TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

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.



Friday, December 30, 2016

Productivity: The Last Domino to Fall in the Old System



In a previous post, Subliminal Slavery of the Subconscious Self, I summarized a BBC 2002 documentary, The Century of the Self, in which director Adam Curtis maintained that the mid-to-late 20th century was a time in which cause was divorced from effect, actions separated from consequences, in the name of preventing world war and genocide.

Curtis claimed that post-World War II mass culture became a giant pressure cooker experiment. The hypothesis ran that pre-World War II societies were repressed by old social values and religions. When societies became psychologically and emotionally over-repressed, they could suddenly blow and all the dark instincts of the community would surge out in racism, mass psychosis and murder. Psycho-social repression was the hypothesized cause of the Holocaust.

Image Source: Aussie Cool Story Club.

The prescribed remedy in western cultures, and later, global cultures, was to indulge the Jungian collective unconscious and mass shadow in a thousand different ways. Smaller vices were continually encouraged to give the big collective pressure cooker a way to let off steam. Celebrities came forth to personify aspects of the Freudian Id or Jungian Unconscious, in order to push those buttons in audiences. Derived from Austrian psychoanalysis, transported into American mass entertainment and mass politics, the pressure cooker slow release experiment wasn't a great idea.


A famous, early example of the 1960s' Hell-Sell technique, used in an actual Kent cigarettes ad, with explanation of the subliminal images and colours employed from a leaked advertising training manual. Part of the blurred-out message includes giant spiders mating on the girl's leg. Images Source: Whale.

As a result, as the Cold War wore on, any kind of inhibition in the name of old-fashioned social mores was condemned as social repression, an attack on liberty. Gone was the idea that norms reflected customs based in everyday life, and that norms connected people to habit, sanity, and reality. This is the kind of freedom that really enslaves people! The adoration of the libertine came at a price, because there was one place left where actions still connected to consequences.

Creation, making things, building things, was still directly related to making money. That correlation became more and more harshly enforced, more industrial, an assembly line governed by line managers, as time went on. Productivity was also unconsciously and in real terms wedded to the rise of the computer, so that we were expected to work like machines, battling against the continual threat of lack and loss. Space and time for productivity became supreme luxuries, reserved for the top few producers.

This is the logical inconsistency embedded in post-World War II global culture. Where all the other leashes were loosened, the last one, productivity, was inhumanly tightened. Normally, productivity is associated with discipline; that discipline was somewhat mitigated when other areas of life moved in parallel. But in developed countries, social limitations, personal restraints, and boundaries were erased. A lack of discipline rewarded and eased suffering in the personal realm. Meanwhile, all base survival was tied - with threats and desperation - to machine-like performance and productivity. The only place we were still connected to reality was through productivity, measured in time and money.

This paradoxical arrangement caused enormous social and cultural stresses, glossed over by blinking, flashing mass entertainment, bent on stating and restating: "It's all right. It's all right. It's all right." When, in fact, it was not all right and it did not correlate. One could not have no inhibitions on off hours, yet turn up bang on the dot on Monday to work like a robot. Or these days, turn up bang on the dot any time of the day or night, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to work like a robot, while also somehow simultaneously blowing off crazy steam in Id-dominated playgrounds.

Social theorists, political ideologues, and cultural gurus arose to reconcile the paradox and explain it away. For a time, the paradox could be cloaked, such that it offered the only ethical way to behave. Given its original historical premise, it was always presented as the only possible social structural counter-argument to racial genocide and world war. That is, workers were asked by broader culture to suppress their own souls in the name of making money or helping others to make money. But in all other respects, it was the height of right-thinking and social correctness to invert all previously-held values and to destroy self-limitations.

This post is not a conservative screed, moralizing or condemning libertinism. I merely observe that the formula was inconsistent and thus, the pattern is not sustainable. The paradox cannot hold for much longer. This must give way: the forceful over-expectation in Millennial working life, that this is the only way that cause can lead to effect, that actions can lead to consequences, that one must work oneself into the ground, second by second, to make money. While at the same time, in all other areas of life, irresponsibility and the divorce between actions and consequences prevail. One is minute-by-minute bombarded with media messages of war, disaster, chaos, and unbridled instinct. And counter to the pressure cooker experiment, our world is becoming more, not less, brutal, savage and potentially genocidal. It is a place where online beheadings and extreme porn are the norm and barely stir any profound response in the desensitized populace. Can you even remember what outrages you saw on the television or computer two weeks ago? Or what you ate for supper?

Further, as I noted in my post, Post-Apocalypse Rehab, mass media messages insist that the money you earn while acting like a robot rewards you by removing restraint in off hours. This is why we are surrounded by images of conspicuous consumption, which beg citizens to be irresponsible and disconnected from themselves and from reality in non-work areas of life. Supermodel sumptuousness and cinematic fictions of carnage create dreamlike distances from ongoing collective trauma. They allow the carnage in, so one engages, but from a quasi-safe position of cocoon-like detachment from the weirdness of living in this heaving, struggling world.

