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Journal of No. 118


October 15th, 2018

From Bacteria to Bach and Back ; When the Sleeper Wakes @ 04:22 pm


From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, by Daniel Dennett (my spirit animal)

In many ways this book ties together a lot of Dennett's idea from different areas of his interest: primarily evolution and consciousness. I think he tries too hard to smash them together into something that looks like a broader worldview, but I'm not sure he succeeds. I'm definitely on board with much of what he says, but then the intervening spit and glue that holds it together just doesn't come together into a picture for me. My verdict: just go read Consciousness Explained one more time. His best book on his hardest subject.

When the Sleeper Wakes, by HG Wells

One of those ancient SF stories that everyone recognizes and no one reads. And now I know why. Our hero falls into a strange trance and lives on through centuries. His cousin providentially invests his money wisely, and When the Sleeper Awakes, he owns half the planet. The planet is being run, more or less, by a council of capitalist pigs, while The Sleeper has sympathies with the downtrodden people.

Wells gets some things extremely right about the future: windmills for power generation, annoying advertising, capitalist pigs. And of course, many ludicrously wrong things: moving sidewalks instead of streets to carry people around.

Anyway, after the Sleeper Awakes, there is a far too overlong section of tedious chases and alarums as the people and the powers that be fight, while the Sleeper is largely a figurehead or in hiding. And then finally, the powers that be try that one thing -- that last straw to break the camel's back and get the Sleeper to exert his power and influence to overthrow the status quo. The powers that be attempt to use black people as policemen.

“I have been thinking about these negroes. I don’t believe the people intend any hostility to me, and, after all, I am the Master. I do not want any negroes brought to London. It is an archaic prejudice perhaps, but I have peculiar feelings about Europeans and the subject races. Even about Paris—”

Ostrog stood watching him from under his drooping brows. “I am not bringing negroes to London,” he said slowly. “But if—”

“You are not to bring armed negroes to London, whatever happens,” said Graham [the Sleeper - aka the Master]. “In that matter I am quite decided.”

Ostrog, after a pause, decided not to speak, and bowed deferentially.


Guess who orders black policemen despite explicit instructions not to?

“These negroes must not come to London,” said Graham. “I am Master and they shall not come.”

Ostrog glanced at Lincoln, who at once came towards them with his two attendants close behind him. “Why not?” asked Ostrog.

“White men must be mastered by white men.


So the Sleeper puts on his MBGA hat and puts a stop to this nonsense. As long as I'm spoiling this craptastrophic book, he also gets the girl with the goo-goo eyes and trembling lips.

 
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Journal of No. 118