Thursday, April 30, 2015
Beltane Fountain. Image Source: Osgrid Gallery.
April 30 is Walpurgis Night. It is the eve of the May Day honouring of St. Walburga, a West Saxon princess by birth, and an 8th century English abbess. In the mid-700s, she traveled to Francia (to what is now Bavaria, Germany) with other English missionaries, to convert the Germans - who were still pagans at the time - to Christianity. In that work, she supported her famous uncle, St. Boniface, and her two brothers, St. Willibald and St. Winibald. Dark Dorset describes how the celebration of Saint Walburga overlaps with the older pagan May 1 spring festival of Beltane:
In Europe, the night of April 30 became a spring Hallowe'en, when witches and sorcerers held fertility rites around bonfires in wild areas. In earlier times, it was the time when livestock were driven out to pasture after a long winter, and charms were uttered over the animals as they ventured out into the wilds to protect them from harm. In the New World, Walpurgis Night is associated with the dark occult, including the establishment of the Church of Satan in 1966 in San Francisco, California.[H]er feast day also coincided with a much older pagan festival of Beltane ... [which] marked the beginning of summer. The eve of Beltane 30th April - 1st May became ... known as Walpurgisnacht, perhaps originally in an attempt to Christianise the festival. Like Halloween, it was also the night in which spirits wandered and witches favoured, as it was an auspicious time for holding their midnight sabbats and for conjuring spells. The most famous of all sabbats held on Walpurgisnacht was supposed to take place on the summit of the Brocken in the Harz Mountains of Germany as mentioned in Goethe's Faust [which you can read in German and English here, and watch here].
Thus, these two days, April 30 and May 1, centre on a moment of pagan-Christian ambiguity, a grey area between seasons and between evil and good, freedom and security, old and new. The sense is of turn-over, confronting the very last of winter's deaths and tests, and putting them behind to be open to spring growth. Dark Dorset summarizes these tensions:
In the first part of his great tragedy Faust, published in 1808, Goethe included a scene set on Walpurgis Night:On Walpurgisnacht it was customary for local folk to ring the bells of the church at night, cutting sprigs of blossom from the May bush (Hawthorn) and hung outside or inside the house as deterrent of witchcraft. The burning of Need-Fires and life size straw effigies of men or women which were made prior to burning and cursed with ill-health and ill-luck of the old year. Creating lots of noise by banging on drums, wood or firing of shotguns were all considered effective ways of ridding the area of witchcraft, evil spirits and dark forces. The very name St. Walburga (or Walpurgis, Waltpurde, Gauburge, Vaubourg, Falbourg, as known in other parts of Europe) and her image were also used as protective charms against witchcraft, plague, famine and storms.
Now to the Brocken the witches ride;Goethe's Faust explored the problems that symbolically arise around Walpurgis Night. His famous work principally concerned man's attempt to control the natural environment through scientific investigation and linear understanding, and the points at which faith and magic overtake that rational effort. Goethe's story describes Faust as a scholar, or alchemist, who makes a bargain with the devil to attain limitless knowledge. Faust's quest for infinite understanding automatically forces moral questions about how that knowledge might be exploited. Goethe insists: limitless knowledge can only be mitigated, and finally attained, by a leap of faith.
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
Image Source: Business Insider.
In the new Millennium, the moral dimension of limitless information, knowledge and technology is a huge problem. There are no St. Walburgas and St. Bonifaces standing now at the confluence of the environment and human knowledge of the environment. You may encounter many devils at the crossroads between environment and technology these days. For example, this week, Business Insider reported on a paper given last weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, which concluded that one third of babies in the USA are using smart phones and tablets before they can walk and talk; and toddlers under the age of one use smart devices for at least one hour per day.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty (1885). Image Source.
This week, my post on Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder was highlighted on one of Gen X's best blogs, Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X. While thanking Jennifer James and checking the other links she listed, I was struck by the way Generation X remains ensnared as an echo generation, its identity projected upon from the outside by a narcissistic Boomer narrative. Jen writes: "Part of my intention is to maintain a tiny space on the Internet where evidence of Gen X society can be preserved." Why is her mission such a struggle?
