The Great Crypto Stagecoach Robbery

Anyone holding Bitcoins—or pretty much any cryptocurrency, really—has taken a substantial hit in the last few months, with the exchange rate of dollars to Bitcoins dropping from a high of around $1200 last November to around $550 today. But it’s possible that those whose Bitcoins were parked at the long-troubled Mt. Gox exchange have suffered a near-wipeout, or even a total one, in what may have been the catastrophic theft of some 744,000 Bitcoin from that exchange.

Mt. Gox was the first big Bitcoin exchange; as such it attracted the most attention, the most traffic, and the most trouble. It was hacked repeatedly because, at one time, it was simply where all the Bitcoins were. Most knowledgeable Bitcoin enthusiasts took off for more modern, more reliable exchanges long ago.

Details began to emerge Monday night in a leaked document (“Crisis Strategy Draft”) of at least partial authenticity obtained by blogger Two-Bit Idiot. The document explained that Mt. Gox had been subject to years of uncaught theft. (A Hacker News post later claimed to have restored the redacted slide from the leaked document that detailed the full Mt. Gox financials.)

Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles, who is apparently holed up at home in Tokyo with his cat, has since verified in an IRC chat that the document is “more or less” legitimate, though it was not prepared internally by his embattled firm. He says that he is still trying to save the company: “‘Giving up’ is not part of how I usually do things.”

The “Liquid Sky” Sequel Is Coming: A Chat With The Director Of The Best Film About New York

Liquid Sky is one of the most visually ambitious films ever made about fashion, heroin, New Wave clubs, UFO saucers, ordering Chinese food and having them put it on your tab, the Empire State Building, androgyny, neon and tin foil. The 1982 cult classic may be the perfect embodiment of camp. Unlike contemporary low-budget cinema, which prizes an aesthetic of apathy, Liquid Sky makes its efforts visible. Judgmental fashion reporters cackle straight into the camera. Catwalk scenes take place in rooms both comically small and accurately sized to real New York spaces. And the slang-heavy dialogue, which the director Slava Tsukerman credits largely to the main actress and co-screenwriter Anne Carlisle, is bold and delightfully stilted:

So I was taught that I should come to New York, become an independent woman. And my prince would come, and he would be an agent, and he would get me a role, and I would make my living waiting on tables. I would wait—till thirty, till forty, till fifty. And I was taught that to be an actress, one should be fashionable, and to be fashionable is to be androgynous. And I am androgynous not less than David Bowie himself. And they call me beautiful, and I kill with my cunt. Isn’t it fashionable? Come on, who’s next?

Tsukerman, who’s now an affable man in his mid-70s, came to New York from the Soviet Union, by way of Israel, seven years before making Liquid Sky. (He is the director of 42 other films, including the documentary Stalin’s Wife and the narrative film Perestroika.) In a way particular to the New York experience, Liquid Sky takes the perspective of both a knowing insider and a hapless observer of New Wave culture. He and his audience are just as deserving of admission to a junkie fashion shoot as Margaret, the “uptight WASP” from Connecticut turned alien host. And that’s what makes Liquid Sky a Gotham classic worth revisiting.

Meet Susan Orlean’s Best Friend (It’s Her Phone)

A work in progress. pic.twitter.com/0KCnUGcPRs

— Susan Orlean (@susanorlean) December 6, 2013

“I spend a lot of time on Twitter,” Susan Orlean wrote today in the New Yorker, in her story on Horse_ebooks. But how? Recently, I asked her quite a bit about her relationship with her phone.

Has there been some kind of astonishing addition to your home screen recently? Oh, I wish. Nothing astonishing.

I saw you recently took Settings off your homepage and replaced it with Messages. Well, with the new software, you can flip up from the bottom for the most typical settings stuff. It’s almost like, you know, with a car you’re more interested in having the radio close by than the engine.

I saw that you have three mail apps on your home screen. Do you use Mailbox? I found I got irritated by it pretty quickly. I have mixed feelings about it, but I do love rescheduling emails. I reschedule the boring stuff that I will otherwise forget. But I’m promiscuous when it comes to apps! I’m always flirting with new ones. Like calendar apps. I have millions of calendar apps. So I’m always looking at new ones and threatening to discard ones I’ve been using.

