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.



Showing posts with label Alan Moore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alan Moore. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blog Book Holiday Giveaway


Image Source: Humans are Free.

BOOK GIVEAWAY EXTENDED TO 29 NOVEMBER 2017.

Today, I am sending out a HUGE thank you to my readers for sticking with this blog since 2010! It's been seven long years. I know how much noise and information there is on the Internet, and I am so grateful to everyone who has stopped here and helped build Histories of Things to Come to 3 million total hits this October.

Writing this blog has been hugely rewarding for me, and I appreciate all the readers who have lurked, commented, donated, and written to me privately. Thank you! To celebrate, I am offering a holiday book giveaway to my readers.

I was going to run this giveaway in December, but after checking the mail service, I'm running it now so that winners receive the books in time for the holidays.

How it Works

Over the next two weeks, from 8 November 2017 (starting 12:00 a.m. UTC) to 29 November 2017 (ending 23:59 p.m. UTC), if you want any of the books listed below, please send me a note in my 'Contact Me' message box in the right hand margin.

In the message, provide your email address and which books you want. If you want more than one book, list which ones in order of your preference (yes, you can list all of them). I won't acknowledge receipt of messages because of time limits but rest assured, the contract form is reliable. Don't leave your request in the comments box below.

For each book, I will put all related emails in a hat and choose one email. If your email gets picked more than once, I'll pick your top choice of book and redraw so someone else gets the other books.

Once I've drawn the winners, I'll email the winners personally and ask for their names and addresses and will mail the book directly to them. In the case of Scott Bembenek's work, I'll pass on the winner's information and his publicist will mail the book directly.

I'll also announce when the winners are chosen on the blog, so you will know if you didn't win.

Privacy: I won't share your e-mail or private information with anyone else. Please indicate when you contact me whether you want your e-mail to be included on my mailing list or not.

The Books

Sorry that these are only books in English - maybe next time I can find non-English publishers who wish to share copies.
  • THE COSMIC MACHINE: Scott Bembenek, The Cosmic Machine: The Science that Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It (San Diego: Zoari, 2017).
This is the Amazon #1 Best Seller in Chemical Physics and Quantum Chemistry. I will be featuring an interview with Dr. Bembenek about his book in December on this blog.
ENERGY, ENTROPY, ATOMS, AND QUANTUM MECHANICS form the very foundation of our universe. But how do they govern the world we live in? What was the difficult path to their discovery? Who were the key players that struggled to shape our current understanding?

The Cosmic Machine takes you from the earliest scientific inquiries in human history on an exciting journey in search of the answers to these questions. In telling this fascinating story of science, the author Scott Bembenek masterfully guides you through the wonderment of how scientific discoveries (and the key players of those discoveries) shaped the world as we know it today.

With its unique blend of science, history, and biographies, The Cosmic Machine provides an easily accessible account without sacrificing the actual science itself. Not only will this book engage, enlighten, and entertain you, it will inspire your passion and curiosity for the world around us.
[From Zoari Press:] Paperback: 358 pages
Publisher: Zoari Press; First edition (August 15, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0997934107
ISBN-13: 978-0997934106


  • OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN: Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider, eds., Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet (NY: OR Books, 2016).
Real democracy and the Internet are not mutually exclusive. Here, for the first time in one volume, are some of the most cogent thinkers and doers on the subject of the cooptation of the Internet, and how we can resist and reverse the process. The activists who have put together Ours to Hack and to Own argue for a new kind of online economy: platform cooperativism, which combines the rich heritage of cooperatives with the promise of 21st-century technologies, free from monopoly, exploitation, and surveillance.

The on-demand economy is reversing the rights and protections workers fought for centuries to win. Ordinary Internet users, meanwhile, retain little control over their personal data. While promising to be the great equalizers, online platforms have often exacerbated social inequalities. Can the Internet be owned and governed differently? What if Uber drivers set up their own platform, or if a city’s residents controlled their own version of Airbnb? This book shows that another kind of Internet is possible—and that, in a new generation of online platforms, it is already taking shape.

Included in this volume are contributions from Michel Bauwens, Yochai Benkler, Francesca Bria, Susie Cagle, Miriam Cherry, Ra Criscitiello, John Duda, Marina Gorbis, Karen Gregory, Seda Gürses, Steven Hill, Dmytri Kleiner, Vasilis Kostakis, Brendan Martin, Micky Metts, Kristy Milland, Mayo Fuster Morell, Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Rachel O’Dwyer, Janelle Orsi, Michael Peck, Carmen Rojas, Douglas Rushkoff, Saskia Sassen, Juliet Schor, Palak Shah, Tom Slee, Danny Spitzberg, Arun Sundararajan, Astra Taylor, Cameron Tonkinwise, McKenzie Wark, and Caroline Woolard.

