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 J. R. R. Tolkien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label J. R. R. Tolkien. Show all posts

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Martian Moment in 2018


Image Source: Strange Sounds.

It may sound odd, but the event that stands out in my mind as encapsulating the year of 2018 was astronomical. Mars was brightest in the night sky from 27-30 July 2018; it reached opposition with the sun, and then shortly afterwards came closest to Earth on 31 July 2018. Mars had not been so close to the Earth since 2003.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Welcome the December Solstice 2017


Stones of Stenness, Orkney, Scotland, UK. Image Source: pinterest.

Welcome the December Solstice. It arrives at 16:28 UTC, heralding the arrival of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.


Today, the blog belatedly observes this year's 80th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, The Hobbit, which was first published on 21 September 1937. Above, for the solstice, hear Tolkien read a section from The Hobbit (hat tip: Brain Pickings via Sound Cloud).

Mystery of the Universe: "This ancient building is called Fornace Penna. It was an ancient fabric of bricks destroyed because of bombing in the second world war. Behind this beautiful historic wreck you can see the milky way in all its magnificence." (Sicily, Italy; 23 May 2015) Image © Salvatore Cerruto via TWAN.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: The Famine of Memory


This is an early incarnation of the villain, Sauron, when he was known as Mairon. Image Source: The Land of Shadow.

One of the premises of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is that the characters live in a perilous time when real history has been lost. Thus, mortal danger arises not from the arch-villain, exactly, but from the abandoned vigilance of memory.

A later incarnation of Sauron, when he was known as Annatar. Image Source © Angel Falto/Tolkien Gateway.

Another conception of Annatar, who deceived the elves in the Second Age. Image Source © Alaïs/deviantART/Tolkien Gateway.

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, 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.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

No Dislike Button: Social Media's Utopian Judgements and Misjudgements


Image Source: RLBPhotoart via Ghost Hunting Theories.

The blog is back! You know that gradual sense of erosion, the haunting of a Millennial mind as it over-surfs through a day that starts with optimism and ends with futility? How do social media contribute to a day's drift toward despair? In a New Yorker article from October 2014, Joshua Rothman criticized Facebook's fake optimism, its missing 'dislike' button, its relentless insistence that we like everything and constantly cough up happy thoughts and accomplishments to build a smiley online community (Hat tip: Daniel Neville). Rothman sees Facebook as an arena, where participants compete as greatest contributors to collective happiness, equated with a complex of good attitudes and real outputs as proof that good attitudes work. Beneath that, there is a misjudgement of those who are not sharing enough good attitude tidbits, or enough evidence of personal success. Rothman thus concludes that Facebook is one of the Web's Kafkaesque lower courts of judgement:
Facebook, like much of the Web, is officially designed to encourage positivity; there is no “dislike” button, and the stated goal is to facilitate affiliation and belonging. But, over time, the site’s utopian social bureaucracy has been overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment. ... Facebook has become a dream space of judgment—a place where people you may know only in the most casual way suddenly reveal themselves to be players in a pervasive system of discipline. The site is an accusation aggregator, and the news feed is the docket—full of opportunities to publicly admire the good or publicly denigrate the bad, to judge others for their mistakes or to be judged for doing it wrong.

Not all of Facebook is devoted to overt judgment and punishment, of course; there are plenty of cute family photos and fun listicles floating around. But even superficially innocuous posts can have a hearing-like, evidentiary aspect. (Paranoia, unfortunately, is inevitable in a Kafkaesque world.) The omnipresent “challenge”—one recent version, the “gratitude challenge,” asks you to post three things you’re grateful for every day for five days—is typically Kafkaesque: it’s punishment beneath a veneer of positivity, an accusation of ingratitude against which you must prove your innocence. ... Occasionally, if you post a selfie after your 10K or announce a new job, you might be congratulated for “doing it right.” But what feels great in your feed takes on, in others’ feeds, the character of what evolutionary psychologists call “altruistic punishment”—that is, punishment meted out to those who aren’t contributing to the good of the community.
Social media's stick-wielding positivity is divorced from human experience, while constantly appealing to experience as proof of its viability. You had better build the happiness of your online community, little Boot-camper. Or else. Positive cultural motivation supposedly drives productivity; except it doesn't. In this fake positive culture, dominated by Facebook's small egotists, success becomes meta-performance, which does not mirror the protracted work and grit needed to accomplish anything substantial. Anyone remotely sensitive to actual positives and negatives is left enervated, isolated, alienated, depressed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Modernity, Myth and the Scapegoat: Martin Heidegger, J. R. R. Tolkien and ISIL


