Privacy Documentary

This fascinating Netflix documentary was created in 2013 before Snowden and is still relevant and worth watching even in 2018.  With the back drop of the EU’s recent GDPR law as well as Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal, the same concerns of today are still the same concerns of the documentary in 2013.

It’s interesting to note that the documentary also pointed out that Privacy concerns were already an issue back in 2000.  It seemed like many people were concerned or started to be concerned about the data tracking and gathering by the Internet companies.  As the popularity of the Internet increases (hello dot com bubble!), citizens started to pressure their Congressional representatives to take up the Privacy issue following examples of bankrupt companies selling off user data.  The documentary posits that the post 9/11 Patriot Act squashed any effort for Internet privacy legislation.  In fact, the documentary implies that the Patriot Act implicitly allowed the tech companies to collect user data under the guise of collecting data for the government to prevent another 9/11 level attack. The documentary also points out the contradictions many tech companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Spotify, etc…) have publicly stated about Privacy that opposes to their actual business practices.  But after years of using these tech companies’ products, users have grown so accustomed to their daily use that Privacy seems to be just a secondary after thought until incidents like the Cambridge Analytica occurs.

If there’s anything to take away from this documentary… it’s that citizens need to really start thinking about privacy.

Hedy Lamarr

There’s a documentary on Netflix about Hedy Lamarr.  The first time I heard of her was on the recent Bill Nye Saves the World show.  The documentary goes deeper into Lamarr’s life but mainly focusing on her adult life as a movie star and inventor.  One of her biggest contributions is the invention of the “frequency hopping system.”  She hoped that this system would be able to increase the effectiveness of radio controlled torpedoes in hitting the intended targets during World War 2.

The system works using a broad spectrum of radio frequencies.  By syncing the frequencies on the torpedoes and the submarines, commands can be given to the torpedoes over the broad frequencies that allows the submarine to perform corrections as the torpedoes are enroute to an enemy ship.  An simpler analogy might be those classic music boxes.  If you can imagine the sound from the music box as a “command” and the tone/pitch of the note as the “frequency.”  So that as the tone/pitch changes, the command is sent out to the torpedo.  Unfortunately, because of bias as well as technological difficulties, Lamarr’s invention was never implemented until after the war.  Even more unfortunate, Lamarr wasn’t given credit for her work until late in her life which by then the technology had been adopted into a wide number of technologies.   As the documentary goes, her invention is to become the foundation for wifi, bluetooth, cell phone, GPS and other military technologies.

How about that!


Usain Bolt Documentary

Netflix has a documentary on Usain Bolt (wiki).  Most of the documentary seemed to have been filmed between 2015 and 2016 including the 2016 Rio Olympics with footage from the past interspersed to continue the narrative.  Briefly covering his rise as a junior sprinter to representing Jamaica at the three different Olympics, the documentary talks about Bolt’s legacy not only as a 3 time consecutive Olympic gold medalist in the Men’s 100m sprint.  But also the Men’s 200m and 4x100m Men’s relay.  This particular feat has never been done before until Bolt.

Listening to how he approaches his sport is pretty fascinating.  The documentary describes his support team as a triangle and how each corner of the team is contributes to ensuring Bolt’s optimal performance during competition.  The amount of training his coach puts him through is pretty intense.  Having to full sprint AND drag a sled 50m AND within a time limit is crazy.  Nothing was off limits in the documentary.  I was pretty glad that the show talked about Bolt’s motivation and psychology during his training period leading up to the 2016 Olympics.  I can imagine after winning in 2008 and then defending his Men’s 100m sprint in 2012… what more can he prove?  I think the show makes an important point that with athlete’s at Bolt’s caliber, the motivation to succeed turns to an internal motivation of “to be among the greats.”  Because at his level, he’s already succeeded many times.

I think this is a great documentary about one of the greatest athletes today.


Hari Kondabolu on Netflix

After recently watching Ali Wong’s latest Netflix stand up special, the Netflix’s algorithm suggested this other stand up called Hari Kondabolu.  To be honest, I’ve only heard of him once through a special Sporkful podcast live episode.  In the podcast, he sounded like he’d be a hilarious guy to listen to but I never really thought much further than that.  So with Netflix telling me that I might like his stand up special, who am I to go against an algorithm?

