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 11, 2013

The Disinformation Age

An Einstein misquotation shows how random sayings which fund the 'wisdom' of the Internet should be treated with caution. Image Source: Wiki.

Perhaps the Information Age should be called the Disinformation Age. For decades, celebrities have complained that the media twist their lives and words for the sake of sensational stories. Now, everyone and everything is subject to the same trend. And people compound it by being uncritical and unreflective about their sources of information as they plunge headlong into online discussions. Every day, information is traded anecdotally, with no account of its origins or original context. Take this quotation commonly attributed to Albert Einstein in the weirder corners of the Internet:
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. More than anything else, this new century demands new thinking: We must change our materially based analyses of the world around us to include broader, more multidimensional perspectives.
It sounds like something that speaks right to us in our time, doesn't it? And that is because ... it does! Einstein never uttered this quotation; it is a paraphrase from a self-help book from the 1970s:
This supposed "quote" seems to be one of many fake quotes attributed to Einstein in which he supposedly says mystical or spiritual things which do not fit with what we know about his beliefs. There are variant forms of this "quote" on the internet, but the most common one found seems to derive from a book called Planetary Survival Manual: A Guide to Living in a World of Diminishing Resources by Matthew Stein (2000). Stein does not give a source for this "quote".

The origin seems to actually be Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples (1976):
"Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine." (p. 26)
Only the first part is what Samples claims is from Einstein, though he gives no source or citation and it fits with nothing that is recorded of Einstein's quotes. The second part is Samples' own observation. The two parts have been conflated into a "quote" of Einstein, when there is actually no evidence he said the first part and the second isn't even attributed to him in the original source.
This tendency of grabbing a famous name in order to legitimize unsourced information is dangerous. The trend is to accept unquestioningly an 'authority,' in order to question another authority, usually one in a recognized position of power. With mounting questions over the place of copyright in the free exchange of information, the need to preserve other lines of cultural provenance grows.

Establishing the truth about events has never been more critical. But the more important finding the truth becomes, the more inclined people are to believe untruths, masquerading as 'real truths.'

This is why it was such incredible folly for Forbes to advise against study in the Humanities. All of the Humanities fields deal with the proper understanding of cultural knowledge; even in the midst of theoretical deconstruction, they preserve a line of memory and verifiable awareness of the origins of ideas and creative expression. And because they have to express that line of provenance and defensible argument or practice, they also deal with language, expressed clearly, in a time when misstatements, misspellings, grammatical messes and misunderstandings of word meanings are common.

Interview: Colin Hall's Real Life X-File

In the past few years of blogging, I have seen some bizarre things on the Internet. Conspiracy theories have always been around, but since the turn of the Millennium, they have proliferated online to create a new kind of post-Postmodern folklore. Along with users' feverish circulation and misalignment of data, the Internet erodes the line between real and virtual, between fact and fiction.

Irrationalizations pose as quasi-rationalizations. The ideas which have sprung out of this mindset have become increasingly counter-intuitive and counter-factual: you have, to name a few, 9/11 truthers and associated chatter around Osama bin Laden's death and the purported deaths of the Navy SEAL team members who invaded his compound (this, despite the fact that the man who shot bin Laden was recently interviewed by Esquire); Illuminati New World Order fear mongers; and Bigfoot hunters. There are people who do not believe the moon landings took place, or that there are sinister reasons why we never went back to the moon (besides money and politics?). There are even people who seriously think that Queen Elizabeth II is descended from a race of lizard aliens!

In a way, what Web cultists fear is less important than the fact that their off-kilter belief systems foster new communities online. The Web turns social alienation on its head, so that the marginalized come together in interesting ways, as with the case of Preppers and computer hackers.

At the same time, we would be naive if we did not acknowledge that governments, corporations and practically every major organization have not appreciated the value of the Web for propagandistic, marketing and political purposes over the past fifteen years. The 'Web' might become just that: a tight knot of social control. Part of that control may stem from our willingness to believe the unverifiable, the fantastic, the strange - even though right now, weirder online beliefs are associated with anti-establishment attitudes.

Most outlandish Web myths are just surreal popular entertainment. However, the more unsettling stories occupy grey areas and test our ability to verify fact and fiction.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Home Invasions: The Millennial Crime

Image Source: Tactical Life.

