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.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Look Skyward: Supermoon

From Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar: "Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 11:35 EDT [p.m.] in the United States will witness this year's 'supermoon,' coinciding with a full moon, and if you have never witnessed one, now is a chance you won't want to miss." The Supermoon occurs when the moon's perigee (closest point to Earth) coincides with the full moon phase. There is a short NASA video on the Supermoon here.

The moon will likely outshine the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which willl also be hitting its peak. Conspiracy theorists claim that Supermoons cause earthquakes. But astronomers and seismologists deny this. The Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar also has an eastern astrological and Buddhist assessment of this full moon. For western astrological views, see Aurum Astrology, here, and Mystic Mamma, here.

Laugh of the Day

The above ad for a vintage 1995 Pontiac Grand Am in Everett, Washington State, USA was listed on Craigslist on April 25 (Hat tip: Corey Smith). Click on the image to enlarge.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Curios: Pre-History for Sale

Curios is my blog series on strange things that pop up at auction houses, in this case, fossils. On May 20, the Natural History Signature auction will take place at Center 548 at 548 West 22nd Street, between 10th Avenue and West 22nd Street, in New York City. The star of the auction is a Tyrannosaurus bataar (above), a smaller Asian counterpart to North America's Tyrannosaurus Rex. This Tarbosaurus is expected to fetch over $1 million. More fossils on the block below the jump. Descriptions and images are taken from the linked pages at the Heritage Auctions site. There are some much more recent pre-historic artifacts as well, such as Paleolithic and Neolithic axes for sale. And one lot of Wooly Mammoth wool (below).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hobbit Cancels Elfquest

Fantasy films enjoy their own special brand of development hell. The Hobbit is coming out in December of this year, after a decade of delays. The Elfquest movie has been in and out of development for about as long as Elfquest itself has existed (est. 1978). In January 2012, Bleeding Cool reported that Time-Warner, beloved overlord of DC Comics' nu direction, has shelved the Elfquest film because they don't want The Hobbit to overshadow it. Apparently, the world can only handle one film with elves in it at a time. The Pinis, two of my favourite Boomers who brought their ideals to life, remain philosophical.  They are producing a new series called Elfquest: The Final Quest. Wendy Pini responded on Facebook with Cutter's and Skywise's reaction from Beverly Hills.

Image Source: Bleeding Cool.

Other posts on J. R. R. Tolkien are here; posts on Elfquest are here, here and here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Internet's Ticking Time Bomb

Image Source: Recognize-Security.

Cybercrime, Cyberweapons, Cyberwar. BBC recently reported on the Counter Terror Expo in London (25-26 April), where Eugene Kaspersky warned attendees about false rumours started on Websites and social networks to manipulate the masses. (Really? Social networks are sources of disinformation?) He also talked about cyberwarfare and cybercrime:
The first threat is cyber warfare, he says - exactly what Stuxnet was about. And just last weekend, Iran took key oil facilities offline after their computer systems suffered a malware attack.

This could one day happen on a much bigger scale, warns Mr Kaspersky. For example, entire nations could be plunged into darkness if cyber-criminals decided to target power plants.

And there is nothing - nothing - anyone could do about it. ....

It is possible that a computer worm doesn't find its exact victim - and since many power plants are designed in a similar way [and often use the same systems], all of them could be attacked, around the world. ...

If it happens, we would be taken 200 years back, to the pre-electricity era. ...

Cyber crime has been a real concern of any computer user for years. Recently the threat has spread to smartphones.

No computer is safe from viruses. Every day, cyber criminals are infecting thousands of machines around the world.

Although many believe that Apple Macs are immune to infection, just this month more than 600,000 Apple computers were infected with the so-called Flashback Trojan.

And hacking mobile phones has become a real business in Russia, Asia, and other places where pre-paid phones are common.

"We estimate that criminals who target mobile phones earn from $1,000 to $5,000 per day per person," says Mr Kaspersky.

"They infect mobile phones with an SMS-Trojan virus that sends short texts to a number that is not a free number, until the victim's account is emptied.

"An average person won't have too much money on a phone account, but when hundreds of thousands of phones get infected, it is a lot of money.

"It's like this joke we have in Russia: 'Why are you robbing this granny, she's only got a rouble? And the thief answers: Well, 10 grannies - it's already 10 roubles'."

For my earlier posts on the Stuxnet virus, go here, here and here. For a short explanation on what it does, go here.

Farewell and Hello, Commodore

Commodore Amiga Agony screenshot, an early game renowned for its sophisticated graphics and music.

