Review of 2015 Hudson-Berkshire Wine and Food Festival

Vacation trip to Chatham, Columbia County, New York

Saturday, May 23 to Monday, May 25, 2015

During the week of May 17, 2015, I learned of the Hudson-Berkshire Wine and Food Festival, to be held upstate in the town of Chatham, Columbia County, New York during Memorial Day weekend. I love going up into the country, as I’ve always felt much more at home there than amidst the noisy, crowded, and polluted surroundings of the city. I really needed to get out of the city for a bit, and I hadn’t been on vacation in nine years. My mother also desperately needed a break from the drudgery of her daily routine. Her birthday was coming up soon, too, so I decided to take my family on vacation up there for the weekend as a present.

Much of what you will read from here onwards comes from the hastily-scribbled notes that I took during the drive and while I was there.

 

Day 1. Saturday, May 23.

We were supposed to leave at 6:00 AM, but we actually left at 6:52, nearly an hour behind schedule. It’s rather chilly today. The temperature when we left was only 51 degrees F. Clear cloudless blue sky. Slight breeze. If it’s a bit nippy down here, I image it will be even cooler up north, and especially in the hill country.

Crossed the Whitestone Bridge at 7:02 AM.

At 7:29 AM, we entered Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County. I saw a wild turkey on the side of the highway, but the car went by too fast for me to open the window, get my camera out, and take a picture of it. I’m glad to see that a little bit of the wilderness is present so close to New York City.

The first photo that I took was inside the car, travelling northwards across the bridge spanning the Croton Reservoir.

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Entered Columbia County at 8:44 AM. Road is very bumpy around this area.

Arrived in Chatham at 9:20 AM – we made really good time in getting here! The tall tower seen in the background is the steeple of St. James’ Catholic church.

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We went to the Columbia County fairgrounds straight away, as there were hardly any rest stops along the Taconic Highway. The route coming here was very scenic. After we briefly looked the place over, we went to our motel and checked in – the Berkshire Travel Lodge. I love that peculiar motel smell – it reminds me of more pleasant times when my family went on vacations somewhat regularly and had a lot of fun.

After we unloaded all of our food and clothing, we decided to check out what was on offer in the town of Chatham itself. The festival was not due to start until 11:00, so we had one and a half hours to kill. The town of Chatham dates back to the very early 19th Century. As such, there are very few colonial-style buildings here. By contrast, there are lots of Federal-style and Victorian-style buildings in the town. A railroad cuts right through the middle of the town, and we arrived just in time to see a CSX freight train pull in. That was a REALLY long train! We were waiting on the corner for what seemed like five complete minutes for the thing to pass by.

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The oldest building in the town is the old tavern, which has since been converted into an antiques shop.

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This is the town’s municipal building, the Tracy Memorial Village Hall, which serves as the town hall, the town court house, the police headquarters, and the center of local administration.

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This is the Morris Memorial Community Center, kind of like the local YMCA.

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This is the war memorial located in the center of the town.

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I’m always keen on ecclesiastic architecture, so I took several photographs of the various churches in the area. I was surprised that there were so many, considering how small the town was. This is the Presbyterian church.

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This is the First Reformed Church (Calvinist).

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This is the Methodist church.

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Dad was especially eager on checking out a Welsh pub in the town. We decided that we’d have dinner there that night.

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I’m happy to say that there were hardly any franchise chains within Chatham, or indeed any of the places that we saw. The sole exception was a single Rite Aid pharmacy located at the very edge of the town. Every other business was privately-owned. My myself and my father found this exceedingly refreshing.

At 11:00 AM on the dot, we arrived at the wine festival right when it opened. We were one of the first customers there, but it soon became very crowded. I loved a lot of the products that I tasted there – not just wine, but food too. i also had some very interesting and pleasant conversations with people. I promised several of the vendors that I’d write up reviews for the products that I really liked, so here we go.

 

Winding Drive – Jellies, jams, and sauces

I’m always into fresh jellies and jams. This was the first vendor that we tried, and I was definitely not disappointed. I personally recommend their “apple pie jam” – I guarantee you, you’ll gobble the whole thing down sooner than you think.

There are two other things that I’d like to recommend – their applesauce and their peach mango barbecue sauce.

