Documentary Watch//I Escaped A Cult

WHAT I Escaped A Cult
WHERE Netflix
THOUGHTS
What series of events triggered the countless minute chemical reactions that placed me on the opposite side of an equal sign? What happens to me when I die? What is paradise? What is the meaning of life? Why don’t Dragons exist? What does Divine Judgement mean and why is Immortality so important? Isn’t the point of all of this? So people remember me when I’m dead?

Instead of looking within ourselves, we’ve decided to look above at the great expanse that is both the daytime and night time sky. Whether we worship Sun gods or tells stories about the movement of the stars, we look to metaphor for comfort and regard anything within as exotic or apart of some kind of new age mysticism. There’s a fine line between Religion and Spirituality and in my experience, I’m a skeptic towards Religion and a believer in Spiritual growth. My place isn’t in the argument of what was responsible for the creation of the Universe but how I treat my fellow man, and what I can do to support future generations after I’m dead. Whether I look inward to find answers (or find more questions) or look to figures in history–be they past or present–is my business. If I choose to share that with others, I’m exposing my boundaries to scrutiny. Good people share their experiences and thoughts without stones. Bad people abuse you with their experiences and refuse to listen. They talk so fast the world gets exhausted and fail to see reason. It’s a kind of mob mentality.

I think it’s all kind of bullshit. I’m not arrogant enough to believe I hold the key to societies salvation, and I’m skeptical whenever anyone claims to have the answer to a question with no correct answer. In my life, I’ve followed 2 established Religion: Christianity and Zoroastrianism. I’ve studied a few others out of curiosity and dabbled in Wicca and Druidry; I was seeking an answer as to why I’m gay. I had no immediate concern of the need to know why (I’m not someone who is interested in the nature vs. nurture of sexuality.) I was interested in it on a spiritual level; if I was gay and found love and companionship with the same sex, what did religion think of it? That road lead me to the ultimate conclusion that it’s our actions that define us, not the labels we carry.

My favorite quote about religion versus spirituality is from the film PITCH BLACK where the character Abu ‘Imam’ al-Walid said, “Religion tears people apart, and Spirituality brings people together.” In my experience, there is a lot of truth to that statement, but what does any of this have to do with a 54 minute documentary about escaping cults? Well, there is nothing in the world that is more terrifying than having the ability to critically think stripped away from you, preying on the innocent mind, or being controlled by a glorified soap box because you happen to be in a weak spiritual moment in your life. I see Religion and Cults to be a different side of the same coin, but one has a terrible reputation and the other is a conduit for control and abuse. Which one? You can decide that.

I think those have escaped cults have shown us all one common denominator of our species: to recognize right from wrong and to identify what our own self-worth is. Many can’t escape from the clutches of cult leaders, but those that do deserve a kind of heroic recognition instead of this kind of “oh, you were with a cult? You weirdo” vibe I get from people whenever the subject comes up. No one should use power to control, no one should twist scripture to fit selfish and evil ends, and no one should ever force you to do something you do not want to do.

The monstrosities the victims in this documentary had to face on their road to enlightenment was done by demons in angel
clothing. Child abuse, child rape, and torture are wrong. If you follow a religion or spirituality that advocates these things, you are wrong. If you follow a creed that throws stones at both human rights and civil rights, you are wrong.

I don’t think any of the victims in this documentary did anything wrong. When you’re brainwashed, you can’t be held accountable for your actions… which sounds a little weird and is a sentiment that possibly lets some very real monsters off the hook. But I’m not talking about monsters, I’m talking about people like you and me. People who can’t see ourselves doing anything terrible suddenly faced with a situation where there is no other choice.

I want to hug all of the victims in this video and listen to their story and the life they lead now, because I think they’re all rock stars and I apologize for this ramble. You can watch the full documentary below! Because National Geographic is awesome!

