Fooling Around into the Future
Steven Johnson's book Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World is full of weird and wonderful facts that I will soon forget (e.g. the word checkmate is derived from the Persian terms shah and mat, which translate as king and defeat) but the tone and essential theme is something I will remember and enjoy: the future begins with how we play-- how we experiment with sound and taste and vision and games and fashion and public space-- and while there are detriments, of course, the cotton revolution and the ensuing development of the department store created the consumer fashion economy, but also drove Victorian women to kleptomania, as they were so enamoured with all the new wares on display . . . anyway, the book itself is a wonderland of the exotic and the diverse, because when there is new technology available, there is usually a Cambrian explosion (my metaphor) of diversity . . . two centuries ago, the West End of London hosted much more than conventional theatrical plays-- today you go there for content and quality of a particular format-- but in 1820 there were a plethora (that's right, El Guapo, a plethora) of formats: "there were plays and musicals, but there were also panoramas and magic-lantern ghost shows, and animated paintings populated by small robots-- and dozens of other permutations . . . the West End functioned as a grand carnival of illusion, with each attraction dependent on its own unique technology to pull of its tricks."