Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How not to get a job

I'm not professional at sharing how to get a job. I'm not exactly sure how to get an interview, how to guarantee you'll get work in your field ... none of that. But I can definitely show you how not to get a job.

This evening I was emailed a resume (I'm not the boss of anything - nor am I hiring). So submitting a resume to me can really only serve one purpose - make me laugh. And believe me, I was laughing out loud, and then had to call a friend and have them laugh at it, too. That's how bad this is.

Okay: How not to get a job

Step 1
Email the wrong person your resume. You're not going to get a job emailing the wrong guy the documents. This is a no-brainer - meaning you don't have to use your brain to get it right. Yet, this guy got it wrong anyhow. To their credit, they did ALSO email my old work account - meaning the Editor in Chief at The Lance will receive this application (which is bad).

Step 2
This is mostly bad because this application is personally addressed to me, not the real boss who's hiring. If you're going to put someone's name on the application, you'd better put the right person's name. Using my name to get hired at a place where I do not work, that's not going to get you the job.

Step 3
Make sure your cover letter looks like it was written by a third-grader.
I would like to apply for the Distribution Manager position of the Lance newspaper. I am currently enrolled in my 3rd! year of science at the University of Windsor. [Why the exclamation mark? And why in! mid sentence? Also, you're a science major? Interesting... I'll remember that for later.]
Being on campus everyday I have seen the contributions of the Lance on campus and the surrounding community. I am friends with the current person whom help the position who also informed me of the position. [This last sentence is the worst written sentence I've ever read - good try using "whom" as appropriately as possible, though. So - pronouns aren't your thing. It doesn't look like making verbs agree with pronouns is a strength either]
I have already been informed of the terms and resposibilites that the job entails. I am a dedicated individual and work hard, easily motivated and have a vehicle to deliver the Lance every week. [It's a paper boy position - I hope you've figured this out. And are resposibilities for resposing? Looks like you should have been informed of spell-checker]
I understand that The Lance is Windsor's second largest publication and I believe that I will be able to help expand the current distribution network. Meeting me in person will convince you that I can apply those talents to The Lance. [Meeting you in person would be embarrassing. The only questions I'd ask you in an interview would be: are you serious?]

Attached is my resume. [Yes, unfortunately, it is]

Step 4
Write your resume in less time than it takes to take a shit on a public toilet.

Education, Training And Certification --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- University of XXXXX September 2007 –Present Major: Biology/ Phycology
XXXXXXXXXXXXXX 2007 Graduated with Honours, Travelled with the Debate Team, Also played many sports.
No employer (I'm pretty sure) gives a shit where you went to high school nor what you did there. Disclosing that you traveled with a debate team and played many sports under your "education, training and certification" section is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. While you're listing useless garbage from your high school days, why not include your favourite colour and record for longest belch?

Also - I recall that you're a science major - looks like biology and .. what is that? Phycology? You spelled your major wrong? Seriously? Jesus, what's next?
Employment Experience --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- XXXXXXX Submarine Front Line Cook -XXXXXX, ON 2005-2008·
Food Preperation, Cashiering, Open and Closing of the store.
Answering of the telephone taking orders, and Customer Service.

City of XXXXXX, Parks and Recreation Karate Instructor- XXXXXX, ON.2007-Present
I have a black belt in GoJu Karate and taught childrens ages 4-15, the sttrict traditional Japenese training regiment.

XXXX XXXX Casino Security Guard (Summer Position)- St. Albert, AB 2008 - 2008
Maintained safety and well-being of customers as well as employees.
Secured all currency, dispatched for all telecumminication lines.

XX XXXX Nightclub Security Guard- XXXXX,ON 2008 – Present
Ensure the safety of guests and other emplyees.
Protect company assets, Responsible for the prevention of overserving of alchol.
You spelled something wrong in every one of these descriptions. This is unbearably bad. Again, spell-checker is on every word processor of every kind. Meaning, all of these errors would be underlined or marked to indicate that they were incorrect while you were typing. Meaning, you ignored the errors and sent this to me anyhow.

All of this aside - I hope this isn't some sort of "phycology" experiment. I honestly thought that third-year university was different than third-year at primary school. It seems the only difference is a couple of years experience of working at a bar.

It also seems like this guy expected me to "hook him up" with a job because we have a friend in common. Even if my very best friend sent me this half-assed application with the deplorable lack of effort, I'd reject them. I'd be pissed off at them to think that I would require such little effort in exchange for a favour (especially a pretty good paying favour considering the hours).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good cat, good ...

Less heartbreaking than a man reminiscing about his last best friend ... here's Indiana Jones. She's just hunting some relic that's fluttering about the window - but that doesn't mean that she can't be distracted by 'daddy' when he calls her.

Keep your head up... the Don Cherry movie

I haven't seen a lot of biography movies, but this Don Cherry film was super-good. If you like tense moments where you're not sure the team you're rooting for is going to win, this is a great film for you. But the biggest lesson you've got to take out of this, and I promise you, Don will tell you exactly the same thing, it's the same lesson I learned a long, long time ago.

Always listen to you dog. They tell you the truth as straight as it can be seen, and they'll never lie to you. A dog is a man's best friend. Ata boy Blue.

Friday, March 26, 2010

S_eedy Ca$h

I probably should have promoted this three weeks ago - but this weekend I'm seeing the final presentation of the Cross Town Player's presentation of S_eedy Ca$h. My good buddy James who operates the childrens' blog of his favourite bear cub, Charles, wrote a play back in the early moments of 2010. Well, it was well-received, and before it was officially picked up, he threw the script over to me to review - the question was, could I make it funnier?

Well - I did what I could, and my buddy James says he took many of my contributions into consideration (except my brilliant Sham-Wow! knock-off joke. It's still funny - I'll have to use it elsewhere, I guess). Anyhow, I made tons of recommendations and I think that the final project is likely to be very well done. It might be on a poor-man's budget (or a "Windsor-man's budget", as I like to call them) but that doesn't mean that it won't be super-enjoyable.

Shame on me for not posting something like this three weeks ago when there was a chance that you could have gone to see it. I hope to snap some pictures, and I'll post them up some time next week.

OR you can come down to Windsor for the play Saturday evening at 8 p.m. with $15 in hand and check it out. This is the last showing so make your way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost 6.09 | Ab Aeterno

So - this morning I had a theory strike me that might blow the lid off the entire show. I'm going to sit on it and wait until this episode ends before investing much more time into it - but ... I'm almost disappointed if I'm correct. It's like being spoiled by my brain, which would make me angry. But - considering how much I think about the show, I guess I can't blame myself if I figure it out. I've been asking for it, so to speak.

But - let's wait and see.

Previously on Lost - Richard Alpert is an advisor, who's had that job for a long time. He wanted to die, who has lost his faith in Jacob. He believes his entire life had no purpose.

Now a scene from last year's finale with Jacob visiting Ilana. Jacob needs her help, but we knew this already. Thre are six people I need you to protect, I'll give yo ua list of their names, this is what you've been preparing for. They're the remaining candidates.

On the Island - Jack is curious. They're telling campfire stories. Sun is dishing what she knows.

Ilana wants to know what to do: she has to ask Richard. He seems clueless, vengeful. He believes that everything has been a lie. The big secret is: you're dead. Literally, they're all dead. All this is not what you think it is, they're not on an Island. They're in hell. Richard thinks he's going to start listening to O'Quinn instead - hmmm, upsetting. What kind of an "adviser" has no idea what's going on or a plan? Jacob must have told Richard something. Richard's been a big baby for the last few episodes - totally different from the "man with a plan who's cool under pressure" that we've been led to believe he is.

I am pleased to see the Flashback narrative brought back.

Richard's taking off - and Ilana needs to get him back. Jack is not sure what's up - and Hurley's speaking in Latin? And Hurley can't say who he was talking to. Ben believes that going after Richard is a waste of time, too. They've known each other since Ben was 12, and he reveals that Richard doesn't age.

Years ago - Richard is riding a horse with long hair and a beard. It appears to be Tenerife, Canary Islands in 1867. He tethers his horse to a post and enters a hovel. Isabella is ill, she's burning up. She's coughing up blood - and Richard is going to get a doctor. "God willing" he'll be back soon.

She kisses her cross on a necklace and gives it to him. Did Jacob promise to give Richard Isabella back? He storms off on his horse through the rain and into town (I've totally been there] and he enters a doctor's house. It's late, he's intruding. El Socorro. The doctor won't go out there - he won't go out to there in the pouring rain, but he'll provide an expensive medicine. He gives the cross, but it's worth nothing to the doctor. Then the doctor appears to die in a struggle - and Richard still has the medicine.

He escapes on his horse with the medicine to save Isabella, who has taken refuge in the words of the Bible. She is dead, though, to Richard's lament. And Richard is a criminal, put to jail. Here he is visited by a minister/priest. Luke 4:37? Richard is teaching himself English. Richard gives his confession to the Father. The Father won't grant Richard forgiveness - O'Quinn would have.

You don't have time to do anything - because he'll be hanged the next day. The devil awaits him in hell.

We're back: Richard is still in jail. Maybe we'll get his whole life's story? The Father has him blindfolded. He's led through the jail. He's praying to himself. A man wants to know if he speaks English. Who is this guy? Richard wanted to go to the New World. He's under the property of Magnus Hanso (awesome!)

As we've all speculated - Richard was aboard the Black Rock, bound in chains. They can see an island. There's a massive statue at the coast, "The island is guarded by the devil." Richard prays some more, and the boat hit the damned top of the statue! Perhaps knocking the top off of it?

At a sunnier time in the middle of the jungle, the slaves are all still chained and gasping for air. They have been spared by "God," believes one of the slaves. They are surprised to be in the middle of a jungle. Hanso died in the crash - but that lieutenant seems to have survived. He comes down and starts massacring everyone.

No fresh water, limited supplies, only five officers left, and it would appear he has no intention of keeping everyone. If I freed you, it'd only be a matter of time before you tried to kill me. Then the sound of the smoke monster is heard. Someone tries shooting at it, and everyone runs, or is torn away.

Blood pours down from above deck, and the smoke comes and rips the lieutenant through the deck. Richard is the only one left. He watches the smoke monster come down the stairs and enter into the cabin. It scans Richard while he prays. Then the smoke is gone, we see nothing bu Richard's eye. The monster is gone.

