Need something to watch while you fold laundry/organize your filing cabinet/cross-stitch your favorite saying? Here are some enlightening and entertaining documentary recommendations for your viewing pleasure!
Note: I haven't done a documentary update in a while, so I hope I don't accidentally mix them up in my reviews somehow. I might also be forgetting some key thoughts, but whatever. Just watch.
How Does Your Memory Work?
I think we all know by now how much I love the human brain, and this documentary was a good fix for my brain-junkie cravings. You don't realize how extraordinary your ability to remember things is until it's taken away from you, or until you meet someone who can't remember things. From the challenges of short-term memory loss to the possibility of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" becoming a reality, this documentary covers a whole range of awesome.
Battle of the Brains
So, the IQ test has been controversial for a long time. This documentary seeks to test different kinds of intelligence--mathematical, creative, emotional, etc.--by bringing together six extraordinary minds. A musical prodigy, a quantum physicist, an artist, a dramatist, an RAF fighter pilot, a chess grandmaster and a Wall Street trader all complete various tasks from a standard vocab test to a painting to solving puzzles. It seems intelligence comes in all shapes and sizes. =)
Why Do We Talk?
So so so so so so awesome! Linguistics is so fascinating. Did you know that in experiments with making up languages, people will naturally begin to create linguistic rules? This documentary also talks about "the forbidden experiment"...raising a child from birth with no verbal or written communication, to see what happens. Will they develop language? How much of language is inherent? Of course, the ethical implications of this experiment are what make it "forbidden," so the way around it is studying feral children--children who were raised in the wild by animals. Which really happens. Very very rarely, and most reports are hoaxes, but it does happen, and it scares me so much I start to cry just thinking about it. This documentary contains a few seconds of video footage of a girl named Oxana Malaya, who was raised by dogs in the Ukraine until the age of 8. And it gave me nightmares for about two weeks. But the documentary is fascinating.
BBC: Modern Spies, Part 1 and Part 2
So awesome. And I walked around for a few days fairly certain that everyone around me was a spy. This documentary focuses on MI6 and British spying, although it does get in to American spy stuff. I partly watched it because I wasn't sure how they were going to do this documentary without endangering civilian safety, but I learned a lot of general info...just nothing specific enough to make me an insider. =) They talked about how real spying is different from the movies, about the risk of "entrapment," about whether or not spies ever have a "license to kill." Oh, and about the Russian spy Anna Chapman! She was arrested in 2010, along with NINE OTHER AGENTS who were part of a Russian sleeper cell in New Jersey, which had been working on gathering intelligence for like, TEN YEARS. (Is it getting "cold" in here?) So, the next time someone tells you you're being paranoid about something, tell them about this. Because the truth is stranger than fiction.
BBC: Nature's Weirdest Events, Part 1 and Part 2
This is more on the daytime-TV boring-ish side, but there was some crazy stuff, and I was entertained. And mouse plagues are the grossest, most terrifying things ever.
Tales From the Hive
BEES ARE AWESOME. I love them. They're so industrious and brave and smart. And they dance! And they do little trumpet-y noises while they dance. It's called a "wiggle dance." Did you know that? If you didn't, you should. This documentary has some INCREDIBLE footage. I mean, you could just mute the documentary, put on some Beethoven and just watch. But, don't mute it, because there's some amazing stuff here to learn about.
What Are Animals Thinking?
Okay, the host of this documentary is kind of annoying. But that aside, this is a super-awesome documentary about animal behavior, and by extension, what it means to be human. For instance, do dogs really know what we're thinking? Is empathy a strictly human trait? The natural world is pretty incredible. And homing pigeons are awesome.