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 Fin-de-Siecle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fin-de-Siecle. Show all posts

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Black Friday and the Aesthetics of Fascism


Window-mounted cat beds, Amazon review: "It's been nine months and Tucker still loves this bed ten times more than anything else I've bought him." Image Source: Buzzfeed.

In North America, Thanksgiving weekend is the cornerstone of consumption-based capitalism. Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November, this year on November 22nd, followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have become pre-Christmas discounted shopping bonanzas. Stores are selling everything you could imagine, down to the window-mounted cat bed. This weekend is lucrative enough to tempt merchants in other countries to use the same gimmick to boost their fourth quarter sales.

Kohler Pedestal Sink. These sinks retail at Home Depot in the USA for USD $600-$800. Image Source: Miley Photos.

Essex Metal 24" Console Bathroom Sink with Overflow by Cheviot. Regular priced at Wayfair for CAD $830.25, on sale on Black Friday for CAD $584.99. Image Source: Cheviot.

Waldorf Ceramic 24" Wall Mount Bathroom Sink with Overflow by WS Bath Collections. Regular priced at Wayfair for CAD $1109.99, on sale on Black Friday for CAD $849.99. Image Source: homeclick.

This week, I saw some Black Friday examples which reminded me of an earlier commentary, Fascism at a Hairpin Turn. In a series of posts on this blog, I am considering how 1940s' fascism became a part of modern global culture in ways which are poorly understood. Above, are sinks by Kohler, Cheviot and WS Bath Collections. Kohler Co. was founded in Wisconsin in 1873 by Austrian Americans; it employs a sharp German aesthetic in its high end lavatory designs.

I was struck by the aesthetic similarity between today's sinks and 1940s' institutional sinks. Below, are sinks in an autopsy room and in another room from the French concentration camp near Strasbourg, Natzweiler-Struthof, where human experiments were conducted.


Sinks at Natzweiler-Struthof. Images Source: La Vie est Bonne.

Of course, sinks made outside fascist Europe in the 1940s would also resemble today's designs and their modernist style could be pre-World War II, derived from interwar Bauhaus. When I mentioned this similarity between past and present, my friend, C., said,
"The fascist aesthetic ... merged what ... [the fascists] wanted of [the] modern aesthetic (some aspects of architecture and NO aspect of the fine arts) and aspects of the neoclassic as well as empire styles, both of which were adopted as official styles by Napoleon's ... régime. ... Makes one think that everything that happened[,] including sinks, New York skyscrapers, and concentration camps were all a part of leaving the feudal system."
The Nazis definitely took that white porcelain neoclassical look and made it theirs. Going forward from 1945, there is no way a designer could be ignorant of that aesthetic reference when creating a consumer product in that style. This is why it was startling to see Nazi-esque sinks on sale on this Black Friday at Home Depot. I can't say that the example of the sinks proves anything in terms of demonstrable historical aesthetic lineage because I have not researched that. But it made me ask why and how that aesthetic has been absorbed into mainstream North American culture and values.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Death in Panama


Image Source: The Daily Beast.

There is an Internet sub-genre devoted to investigating what has happened to missing people. One of the most disturbing recent cases of this kind captured the attention of bloggers, Redditors, Youtubers, and forum members.

"Lisanne Froon, aged 22. Picture taken on April 1, [2014] the day of her disappearance. Cellphone data, found in their backpack, revealed that attempts to dial 911 were made some 2 hours after this photo was taken. There was no reception. The last attempt to dial 911 was 10 days after their disappearance." Image Source: imgur.

This was the case of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, two Dutch college graduates, aged 21 and 22. In March 2014, they traveled to Boquete, Panama for six weeks to learn Spanish and do volunteer work with local children. Then they disappeared during a day hike in the forest near the town.

At the time of writing this post, the debate on this case at the German forum, Allmystery, was nearly 600 pages long. One of the related Reddit threads is here. The police investigation focused on the girls' disappearance its effect on the local tourist industry. This post and a subsequent post will ask about the much larger context of this case, including the Panama Papers.

