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Interest in dinosaurs (was Re: Third Jurassic Park Movie Coming in 2000)



Hoping to turn a negative into a positive, and to begin a more upbeat
discussion rather than the tired old "Jurassic Park" line...

At 10:37 PM 6/30/98 -0400, Stephen Faust wrote:
>Mr. Rey, or Dr. as the case may be, I don't just direct this message at
>you, but all those "professionals" much too good for the general
>population.

Incidentally,

a) Luis Rey is an artist, and not a professional paleontologist, nor would
he claim to be one.
b) Your use of the quotation marks around the word professional is quite
inappropriate: whether you like it or not, there are some of us out here who
do paleontology for a living.
c) Luis comments, as I interpret them, have more to do with the failures of
multimillionmegabuck Hollywood adventure films as a medium, rather than
problems with Jurassic Park in particular.

But, more importantly:

d) Most paleontologists are on the record as to what first interested them
in dinosaurs.  For some, like Ken Carpenter, it was a movie (Godzilla in his
case); for others it might be a book or article, or a museum exhibit (S.J.
Gould admits it was the T. rex display at the AMNH); for others, it was a
particular fossil they found out in the field as a kid.  John Ostrom wasn't
really into paleontology until he was in college, and took a course of
evolution.

Here is my story, as told to me by my parents.  I don't recall it myself,
and in fact I don't remember a time when I didn't love (obsess) about dinosaurs:
While I was young (3-ish), my mom picked up a couple of plastic toys for my
brother and I at a five-and-dime store.  One of them got some farm animal,
one got a circus animal, and I got either the "Tyrannosaurus" toy or the
"Brontosaurus" toy (they can't remember which they bought first).  I asked
what it was, and my mom told me it was a "dinosaur".

Okay, great.  I was learning colors and numbers and words and so forth, so
this was a "dinosaur".

Some time later, she got another batch of toys: another farm animal, another
circus animal, and I got whichever of the two mentioned above I didn't get
the first time.  I asked what it was, and my mom told me it was a "dinosaur".

Apparently, I looked at her with more than a bit of skepticism.  How could
these two things, one with a big head with big teeth, tiny front legs,
walking on its hind legs, the other with a tiny head, long neck, and four
pillar like legs, BOTH be a dinosaur?  She didn't know, but being an
educator, she knew she ought to find out.  She got us a copy of the "How &
Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs", and I was in love!

(Incidentally, you might note that in a sense, phylogenetic relationships
DID get me into the field, despite your thoughts to the contrary!!).

So, having now used up what would have been the opening to my memoirs (;-),
I question for professionals and fans alike: what got you into dinosaurs?  I
would particularly like to hear from anyone who can honestly admit they
didn't have an interest in dinosaurs UNTIL they saw "Jurassic Park" or "JP:
The Lost World".

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661