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YouTube // BBC

9 Things We Learned from David Attenborough’s AMA

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YouTube // BBC

The category of “beloved natural history documentarians” is pretty small, and David Attenborough is most of it. The legendary TV presenter and naturalist took to Reddit today with some surprising answers to fan questions about his life, his work, and the future of our planet. (Note: We’ve cleaned up some of the typos and misspellings that occur in casual conversations like these.) 

1. HIS FAVORITE FOSSIL IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

A fan asked the fossil lover to name the best piece in his collection. It seems like a simple enough question, but Attenborough played it coy. “A [dermal] scute from the Gogo Formation,” he said, before adding, “I daren’t tell you the real answer!”

2. HE’S NOT A RHINO FAN.

Image Credit: Coralie, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Attenborough said being charged by a rhino was the scariest thing that’s happened to him. When a participant mentioned the near-extinction of the northern white rhino, Attenborough brushed it off. “There’s also the southern white rhino, so it’s not a huge loss,” he said. “The bonobo is endanger[ed] and is more worthy of attention.”

3. HE IS, HOWEVER, A BJÖRK FAN.

Image Credit: Zach Klein, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

Attenborough united with kooky Icelandic artist Björk (and kooky British actor Tilda Swinton) for the 2013 documentary When Björk Met Attenborough. The film debuted on British TV to low ratings and mixed reviews; many critics found it charming, while others found it “awkward.” Attenborough, at least, seems to have enjoyed himself. When an AMA participant asked what he thought of his co-star, Attenborough said he wanted more. “I didn’t see enough of her!” he said. 

4. HE HAS GREAT RESPECT FOR HIS CAMERA CREW.

Fans in the AMA were eager to give Attenborough all the credit for his renowned documentaries, but he was gracious enough to spread it around. Camera operators are “essential,” he said. “They are 90% of the production.”

5. SPACE TRAVEL DOESN'T INTEREST HIM.

One Attenborough devotee wondered if the naturalist was interested in taking his explorations into space. “No!” Attenborough replied. Another participant asked Attenborough if he thought it was a good idea to terraform Mars to prepare it for human habitation. “Oh! No, I shouldn’t think so!” Attenborough said.

6. HE’S STILL PRETTY DOWN ON HIS OWN SPECIES.

Attenborough makes no secret of his distaste for the human race. The filmmaker made headlines in 2013 when he called Homo sapiens “a plague on the Earth” in an interview with Radio Times. “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he said. His views remain unchanged today. One fan asked Attenborough if he thought things would be better or worse 50 years from now. “For the natural world … worse,” he said. “And the human [world] … probably [worse].” Another participant had a fun question: “If an alien Attenborough made a documentary about human beings, what would it be called?” Attenborough’s answer: “Et tu Brute[?]” 

7. BUT HARVEST MICE MAKE HIM HAPPY.

Image Credit: Hecke, WikimediaCommons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Attenborough said the resourceful, wee rodent known as the harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) is his favorite animal in all the British Isles.

8. HE’S BEEN EVERYWHERE, MAN.

Decades and decades of work around the world have blurred together for Attenborough. A fan asked if Attenborough had ever been to the Wadden Sea. “… I can’t remember …” Attenborough replied. “But perhaps I have been there.” 

9. WRITING IS JUST AS HARD FOR HIM AS IT IS FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

“What is your writing process like?” asked a participant. “Extremely painful and unproductive,” Attenborough responded.

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entertainment
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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Art
Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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