Monday, June 15, 2009

Secrets of the Schuylkill


I'm a sucker for industrial history, so I jumped at the chance to take the Secrets of the Schuylkill river tour on Saturday. It was an almost two hour trip up to the Fairmount Water Works (above) and then down to Bartram's Garden and back. The tour is arranged by the Schuykill River Development Corporation, which is developing walkways and river bank parks along the Schuylkill, part of a long project for recovering human use of a riverfront that was inaccessible when I first came to this city.

Above is a snap of the Fairmount Water Works, which in the eighteenth century was the second most popular tourist attraction in North America, after Niagara Falls. I kid you not. It was the first system ever built for providing clean water to a major city. Before it was built, you got your drinking water from a well or a stream that had just meandered past the pigsties and outhouses of a colonial city. Afterwards -- no more water-borne disease! Or at least a lot less of it.

The Water Works has a secondary claim to fame as well. In The Medium is the Massage (no, that's not a typo), Marshall McLuhan held it up as a prime example of new innovations invariably taking old forms. The first major water-pumping installation in the world, and they gussied it up to look like a Greek temple.

On the awards watch . . .

"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled . . ." took second place in the Asimov's Readers' Awards, losing handily to "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson. Congratulations, Kij!

You can hear the podcast of my story here on Escape Pod. It comes with the niftiest parental warning I've seen in some time:

Rated PG. Contains the destruction of cities, a lack of trust, and sentient suits.

Oh, and I've seen the new Star Trek movie . . .

Wow. All I can say is . . . "What a dog's breakfast!" Would it hurt these guys to buy a decent plot before they start piling up the special effects? Are we supposed to believe that all of Earth is helpless before a mining drill that could be taken out by two guys with space-Uzis? Am I supposed to find it moving that Spock is willing to to risk the destruction of Earth and everybody on it just so that his younger self and Kirk can become friends?

No wonder they write Slash about these guys.



Andrew said...

But hey, at least they kept the miniskirt uniforms! ;)

Michael Swanwick said...

Okay, yeah, I admit to being a little embarrassed at how much I appreciated Zoe Saldana's legs. I may have to go work at a soup kitchen to make up the karmic deficit.