Tag Archives: fossils

Extraordinary (if frightening) trilobite


I know it’s impossible to believe that anything as extraordinary as the trilobite above should be mine (all mine and absolutely no one else’s ever…one of my few ridiculous materialisms) but so it is. Happiness.

Trilobite – Order Lichida
Superfamily Odontopleuroidea – Family Odontopleuridae
Lower Devonian
Fossil Site: Hamar Laghdad Formation, Zerg, Morocco

Ammonites and trilobites, oh my!

So what are my current loves? I’ll start with the stone. Labradorite. Every year I’ve said I shall get some, and this year I found The One.

You can see most of the colors, but not the true beauty of it. It is dull gray from some angles, and as you move it, the colors ripple in refractions across its surface. Constantly changing, constantly surprising, they always feel as if they are hiding themselves, elusive beneath the surface, submerged within the stone. You catch one in the light, and then it is gone as anotherĀ  emerges from the shallow depths. Some stones are deep blue, some green to yellow, a few orange, and a very few show all of these at once. Like mine. It’s very rare I feel such an intense pleasure in possession. I try not to encourage it, but I think after all, it is good to have a handful of things that make you happy just to look at them.

Like ammonites! Not only are the fossils incredibly beautiful, especially the opalized ones from Canada that I cannot afford, but they are also extraordinary creatures. After a series of catastrophic losses, they died out for good in the Cretaceous Period, along with many another very cool yet frightening creature that I am not really sorry about no longer sharing the planet with. Their closest living descendants (or related species sort of thing) are the nautilus, which looks like this

Pure dead brilliant. They are related to octopi, squid, and cuttlefish. They moved by jet propulsion, and were supreme predators, probably stalking their prey silently and then attacking with their tentacles, dragging their meals into the jaws located between their eyes. They had a lot of tentacles, and look at the eyes! (you can tell I am running from the scientific). Unlike nautili, they lived in shallow, warm water, and it is believed that color and light played a large role in their short lives…which means their shells were possibly incredibly beautiful. But in fossils it is what happened to them after death, what new minerals and chemical combinations filled the chambers left by their bodies to form stone. This one is from Madagascar, and looks better in better light I must admit

You can see a bit of the opalization I love…there’s something about iridescence and changing color that parts me from my money. The color is really a deeper red then you can see, it is high in iron, and the patterns are called sutures, formed where the walls of the inner chambers met the shell and folded in on themselves to provide extra strength. The shells themselves are chambered, reflecting the years of life, and in this one from Russia they have been pyritized

I am not usually such a big fan of shiny, but these are incredibly beautiful. This one has been sliced in half of course, but when left in the matrix they are equally beautiful

Once again, more beautiful then the picture, a more refractive red on the outside. There’s no sun today!

So on to trilobites. I got another beauty…wikipedia says 17,000 species have been identified so you’ll forgive the lack of specificity, but this one is also from Morroco

You can even see the little bumbs on his head. They lived, and died, in extraordinary numbers. I was having trouble deciding between this one and another, and my mum bought me the other because she loves me

You can see the…tongue? I don’t believe they had tongues…I couldn’t find out what this thing is but one day I will. There were some amazing specimens from Russia which still had the eyestalks. Maybe next year, they were lovely, and I was spent out.

Apart from fossils, I also love bowls of polished stone. I think perhaps it is the beauty of them combined with functionality. I have one of malachite and another of onyx that have traveled with me for years, and now own several more…Two tiny ones of amethyst and translucent veined jasper, and two slightly larger ones from morocco of stone filled with ammonites and other fossils, one is in the spiraled shape of an ammonite itself, and the other in the shape of a leaf. I keep telling myself that all of this is portable.

Because if all goes well I shall be moving back to the UK…which meant no fragile and glorious mineral specimens for me. In fact, it was my last move to the UK that parted me from the collected minerals and fossils of years. My dad, on the other hand, has a house AND a glass cabinet, so he bought these two extraordinary pieces of selenite. This one is from Winnepeg, Canada, and the crystals are twinned, which is really rare.

And this one from Lubin, Poland

They formed in narrow fissures in the rock, and they were selling many of them in sheafs of interlocking crystals between two very thin slices of stone. Fragile and beautiful…

What an incredible world we live in.

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Tucson Gem & Mineral Show Days 2 and 3

Before I start on the ramble through the highlights, a dignified and slightly scornful nod to Valentines day!

