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, February 9, 2013

Year of the Water Snake

Image Source: Lena Sokol via Mystic Medusa.

Happy New Year to Chinese and other Asian readers who celebrate the Year of the Black Water Snake today and in coming days of the Spring Festival. Last year, Fukushima gave an object lesson during 2012's Water Dragon.

Chinese New Year greeting card by Alex Bernstein. Image Source: Behance.

Chinese Fortune Calendar states:
Chinese said the dragon fell down from the sky and then became a snake. Therefore, the snake is also called a little dragon. Just like the dragon, the snake doesn't like people seeing its body. So people think snake is sly, c[al]m, quiet, lonely and humble animal. Snake attacks other animal only when it's hungry. If we keep the distance from it, snake won't hurt people. Snake has the ability to swallow an animal bigger than its size. So we cannot underestimate snake's ambitious. Snake is a no-limb animal with fork-like tongue. Chinese treat that spitting tongue as a sign of argument. Actually, Snake uses its tongue to smell. But in the Chinese zodiac, the Snake implies the potential trouble of libel, dispute or slander, especially, when it meets Tiger or Monkey.
What is in store this year, according to lunar calendar astrologers? Among other things, they describe the trends in terms of predominance of five different elements (Wu Xing, (): wood, fire, earth, metal, water). From Chinese Fortune Calendar:
Chinese Astrology is a Balance Theory of Five Elements. Each animal can be converted into Five Elements. Snake contains mainly Fire. It also contains some Metal and Earth. Snake is in the Fire group. Water of 2013 and Fire of Snake are opposite elements. Therefore most of people will experience mix of good and bad fortune.

Water Snake is Fire under Water. Snake is a c[al]m, shy, cautious and low-key animal in Chinese Horoscope. Snake won't attack its opponent, unless it's disturbed or hungry. If Fire is not your favorite element, then you should keep a distance from Fire in 2013. Otherwise, if you fool with Fire, then you may get burn.
You can find your personal Chinese astrological birth chart and prediction for 2013 - here. You can see more general predictions, depending on your Chinese astrological signhere, here and here. The main Chinese television broadcast devoted to this event is the CCTV New Year's Gala, see here.

McDonald's Year of the Snake promotional image by artist Jing Jing Tsong. Image Source: The i spot.

Image Source: Reuters via Asia One.

Winter Storm Nemo 2013

North end of Boston. Image Source.

Here are some photos from the huge winter storm, christened Nemo, currently dumping on New England.

Allston, Boston, Massachusetts. Image Source.

Nantucket, last night, easterly winds near 90 miles per hour. Image Source.

Boston, last night. Figure skis through the streets. Image Source.

Boston skyline, this morning. Image Source.

Brighton, Boston. Image Source.

Massachusetts car dealership. Image Source.

Looking outside. Image Source.

Copley Square, Boston. Image Source.

Boston. Image Source.

"This is what happens when a plow gets stuck on your street." Boston. Image Source.

Flooding, Sandwich, Massachusetts. Image Source.

Seawater flooding the streets. Image Source.

Connecticut. Image Source.

Trumbull, Connecticut. Image Source.

Guilford, Connecticut. Image Source.

Central Park, NYC. Image Source.

Central Park, NYC. Image Source.

Dog's name: Tundra. Western New York. Image Source.

Letting the dog out. Source.

Wrentham, Massachusetts. Image Source.

Boardwalk, Jersey Shore. Image Source.

Rockaway Boulevard, Queens, NYC. Already affected by Hurricane Sandy. Image Source.

Building destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, covered in snow by winter storm Nemo, New Jersey (?). Image Source.

Connecticut, photoshopped. Image Source.

Northeastern USA: Extremes of winter precipitation, 1911-2012. Image Source.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Hairstyles in Ancient Greece and Rome

Classical Greek hairstyle. Image Source: Bible Study.

The WSJ is reporting that a Baltimore hairdresser, Janet Stephens, who has figured out how the Greeks and Romans created their elaborate hairstyles (Thanks to -C.). Up until she contributed to this area of research, historians in the field (who have no practical hairdressing experience) assumed that Greek and Roman hairstyles were wigs. Stephens has established that classical hairstyles were actually sewn into the hair.

A Millennial hairstyle copying the look of a classical Greek hairstyle. Image Source: Ancient Hair.

Modern recreations of ancient Roman and Egyptian hair: "Models wear historic hairstyles, including the 'Vestal Virgin' style, left, and one favored by Cleopatra, right." Image Source: J. Stephens via WSJ.

