Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Paleofest 2018 Report

Two months ago, I had the privilege of attending Paleofest, the yearly Paleontology symposium at the Burpee Museum in Rockford, Illinois. The Master of Ceremonies remains Scott Williams, now at the staff of the Museum of the Rockies, and once again there was an excellent variety of speakers. There was no particular theme this time, predominantly dinosaurs but with a fair amount of other paleolontology.  While there was mostly American paleontology, other continents were represented in some talks. Unfortunately, my camera malfunctioned, so if you want pictures, please contact my and Scott’s friend Todd Johnson for his excellent photojournalism.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Top Ten Dinosaur Movies Never Made

As you’ve noticed, dinosaurs have been featured in a lot of terrible movies. From Lost Continent to Jurassic World, from King Dinosaur to Ice Age 3, not to mention any Asylum movie on the Sci Fi Channel, it’s easy to put a dinosaur on screen, but it’s hard to make the experience worthwhile. Sometimes the effects are terrible. Sometimes the dinosaurs are cliched. Sometimes the film is just plain badly written and shot.  So it’s a shame to find out about great movies that were never made. 

In Hollywood, it takes a lot of luck for a project to see work, especially one with an ambitious 
 premise or one demanding expensive special effects. Even filmmakers like Kubrick or Spielberg have had projects die before seeing light.   Fortunately, big ambitious projects are remembered, especially if they’re by people who have made other hit films but somehow were thwarted other times.  In this case, Mark Berry’s excellent Dinosaur Filmography came very much in handy.

These projects all sound like a lot of fun-it’s not often dinosaur movies get made, simply because of the limitations in budget, writing ability, and marketability inherent in the genre. Frankly, if we had these made, they would have turned out far superior than most dinosaur films that actually saw light. These were dream projects, vast in scope and ambition. Some of them were salvaged and recreated into excellent films. Some of them turned out into disasters. But it’s fascinating to learn about them, and dream about what could have been. Who knows? We may see them someday even after their originators have long been dead. Anything can happen in Hollywood, and they love to remake and revisit. Maybe someday these will be made. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Happy 30th: The discoveries of 1988

This weekend, I turned 30 years old. It’s a milestone for me, of course, but it reminded me about how much can change in 30 years.  30 years ago the dinosaur film was Land Before Time, when dinosaurs were inspired by the works of Charles Knight and William Stout before the Jurassic Park paradigm took over.  30 years ago,  the Berlin Wall still stood dividing Germany, the first Bush became president coasting in on Reagan’s popularity, and computer graphics in film were limited to a short by Pixar. 

There were many milestone in paleontology as well-new species were described, that would become iconic many years later.  So, I’ve decided to showcase all the fossil tetrapods described in 1988.  I can’t go into any depth about each, but there will be quite a few of them, so hold on your butts.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Starring T.rex

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m fascinated by pop culture’s views on dinosaurs. Fortunately, I’m not alone. Allen Debus, Don Glut, and many others have documented our obsession with prehistoric creatures, and today I’m going to look at one of these documents.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Species that don't get enough publicity #13: Bison

Today’s overlooked species is rather paradoxical; it’s not really overlooked as the genus has become a symbol of an entire continent. People of that continent can recognize one instantly. Empires have risen and fell because of them. Their meat is expensive but delicious. Their herds range over thousands of miles, and only centuries before covered the entire continent in a thick swath. They are the last American megafauna, and they escaped the fate of their neighbors by the skin of their teeth. That’s right, we’re talking about American bison. Yesterday was Bison Day, and I’m going to celebrate our last great mammal before it too is lost to human hunger and short-sightedness.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Prehistoric Warfare Episode 6: Carcharodontosaurus vs Spinosaurus

Now for something different. In 2004, Animal Planet showed as new series called Animal Face Off, a series reconstructing conflicts between coexisting animals. While the execution was clumsy and lacking, the concept is strong and I think easily applied to prehistoric fauna.  Ideally, there would be professionals discussing the situations, but unfortunately, you have only me. First I will compare the animals, and then depict their behavior, before concluding with the final battle.  The outcome will be my personal opinion; and there would be many times when the outcome would be decidedly different. This is not a scientific consensus, but one researcher’s opinion.

We all love dinosaur battles. They’re always a high point in a film. It’s childish, but it’s just plain fun. So, I’m hoping to use this opportunity to use this almost-universal appeal to get people thinking and talking about ecology, biomechanics, and behavior. Only one or two of these stories will be based on actual fossils-the rest are likely possibilities that must have happened sometime or another. In real life, animals usually don’t fight on even terms, but it does happen. Sometimes prey turn the tables, sometimes predators quarrel between themselves, but it can happen. I hope you enjoy this. Again, first I will have two scenes, one for each animal showing them in their habitat and showcasing their particular skills, then finally concluding with a battle between the two.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Paleofest Report 2017

It’s time for my annual report of Paleofest in the Burpee Museum in Rockford. Last year I skipped the report considering the high amount of unreleased data as part of it, which is a shame since it was quite good. This year there are fewer spoilers, but I did wait a month after the event. For more on Paleofest itself, please check out my first report here: http://davidsamateurpalaeo.blogspot.com/2015/04/paleofest-2015-report.html