Butterflies flutter around. Richard works to get his chains free. A flash storm thunders and flashes into the jungle. Richard is desperate for fresh water to drink. He finally (perhaps after days?) is able to wiggle his chains free. he's passed out, too feint to do anything, and he finds a boar eating the remains of the bodies.

He's starved and possibly delirious - and he sees his Isabella. She is on the Island, she explains that they are in hell. She's scared of the devil. She's trying to help him escape, but the monster comes and sure sounds like he killed her. Richard loses his wife twice - he must be awfully sad.

Later, further worn down, a man approaches and touches Richard. He's brought a cup and water. He's not given the cup of water from Jacob, but instead, from the man in black. He introduces himself as a friend. He tells Richard that he's alive. He was on the Island long before the ship crashed.

"He" has her. ???

Richard promises to help MIB be saved as well. To be free. Richard's arms are ripped and ragged. "It's good to see you out of those chains." Then Richard passes out. He'll need his strength if they're going to escape. There's only one way to escape from hell - you have to kill the devil.

Panning off a burning fire and a bbq-ed pig, Richard is instructed to walk due-west, from where he'll be able to see the statue. The devil is inside the statue - and he'll have to stab him through the chest before he speaks. The man admits that he is the black smoke. To get his wife back, Richard has to kill the devil - and this will bring his wife back. Right and wrong isn't important, what's important is: do you ever want to see your wife again?

The statue is destroyed, there are bits of boat all over the place. There's nothing but a foot remaining - and Richard has to kill him before he has a chance to speak. There's a doorway into the foot - and Richard is attacked - dropped to the ground and beat. He's beaten senseless. It's Jacob, he's furious.

Jacob tosses Richard in the ocean, nearly drowning him. He convinces Richard that he is alive. Totally different Jacob than we've met before.

On the beach, Jacob seems more hospitable. He's brought something to drink. No one goes into the foot unless Jacob invites them in. He denies being the devil, and introduces himself as Jacob. He brought Richard's ship to the Island. Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell; malevolence, evil, darkness. here it is, swirling in the bottle, unable to get out, becuase if it did, it would spread. The cork is this island, it's the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs.

That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptable because it's in their culture to sin.

Jacob wants them to help themselves - to know the difference between right and wrong without telling them what to do.

If Jacob doesn't step in, the other man will. Jacob offers Richard a job - if he doesn't step in, Richard can be an intemedieary in return. Jacob can't give Richard his wife back. Can't absolve him of his sins so he won't go to hell either. Richard says he wants to live forever, then. Which, oddly, Jacob can do, and he places his hand on Richard's shoulder as he says so.

Richard returns to the man in the jungle. Richard was instructed to deliver a white stone. Jacob can be veyr convincing. If you ever change your mind, and I mean ever, my offer still stands. He gives Richard the necklace that his wife gave him. Then he was gone. Richard says goodbye to his wife and buries the chain.

Richard is marching through the jungle. He arrives at an old tree by that same chair from before. He digs down (not too far) and finds the necklace once again. He's changed his mind - he calls out to the man. Richard calls out for him ... and turns around to find only Hurley.

Hurley says Richard's wife sent him to get Richard back. She wants to know why Richard buried the cross. Thankfully Hurley speaks Spanish, that's very cool. Richard didn't need an interpreter - he had a moment with her all the same. By putting the necklace around his neck, it's a symbol that his faith has returned to him. Now he doesn't have to be a big baby anymore.

Richard has one more thing to do: you have to stop the Man in Black. You have to stop him from leaving the Island or else they all go to hell.

And Locke gives us a bastardly look to just kick the point home.

Here's the man in black, just like in the old days, sitting in the jungle. Jacob marches up to him. He's holding the white hand. Smokey is basically going to kill everyone - he's got to go home. The wine with a cork in it is a symbolic gift - which pisses Smokey off. He breaks the bottle and we leave this story at that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More neat stuff!

Our offer on our house was accepted - so we'll have a house to move into some time - mid-June at the latest. Let's hope it's sooner than that. But it's good news that we've got a place confirmed. I'm looking forward to it - it's real nice.


Hilarious item available for sale: you know anyone with a birthday coming up?

Luxury Watch made from Dinosaur Crap
Yvan Arpa's coprolite watch is a US$11,290 timepiece with a face made from fossil dinosaur turds and a band made from black cane-toad skin (normally poisonous, rendered inert through processing).

The thing is, coprolites just aren't that valuable. Dinosaurs left behind a lot of crap. This site sells coprolite at $8 per pound (it makes a wicked gift!).

Leonardo DaVinci as Dr. Indiana Jones?
Here's a neat movie concept that producers are looking to develop. It hasn't even been pitched yet.

In one of the most unlikely movie projects since Pride and Prejudice was earmarked for a zombie makeover, Warner Bros has announced plans to recast Leonardo as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer.

Leonardo da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever will pit the Renaissance man against "supernatural enemies" in a swashbuckling tale involving Biblican demons, secret codes, lost civilisations and hidden fortresses, according to the Hollywood trade press.

If that sounds a bit like the Da Vinci Code, it is probably no coincidence, although the film is being touted as a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Clash of the Titans. The Da Vinci Code may have been derided as hokum by film critics, but it took more than $750 million at the box office, which has not escaped the studio's notice.

Leonardo will deploy a fearsome arsenal of weaponry in the movie, based on his real-life inventions.

His 15th century designs for the helicopter, parachute, car and submarine may never have progressed further than the pages of his notebook, but they will be gloriously realised in the film.

The studio is searching for a scriptwriter to begin work on the project. The producer is Adrian Askarieh, whose previous credits include Hitman, a violent thriller based on a video game. One critic called it "numbingly unthrilling".

This is very neat | Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the graphic novel)

Check it out: a sneak peek of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies graphic novel.

Alrighty - now I'm wicked tired and I'm going to read the last chapter of my book (Pirate Latitudes) and get some sleep.

Have a great one.

Cool news

Tim Burton heads Cannes, highbrow spleen follows

Sundance? Nah, we're done. The festival circuit (which, unlike awards season, I never get tired of) rushes on with the announcement that Tim Burton will be heading up the 2010 Cannes jury. The news was instantly greeted with sarcasm and outright venom by most of the highbrow folks I know (and, I suppose, more or less claim affiliation with).

Discounting the die-hard Burton fans, a lot of people seem to agree that after an incredible first run, his work veered into self-parody and diminishing returns, though where you cut off is up to you. I'm on board till "Sleepy Hollow" (seriously), with everything but "Sweeney Todd" being pretty unwatchable after that. That doesn't explain the disdain. I think it has something to do with the sense that Burton's become more of a hollowed-out brand name than an auteur, and "Burtonesque" has become an adjective normally indicating someone biting off more gothic whimsy than they can chew.

But what does this mean for Cannes? Probably absolutely nothing; filmmakers normally go out of their way to avoid awarding movies similar to theirs, except for Tarantino, who did it his way in '04 by making sure "Oldboy" got the Grand Prix. That, I think, is where the bulk of the real disdain is coming from. For all his lowbrow affectations, Tarantino named his production company A Band Apart after Godard's "Band of Outsiders" and his jury gave what's roughly third prize to Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Tropical Malady" -- as highbrow (and, it must be said, lovely) a film as can be, defending it against the initial philistine attackers.

01262010_dinos.jpgTarantino, in short, has his highbrow cred in order, which is important when it comes to Cannes, a festival that still, miraculously, has room for the punishing and mystifying. Burton has no such thing. The currently running MoMA series of films that left their mark upon Burton includes at the high end of the spectrum, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and Roger Corman; way down at the bottom, we have "When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth" and "The Swarm."

Considering Cannes juries are volatile and unpredictable anyway, Burton shouldn't register as cause for too much concern, though he did quite clearly express a worldview in "Mars Attacks!" that the world would be a better place if all the snots were gone and we were left with Jim Brown, Tom Jones and some guy rambling about teepees. Let's hope an international jury of his peers can keep him in check, because there's a good chance that he'd give the prize automatically to Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" (if it gets in) just for casting Stephen Dorff, you know?

[Photos: "The Melancholy Death of Oystery Boy and Other Stories" by Tim Burton, published by HarperEntertainment, 1997; "When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth," Warner Bros., 1970.]

Sherlock Holmes plus Dinosaurs

Oddee posted a great list of the ten lamest mockbuster movies. Neatorama noticed that C. Thomas Howell is in three of these. I’d make a joke about that, but my mamma always taught me not to kick somebody when they’re down, unless they’re Welsh.

A mockbuster is a film, often made with a low budget, created with the apparent intention of piggy-backing on the publicity of a major film with a similar title. These movies have similar names like “Snakes on a Train” –not to be confused with “Snakes on a Plane”– or “Transmorphers”, instead of “Transformers.” They are sometimes released around the same time real larger-budget movies, to make money off their hype and advertising. [Oddee]

The Asylum is one studio behind a lot of these movies, such as Sherlock Holmes (dinosauriffic trailer below), which releases this Friday, one month after Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. We’ve replaced the usual Robert Downey Jr. with dinosaurs. Let’s see if they notice.

Monster Brawl in Owen Sound

Some of the area's most beautiful natural attractions, including Inglis Falls, could be taken over by blood, gore and death this spring and summer.

A production company has picked the area to film some scenes for their upcoming horror films.

Foresight Features, based in Collingwood, plans to shoot 10 films over the next five years, with Simcoe and Grey counties as the backdrop for much of their work.

Jesse Cook, the writer and director of the production company's upcoming film,Monster Brawl,said he hopes to use Inglis Falls for a film to be shot this summer and possibly for Monster Brawlin the spring.

"We are actually shooting 10 films in the local area, two this year," said Cook. "The first one, called Monster Brawl, will be gearing up in May."

Monster Brawlwill be a horror comedy mockumentary about a monster fighting tournament including classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, the mummy and the zombie.

Canadian actor Art Hindle has signed with Foresight forMonster Brawl.Hindle is perhaps best know for his role in the moviePorky's,but has also appeared in other movies and television shows, including Dallas, Beverly Hills 90210and Murder She Wrote.

"The bread and butter for the genre stuff is to enlist household names," said John Geddes, another writer, director and producer with Foresight.

The second film of 2010 will be shot sometime over the summer and will be a zombie film in the wilderness.

"We will be doing a good percentage of the shooting in and around the Grey County area," said Cook. "We want to use some of the stunning landscapes Grey County has to offer. Inglis Falls is one of the areas we are looking at."