So Kondabolu’s special reminds me of Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix special.  Both use their immigrant and cultural background to poke fun of these stereotypes in a hilarious fashion.  For example, Kondabolu’s first joke was absolutely brilliant because he took me in a totally different direction than what I had expected it to be.  Since Kondabolu is an Indian American, I think the “High Expectations Asian Dad” meme also applies to him.  If you don’t know this meme, it’s basically a cultural stereotype of Asian father’s (Chinese, Indian, Korean, etc) expecting ONLY the best results from their kid… and by best I mean A+ only.  So his first joke about “how many people were in attendance?” threw me off when he didn’t go this route.  Yet he maintained the cultural stereotype perfectly!  Kondabolu’s jokes though are much more “aggressive/edgier” than Minhaj’s.  But that’s just the style of their stand up.

As I watch these stand up specials, I find that the immigrant comedians (Russell Peters, Hasan Minhaj, Margaret Cho) tend to be funnier than those who aren’t immigrants.  It’s specifically related to the fact that I can relate to their experiences as an immigrant.



Ali Wong’s latest stand up on Netflix

I’ve written about Ali Wong before when I went to one of her live stand up tour stops.  Turns out, on one of her stops, her show was recorded one night and put on Netflix.  It’s called Hard Knock Wife.  Watching the show, I realized that I’ve already experienced her show when I went to watch it live.

Nonetheless it’s still hilarious as fuck.

Robert F. Kennedy

Based on the recent Netflix/TV show related posts, you’d think I’m on a documentary binge.  I don’t think that’s necessarily true or false.  The “You also might like…” algorithm based suggestions from Netflix presents these shows that look interesting to watch.  Fortunately, my personal preference of wanting to learn things for the sake of knowledge as opposed to studying for the sake of testing taps into many of these suggestions.

This Netflix’s documentary of Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) popped into my suggestions feed shortly after finishing the Champions of a Golfer documentary.  I’ve never been to interested in the Kennedy’s.  My knowledge of them is mainly from reading about a biography of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) and the fact that the Kennedy’s are a major political family.  I knew RFK was the younger brother of JFK and had helped JFK tremendously up until JFK’s assassination.  However, I had no idea about the history behind RFK.  That is until this documentary.

This contains four 1-hour long episodes that traced RFK’s rise to political prominence in 1960 to his own assassination in 1968.  What I didn’t know about RFK were the numerous amounts of public policies and progressive political stances he took during this time frame.  As backdrop, the 1960s was a turbulent era in US: Vietnam war, Civil Rights Movement, the counter culture of the Hippie Movement and Sexual Liberation in US, and even the farm worker strikes (part of a broader Chicano Movement) in California under Cesar Chavez.  All these events are significant in the context of American history.  And it’s amazing to see how one powerful individual as RFK worked to not only correct what he thought was immorally wrong but to work to bring equality to an otherwise racist America.  In one episode where RFK was touring the ghettos and poor communities in Mississippi, he was remembered for telling his kids that it is also their responsibility to end injustices.

Just reading about RFK in wikipedia, I’m amazed at the amount of different socio-political fields he’s worked in ranging from McCarthyism to labor movements to organized crime to civil rights and the Vietnam war.  I think RFK was aware that his “Kennedy” name could be used as a social media tool to show the nation a different aspect to these socio-political movements.  As someone remarked in the show, the Kennedy name brought cameras and those cameras showed the nation the plight of the situation.  As he began his run for presidency, the video footage of the throngs of people who wanted to shake his hand just shows how popular he was.  Similarly, video footage of interviews also showed just how racist white Americans were as well.

In retrospect, RFK might have been the first true modern era populist breaking down barriers of race, religion, and class.

Documentary on Maria Sharapova

There is this short documentary on Netflix about tennis star Maria Sharapova.  To be honest, this show is more a vlog (video blog) recording her thoughts, feelings and general attitude after being suspended from tennis for 2 years (reduced to 15 months) for testing positive for using a performing enhancing drug meldonium.

Watching this documentary, I find her reaction to this unfortunate situation very zen like.  It seemed like she took a step back from everything and examined this incident rationally.  Not being able to play at a high level for 15 months is devastating for any athlete especially for an athlete of her caliber.  She opted to not blame her team and fully accepted the responsibility of her actions as a leader should.  And even if she were to blame someone, she would still have to wait 15 months to play competitively.  As the show points out, Sharapova took the time to pursue other interests that she was never able to do because of tennis… traveling to different locales, studying at Harvard, eating with friends.

As of April 2017, her suspension expired and she was allowed to play again.  However not playing competitively after 15 months certainly has taken a toll on her playing.  Looking at ESPN’s 2017 and 2018 records, she’s only had 1 tournament win and quite a few early exits…. the latest being the Stuttgart Open losing 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 4-6.

Now the real question is… How long will it take Sharapova to be back in competitive shape and ranked in the top 10?