Ken's Voyages Around the Sun

Planet Earth
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Over the past month or more, we've watch the fantastic Planet Earth series from BBC. The Discovery Channel recently aired this show as well, however they replaced British naturalist David Attenborough's narration with Sigourney Weaver's voice-over, which sucked. If you watch this series, go for the original (rent or buy the DVDs).

And watch it you should. Years in the making and millions of dollars' budget bring out nigh unbelievable results. These include frequent use of gyrostabilized, helicopter-mounted, high-def cameras so good that the aircraft can stay far, far, far away yet still capture close-ups of animals in their normal routine without disturbing them. (I.e., no fleeing herds as seen in Wild Kingdom.)

Further, the series producers go through elaborate and dangerous situations, such as taking you into the lion-dominated African bush after dark with superb night-vision cameras. They also use extreme high-speed cameras to capture and slow down great white shark attacks on seals, where sharks shoot straight up from below and fully breach the surface. Descending into a deep cave and filming giant cave crystals - a first and probably only - almost requires suspension of disbelief.

All of the episodes on the first four disks limit themselves to the gee-whizzery of seeing so many rare creatures or locales filmed with unprecedented clarity and vantage that you feel great about nature and the planet. These disks touch on human impact only cursorily if at all. But then disk five arrives and puts it all into perspective, leaving a feeling of depression. It's hard to think that we're not just screwing ourselves and most other critters on the planet.

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