Here’s What I’m Reading Today. It’s a fascinating look into the massive data storage center the NSA is building in a remote part of Utah. It will be able to store all of our private phone conversations, emails, text messages, chats, credit card purchases, bank info, the list goes on and on. The article’s author, James Bamford, describes the site as Big Love meets Big Brother.
Then to analyze and decrypt all that data the NSA is working on an enormous super computer. It requires enough electricity to power 200,000 homes and enough cooling equipment to air condition both World Trade Center towers.
Bamford is a writer I’ve interviewed before and run into occasoinally on the DC cocktail circuit. He has spent years covering the NSA and has the best sources there bar none. He also wrote one of my favorite articles for Rolling Stone about the surreal world of war public relations. Here’s a bonus article for What I’m Reading Today:
So I just finished reading Jobs’ biography. I highly recommend it. I actually read the entire thing on a Blackberry. I felt it helped my objectivity; however, life has a funny way of effing with me. As soon as I finished reading umpteen hundred pages on my Blackberry Curve, which displays about a paragraph at a time, my IT department switched my phone to an iPhone. I’ve always resisted the iPhone because of its lack of a keyboard, but now iLove it, and even more so having read the book.
One of the more interesting elements of the biography is that Isaacson was able to spend the final months of Jobs’ life with him. It’s not often that one has the privilege to know that they are dying, the time to ruminate on it and a handy biographer near to record the experience. Jobs was not a nice person, in fact he was often quite horrible, but there’s no arguing his influence on our lives and our future. Isaacson does a lovely job of capturing Jobs’ final feelings on meaning, purpose and legacy in this experience he might have dubbed iLife.
Friends, sorry, today’s selection of my reading again comes from the New Yorker. You can read the abstract on their site. If you have a subscription, you should be able to see it online. If not, sneak into a doctor’s office and ‘borrow’ their copy.
The story profiles Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. You may remember the movie Lord of War—in it Nicholas Cage plays a character loosely based on Bout.
I tried to interview Bout a few years ago for a special I filmed with my friend and producer, Peggy Holter, about the AK-47. At the time he was on the lam and we didn’t get Bout, but we did manage to interview his finance guy, Richard Chichakli, in Moscow, who was also on the run from US and international authorities.
While in Moscow we also interviewed Mikhail Kalashnikov who invented the AK-47 in 1947 (hence the name). Fascinating fellow. He stands about four-foot-something high, was about 90 years old at the time and remained sharp as a tack. He was deafer than I am, though, which is saying a lot, but I couldn’t blame him for it. He’s a huge national hero in Russia and from what I could tell he’s followed by fireworks and a brass band everywhere he goes.
For the piece we also interviewed Ishmael Beah who wrote A Long Way Gone, a heart-wrenching memoir of his experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. It’s truly an incredible tale and Ishmael is one of the most beautiful people, both inside and out, whom I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
It was great special and reminds me how much I miss working with Peggy Holter. What an incredible producer she is.
(One side note: this special was filmed five years ago. As a television journalist I’m proud to say my voicing is much better now, even if it is a little cringe-worthy to hear how it used to be. I share with you the good, the bad and the ugly. Cheers, Josh)