Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Favorite Documentaries In No Particular Order (Greg's Sociology Course)

And when I I have to think, when I can't lose myself in movie quotes, when I have to roll things around in my head I watch documentaries. So here is a list of my favorites.

The Trouble With Chicken

You want the ever living shit to be scared out of you. Watch this documentary. I just toss a pack of chicken in my freezer when I get home from the grocery store...right next to my ice tray, with ice that goes straight into my lemonade. That's probably going to kill me. I should reconsider doing that.


Blackfish is a movie with a very specific aim. To hold SeaWorld accountable for how its policies lead to several deaths at the park, but wrapped inside of it there are several powerful arguments for conservationism. It makes the argument both verbally and visually that if you really want to sea the majesty of an Orca the best place to do it is in the wild and that anything less is a lie.

The Education of Michelle Rhee

I want to choose my words very carefully. I am a substitute teacher but, going into education is not the thing I see myself doing with with my life. I can never shake the feeling  I am not the best person who could be in the room and honestly there are other productive things I think I am or at least could be better at given the right turns. All the same my experience along with the fact that my mother was a teacher for 30 years makes me passionate about education.

To a point kids don't get the same type of agency as adults and that if a kid falters it's not just their fault but the fault of everybody around them. Either we treat children like adults and take the kid gloves off altogether or we take on some of the responsibility for giving them a chance to do better than we could.

So it takes a village I suppose.

That said we also have to face the hard truth that there is no guaranteed formula for how to get information in to kids' heads. There are different tools, but that's all you have, tools.

This documentary stands as a lesson for what happens when you expect a magic bullet to solve complex problems.

Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room

I am a softy. I generally believe that most conflict isn't caused through malice but through legitimate disagreement. That if you sit down and talk with your... enemies you can normally see the reason in their actions even if those actions negatively impact you.

Some days I need to be reminded that evil exists.  That sometimes it isn't a matter of not knowing, but not caring. That sometimes you can't bargain or reason with evil and that if justice is to be served some mofos need to go to prison.

Nail 'em up. Nail 'em up. Nail 'em up. 

On the other hand.
12th and Deleware
You have 12th and Delaware. The reason why I love this one is that it contextualizes the break down in the abortion debate. One side really does believe the other to be baby murderers and how do you have a sensible constructive conversation after that.

The film doesn't excuse some of the stuff pro-lifers do in it but it contextualizes it.

Well I might as well go whole hog if I'm going to piss of my more conservative readers.

For the Bible Tells Me So

While I have other reasons for renouncing my faith the thing that originally start me questioning was how many evangelical churches treat homosexuals. I want to about how the right for civil rights has moved on from the George Wallace days and how there are other battles to fight and then I remember that in a lot of ways for the LGBT community we haven't. Transgendered persons are still murdered for who they are. Gay people can still be legally fired from their jobs for being who they are.

Double down I say sir. Double Down.

The Revisionaries 

Remember everything I said about education. Yeah... Yeah.

This one required a good long think. To a point I am a libertarian. I don't want the government to get involved in individuals lives. But again kids don't have the type of power over their lives adults do.  If parents want to live in ignorance yeah that's their choice, but do they have the right to make that same choice for their kids?


Morton Downey... Jr. is the embodiment of everything I dread I will become. That's all. Just an occasional reminder to not be that guy. In my darkest hours, I feel I have a similar personality and to an extent similar motivations and I don't want to wake up one day and find out I've turned into Morton Downey Jr.

On the other hand.


I would be tots cool with waking up one day and finding out I somehow managed to turned into Hunter S. Thompson at least when he was on. I want to spit some fire and bust some heads. But I need some god damn guts which I lack. I'm too afraid to make people mad, to piss them off. I've got too much to lose. If you're under 30 you don't. This is the time to be reckless.


I saw it only once and I can't find it on Netflix anymore but it made an impression. So it makes the list.

People Like Us

Take everything I said about Urbanized but in this case I didn't see it on NetFlix but PBS 20 years ago. I've been looking for a god damn copy of this doc for 20 years.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Race and class.  Part of the conversation about civil rights has always been about resource allocation. It wasn't fair that by the simple virtue of being white some kids got better text books and classrooms. That was the issue I feel was at the heart of Brown vs Board of Education. That you are not going to have separate schools and still have equal resource distribution.

Once case doesn't mean that all of a sudden there is equal public resource distribution and Pruitt-Igoe is a great case study on that.

Murder on a Sunday Morning

Before Black Lives matter there was Murder on a Sunday morning.

4 Little Girls

You know I've seen a lot of documentaries giving a broad overview of the Civil Rights movement. They tend to focus of the greatest hits of the era. But it was more than that. And 4 Little Girls is a the best film I've seen to convey to me what life in that time and place was like. Speaking of which.


I don't know how he does it but Ken Burns farts historical documentaries. It's what the man does. The Civil War, Reconstruction,  The Dustbowl, Prohibition, The War, Jazz. I could lock myself in a room and watch his stuff non-stop for a month. I think I might have at some point. .

White Light/Black Rain

The survivors of the only nuclear bombs detonated in war tell their stories. Anything I write will make me sound like an asshole. So. Just watch it.


When I was a kid. I liked science fiction. I liked rock music. I liked anime. I liked video games. And even within my own community I got guff for that. "Why do you like white people music?" And then when I decided to go out to experience those things communally. I realized why. At concerts and cons there would be times where I might be the only black person in the room. And yes there are times when that weirded me out.

Afropunk sort of speaks to that sort experience.

Also, the context of this documentary more or less explains my feeling on Gamergate and it's toxicity.

And while I'm it.

The Decline of Western Civilization

Let's go old school. It's hard to find but god I love the Decline of Western Civilization. It is very rare to get cameras in the right place at the right time to capture a moment for history. And the Decline of Western Civilization managed to do that capturing the dawn of American punk rock as it was happening.

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