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Look Up! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a UFO. I may never have seen one, but I’ve met many seemingly sane people who say they have. I’ve also interviewed a few people who told me they were visited by space aliens, and even encountered a couple of folks who claimed they were in fact themselves visitors from another planet. Years ago I put some of these stories in a three part series on UFO’s. Here’s part one on UFO sightings. Parts 2 & 3 only get weirder. Stay tuned.
When you’re feeling down, do you find yourself listening to sad songs? Does sad music pick you up or does it help by letting you really wallow in your misery? Maybe the lyrics help by giving words to your pain and being able to express your feelings speeds the recovery. I don’t know if sad songs offer any help at all, but a University of Minnesota study I read several years ago concluded that listening to slow sad country music did result in people drinking more.
When I heard about the Minnesota research more than twenty years ago I decided to do my own research in the capitol of sad country songs, Nashville. On one memorable afternoon at Tree Publishing a group of Tree’s greatest songwriters showed up to play and sing some of their saddest songs for me. The drinking research I did later that night in the bars of Nashville, but that afternoon of music was incredible. In the room were Roger Miller, Red Lane, Bobby Braddock, Kix Brooks, pre-Brooks & Dunn days, and two other writers whose names I’ve since forgotten.
I wish had had the outtakes from that day when each of the guys sang their sad song hits and told a lot of funny stories. Those tapes are unfortunately lost to time, but I did find the story and thought it worth posting.
A toaster possessed by the devil, a man saved from drowning in an icy lake by his Howdy Doody dummy, and a woman who claims to have had sex with space aliens for several years. They are all part of a story on supermarket tabloids I did for the Today Show 28 years ago. Now in a column for Gawker, Neetzan Zimmerman calls the devil toaster the best interview in the history of TV. Here’s how she described the story.
“If you’ve been sitting around for the past 27 years waiting to witness the greatest moment in television history, I’ve got some bad news: You missed it.
In May 1984, The Today Show aired what can unarguably be described as the greatest televised interview ever: Legendary Weekly World News reporter and future Jerry Springer Show executive producer Richard Dominick‘s sit-down with a woman whose toaster was possessed by the Devil.
Suffice it to say, the year this segment didn’t win every journalism award is the year every journalism award became irrelevant.”
I wouldn’t go that far, calling it the best in the history of tv interviews, but it was very funny. I may have to dig out some of my other old tabloid pieces and post them as well, but in the meantime here’s the complete story talked about in Gawker with all 3 interviews, including the devil toaster in action.
Just because leopards and lions live in a wildlife park in Africa doesn’t mean you’ll see them if you visit that park. These big cats are very good at hiding when they don’t want to be found, and at disappearing into the bush right in front of your eyes. But thanks to the skills of guides and trackers at the Londolozi Game reserve in South Africa we had some very good encounters with both leopards and lions. For my radio show National Geographic Weekend, Londolozi guide Helen Young explains how they find the big cats.
I shoot a lot of video and have for years. I was even shooting video before there was video. When I began filming, it was actually on film. A lot of the filming I’ve done is for work, but most of the time when I pick up a camera, it’s for myself. From the time I was a young kid I’ve been making home movies or documenting scenes from life as it happens around me. Technically what I do can’t be called making home movies, because the word movie implies a finished product that people can watch with a story line that tells them what it is they are watching. Most of what I’ve shot sits unedited on reels or on video tapes in boxes and on shelves waiting for the day when I finally edit the raw material and turn it into a movie. My family jokes whenever I break out a camera, that by the time they see any of the pictures they will be so much older they won’t even recognize themselves.
I bring this up because I’m forced to sit at home for a couple of weeks while I recover from rotator cuff surgery. With my right arm in a sling, I can’t pick up a camera and shoot anything new, but I can sit at the computer and do some one handed editing, so no more excuses, it’s time to edit some of those old tapes. I began with something I shot last spring in L.A. One night a group of friends and I were hanging out at the home of gospel singer and songwriter, Andrae Crouch, just like we did twenty years ago. And like twenty years ago, Andrae was at the piano playing and singing, making up new songs when we would challenge him with a title to see if he could create lyrics and a melody on the spot. I previously posted one of those songs on my web page and on my you tube channel. It was a funny little tune Andrae made up about me and how he wanted me to loan him some money.
But Andrae was also singing some of the gospel songs he’s written. On this evening he played one of his more recent hymns or choruses called, “Let the Church Say Amen.” The lyrics are simple and the melody has the kind of easy catchy hook that makes it instantly familiar like you’ve heard it all your life, a key element of successful songwriting. As Andrae is singing some of the ladies in the room soon join in creating a spontaneous gospel performance.
