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 Philip K. Dick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philip K. Dick. Show all posts

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Fascism at a Hairpin Turn


The undercut was an Edwardian haircut which remained popular through the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. It became the iconic male haircut of Nazi fascism. It did not become widely popular again until the 2010s. Today, it is sported in different variations by hipster urbanites on the left and the right, with only some individuals aware of the hairstyle's political message. Image Source: The Bold Italic.

Social control. Censorship. Totalitarianism. They won't arrive in the 20th century varieties we expect. Nouveau Nazis have appeared in dozens of movies, including Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984); V for Vendetta (2005); The Man in the High Castle (2015-present); The Handmaid's Tale (2017-present), and Fahrenheit 451 (2018).

Greater Germanic Reich | Man in the High Castle (5 March 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

An alt-historical adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle (1962), produced by Ridley Scott, considers what America would be like if the Axis Powers won World War II. The new adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985) depicts fascists as rigid, hypocritical, psycho-Christians, who impose a violent, patriarchal and puritanical monoculture, viciously suppress women's rights, and divide American society into uniformed, hierarchical, militaristic-gender castes.

The Handmaid’s Tale Trailer (Official) (26 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Elisabeth Moss Describes A 'Fictional' Totalitarian, Right-Wing Regime (21 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Because of these cultural representations, we expect totalitarianism to dress itself in brownshirts and jack boots. The subtext in liberal adaptations is that Donald Trump's America is an alt-right neo-Nazi régime.

Neo-Nazis have certainly reemerged during Trump's administration more boldly than they have in the previous sixty years. Yet fascism is also exploding into the mainstream from other political quarters. It must be combated at all costs, but to do that, you have to understand what fascism is and how it works. That requires recognizing the menace you can't see coming, as much as the threat you're sure you know.

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.

Friday, October 6, 2017

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



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

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

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

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

Locrian Mode example. Sample Source: Wiki.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Time and Politics 21: Visits from the Dark-Haired Girl


The Dark Haired Girl by Philip K. Dick (published posthumously in 1989). In his Exegesis (published posthumously 2011), Dick admitted that the dark-haired girl who showed him the larger frame of spacetime and predicted totalitarian America was his dead twin sister. Image Source: Wiki.

This post follows on my post on Wuthering Heights, The Brontë Effect (16 September 2016), to explore the implications of inhabiting time as it really as, not as we perceive it. The 'Brontë Effect,' as I coined the term with reference to Dia Sobin's words, describes the 'reverberating Gestalt' one experiences after reading a work of powerful fiction such as Wuthering Heights, which makes one aware of compressed or overlapping time, temporal identities, and spacetime continua in different perceived realities.

To cross the boundaries, first of immediate, everyday perception, then of whole dimensions, then of multiverses, sounds far-fetched, but I have discussed what it means to live in reality while perceiving time in its whole dimensionality, and not as an arrow, here. From the 19th to the 20th centuries, the fourth dimension has been portrayed by writers elsewhere - by Fyodor DostoyevskyOscar WildeH. G. WellsJoseph ConradMarcel ProustRobert Heinlein, among many others - and notably by Philip K. Dick in "A World of Talent" (1954), which I have described hereIn that story, a precognitive boy is terrified by appearances of 'others.' At first, the reader assumes the boy is schizoid and hallucinating, but these are in fact other versions of himself at different ages. He can see all versions of himself, past, present and future.

A single event in time, perceived by an observer: "Subdivision of Minkowski spacetime with respect to an event in four disjoint sets. The light cone, the absolute future, the absolute past, and elsewhere. The terminology is from Sard (1970)." Image Source: Wiki.

Multiple events in time, perceived by an observer who is moving through spacetime. In the fourth dimension, an 'event' is an intersection between space and time, following a continuum, with each event causally relative to the next: "In modern physics, space and time are unified in a four-dimensional Minkowski continuum called spacetime, whose metric treats the time dimension differently from the three spatial dimensions." The above gif shows "[t]he momentarily co-moving inertial frames along the trajectory ('world line') of a rapidly accelerating observer (center). The vertical direction indicates time, while the horizontal indicates distance, the dashed line is the spacetime of the observer. The small dots are specific events in spacetime."

Our souls know a larger experience of space and time; and stories about souls raise perceptional and ethical questions about that larger experience. In an interview, one of Dick's ex-wives, Kleo Mini, stated that all of Dick's novels concerned the "internal workings of the soul .... He wrote about people's souls, not a word I use lightly."

