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 Post-Postmodernism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Post-Postmodernism. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2019

What's Left Over? The Rationalist-Materialists


A quotation from the 2014 collection The Blooming of Madness 51, by Florida poet Christopher Poindexter. Image Source: pinterest.

A simple way to understand the philosophical crisis raised by technology is to ask yourself the question: 'What's left over?' This is a shorthand I devised, and partly borrowed from the sci-fi writer, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982).

Dick predicted the impact of simulated realities on our consciousness. Aware that simulations would soon be indistinguishable from organic beings and authentic objects, he kept trying to hit bedrock and finally concluded in his 1980 short story, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon: "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." This can be a maxim for testing your own views and those of others regarding the mind and its relationship to reality, especially when it comes to the meaning of creation (whether one sees God as Creator or humans as creators) and created objects like technology.

My previous post introduced the hypothesis that how people view technology may be grounded in rationalist-materialism, materialism, or in anti-materialism. Today, I will start with the rationalist-materialists; two subsequent posts will discuss the materialists and the anti-materialists.

To define what I mean by those systems of thought, I asked 'What's left over?' after one removes complex narratives and beliefs about reality in each case. That is, what core attitudes are we talking about when everything else is stripped away? My answers vastly oversimplify different philosophies about the mind and matter, and avoid formal academic definitions; nevertheless, I hope they will clarify our current conundrum as technological simulacra become harder to control.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Believe Them or Not: The Red-Pilled Anti-Materialists


Notre-Dame Cathedral burned in Paris on 15 April 2019. Image Source: Ian Langsdon, EPA-EFE via MSN.

There are people on the Internet who are so red-pilled that they will shock today's greatest skeptics. They are more red-pilled than your average Black Pill. They are profoundly alienated from the mainstream and most would call them crazy and paranoid. Yet these rogues are significant because they could develop a future mainstream paradigm, if it isn't suppressed first. Red Pill leaders herald an online movement which will change the way we understand everything.

Red Pills are sometimes associated with right wing politics, but are not mainstream conservatives. In 2015, The Telegraph dismissed red-pilled rumours that late Tory PM of the UK, Edward Heath, was a child abuser. Image Source: The Telegraph.

What do they stand for? The mainstream condemns Red Pills as anti-social and anti-political: hackers, bloggers, vloggers, anarchists, libertarians, conservatives, the deplorables, the downtrodden, the impoverished, the religious, the deluded, the uneducated, the unintelligent. But are these anti-rationalists really anti-rational? Are they stupid, uncultured consumers of 'Fake News' and Deep Fakes, who will ruin democracy with their racist populist fascism? I would argue that scaremongering and stereotyping obscure the trend. What is actually unfolding is a battle between materialism (the mainstream) and anti-materialism (the red-pilled Underground). 

It is odd that Oxford, a hub in the world's power structure, is also producing leaders of the Underground. Two such latter figures are Dr. Joseph P. Farrell and Dr. Katherine Horton. Highly intelligent, they produce nuanced conspiracy theories that are as deeply researched as they are terrifying. If you look at them as advanced anti-materialists rather than as conspiracy theorists, their Oxford background makes more sense.

That said, their views are so incredible that they could be paid agents of disinformation, dispatched by the establishment to discredit Internet dissenters. And if not Farrell and Horton, then others with similar fringe opinions may be controlled opposition.

My post here offers only opening remarks on the shift which Horton and Farrell represent, to be analyzed in future posts. My aim in discussing these matters is not to support or deride Red Pills or their opponents. Rather, I mean to analyze the mainstream as a materialist movement and the Underground in terms of anti-materialism, without being sidetracked by inflammatory language which distorts how we usually consider these questions.

Stop 007 - Who I am (7 December 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Terminalia: Boundaries in Space and Time


Click to enlarge. The Feast Before the Altar of Terminus. (c. 1642) By Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609 - 1664). Print, Italian, 17th century etching. 23 x 18.4 cm (9 1/16 x 7 1/4 in.) B.16. Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Louise Haskell Daly Fund, S6.97.1 Department of Prints, Division of European and American Art. Image Source: Wiki.

There is a saying in the country that "good fences make good neighbours." The origin of that sentiment comes from the ancient worship of the Roman god, Terminus.

Text Source. From: Samuel Ball Platner, Thomas Ashby, "Terminus, Fanum" in A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 512.


Image Source: Particulations.

