1. Note: This is a rerun from 2011, brought back from the archives of an old, abandoned blog. But it’s father’s day. And the sentiment remains the same.

    It’s Father’s Day, and I’m worried. Mostly because I’m not sure if the card I put in the mail to my uncle will get to Minneapolis on time. In fact, I’m almost sure it won’t. Not that it will matter, I’ll still call him, we’ll chat about life, the Twins standings, and whether, after yet another Boston championship since the time I’ve relocated to New England, my sports allegiance has finally turned (Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics were an unequivocal “no.” Bruins? That could be another story).

    We BS in the classic tradition of all fathers and sons, because, well, that’s who my uncle’s been to me for my 31 years. It’s why he’s getting a card that should have been mailed earlier, but sat in my bag before I remembered to put a stamp on it.

    In more ways than he may care to recognize, my Uncle (Al, if you’re curious. “Skipper” if you were my grandmother. Again, another story), is partially responsible for me being the man I am today (though I’m sure it’s completely transparent to my aunt and mother. Also, these two women, as well as my grandmother, have equal shares of the blame. Still another story). My uncle is the reason I got into Star Wars — he saw Episode IV in the theater somewhere numbering in the double digits, as he tells it, and thus was one reason I saw Phantom Menace multiple times in the theater (Maybe he shouldn’t get credit for that one). He’s the reason I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the first time I saw Kirk, Spock and Bones beam down to a planet. My love of bacon? He surpasses it. Gets fresh — meat market fresh — bacon and sausage, and has for years. And as an old family folklore goes: My first beer was his. A stolen Blatz when I was a toddler.

    He was always ready to pinch hit as a dad beginning early on, starting with the annual father/son “fun run” that was usually held around one of Minneapolis’ lakes. He taught me how to drive (in a cemetery no less. It’s safer there, he said, everyone else is already dead), and twice moved me around the country; once an 8 hour trip to deposit me off at my first college apartment in Missouri, and a two-day, pan-state journey from Missouri to Maine (truly, you have not lived until you’ve seen the beauty of Akron and Hartford all in one road trip).

    I didn’t have a dad, I had an uncle, and he was 10 times better, at least in my estimation (I also had a mom, who filled enough roles to supply an off-broadway show called “Raising Justin: I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.” Only later did I know she cribbed this from Cosby). In the basic math of fatherhood one guy was around, the other wasn’t. Growing up the only thing I got from my real father was my middle name, which brought its own stigma. (Granted, not because it came from him — OK, maybe a little — but because Eugene is a funny sounding name, especially in high school. It’s even more funny if your initials are JEE.)

    And yet, for everything my Uncle was, he wasn’t my “dad.” A man by the name of Harry who I barely knew was. And this is the part of the story that has a familiar ring to it. That statistic you often see about little black boys growing up fatherless? I was somewhere in that percentage. Growing up without a dad wasn’t a trauma to me as much as fact: You can’t judge whether something is important if its not there. I didn’t wonder why my dad didn’t love me, why he wasn’t with my mother. He just wasn’t there. Early on I developed the kind of pragmatism you needed to grow up an only child of a working mother: Know how to make a meal, know how to get home on a bus, just know how to do. The same kind of logic that told me I couldn’t make a grilled cheese without some slices from Kraft, applied to my father: If it’s not there, it’s not there. You move on and make PB&J.

    And so every June the cards went to my uncle.

    And then one September a card came for me. It was 2004 and the card, addressed to me at the Press Herald newsroom, was from a Minnesota sender with the same middle as me. It was father. Caught up in the usual afternoon chaos of trying to not blow my deadline, I put the card in my desk drawer and went back to work, telling myself I’d come to it later. The card sat, eventually pilled over with notes from readers (a healthy mix of name calling, praise, and the occasional letter from the county jail that all reporters try to keep at a safe rubber-gloved length).

    In the spring of 2009, the card still sat. I was talking on the phone with my mom, the typical stuff you catch up on with your mom — lots of “how’s” questions, as in “how’s Amy, the dogs, the job,” — when she tells me my father died. She found out after running into one of my half-sisters (my mother reminding me that I actually have half-sisters) at a store. Apparently Harry had died that previous January. The conversation ended as typically as it began, a “you coming back here this summer” question. 

