TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Twin Peaks Déjà Vu and the World Economy


Image Source: Daily Mail.

In November 2014, Brooke Shields released a memoir, in which she reminisced about a few dates she shared with George Michael in the 1980s. The iconic photo of them brought back a decade, filled with glitz, glamour, and the high price of both. It is a world away from today's tricky global economies and crumbling infrastructure, where everything is deadly serious. Nevertheless, it feels like something of the 80s is returning and that time is coming full circle. Sadly, Whitney Houston's daughter has reminded me of the 1980s; so does Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, in her breakout role in cinemas in Fifty Shades of Grey. There were many more nuances to that time, more profound than the ones selected here below the jump. But what is shown here was a major American theme: high living with beautiful people and smooth operators in the sunshine.

Dakota Johnson. Image Source: The Wrap.

One of the videos below the jump is from 1982: Eminence Front from The Who's studio album It's Hard:
In the song, Townshend sings about the delusions and drug use of the wealthy and hedonistic. The lyrics describe a party in which people hide from their problems behind a facade. Townshend has introduced the song in live performances with: "This song is about what happens when you take too much white powder; it's called 'Eminence Front.'"
The 80s promised wealth and all its sins to the masses of the United States (and to her allies who were invited to the party). Today, wealth is exclusive again in America. Capital as Power speaks of the 2010s' New Gilded Age for the Plutonomy. The United States sports a handful of home-grown billionaires. But riches are no longer promised democratically and freely to the general population of the country. That is what the exuberance, styles and expectations of the 1980s were about. The door to a big, prosperous middle class was wide open. An entire nation would become wealthy. No child left behind. Everyone would be wealthy. In 2015, Americans know better; they are abandoning the glossy, marbled shopping malls, the proletarian palaces of 80s' spending. Conspicuous consumption and money's excesses have moved on: in the late 90s, they finally arrived in London; then they flew to Dubai; to Hong Kong and Singapore; then Mumbai; by 2012, they roared through SeoulGangnam Style, and now, money is flooding the Asia-Pacific region, in cities like Jakarta. Don't believe the beautiful illusions, people. The crash always follows.

Some don't learn. Some surf the wave, moving from place to place, following the money, and never learning the full lesson. If you want to do that, pack your bags for sub-Saharan Africa, and get there before the 2030s. Or you can follow where the Internet of Things will take you, although according to CompTIA tech analyst Seth Robinson, "There's no map" for that.

Image Source: Hypable.

Some do learn. Sobered Americans, like the JapaneseGreeks and other peoples who blew all their money, are ahead of the curve, not behind it. They rose to the height of prosperity based on industry and trade. They shared the unambiguous virtues of engineers and builders of society. It's like that line in Citizen Kane: "It's not hard to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money." The real psychological and moral challenges come from squandered riches. As money trickles back to America and other once-ultra-prosperous nations, the cautionary tales which explored those challenges in the 1980s and 1990s return. This is because the challenges posed by spent money are fully digested in culture, not in the economy, politics or society. That is why Twin Peaks, David Lynch's perilous 1990-1991 journey into the American soul, is set to return in 2016:
In May 2013, cast member Ray Wise stated what Lynch had said to him regarding a possible reboot: "Well, Ray, you know, the town is still there. And I suppose it's possible that we could revisit it. Of course, you're already dead ... but we could maybe work around that."
Image Source: Before the Bombs Fall.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Google's New HQ



YesterdayWired posted first glimpses of the new city-state that will be Google's future HQ:
In a new video released this morning, Google showed off an ambitious proposal for a future North Bayshore campus in Mountain View. The concept was produced by the firms of Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels, two of architecture’s fastest rising stars. Heatherwick Studio, based in the UK, was responsible for the torch at the London Olympics. The Bjarke Ingels Group, based in Denmark, is working on a trash-to-power plant in Copenhagen that will double as a ski slope.




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Memespace Hyperventilation


Palaces in the sky: Dark Roasted Blend recently celebrated the incredible visions of French science fiction comics from the 1970s, which American and British directors mimicked in comics and cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. Image Source: Jean-Claude Mézières via Dark Roasted Blend (Hat tip: Me and You and a Blog Named Boo).

On 27 February 2015, Richard Branson encouraged entrepreneurs to come forward to share and expand new ideas. That's great, although some of the big biz riffing around the future celebrates the new idea of the new idea. One never actually gets to a new idea. The out-of-control lingo-about-lingo about the newness-of-newness reminds me of the explosion of Postmodern Expert Speak in the 1990s, which constructed new foundations of intellectual cultural authority.

