Review of the 2014 Queens County Fair

I have a great love of the peaceful pastoral countryside. I love quaint farms and orchards, forests, rocky tree-covered hills and crags, glistening rivers, and small crumbling waterfalls. I take every chance that I can get to visit places like this. I especially love it if the scenery in question contains old colonial-style buildings with that musty smokey smell which is my personal high – I absolutely love the smell of a wood-burning fireplace. I get excited whenever I go out to the eastern end of Long Island or up north past the Five Boroughs, because I feel a greater sense of freedom, relaxation, and a feeling of internal peace. Although I am a denizen of New York City, I am much more of a country boy at heart than a city slicker.

Because of this, I love it when there are what I could call “folk-ish” places, where there are a lot of the old-time practices. I like visiting colonial farms and regional celebrations, like apple festivals and seasonal fairs. One of these which I like to visit is the annual Queens County Fair, held at the Queens County Farm Museum. This is the oldest continuously-operating farm in all of New York State, dated to 1697. Located next door is the Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo, which (at least according to my generation) was an obligatory field trip for all children between the ages of 3 to 10. You can find out more about the Queens County Farm Museum by clicking on the link here.

I’ve had this fair marked on my calendar for a long time, and I was very eager when I went to it yesterday on Saturday, September 20.

The Queens County Fair is a typical county fair, the sort of event that I imagine taking place amidst more rural surroundings. You have food vendors, rides, contests, bands playing, performances, and advertisers. The highlight of my day was having a wonderful conversation with a high school student from upstate about the process of making maple syrup. Some may read this and go “Huh? How could you be excited about that?”. Believe me, it absolutely made my day.

The fair is held every September. If you live in Queens or the general New York City area, I highly encourage you to come to this fair the next chance you get – the pig race this year drew a very large crowd (yes, they have pig races – awesome). The fair is usually held in late September around the autumnal equinox. Bring lots of money with you – I guarantee you’ll be spending it.

The Queens County Farm Museum has and hosts events throughout the year. The next one coming up is the Kickoff to Fall, formerly called the Apple Festival, held in early October. Check the museum website for more details and a full calendar.

I had an absolutely great time there, a welcome and relieving change of pace from where I live and how I live. Some people like living in the bustling big city, but I don’t. I’m a country boy, and I need to live in the country. I don’t want to live in NYC anymore. I’ll go to the Queens County Fair every year as long as I am able to do so.

News: Mesozoic Babysitting?

In 2004, a dinosaur nest was discovered in China. This nest contained the skeletons of thirty baby Psittacosaurus, along with a single skeleton of a much larger individual, long assumed to be an adult. Psittacosaurus, meaning “parrot lizard”, lived in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and northern China during the middle Cretaceous Period. It was a dog-sized herbivore, a primitive member of the group called the ceratopsians – the same group that contains Triceratops, Styracosaurus, and Centrosaurus, among others. It was discovered during the Gobi Desert expeditions of Roy Chapman Andrews during the early 1920s and was officially named and described by Henry Fairfield Osbourn in 1923. The name was given to the parrot-like appearance of its head.

Psittacosaurus is nothing new, nor is the nest of individuals mentioned above, but what is new is an idea about who that larger individual is, and what role that individual was playing. Brandon Hendrick, a paleontology researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, saw a photo of the nest, and was a bit intrigued by the not-quite-fully-grown size of the large specimen. Paleontologists have found a lot of Psittacosaurus fossils over the years, so they have a pretty good grasp on the growth rate of this creature. Based upon the size of the babies’ bones and their development, these creatures had recently hatched. However, the larger specimen doesn’t seem to be an adult. Based upon the size of its skull, this creature was about four to five years old, but Psittacosaurus did not reach full-grown size until eight or nine years old. So, this creature was a juvenile. What would a juvenile be doing amidst a nest of babies?

It was here that Hendrick and his colleagues proposed something – could this be an example of “babysitting”? Many paleontologists had long assumed that one parent or the other was responsible for guarding the nest at any given time. However, this new discovery adds some more facets to that belief. Perhaps the entire family, not just the parents was responsible in raising and caring for the young. Furthermore, having juveniles guard the nest would serve as good training for when they became adults and had nests of their own, thereby making their offspring more likely to survive. Babysitting is also seen in some species of modern birds, and this adds further evidence to the argument that dinosaurs evolved into birds since they have some shared behaviors.

Brandon Hendrick and his colleagues have recently published their findings in the journal Cretaceous Research; their article is entitled “The osteology and taphonomy of a Psittacosaurus bonebed assemblage of the Yixian Formation (Lower Cretaceous), Liaoning, China”.

Sources:

News: Early Cretaceous Dinosaur Footprints found in Utah

A series of dinosaur tracks were found by a hiker in Moab, Utah. These footprints were discovered in 2009, but it had been kept secret until recently. These tracks are dated to 125 million years ago, the early Cretaceous Period, when creatures like Iguanodon dominated much of the Northern Hemisphere. Among the 200 or so footprints found here might be those of a large raptor, which is very exciting. Trackways include not only dinosaurs, but also a mudslide from a crocodile.

