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.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Anniversaries: Wikipedia's Tenth Birthday

Today is Wikipedia's tenth birthday.  Founded on January 15, 2001 by Gen Xers Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger and others, the site embodies many of the original ideals that surrounded the internet.  It encompasses some of the best of the Web's possibilities in being direct, useful, free, democratic and informative - albeit with sometimes dubious editing and debates on particular entries.  Time has a report on Wiki's ten most memorable entries here. Of those, the three that caught my eye were Wiki's List of Unusual Deaths; the number 6174; and the Medieval Dancing Plague.

Because it is free and widely accessible, Wikipedia is probably the most widely used encyclopedic resource commonly used today. It is a triumph of the Millennial reimagining of the Neo-Classicisal rational ideals of the eighteenth century on the internet.  The original French Encyclopédie was published from 1751 to 1772.  Encyclopedias as a form of reference source are 2,000 years old.  The first one we are aware of (according to Wikipedia) is Natural History by Pliny the Elder.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Anniversaries: Landing on Titan

The first picture "from the surface of a planetary body outside the inner Solar system." 2005 © NASA/ESA/ASI. Image Source: Wiki.

Today is the sixth anniversary since the phenomenal landing on Saturn's moon, Titan, during the Cassini–Huygens spacecraft mission to study the Saturnine systemThis is just one of the great scientific achievements of our era that is of epic importance. The mission was a joint NASA, ESA and ASI initiative. The NASA site is here. The ESA site on the mission is here and the ASI site is here. There is a good NASA video on the landing, with views of the moon as Huygens landed on it, here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thirteenth Zodiac Sign Ophiuchus Reintroduced

Image Source: Hubble Source.

Several sites on the Web are reporting that an extra sign, Ophiuchus, also known as Serpentarius, the Serpent-Bearer, has been added to the zodiac because a wobble in the Earth's rotation has created a discrepancy between 2,000 year old astrological predictions about the planetary positions and actual astronomical data of nearly one month.  This sign has finally made a comeback after originally being discarded by the Babylonians.

Only Beasts and Gods

The martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch on orders of Emperor Trajan.  Image Source: Mystagogy.

A recent letter (here) on the editorial page of Canada's National Post newspaper in favour of waterboarding was pretty medieval.  But the writer's reference to Aristotle caught my eye: "only beasts and gods live beyond a city’s walls." There is a discussion on that reference here:
"For Aristotle's zoon politikon there are no persons beyond the walls of the city; outside the city there exist only beasts or gods. To be a person means to be part of the corporate whole of the polis. The essence/end of the person does not inhere in the individual; it does not emerge in the development of the solitary self nor in the development of the self in family as child, brother or father. Neither, for Aristotle, does the person emerge in village, imperial or cosmopolitan life. Only in the polis can there be persons, for the nature of the person is political."
Going beyond the pale, moving beyond the bounds of what previously defined civilization, is now common.  It started with the Battle of the Somme, then the Holocaust. The technological and information revolutions have accelerated a process already taking place.  In the new Millennium, we are all beasts and gods.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love in the New Millennium 4: Lost and Secret Loves

Love and time. Love and politics. Our personal love stories are the little melodramas which furnish microcosmic backdrops for the sweep of world affairs.  They colour our individual memories of particular periods and signficant historical events. This might explain why novels like War and Peace and A Tale of Two Cities, which are about wars and revolutions, are anchored in romance.  The personal absence, loss or collapse of love in arts and literature can define the collapse of political or social order. The Neo-Classical painting above by Godward uses the loaded moment when two lovers are lolling in each other's presence to capture a parallel moment now lost to our civilization - an imagined golden arcadia in antiquity.

The 2006 remake All the King's Men , based on the famous 1946 American novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren explored the dystopic alternative - Warren used love gone wrong as a metaphor for times gone wrong. Both the book and the film have a strong romantic subplot. The story is a fictitious account of the populist Huey Long. Long is now cited on political blogs as saying: "When Fascism comes to America, it will come under the guise of anti-Fascism." But that drama about the spread of mass politics and the election of the new populist governor depends heavily on a subplot about the romance of the narrator, Jack Burden, with the previous governor's daughter, Anne Stanton.