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The applesauce is liquid gold in a glass jar. There’s a fresh good-for-you liveliness in this stuff that you just can’t get from commercially-available applesauce brands.

The peach mango barbecue sauce is absolutely excellent – I can really see this being used on grilled salmon! It’s also probably great on pork roasts and ham. This is a really good summertime sauce.

Contact info:

Middle Quarter Mall
744 Main Street South
Woodbury, Connecticut 06798
Phone: (203) 263-6961

 

Worldling’s Pleasure – cheese spreads

This was the first stand that I went to once I got inside the hall where much of the festival was taking place. The kindly man who was attending to the stall had six varieties of cheese spreads, and I tasted (and bought) three of them.

Country Store Chedder. This is a plain basic cheese spread that can go with just about anything. It has a wonderful mellow mild smoothness and creaminess, in contrast to the hard salty sharpness that you normally associate with cheddar. This stuff is amazing to smell and taste, and melts in your mouth. As an experiment, I put a hearty tablespoon-full of this stuff into my macaroni and cheese when I came home, and the flavor difference was practically night and day!

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Rose’s Red Hot. Chedder mixed with pepper. For those of you who prefer a little bit more zip, this is the thing for you. Ingredients include habanero and jalepeno peppers, two of the spiciest peppers known. However, the cool creaminess of the cheddar cheese counter-acts the powerful pepper spiciness, forming a wonderful and pleasing balance of taste. Personally, I like spicy food, so I absolutely loved this.

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Garlicke and the 7 herbs. A white garlic pesto spread. This stuff has “Italian” written all over it! Of the three flavors that I tasted, I thought that this one was unquestionably the best. Not only can you put this on crackers, but you could also break it up into pieces and mix it into your salad. I spread some on a meatball sandwich the other day. The only word that I can think of to describe this stuff is “amazing”.

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Contact info:

Worldling’s Pleasure
Watervliet, New York 12189
Phone: 518) 879-2306

 

The Olive Table – honey and olive oil imported from Greece

The family who owns this company owns a farm in Greece, but their company headquarters is in Vermont. Most people know what honey is – the product of when bees process flower nectar and make it into food for the hive. Most people associate honey with garden flowers, but did you know that you can also get honey from trees? Many trees are technically flowering plants, too, and therefore it makes sense that bees would take the nectar from inside tree flowers and turn that into honey as well. Ah, but here’s the twist! Tree-based honey has a lot less sugar in it than regular flower-based honey. It’s also usually darker in color, has a heartier flavor, and does not have the goopy thick carmelized texture of regular honey.

There were four kinds of honey on offer that day: fir, pine, chestnut, and reiki.

Fir honey. Light in color, and light and joyful in taste.

Pine honey. Medium in color. A slightly more intense flavor than the fir honey.

Chestnut honey. Dark brown in color. A rich deep woodsy forest flavor. The full power of the taste hits you about five seconds after you put it in your mouth.

Reiki honey. Light golden color. This honey was much thinner than the other honeys. It produced an awakening warmness on the pallet, which soon spread through my whole body. If sunshine came in a jar, this would be it.

I bought the chestnut honey and one bottle of organic olive oil.

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Contact info:

The Olive Table
Woodstock, Vermont 05091

 

James Gourmet Ketchup

I have tasted real homemade ketchup in the past, and I loved it then, so I fully expected to love it now, and I did. This stuff is low in salt, so it’s not saturated with preservatives. That means you have to eat it before it spoils. Don’t worry – this stuff tastes so good that you won’t have it hanging around in your fridge for long!

When I tasted it, I went “It’s real! It tastes real!”

One person asked about the ketchup, saying that he never liked ketchup – in fact, he absolutely hated the taste of ketchup. I turned around and I said to him “No, what you have been eating so far is NOT ketchup. What you have been eating is an artificial fake over-processed red-colored sludge that’s CALLED ‘ketchup’!”

If this stuff was made commercially available, Heinz would go crushingly bankrupt within two weeks!!!

PS: I’d suggest marketing their own homemade mustard and relish, too!

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Contact info:

James Gourmet Ketchup
Phone: (518) 557-8006

 

Hawthorne Valley Farm – makers of homemade varieties of sauerkraut, among other things.