 

 

Documentary Watch//Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded

WHERE Netflix
WHAT Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded
THOUGHTS
First, as an artist, I just love the design of the poster. An uzi made of cocaine perfectly sums up Miami in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m not the biggest fan of gangster films, Miami, or doing coke so this was all knew to me. Miami’s history of smuggling is quite romantic in a way, and I found myself hating the law for trying to put a stop to it. Which is so strange because coke is the worst; seriously. Any other drug is fine. Ish. Not meth. Or bath salts. But coke just wrecks your body. WRECKS. Nevertheless, it built the Miami skyline, brought us some pretty great music, and I’m assuming, some pretty great times for people. It also placed some of the craziness of Florida in context, which begs the question, what IS Florida? What IS Miami? I didn’t know the Miami of the now is so new, which again puts it into a context I hadn’t thought of before. I’ve only ever been to Miami once, briefly, to board a cruise ship. I only remember the street art.

The documentary is long. very long. It’s a little over 2.5 hours but I feel like an armchair expert on the subject of Miami cocaine smuggling. I found it better than any dramatized film on coke. Or smuggling. And everyone felt so sincere. For the most part; it began with a kind of romantic view of smuggling with pilots and captains of boats smuggling some pot and coke here and there… that is, until Columbia got involved until the drug violence of Columbia spilled over into the game and changed it forever; it does a great job of not demonizing the Columbian people for their particular way of life at the time, which I really liked. (There’s nothing worse than armchair anthropologists assuming their way is the best way. It’s too ironic.)

There’s also unintentional comedic moments in some of the interviews. Well, or I’m just a dick. Below is a paraphrased script that I found hilarious. Pause-the-movie-hilarious!

“I was a model. He was a photographer so I posed for him. He bought me everything I wanted. I didn’t know he was into coke. But, I rarely saw him because he lived in Columbia.”

Like, I’m not at all saying all Columbian’s are into coke. That’s absurd and impossible. But I am saying, that if you’re dating someone who pays everything in cash, has erratic moods, is not Columbian but lives in Columbia, and has his own plane, it’s reasonable to assume that A: he isn’t a real photographer, and B: he’s probably into coke.  It’s the kind of comedy that only reflection brings.

Watch it, though. It’s a pretty amazing documentary.

Documentary Watch//Das Goebbels-Experiment

WHERE Netflix
WHAT Das Goebbels-Experiment
THOUGHTS
Good. God. Propaganda is one helluva drug. I recall Adolf Hitler once writing that the propaganda machine of Britain and the USA during World War 1 was the reason why Germany lost that war, and so Germany would have a stronger machine pumping out speeches, posters, and films the second time around… which is terrifying when you thinking about the timing of things. He wrote that in Mein Kampf before his rise to power. Quite the chess player, I think. Put let’s cut straight through the bullshit: everyone who lead the Third Reich was evil. Their propaganda was based on the concept of the Other, rallying their society around a particular enemies, and creating those kinds of lies that feel like their true, because someone is yelling it or putting it up on the billboard. It’s an uncomfortable genius and I’m only happy that  Goebbels was constantly depressed, moody, sad, and lonely. It’s like watching the life of a villain, but you’re rooting for the other guys at the conference.

 

Documentary Watch // The Woman Who Wasn’t There


WHERE
Netflix
WHAT The Woman Who Wasn’t There
THOUGHTS
Yikes. I can’t even begin to imaging the villain who sees the tragedy that was 9/11 as an opportunity for attention. For whatever reason, Alicia Esteve Head decided that it was this moment in history to steal a part of the spotlight for herself. As an outsider who idolized Americans, I can understand the appeal of wanting to be apart of that countries tragedy. But, girl, the key to any lie regardless of size, is to have some grain of truth involved. For example, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re in the country. Make sure your lie is believable. Her story isn’t believable. Because there’s this thing called Shock. When you say your arm is dangling by the tendons, and you hide it under a jacket but still somehow manage to save people who don’t exist, why in the world did you get out? Your arm was dangling. By a tendon. That would cause Shock. I assume. If not shock, a serge of Adrenaline. In which case it would lead to various intersections where people would definitely remember you.

The most powerful moment of this documentary is at the end when the actual survivors all–at some point–unanimously agree to forgive this woman. Some want to immediately, some with time. But still, they would forgive her. However, as someone who went through this while I was in high school in Boston, where friends were worried about relatives flying out that morning (myself included), I remember well how the bullshit lines that are drawn between cliques in high school vanished and we all felt for everything. Not everyone. Everything.

