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Thursday, April 30, 2009

GMVW # 69: "Hyena Killers"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 69:  Hyena Killers
Song:  Jackie Brown by John Mellencamp
(Songwriter: John Mellencamp)
April 30, 2009

Although self-deprived of prime-time TV in high school (as documented for last week’s Gem), this does not mean I don’t have some favorite programs from those days (and earlier):  ‘Creature Double Feature’ (does anyone remember ‘War of the Gargantuas’?), The Three Stooges, and the Bruins were must sees, along with ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Fernwood Tonight’ (where I got my high school yearbook ‘favorite saying’: “Ya Jerry”).  

Right up there with all of these was ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’.  I would think most who are reading this enjoyed the show as well.  Marlin Perkins’ and Jim Fowler’s documentary footage opened minds to the wonders of Earth’s natural places and the beasts that inhabit them.  Of course Jim Fowler did all the hard work (“While Jim’s down in the swamp giving the crocodile an enema, I’m sitting in the copter sipping my pina colada” …. ok, a slight exaggeration).  However, without Marlin Perkins, there was no show.  His opening and closing remarks were always right on, giving Wild Kingdom a measure of decorum and relevance. 

Nature programming has only gotten better since that time.  I believe I’ve watched the 8-episode PBS show ‘Shape of Life’ (about the 8 most successful animal phyla) more often than any other movie or concert video (excepting perhaps, ‘The Kids Are Alright’).  Another PBS video about the Galapagos Islands (hosted by Richard Dreyfus) has also been a repeat watch.  When Charlotte and Peter were younger, I enjoyed watching the Eyewitness Videos (narrated by Martin Sheen) just as much as they did.  The same applies to ‘Walking with Prehistoric Dinosaurs’ and ‘Walking with Prehistoric Beasts’ and many episodes of the often hilarious ‘Jeff Corwin Experience’.  Every one of these shows was extremely insightful, and the camera work was so good, at times it was hard to comprehend how they pulled it off.  I remember one show about elk herds in Alaska.  The lone bulls that lead each of these herds are intensely competitive with one another.  The camera caught one of the bulls well past his prime and falling behind his herd.  All of the other herd’s bulls, who had not been seen anywhere near one another during the filming (other than one-on-one battles), surrounded this dying bull to protect him from a pack of wolves.  They remained there until he died. 

Another memorable program showed predators and prey in an African jungle getting inebriated side by side under an over-ripe fruit tree.  It looked like
Bourbon Street
during Mardi Gras. 

The singular nature show that stands most for me, however, was a video recommended by Dave Cronin, Father/Father-in-Law of our good friends, Jeff and Madeline Cronin (who have been on the receiving end of these weekly rantings along with everyone else).  At his home one evening years ago, Dave handed me the National Geographic video ‘Lions and Hyenas’ and stated “You have to watch this”.  Coming from Dave, this was like the nature-video equivalent of money in the bank (as when Dad recommends a good book) since Dave always had fascinating insights on most any topic.  When I got home, I slipped it into the VCR and watched.  I was not disappointed.  The video was an in-depth and sometimes brutal account of the competition between a lion pride and hyena clan.  In the early stages of the program, the hyena clan, which is lead by a female matriarch, has the upper hand, stealing food from the lions at an increasingly successful rate, as well as generally harassing the pride, and occasionally killing cubs.  The matriarch of the hyenas gets more and more confident and skillful with each raid. 

The video kicks into high gear, however, half way through, when the tide turns, as unbeknown to the hyenas, the lions have a wild card.  The pride includes a second adult (full-mane) male.  The show’s hosts find it unusual that this lion is allowed to remain in the pride since it’s clear he is not the leader and does not appear to be contributing anything substantive, lounging around and eating his fair share after the females make a successful kill. He’s a couch potato. But then, when the situation for the lions seems particularly dire, his role plays out.  He zeroes in and chases the matriarch of the hyenas in a way that no other member of the pride can pull off, catching up with and killing her. It’s all caught on film, and it is fascinating to see play out.  This lion’s role is discovered…. he is the hyena killer, who struts his stuff only after a matriarch hyena fully establishes herself.

Some recommendations stay with you year after year, and Dave’s ‘Lions and Hyenas’ certainly qualifies as one that them.

The role of ‘hyena killer’ can also play out in human form.  There’s a guy at work, not the most productive employee, but his unique skills are needed on occasion, not only in the office, but across the country in other offices.  What can you say? …he’s a hyena killer. Adam Vinatieri: Hyena killer.  Luca Brasi: Hyena klller.

There are also musician equivalents of the hyena killer, inclusive of any musician who demands recognition every so often.  I regard U2, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp in this category.  Although not a big fan of these acts, I have respect for all of them, since each has proven time and time again that you can never count them out of the mix.  All find ways to hit home at one time or another with a great song or album. It may not be frequently enough for me to want to see them in concert (of the 3, I’ve only seen Mellencamp, and that was Nancy’s doing), but often enough to recognize them as top notch talents.  This week’s Gem ‘Jackie Brown’ by John Mellencamp plays this out: It’s one of those hyena killer songs.

Have a great weekend.

- Pete

Gem Video, ‘Jackie Brown’

Since the topic of ‘Fernwood Tonight’ was breached, I’ve included this old clip.  Here’s Barth Gimble (Martin Mull) and Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) with Tom Wait’s on that great parody talk show.

Clip from ‘War of the Gargantuas’

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About the video: Made for MTV style video

Video Rating: 1
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Best Feedback: Madelline

When you wrote about David's video, i recalled fondly another memory of him.

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