Tuesday, October 18, 2011

History Overload

On the good news front, it seems that my plagiarist got taken down. He made the mistake of copying articles from Cracked.com, and that got noticed. I guess I missed my chance to get publicity out of it, but I also didn't have to worry about confrontation and having an Internet psycho after me, which I worried about because his "about me" info indicated he's local. I didn't want some weirdo showing up on my doorstep or stalking me.

On the bad news front, if it was allergies before, I think it turned into a real illness because by yesterday afternoon I was running what for me is a high fever. Other than that icky fevery feeling and the general malaise that comes with it, I actually feel better because I'm not sniffling or sneezing, and I only cough when I get dry. I think that means I'm going to take it easy today and just lie around drinking hot tea. SyFy is showing the entire The Stand miniseries. Maybe that will make me feel good in comparison, and maybe I'll be able to pick out a few more Stephen King references in Haven. Or I could get bored and switch to something else.

I seem to go for different kinds of entertainment with each illness. With last fall's bronchitis, I did the Lord of the Rings trilogy (something that didn't make me laugh or cry -- both of which caused problems). With last winter's cold, it was a weird combination of SyFy monster movies and Lifetime romantic comedies. This time around it's been historical documentaries. Friday afternoon, the PBS World channel did a program on Maria Tallchief, the Native American prima ballerina from Oklahoma. I'd read a bio of her when I was in a brief dance-mad phase as a kid, and she was one of my heroes as a ballerina from Oklahoma (I was born in Oklahoma and was living there at the time). But I'd never actually seen her dance, and this show had lots of footage of her. She was amazing, very powerful. Today's ideal dancer body is a skeleton with a bun (then again, the typical ideal female body for just about everything these days is a skeleton with whatever appropriate accessory), but she had a very solid, muscular body. Still slender and lithe, but not at all fragile looking. She also seems like a really cool lady with a great sense of humor.

Then at night, there was an interesting "When Weather Changed History" on the Weather Channel about the Nome diphtheria epidemic and the frantic dog sled relay to get the serum there in time -- the basis for today's Iditarod race. It says something sad about the History Channel when the Weather Channel has better programs about history. Saturday morning there was an old documentary on the History Channel about pirates (I think it was from when the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out), and then that afternoon there was a program on Jesse James that started out being interesting but that then turned into the more usual current History Channel fare. In other words, conspiracy theories (but no aliens, this time). They were tracking down the places the James gang may have hidden their treasure, based on carvings in the walls of caves in odd geologic formations in one part of Kansas where the gang operated. That part was kind of cool. But then they went off on how James was actually part of this secret society keeping the aims of the Confederacy going, and he was robbing to raise money for this group. I didn't have a problem believing that, but their evidence was often pretty slim -- like they'd point out some supposedly secret sign that he was giving in a photo, and I couldn't tell anything different from the way everyone else in the photo was standing. Then they went off on the "Jesse James faked his own death" theories and pointed to some man who died decades later who claimed he was Jesse James. They did a DNA test that shows that man was no relation, but then said that a forensics expert had problems with the test -- as though that was definitive proof that the test was wrong. But all the forensics expert said was that the test results wouldn't hold up in court because there was no chain of evidence. They couldn't prove decisively where the samples came from, mostly because the sample supposedly from Jesse James had gone through so many hands without firm documentation. They found a stash of old coins in one of the places the marks on the caves seemed to point to, and some of them were minted after James's death, which they took as more proof that he faked his death. I pointed out that those caves were covered with carvings and were ideal hiding places for criminals, so there was no telling who had buried that money. If I can spot the flaws in your theory while lying on the sofa, zonked out on cold medicine, then maybe you shouldn't be breathlessly stating it as fact on TV.

And then there was a program on the great San Francisco earthquake, which devolved into doom-and-gloom scenarios about what would happen if another one of that size hit now -- and it could at any time! Maybe tomorrow! It did raise the interesting question of why, when the city was almost entirely destroyed, they rebuilt it in the same place, on top of a known major fault line, which is a really bad place to have a city. One of the geologists interviewed on the program pointed out that in Europe and Asia, there are ruins of former cities that were abandoned when they proved to be very bad places to have cities. They didn't rebuild Pompeii in the same place after they discovered it was under a volcano, for instance.

I did make one attempt at watching a Lifetime romantic comedy. They were showing New in Town, in which Renee Zellweger is an executive sent to close or retool a plant in Minnesota, where, of course, she starts out as a fish out of water but then is transformed by the locals and falls in love with her total opposite local guy, Harry Connick Jr. I love him in romantic comedies (though not sure I can buy him as a Minnesotan because he never loses his Louisiana drawl), but I barely made it far enough into the movie for his character to appear. I just can't watch a movie with a heroine who is too stupid to live. This woman travels to Minnesota in the winter, wearing a skirt with no tights or stockings and just a little sweater as a coat. Not to mention the spiked heels for travel. And then she's running around in short sleeves with just that little sweater coat. I am from a warm climate, and I've taken a business trip to Minnesota in December. And, you know, there are these things called weather forecasts. It's easy to find out what the weather will be like and to dress and pack accordingly. Since I don't have a Minnesota in winter wardrobe, I went with layers, including long underwear, wool slacks, multiple pairs of socks, sensible shoes and layers of sweaters, under my long winter coat with a hat, gloves and scarf. That was the coldest I've been in my life, even with all that stuff, and it was supposedly a warm winter for them. I just couldn't believe that anyone smart enough to make it anywhere in business would be so clueless as to be surprised that it's cold in Minnesota. That was when I decided to take a nap.

But what did happen to the History Channel? It now seems to be mostly reality series about people who run pawn shops or drive trucks on bad roads. How is that even remotely "history"? I can't even buy their "being made daily" slogan because, no, that's still not history. No one will remember these people or care because they're making zero impact on the grand scheme of things. There are dozens of channels for the lowest common denominator. Why do they also have to get one of the few channels for smart people? I'd even take the non-stop WWII programming they used to run, so long as it's not about how the Nazis were really space aliens.

1 comment:

Jordan McCollum said...

Hooray! I was just about to email you about the plagiarist. Happy day.

I love the History channel in the way you love a doddering old aunt. "Yes, Aunt Ruby, that light is a ghost. Let's ignore a thousand more likely explanations and all the windows, mirrors and lightbulbs in the room. Could be aliens, too."

For NaNo, I'm plotting out a novel based in part on one of the many pseudohistorical plots on History--but I know I'm playing fast and loose with actual history. But this is fiction. I'm having fun with it!