Tuesday, May 01, 2007


That’s the amazing series being shown on the Discovery Channel, documenting the world we live on with the most remarkable and beautiful photography I have ever seen.

As stated on the Discovery Channel website:
More than five years in the making, PLANET EARTH redefines blue-chip natural history filmmaking and continues the Discovery Channel mission to provide the highest quality programming in the world. The 11-part series will amaze viewers with never-before-seen animal behaviors, startling views of locations captured by cameras for the first time, and unprecedented high-definition production techniques. Award-winning actress and conservationist Sigourney Weaver is the series’ narrator.
More than five years in the making? I am not surprised. The sheer difficulty and cost of photographing some of the sites had to be incredible...but the images are breathtaking, many shot from perspectives and vantage points that are completely new and untried.

I watched the “Caves” episode yesterday. Un-be-frickin’-lievable. It starts off with film of BASE jumpers diving into a Mexican caveshaft over 1800 feet deep. Jee-Zus. What some people do for amusement...

They showed swiftlets, birds that make their homes in the depths of Indonesian caves. Their nests, constructed entirely of saliva, are painstakingly gathered by nest-hunters in what has to be one of the highest-risk occupations in the world: they are the main ingredient in Bird-Nest Soup, an Asian delicacy. I had Bird-Nest Soup years ago in Hong Kong - it’s expensive as hell, and quite tasty, but it will never displace good ol’ Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls in the Elisson dinner table.

But some of the most fascinating - and horrifying - footage showed a huge cave in Borneo, a cave inhabited by about three million bats. Three. Million. Fucking. Bats.

Ever think about how much Bat-Crap accumulates in a cave live that? The intrepid Discovery Channel photographers found a 300-foot tall mountain of bat guano there.

Guano, by the bye, is an excellent source of nitrogen. Before the advent of chemical-based fertilizers, guano was prized as an excellent fertilizer. The W. R. Grace Corporation got its start back in the mid-1800’s shipping bat guano from Peru to markets in North America and Europe.

But this 300-foot mountain of guano was alive.

The entire surface of this monster Shit-Pile seethed with cockroaches. Almost all of the roaches’ nutrition came from eating the guano, gradully converting it from Bat-Shit to Roach-Dookie. (“Guano! It’s what’s for dinner!”) Every so often, a wayward bat would, to its great misfortune, land in the guano, whereupon the roaches would make short work of it.

I gotta hand it to the people who produced and filmed this series. I don’t know about you, but a single roach will skeeve me out big-time. There’s not enough money on Planet Earth to get me to go into a cave and try to take pictures of billions of the little bastards.

Roaches aside, it’s a thoroughly amazing series. I encourage you to watch it, assuming “American Idol,” “Dancing With The Stars,” or “Deal or No Deal” don’t satisfy your Teevee-Watching Jones all by themselves.

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