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alt... who are you? Are you sure you are who you think you are? Are you confident that you are not deceived by your own identity?"

Friends, you must be wondering what on earth is this article about, asking some scary unusual questions! These are the very questions that I have been asked as I entered the newly opened, "International Spy Museum" on the F. Street, Washington. In a dark room, locked from every side, visitors panicking and desperately trying to figure out.." what on earth is going on?" and everyone helplessly looking around. Such was the situation in the magnificent spy museum, where the history of "espionage" has been preserved and displayed for the first time.

The questions were a part of the mysterious game that we had to play as we entered the magnificent museum,. The game was simple; we were given a separate identity, a separate outlook (on pictures) and a mission. We were undercover (just like the spies) and the game was to spy on other spies (other visitors) and detect them from the few details that were provided.

As we gradually enter the museum with racing pulses and hearts thumping (probably the feeling of being a spy and detecting spies in a "spy museum" was enough for an adrenaline outburst) and confusion written all over our mind, a maxim catches my eyes stating, "An obvious truth is an obvious mystery" (Sherlock Holmes).

We cautiously enter a dark room and to our amazement the door shuts down all of a sudden. The light glows off followed by the famous "James Bond" music and shadows of people running all over the huge screens with arms on hand firing at all of us. The sound effect was so realistic that it was as if Mr. Bond was beside us and his enemies firing at him. Everything happened so quickly that some of us were on knees trying to avoid the bullets that was being fired at us! And guess what is next... yes you're right, the beautiful young girls in our group screamed their heart-out testing the highest level that their vocal cord can tolerate. Trust me! It was about bizillion decibels and amazingly sounded melodious!

Each and every compact detail is shown in the "short film" which has not only surprised me but left with a question as well. Why do people choose to spy? Is it for patriotism, money or just for adventure? Nobody seems to have an answer to this question.

"International Spy Museum" consists of the world biggest collection of the espionage artifacts that have been displayed publicly for the very first time. The 40 million dollar museum consists of five buildings and is very close to the FBI headquarters in Washington. Interestingly, one of the five buildings (The Atlas Building) housed one of the former headquarters of the U.S Communist Party from 1941 to 1948.

I came to know that, it was George Washington who was the first person to introduce espionage to the Americans. In February 1777 Washington gave a New York man the go-ahead to establish a spy network in the region and promised him $50 a month "for your care and trouble in this business". The one-page letter, written in Washington's meticulous slanted script, hasn't been publicly displayed since it was reproduced in a newspaper in 1931. And this very historic letter is one of the principal attractions of this section.

Next comes the "World War" section. This is obviously the best of all because spying was at it's best during the period to bring glory and pride to their countries. This is where one can learn the different ways FBI and KGB adopted to outsmart each other. Learn about "The Cold War" and the "War Of Intelligence" between these spies. It was interesting to know how technology was used at that moment and the limitations of it. And the obviously the fun bit was figuring out the "secret codes" and to learn about the experts who made them and who broke them. All these days we knew the history, over here you'll get to learn the secret history.

World War section revealed the dark cloud of suspense and confusion that hid the world during wars but couldn't stop the spies from operating. The American, German and Russian spies operated right at each other's noses. Here, obviously the questions comes why wasn't the spies recognized? Well, the way they disguised themselves as others with make up, beards and moustaches... it was hard to pick out the original one. From the way the person to be disguised talks, to the way he walks and the accent he speaks in., everything is perfectly mastered by the spies before they go on a mission.

In this section, you can try your own code breaking skills. Spies always give their highest priority to codes, as they believe "a code can shorten a war" and the famous phrase "a broken code is a broken hand".

