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Monday, October 16, 2017

The High Cost of Development

Growing up in Los Angeles, I was used to living in the city. The city was all around me. I might cross an imaginary line here or there, and suddenly I was in a city with a different name. But no matter what they called it, every city was really L.A. It was all L.A. And I loved it.

Then I moved to San Diego, and I saw how much easier it was to get around. I saw how beautiful it was, with hills and land that had not yet been developed. Great swaths of land separated areas, and many of the towns in San Diego had discernible borders, separated by more of that green space again. 

Ah yes, green space. Undeveloped land. Land in which plants and trees can grow unimpeded. The separation necessary to give communities an individual look and feel. Yeah, I remember that. I suppose there's a little of it around, here and there, but so much of that is gone these days. Especially where I live. Houses have been converted into apartment blocks. Schools have been razed and the land devoted to condominium communities. A historic military base has been converted into a brand new master-planned neighborhood, with a shopping, restaurants, businesses, museums, and a megachurch/private school to meet the residents needs. Traffic clogs the streets, and at certain times a day, it's impossible to get on or off the freeway, and travel a handful of miles in less than a 30 to 45 minutes. 

I always knew that San Diego was a nice place to live. Apparently, a lot of other people agree with me. When I chose to live here, one million people resided in the city, and two-and-a-half million in the county. Now it's the eighth largest city in the United States, with 1.4 million residents, and over three million in the county. Officials estimate that population numbers will climb to 1.5 million in 2020, with 3.5 million in the county. And it won't slow down from there. By 2040, 1.8 million people will live in the city, and over 4 million in the county. By 2050, nearly 2 million people will reside in the city, with 4.3 million filling the county.

Even with all the development, San Diego is still a nice place to live. And as I gaze into my personal future, I know I will be able to minimize the time spent in traffic by traveling at different times of the day. But all those new residents will demand more housing, hospitals, car dealerships, shopping centers, industrial parks, and all the other development that accompanies an increase in population. The more they develop, the more they make San Diego an attraction, the more people will travel here to see the sights, and some of them will opt to remain. 

Amid all the development that population growth will bring, some areas of the city that are difficult to navigate now, such as the downtown district, will grow even more difficult. Some of the communities in the county will lose their quaintness as they are redeveloped into high-rise housing, shopping centers, restaurants, coffee houses, bars, and nightclubs. Inevitably, all that green space I fell in love with will disappear, and all the boundaries between communities will blur, until San Diego becomes one large, homogenous city, just like Los Angeles.

I may have traded the second-largest city in the United States for the eighth largest, but it's beginning to feel like I didn't. And I'm beginning to wonder if that's what I want for my future, and if not, what my options are. That's the problem with numbers. They point out that the present isn't the past, and the future definitely won't be.

Change means growth. Some aspects of any development will benefit you, others less so. Choosing what kind of change you want to embrace--either to accept the inevitable, or trade it in for something entirely new--can be difficult. Still, planning, and looking at projections, gives you the opportunity to make decisions about your future, instead of allowing others to make those decisions for you. 

That's always a good thing.

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 9, 2017

Hello Norman Clegg, Farewell Star Trek Security Guards

Waiting for Norman Clegg to have tea with me

A year-and-a-half is a long time, but that's how long it's been since I've updated by Top Ten Blog Posts. "Catching a Glimpse of Norman Clegg," always a popular post, has since captured the number one position, and continues to attract new readers to The Dragon's Cache. Two others have not only clawed their way onto the list, but done so in style. "Jean and Lionel's House in As Time Goes By" has risen to number three, while "James Herriott Trivia II" has clawed its way to number five. Meanwhile, one-time favorites like "Looking For Alec and Zoe" and "Those Nameless Star Trek Security Guards" have fallen off the list. 

You can review the new standings by clicking the link to my page on the right hand side. 

It's interesting to note that, while I started this blog chiefly to discuss the books I read, three of my top five posts are about British TV shows. Even more interesting is that two of those three are comedies, which usually don't have the fan base of a drama or a science fiction series. Even a fan-favorite topic, such as discussing the woeful role of the security guard in the original "Star Trek", couldn't keep pace with two posts about comics, an interest that revived five years ago, and more than a year after I started The Dragon's Cache. Amazingly, two of my posts are just about me, my thoughts and experiences, unconnected with a TV series, or a novel or comic. I'm not sure what's made them so special to readers, but I'm glad they're still on the list.

