Way back when, I was a paleo-critter junkie. I had dinosaur books, rubber dinosaurs (that I fed marbles), went to the state paleontology museum, and was always disappointed that it had no dinosaurs, just lots and lots and lots of mammals. The titanothere* in the corner always worried me just a little. Paleomammals just didn’t have the same cool factor, although Mom has a weak spot for saber-toothed cats and dire wolves. And she kinda likes the Glyptodon, because it is a really big armadillo. Amebelodons (“shovel-tuskers”) also stick in my memory because of the story in my big book of paleomammals about one that got trapped in muck and died and turned into a fossil. If you are from Nebraska, you may have read Loren Eisley’s poem “The Innocent Assassins” about two saber-tooth cats that were found locked together in a mutual kill (http://loreneiseleysociety.com/curriculum/ia-essay.pdf) . But they are not, most emphatically not, dinosaurs.
Now, when I was growing up, Brontosaurus existed, the Skelly Oil green dino was not yet extinct, and Tyrannosaurus Rex was still king. The ichthyosaur still graced a back hall in O’Hare Airport’s main terminal.
“There once was an icthyosaurus,
Who lived when the Earth was all porous.
But he fainted with shame
When he first heard his name
And departed a long time before us.” (Isabel F. Bellows)
And all dinos were grey, green, grey-green, or brown, or dark grey. And Pluto was a planet, so get off my lawn. Ahem. I sort of lost interest in dinosaurs over the years, although not entirely. I still like going to paleontology museums and geology museums, and made special trips to see out-of-the-way displays and travelling exhibits here and there. But I’m not a dinosaur fanatic.
What brought this to mind was last week, I went by the regional Barnes and Noble to look for the latest Ancient History magazine and to see if the new Medieval Warfare had come in. Now, the history/archaeology/who-knows shelves in the magazine section are rather dangerous places, and lo and behold, a dinosaur charged me. Or rather, a magazine had a dinosaur on the cover, one I’d never seen before. I had a little extra change in the kitty and so Prehistoric Times got added to the basket. I mean, any magazine with an editorial page that begins with the assurance that the presidential primaries are not going to be mentioned in the magazine is off to a good start.
It’s an interesting publication. First, I’d recommend reading it in bright light with a magnifying glass at hand. The font is very small and there are hundreds of illustrations, with really tiny captions. Really tiny. The layout is cluttered because of all the illustrations. They range from kid pictures to hard-core technical drawings and scientific illustrations. Articles include a dramatization of the last days of a famous specimen to how to draw feathered dinosaurs (technical considerations and recent discoveries), the biography of famous illustrators, adventures in paleontology, museum reviews, paleomammals, collectibles and their valuation and what new models and toys are coming out, book reviews, and news from the field.
The publication is obviously a labor of love, one that has been going for 23 years, judging by the year and volume numbers. There are e-mail addresses for all the writers so you can easily contact them for more information. The advertisers include makers of full-scale museum-type skeletons and life models (oh my gosh, some of the life models are . . . wow. No price listed, as you would imagine.)
The writing in a few of the pieces tossed me out because it was too conversational and had some editing problems. I kept twitching to correct, tidy up, polish the pieces. Not all of them, and several are academic-quality in a good sense. The editor had been ill, which may explain some of the little quirks.
I don’t know if I’ll get another copy, but it was a cool find and I enjoyed looking through it. I learned some things, so it was probably worth the money.
*Apparently Titanothere (Brontothere) is now reclassified into a different family. Dang it, quit changing my critters! And the brontosaur is back.