Image Source: Kris Kremers/Facebook/imgur.

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."

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, Janet 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.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Canals of Earth


A great cover for Martian Comics #5 (2016) with art by David A. Frizell is a homage to the classic film, A Voyage to the Moon (1902). Image Source: Martian Lit.

See images today from a Kickstarter campaign for a comic book about Martians' view of Earth, The Canals of Earth!
"Humans have long looked to the sky and wondered about Mars. What if someone was looking back? The Canals of Earth is the story of how Mars sees Earth, running from Martian prehistory to its space age. We begin in Martian prehistory, when Martians looked to the skies and imagined Earth as a goddess. We see some of the Martian mythology about Earth, tied to the invention of writing. We then see Martian science-fiction, in which they imagined aliens in their own image."
This comic, fifth in the series Martian Comics (2014-present; details here) is written by Julian Darius, with art by Mansjur Daman and colours by Diego Rodriguez. Darius has a doctorate in English Literature and founded the Sequart Organization, which promotes sequential artwork in graphic novels and comic books as a legitimate art form. You can still support the Canals of Earth project here until 27 April 2016.

While the imagery of the comic's cover is taken from the turn-of-the-century French film, A Voyage to the Moon (see it below), the book's title is taken from late 19th century studies that there were canals on Mars, based on observations of the Red Planet by astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), Percival Lowell (1855-1916), and Charles E. Burton (1846-1882).

First page (click to enlarge). Image Source: Martian Lit.

Martian Comics #5. Image Source: Kickstarter.

Kickstarter promo video, Martian Comics #5, The Canals of Earth!

The iconic image of the Man in the Moon from Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902). Image Source: Wiki.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Figures and Fantasies



Congratulations and props to Thomas Haller Buchanan, who crowdfunded USD $19,343 on Kickstarter in January 2015 to publish his book of art and illustrations, Facts. Figures. Fantasies. His book arrived today in the mail. Thom was valiant through the whole huge journey, starting with the funding campaign, when some big backers pulled out at the last minute. On Kickstarter, if you do not meet your goal, you lose all pledges. Other donors stepped in to ensure the campaign was successful and Thom's sketches and personal story as an artist, along with his finished Pre-Raphaelite- and Art-Nouveau-styled works, saw print. This is what the Internet was supposed to be about.

Renpet - Egyptian Goddess of Eternity.

Thom runs the beautiful blog, The Pictorial Arts, which follows the fin-de-siècle style, circa 1890-1930, through the 20th century and into the 21st century. In reading Thom's blog, I have better understood the historical continuity in illustration. Images from 19th century artists like Arthur Rackham and Henry Justice Ford became the dominant visual style in marketing and mass media, and influenced architecture, interior design, automobile design, garden layoutsfashion, magazine ads, calendarscomic book art, cinema, photography, sculptures - and even stylized popular behaviour - up to the present day.  In 2013, I interviewed Thom (here) about an arts and culture journal he is developing. Thom was the second person to become a regular follower of Histories of Things to Come, for which I am most grateful.

Allegory of Conscious Time.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

True Detective: Time is a Flat Circle


Poster for True Detective season 1 (2014) is set in Louisiana. Image Source: HG Girl on Fire. The show's poster spawned a spoof meme, see: here, here, here.

America loves a morality tale, the deeper and darker, the better. Just as the '70s had Serpico, Mean Streets and Chinatown, the '80s had Blade Runner, Blue Velvet and Angel Heart, the '90s had L.A. Confidential and The Usual Suspects, and the '00s had No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight as the definitive neo-noirs of those decades, the 2010s have Winter's Bone and the HBO television series True Detective. True Detective debuted in the USA and Canada on 12 January 2014 and debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic on 22 February 2014. The second season begins in North America on 21 June 2015. Season 2 is set around the Los Angeles transportation system and involves a murder at the heart of a giant conspiracy.

The writing and vision for this series is incredible. True Detective makes the parallel UK drama, Broadchurch, pale in comparison. Broadchurch is strong in its own right and has somewhat similar initial premise: two quarreling detectives seek a murderer. But Broadchurch does not take the same risks.

True Detective season 2 (2015) is set around the Los Angeles transportation system, the venal conduit into the dark heart of the City of Angels. Season 2 stars Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell. Image Source: Mashable.

True Detective does exactly what a noir should do. The tension mounts, and as the characters' flaws deepen, the plot gets more feverish. The Toronto Sun remarks that True Detective, "makes every other police procedural drama seem faint and quaint by comparison. How are we supposed to watch 'regular' TV if HBO keeps dropping these sorts of live grenades in our laps?"

True Detective is not just a genre-hopping cop drama trying to shock its viewers, as with another Millennial series, The Fall. Like Twin Peaks, season 1 of this Lynchian show started off as police noir and ended up as a horror story. There are references in True Detective to H. P. Lovecraft's works and Blair Witch, which similarly involve rational investigations dragging the investigators' subconscious into a confrontation with an immense, malevolent, supernatural being or force.

There is a monster here, behind the police explorations of gritty streets and haunted bayous. The monster inhabits the dreams of this mundane world, but unfortunately for the characters, the monster has legs. It has a history. The Gen X writer of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, gives his horror deep roots. He presents this TV series as one story in a long line of stories about a much, much larger legend. True Detective is a metafictional continuation of the multi-authored Carcosa mythos, which started with an Ambrose Bierce short story, "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" also known as "Can Such Things Be?" (1891; read it here) and The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. You can read The King in Yellow online here. For more on The King In Yellow and the Carcosa story: go here, here, herehere and here. You can see this series' connection with Chambers's stories drawn here and here. The metafiction continuity inspired so much chatter that some critics claimed that Pizzolatto had plagiarized, rather than continued, other authors' works.

In other words, True Detective is supposed to be part of, and continue, a fictional mythology about something terrible that once happened in an ancient lost city. In Bierce's work, that city, Carcosa, is described by someone who once lived there:
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies, But stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.

—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

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.).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Forever: Maybe Not the Word You Want?


Johnny Depp's original 'Winona Forever' tattoo. Image Source: johnnydepp.org.

In the past couple of days, the word forever kept coming up. Finally, it all converged in a 'plate of shrimp' moment. The first mention came up in this analysis at The White Review of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The article, Famous Tombs: Love in the 90s, described Depp's and Ryder's relationship as the American youth romance of the decade. Author Masha Tupitsyn then probed a more interesting question. She almost cracked what, exactly, happened to the Depp-Ryder romance, not in terms of what it meant privately to the two actors, because we can't know that, but what it represented to the rest of us.

Image Source: Buzzfeed.

Tupitsyn hints that it never went anywhere, but Johnny and Winona did. She believes that Depp sublimated it in alcohol and drugs, replacing love for a woman with addictions so distracting that it became impossible to get back to the original source. Meanwhile, Ryder moved forward, but part of her is still trapped in that past time. It wasn't just her love for Depp. She embodied a decade for Generation Jones and Gen X rebels, symbolized by the curious fact that she is naturally a blonde, but for decades has dyed her hair Gothic black:
Like John Cusack, another black haired/pale skinned 80s/90s idol, as well as a youth actor whose great, and perhaps only gift, was to enact a different kind of youth (a counter-youth and counter-masculinity) in his youth, Winona Ryder was never timeless, she was of the time. Most especially that brief time in her life, her teenage years and early twenties. Perhaps this is why Jake Gyllenhaal’s light hair was dyed jet-black for the retroactive DONNIE DARKO, and Christian Slater’s jet-black for HEATHERS. Something about dark hair showing up in the late 80s and early 90s as a form of retribution for an aesthetically fascistic and representationally narrow decade. These are people who were not kissed by the sun, who were not California Dreamin’, or, as the German writer Heinrich Laube puts it, ‘These pale youths are uncanny, concocting God knows what mischief.’ If, as the teenage radio pirate DJ, ‘Hard Harry’ puts it in PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990), the 80s were a totally ‘exhausted decade, where there’s nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to’, Winona Ryder rose up from the bleached-blonde ashes of the 1980s.
Depp and Ryder started in gothic and horror genres. Their early work, like that of contemporaries Keanu Reeves, Parker Posey and River Phoenix, appeared in dark indie films or popular movies with unsettling vibes. Depp made his feature film debut in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), in which he played a nice but useless boyfriend. These roles reflected a time, when, for a brief period, surreal depictions of the collective unconscious entered the American mainstream in almost unedited forms. It was remarkable. David Lynch, an American director surreal enough to be respected by Europeans, became popular, as his Twin Peaks exposed the underside of the American Dream.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

