Monday, September 6, 2010

Pookie, we hardly knew ye.

Breaking news from the world of paleontology . . . (That could be the most unlikely lede ever.)

Actual photograph of a Triceratops.
Apparently, some scientists believe that there's no such thing as a Triceratops. That well-known beast with its three horns and bony frill is now thought to be the juvenile form of a Torosaurus, and the fossils in the museums are merely teenage beasts that never made it to adulthood. Perhaps they were too busy texting when the T. Rex snuck up on them. So all those documentaries -- Jurassic Park, One Million Years B.C., and especially the Land Before Time series (see the picture) -- got it wrong.

Remember One Million Years B.C., the one that really did have Raquel Welch in the fur bikini? (Be still my ten-year-old heart.)* Possibly it's the memory of that cinematic masterpiece that has led three out of ten Texans to believe that dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time. (And why do dinosaurs always "roam" the earth? Is it some technical term or merely the brain-dead cliche that it looks like?)

Anyway, this is dreadful news for Secundus, whose favorite dinosaur is the Triceratops. He even has a stuffed one called, obviously, "Pookie." And a hat.

It was bad enough when they took away the Brontosaurus. I mean, didn't these guys have enough trouble with that meteor without scientists going all existential on them? But this reminds me of a joke that I actually invented.

When I was a teenager, I worked very hard at learning to draw cartoons, but although I got fairly good, I never developed a personal style that I truly liked. (Oh for the talents of Ronald Searle or Ralph Steadman.) However, one of the cartoons that I planned to execute when my line finally improved would have featured two dinosaurs, walking side by side, and one of them is saying: "You know, I get a feeling that dinosaur jokes are on the way out."

You had to be there. But if you're a Texan, you probably were.

*The famous full-page color picture of Raquel Welch in the furry two-piece (and false eyelashes) graced the back cover of a 1966 copy of Film Review that was confiscated when I was in the English equivalent of fifth grade. This was an irreplaceable edition that had a feature describing all the sections of U.N.C.L.E. from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." television series, so I wanted it back. (All we'd known until then was that the agents Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin were in Section II.) But when I demanded the magazine's return at the end of term, Mr. Roberts claimed he couldn't find it. Yeah, right. 

Incidentally, despite starring La Welch, One Million Years B.C. was a British remake of an 1940 American movie called One Million B.C., starring Victor Mature and Lon Chaney, Jr., neither of them in the Raquel role, although Victor had the chest for it. The insistent title is notable for being a date when neither dinosaurs nor homo sapiens were doing any roaming.


  1. Man from U.N.C.L.E. quiz time-what is Ilya's middle name? For the record, I had a dossier on him-well, it was a manila file folder with his name on the tab. Actually, it may have originally had another name on the tab because my mom had rescued the folder from the trash where she worked.

  2. This is either touchingly sweet or decidedly creepy, depending on how old you were when you made up the file. And I cannot remember Ilya's middle name, if I ever knew it. Do you know who invented the name "Napoleon Solo," and where it was partly used before?

  3. I was about 11, so I think it was a normal pre-teen fan reaction to the show. His middle name was Nickovetch. Please clue me in about the Napoleon Solo back story.

  4. The name was the invention of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, who'd been commissioned to develop a "Bond for television." This eventually became "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." series. Ironically, the character of Napoleon Solo, whose very name branded him as a loner like Bond, went on to have a sidekick who eclipsed him in popularity.

    Fleming had already used the name Solo for one of the gangsters in "Goldfinger."