OK, it’s the only one I’ve ever seen, and probably the only one that exists. But that’s neither here nor there. Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives is a great documentary. And it’s great not only because it features one of my favorite indie rock stars — Mark Everett of the Eels. It’s because it’s well-executed, I learned things, and there’s a quest of sorts that creates a bit of suspense. It’s fun to watch, and it’s only an hour long. And brevity is a dying art that I appreciate wherever I can find it.
I’ve seen the Eels in concert more than any other band, by a long-shot. Probably ten times total, somewhere in that neighborhood. My kids grew up listening to their music, alongside the Beatles and all the classics. Mark Everett, who is known to fans as E, is a god in our house. But why is he involved in a film about physics? You ask good questions, my friend.
As unlikely as it might seem, the father of the singer in this video was an accomplished physicist who came up with the “many-worlds” theory. His name was Hugh Everett, and when he first presented the theory it was rejected and ridiculed. It turns out the physicist community is just as petty, catty and shitty as any other. From all accounts, E’s father never recovered from this rejection, not really. Indeed, he died at age 51. However… after he was gone there was a reexamination of his work and he’s now considered to be a genius. And how’s that for a kick to the balls?
In the documentary E meets with physicists who knew his father, and others who attempt to help him understand his father’s signature contribution. It’s very interesting, and a lot of fun. In fact, at one of their shows I attended in Philly they played the entire movie as the opening act. After the Eels came out and ripped through two or three songs E asked the audience, “So, do you want more quantum physics, or more rock n roll?” When the audience responded in the predictable manner, E muttered, “Yeah. Take that, Dad.”
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the Eels (something you should remedy) I think you’ll enjoy this movie. It was produced by the BBC, and is very well done. It’s available right here, whenever you want to watch it. In this world, and probably a few of the others too.
I also recommend E’s autobiography, Things The Grandchildren Should Know. It’s one of the best, least-pretentious rock bios I’ve ever read. There’s also a well-reviewed book about Hugh Everett, but I haven’t read it yet.
Do you enjoy documentaries? I love ’em. In fact, I just signed up for HBO Max because of all the docs they have on there. I’m planning to watch Class Action Park ASAP. Man, that shit is right in my wheelhouse.
What are your favorite documentaries? Which ones do you recommend? Tell us all about it, won’t you?
And I’ll see you guys again soon.
Have a great day!
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There are quite a few music related documentations on Amazon. Some are great – others are just a bunch of journalists talking about the band.
I watched the Lynyrd Skynyrd one, the Eric Clapton one, and the Jeff Beck one all in the same weekend a while back. I recall HBO and maybe Showtime did a lot of free streaming early on when we were first on lock down.
There’s a four-hour Tom Petty documentary, called Runnin’ Down a Dream, that’s nothing short o’ fantastic. It used to be on Netflix, but isn’t currently. It’s definitely worth seeking out.
I bought the DVD of that when it came out. It has extra stuff and a concert also.
Wisey in Ttown says
HBO did a documentary a long time ago that I still think about from time to time. I don’t remember the name of it but it followed a family who supported their drug habit by shoplifting. It was done over a period of time to where you could see how they were deteriorating due to the drugs.
Wisey in Ttown says
“One year in a life of crime” was the name of it. They did a look back a few years earlier. It was pretty damn good and I remember wondering why these crooks would allow themselves to be filmed committing crimes. It’s definitely worth watching.
Ian in Dundee says
I mentioned this to you probably 10 or 12 years ago! (about the time I fell out with John the Basket, but we don’t talk about that!) It was on the BBC. It is good!
Ian in Dundee says
While we’re on the subject of good beer, me and my mate Steve have just copied Two Hearted IPA. If the original is as good as our copy, you need to try some!
I suppose Oscar-winning films aren’t exactly obscure, but time makes everything oxidize. “The Times of Harvey Milk”, a documentary about the dangers of junk food (and of being gay in America) just staggered me when I first saw it in the mid-eighties. I’ve not seen a better documentary. The last twenty minutes or so are stunning and transfixing as it looks like every citizen of greater San Francisco is slowly walking up what must be Market Street with a lighted candle to mourn the loss of Milk and George Moscone.
For a dead guy, it’s good to see Dan White is still voting.
That blue box in the picture looks like a Tektronix oscilloscope, possibly old enough to have a CRT. I wonder why it’s there.
. . . and for those with True Grit, my favorite theoretical astrophysicist, Sean Carroll, has a newish book out: “Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime”. I’ve read a couple of his books, and, although they contain more than a few dangerous curves, Sean’s books are very readable. He has an agreeable prose style, and he tends to minimize the math (my weak point); he even throws in a little physics humor from time to time. Sean is a long-time advocate of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and is at constant friendly war with those who favor the Copenhagen interpretation and the six or seven other major interpretations.
If you haven’t been to the particle zoo recently, it wouldn’t hurt to start with Sean’s book “The Particle at the End of the Universe” which is very readable and celebrates the construction of the Large Hadron Collider in France/Switzerland. Yeah, I know the particle zoo doesn’t lead inexorably to quantum mechanics, just as scales don’t lead inexorably to Rhapsody in Blue, but you play the damn scales first.
Actually, I’m sort of waiting for somebody else to dive into Something Deeply Hidden before I stick my toe in. There used to be some advanced degrees out here that I could draft on, my own propulsion system being poorly designed and in semi-rugged condition.
and how ’bout that . . . Jeff drops a post on quantum mechanics, not something he writes about EVERY month, and here comes a release from MIT that they, in experimental collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark (fight song: Aarhus is a very, very very fine hus) have some preliminary data that MIGHT provide the first experimentally predictive evidence for dark matter, the long-missing lightweight glue that holds galaxies together when they “should” be flying apart. The data is correlative, but only slightly so: MIT says they need a bigger collider. Maybe get Luxembourg to join the ring and turn the Large Hadron Collider into the Bigass Hadron Collider.
