Monday, February 1, 2016

Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life: New Zoobooks Dinos


Hi everybody,

If you're anything like me (I.e. A life-long dino fan born in the 1980s), you probably grew up w/"Zoobooks" magazine. Wexo's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" (henceforth ZD: http://www.amazon.com/Zoobooks-Dinosaurs-John-Bonnett-Wexo/dp/B009BN47P6 ) is my favorite issue of said magazine. I've always wanted a sequel issue or updated edition to ZD, but never thought there'd be 1. I then found out about "Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life: New Zoobooks Dinos for Kids" ( https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/411282443/bring-dinosaurs-back-to-life-new-zoobooks-dinos-fo ) & pledged $25 (the rewards for which include the new ZD). In short, I recommend that everyone pledges (especially if you like dinos or said magazine or have ever used Kickstarter).

Cheers,
Herman Diaz

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My 13th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a very good book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/06/my-10th-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/10/my-11th-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 12th Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/11/my-12th-pair-of-reviews.html


Interesting ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R2IQJJ88JEJCNK/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 5/5

Short version: Sereno's "How Tough Was a Tyrannosaurus?" (henceforth Tough) is MUCH better than a children's dino Q&A book has any right to be. I recommend reading Tough in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs" in general & Chapter 17 in particular).

Long version: Read on.

To quote the Nostalgia Critic ( http://thatguywiththeglasses.wikia.com/wiki/How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_(Dreamworks-uary) ), "By all outward appearances, I should hate How to Train Your Dragon. This has so many things I can't stand in a movie...But for some reason, here, it really, really works. There's just something about the way this story is told and presented and paced that just really, really gets it." The same goes for Tough. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think that is.

1) As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). What's interesting about Tough is that the questions are precise, the answers are concise, & the Q&As are good.

2) I generally dislike children's dino Q&A books for being poorly-illustrated, among other things. You'd think the same would go for Tough given Courtney's previous work ( http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2013/11/vintage-dinosaur-art-dinosaurs-giants.html ). What's interesting about Tough is that "the illustrations...show a marked improvement over those...from just [1 year] prior. They demonstrate a stage in the evolution from [Courtney's] earlier stodge-o-saurs to the altogether more active, muscular and modern-looking restorations of the '90s" ( http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2012/12/vintage-dinosaur-art-creatures-of-long.html ).* My only gripe is the anachronistic assemblages of animals (E.g. On pages 8-9, there's T.rex, Corythosaurus, Astrodon, Ankylosaurus, Protoceratops, & Oviraptor).

3) I generally dislike children's dino Q&A books for being poorly-organized, among other things. It doesn't help that their titles are often based on random Q&As (E.g. The title of my next review's book). What's interesting about Tough is that its title isn't just a random Q&A, but the overarching theme. You'd think I'd have a major problem with that given that T.rex is the most overexposed & overstudied dino. What's doubly interesting about Tough is that it uses T.rex as a vehicle to address a broader range of topics (E.g. See the Sereno quotes, which are from the 1st & last pages of Tough).

*Don't take my word for it, though. Google "How Tough Was a Tyrannosaurus? by Mrs Smart on Prezi" & see for yourself.
Quoting Sereno: "Did all the dinosaurs live at the same time?
Dinosaurs lived on earth for many millions of years, but no one kind of dinosaur existed for the entire time. Fierce Tyrannosaurus…for example, appeared only near the very end of the dinosaur age. Many other dinosaurs had already appeared and become extinct…died out." 
Quoting Sereno: "Are any animals alive today related to the dinosaurs?
Yes. The ancestry of birds can be traced back to small flesh-eating relatives of Tyrannosaurus. In the long view of time, birds are really feathered dinosaurs!"


Like playing Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril ( https://www.amazon.com/review/RGU1QQZ5DR8A5/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 1/5

Short version: The combination of unanswered questions, wrongly-answered questions, & everything in between makes reading Theodorou's "I Wonder Why Triceratops Had Horns: and Other Questions about Dinosaurs" (henceforth Wonder) like playing "Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ5xHcnTcKI ). If you want to know "Why Triceratops Had Horns", see "For Defense" on pages 48-49: digitallibrary.amnh.org/bitstream/handle/2246/6511/NH114n04.pdf

Long version: Read on.

As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). However, when I originally said that, I was specifically referring to adult dino Q&A books. Children's dino Q&A books in general & Wonder in particular are even worse:
-Redundant questions? Uncheck (There are only 30 questions), but Wonder more than makes up for this in the following ways.
-Vague answers? Check times infinity! The 1st Theodorou quote is the worst because 1) the main text completely dodges 1 of the biggest questions in science, & 2) the sidebar text only mentions invalid hypotheses (I.e. Poisonous plants & periodic comet showers).
-Bad Q&As? Check times infinity! The 2nd Theodorou quote is the worst because it fails on many levels: It contradicts itself from a previous Q&A (Again, see the 1st Theodorou quote; If "all the dinosaurs vanished", then there wouldn't be "any dinosaurs around today"); It fails to understand how evolution works (If birds "developed from dinosaurs", then they ARE "true dinosaurs"); It avoids using the word "evolution" (as does the rest of Wonder); It fails to understand that "developed" =/= "evolved" (See "Backgrounder": http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/04/2/l_042_02.html ).

But wait, there's more!:
-Wonder is a confusing mess in terms of organization. This is especially apparent in the Q&As about finding & reconstructing dino fossils: For 1, you have to find dino fossils BEFORE you can reconstruct them; For another, the text explaining said processes is scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason.
-Wonder's more realistic reconstructions are shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions, just plain abominable, or some combination of both. This is especially apparent in the Apatosaurus reconstructions: For 1, they're shameless rip-offs of the "Safari Ltd Carnegie Scale Model Apatosaurus", Sibbick's "Normanpedia" Apatosaurus, & Hallett's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" Apatosaurus; For another, they combine "a Sibbickian concentric ring skin pattern with a finely polished finish reminiscent of a 4x4 vehicle purchased by a money-crazed, wantonly aggressive businessperson" ( http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2015/08/vintage-dinosaur-art-dinosaurs-1987.html ).
-Wonder's more cartoony reconstructions are even worse: For 1, not only are most of them unrecognizable as the genera they're intended to represent, but the others are only recognizable because they're shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions; For another, not only are all of them unfunny, but some of them are also very disturbing (E.g. Why are a bat & a pterosaur giving each other "do me" eyes?; Why was that woman drilling into a living Ankylosaurus?; etc).
Quoting Theodorou: "What happened to the dinosaurs?
Something very strange happened 65 million years ago. All the dinosaurs vanished, together with all the flying reptiles and most of the sea reptiles. Know one knows for sure what happened to them." 
Quoting Theodorou: "Are there any dinosaurs around today?
Although there aren't any true dinosaurs alive today, we do have some of their relatives. Scientists think that birds developed from dinosaurs, because their skeletons are so similar. So look carefully the next time you see a bird nesting in a tree or hopping across the grass!"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Upcoming Palaeo-art Project

After a rather long hiatus (at least 3 years overall) from palaeoart, taking on a moonlighting "career" in the board game industry, I've (Craig) decided to travel back into deep time recreation.

