Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Very Posh Dinosaur Dinnerware

Greetings from England! Jennie and I just visited from York, and while I was disappointed to find that the Yorkshire Museum was closed for refurbishing until next year, I did run across a nifty dinosaur item in an unexpected place - a fancy kitchen store in the city centre.

The collection is made by Emma Bridgewater and is probably the finest dinosaur dinnerware I've ever seen. I especially like the lunchbox. But it's tiny, because like the rest of the collection, it's meant for children. Because the only people who deserve cool dinosaur things are children.

Stinky little buggers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

For When You're Snowed In

I'm from the midwest, so I'm accustomed to the occasional snow day. Here are a few full-length dinosaur videos you can stream for free online. Nine out of ten Helens agree: it beats the bejeezus out of shoveling the car out of its snowy prison.

Discovery's Dinosaur Central has two episodes of Dinosaur Planet available, as well as clips from the new Clash of the Dinosaurs series, which is about as much as you need to see.

Giants of Patagonia, which is what it says its about, is available at Hulu.

The cult classic Dinosaurus! is available for instant play at Netflix, as is the BBC's Walking With Dinosaurs, Allosaurus: A Walking With Dinosaurs Special, and Chased By Dinosaurs.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Dinosaur



1. That's a crappy soundtrack.
2. That's not a dinosaur, it's a pterosaur.
3. Ah hell, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dinosaur in Christmas

And now begins the Christmas week dinosaur video marathon. Enjoy!



Insight into the way my little brain works: the main reason I'm posting this is because it's the only dinosaur connection I've been able to make for Perfect Strangers star Mark Linn-Baker, whose wife is the daughter of Arnold Lobel, the illustrator of the recently-featured book Dinosaur Time. Why that strikes me as being important/relevant/neato/cool? I have no idea.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Long Gone

This poem appeared in a Macmillan reading textbook called Snails to Whales, published in 1989. I picked it up used in a Lafayette, IN thrift store. Emily Wakefield or Mary Bauer, I've got your book if you ever want it back.

Dinosaur Poem

Bob Shein is credited as the artist. Long Gone comes from a collection of kid's poems called Zoo Doings by Jack Prelutskey, who also published a collection called Tyrannosaur Was a Beast, illustrated by Arnold Lobel, who you may remember from last week's vintage dinosaur art post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

77 Years Ago in Popular Science


The upcoming Dinosaur National Monument warranted a short blurb in the September 1932 issue of Popular Science. Dig those clown shoes on the sauropod. Thx Google Books.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Backlash of the Dinosaurs.

Now that Clash of the Dinosaurs has been out for a couple weeks, the scientists involved have had a chance to see it... and it's not pretty. Matt Wedel, one of the paleontologists behind the fine, enthrallingly-titled blog Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, posted a scathing review today. He describes the process of being contacted by Dangerous, Inc. (the production complany behind the series), consulting with them, and filming his talking head segments. He includes emails and diagrams that he sent Dangerous. As he does on the blog, he went to great lengths to explain sauropod anatomy. I can't imagine working on the series and not being totally thrilled and thankful to have an engaged scientist consulting me.

Instead, the producers took his efforts to debunk the old, tired, dead-in-the-water idea that sauropods had "two brains" and flipped it to make it wound like he endorsed the idea. Really. Read his righteous anger here.

That this kind of spectacle-over-science is done by what is supposedly a science channel is a complete shame. Complete, bitter, miserable freaking shame.

I'm glad the Onion came through when I needed a laugh today.

Away We Go

Jennie and I leave tomorrow for the UK, to spend two glorious yuletide weeks in a veritable winter wonderland. From what I understand, the English do possess rather advanced technology, and the internet should be accessible. But I've taken the precaution of scheduling a full slate of LITC posts for the duration of the trip. No slackin' off here!

We'll be flying in an Airbus A319, apparently. If only I flew in true style. Like the mighty Rasp.

Image courtesy dinoriders.com

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Glob

Here's a really cool Walt Kelly illustration from the February 18, 1952 issue of LIFE Magazine. It accompanied an abbreviated version of The Glob, a children's story by John O'Reilly.



