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EPISODE 124 - Hackers

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Sorry but being declared legally dead is far more damaging than your credit card being cut.

 

It was only in the payroll department of his office that he was declared dead. It would only fuck him up for a payroll cycle or two before it was cleared up. Before this, Kate fucked up his credit and gave him a criminal record that would be really hard to fix. Dade signed him up for sex ads.

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I think some people need to take Hackers a lot less seriously. I know it's a cult movie, but it's also a really ridiculous movie, which is part of what makes it enjoyable to watch.

 

For me, it's just what the actual targets were. For example, highlighting that Matthew Lillard's extrovert class clown dresses extrovertly. Well, it's not a unique crime in high school movies. For the HDTGM gang to not get it just rang untrue.

 

A bit weird that Paul chose a 20-year-old film for being the last straw in Taxi Driver impressions too :)

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Not sure if anyone mentioned this but there is a scene where The Plague and his PR Woman accomplice(i forget her name) go down an escalator, walk a few feet to the left and she goes back up an escalator. It was the best escalator-and-talk I've ever seen.

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Not sure if anyone mentioned this but there is a scene where The Plague and his PR Woman accomplice(i forget her name) go down an escalator, walk a few feet to the left and she goes back up an escalator. It was the best escalator-and-talk I've ever seen.

The screenwriter of Hackers is like the Aaron Sorkin of escalator-and-talks for sure.

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Usually I love the podcast. Plenty of belly laughs.

 

But there was a lot of reaching to be outraged in this episode and more than a few instances of what sounded like wilful ignorance.

 

Outside of a crappily fantastical representation of the internet and using technology that already seems ridiculously primitive, Hackers is a pretty good 'teen' movie.

 

Parts are outlandish but it's clear that the makers acknowledged that. The lead characters are designed to be a cooler version of regular hackers. The 100% accurate version of this film would be a very dull, very quiet experience.

 

The dress sense fits with the era, if a little after the fact. It's more a early 90s West Coast style - Jane's Addiction ish. You know, before grunge came in and turned it all plaid and jeans. But given that these characters are meant to be cliquey and set apart from the regular kids, criticising them for dressing weird - especially when it's set in New York. - makes no sense.

 

 

I have to add that convincing people that a large building they are new to has a swimming pool is incredibly easy. I don't know about going so far as convincing them to go up through a fire escape to the roof, but say something with enough confidence, people will buy it.

 

The soundtrack is great. Possibly the first time a Hollywood film got the music right for 90s youth culture (okay, apart from the Squeeze track).

 

Still, the episode was worth it for "What's its mission?"

 

You're a painfully misguided soul

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My google-fu is failing me and I can't find the article by Blake Harris about this film. Is it on the slash film site, or is it delayed?

EDIT: it is now up with a link on the HDTGM Facebook pag.

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On another note that I forgot to mention earlier, Cereal Killer's real name is supposed to be Emmanual Goldstein, which is the name of the alleged leader of the Brotherhood in Orwell's 1984. He's the one that's supposed to be a threat to the Party. And Cereal Killer is the one that brings down The Plague.

 

However, Goldstein may or may not exist and could be just a fabrication of the Party created to identify their enemies. Maybe that means that Cereal Killer was actually working for Bunk the whole time, and the Secret Service is about to bust in and arrest Crash and Burn from the pool (which would fit into how they operate in the rest of the movie).

 

Or maybe it's just an analogy that's as poorly thought out as everything else in this movie.

 

 

It's more a nod to the man who started and runs the magazine "2600: The Hacker's Quarterly." Though it is not his REAL name, he goes by the name "Emannuel Goldstein" which he took from the character in 1984. He is listed in the credits as one of the hacking consultants for the film.

 

-Piz

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I think some people need to take Hackers a lot less seriously. I know it's a cult movie, but it's also a really ridiculous movie, which is part of what makes it enjoyable to watch.

 

There are some things about the 90s hacker culture that the HDTGM crew clearly doesn't know about (and which they freely admit). However, it's obvious that they had a good time watching it and that most of the points and jokes they made about the movie were in good fun. There's a lot of shit that just doesn't make sense in this movie, but it's still one of the more fun movies they've done. I felt the episode had a similar vibe to it as the ones for movies like Con Air, Face/Off, Deep Blue Sea, or Demolition Man.

 

Personally, I'd rather they did more movies like this and far fewer like Perfect.