Cook said there is a chance he could use the Inglis Falls area for scenes for Monster Brawl as well.

Cook said they are still raising the money needed to produce their films this year. So far they are about halfway to the $600,000 needed for the two films. They sell $5,000 units to individual investors.

"We can break even on a film in Canada just based on our broadcast deal, our DVD deal and our tax credit," said Cook.

Investors also get perks such as coming to the set, getting their names in the credits and invitations to the premiers and parties.

Geddes said they would also like to tap the local area for extra actors and crew positions such as production assistants.

Cook and Geddes, who are both Collingwood natives, said Foresight Features has been in the works for about a year, following up on the success they had with their first film,Scarce, which was taken to the Cannes Film Festival in France where it was sold to over a dozen territories. Scarcealso appeared on the Super Channel.

Geddes and Cook began making short films together in 2004 and went to Los Angeles trying to raise money for a feature, but nothing materialized so they returned to the area to try to ply their trade locally. They managed to raise about $250,000 mostly from the Collingwood and The Blue Mountains area for Scarce,which was shot in the winter of 2007 at Metcalfe Rock in the Blue Mountains.

"We are hoping theatrical. We are hoping we can get the next indy hit and bring some press up to the area and maybe develop a local film festival or something like that," said Cook.

Geddes said the idea is to set up a studio in Collingwood and shoot all their films in the area, where it is a lot cheaper to produce movies, both logistically for the duo and because the Canadian government provides a tax credit for doing work outside of Toronto.

"We have the four seasons here. We have water, we have mountains, we have woods, we have town settings so it is a good place to shoot," said Cook. "There is a lot of infrastructure up here and a lot of talent up here and it is our home."

"Splice" a mainstream monster movie

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Mad science meets motherhood in "Splice," a slice of pulp storytelling in which Dr. Frankenstein is replaced by a pair of lovers too hip for lab coats. An odd choice for Sundance even in the midnight slot, the pic falls well within the genre mainstream and should find more receptive crowds at the multiplex than in Park City.

Shot with a moving camera that is playful but not quite tongue-in-cheek, the film begins with researchers Clive and Elsa, a romantic couple played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, overseeing the birth of a gruesome new life form that looks like a giant tongue. Not content with their hybrid of livestock genes, which was developed in search of new pharma-friendly proteins, Elsa covertly goes one step beyond -- slipping some human DNA into the mix to fertilize an egg that is never supposed to become a living creature but, of course, does.

This new, quick-growing little monster, eventually known as Dren, gives the pic's effects crew room to roam, from its initial phase as an armless little beastie with a wicked stinger in its tail through phases in which it looks human enough that Elsa puts it in a dress and gives it dolls to play with. The effects work is quite strong -- no surprise for a fright-flick with Guillermo Del Toro as an exec producer -- as is the moody score.

Writer/director Vincenzo Natali takes his tale in some truly icky directions, not quite making it into Cronenbergland but going far enough to elicit solid 'ewww!' laughs from the crowd. He could have shot for camp-cult DVD shelf life by pushing the story's psychological and sexual elements further, but the action direction he goes instead should satisfy the Friday-night crowd without alienating too many viewers.

Monster illustrations from 'Yokai Jiten'

Here’s a peek at a few creatures profiled in Yōkai Jiten (“Yōkai Encyclopedia”), an informative guide to 100 of Japan’s traditional monsters, written and illustrated by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki in 1981.

Suiko illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Jiten --
Suiko [+]

The suiko (lit. “water tiger”) is a king-sized variety of kappa living in and around the Chikugo River (Kyushu), Lake Biwa (Shiga prefecture), and other bodies of water across Japan.

In addition to prowling around at night and making mischief, the suiko has the power to possess people. Those possessed by a suiko descend into a temporary state of madness, but they recover quickly after the creature withdraws.

At least once a year, the suiko drags a human victim into the water, sucks out his blood, and returns the body to shore. It is best not to have a funeral for the victim of a suiko attack. Instead, the body should be left on a wooden plank inside a small thatched hut in a field. If done properly, this course of action causes the flesh of the suiko perpetrator to slowly rot until it dies.

* * * * *

Umibozu illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Jiten --
Umi-bōzu [+]

Umi-bōzu are giant black bulbous beings that live in the sea. Sometimes they have glowing eyes and a beak, and other times they have no facial features at all. To survive an umi-bōzu encounter at sea, one should remain quiet and look in the opposite direction. Speaking or looking at the creature may send it into a rage — and that usually ends in tragedy.

* * * * *

Bakekujira illustration from Shigeru Mizuki's Yokai Jiten --
Bake-kujira [+]

Long ago, a mysterious sea creature known as the bake-kujira (lit. “ghost whale”) used to appear at night in the waters around an island in Shimane prefecture. The thing looked like the skeleton of a giant whale, and it was usually accompanied by a flock of strange birds when it came drifting in with the tide. Later, when the tide started to recede, peculiar fish would become visible in the water around the monster. Fisherman trying to catch the bake-kujira claimed their harpoons passed through the creature as if it were not there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lost 6.08 | Recon

Not too sure what this episode will be about - but everyone is pretty sure that it's about Sawyer. I've heard one spoiler that I think will happen in this episode in the alternate storyline - rhymes with "Mebecca Rader." So we'll see if this happens or not. I'm desperately going to try and avoid the "guest starring" names that parade across the screen at the beginning of the episode. I don't want a big surprise to be ruined because I know who's acting in it. Like - consider if you saw Alan Dale's name in the credits in the last episode ... you'd be wondering where Widmore was the whole time. Then that little surprise at the end of the last episode wouldn't have been as exciting.

No worries though - almost time for the next episode. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of these alternate storylines converging and moving forward itself. We've got to get something important out of them - and we're eight episodes in: no time like now to start getting some more answers.

No "Previously on Lost"?
Sawye're making tea and giving it to Jin. Jin's scared and Sawyer's committed to helping him find Sun. Claire's tent was brutal - I coulda madea better tento ut of bamboo without sticking parts of an airplane on it.

Kate and Sawyer "reunite."

Sideways: Sawyer is bedding the ladies - (my guess is Sawyer is a legitimate Sheriff) I called it last week with my wife! Cool. Unless he's really conning her pretending to be a conman. His codeword for the cops was "Lafleur." Cool. Nice - Miles is his partner - I like that, too.


[This is the only time I've predicted something and it totally came true - it feels awesome.]

We're back
Claire's gaterhing things up - like knives - and goes back to the creepy baby.

O'Quinn tells everyone that "The Black Smoke" killed everyone but he's compassionate towards the kids. They need to take advantage of the daylight (why would that be?) Claire reaches for Kate's hand?

Sideways: Anthony Cooper is being investigated by Ford (of the LAPD?) He's searching for Anthony coopers all over the place. Miles is hooking Ford up? "Do you want to die alone?" seemed to carry some weight in its delivery. Ford has been up to something extracurricular - is he searching for someone who killed his parents?

Back on the Island: O'Quinn says they'll be staying put for a couple of days. O'Quinn doesn't appear to be interested in lying to Ford. The Others were protecting the Island from him? James seems to be uncomfortable with this now.

O'Quinn sends Ford back to Hydra Island to the Ajira plane. O'Quinn believes that some of the remaining passengers mean to do them all harm. Ford is the best liar around. O'Quinn thinks he can fly that plane and leave the Island? I'm equally excited to see if that outrigger shootout from Season 5 occurs now that they're out on the water in boats! My guess the outrigger shootout will happen in the next episode, not this one.

We're back
Sawyer's out on his date - he's looking for a redhead. And it's Charlotte (rhymes with Mebecca Rader). She's still an archaeologist. She travels to far off and romantic places. Why did he become a cop? (He references "Bullet!") The real reason James became a cop - got to a point in his life where he had to become a criminal or a cop, so he chose cop.

They get it on - she asks to get a t-shirt and starts going through his things. His "Sawyer" folder and finds his family history. Looks like his dad killed him mum after all. It would appear that James still has a deep hate on for the man responsible for his father's death.

Back on the Island: Sawyer's made it to the Hydra Island. The old cages are there, and Kate's old blouse is still there? After all those years it was still laying there - weird. Maybe he doesn't want to be alone after all?

Kate sits down with Sayid: Sayid is mysteriously messed up - and Claire is ready to kill Kate but O'Quinn stopped her. He tosses her around and slaps her - that stops her. [She has to be wicked-weirded out that Locke is there.]

Sawyer's marching around and finds the plane. I'm surprised it's in such good shape. I thought it was more damaged in the crash. Ford seems happy that it's in good shape, too. Looks like something big was dragged away from the flight. There's a whole pile of bodies there. It would make sense that not everyone would have survived the crash.

"The only one left" was sneaking around and Sawyer caught her. I wonder who she is.

We've hit the mid-way point of the episode. It's been building up to these next few moments. Time to see what happens.

We're back
Charlie's brother Liam is in the LAPD department and here comes Ford. Miles needs to talk to Ford. Miles is pissed. He wants to know what Ford's been up to all this time. They're supposed to be partners! They're supposed to be friends. But this is personal - Ford doesn't share it. There's another mirror - we've seen characters looking at themselves in mirrors in each of these flash-sideways.

Zoe - she thought she knew everyone on the plane. She was out collecting wood when she heard screaming. When she came back they were all dead. The last two days she's spent dragging bodies up by the plane.

Kate is weeping: O'Quinn gonna make it all better?
He admits that he lied to Claire. You need an enemy, someone to hate. Someone you needed to hate (like Kate's dad?). Kate's called O'Quinn on his identity. He's promising to keep her safe. She doesn't take his hand to get up. She'll hear him out, but not take his help.

Zoe and Ford are learning things: is she nosey or is she more crafty than this? Maybe she's with Widmore?

Commercial break
So Kate and O'Quinn sit themselves down on a beach to look at the Hydra Island. "I am not a dead man." He can empathize with her because his mother was crazy. Long time ago before I looked like this, I had a mother just like everyone. She was a very disturbed woman, and as a result of that, I had some growing pains. Problems that I'm still trying to work my way through - problems that could have been avoided had things been different.

Because now Aaron has a crazy mother, too. [Is he drawing enough attention to similarities between himself and Aaron?]

Ford with the crew: They're building a sonar fence, interesting. There's the submarine - and certainly Widmore will be among these folks. He's staying safe inside the sub - why is that? Under armed guard, too. Widmore must have some awesome info.