What’s the current calendar app you’re using? I use Tempo. It still could be improved, but I actually do like it.

Where do you charge your phone at night? It’s within striking distance—on my nightstand. It couldn’t be closer without threatening my marriage.

How To Work From Home With A Baby

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Sad Desk Salad author Jessica Grose tells us about the travails of freelancing.

The heart break of a home office. pic.twitter.com/jDjKvgM15l

— Jessica Grose (@JessGrose) November 22, 2013

Jessica! I’ve been meaning to ask you about this one for a while. So what happened here?

This was the first time my daughter, who at that point was about 11 months old, realized that when I closed the door to my room I still existed. Or at least that was the first time she showed me that she knew I was there. She was actually pretty reasonable about it. She pawed and mewled at the door a few times and when I ignored her, she eventually moved along. Though I didn’t encourage her—I didn’t want her to be pawing at the door every time I worked from home—I did have an intense, multifaceted reaction. It was a mixture of sadness (poor baby!), mild annoyance (I’m on deadline, kid! Gotta keep paying for your goddamn organic fruit!), and pride (you figured out where mommy is!).

The Taco Bell Breakfast Is American Freedom And Pride In Its Best And Most Primal Expression

Were we once a nation of tinkerers that split the atom, created the phonograph, and gave Kevin Costner’s career three distinctly different eras? We were.

And yet, despite all the transistors, pneumatic tires, Roombas, and swivel chairs, the elites apparently have no room in their heart for the Waffle Taco, the most obvious object of derision in Taco Bell’s newly announced breakfast line-up.

“Gross,” they cried, in their truncated communiques. Breakfast, they libeled, would now be served by “a fast food chain heretofore known primarily for serving shredded cheese, refried beans, wilted lettuce, and horse meat in various combinations of tortilla containers.” Taco Bell breakfast “could conceivably ruin America” they warned. “If you eat breakfast at Taco Bell,” one friend said, “we can’t be friends.”

This, people, is typical East Coast job-killing poppycock. Opponents of Taco Bell’s First Meal™, which will go national next month, may be free to dwell in their delusion (or in the pocket of Big McMuffin), but their objections are as alarmist as they as are anti-choice.

Dogecoin Is Real—And They Party With Dogs

At first glance, Friday night’s meetup at the Bitcoin Center’s downtown offices could have passed for any other start-up party. The crowd skewed young, many in hoodies and looking barely grown out of their Chuck Taylors, but mixed in were members of the blazer-and-blue-jeans set and even a select few people above the age of 35. Most, clustered in groups beneath the Center’s green-lit high ceilings, stayed largely indifferent to the DJ spinning dance tracks.

But there were some things that were odd. First, there was no booze, due to the small but vocal contingent of grade school kids in attendance. Second, there were the dogs. Also, the people dressed as dogs.

It was the first Dogeparty—an event for fans of Dogecoin, a digital currency themed around the ubiquitous Shiba Inu meme and which, at current exchange rates, has a market capitalization of over $50 million.

Doge may be a joke, but Dogecoin is very real. It’s a friendly parody of Bitcoin, the pioneering digital currency that was valued at $25 a year ago, $848 a month ago, $808 a week ago and $663 today. Both currencies—and the dozens of other digital monies that have been created in recent months—rely on an innovation in cryptography called block chain technology that allows online transactions to be verified without a middleman, essentially cutting out the banks or payment services that have traditionally made sure online money goes where it’s supposed to.

A Videogame You Should Play

Last year, a videogame creator named Tim Schafer, who was best known for a handful of games back in the 90s, got about a bazillion dollars on Kickstarter to make another one of those games. And now the game is here! I’ve been playing it and it is GREAT. Oh man.