As I often do, I had my cameras with me and recorded the moment. And now I’ve taken advantage of my recovery time to edit the video. I put it together for my own enjoyment and for the other people who were at Andrae’s house that night, but after listening to the song, I’ve decided there may be some fans of gospel music or Andrae Crouch who would enjoy this home movie as well.
Skating on thin ice. That could be the story line for polar bears this past summer in the Norwegian Arctic. When I was up there in the waters around Svalbard, Norway it seemed as if the ice was disappearing faster than in previous years. Without ice the polar bears, don’t have a platform from which to hunt seals, the main source of fat rich food.
We did get lucky and see a good number of these, “ice bears”, from the deck of our ship, Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Explorer. Part of the reason for our good fortune may have been due to bad news for the bears in that there were more open seas and less ice on which they could roam or hide out. Sometimes we would spot the bears off in the distance and slowly move the ship towards them, and other times the bears would spot us and come in for a closer look.
Lindblad naturalist Steve MacLean talked with me for my radio show National Geographic Weekend about some of the problems facing polar bears and other arctic creatures due to a warming planet. Here’s part of that interview as well as video of some of the polar bear action we got to enjoy.
When John Sununu appeared on the front pages this week as a political spokesperson offering to define what constitutes an honest, effective, real American leader, I was reminded of a time a few years ago when Sununu was also in the headlines, with a political lesson for all of us.
Back then Sununu was using his position as Chief of Staff for the first Pres. Bush to book military planes for personal travel including ski vacations and a trip to his dentist. The flights were considerably more expensive than had he flown commercial, even on a first class ticket. His initial response was, I’m a busy important guy and deserve special rules. The public and the President thought otherwise and Sununu was asked for his resignation.
At the time I got some friends of mine known as the Fiasco Brothers to put the whole episode into a musical number called “Travelin’ John Sununu”. This seems like the perfect opportunity to replay that blast from the past.
Do the Walrus. It may just be the next big dance craze. Before you rush to judgment and think I’m just making this up you might want to check out some of their booty-shaking moves. As you might expect when anything as big as a walrus starts rockin’ and rollin’ you can’t take your eyes off it.
I was treated to the walrus version of, “So You Think You Can Dance,” while in the Norwegian Arctic this summer on the “National Geographic Endeavor.’ We were fortunate to see several groups of walruses doing more than just sleep on the beach. Elyse Lockton, a naturalist for Lindblad Expeditions, who’s spent many summers watching these giant marine mammals told me about some of the other things walruses do that make them a most interesting animal. It’s probably a good thing they have some unique abilities, because they may also be on many people’s top 10 list of ugliest animals.
You can hear part of my interview with Elyse in this video as well as see the dancing walruses, and you can catch the entire interview this week on National Geographic Weekend.
When the parents are away, the kids will play, and wrestle, and run wild. These hyena pups were just like kids when I watched them jumping on each other in front of their den at South Africa’s Londolozi Game Reserve. Their fun loving behavior proved to be irresistible, and I sat and watched them go at each other for hours until it finally got dark.
For many people, hyenas are viewed as the villains of the African bush, but anyone spending time with the hyenas in this setting would have a hard time holding on to that negative image. I interviewed Londolozi Ranger and guide Talley Smith for my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend” who sings the praises of hyenas and calls them one of her favorite animals.
Here’s part of our interview and some video of the hyena pups in action. You can hear the whole interview this weekend on National Geographic Weekend.
Typically it’s only in an Alfred Hitchcock movie that you have to worry about an all out attack from dive bombing birds, but arctic terns will turn that fiction into reality if you step across some invisible line in the sand they’ve drawn around their territory. Recently on a trip to the Arctic with Lindblad Expeditions aboard the National Geographic Explorer I apparently crossed that line.
The arctic terns were putting on quite a show at one of our stops in Svalbard, Norway. It’s true of many creatures, humans included, that nothing motivates a male more than his desire to impress the opposite sex, and these guys were doing some spectacular aerobatics in an effort to curry favor with the ladies. They would hover in the air like a helicopter surveying the water below until they spotted a small fish, then dive down, grab the fish and carry it back as present to the female. The gift is apparently the tern equivalent of expensive jewelry.
But in the course of filming the action, I stepped to close to a nesting area and got a fish eye’s view of diving terns. My head was now the bombing target and the bird’s beaks were raining down like incoming missiles. Looking around I spotted the nest. It was a safe distance away and in no danger of being stepped on by me, but the protective terns had decided I was close enough and launched their attack.
I talk with Lindblad naturalist Brent Stephenson about arctic terns and their behavior in love and war on my radio show, National Geographic Weekend. So tune in to the show and tune in to adventure.