World War III of Material Consciousness


Image Source: Astroquest Astrology.

Some think history repeats itself; some think that it is a progress. Sometimes it involves transformation. Astrologers believe that we are undergoing the second last of seven fateful revolutionary celestial events, which have been jarring the world's destiny from 2012 to 2015. Specialists in this esoteric field refer to a so-called 'square' between mighty planets Pluto (underworld, reforged power, control, epiphanies and metamorphoses) and Uranus (invention, innovation, sudden change, surprises), which occurred on 15 December 2014.

Skyscript describes Pluto's symbolic energy as follows:
Sometimes considered a 'higher octave' of Mars, Pluto is similarly powerful and penetrating, but on an unconscious and psychological level. It gradually permeates the subconscious with its drives, leaving the conscious unaware until suddenly and explosively it emerges in an instinctive response that brings sweeping and often devastating change in the psyche and way of living. It can thus be a force for great personal good or ill. It evokes the principles of resurrection and determination, which when positively expressed bring resolution; when negatively expressed, coercion.

Pluto governs the conversion of apparent lost causes into successful projects, but at times the receding of objectives when their point of realisation seems imminent; cycles of death and rebirth; disregard for vested interests; extremes of good and bad (including luck); the frustration and annihilation of plans; idealistic socially motivated organisations; ideas ahead of their time; the inspiration to put an end to failing conditions; involvement in organised groups and movements desirous of social reconstruction, which may include altruistic interest groups, political parties and think tanks, professional associations and trade unions, and also gangs and underground organisations; the negation and transformation of conditions; non-recognition of the legitimacy or impositions of officially established authorities; righteous indignation on behalf of social causes; and the voluntary relinquishment of worldly interests in order to advance spiritual development, or of home, country or fortune for marriage. It manifests in writers and dramatists who seek to inculcate reformist doctrines into their literary works. It is compulsive, intense, and sometimes manipulative.
Click to enlarge. Image Source: Tarot.com.

Skyscript describes the significations of Uranus as follows:
Seen sometimes as a 'higher octave' of Mercury, Uranus enables communication without the conventional mechanism of speech and physical conduction methods. It is therefore associated with radio waves, electromagnetic radiation and electricity, and nuclear radiation. It evokes originality, which when positively expressed manifests as inventiveness; when negatively expressed, as deviance.

Uranus confers contempt for conventional conceptions of morality; distaste at being controlled and at arbitrary forms of outside authority; executive ability; flashes of intuition; perspicacious and reliable insight into others' personal motivations; interest in the principles of religion and science, and in scientific investigation of material phenomena; an inclination to part with customs; and mechanical ability that favours engineering. It is aloof; altruistic; cool; critical; crushingly assertive; conscious of personal authority and power; directed by inner impulses; eccentric; erratic; firm-opinioned; frequently fatalistic regarding personal destiny; heroic; iconoclastic; illuminating; imaginative; impersonal; impulsive; ingenious; insistent upon independence; innovative; inventive of new ideas, methods, moral codes and occupations; liberating; moved by new circumstances; off-hand; organising; peculiar; positive; persevering when faced with obstacles to surmount; power-conscious; promoting; prone to sudden changes of mind and view; prophetic; revolutionary; romantic; self-centred; self-reliant; spasmodic; spontaneous; unbendingly willful; unsentimental; variable; and violently reactive against potential privations of freedom of thought and action; but when restricted, potentially anarchistic; bohemian; eccentric; fanatical; and invective and sarcastic without provocation.

