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Free to Use and Reuse: Selections from the National Film Registry


“Duck and Cover” is a 1951 U.S. Office of Civil Defense film for schoolchildren highlighting what to do in the event of an attack by atomic or other weapons.

The Library of Congress is offering film lovers a special gift during the holiday season: Sixty-four motion pictures, named to the Library’s National Film Registry, are now available online. The collection, “Selections from the National Film Registry,” is also available on YouTube.

These films are among hundreds of titles that have been tapped for preservation because of their cultural, historical and aesthetic significance—each year, the National Film Registry selects 25 films showcasing the range and diversity of America’s film heritage.

Legendary sailors Popeye and Sinbad battle in the 1936 film “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor.”

All of the streaming films in the new online collection are in the public domain. They are also available as freely downloadable files with the exception of two titles. Additional films will be added periodically to the website.

“We are especially pleased to make high-resolution ProRes 422 .mov files freely available for download for practically every title in this digital collection,” said curator Mike Mashon, head of the Library’s Moving Image Section. “We think these films will be of particular educational and scholarly benefit as well as for reuse by the creative community.”

Highlights from “Selections from the National Film Registry” include

  • Memphis Belle” (1944)—William Wyler’s remarkable World War II documentary about the crew of a B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber
  • The Hitch-Hiker” (1953)—a gritty film noir directed by actress Ida Lupino
  • Trance and Dance in Bali” (1936–39)—Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson’s groundbreaking ethnographic documentary
  • Modesta” (1956)—a Spanish-language film produced by Puerto Rico’s Division of Community Education
  • Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor” (1936)—a two-reel Technicolor cartoon
  • The House I Live In” (1945)— a plea for religious tolerance starring Frank Sinatra that won an honorary Academy Award
  • Master Hands” (1936)—a dazzling “mechanical ballet” shot on a General Motors automotive assembly line
  • Duck and Cover” (1951)— a Cold War curio that features Bert the Turtle explaining to schoolchildren how best to survive a nuclear attack


The final mission of the B-17 bomber, Memphis Belle, is the subject of the 1944 documentary “The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.”

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2 days ago
Washington, DC
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Old Man’s War in Development at Netflix

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For those who don’t know, yes, that’s the original of the Old Man’s War cover art. It’s on my office wall. And yes, that’s my hand.

So here’s some lively holiday news: An Old Man’s War movie is currently in development at Netflix. Surprise! Here are the details over at I’m pretty happy about this.

And now, your questions:

Are you excited?

Hell, yes. One, because I would love to see an OMW movie. But also, two, Netflix is a place where a lot of fantastic entertainment is happening these days. It’s trying a lot of things and taking a lot of chances, and most people I know who are working with Netflix are thrilled about being there right now. It really seems like it could be a great place for the OMW universe.

So is this a movie or TV series?

It’s a movie. On your television!

(Or computer or phone or monitor or wherever you choose to watch Netflix, I don’t judge.)

But can a two to three hour movie truly hold the vastness and complexity of Old Man’s War?

I mean, yeah. It’s a pretty speedy story in that first book. And as to the rest of the universe of the series, if the first OMW movie works and people watch it and like it (hint, hint), we can have sequels. There are six books! We have lots to work with.

Who is going to be in the film? You should get [insert favorite filmmaker/actor here]!

Whoa, there. This is the development announcement, where we announce the studio (Netflix) and the producers (Jon Shestack Productions and Madhouse Entertainment). Now that we’re all on board with making the movie, we’ll start putting all the puzzle pieces together. Don’t worry; when we pick folks, we’ll probably do follow-up announcements.

Hey, wasn’t Old Man’s War in development as a movie, and a TV series, before?

Indeed it was. It was in development at Paramount for a while as a movie, and then at Syfy as a TV series.

What happened?

It just didn’t work out. Both times, really smart folks did a really excellent job and tried to make it happen, but the entertainment industry is what it is, and the stars didn’t align.

But this time will be different!

Well, yes, I hope so. It would be nice. I think we have the studio and producers to make it happen.

How long has this been percolating?

I got the rights to OMW back in the summer. We fielded pitches and offers and then in October, while I was out in California, I had a meeting with the producers. After that it was just waiting on contracts.

Man, lawyers, am I right?

In this case, I’m a big fan of lawyers. Mine (Matt Sugarman) has done very well by me. As has my film/TV agent, Joel Gotler, and my book agent Ethan Ellenberg has been part of this particular brain trust, too. It takes a village to make a good deal.