What could have been - and what could be. On 8 April 2012, Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore Computers died. With Tramiel's death, so closely following the death of Steve Jobs, the pioneers of the computing era are leaving us. Commodore, founded in Toronto, Canada in 1954, started as a typewriter company; under Tramiel's leadership, the company introduced the Commodore PET, the world's first all-in-one personal computer in 1977. Tramiel is well known to Boomers and especially Gen Xers for the Commodore 64, the best-selling home computer of all time.  It was hailed at its debut in 1982 for its enormous 64 kilobyte memory and its affordable cost compared to IBM and Apple models. In 1984, Tramiel left Commodore and moved to Atari, and uncomfortably found himself competing with the company he built.

Commodore Amiga Agony screenshots.

Commodore arguably continued with Tramiel's vision, introducing the Commodore Amiga (after some bumps with Atari), which successfully competed with other companies' machines on the music, graphics and games front (see my posts on the Amiga here and here). Because so many 80s kids grew up playing on Commodore machines, there is a special place for them in Gen X hearts. What does it mean to say that Commodore's founder has died? From Gizmodo:
"Jack Tramiel, the antithesis of Steve Jobs, has died. Tramiel was the founder of Commodore. Unlike Jobs, Tramiel believed that computers should be utilitarian and cheap, disregarding elegant design or attention to detail—like the legendary Commodore 64.

While Jobs' sense of aesthetics and obsessive detail permeated everything Apple did, from hardware to software, Tramiel—born Jacek Trzmiel in Lodz, Poland, 1928—didn't give a damn. His only concern was price and making things useful enough to win the battle in the marketplace.

As a result, Commodore's design was the crude club to Apple's elegant sword. And while time and nostalgia have made his computers charming, they are still slabs of ugly plastic. Charming ugly plastic slabs that I still like—I used the C64 all through my middle school years and remember to love every bit of its craptastic no-frills nature."
Apple's glitzy, gleaming, luxury tech won the day. Every major computer company evolved around its own ethos. Jobs made tech intuitively accessible in human terms. Apple also gained a reputation for being sleek and expensive, with a green name and lots of polished, tailor-made apps. It became one of the great Boomer triumphs: the go-to tool for academics, artists, Postmodern élitists. With that culture, Apple built a hierarchy of tech-savvy global citizens, whose sexy gadgets were intimately integrated into their plugged-in lifestyles. Apple's clever ad campaign in 2006-2009, starring Justin Long, retargeted the brand at Gen Y, while John Hodgman made PCs look like the stodgy choice of Xers and Generation Jones.

While Gen X definitely boasts its share of Apple enthusiasts, the brand with which Xers first identified at the dawn of home computing was not the Apple or the PC, but Commodore. For years, PCs have been merely the Apple alternative in Commodore's absence. And for years, Commodore, the brand of common yet sophisticated computing, was a missing piece in the world of tech offerings. Homage videos on Youtube, like this one, point to the ethos which Commodore's founder Tramiel envisioned, "We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes."

In 2010-2011, Commodore returned, after a humiliating 1994 bankruptcy and years of wandering in a wilderness of sale and resale of the Commodore properties, patents and brandnames. Nostalgia for clunky computers with a reputation for doing everything an Apple could do (and more, yet cheaply) brought the beloved Commodore 64 back with new tech. The new model is called the Commodore 64x (see my blog post on it here). The Wall Street Journal commented: "Welcome back, old friend." The new Commodore is presented by its manufacturer, Commodore USA LLC as the return to a 'third way' in computing: "When Commodore met its premature demise in the mid-nineties, we believe something of great value was lost in the tech world. ... 'I’m not a PC. I’m not a Mac. I’m a Commodore!'"

It took Altman's Commodore 64x and Tramiel's death to revive Commodore's ethos in popular memory. Apple's revisionist history gives way to alternate history. These reminders leave us wondering: what would the tech world look like now, if Commodore, rather than Apple, had been the computer company which survived the early 1990s' recession?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Karma Titanic

Most of this month, the blog was on semi-hiatus, so I missed the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on 15 April 2012. There are some amazing pictures of the Titanic to commemorate the anniversary at the Boston Globe, here and an interview with one of the last survivors, Eva Hart, here. Hart described the moment when the ship hit the iceberg as a slight bump, like a train pulling into a station. For years, the Titanic has been synonymous with the beauty, power and folly of hubris, especially undue pride in the heights of human technology. The historic lesson of the Titanic, as with Chernobyl or Fukushima, is that the gods punish those who challenge nature without humility. It is all the more strange, then, that Australian billionaire Baby Boomer Clive Palmer is building a modern replica of the Titanic; the announcement was part of the publicity associated with his bid to run for the Australian parliament. Titanic II will make its maiden voyage from England to New York City in 2016. Today on Twitter, one of his followers asked Millennial guru Deepak Chopra, "what is karma?" Chopra answered: "It is an echo of the past."