Dick was fascinated by self-alienation and social alienation, the blind spot when you recognized neither your own soul, nor your place in the world. To survive that moral test, he considered how characters' souls might be externalized and projected back at them as different characters - exactly as Catherine and Heathcliff are projected upon one another in Wuthering Heights. In Dick's view, if your soul was personified outside you, you might fall in love with it, but you would not necessarily accept everything about it. You might hate it and not reconcile with it, which would be heart-breaking, torturous, and tragic.

Image Source: Frith Luton.

Image Source: Carl Jung.

Dick was influenced by unsolved soul puzzles with numinous qualities, which he first encountered in the work of science fiction writer, A. E. van Vogt, and later in the writings of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, who thought that people were haunted by the shadow sides of their souls. Jung argued that for people to become psychologically and socially healthy, they must reconcile with their shadow. He further claimed that these shadows could embody an outer experience with the opposite gender in the anima or animus.

In Jung's hetero-assumed schema, when men and women went out into the world seeking love, they encountered opposite-gendered characterizations of their own souls. Jung theorized that men projected their soul's inner female back upon themselves; and women projected their inner male back upon themselves. Better love relationships depended on an ability to reconcile with one's opposite-gendered soul mirrors, such that one found increasingly sophisticated versions of one's mirror in the world. Men could progress through four anima soul shadow archetypes: Eve (the object of desire, who also reflects the security or insecurity around the man's mother); Helen (a woman who is externally able and beautiful, but internally lacking in virtue, faith, or imagination); Mary (a virtuous woman, who differentiates between lust and love); and Sophia (a woman of wisdom, who encompasses positive and negative qualities without being condemned). For women, the challenge was develop her inner masculine, so that she would externally find a man of physical power; then a capable man of action, a war hero or hunter; then a man of the mind, a professor, clergyman or orator; and finally, a man of hermetic enlightenment, one who could awaken in the woman a spiritual reconciliation between her soul's conscious and unconscious.

Image Source: Find a Grave.

In Jungian terms, the love relationship was a moral path in which a human being developed his or her own soul. Love was always self-referential, a struggle to improve and expand oneself spiritually, while other people became external reflections of, and catalysts in, the individual's internal process. All of this hinged on coping with the unseen, and interacting concretely or nebulously with elements of ourselves which exist beyond our linear experience of time. For Dick, the shadow anima was embodied not in a lover or wife, but in his twin sister, Jane Charlotte Dick, who died in infancy. Her presence haunted him all his life. She took form in characters in his work; he granted her far-seeing and Deus ex Machina roles. He further considered temporal aspects of the projected soul because Jane was dead. She was Philip's phantom agent, reporting from the other side. Because of Jane's influence on the famous author, she also inspired other writers. Perhaps this was why Dick considered the anima-animus not in terms of romance - as in Wuthering Heights - but in terms of society and politics.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Anniversaries: Venera 3 Landing on Venus


Venera 3 did not gather information due to a malfunction, but it still made history when it crashed into the planet's surface on this day in 1966. Image Source: NASA.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Venera 3's crash landing on Venus on 1 March 1966. Venera 3 was the first human-made object to make an impact on another planet's surface. The site Russian Space Web gives a great chronology and details of the development of Russian rockets and space programmes from their earliest days.

Location of the Soviet Venus landers (1961-1984). Image Source: Wiki.

See my earlier post on Russian space art, here. The 2004 BBC television series, Voyage to the Planets, depicted what a manned mission to Venus would look like (previously mentioned in this post). On 17 November 2015, Ars Technica reported that the Russians and Americans are going to cooperate to explore Venus with landers in the 2020s:
After more than a year on ice due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, NASA and Russia’s Space Research Institute has resumed discussions about a joint exploration mission to Venus, which could include a lander. NASA hasn’t flown a mission dedicated to Venus since its Magellan probe, from 1990 to 1994, which mapped 98 percent of the planet at a resolution of 100 meters or better.

So far NASA has only committed to talking with Russia about its Venera-D mission, which could launch in the 2020s. The space agency has agreed to perform a year-long feasibility study and several meetings during the next year. After that time NASA and Russia’s Space Research Institute, or IKI, will decide whether to continue its partnership, according to a report in Spaceflight Now.
For more information on the planned Venera-D mission, see here, here, here, here and here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Human than Human


Ed (2014) © Chris Jones. Video Source: Youtube.

