In my freelance business, I do a lot of work for colleges and universities. Sometimes that includes attending virtual seminars, then writing up a summary of what was said.
One such 2021 seminar included a panel on cryptocurrency. As I dutifully took notes on what each of the four men (because of course) were saying about how crypto was going to change the world, I was glad I kept my camera off. I could not stop rolling my eyes. It all seemed like a scam to me.
A few months later, it all fell apart.
Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and The Golden Age of Fraud by Ben McKenzie with Jacob Silverman, is that story, told by an unlikely duo who tracked that downfall in real time.
McKenzie is, yes, the actor from The O.C., who had lost money to Theranos, and was troubled and perplexed at celebrities jumping on board to promote cyrpto and NFTs. Silverman is an investigative journalist who was also writing about crypto., and how it looked like a house of cards. The two met up and decided to work together. That lead to a joint investigation, pieces of which were published in Slate, and eventually this book (to add another twist, they managed to convince Abrams Press, which typically publishes art books, to give them a book deal — before crypto tumbled).
I never expected to become enthralled in a business book about a story I also followed in real time, but I was hooked. I read a lot Easy Money by the pool, as you can see in the photo with this post. It almost felt like picking a random movie to see on a hot August day, expecting a dud, and falling into a high stakes thriller. The book also doesn’t feel outdated even though news about crytpo is still rapidly changing. For example, while I was reading Easy Money, Sam Bankman-Fried, who was interviewed for the book, had his bail revoked, and he’s now in jail.
If crypto has sort of been background music and you’re not sure if this would interest you, give two podcasts a try.
First, Behind the Bastards did a two-parter on Bankman-Fried in November, which I listened to while driving to Utah. I was howling laughing as they wrote down the 13,000 word article Sequoia commissioned about Bankman-Fried (it is possibly the worst piece of custom content ever created — and that’s what it was, despite whatever journalist they hired, who seems to have been run off Twitter).
Second, Silverman did a four-part (plus bonus episode) podcast for the CBC called The Naked Emperor, just about Bankman-Fried.
I don’t think you need those podcast primers to get hooked into Easy Money, but this is becoming like Theranos ended up being for me: I can’t get enough of reading or hearing people like this get their just due.
Nail polish: My Chihuahua Doesn’t Bite Anymore by OPI.
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