 

The problem for a filmmaker in the 90s is that computers, hacking, cyberpunk kids and the internet were clearly the next big thing but there wasn't really a way for them to make it look very cinematic at that time. War Games managed it by making hacking only part of the story (and it worked really well). Sneakers took it up a level but for all the then very current computer references and ideas, it was really just the stopping off point for a spy story of sorts. Hackers was trying to be all about hacking and found there was a big visual gap to be filled. The other problem was the most influential stories about hacking at that time were Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, both of which were set in the future with very different societies and technology than the present day. But obviously the filmmakers were trying to reference that with the fashions and the tribalism of the kids, except that doesn't seem quite so exciting without actual virtual reality and AI. These hackers are just using 128k of RAM or something.

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CORRECTION:

 

Paul mentioned the "Google-glass" thing that Dade wears and how it's not a thing... Actually, it very much WAS a thing.

 

Probably best exemplified by MIT's Steve Mann (who created the "Eye Tap" device that several years later Google-Glass would look suspiciously like) and his group of "cyborgs" who were pioneers in wearable computing and would use devices that ranged from face-covering goggles to head-mounted displays just like Dade's.

 

http://www.wearcam.org/computing.html/

 

z5DqVIH.jpg

 

He can be seen here on the left. For a while, he also had a portable Ham radio with the antenna sticking out of the top of his cap. He would use it, his wearable PC, and a webcam that (I think) was also attached to his glasses and it would constantly stream pics back to his webserver for people to see.

 

On a sadder note, he was also one of the first people to be assaulted for wearing digital eyeglasses. In a Paris McDonald's, no less...

 

http://eyetap.blogspot.com/2012/07/physical-assault-by-mcdonalds-for.html

 

 

-Piz

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There's been a couple of posts really taking the crew to task for the knowledge of hacking culture, and although I think Fister covered it pretty well, I'd like to throw my hat into the ring.

 

First of all--unless the movie they are covering is about acting, comedy, or improv--you can be pretty confident that they are not going to be experts on any given subject. I certainly don't expect them to do hours of research, for their free podcast, to better educated themselves on any topic. In fact, they say explicitly in this episode that they are not computer experts, and I would guess most of their audience isn't either. If anything, take their ignorance as a point of comedy, kind of like how they tease June for her "areas of expertise", and not a reason to chastise them--this isn't Tech Talk with Paul, Paul, and Jason. Which leads me to my second point....

 

This is a podcast about making fun of movies--good and bad. Honestly, you need look no further than their Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat episodes to realize that they are judging the movie, not the subject matter. And while I respect the fact that for some people Hackers may be their favorite movie (Second Opinions is a HUGE bit in each of their shows, after all), you also have to recognize that what may be a formative movie for you does not make it an objectively good movie for everyone. For example, the reason it took them over 100 episodes for them to do Con Air and Face/Off is because Jason insisted they were "good" movies, but they did them in the end, and I'm sure Jason's opinion of them hasn't changed a jot just because they covered them on the show. As for me, my very favorite movies are all movies that I routinely rip on. To echo Fister, you may need to lighten up a bit. No one is being personally attacked.

 

In my opinion, they steered pretty clear of making fun of the act of hacking and more on how it was visualized. I think their conversation regarding gender fluidity had less to do with their being against it, and more because it is a choice the movie makes that it makes no effort to explain and seems to be internally conflicted with. For example, characters wearing clothing that crosses traditional gender lines is presented as being both no big deal and the punishment for losing a bet. If that's not cognitive dissonance, I don't know what is. And in regard to them making fun of child hackers being arrested at gun point--yes, I get that has actually happened, and I'm truly sorry if this has ever happened to you or your friends, but the fact that it happens in real life, only makes the situation even more ludicrous. We should be making fun of that idea, because it is fucking absurd and should never happen. Do I expect you to laugh when they make jokes about it? No, I don't. At least, not any more than I expect someone to laugh at the Congo episode if they've ever had a friend or family member mauled to death by a killer gorilla. But just because, due to personal experiences, it's not funny to you, doesn't make the idea of it any less funny.

 

I think the most important thing is to remember that your unique life experiences are not universal. Someone a couple pages back challenged the gang by saying, "What were you doing at 12?" and if I were to guess, the answer would certainly not be hacking, but honing their talents as comedians, actors, and writers. If you were hacking at age 8, that's great--for you. But to act personally affronted because their interests don't align with you own is a bit strange to say the least. How is bullying someone for not liking what you like any different from being ostracized in High School based on those exact same interests?