For today, see a sample of computer generated imagery from September 2014. Soon, we won't be able to tell real people from virtual humans online. From the creator, Chris Jones:
Work in progress, hand-made with Lightwave, Sculptris and Krita, composited with Davinci Resolve Lite. Music by me. ... Due to popular demand I'm attempting to extend the soundtrack, but it's not coming easily... so it could take a while. No scans, motion capture or photos were used (except for reference). First half rendered in ~800 hours on a 2008 vintage quad core. Additional rendering by GarageFarm.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Photo of the Day: Suntory Whisky 3D on the Rocks


See more of Suntory's 3D-printed ice cubes here, and my earlier post on Blade Runner custom scotch glasses, here. A 3-D printing Redditor corrects this story: "Not 3d printed -- idiot reporter thinks anything computer controlled must be a 3d printer... It was milled with a very awesome mill."

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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Cultural Footprint of Jodorowsky's Dune


Image Source: Amazing Stories.

For every generation, there is a window of opportunity to create what Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's son Brontis called, "a dreamed life." This is the Beautiful Alternative, the path not followed, the epitome of achievement not attained due to failure, impediments, lack of resources or similar circumstances. In cinema, Jodorowsky's 1970s' adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune (1965) is considered by director Richard Stanley as "the greatest movie never made." A 2013 documentary on the subject argues that, at a critical time in the 1970s, this film marked the dividing line between what really matters artistically and real world limitations. And the fact that this particular film was not made because of monetary problems, and the unwillingness of the studios to bring such a radical vision to popular audiences, changed Hollywood and the entertainment industry forever.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Interview: Heidi Hecht, Mars One Candidate


Panorama under a pink sky at the NASA Mars Pathfinder landing site, 12 October 1998. Image Source: Dr. Timothy Parker / JPL / NASA.

At some point between the moon landing and Survivor, space colonization became a media event about amateur astronauts. In the rush to have humans land on Mars, the first trip will likely be one way only (see here and here) - and fully televised.

A manned Mars mission is vastly expensive and technologically demanding. The list of manned missions which never materialized is long. Telepresence proposals involved astronauts reaching Mars and studying the planet only from orbit.  NASA has a manned Mars mission scheduled for around 2030. But Mars One, a Dutch non-profit co-founded by Gen Xers Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, aims to beat them to the punch, sending its first four-person team by 2025, with five more four-colonist teams to follow by 2035.

Terraforming Mars is expected to take one thousand years. Image Source: ScienceBlogs.

Mars One sent out a global recruitment call from 22 April 2013 until 31 August 2013. Out of 200,000 applicants, 705 candidates remain in the Mars One selection pool. Final selection is expected by July 2015. By now, older applicants have already withdrawn. Most applicants are members of Generation Y: they are largely under the age of 36 and well educated. Of the 705 pre-interview candidates, 313 are from the Americas; 187 are from Europe; 136 hail from Asia; 41 come from Africa; and 28 are from Oceania.

Mars One organizers plan to fund the project by covering the candidates' Round 3 selection, training, preparation and departure in the biggest reality TV and Internet spectacle in the history of modern media. The show will have to raise USD $6 billion. Mars One takes its media model from the Olympics, which raised USD $8 billion between 2009 and 2011. Lionsgate was initially slated to produce the show. Those production rights have now passed to Darlow Smithson Productions, whose strengths lie in "factual storytelling to an international audience." Darlow Smithson is owned by the unfortunately homophonously-named company, Endemol (end 'em all). Wiki: "Endemol created and runs reality and talent game show franchises worldwide, including Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, Wipeout, The Money Drop, and Your Face Sounds Familiar."

Today, Histories of Things to Come is pleased to interview Mars One candidate, Heidi Hecht, about her application to travel to Mars. Heidi told me:
"My main attraction to Mars One is that it’s giving ordinary people a chance to prove they have what it takes to handle space work and especially the colonization of other worlds. If it works out, it’ll show that space travel doesn’t have to be just for rich people paying for rides or an elite few who do it professionally. Sure, it’s hazardous, but have you ever tried to cross the street in New York City? It’s about being willing to choose what I’m risking my life for."
Heidi studied computer networking and she is also a blogger. Her blog, Nothing in Particular, covers her Mars One experience here. She has a great post on time-keeping on Mars, which mentions the Mars watch crafted by master watchmaker, Garo Anserlian; she also discusses the Martian year, marked by the signs of the Zodiac, which was the basis of the Martian Darian calendar.

Mars One habitat. Image Source: NBC.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lost Cities: Kowloon Walled City, the Faux and the Real



From Yahoo and WSJ Live, a retrospective on Hong Kong's infamous Kowloon Walled City, which was demolished 20 years ago:
The Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong was once the densest place on earth, a virtually lawless labyrinth of crime, grime, commerce and hope. A Wall Street Journal documentary tracks its colorful legacy 20 years after its demolition.
For nearly a century, Kowloon Walled City was a gang-ruled place of low rents, no licences or taxes, drug trades, brothels and illegal dentists. Somehow, it gained further mystique because it sat across the street from an international airport, and landing jets notoriously scraped just over the slum's rooftops. The fascinating culture of this city-inside-a-city has been represented across eastern and western pop culture in video games, mangas and movies. Known as the City of Darkness in Cantonese, it particularly resonates with depictions of gritty urban landscapes in the 1980s and 1990s, and served as an inspiration for Ridley Scott's futuristic Los Angeles in Blade Runner. It recently inspired designers of Gotham sets for the British-American movie, Batman Begins (2005). City of Darkness Revisited notes only two films were actually shot inside the real Kowloon Walled City (see a clip of footage from the real city shown in Bloodsport below the jump):
only two films were actually shot within the confines of the Walled City, the Jean-Claude van Damme vehicle, Bloodsport [1988], and the far superior Johnny Mak film, Long Arm of the Law [1984]. In fact, the Walled City and one of its alleys only make a short appearance in Bloodsport, when the Jean-Claude character and his Chinese minder are making their way to an illegal fighting venue supposedly located there.
An interior facade reveals the city's staggering honeycombed character, built up without any architects. Image Source: La boite verte

 

 

Images Source: Greg Girard see more of his photos of the real Kowloon Walled City here. Other photos of the city are here and here.

Former inhabitants testify to Kowloon's tight-knit society:
"We all had very good relationships in very bad conditions. Even now, many people stay in touch with each other even though some old friends are overseas," Shum said. "People who lived there were always loyal to each other. In the Walled City, the sunshine always followed the rain."
Such is the nostalgia for this grim yet fascinating slum, that Japanese business interests have built a reproduction of Kowloon Walled City as an arcade and theme park south of Tokyo (see the theme park's main site here). The development blog, here, insists on historic faithfulness ("all materials produced from the scratch"; "real garbage from Hong Kong were sent by parcel"). HuffPo:
Kowloon Walled City, an infamous now-demolished Hong Kong slum, is enjoying new life as a three-storey Japanese arcade and theme park just south of Tokyo.
David Gilbert, a digital product manager, posted photos of the Kawasaki Warehouse on his blog, documenting stunning details of the resurrected Walled City – in all its dark and rusty glory – save for hints of modernity in its restrooms.

"The juxtaposition of a high-tech Japanese toilet in an authentically grimy bathroom had to be seen to be believed," described Gilbert.

Set designer Taishiro Hoshino, the mastermind behind the arcade theme park's time-bending alchemy, paid close attention to details from the actual slum city.

Hosino and his team examined photographs and video of the Walled City, retraced Chinese calligraphy on signage, tracked down Hong Kong mailboxes, balcony bird cages, and reproduced its neon signs.

Striving for full authenticity, he even persuaded a friend in Hong Kong to mail him her family's trash.
"I was later told that they were totally confused about my request," explained Hoshino in a detailed "Behind The Scenes" post on his website.
This development echoes other odd Millennial efforts to transform famous ruined (and not-ruined) locations of the 20th century into 21st century entertainment centres - a tourist-industry trend notably evident at Chernobyl and formerly-shuttered asylums and prisons in the United States. More images of the original city are below the jump.

The outside facade of the Japanese Kowloon Walled City theme park, which has been artificially aged and grimed up.  Image Source: HuffPo.

More images from Japan's faux Kowloon Walled City theme park, complete with faux brothels, fake open air meat markets, real Hong Kong mailboxes which were shipped to Japan as props - and grimed-up toilets, whose conveniences are actually clean and hyper-modern.  Images from HuffPo.


 





One of the meticulously-created Japanese faux-Kowloon mock-ups. Image Source: Hoshinogumi

"A slight departure from the theme park's authenticity, those wishing to leave must walk through a red-lit hexagon passageway, stepping over stones set over an illuminated pool toward a circular ying-yang door." Image Source: HuffPo.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Do Google's Killer Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?


