What’s that in the trees?

I’ll probably have a more traditional post up tomorrow, but for today, I just want to share a screenshot I took last night in Jurassic World: Evolution with the Capture Mode feature. I’m just thrilled by how it turned out; it might be my favorite screenshot I’ve taken in the game, and it feels like it captures a lot of the mood of the franchise. I hope you like it!

tree rex

Reopening the park

I’ve spent much of my free time over the past week playing a lot of Jurassic World: Evolution again. I hadn’t touched the game in over a year, but the realization that I’d missed out on several newly released campaigns, and a lot more dinosaur content releases, got me excited to get back to the park. After a binge of DLC purchases, I was ready to start. And I was immediately amazed by the breadth of updates, even outside of what came with the new expansions.

The flavor of the base game has changed somewhat. New facilities have been added. New dinosaurs are available. There have been a variety of gameplay tweaks. And most entertaining for me, dinosaurs can now attack and damage ranger vehicles. With this new spice added, I decided my first objective would be to start the original campaign over again with all these new features baked in. So that’s what I’ve been doing so far. My old save is lingering as a milestone to mark my former accomplishments, but I want to play through the original content while dealing with additional guest needs and dinosaur threats. That choice to start anew has been rewarding for me so far.

That decision also means that I haven’t really touched much of the DLC content–the primary reason I wanted to get back into the game! But I’m fairly confident I’ll keep playing and reach all that eventually. In the meantime, I’ve perused the many locked research topics that have been added with the expansions. Boy, am I eager to get to some of the new prehistoric creatures included! And I might be most excited about the return to the original Jurassic Park in an alternate universe story set after the events of the first film.

It’s fascinating to realize how many of my initial gripes, and how many items on my ideal game version wish list, have been addressed with the new content. It also seems that I anticipated some of the directions that they went with further development. The game feels far more robust. Of course, that means that I’m now far from 100% complete with the game–and reviewing some of the achievements, I’m not sure I ever will get there. But that’s okay!

I’ve found that I’m also more willing to forgive the game’s flaws. I think it helps that I knew what to expect. The only direction for my opinion to go is up, as I react to new features. I already really liked the game, and I’m really impressed by how much the game has been improved in the base experience. But I do still get the feeling that the base game’s story probably should have at least included the Secrets of Dr. Wu expansion; we’ll see, but I think that it will probably better resolve the main campaign’s story.

I love spending time with stories set in this franchise. Especially while I find myself drawn to comforting experiences, I couldn’t ask for better entertainment than an in-depth involvement in the operation of Jurassic World.

JW: Evolution appears to offer a finished story…for a price

I haven’t touched Jurassic World: Evolution in a while. I might not have even seen the newest game announcement if I hadn’t decided to look into its status following my Evolution of Claire review. So I was definitely surprised to see the news about the newest planned paid and unpaid updates to the game. You can read more about that, and see a trailer for the paid content, on Variety.

On one hand, I’m still impressed with the improvements offered by each round of unpaid updates. The new dinosaurs and the challenge modes of past updates were great expansions. Adding day/night cycles, better dinosaur feeders, expanded dinosaur behaviors, and new contract types are all great additions, as well.

On the other hand, my excitement’s tempered by two clear points. One, a lot of the unpaid update features represent improvements over a fun but flawed game–in other words, a lot of these features would have been good to have at launch. Two, the unpaid content pales in comparison to the paid content. And I’m rather annoyed at the prospect of paying any amount of money to actually see the conclusion of the story arc that was heavily developed and hinted at before being dropped entirely in the core game. (I griped about the story’s anticlimax in my original game review). This isn’t a sequel–this is merely a conclusion to the unfinished story, and they expect people to pay for that! That said, paying to be able to make zany dinosaur hybrids is tempting to me. (Yet again, the lack of ability to make custom, hybridized animals in the original release was a point I noted in my review.)

It’s great to see the team at Frontier continuing to expand and improve upon the game. But it’s also annoying to recognize so many of these improvements as features that would have made sense at launch. Adding them improves the experience, sure. But their absence made the game lesser than from the start. This isn’t a case of a complete game getting new add-ons. It feels very much so like the full experience is being doled out piecemeal, months after its official release. Is that an unfair criticism? I don’t know, maybe. So much of this is perception. I greatly enjoyed Evolution, and the new content does entice me to consider another return. This isn’t a great problem, but I guess news that should be sweet has an unfortunate sour note.

Review – Jurassic World: The Evolution of Claire

The Evolution of Claire (Jurassic World)The Evolution of Claire by Random House

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Evolution of Claire is fairly small in scope, intimate even, especially for a title set in the Jurassic Park–excuse me, Jurassic World–franchise. Author Tess Sharpe details a nineteen-year-old Claire Dearing’s summer internship on Isla Nublar for the Masrani Corporation, in the final months before the new park would open. While there are many misadventures and some moments of wonder as the interns interact with dinosaurs in the park, the central focus of the novel is Claire’s budding romance with another intern. A B plot is a series of mysterious happenings around the facilities that seem somehow connected with a fabled class of Phantom Interns from the year before. The central culprit behind those happenings is a spoiled, mysogynist intern who is so obviously villainous and yet so obviously not the true antagonist that he’s basically Red Herring from A Pup Named Scooby Doo.

So it’s a YA novel with dinosaurs. It was a fun read. There were issues with continuity that sometimes annoyed me. I would have enjoyed more about the creation of the dinosaurs (Sharpe seems aware that mosquitoes alone would be insufficient for this resurrection miracle, yet never references potential alternative DNA sources–even Crichton’s original book, and the recent game Jurassic World: Evolution, at least refer to bone fragments and other potential alternative sources). Isla Sorna is mentioned, and it’s suggested that most if not all of the animals were to be moved to Isla Nublar (after several had been thinned out by poaching), but this plot thread still feels nebulous. The interns freely hop between radically different assignments, like security, genetics lab work, and vet work, though most of them are not qualified. The interns themselves seem rather young for such a selective and intensive program, having only completed a semester of undergrad, although maybe that’s commonplace among the hyper-competitive. There were some good dinosaur moments, but I wanted more dinosaurs in general; Brachiosaurus and Triceratops got spotlights, Tyrannosaurus had its moment, and there was a big showdown in the climax with an angry Velociraptor, but other genera had fleeting glimpses or name drops if they appeared at all. With so many dinosaurs to choose from, so many dinosaurs we know were at the park, it’s disappointing that the author settled on the highlights of the original film. And while Claire is no specialist and therefore doesn’t necessarily know how to interpret what is happening, there’s a general lack of detail that is disappointing in contrast to the rather specific world-building found in the Crichton books and Spielberg films (the latter show that depth does not need to bog down the story with exposition). So there are things that I would have preferred to be different, but nothing that ruined the reading experience.

There’s a good deal of melodrama, particularly in the last third of the book, but there’s also a lot of authentic depiction of trauma and grief in those moments as well. I’m not sure that I would have made the decision to have yet more death at this park before it even opened if I were making narrative choices here, yet it does do a lot to provide a clear character arc for Claire that extends through both of the films in which she appears. Over the course of the book, we see her go from an ambitious, bright-eyed optimist who is truly amazed by the creatures she encounters to a hard-edged, jaded young woman who sees protecting people from those same creatures as a driving purpose. It’s more complex than that; I was truly impressed with the character development, which really helped explain who Claire was and made clear why she would make the decisions that she did in Fallen Kingdom. Most surprisingly, the book does a lot to renovate Dr. Wu’s appearance; he’s driven, but his ambitions are motivated at least in part by his coping strategies for the loss of close coworkers at the first park. It’s a more effective portrait than the mad scientist of the Jurassic World films.

All in all, this isn’t a bad book by any means. It’s light and enjoyable. It’s not really what I would want out of a book in this franchise. But it does character development better than Crichton ever did. With expectations accordingly set, the average Jurassic World fan should be able to appreciate the experience.

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Review: Dinosaur Summer

Dinosaur SummerDinosaur Summer by Greg Bear

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I won’t claim that Greg Bear’s Dinosaur Summer is necessarily the best book that I’ve read over the past year, but it is decidedly my favorite.

Dinosaur Summer starts with the premise that the events of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World more or less happened. The world discovered still-living non-avian dinosaurs, which understandably caused something of a disruption. Circuses full of these prehistoric survivors are popularized as more and more adventurers swarm the Venezuelan tepuis; movies like King Kong never really catch on when people have access to the real thing. Eventually, though, public interest dwindles, and most of the dinosaur circuses fail, the owners never really understanding the beasts in their care, who die off and sometimes eat the audience. The Venezuelan government closes off the colossal tepui on which the dinosaurs may be found, for a variety of complex political reasons that we learn more about over the course of the novel. Eventually, dinosaurs largely fade from the popular consciousness, and only one dinosaur circus remains.

