Nuclear Weapons, Beer, & Economics

Another weekend at home watching the dogs, another weekend the Documentary section of Netflix got a serious workout. The topics were a bit more diverse this time around. I saw:

  • WWE: The Big Show: A Giant’s World
  • Beer Wars
  • The Parking Lot Movie
  • Secret Yosemite
  • Freakonomics
  • Ultimate Crocodile
  • Countdown to Zero

The Big Show: A Giant’s World was about the wrestler Paul Wight. I’m not really a huge wrestling fan but for some reason, I knew he was originally from South Carolina and that’s really all it takes for me to be interested in learning more. He was born in Aiken, SC and has acromegaly which caused his size (7′ and 485 pounds). The rest just covered his rise in the wrestling world and what it’s like to be someone who’s 7 feet tall and has to constantly travel and stay in shape.

Beer Wars was really good, I thought. It’s done by Anat Baron who is a former head of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It’s pretty funny that she’s the one portraying the story, as she’s actually allergic to beer. But the documentary is about the craft brew world and the struggles it faces to compete against the big three of Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. She spotlights Dogfish Head (which I had heard of) and Moonshot (which I hadn’t heard of). She also touches on Sam Adams and Stone. Very interesting learning about how the big three companies essentially infiltrate grocers to get shelf space in stores and use the wholesalers/distribution companies to block craft brew companies from reaching market. Like the Walmart documentary, a film about business practices always hooks me in.

The Parking Lot Movie was unique. It follows the off-center parking lot attendants of a corner parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. A lot of it is exactly what you’d expect – quirky, highly educated graduate students working a job they’re clearly overqualified for making fun of sorority/fraternity types and judging society based on car styles, parking techniques, and overall attitude. Very eccentric but very predictable. It’s almost viewed as a way for the oddball kids in high school who got picked on to get back at normal society through passive-aggressive means as the parking lot attendants. It wasn’t great. But it wasn’t bad either.

Secret Yosemite was about Yosemite National Park by the National Geographic people. I mainly watched to see what I had seen and what I had missed when I spent my birthday there this past year. It covered the monoliths (El Capitan & Half Dome), the sequoias in the remote part of the park, and Yosemite Falls, which are the tallest falls in North America (didn’t know that when I was there). Interesting facts were had by all – the monoliths act as natural lightning rods, it takes 3 days to climb El Capitan’s face, sequoias pump a ton of water a day up the 300+ feet height. Good stuff right there!

Freakonomics was a film about the book. I’ve heard of the book but never read it (it’s now on my Nook Wishlist). It’s about the blending of pop culture and economics, basically. The two authors helped provide segment pieces but what was cool was that several different directors each directed one chapter of the book for the film. They covered how people are incentive-driven (they tried to bribe 9th graders into doing better in school with money), why the high ’80s crime rate plummeted in the ’90s (very compelling argument that the availability of abortion in the ’60s and ’70s contributed), and the impact of a child’s name. Very Malcolm-Gladwell-ish, who I love.

Ultimate Crocodile is another National Geographic piece. It discusses the evolutionary successes the crocodile (and alligator) have had over 100 million years – most specifically, the “saltie” salt water crocodile from southeast Asia and northern Australia. It has a four-chambered heart, whereas most reptiles have three. It has the most powerful jaws of any creature on earth. It has a cerebral cortex in its brain that other reptiles don’t have. Again, just something educational to pass some time.

Countdown to Zero goes through the history of nuclear weapons, the nine countries that knowingly have them, and the balance they (and the world) must go through to keep them out of the wrong hands or mistakenly being used. Very thought-provoking. They interviewed several big names too in Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, and Pervez Musharraf, along with some CIA guys. Everyone clearly pushed the idea that no country should possess nuclear weapons any longer (not sure I agree with that), but done so in a way that wasn’t obnoxiously political. The point made throughout the movie was a JFK quote:

“Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness.”

And really, it’s true. One of the interviewees said that even though it’s a small chance a nuclear weapon is launched, events with small chances happen all of the time. My argument is that it’s naive to think if the known weapons were destroyed that terrorist organizations would give up trying to create the weapons. The technology is already known. You can’t undo history. It also portrays, to some extent, the crazy weight on Robert Oppenheimer’s shoulders and what he had to live with after his contributions to the Manhattan Project and essentially being the father of the atomic bomb. Very, very good movie!

Other than that, the puppy’s good. That rut I was worried about falling into when I got done with my trip? I think I found it! Tomorrow, I start trying to follow a schedule for at least my weekdays. We’ll see about combating that issue.

Happy President’s Day!

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