Heidegger, at the centre of the photo, in the era of Nazi academia. Image Source: Le phiblogZophe.

Two paths diverged in the wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. In 2014, the private notebooks of German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) - muse of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida and Hannah Arendt - saw print. The publication of the so-called Black Notebooks confirmed that Heidegger's philosophy grew out of support for the Nazis and an essential anti-Semitism. Oceans of ink have been spilt over what Heidegger meant by Dasein, or Being-in-the-World (his union of subjective, objective and conscious perspectives with the world at large), but this elaborate existential debate completely misses the historical context which informed Heidegger's thought. Heidegger associated his cherished idea of Authentic Existence with the values of agrarian Europe. For the German philosopher, rootless Jews were part of a new, supranational world of corporate industry, banking and trade. Jewish precursors of globalization contributed to an inauthenticity of being, a life whereby everyday people, distanced from the soil, became phantom slaves in a technology-driven world that destroyed traditional culture.

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854-1856). Image Source: Wiki.

It is too simplistic to dismiss Heidegger's thoughts on being and time as aspects of the Nazi narrative. But it is also wrong to say that his ideas can be read separately from their Nazi context. Heidegger was in the same ballpark, and that demands a serious reappraisal of his ideas.

In building their Aryan mythology against the Jews, the Nazis ironically appropriated the Hebraic concept of scapegoating. The scapegoat was originally an early Archaic, pre-Classical improvement (dating from around the seventh century BCE) on the sacrificial rites of other ancient societies. Scapegoating, a mental gambit which is alive and well today, occurs when one projects one's sins onto a goat and sends it off into the desert to die; this leaves one free from blame and responsibility, and able to get on with life without feeling guilty for one's wrongdoings.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Of Moons and Hobbits


Still from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Image Source: Collider.

It may surprise some that space colonization is already in the planning stages. Earlier today, India launched its Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan ('Mars craft'), due to arrive at the Red Planet next year, as part of the new Asian space race. See coverage at Spaceports here.There is great interest in the vast resources of space (see my earlier posts here and here), especially Saturn's moon Titan (see bitcoin chatter here). Long before we possess the ability to reach and inhabit interplanetary destinations, the spacefaring countries of the world are mapping and naming them (the relevant UN document regarding space exploration and colonization, the Moon Treaty, is here). See comments on interplanetary territorial claims here and here.

Map of Titan (click to enlarge). Image Source: Europlanet.

According to Wiki, the "International Astronomical Union names all colles (small hills) on ... Titan after characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's work. In 2012, they named a hilly area 'Bilbo Colles' after Bilbo Baggins." You can see the Astronomical Union record for the hill here and current maps of the moon, here, here and here. Rarely have the frontiers of the old legends, modern imagination, and the future so clearly overlapped.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Curse of Tolkien's One Ring


The Vyne ring, aka the Ring of Silvianus. Image Source: BBC.

BBC has reported on the likely original source for Sauron's One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien's stories. The history of the ring is complicated. It was found in a farmer's field near Silchester, in Hampshire, UK, in 1785. In 1929, with Tolkien's help, archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler connected the ring to a curse tablet in a late Roman Celtic temple in Gloucestershire, 100 miles away. The curse tablet describes a stolen ring. The area around the temple was also awash in superstitions about elves and dwarves. It is commonly believed that this research helped inspire Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) and the The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cave Houses: Bridges between Pre-History and the Present



Continuity with the distant past is alive and well in many cave dwellings around the world. I09 has just published a piece on cave houses, some of which have been continuously inhabited for between 2,000 and 9,000 years! They also included the cave houses in the UK which inspired J. R. R. Tolkien's hobbit holes. All of these examples show how different societies carved their civilizations right out of the environment, while living in harmony with it. They also in the most graphic and clearest possible way show the origins of architecture, masonry, and brick-built houses. See more photos, including similar sites in Asia, in the i09 article.

