Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sleestak Game Night

Just one bit of dinosaur ephemera on display at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Land of the Lost board game

I've seen neither the 70's TV program Land of the Lost, nor its "remake" from a couple years ago. But Michael May's reviews from earlier this year make me think I'll need to get around to it sometime.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs - British Museum (Natural History)

Allow me to admit the following from the start: this entry should probably be entitled 'Vintage Dinosaur Art: Neave Parker', for it is Parker's monochromatic art that is used to liven up this rather unassuming little book dating from 1974. However, this museum-sanctioned book - note that the Natural History Museum was still officially a department of the British Museum at the time - offers plenty of fascinating tidbits in the text, including some commentary on the creatures as depicted in Parker's work, which makes it very interesting in itself.

The 'frontispiece' is Parker's Triceratops, standing alone, drinking from a puddle. Parker's work is technically pretty impressive, even if he was obviously heavily influenced by Zdenek Burian. These days, however, his name inevitably conjures up images of hopelessly obsolete restorations, a good few of which are included here. The first edition of this book was published in 1962, a year after Parker's death. By the time this edition was published the 'Dinosaur Renaissance' was already well underway, and yet you wouldn't know it from reading this book. (One could almost see today's displaying of scaly, bunny-handed dromaeosaurs at the museum as a continuation of this tradition.)

Prof Swinton of the University of Toronto - the author - espouses a lot of pre-Dino Renaissance thinking. Perhaps most peculiarly to modern audiences, he's pretty damn sure that 'the Dinosauria' is a paraphyletic group, that is it unites animals (in the Saurischia and Ornithischia) that do not share a common ancestor. This was actually a commonly held belief for some decades. There's the usual sauropod weirdness too, with the animals described as being simply too large to possibly be terrestrial, instead sticking to water bodies of a convenient depth (as in the above Parker painting). Quite why so many people failed to notice the columnar, graviportal legs and scream "THIS IS TOTALLY BONKERS!" for so long, I don't know.

Parker's theropods are an interesting bunch. Generally they follow the pattern of being ponderous and bloated - his Tyrannosaurus is particularly Godzilla-like - but some, like his Megalosaurus, are shown taking long strides with horizontal backs and elevated tails. Still, Parker would had to have been pretty wild to match the oddness present in the text here, particularly when it comes to the author's ideas of what toothlessness meant for theropod groups like the ornithomimosaurs. What, you thought it was just because they evolved to enjoy a varied diet? Foolishness! Being all gummy is actually "a symptom of an aged and worn-out stock, already ripe for extinction."

While Swinton acknowledges that theropods would have walked with their tails aloft (for balance), he also imagines them having to have lengthy resting periods like lizards, and sniffily dismisses the "remarkable agility" that the animals display in some of those new-fangled restorations. Parker's man-in-a-suit, leathery Tyrannosaurus is presumably just recuperating after sluggishly plodding along in pursuit of some hadrosaur meat. Nevertheless, Prof Swinton envisages Iguanodon moving bipedally "at some speed" when not in a tripod resting position (as depicted by Parker, below, no doubt strongly influenced by Burian). He also refutes the idea, brought to memorable life by Parker (below), that Hypsilophodon was arboreal - envisaging it too as being fast-moving and terrestrial. Parker's perching Hypsilophodon seems like an odd inclusion, then, and nowadays it's viewed as one of the classic wacky, misguided restorations of the pre-Dino Renaissance era.

In the end, though, in spite of a few modern ideas breaking through, this remains a book solidly pre-Dino Renaissance in outlook. I've already mentioned that Swinton thought the ornithomimosaurs' toothlessness was down to 'bad genetic stock'. At a time before the 'asteroid theory' became widespread and accepted, Swinton evokes 'phylogeronty' (supposedly, the decline of clades through old age) as a possible explanation for the K/Pg extinction - not just for dinosaurs, but for pterosaurs and marine reptiles too, citing the examples of Pteranodon and, utterly bafflingly given its age, Ophthalmosaurus. When it comes to the ceratopsians, Swinton attributes their decorative frills and horns to "hormone superfluity", noting that "it is significant that the Ceratopsia were among the last of the dinosaurs" (in spite of the fact that the clade lasted tens of millions of years). These ideas seem laughable now, but in 1974 were deemed worthy enough to appear in a museum-endorsed publication.