Today's post concerns a very post-Postmodern crime: the home invasion. Like the new, terrifying criminal who is a baffling, brutal and unstoppable force of nature in the Coen Brothers' 2007 film, No Country for Old Men, home invasion crosses lines which criminals of the past would not cross. Home invasion is a new type of ferocious act, committed by a new breed of criminal. It terrifies because it comes rampaging right to the last stronghold of security in a frightening world: the private dwelling, the final sanctum. This is a crime which shatters an already atomized order.

Image Source: Winnipeg Police Services.

Responses to this crime, like other unimaginable violations such as 2012's school or cinema shootings or the 2012 gang rape case in India, are politicized. But are the answers to a widening gap between the rich and the poor, tech-driven brutality, and an increase in savage crime simply political? Questions about these issues, surely, come from problems that are beyond politics.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who Can Stand and Dare to Dream?

I Dreamed of a Crocodile by Eyes-of-Sol. Image Source: Redbubble.

Check out this teaser for an epic fantasy novel, by writer D. Caldarelli aka Lorronzo. His work touches on the need to weaken ego to cope with changing times:

Challenge of the Seasons by D. Caldarelli

For every season there is a trial, and for every trial a hardship. Many do not pass such times, but many others do. So what is the trick? Do we take like the rocks, both stubborn and strong, and fight the seasons one by one? Do we take to the wisdom of the trees who mould to every change? Or the vast expanses of the timeless rivers? All have survived the age of seasons and are masters in their own ways, but none have truly mastered the might of the seasons. With time even the largest of rocks can crumble and break. A single tongue of flame can consume entire forests. And a dry age can devour the largest of rivers. So what hope do we mere specks of dust have to fight the struggle of the ever changing age of trials?

To survive the test of the seasons you must take to the wisdom of all the masters around you. You must unyielding, stubborn and strong like the rock. You must be wise and as adaptable as the tree. And you must flow as easy as the river. But more than this, you must adopt the greatest lesson life has to teach you, numbers. There is no I, only we. A rock that stands alone, as strong as it may be, will falter and chip away with time until it is but a grain. But together with the help of their brethren one rock can help to form a mountain, vast and immovable to stand against the test of time. Even the countless grains of sand that stand together can hold back the wrath of the thundering sea. A tree that stands alone falls alone to the harsh weather, but together they can form the greatest of forests, stretching as far as the eye can see, protecting each other in many ways. And though a single stream may thin and loose its way, when built with another a river can be forged. An alliance of power and might, standing against even the harshest of heats and strong enough to clear any obstacle that stands in its way. But it doesn't stop there. There are many masters in life that can teach us if we are willing to listen. My heart and ears are open, and my hand is held to you: my ally, my brethren, my friend.

-- © D. Caldarelli

"When Shadows hunt and nightmares scream, who can stand and dare to dream?" © D. Caldarelli

Hat tip: Youtube and dA.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time Management

Ozymandius in Watchmen. Image Source: Comic Vine.
From Comic Vine, on time, ego and morality:
"You don’t often get a character who is both the ultimate hero and villain of his piece. Ozymandias saves his world but, in doing so, becomes a terrible monster. In many ways this makes him the perfect statement about superheroes in the Post-Modern world. We don’t believe you can save the day without doing something horrible. Some will argue that the man has no personality, but his superiority complex, arrogance, and the weight he carries his decision with make him very real to me. Like Alexander the Great, he tries to unite the world with violence."

The Problem with Memory 6: Rashomon's Truth, Ego and Cyberethics

Rashomon (1950) film still. Image Source: A Potpourri of Vestiges.

If there is one mantra for good or ill of the new Millennium, it is that truth is relative and subjective. There is no better prescient illustration of this point than the great Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon (1950). The movie features different characters giving contradictory accounts of a rape and murder.

