The Manhattan Project


If you missed it in 1986 (I was 8), The Manhattan Project is kind of a cross between “Dr. Strangelove,” and “E.T.” It ends in a sweaty finish that is arguably the best bomb-defusing scene in movie history. The finale is short. It is peppered with pithy jokes, and it features beautiful back-and-forth between John Lithgow, John Mahoney, Richard Jenkins and the teenage star Christopher Collet.

But amid real nuclear catastrophe, Wikileaks cables, and a series of young, Internet-savvy uprisings across the world, The Manhattan Project poses a surprisingly relevant allegory about how governments and people use technology. It’s also a time capsule of not how tech has changed in the last 25 years, but how it’s stayed the same, and how we’re really trying to do the same things we’ve always been trying, only better. Or worse, depending on how you look at it.

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Paying For It

 

Within minutes of the email and website announcement of the NYT paywall details, Twitter was all aflutter.

Cory Doctorow made his rote attack against all things not free and open to the public. His basic argument is, this paywall is flawed as a way to keep freeloaders out of their content. It will piss people off, and people will stop linking to the Times because they won’t want to, by extension, piss of their readers.

The other general negative sentiment is that the site will hemorrhage traffic, lose ad revenue, etc. This may all be correct, but I’d wager, and the Times is wagering big time, that none of that matters.

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The Future I Wanted

Speaking of Kindles, Warren Ellis and I use the same mobile devices, so that’s pretty cool. This is a fun little rundown of what the tech-obsessed writer and scary uncle of nerds everywhere uses in his daily routine. Of note is this little insight into the beauty of the device.

I have a Kindle 3, the wifi-only version. I am very fond of my Kindle, and here’s one reason why. Reading a Sunday newspaper magazine, discovering a writer I’d never heard of who sounded very interesting, quick scan of the Kindle store on my phone discovers his autobiography, the large free sample downloads in seconds. I’m still at the table reading the magazine and flicking through the sample. I haven’t finished my beer and I’ve bought the book, which is loaded onto the Kindle, which is in the other room waiting for me to come and sit down as soon as I’ve finished my beer at the table. That’s the future I wanted.

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Spilled ink over Borders’ bankruptcy

The coincidence is not lost on me that the week I purchased a Kindle is the week Borders Books & Music — the big box version of a bookstore that I grew up on — filed bankruptcy and announced it would be closing 30% of its stores.

Nor do I take it lightly.

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Snowy Day in Cheesman Park

Denver’s been colder than I’ve experienced during the past couple of weeks. I think we bottomed out at Feels Like 30 Below, but were below zero and single digits for days in a row. When it gets this cold, the dog won’t walk. She goes out for a minute or two, excited having forgotten how cold it is, then lifts up one or two of her feet and shivers until you pick her up. I started to wonder what happens to small woodland animals when it’s that cold. Do they all hibernate? Do they die?

No, it turns out, they do not die. Nor do they all hibernate. Jamie did some basic research for me, and found that squirrels (or “squee-rells” as her aunt calls them) get fat, hide little stashes of food near their home trees, and just hang out in their nests until it warms up. This little guy was apparently making a trip to the ground to grab some food.

They build pretty good little nests, or dreys, out of whatever kind of leaves and twigs they can find. And then they just hunker down. They’ll stay in bed for days without leaving. But here’s the interesting thing: Squirrels are solitary little animals. They have their own little dreys and food stashes. But, when it gets really cold, that changes temporarily.

The lone squirrel will allow other squirrels to climb into the nest with him. In fact, if it’s cold enough, several squirrels will climb into one nest and huddle up next to each other to share body heat and stay warm. Then it warms up, and they leave. Or as the painfully adorable squirrels.org states, “once the temperature rises, the guests will be on their way.”

Cold has a way of messing with things. We didn’t have cold where I grew up, at least not real cold. Not snow days or frozen pipes. It snowed a few flakes every now and then and we would go outside and stare at it. When I go out and the city is covered in snow, it’s like I live in an entirely different place. Things I walk by every day and ignore suddenly become visible. There’s too much to see most days to get a good look. When you cover most of it with the cold blank of snow, things appear.

Streets lose their lanes and cars disappear. Dogs lose their sense of smell. More pets get lost in the winter than any other time of year because their senses are dulled by the static air. They don’t know where home is if they go too far.

Stay indoors and enjoy Wintry Mix on 8tracks, with songs from Salem, Glasser, Mount Kimbie and more. Invite some strangers into join you on the couch. When it gets warm again, make them leave.

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He Would Have Laughed

The final song on Deerhunter’s “Halcyon Digest” is haunting me. The poltergeist arrived almost the exact same way Microcastle’s “Nothing Ever Happened” did about a year ago. That is, like walking down the street one day and suddenly, vividly remembering a dream.

Deerhunter – He Would Have Laughed:

Or to put a literal, less-Pitchfork point to it, it’s listening to music consistently for weeks, then suddenly and unexpectedly realizing that it contains one of the best songs you’ve ever heard. With either song, I distinctly remember hitting a point in the track where I jumped out of my seat to look at the song and then couldn’t stop listening.

Deerhunter – Nothing Ever Happened:

It’s the kind of music that doesn’t put its cards on the table right away. You might find an entirely new song four minutes into a song you’ve heard a hundred times. Which isn’t to say that it’s inaccessible; Microcastle and Halcyon Digest (the two records I’m familiar with) are loaded with hooks. But some of the best moments in Deerhunter songs pop up after morphing from something else. And then you never want the song to stop playing, except for the fact that there might be another astonishing moment in another track you’ve already heard a hundred times.

Helicopter and He Would Have Laughed Live

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Proverb #2

Some nights I retire to bed so no further harm may come to me; others, so I may do no more harm to others. I will hope to share my bed with another, in both cases.
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