Modern recreation: "Ancient Greek Kore hair project Art History program at Fairfield University." Image Source: Fairfield University via Ancient Hair.

There is a growing Millennial interest in copying historical hairdos, from the past century to the very beginning of written history. Several blogs are devoted to these recreated styles - see here and here for examples. Historical hairstyle recreation was also the subject of a special Art History project at Fairfield University (above).

Fayum mummy portrait: "Depiction of a woman with a ringlet hairstyle, an orange chiton with black bands and rod-shaped earrings." Image Source: Wiki.

"Roman bust of Antinous, c. 130 AD." Image Source: Wiki via Ancient Hair.

"Portrait of a woman of the Flavian age 90-100 A.D. Marble, h. 28 cm Paris, Musée du Louvre. Image Source: daring to do.

Visions of the Future

"Koji Yamamura's vision of the future is based on a painting by Pieter Bruegel." Image Source: BBC.

The BBC is currently running a contest, What If? Visions of the Future, asking people to submit - in a variety of visual media, from animation to tapestries - what they think the future will look like:
This year the BBC is looking into the future, finding out what it holds for health, education, transport and even love. The season is called What If? - and we want you to be a part of it. What does the future look like to you? We want to know and we want you to share your vision of the world as part of our competition - you could even win a laptop worth £2,500.
The BBC invited six artists to provide visions to kick off the contest; most of them came up with apocalyptic pictures. Further information on how to participate is here.

There's a touch of Mordor to animator Glenn Hatton's futuristic city. Animation Still. Image Source: BBC.

"Children's author and illustrator Levi Pinfold's illustration is fueled by concern." Image Source: BBC.
"Spain's 'photographer-poet' Chema Madoz's vision is based on natural resources." Image Source: BBC.
Abdoulaye Konaté's tapestry is a mediation on humans and their environment in the future. Image Source: BBC.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dog Names in Ancient Greece

Image Source: Wonders and Marvels.

Seen elsewhere: check out this great post at Wonders and Marvels on the names ancient Greeks gave to their dogs.

Strange Tales from a Seaside Town

Babbacombe in 1905, postcard. Image Source: Babbacombe and St Marychurch.

Here is a tale about how things can go wrong, and change the fate of a town - Babbacombe, England - over the course of a century.

In late 18th century England, attitudes changed toward the environment. Where the sea had once been seen as a source of danger to be treated with caution, it slowly became perceived as a place of wild beauty. This was part of the trickle-down effect of Romanticism, a reaction against the Enlightenment, against the Industrial Revolution, and against the scientific rationalization of nature.

Under the influence of this shift in attitudes, the village of Babbacombe near Torquay in Devon, England, began to prosper. It sits on a bay on the southern coast of the country, around a cove once known for fishing, smuggling and nearby quarrying.

By the early 19th century, however, the houses huddled around the bay under remarkable rust-red cliffs acquired a new reputation. From A Guide to the Watering Places on the Coast between the Exe and the Dart: including Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay, published in 1817:
‘you ascend on the down, overhanging those stupendous cliffs, which terminate in the pebbly beach of Babbicombe (sic), on which, and amidst the cliffs of the beetling rocks, stand some picturesque cottages, which the romantic situation of this hamlet has induced the owners to build for their summer residences; but the most beautiful is that of Mr. Cary, constructed of the rudest materials … The two sitting rooms are ornamented with highly finished sea views in one and landscapes in the other;…The summer residences of Mr Cosserat, Mr Hubbard and Mr Atkins are laid out with much taste, but though they tend to embellish the spot, they take away from the wilderness of the scenery, which has constituted its most attractive feature. It is difficult to find a view more pleasing than that of Babbicombe; the bold projecting rocks around it, which terminate in the Ness, and afford a partial view of Teignmouth, the line of wavy hills that stretching from the mouth of the Exe, and reaching the white cliffs of the Dorset coast, in one glance portray the most frequented and most beautiful part of the south west coast, whilst the shingle beach beneath, glitters with the broken fragments of the marble rocks.’
Over the next few decades, Babbacombe became popular with Romantic tourists. The site Babbacombe and St Marychurch quotes: "The Teignmouth, Dawlish and Torquay Guide: 1829 by Carrington and others [which] says,
‘Proceeding onward we reach Babbicombe, a romantic rocky glen, twenty years since there were only a few fishermen’s huts, but the beauty of the spot having excited attention, several ornamental cottages have been built, and gardens formed along the steep sides of the hill and amongst the rocks, which have to great degree destroyed the beauty of the scene, depending as it does on its wild secluded character’."
So far, so good. Ironically, the very tourists who came seeking seclusion began to ruin that mood with their presence. But for a time, Babbacombe struck a Romantic balance. An annual regatta was founded there in the early 1820s. The village had a few ornamental houses on the bay, along with some fishermen's huts to lend a (genuine) air of authenticity. The allure lasted at least up to the time of the post-Romantic Pre-Raphaelites at mid-to-late century.

