Fast away

Christmas blear: Washington, D.C. lawyer Raymond Dickey's family (click image for full-family view) appears to have been hitting the laudanum a wee bit too hard before striking this 1921 holiday card pose.

Christmas blear: Washington, D.C. lawyer Raymond Dickey’s family (click image for full-family view) appears to have been hitting the laudanum a wee bit too hard before striking this 1921 holiday card pose.

Yale physics professor Meg Urry goes off on the topic of UFO's. A candidate for hypnotic regression if I ever saw one.

Yale physics professor Meg Urry goes off on the topic of UFO’s. A candidate for hypnotic regression if I ever saw one.

Shorpy.com is a vintage photo archive. Users upload scans of every description there … snapshots, studio, military, industrial … polaroids, gelatin silver prints, glass plate negatives, daguerreotypes … you name it. And hi-res! A great resource for daydreamers and page designers.

I imagine the moments and the people in the moments a minute later, or years later, going about their business unobserved, smiling privately at a passing thought, boiling water for pasta, horse-drawn carts on the street outside, or Packards, or Dusenbergs, a cat wandering through the frame after everybody’s gone to town … carrying on. For me, the lives of the rich and famous are so much less compelling than these.

Anyway …

I visited Shorpy this morning after skimming a NY Times Magazine package assembled by “This American Life” producers Ira Glass, Julie Snyder and Lisa Pollak. It’s bundled with the annual “Lives They Led” feature and based on stories culled from the obituaries of people you never heard of.

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As a side note, and speaking of the dearly departed, the links I’ve embedded in the previous two grafs will break some day. They’ll die. Pay walls will be erected, domain names will change, companies will merge, divide or go out of business. Once upon a time, archive.org half-heartedly tried to preserve the virtual universe on a day-to-day basis. Their “Way Back Machine” persists to this day, albeit more as the remains of a nice (if quixotic) idea than as a going concern.

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Fast away … I’m at Starbucks finishing a triple espresso and waiting to catch the 11:30 bus across town. Friends (for sure) and leftover eggnog (maybe) await me.

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Complete change of topic …

Yale Department of Physics chairwoman and CNN.com guest columnist Meg Urry, in a December 26 article ostensibly about the Kepler satellite’s recent discovery of several Earth-like exoplanets, threw down … on the subject of UFO’s.

Say what?

At the top of the article (and remember, this is a piece about nearby exoplanets, not “little green men”) Urry wrote, “… hundreds of science fiction movies …  have fed a deep curiosity about intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe.” Then as epilogue she wrote, “… it is overwhelmingly likely that the life we find elsewhere will be extremely primitive … Face it: We’re not going to be IM’ing with aliens, nor should we expect an invasion or a rendezvous in outer space. For now, we’re just looking for cells breathing and multiplying. Not “Another Earth” — more like “The Blob” (or, “The Green Slime”).”

Meg. Honey. Put away the gun. Breathe into this bag. Better? Okay … and I’m just asking … Are you feeling threatened? No? Then why the gratuitous violence? Why the dismissive references to science fiction and “IM’ing aliens,” instead of to the multitude of scientists, military officers, law enforcement and government officials, pilots and air traffic controllers who’ve witnessed first-hand and studied, written and spoken about the phenomenon? Why not attribute some of the public’s “deep curiosity” to that?

And while we’re at it, what about your owncuriosity? I mean, your scientific curiosity? As a scientist. A scientist who’s curious about things that might have some bearing onwell … you know … science.

Oy.