The Valérian and Laureline "series focuses on the adventures of the dark-haired Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent, and his redheaded female companion, Laureline, as they travel the universe through space and time." Above, "Baroque spaceships (complete with ghost-ridden halls and gargoyles sticking out into the void of space)." Image Source: Dark Roasted Blend.

Mr. Branson quoted commenter Jason Silva, a photogenic Gen Y guru, who is a one-man meme generator and Singularity freestyle philosophical poet. He is compelling and makes good points, but there is something weird about the way he takes the Tech Revolution so literally and with such breathless utopian fervour. His clever rants reach height after height against IMAX effects. His videos are fantastic, if you like the Singularity Themepark Channel. His Youtube commentaries are part of the TestTube Network, which shares an unreflective undergraduate confidence that its contributors can fix the world, or at least understand it, if they edit it and add a soundtrack to it.

Silva's enthusiasm reminds me of the glassy-eyed idealism around the founding of America, or the Revolution in France. He joyously accepts the demolition of temporal boundaries and celebrates breaches of physical and cognitive limitations. He lacks a sense of Techno-Irony about the separate virtual lives enjoyed by his Online Language and Online Ego. To illustrate how Silva can be pithy yet simultaneously hollow, compare his Existential Bummer (the last video below) about death and a life beyond with another writer on similar topics. See Kate Sherrod's Story Sonnets: Infected (24 February 2015) and Who's the Real Crook Here? (23 February 2015).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Godspeed to the Stars, Mr. Nimoy


Image Source: Star Trek.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, has died, aged 83. He played a half-alien, always relying on cold logic, but saved by his capacity for human empathy and emotion. Nimoy's final tweet, telling his followers to 'Live Long and Prosper' (Hat tip: The Verge):



Clip from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). Video Source: Youtube.

Long Lovejoy and Little Dumbell. NASA's astronomy picture of the day, 27 February 2015. Image Source and © Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST) NASA APOD.

Caption for the above photograph: "Buffeted by the solar wind, Comet Lovejoy's crooked ion tail stretches over 3 degrees across this telescopic field of view, recorded on February 20. The starry background includes awesome bluish star Phi Persei below, and pretty planetary nebula M76 just above Lovejoy's long tail. Also known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula, after its brighter cousin M27 the Dumbbell Nebula, M76 is only a Full Moon's width away from the comet's greenish coma. Still shining in northern hemisphere skies, this Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is outbound from the inner solar system some 10 light-minutes or 190 million kilometers from Earth. But the Little Dumbbell actually lies over 3 thousand light-years away. Now sweeping steadily north toward the constellation Cassiopeia Comet Lovejoy is fading more slowly than predicted and is still a good target for small telescopes."

Return to the Tea House


Dolls for the Japanese Hinamatsuri festival at Minamoto Kitchoan in San Francisco, California (2015): The traditional imperial court doll festival and tea ceremony "arose in the Heian era when people used dolls to ward off evil spirits and ensure their daughters' health and happiness." As the Japanese cherry blossom festivals begin in March, tea parties mingle with spring rites on Hinamatsuri, or Girls' Day, celebrated on March 3 with saki and sweets; the day is followed by other celebrations. Image Source: C. Dorosz.

In the 1990s, coffeehouses became the stamping ground of professionals and hipsters. A great American adaptation from Central Europe and the Near East promised to invigorate North America beyond shopping malls and fast food chains. Within a decade, Starbucks became the kind of place where J. K. Rowling could write her first Harry Potter novel when she was broke.

At the global coffeehouse, the emphasis is no longer on cultural growth, despite what some undergraduates think. The coffeehouse sits on points on the grid along which the jolt-o-rama of Millennial life surges. We are always in an airport, always on the clock, always in a rush. You can travel around the world, and wherever you go, the same coffee haze and sticky chairs, misted with hazelnut syrup, will greet you. In the exhausting atmosphere of the coffee-information drip feed, it would be impossible even to digest your Grande, much less write a novel on your laptop while you're doing it. It is this fraught relationship with time, deadlines, with breathless seconds ticking by, which are driving people back to the tea house, where the rule of thumb is slowing down, not speeding up.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sheeple in the Year of the Sheep: Illusion and Illumination


Mainly in Asian countries and communities, 2015-2016 is the year of the Sheep, according to the Lunar calendar. Image Source: CNN.

