June 30, 2008, - 4:52 pm

Schlussel TV Guide: Dung-ed Down History

By Debbie Schlussel
Even though mine is a cable-free household, when I see it I like the History Channel a lot. I love history and I (usually) like the way it’s presented on the network. But there are times–excuse me for this sexist comment–when I understand why it’s a channel targeted to and watched mostly by men (in terms of advertisers).
One of those times is tonight, when, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the cable channel premieres “All About Dung,” a two-hour “exhaustive” (I’d call it “excretive”) look at the history and social, political, and economic realities of excrement. I guess they couldn’t call it, “I don’t give a [W]hit.”
Perhaps this is a clever way to get young boys–who might not watch the History channel, but like “gross-out” stuff–to become interested in history. It does sound interesting. But, seriously, is there such a dearth of real, exciting history that they need this two hour, um, crappy show about bowel movements (and related topics, like the dung beetle)?:

allaboutdung.jpg

Clearly, there are enough references to this bodily excretion to make preteen boys double over with laughter, including repeated references to poop, feces and more – not to mention toilets being blown up, dung beetles, a fecal-matter spitting game popular in South Africa, and several partakings of food and drink laced with the unusual spice of human and animal waste.
Still, this exhaustive but entertaining two-hour look at the social, political and economic realities of dung probably will sniff out a broader audience with information and anecdotes that many viewers may find, as the Simpsons would say, “craptastic.”
“Of course, you blush and you think this is a schoolboy joke, but dung has such a rich history, and there’s a lot of information and a lot of ‘did you knows?’ here,” says Dung producer and History Channel programming executive Susan Werbe.
Tasked with the odorific assignment of hosting All About Dung is Monty Halls, narrator of several British documentaries and adventure shows who handled his Dung duty with alternate senses of wonderment, disgust and gusto.
Halls visits eastern Oregon’s Paisley Caves, where DNA from fossilized human excrement uncovered by University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins eventually pushed estimates of humans’ presence in North American back to 14,300 years, 12 centuries earlier than previously thought.
Halls and his production crew spent 34 days tracking down dung stories and anecdotes elsewhere in the USA and as far as Borneo, London and India.
In Arizona, Halls sips a brew unlikely to appear on Starbucks’ menu anytime soon. It’s Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee at about $575 a pound, largely because its beans are harvested from forest floors, processed after passing through the digestive tracts of wild civet cats for a purportedly unique “flavor.”
A visit to Borneo showcases the massive source of bat guano that provided the nitrates for early gunpowder and fertilizers – enriching those able to exploit the harvest.
Dung also focuses on efforts to install low-cost flush toilets in India as part of the Liberation of Scavengers Movement, which has hastened an end to the country’s caste system while improving the lives of “untouchables” who have cleaned pit latrines by hand for centuries.
Sensitive to potential fallout, History Channel programming chief David McKillop says several titles were considered before settling on All About Dung.
“It’s fun and a bit of a taboo subject. But we didn’t want to treat this as a joke. This is a fascinating story. Truly, the wow factor is across the board.”

No Sh-t.
Too bad they skipped the three biggest sources of dung: The State Department, Congress, and the U.N. (Wait, make that four–the Obama campaign, too.)
[Stuff] Happens.

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12 Responses

One more reason why I don’t have a TV. Just a sign of the times; there is a disproportionate emphasis on the news & on talk shows on sex & excrement. It’s also a shame because there is a need for an enlightening history channel, especially with all the phony history that is going around, conspiracy theory, Buchanan’s rathole book, misrepresentations about US and Mideast history, and so on. But the History Channel would never deal with any of those; people who want to find the truth need to really search around. It is there, but not easily attainable.

c f on June 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm

I have cable but I consider the History Channel treatment’s of uh – what happens at the end of human digestion – skipworthy.

