All Coming Out in the Time Machine Wash

Staying out of touch has never been easier. We’ve all got our personal teleporters to spirit us away from the here and now. Technology is making it possible for us to remove ourselves from our communities, to stay at home not watching the world go by. Instead, we can revel in bygone worlds. Hundreds of satellite channels are serving up seconds. Before you know it, you quite forgot what time it is that you just passed. Isn’t it high time for Sally Jessy Raphaël to stop gabbing? Eight years ago she went off the air; but there she is, chatting away on British television, her owl glasses unscratched by the sand of time. Keep your finger on the remote control long enough and you’ll come across The Lone Ranger pursuing evildoers in perpetuity as if his name really were the Long-ranger. And there, cigarette holder in hand as in days of smoke-shrouded yore, is glamorous Lana Turner in the cliffhanger of Falcon Crest‘s second season; and these days, the hiatus will only last a few hours. Breakfast time will tell who ended up in that coffin (after twenty-five years, it will be new to me all over again).

“I don’t ask you to prepare for a new world—because I realize that a new world is here now.” H. G. Wells said that during one of his 1940s radio addresses. I caught up with him listening to Philip Osment’s adaptation of The Time Machine, into which you might still enter online before that portal closes on 28 February. I have recorded it, for future listening. The new world here now is a world in which time is out of joint, as old Hamlet might have said. As a species, we might well be running out of time; but that only encourages us to amble in the continuum. We keep on moseying in the fourth dimension so as not to face the things to come. Such are the hazards of the Time Machine Age.

The Internet? It’s a regular world wide cobweb! A sticky tangle of threads from which it is difficult to extricate ourselves once we get caught. That, for the moment, must suffice to account for my spasmodic writings this month. I am spending a great deal of time flicking through magazines like Radio-Movie Guide, hundreds of which have been digitized and are being freely shared online. From the above issue (24 February to 1 March 1940), for instance, I learned what Myrna Loy’s masseuse rushed home to before Loy bought a portable radio to find out for herself (I Love a Mystery), how the Pot o’ Gold became a matter for the Department of Justice, or what John Kieran let slip on Information Please (“I frequently carry books on my person in strange places”).

Yes, keeping up with the out-of-date has sure gotten easier. Getting back has not . . .

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