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Tonight: Frozen Planet: Edge of the Earth

Tonight (Saturday, December 22) at 9:00pm ET/PT on Discovery, take a look back at the Frozen Planet documentary, coproduced with the BBC. If you missed it the first time, tonight is a sort of "greatest hits" hour, with some of the best sequences from the much longer miniseries -- including excellent narration by David Attenborough. This is why you have an HDTV: it's a set of scenes from the north and south tips of the Earth, filmed with incredible care. While some scenes are hilarious (most of the penguin material) and some are tragic (much of the musk oxen stuff), everything is photographed with the kind of insane how did they do that? quality.

There's a sequence involving a pebble-stealing penguin that exemplifies this film: without narration, it might not make sense. But with narration, music, and a remarkable combination of filming angles, it becomes a nearly human comedy about penguins trying to build their nests. The audio work also deserves a nod, as the penguins' squawks add an extra layer of weird hilarity.

While the special starts with a series of near-misses (in other words, predators fail), eventually we do get into sequences where prey animals don't make it. The film does not revel in gore, and shies away from closeups for the most part (one image of a seal being dragged down by a killer whale is particularly impactful, though). Because it is trying so hard to be tasteful and explain why the sequences are happening (so the predator groups don't starve to death), I'd say this one is thoroughly family-appropriate, though as always, if you have extra-sensitive kids you'll want to screen it first.

Criminal Penguins

Here's a clip from the Alec Baldwin-narrated version, showing a bit of that penguin story. Tonight's special is narrated by Attenborough -- while you may prefer one narrator over the other, the story is wonderful either way. Enjoy:

And if you get the Discovery Channel, tune in tonight! For more on the program, check out the Frozen Planet site, including the penguin cam and great photography.

If you're into the whole Blu-ray thing, check out Frozen Planet: The Complete Series (with the Attenborough narration). It's the kind of thing you can put on at parties and people will say, "Wow, nice TV."

Blogger disclosure: I was not specially compensated for this review. I did get to see an early version of the program, and it's worth your time for the penguin material alone.

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Live Smarter
All National Parks Are Offering Free Admission on April 21
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Looking for something to do this weekend that's both outdoorsy and free? To kick off National Park Week, you can visit any one of the National Park Service's more than 400 parks on April 21, 2018 for free.

While the majority of the NPS's parks are free year-round, they'll be waiving admission fees to the more than 100 parks that normally require an entrance fee. Which means that you can pay a visit to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, or Yellowstone National Parks without reaching for your wallet. The timing couldn't be better, as many of the country's most popular parks will be increasing their entrance fees beginning in June.

The National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, maintains 417 designated NPS areas that span more than 84 million acres across every state, plus Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

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Weird
Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes
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For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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