How involved will you be in the production?

As the article linked above notes, I’m an executive producer on the movie, so I’m pretty substantially involved. Which is nice! I have opinions, you know. I’m going to share them.

So can I have a job?

You’ll have to go through official channels.

You’re an executive producer! You’re an official channel!

Yes, but not that official channel.

Okay, well, can I give you this script of something entirely unrelated?


Hollywood’s changed you, man.

It always does.

So, this is great, but what I really want is a film/TV version of [insert another book/story I wrote here].

I have a number of things in various stages of development, only one other of which (The Collapsing Empire) is currently public knowledge. When/if those other projects get to public knowledge stage, trust me, I’ll be talking about them. Just like this, in fact.

I will say that it’s an exciting time to be me, and that with the projects currently in play, I’m lucky to be working with some incredible people. I feel very fortunate that this gets to be my life. And today, I feel particularly fortunate that we’re working to get this Old Man’s War movie to you.

Arrrrgh I can’t wait HELP ME.

Well, there are the books. And Old Man’s War itself is just newly released in a delightful pocket-sized hardcover edition! Which, by the way, if you order from Jay and Mary’s Book Center through this Sunday, I will happily sign and personalize for you (along with any other book of mine you buy).

I see how you dropped an ad for yourself in there, Scalzi.

Yes, well. I’ve got bills, folks.

I have other questions or comments!

That’s what the comment thread is for. Note I’m on deadline (uuuhh, an actual deadline, not just the entertainment news site), so responses might not be immediate. But I’ll get in there.

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8 days ago
Washington, DC
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7 days ago
I really liked that book... hopefully they can do it justice
Norfolk, Virginia
8 days ago

Everybody Lies: FBI Edition


You, dear readers, know my advice about talking to the FBI: don't. If the FBI — or any law enforcement agency — asks to talk to you, say "No, I want to talk to my lawyer, I don't want to talk to you," and repeat as necessary. Do not talk to them "just to see what they want." Do not try to "set the facts straight." Do not try to outwit them. Do not explain that you have "nothing to hide."

Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up.

This advice is on my mind of late what with two former Trump folks — George Popadopouluos and Michael Flynn — pleading guilty to the federal crime of lying to the FBI.

Plenty of people agree with me. Sometimes, though, I hear different advice. Sometimes I hear this:

No. Or more accurately: no, unless you have first prepared exhaustively with an attorney.

This is not a casual conversation about who took a bite out of the roll of cookie dough in the fridge. This is serious complicated stuff, and your whole life hangs in the balance. Platitudes aside, going into a law enforcement interview armed only with the attitude "I'll just tell the truth" is poor strategy.

Here's why.

No offense, but you may be a sociopath. If the FBI wants to interview you, it's possible you're some kind of Big Deal — a politician or a general or a mover and shaker of some description. If you're kind of a big deal, there's a significant possibility you're a sociopath. You really don't know how to tell the truth, except by coincidence. You understand what people mean when they say "tell the truth" but to you it's like someone saying you should smile during the interview. Really? Well, I'll try, I guess, if I remember. You've gotten to be a big deal by doing whatever is necessary and rather routinely lying. It may be difficult for you to focus and remember when you are lying because lying feels the same as telling the truth. If someone shoved me onto a stage and said to me, "look, just hit the high C cleanly during the solo," I could take a real sincere shot at it, but I wouldn't really know what I was doing. If you think you can go into an FBI interview and "just tell the truth," when it's not something you're used to doing, you're deluding yourself. You're not going to learn how in the next five minutes.

You're almost certainly human. There's a commandment about not bearing false witness. But rules don't become commandments because they're really easy to follow. They become commandments because we — we bunch of broken hooting apes — are prone to break them. Everybody lies. Humans lie more under pressure. FBI agents are trained in two dozen ways to ratchet up the pressure on you without getting out of their chair — verbal, nonverbal, tone, expression, pacing, subject changing, every trick that any cop ever used in the box. You're only human. Unprepared, you will likely lie. Smart people, dumb people, ditchdiggers and neurosurgeons, lawyers and accountants, the good and the bad, they all lie. Usually they lie about really stupid things that are easily disproved. I'm not making a normative judgment here; surely it would be nice if we didn't lie. I'm making a descriptive statement: humans lie. Saying "I'll just go in and tell the truth" is like saying "I'll just start being a good person." Well, good luck. Look, you admit to being fallible in other respects, right? You admit sometimes you're unkind when you're tired, or sometimes you drink or eat more than you know you should, or sometimes you procrastinate, or sometimes you have lust in your heart? What makes you think you're infallible about telling the truth?

