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 H. G. Wells. Show all posts
Showing posts with label H. G. Wells. Show all posts

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: Bohemian Grove's Hoax Cult Exposures


Moloch. Image Source: Your Newswire. See the full image here.

How true conspiracy theories are depends on how much you are willing to believe. I consider conspiracy theories to be powerful fictions and mischievous propaganda. This post concerns the granddaddy of them all, the story of the Bohemian Grove, the conspiracy theory that launched a thousand ships on the Internet.

Image Source: WikiLeaks via Your Newswire.

On 16 March 2016, WikiLeaks released Hillary Clinton's hacked e-mails on the Internet. In an August 2009 e-mail lay 'evidence' of Clinton's connection to the Bohemian Grove and the Illuminati. In the leak, Lewis Amselem, US lead representative to the Organization of American States, joked about the Honduran coup (see criticism of Amselem here, and coup-related comments herehere, herehere, here, here, here and here); if everything there worked out as they hoped, Amselem would go out in the backyard and sacrifice a chicken to Moloch.

Perhaps Amselem actually mentioned Moloch to Clinton's staffers. However, several reports maintain that Russian hackers tampered with Clinton's and the Democratic party's e-mails prior to releasing them to WikiLeaksWikiLeaks has been blatantly anti-Clinton during the American election campaign. Even The Intercept and Edward Snowden criticized Julian Assange for his bias. Thus, this weird, tenuous connection between Hillary Clinton and Moloch could be fictitious. As WikiLeaks continues its suspect info dumps leading up to the US election, there is a lot of talk about the validity of the data they are revealing about a criminal and corrupted American establishment. Yet the question remains: who is Moloch? And why would Amselem, or Russian hackers, mention him?

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Triumphs and the Frauds


Orson Welles (1915-1985). Image Source: Indiewire.

Years ago, I concluded that changing one's name artificially is a hex sign. Someone has built a fake reality for themselves around a fake identity, an alter ego. Of course, that depends on the circumstances; and now, alter egos and icon names are everywhere on the Internet. The original question concerned what is fake and what is real when it comes to building reputation through a public persona. In those pre-Internet days, a fake name propelled a figure forward to become more real and credible than the original person, for all the wrong reasons.

In 1974, Orson Welles made a documentary - his last completed major work - about disinformation and the agency it gives to fake people. His film, F for Fake, concerns a notorious Hungarian art forger, Elmyr de Hory (1906-1976), who sold hundreds of fake copies of paintings by master artists, authenticated by art experts, to top galleries and museums. The film also focuses on the forger's biographer, Clifford Irving. Irving made his name by writing a fake biography of Howard Hughes, which was completely fabricated and for which Irving spent nearly two years in prison.

Peter Bogdanovich describes F for Fake. Video Source: Youtube.

Welles encountered these characters in Ibiza, Spain. As he tried to get to the bottom of this story, the director confirmed how impossible it was to unravel liars' lies. Over time, their fabrications gained credibility and authority, based on reputations, cultivated layer by layer, over decades in exclusive social settings. In another short from the same period, set inside a fake private gentlemen's club in London, he poked fun at class and wealth as sources of enduring historical and social authority. He thought it comical that those who acquire higher levels of class and wealth gain historical weight, no matter what their true value. And in F for Fake, he found that when liars move in these temporally-weighted circles, first to lie, then to 'come clean' and tell the 'truth' (even if they never really do), they gain even more false authenticity.

De Hory's art forgeries reflected that, because art masterpieces are part of wealthy settings. Great art is considered to be durable, a lasting testament; it has more temporal weight than wealth. Artworks are luxury items which allow collectors to augment their wealth and class status, to build identity through assertions of taste. With art ownership, collectors associate the constructed longevity of their identities with the longevity of the artwork. Today's art world has responded to this market by seeking new 'great master' prodigies, who must produce more 'great works' for a nouveau 'ageless canon.' New billionaires buy new 'masterwork' art pieces, and the billionaires and the art artificially inflate each other's perceived lasting value. In Welles's terms, they are all fakes. One painter in his film shrugged: "The fakes are as good as the real ones, and there is a market and there's a demand [for them]." Welles set out to resolve how money, fame, power and time were wrongly connected in people's minds.

