Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Word Of The Week


I am a sucker for science and nature documentaries on television. I will watch the most boring programs about the most arcane topics. And find them interesting.

I must say that when the Discovery Channel first came into being in the US, I loved it. But it changed and I hate what it turned into : entertainment. I stopped watching because I don't like show after show about shark attacks or race car crashes or the world's most deadly [fill-in-the-blank] or secrets of the mummy's curse or peril on the high seas or alien abductions. The programmers dumbed Discovery down to adolescent cartoon mock science. I was a teenager once and once was enough.

I love the boring stuff. I appreciate actual information, real scientists doing their thing, boring data, the long slow scientific process, real discovery. I may not understand it all, but I learn things. The French still do science and nature documentaries the old-fashioned way : boring. Bless them.

One of our tv stations (called arte, a French/German collaboration) carries many such programs and I watched one the other night. It was about a team of French archaeologists opening up a tomb in Egypt that had been sealed off since the late 19th century. Now, before you get all excited, there was no curse, there were no jewels or gold, and no mummified corpses. All that was inside was pillaged centuries ago. It was just an empty tomb. But it was an amazingly elaborate complex of rooms on several levels filled with bas-relief hieroglyphs that was excavated by the ancients out of solid rock in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes.

It was the tomb of Padiamenopé, neither a king nor a priest. He was, they think, a man of letters (or hieroglyphs) who may even have been an Egyptologist in his own time owing to the different styles of tomb decoration they discovered - it was like a museum of Egyptian funerary practice up to that point in history (the 7th century before our era).

On the floors of some of the over twenty rooms that comprised the tomb were piles of rubble. Those piles of rubble are this week's word : éboulements. It is the noun form of the verb ébouler, to fall in pieces, to collapse or to crumble.

Image from, © SWR/Seppia Filmproduktion


  1. oh i caught some of that program too before the husband complained that it was, yup, you guessed it: "too boring." this coming from the man who likes to read manuals. i love the arte channel, but i suppose that's a given as i am a history major and they have some fascinating history programs. i also like being able to catch an old black & white film in english every so often.

  2. Now come on....Thinking is just to darn hard to do. We here in America just want to be able to drive around and eat. We don't need to worry about some thousand year old tomb that dead guy was buried in. That has nothing to do with the stock market or the Triple cheese burger that I am gonna get a Wataburger.

    I REALLY hate what America has turned into, and am very jealous of people who have been able to throw the shackles off and move to another place where you can just live life instead of idiotically bullying your way through it. At the same time, however, I feel like I would be abandoning any hope of "turning the tide".

    Anyway, great post. I, too, enjoy a good boring science show, or a history show etc..

    Great post and I will get off of my soap box now.

  3. I must admit I have trouble following Arte, I like the programmes but hate the tone of the comments. They remind me of science lessons at school, and put me to sleep.
    I feel the same about France Culture. But I am a fan of La Cinquième, which have a different tone.

  4. Walt - I'm with you on the old fashioned nature shows. The ones that show ants mating, etc. The more boring the better. I think I got hooked on them during my thousands of hours of babysitting.

    We have a tiny t.v. that we never watch because there's nothing good on. But I remember Arte when it first started, during my first stint in France, and loved it then.

  5. p.s. Callie is DARLING!!!

  6. This is one reason I am confused when Americans complain about terrible French TV.
    Each time I've been back in the states I can hardly bare to watch the TV.
    Maybe it is the commercials every 20 seconds.

  7. I right there with y'all. I probably watch too much tv, but we seem to get much more quality programming here, and there are so many fewer commercials. I suppose part of it may have to do with the redevance audiovisuel, or tv tax, that we pay in France. I pay it gladly if it means fewer ads and better programming. I know there is crap on tv here, too, especially without a cable or satellite service, but there is enough good stuff that it's ok. Gotta run, my favorite program is on now... ;)


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