Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stuff I Watched on Netflix

A reasonably interesting documentary about house cats with a killer title: The Lion in Your Living Room.  My wife kept putting her hand over our cat's ideas so he wouldn't get too puffed up.

A really disturbing documentary: The Einsatzgruppen.  I always think that with all the reading that I have done about the Holocaust, that there was nothing left to learn.  Nope!  I did not realize that most of the officers of the Einsatzgruppen were well-educated, many with Ph.D.s; often prominent lawyers or intellectuals.

Third episode has interviews with both survivors and Ukrainians and Lithuanians who had assisted the Germans in these monstrous crimes; sometimes under the duress of adequate food for their families.  One was clearly profoundly disturbed by what he had done.  He in some places seemed like he was justifying his actions as a more merciful end for victims; shooting those who survived the initial volley so they would not die of suffocation as more layers of Jews were shot above them, and then packed sardine-style over them, and then covered over with dirt.  He described one Jewish man pointing at his chest with the implication: put me out of my misery.

Something that Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men touched on was the enormous alcohol abuse among the Einsatzgruppen, both to make it easier to commit these horrifying crimes, and to ease their pain after the fact.  (Why not refuse their orders?  You can be added to the mass grave, too.)  Many of the men and some of the officers suffered severe mental problems from doing this.  As much as some would like to imagine that the Nazi propaganda had utterly deadened the consciences of ordinary Germans, clearly it had not.

Black Mirror is described as a Netflix original series, but I suspect only in Season 3 is that the case. Think of a modern Twilight Zone in its intensity with a series of very disturbing visions of how technology will make our lives into hell.  I would encourage sensitive souls to skip Season 1, episode 1.  To resolve a hostage situation, the Prime Minister must engage in an "indecent act with a female pig" live on all channels with a roving cameraman doing closeups.  It captures the monstrousness of how social media makes censorship impractical and the barbarism of what it does to people.

Other episodes are moving from sci-fi to reality since being made.  A company offers to create a realistic simulation of a dead fiance by scouring his emails, voice mail, and texts.  Troubling does not even begin to capture it.

Seasons 1 and 2 are set in a future Britain.  Season 3, episode 1 is set in a Green vision of future America.  All vehicles are electric.  The upvoting and downvoting of comments has been extended to personal interactions.  Someone bumps into you in the street; they take a picture and downvote you.  Your overall score is used much like a credit score; scores above 4.0 get you priority in airline travel and car rental.  The manipulative pursuit of a better score drives a woman who looks a lot like Shelley Long from Cheers into serious trouble, because she needs a 4.5 or better to get a 20% lease reduction on a very fashionable apartment.  I confess that my 850 FICO score opens doors and interest rates on loans quite similarly.  At least my credit score is based on something a bit more significant than smiling at a barista.

Episode 2's lesson:  Never let a gaming company have direct brain interface.


  1. Of course, I started with the pig episode. "Disturbing" doesn't begin to describe it. Not sure if I'm up for further episodes (I am a sensitive soul), but on your recommendation...

    Quibble: I think you mean either "Shelley Fabares from Coach" or "Shelley Long from Cheers".

  2. Started watching The Crown last night. Both the wife and I are enjoying it. I doubt that it's accurate, but it is a telling of the story of Queen Elizabeth's life from her marriage to Prince Andrew forward.

    One of my hobbies is building plastic models. As a youngster it didn't bother me to build WW2 German planes and armor. Now...I just can't do it unless the subject is "defeated" or "captured". And it bothers me how central German armor is to the modeling of military vehicles. Yes...it's modeling history. But...for me I just can't put any German subject from WW2 in any kind of positive light.

  3. LCB: Know the feeling. I studied German in a school district that was maybe 30% Jewish.

  4. I can recommend an excellent series on Netflix right now: The Norwegian series "Occupied" (Okkupert). It's about a "velvet glove" Russian invasion of Norway. The premise is a little off: The idea is that Norway stops oil production because they switched to thorium fueled nuclear reactors, and the EU and Russia force them to restart production. Russia is an oil and gas producer and probably would be happy for the extra hard cash to be made by taking Norway's place.

    The series is so well acted and paced though that it's easy to look past that issue and others (like the US not stepping in to defend Norway) and just enjoy the series. It brings up a lot of issues like what is valid resistance, what about the people who just want to go on with their lives, how people on both sides of the issue in the government handle it, how the press handles it, etc. And it ended with a neat cliffhanger (season 2 is shooting now).

  5. dittybopper: Yes, I have blogged about Occupied in the past. I could see Obama or Warren deciding it wasn't our problem. The core of the premise was U.S. withdrawal from NATO and the EU deciding that continued access to Norwegian made the occupation tolerable. It's not like the EU has any long-term moral center.