They had three varieties on offer that day: carrot-ginger, regular, and red cabbage.

Carrot Ginger Sauerkraut. A wonderful and complex mixture of spiciness, saltiness, fiber, and earthiness. A perfectly blended combination of flavors and textures with just the right proportions. I felt myself getting healthier while I was eating it.

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Plain Sauerkraut. VERY salty, so be prepared for a bit of a “wow” shock to the taste buds. However, unlike the commercial types of sauerkraut that you often see in stores, this stuff did not have the lip-puckering sour taste so often associated with sauerkraut. Actually, it had a refreshing vigor to it. To offset the saltiness, the sauerkraut itself is very light, airy, and delicate. You could eat an entire jar of the stuff and you’d never feel it!

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut. A much fuller and heavier body. Unlike the plain sauerkraut, this stuff’s got some weight to it. I’ve had red cabbage sauerkraut several times in the past, so I was anticipating a very pungent taste. I must say that it didn’t taste as all like I thought it would. It was a very pleasant taste without the powerful overpowering hit-you-in-the-face sourness that commercial red cabbage sauerkraut has. It had a uniqueness, an enlivening brightness that I had a difficult time describing. All I could say was “It tastes like color!” The salespeople enjoyed that comment.

Contact info:

Hawthorne Valley Farm
327 County Route 21C
Ghent, New York 12075
Phone: (518) 672-7500
Grandpa Pete’s Sunday Sauce
I love eating Italian food, and so I jumped on the chance to taste some varieties of pasta sauce.

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All of the sauces that I tried were excellent. I was especially fond of the garlic sauce. A word of warning, though – don’t spill the meat sauce on your clothes, because the stains are practically impossible to get out.

Contact info:

36 Koeppel Avenue
Catskill, New York 12414
Phone: (877) 447-2823
 Savor Fine Foods – gourmet cookies and other foods
On this day, we tasted samples of various cookies that they had on offer. Every single variety was excellent. I even loved their cranberry cookies, and that’s saying something because I hate cranberries! There were about twelve or so different kinds of cookies to eat, and I purchased bags of five of them.
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Contact info:
Savor Fine Foods
30 Echo Lake Road
Watertown, Connecticut 06795-2609
Phone: (860) 274-9000
Helderberg Meadworks
Mead is alcohol made with honey and herbs. being the barbarian-lover that I am, I have been trying to find somebody who sells mead for years, and this day was my lucky day. They had four varieties: heritage, apple, maple, and feral. Alcohol level: 15-16%
Heritage. Basic, light, delicate flavor. This would go well with anything.
Apple. A bit of a bitter taste, which my dad liked.
Maple. The best one in my opinion. I said “It tastes like the forest”. I could definitely taste the maple flavor and it had a very earthy overtone.
Feral. Slightly more powerful and gritty in flavor. This drink puts hair on your chest!
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Contact info:
Helderberg Meadworks
PO Box 93
Duanesburg, New York 12056
Awestruck Premium Hard Ciders

My dad suggested that I try their lavender hops hard cider. In fact, I had heard a lot of people talking about, and there was a massive tightly-packed crowd in front of the table tasting samples of it. I thought to myself, If everyone’s raving about it, it would be foolish of me not to at least try it, so I asked for a taste.

Very unique flavor. I’ve never tasted anything like it. All I could say to describe it was “Awesomely awesome!

Lavender Hops Hard Cider. Alcohol level: 6.8%
Contact info:
Awestruck Ciders
44 West Street, Suite 8
Walton, New York 13856
Well, I had a lot of fun that day. On the way back to our hotel, I took some photos of the countryside. The Berkshire Mountains, which are located in eastern New York, are very picturesque.
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In the evening, we went to the Welsh pub, where I had one of the best burgers that I’ve ever had in my life – half-pound hamburger topped with pulled pork, onion rings, and cheddar cheese. Damn, it was fantastic!!!

Day 2. Sunday, May 24.

Now that the fair was over, at least for us (it was a two-day event), we decided that we’d take a much more in depth look at the town of Chatham than we had a chance to the day before. Afterwards, we planned on going up north to a glass-blowing shop, to the New Lebanon Shaker Village, and then swing a sharp turn to the west to visit President Martin Van Buren’s house in Kinderhook. It was going to be a rather busy day.

