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Re: The Last Dinosaur Book(long)



In a message dated 5/2/99 11:47:02 AM EST, wjtm@midway.uchicago.edu writes:

<< In fact, I think many people who are interested in
 dinosaurs as scientific objects find the idea that they might also be modern
 totems to be a bit disturbing.  It seems to compromise their scientific
 status.  My own aim is not to question the scientific reality of the
 dinoaur, but to look (scientifically) at its cultural status. >>

Now that I've practically finished reading the book, I must say that, while 
it contains some interesting notions, I found it quite useless in telling me 
why I, myself, happen to be interested in dinosaurs. I couldn't care less 
what view the ignorant public has of dinosaurs, or whether or not dinosaurs 
are some kind of totem for the masses. I certainly don't "worship" dinosaurs 
by any stretch of the imagination, and I rather resent the notion that being 
interested in dinosaurs and wanting to study them marks me as some kind of 
anal retentive. There are plenty of anal retentives in the humanities in any 
case, so even if I were, I'd have company. There are plenty of passages in 
the book that strike me as unduly condescending, but since that happens to be 
my attitude toward the humanities as a whole, I can accept that.

With regard to dinosaurs in popular culture, I can't take any study of this 
seriously that completely ignores the dinosaur image in comic >books< (not 
comic strips). Comic books are not mentioned in the index to the book, and I 
found no references to dinosaurs in comic books in what I have read. This is 
a major deficiency, certainly as it relates to me, because in the 1950s 
dinosaurs were >everywhere< in comic books, and this certainly served to keep 
up my interest until I was old enough to start visiting the library, etc.

The chapter on Zallinger's mural is deficient in not mentioning that 
Zallinger did his mural at least >twice<: once as an essay that was completed 
in and dated 1943, and once again on the Yale Peabody Museum wall. The first 
of these was reproduced (reversed, and with a portion, including the 
signature, cut off) in the September 7, 1953 issue of Life magazine, and it 
is this essay, or portions thereof, that has been reproduced repeatedly in 
dinosaur books ever since. The wall mural differs from the essay in many 
subtle ways. For example, the wall mural has small mammals in it, but the 
essay does not. In the book, the essay is reproduced as Figure 31.1, while 
Figure 31.4 is a detail from the wall mural and is not a detail of Figure 
31.1 as stated in the caption. Note the signature in 31.4 and the entirely 
different signature in 31.1 at the other end of the picture; then try to find 
where 31.4 is a part of 31.1 (can't do it, can you?). The wall mural was 
recently reproduced in its guide published by the Museum, but other than that 
I don't think it has ever appeared in print before (going by memory here), 
either in book or poster form.

Regarding the idea of a traveling dinosaur art show, Steve and Sylvia Czerkas 
did this with some success as "Dinosaurs Past and Present," and, naturally, I 
think this is a good idea. But as far as being "fine art," I must say, forget 
it. The puke that passes for "fine art" these days does a vast disservice to 
the talent, care, and research that today's dinosaur artists put into their 
work. I say, don't bother going to them hat in hand for acceptance; let them 
come to you, if they ever do (and if they don't, so much the better).