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, March 22, 2014

Gilgamesh Amateur

Meanwhile, on Amazon.com ... Image Source: Assyrian International News Agency.

On Amazon, someone gave the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known epic, one star. This was not one star for the quality of the translation in the Penguin Classics edition. It was one star for the story, because, as the reviewer put it, the epic was too "clichéed." The reviewer had seen it all before! And the epic's author, whoever he was, was trying to "do too much." Amazon:
I found it cliched and with many references that have not aged well. It is very derivative and employs most of the generic stock events from B-grade paperbacks. Also, most of the jokes will be lost on readers, as they refer to events that long ago passed into the historical record. However, probably the novel's biggest problem is its attempt to do 'too much'. A lot like the recent film Clash of the Titans, the author appears to have relied on introducing sensational mythical creatures in place of a well-fleshed-out storyline that engages with the modern reader.
That's the turn of the Millennium for you, when people who don't understand the direction of history think that original source works of world culture are "derivative." The reviewer is dimly aware that the epic is an 'old' work, but doesn't seem to understand that the Clash of the Titans movie, released in 2010, is not on par with The Epic of Gilgamesh, either artistically or chronologically. This is not about a Jungian eternal repetition of mythical archetypes. This is not about the theory of time, where history is an artificially-conceived flow and all times are equal. This is about a genuine inability to recognize the origins of culture as we have experienced it.

The reviewer wrote the review right under the Penguin blurb, which states:
Originally the work of an anonymous Babylonian poet who lived more than 3,700 years ago, The Epic of Gilgamesh tells of the heroic exploits of the ruler of the walled city of Uruk. Not content with the immortality conveyed by the renown of his great deeds, Gilgamesh journeys to the ends of the earth and beyond in his search for eternal life, encountering the wise man Uta-napishti, who relates the story of a great flood that swept the earth. This episode and several others in the epic anticipate stories in the Bible and in Homer, to the great interest of biblical and classical scholars. Told with intense feeling and imagination, this masterful tale of love and friendship, duty and death, is more than an object of scholarly concern; it is a vital rendering of universal themes that resonate across the ages and is considered the world's first truly great work of literature.
The epic dates from the 18th century BCE and its source stories are probably older. You can read it online for free here.

The review is one of the Internet's unexpected fruits: the surprise of vast ignorance in a sea of knowledge, information and pure data. And this is not the ignorance of someone who could not be bothered to look up the Wikipedia entry. The information was right there, on the same page.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome 2014's Spring Equinox

Snap from a mid-January 2014 storm. Image Source: The Weather Network.

Today is the spring equinox (11:02 UTC) in the northern hemisphere, and the start of autumn in the southern hemisphere.

This winter in North America has been ghastly. It came early; it's leaving late. The continent has been sitting under something called the polar vortex (a polar cyclone) for months. The vortex dipped unusually far south, set records for storms and snowfall. It closed down the city of Atlanta. Winnipeg, a city renowned for cold temperatures, is having the worst winter in 75 years: in early March, hundreds of people went without water as the frost reached past the seven foot mark where water pipes are buried. Parts of the UK were flooded. People across Canada, the USA, the UK and Europe are having difficulty paying for heating fuel; see reports here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Some observers blame human-induced climate change and global warming for this weather; this winter's extremes may also be due to a natural Arctic weather oscillation, explained in this post.

Several large weather events were so unusual as to deserve their own Wiki entries and news reports:
Niagara Falls park, NY state, USA (7 January 2014). Image Source: Times Colonist.

Niagara Falls froze in January 2014. Image Source: Reuters via The Express.

Thus, we are very happy in the northern hemisphere to mark the turn of the seasons: below the jump, see some futuristic landscape architecture by Charles Jencks. All photographs are from My Modern Met, which interviewed Jencks about his sources of inspiration:
Jencks has made a name for himself in the field of landscape architecture. Because he's inspired by such far-reaching ideas as fractals, genetics, chaos theory, and waves, one can't help but think deeply about each work. As he says, "To see the world in a Grain of Sand, the poetic insight of William Blake, is to find relationships between the big and small, science and spirituality, the universe and the landscape. This cosmic setting provides the narrative for my content-driven work, the writing and design. I explore metaphors that underlie both growing nature and the laws of nature, parallels that root us personally in the cosmos as firmly as a plant, even while our mind escapes this home."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wonders of the Millennial World 7: New Millennial Humanism

Image Source: The Pictorial Arts.

Some of you may remember this interview at HOTTC about Thom Buchanan's new magazine, The Pictorial Arts Journal. The interview coincided with the release of a sampler or preview issue of the magazine, which grew out of Buchanan's blog, The Pictorial Arts. The magazine allows longer articles and deeper explorations than the blog. In this larger project, Buchanan, and other artists, designers, illustrators and writers seek to define new humanist values.