This is where we start the book: June of 1947, as the last dinosaur circus prepares for its final show. We’re introduced to this world through the eyes of Peter Belzoni, a high school student with a love for words and a lack of confidence in all things. He’s unsure of himself. He’s inclined to think that he might become a writer, following in his father’s footsteps, though he doesn’t have his dad’s easy ability to string together the written word. But his father, Anthony, is reckless and irresponsible; he was a geologist, but following traumatic combat experience during World War II, he became prone to anger, his marriage fell apart, and he drags his son across the country to pick up scattered jobs as a freelance photographer and journalist. Peter’s mother is overly cautious and reserved; she retreated to her own mother’s home, leaving Peter to his father, only occasionally keeping in contact.

Anthony picks up a job to follow the last dinosaur circus from its final show to a return to the campgrounds in Florida. Peter is to come along to write up his own perspective. Or at least, that’s what Anthony tells Peter. The mission ultimately becomes one of returning the dinosaurs to their Venezuelan home, and that’s where the real adventure begins.

This is a real treat to read. It’s a dinosaur story. It’s a classic adventure story. It’s a Bildungsroman. It’s loaded with memorable characters, most with clearly defined motivations, goals, hopes, and fears that transcend and intersect with the mission at hand. It builds on the lovely adventure of The Lost World, updating its dinosaurs to fit with current scientific depictions (seriously, this was published in 1998 yet still reads as cutting-edge compared to even contemporary paleo-stories) even while demonstrating speculative evolutionary developments to craft interesting new creatures, portraying those dinosaurs with personalities as varied and sometimes endearing as the humans themselves, creating an ecosystem that can be more plausibly explained, removing some of the more racist elements (i.e., the depiction of natives) and trimming the weirdness of the proposed primitive men in the original, and inserting a postcolonial narrative that treats indigenous people seriously and as full humans. It also has a lot of fun alternative history; for instance and most significantly, Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, never able to succeed in a world that prefers the real thing over stop-motion, are documentarian protagonists on the expedition.

It’s also a really well-written book. It’s compelling reading, packed with vivid descriptions of characters and creatures and settings. Foreshadowing is used to great effect throughout the book, and there’s a mounting pace that accelerates as the adventure gets deeper and deeper.

I love this book. It’s an instant favorite.

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Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I went into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with low expectations. Those expectations were surpassed considerably. It might take a while for me to shake out how much I like the movie, and how I’d rank it compared to the other films, but it’s safe to say that it’s good, not great.

Fallen Kingdom opens with an incredibly intense mercenary operation in the midst of a driving rainstorm in the dead of night to retrieve a sample from the remains of the Indominus rex at the bottom of the mosasaur lagoon. The action switches from a submersible in the lagoon depths to a rain-slicked landing site and stormy helicopter escape. Tension builds quickly, and the prehistoric beasts we encounter early on are glimpsed first as shadows and tricks of the light. It is terrifying! And more than ever, the carnivores of Jurassic Park feel truly monstrous, seemingly more like looming malevolent spirits than fully corporeal animals.

After this incredible opening sequence, the film slows a bit to reintroduce Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) in their post-disaster lives and to establish the narrative conceit: the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar are threatened with re-extinction because the long-dormant volcano on the island is active once more and soon to erupt cataclysmically.

We aren’t ever told what happened to the dinosaurs on Isla Sorna (Site B, from the second and third movies), but for us to believe in Claire’s idealistic motivations or the sense of urgency in rescuing these animals, we must accept that Isla Nublar is now the only island with dinosaurs, and this eruption will drive them all back into extinction. This narrative decision is especially frustrating for a few reasons:

  1. Isla Sorna is specifically mentioned in the film, one time, but its context in the larger plot is never addressed, and that single reference doesn’t even state that the dinosaurs on Isla Sorna are gone;
  2. Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), Hammond’s never-before-mentioned former partner and a wealthy philanthropist who launches the expedition to save the dinosaurs, has plans to move them to a safe island habitat where they can live naturally–but it’s unclear why this wouldn’t be Isla Sorna; and
  3. Isla Sorna is prominently featured in the recently released tie-in game, Jurassic World: Evolution.

An answer is proposed in ancillary marketing materials published in the buildup to the film’s release, of all places. There’s a fairly elaborate history of InGen and the world’s reaction to its dinosaurs that is spelled out on the in-universe Dinosaur Protection Group website; this includes the assertion that “the surviving animals [on Site B] were reportedly moved to Nublar to be housed as future attractions at Jurassic World.” Why not just mention this in passing in the film? Regardless, I’ve spent too much time on a plot point that the movie just ignores, so let’s move on.

