Saturday, June 20, 2009

Timothy Leary - The Man Who Turned on America

Timothy Leary was early advocate of LSD experimentation. Leary taught psychology at Harvard and by 1960 was doing experiments with LSD and other hallucinogens, first on prison inmates and then on himself and his friends. LSD was not illegal at the time. In 1960, Allen Ginsberg, supervised by Leary, ingested psilocybin mushrooms, (under the influence of the drug, he phoned Jack Kerouac, identifying himself as God to the telephone operator), and began to spread the word about the new powerful psychedelic drugs.

In August 1960, Leary traveled to the Mexican city of Cuernavaca with Russo and tried psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, an experience that drastically altered the course of his life. In 1965, Leary commented that he "learned more about... (his) brain and its possibilities... (and) more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than... (he) had in the preceding fifteen years of studying doing research in psychology."

Upon his return to Harvard that fall, Leary and his associates, notably Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), began a research program known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. The goal was to analyze the effects of psilocybin on human subjects (in this case, prisoners and later students of the Andover Newton Theological Seminary) using a synthesized version of the then-legal drug— one of two active compounds found in a wide variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms including Psilocybe mexicana. The compound was produced according to a synthesis developed by research chemist Albert Hofmann of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals.

Leary argued that psychedelics, used with the right dosage, set and setting could, with the guidance of psychology professionals, alter behavior in unprecedented and beneficial ways. The goals of Leary's research included discovering better methods for treating alcoholism and to reform convicted criminals. Many of Leary's research participants reported profound mystical and spiritual experiences, which they claim permanently altered their lives in a very positive manner. According to Leary's autobiography, Flashbacks, they administered LSD to 300 professors, graduate students, writers and philosophers, and 75 percent of them reported it as being like a revelation to them and one of the most educational experiences of their lives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

People Must Love Their Leader!

Idi Amin Dada is a name that is familiar to many over the age of 35, but is almost unknown to those younger than that. The story of Idi Amin is an example the potential of humanity to carry out the most grave atrocities and offers a lesson for us all. This self proclaimed leader of Uganda came to power via a coup, but was eventually challenged by armed exile group. How Uncle Idi chose to deal with this threat makes him one of the most notorious genocidal dictators of the previous century.

Wiki has this to say about the dark years of Idi Amin's rule in Uganda during the 1970s.

Amin retaliated against the attempted invasion by Ugandan exiles in 1972 by purging the army of Obote supporters, predominantly those from the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups. In July 1971, Lango and Acholi soldiers were massacred in the Jinja and Mbarara Barracks, and by early 1972, some 5,000 Acholi and Lango soldiers, and at least twice as many civilians, had disappeared. The victims soon came to include members of other ethnic groups, religious leaders, journalists, senior bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, students and intellectuals, criminal suspects, and foreign nationals. In some cases entire villages were wiped out. In this atmosphere of violence, many other people were killed for criminal motives or simply at will. Bodies floated on the River Nile in quantities sufficient to clog the Owen Falls Hydro-Electric Dam in Jinja on at least one occasion.

The killings, motivated by ethnic, political and financial factors, continued throughout Amin's eight-year reign.
The exact number of people killed is unknown. The International Commission of Jurists estimated the death toll at no less than 80,000 and more likely around 300,000. An estimate compiled by exile organizations with the help of Amnesty International puts the number killed at 500,000. In August 1972, Idi Amin declared what he called an "economic war", a set of policies that included the expropriation of properties owned by Asians and Europeans. Uganda's 80,000 Asians were mostly from the Indian subcontinent and born in the country, whose ancestors had come to Uganda when the country was still a British colony.

Many owned businesses, including large-scale enterprises, that formed the backbone of the Ugandan economy. On 4 August 1972, Amin issued a decree ordering the expulsion of the 60,000 Asians who were not Ugandan citizens (most of them held British passports). This was later amended to include all 80,000 Asians, with the exception of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers. A plurality of the Asians with British passports, around 30,000, emigrated to Britain. Others went to Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan, Sweden, and the U.S. Amin expropriated businesses and properties belonging to the Asians and handed them over to his supporters. The businesses were mismanaged, and industries collapsed from lack of maintenance. This proved disastrous for the already declining economy.

Stories From The Stone Age

Stories From The Stone Age is a three-part documentary that attempts to explain why and how humans abandoned the nomadic hunting and gathering existence they had known for millennia to take up a completely new way of life - the decisive move to farming.