Publication January 12, 2017 • 252 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-682190-62-3 • E-book 978-1-682190-63-0


  • BEAUTIFUL RISING: Juman Abujbara, Andrew Boyd, Dave Mitchell, and Marcel Taminato, eds., Beautiful Rising: Creative Resistance from the Global South (NY: OR Books, 2017).
In the struggle for freedom and justice, organizers and activists have often turned to art, creativity, and humor. In this follow-up to the bestselling Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, Beautiful Rising showcases some of the most innovative tactics used in struggles against autocracy and austerity across the Global South.

Based on face-to-face jam sessions held in Yangon, Amman, Harare, Dhaka, Kampala and Oaxaca, Beautiful Rising includes stories of the Ugandan organizers who smuggled two yellow-painted pigs into parliament to protest corruption; the Burmese students’ 360-mile long march against undemocratic and overly centralized education reforms; the Lebanese “honk at parliament” campaign against politicians who had clung to power long after their term had expired; and much more.

Now, in one remarkable book, you can find the collective wisdom of more than a hundred grassroots organizers from five continents. It’s everything you need for a DIY uprising of your own.

272 pages • Illustrated throughout with black-and-white photographs
Paperback ISBN 978-1-682191-12-5 • E-book 978-1-682191-13-2


In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country residence in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.

For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

When Google Met WikiLeaks presents the story of Assange and Schmidt’s encounter. Both fascinating and alarming, it contains an edited transcript of their conversation and extensive, new material, written by Assange specifically for this book, providing the best available summary of his vision for the future of the Internet.

Publication September 18, 2014 • 223 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-57-2 • E-book ISBN 978-1-939293-58-9




  • JERUSALEM: Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London: Knockabout, 2016).
Alan Moore says of his work:

In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England’s Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap tower blocks. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district’s narrative among its saints, kings, prostitutes and derelicts a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrol-coloured puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them. Fiends last mentioned in the Book of Tobit wait in urine-scented stairwells, the delinquent spectres of unlucky children undermine a century with tunnels, and in upstairs parlours labourers with golden blood reduce fate to a snooker tournament.

Disappeared lanes yield their own voices, built from lost words and forgotten dialect, to speak their broken legends and recount their startling genealogies, family histories of shame and madness and the marvellous. There is a conversation in the thunderstruck dome of St. Paul’s cathedral, childbirth on the cobblestones of Lambeth Walk, an estranged couple sitting all night on the cold steps of a Gothic church-front, and an infant choking on a cough drop for eleven chapters. An art exhibition is in preparation, and above the world a naked old man and a beautiful dead baby race along the Attics of the Breath towards the heat death of the universe.

An opulent mythology for those without a pot to piss in, through the labyrinthine streets and pages of Jerusalem tread ghosts that sing of wealth and poverty; of Africa, and hymns, and our threadbare millennium. They discuss English as a visionary language from John Bunyan to James Joyce, hold forth on the illusion of mortality post-Einstein, and insist upon the meanest slum as Blake’s eternal holy city. Fierce in its imagining and stupefying in its scope, this is the tale of everything, told from a vanished gutter.

“The endgame of epic modernism. There is nothing quite like this book in scale and bustling frenzy. Gamble everything. Read Jerusalem and you’ll never emerge in the same place.” – Iain Sinclair

1200 pages 3 paperbacks in slipcase | ISBN isbn 9780861662548


Additional Thanks:

I want to thank Katie Schnack at Smith Publicity and Emma at OR Books. OR Books publishes the top names in digital dissidence and cutting-edge analyses of the social, political, and philosophical impacts of technological innovation.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Irony of Anonymity


Image Source: Alamy.

Today is the 5th of November, and so the blog is devoted to the Million Mask March and snapshots of the Guy Fawkes mask from Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, which has become a worldwide symbol of hacktivism.

Last year, a variation of the mask was sold by Venetian maskmakers, joining the medieval with the Millennial. The Mascherade confirms that, in Venice, the mask freed people from the strictures on social identity:
"Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during the ... Carnival of Venice ... but have been used on many other occasions in the past, usually as a device for hiding the wearer's identity and social status. The mask would permit the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention. It was useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters."
One blog, Licence to Mask, examines this old Venetian idea, proving that anonymity is not new; that blog also connects the Bauta mask to today's anonymity on the Internet:
"The mask was standardized and its use was regulated by government to give Venetian citizens the freedom to do business, to pursue interests on their own and to take part in political activities without being identified while still being recognized and respected as legitimate and honorable members of the Venetian society.

I would like to find out if this concept could be a paradigm for internet identity management and anonymity concepts."
Of course, Bauta masks figured prominently in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, which is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Traumroman (Dream Story). Kubrick's film fueled conspiracists' speculations about the Illuminati. It is supremely ironic that the anti-establishment online movement is masked as well, and using the same principle of anonymity that the current western establishment employed when it was in its youth, at the onset of the modern era.

Image Source: Licence to Mask.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rickrolling ISIS


Image Source: Academia Obscura.