Head of the Statue of Liberty, displayed in 1878 after completion at the Third Universal Exhibition, or World's Fair, in Paris. It was exhibited in Paris for several years before being shipped to the United States. Image Source: Albert Fernique (born c. 1841, died 1898) / LOC via pinterest. Published in 1883 in Frédéric Bartholdi's Album des Travaux de Construction de la Statue Colossale de la Liberté destinée au Port de New-York (Paris).
The Boomer narrative, that blinkered, one-track view of history, started as a story about 1960s' youth counterculture and fighting for liberty from the establishment. Boomers' liberties made them into libertines, who erected a monument to their own whims and pleasures around the period from the 1967 Summer of Love through 1969. The entire world now seemingly turns around that temporal pivot. Sometimes, it is also treated as a historical bottleneck. For the post-war period, 1967-1969 becomes a shorthand for the social, political and economic history of what happened in developed countries, and everything must go through that chokepoint, as it relates to the Boomer story. But what if everything didn't go through that chokepoint? What if that is not the way things happened? What if other histories ran concurrently from the 1940s through to the present that go unacknowledged because they don't fit the generational story? What if this is not a story about generations at all? What if you can find millions of individuals who don't fit the generational idea, and what if constructing a whole new social order around social alignments based on horizontal categories like 'age' is fake? If any of these suggestions are possible, then the history of the 1960s needs to be radically overturned and rewritten.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Image Source: BBC.
Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier? Who now still speaks of the annhilation of the Armenians? These were Hitler's words to the German military forces on 22 August 1939. In this speech, he ordered them to invade Poland and exterminate the Polish people. He insisted that the Poles were expendable, not just at that moment in an act of war, but that they could be completely wiped from the pages of history. The monstrous idea behind Hitler's imperial vision - he who writes history controls politics, society and the future - applied deadly lessons from World War I; it was recognized by other world leaders and thinkers at the time. In one sentence, the German leader summarized his clear, conscious awareness that history could be altered, and it was on that basis that one could do anything to anyone to achieve near-infinite aims.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide. Source: imgkid.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Image Source: Business2Community.
Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.
Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?
In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
For today, see a sample of computer generated imagery from September 2014. Soon, we won't be able to tell real people from virtual humans online. From the creator, Chris Jones:
Work in progress, hand-made with Lightwave, Sculptris and Krita, composited with Davinci Resolve Lite. Music by me. ... Due to popular demand I'm attempting to extend the soundtrack, but it's not coming easily... so it could take a while. No scans, motion capture or photos were used (except for reference). First half rendered in ~800 hours on a 2008 vintage quad core. Additional rendering by GarageFarm.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
The Photography Workshop is the Website of Mumbai-based photographer Kedar Kulkarni. You can see his personal gallery here, and particularly his beautiful photos of small town India here. Kulkarni also runs workshops for other photographers and posts their works. For today, see images from the site taken by Dinkar Patil. In November 2014, Patil captured the animate, the inanimate and the people along the Narmada River, all interacting in the breathtaking regional environment and eternal light of India. This was Patil's Roadtrip Series 5:
Patil does something curious here. Stone gods clustered in corners come alive, while the landscape's living inhabitants begin to look fixed and permanent. It is a fascinating swap.
Patil's style is un-photoshopped, anti-glossy, uncontrived. It could be Kulkarni's influence, who lists his great inspirations in the history of photography here. Patil's photos take the viewer back to a time when we still believed in a reality, served by the camera. From the dawn of photography, photos documented interactions between an artist, a tool, and the environment. At that time, we kept track of things, rather than things keeping track of us. We were the actors and agents, not our tools. By contrast, in today's graphics, the camera dominates the photographic story. We are no longer watchers, we are watched. Cameras and other tools for seeing (and spying) oppress us in an endless House of Mirrors with meta-visions and meta-narratives. Thankfully, that is not the case here: in Patil's work, some little pockets of eternity slip through his lens.