All of this must finally give way to a different way of living. The last domino to fall will be the outmoded way productivity is inflexibly correlated to money. This domino will fall in the name of consistency. You cannot train human beings to be hedonistic libertines for half a century, but deny them access to that final realm of freedom, within their own souls. Thus, in the last area where they are ordered inflexibly to be obedient, making money, they will rebel, because all other rules have been relaxed, inverted, abrogated, redefined, or overturned. The manner in which they redefine productivity and profitability may go either way: a soulful path or a libertine one.

The Internet is Ground Zero for this change. Cyberspace was supposed to broaden libertinism; it was a fantasyland, a computer playland. Cyberpunk was an extension of 1960s' and 1970s' drug culture. What a surprise, then, that after the initial wallowing in porn and LOLcat bullshit, computerland instead turned out to be a tough-as-nails Spartan training ground, which is now having radical impacts in the real world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

World War III Projections 2: If Only She Could Talk


The best tin foil hat on the Internet. Image Source: Etsy.

If only Julian Assange's cat could talk, I mean, really talk. If she could, the poor little thing would probably go the way of Tobermory, and be sacrificed in the name of silence. She is known by fans of WikiLeaks as 'Embassy Cat' and by the mainstream press as 'James,' who seem not to have bothered to understand that she is female. If she could talk, maybe she would tell us about the worst conspiracy theory of 2016, which is the subject of this post.

Assange received the kitten, descended from European wildcatsfrom his children in May 2016. Image Source: LinkTV. The Washington Post and other outlets frowned when the cat got its own Twitter account and started quoting Shakespeare in relation to current events.

A photo posted by Embassy Cat (@embassycat) on

A photo posted by Embassy Cat (@embassycat) on
Embassy Cat with Italian Marxist theorist, Franco Berardi.

Embassy Cat with Michael Moore, June 2016. Image Source: PBS via Twitter.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Image Source: Evening Standard.

Monday, December 26, 2016

One Child Left to Come Back For


"Praying for Time" by George Michael (released 13 August 1990). Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (3 September 1990) © Columbia/Epic. Reproduced under Fair Use. George Michael died Christmas Day, 2016, aged 53, RIP.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sleepers Wake, Christmas 2016


Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) Christmas hymn: Vom Himmel hoch (1831). Video Source: Youtube.

Merry Christmas! Above, a Christmas hymn from Mendelssohn, a great 19th century admirer of Bach. See my earlier post on Mendelssohn, here. Below, Bach's cantata 140, Sleepers Wake, is properly played on the 27th Sunday after Trinity, or the last Sunday before Advent, in late November. Given the mood of Advent 2016 - gloom from the liberals, and glee, mixed with conspiratorial paranoia, from their opponents - the message of Sleepers Wake remains relevant this Christmas.

When every news headline today announces catastrophe, and people are bitterly divided over values and politics, it helps to remember what a real catastrophe is. Sleepers Wake is a much-loved piece for a very good reason, and it is not just Bach's music.

Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), a Lutheran pastor and poet, wrote the chorale upon which Bach's 1731 cantata is based. Nicolai composed the original hymn after falling ill with the plague in the late 16th century. He expected to die, as did most people in his town. Instead, he recovered.

Today, we can cure the plague - barely. It takes all the powers of modern medicine, and weeks on life support in intensive care. How miraculous would it be, then, to survive the plague in the 16th century? Imagine Nicolai, waking in amazement from the bed he thought was his death bed. He thanked God for surviving the Black Death by writing two hymns. They became known as the King and Queen of Chorales: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, calls the voice to us, or, Sleepers Wake; 1599) and Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How lovely shines the morning star; pub. 1599).

These hymns became famous, and on penning them, Nicolai entered history. Sleepers Wake has apocalyptic themes and refers to the Parable of the Ten Virgins. But all aspects around the hymn really ask: how grateful would you be, if you faced your greatest fears, the most terrible test, and survived? If you survived the scourge? Sleepers Wake says, wake up, be glad, and be ready not for doom and death, but survival and a happy life instead. If you are so inclined, thank God for it. We live in secular times, when the religious message of Christmas is muted, and the holiday has been diminished by materialism and conspicuous consumption. It was never about that. For millennia, before Christianity and after, it was about the solstice, and reaching past darkness. I will say: thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Cantata 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 (1731). Video Source: Youtube.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Aleppo's Disinfo D-Day


Umayyad mosque photographed on 12 March 2009 and 17 December 2016. Image Source: The Atlantic.

The Guardian has today published photographs showing Aleppo, Syria as it appeared before the civil war started on 15 March 2011 and how it appears now. Photo credits: The Guardian/ Omar Sanadiki / Khalil Ashawi / Reuters.

