Sunday, August 05, 2007

History Channel Diversity of Content

When my local cable company first broadcast the History Channel, I was immediately hooked. As a lover of history, I was excited to see so many different historical topics brought to visual medium. Even if it is through television, history lessons, if correct, are good for anyone at any age. I think I lost 300 hours of sleep over the course of high school and college from watching the History Channel late at night during school vacations.

One thing that bothered me was that the History Channel (HC) seemed to focus on WW2 and specifically, Hitler. My friends and I joked that it was the Hitler Channel. What we failed to realize is that film was first put to amazing use by the Nazis for political propaganda reasons. WW2 was the first major conflict to truly use film. The HC had so much film from that era, and little beforehand, so it is a natural bias to showing WW2 era film and topics. Even with this bias, I was glued to the television to file away little bits of information about whatever conflict the HC aired.

As time has progressed, the History Channel has expanded their horizons by airing many more shows and discussing different conflicts. Like any good cable channel, they have even made a foray into 'reality' television. I find this ironic calling it reality tv when the HC specials on WW2 and other conflicts is actually reality tv. Two recently developed shows "Cities of the Underworld" and "Human Weapon" have become favorites of my wife and I. Cities of the Underworld explores the idea of caverns, ruins, and entire cities beneath major cities that we might live in our visit on vacation. Places such as Rome, London, Istanbul, NYC and even Portland, Oregon (it was not good) have been explored. My personal favorite has been the pilot, Istanbul, which due to being the head of the Roman Empire for ages, has a huge underground world. The Romans were excellent engineers as many columns, supports and aqueducts are still standing under the modern day streets. Budapest, London, and Paris were top notch as well. The layers of history are wonderful to see and can help visualize a specific time.

Human Weapon is a show designed for men. My wife makes fun of me for watching it, but even she thinks it has cool moments. Two guys are sent to different areas of the world to learn certain styles of fighting. At the end of an episode, one of the guys takes on a skilled pro in that style in an exhibition match, which look pretty frickin' real to me. For anyone who has contemplated just checking out of American society to go learn a martial art in a traditional setting, it is an eye opener. Even in training, there are moments where one can be close to death. Some traditions are truly passed down man to man, father to son. In each episode, you see how the martial art is just that: an art. It is a way of life, which works on the interior intangible part of the human as well as the physical exterior. It is not just about learning how to kick someone's ass. One of my friends growing up was a black belt in karate by the time we graduated high school. He only used karate once in front of us. We would ask him why he did not use karate more, and he would always say "it's not about fighting". We were young and did not understand.

After watching the first three episodes, Muay Thai seems to be the best fighting style for me. I am joking of course, but my wife kept laughing whenever the narration spoke of how Muay Thai concentrates force to the point of the elbow or knee. As she said "they have obviously spent a night sharing a bed with you". One of my best friends and I are the founding members of "Team Skeletor". This is in reference to our extremely sharp elbows, knees, shoulders and/or hip bones. My shoulders do not do as much damage anymore because of muscle, but my elbows, knees and hips still can inflict damage. They were used liberally when I played football/basketball and was routinely underweight compared to my competition. As the show said, an elbow concentrates all of the force that coems with the momentum of your arm movement into one point that is not covered in muscle or fat. Right on Human Weapon narrator guy.

I will continue to watch these two shows. If something sounds very interesting, I will do further reading ont he topic. Hey, I could even begin to take classes in urban spelunking or a martial art. I am happy that the History Channel has decided to supplement their normal history focused shows with these two reality tv style shows, but I hope they keep them to just that: a supplement.

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