Monday, April 13, 2015
This is a 3D-printed ice cube, in a scotch glass | @HumansWLorD ➤ http://t.co/tEcgtmbWyp pic.twitter.com/NQvcJ6NUqP
— Jeff Faria (@PatriotsOfMars) April 14, 2015
See more of Suntory's 3D-printed ice cubes here, and my earlier post on Blade Runner custom scotch glasses, here. A 3-D printing Redditor corrects this story: "Not 3d printed -- idiot reporter thinks anything computer controlled must be a 3d printer... It was milled with a very awesome mill."
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Johnny Depp's original 'Winona Forever' tattoo. Image Source: johnnydepp.org.
In the past couple of days, the word forever kept coming up. Finally, it all converged in a 'plate of shrimp' moment. The first mention came up in this analysis at The White Review of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The article, Famous Tombs: Love in the 90s, described Depp's and Ryder's relationship as the American youth romance of the decade. Author Masha Tupitsyn then probed a more interesting question. She almost cracked what, exactly, happened to the Depp-Ryder romance, not in terms of what it meant privately to the two actors, because we can't know that, but what it represented to the rest of us.
Image Source: Buzzfeed.
Tupitsyn hints that it never went anywhere, but Johnny and Winona did. She believes that Depp sublimated it in alcohol and drugs, replacing love for a woman with addictions so distracting that it became impossible to get back to the original source. Meanwhile, Ryder moved forward, but part of her is still trapped in that past time. It wasn't just her love for Depp. She embodied a decade for Generation Jones and Gen X rebels, symbolized by the curious fact that she is naturally a blonde, but for decades has dyed her hair Gothic black:
Depp and Ryder started in gothic and horror genres. Their early work, like that of contemporaries Keanu Reeves, Parker Posey and River Phoenix, appeared in dark indie films or popular movies with unsettling vibes. Depp made his feature film debut in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), in which he played a nice but useless boyfriend. These roles reflected a time, when, for a brief period, surreal depictions of the collective unconscious entered the American mainstream in almost unedited forms. It was remarkable. David Lynch, an American director surreal enough to be respected by Europeans, became popular, as his Twin Peaks exposed the underside of the American Dream.Like John Cusack, another black haired/pale skinned 80s/90s idol, as well as a youth actor whose great, and perhaps only gift, was to enact a different kind of youth (a counter-youth and counter-masculinity) in his youth, Winona Ryder was never timeless, she was of the time. Most especially that brief time in her life, her teenage years and early twenties. Perhaps this is why Jake Gyllenhaal’s light hair was dyed jet-black for the retroactive DONNIE DARKO, and Christian Slater’s jet-black for HEATHERS. Something about dark hair showing up in the late 80s and early 90s as a form of retribution for an aesthetically fascistic and representationally narrow decade. These are people who were not kissed by the sun, who were not California Dreamin’, or, as the German writer Heinrich Laube puts it, ‘These pale youths are uncanny, concocting God knows what mischief.’ If, as the teenage radio pirate DJ, ‘Hard Harry’ puts it in PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990), the 80s were a totally ‘exhausted decade, where there’s nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to’, Winona Ryder rose up from the bleached-blonde ashes of the 1980s.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Paul Stankard's handblown glass pieces look impossible to create. In Beauty Beyond Nature, he discusses the craft. Image Source: Paul Stankard via boing boing.
This blog has just passed 2 million hits! Welcome to the 1359th post and the end of the blog's fifth year. Thank you to everyone who has stopped here. Your time is precious and comments are always appreciated. Thank you to every interviewee who has been kind enough to discuss your work. And thank you to other bloggers I have met along the way, who have shown me the value of real-time publishing. These bloggers are all amazing people, intelligent and gifted mavericks (you know who you are), who know what to read on a desert island, and how walk the line.
This blog was partly inspired by a site called The Strip, and partly by the late Mac Tonnies, whose blog (now in paperback on Amazon here) was published from 2003 until his untimely death in 2009. Tonnies' Posthuman Blues remains a landmark. Sometimes I revisit his blog, and I am still amazed by his ideas and vision, his uncanny ability to pin down the Zeitgeist, to channel the new Millennium's collective unconscious, to decrypt and encrypt a cultural environment of changing symbols, to describe the future.
