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November 12, 2004

Books

Last week Eric Utne stopped by to chat for a couple hours, and left me a copy of his new book Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac, a delightful little annual self-consciously patterned on the Old Farmer's Almanac. It's intended for urban audiences across North America, and thus necessarily suffers from a bit of generalism: How to write about natural October happenings in Miami, Seattle, Boston and Phoenix in one paragraph? But Eric's co-contributors do as good a job as I think may be possible in covering this phenologically polyglot continent, and I'm going to be digging into this almanac a lot over the next year.
A couple days after Eric stopped by, I ran into my pal Chris Carlsson, creator of Critical Mass and also of Processed World magazine. He walked toward me with a broad smile and silently handed me a copy of his new novel, After the Deluge - a post-apocalyptic, utopian San Francisco story. I devoured it over the next couple days. It does need some editing - think I'll volunteer for the next edition to catch those typos. And Chris does share with me a tendency to strain to include compelling ideas in text whether or not they advance the plot. But the book is delightful, a compelling petty-crime story set in a quasi-communist, egalitarian creative society in which money has been superceded and people work at things they find interesting, with a few hours of quasi-voluntary drudge work expected of all to keep the streets swept and the garbage picked up.
A few days ago I read some conservative commenter or other aghast at the suggestion that we decentralize the food production system, that each of us should take responsibility for growing at least some of our vegetables, raising a chicken or two. This commenter thought that seemed abhorrent: he couldn't imagine a world in which most folks had a vegetable garden other than as the result of state coercion. I guess one man's neighborly, cooperative village is another's Khmer Rouge forced labor hellhole. I thought of that guy while reading Chris' novel: he'd surely see the scenario as anarchist totalitarianism of the worst kind.
Not me. All those people making art and music and love, the worst local political fight being one between gardeners who want unpaved space and bicycle activists who want paths, pitching in an hour a month to keep society rolling and working at fascinating projects the rest of the time. Also, it's only the 22nd century yet biodiversity has recovered, and harbor porpoises swim among the submerged buildings of the Financial District. In other words, Not Going To Happen.

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Comments

Yeah, well, we can always hope. The guy had guts to even call for such a radical thing as growing a real live plant and eating it - I mean, YUCK! DIRT! - let alone those bloody chickens.

Posted by: beth at November 12, 2004 02:54 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs