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.
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.
- “Abelisauridae”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abelisauridae
- “Ceratosaurus”. https://dinosaursandbarbarians.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/ceratosaurus/
- “The presence and usage of osteoderms in dinosaur paleo-art”. https://dinosaursandbarbarians.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/the-presence-and-usage-of-osteoderms-in-dinosaur-paleo-art/
Today, I learned some very heart-breaking news. Stephen Czerkas, one of the true greats of paleo-art, recently died. He was 63 years old. The cause of death was liver cancer.
Czerkas was famous for his life-sized dinosaur sculptures, and he developed a very distinctive style – you could immediately recognize a Czerkas sculpture. His horned Allosaurus graced many children’s dinosaur books and TV shows, and his life-sized Carnotaurus was truly epic. However, his most famous work was his pack of Deinonychus raptors. Czerkas was one of the first paleo-artists to have his theropods adorned with feathers, and he also discovered that at least some species of sauropods had spines on their backs, which was incorporated into the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs.
To all of those dino-lovers of my generation – those who came of age during the 1990s – Stephen Czerkas’ work would have been an integral part of your life. Czerkas was one of THE paleo-artists of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the time when I was becoming exposed to dinosaurs and other prehistoric life. The sheer awesomeness of his work influenced me profoundly both as an artist and as a person who dedicated his life to studying the past.
The paleontological and artistic spheres have lost one of the true greats of their domain, but his work will last and I dare say will continue to influence artists, scientists, and children generations from now.
RIP Stephen Andrew Czerkas (1951-2015) :(
I can now boast that I am an award-winning author. My history book Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg has been selected for Trafford Publishing’s “Gold Seal of Literary Excellence”, which will be posted on the book’s front cover from now on. Granted, it’s an in-house award, certainly not the Pulitzer Prize, but it certainly helps to enhance my academic and literary “street cred”.
The book won this award because it was given a positive review by The US Review of Books. Not only that, but my book has been classified by the USRB as a “recommended” book, meaning that the book’s content is considered to be of high quality, and people who are interested in this particular subject ought to read it. To be classified as a recommended book is rather rare. According to the USRB website, this rating is used less than 20% of the time.
I was and still am very self-conscious about the numerous spelling errors in the book. However, as one British author and historian who reviewed my book wrote to me in an e-mail (whose name I will not disclose due to privacy), overall content and subject matter is more important than the spelling. The reviewer from the USRB also had the same sentiment. According to the USRB website, a recommended book “is a high quality book…Recommended nonfiction books are well organized, reveal deep insight and knowledge, and fulfill its intended mission with merit” (http://www.theusreview.com/USRfaq.html#recommended). I’m flattered that the reviewer thought so highly of my work.
You can read the USRB review of my book here. Hopefully, this will lead to bigger and better things.
On Sunday, October 5, I attended the annual Applefest for the first time. This is a massive fair that is held in the town of Warwick (established in the late 1700s), Orange County, New York. I was informed that it was one of the biggest autumn festivals in the entire Northeast, with a projected attendance of somewhere around 35,000 people. My parents and I had a lovely ride through the rural hilly forest-covered countryside of lowerstate New York (I hate using the phrase “downstate” because it sounds depressing). As I stated in a previous post, I’m a country boy at heart, and I love to get out of the damned city at every opportunity, especially to experience “old time” things like quaint fall and country festivals.
Despite my very limited finances, I had a feeling that I would be spending an inordinately high amount of money there. At country fairs, things tend to be slightly on the expensive side. Local craftsmen and farmers need to sell their wares, and with many of them feeling the pinch from economically bad times, they need to adjust their prices higher to make up for things.
When we got there, which was at around 10:30 AM (only a half-hour after the fair opened), the place was already jammed. I was surprised how popular the fair was in both senses of the word. I was told to expect a large crowd, but I wasn’t prepared for this. There were at least 7,000 or 8,000 people when we got there, and the crowds kept increasing every minute. Almost immediately, I spotted various stands for things. They were giving pony rides to small children, the local town fire department had set up a barbecue, and there was a stand for adopting ex-racing greyhounds – they seemed to enjoy a more relaxed laid back lifestyle than the hectic energetic one that they had previously pursued. Next to this was a stand selling spices and varieties of olive oils. In the energetic spirit of the moment, and with a fervent desire to help local communities and craftsmen, I bought three different bottles: Italian herb, sun-dried tomato, and spicy pepper.