Blogs remain relevant because some are still independent. Media independence? Political neutrality? What's that? Although media outlets co-opt blogs to make them branded social media products, some blogs remain artistic life statements and authentic testimonies. Readers follow a blogger on a personal journey as he or she tries to make sense of the exploding world of communications. So, Histories of Things to Come is based on a true story.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Press imagery for the BBC series, Voyage to the Planets (2004). Image Source: BBC.
For today, here are two fictional Youtube videos on what it would be like for astronauts to walk on the surfaces of Venus and Pluto. The clips are modified, taken from the 2004 BBC TV series, Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets. This award-winning, fake-umentary series speculated on what a manned exploration of the solar system would be like:
I don't know how long the links will last, but the series is up in parts on Youtube and another link is on Vimeo:Five astronauts pilot the nuclear thermal rocket powered Pegasus spacecraft on a tour of the solar system. Their mission is a collaboration of the NASA, CSA, ESA and РКА space agencies and takes the crew to Venus, Mars, a close flyby of the Sun, Jupiter’s moon[s] Io and Europa, Saturn, Pluto, and the fictional Comet Yano-Moore. Most of the planetary destinations the crew reaches are followed by a manned landing there. Prior to the mission large tanks of hydrogen were deposited in stable orbits around the planets to allow the crew to refuel to have sufficient delta-v for the multi-year mission.The crew encounter many hardships and disappointments along the way. A Venus EVA that almost ends in disaster when the lander Orpheus encounters launch delays, the near-loss of the shield during the aerobrake in Jupiter's upper atmosphere and the loss of samples from Jupiter's moon Io all test the crew's resolve. The most devastating blow comes when the ship's medical officer dies of solar radiation-induced lymphoma in Saturn orbit, forcing the crew to decide whether to continue the mission to Pluto, or abort and return to Earth. In the original British release, the crew decides to press on to Pluto, making history. The American version, broadcast on The Science Channel, was trimmed for length, the crew deciding to turn back at this stage rather than continue. The programme is narrated by David Suchet.
Voyage to the Planets still (2004). Image Source: BBC via The Space Review.
Voyage to the Planets (2004) concept art by Daren Horley. Image Source: The Rogue Verbumancer.
The Youtuber who posted the Venusian clip argues:
Theoretically , we can build VENUS SPACE SUIT. "Chief Navy Diver Daniel Jackson (US Navy) holds the depth record using an ADS. On August 1, 2006 he was submerged at 2,000 feet (610 m) deep off the coast of La Jolla, California." Venusian pressure is an equivalent to a 1-km-deep water ocean. Pressure isn't even the biggest problem , the biggest problem is temperature and acid in atmosphere. But if we landed on the highest mountain Maxwell Montes, conditions would be much more better: pressure - equivalent to a approx. 325 m(!) in ocean , temp. 650 F (+343 C). We can create suits made of titanium [melting point is more than 1,650 °C or 3,000 °F] and use basalt-based fiber technology with a thermal range of -260 C to +982 C (1800 F) and melt point of 1450 C . The biggest problem is to create corrosion resistant coating and effective cooling system.
Monday, April 6, 2015
Video Source: Youtube.
The above video from mid-2014 features American management expert, Gary Hamel, speaking (actually, yelling) about the pace of change, and if and how we can keep up. He points out that the recession was at least partly due to the transformation of the economy due to technology: "The world is becoming more turbulent, faster than our organizations are becoming more resilient." Individuals and businesses are having real problems coping with the flood of information and the exponential expansion of the technological environment.
Triangular hierarchical management structures cause a lot of these problems. Hamel claims that those hierarchies responded to earlier social and economic conditions, unsuited to the demands of new economies. The question he seeks to answer is how people can become more committed, autonomous and efficient in their work, so that they can respond to change and evolve profitably without becoming overwhelmed. There is more from him below, talking on the evolution of management in 2011.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
A concerned reader of the blog thinks this blog needs to lighten up. He sent some links from the UK humour site, The Poke, which ran, Jesus is the Boss and 35 reasons to love Easter on Good Friday. The first two paintings are by Nathan Greene, The Senior Partner (2002) and The Difficult Case (1994). Thanks to -B.