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 William Shakespeare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Shakespeare. Show all posts

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What's Left Over? A Plague on Both Your Houses


"Star cross'd lovers take their life." 'Life' is singular. One life is lost when Romeo and Juliet die, because the two characters form one character in death. Romeo + Juliet (1996) prologue. (1996) © 20th Century Fox Video Source: Youtube.

The New Millennium is synonymous with the future, and if you identify with that future, you may have noticed a trend which enflames polarities, but then oddly reconciles opposites, even between right- and left-wing politics. A Millennial third way seeks the Sun (masculine), Moon (feminine), and Stars (the higher union). Or: Past, Present, and Future.

There are different routes to the third way, and not every path is positive. The future's third way may follow the current course of world politics. After a prologue in conflict, it may destroy polarities through war and conflagration. Or it may erase polarities through technological, social and biological engineering.

Whether we follow the path of war or technocracy, the course will be materialistic. There is an alternative, however, which is anti-materialist. This blog post continues my series, What's Left Over?, which reappraises Millennial politics and political culture in terms of materialism and anti-materialism. I argue that the alternative media are not alt-right so much as alt-material. Their radicalism is not grounded in outdated left-right political paradigms, as much as it is in the political connotations of living in, and with, virtual reality.

Prologue in Conflict

U.S. set to hit China with new wave of tariffs on September 1st (31 August 2019). Video Source: Youtube.

Paradoxically, the institution of higher, unifying principles is preceded today by a deliberate exacerbation and intensification of differences. It could be one way of bringing about the desired union in the long term. Think of a couple fighting, followed by make-up sex. This may be the long game behind mainstream propaganda which has worsened political differences and regional tensions and has left us feeling that there is no chance to negotiate in order to solve problems.

Boris Johnson suggests prorogation will help negotiate Brexit deal with EU (30 August 2019). Video Source: Youtube.

'Boris Johnson, shame on you': thousands protest against prorogation (31 August 2019). Video Source: Youtube.

Brexit. Lebanon. Kashmir. Hong Kong. Egypt. You may abhor or adore the populists and their elitist opponents, or the democratic and anti-democratic factions, or honour the aggressors or victims. But it could be that all are servants of this greater aim, this third way, whether they know it or not. They worsen conflicts which will eventually obliterate the very barriers they are erecting. And perhaps this was the aim all along, to push things so far that finally we begin to break down divisions between different perspectives and ways of living.

Hong Kong riot police seen beating protesters in clash at metro station (31 August 2019). Video Source: Youtube.

A transcendent third way to overcome past and present problems is a very old idea. It is evident in symbols like the Yin and Yang, the Hammer and Sickle, and the Star of David or Shatkona. All could be taken as representations of the act of sex, the union of masculine and feminine energies. Equally important in east and west, as critical for the ancients as for the moderns, the higher union or third way is a code for nothing less than the survival of our species. As such, it is a positive idea.

The Hammer and Sickle symbol goes beyond the Hegelian dialectic. It confirms the occult roots of socialism. The hammer represents masculinity, while the sickle refers to femininity in harvest and death. Both symbols imply creative and destructive aspects of gender symbolism in northern mythological traditions. Image Source: Russia Beyond.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Best Before the Font Date


The statues of Prospero and Ariel by British artist and font designer Eric Gill outside Broadcasting House in London sparked questions in the British Parliament in 1933 over the size of the sprite's genitalia. Image Source: BBC.

Those who consume mass media content passively may not notice that the explosion of information has spawned a huge industry in font design. Of course, computers have spurred on this industry.

You can see a great libre font site here and a list of paid fonts sites here. Google Fonts offers beautiful libre fonts. There are classic pairings which shape how we see information in an aesthetic and visual sense. Almost always, the combination is a mix of classical Roman and plain modern. We are surrounded by typeface pairs which constantly talk to us of the past and the present, the ancient and the new: Garamond and Gill Sans; Helvetica Neue and Baskerville; Minion Pro and Super Grotesk. Fonts are organized into superfamilies. If designers don't choose the classic serif / modern sans serif mixture, they pick fonts which belong to the same superfamily. Fonts turn letters into glyphs, living illustrations, which provide a visual message inside the textual message.