I'm looking into making a series of little educational animations about Dinosaurs and other prehistoric critters as they behave/appear in movies vs. what we know in the fossil record.

As this is just for fun I have no strict deadline set. However I'll post some of my progress up here if people are interested.

I'm also looking for ideas on topics. So far I have (thus the previews posted):
  • Could T-Rex run as fast as a jeep? (the answer being no)
  • Could a "Pteradactyl" carry you off for lunch? (answer no, no again for the actual meant Pteranodon, and worse a Quetzalcoatlus would just eat you for lunch)
  • Could a Mosasaur eat a great White Shark? (answer only a unrealistically large one)
I want the topics posed as questions, and typically shaped or informed by movies/TV show depictions of prehistoric life. Adding an extra dimension of difficulty, I don't want to just cover carnivores (in particular theropods), though I'll do several I'm sure. I just want some variety in what I'm animating/modelling.

I'm not aiming for JP level production values, so this is my intended style and level of detail. Think 3D style Hanna Barbera (hopefully with better writing :P)


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Sunday, November 15, 2015

My 12th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a very good book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/06/my-10th-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/10/my-11th-pair-of-reviews.html


This book should have more reviews ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R3J8882CLGWDY1/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 4/5

Whenever I read Schlein's "The Puzzle of the Dinosaur-bird: The Story of Archaeopteryx" (henceforth Puzzle), I wonder why it doesn't have more reviews? I wonder because Puzzle is 1 of the best pre-Sinosauropteryx dino-bird books for older kids.* In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think that is.

1) Puzzle is very authoritative: Not only is it consulted by Dr. John Ostrom, but also contributed to by Gregory Paul & Nicholas Hotton III; To quote Taylor ( http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/faq/s-lit/books/ ), "those are big guns firing."

2) Puzzle is very complete & concise: Not only does it cover the history of "the dinosaur-bird connection" from the 1860s to the 1970s, the Protoavis Controversy, the Chinese feathered dinos (I.e. Sinornis & Confusiusornis), & every Archaeopteryx specimen then known, but it does so in 40 pages; Most dino books for older kids are at least 48 pages.

3) Puzzle is very well-illustrated: The beautiful paleoart of Hallett is worth the price alone; The diagrams & reconstructions in particular are both very nostalgic & very prescient.**

At this point, you may be wondering why only 4/5 stars? For 1, there's too much Linnaean taxonomy (I.e. See the Holtz quote; Puzzle beats the dead horse that is "that debate"). For another, there's not enough cladistics (I.e. There are no cladograms in Puzzle; This is despite the fact that clades "are central to a modern understanding of how we living things relate to each other": https://www.facebook.com/grandmotherfish/photos/a.323081411177915.1073741827.307222832763773/535824073236980/?type=1&permPage=1 ). Even still, I recommend reading Puzzle in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs").

*By "dino-bird books", I mean books about "the dinosaur-bird connection".

**Nostalgic because they're "Zoobooks" magazine-esque. Prescient because all the non-tyrannosaurid coelurosaurs are thickly plumaged.
Quoting Holtz (See GSPaul's "The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs"): "In the 1970s through the mid-1980s, there was some debate among paleontologists over whether dinosaurs should be considered reptiles. That debate did not concern a difference of opinion as to the position of dinosaurs in the family tree of vertebrates. It instead centered on the debate over dinosaurs' physiology: Were dinosaurs cold-blooded, like "reptiles" (as the term was used then) or were they warm-blooded, like their descendants the birds? To most paleontologists today, dinosaurs are considered a type of reptile, and birds are considered a type of reptile. This shift has occurred because of the way biologists use their formal taxonomic names...Once scientists accepted that monophyletic groups would be the only type used in taxonomy, the debate whether dinosaurs were reptiles was over. The name Reptilia now applies to a particular branch of the family tree of the vertebrates, not to some general "grade" of development (that is, cold-blooded terrestrial vertebrates with a shelled egg). Since dinosaurs are part of that branch, whether they were cold-blooded or warmblooded is not a consideration in their classification: they are reptiles."


1 of the worst edutainment adaptations ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R1SNCFJECE6XS1/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 2/5

As you may remember, I said that "The Magic School Bus" show isn't the worst edutainment adaptation (
http://www.amazon.com/review/R1A9PA105I2590/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B007I1Q4RM&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=2625373011&store=movies-tv ). That's because "The Magic School Bus Scholastic Reader Level 2" books based on the show are even worse. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think Schwabacher's "The Magic School Bus Flies with the Dinosaurs" (henceforth Magic) in particular is that bad.

1) Magic's text is lacking in both quantity & quality. This is especially apparent in the reports: For 1 (in reference to quantity), there's only 1 report for every 5 pages of Magic; Compare that to the 1 report for every 2 pages of Cole's "The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs"; For another (in reference to quality), compare the Schwabacher quote to the Cole quote; The former is basically a dumbed down version of the latter.

2) Magic's reconstructions are shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions, just plain outdated/abominable, or some combination of both. This is especially apparent in the T.rex & the Sinornithosaurus: Not only is the former based on Osborn's T.rex from 1916 ( http://dino.lindahall.org/osb1916b.shtml ), but its face looks like Jeff the Killer's face;* Not only is the latter a shameless rip-off, but it's a shameless rip-off of Groves' abominable model of Sinornithosaurus (See the cover of Sloan's "How Dinosaurs Took Flight: The Fossils, the Science, What We Think We Know, and Mysteries Yet Unsolved").

To sum up, I recommend reading Cole's "The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs" in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs"). All the non-Cole "Magic School Bus" books (especially those about dinos) should be avoided.

*If you google "Jeff the Killer", don't do it at night.
Quoting Schwabacher: "THE STORY OF FOSSILS by Arnold
After millions of years, the ashes turned to rock. The dinosaur bones turned to rock, too. Now they are called fossils. People find the fossils and learn about dinosaurs."
Quoting Cole: "HOW A DEAD DINOSAUR COULD BECOME A FOSSIL by Carmen
1. The dead body sank in a river, and rotted away.
2. The bones were covered with sand.
3. In time, the sand turned into rocks.
4. The bones became hard as rock, too."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My 11th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7533710-dinosaurs ). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 6th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/11/my-6th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 7th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-7th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 8th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/03/my-8th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 9th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/05/my-9th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 10th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/06/my-10th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


The best popular baby dino books, part 2 ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R37BBMEAJ1NL8M/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 5/5

Short version: As far as I know, there aren't any popular adult books about baby dinos (book chapters, yes, but not whole books). Therefore, Zoehfeld's "Dinosaur Parents, Dinosaur Young: Uncovering the Mystery of Dinosaur Families" (henceforth Parents) is 1) the best baby dino book for older kids, & 2) 1 of the best popular baby dino books period. I recommend reading Parents in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs").

