Some of the films in the list are just outright activist propagada. Others might be fine - I haven't watched them all. Want to learn something? Read.
Books can easily be inaccurate and emotive, if not more so. Authors are not bound by, what you very amusingly call, "journalistic ethics" at all. Then, it seems to me that, in general, that there is something about books which makes people arrogant and judgemental. And yes, there are plenty of examples of propaganda books.
I phrased that carefully. Books can sort of do those things, but it is much, much weaker. Books are generally much easier to engage on an intellectual, thoughtful level.
Documentaries scare me, and I've nearly entirely cut them out of my intellectual diet. They are way too powerful, far out of proportion to the difficulty of making them or the assurance that they are even remotely connected to the truth.
I'd love to see some sort of crowd sourced service pop up where people can contribute to a video overlay that you can watch simultaneously with documentaries that debunk or validate the presented facts visually via on screen annotations at the moment they are presented. I still wouldn't rely on documentaries for my facts but it would be great for those friends and family of mine who insist on them.
Of course I agree that there are many examples of propaganda, emotive and inaccurate books.
Journalistic ethics do exist in print media, but the point is taken that they don't apply in many situations.
Take a look at this Feynman documentary from 1964 for a case in point:
Reality TV is just documentary filmmaking with a rapid production schedule and without the pretense of dignity. To crib from Bobby Shaftoe, it's really documentary filmmaking, but moreso.
Edit - it also seems nearly anything that deals with mythology horribly misrepresents what the ancients actually believed and what we have discovered concerning their mythologies.
We all however know people who got through university without ever reading an inch of their set list, wrapped in a bubble of uncaring, who could do with a jolt again, a boost to remember why they want to be alive and that money is not the only reason to be alive. For these people, recommending a good documentary is your duty.
It could kickstart a moral highground for a month or so in them!
History is not a restaurant where you just send the food back; it's more like doing your own cooking. And my experience with Adam Curtis' stuff is that pulling one or two conclusions out does not cause the whole to collapse in a heap. His metaphors and narratives are sound.
Adam Curtis has produced some of the best documentaries I've ever seen.
It's like people in this thread can't appreciate art for what it is. Or that some of the topics here have been determined in absolute, and aren't open to interpretation, philosophizing or opinion.
Malcolm Gladwell? Junk. Adam Curtis? Junk. Is nothing worth reading or watching unless it's an unstylized list of facts?
I don't know about you, but all I ask from my personal entertainment are "things to think about".
Yet one still wants to get some sense of what is happening in different places of the world, to people in different disciplines or cultures, and you specifically do not want to get into too much detail, because nobody simply has the mental capacity to study every discipline out there, and this is mostly a form of reasonably intelligent entertainment, at its best an inspiration to get deeper in and read books etc.
> Zeitgeist II
> Capitalism is the Crisis
> The Pyramid Code
And a bunch of other pseudoscientific conspiracy bullshit
I see this tendency with all documentary collections, subreddits, playlists etc - somehow people love to see made up shit
Oh, turns out that is on YouTube. I watched bits of that in my econ classes, might be useful to watch it again now that I've concluded much of what I was taught was in fact bunk.
If not here, then elsewhere. Hrm ...
I've got a sort of bloggy subreddit at http://reddit.com/r/dredmorbius How about a new post:
Though I've been leaning toward "The Best of All Possible Worlds". You've got to think about that one a bit.
I think his history's pretty solid. His projections are where things start to fall apart, and in several of his predictions he's clearly jumped the gun (but then: prediction is hard, especially about the future). He's in pretty good company there. My own sense is that a collapse is likely to take rather longer, though it's also likely to be highly nonlinear -- things can limp along for a quite a while before suddenly falling to pieces.
And while not inevitable, I fail to see how a highly complex technological civilization predicated on massive energy flows and high levels of stability can survive the curtailment of both. I also suspect 2007 was a lot dicier than many people realize.
I'm a huge fan of documentaries that aren't mind-expanding and focus on quirky subcultures:
King of Kong - Never cared about professional video gamers, but this film made me care deeply for 90 minutes.
Spellbound - The incredible varied backstories behind the kids in the national spelling bee
Grizzly Man - Don't even know how to describe this one. See Alaska through the eyes of a crazy person.
Monster Camp - About people into live-action roleplaying. The culture clash with the couple on a leisurely stroll through the park that has no idea what's going on around them is one of the all-time great moments in documentaries.
American Movie - Couldn't tell if this was real or Christopher Guest at first. It's real. It's awesome.
Confessions of a Superhero - wannabe actors working on Hollywood streets as costumed superheroes for tips.
The Great Happiness Space - Japanese male prostitutes entertaining girls in pubs. Suprising twist in the end.
Indie Game The Movie, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope - titles say it all. I guess these two are well known around here, like King of Kong you mentioned.
I forgot about indie game... is that the one about fez and super meat boy? That was fantastic.
