Book Review: ‘Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet’ by Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Muller-Maguhn & Jérémie Zimmermann

Overall, this was a pretty engaging book but it also wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, which is more of an autobiographical piece by Julian Assange, his work and his philosophy behind it all.

Instead, this reads like a conversation between four people who are talking about the cypherpunk movement.

It covers a lot of the stuff I had hoped it would but there’s that part of me that wanted something more personal and much deeper from Assange.

For those that care about this stuff, this is still most definitely a worthwhile read. Although, there probably isn’t a lot here that’s new knowledge.

However, for those who are just learning about this stuff and who didn’t live through the history of the WikiLeaks saga in real time, you’ll probably be shocked by a lot of the things that are covered here.

Regardless of your level of knowledge, though, this is definitely worth the shelf space in your library if you have an interest in tech history, freedom, conspiracies, coverups and wanting the truth to always come out.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other books about cypherpunk culture, hacking and cryptocurrency.

Documentary Review: Deep Web (2015)

Also known as: Deep Web: The Untold Story of BitCoin and Silk Road (complete title)
Release Date: March 15th, 2015 (South by Southwest)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Music by: Pedro Bromfman
Cast: Keanu Reeves (narrator)

BOND360, Trouper Productions, Zipper Bros Films, Epix, 90 Minutes

Review:

As much as I’ve always enjoyed Alex Winter, as an actor, his real talent may be directing, as he knows how to tell a great story, hook you and keep you glued to it until the end.

Deep Web peaked my interest, as I’ve been really invested in cryptocurrencies since the birth of Bitcoin, over a decade ago. With that, I’ve also had an interest in the cypherpunk culture, as I was a shitty hacker in the mid-’90s and maintained my love for that stuff.

This film mainly tells the story about the Silk Road, a deep web superstore for all things illegal. This also goes into the philosophy about it’s creation and sheds light on some of the people behind it while also telling the story of Ross Ulbricht, a young guy that everything was pinned on but was most likely used as a scapegoat and to make an example out of to deter other cyber criminals from similar activities.

There is a lot covered in this film that goes beyond just the Ulbricht case. Additionally, there are a lot of interviews with the people who were there and who worked in this sphere.

All in all, this is a solid documentary that covers a lot of ground in just 90 minutes. It moved by at a fast pace, kept my attention and ultimately, made me wish there was more to dive into.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk culture and cryptocurrency.

Documentary Review: Banking On Bitcoin (2016)

Also known as: The Battle for Bitcoin, The Bitcoin Takeover (working titles)
Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Christopher Cannucciari
Written by: Christopher Cannucciari, Prichard Smith
Music by: Ben Prunty
Cast: Wences Casares, Nathaniel Popper, Gavin Andersen, Naomi Brockwell, Nancy Cannucciari, Michael Casey, David Chaum, Andy Greenberg, Benjamin Lawsky, Jaron Lukas, Blythe Masters, Rakesh Motwani, Rand Paul, Charlie Shrem, Barry Silbert, Nick Spanos, Chris Tarbell, David Thompson, Jeffrey A. Tucker, Paul Vigna, Erik Voorhees, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Alex Winter 

Periscope Entertainment, Downtown Community Television Center, Dynamic Range, Gravitas Ventures, 90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve owned some Bitcoin for awhile and while I generally understand it, it was neat seeing a good, well-produced documentary about it.

This covers the short but very interesting history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency while also explaining what it is and how it works. The biggest obstacle it faces is the public’s lack of understanding of it. I think that this did the best job it could in trying to speak to the layman.

The documentary also features a lot of people who known what they’re talking about and have been involved in Bitcoin for quite some time.

If the subject matter doesn’t interest you, why have you read this far? If it does, this is well worth a watch.

There’s really not a whole lot more to say other than pointing out that this is one of the best documentaries I’ve come across on the subject.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on crypto currencies and cypherpunk culture.

Documentary Review: The Social Dilemma (2020)

Release Date: January 26th, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jeff Orlowski
Written by: Davis Coombe, Vickie Curtis, Jeff Orlowski
Music by: Mark A. Crawford
Cast: Interviewees: Tristan Harris, Aza Raskin, Justin Rosenstein, Shoshana Zuboff, Jaron Lanier, Tim Kendall, Rashida Richardson, Renee DiResta, Anna Lembke, Roger McNamee, Guillaume Chaslot; Performances: Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, Vincent Kartheiser, Sophia Hammons, Catalina Garayoa, Barbara Gehring, Chris Grundy

Exposure Labs, Argent Pictures, The Space Program, Netflix, 94 Minutes

Review:

“How do you wake up from the Matrix when you don’t know you’re in the Matrix?” – Self – Google, Former Design Ethicist

I watched this based off of a recommendation and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have, otherwise. I’m glad I did though, as it was really refreshing seeing some of the people who were instrumental in developing social media, kind of condemning certain parts of it, as it’s now being used in a way to create an addiction to it and to further divide the people using it.

Initially, it was created to bring people together, where they could interact with one another, all over the world. Where they could share ideas and more or less, come together in a positive, constructive way in an effort to shape a better planet.

In the last decade or so, all of that has started to take a turn for the worse.