Above: Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel, Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey: "This hotel is a combination of six cave houses with a total of 39 rooms from the 5th and 6th centuries and a 200-year-old Greek mansion," via Yunak Evleri Press Room.



Above: Cave homes and a chapel in Louresse-Rochemenier, France: via Wikimedia Commons/Pymouss44, Tango7174 and GaMip.

Above: Sassi di Matera, Matera, Italy: "These houses were dug into the rock itself, and it's the only place in the world where people have been continuously inhabiting the sames houses for the last 9,000 years," via  Tango7174.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who Can Stand and Dare to Dream?


I Dreamed of a Crocodile by Eyes-of-Sol. Image Source: Redbubble.

Check out this teaser for an epic fantasy novel, by writer D. Caldarelli aka Lorronzo. His work touches on the need to weaken ego to cope with changing times:

Challenge of the Seasons by D. Caldarelli

For every season there is a trial, and for every trial a hardship. Many do not pass such times, but many others do. So what is the trick? Do we take like the rocks, both stubborn and strong, and fight the seasons one by one? Do we take to the wisdom of the trees who mould to every change? Or the vast expanses of the timeless rivers? All have survived the age of seasons and are masters in their own ways, but none have truly mastered the might of the seasons. With time even the largest of rocks can crumble and break. A single tongue of flame can consume entire forests. And a dry age can devour the largest of rivers. So what hope do we mere specks of dust have to fight the struggle of the ever changing age of trials?

To survive the test of the seasons you must take to the wisdom of all the masters around you. You must unyielding, stubborn and strong like the rock. You must be wise and as adaptable as the tree. And you must flow as easy as the river. But more than this, you must adopt the greatest lesson life has to teach you, numbers. There is no I, only we. A rock that stands alone, as strong as it may be, will falter and chip away with time until it is but a grain. But together with the help of their brethren one rock can help to form a mountain, vast and immovable to stand against the test of time. Even the countless grains of sand that stand together can hold back the wrath of the thundering sea. A tree that stands alone falls alone to the harsh weather, but together they can form the greatest of forests, stretching as far as the eye can see, protecting each other in many ways. And though a single stream may thin and loose its way, when built with another a river can be forged. An alliance of power and might, standing against even the harshest of heats and strong enough to clear any obstacle that stands in its way. But it doesn't stop there. There are many masters in life that can teach us if we are willing to listen. My heart and ears are open, and my hand is held to you: my ally, my brethren, my friend.

-- © D. Caldarelli

"When Shadows hunt and nightmares scream, who can stand and dare to dream?" © D. Caldarelli

Hat tip: Youtube and dA.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wonders of the Millennial World 5: Sehnsucht and Written Dreams


Recently, John Hornor tweeted: "When I was in my 20s, every guy I met played guitar and was in a band. Now I'm 40, and everyone I meet is a novelist." Yesterday's post on saudade as a nostalgia for a lost, pre-tech world continues with a similar kind of longing today, Sehnsucht. This is the longing to be, or be part of, something larger than ourselves.