The programs also look at the beginning of the domestication of animals, permanent settlements and the discovery of metals - setting the stage for the arrival of the world's first civilisation. Based on extensive research, Stories From The Stone Age takes us on a journey where we get to live alongside our ancestors as they cross between the Old and the New Worlds and into civilisation.




The series utilises detailed re-enactments and short interviews with key archaeological experts. The series asks some intriguing questions. Why did some of our ancestors never become farmers at all? Why do some still continue hunting and gathering despite their contact with farming people and advanced technologies? How and why did our paths become uniquely shaped after emerging as a species from a single genetic family in Africa?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Lost Gospel of Judas

Thanks to Hung for suggesting this documentary. Old heresies die hard! The discovery of ancient texts such as the Gospel of Judas has sparked renewed interest in many ideas rejected by the early church. This documentary uncovers the truth behind the supposed "secrets" of Gnosticism. Featuring interviews with leading historians and scholars, it examines Gnosticism's origins, its early influence---and what's fueling its resurgence today.

What if an ancient gospel was rediscovered that offered a radically different perspective on a man that history has painted as the ultimate villain? What if this account turned Jesus' betrayal on its head, and in it the villain became a hero?

This documentary provides exclusive access to the documents and evidence that traces the incredible story of what has happened to the Gospel of Judas since it was found. Combining dramatic recreations and insightful analysis by the world's foremost experts, they ask and answer the question: Is the Gospel of Judas real?

Click here for the official website.

Grass - The History Of Marijuana

This film explores the history of the American government's official policy on marijuana in the 20th century. Rising with nativist xenophobia with Mexican immigration and their taste for smoking marijuana, we see the establishment of a wrong headed federal drug policy as a crime issue as oppposed to a public health approach. Fuelled by prejudice, hysterical propaganda and political opportunism undeterred by voices of reason on the subject, we follow the story of a costly and futile crusade against a substance with questionable ill effects that has damaged basic civil liberites.

The history of marijuana in the United States since its unofficial introduction in the early twentieth century is presented. As a product, it has been a focus of a strong government campaign to rids its distribution and use, primarily from the 1930's to the 1970's. Harry J. Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and President Richard Nixon were the chief persons waging the war. During the early battle, marijuana was popularly thought to cause a slew of maladies, including temporary insanity and murderous tendencies, as depicted through such movies as Marihuana (1936/I) aka "Reefer Madness".

This popular belief led to marijuana being effectively classified an illegal substance in the United States in 1937. When some of these myths were debunked, especially through the free-wheeling 1960's, anti-marijuana messaging turned to it being a gateway substance to stronger more dangerous illicit drugs, such as heroin. As much of the marijuana coming into the United States since the 1950's was from China, the government also used anti-Communist messaging. Both Anslinger and Nixon quashed any scientific reports that came out refuting the government's claims, such as a report commissioned by New York Mayor 'Fiorello Laguardia' . To the end of the century, America's war on marijuana has cost the government several billions of dollars

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Phantoms in the Brain

What would you say about a woman who, despite stroke-induced paralysis crippling the entire left side of her body, insists that she is whole and strong--who even sees her left hand reach out to grasp objects? Freud called it "denial"; neurologists call it "anosognosia." However it may be labeled, this phenomenon and others like it allow us peeks into other mental worlds and afford us considerable insight into our own.

The writings of Oliver Sacks and others have shown us that we can learn much about ourselves by looking closely at the deficits shown by people with neurological problems. V.S. Ramachandran has seen countless patients suffering from anosognosia, phantom limb pain, blindsight, and other disorders, and he brings a remarkable mixture of clinical intuition and research savvy to bear on their problems. He is one of the few scientists who are able and willing to explore the personal, subjective ramifications of his work; he rehumanizes an often too-sterile field and captures the spirit of wonder so essential for true discovery.



Phantoms in the Brain is equal parts medical mystery, scientific adventure, and philosophical speculation. Whether you're curious about the workings of the brain, interested in alternatives to expensive, high-tech science (much of Ramachandran's research is done with materials found around the home), or simply want a fresh perspective on the nature of human consciousness, you'll find this to be an interesting documentary.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Science Of Stress

Scientists have known for many decades that the brain has a system to calm the body (the parasympathetic system) and a system to activate the body or get it ready to deal with a specific stress or fear (the sympathetic nervous system). The sympathetic system, when stimulated, is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, a primitive state that gets us ready to fight or flee when we are threatened or scared.

