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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

 

"Where the Americans had previously been guided to a great extent by Henry Stimson's famous principle that 'gentlemen do not read each other's mail,' by the end of World War II they were obsessed with stealing and reading all relevant communications. The National Security Agency evolved out of various post-war organizations charged with this task ... The Pearl Harbor dread declined with the end of the Cold War -- until Sept. 11, 2001. In order to understand 9/11's impact, a clear memory of our own fears must be recalled. As individuals, Americans were stunned by 9/11 not only because of its size and daring but also because it was unexpected. Terrorist attacks were not uncommon, but this one raised another question: What comes next? Unlike Timothy McVeigh, it appeared that al Qaeda was capable of other, perhaps greater acts of terrorism. Fear gripped the land. It was a justified fear, and while it resonated across the world, it struck the United States particularly hard. Part of the fear was that U.S. intelligence had failed again to predict the attack.  The public did not know what would come next, nor did it believe that U.S. intelligence had any idea. A federal commission on 9/11 was created to study the defense failure. It charged that the president had ignored warnings. The focus in those days was on intelligence failure. The CIA admitted it lacked the human sources inside al Qaeda. By default the only way to track al Qaeda was via their communications. It was to be the NSA's job. As we have written, al Qaeda was a global, sparse and dispersed network. It appeared to be tied together by burying itself in a vast new communications network: the Internet. At one point, al Qaeda had communicated by embedding messages in pictures transmitted via the Internet. They appeared to be using free and anonymous Hotmail accounts. To find Japanese communications, you looked in the electronic ether. To find al Qaeda's message, you looked on the Internet. But with a global, sparse and dispersed network you are looking for at most a few hundred men in the midst of billions of people, and a few dozen messages among hundreds of billions. And given the architecture of the Internet, the messages did not have to originate where the sender was located or be read where the reader was located. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The needle can be found only if you are willing to sift the entire haystack. That led to PRISM and other NSA programs. The mission was to stop any further al Qaeda attacks. The means was to break into their communications and read their plans and orders. To find their plans and orders, it was necessary to examine all communications. The anonymity of the Internet and the uncertainties built into its system meant that any message could be one of a tiny handful of messages. Nothing could be ruled out. Everything was suspect." (STRATFOR)


"I lived on a point of the hill of North Doheny Drive that actually had a side walk. I used that to walk the dogs a couple times a day. We’d walk around the bend to the upper Bird Streets, beginning with Robin Drive (where Larry Flynt, I think, still lives). This is a shot of Doheny close to the top of the hill.  On that same spot looking southwest is West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and the Pacific from which you could see Catalina on a day that was clear. That’s what they call a marine layer clouding the cluster of tall office buildings in the distance. They are Century City which was built on the backlot of 20th Century Fox in the 1970s. The tall building that is closer is on Doheny Road in what is called Beverly Hills Adjacent, and home to many famous stars. In the lower left of the picture, you can see the sidewalk curving (to go up the hill). The reddish rooftop was that of a house belonging to Madame Alex who was the number one madam in Los Angeles. Her girls came to the house for their assignments. I often saw them on my dog walks. They were all gorgeous, usually brunettes, always drove Beamers and stayed only briefly. One early evening I saw a cortege of three stretch limousines deliver about a dozen Arabs in full regalia – no girls – evidently for cocktails. Or something." (NYSocialDiary)


"Cairo and Alexandria had little in common with the barren and sandy hinterland of the Sahara and the Nile. Groppi’s was the best restaurant/nightclub in Cairo, and one that Field Marshal Rommel had boasted he’s be dining in just before his supplies ran out. It was jasmine-scented and as attractive a place I’ve ever been. English and French were the lingua francas. The Levantine women were to die for: none of this covering-up crap, and their fashion was the latest from Paris. I was madly in love with a married lady who teased me nonstop but never gave herself to me. We would go to a piano bar called Santa Lucia, where Grace would lie on the piano and sing  'Dimmi quando tu verrai, dimmi quando, quando quando..…' She was straight out of Durrell’s Justine, a real heartbreaker with whom I spoke over the telephone a few years ago. 'I want to see you,' I said. 'I wouldn’t if I were you,' came the not-so-cryptic answer. Muslim Princess Toussoun was another lady for whom one would throw himself into the Aswan Dam. She was married to an older Turkish prince with a handsome French diplomat as escort. The youngest and most beautiful was Katie Sursock, who is now Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, a widow, but one I see weekly here in Gstaad." (Taki, AKA  À la recherche du Imperialisme perdu)


"People magazine is fast becoming the supermarket tabloid it doesn’t want to be. Confidenti@l has learned that when managing editor Larry Hackett’s contract expires at the end of this year, it likely will not be renewed. 'People is now under a lot of pressure since parting with parent company Time Inc. Now the magazine must stand on its own two feet, and it can only do so by becoming more tabloid,' a source tells us." (NYDailyNews via MediaMix)


"When Jack Handey sold his first jokes to Steve Allen in 1977, Allen sent him a letter offering him $100 and telling him his name sounded like a product, not a person. 'Say homemakers, take a look at the new Jack Handey,' Allen wrote. 'Just the thing for slicing, dicing, mopping, slopping, stamping, primping. . . . ' The longtime 'Simpsons' writer Ian Maxtone-Graham, who worked with Handey at “Saturday Night Live,' recalled that everyone he told about Handey asked if that was a fake name. “I wonder why that is,' Maxtone-Graham said. 'I guess because it sounds like, if your car breaks down, you should have a Jack Handey.'  'I hope your article can clear up all the confusion,' Senator Al Franken told me when I contacted him. 'Jack Handey is a real person, and he wrote all the ‘Deep Thoughts.’ Not me.' Jack Handey is a solidly built man of 64 with a swoop of graying hair; when he smiles, his teeth are blindingly white. We were sitting around the island in Handey’s Santa Fe kitchen as his wife, Marta, made huevos rancheros for breakfast. Jack and Marta have been together for 36 years. I asked if he helped out around the kitchen, and he said, 'I can cook Cheerios.' 'You can cook a hard-boiled egg!' Marta said brightly. 'I’m getting pretty good at that,' he agreed. Handey is best known as the writer and performer of 'Deep Thoughts,' a series of quasi-philosophical cracked aphorisms that ran on 'Saturday Night Live' from 1991 to 1998. The license plate on Handey’s car is DPTHOTS; on the wall of the garage is mounted the plate he purchased initially but never used: DEEPTHT. That’s because the day Handey was screwing it on, Marta’s brother asked, “Why does your license plate say ‘Deep Throat’?' The four 'Deep Thoughts' books hogged bookstore checkout counters for much of the 1990s and sold, in total, about a million copies. Now he has written a novel, his first, titled 'The Stench of Honolulu,' available this month." (NYTimes via MediareDEFined)


"Tony Soprano left us in a cut to black that still fuels debate about whether it signified his getting whacked or just our getting shut out of the story. Vic Mackey ended up alive but alone in the purgatory of a desk job. While it's likely that Walter White will get killed or arrested due to the discovery of his drug business or a resurgence of the cancer that started his journey, it's also possible to imagine him back as a miserable teacher in some witness protection program somewhere, somehow, wallowing in his own stifled rage and resumed powerlessness. But Dexter Morgan? Dexter needs to die." (IndieWIRE)

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