    We hung up, and I sat for a few minutes, phone still in my hand, like I was waiting for something to happen. And I was. I was waiting for the emotion that’s supposed to come when you get bad news, when you learn someone has died. But that same old grilled cheese logic kicked in again: If its not there, it’s not there. My biology — and my middle name — were what I shared with my father, and other than that he was an unknown, so it’s hard to mourn something you don’t know. But it’s also hard to overcome the Should Imperative. “Should I feel sad? Should I be crying? Should I reach out to find out more about him?” But it really came down to one: Should I finally open the card?

    The thing about getting older is that you begin to appreciate the relationships and bonds you have around you, and the outlines of how they’ve shaped you become more and more clear. That’s just a part of becoming — hopefully — more observant, and if you’re lucky, wiser. It also turns into sharper focus as you contemplate whether you want a family of your own. 

    As much as I defined my father by absence, that created what scientists would call ideal conditions for a void. And I could fill that black hole with an ever expanding list of questions about who my father was, what I inherited from him and what, if anything, that has to do with being a father. I could. And it would be a profoundly edifying experience that could land me a coveted book deal, or, at worst, a This American Life segment. Or, instead of probing what wasn’t there, I could look at what was: The guy who did the work. 

    Biology, and even psychology, make way for words and deeds, so If the day comes when I’ve got to teach a little someone about Star Wars or Minnesota sports, hug them when they fall or make them a sandwich, I’ll know know it off the blueprint given to me by a man I call uncle. I’ll just misappropriate it and call it being a dad.

    My uncle will most likely get his Father’s Day card on Monday, after we’ve talked about the Twins, about life at Harvard and about seeing the Sox when he and my aunt visit this summer. I’ll say, in that joke laden, ball-busting, emotion-stripped language of guys, that I love him. That’s the thanks he deserves for a lifetime of more than just pinch-hitting or being a stand-in, of being a friend and role model more than maybe he even realizes.

    There’s a chance, eventually, I’ll open the card still sitting in my desk. But for now my uncle gets the cards. Perhaps one day I’ll get mine.

  2. This story first appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. That was the phrase Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly used to kick off the semiannual TV press tour Jan. 13.
    [Kevin Reilly’s War on TV Pilot Season: Will Other Networks Follow Fox? (Analysis) http://ift.tt/KF0IPU] via Pocket
  3. The Onion joked recently that Netflix was going to introduce a new Browse Endlessly plan. For $5, it would offer consumers a way to scroll through its entire library without ever deciding on a single title.
    [how Netflix redesigned and rebuilt its television experience — Tech News and Analysis http://ift.tt/1dp6Djr] via Pocket
  4. thegreengentleman:

Eleven Doctors on infinite loop.

Always with the running.


    Eleven Doctors on infinite loop.

    Always with the running.

    Reblogged from: thegreengentleman
  5. A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive.
    [How NASA might build its very first warp drive http://ift.tt/QlP2Co] via Pocket
  6. Eyepatch bros are for hugging. 

    Eyepatch bros are for hugging. 

  7. You want to make a comparison between writing a novel and writing a screenplay, but I don’t think there is any at all. As a medium, movies are obviously superior, in the sense that the strongest perceptions are sight and sound, but unless you’re the producer or director you have no control over the final product. In a novel, you do. An editor or publisher can try to persuade you, but you can always say, I won’t make those changes. So on the one hand you have control when you’re writing prose, and on the other hand the cinema is really the greater medium, if only you could use it the way you wanted to.
  8. theswinginsixties:

Leonard Nimoy with his ‘64 Buick Riviera on the back lot of Desilu Studios, Culver City, 1966. 

I’d watch the hell out of Vulcan for Hire.


    Leonard Nimoy with his ‘64 Buick Riviera on the back lot of Desilu Studios, Culver City, 1966. 

    I’d watch the hell out of Vulcan for Hire.

    Reblogged from: theswinginsixties
  9. fuckyeah-nerdery:

INTERVIEWER: Can you talk about the first time you met and what you thought of each other? Was your chemistry instant, or has it evolved over the years? 
AMY: I was like, I finally found the woman I want to marry.
 TINA: And then I had to break it to her that that’s not legal.

I bet if Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler announced that they want to get married, the remaining 37 states would legalize that shit immediately.


    INTERVIEWER: Can you talk about the first time you met and what you thought of each other? Was your chemistry instant, or has it evolved over the years?

    AMY: I was like, I finally found the woman I want to marry.

    TINA: And then I had to break it to her that that’s not legal.

    I bet if Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler announced that they want to get married, the remaining 37 states would legalize that shit immediately.

