Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Documentaries II

So many documentaries that stand out I couldn't contain them in one entry. I just wanna spread the word about them! Here are a few more that stand out.




LIFE AFTER PEOPLE

What happens to the world when humans are gone? Exactly what you'd expect. Talk about a predictable formula: things decay, nature takes over, all trace of humanity erased! Something about this is fascinating to watch and think about. Especially interesting is when the crew visits places that have been abandoned for 50, 70, 100 years, and is able to observe what a world after humanity is gone will actually look like.

Yeah! Decay! Passive destruction of Humanity! ...I think I just came!




CLASH OF THE GODS

I was never exposed to mythology properly. I never actually heard the original myths of the Greeks and the Norse, so all of this was new information for me. It was wonderful to find out what the original stories are, and what has made them so enduring. Plus, why the people told these stories in the first place, what characters like Hercules, Zeus and Thor meant to the people of the time. It's one thing to just know the stories. Another thing entirely to understand why the people needed to believe in them.



Telling myths was their way of making sense of the world. They didn't have science to explain why volcanoes erupted, so they made up stories of angry gods. They prayed to their gods to try to appease these forces. They couldn't control them, but they created a way to believe they could.




AMERICA: THE STORY OF US (History Channel)

This series may as well be retitled America: Why We're the Superpower and You're Not.

In spite of that, it does what no other history class has ever done: place American history in context with itself. Show how one event leads to the other. Show that our involvement in WWII leads to the boom times. Show how technology influences the changing landscape. Show where historical events fit into the timeline of American history as a whole. It's a wonderful way to tell the story. Too bad it was funded by Bank of America, who was one of the entities responsible for killing the economy. Hopefully in 50 years someone will make a followup series and make sure to note that.




BLACK BLIZZARD (History Channel)

I learned about the dust bowl in 8th grade Social Studies. In my school, there was a trial program for block scheduling, so English and Social Studies were merged into one, giant double-period class. Some days we'd learn history. Some days we'd learn English. Either way, we learned nothing. I can't remember anything we learned in those classes because the teachers were so desperate to fill the time they had us doing pointless projects instead. Writing a radio play, or making advertising posters for the railroad.

Black Blizzard finally tells the story of the dust bowl in the 1930's. It brings the events into context and shows what happened, why it happened, and who it happened to. It succeeds in showing what a living hell it must have been for those people back then.




SUPERSIZE ME (2004)

We all know fast food is unhealthy, but we don't really "know" it. That is to say, we choose to ignore what we know and keep eating it anyway because it's cheap, easy and tastes good. Supersize Me is an in-depth look at what fast food is, where it comes from, how it's made, and what eating a lot of it will do to you.






THIRD REICH: RISE AND FALL

Presenting the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from the point of view of the average German people. This is what history class should be: presenting history from as many points of view as possible. Never before had I been exposed to what the typical German thought of the Nazis at the time. Not everyone hated the Jews. Not everyone voted for Hitler. Not every German was evil. This is a must-see.






SECRETS OF THE KORAN (Decoding the Past)

It's amazing how much about other cultures we in America don't know. Being where we are in the world, we're kinda isolated. We don't share borders with multiple nations, languages and cultures, so we're not forced to know anything about the rest of the world. We're free to exist in our own little world, convinced we're #1! I didn't know anything about Islam until I saw this program.

Who in America actually knows what Islam is? Who in America actually knows what the Muslims believe, or what the history of their faith is? Hell, most of America doesn't even know the history of their own faith, let alone what they believe! I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation of the history of Islam. It puts a lot of things into perspective.




DOZENS OF FREEMASONS AND KNIGHTS TEMPLAR SHOWS

Documentaries about the freemasons or the Knights Templar are instant channel-change for me. Why? Because it's all conjecture and speculation. No facts. No evidence.

That's the problem with things like other faiths and politics and economics and secret societies and such. There are too many people who are not part of it telling others what it's about. The only information they have is whatever they can see from the outside, so it's always going to be incomplete and distorted. We never have all the facts. One reason I stay out of political debate as often as I can. Nobody knows what's going on, but we all think we do, so it just degenerates into pointless argument.

Conspiracy theory documentaries (such as Brad Meltzer's Decoded, Ancient Aliens, UFO Hunters, and anything to do with secret societies) make me laugh. Nobody knows anything, but people who are on the outside sure think they know everything. It's like trying to judge the contents of a house by studying the external walls. Just doesn't work. I think the Simpsons parody of the Masons is probably closer to the truth than anything these experts have come up with.