Long version: Read on.

Many popular baby dino books are OK, but not great. There are 3 main reasons for why I think that is: 1) They're mixed bags in terms of paleoart (Quoting Miller: "I bought the book expecting a more technical discussion of the animals discussed therein...but was surprised to find beautiful paintings of questionably-restored dinosaurs"); 2) They're confusing messes in terms of organization; 3) They fail to cover many baby dino-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, they simplify things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, they're just plain wrong). In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think Parents succeeds where said books fail.

1) Like a Bakker book, Parents is very well-illustrated:* Shillinglaw should illustrate more dino books; He's that good (E.g. See the very cute Hypacrosaurus on the back cover); You could say that he's the new McLoughlin with Parents basically being a more family-friendly version of "Archosauria: A New Look at the Old Dinosaur" (Google "Let's read _The Archosauria_!" for what I mean). My only gripe is that Shillinglaw didn't do both the black-&-white & full-color illustrations. Instead, Carrick did the full-color illustrations, & he's not that good (E.g. See the very derpy Maiasaura on the front cover).

2) Like a Bakker book, Parents is very well-organized: Chapters 1-6 begin with 1) a day-in-the-life story of an Oviraptor father, & 2) the history of dino science from the 1840s to the 1970s, continue with descriptions of "how scientists are continu-ally making new discoveries and drawing new conclusions about what life was like for dinosaurs and their young", & end with the unsolved mysteries of "tyrannosaurs, stegosaurs, and the hundreds of other types of dinosaurs"; Said descriptions are arranged in roughly chronological order (I.e. 1st Maiasaura, then Hypacrosaurus, Drinker, & Troodon, & then Apatosaurus & Saltasaurus).

3) Like a Bakker book, Parents is very complete & in-depth: For 1 (in reference to "complete"), using Holtz's "Dinosaurs" as a guide, Parents features representatives of 15 different dino groups; Compare that to the 6 different dino groups of Judge's "Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World"; For another (in reference to "in-depth"), see the Zoehfeld quote; Parents does more in 2 pages than Judge's book does in 4 pages. Chapter 4 is an especially good example of the latter because of the Orodromeus & Troodon story (I.e. "Another Mistake", which is often not told accurately in popular dino books; Google "Dino Data Adapted from Dino Data Activity" for more info).

*Parents isn't a Bakker book per se, but it might as well be. The Bakker quote on the back cover sums up what I mean.
Quoting Zoehfeld: "In 1986, in northern Montana, Dr. Horner discovered nests, eggs, embryos, and babies of another duckbill dinosaur, a crested lambeosaur called Hypacrosaurus...Dr. Horner and his crew found a large Hypacrosaurus nesting site, where a herd of a thousand or more must have returned each year to lay their eggs.
Early one nesting season, when the babies had just begun to hatch, the adults may have noticed the sky growing dark. Thick clouds of soot and ash spewed forth from volcanoes erupting just to the south of them. When hot cinders and ash began to rain down, the leaders of the herd may have used the echo chambers in their hollow nasal crests to sound a basso alarm call. They urged the mothers to abandon their nests and head north and east, away from the deadly downpour.
Today the entire nesting ground is covered by a layer of solidified volcanic sediment called bentonite, which "froze" the scene almost as it.
Not long after this discovery, Dr. Horner discovered another Hypacrosaurus rookery south of the first one. In Alberta, Canada, just north of the Montana border, Wendy Sloboda, then a high school student, discovered yet another.
Were the Hypacrosaurus helpless and nest-bound as tots, as the Maiasaura most certainly were? From the locations of the baby bones found around the rookeries, it is still not clear. But Dr. Horner thinks they must have been relatively helpless, like certain types of altricial birds, such as the American white pelican.These birds are nest-bound for only a short time, but for up to three months the youngsters stay together in the nesting colony, where the adults can bring them food and look after them.
Close study of the Hypacrosaurus babies' leg bones shows that they were made up of more calcified cartilage and less solid bone than would be expected in a precocial animal. Although there's no evidence that the little ones were completely nest-bound, they did stay within the confines of their nesting ground the way pelicans do today."


Disappointing ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R22TDN8NHQBXK4/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 2/5

Short version: If you want the best summary of the geologic history & evolution of dinos for kids, get Bakker's "The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs". Benton's "Dinosaurs: Living Monsters of the Past" (henceforth Past) looks good, but has no heart.

Long version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. I originally thought that Past was going to be the exception, mostly because of the beautiful paleoart (which is mostly that of Sibbick & Krb). Boy, was I wrong about Past!* Not only is Past as bad as expected overall, but worse in some ways. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think Past is that bad.

1) As expected, the text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. What wasn't expected was the high number & degree of misses in the text. That of Chapter 3 is some of the worst: On page 28, it's claimed that Huayangosaurus was "found in the 1970s" (More like 1982), that Kentrosaurus was "only 2.5 metres…long" (More like 5 m long), that Stegosaurus "was 6 to 7 metres…long" (More like 9 m long), & that "the snout [of Huayangosaurus] is long" (It isn't); It's also worth mentioning that, on page 29, Benton misidentifies Kentrosaurus as Dacentrurus & vice versa despite having correctly identified Kentrosaurus on page 28.

2) As expected, the writing is annoyingly repetitive (E.g. Ornithopod chewing is described over & over again) & inconsistent (E.g. Chapter 2 begins with climate, flora, & fauna; Chapter 3 begins with climate & flora; Chapter 4 begins with climate & fauna; Chapter 5 begins with none). What wasn't expected was the plain toast-dryness of the writing. That of Chapter 1 (See the Benton quote) is some of the worst: On page 4, Benton takes 2 major theories of geology & biology (I.e. Radioactive decay & evolution, respectively) & makes them boring & meaningless (I.e. He defines them as "change, over time" & "change through time", respectively); That's when I realized that I was wrong about Past.

To sum up, Bakker put it best when he said, "We dino-scientists have a great responsibility: our subject matter attracts kids better than any other, except rocket-science" ( http://scienceblogs.com/laelaps/2008/04/07/paleontological-profiles-rober/ ). Past doesn't fulfill said responsibility.

