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, January 19, 2013

Retro-futurism 24: 1968 On the Way to 2019

Real smog in Beijing.

This week, Beijing accumulated hazardous, record levels of smog. From Total Dick-Head: "Dear Readers, that's not a still from Blade Runner you're looking at. That's the smog in Beijing, and some crazy building, and, like, a video billboard." See more pictures of the city this week, here. Real life dystopia, real life noir.

Real smog in Beijing. Image Source: Kotaku.

Blade Runner cityscape.

Go inside to escape the smog and complete the Future Noir mood. From @paleofuture aka Matt Novak: "So got me those Blade Runner whiskey glasses for Christmas and I'm basically the luckiest guy I know." One of my friends, M., was so interested, he tracked them down on the Internet. You can buy them here.

Image Source: @paleofuture.

From the glass seller, Firebox:
We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. We’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. But we haven’t seen anything half as cool as the Blade Runner Whiskey Glass.

Yes, Blade Runner fans, now you can relax after a stressful day ‘retiring’ replicants by getting to grips with the very same tumbler used by Rick Deckard in the seminal 1982 sci-fi movie. And when we say the very same we mean it because the moody Blade Runner’s glass wasn’t just a prop, it was a hand-made crystal glass, mouth-blown by artisans at boutique Italian company, Arnolfo di Cambio – and so is this!
Blade Runner still with Harrison Ford playing Deckard (1982) © Warner Bros. Image Source: Live for Films.

You can watch Ridley Scott's legendary film here. The fantastic Vangelis soundtrack is here. All the book covers for different publications of Philip K. Dick's original 1968 story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are here. In the original story, Rachael's dissociative responses are explained by her being raised on a spaceship during a botched colonization attempt of Alpha Centauri. The story opens with the death of a 200 year old turtle.

If you've never seen this film, you are lucky to be able to see it for the first time. Do not be one of the newbies on Youtube who cluelessly misses the point to this dystopic Techno-Creation Story: "Just finished watching it!!!!....possibly the worst movie ever...how did this movie get so much priase...smh."

"Can somebody help me understand why this movie is #1 on sci fi lists? i am a huge Sci fi fan and i just watched this movie due to all the glowing reviews...I was hoping for an amazing film..i must admit i found it incredibly boring with little substance...I could not get into it at all...for me the coolest part of the movie was that pyramid building and the opening scenes of the future skyline lol...yea i get it harrison ford may be a cyborg,,i am shocked that people like this so much...."
Dick's original story, written in 1968, described human alienation from the Freudian Self and from the external environment; the flip side of that alienation was the growing role of technology in propagating the Egotist as Creator. It is almost as though Dick envisioned the 20th century's ultimate dilemma, bloodbaths notwithstanding.

That dilemma was the point at which the Id, the Ego and the Superego would fracture and become separate agents, or whole groups, in society. In light of Blade Runner's continuity from 1968 to 2019, this post continues my series (begun here and here) on the ideas developed by the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers in their youths and explores what became of those ideas.

Handheld iris recognition device developed by Securimetrics Inc., of Martinez, California: "An Iraqi army recruit has his retina scanned with a Biometric Automated Toolset System at the Iraqi army recuiting station in Fallujah, Iraq, March 28, 2006. DoD photo by Cpl. Spencer M. Murphy, U.S. Marine Corps." Image Source: Murdoc Online.

Epic levels of environmental pollution, such as those we see in Beijing today, go hand-in-hand with internal malaise. We may not literally have built Replicants yet, but the thrust of Dick's ideas, brought to life in Blade Runner, was not really about that. The point was that the Replicants could be anyone. The robots-becoming more-human-than-human trope was only a metaphor for collective dissociation, brought on by exponential progress. In that dissociative societal process, who can say who the arbiters of rationality, normality and morality are?

How many of us would pass the retinal scan for standardized, expected emotional empathic responses, as depicted in Blade Runner? If you did not pass the test, would that mean you would be classified as no longer human? Is society devolving into Replicant versus Blade Runner camps? That seems far-fetched, until you look at our viciously divided society: different groups of people become guardians of different branches of the human psyche, and any agreement on the holistic picture of human consciousness and conscience has been destroyed.

Eden ... not. The replicant Zhora played by Joanna Cassidy © Warner Bros., I Want You Magazine via Flickr.

Ridley Scott has tinkered, perhaps excessively, with the film in recent years (I liked the original voiceover). Maybe it is a fitting commentary on technology's search for ever greater perfection. He has also promised a sequel, Blade Runner 2, for 2014; it will likely be scripted by Hampton Fancher.

For all my posts on 60s Legacies, go here.


  1. Great post, ToB... I hope you don't mind, but I pulled a quote, borrowed a shot, and posted a link over at PMB.

  2. I didn't like Blade Runner when I first saw it, but as time went by I finally realized the symbolism near the end when Roy saves Deckard's life.

    When Roy makes the decision to save Deckard, he's holding a dove in one of his hand's. I interpreted that as meaning that Roy has acquired a soul, and when he dies and the dove flies up into the sky, it is symbolic of Roy's soul going to heaven. The message of the movie was that what made us human was the capacity to care about someone else. Roy became "more human" than Tyrell, his creator. At least that's the way I see it.

  3. And ironically, in order to be able to submit my comment for moderation, I had to prove that I'm "not a robot." LOL!

  4. Thanks for your comments, Tommy. I've seen this movie many times and I still see details I've seen but not 'seen' so to speak. One example that struck me hit me just as I was doing this post! How many times have I seen Zhora talking about the snake, and I didn't think overtly of the Eden metaphor, even though it is so incredibly obvious. I agree about the dove and soul symbolism. Roy has become 'human' and so he chooses to face death as a human. He actually chooses to die, because he finally understands that death is the price we pay for having an immortal soul so to speak. This is why he willingly faces death, unlike the other Replicants who remain soulless. Rachael and possibly Deckard are toss-ups.

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