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An African elephant can make quick work of a tree and this one did while I was filming at South Africa’s Royal Malewane Game Reserve. This week when I heard the new poaching numbers that 22,000 elephants were killed last year & 25,000 the year before I thought of this encounter and how special it is to spend a day hanging out with these amazing creatures, but I also worried that this experience may be nearly impossible to enjoy in a few years if something isn’t done soon to stop the poaching. I talk about the rise in poaching this weekend on my radio show, National Geographic Weekend.
Awkward family pet photos, I was surprised to find a photo of myself on this website. But I must admit the picture was strange enough to qualify even if the snake wasn’t my pet. I tell the story of me & the world’s largest snake, and how “Fluffy” came to be slithering across my body this week on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.” The story & the snake are in this video.
Thanksgiving in the USA, a time to talk turkey, but in Antarctica it’s the time to talk penguins which we do this weekend on my radio show National Geographic Weekend. We also talk about camping for five days while hanging off the side of a cliff on the frozen continent. Here’s some video of the penguins doing their thing backed by a little music from my friends, “Open Hands”
Throwback Thursday. Old clip of great jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan & famous slap bass musician Milton Hinton jamming at out house in N.J. in ’93. Didn’t have mics set up or my good cameras, but you can still get a sense of what an exceptional performer she was, who deserved even greater recognition outside jazz circles. She did perform at the White House that same year & wearing the same sequined Chanel cap she had on in this video.
We had a ringside seat for what I call “Elephant Wrestlemania” at Royal Malewane Game reserve in South Africa. It was an incredible day of elephant entertainment and play fighting. Here are some video highlights.
Polar bear tours in Churchill, Canada, a fall alternative to the usual trips of going someplace to watch the leaves change colors. On National Geographic Weekend I tell the story of my Halloween with polar bears & the story of the world’s foremost expert in polar bear posteriors.
Erica Matson is in Churchill, Canada this month working on a show about polar bears. That’s where I filmed one of my 1st stories for National Geographic. The circle of life keeps on spinning. Here’s a video from my last trip to Churchill with lots of bears wrestling showing why Churchill is the best place for viewing polar bears.
Every fall polar bears gather near Churchill Manitoba, Canada waiting for the waters of Hudson Bay to freeze. The males spend part of that down time wrestling, sparing with each other. This video shows some of the action with the bears standing on their hind legs, pushing, and shoving and fighting like big furry versions of Hulk Hogan and the Rock facing off in a cage match.
I’ve been on a rant for a few days against an NRA show that thinks killing an elephant for fun is good TV. The host of the show, an NRA lobbyist, is on a big game hunt for elephants in Botswana, Africa. The guide leads the host, Tony Makris, to a spot near where a bull elephant is calmly grazing, unaware of their presence. Some scrub bushes separate the hunter from the elephant’s line of sight.
Makris then shoots the elephant in the head three times, killing it. Later he and the guide are shown drinking a toast to their great day of elephant killing, and saying how great it is to harvest one of these big glorious creatures and bring back the ivory. The whole thing made me disgusted and angry so I finally decided to record some of my thoughts on why I found this whole program and Makris and his posturing so offensive.
I’ve also included some of the alarming facts on the rise in elephant poaching, which makes the killing of one for fun and a TV show even more reprehensible. And not that anyone needs reminding of just how charismatic and special elephants are, wait I take that back since apparently Makris and his ilk do, but I’ve also included some footage I shot of elephants at Singita Lebombo Lodge in South Africa.
I also talk about this senseless and sickening killing of an elephant this weekend on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.”
Elvis died on the toilet Aug. 16th, 1977. Every year on the anniversary fans come to Memphis & Graceland to mark the occasion. A surprising number of his fans feel the best way to pay their respects is to come dressed as Elvis and sing some of his songs in their best Karaoke voice while trying to duplicate one of the King’s signature moves. A particular favorite is to lay down on the stage and roll around while singing, something that Elvis once did in a concert, a move he would most assuredly regret if he could see the spectacle he has spawned.
I went several times to cover the festivities as NBC’s Elvis correspondent and also did a report a day for the entire Elvis week for USA Today on TV. This story from back in the day was one about the Elvis impersonators who give their own kind of tribute that usually involves several cheeseburgers, a bucket of sequins & black hair dye.
Shakespeare wrote, “I’ve come to bury Cesear not to praise him”, but there are tens of thousands of people every year who do just the opposite. Long after the body has been buried, they show up at the graves of various celebrities to pay tribute and by their presence, in effect, praise the life of the departed.
Most of these pilgrimages to the grave sites of famous people are conducted by folks who’ve never bothered to visit the graves of their own relatives after the funeral. And yet if they are in, say, Seattle then Jimi Hendrix fans will make an effort to locate the cemetery where he’s buried and drop by to see grave, and maybe leave some flowers or take a picture.
I was reminded of this second career as a tourist attraction that death provides for some celebrities when I recently visited the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where numerous famous people are buried, such as Oscar Wilde, Marcel Marceau, & Chopin. In fact there are so many well known persons buried there, that you need a map to help you find them all. Those maps are for sale, so we bought one and played a kind of celebrity bingo trying to find all the celebrity tombstones.
It got me wondering which celebrity graves worldwide are the most visited, and also left me with questions about why we have such a strange fascination with going to the grave sites of people we’ve never met, and often people we never even saw in person, and sometimes people who were dead before we were even born.