Thought this was pretty sweet, only $15 too, I almost bought it as a valentine to myself. It has hearts and everything. The Chinese bring in an incredible amount of stuff…the most impressive flourite and stibnite specimens you will ever see…none of the really good stuff was out in the sunlight and good pics were hard, but here’s one of stibnite and calcite

This is the beautiful. They also bring the sublime, but even buddha ceases to be quite so sublime when heads are piled up and scattered on the gravel…photogenic though.

And from the sublime you just go to the ridiculous, piled up and scattered on tables.

Happy valentines once again! All the love, money and luck you’ll ever need. And they have the future covered as well…if you haven’t gone blind after purchasing one of the above

I see a couple of dark strangers in your future. One of them looks uncommonly like my father. If you don’t catch him on one of his cranky days, that’s generally a pretty good thing. Just don’t feel obliged to answer any overly personal questions…

The Tibetans are here too, via Nepal and India since the Chinese invaded their country and stayed there.

The weather has been lovely here, if a trifle cold. But sunshine and blue skies make a nice change from the pouring rain of the past couple of years,

So back to one of my favourite things, ammonites! From Morroco, they are incredible. I’d buy one of these after my ammolite, these are also several feet across.

And from the Democratic Republic of Congo

I have loved malachite ever since I was little, it is such an incredible stone, circled and swirled and bubbled and every shade of my favourite green. And I love it most smooth and polished I think, I wouldn’t say that of most stones and I have seen a natural specimen or two that made me catch my breath, but when they combine both…I’m smitten. I remember the first time I saw malachite, I was very small. And loved it most, right away. This is one of the many forms it can take

I took this last year. Maybe one day I’ll just write an ode to malachite…though there a couple of other stones that deserve such a thing. And they would probably be profoundly uninteresting.

From…Montana? Texas?

Buffalo skulls…I don’t know why I love things in rows and stacks, but so I do. I also like skulls. But not as much as fossils. When faced with so much that is amazing, unique, and extraordinary, it really makes you analyze what you like best. But I think I’ll write about that tomorrow.

From India, near Mumbai

Cavansite, it forms these extraordinary little balls of intense blue green, I like this stuff too. The light isn’t the best though. And something we’ve never seen before (rare!)

Okenite. These incredible puffs of tiny crystals, formed in bubbles in basalt (basically magma). They’re building all of these roads near Mumbai, in a thing called the Deccan trap…basically a crap ton of red…hot…magma just poured out of the earth, and kept pouring and kept pouring, stretching miles upon miles across and up to a mile thick in places. And now they’re building roads through it and finding this stuff (though probably blasting most of it into oblivion). My dad bought a smaller piece, and promised that I’ll get it when he’s dead. He’s very cheery.

And the crowds were up a bit more, the news from vendors was better. And another year is finished. Tomorrow…the splendours of the things so magical I bought them.

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Tucson Gem & Mineral Show Day 1

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is one of my favourite things in the world…I have gone almost every year for…well. Since I was very small. People come from all over the world to sell unique and beautiful things, rocks and minerals and fossils that are much more impressive than those you could see in any museum. There are geodes of amatheyst twice as tall as I am, crystals that I cannot wrap my arms around they are so big, dinosaur skeletons, glimpses of the creatures that crawled the seas millions of years ago in extraordinary detail, trays of jewels and faceted gemstones ordered by size and weight and color, carvings and artwork in jewelry and gems and stone that make your eyes widen…I cannot even begin to describe it. And I took a couple of pictures to get a sense of the grandeur of it but I am highly unsatisfied with them artistically speaking. Maybe tomorrow. Still, the economy is hitting it with a sledgehammer. Usually it’s so packed you can barely move, but today was pretty empty, and the vendors said that sales were down…over 50% from last year for most. Sadness.

So I shall live for the day, and appreciate everything to the fullest. First, the opalized ammonites from Canada. If I had several thousand dollars of disposable cash, this is undoubtedly what I would buy, hands down. I love the shape of them, the color of them, the age of them, the rarity of them, the impossible beauty of them.

These are fossils, and the ammolite in the top picture is over 3 feet across. As they roamed wild in the oceans they were preyed upon by these huge dinosaurs that were truly the creatures of nightmare (among many other things, the sea is a wondrous but truly nasty place).

It’s only in death that these two could ever meet, as one ravaged the oceans and the other ravaged the land. I am quite thankful, however, to live in an era when things with teeth this size no longer exist. One of the ammolites had rows of holes in its shell almost an inch wide, it didn’t survive the attack. The reason so much of the shell survived is that these things were actually bigger than what you can see, there was a whole additional chamber that held the creature itself. And the attackers? Scientists now think they were warm blooded, which I find extraordinary. Neither reptiles nor fish, but mammals! And closest in structure to birds.