I remember hearing it first on a radio in art class. I didn’t believe it, no one did, because the particular radio show we were listening to frequently played pranks. Yes, the events of 9/11 wouldn’t be far off of something they would fake-news-story. It wasn’t until Economics AP when the teacher turned on the local news. It was crazy. People cried. People said war was coming and were excited for it. People were confused. I kept thinking what this would mean generations from now. And whose really to blame. Or, really, if I was surprised that this was happening.

I’m not a survivor and I don’t know where I throw my ax down on the topic of “are-survivors-heroes.” But, I do know this, the people in this documentary who are willing to forgive this stupid, conceited, arrogant woman, are heroes. And as a non-survivor-but-went-through-it-as-audience-in-New England, I think this woman is a bitch. She could have a psychosis. She could have not dealt well with the financial investigations of her family in Spain. She could be going through her own demons and instead of drugs or alcohol, she got addicted to pity and sympathy. That’s all perfectly fine. But, she’s still a bitch.

The whole documentary was fascinating. The music worked very nicely with the digital paintings used to tell Alicia Esteve Head’s story. The mystery builds at a slow pace, and just as you begin to believe her, the hammer drops and all of the dirty laundry is exposed. It’s really well made. Very well made, in fact. It’s so well made that, while I think this woman is vile, had it gone a different way, she would be the nicest person anyone could know.

It’s a weird situation.

Documentary Watch// Unhung Hero

WHERE Netflix
WHAT Unhung Hero
THOUGHTS
This documentary was uncomfortable but not because the subject matter was finally trying to answer the ultimate question: Does Size Matter? The answer to that question is obvious: Which era of the world are you talking about? The Greeks and Romans thought small dicks were sexy, hence why all of their naked statues of men have small dicks. Now we live in an era where big dicks are synonymous with instant pleasure. At the end of the day, science and biology don’t care because they put all of the required parts within 2 inches of year other. So, does size matter? Not when you want to reproduce.

A lot of missed opportunities are in this doc. He travels around the world and tries insane tricks to enlarge his dick, from pills, pumps, and injecting himself with some kind of urine. You can’t make your dick bigger unless you get plastic surgery, he found out, and that requires you to be in South Korea.

But where is the content for small dicks versus big dicks? It would have been interesting to have anecdotes about the past and how things moved and changed. It would be less cringe-inducing. Because to be honest, someone breaking up with you because you have a small dick seems… untrue. Like, I believe it happens, but the guy seems to be really arrogant about… everything.

You know that guy who really wants to be viewed as being nice, but he’s just a dick? I get that vibe from the host of the documentary.

And besides, to quote Ron Jeremy, “a good tongue is more important.”

Documentary Watch//Let The Fire Burn

WHERE Netflix
WHAT Let The Fire Burn
THOUGHTS
Gurl. I had no idea that this ever happened in West Philly in 70’s/80’s. Whether it’s a religion, cult, spiritualism, a commune, the truth, the lie, philosophy, activist group, all of it or none of it, it’s a tragedy. I’ve become very “even if I don’t agree with you, I will applaud you for speaking out” because I definitely think that as we progress into the 21st century, we’re all becoming passive activists. It’s weird to think that a lot of things like this–activism, protests, etc.–happened 2 decades ago. That’s only 20 years, give or take a couple. What happened? I mean, Occupy Wall Street happened but that became a joke for ratings. Anonymous happened, but that also became a kind of joke on-line (not so much the unofficial legit members, but those teenagers and early twenty-somethings who are trying to find themselves, we poke fun of in various forums.)

What does this have to do with Let The Fire Burn? Because people were standing up for their way of life and what they believe in, and regardless if I disagree with their methods, 11 of them were burned to death and murdered. That’s why. That sends a strong message that reverberates through time. If I stand up to the banks, will I be burned? No, I’ll just be hit by fat police officers. I won’t go into how quickly the police have fallen, but they no longer have the backs of the communities they’re supposed to protect. And that’s sad.

But at least this isn’t the 80’s where police officers legitimately think dropping C-4 onto an apartment building and to tell the Fire Department to not put it out, and to just let it burn, and we only have to deal with computers searching for terms that are out of context so that the SWAT and just kick the door down. Minority Report, here we come.

But I digress.

