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 Immortality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Immortality. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: The Illuminati and the New Vampire Ouroboros


The Papal Audience Hall, Rome, Italy. Partly situated in Vatican City, the Paul VI Hall was designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi and completed in 1971. The mouth of the serpent features an alien-looking sculpture of Jesus resurrecting from nuclear-bomb-created slag. Conspiracy theorists believe that the hall proves that the Vatican is secretly presiding over a neo-Babylonian Satanic sect of serpent-worshipers. Image Source: wykop.

Today's Hallowe'en countdown continues Monday's post on the ouroboros, the symbol of immortality behind the vampire story. The ouroboros myth reveals why populists and New Agers pair the reptile with the vampire in conspiracy theories about lizard aliens and blood-drinking élites.

David Icke is the main popularizer of the lizard alien hypothesis. David Icke: Conspiracy of the Lizard Illuminati (Part 2/2) (24 August 2012). Video Source: Youtube.

British ex-footballer David Icke is at the forefront of describing this new version of the ouroboros vampire, starting in his 1999 book, The Biggest Secret. Despite denials, he has laced his account of reptilian humanoid élites with anti-Semitism. He repackages anti-Semitism as anti-evil-space-alien, anti-Kabbalist, anti-Zionist, anti-Khazarian, anti-Babylonian Brotherhood, anti-moon-Death-Star, and anti-Saturn-worship. He claims that he opposes 'false Jews,' Freemasons, and Illuminists.

Icke was ridiculed throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He only gained a following after the rise of social media and the concurrent 2008 recession, which was blamed on banking institutions and saw a corresponding explosion of anti-Semitism.

At the same time, graphics editing software became broadly available which was capable of subtly altering images and videos to create 'evidence' of lizard people. As a result, Icke now travels the world, talking for up to eleven hours at a stretch to packed audience halls. It is a new form of entertainment, and thousands of vloggers, bloggers, New Agers, and conspiracists have followed suit. They have expanded Icke's hypothesis to produce an enormous Millennial cosmology. Vox called it "the greatest political conspiracy [theory] ever created."

But the point is that it is not original. I think Icke derived his lizard people hypothesis from the ancient Egyptian mystery of the ouroboros, in which serpents were believed to be bound to the souls of kings and queens.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: The Order of the Dragon and the Vampire Ouroboros


Vampires are connected to the ouroboros, an ancient Egyptian symbol linking life and death. This is "an engraving of a woman holding an ouroboros in Michael Ranft's 1734 treatise on vampirrs." Notice the hourglass balanced on its edge in the bottom left corner, and the satyr playing the triangle above the woman. Click to enlarge. Image Source: Wiki.

Welcome to the month of October! Every year, this blog joins dozens of other blogs to count down to Hallowe'en (check out other participants here). I reserve this countdown for topics which are too weird, frightening and creepy to cover during the rest of the year. This month, I will be publishing new Hallowe'en posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Vampires open the countdown this year. Vampire and other horror stories tie in strongly to modern conspiracy theories. During this countdown, I cover strange and sometimes offensive material. That doesn't mean I personally believe in, or endorse, those ideas.

The Old Vampire Ouroboros: The Order of the Dragon

The German poet and diplomat, Oswald von Wolkenstein (1376-1445), wearing an Order of the Dragon brooch with the serpent eating its tail. Portrait from the Innsbrucker Handschrift (1432). Notice the closed right eye, now a common gesture in photographs of celebrities. Image Source: Portrait in the Innsbruck manuscript of 1432 (Liederhandschrift B)/Wiki.

Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović using two snakes to cover her right eye and neck. Image Source: e-flux conversations.

The word 'Dracula' comes from the title granted the Wallachian rulers of Transylvania who were members of the chivalric Order of the Dragon, a group founded in 1408 to keep the Turks out of Europe.

The order started in Germany and Italy, but spread to the princely houses of Central Eastern Europe. Members of the order carried the signum draconis, the sign of the dragon, later displayed on the coats of arms of certain Hungarian noble families: Báthory, Bocskai, Bethlen, Szathmáry, Benyovszky, Kende and Rákóczi.

