August 1st, 2022

Severance: This 9-episode Apple TV series that Alison accurately described to me as “brilliant – a slow churn but worth it” asks some intriguing questions. Things like, if you could live two separate lives (your personal life and your business life) would you? Why would you? What would possess someone to want to do this? You would have no memory at all of your life outside the office, and it would seem as though time away from office flies by and your existence (for that part of you anyway) would be constantly in that office environment. The series opens with a women laying on the top of an office meeting conference table. She is groggy and a voice asks her “who are you?” repeatedly. Failing to engage her, the voice asks a questionnaire. “Five questions”. Turns out she is one of a small team in a department of this company in what appears to be a dystopian society, or at least corporate environment (Lumon Industries).

The series stars Adam Scott, with Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Christopher Walken and the memorable Britt Lower. Lower was the character who just arrived. As she get acclimated to her new limited environment she rebels, not fully understanding what she is doing, and what exactly this company does. In her world, she gathers numbers on a computer screen and virtually puts them in a virtual box. This seemingly meaningless task occupies each of the four people on that team. There are aspects of The Office in their inactions, with an undercurrent of foreboding. One of the former members of this team, just up and disappeared one day. No explanation, just gone. The slow churn is that this series takes its time to get you familiar with what you are shown. But then reveals a little at a time. You get to know more about each of these characters and the tensions between them. You learn about how severance takes place, and that outside of Lumon there is a political debate on whether this technology should be more widely adopted. I won’t get any further into the plot except to say that it is satisfying. It is isn’t all rainbows and light for each of these characters, and with those that they interact. Arquette is The Boss, or at least the manager of this group, who periodically reports to The Board. There are good jabs at the corporate world with targets, and attempts to reward and ackowledge the workers with small tokens like a lunch, fruit platter or a limited time of frivolity. But then it is “get back to work” and occupy yourself in a Big Brother type of world, without the oversight that you expect.

Overall, well worth the time to watch it.

The Most Hated Man on the Internet: Netflix has been very successful with documentaries revolving current issues of the day like Tinder Dating (Tinder Swindler) and Infertility (Our Father). I started this series of the guy who, more or less, founded revenge porn with his website (isanyoneup.com). The basic idea, starting it anyway was to put up titilating content, mostly nude or topless women and drive users to talk about the pics. The added feature was a link to that person’s social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. The site grew. The source of pics is debatable. The man is named Hunter Moore. He makes money of course from the posts with advertisers and subscriptions. He gains a loyal following over time that looks upon him as some kind of leader, in the most generous of words. He is obnoxious, flaunting his money and power with no conscience, so long as he is generating money. In his world, all publicity, good or bad is good to drive people to his site. We have the story of a young woman who’s topless pics end up on the site. Kayla Laws, according to her, decided in the privacy of her own room to take pics of herself, and she decided because of limited storage space to send them to her cloud account (like gmail). She has “no idea” how they ended up on the site. Do I believe it? Not really. It isn’t important, although the fact the Mom and her lawyer husband did far more to salvage the reputation of this young aspiring actress is a bit surprising. Kayla is “devastated” but Mom takes action in a time when it was no illegal to faciliate the putting of images on a site. Strangely the law provided no recourse for those who requested the pics to be taken down, even when the website said that it would. Moore was also a master manipulator and encouraged people like Butthole Girl, aka Destiny Benedict to upload increasingly graphic videos of herself. She thought it would lead to fame and fortune, or at least have Moore take down Facebook pics of her daughter. She never received a penny from him. It seemed that there was nothing that could encourage Moore to do the right thing.

Do I need to watch an entire series of this? Nope. The underlying message about the dangers of taking and sending any naked pics rings true for one and all. The Internet can be forever, and being forgotten can be a real undertaking, even if you never consented to having your images put up. Since this case, there are Revenge Porn laws in place which address this in many US states, although not all. In short, be careful. Tell your kids to be careful. This is a good reminder of this undeniable fact.