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 Gothic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gothic. Show all posts

Friday, October 6, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Dark Ambient and Dark Web Tales



There are new horror genres appearing online, in which the fear factor depends on blurring the line between the virtual and real. It makes the raven girl on the subway, above, oddly reassuring: at least she is honest about how gothic things are these days.

Potion Shop Sounds | Apothecary Ambience | 45 Minutes (24 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Over the past few years, ambient horror soundtracks have appeared on Youtube, which are unsettling because they add a cinematic video game quality to daily work at the desk. Some people listen to them to get to sleep, like the 6-hour Quiet Rusty Sewer Ambient Noise River.

Aaron Dykes at Truthstream Media explains the power of music - related to the frequency at which the eardrums vibrate - and particularly the discordant Locrian mode. From Bridget Mermikides: "From at least the early 18th century this tritone was described as Diabolus in Musica (the Devil in music)." The Secret Power Music Holds Over You (30 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Locrian Mode example. Sample Source: Wiki.

Locrian Mode example: Björk's Army of Me (1995). Sample Source: Wiki.

The new horror music is non-music, made up of cinematic sound effects tracks. There is a spectrum of how scary these recordings are; they range (at the top) from vague background noise to (lower down) demonic atmospherics.

Haunted Halloween Mansion Fireplace with Thunder, Rain and Howling Wind (24 October 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

HAUNTED FOREST Scary Sounds of Ghosts in the Darkness 2 HOURS (12 March 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Gathering Darkness - Scary Noises in a Haunted House - 2 Hours (2 May 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Amazing SCARY 3D Holophonic Sound (21 August 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Another example of horror found in the blurring between the virtual and the real is evident in a new genre of online horror story-telling, an offshoot of creepypastas, which explores the Dark Web. The Dark Web is reputed to be a place where anything goes, outside police jurisdictions, in a No Man's Land of international anonymity. Many Darknet communities are devoted to whistle-blowing, hacking, politics, drugs, crime, and hidden news.

By contrast, the Clearnet is the main, indexed Internet with which everyone is familiar. Clearnet lists of Dark Websites from 2015 to 2017 are here, here, here, here, and here - but don't click on links in those lists or surf further without a Tor browser and a VPN. A May 2017 Motherboard report gave a link to a list of every possible site on the Dark Web, that is, 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 sites, or just over one septillion Dark Websites beyond the reach of Google. That number directly contradicts Wired's 2015 estimate that there were over a billion sites on the Clear Web and 7,000 to 30,000 Dark Websites. You can see the total number of indexed Clear Websites counted in real time at Internet Live Stats.

Interactive livestream horror. Deep Web Horror Story - Why I Left The Deep Web by TASDiablo (21 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cairn Building Sacred Tree Chimps


This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees (1 March 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

The above video circulated last year, when researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Chimbo Foundation observed male chimpanzees filling hollow trees up with rocks, and then hurling more rocks at the filled trees in what looked like a strange ritual. This occurred in the Boé region of Guinea-Bissau on the western tip of Africa.

Were the researchers correct in projecting onto the chimpanzees the theory of human evolution, much less a theory of human evolution as dependent on the development of religion? For that seems to be the underlying argument: that biological evolution is impossible without the cognitive moment when the brain seeks the divine. As the researchers put it:
"We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites."
It is a banal but fascinating beginning for the gods: merely a pile of rubble, mounded in a new way which could begin to take on significance. The hypothesis is not asking whether these animals actually find gods in the stone configurations they make, rather whether their brains make the mental jump into thinking they do. In this theory, that's evolution.

One Youtuber summed up the discovery as "chimphenge." Other comments:
  • "Sorry mi english google translator: I do not believe in God, this discovery shows that never need God in our lives, we evolve throwing stones at the trees and forming mounds, then named sacred, those trees symbolically became pillars adorned our temples, after millions of years evolution forget this and we must give a name to both advance and consciousness. Unfortunately there was a lot to us and we prefer to form symbolic it out from within us and shape, we call 'God' and is the perfect excuse to manipulate and keep people away from the truth, everyone is 'God' does not exist a single God, in fact none exists, are just stones of different shapes and sizes in different trees, it depends on the monkey and the group which is the 'real tree' that 'God' is life, we are each living being. We gave shape the world as we know it and everything, God does not exist we create it, we ourselves are God, this evolutionary step in monkeys demonstrated."
  • "and what has been noted on which specific trees have been used? do these specific trees also feature in human's use such as shamanism, or medicinal or spiritual functions?"
  • "Maybe they're trying to recreate fire. . .from a past incident that simply happened by chance."
  • "Stop bring God into it. They are intelligent apes and live with nature. And if humans stopped interfering with there lives they would be ok"
  • "might be the start of next chapter in chimpanzee evolution theyre going to build their first pyramid"
  • "Idiots!!! clear they are playing a game unknown to man. Not everything is supposed to be [for a] reason. ..."
  • "I THINK THEY HIDING HILLARYS EMAILS"
Click to enlarge. Image Source: Nature.

