We have been the lucky recipients of a lot of “Documentary Channel” fare. Our satellite company gives us a lot of free time on it because we are “long and favored customers.”

It’s turned out to be on of the best channels around. While there is plenty of junk, there are great finds as well, often letting us peek into the lives of people who live far far different lives than we. Often we learn about people we have never heard of, but who have made significant contributions to the communities in which they live. We saw, for instance, a wonderful one on the late Oscar Brown Jr., songwriter and easily the “father of rap.” His song about the slave auctioneer selling women on the block is breathtaking in it’s showing of the real state of human slavery.

We have seen the crazy world of Donkey Kong champions and the egos that drive young men to fight and cheat their way to the top. We’ve see, as we mentioned some months ago, the lives of Mongolians on the Russian steppes and their camels.

Some are lousy of course, as with any genre of entertainment. Others are riveting, such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. What is absolutely true is that the title is not the standard by which to judge. We currently have one in the can about a brothel and the owners who are a man and his quadriplegic wife. We haven’t yet sampled that one.

The other night we saw one about the extension of human life. It was idiotically filmed, which was too bad, since the folks who were interviewed had some really important things to say. It was not your typical “state of the art” of life extension at all, but a provocative look at the issues that may arise should we succeed in dramatically extending the span of a human life.

For instance, philosophically, some argue that we are what we are mostly because of our recognition that our lives are finite. In other words, given our short lives, we develop the need to find meaning, and to make some mark upon the earth. If our lives were significantly longer, we might lose this urge. Other’s disclaim such a notion with nary a thought.

Others suggest that we might lose our willingness to take risks, and this has been a driving force in discovery and growth in knowledge. If the only real way to die is through accident, then we might become fearful and paranoid. We might stay home, and remain safe and sound, rather than subject ourselves to the proverbial “getting hit by a truck crossing the street.”

One complaint was unusual. It came from a physicist working at CERN. He said that he, and others like him, were able to think of and plan out experiments they would like to conduct. However, in some cases the lag time before the monies, equipment, and pre-requisite testing had been done, exceeded an individual lifetime. Now that was something I did not think of.

Of course there were the silly folks as well.

One group gathers around the limited scientific evidence that suggests that severe caloric reduction leads to longer life. Some years ago, in an experiment involving some other issue, it was noted that rats fed a restricted diet, lived quite a bit longer than their normal counterparts.

Armed with this finding a scientist or two did similar experiments on other animals and found the results to be similar. From that was born the “Society” of those who decide to restrict their intake of food.

A representative claimed that the results were that “you are really really skinny”, and that you have “lots of energy” but that, on the other hand, you were “hungry all the time” except for members who placed all their calories for the day in one meal. These folks were only hungry 21 hours a day, and not 24.

I guess nobody is old enough yet to know whether their lifestyle has had any effect on longevity.

So you get An Inconvenient Truth, The March of the Penguins, and short vignettes into the lives of interesting and unsung heroes in our world, and you get the quadriplegic and her hubby starting a brothel, or a full-of-himself Sheriff in North Carolina, who calls a middle-aged woman  “possibly armed and dangerous” for operating a tiny “video poker” game in her parlor.  

You get it all, but frankly, more than most of it is actually quite good. So if you have that option with your cable company, do take a look.

**I have not been paid for this endorsement. :p