Engraving of an ouroboros by Lucas Jennis, in the 1625 alchemical tract, De Lapide Philosophico. Image Source: Wiki.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Symbols of Immortality 4: The Fake Human Burger



No sooner did labs begin developing the ability to 3D print a fake hamburger, than Oxford-based evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, stampeded straight for the less obvious question: why not 3D print a burger made of artificial human meat?

Inside the Quest to Make Lab Grown Meat | WIRED (16 February 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment. It may have been a Swiftian joke. Maybe it was clickbait. Dawkins was Oxford's professor for the 'Public Understanding of Science' until 2008, so he must know about outreach.

A 3D printer creating fake meat. Image Source: ByFlow via BBC.

Over the past few years, the major news outlets have promised that lab grown meat is coming to your table and that this is a good thing: Washington Post, BBC, Bloomberg, The Economist, Reuters. Motherboard and the BBC have covered the topic since the new year. BBC reported that Dutch firm ByFlow has started selling its 3D meat printers to restaurants. ByFlow's motto is: "Think. Design. Eat." Memphis Meats (backed by Bill Gates) and Mosa Meat are two artificial meat start-ups which will start selling fake meat for public consumption by 2021. Another cellular agriculture company is New Harvest.

In the third week of February 2018, news outlets reported that the US Cattlemen's Association filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) against the Silicon Valley start-ups which are creating lab-grown meat. You can read their petition here. They focused primarily on the definition of real meat as created from animals which have been raised and slaughtered, so that fake meat cannot be labeled as genuine meat, thereby misleading consumers.

The Meat of the Future: How Lab-Grown Meat Is Made (2 October 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Lab meat, also known as clean meat, is touted as cruelty free, especially to vegetarians. Vegan Insight reported on 16 March 2018 that 41 per cent of Britons will eat "lab-grown clean meat and fish" in the next decade.

Image Source: Belchonock/Depositphotos via New Atlas.

It is one small step to Dawkins' fake human meat. Fake cannibalism will probably get a lot of support. Under the video below the jump, one girl commented: "As a vegan, I'd be happy to eat cultured human meat. I'm actually very curious and not grossed out at all."

Joe Rogan's interviewee in this video, Sam Harris, said (here) that there was "zero ethical problem ... if this was never attached to an animal, we're dealing with concepts here," that is, the vegan girl would be eating an object cultivated in a vat of human cells.

This issue highlights a moral blind spot in technological progress; it proves that technology is skewing the human ability to judge right from wrong.

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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Hallowe'en! Soul Cakes and Trumpkins


In England, people originally carved faces in turnips, not pumpkins, on All Hallows' Eve. English colonists began carving pumpkins in the New World. Image Source: Telegraph.

Happy Hallowe'en! Today's post is dedicated to Samhain soul cakes, and how Donald Trump made Jack o' Lanterns great again. Below the jump, see some pumpkin carving competition winners before - and after - The Donald announced his presidential candidacy. The whole nation is carving Trumpkins in 2016.

Soul cakes and pumpkin-carving are offshoots of cooking, preserving and baking which are part of harvest festivals in the northern hemisphere. To absorb the power of Gaelic Samhain (October 31; pronounced SAH-win), the Catholic Church combined harvest festivals with pagan funerary rites and ancient spring death rituals. In the 5th century BCE, Greek women visited graves with libations and cakes; the Romans adapted that custom to placate lemures, or ghosts, with beans and salted flour cakes during the festival of Lemuria in May. Later traditions from Ireland, to Germany, to Jamaica, to colonial America, buried the dead with small cakes, scones, or biscuits, while mourners drank liquor or port; graveyard ceremonies in Hungary and Estonia also often involved drinking special fortified wines. All of these traditions combined to inspire the American trick or treat candies, chocolates and potato chips. You can see modern recipes for Samhain soul cakes here, here, here, here and here.