Kelly is a legendary cartoonist, the creator of the classic comic Pogo. Most of his other drawings in LIFE are pretty small, but you can see more at a blog called Satisfactory Comics, including a nasty Allosaurus. It doesn't look like The Glob became a lasting hit, but you certainly can't blame it on Kelly's drawings. They're killer. It's out of print, but there are some used copies to be had. If you're looking to thrill your kids with an "evolutionary fable," you could do a lot worse.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaur Time

In 1974, two giants of children's literature collaborated on a dinosaur book for young readers called Dinosaur Time. Peggy Parish found fame a decade earlier with her first Amelia Bedelia book. Her illustrator was Arnold Lobel, the writer and illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning Frog and Toad series.

Dinosaur Time Ornithomimus

Lobel's illustrations, as you'd expect from his other work, are fanciful and full of personality. I'm especially fond of this saggy-skinned Stegosaurus...
Dinosaur Time Stegosaurus

...and this roly-poly ankylosaur.

Dinosaur Time Ankylosaur

I'd like to share some of the cool two-page spreads, such as a Pentaceratops, but my copy, an old hardcover cast-off from Burtsfield School in West Lafayette, IN, is super fragile. If you don't want to take my word for it, it looks like a softcover version is still in print.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tawa Hits


Illustration by Jorge Gonzalez, courtesy National Science Foundation

Tawa hallae, a new Triassic theropod, hit the nets today in a big way. It's very exciting, because we have two skeletons which are pretty complete. We need more Triassic dinosaurs! This one is especially cool because of the way it fits in between Herrerasaurus and Coelophysis on the dinosaur evolutionary tree. Herrerasaurus is more like pre-dinosaur archosaurs, and for a while has existed in a fuzzy nether-region between the two, with its status as a dinosaur subject to debate. Melding the more primitive characteristics of Herrerasaurus with those of Coelophysis, Tawa shows that Herrerasaurus was a dinosaur.

The National Science Foundation has a special report on Tawa at their website with tons of information.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Six Oviraptors a-laying...

Looking for a cheap gift? Buy this positively Luis Rey-ian nesting Oviraptor for someone you feel affection for.
Speaking of Rey and Oviraptor, one thing I love about Gee and Rey's largely speculative A Field Guide to Dinosaurs is the description of Oviraptor's nesting habits. Gee writes that Oviraptor and Protoceratops nest in mixed colonies, and that one way Oviraptor pays its keep is by preying on small mammals and reptiles, potential egg-stealers. It's a bit of dino-humor, because Oviraptor literally means "egg-thief," based on the fact that the original fossil was found near a nest of what were believed to be Protoceratops eggs. We've found fossils of brooding oviraptorids (as well as actual fossilized embryos in their eggs), so the name isn't quite accurate anymore.

Then again, that little contradiction may not matter at all. The only specimen we have of Oviraptor philoceratops itself has a badly damaged skull which does not bear the kind of crest you see in the model above. That head more looks like that of the closely related Citipati. And the brooding oviraptorids? They're all Citipatis. My guess is that the people at Safari, makers of the figure, chose name recognition over accuracy here.

O. philoceratops nest at the AMNH, via Wikimedia Commons. Uploaded by FunkMonk

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dino-Riders

Here's the whole first episode of the classic toy-based cartoon Dino-Riders. Why? Because this the pinnacle of televised entertainment for suburban American caucasian males growing up in the 1980's. And probably for everyone else, too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Clash of the Dinosaurs

The Amazing Transparent Deinonychus from Clash of the Dinosaurs

The Discovery Channel's hype machine has been in high gear lately in anticipation of the premiere of Clash of the Dinosaurs last night. I haven't had a chance to watch it and probably won't until it comes to Netflix or Discovery puts it on their website. However, reviews are popping up on the paleoblogosphereorama. Matt Martyniuk of Dinogoss, Asher Elbein of The Faster Times, and Brian Switek of Dinosaur Tracking and Laelaps have all posted reviews that are well worth reading.

All three have reservations; they agree that the animated sequences are too short and are repeated too often, and that substantial illustration of the scientific process is all but missing. Animation may expensive, but communicating a scientific concept really doesn't have to be. Discovery has to realize this' look no further than their long-running Mythbusters for an example of a show that gets plenty of science into an entertaining hour.