AMERICA'S BOOK OF SECRETS (2012)

This is still in production, and I don't know what I was expecting. The show is mostly conspiracy theory and very light on the "secret" aspect. So the Gateway Arch is controlling the weather, Fort Knox may be empty, and the White House is a cage and the Washington Monument was funded and built by the freemasons? The first two ideas are stupid, and the other two aren't exactly secrets. That's the problem with this series. It builds up a lot of hype to reveal secrets that aren't secret at all. Again, more speculation and conspiracy.




The Captains (2011)



Ok, one for the Trek fans. An interesting idea to do a portrait of all the Star Trek captains, see what kind of person it took to be a captain and what toll it took on their personal lives. I had no idea the schedule was so hellish. 12-16 hours a day for an entire year?! No wonder Hollywood is so full of divorce. The schedule Hollywood keeps their actors on makes it impossible for any of them to have a life outside the studio!

It's not always interesting, but the stuff that is interesting is very entertaining. Although... Did Avery Brooks drop acid before his interview? Holy shit, he sounds absolutely stoned, and I was hoping to hear more about him, as the captain of DS9 was the one I knew the least about.

Scott Bakula's interview turns out to be the most interesting. It makes me lament. I wish more of Scott Bakula had made it into the character of Jonathan Archer. Archer was supposed to be this loose, easygoing guy. Scott Bakula was just that in his interview, but on screen as captain of the NX-01 he was rigid, stiff, emotionless, trying too hard to be commanding. Oh how I wish Bakula had commanded that ship instead of Archer. We might've had a better show.




DIVE! (2010)

All about food waste in the United States. Working in retail, I see the waste. I know much of it doesn't need to be wasted, but the truth is that it is cheaper and easier to waste food (hell, anything!) than to repackage or salvage it in some way. Plus, there is no way to sell some things partially. It's either the entire package of strawberries or nothing. If one strawberry is bad, we have the throw the whole package away. We can't just pick the bad stuff out and sell the rest for a reduced price. That takes too much time.



America produces so much food it has become cheap and disposable, so we can afford to waste it. I've pulled things from the trash (before they made it into the trash) because I hated seeing the waste. Sealed boxes of chocolates defected out automatically because someone returned them. A dozen boxes of chocolates wasted just because the company wants to eliminate all chance of liability.

There's no financial loss on food waste because the way our country is set up, you can lose a dozen cases of something due to spoilage, but that's ok because there's a hundred more cases available to replace them! We can afford to throw perfectly good food away because it's cheap, plentiful and disposable. Everything is expendable. Waste is cheaper than conservation, and there's no financial benefit to reducing waste. It's a very sad fact.

The movie presents this in a very surprising way: dumpster diving. These people are eating like kings pulling food out of dumpsters, and it's not bad food! All of it is perfectly good, edible produce, meat and bread thrown away just minutes or hours before. I know it is. I've seen it firsthand myself, and it's shameful.




ZEITGEIST (2007) + ADDENDUM (2008)

Hoo boy, I wish I could forget I watched these movies. They are so convincing. They look so professional and amazing and they blow you away with information that seems to explain everything about why the world works. Of course! Religion is a grand conspiracy to control the masses! Corporations are forming a government of their own and they're enslaving the people by establishing a system to keep people perpetually in debt so they have to keep earning more and more money to make ends meet and guess who benefits? It ain't us!

I actually believed it. I fell for it. But it wasn't until I checked the sources that I realized it's just an elaborate conspiracy theory. Most of it is based on a dubious new age book called The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. The rest merely restates other baseless conspiracy movies like Loose Change, a documentary I couldn't even watch because it's so amateurish and ridiculous.

The ideas in the Zeitgeist movies are engaging because they seem to make perfect sense. They seem to explain exactly why the world works. But when you check the sources, you won't find any evidence to back this up. Only conspiracy and paranoia. More studying the external walls but never venturing inside to look firsthand. So I admit I bought into this at first, but I'm better now. Really, I am.




RUSSIA: LAND OF THE TZARS (2003)

In World History during my 9th and 10th grade years in high school, we learned about every major country on Earth. China, Britain, India, Japan, Greece, France, Spain. All except one: Russia. For some reason, Russia tends to get skipped over in history class. This pair of features takes us from the earliest years of Russia's history to the revolution, and it's quite a journey. Makes me glad I didn't learn it in school, because it means so much more now that I'm older.




There are many more I'm sure I forgot, but for now that's what stands out! This is what I watch on TV. This is what I take in on a regular basis. Maybe it will explain a few things about my writing, and about me as a person.

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