In short, Claire convinces Owen to go back to the island to try to rescue Blue the Velociraptor. There are a few clips recorded from his days of training young Blue and the other raptors that we see over the course of the adventure, and these segments do a wonderful job of developing both raptor and trainer. Claire and Owen have an on-again, off-again relationship of opposites that flares up in moments of crisis or when it’s convenient; they’re not particularly interesting. But Owen and Blue have a rich and complex relationship, of a nurturing past and a series of betrayals by both up through the present. That relationship becomes the heart of the film in a way that the first Jurassic World only hits at. Sure, it’s revisionist, and making Blue exceptionally intelligent and empathetic as compared to her cohort might strike some as silly, but the emotional payoff of that relationship is rewarding.

In preparing for or setting off on this rescue mission, we meet the remainder of the new cast. The aforementioned Benjamin Lockwood was cut out of a partnership with John Hammond because of some perceived sin (I’ll get to that later), but now he seeks redemption in the preservation of the once-more-endangered dinosaurs. Young Maisie (Isabella Sermon) is his precocious granddaughter, tended to by her stern yet loving nanny, Iris (Geraldine Chaplin). Franklin Webb and Zia Rodriguez (Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, respectively) are members of Claire’s dino-advoacy group who join her on the island; Franklin’s an IT expert needed to get the Jurassic World dinosaur-tracking system back online, while Zia is a paleo-veterinarian. Meanwhile, Rafe Spall plays Lockwood’s right-hand man and organizer of the rescue mission, Eli Mills, as a slightly more charming and slightly more evil version of Peter Ludlow, while Ted Levine plays the familiar “great white hunter” archetype like a cruel, dumb, and mean Roland Tembo knockoff (Owen Grady specifically comments on the use of the over-worn trope when he meets Wheatley).

That last sentence above should make it clear: Fallen Kingdom draws heavily from The Lost World in the same way that Jurassic World drew from Jurassic Park. A team meant to support dinosaur conservation efforts, and organized by a remorseful and fabulously wealthy old man, finds itself at odds with a bigger, InGen-backed mercenary outfit assigned to poach dinosaurs for transportation back to the mainland to generate profits for the greed-driven young shark successor. Except now we have a ticking time bomb in the form of the volcano. And where The Lost World only has a brief T-rex interlude back on the mainland at the end, Fallen Kingdom gets us back to humanity about halfway through and plays around with the idea of dinosaurs in the modern world quite a bit more. The Lost World ends with the dinosaurs back in the box (literally, with the Tyrannosaurus back in the cargo hold, but also figuratively, with the dinosaurs contained on Isla Sorna), while Fallen Kingdom has them bursting forth.

The second half of the film shifts from the Lost World adventure story trappings to a dark and disturbing Gothic horror story, complete with a haunted mansion, a locked wing (or, in this case, sub-basement) of the manor with a horrific mystery, and unnatural family secrets that are slowly unearthed. We have a new hybrid star, the Indoraptor, which is even more a monster than the Indominus, but scaled down to snack on misguided mercenaries in dimly lit but finely furnished hallways. BD Wong returns to portray an increasingly deranged Dr. Henry Wu, who by this point seems like he’s just a few steps away from becoming the leader of SPECTRE; Wu has designed the Indoraptor using DNA from sources including the Indominus rex and the Velociraptor (but isn’t the Indominus already part raptor?), and the resultant creation is difficult to control and prone to senseless killing. When the Indoraptor breaks loose, it’s a full-on horror movie. My wife and I were on the edge of our seats, and I succumbed to quite a few jump scares (though honestly that’s more a reflection on me than the quality of the scares).

This second half also leads up to the dinosaurs loose across the American Southwest, with some of the dinosaurs sold off to nations, mega-corporations, arms dealers, and wealthy individuals. It’s a thrilling concept, and yet the naked desire on the part of the filmmakers to establish a genuinely franchise-worthy Jurassic World is apparent. I can’t hate on them too hard, though; while I’m sick of the exponentially increasing number of expanded cinematic universes and films set within them, I like the idea of the Jurassic Park franchise being able to play with the dinosaurs in some radically new ways. And if they’re going to keep making these movies, at least they finally got away from the islands! It’s a daring move to make, and I think it mostly pays off.