The graveside consumption of cakes and wine may have led to the term 'cakes and ale' coined by William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (1601-1602); merry-making and a wanton good life symbolized by cakes and ale defend us from death. But they also remind us that death is never far away and bring us closer to it:
"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"
With one line, Shakespeare summarized the religious injunction against the pleasures and temptations of mortal life when one contemplates mortality. Yet contemplating mortality makes us want to indulge. This time of year is about losing and rediscovering a balance between life and death, light and dark. Cakes and wine ease the grief of the living, and calm the spirits of the dead. Overindulge, and religious authorities warn, you will find yourself possessed by forces beyond your will.

My friend C. suggested the BBC Radio 4 recording from 2011So You Want to Be an Exorcist. Other BBC shows on exorcism are on Youtubehere. The exorcists interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 show claimed nearly anything can open you up to demonic possession, including ouija boards, street drugs, sexual immorality (which can be code for homophobia), astrology, yoga, New Age spirituality, and tarot cards. Apparently, the Anglican Church now has an official exorcist on call in every diocese due to rising demand, which I find hard to believe.  It sounds like they realized the Catholic Church has cornered the market, and they want their own Indy 500. I can just see the C of E promotional television series about an Anglican exorcist, starring Helen Mirren. That doesn't exist yet, but you can watch the terrifying new American television FOX series, The Exorcist, online here or here. The trailer is here. In 2010, The Daily Mail reported here on 21st century exorcists.

Samhain soul cakes. Image Source: My Witch's Kitchen.

The Starbucks seasonal pumpkin scone with spiced glaze follows the ancient soul cakes tradition. Image Source: Starbucks via pinterest.

To celebrate the pumpkin harvest, here is a pumpkin scones recipe, inspired by Starbucks. I checked the best cookery book which collects the historic recipes of colonial America, and offer this pumpkin pie recipe, altered and adapted from: Helen Duprey Bullock, A National Treasury of Cookery, vol. 1, Early America (New York, New York: Heirloom Publishing Company, 1967), p. 54.

2 9-inch unbaked pie shells
2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin
3 eggs, well beaten
1.5 cups heavy cream or 1 14-ounce tin of sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. rum
0.5 tsp. vanilla extract
0.25 cups granulated sugar
0.25 cups brown sugar
0.18 cups molasses
0.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground mace
0.5 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. finely-grated candied ginger or fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground cloves or allspice

Make the pie shells and refrigerate them, or thaw frozen commercial pre-made pie shells in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, cream or condensed milk, rum and extract, sugar, salt, spices. Blend well. Pour into chilled pie shells. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 45 minutes.

Best pumpkin spice latte you can make at home. Video Source: Youtube.
Different pumpkin spice latte recipes are here, here and here.

History Channel's history of Hallowe'en explains the origins of Jack o' Lanterns. Video Source: Youtube.

A pumpkin carved by Scott Cully, "the Northwest's legendary pumpkin carver," Parkplace Mall, Kirkland, Washington, USA (2008). Image Source Mickeleh / flickr via Daily Picks and Flicks.


Cully's 2010 lantern, lit. Image Source: pinterest.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 5: Reflection Reversal


One of Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings on display at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. Image Source: View on Canadian Art.

Imagine a mirror, presented to you as a piece of art. Hanging in a gallery, the art would superficially deliver a message about itself. But this art piece would not be about itself. The artist had devised this piece to turn its viewers into objects, while the artwork became the viewer, or subject. The painting-as-mirror would be actively, perhaps even aggressively, looking back at its viewer. In this case, the viewer should wonder not about the artwork, but upon what or whom is that artwork gazing? Everything in the reflection would direct attention and questions back upon the viewer. In the style of the 1970s' minimalist movement, this was the conceit of Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings (thanks to -C.). Richter's sheets of colour-coated glass reflect the viewer. Richter's paintings "have secrets."