In 2007, a bait-and-switch meme started on the Internet that tricked users into watching Rick Astley's 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up (hear it here). The meme is called 'Rickrolling' and while it has brought Astley back into the spotlight, by August 2015 he had earned only $12 from the prank because he has performer's rights to the song; profits from Rickrolling went to the very fortunate song-writing trio, Stock Aitken Waterman. Astley remains sanguine: "Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it." Above, from Academia Obscura, a student's physics paper on Niels Bohr. Bohr, the 1922 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, modeled the atom in the 1920s, helped refugees flee the Nazis in the 1930s, worked at the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, and helped establish CERN in the 1950s.

Anonymous cyber-revenge campaign after the 13 November 2015 Paris attacks. Video Source: RT via Youtube.

The Young Turks opinion on Anonymous campaign against ISIS (16 November 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Rickrolling meme is resilient. A day after the Paris attacks on 14 November 2015, Anonymous began to spam and troll Twitter users with pro-ISIS terrorist hashtags by diverting their traffic to Rick Astley's video. This Rickrolling performs as a type of data-mining, in which Anonymous hackers keep track of those diverted to the video and mark them for cyber-attacks. The hackers use social media information to steal ISIS Bitcoin cryptocurrency holdings and they attack them on the Dark Net. They renewed this effort after the Brussels attacks on 22 March 2016. This is the hackers' reverse humour against ISIS operatives and sympathizers: never gonna give you up.

However, as I have commented before on this blog, it would be naïve to imagine Anonymous as purely heroic actors, after one has had a taste of their New World Order and World War III conspiracy theories, here, here, here and here. The campaigns against ISIS are related to Anonymous cyber-attacks on the Belgian government under hashtag #DownSecBelgium. On their announcement that they will rally at Place de la Concorde in Paris, France on 10 June 2016, one Youtuber was skeptical: "rien à voire avec Anonymous, c'est un fake."

Anonymous hacker campaign announced in French against ISIS one day after the Paris attacks (14 November 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Anonymous hacker campaign announced in French against ISIS on the same day as the Brussels attacks (22 March 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Providence


Providence #6 (released 25 November 2015), art by Jacen Burrows. The cover depicts Alumni Hall at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, USA. Image Source: Avatar Press. (Hat tip: Facts in the Case.)

The sixth issue of Alan Moore's Providence, which revives the visceral horror of H. P. Lovecraft, hits shops today. I am still recovering after reading the first five issues. It is a harrowing series, in which a post-World War I journalist is lured into a meta-historical New England underworld that is terrifying, disturbing, taboo and disgusting.

Moore often addresses questions long before they enter common consideration. Ironically, this is because of his deeply historical perspective of human nature. In 2006, the Guy Fawkes mask worn by Moore's anarchist terrorist character in his 1980s' comic series V for Vendetta became the face of global hacktivism and later, of the Occupy movement. Moore hails from Northampton and his outlook is partly shaped by that city's fateful support of Parliament against King Charles I during the English Civil War. The Gunpowder Plot in which Fawkes figured in November 1605 prefaced the Civil War (1642-1651). Late last year, Moore finished his magnum opus about Northampton. It is entitled Jerusalemhis final manuscript was sent off to his publisher with a final word count of over one million words. The editors will want him to cut it, but as he put it, "that's not going to happen." He stated the novel is, "longer than the Bible ... and with a better afterlife scenario." Moore confirmed that Jerusalem is a giant meditation on how the arcane world combines a resistance to fate and government; he deals with mathematics, the English Civil War, predestination and Cromwell; and "I realized [it] would [also] be about the development of economic policy, since Isaac Newton was put in charge of the mint." This year, in Providence, Moore has turned from politics to themes relevant in today's struggle against terrorist violence: what we fear and how we deal with it.

Saint Anselm College, Alumni Hall. Image Source: flickr.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The New Age of William Butler Yeats


W. B. Yeats by John Singer Sargent.

Today is the sesquicentennial 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Many modern poets have captured the spirit of our times. But Yeats stands out as a Romantic Modernist whose work most clearly described the great transition of our times, from one age to another. In his works, he depicted periods of time as sharply-dermarcated sections of human experience during which certain symbolic, spiritual, moral, occult or magical ideas gained total dominance. Thus the passage of time and the turn of ages was imagined by the poet as a violent, ongoing battle between contending philosophies and ways of being. Yeats equated the passage of time with millennia-long developments in collective human psychology. To understand how and why Yeats depicted the current Millennial transition so rarely and perfectly, we need to travel backward through his life, from the end of his days when his visions of the future were most pronounced, to the influences of his early childhood (Thanks to -C.).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quote of the Day: Alan Moore on Editors


Image Source: Wired.

