Date Tags 2002au

Spend a wonderfully pleasant day in Canberra. Mailed off a box of books back home; for the record, it's A$60 to mail a 16kg box of printed material to the US.

Then a bit of more shopping at the clearance racks at Katmandhu, a block away from the apartment. I needed a few more hiking shirts, as my old North Face 100% nylon shirt has got a bit too stinky. Walked by a park with some 'garden sculptures' of huge casuarina seedpods--must get a picture of myself sitting on them tomorrow morning.

Then we drove over to the Australian War Memorial, a mix of museum and memorial at the top of Anzac Parade. Anzac Parade itself is three lanes of traffic on either side of a 25m wide central strip, and on the sides are various memorials to war causes: Vietnam, Australian Army, Nurses in War, Australia/Turkey something, New Zealand cooperation. It has a peculiar feel, the scale of the art and style of most of the exhibits strongly suggests Soviet Realism at the height of the Stalin era.

Inside the War Memorial is a large museum, half dedicated to World War I, the other half to World War II. The layout is mighty confusing--I missed the aircraft exhibit. How I could miss something that large is beyond me. The whole thing is in a late 1930's building that feels strangely Spanish/Moorish (though executed in severe granite), down to archways and Islamic window grills. Along the Halls of Honour, listing all of Australia's war dead--including one who died in Somalia in 1995--are gargoyles of native animals. I took quite a few pictures of those.

We filled out the afternoon by going back to the excellent National Museum of Australia, spending more time on the top and bottom floors, and watching the huge 'map-movies' in the central atrium. These are huge Shockwave/Flash style movies projected on a three story high map of Australia, covering curious topics like "Big Things" (roadside Big Things, like the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour) or "Holiday Explorers" or "Early Mapping" or "Boundaries". It's all very compelling to watch--and what's great is you can choose the movie yourself by using one of the four touchscreen displays, which have additional topics like "El Nino in Australia" and "Aboriginal Language". We really wished they had the CD-ROM at the gift shop.

We wandered around outside, where I took more pictures of the exterior. It's striking, done in a metallic olive/silver/black/red/gray scheme, with 1 meter tall Braille dots in strips along the sides, and silvery eyes in strips as well. It reminds me of a joint Soviet-Klingon military control center. Really cool.

Lastly, we looked at the Uluru Axis. Canberra is all set on axes: one goes from Mt Ainslie through the War Memorial to Parliament House and on to a mountain in the distance, another goes from Parliament House to Civic, which is Canberra's central district. The big red concrete carpet along the northwest edge of the parking lot, in front the AIATSIC building, is the Uluru axis, which points at Ayers Rock in the center of Australia. That's really cool.