How do we see Sheeple in the Year of the Sheep? Does the Lunar New Year's conciliatory message resolve the trend toward Millennial alienation, conflict and aggression? Can the values of Asia's Year of the Sheep or Goat, such as pacifism, collective action and creativity, ease the tensions caused by western gnosticism? In yesterday's post, I outlined how gnostic beliefs provide the background "social pathology of the political religions." Gnosticism built the central myth of our time: the four-fold Enlightenment illusion of rationalism, of higher knowledge through conflict, of control of the nature, and of human power over the earth. In today's post, I consider the Lunar New Year's symbols as a solution to this problematic myth, despite the fact that 'sheeple' are ridiculed by today's gnostically-minded.

Image Source: Pyramids and Sheeple.


Image Source: Seeking Alpha.

Image Source: Democratic Underground.

Image Source: Red Pill.

Image Source: XKCD.

"Making XKCD slightly worse." Image Source: Simon Software.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Lunar New Year's Conformity and Gnostic Alienation


Gnostic symbols. Image Source: MISTÉRIOS DE RENES-LE-CHÂTEAU.

How are the astrological symbols and messages of Asia's Lunar New Year relevant to Millennial life? The Year of the Goat or Sheep encourages conformity and pacifism, conciliation and acceptance of authority, but allows for creativity and a healing of past wrongs. These values oppose the confrontational and competitive alienation of the Millennial mind, which calls for leaders, not followers.

What is the origin of this confrontational alienation? This spring, Pacifica Graduate Institute in California is pondering the central myth of our time in a debate on Carl Jung's Red Book. I would argue that the Millennial myth derives from the Enlightenment era's hyper-rationalism, and an associated arrogance inflated by mechanistic advances in industry, science and technology.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Lunar New Year! Welcome the Year of the Goat


Image Source © Barbara Giordano via Fine Art America.

Today marks the start of the Asian New Year. Some of us are eating some amazing food which symbolizes luck, long life, happiness and prosperity, like Jiaozi dumplings, made to resemble ancient Chinese coins, and incredible cookies, like Kuih Loyang cookies (honeycomb, beehive or rose cookies) and Kueh Bangkit, melt-in-your mouth tapioca coconut cookies (recipes here and here). Spring rolls are made look like gold bars. Octagonal trays of togetherness celebrate the lucky number 8. Whole fish make wishes for abundance. Fa gao cakes, or 'fortune' cakes, steam in different colours, ideally rising in their bamboo steam baskets into a big smile (recipes here and here). Sweets bring sweetness to life in the coming year: check out traditional Chinese candies at Aji Ichiban (here), one of Hong Kong's largest candy and snack stores and an international franchise. People exchange ornately designed red and gold envelopes (Ang Pow envelopes) full of money. Fortune asked Chinese astrologers what was in store for us in 2015; they said 2015 would be all about the economy. It is not a year for risks, but still a year when the arts, writing, publication and all forms of creativity are highly favoured. Avoid conflict. Make home and the best comforts of domesticity your priorities. And in the year of the Goat or Sheep, "master the soft sell," "be a shepherd."

Tea Eggs symbolize wealth (recipe). Image Source: Everyday Maven.

Sweets are popular at Asian New Year's celebrations. On the left, dragon cookies; top left Kuih Kapit, or love letter, cookies; top right, Kuih Rose cookies; bottom, pineapple tarts. Image Source: Illuminant Partners.




A selection of last year's New Year's delights in Singapore, from top: Nian Gao tarts at the Fullerton Hotel; Golden Piglet Shortcakes at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; Koi-shaped Nian Gao steamed cakes filled with durian or mango-citrus pulp at the Peony Jade restaurant; and Fortune of Gold apricot and passionfruit poundcake at the Goodwood Park Hotel. Image Source: The Dining Table.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Modernity, Myth and the Scapegoat: Martin Heidegger, J. R. R. Tolkien and ISIL


Heidegger, at the centre of the photo, in the era of Nazi academia. Image Source: Le phiblogZophe.

Two paths diverged in the wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. In 2014, the private notebooks of German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) - muse of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida and Hannah Arendt - saw print. The publication of the so-called Black Notebooks confirmed that Heidegger's philosophy grew out of support for the Nazis and an essential anti-Semitism. Oceans of ink have been spilt over what Heidegger meant by Dasein, or Being-in-the-World (his union of subjective, objective and conscious perspectives with the world at large), but this elaborate existential debate completely misses the historical context which informed Heidegger's thought. Heidegger associated his cherished idea of Authentic Existence with the values of agrarian Europe. For the German philosopher, rootless Jews were part of a new, supranational world of corporate industry, banking and trade. Jewish precursors of globalization contributed to an inauthenticity of being, a life whereby everyday people, distanced from the soil, became phantom slaves in a technology-driven world that destroyed traditional culture.