F for Fake provoked introspection, since Welles was reminded of his own fake 1938 War of the Worlds radio drama performance about a Martian invasion, which people believed was real. F for Fake was further reminiscent of the film which made Welles's name at age 26, Citizen Kane, a fictional history of the character Charles Foster Kane, newspaper-magnate-turned-presidential-candidate. Kane was modeled on the real media tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. The last section of F for Fake includes some autobiographical asides, after which Welles deliberately transformed the documentary into a faux-documentary, starring his girlfriend at the time, Oja Kodar. He confessed in the last few minutes of the film that he had created a 'film forgery.' "Art," he said, "is a lie that makes us realize the truth." You can watch F for Fake here, while the link lasts.

To quote a reviewer: "So if you're keeping track, F for Fake is a fake documentary, about a fake artist, being described by a fake writer, and framed by a self-described fake super genius person." It is a difficult, scattered film, now dated, and was poorly received by critics. Others defend it, especially because the film hinged on a single scene of crystal clear truth. American media psychologist James Herndon deemed one clip (below) from F for Fake to be "the profoundest moment in all of cinema." In it, Welles suggested that every expression of genius, identity, or creativity is limited and fleeting. The director approached Chartres cathedral in France as the silent testimony of anonymous artists, whose greatness will transcend the mortal condition only for a few centuries or millennia. Any attempt at creativity, no matter how beautiful, masterful, or fraudulent, constitutes a futile effort to overcome death.


Top, from Citizen Kane, fictional Kane, running for president. The real man on whom Kane was based never ran for president, but was elected to the House of Representatives and made unsuccessful bids to become Mayor of New York City (1905 and 1909), Governor of New York (1906), and Lieutenant Governor of New York (1910). Hearst had to settle for manipulating politics through his newspapers. Images Source: Everything You Hate.

Welles as Kane in Xanadu, the fictional depiction of Hearst's San Simeon castle. Image Source: The Latest.

The real Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, USA, built 1919 to 1947, is a monument to a megalomaniac ego seeking permanence; it is stocked with exotic animals, priceless art objects, and imported historical buildings. It is a national and California historical landmark. Image Source: Wiki.

The Gothic study and library in Hearst Castle. Image Source: Inside Inside.

The outdoor swimming pool at Hearst Castle features an actual ancient Roman temple which Hearst bought in Europe and imported to California. Image Source: Wiki.

As a comment on the futile quest for immortality, F for Fake was anti-master, anti-author, anti-expert, anti-wealth, anti-fabrication, but pro-authenticity. This film, Welles's last, is filled with the wreckage of Citizen Kane, with Chartres standing in as the universal artist's palace, confronting the billionaire's estate Xanadu, based on the real Hearst estate San Simeon. This time, Welles played Charles Foster Kane again, only 'for real.' Now, Welles was the supposedly rich man, riding on his reputation, clinging to his baubles and pretty young girls, knowing it was all bullshit; he distrusted hangers-on and friends who had also arrived at the top by dubious means. In his heart, he was haunted by the possibility that not a single thing he had done was worth anything. He wondered if his own work, already a rip-off, would be ripped off; maybe people would only know and recognize derivative Wellesian products, made by other people. With nothing left but his battered art, Welles sought sanctuary in the palace of Chartres. Where Chartres was a house of triumph, San Simeon was a monument to fraud.

Chartres clip from F for Fake (1974). Video Source: Youtube.

