30 September 2009

Ken Burns' Best Idea

So have y'all been as glued to Channel 13 (KEET-TV) the past three nights as I have to Ken Burn's latest docu-series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. After 26 years in the subject organization, I know I'm a bit biased, but not only am I learning a few things from Mr Burns, in many regards I'm feeling a renewed enthusiasm and energy for the work we try to do. Seems this profession has some merit after all.

A few random thoughts pulled from the depths of the easy chair as I watched the first three episodes:

Why can't I tell stories like Ken Burns? The guy's a genius storyteller. Hours of research, evocative music, compelling stories, intelligent and inspiring interviews. He does a better job of telling you about what we do than most of us do in doing the work that he's telling you about us doing. Of course, I'm just me with a computer and a tiny library and vast and glorious park to wander around. He's a multimillion dollar production company backed by huge corporate sponsors. Be he's just so damn good at spinning a great tale. I want to be able do that.

We do work in a noble profession after all. Though the days are too often bogged down in mind-numbing bureaucracy and frustrating drive-through tree tourists, it is for a worthy purpose that we do what we do. And Ken Burns isn't making a 12-hour history of the life insurance business, is he?

I need to read more on the transcendentalists. From the snippets I see in Burns and through recently read bios of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, the ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau inspired many of the most important 19th century environmental thinkers. I need to go back and read some of their original stuff. I'm beginning to wonder if literally, spiritually, intellectually, perhaps I'm more akin to Thoreau and Emerson than any of my own generation?

Your dad knows a little somethin' after all. It's been fun watching this with the kids and knowing the next piece of the story before Burns tells it. For once, I'm not their idiot dad but someone who's picked up a thing or two along the way.

Did the redwoods miss their chance to be among those first iconic national parks? What if the entire, two million acre redwood range, from Oregon to Monterey Bay, hadn't been stolen from federal ownership before the 1880s? Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, and Mount Rainier were available to be set aside as our first National Parks in large part because those lands were owned by the federal government, and not by states or private individuals. Jerry and Gisele Rohde have an interesting piece in this month's Humboldt Historian (Fall '09) explaining the land fraud that moved public lands through foreign syndicates and in to private hands in a matter of years. Would we have lost nearly all of this grand and ancient forest as we almost lost the bison had the feds prevented their theft?

Three more episodes and six more hours. A dozen more thoughts to come, at the very least.

And for those wanting more of our local story, KEET-TV received a grant through the Ken Burns' backers, to produce Redwood National Park: Preserving Ancient Forests, the story of the establishment of Redwood National Park. It'll air this coming Sunday, October 4th at 7pm on Channel 13 (then rebroadcast Thursday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 10). We'll get the sneak preview at the office tomorrow. Assuming the Claire and Sam have any of the skills of Ken Burns, they will have expunged the rantings of a occasional blogger from their program, thus ensuring its success.


NCJ said...

Yay, you're blogging! (Hope there was no fallout from the outing, that you weren't flogged with paperwork by your coworkers in retribution.)
Heidi at the NCJ

Bob Flame, Ranger said...

Heidi...Not sure if this is good new for the NCJ or not, but only one person mentioned the article to me, so my week of stealing Journals off all the racks in town are over. Now that I know someone's lookin', I'll try harder to be more or less regular for a spell.