Click to enlarge. "Terminus is often pictured as a bust on a boundary stone, here the concedo nvlli or concedo nulli means 'yield no ground.'" Design for a Stained Glass Window with Terminus. (31 December 1524) By Hans Holbein the Younger. Pen and ink and brush, grey wash, watercolour, over preliminary chalk drawing, 31.5 × 25 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel. Holbein designed the window for the scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Image Source: Wiki.

Today, February 23rd, was once a holiday known as Terminalia, when landowners in the Roman Republic, and later, the Empire would meet at fence lines and renew the boundaries of communities. They would decorate their property lines with flowers and offer food to Terminus. They might also sacrifice a baby animal to him. Accounts of the ritual vary. From Carnaval:
"On this day, landowners would honor the boundaries of their land at the bound[a]ry markers. Garlands were placed over the bound[a]ry stones, and altars were built near them. Offerings of grain and ho[n]ey were given by the children, and the adults would offer wine. Everyone was dressed in white, and were required to keep silent throughout the offerings. A picnic feast was held at the end of the ritual."
From Agile Complexification Inverter:
"The festival of the Terminalia was celebrated in Rome and in the country on the 23rd of February. The neighbors on either side of any boundary gathered around the landmark [the stones which marked boundaries], with their wives, children, and servants; and crowned it, each on his own side, with garlands, and offered cakes and, bloodless sacrifices. In later times, however, a lamb, or sucking pig, was sometimes slain, and the stone sprinkled with the blood. Lastly, the whole neighborhood joined in a general feast."
L'Avenaz Roman boundary marker in La Giettaz - French Alps. Image Source: Savoie Mont Blanc.

Busts of Terminus form a boundary. Image Source: Rome Across Europe.

Hadrian's wall just east of Cawfields quarry, Northumberland, UK in October 2005. Image Source: Velella / Wiki. See also: the Antonine Wall. The Wall in the Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones TV series by George R. R. Martin is based on these structures.

Public festivals for Terminus marked the limits of Rome, be it the city or the empire. At this point, agrarian life collided with military culture. The offerings were a celebration of division between people:
"The rites of the Terminalia included ceremonial renewal and mutual recognition of the boundary stone, the marker between properties. A garland would be laid on this marker by all parties to the land so divided."
After the offerings, neighbours would sing to the god and hold a feast together. It was a complex set of ideas, honouring being cut off from each other and yet being unified in that experience. The poet Ovid described the solemn atmosphere and the larger Roman military context in his poem, Fasti (On the Roman Calendar; read it here or here), translated in 2004 by A. S. Kline:
"When night has passed, let the god be celebrated
With customary honour, who separates the fields with his sign.
Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth,
You have been a god since ancient times.
You are crowned from either side by two landowners,
Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering.
An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself
Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot.
The old man cuts wood and piles the logs with skill,
And works at setting branches in the solid earth.
Then he nurses the first flames with dry bark,
While a boy stands by and holds the wide basket.
When he’s thrown grain three times into the fire
The little daughter offers the sliced honeycombs.
Others carry wine: part of each is offered to the flames:
The crowd, dressed in white, watch silently.
Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood,
And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him.
Neighbours gather sincerely, and hold a feast,
And sing your praises, sacred Terminus:
'You set bounds to peoples, cities, great kingdoms:
Without you every field would be disputed.
You curry no favour: you aren’t bribed with gold,
Guarding the land entrusted to you in good faith.
If you’d once marked the bounds of Thyrean lands,
Three hundred men would not have died,
Nor Othryades’ name be seen on the pile of weapons.
O how he made his fatherland bleed!
What happened when the new Capitol was built?
The whole throng of gods yielded to Jupiter and made room:
But as the ancients tell, Terminus remained in the shrine
Where he was found, and shares the temple with great Jupiter.
Even now there’s a small hole in the temple roof,
So he can see nothing above him but stars.
Since then, Terminus, you’ve not been free to wander:
Stay there, in the place where you’ve been put,
And yield not an inch to your neighbour’s prayers,
Lest you seem to set men above Jupiter:
And whether they beat you with rakes, or ploughshares,
Call out: "This is your field, and that is his!"'
There’s a track that takes people to the Laurentine fields,
The kingdom once sought by Aeneas, the Trojan leader:
The sixth milestone from the City, there, bears witness
To the sacrifice of a sheep’s entrails to you, Terminus.
The lands of other races have fixed boundaries:
The extent of the City of Rome and the world is one."
There is a sense that in Rome, worship of Terminus's boundaries became more aggressive over time. The boundary line had to be decked with sacrificial blood, whereas in an earlier, gentler period, it was enough to burn grain and honeycombs to appease the stubborn god. Perhaps there is a tiny kernel in the changing mood of Terminalia in the contemporary debate over nationalism and immigration, borders, border zones, and border fences and walls. Perhaps not. Regardless, attitudes to boundaries do vacillate over time, between openness and closure.