To conclude then - blimey, a lot's changed in 40 years. Here's a Parker painting of the obscure nodosaur Acanthopolis. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What's Wrong with this Picture?

I'd driven by this theropod, leering over a fence at passing motorists (and an unfortunate bullock), so many times that eventually I just had to stop and have a closer look. It's located at SK Camping and Leisure near South Godstone, Surrey (South East England), a shop that sells tents and camping equipment, garden furniture and, er, a menagerie of resin and fibreglass animals (including the two pictured above). The bigger ones - including the lunging theropod pictured below - have eye-watering price tags, but one of the dinkier brachiosaurs is a snip at a mere £199.99. Bargain.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Dinosaur Petting Zoo

His Mouth May Be Full Of Meat But There's Always Room For A Kid
Photo by Diana House, shared via Flickr.

Erth Visual and Physical, an Australian company that creates all sorts of cool visual physical theater shows and events, has been touring with their "Dinosaur Petting Zoo" for the last couple of years. Having built their business mainly in Australia, they've also been branching out globally, having performed for the Sue 10 year anniversary at the Field Museum in Chicago as well as a visiting Ireland this summer. Being Australian, they prominently feature Laellynasaura and Minmi, part of the island continent's Mesozoic fauna. You can't thrill the kids on diminutive ornithischians alone, of course, so a "dwarf allosaur" and a tyrannosaur are featured as well, more heavily stylized than their small co-stars.

Dinosaur Petting Zoo, Town Hall 2
Photo by Mike Riversdale, shared via Flickr.

erth dinosaur
Photo by Merrigong Theater Co., shared via Flickr.

It's hard to predict what the rocks will produce, and I'm sure that had Erth had psychic powers, or developed the petting zoo just a year later, they would have loved to include a few more Aussie natives - namely, Wintonotitan, Australovenator, and Diamantinasaurus, three dinosaurs described in 2009 who would make for showy additions to the program. It seems that it's done well, so maybe they're developing new puppets as I type. The company's calendar doesn't indicate if there are more dates scheduled for the rest of the year, but here are some more photos of what to expect if you get the chance to see the show. Find out more at Erth's website and Youtube channel.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mesozoic Miscellany 43

Sorry for the lapse between roundups! They may come more sporadically now that school's in session, but I aim to keep sharing sweet links regularly. Onward!

Dave Hone invokes the Prime Directive, in a way: Is it best for scientists to engage directly with a curious public in web forums, or to let enthusiastic budding scientists mature and come to the literature on their own?

Are calls for accuracy in paleoart and animation attempts to shackle artists to one's own narrow view of what ancient life was like? How much leeway should enthusiasts give artists who have to do their work under prohibitive budgetary constraints? A vigorous discussion is occuring at ART Evolved. Start here, then check out the subsequent posts under the Philosofossilising header.

Speaking of which, Pete Von Sholly says "lighten up! Dinosaur Revolution is going to rock socks!" (that's a rather liberal paraphrase) at VonShollywood.

Glendon Mellow conjured up this splendid take on Avimimus, showing off an impressive headdress.

Need more feathered theropods? Check out Eric Scales' 'toon raptor.

Call it sacrilege, but I think I'll take Andrey Atuchin's ceratopsians over just about anyone else's. He revealed a stunning Nasutuceratops WIP this week. I hadn't even heard of this beast until seeing Andrey's work. Apparently, Nasutuceratops hailed from Campanian Utah, and was described in a thesis by Eric Karl Lund last year. Therefore, it is, in my limited knowledge of the ICZN, a nomen nudum until published in the peer-reviewed literature.

At Chinleana, Bill Parker shared the last two pages of Susan Drymala's field notebook from this summer. See his "rules of the field," as well as indispensible advice for aspiring scientists. Emulate Kirk. Hang out in the crapper. Pack granola bars. It's a life!

Trish has been writing about The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs, which she reports is billed as "''more fun than a barrel full of velociraptors!' though I would think most things are."

Haven't had the chance to see Dino Gangs? Victoria Arbour has a review at Pseudoplocephalus.

You know you want more Aussie ichnology action. Tony Martin's gonna hook you up.

And just because we haven't had enough Star Trek references in this post, let's play a game. Smok: Klingon delicacy or rauisuchian? Maybe you'll figure it out with help from Chinleana and Dinosaur Tracking.

