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armchairs, & other topics
1) I certainly irritated some people with my comment on "armchair
paleontologists" depite the smiley face with glasses. Perhaps the
standard smiley face would have been better? Ah, well.
2) there were quite a few suggestions about how to improve the
dinosaurs in JP-II, toys, etc. by forming an organization to help
Speilberg, etc. Actually, Speilberg got all kinds of free and not so
free offers to act as consultants, including from Bakker. Speilberg,
however, picked Jack Horner. I once asked Jack why he, not Bakker, got
the job. He said he wondered the same thing and even asked on the set
one day. Speilberg, who was standing nearby, said that he didn't need
another prime donna. Evidently word has gotten around. Bakker managed
to piss off Mark Davis who was here at the Denver Museum filming a NOVA
program. Mark told me that Bakker was trying to tell the light man how
to set up his lights. When he was ignored, Bakker exclained, "Nobody
listens to me!" To which Mark retorted, "That's OK, nobody listens to
himwhen he talks about dinosaurs."
Don't forget that the Dinosaur Society was created in part to act as a
clearing house for scientifically correct information on dinosaurs. Don
Lessem accompained Horner to the JP set a few times. The DS has its
"seal of approval" that it puts onto items (toys, books, movies, etc.)
that meet its standard of correctness. Except for items made by the DS
(books, mostly) few items have the DS seal. Part of the problem I
suspect is that the DS hasn't marketed itself very well.
3) on the topic of education, every museum I have ever worked at, from
the smallest (Mississippi Museum of Natural History - staff of 12) to
the largest (National Museum of Natural history - staff of several
hundred) has an education department. All also have out reach programs
where museum educators go to schools to make presentations in the
classrooms with objects or animals the children can hold. These
education departments also provide teacher kits to educate the teachers.
These departments rely a lot on volunteers to help make the museum and
outreach programs successful, so if you are concerned with education in
today's school, why not offer to help out for half a day a week or day a
4) despite what some may feel about paleontologists describing privately
owned secimens, Phil Currie and I are writing a paper on the most
complete skeleton yet known of the theropod Acrocanthosaurus. J.D.
Stewart (LA County Museum) and I are describing about two dozen fossil
fish from the Cretaceous Bear Paw Shales. I have a manuscript with Matt
Smith desribing the forearm of Sue. And finally, Karen Alf and I just
started preparing a dinosaur embryo belonging to those enigmatic giant
18" long elongatoolithid eggs from China (I have invited Zhao to
coauthor the paper but haven't heard back yet). I My feeling is that
making a written and photographic record of these specimens is more
important than having nothing. Besides, once the owners of these
specimens realize the scientific importance of these specimens, the
specimens tend to get better care. The owner of the fishes now realizes
that he can not adequately care for the specimens and is thinking of
donating them to the Museum of the Rockies.
5) I don't foresee museum displays being replaced by on line visual
reality "museums" because of the enormous amount of money to get and
maintain a mainframe, and to digitize images. Besides, given a choise
between looking at a photograph of the Grand Canyon and standing on the
rim, isn't knowing you are looking at the real thing part of the awe?
If you've never been to the Canyon, then I can not possibly describe the
FEELING (not the look).