A Potpourri of Vestiges explains Rashomon's underlying revelation about the human psyche that any recollected 'truth' is a function of ego; this film concerns:
the unending desire of humans to placate their insatiable egos. This manipulation of facts has no limits and entirely depends upon the skill of imaginative improvisation of the individual along with his level of comfort at trickery. The ability to misinterpret comes naturally to the humans as an obvious tool to counter the adversities of life, and perhaps that's what makes it indispensable. As a direct consequence of contrivance, the concept of truth no longer remains universal but becomes rather subjective and a matter of individualistic perception. ... Rashomon is ingenious as its actual motive has nothing to do with the revelation of truth for verity is merely a matter of perception. On the contrary, Rashomon propounds to highlight the discrepancies among the different versions as a medium to depict the irrational complexities associated with the human psyche. Vintage Rashomon, such effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection in the modern day parlance is more commonly known as The Rashomon Effect.
With the film's bleak conclusion, there is no moral objective standpoint possible. Any perception of an objective moral standpoint is in fact subjective - and nearly infinitely variable and exploitable.  The only boundaries are those imposed by ego, when it cannot bear to fabricate perception of the truth past certain points.

In other words, truth (and any correlation truth may have to morality) jointly depend on the functioning spectrums of private egotisms.  Perhaps that observation applies to the evolution of Cyberethics. The expansion of social networks, and our engagement with the Web in general, depend largely on how much we are willing to let the Internet build our social identities and realities.

See my earlier posts on Kurosawa here and here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ego, Time and Digital Narcissisms

Gravitation © Jean-Pierre Alaux (1925-). Image Source: Surrealism and Visionary Art.

It is a sad comment on our times that one of today's greatest challenges is how to think and act without ego. Marketing depends on fake ego-building, and it permeates nearly everything that relates to consumption and perception and therefore, to consciousness. As one friend put it last week, "even the news reports are informercials now."  On social networks and elsewhere online, highly integrated personalized branding mobilizes our lives, our birthdays, and our friends from yesterday to deliver vast economic and political potential for new business interests. Our complacency and unconsidered vanities have made this so. Every Facebook page twists the formerly reasonable human activity of socializing into an ego broadcast. Twitter is the advertising stage for countless activists, hopeful e-novelists, gurus building their names on our well-being (or lack thereof), news-monger personalities, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, and bloggers with axes to grind ...

Prisonnière des glaces © Jean-Pierre Alaux. Image Source: AMAC.

It is the Cyber-Ego, whether it is trapped in the past, obsessed with the future, or narcissistically feeding of the present, which makes it so hard to concentrate. How do we detach the ego from the way we perceive ourselves moving through time? These two issues - ego and time - are commonly discussed separately in relation to the impact of the Technological Revolution on global cultures, but rarely as two, related concerns.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Time Lapses: Noah, Updated

Image Source: Noah Kalina via Fairspot.

Some of you will remember this post, about people who photograph themselves every day over several years and turn their efforts into Youtube videos chronicling facial and environmental changes. The pioneer in this respect was Gen Y photographer, Noah Kalina, who made the viral video, Everyday, cataloguing his life, starting in 2000 when he was 19 years old: see it here. You can see some of his other photographs here and here. Kalina is one of the first Internet celebrities: "VH1 named Noah #14 on their list of the Top 40 Internet Superstars of all time." As a result, he was asked to pose with some MSM celebrities, below. The photoshoot revealed something stubbornly unsettling and placid about the everyman who achieves Web microfame against the glitzy super-media figures who dominate our ads and movies. Kalina is engaging but he's disengaged. He's not paid to court the viewer, to sell something, to make you believe something. His mere existence is the media statement. That is a hard message for some to absorb.

Image Source: Noah Kalina via Fairspot.

In late 2012, Kalina updated his Everyday video to cover twelve and a half years of his life. As this (still ongoing) video piece gets longer, it is takes on an eerie quality (also evident in the music Kalina chose for the longer video). This new feel is at odds with the initial 6-year time lapse video which reflected an optimism about computers' impact on our lives. The longer video has inspired plenty of Youtube comments, because right around the half way point, Noah's face begins to change dramatically in his mid-late twenties.

Some people, true to Netizens' disbelief in reality, believe that Kalina manufactured the video with Photoshop. Others find Kalina's tech-captured ageing process to be frightening and depressing, since it so obviously contradicts the seamless, glossy, Photoshopped, marketing-driven imagery of models, celebrities and politicians which they are used to seeing. This shows how divorced we are becoming from accepting ageing as essential to, and acceptable in, life. Kalina shows that technology is a two-edged sword. Tech Reality versus Tech Perfection!