 

As for me, this is the first time I ever saw this movie, and having no nostalgic feelings for it whatsoever, I found it fun to watch, but absolute garbage. For God's sake! There is a woman in this movie who wears Quicksilver gear just to highlight that she "surfs the web." How is that not crap?

 

Anyway, Hollywood already depicted what a real hacker looks like to me a couple of years earlier...

 

tumblr_n91lbyRmTm1s2wio8o1_500-1434065089.gif

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I feel like I had a Skor Bar recently, so I think they still exist. When I was young it was considered a 'grown-up' candy for some reason.

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So it seems the visuals in this movie are pretty polarizing (which I had already heard even before watching it). I can get why people think they were dumb and silly, but for me they were silly in a really fun way. I guess I can consider this movie a guilty pleasure now because it's not very good, but dammit if it isn't entertaining.

 

Anyway, loved the episode. Helped me deal with an extra long commute after a long weekend thanks to shitty weather...

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Had to make an account just to comment on this movie and the podcast.

 

So, my bona fides - I’ve got a Ph.D in computer science, did some “hacking” as a youth, and while I’m not a security professional, I have training in the field and have friends who run in those circles.

 

First off, I want to say that computing professionals use the term “hack” for all kinds of things, almost never in reference to breaking into remote systems. I can be hacking at code all day long, making short term fixes that are referred to as hacks, on a machine that was hacked together from parts no one was using at the time.

 

That said, I’m impressed at the level of accuracy in the thread so far. Yes, the hacking world has roots that go all the way back to Captain Crunch, whose whistle techniques got you free long distance calls so you could connect to computers all over the world via dialup. Yes, those infrastructure manuals were indeed passed around back in the day. Yes, ridiculously young people have been arrested for intrusion and security circumvention. According to Kevin Mitnick, the government claimed he could launch nukes by whistling into a touch-tone pay phone, so being sentenced to not using them isn’t too ridiculous. People did use passwords that bad, and trying common passwords was a legitimate way to try to get access to an account. The whole samurai, keyboard-cowboy ideology was a thing, kinda, mostly due to a chicken-and-egg feedback loop between actual hackers and books like Neuromancer and Snow Crash. The VR goggles were indeed a thing, just not a very well made thing. 2600 was a big deal, hackers still have conventions, and hacking collectives definitely still exist.

 

A lot of what’s going on fashion-wise and character-wise is a caricature of things that did exist in the 90s tech/alternative scene. Chain-smoking at the keyboard? Check. Gender bending fashion? Check. Personalized start-up screens? Check; for some folks, this was their first foray into hacking, since you could do it on your own computer. Dial up the ridiculousness of what was actually going on to eleven, and you get the characters in this movie. Except for the rollerblading - I don’t know anyone who could have listed both “hacking” and “rollerblading” as interests.

 

As for hacking feeling like flying through buildings made of code? Eh, it never felt like that to me, but I heard someone give a talk once that made that exact comparison, so there’s at least one person outside the filmmakers who feel that way. Whatevs. To me, it felt a whole lot more like mining.

 

With all that said, here’s where the movie fails for me: even with all of this background that they got right, and all the real-world resources to pull from, the movie fails to make any of it seem real. You can’t just line up a series of true things about hacking, smoosh lingo-laden dialogue between them, then wrap the whole thing around a spy-vs-spy story, and expect the result to make its own verisimilitude like that dog food that makes its own gravy. Bits like the De Niro-mirror-disk thing, the limo skateboarding, the weird camera work, the over-the-top cyperpunk art direction... It all just makes the movie seem like it’s set in a parallel fantasy world that repeatedly slams into the real world, knocking off pieces of believability every time.

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CORRECTION:

 

Paul mentioned the "Google-glass" thing that Dade wears and how it's not a thing... Actually, it very much WAS a thing.

 

Probably best exemplified by MIT's Steve Mann (who created the "Eye Tap" device that several years later Google-Glass would look suspiciously like) and his group of "cyborgs" who were pioneers in wearable computing and would use devices that ranged from face-covering goggles to head-mounted displays just like Dade's.