Welles was sure of one thing. When it comes to lasting greatness, the ego must die and all its pathetic trappings must go. The ego, aware that it will die and that wealth, fame, and reasonable accomplishments are insufficient builders of immortality, makes one last ditch, explosive effort to leave its permanent mark. Welles wanted to find something irreducible and moral beneath that. Surrounded by frauds and liars, the only integrity he could imagine was a confessional, of stating the truth that he was a fraud too. But coming clean with the truth was also an act of trickery, and so Welles was left with another layer of subterfuge. He concluded that, of all the areas in life in which one built credibility and reputation, only a creative endeavour - no matter how embattled - might come close to liberating humans from this disastrous loop of projected myth, believable lies, and hierarchies of liars.

Although art immersed the artist in falsehoods with its fake depictions of reality, when artists produced something like Chartres cathedral, the result was a fleeting reflection of eternity. This became true only when the art object was stripped of any pretension toward ego, reputation, projected value, collectable wealth, authority, control, or greatness. And for those who tried to buy, or falsely create, fake ageless identities associated with that final truth, F for Fake asserted that no matter how wealthy you are, you cannot buy time, and you cannot buy your place in history.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chimeran Consciousness


Still from the dark sci-fi film, Splice (2009), which depicted a secret lab experiment with a human-animal chimera as the main character. Image Source: Collider. The trailer is here, and full film (while the link lasts) is here © Warner Bros., reproduced under Fair Use.

On 6 January 2016, MIT Technology Review published an article about US government monitoring of the bio-tech sector as labs create human-animal chimeras and farms grow human organs inside pigs and sheep. The National Institutes of Health expressed concern because embryonic chimeras are in danger of developing expanded human consciousness and tried to slow the rapid pace of scientific experimentation by cutting labs' funding. It didn't work; the labs immediately found money elsewhere:
The effort to incubate organs in farm animals is ethically charged because it involves adding human cells to animal embryos in ways that could blur the line between species.

Last September [2015], in a reversal of earlier policy, the National Institutes of Health announced it would not support studies involving such “human-animal chimeras” until it had reviewed the scientific and social implications more closely.

The agency, in a statement, said it was worried about the chance that animals’ “cognitive state” could be altered if they ended up with human brain cells.

The NIH action was triggered after it learned that scientists had begun such experiments with support from other funding sources, including from California’s state stem-cell agency. The human-animal mixtures are being created by injecting human stem cells into days-old animal embryos, then gestating these in female livestock.

Based on interviews with three teams, two in California and one in Minnesota, MIT Technology Review estimates that about 20 pregnancies of pig-human or sheep-human chimeras have been established during the last 12 months in the U.S., though so far no scientific paper describing the work has been published, and none of the animals were brought to term. ...

The experiments rely on a cutting-edge fusion of technologies, including recent breakthroughs in stem-cell biology and gene-editing techniques. By modifying genes, scientists can now easily change the DNA in pig or sheep embryos so that they are genetically incapable of forming a specific tissue. Then, by adding stem cells from a person, they hope the human cells will take over the job of forming the missing organ, which could then be harvested from the animal for use in a transplant operation.

“We can make an animal without a heart. We have engineered pigs that lack skeletal muscles and blood vessels,” says Daniel Garry, a cardiologist who leads a chimera project at the University of Minnesota. While such pigs aren’t viable, they can develop properly if a few cells are added from a normal pig embryo. Garry says he’s already melded two pigs in this way and recently won a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Army, which funds some biomedical research, to try to grow human hearts in swine. ...

The worry is that the animals might turn out to be a little too human for comfort, say ending up with human reproductive cells, patches of people hair, or just higher intelligence. “We are not near the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast,” NIH ethicist David Resnik said during the agency’s November meeting. “The specter of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming ‘I want to get out’ would be very troubling to people.”

The chance of an animal gaining human consciousness is probably slim; their brains are just too different, and much smaller. Even so, as a precaution, researchers working with farm-animal chimeras haven’t yet permitted any to be born, but instead are collecting fetuses in order to gather preliminary information about how great the contribution of human cells is to the animals’ bodies. ...