Sideways: Ford grabs a beer, a frozen dinner (the dinner of a lonely man). Watching Little House - he's got no furniture. Life's all about laughing and loving each other and knowing people aren't really gone when they die.

He brings Charlotte a flower - he doesn't want to be alone - and he needs to tell someone what's eating at him. Time for him to turn to a real friend in Miles.

Back in the sub: there's a secret room under lock and key. Chucky W is writing away and he's been expecting Ford. Sawyer says he wants to set O'Quinn up for Widmore to kill him - but he wants to bargain for safe passage of his friends and also safe passage off the Island.

But now James wants to shake on it - so it's going to come down to this: who can offer the best deal?

Rounding out the final 10 minutes
Kate's marching through the jungle alone - and Claire comes to meet her. Claire's come to give her thanks to Kate for caring for Aaron. Nothing crazy happens, which is good.

Sawyer returns and let's 'em know all the passengers are dead. He reveals the entire plan to O'Quinn.

Sideways: Ford goes to pick up Miles - he's gotta come clean. He turns over the "Sawyer" binder. James is still hellbent on killing Anthony Cooper. And he gest in a car accident - someone's running from the cops. It's a woman - Kate? It is.

On the Island: Ford returns to Kate, makes small talk. He says they're going to steal the sub. I guess we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Head-hunting in hockey

I was out for dinner with my mom, and she was eager to make conversation - so she asked me what I thought about all the hooplah surrounding the head hits across the NHL that everyone's talking about? I believe she said something like: "Do you hate those head shots that everyone's talking about?"

well - I thought to myself - no. Not really. I don't hate them. Frankly, no Maple Leafs have been taken out of the game by a headshot recently, and even if any of them did, none of them are any good these days anyhow. Plus they're not playing for anything, so it wouldn't really matter.

Then I thought some more about it: frankly, head shots make the game way more interesting. After a head shot, there's big drama all around the league. Everyone talks about it - people want to see the highlights. What makes for a great story is big conflict - watching villainous players be defeated by the good guys. Watching good guys come back from injuries to succeed. Watching the retribution getting paid out.

When Pittsburgh and Boston play each other next week (in like 10 days) I'm desperately interested to watch the highlights to see what happens. I imagine thousands of people will be. And imagine, who would bother caring about all that drama if the league suspended Matt Cooke. Hell, there'd be no villain to watch - no drama left. The star player is out, the villain is out - it's like watching an episode of Superman when Lex Luthor and Superman aren't in it. Who's going to watch that? Nobody.

The chronicles of Clark Kent's day job? There's a comic book that would rot on the shelves.

In fact - NHL - don't change any rules. More importantly - don't suspend players anymore. Let the players police themselves. I think the COACHES or General Managers should be fined for a player's misdeeds. I guarantee this would add huge drama to the league and you'd definitely see players respecting each other allot more quickly.

That's what I think, anyhow. It's not very humanitarian - but ... who cares? It's TV. It's not figure-skating with hockey sticks, it's hockey. There is no other sport in the world where people lose teeth, get black eyes, and move at the speeds that hockey players do. If anyone can take it, it's these guys.

"... but what if they can't take it because the hits are too dangerous?" you say?

I don't see anyone taking crashes out of Nascar ...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lost 6.07 | Dr. Linus

If your name is Scott and you like the blog, but you don't watch Lost - you should probably skip this post. Nothing personal - it's just likely not for you.

So - the title of this episode promises that we're going to have some Ben Linus importance on the Island, and for the first time, some furthering of the story of the alternate story line. We've seen what Kate, Jack, Locke and Sayid have done in the alternate story lines, but ... finally we're going to have an episode where the story can pick up where it left off - and that's important. Where are they going with it?

Previously on Lost - Ben killed Jacob, Jack is pissed that his name was on the Lighthouse, Jacob had to get Jack and Hurley away from the Temple, and MIB murdered everyone at the Temple.

Now - Ben is running through the woods alone - and he falls down, out of breath. A bunch of folks with torches are walking by. It's Lapidus, Sun, Ilana, - Sayid reveals that Dogen and the interpreter were both killed by Sayid. Ben wants to go back to the beach - Ilana agrees. Ben appears to have a plan - if not, he's essentially just being a leader.

Sideways: It was on this Island that everything changed. Elba is where Napoleon faced his greatest test. He had to confront the absence of power. Interesting perspective. Some fellow wants to meet with Linus. Linus has to supervise detention. [I thought that with Linus as a European history professor we'd learn some lesson that showed the entire European history of the world was different because of "The Incident." If that's still a possibility, we didn't see evidence of it tonight].

In detention - Arzt is there - he works at the same school as Linus (Dr. Linus, actually). Arzt is still the same putz. Taking care of kids, that's what's important. Ben refuses to give up - perhaps he should be the principal - says Locke. Locke believes that if the man in charge doesn't care, then he should be replaced. Interesting. Is this the driving factor between MIB and Jacob?

Back on the Island. They're all marching around - Ben is still hiding behind his lie that Smokey killed Jacob. Miles is going to read Jacob's ashes? Can he do that? Looks like Linus is going to get outed. Miles is pretty crafty - is he going to sell Linus out? YUP!

Jacob was the closest thing that Ilana ever had to a father - sounds bad for Ben. Ilana had never met Miles before - yet she knows exactly who he is and what he can do. [So - Ilana never had a father - but Jacob filled in that role for her? Sounds like these daddy-issues are more important than ever - especially considering that we've got Roger Linus coming up.]


We're back - the crew is marching through the jungle. They're on an entirely new mission now that the Temple has been infiltrated. They made it back to the beach camp. Getting a fire going Ilana would like - Miles doesn't seem so hopeful. Ben wants to help, he tries to manipulate Ilana - but she doesn't seem to be biting. Lapidus reveals that people just don't like Ben.

Sideways: Ben takes a frozen dinner out of his microwave. He's got his father with him! Very cool. He loves his father - he's trying to keep him healthy. Ben doesn't like caring for the kids in detention. He fears that he's more a loser than any of the kids he's watching. Roger wanted a better life for Ben. Roger reveals that they'd both been to the Island been before. If they'd stayed - their lives could have been very different. Who knows what you would have become?! So -here's one mystery solved. They were on the Island - but left it. Likely before the Incident - but we can't be sure just yet.

Alex Rousseau was in Ben's history club! Too weird. She was counting on the tutoring - and he's happy to make time for her. Really weird - opens up more possibilities. Did Danielle raise Alex? Did the French expedition ever leave to find the numbers? Were the numbers ever broadcast? We'll have to wait and find out.

On the Island: Ilana is building something - and Sun is back to having to find her husband. Ilana wants to find Jin, too - but she doesn't know where to look. She needs to protect the candidates, but she doesn't know which Kwan is "42." You'll find out what you're a candidate for if you're selected. There are only six candidates left.

Hurley and Jack are among those six. Jack wakes up Hurley - they want to head back to the Temple. We can tell in this scene that Jack does what he wants to do - and Richard shows up! Awesome.

Where did Richard come from? You wouldn't believe Richard if he told you. Not yet! What does that mean?

Ben is going through Sawyers old tent. Lapidus was supposed to be the pilot for Oceanic 815. He overslept. His alarm didn't go off. The Island still got him in the end. But Ilana is not happy with Ben - I suppose we'll learn a lot more about her relationship with Jacob shortly. We seem to think that she's going to execute Ben - but, I doubt that.

She ties something to his boot. Pick up the log and start digging up the grave. Ben murdered Jacob, so she wants him to dig a grave - for himself.

But not for long - Chapter 19: East Indian Trading Company? Expanded over Corn Wallaces' (Wallace? - 108?) Alex is wicked-smart, according to Ben. She needs a letter of reference from someone who went to Yale to get into Yale - and she seems to believe Principal Reynolds is a "pervert." Principal Reynolds and the nurse were getting down in the nurse's office. Could this be Ben's chance to overrule the unworthy leader of his school?

Back on the Island - Ben's digging away- and Ilana is trooping around like a Hyena. Miles is happy to feed him, he's kind of a good guy. Ben says he can get off the Island and a vast network of resources - but Miles can get at Nikki and Paulo's diamonds, so bribing him doesn't matter. Miles says that Jacob cared about dying right up until Linus stabbed him - he hoped that Ben wouldn't do it.

Richard and Hurley and Jack are walking along - Richard was given a gift from Jacob. They've made it to the Black Rock (c'mon answers about Richard!). Everyone at the Temple's dead, so Richard brings them to the Black Rock. Richard had just come from the Temple and there were no survivors - none of the candidates, though, were found dead there. They weren't there. Richard is astonished that Hurley speaks to Jacob - but Richard warns Hurley - don't believe Jacob.

And then he walks back to the Black Rock because he's got something to do: die.

For the record, Nik Kulemin just scored in overtime so the Leafs could be the Bruins. Now you know. 9:30 p.m. even. Nice!

Arzt is flunking students when Ben shows up. Ben wants to hack a faculty account (the nurse's) to see about her correspondences. Ben needs Arzt to help him get the principal's job - but Arzt has some demands - better parking, aprons, stuff like that. Linus is a real killer.

Though on the Island he's still stuck digging his own grave, in the rain no doubt. Back at the Black Rock, Richard is slinking through the Brig - and Jack follows him in with a lantern (lit, foolishly). Richard had been here before - this is the first time he'd been back.

He finds dynamite - and pockets some. Hurley wants to leave, but Jack isn't ready to leave. Richard can't kill himself, even though he really wants to, so he wants the others to. Jacob touched him, it's considered a gift - it's not a gift at all -it's a curse. Richard wants to die because he devoted his life, longer than you can imagine, in service of a man who believed that everything happened for a reason. Richard has lost faith in Jacob.

He can't kill himself - but Jack could light the dynamite for him. So Jack lights to dynamite's fuse for Richard - but it's an ultimatum to get Richard to talk. Jack's not going to leave until he gets what he wants!

More commercials
So the fuse is running - and Hurley's wetting his pants. Then he runs a mile away. Jack doesn't think either one of them are going to die. He believes his name on the Lighthouse means something important - it was Jacob's lighthouse. Can Jack make a believer out of Richard? Can his faith in Jacob come through? It does. Is it good enough for Richard? Want to try another stick?

So now what? We go back to where we started [where Oceanic 815 crashed].