Dumbass, you don't even know if you're lying or not. When an FBI agent is interviewing you, assume that that agent is exquisitely prepared. They probably already have proof about the answer of half the questions they're going to ask you. They have the receipts. They've listened to the tapes. They've read the emails. Recently. You, on the other hand, haven't thought about Oh Yeah That Thing for months or years, and you routinely forget birthdays and names and whether you had a doctor's appointment today and so forth. So, if you go in with "I'll just tell the truth," you're going to start answering questions based on your cold-memory unrefreshed holistic general concept of the subject, like an impressionistic painting by a dim third-grader. Will you say "I really don't remember" or "I would have to look at the emails" or "I'm not sure"? That would be smart. But we've established you're not smart, because you've set out to tell the truth to the FBI. You're dumb. So you're going to answer questions incorrectly, through bad memory. Sometimes you're going to go off on long detours and frolics based on entirely incorrect memories. You're going to be incorrect about things you wouldn't lie about if you remembered them. If you realize you got something wrong or that you may not be remembering right, you're going to get flustered, because it's the FBI, and remember even worse. But the FBI would never prosecute you for a false statement that was the result of a failed memory, right? Oh, my sweet country mouse. If you had talked to a lawyer first, that lawyer would have grilled you mercilessly for hours, helped you search for every potentially relevant document, reviewed every communication, inquired into every scenario, and dragged reliable memory kicking and screaming out the quicksand of your psyche.

You have no idea what you're telling the truth about. Look, you think that you can prepare to tell the truth. But at best you can prepare to tell the truth about something you know about and expect and understand. So let's say I know I'm going to be asked about whether I'm an ass on Twitter. I'm ready to come clean. I am definitely an ass on Twitter. But I get in there and the agent is all, "Mr. White, isn't it true that in October 1989 you accidentally hit on a major news anchor when you saw her from behind at the copy machine and thought she was another intern at CBS and so you sidled up for a full-on 'how YOU doin" and then she turned around and you saw who it was and you stammered something and spent several hours in the stairwell?" See, I was not mentally and emotionally prepared to tell the truth1 about that. So we're off to the races. I went in with the best of intentions, I got sandbagged with something completely unexpected, I panicked like the grubby little human that I am, and I lied.

You can't even talk properly. If you're an attorney and you need to prepare someone for testimony, you know: we're a bunch of vague, meandering, imprecise assholes. We talk like a water balloon fight, sort of splashing the general vicinity of the answer. We don't correct questions with inaccurate premises that don't matter, we generalize and oversimplify and summarize and excerpt and use shorthand that only exists in our heads, and we do this all day every day in casual conversation. A huge amount of conversation goes on between the words and by implication. If I'm walking past your office and ask "did you eat?" I don't need to vocalize that I mean did you eat lunch and if not would you like to go to lunch. You can respond "I have a meeting" and I will understand that you mean you understand and acknowledge that I'm asking you to lunch but you are unable to go. Huge parts of our conversations are like that. Usually it doesn't matter. But if you can get charged with a federal crime if something you say is, taken literally, not true, it matters like crazy. It takes training and an act of will to testify — to listen to the question, to ask ourselves if we know what the question means, to ask ourselves if we know the answer to that question and not some other question it makes us think of, and to give a precise answer that directly answers the question. So not only do you have to go into that FBI interview and tell the truth — you have to be prepared for a level of precision and focus that you almost never use in your day-to-day communications.

You don't know if you're in trouble. You say "I'll just go and tell the truth." Well, if you mean "I'll just go confess to anything I've done wrong and take the consequences," that's one thing. But if you mean "I'll just tell the truth because I've done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide," you're full of shit. You don't know if you've done something wrong yet. Do you know every federal criminal law? Have you applied every federal criminal law to every communication and meeting and enterprise you've engaged in for the last five years? "But . . . but . . . the FBI said they just wanted to talk about that meeting and there was nothing wrong with that meeting." Dumbass, you've got incomplete information. Not only do you not know if there was anything wrong about that meeting, you don't know if that's what they'll ask about. If you're saying "I'll talk to them because I have nothing to hide," you are not making an informed choice.