[S]cientists will have to prove that human cells can really multiply and contribute effectively to the bodies of farm animals. That could be challenging since, unlike rats and mice, which are fairly close genetically, humans and pigs last shared an ancestor nearly 90 million years ago.

To find out, researchers in 2014 decided to begin impregnating farm animals with human-animal embryos, says Pablo Ross, a veterinarian and developmental biologist at the University of California, Davis, where some of the animals are being housed. Ross says at Davis he has transferred about six sets of pig-human embryos into sows in collaboration with the Salk Institute and established another eight or 10 pregnancies of sheep-human embryos with Nakauchi. Another three dozen pig transfers have taken place outside the U.S., he says.

These early efforts aren’t yet to make organs, says Ross, but more “to determine the ideal conditions for generating human-animal chimeras. ... My view is that the contribution of human cells is going to be minimal, maybe 3 percent, maybe 5 percent. But what if they contributed to 100 percent of the brain? What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It’s something that we don’t expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can’t rule it out.”
The US National Institutes of Health investigation is entitled, NIH Research Involving Introduction of Human Pluripotent Cells into Non-Human Vertebrate Animal Pre-Gastrulation Embryos. Researchers who brought their work up for scrutiny remain frustrated by its negative public image because they see the medical value of their contributions.

Nevertheless, this is why this blog has repeatedly defended the education and financial support of professionals and practitioners from the so-called useless or unprofitable arts and humanities, to comment upon moral and philosophical aspects of the approaching Singularity. For my 2013 post on the human-animal genetic experiments, go here. See the NIH public enquiry from November 2015 below the jump.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where Are We Going? No Really, Where Are We Going?

Google Glass: 2012 preview, for release to consumers in 2014. Image Source: Extreme Tech.

The first twenty years of the Internet involved playing mental catch-up as the industry excitedly released each new application, operating system, or gadget. Except for think pieces at Wired, which launched in 1993 as a glossy magazine, few tried to grasp the implications as the sites and services rolled out - AOL (1991); Amazon (1994); eBay (1995); Yahoo! (1995); Craigslist (1995); Netflix (1997); PayPal (1998); Google (1998); Wikipedia (2001); Second Life (2003); Blogger (2003); Linked In (2003); Skype (2003); Facebook (2004); Digg (2004); YouTube (2005); Reddit (2005); Twitter (2006); Tumblr (2007); Pixlr (2008); Kickstarter (2009); Pinterest (2010); Instagram (2010). These are just the giants, with no mention of the porn sites, which do join the giants in the top rankings for traffic. See the Alexa Top 500 Global Sites for hundreds more of the most world's most popular Web hubs. There are also thousands more Web apps and services which you will have never heard of, unless they meet your particular needs.

The book reader of the future, from Everyday Science and Mechanics magazine (April 1935). Image Source: Paleofuture.

As great as these sites, services and devices are, if you are lucky, you can remember what life was like before they came along. It was far from perfect. But all someone had to do to become inaccessible was not answer the telephone. Now it takes a lot of willpower, excuses and effort to disconnect.

Wireless Emergency Alert System: "'Many people do not realize that they carry a potentially life-saving tool with them in their pockets or purses every day,' said W. Craig Fugate, administrator of FEMA." Image Source: NYT.

On the night of 5-6 August, a friend who lives in California was wakened in the middle of the night by cell phones in the house ringing an alarm he had never heard before: this was the state amber alert for a child abduction:
California issued its first cellphone Amber Alert late Monday, as phones in Southern California received an alert of two missing children in San Diego.

The timing differed from phone to phone but sometime between late Monday and early Tuesday many mobile phones across Southern California received an alert regarding James Lee DiMaggio, suspected of killing Christina Anderson, 44, and kidnapping one or both of her children, Hannah, 16, and Ethan, 8, the Los Angeles Times reported. ...