At the beach camp - Linus is still digging, but this time we can hear the Smoke Monster coming. And here's Terry O'Quinn. He's visiting- looks like Terry's going to offer Linus a deal. Ilana is Jacob's bodyguard - but O'Quinn doesn't want Ben to die. He's gathering a group to leave this place for good, but once they're gone, someone will have to be in charge of the place for good.

Suddenly his chains break off. O'Quinn wants Ben to meet him at the Hydra Island - and even left a rifle nearby for him to overtake Ilana. So he runs for it.

Sideways: Linus has Reynold's emails, perhaps? Ah - the principal is about to be ousted. Is this the guy from Ghostbusters? Ben manipulates Reynolds to get his job. But Reynolds seems like he's equally manipulative. Reynolds will sacrifice Alex's future if Linus goes through with this plan.

Island: he's running through the jungle, he finds the rifle: and he gets Ilana to surrender. Is he a killer? He wants to explain himself. I know what you're feeling. I watched my daughter Alex die in front of me, and it was my fault. I had a chance to save her, but I chose the Island over her. All in the name of Jacob. I sacrificed everything for him and he didn't even care. I stabbed him, I was so angry, confused, I was terrified that I was going to lose everything that mattered to me in my power, but the thing that really mattered was already gone. I'm sorry that I killed Jacob, I am, and I do not expect you to forgive me, because I can never forgive myself.

Just let me leave. To Locke - because he's the only one that will have me.

But, Ilana will have him. And he follows her.

Commercials: heading into the last 10 minutes...
Ben is in Reynold's office - Alex comes by to thank Reynolds for his incredible letter of recommendation. But Reynolds went all out. Linus didn't sacrifice Alex's future after all. Ben gets a small victory - he gets history club back out of manipulating Reynolds. Arzt is welcome to Ben's parking space if he wants it.

Back on the Island - Ben has followed Ilana back to the beach camp. They all seem weird to see him. (But they're closer to the outriggers - from Season 5). He seems eager to help, he's a different man. He's like the Napoleon from his lecture at the beginning of the episode. Lapidus and Miles are chilling - and Miles has dug up the diamonds from Nikki and Paulo. And Jack and Hurley have arrived - it looks like things could be okay for them. Plus they've got Richard on their side - that can't hurt, considering Richard can't die.

Sun is happy to see Hurley - I guess it's been a long week or so since they were split up after the Ajira crash. Does Jack know Ilana? He seems unsure of trusting Ben -

Then a shot of the Ocean - this would be a submarine? It's watching them. Who's in the sub? There's people on the beach - it's Widmore!!!!!!!

he's got a plan of some sort - a plan that his crewmates think twice about when they notice that there are people on the Island. YIKES. and COOL.

Bam - Lost

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dinosaur Round-up 11

I've been listening to James Taylor, so I'm in a good enough mood to post some things that don't suck. Jurassic Park doesn't suck -

Frankly, these are all just articles about dinosaurs (albeit good articles about good dinosaurs).

Jurassic Park comes back from extinction
Dinosaur-movie franchise Jurassic Park is set to take another bite out of the box office -- Hollywood bosses are planning to bring a second trilogy to the big screen.

The original 1993 film, starring Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, was a massive success, grossing $914 million worldwide and spawning two sequels.

Now, nine years after Jurassic Park III hit theaters in 2001, movie bosses are planning to let the dinosaurs roam the earth once again.

And Joe Johnston, who directed the third installment, reveals a new movie will be closely followed by two more.

He tells BoxOffice.com, ""There is going to be a Jurassic Park IV. And it's going to be unlike anything you've seen. It breaks away from the first three -- it's essentially the beginning of the second Jurassic Park trilogy. It's going to be done in a completely different way.

""If you think of the first three as a trilogy, number four would be the beginning of a second trilogy. We just want to make them justified in their own right. We don't want to make sequel after sequel just because there's a market for it. We want to tell different, interesting stories.""

(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.

Mily's blog about Korean children
Imperical evidence out of some part of Korea that dinosaurs make children better:

In Korea, I noticed that 5 year old boys only draw dinosaurs and vehicles, whereas girls tend to draw people and flowers. For the most part, the boys drawings were far more interesting, so I'm finally putting some online. Apparently professional artists are using the same style. Rawr!

Dinosaur Death Pits

Brian Handwerk

for National Geographic News

Published January 19, 2010

Following in a giant dinosaur's footsteps could be fatal—but not for the reasons you might suspect.

Mysterious "death pits" holding the fossil skeletons of nearly two dozen small dinosaur species may actually be the 160-million-year-old footprints of an ancient behemoth, a new study suggests.

The first of three dino-filled pits was unearthed nearly a decade ago in northwestern China's remote Xinjiang region.

Inside the 3.5- to 6.5-foot-deep (1- to 2-meter-deep) depressions were the largely complete skeletons of several species of small theropods, bipedal raptors from the lineage that includes Tyrannosaurus rex.

The stacked fossils included Guanlong, or "crested dragon," a T. tex ancestor with a Mohawk-like head adornment. Limusaurus, also found in the pits, was a probable herbivore with an intriguing hand that some experts believe links dinosaur limbs to bird wings.

Even as scientists celebrated these rare fossil finds, a mystery remained: What created the death traps in which the animals were entombed?

Treacherous Tracks

Analysis of the rocks surrounding the dinosaur fossils shows that the unfortunate animals were stacked up inside in a mixture of volcanic mudstone and sandstone, say geologist David Eberth and colleagues, whose work was partially funded by the National Geographic Society.

"All of the geological data indicated to us that we're dealing with sediments that were originally very rich in fluids," said Eberth, of Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum. "These were never empty holes in the landscape."

Instead, the death pits might have been created by the wanderings of the massive sauropod dinosaur Mamenchisaurus, Eberth's team suggests in the study, which will appear in the February issue of the journal PALAIOS.

Although the pits lie in what is now the Gobi desert, 160 million years ago the region was a marshy wetland. (Related pictures: life in the Jurassic period.)

But at some point during the late Jurassic, erupting volcanoes showered the area with massive amounts of ash. This volcanic debris created a semisolid surface over pockets of quicksand-like volcanic mud.

When Mamenchisaurus went for a walk across the strange landscape, the massive plant-eater's feet punched through the ashy surface, and the dinosaur's footprints became backfilled with thick mud, the study authors think.

Like beach walkers leaving their "vanishing" prints in wet sand, the huge dinosaur's filled-in prints became "invisible" pit traps.

At around 40 to 50 pounds (18 to 22.6 kilograms) each, comparatively tiny theropods and other small animals could have walked unhindered across most of the region's solid ash crust. But the dinosaurs would have easily gotten trapped if they had stumbled into Mamenchisaurus's muddy footprints.

Theropods in particular would have had a tough time escaping, since the dinosaurs used only their hind legs for locomotion, Eberth said. (Quiz: Test your dinosaur IQ.)

"It's very likely that other kinds of animals would have entered these pits but were able to get out," Eberth said. "We picture quadrupeds being able to get out of these pits because they essentially had a natural four-wheel-drive to pull themselves out."

In addition, small theropods were most likely coated in feathers that, when covered with mud, would have weighed them down further.

When an animal died, it would become at least partially submerged. Other creatures would then fall into the muddy trap, creating layers of entombed bodies.

After a few months, it's possible some animals were able to escape death because they could stand on the piled-up corpses, the study authors write.

Springing the Trap

The footprint idea is plausible, said Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

"The small, possibly plant-eating theropod Limusaurus was common and conceivably could have traveled in small flocks or herds," said Sues, who was not involved with the study. "Many of these animals could become trapped on such treacherous ground."

"The larger predatory Guanlong would then have been attracted by seemingly easy prey and became itself ensnared in mud," he said.

Whatever the pits' origins, the importance of the skeletons found inside them is beyond doubt, he added.

Theropods of this era are considered closely related to birds and so are important pieces in reconstructing the evolution of flight. (Related: "New Feathered Dinosaur Found; Adds to Bird-Dino Theory.")

But even though the small raptors were common during the Jurassic, their remains are quite rare, he said. That's probably because theropod carcasses were typically ripped apart by predators, and their smaller bones were far less likely to survive to the present day.

Multiple individuals of the same species found together in the pits allow paleontologists to better understand the way dinosaurs grew and aged, as well as their roles in the larger ecosystem. The finds also help fill an enormous fossil gap for the middle to late Jurassic (see a prehistoric time line).

"Previously," Sues said, "we had known very little about dinosaurs and other land vertebrates from this particular time interval anywhere."

Footprints to be preserved

Dinosaur footprints formed 165 million years ago on an ancient shoreline in north Oxfordshire are to be given special protection by the Government’s conservation experts, Natural England.

The fossilised tracks of dinosaurs including the Brachiosaurus, a vegetarian, and the carnivorous Tyrannosaurus are in a working quarry at Ardley, near Bicester, close to the M40. It is to be designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest — the first to be protected for its geological features alone.

The fossils found in the rocks include a variety of sea urchins, molluscs, clams, lamp shells, horseshoe worms, snails, corals and very rare ammonites and nautiloids.

Helen Phillips, the chief executive of Natural England, said: “Geological sites of this quality and importance are few and far between and we are delighted to give this important window on our past the protection that it so clearly deserves.”

The site needs to be protected from exposure to the elemnts and damage from erosion. Experts will work with the site owners to ensure that the trackways are preserved to allow scientific study.

Hunting the T-Rex on Montana's dinosaur trail

LIFE for poor old Leonardo was nasty, brutish and short.

About 77 million years ago the juvenile duckbill dinosaur was attacked on the plains of what is now known as Montana, US, by a pack of Jurassic predators.

Fatally wounded, the young Brachylophosaurus struggled to the edge of an inland sea, where he sank into the soft sand and died.

The salt water mummified him, preserving the wrinkles and scales on his skin and even his last meal of conifers and magnolia-like plants.

He remained buried until he was discovered north of Malta, in central Montana, in 2000.

Named after graffiti carved in a nearby rock, Leonardo is now a worldwide palaeontological star and a leading attraction at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, one of the stops along Montana's so-called Dinosaur Trail.

The Dinosaur Trail links together a series of dinosaur-related museums, laboratories and archaeological sites including the Great Plains Museum.

The idea of a dinosaur trail was dreamed up by local tourism authorities who wanted to capitalise on the state's wealth of fossil resources.

And Montana has plenty.

Courtney Moles, the general manager of the Great Plains Museum, says dinosaur digs began in Montana in the late 1800s but the state didn't get to keep a specimen until the 1960s.

