History Needs More Dinosaurs

November 14, 2008

Via my fabulous friend Jeremy Tolbert, I received the following most awesome link:

Roadside Attraction: The Alternative History Theme Park Where Dinosaurs Fought in the Civil War

As the article says:

Most speculative fiction surrounding the American Civil War imagines how the world would be different had the Confederacy won its independence. But roadside attraction creator Mark Cline has imagined an entirely different kind of Civil War science fiction. His fiberglass creations tell the tale of a group of Union soldiers who discover a lost valley of dinosaurs in Virginia and plot to use them as weapons against the South.

You absolutely must click over there to see all the fantastic photos of the recreated dino vs. soldier battles. As you may notice in the first photo, things don’t appear to have gone exactly as the Yankees had planned. Given that I live in North Carolina and the museum is in Virginia, I’m definitely starting to feel the need to take a road trip.

What other ideas can you think of for alternative history theme parks you’d like to see?

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Did That Critter See His Shadow?

February 2, 2008

If you’re in the U.S., it’s not unlikely that a certain rodent crossed your path this morning. Like most celebrities, he’s put on a few pounds in his old age and is getting ever more difficult to hoist in the air when that all-important premonition proclamation is made by his inner circle. Yes, that’s right: it’s Punxsutawney Phil’s day to shine . . . just like the early-morning sun, which cast a long shadow behind him and means six more weeks of winter. Phooey.

Punxsy Phil The holiday’s roots go back to the European tradition of Candlemas, when candles were blessed and distributed and the day’s weather was used to foretell the coming of spring. Imported by German settlers, Groundhog Day has been officially celebrated in that small town in Pennsylvania since 1887, though real interest in attending the ceremony didn’t take off until the Bill Murray/Andee MacDowell film highlighting the holiday and the town was released in 1993 (need to jog your memory?).

Unless you like a media circus, you’re better off visiting Phil any other day of the year when you’ll have his full and undivided attention. The town has developed a small number of groundhog- and weather-related attractions which can be enjoyed year-round. Your pilgrimage must include a stop at Phil’s home, a terrarium called “Groundhog Zoo” at the library building on Punxsy’s town square. Before leaving town, pick up a Phil-shaped cookie cutter and bake a few groundhogs in his honor every February ever after. Punxsutawney is approximately 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh and 150 miles southeast of Erie in west-central Pennsylvania.

Ancient History on a Road Trip

August 24, 2007

The other day on NPR, I heard this story:

World’s Oldest Hominid Now World’s Oldest Tourist

The basics:

One of the world’s treasures, the hominid fossil known as “Lucy,” is about to go on public display for the first time outside its native Ethiopia.

The Lucy exhibition has been praised by some as a coup for Texas and denounced by others as the reckless exploitation of one of humanity’s most famous ancestors. Renowned paleontologist Richard Leakey even called it a form of prostitution.

Next week, the 3.2 million-year-old fossil goes on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It could be the start of a six-year, 10-city tour for Lucy…

There is now a huge argument over whether or not such rare archeological finds should be allowed outside their countries of origin at all. The main argument, of course, is that they are too fragile or could be damaged, which seems like a fairly good argument if you consider that these remains are still the subject of research.

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Treasures of American History

July 20, 2007

I recently had the opportunity to spend several days in Washington, DC for the annual American Library Association conference. I had some time for sightseeing and made the most of it, having never been to DC before (being little enough to ride in a stroller doesn’t count). After spending so much time with national monuments and museums, I have been pondering our notion of American history, and wondering what this says about us as a nation.

My thoughts were jump-started by an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, “Treasures of American History.” The Smithsonian Museum of American History is currently closed for renovations, so they’ve put up a small exhibit of highlights in one of the Air and Space Museum exhibit spaces. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t exactly it. I realize that these objects are probably usually displayed rather differently, and that I may have been seeing them without some of the context the museum usually provides, but overall I just found the exhibit really irritating.

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