There are a lot of interesting ideas under the hood in this film, but none are really developed very much. The destructive, over-reaching nature of humanity and the rapid weaponization of new technologies are pretty central. There are also questions about whether humanity has a responsibility to preserve life, especially when we are responsible for endangering it–or even when, as here, we are the reason that that life exists in the first place. There’s not a lot of heavy philosophizing, except for the maybe ten minutes that Jeff Goldblum appears throughout the film to lecture as Ian Malcolm in an apparently perpetual Congressional hearing. There are a couple of poorly considered jabs at Trumpian smugness and greed; Wheatley says that one character is such a “nasty woman,” and the auctioneer responsible for selling the dinosaurs brought back to the mainland has horrible reddish-blonde hair arced in a fluffy comb-over. (I don’t like Trump, I’m opposed to his policies, and I didn’t vote for him, but these little side-swipes added nothing to the film’s themes or philosophy and frankly weren’t very funny.)

The dinosaurs themselves are mostly great. Sometimes they look very obviously like computer-generated animals, but most of the time they’re beautiful or terrifying or both. It’s disappointing that we still have dinosaurs drawing from nineties paleontological visions, but those are the animals we had in all the other installments in the franchise, and I suppose that only a hard reboot would correct course now.

My biggest complaint is that this is not just another Jurassic Park movie; it’s something new. In other words, it’s less that I think its tone is flawed, but it’s alien to me and doesn’t quite jibe with my expectations. Jurassic Park, from the beginning, has always been a bit scary and full of action, but it’s also always clearly portrayed the wonder and mystery of these prehistoric animals. And they are animals, not just simple monsters! Fallen Kingdom pays lip service to the idea. Claire monologues about how the return of the dinosaurs is a miracle and how first seeing these mythic creatures is awe-inspiring. And we have a single scene in which paleo-veterinarian Zia is overcome by the experience of seeing a Brachiosaurus up close and personal–but that scene felt cold, the Brachiosaurus unconvincing, the pacing rushed to get to the next action set, all of it just a cute nod to the first big reveal in Jurassic Park. Most of how we actually see the dinosaurs in this film is in moments of violence and bloodshed. Carnivores fight herbivores and other carnivores. Lots of people get killed. Lots of dinosaurs get killed. And the central antagonist of the film, the “dinosaur” that likely gets the most screen time, is the hybrid Indoraptor, a cold-blooded killing machine that makes all the other carnivores seem warm and cuddly.

A big reason why I’ve always loved Jurassic Park is that I’ve always loved dinosaurs, and I could relate to the sense of wonder at seeing these animals in the flesh, could understand the temptation to risk so much to attempt to bring them back. It’s part of why Jurassic Park III, with its villainous super-predator Spinosaurus and its exceptionally cruel Velociraptors (poor Udesky), was such a disappointment to me. It’s why an otherwise fine nostalgia vehicle like Jurassic World still ranks below The Lost World to me (poor Zara). The more that the films shift toward horror, and the more that they seem to delight in the suffering of characters on camera (without much characterization invested in them prior to that), the less I’m interested. But that said, Fallen Kingdom works really well as Gothic horror! And it was fun to see the franchise do something different! It’s just not sitting quite right with me as a fan, but that’s not necessarily a condemnation of its quality.

I am interested to see where the next film goes, though. Thanks to Fallen Kingdom, they can do just about anything. And I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, it’ll be a good time.


Finally, to veer hard into spoilers, I thought that Maisie Lockwood’s character was fairly pointless, even though I thought that Isabella Sermon was excellent in the role. Maisie existed largely to be yet another kid in a traumatic situation, with plot-related justifications engineered out of that formulaic starting point. You see, Maisie, it turns out, is a human clone of Benjamin Lockwood’s original daughter. Sure, the ethics of human cloning is fraught with pitfalls. But this film does not explore those concerns and treats the very idea as something that should be repugnant and shocking. Yet this is a film where genetically engineered dinosaurs are just a fact of existence–including dinosaurs like the Velociraptor, which in the film franchise’s canon are at least as smart as primates. There is a lot of foreshadowing to build to what is a fairly disappointing reveal of Maisie’s clone identity, with virtually no narrative impact, except that when Maisie impulsively releases the caged and dying dinosaurs into the wild at the end when Claire decides not to, her justification that they deserve to live just like her seems reasonable enough coming from a child. (Seriously. It’s such a dumb explanation for such a radical action. You’re risking environmental catastrophe here, kid. These dinosaurs are from a paleo-ecology with virtually no relation to our own.) Oh, I guess she also finds out about Eli’s scheme to sell the dinosaurs, but this information only gets her grandpa/dad killed and serves to dump exposition on our protagonists while they are literally watching the auction happen.

