Tag: CIA

Yottabytes and the National Security State

The current New York Review of Books has an article by James Bamford, “Who’s in Big Brother’s Database” that reviews the new book by Mathew M. Aid, The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency . I have gotten in line at my local library to read this book and will make further comments after that.

Secret Sentry by Mathew AidMeanwhile, the Bamford article mentions the construction boom at NSA (National Security Agency) with a doubling of its headquarters and million sq. feet of data storage in the Utah desert costing some $2 billion. This to store the data from all of NSA’s spying that by 2015 will be spoken of in terms of yottabytes.

Now, before you think that Bamford is mainlining old Star Wars characters, a yotta- is the largest large number prefix officially recognized in the scientific lexicon. At our house we are approaching 1/2 Terabyte (1012) in our total digital stores, mostly photos. Really large corporate databases are measured in Petabytes (1015). A Yotta is 1024.

Are you feeling safer?

Do you really think that any email sent or telephone conversation you have had since 2002 or 2003 is not logged in the vast secret Security State Apparatus??

I guess that a National Security State (Empire) that has had over 800 military bases throughout the world (see an earlier posting on this topic) to assure our influence elsewhere can not resist the opportunity the state of so-called war we have been in since 2001 to penetrate into every American’s life.

Pondering at the Food Coop

November 1, 2008

So, here I am having coffee and my favorite lunch, a toasted bagel with peanut butter thinking about the approaching election. Finally this will conclude what has been an overly long campaign, but one with enormous pleasures. Assuming that Obama is not just a curiosity to all those throngs at his campaign events, we will have a President who seems bright, competent, and level-headed with an adequate level if toughness. I don’t expect the kinds of policy directions I would like to see. But, after the last eight years, really the last eleven years, just having a competent President not mired in malevolent Millennial daydreams will be a step forward.

Though I am concerned that the present problems facing us may be beyond the present political system to navigate let alone solve.

Just to mention one. Our overseas empire with almost 800 military bases (see the Base Structure Report from the Pentagon for the data) on every continent proves Eisenhower’s point about the military industrial complex, though in truth this confirms what he is said to have wanted to say, “the military-industrial-Congressional complex”. This monster that consumes almost a trillion $s every year (my calculation includes the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, Energy, and other secret intelligence/military enterprises along with the budgets for the War on Drugs and Homeland Security) continues to grow with no evidence that our security is actually improving. To the contrary, it appears that in some quarters our security may be significantly diminished.

The Interrotron

In a recent visit to the movies I picked up the FLM [Magazine] (Winter 2004), a product of Landmark Theatres, and found an article by Errol Morris, “13 Questions and Answers on the Filmmaking of Errol Morris“. It contained a bit of drollery about the Interrotron.

In The Fog of War and other Morris’ movies, the interview subjects stare straight into the camera while responding to a voice interviewing them from off screen.

Here is the text lifted without permission from the magazine’s website (http://www.movienet.com/fogofwar.html). I have attempted to maintain the design and layout. I did add the picture of the Interrotron from another source.

Q Is it true that you interview people using a machine?

A Yes, the (patent pending) Interrotron. It’s a machine that uses existing technology in a new and novel way. When I made my first film, Gates of Heaven, I interviewed people by putting my head right up against the lens of the camera. I would be talking to them, and it seemed as though they were looking directly into the lens of the camera, but not really. Almost, but not quite. Of course, they were looking a little bit off to the side.

Q Why? What’s the point?

A To create the first person. When someone watches my films, it is as though the characters are talking directly to them…There is no third party. On television we’re used to seeing people interviewed 60 Minutes style. There is Mike Wallace or Larry King, and the camera is off to the side. Hence, we, the audience, are also off to the side. We’re the fly-on-the-wall, so to speak, watching two people talking. But we’ve lost something.

Q What?

A Direct eye contact.

Q Eye contact?

A Uh huh. We all know when someone makes eye contact with us. It is a moment of drama. Perhaps it’s a serial killer telling us that he’s about to kill us; or a loved one acknowledging a moment of affection. Regardless, it’s a moment with dramatic value. We know when people make eye contact with us, look away and then make eye contact again. It’s an essential part of communication. And yet, it is lost in standard interviews on film. That is, until the Interrotron.

Q I don’t get it.

A I got tired of sitting so close to the camera. (In my early films, my cameraman would grab the back of my head and pull me back because you could see the side of my head in the lens. When he yanked me back, it often hurt.) And I started to wonder, what if I could become one with the camera. What if the camera and myself could become one and the same?

Q You’re losing me.

A Well, not literally. Are you familiar with Teleprompters?

Q Not really.

A Well, Teleprompters are used to project an image on a two-way mirror. Politicians and newscasters use them so that they can read text and look into the lens of the camera at the same time. What interests me is that nobody thought of using them for anything other than to display text: read a speech or read the news and look into the lens of the camera.







(image borrowed without permission from http://www.spin.com)

Q OK.

A  I changed that. I put my face on the Teleprompter or, strictly speaking, my live video image. For the first time, I could be talking to someone, and they could be talking to me and at the same time looking directly into the lens of the camera. Now, there was no looking off slightly to the side. No more faux first person. This was the true first person.

Q It sounds like Buck Rogers. Were people willing to tolerate this?

A I worried at first. Would it frighten people? Would they run out of the studio screaming? Who could say? I used it for the first time in Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. And it worked like a charm. People loved the Interrotron.

Q The Interrotron? Did you make up the name?

A No, it was named by my wife, Julia Sheehan. She liked the name because it combined two important concepts — terror and interview.

Q But doesn’t the device intimidate people?

A Oddly enough, no. It doesn’t. People, if anything, feel more relaxed when talking to a live video image. My production designer, Ted Bafaloukos, said, “The beauty of this thing is that it allows people to do what they do best. Watch television…” We often think of technology as working against the possibility of intimacy. But there are so many counter-examples. The telephone is a good counter-example. There are things we can say to each other on the phone that we would never say if we were in the same room. You know, “Being there is the next best thing to using the phone…” The Interrotron is like that. It creates greater distance and greater intimacy. And it also creates the true first person. Now, when people make eye contact with me, it can be preserved on film.

Q Have you used it much?

A Whenever I need to. I used it in a film that introduced the Academy Awards® in 2002. Gorbachev, Laura Bush, Iggy Pop, Al Sharpton and Walter Cronkite have all been on the Interrotron.

Q Did Robert McNamara like it?

A Well, you have to remember that we are talking about someone who has been interviewed a thousand times. He walked into the studio and said, “What is that?” I smiled and said, “The Interrotron.” He said, “Well, whatever it is, I don’t like it.” But then he sat down, and we proceeded to record over twenty hours of interviews. I guess he came to like it, too.