Drawing Room at The Glen around the time of royal visits to the house. Image Source: Torbay Library Services via Bytes of Torbays Past.

Perhaps the nicest house built on the bay was 'The Glen.' It so exemplified the aesthetic of the time that it and the wild little fishing village attracted royal notice and eventually several royal visits. This was also partly due to the fact that the Glen was occupied by the Whitehead family, one of whom had been a lady-in-waiting:
Mrs Whitehead attended the baby princess Victoria and was a lady in waiting to the princess’s mother. The young princess was driven out from Torquay to visit her in 1833.

While she was queen, Victoria visited the bay twice, once in 1846 when she did not land and again in1852. This time the queen was taken close to the shore in a rowing boat so that she could admire and sketch the scenery.

Prince Albert with their sons Edward, Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred went to visit Mrs Whitehead. Edward came to Babbacombe twice more, in around 1856 and again in 1878. He was staying at the Imperial Hotel and was driven to Oddicombe and from there was rowed across to Babbacombe bay, he met Emma Keyse, the niece of Mrs Whitehead at the Glen and was invited for tea.
When the Royal Yacht sailed into Babbacombe Bay in 1846, Queen Victoria recorded in her journal:
'It is a beautiful spot... . Red cliffs and rocks with wooded hills like Italy, and reminding one of a ballet or play where nymphs appear - such rocks and grottoes, with the deepest sea on which there was no ripple.'
According to local accounts, Victoria's son, later Edward VII, was again received at The Glen in 1879 and visited Babbacombe once more in 1880.

The Glen and its boathouse (right) in 1870. Image Source: Murder Research.

By 1884, Emma Keyse, niece of the original owner, had inherited the house. Then the fate of the locality changed: on 15 November of that year, she was found in the house with her throat slit and several stab wounds.

Her servants' versions of what happened that night were inconsistent. The only man in the house, John Lee, was the half-brother of the cook. The cook was pregnant and Keyse had had angry altercations with the cook over the pregnancy. The picture - described at length here, here and here - is one of a bad atmosphere at The Glen and restive servants leading up to their mistress's murder. Keyse, a gentlewoman, also had had conflicts of some kind with local smugglers. The most thoroughgoing analysis of what happened is at Murder Research:
Emma Keyse was broke and wanted to sell the property. She was in a constant battle with the local fishermen at Babbacombe, who were trying to make a living. She was definitely witness to the thriving smuggling industry at Babbacombe Bay over the years. I think the thorny issue of money (of which Emma had so little) had been the main topic that day. I have a feeling the ‘staff’ were on notice anyway. I believe Emma discovered on the night of the murder who the father of her cook’s child was. I think the general atmosphere in the house with the servants was not at all good. All these issues had been building and building in this stuffy claustrophobic community at The Glen.

So, on that dark Victorian autumn night on Babbacombe bay, Emma Keyse came face to face with her murderers. More than one person was directly involved in assassinating Emma Keyse – one of them tried to hack her head off and the other(s) started to attempt to destroy some evidence by lighting fires around the property. ...

The identity of the man responsible for Elizabeth Harris’ pregnancy and another, probably, embittered person, killed Emma Keyse – whether one of these was John Lee is now the issue as is the other person. And it’s the ‘other person’ that’s so intriguing. The young fisherman, Cornelius Harrington or the youthful Solicitor Reginald Gwynne Templer immediately come to mind as do the numerous other local characters who provided their evidence at court.

After spending so long trolling through so much archive and exploring every avenue I have come to the conclusion that John Lee was, at the very least, somehow involved in the killing of Emma Keyse.
In the midst of the murder, The Glen caught fire. Two of the servants continued to live in the burned out husk of the building - crime scene, charred sections and a missing roof notwithstanding - for the next two years.

The Glen in ruins (right) after the fire. Image Source: Babbacombe Beach and The Glen.

Despite the likelihood of the murder having involved another man or other men who fled the scene, Lee was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death on 23 February 1885. Lee became famous when the trap door on the gallows at Exeter Prison failed to open, despite three attempts by the executioner. After this bizarre malfunctioning of the gallows mechanism, Lee's sentence was commuted by the Home Secretary and he spent the next 22 years in Portland prison. Oddly enough, Lee's second lawyer, Herbert Rowse Armstrong, was later found guilty of murdering his wife in 1921, and was executed in 1922.

