Thursday, February 9, 2012

Internet Flanuer

This A.M. I was reading one of the Paris Review's "Week in Culture" dealios from one Matthew Thurber. I never finish the damned things as they are boring. However, in this version he mentioned Harry Stephen Keeler, a now obscure author of sci fi and detective fiction. As most everything out of copy right is available on the intertubes, I ran a quick search for him and found his "John Jones's Dollar." It's an odd little story told from the perspective of a historian at some point in the distant future when, of all things, education is broadcast via some kind of computer-based video system to students at all parts of the world and the galaxy. One aspect of the future is a lack of names, it's long numbers instead, and eugenics. However, the story of John Jones's dollar is, in fact, the story of a committed socialist who deposits one dollar in a bank account and bequeaths to his 40th generation child. The money grows, because of compound interest, until it is more money than exists in the whole of the know universe. The parent of the 40th generation John Jones has a fight with his girl friend and never marries. It is strongly suggested that he lives a life of bitter romantic disappointment.[1] Keeler's version of the federations of planets steps in and seizes the money and introduces socialism and, it seems, eugenics; although students being what they are, the eugenic future includes the usual lazy-bones. The short story's finale finds the Professor musing on Jones's prescience in creating a socialist future but wondering how he new the 40 John Jones would be born.

I also found this movie based on a Keeler novel in which serial cad, bounder, and warmonger Floyd Cooper is murdered by three men only one of whom is guilty. The guilty party, himself a warmonger, is caught by a slightly loopy scientist's lie detector. The internet is the 21st centuries Arcade.

[1] I urge, given the surname of the cartoonist who started this whole mess, that you find and read James Thurber's story of a relationship ending quarrel.

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