New movie radiates historic events


Bill Mann
Posted 7/19/23

On July 16, 1945, the Atomic Age began. And this weekend, a film detailing it, “Oppenheimer,” opens at the Rose.

I’ve taken an interest in the Manhattan Project for years. I …

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New movie radiates historic events



On July 16, 1945, the Atomic Age began. And this weekend, a film detailing it, “Oppenheimer,” opens at the Rose.

I’ve taken an interest in the Manhattan Project for years. I consider the development of the atomic bomb to be the biggest story of our time. People should learn how J. Robert Oppenheimer shepherded the first doomsday weapon’s creation.

As for the movie, it’s a formidable three hours. I’d avoid hydrating for several hours previous.

I’ve read several books about the Manhattan Project, and even better, have been to its epicenter (Ground Zero, so to speak) in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Twice. I’d suggest you visit.

Los Alamos is a fascinating place. It’s remote, up on a mountain top, and Oppenheimer only knew about it because his family brought him up there to ride horses when he was a youth. Speaking of young men, this site where the physicists and their families lived and worked was formerly a school for rich kids. The government appropriated the private school for the secret project, and the students were all excused. One of them: future novelist Gore Vidal.

The Manhattan Project museum in Los Alamos — the town is surrounded by government research offices even today — is a must-see. Among the exhibits is the now-famous letter Albert Einstein sent FDR urging him to develop an atomic weapon before Hitler did. Roosevelt agreed.

The project was so secret that everyone arriving by train at Santa Fe down below was very carefully screened, as Nazi spies were presumed lurking. And the birthplace of every child born at the Los Alamos site during the war was listed as a Santa Fe post-office box!

Oppenheimer and his scientists detonated “The Gadget,” as the plutonium prototype bomb was called, at what is now called Trinity Site, which is about 75 miles southeast of Los Alamos, out in the desert.

Trinity’s only open two days a year. The next opening will be in October, and it’s likely to be jammed. There is very little radiation left.

(If you’re in the vicinity, just southeast of Trinity is another fascinating place — White Sands National Park. It’s one of only two gypsum deserts in the world, and walking on gypsum is, well, weird. And pulling into a parking lot there in the summer is even weirder: The gypsum plowed up in the parking lot looks eerily like fresh-fallen snow.)

“Oppenheimer” is the first iMax movie filmed in black and white, although there’ll be some color scenes. 

Sight unseen — dare I say it? — the much-anticipated movie should be … a blast. It’s adapted from the Pulitzer-winning book on Oppenheimer, “American Prometheus.”

On a lighter note, humorist Paul Rudnick: “Because MyPillow is failing, Mike Lindell is auctioning off “hundreds of pieces of equipment” including:

- Tinfoil hat which detects voter fraud

- Kari Lake

- Device which fills pillows with old Trump wigs

- Ice machine from Mar-a-Lago

- Mannequins used as dates for Stephen Miller

Puzzle this: many of you know about Wordle in the New York Times. But another NYT game, Spelling Bee, is just as addictive. My wife and I generally reach Genius level … but only by solving it together. With these and other curated new games, The Gray Lady is onto something addictive. I can remember when the comics-free Times’s main draw was news articles.

— Another interesting travel destination this summer is a lot closer than New Mexico. The small town of Boonville, Calif., about 100 miles north of San Francisco, is the only town in the U.S. with its own language. Boontling is a jargon spoken only in Boonville. It’s believed that it was developed so adults in the hops fields could gossip in front of the kids. We know about the Navajo Code Talkers, but the U.S. military also used Boonville residents to hide communications from the enemy. The town’s lone phone booth, for example, is labeled a Bucky Walter, and the name of a local restaurant is called The Horn of Zeese, boontling for a cup of coffee. I am not making this up. I’ve visited Boonville.

— Bad streets, but a new pool? The usual cadre of PT right-wingers are spreading these lies, predictably, as they have in the past. Taxpayer alert: Don’t believe a word. PT needs both fixes.

(PT columnist Bill Mann is