Finally, to celebrate gleeful inaccuracy in dinosaur illustration, I present... Velocirapper, by Jonah Block and Jorge Garcia.


How did this fail to get enough votes to be made into a shirt at Threadless? Priorities be jacked, yo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Design Exercise: Raptor Red Teaser Poster

Have you read Raptor Red, Bob Bakker's novel of a female Utahraptor's adventures in Cretaceous North America? I have, though it's probably been fifteen years. The tale of Raptor Red and her struggles with survival and family drama, it was another way for Bakker to popularize his views on dinosaur behavior and physiology. Red is intelligent - at one point remembering the presence of off-shore Kronosaurs and luring a big Acrocanthosaurus out to its doom. You could almost substitute primitive people for Red's clan without too much trouble. I'm interested in reading it again to see how it's fared with time.

One thing I was sure of then, and am now: it would make a heck of a movie. When presented with a design exercise at work recently, involving turning a book cover into a movie poster, I chose this one. We had an hour to do it, so I kept it really simple, choosing to highlight that signature sickle-claw on her foot. I based it on my own photo of the Field Museum's Deinonychus .

Raptor Red Teaser Poster

It wasn't my intention, and the thought hadn't occurred to me, but my friend and coworker Matt said that it reminded him a little of Samurai Jack. I'd love to see a traditionally animated version of Raptor Red directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. If you've not seen any of his work, look up the episode of Samurai Jack called "Three Blind Archers." The ability of Tartakovsky and his team to animate the sounds Jack hears when blindfolded makes me think that they could do some really interesting things with the Utahraptor's sensory experience. Considering the announcement of the Pixar dinosaur film, we may be approaching dinosaur saturation point. So if Raptor Red is to make it to the screen, she may have to wait a while (though the book has been optioned for adaptation, there doesn't seem to have been any movement on it in over a decade).

But what the heck. There are a million ways to do this imaginary project. Who would you like to see adapt Raptor Red? Or is adapting it at all a bad idea?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interspecies Conflict Wishlist Redux

A short while back, David authored a post commenting on the popularity of dino-on-dino fights in TV shows, with a focus on the current popularity of showing freakishly large coelurosaurs Tarbosaurus and Therizinosaurus smack each other about in all their varyingly inaccurate CG splendour. Of course, David also suggested a few unlikely fights of his own, which inspired a wonderful artwork by Tuomas Koivurinne.

Now Niroot Puttapipat, a professional illustrator living in London (and all-round thoroughly decent fellow), has inked a few of his own, and he said he'd be "thrilled" to have me share them here. So here they are.

A reminder of David's original descriptions: "A hundred Mononykus vs. Carcharodontosaurus: They'd swarm the big brute and crawl into all sorts of uncomfortable places" (Top)
"Four strategically placed Incisivosaurus vs. Giraffatitan: Two words: beaver style." (Left)
"Protoceratops vs. Leptoceratops. The most disgusting display of brutality and gore imaginable." (Bottom right)

"Pot-bellied T. rex vs. the Jurassic Park T. rex. It's a draw, until Stan Winston strides out with a glock and empties a clip into Pot-belly." (Top)
"Citipati vs. Gigantoraptor: I see the little dude running circles around Giganto while making some outrageously stupid shrieking sound. For about ten minutes." (Bottom)

The post also received a comment from a mysterious SV-POWsketeer, who claimed that "a single Giraffatitan individual could effortlessly destroy countless Incisivosaurus by sheer awesomeness alone." Well, Niroot had a go at illustrating that too.

Awesome indeed. To check out more of Niroot's work (including higher-res versions of the above), visit his deviantART page.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Carl Burger

Carl Burger was a mid-century American illustrator whose work, I imagine, could be found in most American public school libraries over the years. It was definitely in mine in the 80's. The novels Old Yeller, Little Rascal, and The Incredible Journey (later known as the film Homeward Bound) gave him ample opportunity to show off his expressive style of animal illustration. But today's post is spurred, naturally, by what may have been his single trip to our cherished Mesozoic.