This theory relates to how we worship our own ability to make things. The scientists here may be unconsciously projecting contemporary attitudes toward creativity onto the chimps. Most of the world has received the Technological Revolution with cult-like fervour. Today's Maker Culture is a 21st century extension of the old Arts and Crafts movement (c. 1880-1920), updated with machine building, engineering, arts and crafts, and open-sourced hardware. These trends involve the wonder of building something with one's bare hands, to the point where it enters an intellectual, conceptual, or spiritual realm. A more etheric branch of Maker Culture is software-oriented Hacker Culture.

So, a secular search for a moment of transcendence is there, and central to understanding the creative and intellectual arts. For artists and thinkers as creators, there is something magical about manipulating matter into a thing or moment beyond what existed before, through a creative act. At the core of it lies humankind's conflicted connection with nature.

The current manipulation of the world is based on a presumed human disconnection from the environment. These were the presumptions of the Enlightenment. In Enlightenment secularism, there was no divine entity and we did not derive from divine action. But we also had a right to control, understand, and rationalize the world because we were no longer animals and were disconnected from nature, and thus gained dominion over it.

Nothing could be sadder or further from the truth, and the fundamental error in that core assumption is reflected in the anguish caused by the superficial focus on modern materialism and rationalism, devoid of emotion and spiritual wonder. It is on the basis of that rigid, mask-like quantification of existence that we find ourselves seduced by technology.

Even technophiles who try to go deeper than commercialism and materialism yearn for microchip implants and brain-machine interfaces. They want the interface to fill the holes in their souls. It is interesting that they are obsessed with organic food, and nature-oriented spiritualism, but with a cardboard level of understanding. The spiritual disconnection from nature is complete, and robot-dom is just around the corner, even if that robot thinks it has done its job by climbing mountains, or contorting itself into yoga poses, drinking purified vitamin water, or eating organic vegetables. Mechanically going through the motions around consciousness does not constitute consciousness. The symbiotic bio-tech mesh between ourselves and our tools has already started. Even with the redemptive Maker Movement still trending, the philosophical consideration of what that means lags far behind.

This is why organized religion, for all its flaws and superstitions, constantly reminded human beings of the creative moment when they tried to understand their place in nature, in a fashion that went way beyond tool-building. Early technological monuments like Stonehenge were conceived not for the sake of technology itself, but to measure astronomical changes for even greater purpose.

Wells Cathedral: Gothic cathedrals were designed to look like the faithful were entering an artificial stone forest, reminiscent of earlier Druidic practices in real forest groves. Image Source: Shutterstock.

Architects designed the Gothic cathedrals of Europe to resemble forest groves. Yes, they invented the flying buttress, but they did it not for the sake of the buttresses. They did it to build stone forests, with stained-glass windows which imitated dappled sunlight, penetrating the canopy.

Compare that to our current disconnection from nature, in which technology is created blindly for the sake of mechanized production and mechanical modalities, desperately rolled out on accelerated machine-oriented schedules. The underlying spiritual gap is evident in the current demolition of European churches because they are too expensive to maintain. They are replaced by square cement boxes.

Today, there are enormous efforts toward creativity; but technophiles still indulge powerful fantasies that they control the process. This Millennial blind spot, which replaced God with the ego, may explain why the chimpanzees' stone cairns remain a mystery to us, who are so much more intelligent.

The scholarly article on the subject, published 29 February 2016, is by Hjalmar S. Kühl, Ammie K. Kalan, and others, "Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing," Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22219 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep22219.

Rise of the 'maker movement' (12 March 2012). Video Source: Youtube.

The Mad Geniuses of Maker Faire (10 July 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker trailer - A documentary on the Maker Movement (30 September 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

HOME MADE A Documentary on the Maker Movement in Denmark HD (9 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Next Maker Movement (22 May 2015). Video Source: Youtube.
 
