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News On A Tuesday

This day in Great Outdoor Fight history: No strip; after the booze and pizza and crazy bread, Beef and Ray make the long trip home from Wasco to 62 Achewood Court. After getting zero (Beef) or a minor fraction of 8.504 lbs (Ray) of solids across three days in the Acres, I imagine Our Heroes gorged themselves heartily. I would guess that decision was pretty contributory to Beef’s ultimate reflection on what The Fight meant¹.

Things are happening today, my friends. Things!

  • Firstly, and I expect that you all know this by now but I would be remiss, but Homestuck updated for the first time since July last night. Woo!
  • Secondly, the much-anticipated Kickstart for Irregular Webcomic’s first print collection hit in the early-morning hours (if you’re in the Western hemisphere, at least). Some twelve hours later it’s just shy of 19% of the way to goal, with 29 and a half days to go. One notable thing to point out is that although IW creator David Morgan-Mar (PhD, LEGO®©™etc and semi-pro Mr Bean impersonator) is Australian, the book is being handled by the folks at Make That Thing in *hampton, MA, USA, which leads to the ironically awful situation that Morgan-Mar needs to charge some $31 (Australian) to ship books to his fans across town.

    This is such a terrible thing that he’s actually set the shipping costs for “rest of the world” (basically everyplace that isn’t US/Canada) to AU$28, meaning he’s going to take a loss of AU$3 (about US$2.25) for each order back to his own country. To make up for this, he’s introduced a special backer tier for US/Canada fans only (about 80% of his readership) that adds one slim Aussie Fun Buck to the regular price of the book reward:

    THE BOOK+POSTAGE GOODWILL (US/Canada only): A copy of the print collection book + a PDF digital copy. The extra dollar is your goodwill to help offset postage costs for non-North American buyers.

    I’m pleased to note that as of this writing, 22 US/Canada backers have opted to kick in the extra Australian dollar (about 75 cents, US; 1 buck, Canada) to help subsidize purchasers elsewhere. Nicely done, all.

  • Thirdly, today is the launch day for the first two of First Second’s new line of educational graphic novels, namely Science Comics: Dinsoaurs, Fossils and Feathers and Science Comics: Coral Reefs, Cities of the Ocean. When I got my review copies in the mail a while back (the usual voluminous thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01 Books), the attached info sheet said they would be releasing in April, but that was subsequently moved up and caught me by surprise.

    Thus I’ve not read Coral Reefs to the degree that would allow a proper review, but I can talk about it generally. It’s by Maris Wicks, and it’s about marine biology (which happens to be her day job and all) and it’s got the same effortlessly informative style as her previous Primates and the recent Human Body Theater. It’s great.

    But of course I’ve read Dinosaurs more thoroughly. It’s about dinosaurs, people, and I firmly adhere to Charlie It’s always a good day for dinosaur news! Pierce’s dictum regarding the terrible lizards: Dinosaurs existed then to make us happy today.

    It’s by MK Reed and Joe Flood, who previously collaborated on :01’s The Cute Girl Network (which was about dating in Brooklyn among the underemployed and undermotivated — it’s a hoot and a half). It’s pitched directly at kids just starting their serious independent learning about dinosaurs (say, 10 years old), and as such there were a few things that may need to be explained to the younger reader to avoid confusion.

    1. Nonlinearity; kids may not be aware of the device that says Oh hey, that thing we told you before? Not so much in telling a story. There are end notes (without indications in the text that notes exist, which actually simplifies things — they can go back and re-read the sections that get elaborated on) and a recurring motif that works well after you notice it: every once in a while there’s a page that talks about what was known at a particular point in time from the POV of that point in time². It’s really neat, but kids may need some coaching to put themselves not just in somebody else’s brain, but at a different point in history to appreciate what’s being presented.
    2. Editing oversights; at one point, the classic explanation of the two divisions of dinosaurs by hip type — the “bird hipped” ornithischians and the “lizard hipped” saurischians — is illustrated in classic fashion by pointing out the pubis bone pointing backwards (ornithischians) or downwards (saurischians). To make it clearer, a sample pelvis is shown, with the pubis in yellow for the saurischia and green for the ornithischia.