I don’t really support the message MOVE put out in the 70’s and the 80’s nor do I quite understand what’s to be expected when toting guns (regardless if they can fire) around in the streets or breaking laws of sound ordinances, but watching the documentary that was all archival footage of interviews and courtroom drama, they weren’t dealing with fanatics or stupid people. They were dealing with people who understand logic very, very well. And it didn’t help AT ALL that the majority of the police force were racist, nor did it help me join their (the police) cause when they wrote… very shameful things on the locker of the ONE police officer who was sane throughout this whole process.

Watching the police officer have a breakdown on the stand was… very moving.

I suggest you watch it. I think it’s an important piece of modern history of the USA.

Documentary Watch// Terms And Conditions May Apply

WHERE Netflix
WHAT Terms And Conditions May Apply
THOUGHTS
Privacy is dead, that much is true. But I don’t know whose fault it is. Is there any fault? Or is it just evolution? I don’t know. The documentary doesn’t really answer that question. I wasn’t aware of just how linked the government was with the selling and buying of private information, or how companies assist (however passively) them in that regard. Or, actually, how 1 company can both speak out against it and shake the hands with one of the heads of the CIA in offices with names like Facebook and Google. I suppose I watched it to feel as though I’m being informed and that I can, and should, fight for something. But in the end, it’s clear that there is 0 we can do but passively fight back by logging on to a website. So in the end, it’s not just my information that can be accessed with any sad hand-job of a warrant, it’s all of ours. And every company involved, every single one, doesn’t care. I think that’s important to put out. Because selling and buying information is almost as profitable as the porn industry, and we all know just how quickly technology evolves for the sake of that.

 

The documentary isn’t biased at all. Which is shocking. Well, that’s a lie. It is biased. But, it’s not biased towards what specific groups are protesting, which I think is important. I don’t agree with the Tea Party at all, but I do believe they have a right to protest anything they feel needs protesting. The 21st century has made all of us passive activists. Like, I’m more prone to just ‘like’ a cause on Facebook but not actually pound the pavement, do you know what I mean? How much of that is propaganda and messaging and how much of that is just me being lazy? I don’t actually know. I’m a pretty abrasive person, when it comes to opinions.

My favorite parts were when the documentarian was  speaking with various CEOs and political heavy-weights who either A: signed bills into law that evolved either a) the Patriot Act or b)…various other acts that essentially made the Patriot Act a gross looking Big Mac; or B: Politicians who were/are very pro the selling of information and privacy. Privacy is something easy to be an activist for. In the doc, one of the politicians who was pro-the opposite of this subject had a photo of his house thrown up on the internet via Google maps. Outraged, his opinion changed right around. The final scene was with Mark Zuckerberg who was being a real dick, and then when he finally was able to have the film makers turn their cameras off, he immediately changed personalities and actually smiled and laughed. Mark Zuckerberg. Smiling. And laughing. (The film maker had a spy cam on his glasses.) (It’s also interesting that he calls users of Facebook “dumb fucks”?)

Apart from privacy, the doc dealt with search terms, cache, and the fact that none of our data actually vanishes. It just leaves our view. From people putting up harmless jokes and then being greeted by the SWAT team, to foreign travelers who make harmless jokes and are greeted by a very angry America, this documentary sort of establishes the concept that the war on Terror is over and that we lost. Possibly because our politicians thought it was a good idea to go to war over an ideology which… is something that happened before. In the Crusades. And those didn’t turn out so well. (Or, if you’re a conspiracy theorist like me, used an ideology as an umbrella to just get oil and establish a Western foothold in new cities in the hopes that they will buy into 21st Capitalism. <-is that a pun?)

The documentary is interesting and thought provoking and, honestly, I’m shocked it was made. I’m always shocked political things are made. Which is strange, because in the USA, we definitely have that right to do that but with so many… liberties? taken with various bills and acts, makes me wonder.

Finally, it sort of puts the Obama administration on blast. Which I think is a good thing. Hope and change are great platforms and he’s done some pretty great things. But, and maybe this is what was actually the point, the changes in privacy laws that have happened while he’s been in office are really, really scary.

I definitely recommend you watch it.

Documentary Watch//Love, Marilyn

WHERE HBO Go
WHAT Love, Marilyn
WHY I WATCHED IT
There are two American pop-figures that I find fascinating: Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. They both come from interesting times in our country, yet I don’t know much about them. (Do any of us know enough about them?) Besides, I had some drawings to work on and I had just watched the second episode of Game of Thrones season 4, and I wanted something that I could sort of just listen to but not really pay all that much attention to. Cut to five minutes into the documentary, and I was hook for the rest of the feature.

