What do you call a blind dinosaur?*

10 08 2009

This post is another amble down memory lane, courtesy of a moment of serendipity when I came across Jurassic Park on the telly over the weekend.  This movie was part of a pivotal moment in my life, something that lead to one of those fork-in-the-road major life decisions. 

On my list of iconic, sometimes seminal and always affectionately remembered childhood films you’ll find Jurassic Park.  I have fond memories seeing it at the cinema as a ten-year-old with my dad and brother.  I sat huddled in the darkened theatre, transfixed, with eyes slightly wider than normal, totally drawn into the world Crichton and Spielberg had created.  

There are plenty of awesome moments in the film, not all of them involve the dinosaurs, but a lot of them do: the herds of Brachiosaurus and Gallimimus, the Dilophosaurus (Wayne Knight’s monologue with them is priceless) and the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  However, the star dinosaurs for me were the Velociraptors – a truly terrifying adversary that combined speed, agility and beguiling intelligence with those talons – and the scene with the kids in the kitchen?  Ugh!  Nightmare inducing!  However, some of my favourite moments actually didn’t involve dinosaurs: the debate around the lunch table over the merits of the island being the stand out. 

Anyway, after seeing this film at the theatre I went dino-mad and decided that I wanted to be Dr Alan Grant and dig up dinosaurs (previously I had wanted to be an archaeologist and dig up ancient Egyptians).  I then read that dinosaur names were derived from Latin.  So, logically (at least for a ten year old), I decided that I needed to learn Latin in order to name the dinosaurs that I would find.   Consequently when I started at college a couple of years later, one of the classes I found myself in was Latin – ready, willing and able to learn so I could name my dinosaurs.  In fact, one of the reasons I went to that particular college was because it offered Latin, though I don’t think it was offered for the reasons I was taking it… 

I then continued to take Latin throughout my five years at college before leaving for university – and can you guess what subject I took at uni?  Yep: Latin.  However, by now I no longer thought I’d be naming dinosaurs, but I was hooked and couldn’t give it up. 

In total I’ve spent over a decade studying Latin and the reason why can be traced backed to that day, in that darkened theatre in Levin, watching that movie.  Unbeknown to me, this moment lead to a chain of events that ended up shaping a fairly large chunk of my life.  I’ve often wondered (normally in times of intense naval gazing): what if I hadn’t seen Jurassic Park?  Normally I’m too bewildered by the myriad of possible answers to that question to try and hypothesise what life would be like if I hadn’t seen it.   At the time I just thought it was a cool movie and I had no cares about what would happen in the future.  Now that it is the future I can happily proclaim that 16 years later I still reckon it’s a very cool movie and if anyone needs a dinosaur to be named…you now  know where to come.

*And the punch line? “Do-you-think-he-saw-us” Go on and guess what his dog’s called…

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