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Belligerent beauty

Posted by Sebastian Smee  April 14, 2010 01:52 PM

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DSCN0040.jpgGoing to the Franklin Park Zoo is one of the great aesthetic experiences Boston has to offer. Iím serious. Itís not an especially great zoo Ė they could do with some money Ė and, of course, in my more robust moral moments, I find the idea of keeping wild animals in enclosures for the purposes of entertaining blasť children as repugnant as the next person. But what can I say? There they are, here are my kids, and, frankly, it seems perverse to keep them apart. And so you go Ė and what do you see? Some of the most extraordinary inventions of all time Ė creatures to make even the most preternaturally talented and imaginative artist torpid with envy. The peacocks, for starters. They roam freely at Franklin Park Zoo. Last Saturday, one of them held its dazzling disc of Argus-eyed feathers in the fully splayed, stiffly erect position and did a breathtakingly belligerent shiver within three feet of me, my wife and my two small children. The ultramarine blue shading to turquoise on its neck and back, the milk chocolate under-feathers, the speckled black-and-white wing feathers, the insane little blue bridal crown on its head Ė the whole design of these creatures embarrasses superlatives. So do the flamingos and their crazy one-legged pinker-than-pink routine. (Did you know that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp?! You probably did. But this priceless little nugget of information came to me courtesy of a zoo attendant, and I loved her for it). The Andean condors nearby are huge Ė they look like dolorous undertakers in winter coats. And then thereís the tree snake Ė so slender, so green. You couldnít buy anything so green in an art supply shop, I swear. Donít get me started on zebras, the pigmy hippos and tapirs Ė I mean, whoever thought up such things? The lion, meanwhile, got sick of being taunted by tots, and after a drawn-out hour of disaffected grunts Ė just in time for our arrival Ė it suddenly launched itself at two stunned children standing rigid behind the glass. I swear the old brute was not joking: the paws swiped with maximum velocity, the mane convulsed with murderous intent, the teeth promised mayhem. My little girl blanched. Time to pile them into their safety seats and cautiously drive home.

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Culture Desk is a blog that serves to highlight both local and national stories of interest in the worlds of art, music, movies, TV, theater and more. Most items are written by writers and editors from The Boston Globe arts and culture staff.

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