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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

On With the Old, On With the New

Image Source: Mama's Empty Nest.

As the world prepares to say farewell to the Mayan 2012 Year of Doom and the Fukushima Year of the Water Dragon and to hope for brighter and better things in 2013, I wonder how to welcome the future while retaining aspects of the past.

That got me thinking about the consistency of old attachments and friendships. The conventional wisdom is that clinging to the past is self-destructive. However, those of us lucky enough to have a person or people walk beside us through all adventures find a thread of continuity in life. They share a past with us and keep that past alive in the ever-changing present. It is the foundation we lay together, constant yet itself also evolving, that provides a thread of stability in a world that speeds to become as unrecognizable as quickly as possible.

Image Source: Super Me via Channel 4.

Even that continuity can be lost. After fellow actor and close friend Peter Cushing died, Christopher Lee remarked:
"I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Curios: Dinosaur Auction Update

This fossilized ankylosaurid skull is one of the items under investigation by authorities. Image Source: Live Science.

Curios is my series of blog posts on oddities that turn up at auction houses. Remember this post from May 2012, about a bunch of fossils that went on the block in New York City? It turns out that this collection was part of the black market trade in fossil smuggling, according to the Mongolian government, and now the courts. Live Science (28 December 2012; Hat tip: Graham Hancock's Alternative Newsdesk):
A fossil dealer's guilty plea has set the stage for what is most likely the largest dinosaur fossil repatriation in history, according to an attorney representing the President of Mongolia, the country that will receive most of the fossils that federal officials are seizing from fossil dealer and preparer Eric Prokopi. On Thursday (Dec. 27) Prokopi pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to smuggling fossils and agreed to forfeit a small menagerie of dinosaurs to federal officials. All but one of the dinosaurs in question came from Mongolia, where law makes fossils state property, and among them is a high-profile skeleton that received a $1.05 million bid at auction. "We have looked into this, and we can't find any instance anywhere when one country has returned to another a lot of dinosaurs this large and this significant that have been looted or smuggled," said Robert Painter, attorney for Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia. ...  
On June 18, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced a civil suit claiming the federal government had the right to seize the Tarbosaurus because those who imported it did so knowing it was stolen, and the customs forms accompanying it contained false information. Federal agents then got a warrant to pick up the bones and take them into protective custody until the case is resolved.
The auction house made the following comment:
Heritage Auctions has not identified the seller or the buyer, citing a need to protect confidentiality. "Somebody doesn't put something like this in a major auction that is broadcast and promoted worldwide if they have got something to hide. If there is a title problem, you go and sell it secretly to someone in a backroom for a suit case full of cash," Rohan said. "That is something we have nothing to do with."
Image Source: Eric Prokopi via Live Science.

The fossil seller, who later pleaded guilty, initially insisted that he was completely innocent:
Eric Prokopi, the Florida fossil dealer, who restored the Tarbosaurus and was attempting to sell it at the public auction, released a statement dated June 22 saying “I'm just a guy in Gainesville, Florida trying to support my family, not some international bone smuggler.” Prokopi denied paleontologists’ assertions that the skeleton must have come from Mongolia and the U.S. Attorney’s claim he made false statements on customs documents. The disruption of the sale as been financially devastating to him, Prokopi wrote. “All I can do now is hope and pray the American legal system will uphold American laws and not sacrifice my rights and freedoms to please a foreign government out for a political trophy.”  

Retrofuturism 22: Go Back to 1968 with the Situationists

Leading Situationists, London (1960) (from l. to r.): Attila Kotányi, Hans-Peter Zimmer, Heimrad Prem, Asger Jorn (covered), Jørgen Nash (front), Maurice Wyckaert, Guy Debord, Helmut Sturm, and Jacqueline de Jong. Image Source: Wiki.

There is always a big difference between the ideas of the moment as they were at seminal points in history and what they became. Dismal outcomes alter our understanding of concepts that once inspired. A good example is flowering of thought that graced the year 1968. As economic problems and other tensions drag on in the new Millennium, criticism of the Baby Boomers is reaching raw points and promises to become ever worse.

