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World Trade Center Literary and Cultural Reflections (first posted September 11, 2001)

Not knowing what else to do, in the numb hours after the towers fell, I made a web page that explored the World Trade Center in literature and culture, as well as urban technology in general. I updated it a bit over the next few weeks or months, but have mostly left it as an historical record.    As journalists improvised to meet the public’s demand for online updates (in…

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Meet octobot, a soft-bodied robot that looks like the future

Our future robot overlords never looked so squishy. A team of Harvard University scientists has built an entirely soft robot — one that’s inspired by an octopus. The octobot, described this week in the journal Nature, could pave the way toward more effective soft robots that could be used in search and rescue, exploration and to more safely interact with humans. “The octobot is a minimal system designed to demonstrate…

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While at Sadecky’s Puppets to record the role of Heidi, Carolyn met a new friend.

We spent Sunday afternoon at the Sadecky’s Puppets studio/workshop in Tarentum, Pa. Carolyn recorded an audio track for a musical adaptation of “Heidi,” to be synced with performances of live puppeteers touring across 9 states during the coming school year. Mr. Sadecky, who has been performing with his puppets since the early 80s, was charming but also thorough. He worked patiently with Carolyn to deliver the performance he wanted. “That…

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Blade Runner | Typeset In The Future

This is nerd heaven — a deep analysis of all the text that appears in the 1980s cult science-fiction film Blade Runner. (I really want this typeface to be Caslon, but despite everything else matching nicely, the top of the 6 is just wrong. I can only apologize for the discrepancy.)UPDATE: Several folks have noted in the comments that this looks a lot like Cheltenham, and I think they are correct. Source: Blade Runner…

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Franz Joseph and Star Trek’s Blueprint Culture

In 1977, when I was about nine, I saw the original Star Wars, and I certainly enjoyed it, but unlike many of my friends, I kept my allegiance to Star Trek — which was on every afternoon in reruns, and was also available as an animated series, novels, comic books, etc. My fourth-grade classmate Dean Weigh sold me his Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual, a big paperback full of cross-sections…

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“Know that I glory in this nose of mine.”

Was browsing YouTube for a few of my favorite movie swordfights. Yes, the left-handed thing from Princess Bride was clever, and sure, the upgrading from foils to sabres in The Great Race added tension. You might be cool with the quips, but you’ll never be “Cryano de Bregerac dueling Valvert while simultaneously composing a ballad about his victory in a duel with Valvert” cool. Watch the epic “nose speech” first.…