*If you get the reference, give yourself a pat on the back.
Quoting Benton: "Dinosaurs lived on Earth long ago, during the Mesozoic Era, which is often known as the 'Age of the Dinosaurs'.The dinosaurs lived for 160 million years, eventually dying out 65 million years ago, long before the origin of humans 5 million years ago.
These vast amounts of time, measured in millions of years, have been based upon studies of rocks by geologists. Long ago, geologists realised that the Earth was very ancient, and that vast thicknesses of rocks have been deposited, with the oldest layers generally at the bottom of the pile. Exact ages of the rocks are found out by studies of rocks that have natural radioactivity. Radioactive elements are not stable, and they decay, or change, over time into other elements. The rates of decay are known, and it is possible to estimate the exact age of a rock sample by comparing the amount of a radioactive element left and the amount of the end product.
Fossils are also used in dating, and they can give quick and accurate age estimates, but not in millions of years. Fossils are the remains of once-living plants and animals which have been preserved in the rock. There is a very rich fossil record in the rocks, thousands of species having been preserved through the past 3,500 million years. The fossils give evidence for change through time, or evolution. Different groups come and go at specific times, and rocks of any particular age may contain specific fossils that are never found in rocks of any other age.
Fossil evidence, and exact age dating, form the basis of the geological time scale, an international standard. Time is divided into Eons, Eras, and Periods, and these may be further divided up into smaller units. This is a useful reference for geologists in all countries, and it is the time scale that is used to calibrate the evolution of life. The dinosaurs arose in the Late Triassic Period, ruled the Earth during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, and died out at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary."

Friday, August 28, 2015

I "made" it :P

This is old news, but I'm trying to motivate myself to get back into palaeo-art a bit (since my departure I've started a minorly successful board game art gig).

The Enchodus fish I built for the Dan Varner tribute Gallery was picked up by the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover for display in their gallery.

.
So I guess this makes me a true palaeo-artist :P

That is all. Hope to have a new project to share soon.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My 1st dino-related career activity!


As you may remember, the old plan was "to use my experience at Eastern National Boston to get a similar job at a natural history institution" ( http://jd-man.deviantart.com/journal/Career-activity-update-423069942 ). Apparently it worked, b/c as of this past March, I'm an Admissions and Membership Associate at the Franklin Park Zoo ( http://www.zoonewengland.org/franklin-park-zoo ). I wanted to tell you right then, but decided to wait until after my 1st Employee Performance Evaluation just to be safe. This job is very important to me for 2 main reasons: 1) It's at a dino museum (not in the traditional sense, but a dino museum nonetheless) & thus my most career-related job yet;* 2) I have cool new responsibilities (E.g. Selling both tickets & memberships). The new plan is to use my experience at the Franklin Park Zoo to get a similar job at a dino museum in Seattle ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-jurassic-world-movie-and-challenge.html ). Once I've settled down at said museum, I'll start volunteering there as a natural history interpreter.

*By "traditional", I mean "non-bird".

P.S. To celebrate my 1st Employee Performance Evaluation, I bought an alligator magnet (which looks like this, but w/"Stone Zoo" instead of "Everglades National Park": http://www.evergladesassociation.org/mm5/graphics/00000001/2280.jpg ). Isn't it beautiful?

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Jurassic World Movie and Challenge


I saw "Jurassic World" (Vincent's "Jurassic World review: not your father's de-extinction theme park" sums up my opinion of the movie: http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2015/06/marcs-jurassic-world-review-not-your.html ) & took the "Jurassic World Challenge" ( http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-jurassic-world-challenge.html ). At 1st I was like, "There are many paleo researchers & independent paleoartists. How [am I] to decide which ones to give $ to?", but then Orr was like, "if you have trouble choosing, I'd choose a place that is close to you, or simply choose to buy a piece of artwork from a favorite artist", so I did: 1st, I bought Willoughby's "Tea Raptor Mug" for $22.94 (See "Merchandise" under "Store": http://emilywilloughby.com ), mostly b/c I thought it'd go nicely w/my "Dakin Jurassic Park Mug" ( https://www.storeslider.com/dakin-jurassic-park-mug-1992-official-dinosaur-universal-351400160310e.html ); Then, I donated $22.94 to the BMNHC's "Dinosaur Endowment" (See "Support a Division" under "Give": http://www.burkemuseum.org ), mostly b/c I wanted to commit to eventually moving to Seattle. In short, I recommend that everyone sees the movie & takes the challenge (especially if you like dinos or science or have ever seen "Jurassic Park").

P.S. Just in case you were wondering, my ticket price was $12.75.

Monday, June 8, 2015

My 10th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a very good book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 6th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/11/my-6th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 7th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-7th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 8th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/03/my-8th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 9th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/05/my-9th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


MUCH better than I expected ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R3INFL96O3PWAS/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=068807748X&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 4/5

I originally wasn't planning on reviewing any T.rex books, mostly because T.rex is the most overexposed & overstudied dino. However, I got a request from Richard Levine on the "Jurassic Park Legacy Forums" to review Sattler's "Tyrannosaurus Rex and Its Kin: The Mesozoic Monsters" (henceforth Kin) & realized that I had never read it before. As it turned out, Kin was MUCH better than I expected: For 1, it's very well-illustrated (I.e. Powzyk's watercolors are easy on the eyes); For another, it's very well-organized, beginning with T.rex 65 MYA & ending with Dilophosaurus 200 MYA; For yet another, it's very complete & in-depth (I.e. Not only does it cover every carnosaur genus then known, but also everything then known about them).* It helps that Sattler is very well-read, as indicated by the bibliography.

At this point, you may be wondering why only 4/5 stars? For 1, to paraphrase Witton ( http://markwitton-com.blogspot.com/2014/09/hey-dreadnoughtus-not-so-close.html ), Powzyk "fills every possible square inch with [her] animals to the point of using extreme postures...particularly arching backs and curving tails...to do so". For another, it's claimed that Kin is an "authoritative account of the most powerful predators that ever lived" on the 1st inside flap despite the fact that Sattler is neither an expert nor even a collaborator with experts. Otherwise, Kin was very good for a pre-"Jurassic Park" children's dino book.** I recommend reading Kin in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs").

*All large theropods were then grouped together as carnosaurs.

**To quote Albertonykus (per. comm.), "the first Jurassic Park film is a good starting point for a popular depiction of prehistoric animals involving a decent amount of then-current science."


The worst dino field guide ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1BHCV2E970BGY/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1849160066&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 1/5

Short version: If you want the best dino field guide for casual readers, get Holtz/Brett-Surman's "Jurassic World Dinosaur Field Guide". Despite its sub-title (I.e. "The Ultimate Dinosaur Encyclopedia"), Brusatte's "Field Guide to Dinosaurs" (henceforth Field) was never the best or even just decent in its own right. In fact, it may be the worst paleontologist-authored popular dino book I've ever read.