The museum was set up in 2003.

"It was formed by local community members who decided we have a lot of awesome dinosaur specimens, and we needed a place to keep them and where people can see them,'' Moles says.

As well as Leonardo, the museum houses the bones of Roberta, another Brachylophosaurus, and Ralph, a possible new species of sauropod.

Also on display is Giffen, the northern-most stegosaurus ever discovered. Giffen was found in 1997 by a local family who were building a retaining wall on their dam.

They originally thought the piece of bone they found was a curious rock and used it as a doorstop for four years.

"But as they found more they realised, they had a dinosaur,'' Moles says.

Home of the Tyrannosaurus rex
Visitors to the museum are able to hold and handle this 150 million year old fragment of dinosaur.

Great Plains is one of the few dinosaur museums in the world where you can do this, Moles says adding, ``We're not worried about it being damaged - it was a doorstop, after all.''

Another stop on the trail is the Fort Peck Dinosaur Museum, an architecturally impressive building located next to the Fort Peck Dam in Fort Peck, Montana, which opened in 2005.

Only about 40 Tyrannosaurus rex have ever been found, most of them in Montana.

One of these is the so-called Peck's Rex, a replica of a dinosaur found in 1997 30km southeast of the museum (the original fossils are kept in a sealed vault).

Montana is ideal for finding dinosaurs, says Fort Peck ranger Michele Fromdahl.

"It's not that there were more dinosaurs here, it's just that conditions at the time were perfect for preserving them.

"It was a swamp then but it's really arid and dry now, which makes it perfect for discovering dinosaurs. The terrain was perfect then and it's perfect now.''

People have an inherent fascination with dinosaurs, Fromdahl says.

"Part of it's their size, they're just so big. And they're just not around anymore.''

Fromdahl says the Peck's Rex is unusual because he is believed to be 65-75 per cent intact. It's thought that Rex may have had an arthritic jaw or suffered a fatal mouth infection, something of a liability for a T-rex, and starved to death.

Rex is also holding clues for palaeontologists at the University of New Orleans who are studying evidence to suggest that dinosaurs were left and right handed.

Surf's up!: How rafting lemurs colonized Madagascar

Who doesn't love lemurs? The strepsirrhine primates, or wet-nosed cousins of ours, are favorite documentary subjects and extremely popular zoo attractions. And, in one of those bits of zoological trivia that everyone knows, lemurs only live on the island of Madagascar off Africa's southeastern coast. The question is how they got there.

Documenting the paths of animals during geological history is not an easy task. In the days before scientists understood plate tectonics, land bridges, now sunk beneath the ocean, were often used to explain the dispersal of organisms. While some land bridges did exist in the past, like the one that allowed mammoths to cross from modern-day Russia to North America, they were not nearly as widespread as had once been thought. Instead many scientists began to think about how organisms might float their way to new places by becoming accidental passengers on bits of vegetative detritus. As articulated by paleontologist G.G. Simpson, this was a kind of "sweepstakes" in which creatures would be cast out to sea on floating mats of plant matter and of those wayward animals a few might be washed up in a new habitat able to support them. From these few survivors of tropical storms entirely new ecologies could become established.

The trouble with this was that the currents surrounding Madagascar circulate in a way that would make it very difficult for any raft to make it to the island. Maybe the unique island fauna could be attributed to a land bridge, after all. Neither option seemed entirely satisfactory, but, in a paper just published in Nature, scientists Jason Ali and Matthew Huber took another look at the sweepstakes hypothesis. As it turns out, the currents surrounding Madagascar might have been more of a help than a hindrance in transporting rafting animals to the island.

During the Late Cretaceous Madagascar was home to dinosaurs, including the knobby-headed predator Majungasaurus, but 65 million years ago they died out along with the other non-avian dinosaurs in the rest of the world. At this time Madagascar was already separated from the rest of Africa, but this did not stop it from being colonized by mammals. Studies of the genetics of Madagascar's living inhabitants have indicated that the ancestors of its modern-day fauna, such as the primates that gave rise to lemurs, started to arrive soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The ancestors of lemurs were among the first to arrive, between 60-50 million years ago, followed by tenrecs between 42-25 million years ago, carnivorans between 26-19 million years ago, and rodents between 24-20 million years ago. Representatives of these mammal groups clearly did not walk over all at once, as might be the case with a land bridge, but instead arrived bit by bit over tens of millions of years.

Just because the land bridge hypothesis is not well-supported, however, does not mean that we can safely assume that the sweepstakes hypothesis is correct. As the authors of the paper note, critics of the rafting hypothesis have cited the present currents and winds that move south-southwest and thus would prevent rafts from making it to the eastward island. If the same situation was true in the past then it could be safely assumed that whatever early primates found themselves adrift would be deposited back along the African coast, if they returned to shore at all.

The currents (red lines) currently surrounding Madagascar. (From Ali and Huber, 2010) .

But there is no reason to believe that the winds and currents around Madagascar have remained constant during the 120 million years that the island has been separate from the African continent. During the past 60 million years alone multiple ocean gateways have opened and closed, and both Madagascar and the African mainland have moved over 1,650 km towards the equator. Given all these changes it must be considered whether the flow of water around Madagascar has been altered, and Ali and Huber have answered in the affirmative.

Unfortunately the intricacies of prehistoric ocean currents cannot be observed directly, so the authors of the new study simulated the behavior of past currents using computer modeling. After accounting for what is known about the position of continents and climate over the past 60 million years the authors found that the currents around Madagascar were quite different in the past. In particular, the model predicted that during the Eocene (about 56-34 million years ago) there was a "vigorous eddy" off the east coast of Madagascar that would have drawn whatever drifted off the coast eastwards towards the island rather than south along the channel as occurs today.

Yet the normal flow of these currents would not have been fast enough to transport living animals to Madagascar. Under normal conditions it simply would have taken too long. Instead, it appeared that there were periodically faster currents at certain times of the year that could allow rafts to cross the channel in 25-30 days, and if tropical storms formed in the area (as seems likely) rafts of vegetation might have been given an even faster journey. This could explain why the dispersal of mammals to Madagascar took so long. The survival of the animals on the rafts was contingent on peculiar conditions that only occurred for a few weeks every year.

This pattern was in place through the Eocene and into the Oligocene, but by the early Miocene (about 23 million years ago) Madagascar had shifted enough that the currents changed again. The pattern of currents became more like what we are now familiar with, and they cut off the island from colonization by rafters (though animals that could swim and fly could still arrive). The fauna of Madagascar could thus continue to evolve in near-isolation; a sort of evolutionary experiment that itself was contingent upon which groups won the dispersal sweepstakes. This makes the destruction of Madagascar's native fauna all the more tragic. Lemurs, like many other animals there, exist nowhere else. If they are wiped out we will have ripped apart one of the most fascinating evolutionary stories we have ever come to understand.

Small dinosaurs crushed under feet of giant cousins

CALGARY -- It was a puzzle for experts in the field -- the fossil remains of small dinosaurs stacked on top of each other in three pits in China.

Now, the mystery of the "death pits" is solved, thanks in large part to the help of a senior scientist with Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.

Those 1.5-metre deep pits, which contained a total of 18 small dinos, are in fact the massive foot prints of a 20 tonne sauropod-type dinosaur that roamed through the once-marshy area.

"We first found these localities with these dinosaurs, these raptors stacked up on top of one another like pancakes," said David Eberth, with the Royal Tyrrell Museum. "The fact of the matter is that's a very unusual way to preserve dinosaurs."

He said the smaller dinosaurs included two new species of great value to researchers.

The landscape was very muddy, Eberth said, and there were nearby volcanoes blowing ash.

When the sauropod trod through the mud, small dinosaurs would come along and fall into their footsteps, get trapped and die, he said.

Zhucheng, with miles of gated industrial complexes featuring signs advertising canned food and men's suits, looks like any other factory town aboveground. But underneath this city of 1 million, there's a treasure trove of dinosaur remains, more than 50 metric tons of which have been collected.

They are so numerous here that "fossils can even be found in some farmers' private courtyard areas and next to their houses," said Xu Xing, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is one of the lead researchers on the excavation here.

Residents in and around Zhucheng, on China's east coast in Shandong Province, have been digging up "flying dragon" bones for use in medicinal concoctions for generations. But it took a long time for the state to recognize their value.

Dinosaur researchers "had absolutely no money in the 1990s," said Clark, who has been coming to China to do research since 1991. But by 2002, the government put a stop to people who smuggled dinosaur bones and eggs and sold them. Now, Clark said, "because they are finding so many amazing fossils, the Chinese government is putting a lot of money into it."

As a result, there are more than 30 excavation sites in this area, the largest of which was discovered in 2008 and has been nicknamed the "Dinosaur Stream."

At the time dinosaurs were roaming across China, Zhucheng is thought to have been an area of grasslands submerged under several feet of water.

The researchers theorize that the dinosaurs were killed by the force of an explosion from a volcanic eruption or a meteor impact and then were caught in a flash flood, landslide or even a tsunami that threw them together. Perhaps several such disasters occurred over a period of years.

"It's very hard to understand why there are so many dinosaurs dead in one place," said Wang, the principal technician on the excavation.

The pit has yielded some of the world's largest duck-billed dinosaur specimens, bones of a type of dinosaur that had never been seen outside North America, and at least six new species.

One of the new dinosaurs has a pointy, triangular chin, kind of like a pelican's bill but made of bone. Xu says it is "the strangest creature I have ever seen."

What's even more intriguing is that there are seven distinctive "floors" of dead dinosaurs in the pit. Some of the soil is yellow, other layers are red clay, which Xu said seems to show that "there wasn't just one event. The dinosaur bones are preserved in different layers, suggesting they were killed in several different times," he said.

Local officials are less interested in these mysteries. What they see in Zhucheng are money-making opportunities. Wang Kebai, head of the Zhucheng Municipal Tourism Bureau, has contracted with a U.S. company to draw up plans for a dinosaur museum and park that he and other officials boast will rival Disneyland. He said he expects 2 million visitors a year.

Wang said the potential is so great that the government may order scientists to stop digging and simply put glass around some of the bones in the soil and rocks so that tourists can see them in the state that they were found, rather than in isolated cases in a museum, with signs on them.

"There are so many bones," Wang reasoned. "Not all of them need to be studied."