Had breakfast at Our Daily Bread. Nice atmosphere. Distinct Middle Eastern influence on the menu. They make their own ketchup called “House Ketchup”. No pre-fab tea bags – they make their own tea blends from scratch. Fresh honey – a bit thin, with a prominent cinnamon flavor. The ketchup has a distinct cinnamon flavor to it, too. I ordered two eggs over easy with corned beef hash, which I hadn’t had in a long time, so I was really craving some. On the side, I had two pieces of challah bread. My breakfast looked so good and so perfect that I just had to take a picture of it.

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This is a photo comparing the diner’s own brand of homemade natural ketchup with the commercial Heinz ketchup. I want you to notice two things. First, note that the natural ketchup is much darker in color than the Heinz ketchup. I never noticed it before, but I was struck by just how red the Heinz stuff is – no processed food product can be that vividly red naturally. Secondly, I want you to notice that the natural ketchup bottle is one-third empty, while the Heinz ketchup bottle was still full. This visible fact shows that people, if given a choice, will much rather use the natural ketchup rather than Heinz.

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Drove through Spencertown. Despite its name, it’s actually a small village.

This is the Spencertown Public Library – I’m serious. It was located on the corner of a road intersection.

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St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, Spencertown

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The Spencertown Academy and Center for the Arts
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Very beautiful colonial-style home across the road from the academy
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From there, we drove up north to the town of Canaan to see the glass-blower – “Hoogs and Crawform modern studio glass”. I’d wanted to see, and if possible to do, glass-blowing for a while.
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Not far away was the New Lebanon Shaker Village. I was hoping to see reenactors walking around in period garb, but I was sorry to see that the place looked abandoned. In fact, two buildings were practically falling down. Some of these buildings were private homes, so I was not allowed inside. While I was here, I saw the biggest crow that I had ever seen. The damn thing was the size of a hawk. And when it cawed, it sounded much deeper and louder than any other crow that I had seen. Dad saw it too, so I have a witness. In truth, I think it was a raven – ravens are bigger than crows.
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Afterwards, we drove west and came to the Martin Van Buren house. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take any photographs inside.
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Had dinner at the Backwater Grill, a lakeside restaurant located not far from the motel.

I had a Jack Daniels steak with bacon mashed potatoes. Appetizer was clam chowder. This steak holds the absolute definitive record for the best steak that I have ever eaten in my entire life – period! Mom had a slice of carrot cake for her birthday.

 

Day 3. Monday, May 25. Memorial Day.

Gloomy, gray, and overcast this morning. Light misting rain, but it cleared up soon.

Had breakfast at Dan’s Diner – a railroad car that had been converted into a small roadside diner. Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance – this place had EXCELLENT food!!! I had two pancakes and a side of corned beef hash, with a glass of orange juice. Everything tasted amazing.

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Time to leave. I’ll miss this quiet place, but I was actually looking foward to going back home – I usually don’t look foward to going back to the city. The main reason was that I wanted to sleep in my own bed and be around more familiar surroundings.

Prince Frederick Augustus

Prince Frederick Augustus 1815

Here is a portrait of Prince Frederick Augustus (1763-1827), the younger brother of Britain’s King George IV. This is how he would have looked at or around the year 1815, I think. It’s thanks to him that the British Army, which had previously been in a state of neglect, was reformed and able to beat back Napoleon. The portrait is somewhat based on an existing portrait by John Jackson dated to 1822 (see here). He is garbed in clothes typical of the early 19th Century. On his chest is a medal from the Order of the Garter.

I found out after making this picture that I made one big mistake – Prince Frederick had blonde hair, not dark hair. Oops.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Frederick,_Duke_of_York_and_Albany

Keep your pencils sharp, everybody.

News: Bat-like dinosaur discovered in China

I’ve just GOT to write about this.

Recently, a new dinosaur from China has been discovered and named. It is called Yi qi – yes, that’s it’s full scientific genus and species name; not very impressive, is it? Well, it’s name might be boring and unimaginative as hell, but the creature itself is @#$%&*+ mind-blowing as @#$%!!! It’s a feathered therapod – no surprise there, since so many have been found in the past twenty or so years. Yes, it had wings – again, not exactly news-worthy since many other winged dinosaurs have been found, especially in China. But here’s where my jaw hit the floor. The wings in question were not the wings like a bird. They were the wings of a bat.