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 élite 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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Hallowe'en! Soul Cakes and Trumpkins


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ursula Le Guin's New Year


Image Source: South Willard.

The new year celebrates new beginnings as one casts the past aside. It is a difficult to judge how to do this. With every passing year, Millennial conditions diverge more radically from the past. Perceptions must expand to deal with the global exchange of knowledge and technological and scientific advancements. We must find new ways to understand the world, to interpret the cloud of data.

Reality and the larger reality: courtesy of Graham Hancock's Daily Alternative News Desk, recent headlines herald one discovery after another. Every day, new boundaries are breached. Scientists explore the mysteries of matter to the point where matter disappears. Look again at something mundane, and it reveals a trove of secrets, while past certainties crumble in confusion:
  • Russia Today: 'Noah's Ark': Russia to build world first DNA databank of all living things (26 December 2014)
  • Hurriyet Daily News: Massive ancient underground city discovered in Turkey's Nevşehir (28 December 2014): "With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation. The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started. TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved. 'It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,' said Turan. The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city."
  • Newsweek: The campaign to prove Shakespeare didn't exist (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Scientists race to save 'books' in the burning 'library of life' (29 December 2014)
  • Wired: Machine intelligence cracks genetic controls 29 December 2014): "Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome—the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published Dec. 18 in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. 'It’s one thing to have the book—the big question is how you read the book,' said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research."
  • The Independent: Large Hadron Collider ready to delve even deeper than 'God particle' as it switches back on at double power (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Study reveals new half-light half-matter quantum particles (29 December 2014): "In a pioneering study, Professor Menon and his team were able to discover half-light, half-matter particles in atomically thin semiconductors (thickness ~ a millionth of a single sheet of paper) consisting of two-dimensional (2D) layer of molybdenum and sulfur atoms arranged similar to graphene. They sandwiched this 2D material in a light trapping structure to realize these composite quantum particles. 'Besides being a fundamental breakthrough, this opens up the possibility of making devices which take the benefits of both light and matter,' said Professor Menon."
Technocrats and scientists are blindly confident as they manipulate and extend our knowledge of reality. But they often lack the training, intuition or perspective to assess the human consequences of their protean experiments.

The tools we use to understand the expanding world are out of date. The best of the past departs in the blink of an eye. Yet the worst of the past lives on, zombified, in political ideologies, pop philosophies, corporate strategies and contemporary world views. How did this mismatch between reality and perception happen? In the latter half of the 20th century, reality became a commodity, subject to the demands of corporate profit and organization, of advertising and of disaster capitalism. Marketing agendas restrict reality's accepted boundaries and punish activity which defines reality beyond those agendas.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Buddhist Time: Being and Non-Being


Image Source: Jewcy.

The renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh has gained fame lately on the Internet. Now in his late eighties, he has been a well-known figure since the 1960s. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. on a trip to the United States in 1966; in a recent interview, he told Oprah Winfrey that when he heard of King's assassination, he lamented: "When I first heard of his assassination, I could not believe it. I thought that the American people have produced King, but are not capable of preserving him." On the basis of that collective lapse, the great African-American leader passed from our world. And we may well ask why this was so. How do societies become obsessed with death and power? What values might undo that obsession?

In the video below the jump, see a teaching from Thích Nhất Hạnh in which he questions the western emphasis on duality, on being and non-being. He questions our understanding of time based on birth and death and rather stresses life in the present moment, flowing on a long line of endless continuity. It is a completely different vision of time from tech-driven Millennial urgency. The latter gobbles up time, keeps people in a constant state of near-hysterical desperation and stress, with endless demands from mechanized standards of productivity and a corresponding devaluation of life and accomplishment.