When Lee emerged in 1907, he became a minor celebrity in the press - feted as the 'man they could not hang.' (See 1910 reports: April 23, April 30 Pt 1, April 30 Pt 2, 7 May Pt 1, 7 May Pt 2, 14 May, 21 May, 28 May, 4 June, 11 June, 18 June.) Shortly after this flurry of attention, he emigrated, apparently to the United States under a different name. Researchers who have tried to trace his fate believe that he ended his days, sometimes known as 'James' Lee, and is buried at Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee. His life became the subject of a play, a song, a 1912 Australian silent film (The Life Story of John Lee, or The Man They Could Not Hang - it is considered a lost film), a folk opera, and a teleplay.

The cook's lover, Gwynne Templer, who may well have been the actual murderer, curiously represented Lee in court, and did little to defend him. Templer died at the age of 29 on 18 December 1886 at Thomas Holloway’s Sanatorium in Surrey: "the cause of death was 'general paralysis of the Insane – 1 year.'" Murder Research points to another mysterious possible perpetrator, cited from a contemporary source:
About the year 1890 there stood at the side of an open grave, in a South Devon town, a well-known and local resident and his two sons. The man who had been buried was a public man of the town who had been very well-known, highly respected and very popular throughout South Devon. The young men were, also, in their turn, to become public men in the area. As they were moving away from the grave and the mourners were disbursing their father turned to them and said “we have buried this afternoon the secret of the Babbacombe murder."
Whatever murderous violence dwindled down to ugly secrets in this little cove, most researchers focus on Lee and leave the story there. But what happened to the town after this dark twist of fate?

After the murder, the attractiveness of the village slowly declined from its Victorian heyday. The 'Garden Room' at the Glen was bizarrely transformed into a 'beach cafe'' by the local council. The cafe was "destroyed by fire in April 1928." The spot that The Glen occupied became a parking lot.

In 1926, a cliff railway was built so that tourists could ride up the cliff and see the view of the sea. The area still attracted those seeking holidays from the cities from the 1930s up until the 1950s; but by the 1960s, Babbacombe gradually became run down. In 1963, a historic model village was built nearby to attract tourists.

In the early 2000s, there was a concerted effort to beautify and refurbish the area with footpaths and similar wild garden attractions. Now the town invites Scuba divers, anglers and boating enthusiasts. Those Romantic Victorian ornamental cottages have been renovated into B&B's. The local theatre, built in the 1930s, was finally renovated in 2009.

But there is still a darker current here, some odd echoes of the murder case at The Glen. Perhaps it is just the bad economy, or maybe some uneasiness persists between those who appeciate the local wild area and those who seem shaped by it. In the 2000s, areas of planted woodlands were cut down without permission. There are ongoing problems with vandalism, sexual activity and syringes on the footpaths, such that the council decided to wall off the footpaths to prevent access from the surrounding brush. The old cliff railway was covered with graffiti in 2006. In July 2007, vandals destroyed traditional wattle fencing constructed in a nationally funded garden project. In July 2010, vandals destroyed a local garden, pulling up 300 flowers, amounting to £3,000 of damage for the disabled owner, who had spent years carefully cultivating the much-photographed site.

This dark theme has appeared in local fiction. Torquay is the birthplace of author Agatha Christie. The area is not so far from Daphne du Maurier's famed Jamaica Inn. There are Babbacombe roots in Edgar Wallace's The Law of the Four Just Men (read it here), a 1921 vigilante story, "the prototype of modern thriller novels."

Babbacombe's red cliffs. Image Source: Panoramio.

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.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fountain of Youth 16: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Corinne Griffith. Image Source: Find a Grave.

Today, I continue with occasional remarks on Hollywood. On finishing Kenneth Anger's trashy Hollywood Babylon, I came across a remarkable passage about ageing in relation to one of the greatest stars of the silent era, Corinne Griffith (1894-1979). Wiki comments that she is "widely considered the most beautiful actress of the silent screen." You can see news articles about her from that period here.