One of history's most valuable lessons is to take the past on its own terms, and not to bend it anachronistically with hindsight. Sometimes, looking at the past without thinking about what was to come recovers lost information and neglected perspectives. An arbirtary enforced reading from those looking back is disarmed. Accordingly, this blog will in coming weeks occasionally review some visions of the Millennium which developed during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, before the Boomers' future was set in stone.

First up: the Situationists. They were really a Silent Gen movement, a short-lived and limited European movement, which was a weird type of Marxism enacted by means of artistic creation. The Situationists tried to recover freedom as an imperiled source of creativity in modern capitalist societies. They drew conclusions that are now commonplace among Millennial conspiracy theorists, marketers, spin doctors, hackers, gurus and visionaries: "Their theoretical work peaked with the highly influential book The Society of the Spectacle in which Guy Debord argued that the spectacle is a fake reality which masks capitalist degradation of human life."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Generation Z's Revenge

Image Source: Mediahunter.

Picture this. It is 2045. The focus is on Generation Z, born roughly between the late 1990s and the late 2010s.  They are almost exclusively the children of Generation X and are already known for their total immersion in technology. The oldest members of this cohort are now almost fifty years old, the youngest are about to turn thirty. Some commentators imagine today's children will enjoy future prosperity, thanks to the arrival of the Singularity. But no matter what their opportunities, like every other generation, they will be helped, hampered or hindered by their elders' legacies. Those legacies could be dire. Assuming the members of Generation Z are not dying in World War III or its aftermath, here is a snapshot of some problems today's children could face. The following is a purely hypothetical scenario, based on some ideas, perspectives and facts that are currently available.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Boomer Backlash

"Passing the buck." Image Source: Blasphemes.

It is well known that Baby Boomers and their successors, especially Generation Xers, do not see eye to eye. One commentator suggests that popular elections of the new Millennium's mid-teens will reflect a battle of generational interests. Boomers would have benefited from reaching out to their predecessors and their successors; but the media picture of them is one of a cohort who defined themselves by setting themselves apart from other age groups. Those age boundaries may ironically come back to haunt them.

We have far to go before we see the full implications of today's generation wars. Some Boomers have only in the past few months discovered that their generation is widely and increasingly despised. They react to vitriolic attacks with hostility, puzzlement and surprise. If today's online comments are anything to go by, Boomers face harsh retributions and social vulnerability once they head into their 80s. Even their power to sway elections may not mean much in the face of the coming generational backlash.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Old are You Really?

Greta Garbo (1905-1990) in the 1930s. Image Source: MSN.

At a Christmas party recently, an interesting topic came up among several Baby Boomers. 'How old are you in your head?' Meaning, to what age does your mind hearken back as some point with which you associate your core identity? Two men in their 60s said they felt inside that they were in their late 20s. I, the Gen Xer, said I thought of myself in my early 20s. No one, including the older people from the Silent Generation who were there, went above their 30s. There was a consensus that a cognitive dissonance arises, wherein everyone is still 20- or 30-something in their brain, and meanwhile the body ages and becomes more and more at odds with the mind. I don't think the age of one's core identity coincides with one's mental age. The three are distinct: age of self-identity; mental age; physical age.

Joan Crawford (1905-1977) interviewed on The David Frost Show in 1970. Image Source: My Pretty Baby Cried.

This is similar to something one of my friends, C., noted about women: many of them style their hair for the rest of their lives with the same look they had when they felt they were at their most attractive; for many, that decade is apparently the peak of young adulthood. I don't think this is the case as much as it used to be. There used to be a Gloria Swanson parodied stereotype of older women who were young in the 1930s walking around with turbans in the 1950s or even the 1970s (by which time they had come back into fashion). Perhaps this lagging hairstyles trend among women has waned. We can all be thankful that we don't see many Gen X women walking around with late 80s' hair.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Curios

Image Source: Bonhams.

The auction houses have nothing on Boxing Day sales ... except cuneiform tablets. From Bonhams famous auction house, up at auction in New York City on 4 December 2012:
A Babylonian clay inscription fragment, Middle Babylonian, Syria circa 1600-1500 B.C., part of a lexical text giving a list of fish. Approx 95 x 102 mm of inscribed surface area and 30 mm thick. Custom velvet-lined clamshell box.

Provenance: purchased from Bernard Quaritch Ltd. in September, 1992.

