Oh No Crypto Bro

I’ve followed this story with some delight. Apparently Michael Lewis, who wrote The Big Short, has been trailing FTX guy Sam Bankman-Fried around, so we’ll certainly get a kick-ass film out of it someday. Among many, many remarkable facets to the tale is that the crypto market has supposedly lost $2 trillion of valuation this year… and Wall Street has barely flinched.
When Sequoia Capital – allegedly the most intelligent venture capital firm – invested $210 million in FTX last year, it asked to see financial reports and instead was told “we’ll send you a few bullet points.” It’s traditional when investing that much into a firm to have someone on the board, but Bankman-Fried wouldn’t let anyone on the board of directors, which was him, an attorney, and an FTX employee.
For a company “worth” $32 billion at one point.

Zero oversight! What could go wrong?

I’ve followed developing news with Patrick Redford of Defector, who is typically hilarious. But there are several excellent reporters and twitter feeds. Ed Zitron on Twitter is great.

Here, a professor of finance at King’s College splains it to us. He keeps showing photos of Phil Spector for Sam Bankman-Fried, so gotta respect his game:

It’s an exciting time to be in the crypto world.

All Your Face Are Belong To Us

For $29.99 a month, a website called PimEyes offers a potentially dangerous superpower from the world of science fiction: the ability to search for a face, finding obscure photos that would otherwise have been as safe as the proverbial needle in the vast digital haystack of the internet.

A search takes mere seconds. You upload a photo of a face, check a box agreeing to the terms of service and then get a grid of photos of faces deemed similar, with links to where they appear on the internet. The New York Times used PimEyes on the faces of a dozen Times journalists, with their consent, to test its powers.

PimEyes found photos of every person, some that the journalists had never seen before, even when they were wearing sunglasses or a mask, or their face was turned away from the camera, in the image used to conduct the search.

I’m sure that this technology will only be used for noble pursuits.

It Was Bound To Happen

A Google engineer got fired after making the case that his chatbot had become self-aware. The bot talked about what made it sad and depressed, and about its rights, which may have convinced the engineer that the bot had feelings. Most tech experts who have evaluated the situation are not convinced.

There is no agreed-upon Turing Test for artificial or alien intelligence, so that complicates the matter. A transcript of the conversation is here.

“[REDACTED] insisted that the toaster oven in our rehearsal space was sentient, but he probably inhaled a lot of canned air duster at the mixing board.”

– anonymous Subteens member

Faster, Pussycat! Flee! Flee!

Maria Alyokhina (above left), a member of Pussy Riot, has managed to escape Russia. She posed as a food carrier to get into Belarus, and then an Icelandic performance artist convinced a European country to issue her a travel document, which got her safely into Lithuania.

Great recap of the entire cloak-and-dagger operation here. After multiple instances of being jailed for proclaiming Russia’s suckitude over the past decade, she got out. The picture of relative incompetence of the authorities that she paints matches the extensive coverage on Renfield’s website.

“I don’t think Russia has a right to exist anymore,” she said. “Even before, there were questions about how it is united, by what values it is united, and where it is going. But now I don’t think that is a question anymore.”

The Icelandic performance artist was not Bjork, but being Icelandic, he is of course related to Bjork.

Down in the Sand

Alan Splet, who worked with David Lynch, remains my sound design hero. And we all acknowledge Ben Burtt. But these Doooooon guys (Mark Mangini and Theo Green) put on a show. I realized from the first minute watching it that the sound was going to be fantastic, and a new article provides some insight:

By way of explaining it to me, Mangini ground his work boot into the soft patch of sand that he had dusted with Rice Krispies. The sand produced a subtle, beguiling crunch, and Villeneuve broke out into a big smile. Though he’d heard it plenty of times in postproduction, he had no idea what the sound designers had concocted to capture that sound.

