Here’s another Netflix documentary that is fascinating. It’s a heartwarming story of an immigrant kid (Rudy Karniawan) coming to the US and making a name for himself in the wine industry.
With the wine industry commoditized as it is, old wine vintages are certainly disappearing by being opened and drunk or forever stored away in a vault somewhere. Nonetheless, wines are increasingly being viewed not only as investment opportunities for investors but also as a much larger mutual funds investment. This means there’s money to be made for vintage wines and even more for the rare hard to find ones.
The documentary details Rudy’s sudden appearance in the elite wine tasting circles and his fake wine operation. At the heart of the operation is Rudy’s ability to recreate the taste of vintage French wines from a blend of new wines blended with old commercial “table” wines. Similarly to today’s wine operations, some vineyards harvest more grapes and/or wine that end up being sold to 3rd party winemakers who will blend and relabel the wine. As the documentary suggests, only the most trained wine connoisseur should be able to detect the differences between a real vintage and a “reconditioned” vintage. But to many oenophiles, they might not be able to taste subtle differences between a real and reconditioned. To add more authenticity to the reconditioned wine, Rudy’s operation also involved the authentic creation of labels, corks, wax guards and even aging of the wine bottle exterior to mimic what a real aged bottle could potentially look like. And with the wine market as lucrative as it is, Rudy also started selling these reconditioned wine to other collectors. Since winemakers in the 1920s to 1950s did not adequately take notes or had inventory lost to the world wars, the authenticity of the wine sometimes were never questioned. This lead to investors and collectors to assume authenticity and subsequently bid up the wines. Rudy’s operation eventually started to unravel when a French winemaker started to investigate why a particular vintage was being auctioned when in fact that vintage was never made until years later.
Watching this documentary reminds me of a Hidden Brain podcast about art forgeries. The way Rudy approached wine is very similar to how the subject of the podcast committed his forgeries too. However, after watching the documentary, I can’t help but wonder if a similar operation is currently running in Asia. With China’s rising wine consumption and their potential desire to also obtain rare vintages, a black market supplying reconditioned wines is potentially lucrative in China. Could Rudy’s operation help establish a Chinese operation for his relatives?
Depending on who you ask, I think most people will generally view the 2008 global financial crisis as being caused by the Greedy Elite Bankers thinking only of higher profits at the expense of the everyday Joe and Jane Worker that started with subprime mortgages and housing bubble crash and ended in a government bailout of the “too big to fail” global financial institutions. It should be noted that very few (if any) major C-suite executives from the bailed out financial institutions were charged with any crime. The biggest “punishment” were fines paid by the banks.
Netflix suggested this documentary and it is absolutely amazing to watch. It’s about Abacus, a small Chinese family-owned Chinatown bank in New York City, serving the unbanked Chinese clientele. The bank was indicted for fraud in selling mortgages to Fannie Mae as well as falsifying loan documents. It took the bank 5 years and 10 million dollars to be exonerated of all the charges. Per the documentary, this bank was the only bank to have been charged for anything related to the 2008 financial crisis. It’s extremely eye opening to see the human side of the defendants (the bank and the family), the lawyers, and also the jurors in the trial. It’s definitely worth watching.
Watching this, a couple things stood out about this documentary.
Firstly, it’s a bit shocking though to hear how a juror recounted that another juror “wanted to punish the bank for the 2008 financial crisis” despite the fact that jurors should only be ruling on the merits of the case and not the broader background that the case might be related to. Fortunately, they did their job and looked at only the merits of the case.
Secondly, and perhaps through the magic of TV editing, the conversations with the District Attorney displayed a sense of hubris. From the conversations, it felt like the DA really believed that by catching one bad apple they were going to reel in the rest of the bad apples… almost like a mafia type of bust where one person exposes the mafia’s internal misdeeds.
Thirdly, the documentary showed this interesting scene of displaying charged employees were marching down a hallway all chained up to each other. A journalist had remarked that this would never have been done if it were a black group of employees. Former prosecutors also remarked that this usually never happened. And the DA had stated that it wasn’t their decision to “chain them up” in that fashion and was an “unfortunate” event. Clearly, it was meant to humiliate because the Chinese community would never speak out about such injustice and those in charge knew it. I found it horrific yet sad that Chinese people had to undergo this sort of humiliation.
Lastly, the interactions of the Sung family over dinner and over legal pow-wow phone calls reminds me hilariously of similar Chinese interactions that I’ve experienced too. The shade the mom throws is hilarious.
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!
That Amazon and NFL documentary series All or Nothing apparently expanded to other sports. This expansion includes college football, soccer (or globally known as football/futbol) and rugby (if you couldn’t deduce from the post title).
With rugby, the show followed the famous New Zealand All Blacks (wiki) during 2017 season. I’m on episode 3 so far and I’m already blown away at how crazy, tough, and brutal rugby can be. Never mind geared and padded American football players hitting each other, the rugby players are tackling each other with their own bodies with what seems like (or maybe edited to seem like) the same intensity as football players. They still deal with the same issues of concussion and injury.
But this makes me wonder, why is it that American football with all it’s padding and gear designed to protect players still result in players with concussions? Is there any study comparing the rate of concussion and other injuries in American football to rugby?
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.
So I’ve written about Amazon’s All or Nothing show in the past. They’re on Season 3 and recently I’ve been rewatching the past 2 seasons as well too. I still think it’s a great behind the scenes reality show about all the issues that go into a football team and their ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl ring.
But as I’m rewatching the show, I wonder how the teams deal with the psychology of the players leading up to the game and then after the game regardless if the team won or lost on game day. What’s shown to the viewers is generally an expletive filled team talk psyching themselves up before game day. And then very little reflection on what happened at the game and what they could have done differently. So that’s one thing I’m curious about.
The other thing I’m curious about is how does the management motivate a 53 man NFL team to perform optimally mentally and physically every week for 21-25 weeks (including pre-season exhibition games and potential post-season playoff games). Every season each team undoubtedly says their ultimate goal is to get a Super Bowl Ring. But that goal is the ultimate payoff for the team but in reality there can be only 1 team. So how does motivation work? I don’t think the expletive filled methods in the show is the optimal way of motivation.