This announcement literally came from MIT in the last 24 hours. More to follow . . .
I have a fascination with real crime, so I watch a lot of those TV shows and specials about serial killers and what not. There was something on HBO about Manson but I never finished watching the whole series.
I honestly can’t remember any documentaries I’ve made a point to watch. It’s more like I was flipping through the TV, found something interesting and started watching.
jtb mentioned Harvey Milk and I heard that was excellent. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!
This is a long story; were I a better writer it could be shorter, but I’m not.
It seems like every television streaming service has a true crime channel these days; our extended family calls these channels collectively, “the murder channel”. Before the hoax killed 200,000 Americans, we visited my brothers-in-law almost every Saturday night to play cards and drink coffee and sodas and hob-nob with younger generations of the family. (Yeah, I had a stunning social life stolen from me, but I’m old: although, to be fair, I was doing this family stuff when I was in my 40s; turns out booze-free family nights land you in the hokey-pokey less often than evenings at the local bar.)
In any case, the BILs, have thousands of streaming services, or it seems so. We just show up and walk in: no knocking. We might find them watching Italian wrestling or Peruvian mountain climbing or just about anything that “500 channels” can bring them. But about half the time I grabbed the doorknob and planted by proboscis in the door panel, because the damn thing was locked. I never learned. And every other Saturday night I’d say the same damn thing: “Oh, shit. 500 choices and they’re watching the Murder Channel again.” Because the Murder Channel freaks out my nephew, who lives there too, and after the second or third bludgeoning, he sidles over and locks the front door, convinced that he’s going to be next.
I told you this was long; I forgot to tell you it was also boring. So when we finally gain entry, sure enough, some burned out detective sergeant in a badly wrinkled whitish shirt, jonesing for a Marlboro, is questioning the guiltiest guy I’ve ever seen while the video equipment captures his 1950s interview technique. And I swear it’s always the same damn overweight detective and the same damn guilty-as-sin suspect, although of course that seems unlikely.
So that’s our extended family’s experience with the Murder Channel. Watch true crime if you must, but lock the door. ‘Cause they’re out there. Waiting.
I think you’ll really enjoy Class Action Park. We watched it slackjawed at some of the hijinx portrayed. Amazing.
I’ve BEEN to Action Park and saw someone drown in the tarzan pool. ANd another guy go flying out of the go carts and I damn near drowned in the wave pool. All in one day. Yes, I HAVE to see this documentary. I wish I could say I was kidding, but that was one of the worst days of my life.
You can’t go wrong with most of Louis Theroux’s documentaries. He’s an American Brit who does most of his filming in the US. He (fairly) recently made one about opioids in WV.
Every 4 or 5 years I seem to sit down and watch The World At War, because it horrifies me how don’t seem to have learned that lesson yet.
I watched the doc about Mark Everett’s Dad when it was first broadcast.
Check out the hagoromo chalk Mr. E is holding in his left hand. It has a wild academic history, mostly among mathematicians and physicists. If you’re not a fan of the esoteric what the hell are you doing on Jeff’s site? Here’s a quick link. There are others if you’re interested. Workmen and their tools. jtb
Columbia! That’s where my mom got her doctorate. Linear Algebra was one of the few math classes I took that were sensical to me.
I think that having a favorite blackboard chalk is probably geekier than having a favorite pencil eraser. Good tools make your job easier. Shitty tools make it miserable.
I don’t think math and physics profs consider their blackboard chalk to be in the same category as pencil erasers. Most other departments have switched to whiteboards, but in most institutions, the math and physics departments have barricaded the buildings against the “upgrade” and stuck with the traditional white on black (specifically with hagoromo).
The geeks in the perceptual psych subgroup (my uncle was one – lovely man, but he had his academic opinions) still contend that white on black is the most visible combination from the back row, where a few of the eccentric geniuses who might change the world sit, followed closely by other light colors on black. (Hagoromo also makes colored chalk). When Hagoromo Bungu announced in 2015 that they would be going out of business, physics and math profs and subprofs around the world busted their meager academic budgets to buy all the Hagoromo chalk they could. The profs were subsequently saved when a South Korean company convinced Hagoromo Bungu company president Takayasu Watanabe that they could faithfully maintain his standards of excellence and uphold the longtime Hagoromo tradition. So the world’s best academic chalk is now made in South Korea using the original Hagoromo machines.
Uncle Sid, who specialized in perception and linguistics (and led the scientific design team of the first commercial jet cockpit, frequently using black as a standard background for the next-generation gauges) frequently said that the lecture was useless if the students couldn’t read the blackboard because that’s where the data is (are) — the talking part is just commentary). Also, his sentences were shorter than mine.
Check out Hagoromo. I was surprised to find a chalk cult in global academia.
I’m a documentary and horrific crime junky. Saw one on Waco (where I live) recently. It was good. There seems to be an uptick in documentaries claiming sexual molestation, has anyone noticed that?
The doc sounds interesting, but I despise that “many worlds” theory as much as the trendy “universe is a simulation” theory. There is no reason for considering them as anything more than ideas for science fiction.
The “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics says that there might be a googolplex of universes occupying roughly the same physical space; that’s 10 to the power of 10 to the hundredth power. That’s a lot of universes, and Trump doesn’t pay taxes in any of them.