Thoughts
I can’t tell if I think Marilyn Monroe is the Medea of America, or its Helen. On the one hand, Medea is insane witch who murdered her children and a princess before running away on a chariot drawn by dragons. Leaving semantics behind, Medea is a strong woman who knows how to create her destiny, not to be trapped by it. She fell in love with Jason only to find she was being used for his own destiny. She spiraled into a depression that ultimately lead to her ascending to divine status by the Greek peoples. On the other hand, Helen is this really pretty [Divine] woman that causes trouble wherever she goes. Men fought and dies for her, and an entire civilization was changed forever because of her face and status.

Told through superb dramatic readings of letters and biography excerpts, including Marilyn Monroe’s own letters, you get a really fascinating portrait of a really sad figure… who was terrifyingly smart. Seriously. I could listen to her poetry and prose all day, and I cried when I realized the documentary was reach its ultimate conclusion of her life. It didn’t concern itself with her scandals or rumors with JFK, it focus on her inner demons and blessings. It would have been interesting to see how our country would be if she hadn’t passed away.

Throughout the feature I kept turning it around in my mind; Medea or Helen, Helen or Medea, until I realized she is both. Her facade, Marilyn Monroe, is just a mask for Norma Jeane Mortenson. Regardless if she fell in love with Menelaus, Paris, or Jason, the stories have an uncomfortable parallel. With Joe DiMaggio, she had her prince but that went sour. In Arthur Miller, she found a prince that betrayed by his (lets be honest) phenomenally arrogant attitude towards her. She then found her own Troy that ultimately destroyed everything she was. And afterwards, the golden age of Hollywood was over and we raised her to the stars as a legendary sex symbol of Americana, but I wonder if we really understood what happened and how, back then, we all took part in her self-destruction.

 

DOCUMENTARY review//The Unknown Known

MV5BMTg0NDIwOTc2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjc4MTQ5MDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_WHERE iTunes
WHAT The Unknown Known
WHY I DECIDED TO WATCH IT
This has been on my radar ever since I first saw the trailer. I’m fascinated by the political machine, lobbying, and the definition of power and freedom in post-World War 2 America. We live in a country where the therm Un-American is being thrown about like a weapon, often times from mouths that are also Un-American. My country wasn’t founded on the ideals of capitalism, but on the ideals that man is created equal and serves under no king. With no taxation without representation, without fear of imprisonment or execution for saying what is on our mind, and the freedom to believe what we believe. It’s something that I 100% agree with and something that I was raised to fight for; because as a student of history, the freedom of expression, of belief, and the ability to move up (or down) in society is something special. We’re, technically, born with a clean slate… I mean, sure lobbying has ruined that philosophy since now, with big businesses are running the largest super-power in the world and maneuvering all laws forward for their own production and money-earning… but I digress. This isn’t a review about how minimum wage should be raised, how we live in the 21st century and people are still struggling to survive, how we’re still letting religious nut-jobs control the future and decision making of 51% of the population, or how the CEO of Nestle said, “drinking water is not a human right,” or how we seem to forget that when we’re dead, the world keeps on spinning and it’s our legacy that is immortal… it’s a review of The Unknown Known, where a 21st century adviser is building his monument to adjust his own history. Much like every ruler has done in the past, straight back to the Ancient Egyptians. Tell me how many descriptions there are of a Pharaoh’s failure… We seem to live in an age where “Good for business” is synonymous with “Bad for the American people.” But it seems like we’re OK with only being armchair protestors…

Rumsfeld-1

Thoughts
This is a chilling documentary. Especially when I’m also watching the TV series, Scandal, because I had difficulty trying to tell the difference between Donald Rumsfeld and Cyrus Beene. I pretty much went through the whole span of human emotion during this 2-hour affair and I ultimately ended up wanting to have a beer with the guy. Over the past 5 decades, we’ve become that guy you always run into at a party who really wants you to know that he didn’t just do coke, but then asks you thirty minutes later if you have a bump. It seems since Pearl Harbor (whether or not we knew what was coming) we’ve just been running away from fear. Like, we were busy dealing with our own shit and then BAM, we were bitch slapped by the wider world and we’ve been trying to recover ever sense. And somewhere in there, we learned how to gain, use, abuse, and give, power. It’s a massive chess match where there are no kings or queens, just pawns controlling other pawns. Whoa, that was dark. Allow me to get the hair out of my face…

