For my America and the World course I’ve been reading We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History by John Lewis Gaddis. The twentieth century isn’t really my thing, but I’ve really enjoyed this book.
One of the themes running through We Now Know is that the Soviet Union operated with a number of disadvantages. Its authoritarian structure could not create and maintain alliances as well as the democratic U.S., which was more accustomed to compromises and building coalitions. The USSR therefore had to coerce its “allies,” whereas allies of the U.S. enjoyed more flexibility and initiative. And since there was nobody in a position to say “no” to a Stalin or a Khrushchev, nobody could stop them when they pursued a course that was misguided, as they tended to do often. (Gaddis notes that “there seems to have been something about authoritarians that caused them to lose touch with reality.”)
One of the few things the USSR had going for it was the appearance of military strength, which brings us to this delightful metaphor:
The end of the Cold War made it blindingly clear that military strength does not always determine the course of great events: the Soviet Union collapsed, after all, with its arms and armed forces fully intact. Deficiencies in other kids of power—economic, ideological, cultural, moral—caused the USSR to lose its superpower status, and we can now see that a slow but steady erosion in those non-military capabilities had been going on for some time.
To visualize what happened, imagine a troubled triceratops. From the outside, as rivals contemplated its sheer size, tough skin, bristling armament, and aggressive posturing, the beast looked sufficiently formidable that none dared tangle with it. Appearances deceived, though, for within its digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems were slowly clogging up, and then shutting down. There were few external signs of this until the day the creature was found with all four feet in the air, still awesome but now bloated, stiff, and quite dead. The moral of the fable is that armaments make impressive exoskeletons, but a shell alone ensures the survival of no animal and no state (p. 284).
Today‘s Jenna Bush Hager visited the Jurassic World set and talked to the cast. Mostly they discussed Chris Pratt’s abs, but there were also some tantalizing glimpses of what the park is going to look like.
Meanwhile, it looks like AMC has renewed Turn for a second season. As much as I like having some Rev War fare on TV, I’m not a fan of putting a fictional love triangle at the center of the story. I’d much rather see the plot unfold from the circumstances of what the Culper Ring was actually doing. You’d think there would be drama enough involved without manufacturing all these romantic interests for the characters.
And they really need to stop teasing us with the prospect of showing iconic battles without following through. That stunt where one of the main characters was unconscious during Trenton? That was just mean.
Director Colin Trevorrow has responded to the recent Jurassic World leaks, and I’m feeling a lot better. I really think this guy has tremendous respect for the franchise and wants to contribute to it in a way that develops organically out of what’s come before.
Here’s a sample of the interview:
Jurassic World takes place in a fully functional park on Isla Nublar.…And there are dinosaurs. Real ones. You can get closer to them than you ever imagined possible. It’s the realization of John Hammond’s dream, and I think you’ll want to go there.…
This film picks up twenty-two years after Jurassic Park. When Derek [Connolly] and I sat down to find the movie, we looked at the past two decades and talked about what we’ve seen. Two things came to the surface.
One was that money has been the gasoline in the engine of our biggest mistakes. If there are billions to be made, no one can resist them, even if they know things could end horribly.
The other was that our relationship with technology has become so woven into our daily lives, we’ve become numb to the scientific miracles around us. We take so much for granted.
Those two ideas felt like they could work together. What if, despite previous disasters, they built a new biological preserve where you could see dinosaurs walk the earth…and what if people were already kind of over it? We imagined a teenager texting his girlfriend with his back to a T-Rex behind protective glass. For us, that image captured the way much of the audience feels about the movies themselves. “We’ve seen CG dinosaurs. What else you got?” Next year, you’ll see our answer.
In hindsight, it’s highly unfortunate that we didn’t get to see the “super dino” within the context of a story. Instead, it came as an isolated revelation in the form of an Internet leak, and a lot of us JP aficionados (including me) freaked out. Let’s see how it plays out as part of an entire film. Let the filmmakers tell us the story, and then we’ll judge that story as a whole.
I said we’d be seeing Giganotosaurus again soon, and by golly, here he is.
That’s one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs of all time. I ran into this bad boy at the Maryland Science Center, within spitting distance of Federal Hill and the USS Constellation in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. I had some extra time after visiting Ft. McHenry, so I stopped by to indulge in a little dino-viewing.
