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The White House: Who’s Listening In?

The president is on a tear about all things (and people) that record and perhaps some that may have been on or near his person during meetings with now former FBI director, James Comey “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” a duly agitated President Trump wrote on Twitter . It wasn’t really clear whether it was the prez himself who was the bearer of the hidden microphone. Yes, it was White House high drama at a level not seen since Alexander Butterfield revealed the presence of a secret White House taping system during Nixon’s tenure in the Oval Office and the current kerfuffle captures much of the aroma that infused Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 Hollywood thriller, The Conversation (although I doubt, that unlike the film, whomever is doing the recording will have a crisis of conscience similar to the one endured by the flic’s protagonist played perfectly by Gene Hackman). I’ve had a fascination for all things that record and chalk that up to my father’s love of “gadgets.” Despite having little money to spare – living in a walk-up tenement in Brooklyn – he’d invest in stuff like an early 1950s Webcor reel-to-reel tape recorder, periodically parking it – and me – in front of our tiny-screen black and white TV to record live opera (when the networks were imbued with a bit of high culture). I’ve fond memories of watching the recorder’s green “magic eye” pulse along with the arias of Madame Butterly; becoming so mesmerized I’d often miss the moment when the reel end of 3M tape spun wildly in finality while I scrambled to thread a new one. At NYU Film School – in James Manilla’s sound course, circa 1970 – I was introduced to a piece of technology: so beautiful, so perfect, I still get thrills just looking at it.

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The White House: Who’s Listening In?

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