That said, Kalina's surroundings do appear to get darker and darker, as does his aspect. There was a lot of interest from Youtubers in the girl who peeks over his shoulder, somewhere between 6:00 and 6:09, although you can't find her in the screen-by-screen stop motion. The dark atmosphere, obscure lighting and dramatically altering contexts make it look like Kalina's life took a Lynchian turn over the past six years. Someone has even sped up the video, condensing it from seven minutes to one, which intensifies the effect.

Comments from Youtube:
  • The original viral video. I remember it was on the news because it got 1 million hits in less than 24 hours...
  • it is one of the gold of youtube videos.
  • he started taking photos before I was born, and here I am now, watching his project develop. This is crazy man. crazy.
  • How old is this guy?
  • He's 32. Born July 4, 1980.
  • l['ll] go with your answer. Some guy told me he was 56, but he doesn't look THAT old. :/
  • At a certain point you start to realize you're just watching a man die...
  • Or watching a man live?
  • genius noah. to me it says, life goes by fast, so do something with it. freaking, love this.
  • this vid just shows how fast time flys
  • This gets pretty frightening and powerful in the second half. I think I need to take some time think about how I'm spending my life...
  • yes it's impressive and scary watching this, realizing how quickly our time flies. BUT we can't change that, so don't count the days, make the days count! :P
  • Dude 12.5 years i feel like i have known you for so long were like best friends now
  • 12.5 years in 8 minutes :) Nice
  • 4,563 Bad Hair days
  • It takes a long time to become Zach Galifiankis
  • Weird how everything moves but his face is always in same position
  • he loves that yellow jumper
  • 12.5 years- 1 facial expression
  • this is AWESOME! but can he smile?
  • Someday, Noah. Someday you'll smile.
  • if i were him i would have 1 smile out of all those photos just so we can try to find it
  • 3:38 onwards, the things in the background looks friggin' awesome!
  • I don't know if anyone noticed but starting at around 3:40 Noah start gathering the bitches yo!
  • interesting to watch the furniture behind as well when you get a few minutes in....
  • No[a]h, what happend in your life after 5th minute of video? I think from 5:16 you changed a lot, your eyes changed really a lot, was something happen[e]d at that time?
  • 5:20 he stopped shaving,must've had a serious break up
  • You could tell when the economy started to fall, LOL...
  • A lot of things have changad over this 13 years but this guy is one of the best representations.
  • The music makes this video incredibly morbid and horrifying. Well done
  • the music is going to give me nightmares.
  • I never realized how creepy this was until I saw it without the Carly Comando piano in the background.
  • The music got scary when he got freckles
  • He got freckles... then they left!
  • ha yea, I noticed that, he must have taken up jogging outside as a hobby or something then got lazy and quit, lol.
  • go through the numbers 1 to 9, he gets sadder and sadder
  • Pause it and press 1 and 9 a few times to get the scope of this thing
  • holy fuck the beard bit makes you trip
  • It looks like you became an outdoors type of guy for some time. Flannel shirts and a full beard finally. If you continue this, please smile once in a while.
  • i like watching his beard grow then boop then its back 4 pics later
  • not gonna lie your hair was hilarious moving like it was in the wind constantly haha.. i love how you kept growing your beard then cutting the hair off a few days later like NOPE NOT GOOD ENOUGH - then you grow a gross homeless beard. Come on dude. The photos are the proof.
  • Slightly addicted to watching his beard grow and disappear
  • I like the 20-30 false starts on the beard before the final commitment. I wonder what was going on there. Was he thinking about the video, or were the external forces at play.
  • Lol at the end I just started waiting to see how long his beard would get before he finally shaved it off
  • I like how when you started, you'd shave like once a week, just to get that tiny stub of hair under your lip, then you grew it out and shaved it as soon as it was full for like a year and a half, until finally "Fuck it I'll keep it." When you first grew it out it looks like you neglected to trim it. Stop trimming for 1 year.
  • 6:09 - Creepy face behind him?
  • There's a girl at 6.09 !!
  • Neat video... I've always wondered what it would be like to watch someone turn into a serial killer... I'm just kidding... But the music did get pretty intense....
  • The original was inspirational. This is serial killer documenting his days.
  • oh no, im sad, hes getting old :'(
  • He aged quite a bit!
  • OMG doesnt he get old??!!
  • this is pretty sad and scary
  • this was kinda depressing... o_o
  • saddest video on youtoo
  • :( this is sad
  • For some reason after watching this i feel upset ;'( ...
  • he reminded me how life suck
  • Really creepy.
  • What's incredible when you think about it is that the human body cells are completely replaced in about the space of 10 years... Meaning the Noah we saw at the start of the video no longer was the same Noah we saw at the end...
  • Noah, thanks for this vid & sharing your soulful eyes. This vid is a reminder of how our soul never changes. -- You know how it feels when you look in the mirror and you still feel like you're still at a younger age? THIS feeling is real - its the unaging, timeless soul within us all. :)
  • Anyone else feel like he's starting into your soul
  • This man now owns over 4 million souls...
  • Dude...you've changed (shake of the head)
  • wow you look totally different, how old were you when you started? And how many places did you live? just curious.
  • i feel like i just stepped out of the twilight zone
  • he has nice eyes though.
  • Those eyes...I just...it's like as I'm watching this...and he's staring into my soul, saying, "Who am I? Help me...help me...help me...who am I?" and he just won't stop. I feel like I'm almost going insane. Like, I seriously need to take a break right now, I'm legitimately freaked out. And the music didn't help either.
  • that is really scary had a staring contest for 12.5 years and he won! XP
  • Hey man, I remember watching when you put this up back in 2006. Good job on keeping it going :)
  • Love it.thats devotion
  • I tried to start something like this but just didn't find I had the dedication. Really appreciate that someone has that ability. It's fascinating watching the changes. Well done.
  • congratulations Noah,it takes a lot of patience and will to produce something as awesome as this video,keep up the good work
  • Nobody should criticize this because this kind of video requires many years of patience to do and the result is, I must say, very hypnotic. What we see is the "cycle of life". What if this man has courage to go on this video till the end of his life ?
  • wow.. what a great video... its... better than a the most movies. i'm speechless. Well done.
  • Prob[ab]ly the coolest video on the Internet
  • this tells a better story than most modern books or movies
  • nice photoshop, 100% unreal. look at this eyes and mouth
  • I like how Noah has only two videos on his channel yet youtube prompts you to subscribe... new content every 6 - 6.5 years? Yeah I'll just check back in 2018.
  • See you on 2018 ?
  • se[e] you in 2020? ;P happy years Noah see your new video in 2019 or 2020.
  • El inexorable paso del tiempo que marchita nuestra existencia...
See the video below the jump.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Meet the Memes