Most of the dinos at the MSC are casts, including the Giganotosaurus, but they’re beautiful mounts all the same. I especially like this dynamic, lunging T. rex.
Donald Gennaro’s last view:
And here’s Tarbosaurus, T. rex‘s cousin from Mongolia.
Two very early dinosaurs from South America, Eoraptor and Herrerasaurus.
Cryolophosaurus, a pompadour-sporting meat-eater from Antarctica. (Yep, dinosaurs in Antarctica.)
Finally, here’s an Acrocanthosaurus in the flesh…
…trying to take down an Astrodon, Maryland’s state dinosaur. This scene is based on a famous trackway from Texas excavated by R.T. Bird and recently reconstructed digitally.
So for a couple days a rumor’s been circulating that this happens in Jurassic World (SPOILERS AHEAD, obviously):
Business is good at the park, but the powers that be start to dream up new ways to keep customers coming back; namely by splicing Dino DNA with other dinos (and other species). That becomes the problem. They splice together a T-Rex, raptor, snake, and cuttlefish to create a monstrous new dino that, of course, gets loose and terrorizes the park.
Which is weird, because (as fellow JP aficionados will recall) they tried this idea with the action figure line and it was kind of ridiculous.
Well, today comes confirmation that the rumor was true, and there will indeed be a tyrannosaur-raptor-cuttlefish hybrid in Jurassic World.
Normally I would squeal with girlish delight at the prospect of a movie with a tyrannosaur-raptor-cuttlefish hybrid, but when said movie is an installment in the JP franchise, well…I can’t help but get nervous.
Don’t screw this up, guys. Do NOT screw this up.
We’ve got a new contender for biggest dino:
A team of scientists in Argentina have unearthed the remains of the largest species of dinosaur discovered to date, paleontologists announced Saturday.
Seven “huge” herbivorous dinosaurs were discovered at one site in the province of Chubut, Argentina, according to the Paleontological Museum Egidio Feruglio, which led the dig.
The new species are estimated to have been 40 meters in length and 80 tons in weight, surpassing the previous record-holder for the world’s largest dinosaur — the Argentinosaurus.
These dinosaur size rankings always come with a few caveats. Back in the 1870s, a fossil collector working for the famous naturalist Edward Drinker Cope found part of a backbone and femur from a long-necked dino that Cope named Amphicoelias fragillimus. Comparing Cope’s report of the remains’ size to the same parts from better-known dinos indicates that A. fragillimus was far and away the longest dinosaur of all time—as in close to 200 feet from tip to tip. The problem is, Cope’s published account is all we have, because the bones themselves are gone. It’s possible they were in such a poor state of preservation that they just crumbled to pieces.
And a reported dino from India named Bruhathkayosaurus supposedly approached Amphicoelias in size, but the initial description was iffy and the specimen got washed away in a flood.
Anyway, this latest find means yet another humungous dinosaur from Argentina, a country with a track record of producing some of the biggest of all terrible lizards. In addition to Argentinosaurus, it was also home to Giganotosaurus, one of the biggest carnivorous dinos. We’ll be seeing him again in the very near future. (Here on the blog, I mean, not out in the real world. That would either be really, really awesome or really, really unfortunate.)
This is bittersweet news for me. The dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is closed for five years to make way for a total renovation.
I love the Smithsonian’s dino gallery. It was the first major fossil exhibit I ever saw (so long ago that some of the occupants were probably breathing at the time). There aren’t many museum experiences that could excite me more than walking through the NMNH rotunda, past that big bull elephant, and stepping into that massive hall dominated by a Diplodocus.
What I loved almost as much as the skeletons were the dioramas in the rear of the gallery. They were like little windows into a world I usually had to imagine. I doubt they’ll survive the renovation, since they’re pretty outdated. But to tell you the truth, once I got older I loved the fact that they were showing their age, because they took me back to the dinosaur books I read when I was a kid—books with dinos that hadn’t yet caught up with science, still lumbering around in swampy forests with their tails dragging behind them.
The new exhibit should be pretty awesome. They’re mounting a new T. rex, which I guess will replace the cast of “Stan” from the old hall. Until then, Washington, D.C. is going to be a lot less awesome. I really wish I could’ve visited this year, just to walk through one last time.