Everybody lies. Especially the FBI. Look, mate: the FBI gets to lie to you in interviews. They can lie to you about what other people said about you. The can lie to you about what they've seen in your emails. They can lie to you about what they can prove. They can lie to you about what they know. Authority figures barking lies at you can be confusing and upsetting and stressful. Our brain says "I didn't do that thing but they say they have emails so maybe did I do that thing or sort of that thing?" Many people react by blurting out more or less random shit or by panicking and lying. Do you have what it takes not to do that? Better be sure.

Remember: the FBI wins nearly any way. Confess to a crime? They got your confession. Lie? They almost certainly know you lied, and already have proof that your statement is a lie, and now they've used the investigation to create the crime.

The answer is to shut up and lawyer up. A qualified lawyer will grill you mercilessly and help you make an informed rational choice about whether to talk. Then, if you decide to talk, the lawyer will prepare you exhaustively for the interview so you can spot the pressure tactics and interrogation-room tricks, and so you will have refreshed your memory about what the truth is.

Your best intentions to tell the truth are a thin shield.

Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.
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10 days ago
Washington, DC
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Court to Police: Nope, Sometimes “Fleeing” Is Just Jogging

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In July 2010, two police officers were patrolling Golden Gate Park here in San Francisco when they noticed someone standing in a place known as “Hippie Hill.”

It strikes me that I could probably just stop there.

And yet, I continue. This is not just a local nickname, or at least not anymore. “Hippie Hill” is the official name of the place. Having said that, it may not surprise you to learn that, apparently, the area is said to be known to law enforcement as one in which drug-related activity occurs. Indeed, our two heroes had made “numerous narcotics arrests there,” according to the opinion, although because the legal term “narcotics” ridiculously includes marijuana, make of that what you will. What? You located someone buying a joint near Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco? Excellent work, Sergeant—or should I say, Detective?

So, they see this guy on the hill. It’s about 8 a.m. He is wearing gray pants, and a fleece jacket. He is also wearing running shoes. The officers notice the man has a “clean-cut look,” and is “by himself, not talking to anyone, [has] nothing in his hands, and [is] not doing anything specific to arouse suspicion.” But the officers later testified that they thought he looked “worried,” and so they “decided to initiate a consensual encounter” with this citizen.

This is something that police are free to do, just like anyone else can. It may seem (and certainly sounds) a little ominous, even if it’s not Roy Moore doing it. But the Fourth Amendment isn’t implicated unless someone’s actually being “detained.” It is not always clear, of course, that you are free to walk away, so sometimes it depends. But you are, in fact, free to walk away from a “consensual encounter” with police. You are also free to run away from it, although that really may not be a good idea.

But that’s what happened here. Twice. On the hill, the man “looked back briefly in their direction and then began running. With their suspicions aroused,” the officers decided to pursue. They called for backup. They set up a “perimeter.” They saw the now-suspect individual take off his jacket, which they interpreted as an attempt to change his appearance and evade them. They followed him down what they described as a “dark trail” that had a “cave-like appearance.” One of them drew his gun, “not because of any specific threat, but because of ‘fear of the unknown.'” Eventually, they encountered the suspect, now walking. One shouted at him to stop, and said “I will shoot you!” He ran.

The opinion doesn’t say, but I’m going to speculate that the suspect was white, because he is not dead.

The man later testified that he was just out running when he paused for a rest on the hill, and then continued his run without any inkling the police were now in hot pursuit. He took off his jacket because he’d been running for an hour and was hot, not because he was trying to escape. (A fleece jacket in July!? July in San Francisco, genius—it was 62 degrees, and at 8 a.m. in GGP almost certainly foggy.) Did he run when he heard somebody yell “I will shoot you”? He sure did. But he surrendered peacefully when he encountered another officer on the “perimeter.” They found no contraband on him, in his jacket, or in his car, which was parked in the area. They did, however, find a gun in the car.

He had a gun because he was a police trainee.

In one of the more humorous judicial footnotes I’ve seen recently, the court noted that although one of the officers testified the man’s “clean-cut look” was “consistent with someone who was a recent parolee,” on cross-examination he “admitted [the man]’s appearance was also consistent with that of a recent graduate of the police academy.”

Anyway, notwithstanding the complete lack of evidence and the fact they had just detained a police officer (trainee), they arrested him. A blood sample showed no trace of “narcotics.” But, after six hours in custody, he was cited for “resisting or delaying an officer” (!) and then released. Two days later, he was fired for “misconduct,” thus “ending his career as a San Francisco police officer and effectively disqualifying him” from any other law-enforcement position anywhere.