Now consider that the mirror's nature as an inert object with innate power might only become apparent once it is covered, or the light on it changes or disappears. Without light, Richter's mirror paintings become matte, dull, flat surfaces. The mirror, when covered, betrays its dangerous nature because we are no longer mesmerized by what we see in it. When it loses its power to reflect back at the viewer, to transform the viewer into an object, the viewer is reminded, brought to conscious awareness, that he or she has been watched. Add light again and the mirror gains agency and becomes a subject gazing actively at the world, with the world looking back at it. But at that very moment, the viewer in the world gazing into the mirror is mesmerized, and forgets the true nature of his experience, mistakenly thinking that he is the agent of action.

This power play is true of all mirrors, which is why some cultures require mirrors, or even reflective television screens, to be covered during sleep or after someone in a family dies. When Richter made a mirror into a piece of art, he manipulated superstition and embedded that message into an art piece, an object with cultural value. By putting mirrors into art galleries, he made us start to understand how mirrors reverse perspective and power. We think we are looking at mirrors, that we are agents with power when we gaze into them. But they are the real agents of power, and they are looking at us.

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.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Time and Politics 16: Death and Bitcoin's Children


A mural of Death and Children at Stift Altenberg, Lower Austria. Image Source: H. Hartmann via SAGEN.

There is an anti-statist political trend online - unconsciously mirroring the inherently anti-statist nature of the Internet - which views all government, corporate and long-standing institutions as prisons of mind and action. This is a naïve and sometimes arrogant attitude, inspired by the initial explosion of Internet power, not yet tested for its longevity. Internet pioneers break new ground, but they are wrong to think that they have found, and reside already, in the Promised Land. The best of them are challenged to embrace the very impulse they abhor: they personally need to operate under stable conditions; and they must configure structures and build communities which ensure that their efforts last. This challenge has brought Bitcoiners to a turning point at which the form of social and political behaviour simply does not mirror the innate function of their cryptocurrency. Bitcoin's administration is becoming a political problem, a philosophical challenge, and a moral and spiritual crisis.

Vinay Gupta, strategist for the cryptocurrency Ethereum and founder of the Hexayurt Project, discussed why Bitcoin is a testing ground for future political systems, and why the technical and political challenges of the cryptocurrency are not identical or symmetrical: Bitcoin Cannot Be Divorced from Pre-Existing Political Theory. (21 August 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

First, above, Vinay Gupta assesses and predicts the political problem at the heart of Bitcoin development. It is a problem of centralized authority, partly exercised by Bitcoin's miners, exercised in relation to a tool that decentralizes structures and decision-making:
"[Bitcoin] is anarchist. But to accept anarchy in a really fundamental way, you have to start challenging the meaning of property. And Bitcoin sits at this very uneasy juncture that it's a bunch of anarchists cooperating to create a libertarian micro-enclave, even though they don't agree about the fundamental meaning of the word, 'property.' And this is extremely problematic. If they can get through that political storm, they might finally succeed in producing a genuinely libertarian anarchism, and that would be an extremely powerful thing. But it's more likely that the anarchists will get suppressed by the libertarians and in the long run you'll wind up with an anarcho-capitalist enclave because the Bitcoin Foundation will wind up owning Bitcoin outright and that property right will be a monopoly, which is then used to enforce their policy decisions, including collaboration with the U.S. government. And this is the real distinction between anarchism and anarcho-capitalism ... under anarcho-capitalism, you can have a monopoly that winds up controlling everything; and then they make deals that you disagree with. In anarchism, nobody has enough wherewithal in the network to be able to make a deal for everybody, and if people disagree with you, they do something else. ... [This is] because anarchism is incompatible with monopolies. As soon as you have a monopoly, whether you like it or not, you're operating inside of a power structure. You have a 'king'; the king is the guy who owns the monopoly. You have a ruler. And anarchism is about operating without rulers."
Bitcoin idealists assumed that the open-source code and decentralized operational function of cryptocurrencies would dictate decentralized forms for its governance and applications. And they could, but the forms must be developed. One may as well ask, does the internal combustion engine of a car dictate the way traffic lights work? Or does the car motor fundamentally shape the thoughts of legislators who write traffic laws? Or does the basic mechanical nature of the automobile completely shape urban planning? For some, the answer is 'yes.' But over time, the further we get from the stunning initial invention, the less ensuing systems reflect the original form of the innovation. At that point of departure between the function of the technology to the form of its administration, we see the decentralized peer-to-peer technology, so radical and profound in its applications, confront the rigid authoritarian structures of human ages.