The old city photographed on 13 December 2016.

The courtyard of al-Sheebani school photographed on 17 December 2016.

Blame over Syria's devastation intensifies after the murder of the Russian ambassador, Andrey Karlov, on 19 December 2016 at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey. You can see the terrible, raw video, here. The Double-007-type assassin, Mevlut Mert Altıntas, was Aleppo's self-styled avenger. The Telegraph asserted the assassin was an élite policeman who had guarded President ErdoğanKremlin-sourced online rumour mongers believe the killer was an anti-Russian NATO agent. Raw Story:
"The footage also shows the assassin saying a religious verse in Arabic: a pledge for jihad for Muhammed moments after the attack. He also said in Turkish: 'Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria. Until our towns are safe, you will not taste safety. Only death will take me away from here. Everyone who played a role in this cruelty will pay.'"
Several western MSM sources are accusing Syria, Russia and Iran of war crimes for bombarding civilians during a truce to evacuate the formerly-rebel-held city. You can see details at Human Rights Watch, hereWashington Times:
"Iran’s brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force has played an extensive role in the rape of Aleppo, building a network of bases around the Syrian city and directing militiamen from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan to do the killing, an Iranian opposition group says in a new intelligence report. 
'The fact is that Aleppo has been occupied by the IRGC and its mercenaries,' says the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, or MEK, the largest opposition group to the Islamic mullahs who rule Iran. 'Mass executions, preventing the transfer of the civilians, including women and children, [and] attacking the civilians has all been done by the forces of the mullahs' regime.'"
Heart-rending photograph of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh from Aleppo (August 2016). Image Source: CNN.

Smoke and mirrors: it is difficult to determine the nature of American and Russian involvement in Syria and the way ISIS was sponsored to destroy Assad's government. It is clear that ISIS got out of control.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Oldest Tree on Earth


A tree in the Methuselah Grove, California, USA. Image Source: Where Cool Things Happen.

Until 2012, the oldest confirmed tree in the world was 'Methuselah,' a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) tree growing high in the White Mountains of eastern California, USA. Methuselah is 4,848 years old. In 2012, a nearby tree of the same species was found to be 5,066 years old (germination in 3050 BCE). As you can see from the video below, hikers can visit the grove where Methuselah and other Great Basin bristlecones live, aged 1,000-5,000 years old, but the wardens will not identify Methuselah or its older relative for fear that the trees may be vandalized.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 7: The Economist Predicts the Year 2017


The Economist predictions for 2017, released November 2016. Image Source: The Economist.

When I saw that The Economist's tarot spread cover for its special issue predicting next year, my heart sank. After the American election, #proofoflife at WikiLeaks, and the impeachment of the South Korean president, I did not want to think about any more political weirdness. In case you have had enough too, here is my TL;DR on The Economist's message:

The cover may or may not predict a terror attack in Europe or a nuclear threat in Asia in the first quarter of the year, cementing Trump's presidency in the second quarter. Despite the fact that Trump will backtrack on promises, his ability to mesmerize the populist masses will grow. A huge upheaval is expected in the third quarter, with Merkel likely to lose the German election and Wilders and LePen gaining in earlier elections in the Netherlands and France. A divided body politic must find middle ground. After watching this unfold, the globalist liberal establishment will renew itself by December through the debut of exciting new technology, increased connectivity in developing countries, and a redoubled effort to control the public space, both online and off, with figures from government, banking, entertainment and academia entering online discourse in earnest. They will absorb formerly independent Internet enterprises, recapture lost ground, go on the attack, and flip the populist script.

On Youtube, I sensed the alt-right, alt-media types didn't want to look at The Economist. They are weary. "They do this to us every year," sighed one Youtuber after making three videos on the subject. Even the conspiracy theorists are sick of conspiracy theories. They only reviewed this Planet Trump thing out of a dogged sense of obligation to keep up their end - New World Order, Illuminati, Trump, Pizzagate, yadda yadda. They were all sure about one thing. The cover contains a hidden message.

I envy the flat rationalist, who would scoff before imagining anything arcane here. This is merely an illustrator's whimsical reference, as though the editors had chosen a picture of a woman reading the future in a crystal ball. I hope it is true.

Perhaps the editors did this as a tongue-in-cheek layout to bait crazy conspiracy theorists. Actually, I think the editors at The Economist do not care how the cover is received by the alt-media, who are beneath their contempt. If so, then this is another tone-deaf, top-down misconception of the impact of the Internet on the public debate. On the Internet, mimetics, semiotics, virality and truth excavations rule the day, not inside jokes and polished arguments to a select audience. A tarot spread confirms the worst conspiracy theories about magic infecting high politics. To give evidence of this - straight from the horse's mouth - strengthens the alt-media, which cannot be good for The Economist.