Maker Faire Hannover 2015 Teil 1 - Impressionen JS TECHhack (6 June 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker Faire Bay Area 2016 (23 May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware (Full Documentary) | Future Cities | WIRED (5 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Hubs, Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement: Investing in Tech Innovation in Africa | #APF15 (27 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

The Maker Movement and the Next Manufacturing Revolution (21 October 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

MakerFaire UK 2017 (1 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

The Maker Movement: Finding Meaning in Work (7 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Bay Area Maker Faire 2017 (24 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker Faire 2017 Berlin (12 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

All Souls


Image Source: C. Bessich via Adriana Sanchez.

For All Souls' Day today, to remember the faithful departed, see photos from Melaten Cemetery, Cologne, Germany. Although the cemetery is 200 years old, this area has a dark past prior to its current use. In the 13th century, lepers were sequestered in a hospice at Melaten; later, it was a place where witches were burned. Now noted as a conservation area and for its incredible statues, it is the resting place of the city's most famous people, listed here.


Images Source: European Cemeteries.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Brontë Effect


Image Source: Opheliac Madness.

At the great blog, Trans-D, Dia Sobin finds artistic connections between layers of time and dimensional existence. Recently, she dug through a trove of old books - with initial posts here and here - and settled on a 1943 edition of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). She wrote an incredible post on how Catherine's and Heathcliff's love reveals the blurred boundaries of reality. I commented, because she described something one might call 'the Brontë Effect'; the italicized text cites Dia's post, with my comments in non-italics:
"'And, there is also the transdimensional aspect of the story: the odd way in which Emily presented her narratives, from several different points of view, intertwining numerous points in time, thereby, creating a weird, reverberating gestalt as opposed to a linear chronicle.' ... [I responded:] I felt that there was an indistinctness, especially because the characters give their kids the same names. Past, present and future are jumbled together. ...

I wonder if Emily Bronte was exposed via her father to Scottish freemasonry? Because when you look at the story in the sense of two souls in an alchemical marriage, the story becomes much more clear. Maybe she intuitively 'reached for' alchemical concepts without knowing them. I am sure someone has researched it. A lot of the primal gothic takes on the trans-dimensional or multi-dimensional aspects ... if you consider the alchemical. Across time, space, in new incarnations, like the two lovers embody a conflicting spirit of humans on the moors, but [also on] Jacob's Ladder ... ."
First, regarding Dia's observation that Wuthering Heights is trans-dimensional and multi-temporal, one senses this less in reading the novel, and more in the lingering impression after one reads it. The story leaves one with a feeling of time smashed together through characters' blurred and overlapping identities; their names and roles repeat, and generational tweaks are permitted over decades. The novel goes on forever, but Catherine is only about 18 years old when she dies at Thrushcross Grange. The 2009 dramatization had her die at age 25; either way, she remains eternally young and a persistent force.

ITV 2009 adaptation of Wuthering Heights, starring Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Catherine. Image Source: Elementary.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pilgrim Timekeepers


A pilgrim walking the Camino, or Way of St. James. Image Source: Tailored Spain.

If you want to know why tax season is in spring and its subsequent meaning for May, read on. As Catholic pilgrims prepare now for Pentecost on 15 May 2016, the blog returns to France's Chartres cathedral to note how places which attract pilgrims become centres of spirituality and memory. Pilgrimage routes have endured worldwide for thousands of years. One famous European route is the Spanish Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James. In 2014, 200,000 people undertook that journey, and the road is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 'Walking the Camino' is a huge event, even for atheists. For the faithful and secular alike, it is a modern walking holiday, attracting its share of business and crime.

In 2012, The Guardian asked why atheists participated in old Christian pilgrimages. Image Source: Guardian.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 4: The New Millennium's Gothic Moment


BBC Four's show, The Art of Gothic: Britain's Midnight Hour (6 November 2014) explained how the 18th and 19th century explosion of science and industry inspired a Gothic counter-movement, a critical moral debate on the implications of unbridled rationalism. The BBC show highlighted the English painting, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), which portrayed the Gothic fear of scientists' experiments. Rationalists' destruction of spiritual concerns created horror. In the painting, the scientist is slowly pumping air out of a bell jar, in which a bird (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) is trapped. The scientist is suffocating the bird to demonstrate its dependence on oxygen. Image Source: Wiki.