Carl Burger

Like most of his work available at Google Books, this illustration appeared in Boys' Life magazine (many search results for his name are due to his handbook on trapping which was advertised in the Boys' Life classifieds for a time). A prototypical mid-century depiction of a Mesozoic environment, it appeared with an article penned by Roy Chapman Andrews in the November 1954 issue. You have it all: man-in-suit T. rex, which looks to be inspired by the dinosaur in King Kong, squaring off against an ornery Triceratops. Trachodon wading in a swamp. Pterosaur soaring above. Erupting volcano. (Edit: Marc has also pointed out that the Tyrannosaur bears a resemblance to this very early Knight reconstruction).

Burger's illustration is fine, though a bit staid. I can certainly understand this: an outdoorsman who was accustomed to observing animals in life has a heck of a challenge to overcome when presented with this kind of assignment. Comparing it with other wildlife illustrations he did for the magazine, you get the sense that he felt a bit shackled by his saurian subject matter, but perhaps it was just a matter of perspective. After all, Burger seemed to find living avian dinosaurs a splendid muse.

September 1955, from the story The Black Tyrant:

Carl Burger

Carl Burger

November 1955, from the article The Rough and Rowdy Ringneck:

Carl Burger

Carl Burger

And, finally, this. From November 1956, accompanying the J. Paul Loomis "man vs. condors" story Greatwing.

Carl Burger

Amazing stuff with a real sense of movement. Burger understood the way the avian body moved, but these birds also have personality. For instance, look at the way he exaggerates the features of the raven in the first image. He certainly seems to give them more respect than he does the harried human in the last one; you rarely see condors or vultures depicted in such a heroic light. I'd love to see what he would have done with terror birds.

There's not a lot of information about Burger out there, which is a bit surprising. I thought that a search of my favorite illustration blogs would surely turn up multiple posts about him. For a bit more, check out his short essay Seeing and Remembering, which I clipped from the September 1943 Boys' Life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Blue Chasmosaurus

Recently, Brian Switek emailed me with a little request. A friend of his who had an interest in chasmosaurs, happend to be a reader of this blog and was tickled by the title. He wondered if I could help him out by creating a Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs t-shirt. I thought about it for a few seconds and said, "Sure!"

I knew that I wanted to feature Chasmosaurus on the shirt, as his friend liked the beast so much. So I set to sketching out some ideas. I quickly settled on a portrait, so its facial expression could be nice and prominent. Tor the text, I wanted to be consistent with the current banner, so I used that font along with a nice, bold sans serif to accent the right words and give the title a good rhythm. I decided on a color scheme of different tints of cyan, so that if I ever wanted to get it printed in any other form, it would be easy to do in one color.

Over the summer, I've been researching on-line shops, as a way to keep working on good material and make a few pennies when I start school. For this t-shirt design, Cafepress seemed to be the clear choice, as the site offers the best overall prices for print-on-demand products as well as a good selection of t-shirt styles. My wife pointed out the importance of ladies' tees, which many other sites do not offer. I don't know how much I'll be offering at Cafepress (I also have an Etsy shop I've been wanting to launch for weeks, and hopefully will soon). But, if you feel like pitching some coins my way and wearing the dude below on a tee, get one of your own!

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs promo graphic

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Even More Dinosaur Revolution Goodies

With the premiere of Dinosaur Revolution inching closer and closer, Discovery is releasing more and more material about the miniseries. It's looking mighty, mighty fine, but to really understand why people are optimistic about the show, don't watch any of the teasers. Watch David Krentz narrate a storyboard. That's really all you need to see to understand why hopes are high.

Of course, you'll want to see the teasers, too. The narration is a bit annoying, but I can understand why the network would worry about the general public feeling lost. Hopefully the DVD and Blu-Ray will have the option to mute it. In a clip of a sleep-deprived mama allosaur, you can see a bit of the humor I've expressed mild concern over. More importantly, you can see a high level of sophistication in the storytelling. Another depicts the brutal comeuppance of a Torvosaurus (featuring Miragaia, which I'm pleased as punch about).

Concerning the slapstickyness... I think I'm converted. See the second link above: the headless dinosaur bit that made me skeptical last November is pretty funny and handled well. I was surprised by it, and I chuckled. It's going to be a moment the audience never forgets, like the water glass in that old Spielberg movie. The cinematic skill on display here is undeniable, so I'm eager to see how it's mixed with the hard science in the final product. I'm sure we'll cover it quite thoroughly here, and be sure to keep an eye on Dinosaur Tracking, where you'll see some exclusive coverage in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

State of the Blog Address: Year Two

I start grad school in five days! That's crazy. At this time last year, I think I had just started getting an inkling of an urge to start applying. As this roughly coincides with the second birthday of Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs, I figured I may as well blog about blogging. I'll try not to be too tiresome.

