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future past

maura @ 6:47 pm

Lately the hot media pick in this house has been all manner of National Geographic/Discovery Channel shows available on Netflix watch instantly.* The flavor du jour is paleontological: the life + times of ancient land, sea, and air animals. These shows are almost all the same, only the species differs. Each show focuses on one or several prehistoric animals. Actual paleontologists show us fossils and bones as they discuss the animal. But the real appeal of the show (I think) for Gus is that these fossily bits are interspersed with computer-generated footage of the animals running around and (usually) hunting for prey.

* BTW have I told you yet how weird I still find it that we are watching teevee shows streamed over the internet and brought to us via our videogame system (the Wii) hooked up to the actual telemavision? Mmm, futurey!

The whole package is really sensationalistic. The narrator and music are tense and dramatic, Many of the scientists (almost always male, sigh, and often Australian, which is kind of funny) are stoked to tell us how badass all of these creatures were. It’s all about the biggest, fastest, meanest, etc. In one show the scientists even crafted a dinosaur head out of metal to test the jaw-crushing powers of the megabeast. (Okay, it was kind of cool when they put a huge thick block of jello-like stuff in the mouth to simulate flesh.)

I’m not sure how to feel about all of these shows. Better than Pokemon cartoons, hells yeah. But I kind of hate that “we need to make science into a crazy dramatic movie in order to get people interested!” tendency. I’m sure it’s partly due to technology — when I was little they just couldn’t do those kinds of computer graphics on nature shows, so it was all about fossils and still art, which can’t be nearly as sensationalistic as “recreating the entire life and death struggle from beginning to end” — an actual quote from an actual show we are watching right now.

Plus I just find it jarring and discordant to have the computer-generated dinosaurs (or whatever) layered onto a real landscape background. You got your future in my past! The whole thing makes me wrinkle my nose like an old lady.

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3 comments on “future past”

EmilyB (9 April 2011 at 7:30 pm)

Do you resist the urge to yell to Gus, “We grew up with only 4 channels! You had to get up and turn an dial to watch something else! It actually had to be on!” If not, then you are not an old lady. Not yet.

maura (9 April 2011 at 8:08 pm)

OMG we say stuff like that *all* the time. Also about how most of the time there wasn’t anything at all interesting on TV, only cartoons on Saturday mornings.

In my family we only had a black and white TV until I was in 6th grade, so that adds extra note of surrealness to my old lady ranting. :) I don’t think Gus can even conceive of a b/w TV!

Anne (11 April 2011 at 9:29 pm)

Yes I had to explain, “We could only watch tv shows when they were ON.”

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