The Applefest was not just about apples, despite its name. Certainly, all things apple-related played a big part in it, but the stands were for far more: food stands, craft vendors, and environmental/community awareness booths talking out things like solar energy, banning plastic bags, and animal adoption. On top of all this, seemingly everybody in the town decided to have a yard sale!
I had many good experiences here, but at the top of the list was when I got to make apple cider myself, which was something that I had never done before. I have an immense unquenchable thirst for knowledge, especially pertaining to things that I regard as from the past, and I tried to get as much information as I could. I first began by carefully studying the construction of the portable press, which was about the size of a bicycle, and took a few pictures just to have a reference – I am determiend to get one of these things for myself, if I should ever be so lucky as to have my own farm somewhere. I also carefully watched the press in operation. I had a wonderful conversation with a teenager (at least I assume he was a teenager) named Rafael about the process of making apple cider. He told me that it takes about 40 pounds of apples to make one gallon of apple cider, and that you can make your cider of a specific flavor depending on the apple variety (some are sugary sweet while others are tart). Then came the best part – I got to help him. I started by tossing the apples into the hopper. The hopper is connected to a turbine, which is connected to a wheel-crank. The operator turns the crank, which turns the turbine, which crushes the apples. The crushed bits then fall out of a hole in the underside and down into an awaiting bucket. The buckets are not whole – they have large slats cut into the side so that the juice can escape when being pressed. Make sure that the bucket is lined with a mesh cloth! Not only does it prevent the apple bits from being squeezed out through the bucket slats, it also makes cleaning the bucket a lot easier, and you can carry the shredded apple chunks away like they’re in a bag. After I acted as the shoveler, so to speak, I acted as the presser. The bucket was placed underneath a large cast-iron screw with four spike-shaped handles on the top, and there was a circular wooden board underneath the screw, unattached. After the bucket of apple pulp was placed under the screw press, the mesh bag that the pulp was in was folded over, completely covering the apple pulp – this is to prevent the apple chunks from sticking to the underside of the board. Then, the board was placed over the pulp, lined up directly underneath the screw. Then, start turning! You have to make sure that you don’t turn too much, otherwise you’ll break open the bucket. As I turned the screw, which was easy at first but got to be rather hard work, I observed the tan-orange cider juice coming out of the slats, traveling a short distance down a decline and out of a drainage hole. Underneath the hole was a steel pot, collecting the juice. I helped Rafael out a coule of times with the process as the people watched us. I shook his sticky hand with my sticky hand and thanked him for all of the information that he gave me and for allowing me to participate. He smiled and gave me a free cup of cider for my work.
I love it when youth become involved in these sort of things. I’m noticing a greater interest among young people in “getting back to the land” and focusing more on simple things. First, I had a great talk with a student from VVS High School about the process of making maple syrup, and now this. I really want more young people to get involved in agrarian pursuits and having a greater appreciation for home-grown local produce.
We made our way through even further. The fair wasn’t limited to just one street – it seemed that half of the town had been converted for the Applefest. Along every street were food venders, craft vendors, and social awareness booths. I had talks with a person who made bows and arrows, a person who made fudge, and another person who represented a group that wanted plastic bags to be banned in the town of Warwick. I was rather moved by that, and I am contemplating starting a similar organization in my home town of Flushing.
After having some hamburgers made for us by the Warwick Fire Department, we looked around for a little bit more, and then decided to head back home. We left at 1:00 PM, and the traffic leading up to Warwick was backed up bumper-to-bumper for miles. By the time that we left, there had to have been at least 30,000 people there, and they were still coming in! Along the road, I passed by the barn of a nearby farm, and painted on the side were the words “LOCAL = GOOD”. I absolutely agree.
I had a great time. I heartily recommend visiting the Warwick Applefest at least once in your life. Certainly, it’s a must if you live in lowerstate New York. I’m already thinking about going back next year.
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.