When I start studying, I'll have to scale back bloggin' time, naturally. I'm grateful for the support and cyber-friendships I've gained from doing LITC, and I definitely do not plan on letting it wither. Bringing Marc on board was one way that I knew I could help keep the ChasmoTrain chugging along. I've always loved digging into to new research and writing essay-style posts about dinosaur paleontology, but as I've rearranged my life to prepare for school, those sorts of posts have been harder to do. But that's cool; since last summer I've also become more aware of good blogging practices, and I think LITC has become less "Push" and more "Pull." I enjoy putting together my weekly Mesozoic Miscellany roundups, and though I've streamlined them a bit recently, they'll keep coming.

Vintage Dinosaur Art posts will too, of course. I hope you've enjoyed Marc's posts in that series as much as I have. It's really good to have another voice here, as well as a transatlantic correspondent. We'll try to keep up with the Monday/ Friday schedule of VDA and MM posts, but there may be some occasional straying from it when time is tight.

One thing that's become clear is that the quality of this blog has little to do with my writing and everything to do with the incredible bounty of enthusiastic paleo-fandom and killer paleoart on the web. Seriously, paleoart (sorry, I still haven't made the switch to "paleontography" yet) may be going through some growing pains, but it's hard to argue that there has ever been this many talented, dedicated artists bringing their skills to bear on resurrecting dinosaurs and other extinct beasts. What used to be the domain of only a few has opened up to thousands, and though the "orgy" is a bit sloppy, it has brought a huge volume of work that puts my jaw in contact with the linoleum nearly every day.

To that end, I may not have the illustrative talent of an Andrey Atuchin or Matt Martyniuk (to pick two names from an enormous hat), but as a designer and graphic artist, one reason I have chosen to pursue my Master's is to contribute to the visual communication of science. Therefore, you'll probably be seeing more of my own work popping up here. I've shared a bit - like my valentines this year - and I've rededicated myself to sketching, both on dead trees and in pixels, and sharing it online. I've always been an obsessive doodler of dinosaurs, and when I have paleo-inspired work, I'll share it here. I'll be launching an online shop to earn a few pennies to keep the lights on, and I'm working on some nifty dinosaur stuff for that. I'll let you know when that's up!

To wit, here's some Tithonian toonage I did today.

Allosaurus and Anurognathus
By me, via Flickr.

Thanks again for sticking around, sharing your comments and critiques, and sharing links with your friends. Thanks to the paleoartists for having the heart and will to bring prehistoric worlds to life again. Thanks to the paleontologists, preparators, museum staff, and legions of other professional and amateur researchers who feed our paleo-cravings. And thanks to my fellow paleo-bloggers for their insight and humor. Here's to the future of the past.

Identify that T. rex!

So recently I was having a stroll around a huge, indoor recreation of a desert ecosystem - as you do - and happened upon this.

More specifically I was at Burgers' Zoo in Arnhem (the Netherlands), and the 'dig site' was one of many great touches in the 'Burgers' Desert' indoor 'ecodisplay', sitting alongside living dinosaurs like the North American road runner (which apprently no one can walk past without saying "Meep meep!"). Of course, I couldn't help but wonder which T. rex specimen this skull is a cast or replica of. For my money it's the specimen formerly displayed in the Natural History Museum in London, which Darren Naish wrote about some time back. Actually, the half-mandible from that mount is on display again now in the dinosaur gallery, while the half-cranium is on temporary display in the Age of the Dinosaur exhibition.

In any case, I wasn't expecting to run into a Tyrannosaurus skull in the middle of a zoo, but then it is the amazing Burgers'. Do let me know of your thoughts!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Warm-Blooded Dinosaurs

It's a rare entry in this series that lives at the bleeding edge of research. It's unheard of, frankly. Some books we feature seem to be tossed together affairs with art by illustrators who, for all of their talents, aren't given the time or budget to create faithful paleontographical reconstructions. Or they hearken back to the era when dinosaurs were seen as stupid, maladapted brutes. Today's title, The Warm-Blooded Dinosaurs, was published in 1979, just as the Dinosaur Revolution ushered in by Ostrom and Bakker was gaining a footing in the popular imagination. Lorence F. Bjorklund's illustrations of fleet-footed, furry dinosaurs are an anomaly in popular dinosaur books.

There are only a few images from the book online, but they offer a mighty tantalizing glimpse. Take this illustration from the title page in which more ornithomimosaurs are joined by what I presume to be hopping hypsilophodonts.
bjorklund 1
The book is a direct distillation of Bakker's ideas to young readers, well before the publication of The Dinosaur Heresies, brought the full force of his vision of endothermic, highly active dinosaurs to the public - as well as teaching the teenage me exciting words like "torpor." Here, an iguanodont illustrates the buzzkill that is a torpid state, slumped over on its side like my Cairn terrier, Gregory, after a long walk.
bjorklund 3
Trish Arnold's bestie, Syntarsus, makes an appearance as well. Inspired by Sarah Landry's restoration of the little theropod - which was likely a species of the Triassic Coelophysis, it's depicted here with the trademark coiffure.
bjorklund 2
Excellent stuff, and yet another book I'd love to get my mitts on. Once again, thanks to Terry Thielen for sharing these with the Vintage Dinosaur Art Flickr pool.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Know the World of Dinosaurs

When I first saw this book I was convinced that it was from the 1970s or, at the very latest, the 1980s. It has every backward trope you care to mention - man-in-suit theropods, blobby, useless sauropods and an utter disregard for, you know, looking at skeletons and doing your research and all that nonsense. In fact the art very closely resembles that found in the '60s book I mocked in my first ever LITC post.

But no. It's from 1993. The year of Jurassic Park.

Oh dear.

It gets worse. The copy of Know the World of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals (to give it its full title - and even the title sounds '70s) that I have dates not from 1993 but 2000, although the book apparently did not change in that time (this is the only edition, reprinted several times). Blimey. Some of the art must date back to before the '90s, but that this book was still being printed in this form in 2000 - and being given to someone called Theo as a Christmas present from his grandparents, apparently - is remarkable. Let's be fair - illustrator Geoff Campion was probably just jobbing. But some of the worst mistakes are in Colin Clark's text!

Let's start with a classic 'Bronto'.

Elephantine skin, camarasaur head and weird, weird feet - the whole phylotarded shebang. (Oh yes, and Apatosaurus means 'unreal lizard' now apparently.) But why is he looking so concerned? Perhaps it's because his tail is about to be stepped on by the cackling villain behind him...

GODZILLA! Allosaurus meets tyrannosaur meets man in a rubber suit meets camp. Speaking of men in rubber suits...

Here's Gorgosaurus the "deinodont" (the hell?), a fat-bellied tail-dragger that was probably an obligate scavenger. But of course. For some reason Tyrannosaurus is given a more flattering depiction - why, it even has its tail clear of the ground, although it's still bolt upright. How the skeleton is meant to fit in there is anyone's guess. You can almost picture there being little eyeholes inside the mouth for the actor inside. T. rex gets a size boost too, now topping 15 metres in length. The beast's ego doesn't need it, really.

Still, the book does concede that some theropods might have been speedy - and maybe even had horizontal postures with their tails clear of the ground. Madness - Alan Charig would not approve. Unfortunately this point is illustrated with what might be the worst Velociraptor ever to appear in a commercially published book, children's or no. Nice hands. The dip in quality in terms of artistry here is very strange, like this was a tacked-on addition to the book.

When it comes to the all-out surreal, however, not a lot beats this "Scolosaurus" (aka Euoplocephalus). Remember: this is meant to be an ankylosaur, not a weird knobbly lizard. It's so utterly, utterly wrong that it makes you wonder where on Earth the artist was getting his inspiration.

For guaranteed weirdness one need never look further than the ornithopod-themed pages of retro dinosaur books - and so it proves here. The Iguanodon is pretty typical of the mid-20th century, if not necessarily 1993. The Corythosaurus would be too, if it weren't for all those pointy teeth. Was a terrible '80s Made-in-China bargain bucket rubber dinosaur the inspiration here?

Did you know that 'plesiosaur' means 'swan lizard' in Bullshitese? Well, it does. The animals were so named because they absolutely definitely held their heads above water all the time, as if they were imitating a rubbish hoax photograph of a fictional Scottish lake monster. I probably needn't tell you that plesiosaurs are referred to as 'marine dinosaurs' too. Yeah, it's a kid's book, but come on - there's no excuse for this stuff. Not even in the early '90s.