The romantic subplot follows Burden's larger problem with truth and time. Wiki: "Jack's overall character development might be roughly described as a journey away from an amoral perspective on human history as a chain of uncontrollable events, toward a belief in the fundamental interconnectedness of all of history. In other words, he might be said to trace a path from refusal to acceptance of personal responsibility. On the other hand, one defining trait that remains a constant throughout Jack's development is a passion for discovering the truth of history. [Jack says:] 'And all times are one time, and all those dead in the past never lived before our definition gives them life, and out of the shadow their eyes implore us. That is what all of us historical researchers believe. And we love truth.'"

You can read Robert Penn Warren's novel posted from Google Books, below the jump. On pages 311-312, Burden confronts his childhood sweetheart, Anne Stanton, about how their love affair went wrong.  He asks if the past they shared was so wonderful, why did it give way to this time, a time when he and the people he comes from are falling into decline.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rebuilt Philip K. Dick Robot is Granting Interviews Again

Image Source: twitpic via @hansonrobotics.

Braver bloggers than I have covered this story, complete with videos and sonnets, here and here. Commenting on the weirdness of this story and the forced effort to match a simulacrum of Dick with his ideas would be redundant. What I do find interesting is that the robot is very much a late 1970s kinda guy.  Even in this disembodied gnostic future, Dick finds his truth in the past. If there is anything intrinsically Dickian here, anything that feels familiar and recalls this long-missed writer, it is that the robot is a time capsule.

The Science Tarot

The Science Tarot. Image Source: ShariStudio.

The Millennial merging of science and mysticism continues.  With the intention of introducing scientific ideas in a way that makes them accessible, a Tarot deck has been developed with scientific imagery. (Hat tip: Lee Hamilton's blog)  Co-created by Logan Austeja Daniel, Martin Azevedo and Raven Hanna, the Science Tarot is a combination of science, art and mythology.  Each suit of cards (Major Arcana, Pentacles, Cups, Swords, Wands) tells a story that is epic, heroic and scientific: "In the Science Tarot, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey is adapted to tell each suit's unique story from Ace to Ten." The Face cards of each suit depict important scientists and are also associated with hormones: "Each face card profiles a different scientist along their particular life path. ... Explorer (Page) - Dopamine: A seeker whose initial curiosity about the world opens a gateway to scientific inquiry. Innovator (Knight) - Serotonin: The devoted researcher whose persistence and invention reveal new insights. Storyteller (Queen) - Oxytocin: The negotiator whose intelligence and empathy welcome others into scientific discovery. Visionary (King) - Testosterone: The director who drives scientific study forward into new territory with vision and hope."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Love in the New Millennium 3: Destino

Still from Destino. Image Source: Wiki.

Many thanks to my friend S. for bringing my attention to the short film Destino, made through an unusual 1946 collaboration between American animator Walt Disney and Spanish painter Salvador Dalí.  It is a surreal depiction of the blossoming of true romance. I was surprised at how similar some of the imagery looked to Peter Chung's Æon Flux. After decades of complicated production issues, the film was finally made available for home viewing on Blu-ray on November 30, 2010.  See the film here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shortening Attention Spans!

People were already commenting on this problem in 1993. Image Source: Melsmagic.com.

Shortening attention spans. There's no doubt it's happening.  But what will it do to us?  Will we develop new neural pathways? Will it make us better at doing certain things, and helpless at others? There's plenty of speculation, but here's the (latest) lowdown:
  • Wiki (from a BBC report here): "Most internet users spend less than one minute on the average website."  Other comments here, here and here.
  • Twitter's Public Timeline shows what everyone is doing on that site right now - watch their (and your) reality break apart into little virtual fragments.
  • You can test how long your attention span is (at least how long it is when it comes to doing dumb internet quizzes) here.
  • Advice on how to rebuild your attention span and regain the ability to focus: here.
  • Skeptics claim that this is all bunk; short attention spans are a product of millions of years of evolution, as here.
Multi-tasking! The breathless pressure to do more and more! The nagging feeling that there are not enough hours, minutes, seconds in the day! The devaluing of people, thoughts, ideas, information depending on how they rank according to the 'value of time' spent on them!  These are all a result of our being trapped into believing that modes of computer processing apply equally to human thoughts and interactions.  Ironically, we feel outpaced by computers, when in fact our brains are still trillions of bytes per second ahead of them.  Computers are in fact still brutally stupid.  Why are we trying to be more like them, rather than making them more like us?  Why is 'intelligence' measured by the amount of information processed per unit of time?