    Reblogged from: twesg
  10. image

    Elon Musk wants to turn the daily commute into a ride in a steel coffin propelled through a rail gun powered by an air hockey table. Join me, for a moment, and consider this thought: You hop in a water slide outside Oakland, hurtle yourself at almost 800 miles per hour in the dark, and emerge in LA’s Echo Park around 30 minutes later.

    This is the Hyperloop, the near-future mass transit system dreamed up by Musk in the hours he’s not trying to get into space or build a better electric car. If he draws up plans for an advanced deep sea sub in the next two years Musk will be 3/5 of the way towards creating his own Thunderbirds team. 

    It’s easy to make fun of the idea, mostly because it sounds like a hot ticket to the kind of organ-liquifying death promised in pulp magazines. It was also cause for all of us to remember one of the best Simpson episodes of all time. I couldn’t fight that urge myself.

    But stop and listen to Musk talk about the mechanics behind the Hyperloop:

    The air skis in the pod would have a thin row of magnets—you don’t need much. The linear motor would electromagnetically accelerate the pod. It would be just below where the skis are. It just creates an electromagnetic pulse that travels along the tube and pushes the pod to that initial velocity of 800 miles per hour.

    Let’s break that down to the components: Air skis. Magnets. Linear motor. Electromagnetic pulse. Elevated tubes sending human-filled bullets hurtling through a 900 mile chamber, just to make it easier to visit family, commute to work, or mix things up for date night.

    I don’t know about you but, I had one thought: SHIT YEAH SCIENCE.

    I can’t say for certain whether I’d want to ride in the Hyperloop right now. But the project is the perfect kind of sci-fi experimentation and imagination fuel that makes me stupid with anticipation. It’s a crazy scheme for the public good wrapped in science: Let’s take the technology of tomorrow and use it to fix…mass transit. There is nothing sexy about mass transit, and yet Musk has an obsession with finding better ways for humans to get where they need to go, or where they want to explore. He is a ridiculously rich guy whose overriding thought — other than “how do I stay rich” — is what can science do today to make tomorrow better?

    Obviously this could be an exaggeration of the inner-workings of Elon Musk’s mind. But consider the fact that Musk wants to employ untested technology and white board concepts on the physics of what should work to make all the small and unconsidered parts of life easier, if not more fantastic. The Hyperloop has all the appeal of science fiction porn today, but it (or something close) will be mundane tomorrow. The time will come when you will curse the TSA droids for holding up your line because you were hoping to get at least one drink at the terminal bar before catching the next Hyperloop. ( I didn’t want to pay $18 for that shitty Loop station margarita anyway…)

    Crazy ideas are how we point ourselves toward a future we can’t figure out right now. And if someone with a bank balance that would make Midas blush wants to cover some costs, all the better. In Musk’s case, he’s a definite maybe in that category. While he’s thrown cash after Space X and the Tesla, he’s not as committed to the Hyperloop. He’s put the plans out into the wild and said, “I’m somewhat tempted to make at least a demonstration prototype.” Translation: "If I’ve got a spare $6 - $10 billion lying around and I’ve had a few glasses of Shiraz during my down time on the yacht, I’ll probably knock out some more concrete designs for this thing."

    The whims of a mad billionaire inventor are not the only barriers in the Hyperloop’s path: Land, permitting, the mood of politicians, and some as of yet unyielding laws of physics, are just a few of the potential problems. History has provided a wealth of examples of the challenges of making high-speed rail a reality.

    And of course there’s Musk himself. As loudly as I may be singing his praises, I’m not an officer in the Elon Musk Pep Squad. My default expectation of him is set on “rich egotistical jackass.” Among other press highlights, his handling of Model S road test story with The New York Times was beyond ridiculous.

    But even then, that same brashness that threatened to overshadow the Model S came from pride and belief in an idea, as much as ego. If he seems fired up, maybe it’s because he believes in it so strongly. And that’s what we need more of. Dammit people, I’m selfish. I don’t just want Hyperloops, I want hoverboards. And Fantasticars. And transporters. But not androids, because that’s just asking for a bloody uprising.

    We’re told necessity is the mother of invention. But so are insane ideas that people tell you have no chance of working. Big schemes like the Hyperloop, even if they don’t succeed, are the kind of grand scale challenge that pushes humanity forward. Maybe Musk’s boom tube won’t get built, or maybe it will and won’t succeed. Maybe we’ll have hyperloops in every major city in 20 years. Either way, what he does now can spark ideas in the minds of a whole new generation of inventors. Somewhere, right now, a little boy or girl frustrated with the limitations of their Legos is getting ready to show up Elon Musk. We need more of that.


Blackbeard's Delight

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