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RE: In (premature) defense of the USNM

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu]On Behalf Of
Michael Skrepnick
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 12:25 PM
To: Dinosaur List
Subject: Re: In (premature) defense of the USNM

To those who may be concerned, this post was starting to compete with
the Iliad in terms of length, so I excised most of my original mental fodder
which can be found on my last message and have only left in my responses
to Tracy's comments.<<

Ahh, now to prove to everyone I'm not a hot headed computer typer...(I hope)

> You know I respect Dan and Mike very much, but ah, hey guy's simmer down!
> The Smithsonian just had Peter Rabbit as an exhibit at the Smithsonian for
> jeepers sake! WE do not OWN dinosaurs. Jim Gurney does do good work and I
> see NO REASON why the Smithsonian shouldn't display his work or story. We
> need to get off our high horses and let kids imaginations run wild! Let
> enjoy the exhibit and then explore paleontology as it really is. Besides
> most of the dinosaur skeletons at the Smithsonian are wrong, why not
> complain about that if you need to complain. Hell, most of the newly
> dinosaur skeletons at the AMNH are wrong.

*** I have no problem with Gurney's work being displayed at the Smith, only
that the exhibit might be more effective at an alternative site to the
galleries.  As you say, we don't own dinosaurs, but maybe we still have the
responsibility to separate "fact" from "fiction" when it serves the common
Gurney's creation is a fictional world and while it is appealing to many of
us with a
common interest in dinosaurs, it still should be separated from the science.
example, as has been pointed out on this list, Jim elects to render small
as unfeathered ( which suits the characters, as he's developed them ),<<

Ok, lets look at this point. When did Jim start his work and what was known
at that time? NO FEATHERS on theropods. Sure he can change his theropods,
but then he'd have to change his whole world and explain that hey, I was
wrong when I started but I'll change everything now but can't explain why
that happened in his world.

So your going to tell a child who loves dinosaurs that he can't see
dinosaurs from Dinotopia at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, where
he/she knows dinosaurs are but at an Art Museum all because of
'Scientist/dino artist" didn't like it at the USNM because it was fiction?
Won't work, they know where dinosaurs are suppose to be. And I really don't
think it's the ones who are really into dinosaurs that need to be shown the
difference, it's the adults and those who 'fake' knowing dinosaurs (we've
all meet them). I say it's better at the USNM because there THEY WOULD be
able to tell people the difference and not at an ART museum, but the Art
museum would only be interested in the 'art' and not the 'science'. Kind of
a catch 22.

>>however, when
these images appear in the context of a science exhibit, they to a degree
the perception of small theropods having a feathery integument.  In Jim's
"world" this
is fine, but to onlookers who see his reasonably portrayed "naked" small
in relatively close proximity to a display that is teaching people about an
covering on small theropods, there is then ambiguity ( not to "us" who have
a working
knowledge of such things, but to the public who don't necessarily). I think
that a
physical separation of factual displays from fictional, remedies the problem
and however
small it might seem, that is still the point.<<

I doubt the majority of lay people even know about this debate. Now if it
was some sports team, the whole world would be on it! Hmmmm....perhaps we
should come up with something like that, maybe then there'd be lots of

  If the skeletal mounts,
etc... are problematic,
they should be corrected also, but the situation still should not be further
exacerbated by
perceptual problems related to additional fictional imagery.<<

> The Smithsonian is free so they aren't getting any money from people, but
> course studios do, but that's how they make money.

*** Mine was a generalized observation of the problems incurred when
commercialization rears it's ugly head, not directed at museum agendas.<<

It happens to draw people to the museums, I doubt it'll stop.

> So, it's ok to EXPLOTE other natural science (or Science Fiction for that
> matter) and not paleontology? We can't tell people that it's not ok to do
> something but ok to do it with others.

*** Sure I can. . . Watch me!  :o)  I was kidding about the other movie plot
Since most of these unfortunate subjects have succumbed to mutilization or
"mutantization" in typical Hollywood overkill style, most of this
titillizing swill
flatlines at the box office anyway.<<

No argument in how Hollywood works.

>>Besides do we really want the movies
> to be 100% accurate? Then people would really believe everything they see.

***You mean show them the truth?  What a concept!!  I can't think of a
instance wherein anatomical distortion or embellishment of any of the JP
dinosaurs made them any more "groovy" then had they gone with the real
thing. The thinking is, "let's spend millions to make it look ALIVE and then
let's screw up what they look like, just because we cannnn. . . But how
many people went to museums afterwards asking why the T.rex skeleton
has a funny long bone hanging down between it's legs ( or was it just happy
to see ya' ) or why the Dilophosaurus doesn't have the "frill" and poison
spitting apparatus.  If we just assume that the public should know better,
because they "know" it's only fiction, then. . . why don't they?<<

I was totally with you on this until about 6 months ago or so. Look in the
archives and see how I voiced my objection to Hollywood and how they get the
dinosaurs wrong. What changed my mind was the interview I did with Jack
Horner for Prehistoric Times. It's just a movie and should be just a movie.
We all know Movies screws things up and will continue to. IF just one movie
and only one movie was done correctly then the 'lay person' will say, if
that one was done right, then all the rest must have been done right. This
would be a much bigger problem and harder to argue against, but if they are
all done wrong, then that argument is easier in that way.

> This is why I write my How to Draw Dinosaurs articles for Prehistoric
> To help the professionals and lay person alike (not that the professionals
> actually listen to me that is, I'm not exactly contacted by ANY
> paleontologist doing a book on accurately portraying dinosaurs and I know
> the majority of them. Ignored? )

>>*** Maybe you need to approach a paleontologist ( of your choosing),
than the other way around.  It may simply be, that PhD's who are aware of
your articles, assume you are content in developing the series on your own
aren't aware that you are interested in a collaboration.<<

You mean like going up to Phil, Jack, Dave Weishampel, Ken Carpenter, the
publishers of Random House, Indian University Press, Dr. Pfel Volg, Jurassic
Park, the curators of museums (and all the others that I've not mentioned),
given them copies of my articles, books, explaining that I can help them
with accurately rendering dinosaurs? Been there, done that to a point I just
want to give up and just do things I want to do. It's rather frustrating and
I think I know why, no degree or Phd. I had this talk with the kids (young
paleontologist on the way up, I'm older than them, so their kids...) at
Philadelphia and those without the degree get ignored.

> >>Artwork that includes dinosaurs within modern fiction stray much farther
> afield, but don't do any favors in helping the public make the distinction
> between dinosaur art "extrapolated from real fossil material" and fantasy
> art that resembles the "real thing". In the end, the forum in which the
> artwork is displayed may make a big difference in how said art is
> by the masses and while I wish Jim every success, I think the exhibit
> have better served on display at an alternate venue.<<
 I hope you don't mean that people shouldn't include dinosaurs in their
> science fiction? I doubt many of us would be here if we ever did.
***Not at all, some of the best fiction out there has a dinosaurian
component. My
ONLY concern is to draw (no pun) a clear distinction between what is
fact and fiction, for those members of the populace who lack the familiarity
the subject matter we have.<<

And with this I totally agree.

> Mike Skrepnick

Tracy L. Ford
P. O. Box 1171
Poway Ca  92074