Gang broke into dinosaur park
A gang broke into a Norfolk dinosaur park, played on the attractions and stole £100 of sweets in a “stupid” late-night drunken prank, a court has heard.

The five defendants broke into the Dinosaur Adventure Park near Weston Longville on September 10 last year - and two of them enjoyed it so much they went back a week later and raided it again.

They escaped custody when they appeared before Norwich magistrates.

Prosecutor Lisa Britton said: “They broke into the Ice Age treat hut and stole sweets, fizzy drinks and other confectionary to the value of £100. Some of these items were later found strewn around the park in plastic bags.

“They also damaged the hut as they broke in and some of the dinosaurs had been moved out of place.”

Wayne Gray, 26, of Catton Grove Road, Norwich, and Paul Sillis, 18, of Berners Close, Norwich, both admitted two counts of theft after they returned to the park and carried out the same offence.

Richard Harvey, 22, of Julian Road, Spixworth; Jody Newton, 25, of St Leonards Road, Norwich; and Kirsty Gray, 20, of West Acre Drive, Norwich, each admitted one count of theft.

The court heard that none had been in serious trouble before. In mitigation James Burrows said their behaviour had been “stupid” but not malicious and amounted to “tomfoolery”.

He added: “It seemed like a good idea and was fun at the time but it has led to these five young people appearing before the court on some quite serious charges.”

Magistrate John Nicholls said that the cases of Wayne Gray and Sillis were aggravated by the fact they returned and repeated their crime.

Wayne Gray and Sillis were sentenced to 180 hours unpaid work for the community with £105 in compensation and costs. Harvey and Norton were sentenced to 120 hours unpaid work with £75 compensation and costs. Kirsty Gray was given a 12 month conditional discharge with compensation and costs of £75.
Study offers insight into dinosaur colours

What color were dinosaurs? Well, at least one of them had a feathered mohawk tail in a subdued palette of chestnut and white stripes.

Reconstruction of two Sinosauropteryx, sporting their orange and white striped tails.

Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing

That is what a team of Chinese and British scientists reported Wednesday in Nature, providing the first clear evidence of dinosaur colors from studies of 125-million-year-old fossils of a dinosaur called Sinosauropteryx.

“We might be able to start painting a picture in color of what these things looked like,” said Lawrence M. Witmer, a paleontologist at Ohio University, who was not involved in the study.

Of course, such pictures have been painted many times, but the colors were products of a painter’s imagination, not a scientist’s laboratory.

Dinosaur fossils are mostly drab collections of mineralized bones. A few preserve traces of skin, and fewer still preserve structures that many scientists have argued are feathers.

In the new study, Michael Benton, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol, and colleagues have analyzed the structures of what appear to be feathers and say they match the feathers of living birds down to the microscopic level. They used microscopic features to determine the ancient feathers’ color. The study builds on earlier work on fossil bird feathers by Jakob Vinther, a graduate student at Yale, and his colleagues. In 2006, Mr. Vinther discovered what looked like an ink sac preserved in a squid fossil. Putting the fossil under a microscope, he discovered the sac was filled with tiny spheres. The spheres were identical to pigment-loaded structures in squid ink, known as melanosomes.

Mr. Vinther knew that melanosomes created colors in other animals, including bird’s feathers. He and his colleagues made a microscopic inspection of fossils of feathers from extinct birds. They discovered melanosomes with the same sausage-shaped structure as those found in living birds. By analyzing the shape and arrangement of the fossil melanosomes, they were able to get clues to their original color. They determined, for example, that a 47-million-year-old feather had the dark iridescent sheen found on starlings today.

Dr. Benton was intrigued when he read Mr. Vinther’s research and immediately wondered what it might mean for dinosaurs.

Starting in the 1970s, a growing number of paleontologists argued that birds had evolved from a two-legged group of dinosaurs called theropods. The paleontologists pointed to traits in their skeletons found elsewhere only in birds. In 1996, Chinese paleontologists discovered an exquisitely preserved fossil of a miniature theropod, called Sinosauropteryx, that had whiskerlike structures on its head and back.

Some paleontologists argued that these whiskers were simple feathers. Skeptics have claimed that the structures were just shredded collagen fibers and that Sinosauropteryx had a smooth reptilian skin.

Since then, however, scientists have found a number of well-preserved theropod fossils with many more featherlike structures, corresponding to downy feathers and feathers with vanes. Scientists have even found bumps on the arm bones of dinosaurs, where the quills had attached. If all of these structures really were feathers, Dr. Benton reasoned, then they might have melanosomes. He and colleagues from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing set out to look for them in fossils of ancient birds and dinosaurs, including Sinosauropteryx.

The search was brief. “Essentially,” Dr. Benton said, “wherever you look, you find it.”

One of the dinosaurs Dr. Benton and his colleagues looked at, known as Sinornithosaurus, was a 125-million-year old squirrel-sized dinosaur covered in complex feathers. In a small sample of its fossil, the scientists found two types of melanosomes. One sort produces hues in birds ranging from gray to black; the other makes reddish tints.

The scientists also looked at a piece of the tail of Sinosauropteryx, the first feathered dinosaur ever found. They discovered melanosomes producing a reddish color that alternated with white regions. “I think the authors make quite a compelling case,” said Dr. Witmer, of Ohio University, adding that the study decisively closes the case on whether the whiskers are feathers or collagen.

One skeptic was not as impressed. Theagarten Lingham-Soliar of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa argued that the researchers should have investigated whether dinosaurs without so-called feathers also had melanosomes in their skin. “Regrettably, I have to say the study would not pass muster in college science,” Dr. Lingham-Soliar said in an e-mail message.

Dr. Benton rejects such criticisms. “These filaments are feathers,” he said. “They’re not shredded tissue: they’re stuffed with melanosomes.”

The discovery also offers clues to the early prehistory of birds. Richard O. Prum, an evolutionary biologist at Yale and a collaborator with Mr. Vinther, has argued that Sinosauropteryx’s whiskers represent an early stage in the evolution of feathers.

“It’s an important advance to show that this dino fuzz really is feathers,” Dr. Prum said.

Dr. Prum and Mr. Vinther are doing the same kind of research, examining dinosaur fossils for melanosomes.

Mr. Vinther said that the study published Wednesday did not have enough detail to provide a full-blown picture of a dinosaur’s color patterns. “One or two samples is not going to do it,” he said.

Discoveries by KU paleontologists trumpet the age of Chinasaurus

Lost in time, hidden beneath the earth for millions of years, dinosaurs aren’t creatures that reveal their secrets quickly.

Yet two new and surprising dino-discoveries recently have come out of the University of Kansas. Not surprising, both have emerged from fossils found in a nation that in the past decade has risen to utterly transform the study of the prehistoric past.

More than ever, this is the age of the Chinasaurs.

“Whether you are looking for marine reptiles or birds or dinosaurs, or whatever, China is developing so fast right now it is staggering.” said Philip Currie, professor of dinosaur paleobiology at the University of Alberta and vice president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. “I’d say that right now it is number one in the world for most major fossil finds.”

The first KU discovery, announced in December, looks at fossilized teeth of a nasty turkey-sized dinosaur to show that some meat-eating dinosaurs not only clawed or chomped their victims, but also oozed venom from glands in their mouths like cobras or Komodo dragons to poison their prey.

The second finding, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is sure to reignite the ongoing fight over the origin of flight.

Paleontologists David Burnham and Larry Martin and animal flight expert David Alexander — all with KU — worked with Chinese scientists to create a model using bones cast from a 125-million-year-old, four-winged gliding dinosaur named microraptor to show that the pheasant-sized critter probably did not run on the ground, as many scientists contend.

The scientists instead present evidence suggesting that the sharp-toothed carnivore, an ancestor of modern birds, always lived in the trees, spreading its wings and coasting from branch to branch.

The paper is a direct challenge to the “ground up” notion of flight, the theory that modern birds evolved from feathered dinosaurs that first ran on the ground before evolving the ability to take wing.

“With 7-inch flight feathers on its feet, it was implausible that it would even walk,” Burnham said.

To be sure, for nearly 130 years — ever since the late 1870s, when great long-necked dinosaurs were discovered in the American West —— the United States reigned supreme as the site of new dinosaur discoveries. But in the past five years, China has usurped North America in a dino-race that, to the extent it exists, is as collegial as it is competitive.

In fact, one of the most important figures in China paleontology, 45-year-old Zhonghe Zhou, the director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, happens to be a KU grad. He earned his doctorate there in 1999.

“We now have three people here from KU,” Zhou said in a telephone conversation from Beijing. “One guy on my team, he’s an expert on fossil amphibians. He got his master’s degree there.

“When I was at KU, I was really interested in sports. I watched all the basketball games. Even when I come back, I still pay attention to KU.”

But in paleontology — whether the focus is dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, 500-million-year-old sea creatures or even early humans — China is now ranked first among fossil-hunting sites.

“It’s not just dinosaurs, but fossil mammals, too,” said famed dinosaur hunter Bob Bakker, curator of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “They have great stuff: complete saber-tooth cat skeletons, three-toed horses. The Chinese have magnificent fossil rhinos.”

Dinosaurs unleashed in Jolly Old Oxford

It is known as one of London's busiest shopping strips but Oxford Street looks more like a scene from Jurassic Park as it is taken over by a large-scale dinosaur exhibition.

Parklife on Oxford Street has been transformed into a prehistoric jungle, complete with 24 life-sized dinosaur robots including the stegosaurus, the iguanadon, the diplodocus and the tyrannosaurus rex.

The Dinosaurs Unleashed exhibition, which opens today, is the UK's largest fully animatronic dinosaur display, which uses robotics and electronics to make the models move in lifelike ways.

Finishing touches are made to the Diplodocus exhibit at Dinosaurs Unleashed, which opens today

Finishing touches are made to the Diplodocus exhibit at Dinosaurs Unleashed, which opens today

Visitors will be able to walk amongst the dinosaurs and be given an insight into life 65million years ago.

The display features animals from the three great ages of the species' reign - the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous - which stomp through the park alongside a giant aquarium.

The largest model on display - the diplodocus - is three times the length and double the height of a double-decker bus.

The display runs until April 30.

The exhibition features 24 life-like dinosaurs including the tyrannosaurus rex and stegosaurus

The exhibition features 24 life-like dinosaurs including the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Stegosaurus

The models are fitted with electronics to make them appear lifelike

The models are fitted with electronics to make them appear lifelike

A follow-up to that story is:

One of London's most famous streets is set to exhibit a large collection of robotic dinosaurs.

