I’ve been consuming two pieces of National Park entertainment lately. I don’t know what serendipity caused this to happen, but I’m happy it did.
Ken Burns turned in his latest opus, a documentary on the national parks called America’s Greatest Idea. I’ve only got through the first episode so far but that was a doozy. The creation of Yosemite first as a state park, then Yellowstone, the first national park, then Yosemite following Yellowstone’s lead. Abraham Lincoln signed Yosemite into protection, and Theo Roosevelt was of course the driving force behind Yellowstone. We also get to meet John Muir, perhaps California’s greatest environmentalist.
It seems like a recurring theme in this series will be the battle to keep these lands truly protected from farming and development. Given the huge land-to-people ratio this country has, you’d think it would be easy to set aside some of the most beautiful and diverse parts. You’d think that, but you would be wrong. As American as apple pie is our adverse reaction to signs. “I can’t graze my cattle here? I’d like to see them sissies out in Washington try and stop me.”
This information plays out against historical and recent photographs and film, all of it spectacular. I’m looking forward to future episodes, if only to fill me in on the many national parks I’ve never heard of.
Of the many new comics introduced to me at APE this year, one especially struck home. Which really says how great it is, given the plethora of inventive and enthralling original works on display.
Phil Frank was a cartoonist (sadly deceased) for the San Francisco Chronicle. His comic strip, Farley, focused entirely on the Bay Area, which is probably why it escaped my attention for so long. However, every summer his characters took a trip out to Yosemite National Park. In this collection, Eat, Drink & Be Hairy, Frank chronicles the “urbanized” bears of Yosemite and the tourists who inadvertently feed them.
Consistently funny, full of lively drawings and well-drawn characters, Farley contained all the merits of a Great Comic Strip. It’s especially cool that Farley was a local daily strip. That is a creature as endangered as some of the animals in Yosemite.
Though Falling Rock draws on my experiences in southwestern national parks, it deals with a wider range of topics and is more loosey-goosey with How Things Really Are. I hate realism, is what that boils down to. Though maybe if a newspaper were interested, I could turn Falling Rock into a true local daily strip. It would be an honor to continue in the tradition of a fine comic strip like Farley. Any takers?