Digital Deceit and the Complex Fairy Tale Villain
SBF. Blockchain. Quickbooks. Lost Plots. Go Tigers. Jacksonville Jaguar Accounting. And Coffee Brew Tips.
At times, my work meanders, presenting multiple sides to a topic, weaving in a personal story, and often leaving an undertone of nuance. These are my good days. But here, for full disclosure, I despise Sam Bankman Fried. Even the media’s short name for their former poster guy, SBF, sends angry shots, like the bad bourbon kind, down the throat. I should be more forgiving, ’tis the season. I’ll write a light-hearted holiday post next week.
Admittedly, I’m human. My fascination with technology began with a childhood Tandy computer. I remember opening the box, plugging the power adaptor into the wall. So it should come as no surprise, I’ve played with the concept of crypto-currency. I say, concept. A technology in search of a problem; yet, paradoxically, it offers opportunities for the creators of the world—the writers, the artists. Through the blockchain, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), games, and other applications show a potential to reshape the landscape for many industries. If you’re already a pilgrim in this land of dreams and marvels, skip the next section.
A Blockchain Overview for Humble Writers, The Simple Story-Teller
A blockchain resembles a “chain” of digital “blocks.” I like to envision mine with cool letters, the bright red and blue kind found in daycares and made of wood. Each contains a cluster of transactions or trades, sealed uniquely with a complex code known as a hash. To add a block to the existing chain, miners, using powerful computers in regions with low-cost electricity, tackle puzzles to validate the block.
This mining process involves finding a unique number that, combined with the block’s transactions, generates a unique hash that fulfills established criteria. It’s like opening a high-school combination lock with anywhere from 32 to 256 numbers. Or having a massive toy box with a mountain of blocks. Successful miners are rewarded with a fraction of the cryptocurrency involved. The addition of this block to the chain fortifies an ever-expanding, tamper-resistant ledger of transactions.
These miners, or crossword puzzle solvers on steroids, are crucial, rigorously verifying every transaction. This is a costly process.
NFTs stand out because they utilize blockchain to authenticate the uniqueness and ownership of digital assets, whether art, digital stickers, or books. It’s like having a certificate everyone can verify that says, “This is the original and verified HUMAN ONE artwork, and I paid 29M for it at auction. When you buy an NFT, the details of your purchase are recorded on the block, transparently confirming ownership. This not only assures the originality of digital items but can enable artists to earn royalties on subsequent resales.
From Van Gogh to Blockchain, A New Era or Lost Opportunity for Artists?
Consider Vincent Van Gogh, his Starry Night stands out as a work of artistic genius, yet he never tasted any of that success. That being said, he chopped off his ear and was subsequently placed inside an insane asylum, leading to a period of intense creativity and emotional turmoil. His later fame and subsequent value of his art lies in stark contrast with his lack of commercial success during his lifetime. Artists starve. The collectors and clearing houses make bank. Heck, I didn’t even know people wonder how much of his ear was lopped off.
What if blockchain had existed in his era? This decentralized system, a digital ledger far removed from the clutches of traditional gatekeepers, could have offered him recognition and reward in his lifetime. The challenge? People. Or, to be blunt, thieves like Sam, who set this technology back decades.
There are few winners in this debacle. Yes, lady justice takes time, but I think it’s a feature versus a flaw, reflecting a thoughtful process over hasty judgment.
Following the Money, or the Quickbooks FTX Trail
Yet, I will say the evolution of the coverage has been incredible, incredulous, and all things awful as it relates to SBF. Two weeks before his multi-billion dollar empire collapsed, the media coverage was glowing, even famed reporters penned puff pieces and glowing tributes fawning over the guy. He posed with former presidents and celebrated athletes, reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s charismatic character. There is a reason for this. SBF contributed millions to politicians, predominately to the Democratic Party. Only the Republican boogie man George Soros gave more.
Setting politics aside, how will the government claw back this money? If one remembers the infamous story of the New York Mets and Bernie Madoff, there is a liability that needs to be repaid. The owners had to settle up on those losses. And the team’s performance struggled for years because of it. Will the Super PACs be on the hook or suffer collapse? Many are already underwater.