This “hard-wired response” happens with overt physical threats (such as being approached by a vicious dog) and also with more covert, internal, emotional threats (such as a self-esteem injury or worry about the future). The heart beats faster, muscles tense, hands sweat to cool the body, breathing rate and blood pressure increase, the hands and feet become cooler to shunt blood from the extremities to the big muscles (to fight or run away), and the pupils dilate (to see better). This response to stress is powerful and immediate.

This documentary is an investigation into the damaging affects of stress where foremost experts in fields stretching from psychology to cardiovascular science unravel the secrets of the greatest scourge of modern times. The film follows a fictional couple over the course of 24 hours as they confront the stresses of the 21st Century.

Inside North Korea

Is it just me, or is North Korea one of the most insane places in the world these days? Are you ready to cross into one of the world's most secretive nations, for a rare glimpse of the country and its absolute dictator Kim Jong Il. In this documentary, Lisa Ling takes us on a rare look inside North Korea - something few Americans have ever been able to do.

Posing as an undercover medical coordinator and closely guarded throughout her trip, Lisa moves inside the most isolated nation in the world, encountering a society completely dominated by government and dictatorship. Glimpse life inside North Korea as you've never seen before with personal accounts and powerful footage. Witness first-hand efforts by humanitarians and the challenges they face from the rogue regime.

North Korea offers us a vision of perhaps the most excessive personality cult in modern history. Wiki has this to say about the Kim Jong Il...

Critics maintain Kim Jong-il is the centre of an elaborate personality cult inherited from his father and founder of the DPRK, Kim Il-sung. Defectors have been quoted as saying that North Korean schools deify both father and son. He is often the centre of attention throughout ordinary life in the DPRK. His birthday is one of the most important public holidays in the country.

On his 60th birthday (based on his official date of birth), mass celebrations occurred throughout the country. One point of view is that Kim Jong Il's cult of personality is solely out of respect for Kim Il-sung or out of fear of punishment for failure to pay homage. Media and government sources from outside of North Korea generally support this view, while North Korean government sources say that it is genuine hero worship. The song No Motherland Without You, sung by the North Korean Army Choir, was created especially for Kim and is one of the most popular tunes in the country.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Dark Side Of Everest

It's the highest peak in the world and holds a unique fascination for extreme climbers. The Dark Side Of Everest asks what it is about the mountain that seduces the sane and taunts the reckless. Why are people prepared to sacrifice their relationships, bank balances and even their lives, just to be able to say: "I've stood on top of the world"? Why, on its slopes, are people so readily prepared to walk past others who are dying? What is it about Everest that continues to lure men and women to its peak, whatever the cost?

"For some mountaineers, the top of the world also represents the peak of human ambition. But when things go badly high on Everest, as they will sooner or later, difficult moral dilemmas play out in dramatic fashion on a global stage.

National Geographic Channels International takes viewers to The Dark Side of Everest through the eyes and minds of those who've struggled with the mountain's powerful and potentially fatal allure. Everest veterans discuss how the mountain's hostile environment can affect the human values of those who dare to challenge its heights."

Control Room

Thanks to Nik for suggesting this one. Startling and powerful, Control Room is a documentary about the Arab television network Al-Jazeera's coverage of the U.S.-led Iraqi war, and conflicts that arose in managed perceptions of truth between that news media outlet and the American military.

Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim catches the frantic action at Al-Jazeera headquarters as President Bush stipulates his 48-hour, get-out-of-town warning to Saddam Hussein and sons, soon followed by the network's shocking footage of Iraqi civilians terrorized and killed by invading U.S. troops.

Al-Jazeera's determination to show images and report details outside the Pentagon's carefully controlled information flow draws the wrath of American officials, who accuse it of being an al-Qaida propagandist. Most fascinating is the way Control Room allows well-meaning, Western-educated, pro-democratic Arabs an opportunity to express views on Iraq as they see it - in an international context, and in a way most Americans never hear about.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Moon Mysteries

Drifting further from Earth, the Moon has created seasons, the 24-hour day, tides and perhaps even influenced evolution. Is the moon powerful enough to trigger natural disasters? Can the moon influence human behavior? This documentary puts a tightly-focused lens on the mysteries of the moon.

Without the moon in its regular orbit around the planet, would life exist on Earth? Or would the climate teeter between cataclysmic extremes? Today, the moon shines brightly in the night sky from about a quarter of a million miles away.