Such compilations of signs according to subject (e.g. trees, fish etc.) were used for teaching purposes.
US$ 1,500 - 2,500
£940 - 1,600
€1,200 - 2,000
(Thanks to -C.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Cthulhumas

Image Source: The Poor Mouth. For another version, go here.

The Great Old One is a really popular Christmas meme. For more, go here.

Christmas Palimpsests

Ancient traditions survive: Martha Stewart's 1997 Bay Leaf and Pomegranate Garland recalls the importance of laurel leaves at the Winter Solstice, when Romans brought potted laurel trees into their houses. Image Source: Martha Stewart.

Christmas is a holiday of palimpsests. Millennia of earlier festivals shine through opaque layers of tradition. The lighted evergreens, the feasts, the burning Yule logs, were part of pre-Christian eras.

You can see and hear some of that ingrained nostalgia below the jump, in the movement Balulalow, from Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, which he wrote in 1942 while sailing the war-churned Atlantic from the United States to Britain. The words, from the brothers Wedderburn, are in Middle English. 'Balulalow' is an old Scottish word which means 'lullaby.'

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Light of Christmas Past

Clarence Gagnon (1881-1942), Après la tempête (After the Storm; ca. 1922). Image Source: Galerie Walter Klinkhoff.

Few painters have captured the northern winter colour palette like the Canadian Impressionists; a number of their works were recently up for sale. Clarence Gagnon, in particular, was able to convey Quebec's pale turquoise and washed out mulberry skies, the way light looks when the water in the air is frozen.

Clarence Gagnon, Christmas Mass (1908); he painted a similar piece. Image Source: McMichael.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blog-Hopping While I Was Away

The Crystal Ship (2012) © by Flying Glove / [Paloma Alcalá ] at deviantART. Reproduced with kind permission.

Here are some noteworthy posts at other blogs that popped up one way or another while this blog was sleeping; have a look:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time

Benches. Image Source: Linda is Write.

"When the storm breaks, each man acts in accordance with his own nature. Some are dumb with terror, some flee, some hide. And some spread their wings like eagles and soar on the wind." ~Dr. Dee /Elizabeth the Golden Age

Image Source: Aurum Astrology.

Friday, December 21, 2012

World's End

July 20, 1956 'Emergency Edition' of The Buffalo Evening News, a faux headline that was part of Operation Alert, a US civil defense exercise in the 1950s, was a dress rehearsal for potential nuclear annihilation. Image Source: Conelrad.

Why is the end of the world so popular? It is a resilient human expectation which has transcended all times, all cultures, all religions. If the end of the world weren't such a frightening message, it would amout to a comforting reminder of human commonality.

Image Source: Oxcgn.

Baby Boomer astrologer Rob Breszny, in his book Pronoia (p. 12) sums up the popularity of doom-saying:
As far back as 2800 BC, an unknown prophet wrote on an Assyrian clay tablet, "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end." [See this story questioned here, here and here.] In the seventh century BC, many Romans believed Rome would suffer a cataclysm in 634 BC.

Around 300 BC, Hindus were convinced they lived in an "unfortunate time" known as the Kali Yuga - the lowest point in the great cosmic cycle. In 426 AD, the Christian writer Augustine mourned that this evil world was in its last days. According to the Lotharingian panic-mongers who lived more than 1,000 years ago, human life on earth would end on March 25, 970.

Astrologers in 16th century calculated that the city would be destroyed by a great flood on February 1, 1524.  American minister William Miller proclaimed the planet's "purification by fire" would occur in 1844. Anglican minister Michael Baxter assured his followers that the Battle of Armageddon would take place in 1868. The Jehovah's Witnesses anticipated the End of Days in 1910, then 1914, then 1918, then 1925. John Ballou Newbrough ("America's Greatest Prophet") promised mass annihilation and global anarchy for 1947.
Breszny directs his readers to the Website, A Brief History of the Apocalypse - here. On this site, compiled by Chris Nelson, you get a timeline of failed doomsday prophecies across the centuries. The timeline reveals that doom-sayers have predicted the end of the world more or less continuously every few years since ancient times.

November 2012 solar eclipse by Phil Hart. Image Source: Starship Asterisk.

World's end is one of the most profitable and popular film, genre fiction, and video game themes. In a lousy economy, entertainment about massive doom and destruction is guaranteed to make money. In marketing terms, scenes like the one below have more consumer appeal than any smiling flower or singing teddy bear.

Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via io9.

Since the turn of the Millennium, technological communication has multiplied the type and number of millenarian apocalyptic predictions to several per year - see here. What is interesting is the sheer number of coincidental fateful predictions set for the end of this year and into next year. Does the sun have a shadow twin (see here, here and here)? Have we reached the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy? Are we leaving the Age of Pisces and entering the Age of Aquarius? Have the Mayans read the heavens correctly to predict a new era (see here, here, here and here)? NASA is concerned enough to post articles and videos to reassure the public. Conspiracy theorists on the Internet have responded by arguing that NASA is keeping the 2012 disaster a secret!

People love to imagine the end of the world. Is it because it gets them off the hook from all their worries and responsibilities? Is it because promised apocalypses give dire meaning to things when the world seems wayward, misdirected, or in the grip of frightening change? Is it a most seductive way of falsely predicting the future? Does the prediction's attraction stem from the way it is used to justify requests for power and money from vulnerable people?

I would argue that the 2012 phenomenon stems from concerns far more profound than those associated with late capitalism. The 2012 phenomenon centres on today's solstice because it is a distillate of all our Millennial fears and anxieties, explained through the mythology and astronomy of the ancients.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Laugh of the Day: Ikeas Homonkulus

 Ikeas Homonkulus after Ecce Homo. Image Source: Global Post.

Are the holidays grinding you down? That's OK, because we could all be off to that primate sanctuary in the sky, or in this case, in southern Ontario. Darwin is already the subject of in depth online analysis at Know Your Meme and Gawker - and there are whole tumblr pages devoted to him.

Image Source: tumblr.


Monday, November 12, 2012


Dreamer (10 February 2011) © by ~zinaart / Zina Nedelcheva (see her Facebook page). Image Source: deviantART. Reproduced with kind permission.

The blog is on a break until the Mayan calendar turns over on 21st December 2012. See you then!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Evolution of Remembrance Day

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa, Canada. Image Source: Globe and Mail.

In the Commonwealth and elsewhere, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day marks the moment when fighting stopped at the end of the First World War. The day now also commemorates the dead of the Second World War and subsequent wars. More recent conflicts have inspired the invention of brand new memorial 'traditions.' This is one way that conflict reclaims the past in the present time.

Dreams in Japan's Battle Memories

Still from "The Tunnel," Dreams (1990). Image Source: Collin County Community College.

In Dreams (1990), Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and Ishirô Honda produced a fourth dream, "The Tunnel," which looked back on Japan's ghosts from the Second World War. This is a tricky sequence because Kurosawa began his career in 1942. Then and later, he produced war narratives which attracted criticism. The segment was remade recently in a student effort (see it here), which shows how the bland Millennial dilution of World War II washes away controversies. All the same, the original chilling excerpt reveals how survivors remain suspended between the realities of conflict and the unrealities of civilian peace that follows. A defeated officer, shamed by his survival, trails home after the war; as he enters a tunnel on the road, he is greeted by an anti-tank dog. Soon he confronts his whole dead platoon ...

Let No One Say These Things Were Never Real

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Image Source: Cnet via Inocuo/Flickr.

One of the clearest and most sobering signs of the Millennial anti-reality malaise is the upswing in Holocaust denial. When a British prince can show up at a costume party dressed as a Nazi, you know there is a softening around the whole memory of the Second World War and of that war's genocidal underbelly. Specific denial comes in many forms. It criss-crosses through wild anti-Illuminati and anti-Masonic chatter, which sometimes revives and updates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for online doom cultists and 9/11 conspiracy theory buffs. There is a whole contingent which views the present politics in the Middle East through a meta-Holocaust lens. There is a blandly expressed, but equally nasty, anti-Zionist political discourse floating around, notably in highbrow circles. This last viewpoint either takes the Holocaust skeptically or obliquely challenges the Holocaust's continued historical relevance.

The Holocaust remains relevant for all the historical reasons that it became a bloody watershed in the past; for the reasons that it plugs into troubles today; and for one more reason related to both, which ties the past, present and future together. That last relevance is the fact that the Holocaust was so horrible that it made, and still makes, us question reality. Even survivors from the death camps repeatedly echoed the sentiment expressed by Harry Herder, a liberator at Buchenwald: "We see it, but we don't believe what we see."