The Awaken the Amnesiacs series on this blog explains why and how the human interaction with high technology is taking on spiritual dimensions. In today's post, I discuss the Gothic moment at which undue rationalism carries within itself the seeds of its own undoing. The rational, when overindulged, becomes anti-rational.

Any undertaking, done in the name of 'cutting edge change' will involve a confident, progressive agent. It is easy to criticize our forebears for their blind spots, and more difficult to see our own. In an earlier post, The Night of First Ages, I quoted an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) in the 2005 King Kong screenplay. The characters in King Kong are on a voyage to make a movie on a remote island. On the way, Jimmy, the ship's boy, reads Heart of Darkness, narrated by Conrad's protagonist, Charles Marlow. Marlow is on a journey to find an ivory trader, Kurtz, on the Congo River. Jimmy asks: "Why does Marlow keep going up the river? Why doesn't he turn back?"

The Heart of Darkness scene from King Kong (2005) © Universal Pictures depicts the wall between ego and id, or between the conscious-rational and unconscious-anti-rational parts of the human mind. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

The ship's first mate remarks that Marlow keeps searching for Kurtz, without realizing how deep he is getting into the dark side of human nature, because Marlow believes he is civilized. 'Civilized' characters like Marlow and Kurtz are amnesiacs, who think their own savagery is no longer a threat, something from a long lost, bygone era of sticks and stones. In their hubris, they unconsciously become more savage as they push forward as self-appointed bearers of 'progress': "We could not understand because we were too far ... and could not remember ... because we were traveling in the night of first ages ... of those ages that are gone ... leaving hardly a sign, and no memories. We are accustomed to look ... upon the shackled form of a conquered monster ... but there ... there you could look at a thing monstrous and free."

Jimmy realizes, "It's not an adventure story ... is it Mr. Hayes?" To which the first mate responds, "No Jimmy, it's not." The nested novel-to-movie-to-film metafiction in King Kong should be a message to its audience; as is the metahistorical fact that Heart of Darkness was based on a true story and the character Kurtz was based on a real person. The metafiction and metahistory of Heart of Darkness, embedded inside King Kong, reveal our amnesia. In blindly pursuing the singularity, why don't we turn back? Why don't we see that the history of the new Millennium is not an adventure story? It is because we expect the monster inside ourselves to be shackled. On the Internet and in research labs, the monster is not shackled.

Scientists and technologists have reached a Gothic moment because there is a gap between their practice and the way they are perceived in mass media as progressive actors. When they work with the scientific method, they live with uncertainty. They test hypotheses which, if proven, are accepted until falsified or refined. At the same time, we live in a period when a cult of secular rationalism has supplanted mass religions to furnish the prevailing story of global civilization. Scientific method and rationality are equated with humanism, enlightenment, advanced education, and hyper-progress. Scientists and technologists occupy exalted social positions as perceived experts. In this capacity, they are less cautious. They are little aware that when they become public gurus or market their findings with mythical labels, they tap into that part of secular rationalism that functions like a religion, rather than a considered quantification of reality.

Despite recent triumphs and headlines, there are signs of amnesia among today's scientists, technologists, and technophiles. They press ahead as experts and progressive actors, even when their impact on society starts to become surreal, or when their followers become cultish. They do not stop to reconsider their position, even when, as I put it in this post, "a nearly-unstoppable faith in, and optimism about, rampant technology" gives rise to "a heart-tearing soul-sickness which emerges from that intermingling of the virtual and the real."

Scientists are frank about how much they do not and cannot know. The Guardian: "It is perhaps a sign of the health of modern science that the harbingers of so much doubt have met with such acclaim." The current situation is serious: physicists have reached the analytical limits of scientific inquiry for two reasons. They discovered that they can only observe and measure the tiny part of the universe which absorbs light radiation. When they do measure that tiny portion, they have confirmed that they change it at the sub-atomic level. We can only see a tiny portion of reality, and we change that reality when we look at it. Together, these issues trap us in a self-referential bubble of perception.