 

http://www.wearcam.org/computing.html/

 

 

-Piz

 

I love Steve Mann, I've been a fan of his since the early 90s when I first had heard about him on PBS, some computer show about him. he is amazing. it was right around the time when they did VR headsets and that was going to be the future of computer interfaces. then they made movies like the lawnmower man and we all learned real quickly that 3d worlds are going to suck for the time being. mind you it's all coming back again but it's never going to get off the ground. it's like 3DTV 's in my mind, no one wants to sit and watch tv with 3d glass's on. Not me anyway, and I do have a 3DTV BTW but I've never used that feature.

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The Oral History is probably my favorite one to date. You really get the sense that all the people involved enjoyed working on it.

 

And the detail that Jesse Bradford's own mother played Joey's mom is just delightful.

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The most important part of the Oral History is that Renoly Santiago read for the role of Dick Grayson in Batman Forever (the article says Batman & Robin, but based on the timing and the fact that they probably didn't try to replace O'Donnell, it was more than likely Forever).

 

Maybe instead of Nic Cage, we should start doing a "Would this movie be better with Renoly Santiago in it?" because in the case of the Schumacher Batman films, I'd have to go with a definite yes.

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The most important part of the Oral History is that Renoly Santiago read for the role of Dick Grayson in Batman Forever (the article says Batman & Robin, but based on the timing and the fact that they probably didn't try to replace O'Donnell, it was more than likely Forever).

 

Maybe instead of Nic Cage, we should start doing a "Would this movie be better with Renoly Santiago in it?" because in the case of the Schumacher Batman films, I'd have to go with a definite yes.

Well it should also be noted that Marlon Wayans was offered the role of Robin originally for Batman Returns but was cut due to the feeling of their being too many characters. He was then brought on for Batman Forever but the change in director from Burton to Schumacher led to him being cut along with Billy Dee Williams who was slated to return as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. He would receive a fee for the late change in casting and admits that he still receives royalty checks from that film.

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Hard-to-spot OMISSION:

 

Apparently, the filmmakers cared as little about legal accuracy as they did about scientific and technical accuracy, as you can see in this screenshot from Fisher Stevens's computer when he's looking up the biography of our hero on the FBI database:

 

i53gwx.png

 

Yes, the court case on the screen does start out talking about his parents Lauren and Bob Murphy's divorce in Washington State... but then it starts talking about stuff like the "full faith and credit clause", and "the comity doctrine" and other stuff that only tends to come up in international law jurisprudence.

 

A quick search reveals the bulk of the text to be lifted from this case from a New York Appeals Court in 1994 about whether our legal system should recognize a divorce ruling from Soviet Ukraine between two Jewish immigrants -- with the movie characters names pasted in at the beginning.

 

The result is just gibberish, the equivalent of showing the screen of someone "hacking" but it's just a picture of the Periodic Table, or a doctor looking at a patient's chart and it's the NASDAQ or something. It's nonsense, tee-to-bee.

 

(oh, and a bonus OMISSION /slash note for aspiring screenwriters: this whole thing is a perfect example of a POINTLESS SCENE. First of all, why would Fisher Stevens need to hack the damn FBI database to find divorce records -- which are publicly available? He's already been in Johnny Lee Miller's bedroom and threatened him and his family with a baseball bat, but most importantly: what villain, in the whole history of ever, needs to commit a felony hack on a federal law enforcement computer in order to quote "discover" that threatening the hero's family members is a strong play?)

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Came on to say something very similar to martian_bob.

 

What it seems to me (and what Blake Harris seems to have confirmed) is that the scriptwriter (Rafael Moreu) and "hacking consultants" clearly had strong input into the character "types" that were prevalent in hacking culture from the mid-80's to the early 90's, as well as culture and language, but then the set design, costumers and others came in and made it clearly insane.

 

At the time this movie came out, I was shocked at how accurate the personalities and language were to all of the profoundly techie folks I knew and read about via sources like Steven Levy's "Hackers", or Julian Dibbell's "My Tiny Life".

 

Of course, none of them looked like Johnny Lee Miller or Angelina Jolie, and none of them wore thousand-dollar outfits comprised solely of leather.

 

Plus, there were the tiny little touches, like the "Da Vinci" virus instead of "Michelangelo", and the "Gibson" computers.

 

Words and concepts like these were just not seen in mainstream films. And The Net was just silly from this perspective. I knew no one who ordered pizzas online, but I knew several that had tried their hand at phreaking pay phones.

