Doc Double Feature: Surfwise & Helvetica (2007)

Surfwise explores the history of Dorian Paskowitz (whose name is misspelled on the IMDb page oddly enough), his wife and nine children as he took them off the grid, drove around in a camper and traveled the United States surfing wherever he could. Dorian graduated from Stamford and was a doctor for a while until he decided to give it up, screw a ton of women and live a life outside of society. He graded the women on a system out of 100 and Juliette scored a 90, so he stopped with her and they started having a litter of kids, 8 boys and 1 girl.

But Dorian wasn’t ALL about having kids, sex and surfing. He was also about living a very natural life. He didn’t want to eat processed food and he demanded that Juliette not to anything with their first child that an ape wouldn’t do. From there he cut out anything unnatural from their diet and tried to take as many hints about living from animals as he could.

Sounds pretty cool right? The kids didn’t have to go to school, did pretty much whatever they wanted, saw the whole country (and Mexico) and got to surf all the time. Well, it wasn’t all great. That camper is super cramped. Apparently, dad was also a bit of a tyrant at times. Plus, he didn’t really want to have money, so they didn’t always get to wear clothes or eat. And, you know how I mentioned Dorian liked to have lots of sex? Well, that didn’t stop in the camper, so the kids were privy to their parents screwing on a nearly nightly basis (according to them). Add all that up and the apart-from-society mentality and you end up with some kids who don’t really know how to operate in society once they left the camper.

I found this documentary fascinating as it delves into both the good and the bad of a really strange situation and how that has affected the 9 children. All of them claim to have enjoyed parts of their childhood, but also note that they’ve had to really struggle in the real world with their lack of education and socialization skills. They seem to have done alright for themselves either in the world of surfing or entertainment. A few work in Hollywood and a few are in bands, including two who were in that band The Flys who did that song “I Got You Where I Want To” which was a pretty big deal in the 90s.

Helvetica is exactly what it sounds like, a documentary about fonts. There isn’t really much of  story in this one, it just kind of talks about the history and ubiquity of Helvetica, builds it up a lot, then knocks it down and builds it back up. You’d be surprised at how fired up people get about something as seemingly simple as a font, but as I’m coming to learn thanks to all the docs I’ve been watching, nothing’s ever simple. Heck, there’s a whole science and language to typography that most people are completely oblivious to. There’s not a lot else to say about this one, but if you’ve got any interest in this kind of thing it’s definitely worth checking out. If not, skip it.

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