Long version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. To quote Reed J. Richmond, Field "is a slimmed down version of the huge coffee table book that Brusatte did earlier (titled "Dinosaurs")". In this review, I list the 3 major differences between Brusatte's books.

1) Again, to quote Reed J. Richmond, Field "is just a chopped up version of the illustrations from" Dinosaurs. The only major difference is that Field's cover is a shameless rip-off of the "Jurassic Park" T.rex.

2) Like Dinosaurs' text, Field's is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. In fact, Field's is even worse: For 1, not only does it make the same mistakes as Dinosaurs', but also comes up with new ones based on pure speculation; For another, not only is the speculation nonsensical, but also contradictory to what we know. This is especially apparent in the dino profiles because the misses stick out more with less text. That of the Protoceratops profile is some of the worst: On page 130, Protoceratops is described as being "about the size of a sheep and just as meek"; Also, on page 131, it's claimed that "Protoceratops can swipe at a predator with its cheek horns, but otherwise lacks specific weapons". When I 1st read that, all I could think was "BS": For 1 (in reference to "on page 130"), some herbivores (E.g. Suids) are both sheep-sized & aggressive; For another (in reference to "also"), even if the "Fighting Dinosaurs" specimen hadn't already proven it, the armored head & sharp beak were still obvious weapons. & if that's not bad enough, Protoceratops has a "Potential Risk" rating of 1/5, while Microraptor has a 3/5 (which is like saying that a chicken is more dangerous than a wild boar).

3) Like Dinosaurs' writing, Field's is annoyingly hyperbolic (E.g. See the 1st Brusatte quote) & repetitive (E.g. The word "terror" is used at least once in 16 out of 35 non-bird theropod profiles). In fact, Field's is even worse: For 1, it's annoyingly insulting (E.g. See the 2nd Brusatte quote); For another, it's annoyingly generic (E.g. Compare the 3rd Brusatte quote to the 4th 1).
Quoting Brusatte: "The colorful skull crest of Cryolophosaurus is a signal of doom to local plant-eating dinosaurs. For many prosauropods, this fan-like sheet above the nostrils is the last thing they will see before feeling the slicing jaws of death." 
Quoting Brusatte: "An alternative way of viewing dinosaurs from our time machine is through a high-tech periscope with a lens so powerful that you can see the pores in a creature's skin, the evil glint in its eyes and the salivating jaws ever ready to snap up prey. Big bad wolves seem tame by comparison." 
Quoting Brusatte: "Dromaeosaurus is the prime member of the dromaeosaurid group of theropods, commonly known as 'raptors'. Dromaeosaurus is only slightly larger than a large dog, and comes up just to hip- or chest-level on a man. However, by hunting in packs, Dromaeosaurus can subdue animals much larger than itself. Usually, a team of dromaeosaurs will stalk, surround, then leap onto the flanks of its prey." 
Quoting Brusatte: "Velociraptor is the cleverest and most cunning of all the dinosaurs. Although only slightly bigger than a large dog, Velociraptor uses its keen senses and pack-hunting abilities to overcome prey ten times bigger than itself."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My 9th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 6th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/11/my-6th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 7th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-7th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 8th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/03/my-8th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


The best popular baby dino books, part 1 ( http://www.amazon.com/review/RGGG87Q9W2PHE/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0375863303&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 5/5

Short version: As far as I know, there aren't any popular adult books about baby dinos (book chapters, yes, but not whole books). Therefore, Bakker's "Dino Babies!" (henceforth DB) is 1) the best baby dino book for younger kids, & 2) 1 of the best popular baby dino books period.

Long version: Read on.

Many popular baby dino books are OK, but not great. There are 3 main reasons for why I think that is: 1) They're mixed bags in terms of paleoart (Quoting Miller: "I bought the book expecting a more technical discussion of the animals discussed therein...but was surprised to find beautiful paintings of questionably-restored dinosaurs"); 2) They're confusing messes in terms of organization; 3) They fail to cover many baby dino-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, they simplify things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, they're just plain wrong). In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think DB succeeds where said books fail.

1) As expected for a Bakker book, DB is very well-illustrated: Rey's digital paleoart, while overall not as good as his traditional paleoart, is still some of the best paleoart around;* In fact, in some ways, it's even better; Rey's "Now... And Then..." is an especially good example of how surreal (To paraphrase Sereno, "no one paints skies or body patterns like [Rey]") & symbolic (Quoting Rey: "This was meant to be directed as thought provoking piece for those that are still surprised that birds are dinosaurs. After all, a great way to induce change is with analogies") his digital paleoart can be.**

2) As expected for a Bakker book, DB is very well-organized: Pages 1-23 begin with a question ("Were dinosaurs good parents?"), continue with descriptions of 1) the ways in which living animals care for their young, & 2) the ways in which dinos did so, & end with a reminder ("Modern-day birds are descendants of raptors. When you watch a mom or dad eagle feeding its babies, you are seeing a living Deinonychus!"); Said descriptions are arranged in roughly chronological order (I.e. 1st Jurassic dinos, then Cretaceous dinos).

3) As expected for a Bakker book, DB is very complete & concise: For 1 (in reference to "complete"), using Holtz's "Dinosaurs" as a guide, DB features representatives of 9 different dino groups; Compare that to the 6 different dino groups of Judge's "Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World"; For another (in reference to "concise"), see the Bakker quote; DB does in 2 pages what takes Judge's book 4 pages to do. Pages 21-22 are an especially good example of the former because of the brooding Deinonychus specimen (I.e. AMNH 3015, which is often not mentioned in popular dino books; Google "A possible egg of the dromaeosaur Deinonychus antirrhopus" for more info). My only gripe is the lack of early dinos.

*Don't take my word for it, though. Google "2008 (Lanzendorf PaleoArt Prize) Luis V. Rey" & see for yourself.

**Google "luisvrey.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/now-and-then/".
Quoting Bakker: "Today, ostrich dads are great babysitters. They'll guard up to forty chicks at once.
Psittacosaurus...was a dinosaur babysitter. The adult was the size of a big chicken. Three dozen baby Psittacosaurus were found in Mongolia, all crowded crowded around just one adult. Maybe it was Mom. Maybe it was Dad. Either way, he or she had a tough job!
Psittacosaurus ate leaves, roots, and bugs. And lots of plants and bugs are poisonous. The babies probably watched what Mom or Dad ate. That way, they learned what to eat and what to avoid."


Not nearly as good as they say ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R18YGR52KZVM9N/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0753452871&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 2/5

Short version: If you want the best encyclopedic dino book for casual readers, get Holtz's "Dinosaurs". Despite the other Amazon Reviews, Burnie's "The Kingfisher Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia" (henceforth Kingfisher) was never the best or even just decent in its own right.