The quote of the day comes from Alan Moore, via Rob Brezsny's advice to Aquarians for the week of 25 September 2014:
Alan Moore is the British author who wrote the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta. He is now nearing completion of Jerusalem, a novel he has been working on for six years. It will be more than a million words long, almost double the size of Tolstoy's War and Peace, and 200,000 words bigger than the Bible. "Any editor worth their salt would tell me to cut two-thirds of this book," Moore told the New Statesman, "but that’s not going to happen." Referring to the author of Moby Dick, Moore adds, "I doubt that Herman Melville had an editor. If he had, that editor would have told him to get rid of all that boring stuff about whaling: 'Cut to the chase, Herman.'" Let's make Moore and Melville your role models in the coming week, Aquarius. You have permission to sprawl, ramble, and expand. Do NOT cut to the chase.
The Guardian reported that Moore finished Jerusalem a week and a half ago. The book explores a tiny area of Northampton, where Moore grew up, through stories of his family's past. The bearded sage will undoubtedly reach universal transcendence with this work: it spans many different radical writing styles, genres and ideas. Jerusalem is now with the copy-editors.

Moore has repeatedly argued that gods, as the products of our imaginations, are real entities, produced by the magic of artistic creativity. He became a ceremonial magician on his fortieth birthday as "a logical end step to my career as a writer." That didn't happen. Wiki:
"I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness ... Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman."
See my earlier post on Moore's June 2013 interview with The Believer, on the subject of gods, art and magic, here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Counter Surveillance Society


Image Source: NSA Observer.

This past month saw a public push against the growing threat of a total Surveillance Society. On that issue, Xplode, makers of anti-adware, must be running across a lot of tracking junk files on people's computers. Xplode works under the French parent software team General Changelog, which appears to be supporting or developing a project called NSA Observer.

NSA Observer provides a summary of all public knowledge about the NSA online spying apparatus. The NSA Observer cites sources, including the Snowden leaks and public reports. Their site shows users the names of NSA-sourced spyware which may end up on private computers; it also shows the web of matrices by which these programs relate to one another. These programs have florid Millennial tech names, some of which hint at their functions, if you give them a little thought: Chewstick; Cineplex; CobaltFalcon; Ambulent; DogCollar; DistantFocus; MailOrder; MoonPenny; Ocelot; OrangeBlossom; RoyalConcierge (traces international diplomatic hotel and car reservations); OnionBreath (a GCHQ program); SurlySpawn; TalentKeyhole (a control system for space-based collection platforms); WealthyCluster; YachtShop; CottonMouth; EpicFail; EgotisticalGiraffe; FeedTrough; FlyingPig; GodSurge (provides software application persistence on Dell PowerEdge servers by exploiting the JTAG debugging interface of the server's processors); Hemlock; IrateMonk; PeddleCheap; OlympusFire; QuantumCookie; SlickerVicar; Trinity; Validator; WagonBed; WistfulToll; and ZestyLeak. If you read each entry carefully, you start to understand the nature and alarming extent of Internet monitoring. Take for example TreasureMap:
a near real-time, interactive map of the global Internet. It is a massive Internet mapping, analysis and exploration engine. It collects Wi-Fi network and geolocation data, and between 30 million and 50 million unique Internet provider addresses. The program can map “any device, anywhere, all the time.” Intelligence officials say "it only maps foreign and Defense Department networks".
The NSA Observer describes NSA programs as:
Programs are multimillion dollar projects that involve countries, companies, individuals and various technologies in the making of software, hardware and network manipulations used by NSA teams. Programs gather, handle and analyse data in order to determine how to collect more data. Most of the time, this data is gathered through invasive means. 
The site also lists NSA Attack Vectors:
Attack vectors are malicious tools executed on targeted individuals and/or organizations in order to gather more data on them. These attacks are most of the time directly aimed at individuals who have been identified as worthy targets.
And NSA Compartments:
Compartment is "jargon" that describes a team of persons, companies or countries. For higher security, the structure of intelligence agencies uses teams who are ignorant of the identity of the other teams. Should a compartment be compromised, other compartments should remain safe.
Fledgeling Metadata. Critics equate the NSA's collection of metadata with notorious secret police corps such as the East German Stasi: "Click here to explore a hand-drawn graphic, made by the East German secret police, that appears to show the social connections the Stasi gleaned about a poet they were spying on." Image Source: Stasi via ProPublica.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Alan Moore's Space-Time Gods

William Blake, Jerusalem (1804-1820; Plate 100). Image Source: Jechidah.

In the latest issue of The Believer*, Alan Moore was interviewed about his forthcoming novel, Jerusalem, which will be around 600,000 words long when completed. It will likely be finished by the end of this year. Part social realism, part fantasy, Moore described his book not in terms of genre, but in terms of time and its relation to godhood and art. In Moore's terms, time is magic, and magic is art. Therefore, time is art, and both are semi-divine. This may explain why we regard the greatest artworks as 'timeless'; and why a god can be defined as an entity that exists beyond time. Here is an excerpt from the Believer's interview, wherein Moore talks about these ideas and unsurprisingly turns the commandment against graven images on its head when he ties these ideas to art:

AM: Pretty much all of the book is predicated upon the assumption, which seems to be implicit in the work of most modern physicists since Einstein, that we inhabit a universe that has at least four spatial dimensions. There are three dimensions that we are conventionally aware of, and there is a fourth dimension, which is also a spatial dimension, but we don't perceive it as that. We perceive the distances of the fourth dimension as the passage of time. If I understand it correctly, I believe our entire continuum is at least a four-dimensional solid in which time is not passing, where every moment that ever existed or will exist is suspended, forever unchanging, from within this immense solid of space-time. And therefore the passage of time is an illusion that is only apparent to us as we move through this huge solid along what we perceive as the time axis.

