Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado) in Madrid, Spain has the best collection of Spanish Art in the world along with an impressive collection of European Art.

Cost of Admission: 14

My Worth: 12.  From Monday - Saturday 6-8 PM and Sunday 5-7PM, admission is reduced to €7, so I would recommend to go then if you can.

Must See? Repeat?: Depends on your taste in art.  Mine runs slightly more modern, so I wouldn’t say it is absolutely critical to visit vs. other museums in Madrid.  Probably would not repeat, unless there is some special exhibition showing the next time I’m in Madrid or if 10+ years has past since my last visit.

Some highlights:


Bacchanal of Andrians by Titian


The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The executions” by Francisco Goya


Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) is the second largest museum in the US and definitely in my top ten art museums in the world (I’ll compile the list at a future date).  The collection is incredibly broad with particular strengths in Impressionist, American, and Modern Art.  With a million square feet of galleries, there is a lot of art to cover if you do it all in one visit. 

Even if you have not visited AIC before, many of you might be familiar with the scene above from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with their stroll thru a museum highlighting many of the works at the AIC.  Nearby Grant Park and Millenium Park make for a pleasant way to spend an afternoon if the weather is nice.

Cost of Admission: $23. Not sure if the price is to be psychologically easier to handle than $25 or if the 23 is a nod to Michael Jordan.

My Worth: $25.  I think it is worth $25 to visit the AIC. I think the AIC is one of the must see attractions in Chicago.

Must See? Repeat?: Absolutely on both.  Even with all kinds of exhibitions the AIC manages to not feel overwhelming.

Here are a few of my favorite works at the AIC:


Nighthawks by Edward Hopper


A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884 by Georges Seurat


Hyères, France, 1932 by Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Unfortunately, this photograph is not currently on display.  

These next few pictures I took are from the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the AIC. I love how much attention to detail is involved.  Looking at the pictures, you can be hard pressed to be able to tell the real thing from the miniatures.




While the next painting is not my favorite, you might want to check it out if you visit the AIC.


American Gothic by Grant Wood

The Shanghai Museum in Shanghai’s People’s Square is one of China’s best museums and one of the best collection of ancient Chinese art in the world.  I have linked to the Chinese version of the website instead of the English site since they are very different.  The Chinese site is much more robust with a lot more content than the English version.  If you use Chrome as your browser, you can right click and select Translate to English to help you navigate.

The galleries include works of bronze, ceramics, jades, paintings, sculpture, calligraphy, seals, furniture, and numismatics.  Another interesting aspect of the museums is the design of the building, which is in the shape of an ancient bronze cooking vessel called a ding.

Cost of Admission: Free.  I would recommend going earlier in the day if possible (before noon) since only 8000 people are allowed per day.  Once the quota has been met, you are out of luck.  I would also caution against going during any national holidays (Chinese New Year, May 1, October 1, etc.) since the crowds will be severe.

My Worth: $15.  You would be hard pressed to find such a comprehensive collection of ancient Chinese art anywhere else other than Beijing or Taipei.

Must See? Repeat?: Yes, this museum is the best one in Shanghai and the collection is unique.  I would go back for a quick stroll if I was in the area.

The People’s Square area of Shanghai is a nice place to spend an afternoon after touring the museum.   

One of the landscape paintings I liked at the Shanghai Museum:


施震 仿赵松雪山水图轴

Here are few photos I took of works that I liked:


An example of yellow & blue porcelain with dragon motif from Jingdezhen


One Thousand Buddhas - Stele, Northern Zhou dynasty, 557-581 AD


Covered Bowls with design of Three Fruits are an example of fencai (粉彩) enamel from the Qing Dynasty


Bush: “This government does not torture people.”

Obama: “We tortured some folks.”

"The best introduction to art is to stroll through a museum." - Jeanne Frank

Most people fall into two camps about museums: You either hate them or love them. If you know me at all, I’m definitely in the latter.  I like museums of all sorts: art, history, natural history, science, aquariums, botanical gardens, etc. I know those last two examples are not technically museums, but I will lump them into my own definition for the purpose of these reviews.

I wanted to start a series of short reviews of museums I have had the good fortune of visiting with some of my favorite works/aspects of each museum. I’ll also have a quick assessment if I think it is worth the time and money to visit. 

I would like to lay a couple of disclaimers first.