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854-1856). Image Source: Wiki.

It is too simplistic to dismiss Heidegger's thoughts on being and time as aspects of the Nazi narrative. But it is also wrong to say that his ideas can be read separately from their Nazi context. Heidegger was in the same ballpark, and that demands a serious reappraisal of his ideas.

In building their Aryan mythology against the Jews, the Nazis ironically appropriated the Hebraic concept of scapegoating. The scapegoat was originally an early Archaic, pre-Classical improvement (dating from around the seventh century BCE) on the sacrificial rites of other ancient societies. Scapegoating, a mental gambit which is alive and well today, occurs when one projects one's sins onto a goat and sends it off into the desert to die; this leaves one free from blame and responsibility, and able to get on with life without feeling guilty for one's wrongdoings.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

You've Come a Long Way, Baby


Virginia Slims ad (1984), "theory of slimness," encouraged women to smoke to stay thin. Image Source: Stanford University.

A news item from June 2012 reported that cancer deaths were on the rise among Baby Boomer women, particularly in the southern United States. The cause was the successful Virginia Slims marketing campaign, which equated long slim cigarettes with women's liberation in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s:
a recent study published on June 25 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says that lung cancer deaths are "steady or rising" among middle-aged women who live in the South or Midwest.

What could be the cause of such a dramatic, unexpected spike? The researchers of this study point to two factors: a cultural shift in the 1960s-70s, and different geographical attitudes regarding anti-smoking legislation.

"In the 60s and 70s, there was a sharp increase in the number of girls, not boys, who started to smoke," said Ahmedin Jemal in an interview with USNews.com's HealthDay. Jemal is vice president of surveillance research for the American Cancer Society and the lead author of this study. "These women are now in their 50s, and already we're seeing a sharp rise in deaths from lung cancer in this group."

A generation of women reached late adolescence and their early 20s at a time when women's empowerment was on the rise, according to HealthDay. A 1968 cigarette campaign tied to that cultural shift, "You've come a long way, baby," marketed Virginia Slims to teenage girls and young women.

According to Reuters, the study is based on data for more than one million U.S. white women aged 35 to 84, who died of lung cancer between 1973 and 2007.
Virginia Slims women's cigarettes were developed in 1968 by Philip Morris. But it was the brilliant and insidious women's lib marketing by the Leo Burnett advertising agency that made the brand a household name.

An introductory Virginia Slims ad from 1968 looking back a 1915 wife, busted for smoking. Image Source: pinterest.

Virginia Slims ad (1969), "first, you got the vote, and now you've got a cigarette all your own." Image Source: etsy.

"Someday" (1970). Image Source: Fortune City.

Virginia Slims ad (1971), Superwomen, "biologically superior to men." Image Source: eBay.

Virginia Slims ad (1972-1973), "slimmer to fit you." Image Source: pinterest.

Leo Burnett is the same Chicago-based agency that handles Fiat, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, GM, McDonald's and Pfizer (makers of ChapStick, XanaxLipitor ("the world's best-selling drug of all time, with more than $125 billion in sales over approximately 14.5 years"), Zoloft, Viagra and the occasional genetically-modified virus). Wiki:
From inception, Virginia Slims have been designed and marketed as a female-oriented fashion brand, generally targeted towards a younger demographic (18–35 year olds). While various themes have emerged in the marketing campaigns over the years, the basic threads have been independence, liberation, slimness, attractiveness, glamour, style, taste, and a contrast to men's cigarettes. A report by the Surgeon General of the United States has interpreted these marketing strategies as attempting to link smoking "to women's freedom, emancipation, and empowerment." This report also tied the increase of smoking among teenage girls to rises in sales of Virginia Slims and other "niche" brands marketed directly to women.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the themes of feminism and women's liberation, with the slogan "You've Come A Long Way, Baby" were often used in the ads, and often featured anecdotes about women in the early 20th century who were punished for being caught smoking, usually by their husbands or other men, as compared to the time of the ads when more women had equal rights, usually comparing smoking to things like the right to vote.
The genius of the firm's Virginia Slims ads lay in the way they paved the way for inverted feminine thinking about the emancipation of women while female consumers simultaneously became enslaved by cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine. The Virginia Slims ads were the opening chapter in an incredible narrative. The ads' reverse mindthink was the real innovation, such that now empowerment and liberation can be ironically and cynically reversed in Millennial ads for nicotine cessation aids and electronic cigarettes.