In an earlier post, Magic, Numerology and the IMF, I observed that Christine Lagarde did not realize that she now had to speak to two audiences. Every speech she made would be channeled into the old MSM theatre, as well as the alt-media. She plainly did not understand the latter at all. Her clever asides would be taken the usual way by the old establishment, but on Youtube, they would feed the independent machine of conspiracy theorizing and populism.

To make matters worse, she seemed to confirm the conspiracy theorists' fears about a magic-obsessed establishment. Lagarde was making predictions for the year 2014, peppering her predictions for the coming year with numerological nudge-nudge-wink-wink-hint-hints, which promised (precisely, down to the day) the manipulation of oil prices to hurt Russia. To the alt-media, this made it look like her policy speech had a magical subtext and potency. The liberal democracies are supposed to be secular, humanist, and rationalist; they should not be run by the rules of parlour games, or by people who believe that parlour games are real. I argued that parlour games should stay in the parlour.

Monday, December 12, 2016

WikiLeaks' Advent Calendar



Every day in December has opened a new door like an Advent calendar, and the surprises behind each door are orchestrated by Julian Assange. Some of his followers think he is dead, despite recent statements about his Swedish rape case. His supporters, who are reading WikiLeaks materials, believe they have uncovered child sex trafficking rings in the American establishment. Their comments on these documents are dismissed as lies, hoaxes, and suppressed as hate speech by the mainstream media and governments.

The LA Times first warned against pro-Republican fake news sites on 14 August 2014. Image Source: Politics USA via Rob Goldstein.

Perhaps more intriguing than the Pizzagate allegations is the claim that Assange was threatened in mid-October 2016 and this threat tripped part of his dead man's switch. On 23 November 2016, there was a report at The Lie Politic that a 'taster' was released on WikiLeaks to protect his life. That taster is here. I will show some of the images and links from the taster below the jump. By the third week of November, The Lie Politic claimed, the material had been available for a month and it was not discussed in the alt-press or the mainstream press. The former are wrapped up in Pizzagate. The latter are busy dismissing everything the alt-news are reporting as fake news.

Image Source: The Lie Politic.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Julian Assange's December Surprise


Image Source: Express.

The fake news, alt-news, doubleplusungood disinformation about WikiLeaks is reaching the stratosphere. Ugly themes from the US election continue. On 28 November 2016WikiLeaks dumped 500,000 diplomatic cables on US policy in the Middle East, dating from 1979. On 1 December, they released 2,420 (90 gigabytes) documents on cooperation between US and German spies, which shows how Merkel's government distinguished between 'internal use' priorities and a 'public answer' face; this dump could damage Germany's place in the EU.

The MSM are putting out conspiracy theorists' brush fires. Most of these flare-ups concern Assange and: ISIS; Russia; TurkeySyriamoney laundering through high-valued art pieces to conceal global crimes; pornography and child trafficking; elections in Europe; the UN; the Federal Reserve; the CIA and NSA; the future of the Internet (more here, here, here, here). Below the jump, see links and images which may converge into Julian Assange's December Surprise.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shamans, Scandals and Post-Truth Totalitarianism


Image Source: Korean Exposé.

Three gigantic scandals currently challenge propriety and public service in politics. They raise the question of how the Internet is transforming government and the exercise of power. They also confirm a theme which I have considered here, namely, that futuristic technology is breathing life into old, mythical traditions, and not all of those traditions are nice or easy to manage. At the heart of all three scandals sits WikiLeaks, demonstrating that Julian Assange is a shaman in his own right. This post does not speculate on the truth of the scandals, but assesses what they mean for what is left of civil society and government. Warning: read no further if you are a minor or if you want to avoid offensive content.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Innovation in the Wild West


Travel on the back roads. Image Source: pinterest.

In this post, I intended to expand on my Wild West Theory of Innovation, continued from my 19 November 2016 post, Enter the Frontier. My idea was not based on the current American television series, which echoes the same notion that techno-societies have entered a Westworld. The piece became too long, and I have decided to submit it elsewhere.

Rather than fully elaborate on my understanding of a positive path through the frontier, this post will describe the initial inspiration I had for the piece. I started with the idea that when a society innovates radically and rapidly, the innovators will encounter marginalized people and ideas as they push into the outer reaches.

There is a paradox here. Although innovation is depicted in our culture as progressive, futuristic and positive, innovation starts from a point of social, political or economic alienation. The journey into innovation is an epic trek into the frontier, a 'wild west.' I suggest that the narrative of innovation does not automatically line up with the narrative of positive progress. The innovator, in inventing, transforming and changing the status quo, will confront society's fears and uncertainties, as much as he or she confronts its hopes and dreams. As a result, the innovative society will become increasingly polarized.

The film clip below shows the starting point of that trek, when the innovator metaphorically chooses one day to walk out the back door rather than the front. This choice inverts the normal way of viewing reality, the regular processes of thought and action. What the innovator discovers is a second reality, an alternate civil state beyond the conventional pathways, an Underground. The first figures the hopeful and inspired innovator will encounter on his or her journey are the people who were already marginalized and lurking about the back ways - the criminals, the psychopaths.

