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Love ancient history? Buy a copy of Four Days in September today!

I recently received an update from my publisher Pen & Sword Books regarding my book’s sales – they’re good, but they could be better. My history book Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg, 2nd Edition (2016) has been called THE book concerning the Battle of Teutoburg, also called the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, fought in the year 9 AD between the Romans and the Germanic barbarians. I spent a lot of time overhauling the manuscript to create the 2nd Edition, correcting mistakes and adding in lots of new facts which weren’t available when the original edition came out back in 2013. If you’re interested in ancient Roman history, German history, military history, or just history in general, or you know somebody who is, then buy a copy today! You can purchase it directly from Pen & Sword Books on their website catalogue, or you can get it from other major book retailers.

My book is currently on-sale, so you can get it at a discounted price!

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Four-Days-in-September-Hardback/p/11826

 

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Review of the 2016 Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow at the Queens County Farm Museum

Hello all. A week ago, I attended the Thunderbird Mid-Summer Pow Wow which takes place at the end of July at the Queens County Farm Museum. I have been coming to this place, and the associated Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo (which I originally thought was part of the QCFM, but later learned that it’s an entirely separate organization) ever since I was in pre-school. Chances are if you went to pre-school or elementary school here in Queens, New York, that around October you came to this place for some pumpkin picking. I enjoy coming here for the special events that they host, and among them is the yearly gathering of the Indian tribes from across the Americas to represent and honor their heritage – from Canada to Ecuador, and everywhere in between.

As a historian specializing in tribal cultures from ancient times to modern times, I feel that behooves me to come to events like this as often as I can in order to keep up my credibility as a historian and quasi-anthropologist. Also, I just love coming here purely for it’s own sake – I greatly enjoy coming to this place, I enjoy the “rendezvous” like atmosphere, and of course, I love the music and the dances. The food isn’t bad either!

The pow wow was a three-day event, and I arrived on saturday July 30. The weather was forecasted to be pretty bad that weekend, and on Friday, the first day of the festivities, it poured. When I arrived on Saturday, the sky was gray and heavy, and there were warnings that there would be occassional showers throughout the day.

Although it’s called a “museum” the QCFM is working farm where they grow crops and raise livestock. In fact, it is the last fully-operational farm left in all of Queens County. It’s a large place, and the pow wow events were confined to the front portion of the farm where the gate and most of the buildings are. The center and rear of the farm were pretty isolated, aside from a few farm workers and some families looking at the animals in their pens.

I enjoy walking amidst the gardens and crop fields. As I’ve said in previous posts on this blog, although I’ve lived my whole life in the city, I’ve always been more of a country person at heart, and this place allows me a certain amount of escapism.

The first building that you see when you walk in is the Adriance Farmhouse.

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Nearby are other associated buildings which are used for a variety of purposes.

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In the nearby gardens, they grow many of the herbs and vegetables that they sell at the market stand, which is located outside of the giftshop.

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In terms of livestock, they have a refreshing variety, including pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, cows, horses, and even alpacas!

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Just beyond the gardens is the cornfield. they grow the corn in the form of a maze which is then enjoyed by the children during autumn. When I was there, the corn stalks were five and a half feet high, up to my chin.

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Other gardens stretch all the way to the back of the farm property. This is a rather large expanse of open area. On one side are grape vines, some open grass, and then more vegetable and herb gardens. The QCFM used to make and sell its own wine (the 2006 Merlot was especially good), but they stopped doing this a few years back. The following three photos are my attempt at a wide pan shot, which unfortunately my camera can’t do, so I had to take three separate pictures.

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The object that you see in the last picture is a greenhouse. There are several of these small greenhouses, constructed from a frame and covered with thin plastic sheeting, dotted all over the farm. Here is a better picture of it.

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You’re probably expecting me to post pictures of the pow wow celebrations, but I deliberately took NO pictures of this. The dancers, musicians, and story-tellers that were present here have strong feelings about having their pictures being taken. Remember, these people are not tourist attractions. They are people deserving of respect, and I felt that it would not be appropriate to be snapping pictures of people when they don’t want to be photographed. Besides, in this age when everyone who attends a concert records it on their smartphone rather than sitting back and enjoying the show, I am adamant in not allowing technology to get in the way of an immersive sensory experience. So, no photos. Don’t like that? Tough.

Dinosaur Day 2015 at the Garvies Point Museum

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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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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.

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.