The conviction that we have little time before we permanently expire creates ambition, economic growth and expansion, as well as the extreme stresses in western thought and culture. As a book on the same subject, Towards Non-Being (2005) suggests, this highly-strung attitude toward time pre-dates the Technological and Communications Revolutions:
Towards Non-Being presents an account of the semantics of intentional verbs such as ‘believes’, ‘fears’, ‘seeks’, and ‘imagines’. It tackles problems concerning intentional states which are often brushed under the carpet, such as their failure to be closed under deducibility. Drawing on the noneist work of the late Richard Routley (Sylvan), the book proceeds in terms of objects that may be existent or non-existent, at worlds that may either be possible or impossible. Since Russell, non-existent objects have had a bad press in Western philosophy. Th[is] book mounts a full-scale defence, and in the process, offers an account of both fictional and mathematical objects as non-existent.
The western dualistic mindset creates never-ending battles between opposing world views, between religiosity and atheism, between belief in non-existent objects and existent objects. The line between life and death is a line drawn in the sand; and that line is the origin of western politics and worldly power. The message is: You have no time; carpe diem. Casual searches on google reveal the correlation between this view of time and extreme profit, competition and aggressive expansion.


Image Source: Shutterstock.

Image Source: acentejokids.

Image Source: Deacon's Wife.

For example, the works of the English bard, William Shakespeare, focus on the problem of fleeting time before inevitable death and obliteration from this existence (see my post on this here, and a great reading from The Tempest, here). Take the speech from Macbeth, which indicates a pit of western nihilism and despair beneath this central problem:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Important modern texts in this tradition include Martin Heidegger's Sein und Zeit (1927; Being and Time) and Jean-Paul Sartre's L'Être et le néant : Essai d'ontologie phénoménologique (1943; Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology). There have been other attitudes toward time, being and consciousness in the west which were more forgiving and humane. But even the central value of western creativity, expressed directly below, still rests on an inflexible idea that time is carved into two worlds of being and non-being.

Image Source: Status Mind.

For the famous Vietnamese monk, existence and non-existence are false categories. Birth and death are a game of hide and seek. And to consider a non-being object as non-existent is "unjust." Thích speaks of a flame of non-being which manifests, then no longer manifests, according to worldly conditions, but never actually ceases to be; he gently dismisses Shakespeare's obsession with life and death:
When conditions are sufficient, I manifest. You cannot qualify me as a non-being before the manifestation and you cannot qualify me as a being after the manifestation. ... [Of a dead loved one:] Darling, I have gone nowhere. Because conditions are not sufficient, I have simply stopped my manifestation. ... There is no coming, no going. It means the notion of being and non-being cannot be applied to reality. ... To be or not to be - that is not the question. ... [There is] no birth no death. [And when the flame reappears:] I am not the same flame as the one you saw last time, but I am not a totally different flame, either.
Thích Nhất Hạnh's main remarks on this idea appear in the first half of the video below the jump. The latter half of the video is religious and ceremonial.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Celebrity Inquisition


Still from Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Image Source: Slums Bowden.

Nothing warms the heart these days like a totally batshit crazy conspiracy theorist, connecting the dots between mass pop culture and the evil, secret cabals which supposedly rule the world.

Conspiracy theorists are the new Millennium's online Van Helsings, self-appointed guardians of the Web's forums, social networks, image-sharing sites and Youtube. The Internet gives them endless varieties of weirdness from which to choose. Lately, they have focused on material pumped out by the American entertainment industry, which is awash in pre-Islamic pagan occult symbols. In fact, one might say that America is the world's biggest exporter of early Near Eastern and Arabian neo-mythologies. But none of these folkloric symbols has any value without the purely American invention of the celebrity inquisition.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Plutonium at the Bay of Rainbows


The Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum). Image Source: NASA via Space.com.