The Blitz in Millennial Media

London during the Blitz, September 1940. Image Source: Guardian.

Last year, a 70-year old film with colour footage of London during the Blitz resurfaced:
Previously unseen colour footage of London during the Blitz has been discovered, after lying in an attic for almost 70 years.The amateur footage includes images of bombed-out landmarks such as the John Lewis department store - on Oxford Street.The 20 minute film was shot by the wartime mayor of Marylebone in west London, Alfred Coucher. The film was used as part of a US government propaganda film entitled "Why We Are At War."
For images, sounds and records of London during the Blitz (which lasted from 7 September 1940 to 16 May 1941), see a Channel 4 report and a Guardian article below the jump.

Time Capsules of World War I

Image Source: BBC.

Last year, BBC reported on found aerial footage of France just after World War I, kept in a Paris vault for nearly 100 years. In this rarely seen film (below the jump), you can see what the countryside looked like after the guns stopped. The BBC juxtaposed those images with shots of what the same landscape looks like today.

Another report, here, similarly this year uncovered a WWI-era camera with undeveloped film. The camera, stored in a chest in France, had photographs of Australian (and other nationalities) soldiers just behind the front lines of the Somme. The camera belonged to a French couple who offered to take and develop photographs of resting soldiers, so that the latter could use the pictures as postcards home.

For more images and films, see British Pathé's WWI Archive. Included among them are the films and photographs of shell shocked soldiers, who reflected modern battle horrors and psychological injuries never before seen.

WWI: 10 Telling Images

Click on the image to go to a WWI photo gallery. Image Source: British Pathé.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bidding Farewell to the 20th Century

20th Century Fox logo. Image Source: flickr via Yoda_56.
The hardest thing about living through a turn of a century, let alone a turn of a Millennium, is that it is serious business. It isn't just a throwaway fact. 9/11 and the recession should have been a warning, a demand for some soul-searching. But even through the economic downturn, I know loads of people who have superficially surfed the wave of change with enthusiasm, and with scant consideration for what is going on around them. And, on the basis of their ability to go unfazed, they have really profited! But if one is sensitive at all to the deeper meanings in things, then it becomes difficult to absorb all that is happening. It is like having the volume turned up to maximum on everything, and the noise becomes debilitating.
In addition, many things are lost forever, and quickly. Anything suddenly and arbitrarily consigned to the dustbin of history becomes impossible to hold on to: there is no going back. Commonplaces of 15 years ago are unheard of today. The same goes with people and history.
You might see a Gen Y diatribe against the late Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, totally dismissing him as a product of the evils of the 20th century, in a way that would have been unheard of a few years ago, even from his critics. A friend of mine was recently talking to a guy in his early 20s. The latter had never heard of Alfred Hitchcock or Joan Rivers. I hyperlinked them, because I figure there are other people out there who have never heard of them, either.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Enforced Memory, Enhanced Humanity?

Would losing our ability to forget be a recipe for a future utopia? Surely, forgetting is part of the healing process after painful experiences? BBC reports that some argue for caution against enhancements of humanity, including enforced memory, so trumpeted by pro-Singularity commentators:
A race of humans who can work without tiring and recall every conversation they've ever had may sound like science fiction, but experts say the research field of human enhancement is moving so fast that such concepts are a tangible reality that we must prepare for. 
People already have access to potent drugs, originally made for dementia patients and hyperactive children, that boost mental performance and wakefulness. 
Within 15 years, experts predict that we will have small devices capable of recording our entire life experience as a continuous video feed - a life log that we can reference when our own memory fails. 
There are a range of technologies in development and in some cases already in use that have the potential to transform our workplaces - for better or for worse” Advances in bionics and engineering will mean we could all boast enhanced night vision allowing us to see clearly in the dark. 
While it may be easy to count the potential gains, experts are warning that these advances will come at a significant cost - and one which is not just financial. 
Four professional bodies - the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society - say that while human enhancement technologies might improve our performance and aid society, their use raise serious ethical, philosophical, regulatory and economic issues. 
In a joint report, they warn that there is an "immediate need" for debate around the potential harms. 
Chairwoman of the report's steering committee Prof Genevra Richardson said: "There are a range of technologies in development and in some cases already in use that have the potential to transform our workplaces - for better or for worse." 
There may be an argument for lorry drivers, surgeons and airline pilots to use enhancing drugs to avoid tiredness, for example. 
But, in the future, is there a danger that employers and insurers will make this use mandatory, the committee asks. 
... Several surveys reveal that many students now use brain-enhancing "smart" pills to help boost their exam grades, which raises the question about whether colleges and universities should insist candidates are "clean" in the same way that Olympic athletes have to prove they are drug-free to compete.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Clawing Back to Recovery

Image Source: Media Bistro. 