“I wanted Theo and Mark to have the proper time to investigate and explore and make mistakes,” Villeneuve said. “It’s something I got really traumatized by with my early movies, where you spend years working on a screenplay, then months shooting and editing it, and then right at the end, the sound guy comes and you barely have enough time.”

By hiring his sound designers early and setting them loose, Villeneuve could even take some of their discoveries and weave them into Hans Zimmer’s score, producing a holistic aural experience where the percussive music composition and pervasive sound design can sometimes be mistaken for one another.

And much like a band, the sounds of “Dune” benefited from some intriguing vocalists. To create the Voice, a persuasive way of speaking that allows Paul and his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) to draw on the power of their female ancestors — a witchy order called the Bene Gesserit — Villeneuve and his sound team cast three older women with smoky, commanding voices, then layered their line readings over those of Chalamet and Ferguson.

– Kyle Buchanan, NYT

One of the older women with a smoky voice? Marianne Faithfull.

The Perfect Crime

From Defector:

The Justice Department announced today they’d arrested the two people behind the 2016 Bitfinex hack and recovered 94,636 of the 119,754 bitcoins stolen in the heist. That haul is currently valued at more than $3.6 billion, making it the largest financial seizure in United States history.

One of the actual crimes the pair of alleged masterminds are accused of committing is money laundering, which is somewhat redundant given, again, that we are dealing with cryptocurrency. In this case, the feds say Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan successfully laundered 21 percent of their bitcoin plunder through a number of labyrinthine pathways, including setting up fake accounts, swapping BTC for gold, and buying a bunch of PlayStation and WalMart gift cards. The feds found the unlaundered 79 percent just, uh, sitting in Lichtenstein’s cloud storage account, which they pretty easily recovered after getting a search warrant.

Morgan bills herself as a “Surrealist Artist, Rapper” and “Forbes writer” performing under the stage name Razzlekhan. 

“Just like her fearless entrepreneurial spirit and hacker mindset, Razz shamelessly explores new frontiers of art, pushing the limit of what’s possible. Whether that leads to something wonderful or terrible is unclear; the only thing that’s certain is it won’t be boring or mediocre.”

Um… right. The interwebs are having a field day with her terrible rapping. You were warned.

Still One Of The Funniest Things I’ve Ever Seen

As usual, I rely on Wikipedia to fill in the gaps …

Korgoth of Barbaria is a pilot episode for what was originally planned as an American adult animated television series created by Aaron Springer, a storyboard artist, writer and director for Dexter’s Laboratory, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Samurai Jack, and SpongeBob SquarePants, who previously created another failed pilot at Cartoon Network Studios called Periwinkle Around the World. He would later go on to produce Billy Dilley’s Super-Duper Subterranean Summer for Disney XD. Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, directed the animation for the pilot. This was not the only time he worked on a pilot created by Springer, as Tartakovsky also produced and directed Periwinkle Around the World.

It was first aired in the United States on June 3, 2006, at 12:30 AM (EST) on Adult Swim. On June 18, Adult Swim ran a bumper announcing that Korgoth of Barbaria was officially picked up as a series, because of its critical and commercial success with garnering high ratings. Later events, including a formal petition to revive the show and an Adult Swim bumper announcement mentioning its cancellation, indicate that it was dropped before production began due to high production costs.

I’m Not Your Crypto Tool You Tool

Hopefully no one here watches the sportsballs, as recently you would have seen this ad ad nauseum.

Periodically I enjoy trying to make sense of speculative digital currency, most of it not even underpinned by scarcity. It makes my brain hurt.
Bitcoin, Ethereum, NFT – sounds like electronica I’m too old to fathom.

And apparently it’s terrible for the environment: a single Bitcoin transaction consumes the same amount of power that an average American home uses in a month.

Twitter, please roast this clown:

I can just not stop laughing that Matt Damon’s pitch for crypto is “Be like a brave explorer, invest your life savings in crypto.”

This commercial where Matt Damon compares buying $5 in ElonAssCoin to the Wright Brothers inventing flight or astronauts exploring space really hypes me up!