Uranus signifies everything anomalous or unconventional; and the sudden smashing and transformation of outdated established Saturnian structures and restrictions. It also signifies bereavements, blind impulses, catastrophes, changes (especially sudden changes), constructive and mechanical ability, enemies, estrangements, exiles, people in power or authority, public affairs, romances, sudden events, sorrows, suicides, tragedies, and uncertain fortunes.

The glyphs for Pluto and Uranus are noted at 90 degrees to one another in this depiction of the planetary square. Image Source: Lunar Planner.

Astrologers believe that the same aspect - a conflict between power and innovation - affected other revolutions in history: Latin American independence in the 1820s; the 1848 revolutions; the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 19th-to-20th centuries; the first airplane flight of 1903; the founding of the Bolshevik Party, 1903; the Theory of Relativity of 1905; the first IBM computers of 1965; the social revolutions of the 1960s. It also appeared during the 1929 financial crash.

Image Source: Astroquest Astrology.

The astrological aspects are the same today as they were during the onset of World War II. However, the conflict now takes place in the realm of money and material consciousness, and governments are related insofar as their power hierarchies and economic systems are concerned. FemCentral considers the 2012-2015 Pluto-Uranus squares to be a World War III of finances, economic systems, our whole way of understanding money, materialism, and from that - our encrypted consciousness of the dividing line between the material and immaterial, which can involve religion:
Uranus was last in Aries from 1928-1935. This was the time of the Great Depression. Hitler. Rumblings of World War. During that period, Pluto was also square Uranus, as it is now. However, at that time, Pluto was in the sign of Cancer. It is currently in the sign opposite Cancer, which is Capricorn. ... I’m not predicting World War III. Yes, Uranus is in the same place it was in World War II, and it’s square Pluto, as it was then. But, Pluto was in emotional Cancer at that time. Now, it’s in the sign of tradition. Establishment. Money. This is what people are rebelling against. This is what will change.
From Astroquest Astrology:
I would suggest that by the time Pluto leaves Capricorn in 2022 we will have witnessed an entire change in our understanding of what it is that defines us and what it is that we hold dear and give 'value' to in life. This is the time when decadent regimes collapse and new ruthless regimes rise from the ashes. In the business world, many upheavals take place, as new business strategies replace the old economic models and business practices.

Uranus another outer planet, impersonal and inevitable in Aries will in 2012 be moving in and out of a square with Pluto, triggering many changes on a global level. ... Uranus and Pluto last squared each other in 1929 and we all know what happened in Wall St. then. Interestingly Uranus was also in Aries while Pluto was in Cancer, the sign opposite Capricorn where it is now. The Great Depression of the 30's had its biggest impact on families (Cancer) the concerns this time round are about governments defaulting and perhaps more banks collapsing (Capricorn). Interesting times!
There is a 2012 book on how the square pertains to the early teens of the 21st century: Uranus Square Pluto by Wendy Stacey. You can see the financial crash of 2008 further related to the square at Astroquest Astrology, here. Tarot.com comments on the 2012-2015 series of squares:
Some large institutions may fail, while other big corporate interests may consolidate and increase their power. We may witness political uprisings and social and religious revolutions. It could, in fact, mark an evolutionary leap for our entire species in terms of social and technological advancements.
Image Source: Universal Life Tools.