BELIEVER: Where do you think human consciousness fits into that? Is it somehow separate from it?

AM: If time is an illusion, then all movement and change are also illusions. So the only thing that gives us the illusion of movement and change and events and time is the fact that our consciousness is moving through this mass along the time axis. If you imagine it as a strip of celluloid, each of those individual cells is motionless. If they each represent a moment, they're unchanging. They're not going anywhere, but as the projector beam of our consciousness passes across them, it provides the illusion of movement, and narrative and cause and effect and circumstances.

BELIEVER: You also believe that we can change the aperture of that projector through various processes like magic or other ways of shaping consciousness.

AM: Yeah, our view of reality, the one we conventionally take, is one among many. It's pretty much a fact that our entire universe is a mental construct. We don't actually deal with reality directly. We simply compose a picture of reality from what's going on in our retinas, in the timpani of our ears, and in our nerve endings. We perceive our own perception, and that perception is to us the entirety of the universe. I believe magic is, on one level, the willful attempt to alter those perceptions. Using your metaphor of an aperture, you would be widening that window or changing the angle consciously, and seeing what new vistas it affords you.

BELIEVER: Is magic's most authentic expression through the creative imagination?

AM: Actually, art and magic are pretty much synonymous. ... The central art of enchantment is the creation of gods and the creation of mythology, or the kind in the practice of magic, what I believe one is essentially doing is creating metafictions. It's creating fictions that are so complex and so self-referential that for all practical intents and purposes they almost seem to be alive. That would be one of my definitions of what a god might be. It is a concept that has become so complex, sophisticated, and so self-referential that it appears to be aware of itself. We can't say that it definitely is aware of itself, but then again we can't really say that about even our fellow human beings.

BELIEVER: But we can tell stories about the god being aware of itself.

AM: Yes, and to some degree, ontologically, the creation of a metaphysical being actually is that metaphysical being. If gods and entities are conceptual creatures, which I believe they are self-evidently, then the concept of a god is a god. An image of a god is the god - a little closer at hand.


*Alan Moore Interview: "Hey, You Can Just Make Stuff Up," The Believer #99 (13 June 2013): pp. 46-53.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ellen Ripley Meets Therapeutic Nihilism


Still from Alien3 (1992) © Brandywine Productions / 20th Century Fox. Image Source: Alien Explorations.

In 1991, David Fincher directed the Alien sequel, Alien3, which was a decade and a half ahead of its time. The film was nearly ruined by studio interference and production problems. It had previously gone through versions to which science fiction author William Gibson, Eric Red (writer of the cult horror films The Hitcher and Near Dark), future Riddick director David Twohy, and New Zealand director Vincent Ward all separately contributed.

What audiences and critics found more difficult was the gloomy, apocalyptic plot. Alien3 marked the new era of the compromised protagonist. It was a fraught with despair, a difficult narrative for audiences accustomed to triumphant cinematic conclusions. The heroine, Ellen Ripley, is even more heroic because she is not going to win.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

PRISM's Millennial Omens: The War Over the Internet Begins

Anonymous, the hacker group, has just released some PRISM-related NSA documents, and claims that the NSA is spying on citizens of more than 35 countries. Image Source: RT.

The Internet is swirling with reports that America's National Security Agency has 'wiretapped' the Internet and scrutinized people's private messages, searches, phone calls and personal data in the PRISM program. Rumours suggest that Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, Youtube, and Google, among others, are all involved, although these Web giants are sharply denying that.

It started with a leak from the Guardian:
Guardian blogger Glenn Greenwald dropped a bombshell on Thursday [6 June 2013], with a story that showed the National Security Agency was collecting data from Verizon thanks to a secret court order. But that was just the beginning: the Washington Post later revealed an even broader program of surveillance code-named PRISM, which involved data collection from the web’s largest players — including Google, Facebook and Apple — and then the Wall Street Journal said data is also being gathered from ISPs [Internet Service Providers] and credit-card companies.

Leaked cover slide of the US Federal Government's data collection program PRISM (April 2013). Image Source: Wiki via Washington Post.




Leaked slides of the US Federal Government's data collection program PRISM (April 2013), including description of how global Internet traffic passes through the USA. Image Source: Washington Post.

In these days of cyberwar and Big Data, I'm not sure why this is a huge surprise to some. It is the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the Web is being and could be mobilized as a tool of social control. And this is why the counter voice of hackers is so interesting in terms of the evolution of Millennial politics. What hackers will do in response to defend online users - the virtual 99 per cent - and whether they can be trusted to shoulder the burden of power and immense wealth associated with Big Data, without also becoming corrupted, is another story. At any rate, here is an initial list of links to articles and Web debate on the subject:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time Management


Ozymandius in Watchmen. Image Source: Comic Vine.
 