Okay, one other complaint. The bad guys capture our heroes and lock them in a cage before the auction. The bad guys already tried to kill them. Everyone thinks they died on the island in the volcanic eruption anyway. If they get out, the bad guys’ plans are ruined. The bad guys imply that they’ll kill them later anyway. So why don’t the bad guys just kill them? I’m willing to accept any arbitrary explanation–the bad guys like to gloat, they want the heroes to see how they failed, the bad guys want to be merciful and may not kill them after all, the bad guys want a bargaining chip, etc. I’ll take any contrived, overused explanation you’ll give me to get through the second-act-low-point. But you have to give me something! And that was absent here. Hell, I’ll accept that the dinosaurs in these movies always conveniently get clumsy and slow and disoriented whenever chasing the protagonists in these films, no matter how ridiculous this recurrent excuse gets for these alleged cheetah-speed animals. I’ll take anything. And nothing was provided.

Still, these concerns don’t wreck the movie. Keep your expectations set for fun, not life-changing, and you’ll probably enjoy it.

Columbus, Ohio

Sam and I made a long weekend for ourselves and took a trip to Columbus. You could divide our trip into three categories: wandering Short North, eating at Bonifacio and shopping at Chuchay’s on a tip from the waiter, and visiting local public attractions. This post is concerned with that last prong. We went to COSI, CMOA, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

COSI was a bit of spontaneity on my part, after I saw that there was a dinosaur exhibit in town. It appears to be a traveling exhibition on loan from the American Museum of Natural History. I thought the selection was fantastic, and it proved to be an exhibit for all ages. They had great content to engage children, including little interactive screens and games, looping videos, light-up fossil trackways, a life-size environmental diorama, and even an expert (or otherwise well-trained speaker) answering questions for kids in part of the exhibit. This dinosaur exhibit alone, which was good-sized and quite densely packed with information and displays, would be big enough to occupy an entire visit to COSI for at least a couple hours (it’s actually all we did there), and it seems like it would be great for families with kids who love dinosaurs or science more generally.

I was also impressed by the very contemporary research on display there, some of it seeming fairly cutting edge. Sam and I were really interested to learn more about how biomechanics and computer modeling were being applied to determine what dinosaurs could actually do. There were also many exhibits that explored current theories (and the fossil support) for things like nesting and egg-laying, brain development and composition, feathers and flight development, and even what makes birds uniquely birds. There were lots of excellent fossils exhibiting many of the above features, especially of feathered dinosaurs and early birds. There were also many skulls, especially of ceratopsians, and a few large full reconstructions, including of Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, and a wire-frame Apatosaurus modeled off a simulated skeleton used for biomechanics research. A small selection of my photos from the exhibit follows:

I took many photos at the Columbus Museum of Art, but most were awful, and even decent photos just don’t adequately capture a painting (and frankly I don’t think it’d be super-appropriate to post even high-quality images of a collection without permission; I suspect the fair-use argument there would be fairly weak). There were a lot of interactive prompts at the museum, including stations encouraging people to leave their thoughts or to do something creative, and many of the descriptive plaques next to the artwork actively encouraged reflection on the part of the viewer. It was a smaller collection, but it also felt like an art museum that could engage with anyone regardless of their age, education, or exposure to art.

Just a tiny segment of a massive Lego city inspired by Columbus, one of the larger displays at CMOA.

On the last day in Columbus, we went to the zoo. It felt like it was a little larger than the Indy Zoo, and we saw some animals here we’d never seen before. I thought the number of primates, including great apes, was pretty impressive in particular, though hardly the only thing of interest. Some of the exhibits were still closed because of the cold, including sections devoted to African and Australian animals, and many of the North American animals were absent (which seemed odd to me, since many of the absent ones were specifically adapted for living in Midwestern winters). I took a lot of pictures from the zoo, as usual–and I mean a lot. While I’ve trimmed down which photos to share here, there are still quite a few below, beginning with a series of one-offs, then some additional groups focused on specific animals.

A few wide shots:


Birds, mostly:


Reptiles and amphibians:

The silvered langur:

The bonobo:

The Amur tiger:

The polar bear:

Mixed messaging about kangaroos:


Various sculptures/monuments:

I also saw a blue jay in the empty bison exhibit, and that awful-quality picture is included below.


And that’s it! The trip was fun, and we’re glad to be home again.