Therefore, I would add to Gupta's political assessment a philosophical challenge of how institutions capture and hold cultural and political ground in societies. When one considers the enduring value of any technology, no matter what its potential political 'flavour' or initial radical impact, one must factor in frail humanity: the finite span of one human life; the difficulty in grasping larger questions; the boundaries of economic and cultural imagination; and the physical limits around performance in one lifetime.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Cauldrons and Grails


Efnisien sacrifices himself to destroy the cauldron of rebirth. The Destruction of the Cauldron of Rebirth (1905) by Thomas Prytherch (1864-1926). Image Source: Wiki.

As a child, I read Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron, the second book in the Chronicles of Prydain. The hero, Taran, makes his way through a vast swamp to find a black cauldron, which must be secured before an evil king seizes it. This artifact has the power to bring dead men back to life and can create an army of undead warriors. Similar to Sauron's ring in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the cauldron is depicted as a weapon like today's atomic bomb. It looks like a tool for certain victory in war. But it offers death and despair to those who try to wield its incredible power. The only thing an army can do with this mega-weapon, according to Celtic folklore, is destroy it, because its power lies beyond the accepted boundaries of human existence. Taran learns from the cauldron's witch guardians that the cauldron can only be destroyed by the sacrifice of a live man who willingly climbs into it and dies.

Lloyd Alexander's work adapted the Welsh pre-Christian myth cycle, The Mabinogion. This Celtic legend is part of Britain's earliest prose literature, a romance written down in the 11th century, based on earlier oral sources. In the second part of these tales, Branwen Daughter of Llŷr, "A tragically genocidal war develops fomented by Efnisien, in which a Cauldron which resurrects ... dead figures." The sadistic, psychopathic anti-hero Efnisien is responsible for the destruction of Ireland and the Island of the Mighty, also known as AlbionPrydain or Britain. To make up for his transgressions, Efnisien climbs into the cauldron and destroys it. Thus, bound up with the cauldron's original story of resurrection is a tale of Celtic warriors who have turned on each other and fought amongst themselves. One of their own betrays the other lords, and initiates mass-killing and mass death; he sacrifices himself as a means of redemption and acceptance back into the fold.

Arthurian myth turns right at the point where the Celtic pagan became Christian, and the cauldron became the Grail. Arthur's knight, Percival, with the Grail Cup. Arthur Hacker (1858-1919), The Temptation of Sir Percival (1894). Image Source: BBC. The painting is in the Leeds Art Gallery (LEEAG.PA.1895.0013).

The Celtic cauldron was a predecessor to the Holy Grail in northern Europe. By the 12th century, medieval Christian doctrine transformed the cauldron's abominable symbol, from a grisly instrument of evil resurrection to a tool of sacred regeneration through resurrection, known as the Holy Grail. That means that as ancient societies stabilized, their view of death changed. The symbol at the heart of their stories essentially stayed the same, but the spiritual message around resurrection became a tale of heaven rather than hell. The cauldron became conflated with the Chalice that Jesus supposedly used at the Last Supper. In the 20th century, the Nazis launched an actual search for the Grail, to lay claim to their share of Celtic heritage and Romantic reworkings of Christian legend, while conflating both traditions with the Aryan Cup of Jamshid, a mythical artifact that enabled the ancient rulers of Greater Persia to see the future.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Tunnel


The Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, where Princess Diana died in 1997. Image Source (2009) © shirley77 at flickr.