Next month, China will launch an unmanned lander mission to the moon, which, if successful, will be the first non-crash landing on the moon since Apollo 17's 1972-1973 manned mission and Russia's unmanned Luna missions from the mid-1970s. Although the International Space Station has contributed invaluably to our knowledge of how to live in outer space, there is a sense now (not least with mythical movies like Apollo 18 - see my posts on that film, here and here) America got sidetracked when she abandoned the moon. Of course that myopic view also excludes NASA's great accomplishments in the exploration of Mars over the past twenty years.
Apollo 17 mission insignia. Image Source: Wiki.

Nevertheless, it was an American flag that was first planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Apollo 17 was also the most recent, and sixth, manned mission to the moon. For all Russia's contributions, humans had walked on the moon, and the moon was American! For over a generation, that claim has rested on laurels which lay neglected and undisturbed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Historical Figures Turn Millennial


The Telegraph posted photoshopped artworks designed to show how five major historical figures would look today: "The artworks, which took three months to create, were created under the watchful eye of award-winning academic, author and historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb to ensure the new artworks accurately reflect how the historical figures might look in 2013." (Hat tip: Curious Portraits of Dead Elizabethans via -C. Also posted at Gizmodo and elsewhere.) All images are from The Telegraph. The selection includes an adaptation of the disputed Cobbe portrait of the young Shakespeare. This is one example among many of how technology has changed our awareness of the past and made it plastic and anachronistic.




Friday, June 21, 2013

Midsummer's Lust for Life


Image Source: Fides via Gnawing Bones.

Today marks the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, at 5:04 a.m. UT, the longest day of the year. In the planet's northernmost cities, the sun sets around 10 p.m. locally today (in Helsinki, sunset occurs at 10:50 p.m.), while in the southernmost cities, sunset is around 4 p.m. (Ushuaia's sunset occurs at 5:12 p.m. today) and Antarctica is shrouded in darkness.

Midsummer celebrations once culminated with the Christian feast day on June 24 (six months before Christmas) of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Before that, the solstice featured pre-Christian and pagan bonfire celebrations, which still occur and stretch back to Neolithic times.

Traditionally in northern climes, Midsummer is a season of dreams, illusions and enchantment, the pleasant side of delusion. Astrologer Rob Brezsny recently made a comment that suits the spirit of Shakespeare's famous comedy from the 1590s. Appearances are deceiving when it comes to love and magic. But part of the charm of this time of year is believing in those illusions, however briefly:
"I was often in love with something or someone," wrote Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. "I would fall in love with a monkey made of rags. With a plywood squirrel. With a botanical atlas. With an oriole. With a ferret. With the forest one sees to the right when riding in a cart. With human beings whose names still move me." Your task ... is to [s]ee how often you can feel adoration for unexpected characters and creatures. Be infatuated with curious objects . . . with snarky Internet memes . . . with fleeting phenomena like storms and swirling flocks of birds and candy spilled on the floor. Your mission is to supercharge your lust for life.
William Shakespeare's play involves love, discord and magic around the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta; the plot is described here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Richard III, Reconstructed


Source: CBC.
 
Further reporting on the reconstruction of Richard III's face from his recovered skeleton comes from the BBC
The king's skeleton was found under a car park in Leicester during an archaeological dig. The reconstructed face has a slightly arched nose and prominent chin, similar to features shown in portraits of Richard III painted after his death. Historian and author John Ashdown-Hill said seeing it was "almost like being face to face with a real person".
 
The development comes after archaeologists from the University of Leicester confirmed the skeleton found last year was the 15th Century king's, with DNA from the bones having matched that of descendants of the monarch's family.
Source: CBC.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Photo of the Day: I Knew Him, Horatio


Maya Skull. Image Source: Wes C. Skiles via National Geographic.

Alas, poor Yorick! For more marine archaeology photos, go here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Prehistory's Mysteries: Middle Earth Meditation

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Winter of Discontent and DNA Tests

"Archaeologists searching under the city centre car park for the lost grave of King Richard III have discovered human remains." Image Source: Telegraph.