Martyniuk's review goes into detail about the good and bad points of the dinosaurs' anatomy. This is stuff that the average viewer probably doesn't care about - things like the number of claws on Triceratops' front foot, for example. Keep in mind that this is ostensibly a science program, on a science network, and the producers of the show should be held to a high standard. Comparing COTD to the History Channel's Jurassic Fight Club, Elbein writes, "In both shows, the proportion of evidence to evisceration is badly skewed. What little science is present is hidden in a welter of didactic pronouncements, half truths, and speculation." Speculation like COTD's assertion that "Quetzalcoatlus had excellent vision and could detect the UV traces of urine trails from miles up.” This is a non sequitir; it has no basis in science. I've also heard that Iguanodon was the dinosaur with the best penmanship.

Speculation is interesting and fun. Michael Crichton's frilled, poison-spitting Dilophosaurus was a huge leap. But he was writing a mass-market thriller, which has no burden of accuracy (not only that, Jurassic Park starts with a disclosure of such flights of fancy). If there is some kind of basis for a theory of how a long extinct creature saw, we should be presented with the reasoning behind it. That actually reveals something of the scientific process, and that should be the ultimate goal.

I'm not saying I'm not going to catch COTD the first chance I get. I set grievances aside to watch animated dinosaurs go buck wild. It's one of those cases in which we need a bit of nutrition with our dessert, though. The nice thing is that eventually, knowledge about the natural world exceeds the thrill of spectacle. I know I'm not alone in that sentiment.

Dino Stuff @ ThinkGeek

So... rumor has it that there is a holiday swiftly approaching, during which a sizable portion of the Earth's human population endures each other's presence long enough to exchange gifts. Here are, in my humble estimation, the three best dinosaurish items at the popular web retailer ThinkGeek. Why only three? Well, for being a nerd-centric store, they have surprisingly few dinosaur items.

Yes, this falls into the category of "things unnecessarily described with the word 'dinosaur' because they happen to be really, really old." Generally, this kind of annoys me. But I have to admit, the idea of a plant even I could not kill by neglect is okey-dokey.

THESE ARE INCREDIBLY AWESOME!


There are five varieties of Evolvems, and thankfully, one of them is a dinosaur. Rather, it's a pair of dinosaurs. Evolvems are reversible plush toys: unzip them, turn them inside out, and get a different critter. They score huge ChasmoPointsTM for picking interesting, left-field dinosaurs. Instead of a boring, safe pairing like Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, the clever devils at Flying Monkey picked the obscure basal, Jurassic ceratopsian Yinlong and its cretaceous descendant Styracosaurus (bonus ChasmoPointsTM for not picking Triceratops). This is one of the coolest ways to get kids thinking about natural history real young. Also, buy one for me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Tyrannosaurus by Janet Riehecky

The Child's World published a series of dinosaur titles for young readers in the eighties, written by Janet Riehecky. I got my hairy little primate hands on their Tyrannosaurus title recently. It features illustrations by Diana Magnuson, a veteran children's book illustrator. Magnuson doesn't have a whole lot of paleoart on her resume, but she illustrated about half of the books in this series. Judging by the watercolor pages she did for this title, she did a fine job.

The colors aren't lurid, sticking to muted greens, grays, and browns. Naturally, most of the book depicts the Late Cretaceous which T. rex inhabited, but an early spread accurately depicts a Jurassic environment with an Allosaurus, some Camptosaurus, and a Stegosaurus. A keen-eyed child would easily be able to differentiate the Allosaurus from T. rex, by virtue of its lighter build, bulkier, three-fingered hands, and smaller head.

This one has to be one of my favorites, if only for the gore factor. I'm pretty sure that the stance would have been impossible for a T. rex. But what the heck. That's a big hunk of neck-meat.

T. rex Takes a Bite

Throughout the rest of the book, T. rex is depicted with the correct, horizontal-backbone posture. Riehecky is a bit of a dinosaur nut, and she consulted with the Field Museum to ensure the accuracy of the information.

I'm really eager to find more titles in this series - what's most intriguing is that Riehecky strays from the big names, devoting titles to Hypsilophodon, Saltasaurus, Baryonyx, and Oviraptor. I just found a used copy of the Baryonyx book on Barnes and Noble, by a different illustrator. Look for that one soon...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Eocursor

I have a soft spot for the humble dinosaurs. The dinosaurs that didn't sport outlandish spines, crests, and claws. The dinosaurs who mainly interest paleoartists for their ability to fit in the mouths of larger theropods. If you were to time travel back to the Mesozoic with the intent of bringing back a pet, I think these guys would have been your best bet. Smallish herbivores like Hypsilophodon, Drinker, Othnielsaurus, Fruitadens, or the subject of today's post, dog-sized Eocursor.

