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Reader Participation Day: So, What Do You Think of the Ken Burns Film So Far?


We're at the halfway mark of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. So what do you think? Has Ken Burns pulled off another masterpiece, or do you find it lacking in some regards?

Are you going to order your own personal DVD of the show, wonder what wound up on the cutting room floor, or pass on the three remaining episodes? If you're only a frequent park goer, is this series making you think more highly of the national parks and what they offer?


I love the history aspect of the film. it so far brings everything home. I do plan on ordering a copy of this film. so far I have to put it up with his other masterpieces. great job Mr. Burns!!!!

This is very exciting, informative and inspiring. I will order the DVD. Ken Burns always raises the bar, and has done so again. A new respect for our National Parks, and the devotion to keep them intact.

it is great,yes i will buy the dvd,mr. burns has done a really good job in explaning how the parks were brought into the gov.,and his story of john muir were really good,i didnt know a thing about muir before,now i am really in awe of him...

It is not what I expected, but I am really enjoying it. It has the right balance of scenery and history. I have learned a number of things I did not know, despite visiting most of the parks featured.
Saving the $99 and recording my own DVD!

I don't know if I just have unrealistic expectations when it comes to Ken Burns, or have already read too much of the history, but so far, I'm not particularly impressed. I feel he has missed or glossed over so many poignant stories that help visitors/viewers connect to the parks from their perspectives (an important aspect of park interpretation) rather than what 'we' want them to experience.

For example, I also would have liked a little more time devoted to the context of Teddy Roosevelt's parks work within the extreme political and business corruption of the day, even going against those of his own party and social status--another great interpretive lesson for today's Americans.

I think Burns missed an important opportunity to inspire many Americans by avoiding saying Mather was mostly likely bi-polar. (Albright admitted this in his 1980’s book, The Missing Years.) The story would have been much more powerful if Burns had explained Mather's tremendous passion and energy followed by 'break downs' in this context. It’s inspirational for everyone, but especially those struggling with mental illness or even the stress and depression that have accompanied current hard times.

However, I was glad Burns addressed Mather's willingness to make "deals with the devil"--i.e, railroads and business interests, including wealthy industrialists--in order to gain the legislative support the parks so desperately needed. That's is a good lesson for park advocates who are often dismissive or too suspicious of business interests, as well as a good role model (and hopefully inspiration) for business leaders of today.

Also left out was much of the context of what the country was dealing with when the Park Service was created, yet it's very relevant to today's audiences. There was recession, serious food shortages, and the world was involved in the scariest thing it had ever faced, the War to End All Wars. Yet in the middle of all that, there was enough public support for the parks idea to create the Parks Service. It was a time when people really struggled on a personal level with the move from a rural and agricultural life, where they were tied to the land, to factory work and industrialized life. We are still trying to figure all this out today, so focusing on that for a few minutes could have been very influential.

I would have liked it if Burns had included a but more about the women behind the men behind the parks, especially Albright’s wife. The story of Allbright’s truggle between courtship vs. Mather and the parks, his working honeymoon where he and his bride bundled in blankets on a caboose as he read geology to her as they passed lands that would become parks, followed by her endless volunteer hours in support of his dreams is a great story for couples who help fulfill each other's dreams or work on public issues together.

I also would have preferred to see more national park rangers (current and retired) used than so-called 'writers'. First, no one can talk about the parks and what they represent, or displays more passion for them than the rangers. Second, their public image is second only to Santa Claus with the American public, so their words would carry more weight, have more influence, than ‘writers.’
That said, I think the African-American ranger has done a fine job, and the choice of an African-American--a part of the American demographic under-represented in national park staff and visitors but supporting conservation in greater percentages than whites, was a great choice.

Burns could have made room for these aspects of the story by condensing some of the story-telling about the individual parks. Yet, like Mather, he has done one thing especially well--he's effectively used his camera lens to connect Americans to the inspirational beauty of the parks, something many of us have forgotten about in our fast-paced artificial worlds. Hopefully viewers will want to go out and smell the glorious scents, let the fresh air fill their lungs, feel the ground under their feet, and laugh with family and friends around a campfire.

I've watched three out of the three nights offered so far and enjoying it. I find it very inspiring. I'm inspired [as a former psychiatric nurse] to discover more about Mather. I'm inspired to read Muir. And I'm definitely inspired to fill in the rest of the stamps in my passport book.

Mr. Burns' film taught me a lot about the history of the creation of the park system. He went under the surface and presented details not widely known. Both Ranger Johnson and the Native ranger offered astounding insights; I'm not so sure about some of the other commentators. I like how the music complemented the documentary, instead of overwhelming it with a grand score. My better half and I have vowed to go see all those Western parks. I have been glued to this series and already have ordered the DVD. It will be interesting to see in the next installments how they present the politics of the parks closer to our own time. Finally the parks are getting some well-deserved attention.

Unfortunately, nothing was left on the cutting room floor! Compared to Ken Burn's previous work, this is a bloated turkey. Rambling, repetitive, tediously paced, poorly edited. Needs to be condensed by half, and could be an interesting, compelling story with more continuity, not a snooze.

The stunning contemporary photos aren't shown enough; while the historical photos are great to see, the same one's are shown again and again.

I agree with the other poster re: more comments from Park Rangers.

I'll watch the remaining episodes because I don't want to miss the good parts, if I can stay awake.

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