“Dark Age Ahead” by Jane Jacobs

The last significant work from the late Jane Jacobs, written just a few years before her death, Dark Age Ahead seems like an odd anomaly in the fossil record.

I recall it being critically panned, as indeed was the general reception, to the extent it was really noticed. Perhaps some critics who felt awkward, about being too harsh on an elderly figure whose earlier work they considered important, found politely ignoring Dark Age Ahead easier.

More recently I have noticed one or two reappraisals, though I don’t recall the details offhand. They got me thinking about the book, though, and curious to check it out now that I have a bit of time available.

It is, I think, an interesting and odd historic artifact.

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Dr. Doom on the Riviera

I went browsing the one-dollar back issues at Carol & John’s Comic Shop, yesterday, as my “Black Friday” shopping. I didn’t find a lot to interest me this time. I spent eight dollars plus tax, but this was a dollar well-spent:

Super-Villain Team-Up issue #15, reprinting a 1970 story from Tales to Astonish issues #4-5.

The plot of this one is basically: the Red Skull and some tag-along z-listers invade and conquer Doom’s kingdom of Latveria while he’s away, then he returns and routs them. It isn’t bad. Journeyman work from Stan Lee’s journeyman brother Larry Lieber.

The highlight of this one, however, is that Dr. Doom visits the Riviera, basically just to kill time while conscripted labor is rebuilding Castle Doom.*

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Next generation’s buzzing

This really needs to be pasted into the scrapbook of my blog. Out of all the comments on this year’s Lakewood elections and my work in them and what may follow, I am so pleased at having helped make this possible:

Life and political struggle 2019

My life has reached a point where it feels like the year may as well end in early November. Because working toward the November election looms so large each year, consumes so much effort in every form, and this year even accounted for so much of my paid professional work…

I wake up about one week into November, not only with a jet lagged mystification about how I went from Memorial Day to late Autumn so quickly, but exhausted, and at something of a loss for what purpose these several more weeks in the calendar year serve.

With the 2010s closing out, it feels like I should review the past decade as well as the past year, but the past decade for me has mostly been the tale of two half-decades. The five years 2010-14 were largely personal: personal projects, solitude, lots of “me time,” personal life dramas, a lot of reading and writing and travel and reflection.

This began changing steadily each year, right from the beginning of 2015, in a way that almost feels scripted.

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Meghan F. George for Mayor of Lakewood

I can supply plenty of abstract reasons to elect Meghan George as Lakewood’s next mayor. I think Meghan is genuinely better prepared, by professional experience, for the responsibilities of administration and management.

As a Lakewood resident, I think Meghan is definitely the choice to work on behalf of the whole community. She’s her own person; she has support from a broad spectrum of the population, including my friends and allies, but she is not dependent on any narrow faction. She was never appointed into office. She has cast good, independent votes on council.

Most important to me, probably, is that as an activist Meghan is the kind of person I want to deal with in government.

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Late Sept. 2019, phase shift

I spent minutes struggling for a title, here, because I’m not sure how to describe the national situation. “Dam breaking?” That describes how this moment feels, but what if a month from now the dam still seems to be there.

I wrote this in our newsletter for the Lakewood Democratic Club:

Trump pressured a foreign government (Ukraine) to open an unfounded investigation of a political opponent, in return for the release of funds which his administration was holding back. He also tried to block Congress from seeing a related whistleblower complaint.

He got busted, his personal involvement in this attempt to extort foreign election interference is now exposed, and a whole lot of other misconduct is being exposed as well.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced complete support of formal impeachment proceedings.

That’s the bare summary of the past week!

That’s a decent, simplified summary, I think. It leaves out a lot, but it covers the big news which seems to have precipitated a “phase shift,” in which suddenly House Democrats quit being scared, polling had a sudden jump in public support for impeachment, Trump and Republicans are on the defensive, and everything just seems different and that’s the part which seems to defy explanation.

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More Sequels to The Time Machine

For my 41st birthday I received a splendid copy of Time Machine II, among other things. I quite appreciate this; it’s long out of print and seems to command something of a premium online. It’s also a very enjoyable novel.

This seems to be a sequel to an earlier film adaptation from the same author, George Pal, rather than a sequel to H.G. Wells’s novel. But the differences are minor. Overall it’s well plotted and well written, with something of a wrenching ending which is mildly thought provoking and at all events an audacious curveball to throw at the reader.

Time Machine II probably ranks among my favorite three or four of the various sequels to The Time Machine which I have read so far.