From Comic Vine, on time, ego and morality:
"You don’t often get a character who is both the ultimate hero and villain of his piece. Ozymandias saves his world but, in doing so, becomes a terrible monster. In many ways this makes him the perfect statement about superheroes in the Post-Modern world. We don’t believe you can save the day without doing something horrible. Some will argue that the man has no personality, but his superiority complex, arrogance, and the weight he carries his decision with make him very real to me. Like Alexander the Great, he tries to unite the world with violence."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State of the Union?





It appears that the very strange case around Christopher Dorner has come to an end. Or perhaps not.

Above, the scanner recording of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's standoff with Dorner, who was cornered at a cabin at Big Bear Lake, California. After a deadly shootout, the cabin then caught fire, apparently set by the police (see video at the bottom of this post). About two hours ago, CNN reported that the person inside the burning cabin tried to leave, and was "pushed back inside." Anderson Cooper later modified this to say that Dorner was pushed back inside by police fire. Below is a taste of the confusion in reports and online chatter.

In the audio record of police communications above, the cabin fire begins about 25 minutes into the recording (the audio source is here). For a time, the public access to the police scanner went dead, which bizarrely coincided with the State of the Union Address.





















Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Last Book from the Last Library


Déjà vu: According to historian Susan Wise Bauer, this is: The Taking of Constantinople, 1453 by Palma il Giovane [Iacopo Nigreti (c. 1548-1628), who worked alongside Tintoretto], 17th century; very similar to paintings by two Tintorettos (father and son). Image Source: Wiki [the title is quoted on Wiki as The Taking of Constantinople, 1204, other sources agree].

2012 is a year when many people are thinking about the apocalyptic unthinkable. But this is no new thing.  People have been thinking about the end of the world, or at least of cataclysmic change, for as long as they have been thinking about the world. Most of 2012's fears are couched in terms of war, rogue phantom planets, spiritual, religious, political or cosmic dangers. In the Information Age, the one thing we never consider is that our accumulated knowledge could be obliterated.

The Crusaders' Conquest of Constantinople in 1204, by Domenico Tintoretto ((1560-1635) son of the famous artist (1518-1594, who painted another similar painting). Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Venice, Italy, 16th century.

Critics scoff at the 2012 fearful, but the loss of almost everything we are and know is not implausible and should at least be understood in terms of historical precedents.

There is a reason why many dystopian futuristic stories and films commonly have some lone character - a post-apocalyptic historian - who has holed up with the remains of pre-apocalyptic books, paintings and other cultural artifacts. You can see that theme in several modern graphic novels, fiction and sci-fi movies: Logan's Run, V for Vendetta, Ever Since the World Ended, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

The reason these fearful depictions are so compelling is that they are based on historical facts. We possess submerged memories of other times when vast bodies of human knowledge were wiped out, irretrievably and forever.

This post is about the one surviving book that comes directly to us from the last library of the ancient world. Of course, there are many ancient texts that have survived through copies and archaeological reconstructions. But this is apparently the only text which can be directly traced to a collection at the Imperial Library of Constantinople.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

DC's Batman Shooter: The Day Evil Won


Cover art for DC Comics' Final Crisis (2008) by J. G. Jones © DC Comics. Image Source: Wiki.

In 2008, DC Comics, publishers of Batman, continued a pattern of pumping dwindling sales by publishing a crossover multi-title event called Final Crisis. The publicity motto for that series was: the day evil won. Top editor and now Co-Publisher of DC Comics, Dan Didio, commented that the series examined the question: "What happens when evil wins?" It is a good question, and an ironic one for Mr. Didio to ask. The answer appears to be: evil wins the day that DC's Millennial virtual fantasies become a reality. What happens on the pulp pages and the movie screen now happens in the cinema itself. Reality has become just like a graphic novel.

In an Aurora, Colorado shooting 20 July 2012 at the Batman: The Dark Knight Rises midnight movie première, 12 people died and 70 were tragically injured. Predictably, America's media have launched into a heavily politicized and polarized debate about the right to bear arms, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

But this election-related argument will take public discussion far off track from the meaning and origins of this tragedy. Guns were not the only weapons used here, since Holmes lobbed tear gas grenades at the crowd, and his apartment is still sealed and under investigation by bomb experts. The apartment is booby-trapped and full of jars of liquid, mortar rounds, trip wires, bombs and incendiary devices, which Holmes likely learned how to make by searching for information on the Web. He also purchased his ammunition over the Internet. Thus, some commentators might begin to ask if we should censor the Internet as we control guns. In this crime, guns and bombs and the information on the Web were not the purpose, but means, to an end.

That end is a social malaise which saw the suspected shooter, James Holmes, tell police that he was "the Joker." And in fact, everything, from the gas lobbed into the cinema prior to the shooting, to Holmes's booby-trapped apartment, is very Joker-like.