Lawsuit? Oh yes. Trial? Yes. Verdict? For the plaintiff. Judgment? $575,000, plus $2 million in attorney’s fees (awarded under a state civil-rights statute). Appeal? Sure, why not.

But the Ninth Circuit had little trouble finding that the officers had no “reasonable suspicion” to detain the guy in the first place and no probable cause for an arrest. While some of the facts were disputed, and there were a couple of oddities about those facts, it seems about as clear as it ever gets that there was no probable cause here. That’s what the jury found, after all. (As the court put it, the jury believed the officers were “embellishing.” I personally enjoyed the “cave-like appearance” of an outdoor trail in Golden Gate Park during the daytime.)

And even if he knew the police were there, the court pointed out, he was entitled to walk away, or even to run, because “not every effort to avoid an encounter with police warrants detention.” (Or death, the court happily did not need to add here.) The court summed it up pretty well by saying that “Officer Brandt chased down and trained a weapon on a running man about whom he knew virtually nothing except that this was someone who had the temerity to try to elude capture.” Now the city is $2.575 million poorer. (I guess I have to help pay that now, but fine.)

In short, the guy shouldn’t have run, but running ain’t probable cause. Sometimes, it’s just jogging.

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14 days ago
“the court noted that although one of the officers testified the man’s “clean-cut look” was “consistent with someone who was a recent parolee,” on cross-examination he “admitted [the man]’s appearance was also consistent with that of a recent graduate of the police academy.””
Washington, DC
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How to Make Friends

7 Comments and 18 Shares
No, wait, come back! I want to be friends at you!
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7 public comments
26 days ago
It me.
28 days ago
Oh dear lord yes
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
28 days ago
And again too real
Tucson, AZ
28 days ago
I thought it was as simple as indiscriminately clicking "Add friend" on thousands of Facebook accounts. Surely with that wide a pool of potential friends, at least SOME of them will accept a friend request from a complete stranger without a second thought.

Boom. Friendship.
Moses Lake, WA
28 days ago
Sometimes XK cuts too the bone.
28 days ago
Too real man, too real :(
??, NC
28 days ago
No, wait, come back! I want to be friends at you!

Take Your Time

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Take Your Time

Take Your Time

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
~ Parkinson's Law

I hate dystopian stories. And yes, I've read them. All of them. Why not? I have the time.

God, I can't even remember when all of this started. But I remember where I was: work. It was just another average day at the average department of Average Incorporated. Sometime after lunch, Darren -- god rest his soul -- Darren came into my cubicle, with the look of a nervous squirrel on his face, and told me:

"Jenny, you have to see this."

Our entire department was crowded around the TV in the lunch room. Hey, whatever's a good excuse to take a break from work, right? There was a live press conference featuring Professor Harrington, a chubby, bearded scientist who kinda looked like Santa Claus -- and boy, did he ever have the gift for us.

"Professor Harrington," a reporter asked, "could you explain how you did this?"

"How I invented the pill that will change humanity forever?"

"...Yeah. That."

"Sure. The TimeXpander Pill, name's a work in progress, gives a person 8 extra hours a day. Note: you only have to take this pill once, and the effect is permanent. Now, the way it accomplishes this is quite simple. To explain, thi--"

Wait. I turned to Darren. Did he just say it gives you 8 extra hours a day? Darren whispered a shut up jenny.

"--once proved that time is relative. To clarify, he was describing physics, but it describes neuropsychology, too. We don't have to experience one second per second. Our perception of time is dependent on neuron metabolism, synaptic firing rates, relative concentrations of GABA and PEA... to make a long PhD short, TimeXpander speeds your brain up by 33%, letting you experience days that are 33% longer: eight extra hours."

The room went silent for a while.

"...Professor Harrington," the same reporter finally spoke, "could you explain... why you did this?"

"You kept complaining."

Dramatic pause.

"You people kept saying, oh i'd love to learn the piano but i don't have the time, or oh i wanna go on more dates but my schedule's too packed", or blah blah blah i want to better myself as a person in some way, but woe is me, there just aren't enough hours in the day!"

Ohhhhkay, goodbye professional scientist voice.

"You know, hunter-gatherers only worked 3 hours a day? You know, John Maynard Keynes once predicted we'd be working 15-hour weeks by now? And yet, humanity decided, hey let's all go get on this treadmill and run forever faster and faster while going absolutely nowhere. So, you know what? Screw it. Here's 8 extra hours. Use it to learn how to paint. To read a good book. To smooch some cuties. To write short stories on reddit. To get in touch with nature, or God, or yourself, or whatever.