But here’s the clincher: SBF’s influence extended beyond politics into the media. Outlets like Vox, The Intercept, ProPublica, and even celebrities like Mr. Wonderful were drawn into his orbit, taking millions. Grant, some of these organizations returned the money after the fact. This raises a question that transcends finance: How does the confluence of money, power, and media shape our perception of truth and justice?
This entire sequence of Gatsby-style events is absurd. Yes, Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is timeless. Nobody is likable in this entire saga. Thankfully, Taylor Swift Nation escaped.
After the poor souls who made legitimate deposits are paid their pennies on the dollar, I hope the government puts forward a thorough accounting. And maybe the media won’t be blinded by money and celebrity, maintaining objectivity. I’m kidding.
The Ripple Effect
Where am I going with this rant? No, SBF won’t be getting a stocking stuffer from me.
Earlier this year, I finished a novella called Reaper. I have a long writing process—a painstaking and torturous path. For context, I began my Rumpelstiltskin fairytale over six years ago, early drafts formed in 2015 or 2016. Back then, the technical landscape was far different.
But I wanted to craft a book about a young career type toiling away at a morally corrupt corporate fiefdom wrapped within a cloak of legitimacy. Shades of grey exist, and I wanted readers to ponder their own choices if faced with similar circumstances.
I love tales that challenge the moral compass. This is why stories matter.
And when making decisions, we should be mindful. What we do for convenience or short-term performance bump might have long-lasting repercussions. Reputation. Relationships. Ability to hire others. Life, after all, is a marathon of memories. Forgiveness and reflection matter too.
If I could design my own time machine—the Jules Verne version instead of Iron Man’s invention—and rewrite the Reaper, I’d recast it. Instead of the world of high-frequency trading (the technology in my tale), swap in the crypto-currency of choice. Sam, with his mad scientist hair and shorts, would replace Augustin Saints and his ten rings. And yes, I’d have to weave in how a billion-dollar trading platform used QuickBooks for its accounting.
Although I tried, I couldn’t have crafted a more incredulous figure than Fried. I love a solid, straightforward story, but life outstrips the tales we conjure. Reality always trumps fiction; yet, they do echo with one another. That’s why I won’t rewrite this one. Some stories have timeless topics, even the fairy tale nightmares no matter how folks try to justify it through odd altruistic movements. Yes, the means do matter. Knowing your values does too. And stores, after all, are not just about the plot.
I do try to be fair in these posts. But, even with the indictment, this is an ever-evolving story. Some have returned the money. Others have not. Maybe Taylor Swift wasn’t so innocent either. And a large portion remains in the wind.
On political funding, it’s beginning to look like a 55M to Democrats and 25M to Republican split. Note, I don’t view SBF as a credible witness in his both side dark money hocus pocus declaration. But I’m willing to be wrong.
And this one was a bit belated because I wrote it in September, waited for the trial, and then events happened. The heist of the century would normally be story of the year. Yet, I don’t think that will happen here.
Feel free to send corrections my way.
Be Cool, Pass The JPLA On …
What I’m Watching: Go Mizzou
I admit, it can be painful being a Tiger fan. But hey, why not us? And beware Buckeye fans, I’d take Harrison Mevis within 70 yards with the game on the line. He had room to spare with his record-breaking 61-yard field goal against Kansas State earlier this year, the longest in SEC history.
I like to believe he lives for these moments. And yes, I watch this kick once a week.
What I’m Reading: Grifters Abound
It’s not just a crypto problem. Thieves and villains are everywhere, including in the Jacksonville Jaguar’s accounting department.
What I’m Tinkering With These Days: Coffee
I love coffee. And I’ve tried about every brewing method, including Chemex, FrenchPress, AeroPress, V-60, Nitro, Siphon, Briki, and the list goes on. But this tip, courtesy of the Washington Post, is simple yet mind-blowing. Basically, add a few drops of water before grinding your bean of choice. Less mess. Cleaner grind.
Always be learning.
When Words Fail …
“He (SBF) thought there was a 5 percent chance he’d become president.”
Caroline Ellison, Former CEO of Alameda Research
For Subscribers Only …
I’ve been working on a delivery system for eBooks for my subscribers. So, with this post, I’m rolling out a means to access my digital catalog, including the Reaper.