When physicists determined that 96 per cent of the universe is unobservable and exists in the forms of dark matter and dark energy, scientists at CERN and other labs set out to breach those limits. Particle physicists, who deal with measurable knowns, stand at the edge of the methodological line, with a high point being their 4 July 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson or 'God particle.' In 2012, Russia Today interviewed Aleksey Filippenko, an astrophysicist and Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, who admitted that the 'God particle' raised more questions than answers:
"Let me start by saying that I am going to discuss the universe only from the perspective of a scientist, from an intellectual perspective. I am not going to be talking about whether there is spiritual God or a personal God or a purpose to the universe – these are questions that scientists can’t address. My own belief is that once you have the laws of physics the universe just keeps going on its own. And it could even be that the laws of physics are all that you need in order to get the universe to start from the very beginning – the “Big Bang”. ...

The Higgs boson helps to complete what is called the Standard Model of particle physics. There is a way we have to try to understand – electrons and quarks and neutrino and other kinds of particles. And Higgs boson was kind of a missing piece of the puzzle. Which, if it were not there, would mean that we would have to kind of start over. But the fact that it appears to have been found completes our picture of the Standard Model of particle physics. That is not to say that we understand everything. We don’t yet understand how gravity fits in with particle physics. Other than the fact that gravity pulls particles together. We also do not understand things like dark energy. The universe seems to be filled with a dark energy that is expanding the universe faster and faster – I helped to discover that. And the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics was given to the team leaders last year for that discovery.

So, we don’t understand the dark energy. There is also something called dark matter. It may or may not be some kind of fundamental particles that could be part of the Standard Model – we don’t yet understand. The Higgs boson is a very important discovery. But it does not solve all the questions that remain in physics. But it is a very important discovery. In a sense, it would have been more exciting as a scientist to me if it were not there because it would mean that we were not correct in our view of the universe. The surprises are more fun than the expected discoveries. ...

I don’t think scientists will ever truly understand creation because I don’t think we will know where the laws of physics came from. But given a universe, given a universe can arise I think some day we may well understand dark energy and dark matter and the other constituents of the universe. We only discovered dark energy 14 years ago – the accelerating expansion of the universe. So it is no surprise that we don’t yet fully understand dark energy. Dark matter was only conceived a few decades ago. So again, we don’t yet fully know what dark matter is. But we have not been investigating it for very long. I mean, in hundreds of years who knows what we will know. We might have a full inventory of what is in the universe and how everything behaves. So we will know a lot. But we won’t quite know why it all happened and why there is something other than nothing.

Why are there any mathematical laws of physics rather than just nothing at all? I don’t know whether we will ever understand that. Scientists are only well-aware of 4 per cent of the universe – that is, we understand pretty well the nature of 4 per cent of the universe. The stuff that is made of atoms. Ninety-six per cent of the universe is made out of dark matter and dark energy. And although we know they are present we don’t know what their detailed properties are or why they are there. Or what exactly is going on."
On the other side of the line stand theoretical physicists, who deal with unmeasurable unknowns using mathematics. Astrophysicists stand, somewhat unhappily, on both sides of the line. A 2011 book by Richard Panek, The 4 Per Cent Universe, emphasized that scientific measurements begin to break down at dark energy and dark matter. The conventional wisdom is that as discoveries, knowledge, and tools improve, the scientific method will expand and continue. But this underestimates the problem of scientific methodological analyses - and for researchers in all disciplines who use them. It is not just a question of having insufficient tools to measure and quantify reality. It is a question of not being able to comprehend the findings. The Smithsonian: "'We have a complete inventory of the universe,' Sean Carroll, a California Institute of Technology cosmologist, has said, 'and it makes no sense.'"

Apollo 18 (2011) faux found footage movie explained why 'we've never gone back to the moon.' The film was a huge box office hit. The real reasons for canceled Apollo missions were political, technical and funding challenges. Image Source: Movie Blogger.

Just as physicists hit a wall, big science stumbled elsewhere as well. In one generation, the space age promised and failed to produce space station cities, moon pod villages, and colonists on Mars. Lunar settlements remain technical concepts, and China's 2013 landerYutu, made the first soft landing on the moon since 1976. On the Internet, lunar exploration has become the dismal stuff of conspiracy theory and cinematic legend. Nor did the atomic age solve the energy crisis, or bring us cold fusion. Instead, it vomited up the radioactive fallout of nuclear disasters and inexplicable dark matter. Geneticists were supposed to cure cancer and the common cold, not produce human-animal hybrid chimeras which scare the public. These generalizations do not account for the realities of research and funding; but they explain why mass sympathy and confidence in big science waned over the past generation.

Another day at Boston Dynamics. Image Source: RAND Corporation.