Yep, that’s right, you heard me correctly. This little beast had bat-wings.

The small pidgeon-sized Yi possessed wings made of thin skin menbranes stretched between elongated fingers, just like the chiropteran wings of a bat. This is something that I’ve never anticipated. Flying feathered reptilian bat-things! The feathers on its neck and body were very primitive – more like thin string-like whisps than real feathers. The creature had three fingers on each hand and an unofficial fourth finger, “Huh?” I can hear all of you saying. To make up for a lack of anchoring points for its wing, one of the bones in the animal’s wrist evolved into a long spike, looking like a finger, which was used to provide more surface area to the wing by stretching it out, thereby generating more lift.

As if all of this wasn’t brain-melting enough, Yi lived 160 million years ago during the tail end of the Middle Jurassic. That means that this baby pre-dates Archaeopteryx by approximately ten million years!!!

Holy flying therapods, Batman!

It must be stated, though, that the stiff inflexible structure of the wings made it unlikely that Yi could literally fly in the full definition of the word. More likely, it was a highly-evolved glider.

Nature…Is…AWESOME!!!

For more info on this absolutely…I can’t think of an appropriate advective to express my jubilance…discovery, look here.

 

Dinosaur Day 2015 at the Garvies Point Museum

GP Museum 1

Well, it was that time of year again! Every April or so, at around the time of Easter, the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, located in Glen Cove, Nassau County, New York, holds it annual “Dinosaur Day”. This is one of the days that I really look foward to for a few reasons. First, I get to work at a place that I absolutely love and meet with some good friends. Secondly, I get to be out of NYC for a little while, which is something that I ALWAYS look foward to. Third, I get to talk about a subject that has fascinated me since my earliest days – paleontology.

Veronica, the museum’s de facto head of administration, did a wonderful job along with other members of the museum staff of setting up the classroom where the day’s major activities would be taking place. Recently, the museum’s library was substantially increased. The Sands Point Museum and Preserve had closed down its library a short while ago, and all of the books and papers were sent to the GPM. I should state, though, that almost all of these documents were originally part of the GPM collections anyway, and they just got them back, that’s all. However, Louis (one of the workers at the Garvies Point Museum, but works primarily at the Old Bethpage Village – another place that I really love) has been working hard to re-catalogue all of these books and papers back into the museum’s database.

The name of the event was somewhat misleading, as it concerned all prehistoric life, not just dinosaurs. We had exhibits on primitive mammal-like-reptiles, dinosaurs, and prehistoric mammals.

Here are some pictures of what the room looked like both during and after the hoards of kids showed up.

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Most of the really young children gravitated immediately towards the dino toy area and the fossil digsite. The older children and a lot of the adults were interested in the information that I and others were giving. They were especially interested in Dimetrodon, the famous sail-backed pelycosaur from the early Permian Period. I don’t think that I have ever had to say the name”Dimetrodon” so many times within the course of a single day! It seemed to be the only thing that many of them wanted to talk about!

Some of the major topics of interest on this day were: the Permian Mass Extinction, which occured about 251 million years ago, when an estimate 95% of all life was wiped out; of course, T. rex was a favorite; as too was Allosaurus, who competed with its larger relative for attention from the crowds. This was helped in no small part to the fact that we had a lot of Allosaurus “stuff” arrayed for them: a picture of the skull, a hand model, bone casts, a model, and my drawing which you might recognize from an earlier post on this blog.

Finally, here’s a picture of me, “the Dinosaur Man” as several members of the museum staff call me, dressed up as an amateur paleontologist. In addition to my olive drab Garvies Point Museum shirt, I also wore a khaki utility vest, because apparently ALL paleontologists wear khaki utility vests! I thought that wearing it would help to enhance my ethos with the audience, and by my reckoning, it worked.

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Camarasaurus

Camarasaurus

Here’s a drawing that I did a while ago, but for some reason, my computer screwed it up. It’s only recently that I’ve rescanned it and fixed it up.

