It’s All True, or Is It?

Before I had an iPhone, I made proclamations — as I am known to do, in general — about how I didn’t want all that in my phone.  I liked the cheap phone Verizon gave me with the contract.  It did everything I wanted it to do; it would do all sorts of other things, if I so desired.  But eventually, there was a deal I couldn’t pass up — whatever that means — and I got the iPhone4, and since then I’ve come to know that everything they say about technology and modernity is true.  Or is it?  Probably, right?

When I lived in Astoria, I started biking to work in South Williamsburg.  It was a beautiful ride through some beautiful and not beautiful parts of Queens and Greenpoint, about 20-25 minutes, through Long Island City and then along Kent Avenue.  Then I moved to Brooklyn and the ride became longer, 50 minutes or so, mostly uphill.  (The only thing between Ditmas Park and Williamsburg, no matter how you cut it, is Prospect Heights.)  It felt too long, it was too difficult, I never seemed to get over the hump–no matter how many times a week, week after week, the ride never got any easier.  On top of that, I missed reading.  I missed my hour-ish of quiet-ish, personal-ish time on the Subway.

Then the iPhone made it easy to watch television and movies during my commute.  I could set something to download, hop in the shower, then off into the day I went.  And that’s when I stopped reading a book or two a week.  The imagery was all visual–does that make sense?–instead of being flooded with language and making your own movies, like you do when you read, I’m being flooded with images that have already been created, that are fixed.  And, arguably, the stuff I’m watching is intellectually rigorous, or at least a mixture of interesting and entertaining, if not actually rigorous.  Truth: I’ve never been good with self-control.  “None of My Pants Fit” vs. “Here Is A Delicious Box of Donuts.”  And that, I think, is what’s making my writing so sluggish these days.  All that screentime is killing my brain.

All that said, recommendation or not, here’s what I’m watching:

“Cropsey” is a 2009 documentary by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman, about what may or may not have happened on Staten Island, and the young children who may or may not have been adducted and murdered by someone who may or may not have been Andre Rand.  The film asks questions about innocence, social responsibility, mental wellness, the prison system–and most importantly, fear.  It’s fantastically creepy, and has some very good documentary writing in it.

“The Private Life of Plants” is a BBC series written by David Attenborough that looks at different strategies plants have for flowering, growing and reproducing.  It’s 6 hours of the best plant porn you will ever see.  It’s very nearly proof that some higher power is planning the whole thing, because how can a plant have the kind of consciousness that this series (sort of) suggests that they have?

Morgan Spurlock’s “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” is about product placement in movies, more specifically about making it visible to the viewer.  His movies and TV shows tend to be gimmicky and rely heavily on his personal charm, but ultimately he asks questions that should be asked and answered, whether or not he actually answers them in the film.

Errol Morris’s 1981 documentary “Gates of Heaven” was released on DVD in 1995.  See it.  Trust me.

Finally, “Highwater” is a 2008 documentary about the Triple Crown surfing competition on the North Shore of Oahu, made by the same filmmakers that did “Step Into Liquid” and “Dust to Glory.”  Tons of shots of beautiful blue water, fearless surfers, short profiles of weirdos.



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