Friday, September 11, 2009

Party Hard in the Mesozoic

My lovely wife Jennie sent me an email this morning to tell me, in her words, that "our blog worlds have collided!" At first it was a bit of a surprise, but it actually makes plenty of sense. A party planning blog she follows featured a "Dino Dig" party theme. You know, for kids! This is no surprise, indeed; as has been well-documented, kids love them their dinosaurs.

So, the gist is, you gather some kids up under whatever auspices are appropriate. After hours of preparation on your part, they'll don little $10 hats and throw themselves into digging for "fossils" in sand, making their own "fossils" with plaster, cracking geodes, and so on. Apparently, today's child expects and demands this level of party entertainment. Certainly a fine idea, but it becomes a positively super idea if you include an intense session of natural history education. It would be a good time, for instance, to distinguish between archaeology and paleontology (a spelling lesson ain't gonna hurt, either).

Another of the activities suggested by the good folks at Gala Goose is the papier maché volcano. Volcanoes and dinosaurs are one of those classic pairings in pop culture. In my mind, I connect dinosaurs much more with towering conifers and cycads. But I think I understand the connection. Volcanoes seem to conjure feelings of the primordial - the violent earth releasing its tormented materials in childish tantrums. It seems to be part and parcel with the old idea of the benighted dinosaurs sluggishly dragging their tails across a foreign, inhospitable, fume-belching world. It's a hard image to eject from the public consciousness, I suppose. Popular media like The Flinstones and the comic BC have accustomed us to dinosaurs being pictured next to smoking pillars of rock, portents of their doom. Of course they died: they lived in a world of constant explosions!

On the whole, there was a lot of geological activity during the dinosaur's time: At the beginning of the Triassic, the Earth bore one continent, Pangaea. By the end of the Cretaceous, the continents we know today were pretty well set in place. There were three major extinction events. But that's over 150,000,000 years. Over the course of a human lifetime, even over the span of human history, the dinosaur's world was basically as "stable" as ours. Cataclysmic events happened, but any period of time has its disruptions. Just because you wreck your car today doesn't make it a daily occurence.

Keeping with today's subject here, Jennie and I will be hitting both a craft fair and a museum this weekend. I'll keep an eye out for paleo-centric items at the former, and I'll be sure to fully document the latter, with a report to come next week. Anyhow, enjoy the weekend. Throw a dinosaur party!

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