When it first formed though, it was 15 times closer to Earth and its gravity had a tremendous influence on the planet. Slowly drifting further away from Earth, the moon has reshaped the world. It created seasons, the 24-hour day, tides and may have even influenced the evolution of life here on Earth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


What lies below the frozen Arctic ice-sheets? Or in the black holes under the Caribbean Sea? The oceans are Earth's single most important feature. They shape our climate, our culture, our future. Yet we know more about the surface of Mars than we do about Earth's watery depths.

Explorer Paul Rose leads a team of ocean experts in a series of global science expeditions. With him, maritime archaeologist Dr Lucy Blue investigates our past and our relationship with the sea, exploring shipwrecks and lost civilisations; marine biologist and Oceanographer Tooni Mahto seeks the extraordinary life in our oceans today; and environmentalist Philippe Cousteau Jr looks to the future of our oceans and charts the way they're changing.

PART ONE - Sea of Cortez

PART TWO - Southern Ocean


PART FOUR - Atlantic Ocean

PART FIVE - Indian Ocean

PART SIX - Not available yet!

PART SEVEN - Mediterranean Sea

PART EIGHT - Not available yet!

Filmed in High Definition in some of the most beautiful, diverse and threatened seas on our planet, the team travels across the world to the Southern Ocean, the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the Sea of Cortez, the Arctic Ocean and the Mediterranean, to dive the depths of the world's seas and oceans. The planet's seas are changing fast and Oceans builds up a timely global picture of our planet's most magnificent and vital asset.

Click here to visit the official website.

The Boy With The Incredible Brain

Daniel Tammet is a twenty-something with extraordinary mental abilities, Daniel is one of the world’s few savants. He can do calculations to 100 decimal places in his head, and learn a language in a week. This documentary follows Daniel as he travels to America to meet the scientists who are convinced he may hold the key to unlocking similar abilities in everyone. He also meets the world’s most famous savant, the man who inspired Dustin Hoffman’s character in the Oscar winning film ‘Rain Man’.

As a baby, Daniel cried constantly and banged his head against the wall. His parents were frantic but all doctors could suggest was that he was understimulated. One afternoon when he was four, an accident changed the way Daniel thought forever. While playing with his brother in the living room he suffered a series of epileptic seizures which transformed his brain chemistry, giving him the gift of synaesthesia.

This condition occurs when the parts of the brain responsible for different areas of perception get mixed up. Brain scans of autistic savants suggest that the right hemisphere might be compensating for damage in the left hemisphere. While many savants struggle with language and comprehension - skills associated primarily with the left hemisphere - they often have amazing skills in mathematics and memory - primarily right hemisphere skills. Daniel began to respond emotionally to numbers, which he started to ‘see’ as complex, beautiful shapes and textures.

Jonestown - The Final Report

This documentary looks at the tragic death of 913 men, women and children who lived in a religious compound in the jungles of Guyana, South America, and investigates leader Jim Jones and his message of brotherhood and social justice.

Wiki has this to say about Jonestown...

Jonestown was the informal name for the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project", an intentional community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple, a cult from California, United States, led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious in November 1978, when 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby airstrip and in Georgetown, Guyana's capital. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.

On November 18, 1978, 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. To the extent the actions in Jonestown were viewed as a mass suicide, it is the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at a nearby Port Kaituma airstrip. The victims included Congressman Leo Ryan, the first and only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in the history of the United States.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Human Senses

Nearly everyone has experienced a moment when a faint fragrance brings a memory of a long-lost moment in time crashing back to the forefront of their minds.Often we will have forgotten about the event completely, yet it transpires our unfathomable minds have filed it neatly in some unreachable corner of the brain, primed for instant retrieval.

This documentary sets out to discover the biological reasons why humans eat such a range of diverse tasting dishes, from rotten raw ducks eggs to a sweaty blue cheese, and watch while contestants at chilli eating contest push their taste buds to the limit. Compared to many animals, humans have a ‘try anything once’ attitude to food and this has allowed us to populate every corner of the planet, while many other animals depend totally on one food source for their energy, which limits where they can survive.




Humans are very sensitive to touch and different parts of our body have different sensitivities. In fact, when it comes to our sense of touch, humans are similar to elephants.We have a few areas where we are extremely sensitive, just like the elephant's trunk, and the rest of our body is surprisingly insensitive, like the elephant's thick hide. The different density of touch sensors in the skin, in different parts of the body, explains why some parts of the body seem to have a much lower pain threshold. A microscopic splinter in a finger can be extremely painful, while a
cut on your leg may not hurt as much!