So for today, the only other good shot I took were of these rather random jellyfish…glass ones I believe. But since they’re from China, well, you never know. They were very cool.

They had laser lights however. Which made them cool but also somewhat…er…cheap? I think that might be the word. I don’t buy anything with laser lights. I do, however, have a thing for trilobites. And I bought this beauty from Morroco (Devonian period)

Gorgeous isn’t he?? And I am always torn by the fact that this show is full of incredible things I can afford (barely), though in a just world I should never be able to were anyone along the food chain getting a just wage. Like my trilobite here. But at least he shall be treasured.

So there’s a whole new age contingent present, which affords infinite…and I mean infinite amusement. So I’m going to share one ridiculous description a day I think, they come from the Metaphysical Guide to the Tucson  Jewelry, Mineral, Gem & Fossil Show. This is possibly my favourite annual publication. And actually, the descriptions below are very short versions of the catalog from the Heaven and Earth store, since I can’t be arsed to type the articles in spite of the fact that they are infinitely more amusing.

Merlinite (ahh the gullibility of the American public)

Merlinite is the name given to gemstones, which exhibit the combination of white quartz & black psilomelane. The best specimens, found in New Mexico, sometimes show druzy crystallization.

Mystic Lore: Intuitive sources say that Merlinite is a stone of magic, conjuring the memories of wizards and alchemists. It is said to blend heavenly and earthly vibrations, allowing one access to multiple realms. It can be used to access the akashic records, to draw upon the powers of the elements, to enhance shamanic practices, and to bring magic into one’s life.

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The Dinosaurs of Toronto

The wind bites like fall, the buses throw up whirls and swirls of dead leaves reaching above me as they pass in the street, my black wool coat is warm and my scarf snug about my neck. I forgot how much I love fall. How I love the chill of it, the change and trembling in the air, the tingle in my cheeks, and the feel of snuggling under the warm cloud of a down comforter. I got into Toronto last night and met up with Dawn after her writing class, we went to eat and then walked the long way back to the streetcar, through Kensington market which was lovely…empty but lovely. And great graffiti, which is always enough to warm my heart if narrow streets, cool pubs, tiny little neighborhood stores, coffee houses and such were not enough.

I spent the night feeling like a small woodland creature curled up in a little nest between the radiator and some shelves, an old mattress bundled with extra blankets and a sleeping bag on top for softness, with a sheet on top of it all, and then me, and then…I said it already I think, a warm cloud of downy warmth. And I slept deliciously, glad that I am too long for the couch.

Woke up late…for Toronto. Early for L.A. Spent the morning chatting over coffee and omelet with Dawn into early afternoon, and then headed out into the fall…I had a bit of work to do, a bit of wandering to do, so I mixed both and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I still have to take some good city photographs, but here is one from outside the Royal Ontario Museum which is where I ended up.

I used another friend’s card to sneak in…the woman asked me for id and I said I didn’t have any (!), she looked at me funny, I thought I’d probably have to cut and run, but then she said she could look me up. I was imagining my friend’s picture coming up and seriously thought of cutting and running. Then she asked my address and I confidently gave it to her, I suppose the right street allayed her fears? She said oh dear we have the address wrong, upon which I pulled the little card where I had it written down out of my back pocket and confirmed that no, I was the one who had it wrong. Upon which she handed me an entrance ticket. She was beautiful. Because I don’t think I really pulled it off, but i am staring incipient poverty in the face and that ticket was golden.

And I didn’t even know it, but they have the most marvelous collection of dinosaur skeletons I’ve seen in ages, bits of originals, some casts, but all around extraordinary. They had a 90 foot Barosaurus, one of only two in the world, it has a hugely long razor thin tail that some believe they cracked like a whip. I believe it, I think that makes them much more interesting:

They had an original triceratops skull, a stegasauros, a tiny little compsognathus in a glass case…my dad used to tell us stories about compsognathi when I was little, one day you’ll be reading about them too in the adventures of Osa and Aggie (and me, Michael, Daniel and Tristram. And some of it is even true). They had this enormous fish thing with sharp pointy teeth

and this amazing knobble headed dinosaur that I tragically did not record the sumptuous latin name of:

It’s perhaps my favourite photo of the day. And possibly my favourite dinosaur. And I don’t even know his name. But they also had a rare type of hadrosaur…this one is crested and looks like it pranced about rather joyously and is called a parasuarolophus walkeri. The name rolls of the tongue. and looked very cool

And finally the stuff of nightmares…highly recognizable and always strikes fear into the very heart of me, the one, the only, Tyrannasaurus Rex

But pictures can’t do him justice really. He towers over you, his teeth are huge, even the bare bones of him are big and ravenously hulking. I’ve actually had family discussions about whether T-Rex or Allosaurus was scarier…some say allosaurus was smarter. As if we know. Still, this is the one that scares me.