Eocursor parvus by ArthurWeasley, via Wikimedia Commons

Eocursor parvus was discovered in South Africa in the early nineties and finally named and described by Richard Butler, Roger Smith, and David Norman in 2007 (Eocursor means "dawn runner," due to those long runner's legs it sports). Butler just published a fuller description of Eocursor's anatomy in the journal of the Linnaean Society.

By the Cretaceous period, the great limb of the dinosaur family tree known as the ornithischians had flowered into a diverse group which comprised the dominant herbivores in a variety of environments. They included the horned ceratopsians, the many flavors of duckbills, the spiked and armored ankylosaurs, and the dome-heads. Iguanodon, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus were all ornithischians.

Of the precious few Triassic ornithischians paleontologists have found, Eocursor is the best known, and is as close as we've come to a shared ancestor for all of those important groups. All of the Triassic ornithischians are known from a pretty small area- they've all been found in Argentina and South Africa, which during the Triassic period were connected as part of the great southern continent called Gondwana. During the Jurassic and Cretaceous, they spread all over the globe. According to Butler, Eocursor's general similarity to ornithischians of the Early Jurassic period - primarily Lesothosaurus, Heterodontosaurus, and Scutellosaurus - lends support to the idea that the great diversification in the ornithischian family occured after the extinction event that ended the Triassic and began the Jurassic. As new ecological niches opened up, the ornithischians adapted to them. They developed new ways to get around and to eat. As predatory theropods likewise evolved to take advantage of the new prey species, the ornithischians evolved defensive mechanisms. It's an evolutionary cascade that would result in all of the wonderfully bizarre forms dinosaurs would take.

The Triassic is a mysterious time in the evolution of the dinosaurs, and as noted above, has not offered up the great bounties of fossils the Jurassic and Cretaceous have. But new discoveries have the potential to shed a lot of light on how the early dinosaurs split into the groups we know well. A great place to find out about new developments in Triassic paleontology - which includes plenty of interesting non-dinosaurs - is a blog called Chinleana.

UPDATED - Just saw that Zach Miller wrote about one of those cool non-dino Triassic critters at When Pigs Fly Returns!

UPDATED AGAIN - And Chinleana writes about the same critter, which is called Vancleavea. I love the artist's rendition. Very dragon-like.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trilobites

Remember the Jurassic ammonite model I featured in October? It was by Leif Beckmann, (flickr user Callovium Shale) and it was the bomb. Well, the trilobite I mentioned in that post is now complete. The species is identified as Olenoides serratus, a denizen of the distant Cambrian era.

Dorsal:
olenoides serratus

Ventral:
olenoides serratus

Incredible. I love trilobites. Good stinkin' job, Leif!

Playful Paleo Portraiture

Flickr user Niznoz takes some damn splendid pictures of dinosaur toys. It appears, to my untrained eye, that the subjects are Jurassic Park figures. There are a bunch of them, but here are a few of my favorites.

everybody loves a lover

Bunny

dinosaur nights

wet herbivore

Good on you, Niznoz!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dinomite!

My wife recently returned home from a thrift store with a really special treat for me: Dinomite, the dinosaur adventure game for dinosaur lovers.

I was so ready to just rip this one apart. It has it all! A Charles Knight Laelaps redrawn as Allosaurus! A suspiciously brachiosaurid Diplodocus! A mishmash of extinct creatures that aren't dinosaurs, including cavemen! A back-of-the-box blurb that refers to "Stone Age Dinosaurs!" I was so ready to write up the cattiest board game review in the history of catty board game reviews. It's a long and storied history, trust me.

Then, after a quick check of the googles, I found out that Joshua White, the man credited with creating the game, wasn't a man at all. He was a little boy. A little boy who was bored one rainy day, so he decided to create his own board game.
Fine, Joshua White. You're a kid (well, you were a kid). I guess I can't rip you too badly. Mostly, I wonder what's become of you. What do you do to follow up getting a board game published at nine years old?

More importantly, my game is missing two playing pieces. Can you hook me up with a couple more? I have a feeling I'm in for some long nights of heated Dinomite competition with 1-5 of my closest friends.