May 3rd, 2004

krazy koati

While walking in the woods one day

Today picked up nicely. While mailing a postcard and not seeing the campus squirrel I thought of a way to rewrite some code so that it would be much more flexible -- and, by 5 p.m., I was convinced I even had it right. It slows my paper down as I want to verify some results with this (I believe) better code, but it's a good sort of slow.

And I came home to discover that Chris and Martin Kratt's Be The Creature is on! I've been waiting for this for a while; I've been a fan of the Kratts since Kratt's Creatures almost entirely independently of the fact they got their start as nature documentarians by focusing on coatis. They avoid the routine, mindless nature documentary templates that make so many nature shows boring. They're a steady rebuking to the extruded documentary product that fills a lot of Animal Planet's schedule. (They also rebuke furry fandom, highlighting how little of real animal behaviors, senses, even appearances actually work in to furries. Ever compare a real red fox's head to even the best-drawn furry artist's red fox?)

Today's episode was brown bears, somewhere in Alaska. One digging for clams looked positively raccoony; I'm surprised they didn't compare bears, raccoons, and coatis digging up the beaches. The Kratts took the chance to mimic the bears (and foxes, and some other creatures) in their general hunt for food, thus the show's title. They also kayaked out to an island where one mother and her cubs the year before discovered man glaucous-winged gulls and other birds laid their eggs, safe -- they thought -- from predators. The bears hadn't come back this year, and the gulls were clearly happier.

My one nagging doubt: there are a lot of shots of both Kratts watching animals doing something neat. The camera moves. Who's taking the pictures? The premise of the show is they plunge in to someplace animals live and try to live as much with them as they can; what does the cameraman do? Doubts about the honesty of a documentary smash the whole project (and animal documentaries I have low confidence in anyway, as I've read reports of considerable footage-faking, particularly of animal fights). I'm surprised the Kratts don't realize that some of their audience looks at that and realizes ``That's not exactly what happened.''

But they're excited, interested hosts with a wealth of information unembarrassed to be taken by surprise and happy to show their delight. I'll be watching the show regularly.

Trivia: The Troy-Schenectady Turnpike was begun in 1802. Source: Troy: A Collar City History, Don Rittner.

Currently Reading: Under the Black Flag: Expoits of the Most Notorious Pirates, Don C. Seitz.