Universal Life Tools speaks similarly of this revolutionary aspect:
PLUTO in CAPRICORN is about inspiring major transformations in the hierarchical structures of governments, corporations & all those in places of power. ... ‘Pluto holds the vibration of transformation and evolution and Capricorn is about rolling your sleeves up and getting down to work… and together they influence the very foundations of governments, financial institutions, medicine, education… structures are/will break down in order to be rebuilt through evolutionary change’.

URANUS in ARIES is about rebellion against old paradigms and revolutionary change. ... ‘Uranus is the shake up planet governing revolution and evolutionary change…. exhilarating people to rebel against old fear based paradigms’.

When both PLUTO in Capricorn and URANUS in Aries square each other (sit at 90 degrees of each other on a 360 degrees astrological wheel ...) we are feeling an intense desire to rebel, revolt and not sit back and take it anymore.  We are so dissatisfied with the lies, deceit and propaganda, we just want to jump ship and start a new.   Yet at the same time, we know from a higher consciousness that running away is futile, as we need to work pro-actively to dismantle & tear-down and then rebuild, restructure and transform from the ground up.

In Addition to the Pluto/Uranus Square, on the 15/16 December 2014 Uranus is in opposition (180 degrees) to the MOON in LIBRA, and hence Pluto in Capricorn is SQUARING the MOON in LIBRA which together creates a Cardinal T Square. ... [T]he 15/16 December 2014 Cardinal T-Square will potentially create much emotional volatility and a strong impetus to break free from the perceive limiting restrictions of our social, political, hierarchical structures.  It may feel like a volcano is building inside of your as the intensity of the T-Square peaks on the 15/16 Dec. If you can hang in there and focus/build this intensity within, as we then come into the Summer/Winter Solstice on 21/22 December as the Sun moves into Capricorn,  combined with Uranus moving direct in our celestial skies, this will be the most effective time to channel these newfound inspirations from the T-Square and implement authentic steps in your life for personal and evolutionary change.
Wisdom of Astrology comments on the personal impact on individuals here, claiming that this 6th square and the December solstice will call on people to find balance in this conflict. We have to change, but what does that mean, exactly? The astrological predictions are fanciful and symbolic ways of describing the social, political and economic processes of change as well as individual experiences of those processes. We are confronted with the question: are we puppets fated by the universe, or agents of our destinies? How we transform ourselves will begin with a challenge to the financial system, and end with a personal exploration of the transition from the material and immaterial. This marks a realignment of priorities and approaches to material problems. Wisdom of Astrology argues that the end outcome of these speculations must involve an individual adoption of responsibility, a broad atomization of leadership:
This is the challenge of our times—to open to our own brilliance and re-create the world.  We have to become conscious co-creators of life—we have to consciously evolve ourselves and our society to the next stage of human awareness.  Facing what’s going on can’t make us so depressed that we give up and opt out.  That’s what patriarchy hopes we’ll do.  That’s a failure to evolve, because the next step for humanity is conscious community in the Age of Aquarius. We have to be living examples of those principles for the future good of our world.

... We have to face what’s happening in our world—face our collective choices of war and fear and of giving over power to our ‘new kings’—the corporations and banks.  If we withdraw our support from those corporate entities as much as possible, they will die out from lack of life.
To live our spiritual values means that we have to become social activists and live out our beliefs.  And so we become leaders in our own small way.  That is the Aquarian ideal, you know—everyone at the Round Table is equal, free and responsible for the collective welfare.
Image Source: FemCentral.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Howling Dogs and Flightless Moths


Image Source: Youtube.

Horror has a philosophical side. Western horror stories are usually social commentaries, not that different from morality plays of the middle ages. A regular at Scans Daily remarked: "a lot of horror ... raises the question of 'Who is the real sick man ... in this so-called society?'"

In Asia, there is a greater sense of continuity between non-being, being and death, so hungry ghost stories often involve reincarnation or karma (see related posts here and here). You can find no better blend of eastern and western traditions than the ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), an American who lived in Japan. I have previously mentioned his 1899 collection of ghost stories (which you can read online here) in this post.