Some cellphones received only a text message, others buzzed and beeped as part of the Wireless Emergency Alert program, a cellphone equivalent of the Emergency Alert System that creates a high-pitched test tone on television.
The amber alert frightened many people when their mobile phones began ringing strangely (listen here). The system also warns the public about any other kind of major threat:
When you get an Amber Alert on your phone, you will definitely know. The sound is somewhere between a squeal, a siren and a series of tones. Even if you have your phone on silent or vibrate, or have enabled a "Do Not Disturb" or "Sleep" setting, your device may make this sound. The alert will appear as a text message including all pertinent information. ...
At the end of 2012, CTIA-The Wireless Association announced the transition from a Wireless Amber Alert program to a Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program. ... Now, the WEA program sends messages to users within the area of the suspected abduction. For example, if a child in Orlando is abducted, all eligible devices within that area will broadcast the alert. A representative from the California Highway Patrol told HLN that Amber Alerts have previously been issued through wireless carriers regionally, but Monday's alert was the first to be broadcast statewide. It is of note that the WEA system also broadcasts other types of emergency alerts, such as severe weather warnings and imminent threat alerts.
To my friend, the alert brought home the point that mobile phones have erased privacy and are just "personal tracking devices that we also use as telephones." Smartphones are good for tracking criminals. They're also good for tracking everyone else.

A system like this can be a very powerful tool, as Orson Welles discovered in 1938. The Emergency Alert even entered the English language: This is only a test. - Or - This is not a test. In February 2013, hackers hacked a Montana TV station's Emergency Alert System and aired a fake zombie apocalypse warning to demonstrate the system's vulnerabilities. Ars Technica reported in June 2013 that the TV and radio Emergency Alert System is generally hackable. I could not find comment online about whether the Wireless Emergency Alerts program is also hackable, but presumably it is.

Some would argue that worrying about the future is pointless and unhealthy. In a July post, Maria Popova noted that anxiety is often associated with contemplation of the future; also, recent psychological research links the suicidal mind with an over-contemplation of the future:
In Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception ... BBC’s Claudia Hammond explores the psychology of mitigating our worries: Ad Kerkhof is a Dutch clinical psychologist who has worked in the field of suicide prevention for 30 years. He has observed that before attempting suicide people often experience a period of extreme rumination about the future. They sometimes reported that these obsessive thoughts had become so overwhelming that they felt death was the only way to escape. Kerkhof has developed techniques which help suicidal people to reduce this rumination and is now applying the same methods to people who worry on a more everyday basis. He has found that people worry about one topic more than any other — the future, often believing that the more hours they spend contemplating it, the more likely they are to find a solution to their problems. But this isn’t the case.
But what happens when the future becomes the present? As the technological future approached over the past 20 years, there seemed barely time to digest what was happening. It was enough to just keep up with the changes. There is a need to stand back, to see the big picture, to contemplate how we are changing as human beings, to understand what is happening to society, politics, the economy.

Devin Coldewey a Seattle-based writer and photographer, has a number of interesting articles for Tech Crunch (here) in which he tries to make sense of the impact of the Technological Revolution with reference to the past. In 2009, he compared Google and its many services to the construction of Roman roads (here). It was a metaphor-laden piece and pretty clumsy in its historical analogy. Nevertheless, Coldewey's comparison - between Google's messy-but-often-cool labs projects and the Roman road system - was intriguing. But Coldewey misunderstood the potential parallel in his historical comparison. The Roman road system was technologically revolutionary, but the purpose the roads served was not revolutionary at all. The Romans were building an empire. And so is Google.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Belgian Retro-Futures


Images Source: Collectors Weekly.