It's so easy to concentrate on dystopias, but this is a positive and nuanced understanding of our times, a search for the wonders of the Millennial world. Thom's project is a reminder of what the Web was supposed to be about. From its inception, the Web was supposed to be the home of unfettered grassroots creativity. The Pictorial Arts blog and magazine remind me of one of the most innovative sites I ever saw on the Web in its earliest days (until Mac Tonnies came along with Posthuman Blues). That early site was called The Strip. I will never forget The Strip or Posthuman Blues - or more recent projects like Kate Sherrod's Suppertime Sonnets, Paul Laroquod's Extratemporal Perception, and Dia Sobin's Trans-D Digital art blog. These people express what the Web is supposed to be about. It is not supposed to be about Facebook, Anonymous and the NSA.

Today, Thom announced a new Kickstarter campaign to support the launch of the magazine's first issue:
I have 28 days to raise the needed funds to publish the premiere issue of PAJ. I will be posting pictorial updates with developing details along the way.
See the promotional video below the jump. The promo widget will be up in the sidebar here while the Kickstarter campaign runs. The smallest donation is USD $1 for this amazing new project. If you contribute at the higher levels, check out the Kickstarter page for some of the bonus prints you can get along with the magazine.

Image Source: Kickstarter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Smartphone Brain Scanners

Image Source: emotiv.

In the never-ending quest to quantify reality and generate dubious data sets, we come to the invention of smartphone brain scanners. Real time brain-mapping Emotiv EEG was created in 2011 by researchers at the Technical University of Denmark. Billed as "holding your brain in the palm of your hand," this app demonstrates how Millennial technology puts the cart before the horse, curiously reversing the normal understanding of how we function. Computers are creating the illusion that everything can be understood by being measured and instrumentalized before we consider any other factors: the hand drives the mind, rather than the other way around. This makes us unreflective puppets of concepts such as 'usability.' Make something or do something because we can; build apps around that capability; worry later about what it all means or what it will do to us.

The current applications of this technology relate to medical research. But the tech's inventors are confident that the app will be widely applied for other reasons. From Science Nordic:
Initially, the researchers will use the mobile system for research purposes, but one day this type of small brain scanner will perhaps be something that everyone has.
“There’s a trend at the moment to measure oneself more and more,” says Larsen. “An everyday example is the Runkeeper app for the iPhone, which measures the user’s running and walking trips. There will be more and more of this type of sensor, which you can wear on your body and connect to your mobile phone, so you can see the data that’s collected.”
Jakob Eg Larsen suggests where a mobile brain scanner can be useful: “If you’re about to doze off, you can actually see this from an EEG signal. If you’re driving a car or if you’re a long-distance lorry driver, then you could have this mobile equipment with you and you could have a system that warns you if you’re about to fall sleep.
The tech is open source. Originally out on the Nokia N900, a subsequent variation of the design was made for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. An iPhone app, Mynd, uses similar technology. Think of the potentials for marketing! Below the jump, a demo video shows that several sets can be worn in social situations and people can observe each other's brains as they interact with one another.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bitcoin's Origins: Generational Circumstances and Mentalities

Image Source and © Scenes from a Multiverse (27 December 2013).

Today's post explains the origins of cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin's alarming headlines. Under what circumstances was Bitcoin conceived? What do its proponents believe? And why do they think they are ahead of the curve?

This post does not deal with Satoshi Nakamoto's founding Bitcoin white paper, so much as its context. To understand the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is to understand the perspective of younger generations - X and Y - coming out of the Great Recession. They reacted to this crisis in a most unexpected and radical way, by developing a whole new digitized financial system. This post reveals Bitcoin in terms of how its users see it, and is part of a continuing series on this blog on the pros and cons of cryptocurrencies.

What follows is an observation of a series of trends which contributed to the way younger cryptocurrency enthusiasts look at Bitcoin. While this post looks at positive aspects of this technology - as seen by its supporters - a future post will deal with its problems, other perspectives, and Bitcoin's theoretical challenges to the system of western economics.

Companions Dream of Home

All images © Sarolta Bán.

Yahoo reports on a photo-allegory project dedicated this month to finding homes for homeless pets in many countries: 
Self-taught Hungarian photographer Sarolta Bán is best known for her surreal landscapes, which have been displayed in galleries across Europe. She creates dreamlike scenes, often populated by magical beasts, with photo manipulation software, and tells Yahoo Shine that she sometimes layers as many as 100 individual images to create a final product. She says she doesn't title her images so people can use their own imaginations to find personal meanings in each picture. Bán recently started using her skills to help real-life abandoned animals around the world find homes. She invited her more than 100,000 Facebook fans to submit photos of homeless pets, and she is transforming them into evocative, majestic portraits. Bán has received dozens of photos from Spain, Argentina, India, France, Hungary, and the United States in the two weeks since she posted the invitation and expects to get many more after she reaches out to shelters. "Abandoned dogs sadly have really few chances to appear on a photo that will help them get out of the shelter... [one] that stands out from the crowd, and 'speaks' to a person," she writes on the project page. ... The project ends in mid-April, and anyone who adopts one of the dogs or cats will receive a signed portrait of the new pet.