Image Source: Google.

Google, free host of this Blogger blog, has always had wild things going on behind its friendly search engine face. Follow Google's history carefully, and you learn how a search engine, gathering the behavioral data generated by its users, can be the key to a whole information-driven reality. You also learn how technological developments layer one upon another, with each new functionality enabling the next. And therefore, as Bill Gates has said: "People tend to overestimate what can happen in the next year but underestimate what can happen in the next five." That is why, when Google buys a company or develops a new capability, we should ask: where is Google going?

The company's informal motto is: "Don't be evil." Wiki:
Paul Buchheit ... the creator of Gmail, said he "wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out", adding that the slogan was "also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent."
Gen Xer Astro Teller, Google’s Director of New Products, declares that we must override our linear expectations when we try to understand technology's potential:
"If something rides the rails of exponentially improving computer and data capability, and if its benefits are sufficiently powerful, it is likely to happen – whether we can imagine it today or not."
In other words, something Google may do that seems innocuous or incongruous compared to its latest mainstream developments (like its contact lens glucose monitor) can turn out to be essential to tomorrow's integrated technologies. Lately, Google's trail of breadcrumbs leads into a dark forest. From driverless cars, to offshore barges - to Google's immortality app, Calico; from poaching academia's brightest minds to Google Glass; from setting up an e-money system on the back of Google Glass, to crowd-sourcing medicine - to buying killer robots? (Hat tip: SCGNews.)

Promo for development of Google's banking capabilities, using Gmail's user base with Google Wallet and Google Glass: "OK, Glass, empty my bank account." Will Google develop its own cryptocurrency? Image Source: Quartz.

Remember Boston Dynamics? Under a DARPA contract, they have made some of the world's most terrifying weaponized robots (at least, among the ones known to the public), modeled after successful predator species: BigDog, WildCat, Cheetah, SandFlea (which can jump over 9 metres in the air) and Atlas (a real Millennial Terminator robot). In December 2013, Google bought Boston Dynamics. According to the CBC, this was the search engine's eighth robotics company purchase in the past six months, and Google's strategy here relates to the exploration of sensor technology:
CBC business commentator Kevin O'Leary, chair of O'Leary Funds, said Monday that the strategy makes sense, given the majority of "smart and new money going to startups today" is targeting sensor technology. "These robots are basically a bundle of sensors," he added. "What Google is doing here is simply buying a company that's extremely advanced at writing software to interface with sensors."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Beauty, A Measure of Time


The Venus de Milo (130-100 BCE). Image Source: Milos Island.

Except for the Golden Ratio, there is no template for beauty. But you would never know its infinite variety if you looked at the world's movie and media industries. Roughly every half decade, western popular culture has held up an iconic feminine type. The same is true of men. For example, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire shared similar fame and features in the early-to-mid 2000s.

Does a beautiful woman determine the fashion - or do designers set the trend by promoting a particular look? This is a chicken-egg question. I would argue that fashion, movie and media designers do not entirely decide the trends. For a brief window of time, a small bevy of beautiful women somehow channel the aspirations and desires of the Zeitgeist - and then their style becomes a fashion. The ladies who rise to prominence often resemble each other - or they are made up to resemble one another. Below the jump, see a few examples from 1980 to 2000.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Establishing the New Establishment


Title card to the opening of Episode 1 of the BBC series, Civilisation (1969). Image Source: BBC via Wiki.

Over the past generation, the word, 'civilization,' especially as it relates to 'Western Civilization,' (in capital letters) has become a contested subject. A politicized view in academic circles inverted the concept once taken for granted in the 1950s and 1960s. Scholars have challenged the idea of civilization as a source of racism, blind arrogance and violent imperial domination of other societies. Sometimes the critique looks at the Christian religion as a source of benighted oppression. Sometimes the fatal flaws of 'civilization' are colonialism, discrimination and power imbalances around race, class or gender. This post describes that Western/post-Western debate. It also considers how that debate has distracted from, and obscured, the evolution of new institutions and social conditions which constitute an emerging new establishment.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This is for Zhora, This is for Pris


Felder Felder.

Designers for London Fashion Week took their inspiration from a catalogue of 70s' sci-fi films, with a few surreal touches from the turn of the Millennium. These clothes are Fifty Shades of Grey meets Eyes Wide Shut meets Star Wars, meets Logan's Run, meets A Clockwork Orange, meets Blade Runner, meets Battlestar Galactica ... (Images Source: Yahoo; Hat tip: Yahoo). Some of the models look like they are off to colonize Callisto. In other fashion news: clothing that is designed to fall apart by the end of the day.

 Felder Felder.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Retro-futurism 24: 1968 On the Way to 2019


Real smog in Beijing.

This week, Beijing accumulated hazardous, record levels of smog. From Total Dick-Head: "Dear Readers, that's not a still from Blade Runner you're looking at. That's the smog in Beijing, and some crazy building, and, like, a video billboard." See more pictures of the city this week, here. Real life dystopia, real life noir.

Real smog in Beijing. Image Source: Kotaku.

Blade Runner cityscape.

Go inside to escape the smog and complete the Future Noir mood. From @paleofuture aka Matt Novak: "So got me those Blade Runner whiskey glasses for Christmas and I'm basically the luckiest guy I know." One of my friends, M., was so interested, he tracked them down on the Internet. You can buy them here.

Image Source: @paleofuture.

From the glass seller, Firebox:
We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. We’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. But we haven’t seen anything half as cool as the Blade Runner Whiskey Glass.

Yes, Blade Runner fans, now you can relax after a stressful day ‘retiring’ replicants by getting to grips with the very same tumbler used by Rick Deckard in the seminal 1982 sci-fi movie. And when we say the very same we mean it because the moody Blade Runner’s glass wasn’t just a prop, it was a hand-made crystal glass, mouth-blown by artisans at boutique Italian company, Arnolfo di Cambio – and so is this!
Blade Runner still with Harrison Ford playing Deckard (1982) © Warner Bros. Image Source: Live for Films.

You can watch Ridley Scott's legendary film here. The fantastic Vangelis soundtrack is here. All the book covers for different publications of Philip K. Dick's original 1968 story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are here. In the original story, Rachael's dissociative responses are explained by her being raised on a spaceship during a botched colonization attempt of Alpha Centauri. The story opens with the death of a 200 year old turtle.

If you've never seen this film, you are lucky to be able to see it for the first time. Do not be one of the newbies on Youtube who cluelessly misses the point to this dystopic Techno-Creation Story: "Just finished watching it!!!!....possibly the worst movie ever...how did this movie get so much priase...smh."

Or:
"Can somebody help me understand why this movie is #1 on sci fi lists? i am a huge Sci fi fan and i just watched this movie due to all the glowing reviews...I was hoping for an amazing film..i must admit i found it incredibly boring with little substance...I could not get into it at all...for me the coolest part of the movie was that pyramid building and the opening scenes of the future skyline lol...yea i get it harrison ford may be a cyborg,,i am shocked that people like this so much...."
Dick's original story, written in 1968, described human alienation from the Freudian Self and from the external environment; the flip side of that alienation was the growing role of technology in propagating the Egotist as Creator. It is almost as though Dick envisioned the 20th century's ultimate dilemma, bloodbaths notwithstanding.

That dilemma was the point at which the Id, the Ego and the Superego would fracture and become separate agents, or whole groups, in society. In light of Blade Runner's continuity from 1968 to 2019, this post continues my series (begun here and here) on the ideas developed by the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers in their youths and explores what became of those ideas.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Silent Generation's Separate Peace


Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol (1967). Image Source: Christie's.

From the 1960s onward, alternate histories became very popular with the Baby Boomer demographic. The genre has long precedents - but it has a special place in the last half of the 20th century.**

Most alternate histories imagined by Baby Boomers are dystopian, eerie, fascist and terrifying. These are explorations of 'what could have been' if World War II or another key moment in history had turned out differently, which would have meant that the Boomers themselves would not come along. These stories reassure against generational doubt, and implicitly insist on the rightness of 1968's path. Later books involve Boomer meditations on what-ifs around post WWII events: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy assassinations, 9/11.

Given this generational fascination with fictional historical alternatives, it may seem strange that a very real, living alternate history has been ignored or smoothered by the Boomer media. This is so much the case that among generational commentators, that alternative might as well not exist.

There is a real alternate history to the Baby Boomers' 1968 social revolution, and it is the legacy of the Silent generation, born roughly from 1925 to 1945. Silents were dubbed as silent when they were anything but. They created a reality that shared elements of Boomer ideals, but Boomers could not fully appropriate these elements for their radical and iconoclastic ends. If you want to see the Boomers' 'path not traveled,' you have to look at the work and perspectives of the Silent generation.