The bow, broken in half from the shattered stern (see it here). Image: COPYRIGHT© 2012 RMS TITANIC, INC; Produced by AIVL, WHOI.

Sit Out the Apocalypse in Style

Image Source: Phantoms and Monsters.

Earlier this month, Phantoms and Monsters covered an underground luxury condo currently being built for millionnaire Preppers, fashioned out of an old missile silo in Kansas:
The 'Doomsday shelter' being built below Kansas prairie where millionaires will be able to sit out the Apocalypse in style.

When you buy a house, you end up feeling like you will be paying it off until the world ends. Well, how about one of these luxurious condos, which come with all the mod-cons, as well as a pool, a movie theater and a library - oh, and a guarantee that it will survive Doomsday if and when that fateful day comes.

For these luxury flats, deep below the Kansas prairie in the shaft of an abandoned missile silo, are meant to withstand everything from economic collapse and solar flares to terrorist attacks and pandemics.

Naturally, there will be no one around to phone if the guarantee fails - but at that point, the insurance will probably be the least of your worries.

So far, four buyers have thrown down a total of about $7million (£4.4m) for havens to flee to when disaster happens or the end is nigh. And developer Larry Hall has options to retro-fit three more Cold War-era silos when this one fills up.

Hall said: 'They worry about events ranging from solar flares, to economic collapse, to pandemics to terrorism to food shortages.'

These 'doomsday preppers', as they are called, want a safe place and he will be there with them because Hall, 55, bought one of the condos for himself. He says his fear is that sun flares could wipe out the power grid and cause chaos.
See the full original report at the Daily Mail. This home-away-from-home has all the charm of deck chairs on the Titanic. The setting would make a great sci-fi horror actioner about how undergound silo condo life after Armageddon could go horribly, horribly wrong. It could be a Millennial Prepper homage to Buñuel's 1962 Mexican film, The Exterminating Angel (which you can watch online here, here, here - and with English subtitles here). Wiki notes that the film was mentioned in the 2011 movie, "Midnight in Paris [in which] the main character, Gil (Owen Wilson), travels back in time to 1920s Paris and suggests a story to a perplexed young Buñuel (Adrien de Van) about guests who arrive for a dinner party and can’t leave. Buñuel asks, "But why can’t they leave? I don’t understand". After Gil leaves, Buñuel is still muttering to himself, '...what's holding them in the room?...'" What would keep the condo's owners in the silo, if the simple fear of Apocalypse, fed by the Internet, would prompt them to pay for quarters here in the first place?  Fear of the future?  Fear of life? Death? Survival? Fear of descending into savagery, in a closed vault, which would undoubtedly swiftly deliver them to that end?

Interested parties in this project include an "NFL player, a racing car driver, a movie producer and famous politicians." Fortunately for some investors, their down payment cheques are bouncing. One Prepper wants one whole silo all to himself, and as designer Larry Hall puts it, "I won't know [about] that until his check clears the bank." More material! What kind of novel could you write about the one guy who survives the Apocalypse, alone in luxury, trapped underground? Images below of Hall's designs are © L. Hall and from the Daily Mail piece.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Millennial Sacred Task

Image Source/Text: B.Mad.

Caption for the photo: "This may not be the specific torso he was writing about, but it's the one I think about. Rilke was probably referring to the Apollo torso in the Louvre, since he lived in Paris. However, I am sure that this is the torso that Michelangelo admired so much, and that had great influence on Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque sculpture. This statue was discovered in the Campo de' Fiori, in Rome during the period of Pope Julius II (pope 1503-1513). It was once believed to be a 1st century BC original, but is now believed to be a copy of an older statue, likely dating to the 2nd century BC."

Rapid change from technological innovation eliminates many traditions, values and objects from the past. This may account for Millennial attempts to preserve styles from the past, such as Steampunk, or what I have described on this blog as Retro-futurism (defined here as instances where people take things from the past and revive them now, or project them into the future; retro-futurism is more usually defined as past attempts to imagine the future). Maybe one of the sacred tasks of this period is to select aspects of the past and preserve them before they are lost, or to preserve their meaning before they are reset in Post-Postmodern contexts which make them unintelligible.

But maybe preservation of the past only accelerates change. The still-powerful past determines which things we cannot discard; it reminds us of the things we cannot escape. As a result, it is a catalyst for introspection. And anything we specifically choose to save from the turn of innovation will provoke all the more self-questioning. Ironically, the continued power of the past thereby forces change toward the future. This paradox about the continued life of the past and its transformation into the future reminded me of Rilke's poem, Archaic Torso of Apollo (see a discussion at the Guardian and modern translations here).