Where big science stumbled, big tech was supposed to bail us out. In the public mind, if not in reality, the torch passed in the 1990s from big science to big technology. Over the past fifteen years, interest shifted from space exploration and cosmology - to computers, gadgets and the Internet. Technologists promised transhumanism, posthumanism, artificial intelligence, and the Singularity. This was why 'singularity' became the evangelical buzzword of technophiles between 2003 and 2012, and remains fashionable with its own cluster of personalities. Silicon Valley became one of the most powerful places on earth. High tech would launch us exponentially toward a gnostic, mind-opening, theophanic moment of transcendence.

Enter the computer programmers, designers and engineers. We would remake ourselves on the clock, rework our societies and the whole world, and finally efficiently manage resources. The Internet, conceived by the scientists at CERN, was rationalistic in its construction. Unfortunately, it is anti-rational in its execution; it exploits users' unconscious impulses and forms a giant collective mind. We did not get a robot-supported Valhalla. Instead, we got 9-million-hit Roomba cat videos, cyber-bullies, social-media-supported home invasions, remote-controlled brain-to-brain interfaces, and Boston Dynamics cheerfully preparing its Second Variety military hardware for World War III. The technological revolution began to give way to the surveillance revolution.

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.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Watcher


As of October 2015, 657 Boulevard, Westfield NJ, was on the market for USD $1.25 million. Image Source: Christian Hansen/Gothamist.

Every horror fan knows that when you buy property, you should beware the amazing real estate deal. In June 2015, a lawsuit in Union County, New Jersey, USA suggested that a house there sold with a hidden legacy. The court papers read like a cross between The Amityville Horror (1977) and When A Stranger Calls (1979). In June 2014, the Woods family sold their six-bedroom house at 657 Boulevard, Westfield, to the Broaddus family for $1.3 million, which was a steal because Union County is a prosperous place with nice schools and good jobs: it is 119th in per capita income among 3,113 counties in the United States. Perched on the Atlantic seafront, sheltered by the Watchung Mountains, the motto of this leafy enclave is "We're connected to you!"

Yes, we are: in June 2014, three days after the new home owners at 657 Boulevard moved in, they started to receive hostile anonymous letters, threatening their children and claiming that for generations, the house and its inhabitants have been stalked by the letter writer, a malevolent voyeur described in court documents as 'The Watcher.' The Daily Mail:
“Police have not yet released the letters but the profilers say they would be able to tell a lot from the handwriting, sentence structure, use of grammar and tone. In the messages, which date back to last year, the stalker said that his family had been 'watching' the house for generations. He also claimed he would be able to see the family through their windows. And he accused them of updating the house. ‘You have changed it and made it so fancy,' he wrote. 'It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed its halls, when I ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there… Stop changing it and let it alone.’ One letter read: 'Why are you here? I will find out. 'My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?' He seems to be referring to the Broaddus family's three children. In the first letter, dated June 5 [2014], he wrote: 'Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me. 'I asked the [prior owners] to bring me young blood. And now I watch and wait for the day when they [sic] young blood will be mine again.'

'Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will. I am pleased to know your names and the names now of the young blood you have brought to me. 'Will the young bloods play in the basement. Who has the rooms facing the street? I'll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better.' All the windows and door in [the house] allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. 'I am in charge of [the house].'
The buyers sued the house's previous owners for not disclosing information on the Watcher before the sale. Courthouse News reported that the plaintiffs invoked the 'decency of civilized society':
All told, the letters are "the epitome of extreme and outrageous conduct so severe in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society," the complaint states.
The Watcher's letters state that he had communicated with the sellers, but to win the case, the buyers have to prove that the sellers already knew about the Watcher when they sold the house. New Jersey does not have a law forcing sellers to disclose negative information about real estate. Nolo: Law for All advises that hauntings and other psychological stigmas are encouraged by sellers of New Jersey real estate, but disclosures remain voluntary; it is up to the house buyer to ask if the property is stigmatized:
What to Disclose If the House Is Haunted or Otherwise Stigmatized

There are some "intangible" problems with a property that buyers cannot discover through an inspection. A property may, for example, be "stigmatized" if it is affected by psychological or other factors that have nothing to do with its physical condition but affect whether it would be desirable to live in. Examples of such stigma include a house that is allegedly haunted or where a violent death took place. In New Jersey, you do not have to disclose these things BUT, if the buyer asks you about them, you must answer honestly.