Back alleyways scene from Guy Maddin's docufantasia of a Canadian city, My Winnipeg (2007) © Buffalo Gal/Documentary Channel/Everyday Pictures. Winnipeg is Canada's western gateway city. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Undergrounds were always repositories for strange behaviour and ideas, and normally contained them. Initially, cyberspace was that Underground, and was not taken seriously as part of the public space. It was considered a computer playland, filled with alienated losers and fringe actors, or mainstream citizens engaging in forbidden, anonymous play.

What is happening now is twofold and contradictory. As technological and socio-economic changes took hold, the usual polarization between mainstream and Underground occurred. At the same time, the Underground and mainstream are fully exposed to one another and merging together. This nasty alt-mainstream synthesis is incorporating polarities without dissolving them.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Enter the Frontier



Earlier this year, I developed an idea about 21st century change which I call the 'Wild West Theory of Innovation.'

The theory is about the real dynamics of change. It states that radical change produces actual, hard change and expected stabilities will not remain; moreover, the ideas and people that initiated the change do not and cannot contain outcomes. Those outcomes take change agents to the fringes, to the 'wild west.' Change can suddenly become a negative threat, because old ideas stop working, produce bad results, or can be co-opted by one's opponents. To find the positive aspect of change again, one must adapt to the new environment.

I developed the idea in relation to Bitcoin, not politics, Brexit, or the American election. But it applies to 20th century political animals and 21st century technological innovators alike, who have aligned themselves morally and politically with what they regard as positive change. They should not be surprised when they innovate themselves into a frontier territory, dominated by marginalized characters and alien concepts.

This is a non-political blog, so the point here is not to criticize any groups or counter-groups, but to consider why socio-economic reform and technological innovation are double-edged swords; to depict how we arrived at the outer edges; and to find a positive path through the frontier.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

North Korean Monopoly: Progress and Poverty


Image Source: hajo via NRC.

VICE recently reported (below) that North Korea is making billions of dollars by sending its forced labour pool to work in Poland and other European countries. If you follow VICE, you know that North Korea is one of Shane Smith's favourite subjects. I have previously blogged about his coverage, here. VICE's report drew from earlier articles in the Dutch media, NRC (11 February 2016), and Reuters (26 April 2016). I was struck by the North Korean Monopoly illustration that appears in the VICE video, reproduced from the NRC report, and the implication that North Korea's totalitarian family dictatorship and weird communists are exporting forced labour around the world as a capitalist commodity. Reuters maintained that the money earned by North Korean forced labour in the seemingly humanitarian European Union was funding the North Korean nuclear weapons and missile programme:
"[T]here is arguably a strong link between North Korean human rights infringements and something that is happening in the EU today. Preliminary research shows that several hundred, possibly thousands, of North Korean workers are hired with legal work permits, but under often illegal circumstances, in EU member states. These states include Poland, Malta and others. The companies hiring North Koreans include those involved in shipyards, construction, manufacturing and agriculture. Details about these companies will be included in a forthcoming report later this year. Once workers are issued these permits, it is not clear what happens after they arrive in the EU.

Funds earned by North Korean laborers working in the EU under what appear to be conditions of forced labor a[re] sent to Pyongyang enable the missile-launching posturing we are now witnessing. Effectively, this means that action to address North Korea’s dire human rights situation could be intimately connected to efforts to fight its threat to regional security."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Look Skyward: The Supermoon of Supermoons


Image Source: Science Alert.

On 14 November 2016, at 13:52 UTC, the moon will come the closest it has been to the earth in nearly 70 years. It is the second of three consecutive supermoons closing the year 2016. EarthSky:
"November 14 presents the moon’s closest encounter with Earth in over 68 years, since January 26, 1948. The full moon on November 14, 2016, will feature the closest full moon (356,509 kilometers) until November 25, 2034 (356,448 kilometers)! Maybe this helps you see that supermoons – while interesting – are fairly routine astronomical events."
Telegraph:
"The moon will come 221,524 miles from Earth - almost touching distance in space terms. ... The closest full moon of the whole of the 21st century will fall on December 6, 2052. Make sure you don't forget."
Another supermoon follows on 14 December 2016 at 00:05 UTC. You can see information on viewing these full moons here, here and here.

NASA's science cast on the unusual, last three supermoons of 2016. Video Source: Youtube.

The Farmer's Almanac explains that the full moons which bring the year to a close are known in Native American or First Nations' traditions as October's Hunter's Moon; November's Beaver Moon (which sounds rude to Brits - it is also called the Frost Moon); and the Cold Moon of December.

Moonrise behind the Taj Mahal. Image Source: Condé Nast Traveller.

