Monday, August 12, 2013

Getting sidetracked

While I was thinking about the matter of wholesale printing just now, I though how strange it is that while books are increasingly appearing in digital form, junk mail is just increasing, full stop. I guess there's a digital equivalent of junk mail - it appears in borders and columns and banners on our web pages, for starters, and is surprisingly easy to ignore.  But the curious thing I can't quite get my head around is why junk mail on paper should be increasing.  Is it because the long-established form of advertising is at a crisis point, and when crises arrive, the lemmings often start heading off in the wrong direction - like over the cliff.  The equivalent in junk mail terms is that instead of there being less junk mail there's more than ever.

At a tangent, for a moment, it must be pointed out that lemmings are much maligned in terms of being a species that jumps over cliffs.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I had the thought that it was a myth that lemmings commit mass suicide, and a bit of quick checking on the Net confirms that, on the whole, it is.  Many lemmings live too far away from the sea, for one thing, to go hiving off committing hari-kari as a group.  Those that do live near water are perfectly capable of surviving in it - they're very good swimmers, apparently.  The reason they swarm to a region that's not their home area, is because food becomes scarce when there's a large increase in the population; the tribe splits and numbers of them go somewhere else to live.  Makes sense.

Seemingly the Walt Disney 'documentary' White Wilderness in which lemmings were seen diving off cliffs, and which may be an important source of much misinformation about lemmings, was faked.  White Wilderness was one of the Disney True-Life Adventure series, which, rather than showing reality, often misdirected viewers by mocking up scenes that had more effect than the real thing would have.  (We see the same thing in reality TV these days.) The trivia section of imdb.com on this film, states: This picture was filmed in Alberta, Canada, which is not a native habitat for lemmings. They were imported from Manitoba for use in the film, and were purchased from Inuit children by the filmmakers. The Arctic rodents were placed on a snow-covered turntable and filmed from various angles to produce a "migration" sequence; afterwords, the helpless creatures were transported to a cliff overlooking a river and herded into the water. The entire sequence was faked using a handful of lemmings deceptively photographed to create the illusion of a large herd of migrating creatures. 

Now I don't know who wrote this, so it can't necessarily be taken as gospel, but you can find more information about it on the Wikipedia article,where there's some background to the discovery that something underhanded had taken place in the filming.  Further information about it can be found on the Wikipedia article on Lemmings, in which we learn that Disney and co weren't the only ones perpetuating the myth of lemming mass suicide.

This is all a bit of a sidetrack from printing and junk mail, but like so many of my blog posts, one thing leads to another and often the 'another' is a bit more interesting.  How many other nature documentaries are faked in some way?  How often is the urbane voice of David Attenborough telling us something that in fact isn't what we're seeing at all?  (See the paragraph about Attenborough towards the end of this article.)  I watched a nature film not long ago in which the narrator (it wasn't DA, for a change) insisted that some particular thing happened because evolution had decided that it should; and if it isn't evolution doing some mythical decision-making, then it's the species itself deciding that life as it is isn't good for the long haul and somehow making its physical features change. The fact that this isn't science at all but speculation is never mentioned: we all know that Evolution is the answer to everything so just throw it in whenever you want it to be the convenient explanation.

See, I'm getting sidetracked again...onto a hobby horse.

Photo courtesy of Sunday Mercury Net, where there's an interesting and positive article about lemmings.
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