Camarasaurus was the most common sauropod dinosaur within the Morrison Formation of western North America during the late Jurassic Period. Other species like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus might be more familiar to the ear, but in terms of the sheer numbers of specimens that have been found, this big guy tops the list. As far as size goes, it was a tad on the small side for a sauropod, measuring only 60 feet long. Its relatively small size (that is, compared with the other larger sauropods that it shared its habitat with) and meaty build likely made it one of the preferred targets for a mob of Allosaurus to take down. The reason why Camarasaurus was the most common species of its kind might be due partly to its smaller-than-average size (smaller stomachs mean more food to go around for everyone, and by extent leads to having larger populations) and partly to its apparently generalistic diet. Creatures which have a specialized diet are often hit hard when catastrophies arise, whereas dinosaurs that are more adaptable and flexible in terms of what they eat come out more favorably.

Many times, you’ll see these dinosaurs illustrated Gregory Paul-style, with thin spindly legs. I decided that the biomechanics of this simply weren’t feasible, and so I gave my animal suitably thicker more elephant-like legs, able to hold up the tens of tons of weight. Also notice that, contrary to other artistic renderings of this species, the neck is NOT held straight vertically upright, but is thrust more fowards in a 45 degree S-shaped curve. This is also one of the few dinosaur drawings that I’ve done in color. In terms of the color pattern, I’ve always imagined Camarasaurus colored in the scheme that you see above, even as a little kid – tan body with broad brown stripes and a somewhat yellowish-tan underbelly. I simply cannot imagine this species colored in any other way.

Keep your pencils sharp, people.

February 2015 – best month for views yet

My views are booming! February has been the best month in terms of the level of views on this website, with over 800 views! That breaks every other month’s record.

I’m also happy to say that one of my artworks is going to appear in an academic publication on prehistoric fish. Don’t know just when yet, so I don’t want to give away too much.

“Jurassic World” hybrid predator dinosaur revealed…and it’s ugly!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, then you’ve likely heard that there will be a fourth Jurassic Park movie released this year called Jurassic World. There have been rumors of a fourth movie ever since the third one came out when I was a freshman in high school fourteen years ago. However, this movie was stuck in what’s known as “development hell” ever since that time.

Among the new features of this movie is a mosasaur, which I am totally geeking out about since I LOVE mosasaurs! They are some of my favorite prehistoric animals. However, the creature that is getting the most press is a large tyrannosaur-esque creature which goes by the name of either Diabolus rex or Indominus rex, depending on which website you look at. This creature is a genetic hybrid of a T. rex, a Velociraptor, a venemos pit viper, and a cuttlefish. I wasn’t really sure how something like that would look, and there were a few speculative concept drawings and photoshopped images circulating on the intenet. However, I’ve recently seen a picture of what the beast in question actually looks like, and all I can say is…wow, and not “wow” in a good way, either.

Actually, the exact words that came out of my mouth when I first saw a clear picture of it was, “Wow, that’s ugly enough to be an abelisaur!” I’m sure fans of the abelisaurs are going to either laugh at that statement or hate me for it. The abelisaurs were a group of primitive carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in South America, Africa, and Europe during the middle to late Cretaceous Period. They are closely related to the ceratosaurs, another primitive theropod family. Both abelisaurs and ceratosaurs have osteoderms – bony bumps embedded in the skin. They all adhered to a more or less uniform body form: large boxy head, short puny arms that would make tyrannosaur arms look “pumped”, and thin slashing teeth. The most famous and most easily recognized member of the abelisaur family is Carnotaurus, “the meat-eating bull”, which was featured as the main villain in the computer animated Disney movie Dinosaur back in 2000. However, based upon the hybrid dinosaur’s skull structure, it actually bears more of a resemblance to another famed abelisaur, Majungasaurus (also called Majungatholus, but that name has since fallen out of usage, since it has been proven that the two are actually the same species).

The second thing that I said when I saw it was Danny Glover’s famous quote from the movie Predator 2: “You are one ugly mother-“.

In truth, I was disappointed with the animal’s appearance. To my sense of aesthetics, it appeared ugly, crude, more dragon-like than dinosaur-like. To see a picture of the beast, click here.

See also:

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