The US-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. Image Source: NYT.

Hungary's border fence. Image Source: euronews via republic buzz.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Black Friday and the Aesthetics of Fascism


Window-mounted cat beds, Amazon review: "It's been nine months and Tucker still loves this bed ten times more than anything else I've bought him." Image Source: Buzzfeed.

In North America, Thanksgiving weekend is the cornerstone of consumption-based capitalism. Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November, this year on November 22nd, followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have become pre-Christmas discounted shopping bonanzas. Stores are selling everything you could imagine, down to the window-mounted cat bed. This weekend is lucrative enough to tempt merchants in other countries to use the same gimmick to boost their fourth quarter sales.

Kohler Pedestal Sink. These sinks retail at Home Depot in the USA for USD $600-$800. Image Source: Miley Photos.

Essex Metal 24" Console Bathroom Sink with Overflow by Cheviot. Regular priced at Wayfair for CAD $830.25, on sale on Black Friday for CAD $584.99. Image Source: Cheviot.

Waldorf Ceramic 24" Wall Mount Bathroom Sink with Overflow by WS Bath Collections. Regular priced at Wayfair for CAD $1109.99, on sale on Black Friday for CAD $849.99. Image Source: homeclick.

This week, I saw some Black Friday examples which reminded me of an earlier commentary, Fascism at a Hairpin Turn. In a series of posts on this blog, I am considering how 1940s' fascism became a part of modern global culture in ways which are poorly understood. Above, are sinks by Kohler, Cheviot and WS Bath Collections. Kohler Co. was founded in Wisconsin in 1873 by Austrian Americans; it employs a sharp German aesthetic in its high end lavatory designs.

I was struck by the aesthetic similarity between today's sinks and 1940s' institutional sinks. Below, are sinks in an autopsy room and in another room from the French concentration camp near Strasbourg, Natzweiler-Struthof, where human experiments were conducted.


Sinks at Natzweiler-Struthof. Images Source: La Vie est Bonne.

Of course, sinks made outside fascist Europe in the 1940s would also resemble today's designs and their modernist style could be pre-World War II, derived from interwar Bauhaus. When I mentioned this similarity between past and present, my friend, C., said,
"The fascist aesthetic ... merged what ... [the fascists] wanted of [the] modern aesthetic (some aspects of architecture and NO aspect of the fine arts) and aspects of the neoclassic as well as empire styles, both of which were adopted as official styles by Napoleon's ... régime. ... Makes one think that everything that happened[,] including sinks, New York skyscrapers, and concentration camps were all a part of leaving the feudal system."
The Nazis definitely took that white porcelain neoclassical look and made it theirs. Going forward from 1945, there is no way a designer could be ignorant of that aesthetic reference when creating a consumer product in that style. This is why it was startling to see Nazi-esque sinks on sale on this Black Friday at Home Depot. I can't say that the example of the sinks proves anything in terms of demonstrable historical aesthetic lineage because I have not researched that. But it made me ask why and how that aesthetic has been absorbed into mainstream North American culture and values.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Time and Politics 26: The Age of Divergence


Image Source: 8 tracks radio.

Last week, Michael Morgenstern intellectualized disinformation at The Chronicle of Higher Education: Dear Humanities Profs: We Are the Problem. Dismayed about American politics? Look in the mirror.

Morgenstern stated that postmodern theorists attacked the canon in the second half of the 20th century. According to these theorists, the western canon in arts and literature (and science) was a story of oppression, often intended, sometimes unconscious. This dominant account was written by Dead White Males. The period from the 1970s to 2010s was spent dismantling that canon, attacking power and privilege in the name of liberal civil rights and equality.

This approach extolled cultural relativism: there was no objective truth, no higher class of knowledge, no text, no vision of cultural superiority which could be offered as a mode of control (subtext: unless it was the new, divergent, relativist, postmodernist canon).

The Age of Divergence

Morgenstern has realized that this attack on cultural and intellectual convergence brought about our present circumstances. Postmodern literary critics had stated that every text was equal. Every text had its own 'civil rights.' Boomer intellectuals and their Gen X students recovered silenced voices, women writers, slave poets, indigenous histories, minority views. This was understandable and justified, because so many people had been mistreated and oppressed for decades, centuries, millennia. Without their voices, our histories were incomplete and our whole understanding of reality would be based on injustice and immorality.

However, this recovery of lost texts was also done in the name of undermining established experts and authorities. This was really a generational power struggle inside the academic profession, but it was dressed up in and justified with theory. Old tenured professors were unseated, early-retired, or pushed out. The aim was to supplant the older generation of intellectuals (viewed as 'the 1950s') with a radical new generation (defined as '1968'). But time has finally caught up with the 1968ers, who are now retired or retiring.

It's not as simple as this, but broadly speaking, this is Morgenstern's summary of how radical liberals attacked conservative authorities of the 1950s and built new intellectual value systems from the 1970s onward.

Morgenstern concluded that the liberals were successful. As a result, we now live in a world where no text is taken as true or accepted solely on the basis of the authority of its author or publisher. Unfortunately for this stratum of intellectuals, they now claim expertise, and by their own logic find themselves attacked, just as they once dismantled the institutional and cultural structures which came before them. Only one Chronicle reader, rebek13, pinned down Moregenstern's idea:
"I'm confused by other commenters who seem to have missed the main points I took from this, which were not so much about 'the canon' at all, which the author admits had exclusionary tendencies (though it need not).

What I see here is a critique of our abdication of the very idea of expertise, excellence, and beauty--literary studies serving as a prime example, but only that. We have in a postmodern haze suggested that tweets are just as good as texts, and that anyone's opinion on literature, philosophy, or history is really probably just as good as the expert who has spent years studying these fields. In doing so, we have made ourselves absolutely pointless and suggested the uselessness of our very fields.

Isn't it very odd that professors of literature have such poor defenses of the study of long, dense literary texts? Isn't it odd that many of my colleagues have turned to facebook comments and recipe books as objects of study (not scrutiny, ever, but study) as though these articles were just as precious as a novel? Why should students understand the value of a long text if we are saying 'everything is literature; nothing is any more worthwhile than anything else'?

It's funny. Colleagues with creative writing backgrounds seem to have a much more profound and certain appreciation of literature than those who spend their lives studying it. They would never suggest that a tweet could achieve the same things as a book. They are not that far gone.

The solution as I see it is not a return to canon as much as a return to the idea that some modes of thought and expression ARE better than others, and that experts are in a pretty good position to tell people how and why. Then we need to be those experts."
In short, due to the Internet, we are awash in oceans of information; and the very people who were supposed to decide what information was authoritative staked their own authority over the past fifty odd years on the deconstruction of privilege around information. This overhaul was supposed to offer new freedom for disempowered liberals in the old, conservative system. It was not supposed to spell freedom for disempowered conservatives in the new, liberal system.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pedogate's Nightmare Realities


"Surrey’s Operation Arundel, which ran for six years from 2000, centred on the disco in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey[, UK,] where [Jonathan] King and Chris Denning picked up victims in the 1970s and 80s." Image Source: Nick Holt/Daily Mail.

One of 2016's most troubling alt-right and alt-media political rumours was the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. It maintained that a well-connected, pro-Clinton pizzeria owner, James Alefantis, ran a child slavery and child sex trafficking ring out of his Washington, DC restaurant, Comet Ping Pong Pizza; this was after conspiracists had examined photos in his Instagram account. Theorists also accused Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta, of involvement, based on his WikiLeaks e-mail leaks.

This is an ugly topic, which the mainstream media condemned as 'fake news,' a pro-Trump political hoax. Pizzagate expanded into the larger conspiracy theory of global child abuse: Pedogate. Pedogate embroidered an extended, hideous, anti-Semitic story of a global child-killing, about a cannibalistic cabal of black magician bankers and world leaders. The discussion grew so politicized, nasty, and insane that the respectable media dismissed it all as fake news, which left conspiracists even more convinced that all the horrors were real.

My posts on this topic step back from the mainstream dismissals of this information, and from the popular investigations on sites like Voat and Reddit and Youtube. I will look at the rumours as a symptom of larger social evolution, as influenced by technology.

Today's post deals with the facts. The Web has enabled and worsened real problems of child abuse, pornography, sex slavery, and sex trafficking. A later post deals with the political exploitation of Pedogate, and its post-truth meme-ification. There are facts, there are fictions. There is a third aspect here: who is responsible?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Memes in the Chaos: The Plastic Landscape of Reality Journalism



One of the hotbeds where a new technological ideology is forming is alt-journalism. Alt-journalists operate with a post-tabloid, kinetic style which exploits that consciousness and assaults the senses. This blowhard style - exemplified by pro-Trump Periscoper and Youtuber Mike Cernovich - wins alt-journalists popularity among their Youtube, Reddit, Twitter, Gab, and 4chan fans. Cernovich sure doesn't have any fans at liberal outlet Media Matters! You can read their coverage of his work here; and similar hatred for him is here and here. When attacked, Cernovich gives as good as he gets.

In a 2 April article and 3 April 2017 videoCernovich asserted that Susan Rice was at the centre of the Russian-Trump wire-tapping intelligence scandal. It was Cernovich's scoop, not because others did not also have the information, but because others in the MSM chose not to report it.

In appealing to his youthful audience, Cernovich made much of both points. His message: watch him to get the lowdown first on what is happening; and watch him because he has the guts to tell you what others won't. He also builds his brand through bragging, bluster, and brawling with other social media personalities in ways that wear down resistance to him as an unknown quantity:
"I'm starting to like this mythos created about me. The media has turned me into this James Bond villain who has connections to Russian hackers and foreign governments, and can lead hacking campaigns across the world and influence elections. I'm not even going to argue with that shit. I'm going to be like, 'Yeah, you caught me. You're right. I'm a fucking James Bond villain, you know? Thank God.'" 
He introduces his audience to his wife and daughter, and discusses random topics on Friday evening Youtube cigar nights from his patio. Compare this to Anderson Cooper at CNN or Stephen Sackur at the BBC, and you see Mike Cernovich - a late Gen Xer - operates in a Brave New World.

A caveat: my discussion of controversial symbols and ideas in this post in no way indicates my personal belief in, or endorsement of, those symbols and themes. This is an apolitical blog, and my intent in the current series of posts is to uncover the nature of an emerging technological ideology, not to take sides in political debates or support offensive content.

Monday, December 12, 2016

WikiLeaks' Advent Calendar



Every day in December has opened a new door like an Advent calendar, and the surprises behind each door are orchestrated by Julian Assange. Some of his followers think he is dead, despite recent statements about his Swedish rape case. His supporters, who are reading WikiLeaks materials, believe they have uncovered child sex trafficking rings in the American establishment. Their comments on these documents are dismissed as lies, hoaxes, and suppressed as hate speech by the mainstream media and governments.

The LA Times first warned against pro-Republican fake news sites on 14 August 2014. Image Source: Politics USA via Rob Goldstein.

Perhaps more intriguing than the Pizzagate allegations is the claim that Assange was threatened in mid-October 2016 and this threat tripped part of his dead man's switch. On 23 November 2016, there was a report at The Lie Politic that a 'taster' was released on WikiLeaks to protect his life. That taster is here. I will show some of the images and links from the taster below the jump. By the third week of November, The Lie Politic claimed, the material had been available for a month and it was not discussed in the alt-press or the mainstream press. The former are wrapped up in Pizzagate. The latter are busy dismissing everything the alt-news are reporting as fake news.

Image Source: The Lie Politic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Innovation in the Wild West


Travel on the back roads. Image Source: pinterest.

In this post, I intended to expand on my Wild West Theory of Innovation, continued from my 19 November 2016 post, Enter the Frontier. My idea was not based on the current American television series, which echoes the same notion that techno-societies have entered a Westworld. The piece became too long, and I have decided to submit it elsewhere.

Rather than fully elaborate on my understanding of a positive path through the frontier, this post will describe the initial inspiration I had for the piece. I started with the idea that when a society innovates radically and rapidly, the innovators will encounter marginalized people and ideas as they push into the outer reaches.

There is a paradox here. Although innovation is depicted in our culture as progressive, futuristic and positive, innovation starts from a point of social, political or economic alienation. The journey into innovation is an epic trek into the frontier, a 'wild west.' I suggest that the narrative of innovation does not automatically line up with the narrative of positive progress. The innovator, in inventing, transforming and changing the status quo, will confront society's fears and uncertainties, as much as he or she confronts its hopes and dreams. As a result, the innovative society will become increasingly polarized.

The film clip below shows the starting point of that trek, when the innovator metaphorically chooses one day to walk out the back door rather than the front. This choice inverts the normal way of viewing reality, the regular processes of thought and action. What the innovator discovers is a second reality, an alternate civil state beyond the conventional pathways, an Underground. The first figures the hopeful and inspired innovator will encounter on his or her journey are the people who were already marginalized and lurking about the back ways - the criminals, the psychopaths.

Back alleyways scene from Guy Maddin's docufantasia of a Canadian city, My Winnipeg (2007) © Buffalo Gal/Documentary Channel/Everyday Pictures. Winnipeg is Canada's western gateway city. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Undergrounds were always repositories for strange behaviour and ideas, and normally contained them. Initially, cyberspace was that Underground, and was not taken seriously as part of the public space. It was considered a computer playland, filled with alienated losers and fringe actors, or mainstream citizens engaging in forbidden, anonymous play.

What is happening now is twofold and contradictory. As technological and socio-economic changes took hold, the usual polarization between mainstream and Underground occurred. At the same time, the Underground and mainstream are fully exposed to one another and merging together. This nasty alt-mainstream synthesis is incorporating polarities without dissolving them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

North Korean Monopoly: Progress and Poverty


Image Source: hajo via NRC.

VICE recently reported (below) that North Korea is making billions of dollars by sending its forced labour pool to work in Poland and other European countries. If you follow VICE, you know that North Korea is one of Shane Smith's favourite subjects. I have previously blogged about his coverage, here. VICE's report drew from earlier articles in the Dutch media, NRC (11 February 2016), and Reuters (26 April 2016). I was struck by the North Korean Monopoly illustration that appears in the VICE video, reproduced from the NRC report, and the implication that North Korea's totalitarian family dictatorship and weird communists are exporting forced labour around the world as a capitalist commodity. Reuters maintained that the money earned by North Korean forced labour in the seemingly humanitarian European Union was funding the North Korean nuclear weapons and missile programme:
"[T]here is arguably a strong link between North Korean human rights infringements and something that is happening in the EU today. Preliminary research shows that several hundred, possibly thousands, of North Korean workers are hired with legal work permits, but under often illegal circumstances, in EU member states. These states include Poland, Malta and others. The companies hiring North Koreans include those involved in shipyards, construction, manufacturing and agriculture. Details about these companies will be included in a forthcoming report later this year. Once workers are issued these permits, it is not clear what happens after they arrive in the EU.

Funds earned by North Korean laborers working in the EU under what appear to be conditions of forced labor a[re] sent to Pyongyang enable the missile-launching posturing we are now witnessing. Effectively, this means that action to address North Korea’s dire human rights situation could be intimately connected to efforts to fight its threat to regional security."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Time and Politics 20: Brexit


The statue of Winston Churchill at Westminster. Image Sources: The Atlantic and The Telegraph.

Although the blog is on a break, Brexit is a momentous historical event. It made me think of a quotation* from the Younger Pitt: "Depend on it, Mr. Burke ... we shall go on as we are to the Day of Judgement."

Perhaps. Although the UK will not leave the EU for two years, Irish and Scottish support for the European Union may lead to the reunification of Ireland, the separation of Scotland, and the break-up of the United Kingdom. Because the campaign became so dark, ugly and tragic, culminating with MP Jo Cox's murder, I will not comment at length on the arguments for one side or the other. I can see both points of view, because the Brexit debate confirms trends I have observed here while researching posts on the economy and the cultural impact of technological change.

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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Photo of the Day: Fresh Off the 3D Powder Press


"Sneak preview: Portrait of Chelsea Manning (one of a diptych) hot off the powder printing presses. Courtesy of Mariana Pestana." Image Source: Heather Dewey Hagbourg.

Thanks to artist Heather Dewey-Hagbourg, previously featured in this post, who just sent me a press release about her upcoming exhibition, featuring a genetically-sourced 3D printed portrait - also known as a forensic DNA phenotype - following the gender transformation of whistleblower Bradley Manning aka Chelsea Manning. Manning released information on the US military in 2010 to WikiLeaks. Manning, a former US Army soldier, was convicted in 2013 and then changed his gender to become a trans woman, joining a gnostic bandwagon previously discussed in this post and this post. Dewey-Hagbourg was interviewed about this project at Paper in September 2015, here.

The exhibition, Radical Love: Chelsea Manning,
"will premiere at the World Economic Forum in Davos [on 20-23 January 2016], as part of the Victoria and Albert exhibition This Time Tomorrow curated by Mariana Pestana. ... This is the first time the 3d prints of the DNA portraits generated from her hair and cheek swabs will be seen publicly." 
I think you've covered every last possible base from the Zeitgeist, Heather. The exhibition will explore the quest for self in the Millennial mish-mash: "Is it radical to seek justice? Is it radical to be rescued by love? Is it subversive to be sweet? Is it radical to be true to yourself?"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Memespace Hyperventilation


Palaces in the sky: Dark Roasted Blend recently celebrated the incredible visions of French science fiction comics from the 1970s, which American and British directors mimicked in comics and cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. Image Source: Jean-Claude Mézières via Dark Roasted Blend (Hat tip: Me and You and a Blog Named Boo).

On 27 February 2015, Richard Branson encouraged entrepreneurs to come forward to share and expand new ideas. That's great, although some of the big biz riffing around the future celebrates the new idea of the new idea. One never actually gets to a new idea. The out-of-control lingo-about-lingo about the newness-of-newness reminds me of the explosion of Postmodern Expert Speak in the 1990s, which constructed new foundations of intellectual cultural authority.

The Valérian and Laureline "series focuses on the adventures of the dark-haired Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent, and his redheaded female companion, Laureline, as they travel the universe through space and time." Above, "Baroque spaceships (complete with ghost-ridden halls and gargoyles sticking out into the void of space)." Image Source: Dark Roasted Blend.

Mr. Branson quoted commenter Jason Silva, a photogenic Gen Y guru, who is a one-man meme generator and Singularity freestyle philosophical poet. He is compelling and makes good points, but there is something weird about the way he takes the Tech Revolution so literally and with such breathless utopian fervour. His clever rants reach height after height against IMAX effects. His videos are fantastic, if you like the Singularity Themepark Channel. His Youtube commentaries are part of the TestTube Network, which shares an unreflective undergraduate confidence that its contributors can fix the world, or at least understand it, if they edit it and add a soundtrack to it.

Silva's enthusiasm reminds me of the glassy-eyed idealism around the founding of America, or the Revolution in France. He joyously accepts the demolition of temporal boundaries and celebrates breaches of physical and cognitive limitations. He lacks a sense of Techno-Irony about the separate virtual lives enjoyed by his Online Language and Online Ego. To illustrate how Silva can be pithy yet simultaneously hollow, compare his Existential Bummer (the last video below) about death and a life beyond with another writer on similar topics. See Kate Sherrod's Story Sonnets: Infected (24 February 2015) and Who's the Real Crook Here? (23 February 2015).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marie Antoinette's Millennial Rococo


Image Source © Cathy Fitzgerald via etsy.

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

Image Source: etsy.

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

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

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

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

Image Source: etsy.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

History in the Echo Chamber


Erasures from history are hallmarks of dictatorships. Image Source: Business Insider.

History is up for grabs. In the malleable global media, parts of history are being denied, erased or changed beyond recognition to suit new agendas. What is being changed, by whom, and where it is happening, all foreshadow coming trends in politics and daily life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meta-Time Lapses: Faking History for a Good Cause


The actress in Fund B92: One photo a day in the worst year of my life. Image Source: Best Ads on TV.

The blog is back from a break! I'm still facing work demands, so this blog will feature new posts on Mondays only until those demands clear. This blog has profiled the work of Noah Kalina (here and here), one of the original Millennial film-makers to take a photo of himself every day over a long period of time and turn it into a compressed flip-book video. The technique was also explored in the pre-Internet Age. Lately, the time-lapse-on-Youtube meme has become a meta-meme, where the time lapse the film-maker depicts isn't a real history, but a staged one.

In an earlier post on a time lapse video created by Ben Blennerhassett, the lines between history and metahistory began to blur. What happens to the higher integrity of reality when technological interpretations dominate how we think? Manipulated depictions of reality become subject to the conventions of fiction:
If we turn our lives into videos and self-marketing film sequences, will these works become subject to the tropes of cinematic narratives? Will these Millennial documentaries of the Self be viewed with the same expectations that we bring to watching movies?
We are on the edge of not minding that distinction between history and cinema. Will faked accounts of reality become more important or more credible than reality?

B92's staged domestic abuse still. Image Source: De Wereld Morgen.

A good example came in the faking of history for a good cause. In March 2013, a time lapse video entitled One photo a day in the worst year of my life went viral. Created in Belgrade by B92 and Saatchi & Saatchi, it depicts a woman who has been repeatedly assaulted by her boyfriend. Viewers believed the video was real and it went viral. But the video was faked; it was a guerilla marketing campaign to promote awareness of domestic violence. Fund B92's video description and credits confirm the intentions behind this believable, yet fake, meta-history:
Confronted by alarming statistics on domestic violence in Serbia we created PSA to shake public out of lethargy and put this issue into focus of society. Idea: Use YouTube’s popular format in which a person takes one photo every day, but with a twist. Result: In less than a week, video hit 3 million views and entered top 5 most popular videos on YouTube. It generated tens of thousands of comments and extensive global media coverage.
Executive Creative Director: Veljko Golubovic
Creative Director: Zarko Veljkovic
Associate Creative Director: Dragana Petkovic
Managing Director: Sonja Milovic
Account Manager: Zorica Marjanovic
Agency Producer: Ivan Zornic
Designer: Ana Cvetkovic
Planner: Tatjana Milnovic
Published: March 2013
See the video below the jump.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Gilgamesh Amateur


Meanwhile, on Amazon.com ... Image Source: Assyrian International News Agency.

On Amazon, someone gave the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known epic, one star. This was not one star for the quality of the translation in the Penguin Classics edition. It was one star for the story, because, as the reviewer put it, the epic was too "clichéed." The reviewer had seen it all before! And the epic's author, whoever he was, was trying to "do too much." Amazon:
I found it cliched and with many references that have not aged well. It is very derivative and employs most of the generic stock events from B-grade paperbacks. Also, most of the jokes will be lost on readers, as they refer to events that long ago passed into the historical record. However, probably the novel's biggest problem is its attempt to do 'too much'. A lot like the recent film Clash of the Titans, the author appears to have relied on introducing sensational mythical creatures in place of a well-fleshed-out storyline that engages with the modern reader.
That's the turn of the Millennium for you, when people who don't understand the direction of history think that original source works of world culture are "derivative." The reviewer is dimly aware that the epic is an 'old' work, but doesn't seem to understand that the Clash of the Titans movie, released in 2010, is not on par with The Epic of Gilgamesh, either artistically or chronologically. This is not about a Jungian eternal repetition of mythical archetypes. This is not about the theory of time, where history is an artificially-conceived flow and all times are equal. This is about a genuine inability to recognize the origins of culture as we have experienced it.

The reviewer wrote the review right under the Penguin blurb, which states:
Originally the work of an anonymous Babylonian poet who lived more than 3,700 years ago, The Epic of Gilgamesh tells of the heroic exploits of the ruler of the walled city of Uruk. Not content with the immortality conveyed by the renown of his great deeds, Gilgamesh journeys to the ends of the earth and beyond in his search for eternal life, encountering the wise man Uta-napishti, who relates the story of a great flood that swept the earth. This episode and several others in the epic anticipate stories in the Bible and in Homer, to the great interest of biblical and classical scholars. Told with intense feeling and imagination, this masterful tale of love and friendship, duty and death, is more than an object of scholarly concern; it is a vital rendering of universal themes that resonate across the ages and is considered the world's first truly great work of literature.
The epic dates from the 18th century BCE and its source stories are probably older. You can read it online for free here.

The review is one of the Internet's unexpected fruits: the surprise of vast ignorance in a sea of knowledge, information and pure data. And this is not the ignorance of someone who could not be bothered to look up the Wikipedia entry. The information was right there, on the same page.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Time Lapses: Focus and Futility, Fact and Fiction


Gen Y videographer Ben Blennerhassett, with Chewbacca. Image Source: Ben Blennerhassett.

Australian freelance designer and photographer Ben Blennerhassett recorded one second in every day of his life in the year 2013. He compiled these clips into a video now making the rounds online. Others have come up with similar projects, notably Noah Kalina who broke ground with two such videos in 2006 and 2012 (see my posts on Kalina here and here).

Blennerhassett's record reveals that it is nearly impossible to focus in post-Postmodern life. Time has become plastic and life can be artificially manipulated into a social media networking product. There is nothing fun or cute about that. View these videos one way, and they highlight the futility which accelerated technology brings to our lives.

Blennerhassett's final compilation shows something that eludes the videographer in his initial concept and practice. He has not captured anything. Instead, the clip captures him. He has recorded something about his life that is not evident except through the video compilation: a lack of control. There is an eerie point at which the medium spins away, beyond the eye and intention of this artist.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cryptic Messages


Image Source: Live Science.

Live Science reports on a crypt which has been uncovered in the Sudan, in the old Christian Kingdom of Makuria, which reached its golden age from 750 to 1150 CE. The crypt is located in what was the capital city, Old Dongola, once an important centre in medieval Nubia (see a brief history of the region here). The Live Science report is based on a research publication from 2009. The archaeologists from the University of Warsaw who excavated the crypt and environs in 2009 have a Website here; you can see their 2012 excavation of the city's royal palace, here.

From the Kingdom of Aldoia, south of the Kingdom of Makuria, north of Khartoum: "Bishop Marianos (1005-1039) and Virgin with Child, after 1005 [CE]." Image Source: Early African Christianity.

Ruins of a Coptic Christian church in Old Dongola, Sudan. Image Source: SuperStock.