Eight extra hours a day, every day. Do whatever you want."

I looked at Darren. Darren looked at me.

Eight extra hours, I thought. Whatever you want...

The boss shut the TV off. "Okay folks, that's quite enough." He clapped his hands. "Now let's go optimize some spreadsheets!"

I made a TO DO list:

  • learn to sing
  • read the classics
  • watch The Wire
  • take improv
  • learn French
  • try yoga
  • Sam, from Starbucks

And finally, with the Take Your Time pill (they found a better name), I'll finally get to do all of these! 33% more time. Eight whole new hours, every day, for all the things I've wanted to do in life. Best of all, no side effects! Okay, the side effects of TYT are that I'd have to eat 4 meals a day and sleep 11 hours a night, but that sounds like a win-win to me. Jenny, girl, you've been wasting your life all your life but finally, finally, you'll live up to who you were meant to be!

God, I was so excited.

God, I was so stupid.

It started with that fucking brown-noser, Steve from Marketing. Fucking Steve managed to buy a TYT before any of us. Fucking Asshole Steve didn't use the 8 extra hours a day to sharpen his mind, or deepen his soul, or contribute to the betterment of humanity, no. Fucking Asshole Piece-of-Dog-Shit Steve used the 8 extra hours a day to work overtime.

Which meant he was relatively more valuable to the company.

Which meant the rest of us were relatively less valuable to the company.

Which meant Nikki started worrying about being let go. Which meant that when Nikki got her TYT, she started working 8 hours overtime. Which meant Mike started working 8 hours overtime. Which meant Jin started working 8 hours overtime. Which mean, soon, everyone was working 8 hours overtime.

Except for me, and Darren.

Before we swallowed our TYTs together, we made a promise. That we wouldn't give in. That we wouldn't waste our extra 8 hours. That we wouldn't give Who Gives A Fuck Incorporated any more time of our one and only precious lives.

They fired us both at the end of the workday, at 13pm.

"Jenny? Pumpkin Spice Latte for Jenny?"

This was about one week into unemployment. Or: 7x(24+8) = 224 hours into unemployment. Leisure time is a lot less fun when it's involuntarily forced on you. Still, I tried to make the best of it. By hanging out at Starbucks and hitting on the barista, Sam.

"That's my drink! But, ooh, Sam sweetie..." I loosened my coat. "...could you add a bit more cream for me?"

"uh. sure."

One creaming later, I took my pumpkin spice back to my table, where Darren was waiting. "You know, that kid's almost young enough to be your--" I whispered a shut up darren.

God, Darren took the unemployment pretty hard. At least my TO DO list mostly consisted of stuff you could do for free, but all the things Darren's longed to do his whole life -- skydiving, seeing Paris, miniature horse racing -- those cost, you know, money. Which is a lot harder to come by when you're the recently-unemployed breadloser of your family.

And, fuuuuuck, his family. His marriage was not going well. It was shaky before, but it's been so much worse since he took the TYT. His wife couldn't understand him when he spoke 33% faster. His daughter no longer wanted to play games with him since he can move and think 33% faster. All that could be fixed if his family also took the TYT -- but after watching a news segment about some college kid overdosing on TYT, who suffered 100 years of pain in 5 minutes before dying -- they're sure as hell not going near the stuff.

So, Darren was at Starbucks. Hanging out with me.

"Jenny, this isn't right."

"Look, Darren, I know Sam's young, but he's not that y--"

"No, damn it Jenny, I mean all this." He pointed outside the window. A stressed-out businessman was running past a crowd of pigeons at 133% speed. Or, from our perspective: a normal-speed businessman was running past a crowd of pigeons, that were flying away at 75% speed.

"People were given the literal time of their lives, and they're all wasting it on doing the things they hate. Jenny, this is wrong. We need to stop this."

I almost snorted my cream. "Ha! And what are our unemployed asses going to do about it?"

"I don't know! Something! Anything!"

"Oh I know, let's kill Professor Harrington. This is Hollywood logic, right? We kill a single guy and suddenly the whole system's fixed? Or maybe this is Indie Film logic. Let's create a touching viral video that'll show the whole wide world the value of taking time to smell the sweet roses!"

"Jenny, I'm serious."