The Bad Luck Brian template. Images Source: Know Your Meme.

Imagine if some random photo of you off Facebook or another social networking platform went viral, and for 12-18 months of memelife, you became a world famous archetype.

Have you ever had someone snap a bad photo of you and post it online without asking? Have you posted your high school picture on Classmates.com?  Have you posted your baby's photograph on a chat forum? Ever joined a dating site? Put real photos of yourself on Twitter? Then you, too, could stumble upon the nightmare of microfame. And there is no such thing, as one meme subject put it, as a meme support group. A good example: on 23 January 2012, a meme on Reddit started called Bad luck Brian:
Bad Luck Brian is an image macro series featuring a photo of a blonde teenage boy wearing a plaid sweater vest and braces, accompanied by captions that describe a variety of embarrassing and tragic occurrences. ... On April 11th, 2012, a Redditor claiming to be Bad Luck Brian attempted to do an AMA thread in the Ask Me Anything subreddit, but the thread was removed. The moderator who removed the post left a lengthy comment explaining why, which received more than 35,000 downvotes, making it one of the most downvoted comments on Reddit of all time. Redditor coyotecarl came back on May 8th with an AMA thread on the Advice Animals subreddit. The post received 24,722 upvotes and 2017 points overall. ... During the thread, he revealed his name is Kyle and the photo was taken as his ... school photo, but the principal made him take it over again because he was under the impression Kyle was making the face on purpose.
IRL, Kyle sports the same dumbass grin that made him famous.

Uproxx posts the best parts of Kyle's questions and answers session on what it's like to become a world famous meme.