      Then, on the next page, the bones are drawn in place on a variety of dinosaurs with the colors reversed. The ornithischians suddenly get a yellow pubis and the saurischians green, which caused me to stop reading to figure out why I was confused. There’s also a bit of text late in the book that’s supposed to say that dinosaurs lived 250 – 65 million years ago, but actually says 25,065 million years ago. Whoops.

    3. Art trumping facts; The very first page of the book contains the caption For 165 million years, dinosaurs walked the Earth, with herds of ceratopsians, hadrosaurs, some non-specific sauropods, and a couple of large carnosaurs out looking for snacks. Overhead, some pterosaurs float lazily. So far, so good.

      The next two pages are the splash pages, with captions that read And flew. And swam., with a very active scene of aerial and aquatic beasties. There’s pterosaurs, archelons, plesiosaurs, icthyosaurs, mosasaurs, none of which are dinosaurs, argh (look ’em up).

      Yes, this is me being pedantic, and yes, they walk back and let the reader known that long dead + reptile-looking does not always equal dinosaur, and yes, the overall theme of the book is about how we have spent a few hundred years learning what dinosaurs were by replacing earlier conceptions with newer ideas.

      But if you’re going to be working in an educational context, you can’t make this big a mischaracterization in the opening pages because the kids will eat you alive for this kind of mistake³.

    All of which just means you’ll have to explain literary devices and editing and artistic choices to the kids that read this book. They’ll get it, kids are smart. Use it as a way to bring up the fact that we’re constantly learning and correcting ourselves, such as when we all had to learn that there were no Brontosaurs, only Apatosaurs. Except for this note on the last story page of the book:

    A lengthy reexamination of the different species of Apatosaurus lead researchers to conclude that there were enough differences to make Brontosaurus its own genus again, weeks before this book was due at the printer.

    Fact: Brontosaurus is now MK and Joe’s least favorite dinosaur.

    None of which is any reason not to run out and get this book immediately. It gives props to a series of early dinoscholars who have traditionally been overlooked (especially women), rightly notes that Richard Own was a complete dick to everybody, and handles the frankly hilarious topic of dinopoops with exactly the dignity and gravity they deserve.

    Plus feathers everywhere. Cool.

Spam of the day:

Science Proves Biblical-Cure – Atheists Stunned

This particular atheist will be stunned when the Bible gets the value of pi more accurate than three. No wonder Solomon had to import architects from Tyre to build his palace.

¹ I ain’t pooped in five days. Excuse a man.

² I’ll have to quote some to make it clear:

In the year 1800 …
The Earth is 6006 years old.
Dinosaurs are known as monsters.
They lived a few thousand years ago.
They disappeared because of Noah’s flood.
There are no examples of dinosaurs living at this time.
We are certain about all of this.

In the year 1854 …
The Earth is 400,000 years old.
Dinosaurs are known as extinct reptiles.
They lived a hundreds of thousands years ago.
They disappeared for unknown reasons.
There are no examples of dinosaurs living today.
We are certain about all of this.

In the year 1920 …
The Earth is as much as 400 million years old.
Dinosaurs are known as extinct reptiles.
They lived 3 million years ago.
They disappeared because they lost the survival of the fittest.
There are no examples of dinosaurs living today.
We are certain about all this.

³ I still remember standing in the dinosaur halls of the Royal Ontario Museum close to 25 years ago when a small girl came tearing around the corner and stopped dead to look at a model looming over us. She was maybe six years old, absolutely adorable, and her mother asked What’s that one, honey? Is it a plant eater?

She shot back with all the conviction in the world Mom, it’s a Parasaurolophus. She was right, and her pronunciation was dead on. If today she’s reading Dinosuars to her six year old, she’s going to stop on pages 2 and 3 and have the same argh moment I did.

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