David Byrne's trip report from Berlin's Stasi museum is really smart and insightful. I love reading Byrne's blog -- the way he skips among subjects and ties it all together in the end. There's no musician whose work I admire more, and it's wonderful to see him producing such good work in other media. This is one of the things I love most about blogs: getting to shoulder-surf thinkers who make me smarter.
The Stasi Museum is inside one part of a former massive compound that enclosed many city blocks. Parking and entrances were inside the compound, so no one could see who was coming or going. And the whole complex is now for sale! For one Euro! Well, I’m sure there are conditions. I think the city is trying to sell it to the country if they will turn it into a proper museum. As is, it’s rudimentary. One floor of former offices displays clunky spy devices: cameras in logs, behind buttons and in fake rocks. Here’s one in a birdhouse – a little obvious, I think.
Maybe the intent was NOT to hide this surveillance gear too well, the idea possibly being to make people aware they were being looked at and listened to. If you’re not aware you’re being observed then you won't live in fear, so what’s the point? Sometimes buildings here in the U.S. put up fake surveillance cameras in the hopes of discouraging perps. Of course, it wasn’t all just nutty surveillance stuff – people’s lives were ruined, destroyed, their careers came to a dead end at the least suspicion, there were prison terms and torture without stated reason (where have I heard that one before?) and information and culture was heavily censored. And the food wasn’t that great, either.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the videocassette format long-dead, but it turns out that Betamax is still around. Sony is finally going to withdraw tapes from sale, bringing a 40-year story to an end. The last recorders were sold in 2002. ベータビデオカセットおよびマイクロMVカセットテープ出荷終了のお知らせ [Sony; via The Verge]
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