This film breaks down how this happened and how it all works. Frankly, it’s kind of scary but it’s also not like most of us sane, rational people aren’t aware of it. There’s a reason why I stopped using Facebook, only occasionally touch Instagram and pretty much just use Twitter to promote this site and then shitpost.

This also has some bits in it where actors play characters being affected by all of this. It’s used to illustrate in an interesting way how social media can destroy relationships and human interaction. It also shows how these apps work and why they hone in on our different triggers to sell products and to keep us engaging with the app.

I can’t say that anything here was new information but it’s refreshing seeing the architects of the problem try to combat it and bring more awareness to it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent tech documentaries.

Documentary Review: Easter Island Unsolved (2018)

Release Date: 2018

National Geographic, 44 Minutes

Review:

Man, it’s always hard getting full credits info on National Geographic documentaries because they often times take them and repackage them from different series that they do. However, the company should give credit to the people that make these in a way that’s available online, as I’m not going to go back to the streaming file and sit through it for the hopes that it’ll include full credits.

Griping aside, this was fairly enjoyable but I wouldn’t say that it’s an exceptional piece by any stretch.

It covers the history of Easter Island but there’s only so much you can cover in 44 minutes. So even though this hits a lot of points and topics, it doesn’t spend nearly enough time on them. Really, it’d be cool if there was a series on Easter Island, as it is one of the most interesting places in the world.

Overall, this was worth watching. It killed close to an hour’s worth of time and it’s streaming for all to see that have Disney+. But really, it feels like more of a primer or an intro to a much larger, detailed story that someone needs to tell in this medium and with Nat Geo’s quality.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other National Geographic documentaries, many of which can be found on Disney+ now.

*no trailer because Disney+ and Nat Geo are slacking on promotional material.

 

Film Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

Release Date: October 7th, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: James Marsh
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Based on: Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Stephen Hawking (computerized voice)

Working Title Films, Dentsu Motion Pictures, Fuji Television Network, 123 Minutes

Review:

“I have loved you.” – Jane Hawking

I really wanted to see this in the theater back when it came out. I missed it but then I had it in my queue on one of the streaming services where it eventually disappeared and then fell down my memory hole. But it popped back up on something recently, so I decided to give it a watch before the opportunity passed me by again.

I’ve always been a fan of Stephen Hawking and I read A Brief History of Time back when I was in middle school and probably not fully able to grasp it. However, I’ve read it multiple times since and he’s been one of my favorite science writers alongside Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene and Michio Kaku.

The film is adapted from Jane Hawking’s book about her life alongside Stephen. While they were married and she was by his side for years, things eventually dissolved but they remained close, trusted friends despite their marriage ending and both finding love in other people.

Honestly, this is a pretty beautiful story, even if it is romanticized for a film. But it does a good job of showing how love can evolve and change over time, as people grow through life and sometimes grow apart. And sometimes one type of love can turn into a different type. I really like how this film expresses these hard truths, shows us the pain of both characters at different points but allows you to remain hopeful, as neither are bad people, they just evolve into different people with different needs. And that doesn’t mean that they have to hate one another, they can continue to love each other even after letting one another go. It’s truly sad but there is a real positive lesson and worldview within that.

The acting in this film is absolutely incredible and I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, here. Everyone in this film brought their A-game and the performances greatly enhance the end result and made this somewhat exceptional in how it handled the emotionally difficult material. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were especially great and it’s hard to not love both of them.

In stories about love dissolving and changing, it’s really hard not to paint someone as the bad guy. In that regard, this film succeeds in making you care equally for both people and what it is that each one needs.

Apart from that, this film was good in every technical area. It’s well shot, perfectly edited and paced and boasts some incredible cinematography. The score was also quite great.

Overall, I like this movie a lot. I don’t consider it a classic or anything but it achieved what it set out to do and probably exceeded it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent biographical dramas.

Book Review: ‘Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs’ by Michael T. Osterholm PhD MPH, Mark Olshaker

For what this is, it’s pretty invaluable.

I first heard of Michael T. Osterholm when he appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and gave his very informed and personal take on what’s going on. In fact, I’d implore people to watch that episode, just to have a better grasp on fact vs. fiction in a time when there is a lot of misinformation and fear floating around.

You can actually watch the episode on YouTube and I’ll link it at the end of the review.

This book goes through the history of Osterholm’s work in this field, as he breaks down how they scientifically figured out a lot of viral mysteries over the last few decades.

This also talks about how pandemics can be prevented and what needs to happen for the world to take these things more seriously and learn how to protect itself. In fact, the writing has been on the wall for awhile and things could have been done to manage the spread of deadly germs and viruses.

Deadliest Enemy is superbly written and frankly, everyone should read it, especially now. There needs to be a collected effort from as many people as possible to push our governments towards taking these threats more seriously. Plus, it would be in everyone’s benefit to understand this stuff on a factual level, as opposed to emotionally reacting to sensationalist headlines and social media rumors.

If it’s hard to find a physical copy of this book, which I imagine is probably true now that the COVID thing has hit us this hard, you can download the Kindle version (see here), which I did.

Rating: 9.5/10

Vids I Dig 112: Defunctland: The History of ‘Captain EO’

From Defunctland’s YouTube description: Defunctland takes on the troubled 4D, sci-fi, Disney, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Michael Jackson, and Michael Eisner film, Captian EO.