Tunnels symbolize death, near death experiences, ascension to heaven, time travel, or a sealed fate. As Princess Diana lay dying in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris in 1997, police arrested seven photographers at the accident. A commenter under a video about the paparazzi who chased her car into the tunnel wrote:
"I can't imagine what it would be like breathing your last and all you can see is flash bulbs going off and knowing that people will make a mint out of your death. There's something eerily pornographic about the photographers standing there taking pictures and not helping."
Tunnels represent travel forward to a new or final destiny. In the French film Irréversible, Monica Bellucci's character Alex is raped in a pedestrian passage in Paris. The film's scenes run in reverse chronological order to connect her grim end to time travel:
In An Experiment with Time, which Alex is reading during the last (i.e. chronologically first) sequence in the film, J. W. Dunne postulates the existence of a "time-travelling observer", which in dreams can move backwards or forwards in time to actually observe events which may not have yet happened. These are the 'premonitory dreams' which Alex mentions to Marcus and Pierre. Alex earlier describes such a dream to Marcus, where she is in a 'red tunnel' which breaks in two.
You can read An Experiment with Time (1922), here. The theory of the book is that all points in time coexist simultaneously; due to human perception, we are only conscious of one forward stream of time. But the other events are there, including potentials. To indicate this, Alex discovers she is pregnant shortly before her rape in the tunnel. Those who claim to have had psychic or precognitive experiences would, in Dunne's terms, be people who tap the unconscious parts of their brains to see past, present and future. This is how Dunne would have explained precognitive experiences of fictional characters (or in Diana's case, of a real person), whose destinies end in a tunnel.

The subheading of the film title is 'Le Temps Detruit Tout' - 'Time Destroys Everything.' In the film, the tunnel Alex enters is analogous to the course of normal human perception, which rams forward to cut off all possibilities, except the one set of events we finally perceive as 'what happened.' The vicious creation of one path of consciously-seen outcomes, i.e. 'time,' is akin to a brutal rape and destruction of all other potential alternate futures.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Blue Moon Past: To Reincarnate, To Forgive?


The Omnipresence or Transcendent Reincarnation (2014) by George Grie. Image Source: neosurrealismart.

You cannot move into the future without first dealing with the past. And sometimes, you can only do that once in a blue moon. The glittering technology of the twenty-first century makes the past a persona non grata. It is a full time job to keep track of data in the present while dreaming of the future. There is no time to digest or assimilate past information and sort out how it relates to real life. Keep moving forward! Move into the eternal Now and discard the past as useless commodity, a broken toy. Even if that past was last week's past, get rid of it, dump it in the unsorted junkyard.

A blue moon refers to an extra full moon in the year. Twelve months normally have twelve full moons, but a blue moon (like tonight's) is a thirteenth moon in the calendar. In folklore, these moons are considered rare events which invite reflection, release and wishes. The 'blue' designation comes not from the colour, but from the Old English term 'belewe,' which meant 'blue' or 'to betray,' promising an intercalary or additional month, where there is none. Nevertheless, the appeal of the blue moon's pocket of hidden, extra time persists. Image Source: wallpapersinhq.

In the name of progress, the past is demonized and feared as a repository of unsolved or buried problems, atavism, regressive beliefs and reactionary politics which damage the Self and others. In the 1990s, it was popular for psychiatric patients to undergo therapies in which they suddenly remembered suppressed memories, manifested in the form of taboos such as incest. That anti-historical fashion 'proved' that the past is full of demons which bar our way forward; it is best to deny, erase and purge them so that we may constantly reinvent our identities en route to becoming shinier versions of ourselves.

No matter what future sirens call, you cannot reach them without facing the past. If you don't do the stock-taking and change course where necessary, human psychology has its little ways of transporting you back to the junkyard. The past will come alive again and pull you back on an eternal loop until you learn its lessons. The Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists call that loop Saṃsāra. The Christians call it Hell. The journey on the wheel rises or falls but always returns to square one: time becomes nihlistic, a flat circle. In the eastern tradition, iniquities repeat across many lifetimes. In the Christian view, iniquities repeat through the course of one life. In these belief systems, there are only two ways out of the loop: to reincarnate, or to forgive, in enlightened ways.

Monday, July 6, 2015

ISIS and Post-Diluvian Amnesia


A sphinx on the seafloor off the shores of Alexandria, Egypt. Image Source: All That is Interesting.