 

Garvies Point Museum and Preserve

I want to talk to you about one of my favorite places in the whole world. It’s called the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, located on the North Shore of Long Island in the town of Glen Cove, Nassau County, New York. It is a geology / anthropology museum devoted to the history of Long Island. It’s a small place, but very precious, and worth taking the trip to visit. Very few people know that this place exists. The reason why is because it is tucked into such an out-of-the-way corner that if you didn’t already know that it was there, you would probably never find it. Thankfully, my parents have always exposed me to a lot of different things and different places from a very young age, and I’ve known about this place since I was a little kid. Most people outside of Nassau County don’t know that this place is here, and that’s a real shame. Hopefully, people will read this blog post and go visit there. I used to work at the Garvies Point Museum as a volunteer from January to September 2012. I got my first taste of what working there would be like when I volunteered one day for the annual Thanksgiving feast several years ago. It was a blast. I started volunteering there on a somewhat regular basis not long after I got laid off from a previous job (the place went out of business). I’ve always enjoyed going out to the North Shore, and this place was one of the reasons why. I came there on January 20, 2012 just to look around and soak in the nostalgia. Somehow, I got into a conversation with the staff about my interest in dinosaurs. They were impressed, and told me that they had a dinosaur-themed birthday party coming in the next day – could I come in and volunteer as a paleontology teacher? Sure! I had a great time, and both the children and the parents learned a lot. I made sure that I brought in some of my drawings to show the kids. One of my drawings is on public display in the Mineral Room – that’s where they did the paleontology lessons. It’s a color drawing of a Coelophysis, and it adorns the base of a Coelophysis statue. I stopped volunteering there on a regular basis when I got my teaching job at Vaughn College, but I still call them every now and then just to keep in touch, and I still volunteer there if they ask me and if I have time to spare. The following photographs date to when I was volunteering there. They’re from April 2012, so they’re a bit old. The place has been remodelled a little bit since then, but the overall effect is the same. GP Museum 1

This is the entranceway to the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve. As you can see, the museum is run by the Nassau County Parks Department. The museum sits atop cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound, and is situated amidst many acres of forests and meadows. There’s also a REALLY good bakery nearby called the Landing Bakery, which sells some really fantastic food. Get there quick! The doors open early, and the place is usually completely cleaned out by 4:00 PM.

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This is the front door. It’s a small building, but believe me, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks. You may be wondering what that strange half-rotted wooden object is on the picture’s left. That’s a solid wooden Indian canoe that was made by one of the local Boy Scout groups in the area. It’s been there since I was in elementary school, and the constant exposure to the elements hasn’t been kind to it. There’s another log canoe in much better shape inside the museum.

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This is the geology hall. This place has stuff that I have never seen anywhere else. For example they have mosasaur coprolites – that’s right, the fossilized remains of prehistoric marine lizard poop. How that stuff could have remained intact in a saltwater environment is beyond my knowledge. They have an impressive display of local fossils as well as various minerals and gemstones.

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This is the archaeology / anthropology hall. Here, you will find various exhibits devoted to the Indians who lived on Long Island, from the Ice Age up until the arrival of the colonists in the 1600s. In the center of the hall is a reconstructed wig-wam – a dome-shaped shelter made of branches and covered with tree bark and deer skins. There are also displays concerning archaeological work. In the back of the hall is a display of various animal pelts, including deer, beaver, black bear, and others.

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All the way in the back is the educational area. This museum is very much hands-on, unlike other museums. At the Garvies Point Museum, many of the things on dislay are exposed to the open air where you can touch them. This museum is very much geared towards schoolchildren, and it is an EXCELLENT destination for a field trip! Kids can learn about hunting, fishing, growing crops, constructing buildings, making leather, and especially making ground corn flour. Throughout the museum, there are several corn churns where you can grind up corn flour yourself. It’s one of the things that this museum is most associated with.

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This is the cafeteria, located next to the educational area. I know it’s not that big, but we do get a lot of parties here, and the view of the park and the water is really good, especially in the winter when the trees are bare.

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This is the office / lab. The people who work here are some of the friendliest people that I’ve ever worked with. The big green bookbag on the middle table is mine. GP Museum 8

Here is a place that the general public hardly ever sees. This is the museum library. This place has books that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else. Not only that, but their giftshop also sells books that I’ve never been able to find anywhere else. It’s worth taking the trip out here just to visit their gftshop! GP Museum 9

These are some of the fossils which are on display downstairs in the basement: a hadrosaur leg, a hadrosaur footprint, and an Anatotitan skull. When you first come downstairs into the basement, you’ll see a large sand table that the museum workers use to teach students about erosion and weathering, to the left of this table are these fossils. GP Museum 10

This is the mineral room, where we teach the paleontology lessons. Everything is all set up on the tables for a typical half-hour lesson on dinosaurs and prehistoric life: what are fossils and how are they formed, what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur, plant-eating dinosaurs, meat-eating dinosaurs, and two activity tables in the back where you can make your own fossils. There are other fossils, both real and replicas, which are in the room. There’s also a large collection of (of course) minerals such as quartz, mica, and various other rocks. GP Museum 13GP Museum 14

The museum sits on beautiful parkland with lots of hiking trails.

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This photo shows the view of Long Island Sound from the cliff.

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These two photos are taken from the beach below. The cliffs contain clay dated to the Cretaceous Period, deposited here by the glaciers during the Ice Age, and I’m told that it isn’t impossible to find fossils embedded in it. However, DON’T DIG UP THE CLAY!!! The cliffs are unstable, and landslides happen every now and then. Moreover, you’re not allowed to take anything. This land is protected by Nassau County, and that means that nothing leaves the property. So, no sample collecting is allowed. I hope that this gives all of you a good idea about what the place is like. Hopefully, you’ll be interested enough to visit. Take care, everyone.