Sometimes, the bridge between different human traditions is a non-human perspective. Other creatures bear witness on the other world, or afterlife, or the paranormal world beyond our senses. Youtube has many videos made by dog owners who claim that their dog can see a ghost.

Lafcadio Hearn came to the conclusion that domesticated creatures' lives are so intertwined with human lives that they, with their fundamentally different ways of being, mirror some of the things we cannot understand about ourselves and our existence. These creatures are so tied to us that they mirror these hidden truths within the human space. Our pets also perceive some of the things we cannot usually sense - including, in Hearn's view, ghosts.

The alien familiarity of silkworm moths (Bombyx mori); cultivated for over 5,000 years in China (possibly since the end of the Neolithic Age) to produce silk, the insects no longer exist in the wild. They can't fly and are completely dependent on humans in order to eat and survive. Image Source: Science Image.

If you don't want to read Hearn's stories, you can hear them below the jump. They have been prepared as an audiobook by LibriVox recordings. It is not shock or gore and can seem dry, but if you have time to listen to this video, In Ghostly Japan conveys the real meaning of horror. Hearn ponders mundane subjects, then veers off into horror, relating it to life's greatest mysteries and philosophical questions in a mind-blowing, sometimes very scary way.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Time Capsules Inside Time Capsules: Paris, 1942


Marthe de Florian (1898), by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Image Source: The Meta Picture.

In 1942, a French socialite, Madame de Florian, fled her apartment on Paris's Right Bank near the Opéra Garnier. She paid rent on it until her death in 2010, but never returned (hat tip: The Meta Picture). The apartment has sat, sealed and untouched, with nothing moved since the Second World War, gathering dust.

After 2010, the estate opened the apartment and began selling the contents. They included the portrait (above) of the apartment's absent tenant's grandmother. It was painted by Italian portrait painter Giovanni Boldini, and recently sold at auction for €2.1 million. From AnOther:
Florian resided in a breath-taking apartment on Paris' Right Bank, which she left to her granddaughter, Madame de Florian. At the age of 23, amid the chaos of the Second World War, Madame de Florian fled Paris for the South of France, apparently never to return, but she continued to pay rent on the building until her death at the age of 91. From 1942 then, until a wintery December afternoon in 2010 – when it was entered by auctioneer Olivier Choppin-Janvry – the decadent apartment remained frozen in time, a time capsule recording the precise moment of de Florian's sudden flight.

Amid the luxurious if dusty furnishings, the wizened taxidermy and mountains of ephemera ranging from dressing tables to Disney toys, Choppin-Janvry came across a mesmerising Boldini portrait of a beautiful woman wearing a pink muslin dress, accompanied by a stack of ribbon bound love letters, including some from Boldini himself, addressed to Marthe de Florian. It became clear she was both his lover and the beauty in the painting. A reference found in Boldini’s wife's records has confirmed the identity of the portrait's subject, dating it to 1898, when de Florian was just 24 years old.
There is some historical confusion in how this story has been reblogged across the Web. The apartment was already outdated during the 1940s, having been passed to the tenant (Madame de Florian) from her grandmother (a different Madame de Florian). The apartment still had love letters on the premises to Marthe de Florian (the grandmother) from the artist Boldini. It actually reflects a frozen 1900 carried to 2010 by the wartime conditions of the mid-20th-century. The now-famous Boldini fin-de-siècle portrait above of the tenant's grandmother is a time capsule inside a time capsule. It is one turn of the century relayed to our turn of the century by an auction house at the end of the tenant's life at age 91.

Nevertheless, this time capsule is a reminder of how much 19th century was still alive and well at the mid-20th century. It gives a glimpse of the world that was swept away during World War II and was subsequently replaced by suburbs, cineplexes, shopping malls, travel points, credit cards and iPhones.