The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, sees this crime as an act of "senseless violence." But labeling 24-year-old Holmes, a graduate student who was in the process of abandoning his PhD in Neuroscience at University of Colorado, as 'insane' does not help to explain this crime. How did someone who was described by his old California neighbours as "clean cut, responsible and studied hard," and who graduated at the top in his undergraduate class in Neuroscience at University of California, Riverside, become someone who said he was "the Joker"?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nuclear Leaks 19: Fukushima's Fallout, Industrial, Political and Generational

Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #4 is supposedly ready to withstand a large earthquake (5 July 2012). Its rectangular spent fuel pool is now covered with metal plates, in the photo's foreground. Image Source: Kyodo News and Enformable via ENE News.

In Japan, finger-pointing and mass protests continue over the Fukushima nuclear crisis. In late June and early July 2012, Internet eco-chatter dubbed popular protests against the reopening of nuclear plants, the 'Hydrangea Revolution.' On 11 June 2012, 1,324 Fukushima residents lodged a criminal complaint against TEPCO and government officials for their responsibility in the disaster.

How can officials be held responsible for the outcome of a devastating earthquake and tsunami? On 5 July 2012, a parliamentary committee inquiring into the crisis decided that TEPCO had neglected safety measures at the plant for decades. The 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami were natural disasters, but the damage they helped cause at the Fukushima Daiichi site could have been completely avoided:
A Japanese parliament-appointed panel investigating the Fukushima plant disaster released a report the same day saying the calamity could have been prevented if regulators and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. had taken appropriate safety steps, calling it "clearly a man-made disaster."
Heads are rolling, although the people providing accusations and counter-accusations may have good reason to cover their own tracks and expose someone else's. If it weren't so tragic and horrible, it would have all the makings of a big budget cinematic thriller. By laying blame at TEPCO's feet, the ruling weirdly exonerates the nuclear industry in general. The message is: nuclear power plants are safe, as long as they are run according to high standards.

It's amazing how Millennial double-think and disinformation can contradict reality. On 27 June 2012, TEPCO announced that its workers sent a robot into Reactor #1 (see the robot's grim video, with radiation-speckled feed, here) and found record levels of radiation at the surface of coolant water, and levels thousands of times higher in the sediment in the containment vessel. From the Jarkarta Post:
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it detected 10,300 millisieverts [10 Sv] of radiation per hour in the basement of a building housing the No. 1 reactor of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the highest radiation recorded in the plant's reactor buildings.

According to the utility's announcement Wednesday, it would take about 20 seconds for a worker exposed to this level of radiation to reach the government-set, annual cumulative dose limit of 50 millisieverts. Acute symptoms of radiation exposure such as vomiting would develop in about six minutes.

TEPCO said it needs to identify and repair spots where radiation-contaminated water is leaking in the building as it moves toward decommissioning the No. 1 reactor. The power company said such work will be difficult, as the high radiation makes it necessary to use robots instead of human workers.
According to former nuclear industry engineer-turned-nuclear-critic, Arnie Gundersen, these radiation levels indicate that Reactor #1's containment vessel has been breached. In other words, he believes that the China Syndrome occurred in Reactor #1. In March 2012, the New York Times reported (via the Star Tribune) that China Syndromes took place at Reactors #1, #2 and #3:
Fukushima Daiichi's vital cooling systems were knocked out in the early stages of the crisis last year. The uranium cores at three of the plant's six reactors quickly melted down, breaching their containment vessels and triggering a massive radiation leak.
That NYT report also noted a radiation level of 72 Sv inside the containment vessel of Reactor #2. It is extraordinary that the world's media are not digging deeper into this story on a day-to-day basis. Three China Syndromes? Why are blogs, obscure little TV programmesfringe Web sites, ENE and Russia Today still the only regular sources on this story? Is the Fourth Estate really so impoverished? This is a lesson on how Old School journalism still rules as far as shaping conventionally-accepted truths is concerned. If 'viable,' established professional journalists do not report on a phenomenon, it need not be worried about, or even be seriously considered to exist. Pro-nuclear industry supporters can merely point to a wild-eyed vlog and disdainfully dismiss any such source of criticism. But in a mad world, madmen speak the truth, and might be sane.

Media silence arises because, despite Fukushima's dismal case, international corporate and government interests remain optimistic about further nuclear plant developments. A glance at the trade reports reveals that nuclear power is at a crossroads.

Ageing plants must be decomissioned, and so the industry is thriving, rushing to build new plants to fill the generational energy gaps in a flurry of high-powered horse-trading and bidding wars over big construction contracts. This is happening domestically in developed countries. These countries are also exporting their tech to developing countries, while striving to retain control of the nuclear science behind nuclear power plants (a futile exercise in this time of globalized graduate education). Indeed, the nuclear power industry is tied to the nuclear weapons industry. In other words, plutonium fallout or no plutonium fallout, it is business as usual (except for, or maybe including, Iran). Instead of taking Fukushima as an ominous warning to rethink our approach to fossil fuel alternatives, industry leaders are ignoring the crisis and its terrible impact. Who says colonialism is dead or that America is the only post-colonial, neo-imperial power? Rubbish. Imperialism is alive and well, enjoying a financial renaissance, evident in business buzz across the Internet.