 

Having said that, the mannerisms of Johnny Lee Miller--that jerky way he moved his head that didn't seem quite right, and the somewhat uncomfortable way he couldn't seem to meet peoples' eyes--seemed to fit my experience, as did the silly attempts of Fisher Stevens to seem much more imposing than he was.

 

I loved the film for these things, and the completely unfounded jubilence it exuded. I just tried to ignore all the set design, costuming and flying algorithms.

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Also, solidarity with Jason regarding feeling germy when talking on the phone with sick people.

 

If I'm talking to someone who's sniffling or coughing, I have to hold the phone away from my head, then wash it with at least a damp paper towel afterwards.

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I remember attending a local computer camp for a string of summers during the early 1990s; I didn't realize it at the time, but the hacking culture was huge there. One of the things that seems impossibly hard to believe is that access to a computer (never mind home computing) was really a luxury at that time. An entry-level computer would run you a grand, plus the costs of peripherals like a modem and the associated dial-up usage. Even for people who could afford it, owning a computer wasn't really that appealing unless you needed one. There was no internet in the modern sense. Videoconferencing was absolutely mind-blowing and only available for people who had the best systems/data connections. And gaming on a computer was pretty weak in those times, too; pretty much every one of my cooler friends had consoles.

 

Anyways, I don't know why I attended this camp (actually, I do, it was my parents' idea). I was never much of a hacker, I was crappy with robotics (couldn't solder worth a damn) and although I poked around on BBS' to download pirated software, I sure as shit wasn't cracking anything. I was as far from l33t as you could get but it was fun to hang around with the kids who were. I just remember being peripherally part of something different, cutting edge, instead of the boring-ass suburban world playing baseball and being forced to listen to Vanilla Ice.

 

So this movie brings back some nostalgia. In a lot of ways it touches on how the community saw themselves, and, as an aside, they nailed the soundtrack. You could see where they were trying to go with this movie, even if the film gets nowhere close to anything resembling reality. Of course, it's easy to forget that something close to realism would not even be remotely plausible in that era. The early-mid nineties were the apex of the big, dumb, action flick and no one was going to watch some subdued flick about teenagers hacking into DOD, or bumming free phone calls off of NYNEX.

 

At the end of the day, the movie was pretty bad. Not really in an enjoyably bad way, just kind of long and tedious. The actors seemed like they were out of their element, here. Jonny Lee Miller was just a year away from an incredible performance in Trainspotting, and Angelina Jolie was a little further from reaching her potential. The whole thing was cornball as hell but I can see why people embraced it.

 

Anyways, I think the crew did a pretty good job of milking some humor out of the whole thing. It was not an entertaining watch for me, nostalgia aside.

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Ommissions:

 

1) The full conversation between the two secret service agents sitting outside Joey's house, Agent Ray is played by pop "sensation" and former husband of Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony (side by side below):

 

SECRET SERVICE AGENT BOB

Unit 3 outside suspect Joey Pardella's

apartment. Nothing to report. Suspect still

grounded... by his mother.

 

His radio crackles.

AGENT BOB

Listen to this bullshit.

(he reads)

"This is our world now. The world of the

electron and the switch, the beauty of the

baud. We exist without nationality, skin

color, or religious bias. You wage wars,

murder, cheat, lie to us and try to make us

believe it's for our own good, yet we're the

criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is

that of curiosity. I am a hacker and this is

my manifesto." Huh, right, manifesto? "You

may stop me, but you can't stop us all."

 

AGENT RAY

Now that's cool.

AGENT BOB

Cool?

AGENT RAY

Yeah, cool.

AGENT BOB

You think it's cool?

AGENT RAY

(not caring for where Bob is going with this)

It's cool!

AGENT BOB

It's not cool. It's commie bullshit!

 

anthony_marc1.jpgMarc-Anthony.jpg

 

2) In regards the most commonly used passwords by HDTGM and Jason's denial that "secret" is not among the top used, I direct you to the Ashley Madison hacked list of passwords, in which 3,522 users listed "secret" as their password (see link for top 100 passwords)http://arstechnica.c...s-all-the-rest/

 

Thank you.

 

Matt R., PA

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But there was a lot of reaching to be outraged in this episode and more than a few instances of what sounded like wilful ignorance.

 

giphy.gif

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