I09 and Collectors Weekly are reporting on Belgian Gen X artist and illustrator, Laurent Durieux, who has attracted attention for his retro-futuristic classic movie and pop art posters, inspired by Jean "Moebius" Giraud:
Laurent Durieux doesn’t actually live in a retro-futuristic world imagined by H.G. Wells and designed by Raymond Loewy, but looking at his screenprints of the past few years, you’d be forgiven for thinking he does. In Durieux’s world, gigantic robots tower over forests populated by mythical beasts such as Bigfoot and King Kong; city skies are thick with airships shaped like Snoopy, while Buck Rodgers-like vehicles whiz by on slender monorails; and movie monsters are portrayed as sensitive creatures, victims of their grotesqueries rather than revenge-fueled fiends.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Apollo 18's Lunar Truth: Alternate History or Time Shift?

William Blake's I want! I want! (1793).

Over the past few months, one of the most popular posts on this blog has been this one, which I wrote about the movie, Apollo 18.  Now, the Space Review has recently dumped cold water all over the rampant Internet buzz about this movie, and questions as to why its revelatory website, Lunar Truth, was seemingly gagged online.  Nor are there any hints of self-deprecating ironic humour among conspiracy theorists as they search for something with a built in oxymoronic pun like 'lunar truth,' but I digress.  No matter what the critics say, space exploration and other major Millennial historical events remain topics where reality is constantly questioned.  If we one day settle Mars, I wonder whether there will be groups of people on Earth who believe the colonists simply are not there?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anniversaries: Remembering H. G. Wells


Today is the 65th anniversary of the death of H. G. Wells, known for his fin-de-siècle 'scientific romances,' published in the 1890s through the 1930s: "Following "The Time Machine" was "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1896), "The Invisible Man" (1897), "The War of the Worlds" (1898), "When the Sleeper Wakes" (1899), and "The First Men in the Moon" (1901). After this point he turned his prolific pen to social topics, history, and even a bit of hopeful prophecy with books like "Anticipations" (1901), "The Discovery of the Future" (1902), "Mankind in the Making" (1903), "The War in the Air" ,"War and the Future" (1917), "The Open Conspiracy" (1928), "The Shape of Things to Come" (1933), and "The New World Order" (1post on the anniversary of the author's death at 939)."  There is an excellent retrospective at Dark Dorset, here.  You can read many of his books for free at Project Gutenberg, online here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Retro-Futurism 12: Professor Xavier Steampunk Wheelchair

 Steam Punk Professor Xavier's Wheelchair © Daniel Valdez. Image Source: Steampuffin.

This month, an exhibition is wrapping up at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts: Steampunk, Form & Function: an Exhibition of Innovation, Invention & Gadgetry.  The exhibition runs until the second week of May and is sponsored by ModVic and Steampuffin.  Interior designers from ModVic will give your home a complete Steampunk overhaul under the motto: "move into your old new home."  The style is also called neo-Victorian; it features new tech incorporated into nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century English and European designs with Jules Verne and H. G. Wells touches.

Steampuffin specializes in housing our modern tech in Steampunk designs and gadgets.  One of the no-miss items in the exhibition is the Professor Xavier Steampunk Wheelchair, designed by Daniel Valdez.  There is a demo video below the jump showing the chair's various features, including smoke-puffing, noise-making, and vodka cocktail churning.  Actually, it kind of reminds me of that 1980 horror film, The Changeling. The Museum's catchphrase is View the Past, See the Future.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Problem with Memory 2: The Science of Memory

Memory chip. Image Source: Venture Beat.

How do we remember?  What does the brain do, exactly, to create memories? What are we to make of a report like this one at Live Science, which states that memory is not just a product of brain cells forming connections - wherein nerves reorganize themselves and send messages between themselves to establish a memory; but individual brain nerve cells can also hold short-term memories?  There's a piece here from October 25 at Phys.org which further explains how memories are born.  A memory is created when our brain makes groups of its cells "fire in unison" - each memory has a different pattern.  Scientists are trying to find treatments or prevention for Alzheimer's and dementia by administering drugs to older rats which stimulate their neurotransmitters.  This research has been headed by Profesor Etan Markus at the University of Connecticut.  An earlier report from 2006 on memory creation in the brain is here.