A supermoon over Himeji Castle, Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. Image Source: The Mirror.

Supermoon in Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona, USA (5 May 2012). Image Source: Dave Seibert/The Republic via AZ Central.

The supermoon in the Sultanate of Oman (June 2012). Image Source: Priya Kumar via EarthSky.

A supermoon rising over the ancient temple of Poseidon in Greece on 23 June 2013. Image Source: National Geographic.

Miami Beach, Florida, USA (September 2015): this supermoon was also eclipsed. Image Source: CNN.

Scientists deny this, but people believe that supermoons cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Conspiracy theorists are in uproar over November's supermoon because it seems to mark a full circle with the supermoon of January 1948, and the state of Israel was founded on 14 May 1948. Some say November 2016's full moon also relates to the fate of Israel and world affairs because of President Obama's Israel Surprise. Fundamentalist Christians believe that this supermoon confirms the Second Coming of Christ. Others believe that this full moon is a sign of the end of times, or apocalyptic war. Perhaps not apocalypse, although I have started a series of posts on this blog to research and explore World War III projections. This post asks how the symbolism around the supermoon can help us cope with change.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fountain of Youth 21: Life-Giving Elixirs



The newspaper advertisement below for life-giving mineral water comes from the fourth page of The Markdale Standard, 23 October 1890. You can click the image below to enlarge. The ad comes from a time when sparkling water was considered an elixir of life, a source of rejuvenation and renewed health. From this time period, mineral water also became a fancy little signal of wealth.


Markdale is an old community north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. That is, it is old by Canadian standards. In 1890, the town was only forty-four years old, and the newspaper had been running for eleven years. The newspaper declared the attitude of local colonial residents with its motto: "Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may."





Images from Grey Highlands, Ontario, Canada. The last image shows a typical Ontario red brick building, built in Queen Anne Revival style, from the turn of the last century. Images Sources: Municipality of Grey Highlands, Royal Le Page Real Estate, Locations NorthJanet H. Becerra.

Markdale was located in the historic municipality, Artemesia Township, Grey County. Now called the Grey Highlands, the area is close to the town of Orillia, which author Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) depicted as the quintessential Canadian community, fictionalized as Mariposa. Some consider Ontario and Quebec to be the old heartland provinces of Canada, and this is the heart of the heartland of Ontario. This is cottage country.

In two books of mirrored short stories, Leacock portrayed Canada and America during the Gilded Age, to show how the two countries developed alongside each other and how they differed. The stories about Canada focus on Mariposa in the collection, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912). You can read it online here.

One of the stories, "The Candidacy of Mr. Smith," describes the election campaign of the town's illiterate hotel owner, Josh Smith, who runs for the Conservatives and appeals to the royalist sympathies of Ontario Tories:
"Boys," said Mr. Smith to the two hostlers, stepping out on to the sidewalk in front of the hotel,—"hoist that there British Jack over the place and hoist her up good."

Then he stood and watched the flag fluttering in the wind.

"Billy," he said to the desk clerk, "get a couple more and put them up on the roof of the caff behind the hotel. Wire down to the city and get a quotation on a hundred of them. Take them signs 'American Drinks' out of the bar. Put up noo ones with 'British Beer at all Hours'; clear out the rye whiskey and order in Scotch and Irish, and then go up to the printing office and get me them placards."

Then another thought struck Mr. Smith.

"Say, Billy," he said, "wire to the city for fifty pictures of King George. Get 'em good, and get 'em coloured. It don't matter what they cost."

"All right, sir," said Billy.

"And Billy," called Mr. Smith, as still another thought struck him (indeed, the moment Mr. Smith went into politics you could see these thoughts strike him like waves), "get fifty pictures of his father, old King Albert."

"All right, sir."

"And say, I tell you, while you're at it, get some of the old queen, Victorina, if you can. Get 'em in mourning, with a harp and one of them lions and a three-pointed prong."
The election depicted here resembles Canada's 1911 federal election, which turned on the economics of free trade; in 1911, Canadian voters rejected the Liberals' free trade platform and voted Conservative. This election outcome dictated Canada's stance toward trade with the United States until 1988:
"I suppose there was no place in the whole Dominion where the trade question—the Reciprocity question—was threshed out quite so thoroughly and in quite such a national patriotic spirit as in Mariposa. For a month, at least, people talked of nothing else. A man would stop another in the street and tell him that he had read last night that the average price of an egg in New York was decimal ought one more than the price of an egg in Mariposa, and the other man would stop the first one later in the day and tell him that the average price of a hog in Idaho was point six of a cent per pound less (or more,—he couldn't remember which for the moment) than the average price of beef in Mariposa.