Much better. Now, this documentary is important for a lot of reasons. Donald Rumsfeld is an important person and looking at the history of 20th century America through his lens, is incredibly interesting. It’s humanizing and  you definitely get a sense of, “yeah there was nothing left we could do…” Rumsfeld talks as though no one has read the articles, but also, knowing everyone read the articles. I left thinking nothing was real, but everything was real, that history is written no by the victors or observers, but by those who are telling the story, and that even charming guys who got married really young, make mistakes just like you and me. Except in this case, the mistakes are on a world scale… ultimately, I left with feeling like I was told to never stop questioning.

Anyway, go see it. It’s fascinating and I may watch it again. It’s beautifully shot with really clever editing and design.

Documentary Review// DMT: The Spirit Molecule

WHERE Netflix
WHAT DMT: The Spirit Molecule
WHY I DECIDED TO WATCH IT
I was hanging out with a friend of mine who also enjoys watching random documentaries so we decided to toss it on. It’s only a little over an hour long and, besides, watching a doc about mind-altering substances is always sort of a fun experience. You almost always leaving thinking, “man, if I have a chance, I’m totally trying that drug out!” You know, providing it isn’t heroin, full-on meth, or some other incredibly toxic substance. Although I suppose in those cases, those drugs are hardcore substances. So I guess if it grows from the ground, it can’t be all that bad? It’s not like it’s hemlock… and it’s always exciting to wonder just how long it will take for the 60’s to be mentioned.

Thoughts
Eh. Afterwards, my friend just felt uncomfortable and I kept wondering why all of the interviewees faces looked weird. That’s not a shallow statement by any means, and I think it was the quality of the feed and possibly the budget of the documentary, but everyone’s faces just looked a little weird. And shiny… and it became a bit awkward that, once my friend and I agreed that something seemed off, they all mentioned that they were test subjects for DMT.

So, what is DMT? Buckle-up.

You’re in the Amazon Rain Forest. Perhaps you came here for an adventure or to see one of the natural wonders of the world. Perhaps you wanted to test your grit in a wild land, where you’re no longer the top of the food chain. Maybe you’re visiting a friend stationed abroad, or going on a trip with Doctors Without Borders. You’ve prepared yourself properly with all of the immunizations, and you’ve poured countless hours into reading texts on the geography and history, maybe you even read an anthropologists study on the subject.

A series of events lead you to a tribal village with curious villagers poking at your supplies. Your guide motions you to a clearing. He tells you the village Shaman has a ritual for you, something reserved only for insiders and those seeking inner guidance. With a nervous smirk, you agree and see the Shaman who presents you with a bowl filled with smoke and herbs. He tells you to breathe it in and for a moment so you take a deep breath… and your mind ascends.
You leave you body in a glow of light. You see countless visions filled with color, filled with ideas and hope and dreams. You feel this light travel through your body and you understand without words, that it’s your soul. It travels up into your head, behind your eyes. Your heart pounds and your sinus feel like they’re going to blow like Old Faithful. But with a pop like champagne, the ball of light explodes from your head as you ascend. You fly higher and higher surrounded by colors and lights, icons and symbols flow through your body. You aren’t curious to know what they mean because you already know what they are: it is the music of life.

As your journey approaches it crescendo, the images become clearer and clearer and clearer until finally, the doorway opens and you realize you’re in the presence of the divine. That you are divine. That the divine is deep inside of you. That the divine is deep inside of all life, from the tiniest organism, to the most complex being. We all have this within us, we all have this as a common context.

We are all gods of our own destiny.

And as you reach this place, this center, you return to your senses.

You’ve fallen into the arms of your guide. You’re hot and sweaty, and it’s not just because you’re in a Rain Forest.

You ask the guide how long you’ve been gone and he responds with a knowing smile, “15 minutes.”

There. I just saved you an hour. Skip this documentary.  But do yourself a favor and look at Alex Grey’s artwork. That man is a genius.