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A Revisionist Opinion of Dinosaurs

February 27, 1987|BILL STEIGERWALD

Forget what you've learned about dinosaurs. In Discover's "What Were Dinosaurs Really Like" you can meet the new, improved 1987-model: warm-blooded, fast on its feet and as socially gregarious as reindeer.

Today, dinosaurs rule the toy stores and have become a cultural pet, but for 140 million years they ruled the jammed-together continents of Earth. They mysteriously died out 65 million years ago, but as paleontologist Jack Horner says in Discover, he doesn't much care how they died. He's spent most of his professional life digging for clues to how they lived.

As Discover explains with scant skepticism and plenty of great drawings and photos, Horner and another "new breed" of dinosaur hunter, Robert Bakker (author of "The Dinosaur Heresies"), are proponents of radical new theories about dinosaur life styles.

Horner's Montana bone-hunting expeditions have found hills full of dinosaur eggs, babies and juveniles that lead him to conclude that dinosaurs were fast-growing, warm-blooded animals that owed their longevity to environmental adaptability. Bakker, an outspoken and controversial prehistoric revisionist, believes dinosaurs were not torpid and lizard-like but creatures that cruised and leaped and charged about, migrating with food supplies on elephant-like feet best suited for arid terrain, not swamps, and bearing their young live.

The full implications of the remodeled dinosaur have yet to be assimilated by the scientific community, Stephen Jay Gould warns in his cheerful accompanying essay, but the implications are "both disturbing and wonderfully enlightening."

Tom Hanks, Esquire

Step No. 1 in "How to Look Like a Page Out of Esquire" is to "assume the timeless style and roguish charm of Tom Hanks," Esquire advises. Step No. 2 might be to assume some of the $1 million a movie reportedly paid Hanks, a likable, regular bloke who's accurately characterized by Esquire in its mini-profile as a romantic comedian in the Stewart/Fonda/Grant tradition.

A sample ensemble from five pages showing Hanks hanging around the Hotel Bel-Air bedecked in the finest threads: vest ($130), shirt ($47.50), linen trousers ($250), Spectator shoes ($215), socks ($21) and belt ($32), for a rather modest $695.50 total, not counting his Stetson hat, his watch or the L.A. Times View section he's holding. Most expensive package: $2,486 ($1,490 for just the watch). Silliest item: a $420 jungle-print rayon shirt only a contra would wear.

Covering Glasnost

The different approaches that Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report take in their coverage of Mikhail Gorbachev's peace forum/party in Moscow last week are interesting:

Time sails a People-ish tack, focusing on Gorbachev's renowned smooth media skills while providing criticism, skepticism and caution concerning the Communist Party leader's policy of glasnost, or openness. Also included are a report and photos of the gala Moscow party, which was attended by such cultural stars of the West as Yoko Ono, Gore Vidal and Graham Greene.

U.S. News reports briefly on the basic facts of the geopolitical public relations spectacular, but Newsweek rolls out Henry Kissinger for some serious Realpolitiking. Based in part on his three-hour personal interview with Gorbachev, Kissinger uncorks four full pages of in-depth analysis, historical perspective, fundamental conclusions and suggestions for future U.S.-Soviet policy.

Though unblinded by the flash of glasnost and ever-mindful of the nature of the Soviet government, Kissinger concludes that it's the perfect time for the leaders of both superpowers to take bold steps toward long-term conciliation.

Bits and Pieces

Parents of young children unacquainted with the sensible ideas and wonderfully coherent mind of Bruno Bettelheim can find a sampling of both in "The Importance of Play" in Atlantic, which is drawn from his forthcoming book, "A Good Enough Parent: A Book on Child-Rearing." Without any psycho-babble, Bettelheim not only explains why unfettered play is a child's best tool for preparing for the problems of his or her future life, but why he thinks boys should be free to play with both dolls and toy guns. . . . New Yorker magazine often pays tribute to staff or writers who leave its hallowed corridors, but folks at the magazine say there is no back-of-the-book tribute planned for recently deposed editor William Shawn, who was replaced by Robert Gottlieb. . . .

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