People lived on figures of this sort, and the man who could remember most of them stood out as a born leader. ..."
In the election, it looks like the independent will win in an upset:
"I suppose that may have been why it was that in Mariposa the results came out at first in such a conflicting way. Perhaps that was how it was that the first reports showed that Edward Drone the Independent candidate was certain to win. You should have seen how the excitement grew upon the streets when the news was circulated. In the big rallies and meetings of the Liberals and Conservatives, everybody had pretty well forgotten all about Drone, and when the news got round at about four o'clock that the Drone vote was carrying the poll, the people were simply astounded. Not that they were not pleased. On the contrary. They were delighted. Everybody came up to Drone and shook hands and congratulated him and told him that they had known all along that what the country wanted was a straight, honest, non-partisan representation. The Conservatives said openly that they were sick of party, utterly done with it, and the Liberals said that they hated it. Already three or four of them had taken Drone aside and explained that what was needed in the town was a straight, clean, non-partisan post-office, built on a piece of ground of a strictly non-partisan character, and constructed under contracts that were not tainted and smirched with party affiliation. Two or three men were willing to show to Drone just where a piece of ground of this character could be bought. They told him too that in the matter of the postmastership itself they had nothing against Trelawney, the present postmaster, in any personal sense, and would say nothing against him except merely that he was utterly and hopelessly unfit for his job and that if Drone believed, as he had said he did, in a purified civil service, he ought to begin by purifying Trelawney.

Already Edward Drone was beginning to feel something of what it meant to hold office and there was creeping into his manner the quiet self-importance which is the first sign of conscious power."
But in the last moment, the hotelier Smith wins for the Conservatives by declaring his victory in the press before he actually wins; this swings the undecided voters for him, and everyone forgets how Liberal they were before the election:
"It was that last hour that did it. Just as soon as the big posters went up in the windows of the Mariposa Newspacket with the telegraphic despatch that Josh Smith was reported in the city to be elected, and was followed by the messages from all over the county, the voters hesitated no longer. They had waited, most of them, all through the day, not wanting to make any error in their vote, but when they saw the Smith men crowding into the polls and heard the news from the outside, they went solid in one great stampede, and by the time the poll was declared closed at five o'clock there was no shadow of doubt that the county was saved and that Josh Smith was elected for Missinaba.

I wish you could have witnessed the scene in Mariposa that evening. It would have done your heart good,—such joy, such public rejoicing as you never saw. It turned out that there wasn't really a Liberal in the whole town and that there never had been. They were all Conservatives and had been for years and years. Men who had voted, with pain and sorrow in their hearts, for the Liberal party for twenty years, came out that evening and owned up straight that they were Conservatives. They said they could stand the strain no longer and simply had to confess. Whatever the sacrifice might mean, they were prepared to make it."

Recent interiors of the Chicago Club (established 1869) and the University Club of Chicago (established 1887). Images Sources: Chicago Club, Prague Days Chicago.

Leacock's book which describes America, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914), centres on an unnamed metropolis - probably Chicago - and its exclusive Plutoria Avenue and Mausoleum Club (previously mentioned in this post). As for the inspiration for the Mausoleum Club, you can see a list of traditional gentlemen's clubs in Illinois, here. You can read Arcadian Adventures online here.


Recent interiors of Chicago's Casino Club (founded 1914). Images Sources: LK Events Chicago, Victoria Sprung Photography.

Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich opens with a reference to mineral water as well, as a symbol of America's breath-taking, heart-stopping wealth from this period:
"The Mausoleum Club stands on the quietest corner of the best residential street in the City. It is a Grecian building of white stone. About it are great elm trees with birds – the most expensive kind of birds – singing in the branches.

The street in the softer hours of the morning has an almost reverential quiet. Great motors move drowsily along it, with solitary chauffeurs returning at 10.30 after conveying the earlier of the millionaires to their down-town offices. The sunlight flickers through the elm trees, illuminating expensive nursemaids wheeling valuable children in little perambulators. Some of the children are worth millions and millions. In Europe, no doubt, you may see in the Unter den Linden avenue or the Champs Elysées a little prince or princess go past with a clattering military guard to do honour. But that is nothing. It is not half so impressive, in the real sense, as what you may observe every morning on Plutoria Avenue beside the Mausoleum Club in the quietest part of the city. Here you may see a little toddling princess in a rabbit suit who owns fifty distilleries in her own right. There, in a lacquered perambulator, sails past a little hooded head that controls from its cradle an entire New Jersey corporation. The United States attorney-general is suing her as she sits, in a vain attempt to make her dissolve herself into constituent companies. Near by is a child of four, in a khaki suit, who represents the merger of two trunk line railways. You may meet in the flickered sunlight any number of little princes and princesses far more real than the poor survivals of Europe. Incalculable infants wave their fifty-dollar ivory rattles in an inarticulate greeting to one another. A million dollars of preferred stock laughs merrily in recognition of a majority control going past in a go-cart drawn by an imported nurse. And through it all the sunlight falls through the elm-trees, and the birds sing and the motors hum, so that the whole world as seen from the boulevard of Plutoria Avenue is the very pleasantest place imaginable.