Other things that scare me are lifesize painted representations of people and animals…like the mechanical cartoon figures at Chuck E Cheese and Disneyland’s Splash Mountain, and apparently Chinese wooden temple statues beginning from the 13th century. Fear is too strong a word perhaps, I’d prefer to think of it simply as a deep unease. But one of them had real human hair as his long beard. Painted statues are really popular in Catholic Churches as well, and the blood is never skimped on, and in fact I remember the crypt of a church in Bahia with mummified bishops still wearing their sacramental robes sat upright and staring down at you. Fear is not to strong a word for that experience, I suppose this “deep unease” has been building for some time. There was also a large section of stuffed birds…creepy, definitely creepy. I really wonder who first thought it was a good idea to kill something alive and beautiful and stuff it.

Anyway, that’s enough proof of my nerdiness for one evening. After the museum I had dinner with dawn and then we went out and did some more work and had some quiet drinking with a tasty piece of Canadian apple crumble which apparently includes dates and raisins and is a wee bit chocolatey…I wasn’t complaining, it was deliciously unexpected. And now I am headed back for the nest after kicking Ozzie the giant half husky sort of dog out of my room. She snores.

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LA for Parents

Why is it that so many of my favourite places in Los Angeles are restaurants? I love eating out and there are so many incredible places here…last night took the folks out to Phillipes to cap off the day, it’s one of the oldest places in LA and you can walk there from my house, and we did! It’s famous for french-dipped roast beef or lamb sandwiches and deli sides, here’s my dad with our fantastic tray of food and some of the decor:

That is my Heineken, I must confess. And here’s me and mum after the meal – you can see the counter behind us, jars with purple pickled eggs, the waitresses with their 50’s uniforms, the sawdust on the floor (only place I know of has kept that particular tradition!), and the crazy man behind us on the left…that is indeed a large Bible on the table in front of him, he had a strong southern accent and I could swear he was wearing eyeliner and a formal suit…characters abound at this place! Ussually it is packed to overflowing, but Sunday evenings right before it closes seems to be the time for short lines and a table to yourself, take note!

So this morning we ate breakfast at Happy Tom’s in Echo Park, it’s yummy but not terribly photogenic. Then we went to the La Brea tar pits, but first, on the way, guess what we passed on Alvarado! Check it out:

Banksy in my own scenic stomping ground! Woo-hoo! It is a true tragedy that he was here while I was in Scotland, I was enjoying my brave facade of actually being Banksy myself, that story’s blown though.

So, La Brea tar pits, they are very cool! They have skeletons like this:

It’s a mastadon…nice, would like to have seen those in the flesh. To it’s right is a camel…who knew there used to be camels here in LA? They also have a display of over 1,500 skulls belonging to something called the Dire wolf…the most plentiful creature in the pits so I suppose not much needs to be said about why they are now extinct.

The display was well done, but the skulls remind me of soccer cleats, I cannot say why…they have sharper teeth however, and do not come in a range of colours. I also found out that the latin name of the saber-tooth tiger is smilodon…I don’t think it’s ironic exactly, it’s just funny. To me.

After the tar pits, and with a fine appetite we headed over to San Pedro Ports O’Call, where you head into the fish market and get to choose from a selection of recently caught fish looking like this:

They don’t look so tasty now, but then you take them up to the grill where they clean them, and will grill or fry them up for you with potatotes and vegies and you end up with a tray of food like this:

It’s not fancy, but is absolutely the best fish possible, unless you’re eating fish you just caught yourself, and yes, that is garlic bread! So yum! I admit, I used to be among those who hesitated in facing a fish entire with its little eye staring up at me, but I have never in my life smelled or tasted a better fish than this so have no problems now, and at $10 a person you really cannot compare this place to anywhere else. There are also bands of travelling mariachis singing rancheras and love songs to the sweet sounds of the guitar and accordeon, and you are right on the water. Granted it’s the port and not incredibly scenic, but interesting! and there are pelicans! Look how cool they are:

And here are me, mum, and dad, happy, full, and about to roll off the pier and head back home…

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