Among the displayed weapons there were, a World War II German cipher machine commonly known as Enigma., a shoe from the 1960 with a Soviet listening device embedded in the heel, A Czech-made remote-control Robot that was used to secretly record private conversations. T1-340 camera used by the East Germans in the 1980's to take photographs in hotel rooms. And the best of all was a lipstick pistol that was called the "Kiss of Death" produced by the KGB during the 1960. This contains a 4.5 mm, single-shot weapon, encased in a plastic tube and was first detected in a Berlin Border crossing. And if you question the accuracy, here is what Keith Melton (who is in charge of this section) has to say. "At close range, right next to the person, behind the head, it would be devastatingly accurate!"

More interesting were the forged British pounds that were used by the Nazis during the World War II. Another fascinating Soviet discovery was an umbrella that had a gun attached to its bottom and could deliver fatal poison. It was used in an infamous case when Bulgarian defector and writer Georgi Markov was stabbed with a poison umbrella in London in 1978and died four days later. Police believed the assassin was a KGB agent.

The KGB also used small lightweight F21 cameras for various methods of clandestine photography, including concealing camera behind coat buttons. The KGB also used the shoe and a radio-transmitter, microphone and batteries embedded in the heel. The idea was for a maid or valet to sneak these enhanced shoes into the target's closet and then activate the heel's transmitter before the target left home for the day, allowing agents nearby to monitor all conversations. Tthe role of photography in espionage will be evident throughout the museum. The collection includes KGB photographs of equipment found in wreckage of Francis Gary Power's U-2 spy plane, shot down by the Soviets in 1960.

One of the contemporary artifacts is a mailbox used as a "dead drop" by Aldrich Ames, the CIA officer who spied for the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s. He marked this mailbox located in Georgetown, as a signal that he was ready to talk with his Soviet contacts. Besides, there is also a "hi-tech" spy camera that was embedded in tree stumps and had wires that looked thinner than hair. The most intriguing section intriguing (or scary) exhibit my be the eavesdropping station, where you can pick up a pair of headphones and listen in on conversations captured by bugs located in other parts of the museum.

The last section of the museum contains books, movies of different spies ranging from James Bond to Sherlock Holmes and others. There was also a BMW (probably the one used in "Tomorrow Never Dies") displayed. The headlights had machine gun hidden underneath and there were sharp spikes attached to the sides of the car that which was enough to destroy any adjacent vehicle.

There's also a separate section where one can enrich their general knowledge with exciting facts like: There were more than 20,000 spies only in Washington during the Cold War. The U.S capital still remains the paradise for spies as even today, more spies infiltrate the streets of Washington D.C, than any other place in the world. Besides, you get to learn about the pervasiveness of Stasi where husbands practiced spying on wives. Vladmir Putin, the Russian President, is an example as he was a top official of the KGB and probably by now has made his wife's life a "living-hell"! (there was an article on "Prothon Alo" about this).

The International Spy Museum has already been a major attraction to any tourist visiting United States. A leading U.S daily newspaper wrote that the museum "explores the craft, history and contemporary role of espionage, and is the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on an all-but-invisible profession that has shaped history and continues to have a significant impact on the world events". Talking about the need for such a museum, Milton Maltz (chairman of the advisory board) said "in a democracy it is especially important for the public to have a more realistic understanding of the intelligence business so we appreciate the role in our society and impact upon our major world events". So there you go, a great museum with a committed team working behind such a noble cause.

Trust me friends, seeing the enormous adventure in spying, I almost decided to set my ambitions of being a spy. But who would want to enter a world of uncertainty where suicide is the second best option (the first being escape). After all.. its not that easy as Mr. James Bond makes it look like. So anyone of you planning a visit to States must keep "International Spy Museum" in the top priority list.


Anime review

RahXephon

The best way for someone to be introduced to genuine, serious anime is probably Cowboy Bebop, though Pokemon fans worldwide will probably say otherwise. However your initiation be, though, you can't make much of a mistake picking up RahXephon the TV series... for the 26 episodes will unfailingly captivate you and the DARING of the creators will leave you going "wow!"