If you haven't seen it, Kevin Kelly's True Films site is a great resource for other gems like it http://truefilms.com/.
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman
Little Dieter Needs to Fly by Werner Herzog
Some of my favourites:
Anything by David Attenborough
Capturing The Friedmans
Anything by Louis Theoroux
The Music of the Primes (this was technically a 3 part series, but it's a great look at the mathematicians who have tried to find the secret to the prime numbers, most of whom drove themselves insane)
The (R)evolution of Immortal Technique - a documentary about political activist/musician, great watch
> Campbell and Lucas became friends when Lucas publicly acknowledged the influence Campbell's writings had on the development of his hugely successful film "Star Wars." Campbell expresses great enthusiasm for this film; a film that he says conforms to classical mythological legends.
The point isn't to watch all 300. But if you do find a topic you're interested in, this list is a good place to start your search.
There are a few stinkers as well, so caveat youtube-dl'er.
However, it's a really showstopper for me when a documentary is dated and with the subjects that I find interesting ( tech, economy) documentaries are dated pretty fast.
Watching anything on these subjects more than 1 year old is like whaching a documentary on ancient history.
I would really like to see the BBC making use of this archive material by re-running old episodes, perhaps with discussion from the scientists involved before hand talking about advances since the programme was made or where they went right / wrong.
Or perhaps the BBC could have a topic and collate clips from all the previous episodes to show how acience has tackled that topic over the years.
There's. Brilliant radio programme called "The Reunion" which does something similar for news and current affairs.
Here's their episode about Dolly the Sheep. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mhsdw
Here's their episode about the centre for alternative technology http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s393k
The format works well for the political stuff because the presenter (Sue MacGregor) is a respected journalist and was working at the time, and distance from events means people explain and explore without being so invested in a political position.
I've spent more hours than I care to admit over the past year going through a range of material from slick and well-prepared documentaries (including several on this list: "Inside Job", "The Four Horsemen", "Capitalism in Crisis", How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth", "The Fog of War", "The Ascent of Money" (well, I read the book). "Collapse" with Michael Ruppert.
And a few which aren't on the list: "The Prize", on the story of petroleum, based on Daniel Yergin's book of the same name. James Burke's "Connections" and "The Day the Universe Changed". And numerous conference presentations, interviews, and various other presentations.
What's particularly useful is watching these not online through a crappy video player, but by downloading the videos, where I can stop and start playback, and by checking up on points (did that really happen? is there documentation of that fact?), and taking notes. Sometimes I'll breeze through a light topic at 140% realtime, in others it may take me most of a week to get through a 90 minute lecture.
Yes, books have their place, but a well-made documentary or series which mixes spoken word, visual imagery, demonstration, and other effects, hits on the keys your mind uses to form memories. I'd watched "Connections" decades ago as a child, but bits stuck with me, and it was interesting to watch myself anticipating Burke reciting "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall", which I'd last heard some 30 years earlier.
Yes, there's material that tends toward the bogus, but sometimes watching good bogosity is decent training, or you can simply skip over that part of the list. I tackled an instance of this a few weeks back with an RT interview that was posted to HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6905655 Dissecting the elements of conspiracy (or finding out that the conspiracists were right -- reading up on COINTELPRO and Operation HOODWINK (an attempt to set the Communist Party of the US and La Cosa Nostra against one another) from the FBI's own website a couple of days ago was sobering in context of Snowden and related allegations: http://vault.fbi.gov/cointel-pro/hoodwink).
Ruppert's a case of one of the shakier videos. His history's pretty solid, his near-term future somewhat bleaker than I suspect is strictly accurate. If you read on background, the director notes that the story is as much about a man unmade by his own pursuit of an idea: "What I hoped to reveal was ... that his obsession with the collapse of industrial civilization has led to the collapse of his life. In the end, it is a character study about his obsession." (Ruppert's since continued to have a pretty hard time).
Still, anyone not planning to be dead within fifteen years had better consider what happens on the energy, resources, population, and sustainability fronts to be the biggest factors in their lifetime.
Dismissing the documentary format out-of-hand as some have done here, is simply uncalled for. Actually, it's pretty much straight out of the old FBI playbook. Perhaps even the current one.
So yeah, very powerful, perhaps too powerful
Far better, as I've described below, to view documentaries critically. Again: the ability today to do fact-checking in an instant (I've pulled up a few dozen references to Mr. McRaney here) means that it's far, far easier to do critical reading and viewing than previously. Much of what I'm researching online currently has to do with material not of the immediate present, dating from 25 to 2500 years ago, roughly. Which I can now access in ways that simply weren't possible before.
I can also hit new commentary on old stuff. Such as, say, the significance (or not) of Adam Smith's "invisible hand":
This link shows the exploration of the concept:
If you want the meat of it, Gavin Kennedy's done the scholarship:
"Adam Smith and 'The Myth of the Invisible Hand - A View from the Trenches'"
Gavin Kennedy, Heriot-Watt University - Edinburgh Business School
September 6, 2012
So: setting up a conflict between narratives does provide that consciousness-expanding opportunity for you to explore for the truth.
