OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG): Episode 2

Today’s lineup includes a fascinating non-fiction book that I’m pretty sure the Leverage writers must’ve read and a new animated children’s classic:

BOOKS:

The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick – As scary as the software-based hackers of the digital age may be, we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we have the most expensive net-security on the market to protect us.  There’s nothing to stop social engineers (read: grifters) from exploiting the one element that all the security in the world can’t protect: human gullibility.  In The Art of Deception, legendary hacker and social engineer Kevin Mitnick explains how some of the most bold and audacious breaches of security in history (including the world’s biggest bank heist) were pulled off, and why even the best security systems money can buy wouldn’t have prevented them.  It’s really quite frightening to read how easily a skilled social engineer can prey on people’s assumptions and gullibility to get nearly any type of classified information, and it forced me to reflect on my professional career and wonder if I had ever given confidential information to someone whose identity I only assumed was properly verified.  I’m pretty sure the Leverage writing team has read this one, since it so easily applies to the in-show team’s social engineering tactics (especially Jeri Ryan’s debut episode, where she manages to socially engineer the entire team.)  Also, fans of Christina Hendricks’s character on Firefly might see similarities to her modus operandi and Mitnick’s techniques.  A fascinating, if somewhat unsettling read.

MOVIES:

WALL-E (Disney/Pixar) – “Awwww!  Wobots in wuv!!” Perhaps I waited too long to see WALL-E, and Up has spoiled me with regard to emotionally powerful all-ages Pixar movies, but I just was not as blown away by the film as I expected to be.  I definitely agree with some of the early reviews I’d read which said that WALL-E feels like two short films played back-to-back.  I really enjoyed the first act, where the story revolves around a lonely robot trying to find meaning and fulfillment in his function of cleaning up the world’s largest wasteland.  It hit all the best Pixar high notes, and reminded me of the simple-yet-sophisticated nature of their short subject films.  The subtle hints of what had happened to the world were fun, too.  Even the introduction of EVE and the beginning of the “robots in love” story worked well, but it all seemed to fall into stock Disney animated feature territory as soon as they left the planet.  Perhaps ironically, the plot seemed to be on auto-pilot from that point on.  Not even the addition of MO to the cast could make it seem less formulaic, though he did provide some of the best comic moments.  The message was sort of uplifting, though, and the subject caused me to wonder if this is what Disney’s version of Idiocracy would look like, but ultimately it just couldn’t hold my interest.  Is it better than most kiddie fare out there in the world today?  Of course, it’s Pixar.  How does it stack up to Up? Far better in terms of merchandising potential, but far worse in terms of emotional weight.

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3 Responses

  1. I enjoyed WALL-E too, but I did not find it to be so earth-shattering amazing as I was lead to believe it was. Definitely a good movie and I wholeheartedly recommend it, for many of the reasons you cited. It was quite thought-provoking and sad, though the stock plots were forgivable because the movie was good. Haven’t seen Up yet, so cannot compare.

  2. I really liked WALL-E, but I think your criticism is pretty spot-on. The second half of the film was very formulaic. It was almost as if the creators decided that they had taken too many risks early on, and they chose to play it safe for the rest of the movie.

    Anyway, just wanted to tell you that this is an excellent review.

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