Just below Plutoria Avenue, and parallel with it, the trees die out and the brick and stone of the City begins in earnest. Even from the Avenue you see the tops of the sky-scraping buildings in the big commercial streets, and can hear or almost hear the roar of the elevated railway, earning dividends. And beyond that again the City sinks lower, and is choked and crowded with the tangled streets and little houses of the slums.

In fact, if you were to mount to the roof of the Mausoleum Club itself on Plutoria Avenue you could almost see the slums from there. But why should you? And on the other hand, if you never went up on the roof, but only dined inside among the palm-trees, you would never know that the slums existed – which is much better.

There are broad steps leading up to the club, so broad and so agreeably covered with matting that the physical exertion of lifting oneself from one’s motor to the door of the club is reduced to the smallest compass. The richer members are not ashamed to take the steps one at a time, first one foot and then the other; and at tight money periods, when there is a black cloud hanging over the Stock Exchange, you may see each and every one of the members of the Mausoleum Club dragging himself up the steps after this fashion, his restless eyes filled with the dumb pathos of a man wondering where he can put his hand on half a million dollars.

But at gayer times, when there are gala receptions at the club, its steps are all buried under expensive carpet, soft as moss and covered over with a long pavilion of red and white awning to catch the snowflakes; and beautiful ladies are poured into the club by the motorful. Then indeed it is turned into a veritable Arcadia; and for a beautiful pastoral scene, such as would have gladdened the heart of a poet who understood the cost of things, commend me to the Mausoleum Club on just such an evening. Its broad corridors and deep recesses are filled with shepherdesses such as you never saw, dressed in beautiful shimmering gowns, and wearing feathers in their hair that droop off sideways at every angle known to trigonometry. And there are shepherds too with broad white waistcoats and little patent leather shoes and heavy faces and congested cheeks. And there is dancing and conversation among the shepherds and shepherdesses, with such brilliant flashes of wit and repartee about the rise in Wabash and the fall in Cement that the soul of Louis Quatorze would leap to hear it. And later there is supper at little tables, when the shepherds and shepherdesses consume preferred stocks and gold-interest bonds in the shape of chilled champagne and iced asparagus, and great platefuls of dividends and special quarterly bonuses are carried to and fro in silver dishes by Chinese philosophers dressed up to look like waiters.

But on ordinary days there are no ladies in the club, but only the shepherds. You may see them sitting about in little groups of two and three under the palm-trees drinking whiskey and soda; though of course the more temperate among them drink nothing but whiskey and Lithia water, and those who have important business to do in the afternoon limit themselves to whiskey and Radnor, or whiskey and Magi water. There are as many kinds of bubbling, gurgling, mineral waters in the caverns of the Mausoleum Club as ever sparkled from the rocks of Homeric Greece. And when you have once grown used to them, it is as impossible to go back to plain water as it is to live again in the forgotten house in a side street that you inhabited long before you became a member."
In his satire of America before World War I, Leacock was undoubtedly influenced by Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), under whom he studied graduate economics at the University of Chicago.

The library at the Union League Club of Chicago (founded 1879). Image Source: Union League Club of Chicago.

Veblen's critique of capitalism was summarized by his invention of the phrase, "conspicuous consumption" in his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899); you can read it online here. See my previous mention of Veblen in the post, Bitcoin: Economy of the Eternal Now, and my earlier post contrasting Canada and America in Twelve by Twelve Hours in Two Countries.

Penguin ed. of Veblen's work (1995). Image Source: booktopia.

Image Source: Princeton UP.

On 7 September 2016, one of my favourite American blogs, The Art of Manliness, pondered the values of the American election by citing a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. President Roosevelt spoke on 3 April 1903 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the ideals of American citizenship, beyond conspicuous consumption and money-making:
"No matter how honest a man may be, if he is timid, there is but little chance of his being useful to the body politic. In addition to honesty you must have strength and courage. We live in a rough world, and good work in it can be done only by those who are not afraid to step down into the hurly burly to do their part in the dust and smoke of the arena. The man who is a good man, but who stays at home in his own parlor, is of small use. It is easy enough to be good, if you lead the cloistered life, which is absolutely free from temptation to do evil because there is no chance to do it.

In addition to honesty and decency you need courage and strength. You need not only the virtues that teach you to refrain from wrong doing, but the virtues that teach you positively and aggressively to do right. You have to have those, too. And if you have got them, still it is not enough. You are valueless without them; you are valueless as a citizen unless you are both honest and brave, but if, in addition to that, you are a natural born fool, may the Lord be with you.

We need courage and we need honesty, and finally we need the saving grace of common sense. And we shall get good results from good citizenship exactly in proportion as the average citizen is developed along the three lines that I have indicated; for that is the man who will have high ideals, and yet will be able to realize them in practical fashion."
See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.