Thursday, March 07, 2013

Why go to college when you can watch these all day?

I feel like I don't spend THAT much time watching documentaries, but then I make these lists and discover otherwise. In my defense, they're educational, and I usually watch them while doing something else as well and...

Who am I kidding? I love watching documentaries and I will continue to devote hours of my life to it. Should you care to join me, here are a few recommendations.

The Machine That Made Us
Stephen Fry hosts this documentary about Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press. It's pretty incredible to think how the entire course of human history was changed by this one invention. This very blog entry might have taken me months or years to write before Gutenberg...and he laid the path for typewriters, which laid the path for word processing. Now, Gutenberg, my words can be sent into the ENTIRE world in a matter of SECONDS.

The Lost World of Lake Vostok
So AWESOME! There's this lake in Antarctica, that's covered in over 4 km of ice, and it seems that it's been sealed off from the rest of the world for MILLIONS of years. Could life exist there? Even without light? It does in sealed caves in Romania...the life there produces energy through chemothynthesis (chemical reactions), instead of photosynthesis. And if life exists in Lake Vostok, then it could exist elsewhere, LIKE JUPITER'S MOON EUROPA. Because Europa is similarly coated with ice several kilometers thick, and its patterns indicate liquid water beneath the surface. The universe is awesome.

The Ancient Maya: Tools of Astronomy
Sometimes the host of this documentary irritated me a little bit. But that's okay because the Maya are awesome. I've often thought over the last few years how unaware most of us are of the stars. It seems that their movements, and the movements of the planets, was a big part of life for many ancient cultures, and nowadays, most of us couldn't point out more than two constellations. Because of light pollution, lack of knowledge, or both. I somehow took this as a reminder to look up when I'm outside more often.

Fry and Laurie Reunited
Remember how awesome Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry both are? Remember how they worked together for YEARS on Jeeves and Wooster and A Bit of Fry and Laurie? Well, their careers have taken them on separate paths, and they meet up again in this documentary, face to face for the first time in 15 years. It's a fun introduction to the two of them as individuals, and as a comedic duo. Hugh Laurie can make Stephen Fry laugh harder than anyone. And there's a great story about Hugh Laurie's firstborn son's TV debut. This is also a great watch if you're interested in comedy writing or sketch comedy.

PBS Life on Fire: Icelandic Volcanoes
This doc is part of a series about volcanoes that my mom recommended. This one happens to be narrated by Jeremy Irons, so that's a plus. It's also really cool. Volcanoes are so epic. And Iceland is such a hip place.

The Pyramid Code
I watched this one about a year and a half ago, but I think about it a lot still. It's changed the way that I see history. A lot of this documentary is pretty out there, from conspiracy theories to New Age philosophy, but having my own views challenged has helped me become a better critical thinker when it comes to history. There's something exhilarating about having everything you thought about history turned on its head. And I think there's something to seeing ancient cultures in a different light. 

Koko: A Talking Gorilla
I watched this wondering if it was the documentary I watched years ago that sent me into a species identity crisis, but it's not. (The one I watched years ago was called "Nature: Koko.") I really love that signing gorilla. After that initial freakout that the human species was not so separate from nature, I've come to embrace the idea, and I'm fascinated by the way apes obtain language. This is a fun documentary because at least 70% of it is just footage of Koko. Koko is still around, and even has her own youtube channel! Which is fun. And Penny Patterson is still Koko's "mom." =) It's really fun to watch the documentary and then the recent videos...it's fun to see the way Koko and Penny have grown together. 

Beautiful Minds: The Psychology of the Savant
Okay, the soundtrack/sound design for this documentary is all kinds of annoying, but the info it attempts to mask is fascinating. There are several parts to the documentary, and here they are. 

Memory Masters - This actually made me wonder if there's a relationship between ADD and savantism. People with ADD have a hard time filtering out sensory information to focus in on certain things, and savants don't filter out what normal brains consider "unimportant" memories. (And Prof. Allan Snyder is the hippest scientist ever. You'll know him when you see him.)

The Einstein Effect - Some interesting stuff in this one about mindsets. Some people believe that savants are so incredible because they see the world as it really is, without preconceived mindsets or ideas. Also includes some interesting theories on the correlation between Autism and creativity.

A Little Matter of Gender - Okay, so there were parts of this that struck me as downright sexist. But those sexist statements were made by the people being interviewed, and the writers did a decent job of counteracting the assumptions being made. (Not great, but decent.) But despite all that, there was lots of intriguing stuff...apparently there's a connection between high testosterone levels in fetal development and autism. That's why so many more autistic people are male.

6 comments:

Annie said...

Printing press documentary: you had me at "Stephen Fry". I watched that Fry/Laurie reunion show a few weeks ago and it is awesome. I love them both soooo much. Have you ever watched QI, Stephen Fry's trivia panel show? It's amazing. Tons of episodes are on Youtube. Try to find ones with David Mitchell in them. There's also a wonderful bio-doc thing on Fry, called "50 Not Out". It's awesome. Did you know you can now program your TomTom with Stephen Fry's voice? I'm totally doing that someday when I have money (and a TomTom).

Did I mention I love Stephen Fry?

Annie said...

HAHAHAHAHA also Liz Liz remember when I had that dream where I was jealous of Stephen Fry because Eddie Izzard liked him better than me?

Liz-a-nator said...

Annie, what the hell is a TomTom?

Annie said...

A schmancy GPS!

...

"Tommy-toe!"

"To-MAH-to."

"Tommy-toe! Tommy-toe! Tommy-toe! Tom--"

"Don't say it again."

Kjerstin said...

Thanks to you, I'm in the middle of the Koko documentary... and it is SO BRILLIANTLY AMAZING.

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