Volunteers and workers from various government divisions are working on the site to get it ready for public display. The Bureau of Land Management wants to have the site ready by October 2014.

Sources used:

  • Nature World News. “125-Million-Year-Old Dino Tracks Discovered in Utah”, by Jenna Iacurci (August 21, 2014)

 

Review of the Chuck Jones exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image

Hello everybody,

Two days ago, I visited the Museum of the Moving Image, located in Astoria, Queens, New York, to see the temporary exhibit that they have on the cartoonist Chuck Jones, one of the leading figures behind Looney Tunes. The exhibit is on the third floor of the building, and it is constructed more or less in a square, so you can start at one end and work your way around until you get back to where you started.

Unfortunately, they did not allow photography in the exhibit at all, not even flash-free, so I was not able to take any pictures of what was on diplay. However, I had a roaringly good time. They have displays on Jones’ life and early career, as well as screens showing exerpts of his various works (not just Looney Tunes, but other animated works as well) and montages of cartoon clips centered around certain themes, and also played his masterpiece “What’s Opera, Doc?” on a continuous loop – in fact, they had a whole section of the exhibit specifically devoted to this one cartoon. The greatest thing about the exhibit was that they had original drawings, sketches, notes, and background layouts from the cartoons. I learned a lot about animation and about the “physics” of workign with cartoon characters.

This exhibit is an absolute must for anyone who loves Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes characters, or even loves animation in general. I guarantee you that you are going to leave the place happy – I certainly did. As I said before, the exhibit is only temporary, so you have to catch it now before it closes.

 

Lonchidion, a prehistoric shark

Lonchidion

This is a drawing of Lonchidion, a hybodont shark from the Mesozoic Era. There were at least eleven different species, one of which was found in the Hell Creek Formation. I won’t get into all of the particulars regarding this genus or the Hell Creek species in particular (L. selachos). Their size depended upon the species, some being very small. Lonchidion selachos may have been three feet long, judging by the size of its dorsal spines. The drawing is based upon the preserved remains of other hybodont sharks, because specimens from the Hell Creek Formation consist mostly of teeth, well-preserved specimens of any Lonchidion species are very rare, and as far as I am aware, they looked more or less like other well-known hybodonts.

Hybodont sharks are identified by their large dorsal fin spines as well as the four large spines atop their heads, which are really overly-enlarged denticle scales found all over the rest of the body. Hybodonts first appeared during the Carboniferous Period, but it was during the Jurassic that they came into their own. However, by the Cretaceous Period, they were being replaced by so-called “modern” sharks very similar to the ones we see today. Lonchidion was one of the last surviving members of its kind before the whole hybodont group (the few species that remained, anyway) was completely wiped out at the end of the Mesozoic Era 65 million years ago.

Acheroraptor, revised

In December 2013, scientists announced the discovery of a new raptor dinosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, which they named Acheroraptor. When news first came out about it, I wrote a post, which you can read here. Ever since I put it up, it has remained one of my most-viewed posts on this website. Accompanying the article, I included a drawing, which you can see below:

Acheroraptor

I very quickly hashed this drawing out, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t at all pleased with it, despite the fact that the post got a heck of a lot of hits. It was an improvement (though not by much) of an earlier feathered raptor drawing that I had done: Troodon. Due to the rushed need to get a drawing out as quickly as possible, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time coming up with a unique color scheme. So, the color pattern on the above drawing and the Troodon drawing are almost identical. One feature that I included right away was a fluffy feathery ridge running down its back. The head is rather scary and menacing looking, and somewhat boxy – very Jurassic Park-ish. In retrospect, since Acheroraptor was a close relative of Velociraptor, its head probably didn’t look like this.

Today, I finished a revised and probably more accurate drawing of what Acheroraptor would have looked like. I kept the overall shape, but I changed the shape of the head and I put some more detail in the arm feathers. The most obvious change is the striking black-white color scheme, which I based upon the coloration of the Northern Goshawk. If this drawing was in color, I would have given my creature transparent glassy red eyes.

Acheroraptor revised

Making this drawing was a real pleasure, and I’m surprised that doing it didn’t take as long as I had expected – only five days. Please comment on my work and on the “before-after” transition. Keep your pencils sharp!

Ornitholestes

Ornitholestes

Ornitholestes hermanni was a small 6-foot coelurosaur dinosaur which lived in the western United States during the late Jurassic Period – yet another dinosaur from the famous Morrison Formation.

As a coelurosaurid, Ornitholestes was a bird-like dinosaur, a distant cousin of Tyrannosaurus. Therefore, it might have been covered in feathers. However for this drawing, I decided to show it in the traditional non-feathered appearance.

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