The Telegraph and other news outlets are reporting that archaeologists may have discovered the body of King Richard III in Leicester. Already the find promises to rewrite history, and also diverging from Shakespeare's picture of the notorious monarch.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Generation X: To Be or Not To Be


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Welcome Midsummer's Unconscious

Image Source: Only an Almond Bean.

Today is the summer solstice (23:09 UTC), also known as Midsummer, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. In North America, the longest day of the year has been marked with the year's first grueling heatwave, followed by storm warnings (see my earlier post on heatwaves, here).

Only an Almond Bean comments that pagans called the solstice New Moon the 'Honey Moon' and invested the day with occult meaning: "Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear."

It is also a day of omens, dreams, ghosts and fairy-folk. The day's unconscious reputation and ancient light rituals inspired William Shakespeare (read A Midsummer Night's Dream, here) and Felix Mendelssohn, who wrote famous music for Shakespeare's play (listen to the overture here and the scherzo, which introduces the fairy world, here).

In keeping with the themes of the solstice, this post explores the Millennial unconscious. Below the jump, see 10 of the scariest Internet urban legends now circulating on the Web. Many have to do with our technology going horribly wrong. The themes are modern, but these stories-as-rumours, and how they are spread, are as ancient as human speech.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

Woodstock, Vermont Christmas Parade. Image Source: Discover New England.

Happy Christmas! For the day, here are a couple of New England Christmassy photos. Below the jump, a light post with twelve 'top ten' videos - one for each of the twelve days of Christmas - and each one relevant to the blog's themes.

The Polar Express train at Edaville, Massachusetts. Image Source: Discover New England.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1930s Déjà Vu


Image Source: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images via Guardian.

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde yesterday in Washington raised the spectre of a return of Great Depression conditions in all countries if the world does not help Europe resolve its financial crisis. (Reports: here, here, and here.) One site, looking back on the 1930s, quotes William Shakespeare: "What's past is prologue." Below, a video counting down the world's ten richest countries, based on 2011 IMF data; the non-European entries in that list are presumably Lagarde's top choices to help a beleaguered Europe. Also below, a refresher on just what Lagarde is promising as the alternative.

Image sources below, where not indicated, are from: Millionaire Acts; factoidz; Survival Spot; Everyday Life During the Great Depression; BBC; and Market Nightshift.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hallowe'en Countdown 10: Haunted Hotels

Going down? Hotel Monterey (1972) in New York City.  Image Source: She Blogged By Night.

Now, here is an odd coincidence. A few days ago when I was writing this piece on haunted hotels, I kept thinking all morning of a friend of mine who is a travel writer. I wondered if he has seen any ghosts in his many travels, especially at inns and B. & B.s. Later that night, we happened to chat online.  He mentioned he was staying, at that moment, in a haunted hotel.  He described where he was (the residential part of the hotel was a converted house), and what was happening (noises, poltergeist activity in the room). The management jokingly mentioned the house was haunted.  I suggested maybe they were responsible, but he didn't think so.  He said no one else was there in the building. He said, "I can't believe I am live chatting a real haunting." I talked to him through the night to keep him company.  "Just remember, you're not alone," I said.  He said, "I know. That's the problem."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Walking Shadows

Image Source: MySpace.

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28), By William Shakespeare.

One thing the rapid rise of technology has made me intensely aware of is the time bleed.  If Shakespeare could immortalize this problem four hundred years ago when he wrote Macbeth, what would he have made of 'walking shadows' and 'brief candles' now?  The Technological Revolution, which supposedly is bringing us ever closer to anti-ageing and extended lives, constantly reminds us that we are but shadows and dust.  It feels like we are living in some Monty Python cartoon by Terry Gilliam, where we're all on a commuter train speeding us straight into our graves.  Multi-tasking whittles away our humanity.  And being forced to choose to do certain things and not others in the limited time we have radically alters our lives, sometimes irrevocably.