical themes, with galleries in biblical archaeology, Jewish art, religious architecture, African-American, Hispanic and classical Greco-Roman art and more.

Museum of Biblical Arts, Dallas, TX
Museum of Biblical Arts, Dallas, TX

This is a mere sampling of hundreds of other art, science, technology, industry, religious, historical and (often very weird) specialty museums.

Once in the vicinity of actual 3-D works of art, science, machinery or curiosities, the compulsively phone-attached are likely to wander about taking photos or videos of the objects from every light and angle with their phones or pads. But this has its advantages and possibilities too.

With economic troubles and many threats, the desire to hunker down in a domestic foxhole is understandable. But it may not be the best move for families. Millions of people gave us art, music, theater, dance, literature and created brilliant objects of utility and amusement. They built grand edifices for us so we could share experiences or worship in soaring churches.

If we stop doing what we love or enjoying what others have done for us, we’ve already given in to the barbarians … not to mention the domination of cell phones and other electronic lordships.

Leave a Comment