Wiki quotes psychologists' definitions of Sehnsucht:
Psychologists have worked to capture the essence of Sehnsucht by identifying its six core characteristics: “(a) utopian conceptions of ideal development; (b) sense of incompleteness and imperfection of life; (c) conjoint time focus on the past, present, and future; (d) ambivalent (bittersweet) emotions; (e) reflection and evaluation of one's life; and (f) symbolic richness." ... Some researchers posit that Sehnsucht has a developmental function that involves life management. By imagining overarching and possibly unachievable goals, individuals may be able to create direction in their life by developing more tangible goals, or “stepping stones” that will aide them on their path toward their ideal self." [Sehnsucht has] important developmental functions, including giving directionality for life planning and helping to cope with loss and important, yet unattainable wishes by pursuing them in one's imagination." It can also operate as a self-regulatory mechanism.
Sehnsucht was an important type of idealism for English writer C. S. Lewis:
Lewis described Sehnsucht as the "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what." In the afterword to the third edition of The Pilgrim's Regress he provided examples of what sparked this desire in him particularly: That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.
In Lewis's terms, Sehnsucht resembles a yearning similar to that evoked in this post about the world created by Lewis's friend, J. R. R. Tolkien. It is the ineffable call of 'home,' expressed through emotion and metaphor. Tolkien was interested in creating a fantasy world which brought to life our original hopes and dreams, as well as our consciousness of a lost, great land which existed in mythical terms before memory and before history.

In the western imagination, that lost land lies further in the west, and is often embodied in rumours of Atlantis. In the eastern imagination, a similar lost land lies further in the east and is described in myths of Fusang. In India, the lost continent of myth is Lemuria, which lies to the imaginary south. Most major civilizations have this common thread of displaced yearning and memory, often expressed in symbolic terms as a lost land.

Our lost lands now are virtual. The Web is effectively the terra incognita, and there is a desperate push to find its limits, its outward borders. Once thus encapsulated by our understanding, perhaps the Web will become the new Promised Land. To get back to John Hornor's comment about novelists, the explosion of written output on the Internet might be a response to the Sehnsucht that has arisen in the hearts of countless small authors. If the Millennium is characterized by the destruction and reworking of old values, a confusion about the old order and loss of norms, there is a push in equal measure to find sources of inspiration. In other words, civilization is not teetering on the brink of implosion. It is not a black hole about to swallow itself. The vacuum is being filled, at an incredible rate.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Favourite Journeys to Middle Earth

Legolas and Gimli on the cover, the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

In 2012, the first part film version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, attracted less excitement than the LOTR a decade ago. I think that is because we are so used to CGI effects by now and the story was somewhat decompressed. I thought the whole cast was great - especially  Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. Audiences are jaded, because Hollywood has gorged on CGI.

Smaug from the 1977 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age. 

Goldberry from the 1977 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

After I learned to read, the first real book I read was The Hobbit. And long before Peter Jackson, when Boomers were still spraypainting Frodo Lives! on alley walls, there was a minor industry making paraphenalia around The Hobbit (1937), the Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) and The Silmarillion (1977).

The Ring of Galadriel from the 1976 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.
 
Bilbo at Rivendell from the 1976 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

What nostalgia to see The Golden Age blog post all 36 paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt from the 1976, 1977 and 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien calendars - here! I still have the original calendars tucked away. That post inspired me to scour the Web for some compelling depictions of Middle Earth; although my most recent favourite is the Middle Earth meditation series. I think the LOTR films likely influenced many Millennial artists whose work does not explicitly refer to Tolkien, such as Zoë Keating.

The Pillars of the Kings from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

Farmer Maggot's Hospitality from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

See my finds below the jump. They point one way or another to Tolkien's parables on good and evil, heroism and weakness, drawn partly from his musings on the past from prehistory, from ancient and medieval languages and cultures, and from World War I. With the exceptions below, I have yet to find convincing depictions of Orcs, a race of ruined and corrupted Elves. If you have a favourite depiction of Middle Earth you would like to suggest, write to me and I will post it in this collection.

Shelob from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age. 

Saruman and the Palantir from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

Beorn the Berserker from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Visions of the Future


"Koji Yamamura's vision of the future is based on a painting by Pieter Bruegel." Image Source: BBC.

The BBC is currently running a contest, What If? Visions of the Future, asking people to submit - in a variety of visual media, from animation to tapestries - what they think the future will look like:
This year the BBC is looking into the future, finding out what it holds for health, education, transport and even love. The season is called What If? - and we want you to be a part of it. What does the future look like to you? We want to know and we want you to share your vision of the world as part of our competition - you could even win a laptop worth £2,500.
The BBC invited six artists to provide visions to kick off the contest; most of them came up with apocalyptic pictures. Further information on how to participate is here.