The Synopsis: Kamina Ayato is your average 17 year old, going to school in Tokyo, and to his knowledge in a previous world war the rest of the planet's been destroyed... all that's left is the 6 million people of Tokyo. Not that it matters... until one day on his way to school he comes across titanic mecha in battle with fighters over his head, and is guided by a mysterious girl (Reika Mishima) to a place where he fuses with a gigantic robot... and discovers that the people of Tokyo bleed blue blood? What gives?

If you've ever seen Neon Genesis Evangelion - another legend in anime history - the plot may seem just a bit familiar to you; if you haven't, so much the better. Regardless of your anime background, though, Rahxephon will grip you with fluid animation, a story whose scope is titanic to put it mildly, incredible pacing, and characters you're bound to love.

This is not your average kiddy show, though, and that makes itself evident in the feel of the entire series... and viewers should watch it at their own discretion. Despite all that, though, RahXephon remains one of this reviewers favourites... and a grand way for anyone who can take the time to get acquainted to some great anime.

<you should be able to find Rahxephon on kazaa... otherwise, the best option I know is to go to www.baka-ost.net and (ahem) pay up the enormous sum of 5 dollars... also, if you want to try before you buy, I suggest you sign up at animemusicvideos.org and download koopsikeva's Euphoria AMV... it's a great song for a great anime..


Open Water

Review by Gokhra

Cast:
Susan: Blanchard Ryan
Daniel: Daniel Travis
Seth: Saul Stein
Estelle: Estelle Lau
Davis: Michael E. Williamson
Junior: John Charles
Linda: Christina Zenaro

Few movies can actually have an effect on you that makes you look over your shoulder. Exorcist made you afraid of the dark while Psycho causes a shiver for an avid movie buff taking a shower. Open Water has a similar effect even though you are sitting in the middle of a city. Probably the reaction is because of the floodwaters that were swirling all around.

The movie begins with the couple in their California driveway about to depart. Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are preoccupied with their careers having little time for leisure and the affectionate side of a relationship. They decide to take a trip to work out the glitch.

The crew of the boat counted one of the couples twice and head off thinking that all twenty people are on board. Its carelessness like this that gives the movie a plausible beginning. After all its only carelessness that makes the launches sink in Bangladesh. The couple comes up for air to discover that the horizon is empty in all directions. They find that they are all alone and everywhere they look there is only water and the usual marine life such as sharks. The sea is calm and the water is cold but not cold enough to kill them.

Of course their scuba outfits help them stay afloat and hydrated for a longer time. But what good is so much time when you will be busy spending hours thinking of death and the fact that the couple should have gone for the ski holiday instead.

It's a big shock for he couples who come from a world of cell phones, gadgets and busy work schedules. Somehow it all ceases to matter.

The couple takes to the challenge with false hope. There is a lot of belief in the boat coming back but when that does not happen hope starts to dim. As if floating around isn't bad enough there are plenty of shark fins floating nearby to add to the dilemma. Not only that they suffer form jellyfish stings and thirst. They bicker at first with typical couple attitude but the lengthening hours increase the hysteria start to erase all sense of hope. The couples come to the grim realization that they actually "paid to do this."

For most of the movie we are essentially watching Susan and Daniel float, talk, think and try to convince each other that things are not as bad as they seem. They try to remember information from the Discovery Channel such as it is fatal to drink seawater. Also most sharks will not bother humans but movie sharks are trained to bother with increasing ferocity and that is exactly what happens.

The movie tells the story with simplicity doing away with fancy visuals making it scarier than a lot of big budget movies. The actors were actually in deep water and not in a movie set water tank. And those were real sharks.

"Open Water" was shot directly with handheld digital cameras on a miniscule budget screened for the Sundance Festival earlier this year. Its similar to The Blair Witch Project that was also a low budget affair and shot to the top of the charts.

The 79-minute movie was inspired by an actual event where two divers were left behind and shows that in the vast expanse of the ocean our lives seem rather small and meaningless. It's only our conviction that makes it all worthwhile.