NormanF on June 30, 2008 at 5:20 pm

“Too bad they skipped the three biggest sources of dung: The State Department, Congress, and the U.N. (Wait, make that four–the Obama campaign, too.)”
AMEN

Jackson Pearson on June 30, 2008 at 6:02 pm

The dung movie looks pretty stupid, I’m not going to watch that. There are a lot of good shows on History, Discover, A&E…I can’t ever remember which ones have the shows I watch, like Modern Marvels, which are great. I know History has a great show now and then about the Middle Ages, the Vikings, etc. And you have to get a widescreen, 1080p, 1920×1080 resolution high definition TV, and get the HD versions of those channels. It’s worth it. CNN is in high definition, or I wouldn’t watch it, but it’s great. Get a Samsung model 4671 or 5271, I did my research, it’s unbelievable. Time to go high definition.

John Harper on June 30, 2008 at 6:05 pm

The History channel runs way too much sh– that has nothing to do with history. Lately, it has been a logging adventure out west and some Alaskan adventure–what it has to do with history, I have no idea. They do various product histories of various types of other sh–, such as the history of drugs, history of sex, history of whiskey, moving giant buildings..you get the idea.
We get 2 The History Channels–the regular one and a second one that is on the DirecTV package. You have about a 40-60 chance of finding something of history content on there. I wish there was a History Channel that did more history stuff.

BB on June 30, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Too much crap on the History Channel anyway – “Modern Marvels”, “Ice Truckers”, “Mega Movers”, – when I turn on the History channel I want to see stuff on Stalin, the Roman empire, the Munich Agreement, the Victorian era, “The Reign of Terror”, not “the History of the paper clip”.

Ripper on June 30, 2008 at 7:28 pm

If Debbie ever gets cable, stick with the regular package. The premium channels aren’t worth the extra money and what you could view on them you can buy on DVD later.

NormanF on June 30, 2008 at 7:29 pm

cf, you are a hoot: “One more reason why I don’t have a TV. Just a sign of the times; there is a disproportionate emphasis on the news & on talk shows on sex & excrement.”
More news, less excrement, please!
Cf, the excrement you type every day you could base an entire network on.

Audacious on June 30, 2008 at 11:35 pm

FYI, it’s no longer called History Channel, its simply History (see the picture you posted.)

Chad D on July 1, 2008 at 1:00 am

No spot on Julie Myers and ICE? There’s a load of s**t you could do an entire season on.

1shot1kill on July 1, 2008 at 8:40 am

Dear Debbie:
By and large, I like the History Channel. Having said that, I don’t think you would have liked the hatchet job they did on the attack on the USS Liberty.
I didn’t watch the show you wrote about, but the subject cannot be broached without some degree of humor. I have done engineering for wastewater systems (Flush twice for job security!) and I can tell you that the culture has its own humor.
You would not want to live in a large city without modern wastewater treatment. In fact, you probably wouldn’t live particularly long. The large jump in American life expectancy after 1900 came about in large part due to the modernization of metropolitan wastewater systems.
Today, one of the more intriguing approaches to the production of useable energy is “poop-to-power” where methane (the prime ingredient in natural gas) is collected from cattle and poultry farms.
Moreover, while your electric bill may show windmills when they talk about “renewable energy initiatives”, over 90% of renewable electricity in Michigan is produced from landfill gas; obviously not as romantic as windmills.
Due to the tremendous versatility of methane gas, there’s a lot of interest in “poop-to-power” in the agricultural business. On the government side, a LOT of energy can be harvested from municipal wastewater systems in the form of methane gas. Civil planners and engineers are looking harder at the options available in future projects.
In other words, there’s a LOT of money spent on waste handling. There’s a large potential to make money recovering methane. As such, this is a relevant subject worth educating the public.
I really hope the History Channel discussed these things because modernization of waste-handling systems holds real potential for energy recovery. Since I didn’t see the show, I don’t know if any of these issues were covered.
Regards,
There is NO Santa Claus (aka TINSC)
P.S. Guess which country in the world is on the technological cutting edge of methane recovery from wastewater?

There is NO Santa Claus on July 1, 2008 at 9:38 am

I saw part of the dung show, it showed how they make batteries out of it, with salt added to produce electrons with the methane. They were running a radio off of it.
History has 360, with the Pacific War shows. I watched that for 2 hours today, they are great. I’m telling you, if you don’t have HD, you have to get it, in widescreen, and watch 360.

John Harper on July 1, 2008 at 9:07 pm

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