There's a touch of Mordor to animator Glenn Hatton's futuristic city. Animation Still. Image Source: BBC.

"Children's author and illustrator Levi Pinfold's illustration is fueled by concern." Image Source: BBC.
 
"Spain's 'photographer-poet' Chema Madoz's vision is based on natural resources." Image Source: BBC.
 
Abdoulaye Konaté's tapestry is a mediation on humans and their environment in the future. Image Source: BBC.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Prehistory's Mysteries: Middle Earth Meditation

White Ships from Valinor, by Ted Nasmith. Image Source: Nasmith via The One Ring.

What will they think of next? How about a fantasy ticket to time travel into the antediluvian prehistoric consciousness? This latest New Age cross-pollination in the media sees Youtube hosting meditations with a pop culture theme taken from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Generation X: To Be or Not To Be


Hamlet Skull by Brain1 (26 December 2005); 52nd place entry in Skull. Image Source: Worth 1000.

Since the early 1990s, critics have claimed that GenXers are a spoiled generation, whose members complain and complain and complain (see: here (1993), here (1994), here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Here is an example of a Boomer perspective of Gen X's whining:
"They keep getting hired, these peculiar young folk, these grown men who warm up Lean Cuisines for lunches, these women who accessorize their workspaces with pillows and beads and inflatable orb-chairs. What’s more, they keep monkeying with office culture, making me change my habits; they want me to plot my vacations on CommonOffice, schedule meetings on an iCalendar, wrap up the workday in time for them to hit the gym. There’s a weird reversal of roles here; aren’t they supposed to learn from me?

Not likely. They’ve got nothing but contempt for my generation, for the big bubble of boomers they trailed into the world. We can’t figure out how to update our browsers. We eat corned beef specials. We still drive SUVs. In their eyes, I’m a dinosaur, bloated from squandering their birthright: cheap oil, open land, clean air and water, Social Security.

We’re not used to being resented, you know.

In fact, we’re used to being celebrated, our every milestone examined in painstaking detail by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek: our Dr. Spock childhoods, the rebellious teen years, our marriages (or non-marriages), the era when we were young parents, the dark days when our children left home, and the darker, recent days when recession sucker-punched us just as we should be joyously retiring. We’ve been the center of attention all our lives. Which is why it’s so strange, not just that we’re being supplanted, but that the generation coming up behind us despises us and can’t wait to shove us aside.

Every generational shift is seismic. And it only makes sense that a shifting of the biggest generation ever would be more seismic than most. Before we get out of Gen X’s way, though, I’d just like to point this out: We were right. We were pretty much right about it all.

We thought big. We believed in a new age, the Age of Aquarius. 'Imagine,' John Lennon exhorted us, and we did.

We were fighting more against than for, but as it turned out, Vietnam was bad; Nixon was a crook; how long our hair was didn’t matter. Numbers and righteousness were a dangerous combination, but we made it work for us. We were the Niagara Falls of generations, unstoppable, plunging ever onward, tumbling over ourselves in bubbling, churning enthusiasm. My younger coworkers would snigger at the idea of Harmonic Convergence, those three days in August 1987 when we hoped a new planetary alignment might change the Earth’s karma and, as Shirley MacLaine put it, open 'a window of light.' (Shirley MacLaine!) But we honestly believed we were part of something big, something important and good. ...

We’re sorry we didn’t leave our room as tidy as Gen Xers would like — that we didn’t bust the city unions, or 'fix' Social Security, or make the schools all shiny and new. Now that it’s their turn, the Xers will find out: Problems are hard! Life is confusing! Sometimes you have to compromise! But they’re like younger siblings, blaming us for having come before them, so sure that if we’d just go away to college, they’d have Mom and Dad all to themselves and things would be grand. Okay, then. You guys go ahead and take over. We’re tired, anyway — tired from having changed the world. ...