Rarely have the domestic elections of one country meant so much to so many people inside that country and across the world. After the economic nightmare of the past four years (ironically delayed until now in some places), the United States stands at a fork in the road. Whatever choice the Americans make at the polls today, their collective decision may determine historic events in the 21st century.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bidding Farewell to an Old Soul

It is an odd feeling to find out that someone you knew died some time ago. Today, with sadness, I remember a fascinating person I saw almost every week for years. Even so, I can't say I knew her, since she was a guarded figure. She told me some haunting things about her past, but generally she spoke an eternal language which often skipped all the details that make 'normal' conversations make sense.

This woman epitomized characteristics which we almost never encounter in this day and age: mystery, wisdom and silence. She attached herself to all the things which elude busy multi-taskers, especially the essential truths evident in living things. Sometimes, the people who teach you the most important values and lessons seem to be obscure, and so she seemed.

Crowdsourcing the World's Oldest Translation

Image Source: BBC.

BBC reports that the world's oldest known written language, Proto-Elamite, will soon be deciphered by Oxford University academics. University researchers are using a special machine to photograph the writing from all angles. In order to speed up the process, they are also opening up the project to public input, in the hope that crowdsourcing may shed more light on translations:
The clay tablets were put inside this machine, the Reflectance Transformation Imaging System, which uses a combination of 76 separate photographic lights and computer processing to capture every groove and notch on the surface of the clay tablets.

It allows a virtual image to be turned around, as though being held up to the light at every possible angle.

These images will be publicly available online, with the aim of using a kind of academic crowdsourcing.

... [Oxford professor Jacob Dahl] says it's misleading to think that codebreaking is about some lonely genius suddenly understanding the meaning of a word. What works more often is patient teamwork and the sharing of theories. Putting the images online should accelerate this process.
You can see the main project site here, which includes many images of the tablets with samples of this language. The site describes the language as follows:
Proto-Elamite is the last un-deciphered writing system from the Ancient Near East with a substantial number of sources (more than 1600 published texts). It was used for a relatively short period around 3000 BC across what is today Iran. Proto-Elamite is a derived writing system originating from the Uruk invention of writing in southern Mesopotamia during the middle of the 4th millennium BC. Scribes in Susa in southwestern Iran took over a majority of the numerical signs as well as many of the numerical systems from the older proto-cuneiform system.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Look Skyward: Astronomy Guide for November 2012

The Leonids are coming to night skies later this month. A moonless view should make a good show. Image Source: NASA.

See below the jump for this month's amateur stargazing guide, prepared by Web masters of the official site of the Hubble telescope. This video guide is mainly for the northern hemisphere. For more precise information, try the wonderful, free open source planetarium download, Stellarium. It allows you to enter your coordinates anywhere on earth, and will generate a local stargazing guide according to any date you enter.

There is a total solar eclipse visible from Australia and New Zealand on 13-14 November.

The Leonid meteor shower is coming this month, which peaks on 16-18 November. The Leonids are mainly visible in both hemispheres.

The video also mentions a penumbral lunar eclipse on 28 November visible to Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, and most of Asia.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Exponential Times

From Jean Paul Gautier's Fall 2010 Couture Collection. Image Source: Daily Fashion and Style.

See some Youtube videos below the jump, which once again confirm the pace of the exponential growth of digital culture (thanks to -J. for sending the link).

Given the breathtaking pace of change, where are we headed? One site discusses the future, Future Timeline Events. Bear in mind that almost anyone who predicts the future, with the occasional lone exception, is usually wildly wrong.

You can see some predictions for the coming two centuries, with which you may or may not agree. One thing these predictions make clear: if we survive, sooner or later, our destiny lies in the stars.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 1: Nature's Gods

Image Source: Nightmare Kingdom.