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction dino books that either don't get enough praise for being good or don't get enough criticism for being bad. What's interesting about Kingfisher is that it got praised for things that other books got criticized for. There's a lot I could criticize about Kingfisher, but for the purposes of this review, I'll focus on the 3 major things that it got praised for.*

1) The other Amazon Reviewers praised Kingfisher for the seemingly-chronological order (E.g. "[Kingfisher] is arranged in a chronological order giving copious attention to dinosaur habits and habitats"). In actuality, the dino-related chapters are arranged in no particular order (See pages 71-168 for what I mean: https://www.buffalolib.org/vufind/Record/1267157/Reviews ).

2) The other Amazon Reviewers praised Kingfisher for the seemingly-up-to-date info (E.g. "I found this book to be up-to-date on a lot of information and is and outstanding guide to dinosaur life and times"). In actuality, there's up to 1 factual error per page in Kingfisher, a 224 page book (See SpongeBobFossilPants's "Things I Learnt From A 2001 Encyclopedia: Redux" for all the dino-related examples: http://spongebobfossilpants.deviantart.com/journal/Things-I-Learnt-From-A-2001-Encyclopedia-Redux-477340371 ).

3) The other Amazon Reviewers praised Kingfisher for the seemingly-accurate illustrations (E.g. "All the illustrations are accurate unlike "Dinosaurus" by Parker and Gee's "A Field Guide to Dinosaurs". Only Raul Martin's illustrations in "National Geographic Dinosaur" are of equal quality"). In actuality, those by Sibbick are outdated to varying degrees, while those by various illustrators are shameless rip-offs of more famous illustrations (E.g. All the dinos on pages 98-99 are shameless rip-offs of Sibbick's "Normanpedia" illustrations), just plain abominable (E.g. See the cover, which looks more like an "American Godzilla Puppet" than any known dino), or some combination of both (E.g. The Barosaurus on pages 80-81 is both a shameless rip-off of Sibbick's Ultrasauros on pages 82-83 & a "freaky giraffoid").**

*I'm specifically referring to the facts that 1) less than half of this so-called "Dinosaur Encyclopedia" (I.e. 98 pages out of 224) is about dinos, & 2) it's claimed that it's "undoubtedly the most authoritative...guide to the world of these amazing creatures" on the 1st inside flap despite the fact that Burnie is neither an expert nor even a collaborator with experts.

**Google "Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs" & "The freaky giraffoid Barosaurus meme" for "Normanpedia" & "freaky giraffoid", respectively.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My 8th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 6th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/11/my-6th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 7th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/12/my-7th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


The best day-in-the-life dino books ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R16K64LXYBME69/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0375823042&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 5/5

Short version: If I was going to build the perfect children's dino book, I'd build a Bakker book. If I was going to build the perfect Bakker book, I'd build a Step-into-Reading book because it's just the right blend of education & entertainment. In other words, Bakker's Step-into-Reading books are to children's dino books what "Wild Kratts" is to science/nature edutainment shows (
http://www.amazon.com/review/R2YG8ZL43RYDFO/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00652U6WE&nodeID=2625373011&store=movies-tv ).

Long version: Read on.

Growing up, my favorite children's dino books were day-in-the-life dino books because, when they're done right, they give the best idea of 1) what dinos were like when alive, & 2) how we know what we know. Of all the day-in-the-life dino books I've read, Bakker's Step-into-Reading books ("Raptor Pack", "Maximum Triceratops", & "Dactyls! Dragons of the Air") are by far the best.* In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is while using "Maximum Triceratops" (henceforth MT) as an example.

1) The 1st part of a day-in-the-life dino book usually tells a day-in-the-life story of a dino. 1 of the major problems I have with many day-in-the-life dino books is that their stories are poorly-written/illustrated. To quote Bryner ( http://news.yahoo.com/paleo-artists-breathe-life-color-dinosaurs-114332358.html ), Bakker "transformed dinosaur paleontology and reconstruction, calling it a Dinosaur Renaissance": In MT, Chapter 1 tells a day-in-the-life story of a T.maximus & its encounter with a T.rex; What's awesome about this is 1) Rey's traditional paleoart (which is especially good at showing how active & colorful dinos were when alive), & 2) the tension & suspense ("which is allowed to slowly build to a truly upsetting climax");** This reminds me of Tippet's "Prehistoric Beast", but with the roles of attacker & attacked reversed. As far as I know, the only other day-in-the-life story that's as well-written/illustrated is in an adult dino book authored by 2 experts.***

2) The 2nd part of a day-in-the-life dino book usually explains the science behind the story. 1 of the major problems I have with many day-in-the-life dino books is that they concentrate on the story with only limited emphasis on the science (which doesn't make sense to me given how much science there is behind a given story). It'd be like "The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition — Blu-ray" having 26 hours of film & only 11 hours of bonus material ( http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/dvd/2011-06-30-lord-of-the-rings-dvd-extra_n.htm ). To paraphrase Switek ( http://scienceblogs.com/laelaps/2008/04/07/paleontological-profiles-rober/ ), Bakker isn't only "a working paleontologist", but also 1 of the most "effective popularizers of science": In MT, Chapters 2-9 begin with the discovery of T.maximus & the controversy surrounding it, continue with the head anatomy, infrasound, locomotion, habitat, & social behavior of Triceratops, & end with the unsolved mysteries of T.maximus & its mammalian competitors; The middle chapters are especially good at showing how we know what we know, explaining the scientific method without dumbing down; This reminds me of the "Dinosaur Train" series, but for older kids.

*I'm including "Dactyls! Dragons of the Air" because, while pterosaurs aren't dinos, the story takes place in the Mesozoic Era (I.e. The Age of Dinosaurs) & there are dinos in it.

**Google "WABI SABI FOR ROBOTS: Phil Tippet's Prehistoric Beast."

***See Chapter 3 of Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs".


1 of the worst dino docs in book form ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R2FFY9S77ANRTK/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0810957981&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 1/5

Short version: Johnson's "Dino Wars: Discover the Deadliest Dinosaurs, Bloodiest Battles, and Super Survival Strategies of the Prehistoric World" (henceforth Wars) is basically "Jurassic Fight Club" (henceforth JFC) in book form, but worse.

Long version: Read on.

JFC is 1 of the worst dino docs. TyrantisTerror's "Jurassic Fight Club Formula" ( http://tyrantisterror.deviantart.com/art/Jurassic-Fight-Club-Formula-136354754 ) & Albertonykus' "Paleogene Fight Club" ( http://albertonykus.deviantart.com/art/Paleogene-Fight-Club-188556839 ) sum up why. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think Wars is either similarly bad or worse.

1) Like JFC's narration, Wars' writing is mostly hyperbole (E.g. See the Johnson quote).