Aside from the obvious fears of aging Baby Boomers, why is there pressure to figure out how memory works?  Consider that those who know exactly how neurobiology and neuropsychology overlap in order that we may comprehend differences in time will conceivably be able to control, manufacture and bend memories - in advertising, in cinema, in public life, on the internet, in the military.  Phys.org just came out with a report that scientists have discovered how to erase memory: "Researchers working with mice have discovered that by removing a protein from the region of the brain responsible for recalling fear, they can permanently delete traumatic memories."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interlude: A Moment or Two in Lost Arcadia


After a slew of big posts, I want to change tack and look at things that are more contemplative, restful, and get at currents under the surface.  From about 1995 to 2005, I noticed that the European fin-de-siècle was back in fashion.  Fascination with the era from 1870 to 1920 persists: the Steampunk movement, Proust, H. G. Wells or Lovecraft fans come to mind. This period is our lost Arcadia.  (Arcadia, a region of modern and ancient Greece, became synonymous in the late nineteenth century with idealized nationalist utopias.)  People greeted the new century with confidence, certain that the twentieth century would bring great changes - equality and reforms.  They used the term 'Arcadia' to describe a late Romantic reverie that laid the groundwork for things to come, whether fantastic or terrifying.  For a beautiful tribute site to the styles of this period see the blog, The Pictorial Arts, especially this recent post and this post.  There is a great site devoted to the era of picturesque postage stamps here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anniversaries: Remembering H. G. Wells


H. G. Wells: War of the Worlds. Cover by Frank. R. Paul.

The blog Dark Dorset has an excellent retrospective (here) on H. G. Wells to commemorate the anniversary of his death on August 13, 1946. Known as the 'father of science fiction,' Wells's influence on authors like Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs is well known. Perhaps the best rendition of his famous 1897 story about a Martians invasion, War of the Worlds, is Orson Welles's 1938 Mercury Theatre On the Air radio production, which you can listen to here (part 1, further parts play automatically on youtube). You can read H. G. Wells's original story here and the Mercury broadcast script here. There is a resource site on the story and its adaptations here.

This production was so realistic that it caused mass panic in the United States. Many people fled their homes and police switchboards were swamped with inquiries. Wiki quotes Richard Hand: "some six million heard the CBS broadcast; 1.7 million believed it to be true, and 1.2 million were 'genuinely frightened.'" Wiki: "Many listeners were apparently confused. It must be noted that the confusion cannot be credited entirely to naïveté. Though many of the actors' voices should have been recognizable from other radio shows, nothing like The War of the Worlds broadcast had been attempted in the United States, so listeners were accustomed to accepting newsflashes as reliable. The problem is that the working script had only three statements concerning the fictional nature of the program: at the beginning, at 40 minutes, and at the end. In fact, the warning at the 40-minute mark is the only one after the actors start speaking in character, and before Welles breaks character at the end."

New York Times headline: "Radio Listeners in Panic." October 31, 1938.

Welles had to apologize. Of course the power of the production stemmed from H. G. Wells's powerful descriptions of growing disaster that were embedded in the radio script.

Orson Welles's apology, October 31, 1938.

I have not confirmed this, but I recall reading that legislation was subsequently passed so that dramatizations of fictional disasters always must have a repeated tagline indicating that they are fictional. The obligatory confirmation that a real-seeming drama is fictional was cleverly used in the opening of 1999's Blair Witch Project, which initially claimed to be a true story: "I'm just telling a scary story - but it's not true."  The character Heather replies: "It's not true."  The reverse psychology initially made the audience think that the story was true.  We can trace this 100-year history of the blurring between truth and fiction, starting with H. G. Wells.