Filling Out a Disclosure Form

In light of the various disclosure obligations described above, most Realtors in New Jersey will require that the seller fill out a SELLER'S PROPERTY CONDITION DISCLOSURE STATEMENT to share with prospective buyers. You may attract more buyers if you are willing to let them know straight up what condition the property is in before they make an offer. If you do not provide a disclosure form, you may well scare off a buyer who thinks there must be issues with the property that you'd rather not disclose. This form provides facts about the history of repairs to the property and almost every physical aspect of the property, from the basement sump pump to the rooftop. Sellers usually deliver it to prospective buyers when they express an interest in making an offer on the property. The form is not required of a New Jersey seller. In fact, some sellers refuse to fill it out, for fear that they may make an innocent omission or representation. If you do fill it out, make sure you answer it completely and honestly. Failure to do so could set you up for a potential suit for misrepresentation or failure to disclose.

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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marie Antoinette's Millennial Rococo


Image Source © Cathy Fitzgerald via etsy.

The Internet has made history ahistorical, a treasure box for post-Postmodern plunder. Globalization allows designers to create a crazy quilt of anachronistic, cross-cultural references. Even as traditions are upended, they gain new life. For example, the world has never been more republican, but royal families survive as minor celebrities. There is also a subculture devoted to some royals who have achieved historical dead movie star status.

Image Source: etsy.

Popular history of these dead stars survives in role-playing clubs and historical reenactment communities, fueled by the Internet. The craft merchant site Etsy gives a snapshot of the cult around Marie Antoinette.

Even in her lifetime, she fell prey to a modern pattern of celebrity. She entered the French court as a teen-aged magnet of attention, and set the highest standard of beauty among her contemporaries. After giving birth in front of an audience of hundreds of courtiers she complained:
"I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world!"
There are many cryptic and apocryphal quotations associated with her, including the falsely attributed, 'Let them eat cake,' to dismiss the starving people of Paris. This was actually a quote from Rousseau, published when Marie Antoinette was only nine years old and still living in Vienna.

Her mother, the great Austrian empress Maria Theresa, purportedly consulted a seer on whether her daughter would be happy in France; and the seer supposedly replied:
"There are crosses for all shoulders."
Finally, one of the most famous quotations associated with the ill-fated French queen is:
"I have seen all, I have heard all, I have forgotten all."
She still represents ornately-adorned beauty and lavish, glittering excess. She is also popular in Gothic circles as a morbid symbol of retribution for wastefulness and exploitation, a pale face of warning. This mixed message of wealth and justice, beauty and death rings true today, and so her popularity endures.

Addendum (23 October 2015): Tea at Trianon found an English transcript of Marie Antoinette's trial, here.

Image Source: etsy.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en 2014!


Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Fairy Mab (c. 1815-1820). Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. "Mab is the chief fairy in folklore and literature. Fuseli's source for this subject was John Milton's poem L'Allegro (around 1630). The painter claimed that he was attempting to express 'female Nature'. Fuseli emphasises the themes of sensual indulgence and sexuality, with a fairy slumped into a bowl of junket (sweetened cream) and another little spirit holding a spoon and bowl, symbolising male and female genitals."-Tate. Image Source: Madame Pickwick (Hat tip: -C.).

Happy Hallowe'en! This marks the end of the Countdown to Hallowe'en blogathon. I was too busy blogging to check all the other participants, but be sure you do so (here). I did have a chance to look at Plaid Stallions, Dark Mind of a Feminist, The Ghost Town, The Grim Gallery, Limer Wrecks, Russian Nerd, Radiator Heaven, and Wonderful, Beautiful, and Strange Finds, and I was not disappointed!

On the Internet, reddit is Creepy Central; you can look at these subreddits for Hallowe'en chills, but you may regret it.
Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844), Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits (Bertalda von Kuhleborns Geistern erschreckt) c.1830. Von Holst was Fuseli's student. This painting is taken from the novella Undine (1811) by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. Image Source: Wiki.

Below the jump, see more creepy sights, read spooky stories and listen to ambient suspense and ambient horror music. All copyrights belong with creators and are reproduced under Fair Use for non-commercial appreciation and discussion only.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Backwater Gospel


Still from The Backwater Gospel (2011). Image Source: Creepy Pasta.

