There is something in South Dakota that can decide the fate of the world. Scratch that. There was something there. It’s just a national historic site now. A museum staffed by national park rangers preserving a launch control center and a silo hiding 18 meters long, slender, white missile. Which used to be topped with a 1.2 megaton warhead. Nothing to sneeze at if you consider that the entire WWII used between 2 and 6 megaton of explosives and that includes 20 kiloton nuclear bombs detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Pioneer Auto Show in Mudro, South Dakota is a genuine road side attraction. Row after row of early cars. Building after building of period pieces illustrating life on the plains in the first half of the 20th century. A huge barn full of tractors. Collection of motorcycles including one that belonged to the King. One of the first custom made houses on wheels a.k.a. RV. It’s all dusty and the smell reminds me of my grandparents’ attic - not necessarily in a good way. It sorely needs money: audio narration mentions cars absent from exhibits - probably sold to help the site survive. It sure could use some public funding and a professional curator to de-clutter displays and put them in historical context.
You might think presenting space travel is attractive and thrilling in itself. Images of the blue planet from the orbit, the famous first words on the Moon, the first docking in space, the first space walk, exploring one of the few remaining frontiers should be enough to hold everybody’s attention for couple of hours. NASA Space Center by definition should be one of the most exciting places to visit. But the company that manages Houston’s NASA Center does not think it is good enough. They proceed to turn the center into a second grade theme park full of rides, screaming kids and outdated computer games.
There is very little moralizing going on in Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Just cold facts. I walk through the exposition. Read city ordinances implementing Jim Crow laws. Browse newspapers from the 50s and 60s. Watch documentaries and interviews. It’s all there: separate movie house entrances, bus boycott, integrating schools and universities, restaurants sit-ins, voting registration, marches, police actions. From tragic events in Selma to grotesque banning of a kid book on the grounds it presented white and black bunnies playing together. And yet it’s so hard to imagine this was happening. So recently. So near. I should not be surprised. I’ve read about it. I watched Spike Lee movies. But somehow all these photographs, newspapers and recording make it very real and very moving.
Thomas Alva Edison was one of the original hackers but you would not know it if you toured Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. And I use the term hacker in its initial, not subverted, meaning: someone who tinkers with stuff to makes things better. Incidentally I stopped telling people that I am a hacker some time ago. Since no one can tell crackers and hackers apart, such admission is greeted with an awkward silence at best and nervous reach for a cell phone to notify authorities in other cases.