"Well so am I, Darren!" My spit flew out at 75% speed, from our perspective. "There's nothing we can do about this. If nobody else will use TYT the way it was meant to, at least we should. And that means forgetting about everyone else, and just taking time to enjoy our lives. Screw 'em! Screw 'em all!"

"'re angry because you secretly agree with me."

"Oh FUCK you."

"Yeah, you are! I know you hate that our whole world's on a treadmill that just keeps getting faster and faster. And I know you hate that, if anyone tries to slow down, they get thrown off the treadmill. Like me. Like you."

"Na na na not liiiiiiistening~" I diverted my eyes to check out Sam's sweet ass. Damn it. If I'd known what Darren was going to do... if I'd known that was going to be the last time I talked to Darren... I don't know. I don't know what I would have done.

"Jenny, I can't do this alone. I need you to help me unplug the treadmill."

"Heh. What, is SAVE THE WORLD on your to-do list, now?"

Darren gave me a defeated smile. He picked up his bag full of job applications, and walked towards the exit.

"Why not, Jenny? We have all the time in the world."

They made a 16 hour pill.

Not Professor Harrington -- he's since gone on retirement, nobody knows where. Rumor has it he's running a tantric sex club somewhere in Nepal. No, instead of Professor Harrington, it was Slimy Snakes In Suits Incorporated who created the 16 hour pill. The CEO was giving an interview on the news:

"Yes, we created a breakthrough improvement to "Harrington's" "original" formula. You may notice I'm using air quotes, because it turned out "his" formula used a part of a patent we acquired 10 years ago. Our excellent legal team handled it, and the formula is now rightfully ours."

We made pharmaceuticals at my old company? I didn't know that. Wait, what did we do at my old company?

"Our enhanced 16 hour TYT pill is the result of weeks of hard work. This may be hard to understand, but you see, 8 plus 8 equals 16, so if you--"

I missed Darren. I had already gone through my entire to-do list (except for Sam), and this was when I was still only on the 8-hour pill. I tried contacting Darren, but he never replied to my texts. I checked his Twitbook Plus feed, no update. I even went to the extreme, and tried visiting his house, but his wife just yelled at me, at 75% speed.

"Are you going to make a 24-hour pill?" a reporter asked.

"We already have an experimental line of 24-hour pills, and we're currently using them internally to improve the productivity of our top scientists, who are working on a 32-hour pill. That project should be complete around..." The CEO checked his phone. ""

Darren, where were you? You were my friend.

"Oh, also Harrington forgot to mention this, but these pills don't shorten your lifespan. Your body and mind speed up in relative time, but you still live the same amount of absolute time. Harrington invented a solution to... I mean, we invented a--"

You were my only friend.

I swear, I tried not to give in. I really did.

I tried making new friends at meetups, but they were all on 48-hour TYT pills, and I was still only on 8. So that's... let me do the math... (24+48)/(24+8) = 2.25 = 225% faster than me. Everyone talked so fast, they sounded like chipmunks. And to them, I must have sounded like Fat Albert.

But it was getting back home from those meetups that was hell. They don't let us 8-pillers drive anymore, because we drive too slow, relative to others. And biking would be way too dangerous for me, what with all the 48-pill drivers out there. So I tried walking. But I had to run across the crosswalks if I wanted to make it in time.

I can't even watch Netflix anymore since 16-pill's the slowest they stream it at these days.

I gave in.

One click. That's all it took. Amazon said my new line of experimental 72-pills would arrive within two business relative-days. For me, it arrived in one hour.

This morning -- so, what, two relative-decades ago? -- I found out Darren was dead.

He was living with a small isolated community in the far-off lands of Canada, founded by, guess who, Professor Harrington. They're a group of artists, citizens, and scientists... and they're doing everything they can. They're engineering a benign virus to infect people and deliver an antidote for the pills. They're creating stunning works of art to force people to stop and appreciate the beauty of the universe. And they're building a rich, deep community to support and foster this way of life.

No tantric sex club, though.

I'll admit, it was near-impossible finding them; they made sure of that. But nothing's impossible when you have enough time. And I definitely had enough of that.