Like I said, a year-and-a-half is a long time. Sometimes it's fun to revisit the past, and see where you used to be. I look forward to doing so in the future (perhaps not so long as eighteen months from now), and seeing how my popular posts reflects reader interest and real-life developments. 

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 2, 2017

Norman Clegg Was Here

Holmfirth, a village in England, will always be a special place. For it was here that writer Roy Clarke's TV series "Last of the Summer Wine" was filmed. And it was here that Norman Clegg, a character portrayed by actor Peter Sallis, lived. Norman wasn't the most colorful personality in "Last of the Summer Wine." He didn't capture our hearts with outrageous antics or memorable catchphrases. Instead, he was just a kindly old gentlemen. An everyman.

Norman Clegg has his foibles and human frailties. He had a hard time saying no to people, whether it was to the latest schemes of his friend Foggy Dewhurst, or to shopkeeper Auntie Wainwright, who never let him leave her store without selling him something. He was afraid of women with a temper, such as Ivy and Nora Batty, as well as women who might have designs on his future, such as Marina, that bloom of eternal youth. As such, I suspect Norman Clegg became the character most of us could empathize with in "Last of the Summer Wine." 

Out of all the posts I wrote on "Last of the Summer Wine," ones that had Norman Clegg in the title got the most page views. One piece in particular, "Catching a Glimpse of Norman Clegg's House," has become my all-time popular post. Why do you think that is, when the piece represents my frustration over being trapped in a bus tour on a rainy day in Holmfirth, and not having a good view of Norman Clegg's house? Is it because, of all the characters on the show, we most want to visit his house, and see how he lived?

As Norman Clegg was an everyman, we can empathize with him. We can imagine ourselves as him, walking along the river in Holmfirth with Compo, or through the memorial park while listening to Foggy's latest scheme. Perhaps we imagine standing beside Norman and gazing down at Holmfirth Church. Does he remind us of someone we've known and lost? Does he remind us a little of ourselves? 

We may not idolize his fear of loud, angry women, but we can certainly understand it. And who among us does not have trouble saying No to persistent salespeople and folks promoting worthy causes? Norman Clegg was kind, gentle, and easy to be with. Who wouldn't want to be with him, or for that matter, be more like him?

Can you imagine Norman Clegg sitting beside you while you read this post? Who does he remind you of? A relative? A special friend? The family member or role model you never had? The person you'd like to be? Or...

Dragon Dave

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Buck's True Friend Part 2

Only once does Doctor Theopolis lose faith in Buck: when he and Twiki follow him to Ardala's flagship, and see him working in the launch bay. But once Buck explains that the pirate ships are really Draconian fighters, that Kane and Ardala are planning to invade Earth, and he's going to stop them by loading bombs into the fighter ships' exhausts, the Computer A.I. is back on Buck's side again, and asks what he can do to help. Dr Theopolis signals Earth authorities, insists they know of Buck's role in the entire affair, and proudly proclaim's his human friend's innocence. 

In Richard A Lupoff's novelization, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doctor Theopolis pleads with Wilma to rescue Buck from the Draconian flagship. At first, Colonel Wilma Deering, leading a fighter attack on Ardala's ship, refuses to believe Buck's innocence. She describes Buck's death as no great loss. But Doctor Theopolis doesn't give up. "Forget us," Theopolis urged, "we're just machines, anyhow. Try to find Buck!"

Doctor Theopolis, one of the Computer A.I.'s, and a former member of the Computer Council that rules New Chicago: just a machine? Twiki, a robot drone with the ability to think and act for himself, just a machine? Two friends who continually support, argue for, and actively protect their a displaced human that no one else trusts, just machines? 


Sadly, Buck and Doctor Theopolis would drift apart from each other in the TV series. No doubt the Computer A.I. becomes immensely busy investigating Dr. Apol's part in the Draconian conspiracy, tracking down more enemy agents, and taking over Dr. Apol's traitor's duties. Still, it's not a fellow human who becomes Buck's best friend in the first season, but Twiki, his robot drone. While Buck likes Doctor Huer and Wilma Deering, his fellow humans think he's kind of strange. 

While there's undoubted empathy between them, Doctor Huer and Wilma Deering seem embarrassed by Buck's attempts to share his 20th Century heritage with them. Unless the knowledge and skills he gained in the 20th Century can help strengthen Earth's defenses, or accomplish something they desire, Buck's human friends are disinterested in bridging the centuries-old culture gap that separates them. Instead, Doctor Huer and Wilma view Buck's interests as irrelevant, and at best, endearing quirks in an otherwise fine character.

