The Science Channel: Planet Earth

Living in civilization, one forgets the Earth is an alien planet. I highly recommend this show. When my wallet is sufficiently fat, you can bet that DVD set is going into my collection.

Somewhere in the Americas, there is a darkly green place where the flora are large and the fauna is miniature. The Pudu is the smallest species of deer, tall at the height of a human two-year old. For some reason this bugger reminds me of Pan, sans the human portion and the pipes. Small, with antlers that peer out its skull, it is ever vigilant for predators. One of ’em is the Kod Kod, a feline hunter with savage grace which is hard to take seriously because of its strong resemblance to a month-old kitten. One expects it to start rumbling with a purr and engage in some exuberant mischief. Weighing at five pounds, it’s the smallest cat in the Americas.

Somewhere on the planet (I manage to make my absence from the television just long enough to miss the location) there is a warren of caves, etched into existence by acidic river water that boils deep into intestinal darkness. In this cave there is a 300 foot high pile of guano that teems with a substrate of cockroaches. As wrinkle-lipped bats squirm on the cold stone above, the roaches feast on shit. Sometimes an unfortunate bat falls (Here’s a Darwin Award) and splats in the hill of guano. It struggles to take flight, but the shit is too heavy, too caked. Hissing, the roaches converge, and soon there is nothing left but a flimsy ribcage. At certain times of the day, the cave mouth vomits forth streamers of wrinkle-lip bats that whirl into a torus in the sky. This is to confuse predators, but naturally, as is true for all defenses, there is never a 100% percent guarantee that the cave will welcome the same number of bats that left. The donut-shape unravels as the knuppels shoal together near the horizon to form weird shapes, ribbons of dark noise that twist with the wind. Peregrines and falcons weave in and out like fighter craft. The scene is a kaleidoscope of motion, a collision of worlds: insect, mammal, bird.

A lizard is bisected at the torso into two shades: its head is shingled with orange scale and its lower half is a brilliant blue. It has a tendency to flatten itself and walk around with its belly twisted to the side. It lives in the Gobi desert, in a special place where a thin streamer of liquid water cuts the desolate heat. This area has the largest known concentration of lizards in the world. They sun on the hot rock, waiting for the black flies to boil out of the water to wave squiggles in the air. These lizards, they’re good jumpers. Watching this scene is like taking the time to observe a pan of hot oil and popcorn kernels, without the frenzied finale. A consistently constant reptilian pop, pop, pop!

Redwoods five fucking thousand years old. A fledgling owl, answering the siren call of the Compass Winds, jumps from its perch to crash from branch to branch until it thumps on fertile soil; it picks itself up and climbs back up to try once more. Vampire squids that waver bio-luminescent in crushing water. Underwater chimneys that spume tremendous heat and, each an oasis of life in the bleak pressures, houses a veritable swarm of species.

The Science Channel: The Planet Earth!


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