Perhaps given her memories of the Roaring Twenties, she might be forgiven for the wildest lie about her age ever formally made by a woman, in Hollywood, or anywhere else. Anger writes (pp. 402-403 Dell paperback ed., 1975):
In 1966 ... Corinne Griffith, the famed actress who married actor Danny Scholl on Valentine's Day 1965, asked for an annulment on the grounds the marriage was never consummated. ... [T]he highlight came when Corinne Griffith (who indisputably was Corinne Griffith) said that she had been merely a stand-in and had assumed the identity of Corinne Griffith when Corinne Griffith had died. In 1966 Corinne Griffith was seventy-one years old and her non-consummated mate was forty-four. The "stand-in" said she was "approximately fifty-one." The insanity of this case, in which inveterate lying-about-age became destruction of identity, has never been equalled.
Wiki notes that her testimony contradicted testimonies on her identity and her age from Betty Blythe and Claire Windsor, contemporary actresses who had both known her since the 1920s: "In 1974, Adele Whitely Fletcher, editor of Photoplay, said Griffith was still claiming that she was her own younger sister."

See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nuclear Leaks 23: Fukushima's World Citizens' Tribunal

Children in Fukushima city received dosimeters at school in autumn, 2011. Image Source: Japan Resilience System.

A local lawsuit over Japanese children's exposure to Fukushima radioactive fallout has sparked the inception of a curious thing: a global online tribunal. There were signs of this phenomenon in relation to this issue in 2012, but this is a new example. Perhaps this is an Internet first. No Internet cause is complete without its Big Names. And now, the intellectual media celebrity Noam Chomsky has lent his name to the cause of evacuating children from Fukushima. Incidentally, at the Daiichi plant on 1 February 2013, radiation levels measured by the press varied between 3.5 and 1,370 microsieverts per hour (Hat tip: ENE News). Fukushima City's tap water is being bottled and sold, with the label that it is "safe and delicious."

Fukushima City tap water bottled: safe and delicious. Image Source: Fukushima Minyu.

A number of posts at the opaquely pro-alternative-energy news aggregator ENE News have been covering the impact of Fukushima fallout on Japanese children (see related videos of radiation fallout around operating schools below the jump). In this case, the stated prevalence of thyroid damage is staggering:
... about the actual health condition of the children of Fukushima. On September 11 [2012?], the thyroid examinations found abnormalities such as nodules or cysts in 43% out of the 42,000 children tested. The numbers for girls are worse. 54% of girls from age 6 to 10 had these abnormalities, and 55% for age 11 to 15.
This report comes from the citizens' lawsuit against the city of Koriyama.

The people behind the 14 child plaintiffs also claim that the government has played down the dangers of Fukushima. They assert that there is a general culture of denial about Fukushima in Japan, since expressing alarm over the accident is perceived as a violation of acceptable social norms and national honour. This is a partial source: the defense's counter-arguments, data and documents are not included on the citizens' lawsuit blog.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs called on "the City of Koriyama to evacuate them so they can receive education in a safe place, with less than 1mSv/year atmospheric radiation." The plaintiffs' lawyer compares evacuation standards in Japan to conditions in Chernobyl and find Chernobyl's to have been more rigorous. Details on the court proceedings are online here and here. Supporting documents include statements on the long-term impact of Chernobyl fallout on children in Belarus. The proceedings have already been dismissed and reached an appeal stage before a higher court:
On June 24, 2011, 14 children in grade school in Koriyama filed a law suit against the City of Koriyama resorting to the court of law, so-called the “last bastion of human rights”, and demanded their right to study in a safe environment. In a response, the Koriyama District Court dismissed the case on December 16, 2011. This court decision is considered to be a damning violation of human rights. It does nothing but endorses the same violation committed by the national and city governments. As this decision was considered to be completely unacceptable, the plaintiffs of 14 the children, in order to correct what is wrong, filed a formal objection at the end of 2011, which is presently pending before the Sendai High Court.
The non-profit people behind the plaintiffs in the case have set up a curious new Web initiative - a Web court of global citizens - in parallel with proceedings in the conventional Sendai court. The Web court asks Netizens (here - scroll to the bottom of the page to participate in the World Citizens' Tribunal Judgment Form) to declare their support for the plaintiffs. The results of online responses are funneled into an Web-based spreadsheet, which you can see here.

The form of this 'online tribunal' is in fact merely a glorified blog poll and petition; but the contentiousness and seriousness of the poll topic arguably elevates the symbolic significance of this medium: online poll results are labeled at the plaintiffs' site as a "Jury judgment." The idea is that online responses will on the one hand contrast alleged Japanese government cover-ups about the advisable extent of the evacuation zone and foot-dragging over paid evacuation of those who cannot afford to leave radiated areas - with global expectations about protection of citizens in the event of a local nuclear accident on the other hand.