If you’ve ever had an honest conversation with your mom or dad, you have us to thank for it. If you get time off from work to take care of a new baby or a sick relative, you’re welcome for that. Getting a tax rebate for making your house more energy-efficient? Bike lanes, pocket parks, hate-crime laws, legalized pot, death-penalty moratoriums, organic food, space telescopes, genome-decoding — don’t you see what we were doing? We were taking the American dream to the max, pushing to its limits the pursuit of freaking happiness. ...

We don’t regret the way we lived our lives, other than the occasional bad LSD trip. We had our Camelot, our shining moment when peace and love seemed within our grasp, when holding hands and strumming a guitar could topple the mighty and bring the corrupt to their knees. Here, let me stick this daisy in the barrel of your gun.

Ah, but you’ll never get it; you can’t help it; you’ve always been afraid to dream, because what if your dreams don’t come true, the same way ours didn’t? You think the disappointment would crush you, just as you think it should — wish it would — crush us. Too bad. Suicide, if you think about it, is just an acknowledgement that you were better off once upon a time. You don’t even have that. All you have are your diminished expectations, your plodding nihilism, your laser-focus on being locavores, or triathletes, or microbrew mavens, or Gleeks, or Twitterers, or whatever new fad you’ve seized on to try to make you feel your lives are worthwhile and you’re going somewhere. Good luck with that.

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. A generation’s, too."
Those criticisms find something wrong with Gen Xers' Möbius strip of complaints, that litany of self-justifications, that mountain of blame foisted on Boomers, the whining about Gen Y. And in this Boomer writer's final arch dismissal, there is the proclamation that Gen X has refused to engage, has refused to lay it all on the line and risk defeat in exchange for trying to solve the problems of the world.

Most Gen Xers would say they stopped whining long ago (or never whined at all) and just got on with things. The rest of them would likely argue that to complain is to describe a Boomer-led reality. But I don't believe that. And I would argue that the angry Boomer writer's final point has some truth: many Xers are holding a part of themselves in reserve. Time is running out. They only get one shot. Will they waste it?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hobbit Cancels Elfquest


Fantasy films enjoy their own special brand of development hell. The Hobbit is coming out in December of this year, after a decade of delays. The Elfquest movie has been in and out of development for about as long as Elfquest itself has existed (est. 1978). In January 2012, Bleeding Cool reported that Time-Warner, beloved overlord of DC Comics' nu direction, has shelved the Elfquest film because they don't want The Hobbit to overshadow it. Apparently, the world can only handle one film with elves in it at a time. The Pinis, two of my favourite Boomers who brought their ideals to life, remain philosophical.  They are producing a new series called Elfquest: The Final Quest. Wendy Pini responded on Facebook with Cutter's and Skywise's reaction from Beverly Hills.

Image Source: Bleeding Cool.

Other posts on J. R. R. Tolkien are here; posts on Elfquest are here, here and here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Occupy 1848 and Millennial Mash-Ups


Barricade on the rue Soufflot, an 1848 painting of revolution in Paris by Horace Vernet. Image Source: Wiki. (Thanks to -J. for correcting this reference.)

Will European and global economic problems, combined with the Tech Revolution, give rise to new ideologies, new alliances and trading zones, and new forms of imperialism?  One of my friends who has been avidly following the Occupy movement recently asked me what I thought about its comparison to 1848, which comes straight from veteran Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. The 1848 revolutions constituted, in Wiki's words, "the first (and only) Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority." Hobsbawm makes this comparison because he sees the middle classes collapsing and throwing in their lot with the working classes, something that did briefly happen during the 1848 revolutions.  The assumed parallel also rests on economic problems, among them, a crisis with a common European trade zone in 1848 and 2011.  In both eras, trade zones provided problematic bases of political unification.  In addition, technological advances, respectively mass print and the Internet, sparked broad protest and demands for increased representation and accountability.

Occupy Protesters. Image Source: Brighter Life.