True friends stick by you, like you for who you are, and always believe the best in you. True friends find ways to share your interests, and embrace your concerns. They don't insist that you always come to them so that you can share in their lives. They sacrifice their own time and pleasures to be with you. Your happiness is their happiness, and they make you a real priority in their lives. In all these ways, Dr. Theopolis in the movie, and Twiki in season one, best fulfill the role of true friends in "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century." It's a shame Buck's human friends and coworkers seem inadequate to fulfill the role, but hey, this is the 25th Century, when a robot, or a computerized Artificial Intelligence, can be a real person too.

Dragon Dave

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Return to Buck Rogers: Buck's Best Friend Part 1

The film version of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" ends with Colonel Wilma Deering telling Buck that he's helped her get more in touch her feelings and her womanhood. In other words, this 20th Century man has made a positive impact on this tightly-focused, modern 25th Century woman. But the novelization (and presumably the original screenplay) ends quite differently. Author Richard A Lupoff (pen name Addison E Steele) returns us to the control room of the A.I. Overlords who rule New Chicago. This time, it is not Buck Rogers who is on trial, but Doctor Apol, the computer overlord who earlier prosecuted Buck. We learn that it is he who has passed crucial information to the Draconians on food shipments to Earth, which allowed the Draconians to perpetuate their piracy scam, and nearly led to Earth being forced into an unequal partnership with the empire. The judgment of the overlords is swift. As Buck was once sentenced to banishment from the Inner City, Dr. Apol is sentenced to death. 

After watching the film version several times this year, I'm left with the sense that another computer overlord, Doctor Theopolis, is really Buck's truest friend. The Draconians, Commander Kane and Princess Ardala, may have awakened him from his 500 years of hibernation, but they distrusted him, and callously used him as an unwittingly spy, known the transmitter they hid on his ship would be found and that Buck would be branded a traitor. Later, Ardala may have wanted him as a consort or husband, but it'd be hard for Buck to trust someone who might love you one minute, and want to kill you the next, or for that matter, sacrifice you if she found it politically expedient. 

Doctor Huer and Colonel Wilma Deering are little better in the film version. Initially Doctor Huer believes Buck's story, but loses his belief in Buck the minute the Draconian transmitter is found on Buck's ship. Wilma's attitude to Buck is as changeable as Ardala's. One moment she likes him, the next she fervently believes he's a spy. Like Ardala, Wilma can only love him if she believes she possesses him. In the novel, Lupoff's portrayal of both humans is more complicated. Still, they seem faithless to Buck, and hardly embody the lofty ideal of "innocent until proven guilty."

But Dr. Theopolis likes and believes in Buck from the first. When Buck first lands on Earth, the humans lock him up in a room for nearly a day, and thoughtlessly return to their duties while a thorough search is made of his ship and background. While Buck is sitting on his hands, and has trouble taking in the notion that he's now in the 25th Century, and everything and everyone he has ever known is lost to him forever, Dr. Theopolis talks to him. He has immense responsibilities as a Computer Overlord. Yet he drops them to keep Buck company during this waiting period, and bring him up to date on life in the 25th Century. He's complimentary, kind, and sympathetic to Buck's plight.

He's also loyal to Buck. He demonstrates this by defending him at trial. He does so knowing how the Computer Council works. If they rule against Buck, Doctor Theopolis will be banished along with Buck. For Doctor Theopolis and Twiki, banishment means certain death, as the scavengers will surely find them, dismantle them, and sell them for scrap value. But Doctor Theopolis risks his life for the sake of his new human friend, a man with no 25th Century connects, and who no one else will stand up for.

When Ardala requests that Buck attend her reception on Earth, Dr. Theopolis is by his side, complimenting him on his appearance, and insists he belongs at this regal gathering of Earth's leaders and dignitaries. When Buck claims he has a headache, the Computer A.I. immediately orders Twiki to hurry off and get him a pain reliever. Dr. Theopolis may admonish Twiki when the drone emulates Buck, but he doesn't criticize his human friend's 1980s style of dancing. Meanwhile, Wilma Deering frowns at Buck's decision to request a change in music, and complains that his display is barbaric.

Hardly the actions of a true friend, wouldn't you agree?

Dragon Dave