Hallowe'en is a reminder that the modern age swept aside beliefs in whole pantheons of natural deities, including some very frightening demons. One of the latter is the Kushtaka. This evil spirit, profiled on Brad Meltzer's Decoded episode about Alaska's mysteries, is so troubling to local native peoples that the site of television interview was purified after Meltzer's crew departed.

Kushtaka, or 'land otter man': "Canoe prow ornament representing Land-Otter-Man, Tlingit, from Sitka, Alaska, USA. Found at Nass River, British Columbia, Canada, in 1918." Image Source: Werner Forman via Heritage Images.

The Kushtaka is a soul-stealer, shape-shifter and otter-spectre feared by the Tlingit and Tsimshian peoples. These days, otters are viewed as people-friendly creatures. Perhaps it is their human expression that made them the subject of shape-shifting mythology. The Kushtaka is rather like the equally malevolent Native American monster, the Wendigo. Kushtakas are also sometimes likened to sasquatches.

It is believed that the Kushtaka lures people away to their deaths in deep waters. It usually takes the form of a person known to its victim, such as a kindly grandmother beckoning to her ill-fated grandchild from the edge of the forest. It will imitate the cries of a drowning woman or baby in waterways to lure would-be rescuers into treacherous rivers. It is also known to call sailors along Pacific American coasts to their deaths. Kushtakas are said to whistle in a telltale, low-high-low tone.

There are some Kushtaka stories online. Kushtakas make war on humans by spreading a plague amongst them in this legend from the Tlingit people. In this story, they take possession of women in a community and incite a bloody conflict. And in this story, a helpful but still spectral Kushtaka haunts a bereaved couple by appearing to them as their dead son and bringing them fish to eat. Those whom the Kushtakas help or harm run the risk of becoming Kushtakas themselves.

"Tlingit Native American, Land otter man, Clan: Ganaaxteidi. Place: Haines." Image Source: De Peper Muntjes Knipper.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2: The Internet's Little Cinema of Horrors

Boris Karloff (real name: William Henry Pratt) in the The Mummy (1932; see the trailer here). He was also host of The Veil, a never-broadcast and rarely seen 1958 horror TV series. Image Source: The Black Glove.

This is what the Web does best. Here are some fearsome films and old school horror TV series for Hallowe'en! Go here to watch a collection of Italian exploitation horror films on Youtube; warning: the films in this particular playlist are brutal and controversial (Hat tip: Lost on 42nd Street).

The same Youtuber has collected video playlists for:

See all my posts on Horror themes.

See all my posts on Ghosts.

All series and films belong to their respective copyright holders. Links are provided here under Fair Use strictly for non-commerical discussion and review.

If you're not reading this post on Histories of Things to Come, the content has been scraped and republished without the original author's permission. Please let me know by following this link and leaving me a comment. Thank you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 3: Comics that Made Me a Fan

Life with Archie #125 (September 1972). Image Source: Kermit's Pad.

Now, here is a blast from the past. Back in 1978, around when I started collecting comics titles which bridged the 1970s and 1980s (as, here and here), I encountered a really odd reprinted Archie comics story. Buried in a digest with much more typical, easygoing fare, it crossed the normally tame kids' title with the horror genre. The Grand Comics Database summarizes the plot of 1972's "Nightmare Nursery":
The gang inspects an old house where a Satanically-possessed teddy bear, brought into the house by a woman who once used it to kill a little girl, exercises its spell on Betty and induces her to attempt suicide.
Really. Archie was known for occasional innuendo which sailed over the heads of its young readers (at least, I hope it did), only to be revisited decades later.

But "Nightmare Nursery" went way beyond innuendo. With themes borrowed from the horror comics and films of the 1970s, it clearly left an impact on readers. A few years ago when a chance reminder made me dimly recall it, I searched for it on the Web, in vain. I found only a forum where someone else was also trying to find this issue and complaining along the lines of, 'Does anyone know what I'm talking about? The Archie Comics demon teddy bear story? If I don't track it down, it will haunt me to my dying day.' A few years have passed, the Web's fund of digital ephemera has piled deeper, and now I have found it at last. It turns out that "Nightmare Nursery" is notorious among Archie fans.