Here's what my schedule looked like this morning, in absolute-time:

0600: wake up
0700: learn programming
0800: hack into my old workplace's servers & get Cliché Dystopia Corporation Incorporated's secret formula for their experimental 2,400-pill
0900: learn biochemistry & neuropsychology
1100: improve the formula, manufacture a 1,000,000-pill, and take it.
1101: here goes nothing.
1101: learn quantum physics
1110: solve a few unsolved problems in quantum physics
1122: build a quantum computer
1126: use it to break the encryption on all internet communication
1128: use it to break the encryption on all satellite communication
1132: hijack a few private image-capturing satellites
1140: learn computational neuroscience
1145: create an AI to scan yottabytes of internet traffic & trillions of millimeter-resolution satellite images, to find Darren.
1148: no photos of Darren found, but internet metadata showed Darren was in direct contact with Professor Harrington(!!!)
1149: told AI to search for satellite images of Professor Harrington
1151: Professor Harrington found in Canada!
1152: hijack a weather drone to make a sky-written message to Professor Harrington, identifying myself as a friend of Darren's, and giving him my phone number.
1153: Professor Harrington writes a message on a piece of cardboard explaining that he doesn't have a phone, and shows it to my drone. fuck's sake. we have a cardboard-drone conversation instead.

That's when I learnt that Darren had volunteered to be the first human trial for their pill antidote. It worked, but had severe side effects. Darren died.

But he did not die in vain. The autopsy let them pinpoint exactly the flaws in their antidote, they iterated on it, and their 2nd and 3rd human trials were a success. In the next few months (absolute-months, sadly), they'll be working on a way to deliver this antidote through a benign virus, in order to give it to everyone. In order to let humanity really take its time back.

To unplug the treadmill.

Professor Harrington invited me to come to Darren's funeral. I said yes.

. . .

. . .

. . .

My tears were floating around me, falling at 0.002% speed.

You know what, I needed a break. A sabbatical, if you will. So, I decided to learn every language. Invented a couple of my own while I was at it. Took up rice-grain sculpture for a couple relative-months. Watched every film. Played every videogame. Read every book.

And you know what? Of all the books I read, I hated the dystopian novels the most. Coz here's the two biggest bullshit things about 'em:

One -- in most dystopia stories, some horrible thing is forced upon the public. Big Brother or bumblepuppies or whatever. Bullshit. When the thing that will destroy humanity comes, it will be made with the best intentions, and we'll all buy into it willingly. Nobody forced us on this treadmill. It's just us.

But, two -- in dystopia stories, the protagonist usually caves in. Guy says 2+2=5 or hangs himself in a tower, spoiler alert. And yeah sure, I'm not naive, good people lose all the time, but if you're writing a dystopian story to help us avoid that future, why depress your audience, killing their motivation to actually do something about it? Coz, yeah, 1984 was so fucking influential, it stopped governments and corporations from spying on people, ever. Uh huh.

But I'm not going to cave in. All those relative-decades ago, I made a promise. I promised my friend, my only friend:

I wouldn't give in.

Should probably tie up some loose plot threads here. Harrington gave me the instructions for traveling to his community, plus the formula for the antidote. I manufactured the antidote, and brought myself down to a 1000-pill level. I still needed to be fast enough to make my way through traffic and get to the airport.

But first, I stopped by Darren's former house. His poor family. They've refused to take the TYT pill all this time, and now they're moving at 2% the speed of everyone else. I saw Darren's wife bending over -- in slow motion -- to pick up a bag of groceries her neighbors left her, since she can't possibly go to the grocery store herself. While she was busy blinking, I put a note in her bag explaining Darren's heroic sacrifice. She deserved to know.

Afterwards, I stopped by my old workplace and flipped them the bird. Two birds, in fact. Then, I went to Starbucks, and told Sam he's a good kid, but as much as I appreciate the flirtatious attention he's been giving an old woman like me, he should be dating other girls and/or boys his age, and I wished him well in life, and that I'll have a tall green tea latte.

Hm. My flight to Canada doesn't leave for another couple relative-hours. I still have time to kill.

No, not kill.

Time to live.

That's when I saw it: a monarch butterfly. It seemed to be moving so, so slowly: 2% of its normal speed, to be exact. I always thought butterfly wings simply flapped up and down. But in super slow-motion, I could see that their wings actually twist and turn, in a kind of "figure 8" motion. An infinity sign, in every flap.

It was delicately hovering over a flower bed outside the Starbucks, trying to find the perfect flower to feast upon. And I whispered: Take your time, little buddy.

Take your time.

this story was originally posted on r/WritingPrompts

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1 public comment
39 days ago
I enjoyed the few minutes I took out of my workday to read this short fiction. :)
Toledo OH
37 days ago
That was a fun read. My employer would use this for evil and only evil. More evil then bumblepuppies. But everyone should watch The wWre. That show is dope as eff.
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