The Middle East is the source of all civilization on this planet. Any conflict there stirs the shared memory of all human beings. On 3 July 2015, days after ISIS or ISIL called for a jihad in the Balkans and declared caliphates in the Caucasus and GazaBreitbart reported that the radical Islamic movement has announced it will destroy the Egyptian sphinx and pyramids as a sacred duty:
ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told followers of his terror group that destroying Egypt’s national monuments, such as the pyramids and the sphinx, is a “religious duty” that must be carried out by those who worship Islam, as idolatry is strictly banned in the religion, according to reports. UK radical Islamist Anjem Choudary echoed Baghdadi’s sentiments, telling The Telegraph: “When Egypt comes under the auspices of the Khalifa [Caliphate], there will be no more pyramids, no more Sphinx, no more idolatry,” saying that the ancient statues’s destruction “will be just.” Another Islamist preacher, Ibrahim Al Kandari, agrees that the cultural monuments need to be destroyed to comply with the Shariah. “The fact that early Muslims who were among prophet Mohammed’s followers did not destroy the pharaohs’ monuments upon entering Egypt does not mean that we shouldn’t do it now,” he told Al-Watan.
ISIS has already made its name destroying the older ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Why is ISIS so threatened by these ruins? As the video lecture below the jump makes clear, the 5,000-year-old Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh is sexually intense, even by today's standards (read it here). Gilgamesh is also the foundation myth to end all foundation myths - it is the core story of our common civilization. It is the source material for our very understanding of organized social life. The opening lines to the 15,000 word work read:

"He who saw all, who was the foundation of the land,
"Who knew (everything), was wise in all matters.
"Gilgamesh, who saw all, who was the foundation of the land,
"Who knew (everything), was wise in all matters."

While there undoubtedly were many other epics sung in humanity's 100,000 to 50,000 years of prehistory, Gilgamesh is the earliest example we have. Its language marks the start of written history and that history begins with a cataclysm, a 'time before' and 'time after.' The story of all peoples is one of this terrible disaster, where great societies had arisen and then been destroyed by an archaic Flood. Most famous among these legendary antediluvian societies is Atlantis. J. R. R. Tolkien constructed part of his Middle Earth stories around an Atlantis idea, in which his hero, Aragorn, is descended from antediluvian superpeopleGilgamesh describes that watershed, that moment at which people still remembered what was before, and what came after. It is likely that Gilgamesh's antediluvian and post-diluvian claim to primacy constitutes the indelible and eternal cultural threat which so unsettles the ISIS zealots.








It unsettles - but also inspires them! The Millennial mind fixates on the turn of ages, and no such time is more fundamental than the Flood, which was likely (if you believe quasi-historical theorists like Graham Hancock) an account of the ending of the Ice Age. If you wanted to understand ISIS's motives in a nutshell, look at their obsession with the Flood. They constantly borrow from the Flood myth, meaning that they intend to create a new watershed moment with a flood of blood to wash the world and erase its memory of what came before. They want to construct a new turning point and create a new reality. Directly below and after the jump, hear the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh sung in its original language and hear it recited in English.

Peter Pringle performs. "By 2000 B.C., the language of Sumer had almost completely died out and was used only by scholars (like Latin is today). No one knows how it was pronounced because it has not been heard in 4000 years. What you hear in this video are a few of the opening lines of part of the epic poem, accompanied only by a long-neck, three-string, Sumerian lute known as a "gish-gu-di". The instrument is tuned to G - G - D, and although it is similar to other long neck lutes still in use today (the tar, the setar, the saz, etc.) the modern instruments are low tension and strung with fine steel wire. The ancient long neck lutes (such as the Egyptian "nefer") were strung with gut and behaved slightly differently. ... The location for this performance is the courtyard of Nebuchadnezzar's palace in Babylon. The piece is four minutes long and is intended only as a taste of what the music of ancient Sumer might have sounded like." Video Source: Youtube.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturation Point


Image Source: Business2Community.

Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.

Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.

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.