I absolutely do agree that humans generally have a trust bias: we tend to believe that a speaker is telling the truth, and that their story can be believed. Finding that this isn't the case is highly disorienting. I've had a few encounters with pathological (and/or psychopathic) lairs, and it's very disturbing (especially when you backtrack and find just how and when the lies started). What's similarly troubling is the amount of deception that occurs everyday in commerce, politics, religion, and even science (as well as the more typical hunting grounds of suspicious activity: mysticism, crime, etc.).
Something like BBC/PBS "Universe" stuff from the late 90's aged very well because they are snapshots of discoveries and problems that now are not nearly as exciting anymore, but they tell you a lot about the very recent history of the subject. This goes for a lot of other subjects, whether it's art, or math, or history. Documentaries can be historical documents in themselves, just check out "Civilization" from 1970 (I think), or "The Human Animal" from 1994.
Soundtrack, narration opening, editing, those all hold clues to trusting or not trusting the content, and it's pretty easy to establish credibility and historical context early on. But they can also be the equivalent of an amazing lecturer.
Edit: one obvious addition to the biography section would be "The Quest For Tannu Tuva", parts of an autobiographical interview with Feynman, on YouTube as well.
Edit 2: "The Strange Life and Death of Dr. Alan Turing" from 1992 as well.
Note though: the programs almost always had some point of view. Burke editorializes a few times in Connections (particularly in the 1st, 2nd, and final episodes). Clarke has a distinct vision of Western Civilization. Carl Sagan's thoughts on the importance of science, possiblities of extraterrestrial life, and against mysticism and nonscientific thinking are clear in Cosmos. The fact that the views are more aligned with convention don't lessen this any.
The best defense you have is your mind. Be skeptical and fact-check; good documentaries contain lots of truth.
Ruppert's another case. His history's solid. His conclusions a bit shakier (at least for the timeline).
Connections (the first series) was absolutely brilliant, as was TDTUC. I've been less enamored of Connections2 -- the 22 minute format is too brief, the episodes rushed and a little too topical, and a lot of material re-treaded. I haven't watched C3 yet, but note that it returns to the 55 minutes of the original series.
I've become increasingly fascinated by the Industrial Revolution and the changes both leading up to and emerging from it. Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil are trying to tell us that there's a Singularity in our future. I feel it was in our past (and that they're pitching snake oil). The change in the human condition from 1780 to 1980 simply staggers the mind. I'd argue that much of it completed by the 1930s, and that there's been fairly modest change since (mostly in information and communications).
I don't think the world of 2013 is hugely different from that of 1963. But 1963 was worlds apart from 1913.
Connections is an excellent series to watch concerning the Industrial Revolution, as is The Day the Universe Changed. Both series cover far more, but typically span in in most parts. Burke is clearly fascinated by the period (he's a bit of a tech geek and fan -- his history with the Apollo program should tip you to that), as well as much of what came before and since. The spanning is actually really useful as you come to a better understanding of why the Industrial Revolution happened where and when it did (though I'd argue, not a complete understanding -- I'm still working at that myself).
The Day the Universe Changed complements and supplements Connections extremely well.
As I noted below, I watched both after having seen The Prize, based on Daniel Yergin's book of the same name, which follows the history of petroleum from 1859 to 1992 (the date of publication). That series was simply fascinating.
If you're interested in the period, I'd also recommend Arnold Toynbee's Lectures on the Industrial Revolution which cover a lot of the economic and social issues of the century following Adam Smith. Robert Ayres is a modern economist who's looked at the role of innovation throughout the period in his paper "Technological Transformations and Long Waves" (1989).
And I also appreciated Ascent of Money (the book). Even if Ferguson is more than a bit of an ass personally.
Now comes the fun part, the book is supposed to be about holographic universes. One could say the author was quite ahead of his time.
And this list seems to have some of the more nuttier ones, probably due to the requirement they be stream-able.
But that's cool, I like watching nutty docos, they can be entertaining, but just don't think you'll come out smarter.
If you want to learn, read or better yet do a structured course with lectures. ie. https://www.coursera.org/
 - #1 under "Digital Entrepreneurship" category
 - http://www.amazon.com/Startup-Kids-Brian-Wong/dp/B00BQRJ8I6
The Rise of Putin and The Fall of The Russian-Jewish Oligarchs
Muhammad and Larry
The Two Escobars
Into the Wind
Most colleges are for-profit scams with massive sport programs. The backers of this video are gold-and-silver nuts inflation trolls. Their list of recommended stocks (unbiased they say; worldview is bias I say) are mostly for precious metal mining companies and other bubble industries.
Here's one of the stocks, picked at random and overlaid with DJIA:
Bubble in 2012 corresponds with a peak in silver, which has been down since.