And finally - an Archaeopteryx with cute, glued-on mini-hands (and a mad stare o' doom). That this happened so often in palaeoart is a lesson that you should at least make sure your illustrator knows a little about theropod anatomy (including that of birds) before letting them loose on an expensive project. Oh well, the colours are pretty, and I do like the dramatic nature of this attack on a tiny arthropod - "FEEL MY WRATH, PUNY CENTIPEDE!"

Remember - if you have any hilarious old dinosaur books knocking about, do tell David or I about them. We pay for every one that is brought to our attention (in the currency of warm geeky comaraderie, rather than actual cash money, obviously).

LATE BONUS! Extra plesiosaur pics for a friend of mine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Buddy Cole's Dinosaur Problem

Watching Kids in the Hall tonight, I saw this skit which I had totally forgotten about. It's so great!

Scott Thompson's lucky the triple-dub wasn't around back in the early nineties, or he would have been excoriated by the pedantic dinosaur nerds who harassed Windy City's rising star comic Dan Telfer after his "The Best Dinosaur" bit went mad viral last year. I mean, seriously: Queen of the Pleistocene? I guess there was no good rhyme for Cretaceous.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Trilobite in a Jar

File this under "not a dinosaur, but too cool not to share." Andrew Scott, known as Bugmaker at Flickr, creates wonderful trilobite models, including some "preserved" in jars. Dead Trilobite
Reminds me of my old crayfish, Sylvester. After I went fishing with a friend and her dad without permission, my parents had Sylvester, my only catch of the day, preserved in a jar. He stayed on the shelf above my bed for years. When I look back on it, that was a really weird punishment. Check out Andrew's blog, too.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Three Dire Deinonychus

Yesterday I met up with a friend in the Natural History Museum. Again. Well, it's a great venue to catch up over a coffee, followed by a shuffle with the masses around the dinosaur gallery, which has recently had a bit of a dusting-down. While the cleaners were in the opportunity was also taken to spruce up some of the displays, replacing ageing CRT monitors with shiny new LCD setups, and old hand-drawn animations depicting Mesozoic environments with new CGI ones. Unfortunately, they still haven't mothballed their bloody bald dromaeosaurs.

The above photo, taken by a five-year-old me back in 1993, depicts the museum's three animatronic Deinonychus in their original tableau - dining on a Tenontosaurus carcass (as they are wont to do). This scene has now been replaced by a very cool Tyrannosaurus robot and the Tenontosaurus is, if not destroyed, lying around in a storeroom somewhere. The Deinonychus trio, however, live on in the museum's dinosaur gallery, positioned presumably where they would fit.

You might argue that keeping these 1990s relics on display is no bad thing - it's a harmless diversion, something to entertain the kids. The trouble is that a lot of people will take what they see in a museum - especially a highly reputable, world-renowned insitution such as the NHM - to be up-to-date and accurate without a second thought. My friend (a guy not normally interested in natural history, never mind dinosaurs) told me as much when I (not at all tediously) pointed out some of the flaws in a lot of their skeletal mounts and outdated signage - he'd have happily taken it all in as read and, consequently, would have been misinformed.

Now, I can understand why the museum might not want to repose/modify their skeletal mounts. Some of them - like the weirdo three-toed, tail-dragging Triceratops (shown here in 1907) - are veritable historical monuments. Besides which, reposing mounted skeletons, especially ones suspended above the ground, must be an absolute pain in the arse. However, there's really no excuse for having these shockingly outdated, scaly, bunny-handed Deinonychus on display any more. It's time to get rid of the old lizardy things (sell them off, perhaps?) and drag the dinosaur gallery into the 21st century.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mesozoic Miscellany 42

Discoveries and Research

"...based on bone tissues, dinosaurs living within the Antarctic Circle were physiologically similar to dinosaurs living everywhere else." UPI Science News on new research into polar dinosaurs. More coverage at ScienceDaily.

Brian Switek writes about a new fossil of a Protoceratops that may have died in its tracks.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Prehistoric TV Reconstruction Kitteh is back!

Want to contribute art to the upcoming Hadrosaur Symposium? Art Evolved has the scoop on how you can do that.

Jason Brougham writes, "Microraptor, therefore, may have had an elbow anatomy that was more or less like birds than in Deinonychus." Read more at his blog.