Power To The Muggles!

Gismos straight out of Harry Potter are coming to market.
Got a spare $500,000 for a flying car?

By Niloy

So, we all think that magical people are soo cool. They got soo many awesome stuff for themselves, broomsticks and invisible cloaks and stuff. While witches and wizards have magical stuff for them, we muggles are not left behind. Thanks to our technology and ingenuity, maybe we'll soon be able to read out of magical books, race witches and wizards in flying cars and, well, play hide-and-seek with invisibility cloaks.

But come to think about it, most wizards are quite lazy anyway. Their magic does so many things for them that they hardly have to work as hard as we muggles do. So when we try to have our gadgets and gizmos to act like bewitched or charmed objects, we have put in a hell lot of effort, crazy amount of calculations and, well, piles of microprocessors.

Here's a case study. Two different groups of muggles and wizards are asked to make a BMW to break-dance while standing on its hind-legs (back wheels). A wizard steps forward, concentrates on imagining some dancing cockroaches, says a funny word, waves his wand and there! The BMW gracefully stands on its back and dances its trunk off. What does the muggles do? They make a group of the world's elite scientists, work relentlessly and after six months come up with a prototype BMW laden with hydraulics, gears and engines that would be able to jerk vigorously along the music for 15 minutes before breaking down. Anyway, this "case study" is made up anyway. But I'm sure that muggles would be able to do better.

So it may come as a surprise to discover that Harry's world, where flying cars and invisibility cloaks are the norm, isn't that far from our own. Scientists the world over are perfecting inventions that could make the magic created by J.K. Rowling part of everyday life.

Need an invisibility cloak to escape from school? Scientists at the University of Tokyo's Tachi Laboratory, the school's virtual reality research centre, have invented an ingenious camouflage material that makes the wearer seem transparent. When worn as a cloak, it displays the scene behind the wearer onto the front of the light-reflective material. A camera records the images from behind the cloak, and then transmits them in real time to a projector that displays the images on the front. For the moment, the illusion only works from one side, but the inventors think commercial uses will be manifold. By the time it's available in around 2008, the technology could, for example, help pilots see through the floor of their plane to make landings easier.

More potter tech is coming your way. In the third book, Harry is introduced to the "Marauder's Map," a magical, flexible display that shows Harry where people and creatures are in his school, even as they hop down corridors and into rooms. A similar technology is soon to be released by Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics (PHG ) unit Polymer Vision. Polymer's flexible display screens will be able to receive data through a transmitter. That way, for example, a soldier in the desert could get info from a distant control tower, which in turn picks up data from surveillance planes tracking enemy units. The soldier could then follow nearby enemy movements on a map shown on his flexible display. Take that, Dementors!

But what about that flying car? That's coming, too -- sort of. Moller International of Davis, Calif., is a publicly traded company set up specifically to develop something called the M400 Skycar. It can travel on local roads at 35 miles per hour, but its real purpose is to take off vertically from small spaces like parking lots, then cruise at low altitudes at more than 350 mph. The price tag is a hefty $500,000. The company is hoping for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. If Moller gets the nod from the regulators, it could develop a market for the craft and build enough sales volume to warrant a lower list price (Galleons not accepted -- and Gringotts Bank is not making loans to buyers).

Books are cheaper than flying cars, even in Potterland, where library tomes have a habit of holding a reader's attention with talking and moving pictures. Back in the world of muggle science, New Zealand researchers have found a way to add detailed 3-D talking animations to books. The reader sees the 3-D images through a handheld viewer that watches where the reader is looking and plays music and narration at the same time. Its name? Magic Book. Should be required reading at Hogwarts.

Although we won't be seeing wand shaped remote controls that would do everything for us anytime soon, stuff that we now read in "fantasy books" are coming to life faster than we can properly start imagining them. I'm still waiting for riding a broomstick. Maybe one day, I'll be able to ride the one my grandchild will use.


 
 

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