Sounds Familiar — Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic remembers those old tech sounds.
Of all the noises that my children will not understand, the one that is nearest to my heart is not from a song or a television show or a jingle. It’s the sound of a modem connecting with another modem across the repurposed telephone infrastructure. It was the noise of being part of the beginning of the Internet.
I heard that sound again this week on Brendan Chillcut’s simple and wondrous site: The Museum of Endangered Sounds. It takes technological objects and lets you relive the noises they made: Tetris, the Windows 95 startup chime, that Nokia ringtone, television static. The site archives not just the intentional sounds — ringtones, etc — but the incidental ones, like the mechanical noise a VHS tape made when it entered the VCR or the way a portable CD player sounded when it skipped. If you grew up at a certain time, these sounds are like technoaural nostalgia whippets. One minute, you’re browsing the Internet in 2012, the next you’re on a bus headed up I-5 to an 8th grade football game against Castle Rock in 1995.
The noises our technologies make, as much as any music, are the soundtrack to an era. Soundscapes are not static; completely new sets of frequencies arrive, old things go. Locomotives rumbled their way through the landscapes of 19th century New England, interrupting Nathaniel Hawthorne-types’ reveries in Sleepy Hollows. A city used to be synonymous with the sound of horse hooves and the clatter of carriages on the stone streets. Imagine the people who first heard the clicks of a bike wheel or the vroom of a car engine. It’s no accident that early films featuring industrial work often include shots of steam whistles, even though in many (say, Metropolis) we can’t hear that whistle.You could feel two things trying to come into sync: Were those things computers or were they actually me and my version of the world? Everyone knew what it sounded like and how big the changes it signaled were.
When I think of 2012, I will think of the overworked fan of my laptop and the ding of getting a text message on my iPhone. I will think of the beep of the FastTrak in my car as it debits my credit card so I can pass through a toll onto the Golden Gate Bridge. I will think of Siri’s uncanny valley voice.
But to me, all of those sounds — as symbols of the era in which I’ve come up — remain secondary to the hissing and crackling of the modem handshake. I first heard that sound as a nine-year-old. To this day, I can’t remember how I figured out how to dial the modem of our old Zenith. Even more mysterious is how I found the BBS number to call or even knew what a BBS was. But I did. BBS were dial-in communities, kind of like a local AOL. You could post messages and play games, even chat with people on the bigger BBSs. It was personal: sometimes, you’d be the only person connected to that community. Other times, there’d be one other person, who was almost definitely within your local prefix.
Click on the link to take a stroll down sounds’ memory lane.
Green and Gay — An iconic comic book star comes out.
Green Lantern, one of DC Comics’ oldest and most enduring heroes, is serving as a beacon for the publisher again, this time as a proud, mighty and openly gay hero.
The change is revealed in the pages of the second issue of “Earth 2” out next week, and comes on the heels of what has been an expansive year for gay and lesbian characters in the pages of comic books from Archie to Marvel and others.
But purists and fans note: This Green Lantern is not the emerald galactic space cop Hal Jordan who was, and is, part of the Justice League and has had a history rich in triumph and tragedy.
Instead, he’s a parallel earth Green Lantern. James Robinson, who writes the new series, said Alan Scott is the retooled version of the classic Lantern whose first appearance came in the pages of “All-American Comics” No. 16 in July 1940.
And his being gay is not part of some wider story line meant to be exploited or undone down the road, either.
“This was my idea,” Robinson explained this week, noting that before DC relaunched all its titles last summer, Alan Scott had a son who was gay.
But given “Earth 2” features retooled and rebooted characters, Scott is not old enough to have a grown son.
“By making him younger, that son was not going to exist anymore,” Robinson said.
“He doesn’t come out. He’s gay when we see him in issue two,” which is due out Wednesday. “He’s fearless and he’s honest to the point where he realized he was gay and he said ‘I’m gay.’”
It’s another example of gay and lesbian characters taking more prominent roles in the medium.
In May, Marvel Entertainment said super speedster Northstar will marry his longtime boyfriend in the pages of “Astonishing X-Men.” DC comics has other gay characters, too, including Kate Kane, the current Batwoman, The Question, and married characters Apollo and the Midnighter.
And in the pages of Archie Comics, Kevin Keller is one of the gang at Riverdale High School and gay, too.
Must Be Miami — Carl Hiaasen takes a look at the face-eating zombie.
All of us who live in Florida struggle to explain this bizarre place to distant friends and family.
The task got somewhat easier after the 2000 presidential election, which showcased the state’s unique style of dysfunction to a vast international audience. Since then, people who live elsewhere seem not so easily mortified by anything that happens here.
Take the dreadful case of the naked cannibal.
I’d be willing to bet that in no other city but Miami would the following quote appear matter-of-factly in a crime story: “Rudy was not a face-eating zombie monster.”
Those words come from a high school friend of Rudy Eugene, who chewed the flesh off a homeless man’s face on Memorial Day weekend. Eugene first removed his own clothes and then tore off the trousers of his victim, 65-year-old Ronald Poppo.
The gruesome biting attack, reported by passers-by, took about 18 minutes. It didn’t end until Eugene was shot dead by a policeman and physically separated from the gravely injured Poppo.
All this occurred on a Saturday morning on a ramp of the MacArthur Causeway, practically within fast-break distance of the American Airlines Arena where the Miami Heat plays.
Doonesbury — Vetting.