So the game is called Broken Age. It is a point-and-click adventure, a very old and now-basically-extinct genre which is more like an interactive comic book than anything else. You click on a spot to make your character go there, you click on another character to talk with them, you click on objects to interact with them. The interactive part is in puzzles and conversation; you need to get certain information from other characters to figure out what’s going on and what to do next, so you’re presented with a list of responses so you can participate in the conversation. You generally have to pick up objects, sometimes combine them, sometimes “use” them on stuff in your environment to solve puzzles, after which you can progress in the story. Timing is hardly ever important; you don’t have to make precise jumps or press a button at a certain time or anything like that.

Why Can’t We Really Care About Climate Change?

There is a passage early on in McKenzie Funk’s book, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, that ticks through so many world-gone-crazy anecdotes that maybe aren’t but probably are related to a changing climate that the mind boggles. Drought-crazed camels would soon rampage through a village in Australia, a manatee would swim past Chelsea Piers in New York City’s Hudson River…. Armadillos were reaching northeast Arkansas. Wolves ate dogs in Alaska. Fire consumed fifty million acres of Siberia. Greenland lost a hundred gigatons of ice. The Inuit got air-conditioning units…. In retrospect, this was the moment that we began to believe in global warming—not in the abstract science of it, which most could already passively accept, but in the fact that there were money and power to be won and lost.

Windfall is about money and power, yes, but also—mostly—the people chasing it. The dreamers, I guess we should call them. Only they’re the ones dreaming of an extremely likely future shaped by so much carbon in the atmosphere. Funk’s book is very good and not at all like anything else I’d ever read on the topic, the topic being global warming. I had a bunch of questions so I called him up but he was in the middle of eating a burrito, so I called back 10 minutes later, which is the amount of time it takes to eat a burrito.

Lucky Louie

In the flatlands between Mill Basin and Marine Park, just before the avenue arrives at the golf course and Jamaica Bay, you’ll find VERG South, an emergency hospital for pets. Inside is a dog, which isn’t very surprising, this being a place for treating dogs and cats. Only this dog is famous.

The dog came to VERG—that’s Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group—in a roundabout way. First the dog arrived at a vaccine clinic, probably hosted at a PetCo; the story is fuzzy at the beginning. One thing is certain, and terrible: the dog had owners. They brought him to get shots, which they thought might cure him. He was clearly very, very sick. Shots wouldn’t fix him. A veterinarian at the clinic saw the dog that wasn’t so much a dog as it was a bag of bones and knew she needed to step in. So she called Sean Casey, who does animal rescue all over Brooklyn. He came by at the end of the day, saw the pitbull mutt, saw that it was in a bad way, and told the owners they needed to relinquish their dog, that is: give it up. It wasn’t hard to do. He just told them how much medical treatment the dog would need, and how expensive that would be, and how neglectful they had been. Casey took the dog from them and named him Louie.

Louie went from PetCo to Pet Haven, another clinic, where he lived for three days. While he was there, another veterinarian, Dr. Ford, took a picture of Louie and posted it to Facebook under which she wrote something like this is upsetting, people are terrible. Brett Levitzke, the medical director at VERG, saw the post and pictures of the dog and got really upset too. Levitzke has a springer spaniel named Toby and a cat named Broccoli. He got so upset at the pictures of Louie (emaciated, pockmarked, pitiful) he decided to take on the case, the case being Louie. That’s how Louie came to VERG South out near Jamaica Bay.

What you have to worry about with a dog that’s been starving all its life is the the same thing you worry about with a starving human—a problem called refeeding syndrome. The patient’s body cannot process the sudden influx of food, becomes overwhelmed, and the patient dies. So the team at VERG had to be careful about how to go about feeding Louie. This wasn’t a problem on Louie’s end. His teeth were broken (from trying to eat rocks, most likely), he had worms, he wouldn’t drink, and he couldn’t lift his head, much less walk. He was just in rough, rough shape, everyone recalled. But the thing about this dog in particular was that he was so, so trusting. They had no idea what his past life might have been like, what abuse he suffered, but his eyes stayed bright and alert all the way through. You could tell by his eyes he knew what was going on, but he couldn’t move, could barely lift a paw, much less his whole head. He was maybe 10 months, a year old at most.