2) Like JFC's transcript, Wars' text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. This is especially apparent in the dino profiles because the misses stick out more with less text. That of the Triceratops profile is some of the worst: On pages 128-129, it's claimed that Triceratops had "heavy, pillarlike legs" (It didn't), that it "was too heavy to rear up on two legs" (It wasn't), that it coexisted with Albertosaurus (It didn't), & that a tyrannosaur's "best chance was to attack a Triceratops that was already wounded after a battle with a rival male in the breeding season" (as opposed to a young, old, sick, or disabled Triceratops); It's also worth mentioning that Johnson is bad at converting to metric (E.g. 7 inches =/= 20 cm).

3) Like JFC's reconstructions, Wars' are mostly not-so-good. Those by Kirk (which are outdated to varying degrees) are as good as it gets in Wars, while those by Dogi ( https://www.behance.net/gallery/991837/Dino-Wars ) are as bad as it gets. The latter are shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions (E.g. The Deinonychus is a shameless rip-off of Rey's Eotyrannus), just plain abominable (E.g. The Gallimimus looks like a demented muppet with teeth), or some combination of both (E.g. See the front cover; There's a shameless rip-off of Kokoro's T.rex with 3-fingered, Alf-like hands & a shameless rip-off of Hallett's Triceratops with 4-fingered, roly-poly hands).

4) As silly & stupid as JFC's premise is (Quoting Jura: "Imagine all 4.6 billion years of prehistory as being one planet wide cage match somewhat akin to Primal Rage. Each week two animals...are pitted against one another"), Wars' is even worse. See "Review update #16 (It's a big 1)!" for how: http://jd-man.deviantart.com/journal/Review-update-16-It-s-a-big-1-520566226
Quoting Johnson: "One of the most ferocious killers the world has ever known, Tyrannosaurus was king of the Cretaceous. Its name means "tyrant lizard" and was richly deserved. This bloodthirsty monster terrorized virtually all other animals of the time."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nikos Paraskevakis' latest work

Our good friend Nikos Paraskevakis has sent in his latest creation. He has this to say:

Greetings to all dinofans! i am a paleoartist from Greece and i like to create models of various prehistoric animals including dinosaurs, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish etc. I post my work here, in order to contact other paleoartists and discuss new models and ideas. My email is nikpar70@yahoo.gr.








Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My 7th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a very good book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/walking-with-dinosaurs-mike-benton/1113109118?ean=9780789471680 ). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html ).
-"My 4th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/08/as-art-evolved-member-i-post-pair-of-my.html ).
-"My 5th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/10/my-5th-pair-of-reviews.html ).
-"My 6th Pair of Reviews" ( http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/11/my-6th-pair-of-reviews.html ).


The best adult WWD book ( http://www.amazon.com/review/R1NXSYJDL0LBHM/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0563537434&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 4/5

Short version: If you want the best adult WWD book, get Martill/Naish's "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?" (henceforth Evidence).* I recommend reading Evidence in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs").

Long version: Read on.

As far as I know, there are 3 adult WWD books: The 1st 1 is Haines' "Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History", a decent natural history of dinos with a chronological format; The 2nd 1 is Benton's "Walking With Dinosaurs: Fascinating Facts", a bad natural history of dinos with a Q&A format; The 3rd & last 1 is Evidence. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think Evidence is the best 1.

1) Evidence does the same things as the other adult WWD books, but better:
-Like the 1st 1, Evidence has a chronological format with each chapter focusing on a different Mesozoic site (1 Late Triassic, 2 Late Jurassic, 2 Early Cretaceous, & 1 Late Cretaceous). Unlike the 1st 1, each chapter shows how we know what we know.
-Like the 2nd 1, Evidence has a Q&A format with each chapter divided into sections & each section having a sub-title (which is often a question). Unlike the 2nd 1, the questions are precise, the answers are concise, & the Q&As are good.

2) Evidence does things that the other adult WWD books don't:
-On the 1 hand, the 1st 1 "is transcribed natural history documentary...I don't know if it's actually the script from the TV programmes, but it's very similar in flavour if not detail. This means that it shares the programmes' fatal weakness that you can't tell what's fact, what's pure speculation and what's in between" ( http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/dino/books/#gsc.tab=0 ). On the other hand, Evidence "admirably [fills] this gap" ( http://paleoaerie.org/recommended/ ).
-On the 1 hand, the 2nd 1 has almost nothing to do with WWD (There's a bit about the making of WWD in Chapter 2 & a series of color plates; That's about it). On the other hand, Evidence has everything to do with WWD ("Bringing these animals back to life for [WWD] relied on two primary sources of information...In this book we explore this information to show the scientific methodology behind the scenes of [WWD]").

At this point, you may be wondering why only 4/5 stars? For 1, "some of the animals, such as the Tyrannosaurus, were highly inaccurate" (See DK's "Ask Me Everything"). For another, there are several weird bits throughout WWD that pass without comment (E.g. The Diplodocus ovipositor). 2 more things of note: 1) Holtz's "Dinosaurs" gives the best idea of what we've learned since WWD (E.g. Compare the Martill/Naish quote to the Holtz quote); 2) Haines/Chambers' "The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life" does not (I.e. It either makes the same mistakes as WWD or comes up with new ones).

*WWD = "Walking with Dinosaurs".
Quoting Martill/Naish: "While it is by no means impossible that Deinonychus and other dromaeosaurs did cooperate and hunt like this, other possibilities exist. Perhaps the dromaeosaurs exhibited mobbing behaviour...that is, they they did not live together permanently (like truly social animals, such as wolves and lions) but simply cooperated when prey was available. Some predatory lizards, crocodiles and birds still do this today. True pack behaviour for Deinonychus seems unlikely if it means that they routinely attacked an animal that usually ended up killing several of the pack members!"
Quoting Holtz: "If a pack of wolves or a pride of lions loses a couple of members during an attack, the group may become too weak to hunt effectively. But dinosaurs were not mammals. Because each adult female could lay a dozen or more eggs every year, they could replenish their numbers more easily than mammals. So a raptor pack could lose more hunters every year than a lion pride and still be successful."


The worst adult WWD book ( http://www.amazon.com/review/RA7SEUWSUPTX1/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=078947168X&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books ): 2/5

Short version: If you want the best natural history of dinos, get Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs". If you want the best dino Q&A book, get Norell et al.'s "Discovering Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Lessons of Prehistory, Expanded and Updated". If you want the best adult WWD book, get Martill/Naish's "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?".* Benton's "Walking With Dinosaurs: Fascinating Facts" (henceforth Facts) fails at being any of these or even just decent in its own right.

Long version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. In my previous review, I referred to Martill/Naish's "Walking with Dinosaurs: The Evidence - How Did They Know That?" as the best adult WWD book. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think Facts is the worst adult WWD book, among other things.