Nowadays, a woman could be liberated, but all that's taken as read, water under the bridge, no longer an issue. This allows Millennial ad makers to return to oversexualized feminine ads targeting men and women, which trumpet empowerment through base self-indulgence. By the 2010s, the message was not women's freedom in society using the cigarette as a phallic symbol of strength, but libertine freedom to manage addiction in an eco-friendly way.

Virginia Slims ad with Cheryl Tiegs and a tool chest offer (1974). Image Source: Found in Mom's Basement.

Image Source: CDC.
Nevertheless, in this post-post-feminist world, the classic women's lib message is still jumbled in there, too. In 2013, CBS reported a coming cancer care crisis for Baby Boomers, with projected shortages of oncologists and huge amounts of money diverted toward cancer drug development. The Boomer health crisis is a driving force behind medical tourism to countries with socialized health care; and it is behind the enormous current political pressure for free and subsidized health care in the United States. In May 2014, the FDA accelerated the approval of a new lung cancer drug, Zykadia, produced by Novartis. Lung cancer drugs offer identical messages about professional women's power and freedom to choose their destinies.

Image Source: Cigarettes Guide.

New clichés for the English language. Image Source: pinterest.

See more Virginia Slims ads, and evolving commercials from the tobacco industry, smoking cessation aid companies, e cigarette businesses, and lung cancer drug firms, below the jump.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pictorial Dreams


Artist's muse (2015) © Thom Buchanan.

Thom Buchanan, phenomenal artist and blogger at The Pictorial Arts, is putting together an art book of his drawings. Its publication is being funded through a Kickstarter campaign. Mr. Buchanan was interviewed on this blog in 2013, here, about his vision of Millennial humanism. He imagines a rarely optimistic, and yet non-tech-driven, future. Please take a moment to look at Thom's campaign page, here, and support him with a dollar or two if you can. Crowd-funding is one of the more hopeful innovations of our time, enabling smaller producers and creative people to find consumers or an audience in a marketplace increasingly dominated by marketers and corporations.

Thom says this is his "Poster for a movie never made, but really should have. Maybe think of this as a movie poster from an alternative universe."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tibet's Lost Time Capsule


The Lost World of Tibet (2006) © British Film Institute. Video Source: Youtube.

In the interim while this blog is sleeping, see a beautiful film about pre-occupation Tibet, with rare historic footage from the British Film Institute. Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, Tibet's situation in a bowl in the Himalayas ensured that the great powers left it untouched, a medieval time capsule preserved across centuries. The most distinctive aspect of that time capsule was the persistence of a living state religion, in which 20 per cent of the male population became monks. The current Dalai Lama, Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, born Lhamo Dondrub,  was chosen as the state's God King.

Present-day autonomous Tibet. Image Source: Rolf Gross.
 
Tibetan cultural area. Image Source: Tibetan Trekking.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Frozen in Time


Frozen in time: abandoned Riverside Hospital: "North Brother Island is a small island in the East River of New York City, just a short distance from the Bronx. It is now an uninhabited bird sanctuary but between 1885 and the late 1930's it was were patients of the Riverside Hospital were kept in isolation. The ... [h]ospital, built first as a smallpox hospital but later expanded to other quarantinable diseases ... [was opened on] North Brother Island in 1885." Image Source: Deserted Places.

The blog will be frozen in time until 14 February 2015, while I am away due to other work commitments.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Freezing Time Before the Watershed


The Ballad of Narayama (1958) concerns the Japanese legendary practice of ubasute, or, abandoning the elderly in the mountains to die. Different characters obediently accept the practice or violently reject it. Image Source: QBranch.

In story-telling, there are several famous characters who try to freeze time before a watershed moment changes everything. They are traumatized by the moment of change and their rigid attachment to the past is almost always self-destructive. Perhaps this is a way of defining a ghost, someone who acts against the course of the world's destiny and becomes trapped in one frame of time, rather than moving along through many frames of time.

The need to accept change  in order to live in a healthy manner is the larger reason for the ancient injunction: Don't look back. This is the message in myth and religion, as with Orpheus and Eurydice or Lot's wife. Fables, ghost stories and superstitions are full of warnings against mirrors that can capture a hostile past, reflect it back at you, and trap you forever.

"Lot's Wife" pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel. Image Source: Wiki.

Sodom's destruction. Lot and his daughters escape, while his wife turns to a pillar of salt. 12th century mosaic, Duomo di Monreale, Sicily. Image Source: Wiki.

Lot leaving Sodom, with his wife looking back. Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) by Michel Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurf.