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 Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Friday, September 22, 2017

If Sin was Visible: An Interview with Dan Vyleta



Today, I am very pleased to interview novelist Dan Vyleta about his 2016 novel, Smoke; the Canadian paperback edition was released in July 2017.

Dan grew up in Germany after his family left Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s. He holds a doctorate in history from King’s College, Cambridge and has written three previous novels, Pavel & I (2008), The Quiet Twin (2011), and The Crooked Maid (2013). The Quiet Twin was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The Crooked Maid was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 2014 J. I. Segal Award. Dan currently teaches creative writing at the University of Birmingham.



Dan’s novel Smoke is a magical historical story of Victorian England. The novel will remind readers of Charles Dickens, especially Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and Dombey and Son. As with Dickens’s novels, Smoke is a social novel which reaches a conclusion about what is wrong in society and what is right.

There is a contrast between the country and the city during the Industrial Revolution, reminiscent of Blake’s “dark Satanic mills,” except in this novel, the Victorian smoke in question comes not from factories but from people! Smoke begins at an √©lite school, with nods to later works: The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, and The Secret History.

There, the similarities with other authors end. Smoke begins with a quote from Dombey and Son (1848) – what if sin was visible?
“Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from the vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portion of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them … could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!”
In Smoke, a fictionalized Victorian concern for morality conceals today’s obsession with transparency, truth, and corruption. As with other 21st century works, the historical setting really addresses Millennial problems. And the way Vyleta does this defies all expectations.

Note: All page references below are from the UK 2016 hardcover edition, published by Doubleday.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nuclear Culture 18: The Lynch Atomic


All still from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). All images here are © Showtime. Reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: Vulture.

On 18 May 2017, I asked whether David Lynch and Mark Frost could bring Twin Peaks into the Internet Era. The answer is: yes. The show is already generating memes. So far, the series has proved a culmination of all of Lynch's work and surreal noir style, a synthesis of his ideas from Eraserhead (1977), through Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), to Inland Empire (2006). Even bits of The Elephant Man (1980) arrive in dated, other-worldly dream parlours.

Image Source: Entertainment Weekly.

I could gush about all the actors' stellar performances, especially catatonic/evil Kyle MacLachlan and 'we-are-the-99-per-cent!' Naomi Watts. But if I had to sum up the execution of the whole artistic vision in one word, it would be, 'fearlessness.' There is not one iota of artistic compromise and no apology, as Lynch, Frost and the cast push everything over the edge and keep going.

Atom bomb clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

As for the most recent episode, leave it to the legendary director to create the best hour to air in the history of television. One Youtuber called it the "Best 1950s Retro Horror Film Ever." The reviewers are united in praise, because this episode explained the origins of evil; it revealed how the monster in the original series (BOB) was created, as well as his victim, Laura. From one Youtube commenter:
"This was essentially the birth of BOB and the other evil spirits that entered America (due to the atomic age). All done in a 2001 A Space Odyssey-esque style. Laura was created by the Giant as a counter to BOB I guess. The young couple might be Leland and Sarah? All in all, this might be the most surreal episode ever in the history of television. I can't believe Lynch got away with it. This was pure, unadulterated art man."

Image Source: W Magazine.

Image Source: The Australian.

Image Source: Vanity Fair.

Image Source: Nerdist.

Woodsmen clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Woodsman at the radio station clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Vulture's reviewer concurred that Lynch encapsulated the post-atom bomb reality:
"'Part 8' allows the series to present an elaborate, visually and sonically dazzling origin story, not so much for the demon BOB (represented by stylized images of the face of Frank Silva, the late actor who played him in the original series) but for the postwar United States of America. That’s not all it’s doing — I would not be surprised if entire books were written about this one hour."

Image Source: Vanity Fair.

The turning point which set the 'before' and 'after' of the Atomic Age was the United States' test of the Trinity bomb on 16 July 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m. In this episode, the repercussion arrives on 5 August 1956; a monster hatches from an egg in the desert, and crawls forth to unleash a nightmare, starting with rambling, charred woodsmen. One of these spectral figures breaks into a radio station and interrupts the broadcast with a sickening spell which puts everyone to sleep:
This is the water, this is the well, drink full and descend; the horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.

- Man Wanting A Light
There are several artistic influences here. The episode reminded me of many American horror-genre depictions of nuclear weapons and warfare, including the video games, It Came from the Desert and Fallout. There was a lot of Kubrick in this, too. The Nine Inch Nails provided the nuclear soundtrack. But only David Lynch could perfectly capture it all, in a one-hour dream that tells you everything that is wrong with our world.

Image Source: W Magazine.


See all my posts on Nuclear topics.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

True Detective: Time is a Flat Circle


Poster for True Detective season 1 (2014) is set in Louisiana. Image Source: HG Girl on Fire. The show's poster spawned a spoof meme, see: here, here, here.

America loves a morality tale, the deeper and darker, the better. Just as the '70s had Serpico, Mean Streets and Chinatown, the '80s had Blade Runner, Blue Velvet and Angel Heart, the '90s had L.A. Confidential and The Usual Suspects, and the '00s had No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight as the definitive neo-noirs of those decades, the 2010s have Winter's Bone and the HBO television series True Detective. True Detective debuted in the USA and Canada on 12 January 2014 and debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic on 22 February 2014. The second season begins in North America on 21 June 2015. Season 2 is set around the Los Angeles transportation system and involves a murder at the heart of a giant conspiracy.

The writing and vision for this series is incredible. True Detective makes the parallel UK drama, Broadchurch, pale in comparison. Broadchurch is strong in its own right and has somewhat similar initial premise: two quarreling detectives seek a murderer. But Broadchurch does not take the same risks.

True Detective season 2 (2015) is set around the Los Angeles transportation system, the venal conduit into the dark heart of the City of Angels. Season 2 stars Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell. Image Source: Mashable.

True Detective does exactly what a noir should do. The tension mounts, and as the characters' flaws deepen, the plot gets more feverish. The Toronto Sun remarks that True Detective, "makes every other police procedural drama seem faint and quaint by comparison. How are we supposed to watch 'regular' TV if HBO keeps dropping these sorts of live grenades in our laps?"

True Detective is not just a genre-hopping cop drama trying to shock its viewers, as with another Millennial series, The Fall. Like Twin Peaks, season 1 of this Lynchian show started off as police noir and ended up as a horror story. There are references in True Detective to H. P. Lovecraft's works and Blair Witch, which similarly involve rational investigations dragging the investigators' subconscious into a confrontation with an immense, malevolent, supernatural being or force.

There is a monster here, behind the police explorations of gritty streets and haunted bayous. The monster inhabits the dreams of this mundane world, but unfortunately for the characters, the monster has legs. It has a history. The Gen X writer of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, gives his horror deep roots. He presents this TV series as one story in a long line of stories about a much, much larger legend. True Detective is a metafictional continuation of the multi-authored Carcosa mythos, which started with an Ambrose Bierce short story, "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" also known as "Can Such Things Be?" (1891; read it here) and The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. You can read The King in Yellow online here. For more on The King In Yellow and the Carcosa story: go here, here, herehere and here. You can see this series' connection with Chambers's stories drawn here and here. The metafiction continuity inspired so much chatter that some critics claimed that Pizzolatto had plagiarized, rather than continued, other authors' works.

In other words, True Detective is supposed to be part of, and continue, a fictional mythology about something terrible that once happened in an ancient lost city. In Bierce's work, that city, Carcosa, is described by someone who once lived there:
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies, But stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.

—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 12: Danny Torrance Grows Up


From Kubrick's The Shining (1980) © Warner Bros. Image Source: Feel Guide.

It's strange, being a near-exact contemporary of a famous fictional character. The five-year-old child, Danny Torrance, in Stephen King's 1977 horror novel, The Shining, and depicted in Stanley Kubrick's immortal 1980 film of the same name, grew up this fall. King's sequel, Doctor Sleep, depicts Dan Torrance as an adult. The book debuted on 24 September 2013, and immediately became a best-seller.

Shelley Duvall as Wendy with Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance in The Shining. In this scene, Danny Torrance wears an Apollo sweater which fueled Illuminati conspiracy theories that director Kubrick had participated in a moon landing media hoax. Image Source: Warner Bros. via NY Daily News.

I just finished reading The Shining and Doctor Sleep. I was struck by Dan Torrance, a character whose cultural world was almost exactly contemporary to my own Gen X experience; and I was impressed by how Stephen King made him grow up. The first book is pure 1970s. And, as several characters in its sequel state, 'we're in the twenty-first century now.'

Artwork for Doctor Sleep. by Glenn Chadbourne. Image Source: The Overlook Connection.

King states in the afterword of Doctor Sleep that he changed a great deal in the thirty odd years between writing these two novels; he is also preoccupied with how his characters change, and how the world changed in that time. This is horror for the new Millennium.

Friday, June 15, 2012

In Time


Image Source: 20th Century Fox via Biology of Technology.

Time is money. Benjamin Franklin's quip drives Andrew Niccol's 2011 film, In Time, in which human lifespans, hard-wired in people's arms, are traded as hard currency. While the film is an average sci-fi thriller, it is conceptually interesting from a Millennial point of view.

In this story, the Singularity, so trumpeted by today's Boomer gurus such as Michio Kaku and Ray Kurzweil, has arrived. No one ages physically past age 25, and after that, they are given one year to live. They can extend that span and live forever if they can earn, buy, beg or steal the extra time. Citizens' lifespans can be automatically increased or decreased through clasping arms or accessing time terminals.

In the film, the Singularity has created a viciously hierarchical society, with the highest ranks accessible only to those who have time to spare. Police officers are known as 'time-keepers' and geopolitical jurisdictions are called time zones. The wealthiest zone, where people live with over 100 or even 1,000 years of excess time stored in their arms, is dubbed New Greenwich. In the poorest zones, people have only a few minutes or hours available to them, and they constantly have to scrounge to gain a few more minutes of life. There is enough time in total for everyone to live a normal lifespan, but the wealthy have accumulated and stored that time, keeping it from the poor, so that the former may live forever. The film has a generational message. In New Greenwich, most people are middle-aged and elderly, although they look young. In the slums, most people are actually young, and they die young. Immortality, enabled by gadgets embedded in the body, masquerades as Darwinian capitalism.

The balance of power see-saws between haves and have-nots, hinging on a clunky Bonnie and Clyde plot that recalls the Great Depression. This 1930s' reference reflects the Great Recession and the explosion of technology in our own time, and suggests how tech is changing our society and our economy.

Above all, the movie promises that technology creates and will create ever-worsening inquality, chronic debt and inflation, a decimation of the middle classes, and a small, super-rich class. While the poor are legally free, they are bound by their lack of time. One character remarks: "The truth is, for a few to be immortal, many must die." In response, an Occupy-type rebellion disseminates millions of human life years among the temporally impoverished in the name of equality.

This film offers a pretty conventional 20th century critique of evil capitalists. Its flaw is that it never questions the high tech Singularity which enables the entire dystopia. Despite this, the film implicitly confirms a fact never discussed in the mainstream media and business papers, namely, that our current recession is causally connected to the explosion of new technologies.