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, 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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 4: Messages from the Outer Darkness

Bode's Galaxy M81 and the Cigar Galaxy M82 [at top] as photographed by Michael Weiland of the Interessengemeinschaft Astronomie an der Universit├Ąt Konstanz (Astronomy Interest Group at the University of Constance). Image Source: The Messier Catalog.

Mainstream thought easily laughs off UFOlogists. Some researchers have suggested that alien-seekers simply subconsciously mapped demonology and other spectral mythologies onto futuristic, faux scientific narrative tropes. Other commentators have been so literal-minded as to read that mapping backwards, and see (as Mac Tonnies partly did) in our superstitions about elves and fairies a cultural crypto-log of alien visitation. This so-called unified theory of strangeness is hard to believe.

"The type Ir-II galaxy, M82 (NGC 3034), also known as the Cigar Galaxy (top), shows the results of extreme rates of star birth and death. Supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars, contribute to a violent wind of material expelled from M82's central regions. The burst of star formation was likely triggered a mere 100 million years ago in the latest of a series of bouts with neighbouring large galaxy M81 (at bottom)." Image Source: *Astronomy.
Laughing off extraterrestrials was less easy to do in 2009, when radio astronomers received strange radio signals from the nearby Messier 82 galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. The news, announced in 2010, immediately attracted conspiracy hounds of the Internet and 2012 Mayan enthusiasts. Taking a few sticks of detail from the story, they mused: 'are we being contacted by aliens?' 'Are they headed this way?'