The reptiles have been brought to life using animatronics - electronic puppets - at an empty site in Oxford Street.

They have been put on display as part of a roaming attraction to educate children and adults.

Visitors can get up close to a Diplodocus, a dinosaur longer than three double-decker buses. The exhibition runs until 30 April.

Velociraptors and a Tyrannosaurus Rex can also be found at the site opposite Selfridges department store.

The creatures can be seen in a mock Jurassic forest, complete with a watering hole, which has been created by organisers Progressive Events.

Nicky Allison, project director at Progressive Events, said: "The location, with the animatronics dinosaurs, will provide for a truly unique experience."

In 2008 developer Land Securities won planning permission to build commercial and residential properties on the site where the dinosaurs will temporarily be located.

The building, which is believed to be the largest development on Oxford Street for 40 years, will be designed by leading architects Hamilton Associates. Work is due to be complete by late 2012.

A newly discovered fossil has shed light on why a group of dinosaurs looks like birds, say scientists.

Haplocheirus sollers may not be as charismatic as T. rex or as agile as a pterodactyl but it's thought to solve a long standing puzzle.

Researchers believe its short arms and large claw show how bird-like dinosaurs evolved independently of birds.

The 3m-long skeleton, found on an expedition to China's Gobi desert, is described in the journal Science.

The fossil is a member of the Alvarezsauridae family, a group of bird-like dinosaurs. The group shares features with birds, including fused wrist elements and a loosely structured skull.

But the researchers say the new fossil shows the Alvarezsauridae group split from birds much earlier on the evolutionary tree than was thought.

"Haplocheirus is a transitional fossil," Jonah Choiniere from George Washington University told the BBC.

"Previously we thought the Alvarezsauridae were primitive, flightless birds. This discovery shows they're not and that the similarities between them evolved in parallel."

The fossil is of a nearly complete adolescent dinosaur skeleton and was found in orange mudstone beds in the Junggar Basin, Xinjiang, China.

It's like finding a great, great grandfather in your family which doubles the age of your family tree
Jonah Choiniere

It was spotted when a member of the team noticed the pelvis at the ground's surface. The rest of the skeleton was found only inches down.

The new dinosaur shows an early evolutionary step in the development of the short, powerful arm typical to the Alvarezsauridae group.

"The rest of the members of this group have really short forelimbs with huge muscle attachments, like body-builder arms. The fossil shows the first step in the evolution of this weird arm and claw," said Mr Choiniere.

Varied diet

The researchers believe the fossil shows development of the two diverged in the Late Jurassic period, about 160 million years ago. Until now there was no evidence of this type of dinosaur living at that time.

"It's like finding a great, great grandfather in your family which doubles the age of your family tree," said Mr Choiniere.

Scientists believe that birds descended from theropods or bird footed dinosaurs in the Late Jurassic. Theropods include alvarezsaurs, other bird-like dinosaurs including the well known Velociraptor, meat eaters like T. rex and modern birds.

Haplocheirus sollers means simple, skillful hand. The fossil shows the dinosaur had small teeth and researchers believe the claw may have been used for digging termites.

"It may have had a very general diet, tackling smaller animals like lizards, very small mammals and very small crocodile relatives," explained Mr Choiniere. "It was a lightly built animal and could run very quickly."

Tehran Times and T-Rex

T. rex's family tree just got one member larger. Scientists unearthed bones from a new dinosaur species, including an adult specimen and bones from a “teenager” that lived some 75 million years ago.

Called Bistahieversor sealeyi, the dinosaur lived about 10 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex appeared on the scene. Even so, B. sealeyi belongs to the same dinosaur linage as the famous T. rex.

Fossils from Bistahieversor (pronounced: bistah-he-ee-versor) were discovered in New Mexico back in 1998, and after many years of studying the bones, the paleontologists just announced the findings as a new genus and species, which they detail in the January issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

To the untrained eye, Bistahieversor looks like most of its tyrannosaur relatives, but many subtle features, especially in its skull, set it apart.

“When we take all these features together, it's clear that we have something different than what's been seen before,” said Thomas Carr, a professor at Carthage College in Wisconsin, who studies tyrannosaurs and co-authored the paper.

The scientists based their conclusion on one main specimen, consisting of a complete adult skull and partial skeleton.

This bipedal carnivore was about 29 feet (9 meters) long, with a head the size of a washing machine, and would have weighed at least a ton, Carr said.

Bistahieversor was thus quite a bit smaller than its T. rex cousin, which had a head about 5 feet long and weighed around 6 tons, said Thomas Williamson, a curator of Paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, who also was involved in the research.

The researchers also unearthed a “teenager” of the species, along with a few bones from another adult.

Bistahieversor shares a few characteristics with more advanced tyrannosaurs, like the T. rex, but also has many, more primitive features.

The findings give the researchers insight into the evolution of this dinosaur linage, helping them understand when particular features may have arisen.

“Our animal is a window on what that common ancestor might have looked like,” said Carr.

Like T. rex, Bistahieversor had a deep snout (as seen vertically from the side), which would help the animal kill its prey using its jaws.

The fact that Bistahieversor has a T.-rex-like snout, even though it is older, indicates that this feature is relatively primitive, Carr said, and it is not unique to more advanced tyrannosaurs.

More primitive tyrannosaurs were smaller, had shallow snouts and long forearms, and probably captured prey with their hands, Carr said.

These creatures then increased in size, but still retained their shallow snouts. Later on however, their snouts increased in depth.

“Our new animal represents that change, after the large body size was established, then the snout became deep and the head became the main killing instrument,” said Carr.

Finding this fossil in the American southwest “really changes our picture of what predators were around,” Carr said.

Up until it was discovered, most of the teeth and bones found in the area were thought to be from dinosaurs that were more closely related to T. rex, such as Albertosaurus, and who lived farther north. But this fossil shows that there was actually a predator unique to the area.

And since Bistahieversor is more primitive than its northern cousins, “it seems that we have primitive animals hanging on in the southwest, but the advanced ones are farther north,” said Carr, who added that he thinks this pattern was brought on by geographical barriers between the north and the south, such as the formation of the Rocky Mountains.
Dinosaur footprints found in east China city

JINAN, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archeologists said Friday they have discovered an exceptional large track of dinosaur footprints in a city in the eastern province of Shandong.

After a three-month excavation, more than 3,000 dinosaur footprints have been uncovered on a 2,600-square-meter slope in a gully of Huanghua town in Zhucheng City.

Wang Haijun, a senior engineer at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Xing Lida, a dinosaur footprints researcher, said the prints dated back to more than 100 million years ago in the mid Cretaceous period.

The footprints in at least three layers are rare in the world in terms of both their number and total size, they said.

The footprints, which range from 10 cm to 80 cm in length, revealed more than six kinds of dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus, Coelurosaurs and Hadrosaurs.

The footprints were in the same direction. Wang said this might be a result of migration or panic escape by plant-eating dinosaurs when facing a surprise raid from meat-eating counterparts.

Wang said as excavation continues, there could be more footprint findings.

Archeologists have found dinosaur fossils in some 30 sites in Zhucheng, known as a "dinosaur city".

Zhao Xijin, an expert from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said Zhucheng discovered the largest dinosaur fossil field in the world in 2008 where more than 7,600 fossils had been uncovered.

'Jurassic Park IV' absolutely does not feature gun-toting dinosaurs
The other future project I discussed yesterday with Joe Johnston is the long-rumored "Jurassic Park IV."

If you weren't reading my work on Ain't It Cool, you may not have read my report on the proposed sequel that was written by William Monahan and John Sayles. It led to Sayles accusing me of breaking into Steven Spielberg's personal computer at one point, which was just nuts. I did no such thing, but I guess the project was supposed to be under lock and key.

You can read that original report here.

That was back in 2004, and I figured they must have moved on by this point, even if they did have two giant A-list names on that script. For those of you who don't remember the report, here's the most important part of the article:

"There’s the eight-year-old-boy side of me that thinks that a DIRTY DOZEN-style mercenary team of hyper-smart dinosaurs in body armor killing drug dealers and rescuing kidnapped children will be impossible to resist. And then there’s the side of me that says... WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!

[The main character] is put in charge of training these five dinosaurs, X1 through X5, and the first thing he does is name them. 'Any soldier worth his pay has a name to answer to, not a number,' he says. So we are introduced to Achilles, Hector, Perseus, Orestes, and Spartacus, each of them a specially created deinonychus, which is sort of like a miniature T-rex. They have super-sensitive smell and hearing, incredible strength and speed and pack-hunting instincts, and they have modified forelegs, lengthened and topped with more dextrous fingers, as well as dog DNA for increased obedience and human DNA so they can solve problems well. All of this is topped off with a drug-regulating implant that can dose them with adrenaline or serotonin as the situation demands."

Seriously. That's what the script was about. A commando team made up of gun-toting super-smart dinosaurs.

It was the single most insane thing I've ever read from a major studio. It still blows my mind that they were considering it at any point, much less that they got William Monahan and John Sayles to both work on it. Spielberg spent a fair amount of time in the press at the time crowing about how great their new idea was, and I seriously wish they'd just gone ahead with it. Even if it turned out to be godawful, it would have been unforgettable.

Since Joe Johnston has said several times now that he's attached to direct the film, I told him that I'd read that draft, and I was curious about the state of development on the film right now.

Drew: Is that still in the offing, or have you moved on now to a new idea?

Joe: We have. There is an idea now for number four that is different from the first three, and that is more or less the beginning of a new trilogy, in that it sends the whole franchise off in a new direction. It's not about the dinosaur park anymore. It's about all-new characters. So Steven's busy right now with the stuff he's doing and I've got to do "Captain America," but hopefully afterwards, we'll find time to develop it. And really... it's something different that we haven't seen before in the "Jurassic Park" world.

Drew: I'm sorry we won't see the Sayles/Monahan idea.

Joe: Well, you know, Universal and Steven will want to keep making these movies as long as they're successful, and who knows? We may see the Monahan/Sayles version come back.

It sounds like no matter what, we're still a long way from any dinosaurs making their way to the screen, but at least I can finally confirm that the version I wrote about is no longer the version they're interested in making.

Again, my thanks to Mr. Johnston for his time yesterday, and to Universal for putting us together. Look for the rest of the Joe Johnston interview, as well as my chats with Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving, as we continue our coverage of "The Wolfman" all week long.