Of others which I have read in the four years since my first post about this minor hobby:

  • The Space Machine by Christopher Priest is a good novel, though it has more connections with War of the Worlds than with The Time Machine.
  • Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter also involves little time travel, no Time Traveler, and even the Morlocks are fairly replaceable and undefined baddies—but they play that role in an Arthurian steampunk story which is quite entertaining.
  • Given their mutual presence in 1890s London, someone had to bring together Sherlock Holmes and the Time Traveler eventually. “The Richmond Enigma” by John DeChancie, published in the 1995 anthology Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, does so. The story is something of an also-ran among many better works in the anthology. It offers little beyond a by-the-numbers acting-out of its central meetup. The most imaginative feature is a brief coda, which adds value to the story, but in something of a tacked-on fashion.
  • Wikipedia does not yet list the above short story, but it does list a kind of “bonus scene” added to an Illustrated Classics adaptation by Shirley Bogart. For what it’s worth, I came across a copy of this at the Bookshop in Lakewood so I have read it as well.

Having read 10 of these derivative works, now, are there any general statements which come to mind?

Let’s see, Morlocks seem to be nearly as interesting to authors as the time machine itself. They feature in at least half of these stories, and apparently in others which I have not yet read, as well. They feature in two stories from which the Time Traveler himself is absent.

Even though the Eloi get much more space in the original novel, they seem to interest other authors considerably less, with the exception of Weena. A persistent desire seems to exist to give the Time Traveler another chance with his doomed admirer of the future; this is natural enough I suppose, since it’s time travel, but I have to say that multiple authors’ proposal that the Time Traveler had a sexual relationship with Weena is a little unsettling. In the original story, Weena seems childlike in both physical and intellectual development, so it would be a real stretch to imagine consent here. It’s also unconvincing that human and Eloi, separated by 800,000 years, could reproduce.

Nearly every author who picks up the story of the Time Traveler starts from the premise that he returned to the distant future of 802,701, though. The ending of the original story does not give any clear indication of when the Time Traveler intended to go for proof of time travel. Yet I suppose that this preference, too, is natural enough: the distant futures described in The Time Machine are unique to it, whereas there’s little incentive to write a journey into the past as a Time Machine sequel.

Most elements in the original story, other than the denizens of 802,701, seem to offer more work than opportunity for a writer. The story, like most stories of Sherlock Holmes, is told through an intermediary. This has created something of a smaller version of “the game” played in many derivative works about Holmes: what backstory about a rediscovered manuscript shall the author concoct to frame his or her primary story?

Unlike Holmes, though, the Time Traveler is also a much less completely developed character. His unknown name is just the most prominent example of this.

I suppose it’s a testament to the story, and to Wells’s larger reputation, that such a relative plethora of authors have been drawn nonetheless to speculate on the unresolved fate of the Time Traveler, as well as the natures of Eloi and Morlock.

The technology to save Earth’s climate

Today I saw this on Twitter, and really as far as I know there’s nothing farfetched or new, here:

I got into a brief back-and-forth with someone about the suggestion that “new technology” is where to look for hope. This notion bugs me; basically, it amounts to saying “I want this hard problem resolved for me by a new factor which doesn’t currently exist.”

This is the reality of most “technology” responses to the climate crisis. They aren’t responses, at all, but instead attempts to sidestep the issue.

That said, it occurred to me that in some sense, the reality is that we do need some incredible advancements in “technology” to survive the climate crisis.

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The Hurricane Warning

The extent, and the momentum, of corrosion in our society seems increasingly beyond rational problem solving.

I extend the recent string of deep pessimism, here, without enthusiasm. It would be nice to concentrate for a while on something else, again.

But I try, try to keep up with major events of the day, and lately this has been both very high-volume, and increasingly horrifying as they seem to gather into something like a destructive force of nature.

I’m not sure how much detail to go into, here. I’m not sure whether or not I can persuasively explain the impression of recording the reports of society going off the rails, daily for two and a half years, to someone who has not gone through the same experience.

Suffice to say that, with this experience as background, I am lately losing the ability to see relevant solutions to scale with the problems, which can credibly be accomplished by any kind of rational planned response.

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A republic worth keeping

The American right strives to subvert representative democracy, with a curated electorate that will protect the privileges of a white, patriarchal ownership class, regardless of popular will.

This has been a dedicated project for at least 50 years, and is poised to shift America further toward that end, perhaps very soon.

Contemplating that possibility today, it occurred to me that this is actually much like the reality of America’s republic at its very outset.

Morton Halperin ends a new Slate article with a familiar story about Ben Franklin, and a familiar message:

When the Constitution was being drafted behind closed doors, many feared that the Framers would create a monarchy. As Benjamin Franklin left the hall as the meeting was ending, they shouted at him: “What is it?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our ability to do so is being tested now. We must seize the moment to reestablish the republic that we were given.

We were given a republic which functioned to subvert representative democracy, with a curated electorate to protect the privileges of a white, patriarchal ownership class. We have not kept that republic, exactly, but I think the contemporary Republican Party is reestablishing it to a significant extent, and that this is the real threat, for all of Trump’s attraction to kingship.

We should not reestablish that original republic. We should, instead, reckon honestly with what it was, and with the long and far from finished efforts which went into creating a system of government worth defending.

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