Learn about the Coelacanths of the ancient Kansan oceans at the RMDRC Paleo Lab blog, courtesy Anthony Maltese.

Hirokazu Tokugawa shares photos from the Löwentor Museum in Germany.

Dr. Matt Bonnan asks, "Who's Afraid of Evolution?" at Jurassic Journeys.

If you're going to join in the paleoart "orgy," practice safe... art. So says Andrea at Theropoda.

Nobu continues his posts on the British ornithopods.

It's incredible that this Mamenchisaurus started as a square of paper!

It's the work of Jared Needle, shared at Flickr.

Outrageously Off-Topic Indulgence
If you dare to peek into the deeply troubled mind of your gallant blogger... here's a song I made a few years ago with some buddies. I'd explain, but what's the fun in that?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Marvellous Martin Garratt

Martin Garratt, a fellow countryman of mine, has been causing quite a stir in the dinosaur model-collecting community (What? Stop laughing. It's an entirely legitimate hobby) with his astonishing buildups of resin kits and models from the likes of David Krentz, Rader Studios and even the Carnegie collection. In addition he's even knocked up a few homebrew dinosaurs of his own. I took the opportunity to ask Martin about his work - photos are courtesy of Marilyn Price. Even if collecting dinosaur models as a hobby is not of interest to you, any lover of great palaeoart will get a kick out of these. Over to Martin. (Cretaceous Creations T. rex and Ankylosaurus, below.)

"I have been interested in dinosaurs ever since I can remember and as a young child visiting the Natural History Museum in London I was awestruck. I think that's what got me hooked

I started collecting plastic injection dinos (Aurora & Airfix) in the '70s but stopped for a few years when I got married and had children. Then I got back into painting figure kits and about 10 years ago I was asked by a friend to paint a Kaiyodo Ankylosaurus for them. This revived my interest (especially when I saw what was now available in resin) and I started collecting whatever dinos took my fancy. [CM Studio Allosaurus and Stegosaurus, below.]

"I actually started sculpting my own dinosaurs around the same time. I don't profess to be a sculptor by any stretch of the imagination and I only sculpt one when I haven't got a 'proper' dino to paint. I don't use any references, I'm too impatient for that, (I just want it finished so that I can paint it), therefore I know what I sculpt isn't 'scientifically accurate' but I am only doing these for myself for the enjoyment of painting a dino. The forearm position of theropods is something that I have only recently become aware of and I am now sculpting my theropods with palms facing inwards.
[Martin's Masiakasaurus below.]

"From a model arriving on my doorstep to the final product, including making a simple base for it, I would say takes me about 7 hours. The actual dino to build and paint takes approximately 3 hours. I do feel the urge to customise some of the models, probably not to correct any flaws but just to personalise it and because I actually enjoy cutting the models up, reposing and putting them back together. I never think or focus on the paintjob and I've never got a colour scheme in mind. When I'm about to start painting I will pick up a colour and it just happens - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Some of the dinos in my collection get repainted several times. [Carnegie Collection 2011 Carnotaurus, below.]

"I like my dinos to look natural and believable enough to have actually existed. For instance, in my opinion a huge sauropod would more than likely have been quite drab, whereas I could imagine some of the smaller dinosaurs being more brightly coloured. A previous job of mine was as a 'keeper' at Dudley Zoo and after several years of observing many species of animals and reptiles on a daily basis you notice that the vast majority have dark topsides and a light underbelly. You also get a feel for an animals general conformation, which I am sure has helped me when reposing some of my dinos.
[Cretaceous Creations Anatotitan and young, below.]

"The particular dinosaurs that I have in my collection have to appeal to me, and they range in size from the tiny 'Krentz' models to the large CM
Studio's 52" Suchomimus sculpted by Charlie McGrady [pictured below] which is my favourite of all my collection so far. (Although I am looking forward to seeing Shane Foulke's forthcoming Baryonyx - my all time favourite dinosaur - so Charlie's Sucho might just be toppled off the top spot!)"

Many thanks again to Martin and Marilyn. You can see a more complete gallery of Martin's work on his deviantART page here. If you were wondering about the predominance of theropods in the above images, that's just selection bias...

If you're interested in having Martin create something for you, e-mail him and Marilyn at marilyn.price@tinyworld.co.uk to arrange a deal.