For example, the Russians look to expand nuclear power systems at home and abroad. The Russians, incidentally, own 20 per cent of surplus American uranium on US territory; they are currently mining uranium in Wyoming. The head of Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, insists that advanced Russian technology makes nuclear energy systems perfectly safe and environmentally friendly, promising "post-Fukushima solutions for new nuclear power plants." Stidently offering total transparency, he acknowledges that nuclear weapons industries are intimately connected to nuclear power interests, and so the state will always retain control over the entire industry.

In Canada in November 2011, the paper version of the National Post ran an 8-page insert from Mediaplanet confidently proclaiming the stellar opportunities in the nuclear power industry. "Now Is The Time," one ad headline runs, "To Move Forward With New CANDU Reactors." Kivalliq Energy Corporation dominates a high-quality uranian project in the Arctic's Nunavut Territory. The President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Dr. Michael Binder, smiles benignly, in an article which promises that the "uranium mining and milling industry" is a "safely regulated resource" precisely because it is "the only mining industry in Canada that is licensed, regulated and monitored by the federal government." A panel of experts - Joseph Zwetolitz (Westinghouse), Denise Carpenter (Canadian Nuclear Association), Mark Morabito (Crosshair Energy Corporation), and Dr. Richard Spencer (U308 Corporation) - all trumpet Canada's virtues as an "energy superpower" (Zwetolitz); nuclear challenges as "opportunities" (Carpenter); reactors becoming defunct at age 40 means that this is the best time to build new ones (Morabito); and "Canadian explorers are ... advancing significant discoveries in emerging markets such as South America that are viewed as the next frontier for uranium development" (Spencer). Among other industry promises to find "A New Use For Old Nukes," Jeremy Whitlock of the Canadian Nuclear Society debunks "Radiation Fears and Myths." In June 2012, Prime Minister Harper struck a total of $3 billion in Canadian contracts to service China's energy sector.

In the United States, the Obama administration supports nuclear power. And the Republicans support it too. There are labour disputes at the older American nuclear plants, including the Pilgrim plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts - the very birthplace of the country! There are also contracts coming up to support ageing plants and keep them running - one example is Vermont Yankee. New plants have been greenlit, a pair each in South Carolina and Georgia. Uranium mining remains hopeful, expecting American nuclear power to increase 10 per cent by 2035Politicians advise investors in Florida to support the nuclear industry because it is a source of so-called "green jobs." Even so, there are bumps in the road. There are real fears that Fukushima fallout has poisoned much of the western United States and Canada, and perhaps more of North America. On 8 June 2012, the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could not license or re-licence any nuclear power plants until environmental and safety issues had been thoroughly researched. This ruling arose in response to petitioners from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.

In the United Kingdom, Chinese companies are bidding to build new nuclear power plants, along with the French company Areva and Russia's Rosatom. The Canadians are advising the Brits on building 6 CANDU nuclear plants which recycle fissile material stocks by burning (potentially deadly) MOX fuel. The Birmingham Policy Commission, released 2 July 2012, advised that the government must help carry the costs of building a new generation of nuclear power plants and also shoulder the burdens if anything goes wrong: "The fact is that the financial risks associated with building new nuclear power stations are beyond the balance sheets of many utility companies and therefore need to be shared between the public and private sectors." Ah, the cross-pollination of public and private, the new watchword of post-Recession hybridized economies. The Birmingham Policy Commission warned against the Brits' "drift" away from nuclear power and strongly advised the government must rebuild "the UK as a suitably qualified nuclear nation." The Commission drily stated that the after-effects of the earthquake and tsunami stood as: "testament to nuclear power’s credentials."

On 3 July 2012, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault promised the "government's commitment to reduce France's reliance on nuclear power for electricity production." But French nuclear companies are moving ahead - along with American, Chinese, Russian and other multinational firms - bidding to build nuclear plants in the UK (Areva and EDF); the Czech Republic (Areva); the UAE (Areva, EDF, GDF Suez SA, Total SA); South Africa (EDF); Finland (Framatome ANP/Areva); and India (Areva). Due to political troubles, French firms like Framatome, NPI and Areva lost bids to Chinese companies for contracts in Turkey.

There are other nuclear players offering or seeking contracts: ArgentinaSweden, South Korea, Taiwan, Lithuania, Mexico, Saudi Arabia (!), Vietnam and Malaysia, the Philippines, to name a few. Germany, Switzerland (although not quite yet), and Belgium are among the countries which have decided to phase out nuclear energy and search for classic alternatives as well as other technologies and options, giving rise to non-nuclear energy contracts. Win or lose, it's all about big money.