Chapter 14: dinosaurs, nice bloody creatures
If you want to know what this blog is about…
Love for Dinosaurs
Amazes me how kids are afraid of closet monsters, but love dinosaurs. And the bloodier the better. They like those big long-necked herbivores like Brontosaurus or Diplodocus, but they prefer the ones with spikes, horns and plaques like stegosaurus or triceratops. However, their favorites will be the carnivores, and the bigger the jaws, the better. They are not scared at all. They demand posters, toys, T-shirts… Nothing like a good old T-rex with some other poor creature hanging limp and bloody from their jaws. And they rejoice in that.
My kids love Jurassic Park. Nothing is explicitly shown, except for maybe Samuel L. Jackson’s arm and the guy that gets eaten in the toilet, but there is carnage all over the place. And my sons love it. If I change those dinosaurs for vampires, werewolves or zombies I know I will have them sleeping in my bed for days. But not with dinosaurs. Whomever they eat.
I think it’s got something to do with the fact they are extinct. They were big, actually they were huge, noisy cruel and bloody, and reigned for zillions of years, but they are gone. And our kids, small and fragile, are still here. Victory. I think this fact takes the edge of being small and bossed around all day long. Dinosaurs give kids a certain measure of vindication.
It probably has a lot to do also with how simple their life is presented. Eat without being eaten, run, fight, overcome and breed little dinosaurs. Nothing complex, no small print. Nothing boring.
Apart from these factors, there is the obvious fact that dinosaurs are just soooo cool. Even us, adults, love them. Next time you visit one of these museums with full size skeletons of these big fellows, look around. Anyone craning their neck to look at them will be smiling with more or less intensity. And so will you. And if you have no seen one, you are already late.
A very clear sign of this fascination is that Dino-documentaries are probably the only cultural show that will catch kids’ attention automatically. This is something we can use…
Dinosaurs are cool because they are spectacular and because paleontology is vanguard science. We have no problem seeing dinosaurs roaming, eating, fighting, living, dying in our mind’s eye. And all that world we picture has been recreated from stone, from fossils, from lots of tiny evidence, samples of plants, of pollen, bones, teeth, teeth in bone… The techniques used to determine these things are just fascinating and in constant evolution. New discoveries are published every year, new amazing creatures, new paradigms… from slow cold-blooded dumb creatures to fast, smart, hot-blooded ones, sometimes covered in feathers. The Velociraptors in Jurasic Park were rendered obsolete a long time ago (they were fake to begin with because that species was 2 ft tall). Spielberg made them bald.
Happens the same, maybe all the more so, with paleoanthropology, which I like better. It’s less spectacular for kids, unless you get them into the actual caves, and these are harder to come by. Changes in what we know of human evolution are also vertiginous. We thought we were the only smart ones, the rest dumb brutes. We now know Neanderthals (not Neardenthals, please) could speak just like us, were creative, imaginative and there was a certain coexistence between them and us. As a matter of fact, there are traces of Neanderthal DNA in some Europeans (considering Europeans the Sapiens that coexisted with Neanderthals). We are also beginning to see a pattern in cave paintings, a hidden mystic we will probably never totally decipher, but that takes their symbology far beyond painting animals you want to hunt. Lots of hand prints have been found. Their reduced size suggests they were made by women. Our cave artists and shamans might not have been men as we arbitrarily have always taken for granted. All we know changes with every discovery and all we know, from the first biped monkeys to our most recent ancestors, is based on fossil traces that can be packed in the back of a pickup truck. So much has been determined with so little. It happens so often: You see a documentary or read an article, where they state something and you think, “c’mon, you can’t know that”, then they explain how they reached that conclusion and you realize they can. They are masters at extracting information from the tiniest samples. Just fascinating. That is what I like of paleontology and paleoanthropology, I love the making of also.
So, there is a wonderful opening there. Dinosaurs are amazing. Big powerful, bloody, dead. Kids love them. They are mystified by them. Learning about dinosaurs, about how and where they lived, how we know what we know, and finding places to dig a little and find the odd fossil clam is quite within our reach. Besides, it is a very visual hobby. There are quite a few decent museums, lots of documentaries, and you can find affordable replicas of all sorts, from complete dinosaurs, skeletons or skulls teeth, claws, etc. You can collect, watch handle. There are lots of books full of pictures about dinosaurs, books with less pictures and then books with lots of text. A good path towards healthy reading habits, toward collecting and towards sharing quality time both indoors, outdoors and in museums. A wonderful fascinating world full of amazing questions with incredible answers that lead on to more questions.
I think dinosaurs are a wonderful way to get kids interested in life, in science, in the world of the ones who wonder and seek answers. And that is something I consider of great importance. You see, I do not distinguish as much between rich or poor, cultured or an-alphabet. I distinguish between curious and not. I know people who studied long careers, have big jobs and drive expensive cars who only talk about work and football. They studied because they wanted those big jobs and expensive cars. Once they got there, it was done. I know people who started working at 14, wonder at everything and wish they had the time and the basic education to learn more. You can talk with them about anything and they are wonderful listeners, speakers and readers. It is hard to keep me quiet, I am a talkative guy, but I love it when somebody starts speaking and renders me silent. These people are of my kind. The rest is not all that meaningful to me anymore and I do not write this blog for them. They get bored with a post longer than 200 words, no matter what they make or what they studied. If you got reading down here and you are not snoring, you are one of mine too. Pleased to meet you.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a great house and an expensive car, nothing against. It is just not a meaningful goal for me anymore. Cars, houses, all those things are a wonderful background, a great scenery for our lives, but we need to fill our lives with something else or they are just meaningless. You can have a rich pocket, but if you don’t also have a rich heart and a rich mind, your life will be gray.
So if you have kids, or are planning on having them one day, what will you want for them, to focus in football, fashion, and other people, to speak only about work and football and who said what to whom… or to wonder about everything, to enhance their curiosity and let them freely pick of the sphere of wonders that surrounds us but many ignore? If you are like me, if you prefer the second option, you can use dinosaurs to begin with.
About the Pictures
Both dinosaur skulls were shot in the same museum. They are single shots, one of a whole Tyrannosaurus, the other of the skull of a Giganotosaurus. I isolated the head from the background, which then I turned black to focus all attention on the different parts of the cranium. Then I tweaked the contrast and color saturation and added a slight fractal effect. I uploaded several versions of each, looking left and right, in vertical and horizontal formats, so they can be placed in any wall facing anywhere, as a pair or alone. The head of the T-rex with flesh and skin is just a fragment, not for sale.
More pictures like these in my Galleries about Prehistory and Fractals.
This pictures can be printed in photo paper, canvas, metal or acrylic surface from 8″ to 48″, or in greeting card format. You can check them by clicking the images above. I am all in for customizing pictures. All of them can be retouched in many ways, texts altered, changed or deleted. Ask freely.
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