Today, see a Danish animated film, set in Gothic America, The Backwater Gospel. This animated short, directed by Bo Mathorne, was published by the Animation Workshop on Youtube in 2011. TV Tropes summarizes the plot and the tropes which the film features:
The Backwater Gospel is ... about a small town called Backwater that is in a bit of a predicament. Namely, whenever the local Undertaker bicycles into town, someone dies the same day. And not before he comes into town, either.
One day, however, the Undertaker comes to town... and no-one dies. Not one person. The Undertaker simply sits on a bench and watches the townsfolk. The fear and uncertainty as to who will finally die sweeps across the town, and it's only a matter of time before someone snaps...It can be watched online.
See the film below the jump.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: Mark Twain's Young Satan


Mark Twain depicted Lucifer as ambiguous, attractive and psychopathic. Image Source: The House of Vines.

October marks the start of harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere. Hallowe'en is just around the corner. Every year, the site Countdown to Halloween runs a blogathon so that interested blogs can comment on the season in any way they see fit (I highly recommend Gothtober). This blog participated in 2011 and 2012 (see those posts here); this year I am participating again.

2013's All Hallows' Eve Countdown at Histories of Things to Come will offer horror-themed posts with a twist. These posts will mostly address how horror straddles the dotted line of acceptability: how horror can have non-horrific origins; how horror's marginal aspects become mainstream (not always in a good way); how horror carries mixed messages; or how horror stories convey moral messages. Posts in the countdown will be more or less every other day; there will also be some regular, non-countdown posts this month.

Mark Twain (pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (30 November 1835-21 April 1910)). Image Source: University of California Press.

Today's post concerns some of the darker writings of the famous American writer Mark Twain. Twain's real name was Samuel Clemens; he took his pseudonym from sailing Missouri steamboats on the Mississippi river in the late 1850s, where mark twain was the call which meant 'safe water' at two fathoms, or twelve feet deep.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Faux Antiques and Real Antiques


Image Source: Metafilter.

Not far from my house, there is a big Victorian house going up for auction at the end of the month. The owner is an antiques dealer. The word is that an old lady lived in the house for decades. When she died, the dealer picked it up for a song. He renovated it, kitted it out like a museum, and is now selling the contents and property; and I guess, he is hoping to turn it over for a profit. I saw the property at the auctioneer's open house, and what got me thinking about antiques was the basement.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Home Invasions: The Millennial Crime


Image Source: Tactical Life.

Today's post concerns a very post-Postmodern crime: the home invasion. Like the new, terrifying criminal who is a baffling, brutal and unstoppable force of nature in the Coen Brothers' 2007 film, No Country for Old Men, home invasion crosses lines which criminals of the past would not cross. Home invasion is a new type of ferocious act, committed by a new breed of criminal. It terrifies because it comes rampaging right to the last stronghold of security in a frightening world: the private dwelling, the final sanctum. This is a crime which shatters an already atomized order.

Image Source: Winnipeg Police Services.

Responses to this crime, like other unimaginable violations such as 2012's school or cinema shootings or the 2012 gang rape case in India, are politicized. But are the answers to a widening gap between the rich and the poor, tech-driven brutality, and an increase in savage crime simply political? Questions about these issues, surely, come from problems that are beyond politics.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 3: Comics that Made Me a Fan


Life with Archie #125 (September 1972). Image Source: Kermit's Pad.

Now, here is a blast from the past. Back in 1978, around when I started collecting comics titles which bridged the 1970s and 1980s (as, here and here), I encountered a really odd reprinted Archie comics story. Buried in a digest with much more typical, easygoing fare, it crossed the normally tame kids' title with the horror genre. The Grand Comics Database summarizes the plot of 1972's "Nightmare Nursery":
The gang inspects an old house where a Satanically-possessed teddy bear, brought into the house by a woman who once used it to kill a little girl, exercises its spell on Betty and induces her to attempt suicide.
Really. Archie was known for occasional innuendo which sailed over the heads of its young readers (at least, I hope it did), only to be revisited decades later.

But "Nightmare Nursery" went way beyond innuendo. With themes borrowed from the horror comics and films of the 1970s, it clearly left an impact on readers. A few years ago when a chance reminder made me dimly recall it, I searched for it on the Web, in vain. I found only a forum where someone else was also trying to find this issue and complaining along the lines of, 'Does anyone know what I'm talking about? The Archie Comics demon teddy bear story? If I don't track it down, it will haunt me to my dying day.' A few years have passed, the Web's fund of digital ephemera has piled deeper, and now I have found it at last. It turns out that "Nightmare Nursery" is notorious among Archie fans.