Ask Polly: I’m Turning 30 And Anxiety Is Ruining Me

Dear Polly,

I have a problem that’s common to some extent for everyone but lately it’s beginning to be unmanageable for me: I have terrible anxiety.

Background: I’m a gay 29-year-old male who’s been working at a crappy data entry job for the past couple of years. I’ve never been in a relationship and since coming out, I’ve somehow gotten into the habit of having sex only once a year.

As you can imagine, growing up I used to be a nervous little queer kid; scared of being called a faggot, I cultivated this deep monotone speech pattern and tried my damn hardest to keep the camp to a minimum. As the years passed and I moved into high school and then college, this way of living killed what little self-esteem I had and my anxiety got progressively worse. I waited until I was 23, when I was already out of college (sigh), to ever so slowly begin the coming out process only to people I trusted. At first this felt like a huge relief and it coincided with me getting placed in a kick ass internship. But then? My anxiety jumped into high gear and it seemed like I couldn’t focus on anything; unable to continue going forward in my career and personal life.

When it comes to career stuff, the internship I scored dealt with public policy, and my goal was to immerse myself and see if it was an area I could see myself growing in, but the sad truth is that I never could find out because my anxiety was so overwhelming I had to keep my head down to make it through the day.

I Was A Love-Letter Ghostwriter

Nine years ago, I answered an ad on Craigslist and was hired by artist Jana Leo de Blas. Jana was a tiny woman of indeterminable age with a dandelion puff of hair. I arrived at her bright, high-ceilinged studio in the old I.S.C.P. building in midtown Manhattan; she had built a platform in the middle of the room. I climbed the few steps, settled at the desk with my laptop and coffee and tried to remember some poetry to quote in case I choked. That morning was the start of a weekend of open studios, but Jana wanted to be sure we didn’t limit ourselves to visiting art fans, so she left me there and took to the streets with invitations.

Her piece was called the Love Letter Project, and my first client, a middle-aged man, seemed game in the way that people get during open studio events. I saw Jana’s point. He sat down across the desk from me, and pursed his lips, humming around for an idea.

“Who do you love?” I asked. He laughed.

“Does it have to be a romantic love?”

“No,” I said.

“Well, I have an idea,” he said. “My son is leaving for college soon, and I’d like to write a letter to his mother, my ex-wife.” He was proud of how they had managed co-parenting, though they had both remarried. He was glad they remained close friends. I took notes as he spoke. This was an easy start, more of a friendly note really. “I worry that our connection takes away from what I have with my new wife.” He began to cry. “I still love her,” he said. He wished they had never divorced.

The Dying Man On The Windshield

Marco Salgado was plunking traffic cones down around a hit-and-run crime scene in November of 2012 when he noticed a shoe sitting by its lonesome on the crabgrass lawn of a nearby apartment complex. Salgado, a city worker for Torrance’s traffic department, asked an officer who owned the shoe. The shoe, the officer responded, belonged to a man who was found at a gas station two miles away, naked from the waist down and impaled on the windshield of a Mitsubishi. Salgado thought he recognized the shoe, chunky and strapped with fat laces, and asked if the officer knew the victim’s name. The officer did know the victim’s name, because the cops had found pants near the accident site that contained boxers and a wallet with ID.

The victim was Phillip Moreno, a 31-year old man who friends called Chud. He was in emergency surgery at the local trauma hospital by then. In an hour he would die from internal bleeding. Salgado knew the shoe, knew the name, because both belonged to his brother-in-law.

Who was driving the Mitsubishi?, Salgado asked. A woman named Sherri Lynn Wilkins, the officer said. Incredibly, Salgado knew her as well. Four weeks earlier, Salgado, “tired of being the family drunk,” checked himself into rehab for drinking. His counselor was a 51-year old woman, a former drunk and heroin addict who got clean in 2006, earned a degree from Loyola college in addiction treatment, became the manager of a sober-living house in Torrance and then was hired as drug and alcohol counselor at Twin Town Treatment Center.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Salgado testified on Monday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. “She was my my counselor.” He saw her six days a week and they talked about their shared history of addiction.