1) There are several weird bits throughout Facts, including illustrations that are tracings of famous reconstructions (E.g. GSPaul's "Tarbosaurus and Therizinosaurus" & Skrepnick's "Caudipteryx zoui" in Chapter 8 & 9, respectively) & captions that misidentify said reconstructions (E.g. Tarbosaurus/Therizinosaurus/Caudipteryx are misidentified as Sinraptor/Alxasaurus/"a troodontid-like dinosaur", respectively).

2) It's claimed that Facts is a natural history of dinos in the Introduction ("In [Facts], you can read all the background details and discover how dinosaurs moved and fed, how they mated and looked after their young, how they fought and defended themselves, whether they were warm-blooded or not, what noises they might have made, and the latest thinking on why they died out"). Being well-organized is especially important to a natural history of dinos given that it's "designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals" ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Natural-History-Museum-Book-Dinosaurs/dp/184442183X ). The problem is that Facts is anything but: A decent natural history of dinos wouldn't wait until Chapter 9 to define dinos ("Throughout this book, we've been flinging around terms with abandon such as "theropod," "sauropod," "stegosaur" and the like. It's time now to establish clearly just what these groups were"); Also, it wouldn't take physiology & shoehorn it into the middle of a chapter about attack & defense (as in Chapter 8 of Facts).

3) It is not claimed that Facts is a dino Q&A book, but it is implied by the format (Each chapter is divided into sections; Each section has a sub-title, which is often a question). As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). The problem is that Facts does all that & MUCH more:
-Redundant questions? Check (E.g. "Wild and preposterous notions", "Unfettered speculation", & "Untestable nonsense" are the sub-titles of 3 back-to-back Q&As in Chapter 10)!
-Vague answers? Check (E.g. See the 1st Benton quote; Notice that it doesn't explain what it means by "some astonishing new specimens" nor how they "allowed paleo-ornithologists to fill lots of gaps in the evolutionary tree of birds")!
-Bad Q&As? Check times infinity (E.g. 1st, see the 2nd Benton quote; Then, google "Dinosauroids revisited, revisited" for why it's bad)!

4) Despite its title, Facts has almost nothing to do with WWD: There's a bit about the making of WWD in Chapter 2 & a series of color plates; That's about it.

*WWD = "Walking with Dinosaurs".
Quoting Benton: "Bird evolution after Archaeopteryx
Until 1990 very little was known about bird evolution during the bulk of the Cretaceous. Othniel Marsh had described in the 1880s some remarkable toothed birds from the Late Cretaceous of North America, Hesperornis and Ichthyornis. Only odd scraps of other birds had come to light before the appearance of modern birds at the very end of the Mesozoic, sixty-five million years ago. Then, some astonishing new specimens were announced, first four or five specimens from Spain, and then dozens from China...These new specimens were all exquisitely preserved, showing every bone, feathers, even beaks and claws. They allowed paleo-ornithologists to fill lots of gaps in the evolutionary tree of birds. Next time you see a sparrow twittering in the hedgerow, remember you are looking a cousin of Tyrannosaurus in the eye. And be very, very scared."
Quoting Benton: "Humanoid dinosaurs?
There is no doubt about the intelligence of the troodontids. Unlike all other dinosaurs, they have a bulbous braincase, more bird than reptile. In part, the brain was enlarged in the sensory regions: so troodontids had large eyes and a good sense of smell, as well as a good sense of hearing. But, it's been speculated, improved sense and pack hunting mean more actual intelligence. In 1982 the Canadian paleontologist Dale Russell speculated about what might have happened had the dinosaurs not died out 65 million years ago. Perhaps the troodontids would have inherited the earth, becoming ever more humanoid. He and sculptor R. Séguin created a model of a dinosaurian humanoid, based on the projected evolution of troodontids through another 65 million years. It has a bulbous cranium, large goggly eyes, and it walks upright without a balancing tail. Scary concept."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Jurassic World should be called Kaiju World

So like all other palaeo-geeks, I've found I've been sucked into the Jurassic World trailer, like a bystander witnessing a bus full of orphans crashing into a train full of TNT...

Now of course I'm... displeased... to understate it, by the lack of unfeathered, anatomically broken, boring retro dinosaurs. However that's kind of old none surprising news by this point, given the director's public statements from a while ago.

For me seeing the trailer held a single moment of giddy joy, when the Mosasaur leapt out of the water... Sadly it was short lived. (and no it wasn't due to the question: "how the hell did a mosquito bite a marine reptile?" though that too adds to the sheer stupidity of JP4)



I found the moment and the giddy sapped from me seconds after this exact scene played out (and the trailer went to the chasm of stupidity that was the hybrid threat). I realized the movie didn't need to invent a killer smart Dinosaur hybrid (or to quote Sealab "I took nature's perfect killing machine and needlessly turned it into a robot") to be scary.

They'd invented a movie worthy monster right here in this scene!

The reason being the meal for the Mosasaur.

The trailer goes out of its way to hammer in that's a Great White Shark. The trailer goes out of its way to emphasis this Mosasaur can swallow the Great White in one gulp (which at least is scientifically accurate...). The trailer goes out of its way to hammer all this at me, a rather avid Mosasaur fan... Triggering an amusing thought in my head.

Just how many Blue Whales big is this Mosasaur?














Now the answer wasn't that hard to sort out... However PLEASE NOTE, this was done in a tongue and cheek manner. I'm not claiming scientific accuracy or methodology. Why bother, the answer is so ridiculous (either way) it is a waste of time to try and do completely accurately. I'd rather myself and others spent their time on useful things ;)

 I quickly set up this diagram. Step 1 was to grab a full body shot of a Mosasaur (by myself) and scale it up so the head was the same size as the movie still. This gave me the whole Mosasaur. (and yeah I know his tail is not straight, again this was meant as a fast and loose demonstration of the absurdity on display, not a scientific paper).

Then I took the Shark and subbed a scaled diagram from wikipedia for simplicity, and measured out my full sized Mosasaur. Then going with a biggish size Great White at 6m I could measure out a Blue Whale and the largest known Mosasaurs (another reason I played fast and loose with the mosasaur diagram, is there is contention on the largest genus and specimens among Mosasaurs).

In conclusion I ended up with a Mosasaur that no matter what the size the adult shark is, gives me a marine reptile much much larger than a Blue Whale. That to me puts it into Kaiju size. I'd rather have seen this guy in Pacific Rim then a Jurassic Park film.

Here is a Mosasaur in a much better scale.

Taniwhasaurus with human. Taniwhasaurus by Craig Dylke
Driver photo by Unknown (I lost their name in a harddrive collapse... if you know let me know so I can reapply the credit ;) )