  1. I’m not an expert on art, history, or science. I’m moderately well-read and I travel a lot to visit museums.  That is my only real basis for these opinions.
  2. These reviews are going to be far from exhaustive.  I won’t be giving a gallery by gallery discussion of the collection.  If anything, a paragraph or two will probably be typical.
  3. Most photos will be from museum websites with links below each photo.  I’ll add my own photos where I can.

I’ll be kicking off these reviews with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (Met).

The Met is the largest art museum in the United States, and one of the ten largest in the world, with more than two million works.  The collection is split into two collections with the main building along Central Park.  Art spans from Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Africa, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine, Islamic along with vast amounts of European and American Art.  It is huge and basically a shopping mall of art.  You should be able to find something to like here.  

One thing bad about the Met is this size aspect; you can be quickly overwhelmed by the scope of the collection.  Don’t try to see it all at once.  Either focus on a few galleries or quickly see the key works that interest you.

Cost of Admission: $25* ($25 is the suggested admission, but the museum is technically free)

My Worth: $25.  I think it is actually worth $25 to visit the Met.  Between the Egyptian tomb, the serene Chinese Courtyard, and some spectacular paintings, you get your money’s worth.

Repeat?: Yes, the scale of the place lends itself to multiple visits.  With all kinds of exhibitions, I try to go every other time I visit New York.

Here are three highlights I think you should definitely see at the Met:


Wheat Field with Cypresses by Vincent Van Gogh


View of Toledo by El Greco


Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as the Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai 


Photo from my first visit to the Met. My apologies to anyone that knew me in 8th grade.


The Roof of the Met is a great place to grab a drink or snack with panoramic views of Central Park and Manhattan. 


According to new research from Boston University, young children with a religious background are less able to distinguish between fantasy and reality compared with their secular counterparts.

In two studies, 66 kindergarten-age children were presented with three types of stories - realistic, religious and fantastical. The researchers then queried the children on whether they thought the main character in the story was real or fictional.

While nearly all children found the figures in the realistic narratives to be real, secular and religious children were split on religious stories. Children with a religious upbringing tended to view the protagonists in religious stories as real, whereas children from non-religious households saw them as fictional.


BBC News - Study: Religious children are less able to distinguish fantasy from reality

Our Echo Chambers blog looks into a recent study about childrens’ belief systems and whether such research can be more than a political cudgel for both secular and religious groups

(via bbcnewsus)


How you should treat Emmy Academy Members if you see them



The BBC will be having none of your false balance, climate change haters:

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.

Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’

“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.


This 16-Year-Old Made an App That Exposes Sellout Politicians

With US politics swimming in so much corporate money that it’s pretty much an oligarchy, it can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of healthcare, fossil fuels and other very important issues from one week to the next.

But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plugin which operates under the motto, “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plugin aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.” It sounds like a bit of a lofty aim for an app, but it’s actually pretty simple and effective—it provides a break down of a politician’s campaign contributions when that politician’s name comes up in an article. It is currently available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari and is completely free. As you can imagine, reading about how your Member of Congress voted in a recent health bill becomes all the more enlightening if you know how much money the health industry showered him in at the last election.

I spoke to Nick Rubin about the plugin, politics and what he calls the “money stories” behind what you read in the news.

VICE: Hi Nick. So how did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?
Nick Rubin: Back in seventh grade, I gave a presentation on corporate personhood and ever since then I’ve been really interested in that issue. I think the one problem is that the sources of income for members of congress haven’t been simple and easily accessible when people have needed it. More recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to code and I thought that something like Greenhouse that puts the data at people’s fingertips would be a perfect solution. It really is the intersection of these two passions of mine—coding and politics. I made it after school and on weekends on my computer.

Why the name?
Well, green is the color of money in the US, and house refers to the two houses of Congress [the Senate and House of Representatives]. The name also implies transparency; greenhouses are see through and they are built to help things thrive.

Where did you get the information on the politician’s donations?
It uses the data from the last full election cycle which was 2012. This is simply because it’s just the most complete set of data that we have. But, the browser does provide access to the most up to date 2014 information by just clicking the name of the politician on the top of the window or link in the popup. So the 2014 data is just one click away.

I’m intending to update the data as a whole later in the election cycle as the 2014 contributions are more complete. These are updates I’m currently working on, as well as thinking of other ways I can expand the tool.