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, October 25, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Lake Natron

Lake Natron, a body of water in northern Tanzania can be deadly due to its high salt content and proximity to an active volcano, known among the Maasai people as the 'Mountain of God.' Local legend has it that when the volcano erupts, god is walking the earth. The volcano's proximity to the dead lake fits, since volcanoes are mythically considered doorways to the Underworld or hell. Indeed, Lake Natron looks like a toxic pool out of a fairy tale, the dead marsh a hero would cross before he might enter a dark kingdom. At its deepest point, the lake is just under ten feet deep, and is surrounded by the calcified bodies of creatures unfortunate enough to get trapped there. The process which preserves them resembles that of ancient Egyptian mummification (Images Sources: HuffPo, Viral Maze, Nick Brandt).

A calm eruption from the great volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai or 'Mountain of God' near Lake Natron. Image Source: Geological Sciences.

The photos here of frozen bodies went viral on the Internet, supposedly depicting a lake of death which instantly turns to stone all creatures that touch it. The peculiar ecosystem actually favours flamingos. Photographer Nick Brandt placed dead creatures around the lake's shoreline in 'living' poses; his photos are artfully faked poses of corpses. The Mary Sue:
No one is disputing that Natron is a dangerous place for most species, of course. As the New Scientist says, the lake can reach temperatures up to 60 °C and has an alkalinity between pH 9 and pH 10.5 ... [and] can ... burn the skin and eyes of animals who aren’t adapted to it. It also does preserve many of these animals’ bodies, specifically due to the combination of chemicals that are deposited into the water via runoff from a nearby Great Rift Valley volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.
Unfortunately, the nuances of this lake’s ecosystem seem to escape many a casual observer, and what people appear to be taking away from most coverage is this: that there’s a lake in Africa that kills literally every creature that comes near it (which is false), and that it’s capable of killing those creatures instantly by turning them to actual stone (which is also false).
... [T]he preservation process is not something that happens instantaneously — it happens over a much longer period of time. Though the photos taken by Nick Brandt depict the petrified birds on perches and in naturalistic poses as if they were just petrified, they are all entirely staged. Brandt said as much in an e-mail to NBC news: “I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania[... .] I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life.’”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Through the Cat's Eye

.Gif Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

If Dogecoin is anything to go by, dogs are the new cats of the Internet, except in October, when cats are the cats of the Internet.

Cats are prominent in stories in which human and animal senses overlap. The cat symbolizes an unaccountable metamorphosis from animal to human and back again, and is often used as a metaphor for the transition from wilderness to civilization and the precariousness of civilization. The symbol of that transition must be ancient, because the earliest known example of domesticated felines dates from 9,500 years ago.

Bakeneko are Japan's feline answer to werewolves: "Bakeneko prostitutes [who could take near-human form] were a common urban legend / folklore during the Edo period." Image Source: 百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Among the Japanese yōkai, or supernatural creatures, one finds the demonic bakeneko (化け猫, "changed cat"). The bakeneko symbolizes this transition from wilderness to civilization because, as Wiki puts it,
"Cats in particular ... have acquired a great number of tales and superstitions surrounding them, due to the unique position they occupy between nature and civilization. As cities and towns were established and humans began living farther apart from nature, cats came with them. Since cats live close to humans yet retain their wild essence and air of mystery, stories grew up around them, and gradually the image of the bakeneko was formed."

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Sasquatch Screams in the Forest

Trailcam, probably bovine, but found on a sasquatch site. Image Source: Bigfoot Hunt.

I don't believe in sasquatches, but I don't go camping in distant woods with recording equipment, either. Lots of people do; bigfoot is big business. The cryptid primate is also attracting the attention of big science. Finding another great primate species is not inconceivable, as this 2004 report on a newly-discovered species of giant, 2-metre-high chimpanzees from the Congo testifies. The Royal Society went so far this year as to do DNA testing on what might be bigfoot hair samples. You can see the July 2014 publication on their results here. Their oddest finding was that one of their hair samples came from an extinct polar bear:
"Sequences derived from hair sample nos. 25025 and 25191 had a 100% match with DNA recovered from a Pleistocene fossil more than 40 000 BP of U. maritimus (polar bear) but not to modern examples of the species."
They concluded that some hair from the Himalayas came not from a yeti, but from a "previously unrecognized bear species." The study further remarked that the samples presented simply did not come from any unknown primate:
With the exception of these two samples, none of the submitted and analysed hairs samples returned a sequence that could not be matched with an extant mammalian species, often a domesticate. While it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support. Rather than persisting in the view that they have been ‘rejected by science’, advocates in the cryptozoology community have more work to do in order to produce convincing evidence for anomalous primates and now have the means to do so. The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims.
For recent BFRO bigfoot encounter records in North America, go here. For 2014 news reports on bigfoot sightings, go here, here, here and here.

Bigfoot videos also spawn hybrids with Millennial media genres: the law enforcement dashcam video (closer look here); the 911 call; the outdoors adventure TV show video; trail cams (see also here, here and here); tourist footage (shows the comic ingenuity of a British Columbian town when gophers and Bighorn Sheep just weren't cutting it in terms of bringing in Chinese tourists); community TV shows; and the paranormal research teams with night vision equipment. There is of course no real 'found footage,' but 2013's film Willow Creek filled that gap.

Purported audio recordings of sasquatches (listen to them here) are more frightening than faked photographs of people loping around the bush in ape suits. Sasquatch Canada has an account from a witness who heard screams in the British Columbian forest:
Man Recalls Experience He Had in July 1998, Near Hope B.C., [Canada] 2:30 a.m.
I was I think maybe 17-18 years old. Myself and two friends were walking up Kawkawa Lake road, from first beach (where I lived), to second beach(where my buddy lived). It's important to me that you know I WAS quite drunk, and moderately stoned at the time(My parents had left me at home alone for a week for the first time). Anyway, it was about 2:30AM and we were making our way up the hill. We were hooting and hollering quite loudly as 3 drunk 17 year olds are want to do, being pretty immature. We came to a point where the road forks; the right takes you towards the Othello Tunnels and the Coquihalla highway via back roads and trails, and the other carries on towards second beach. On the left was a rocky bluff covered in trees and on the other side of the bluff would be Kawkawa Lake. We were just coming up on the bluff when the night was ripped apart by a scream/shout/growl the likes of which I had never heard before, or since. It was primal and it ranged from a deep roar to a high pitched screaming. It was like king cong, roy orbison and axle rose screaming in rage but SO LOUD. The vocal range was stunning. You felt it in your bones. I feel it is really important to tell you how overwhelming to the senses the sounds was. Anyway the trees on the bluff(cedar I believe), began to rock and shake like they were made of paper mache'. These were not small trees, but branches and needles were raining down on us and the road. Have you ever heard the expression "scared sober"? I am not at all ashamed to tell you that I lost some control of my bowels, I was so scared. The whole thing was certainly no more than 2 minutes, but probably less than that. I am old enough to know that time does funny things to your memory. I have never forgotten that incident. As time goes on I feel more and more strongly that it was a sasquatch I witnessed that night. I am open to suggestion as to what else could have made such a sound, and caused large trees to shake. I have heard suggestions of bear, but I doubt it. It was very dark and there were not many streetlights back then on that road. I strongly suspect that our "hooting and hollering" caused something to give us a strong warning to piss off.
Youtube proves that sasquatches become something else on the Internet, whatever they may or may not be in reality. Bigfoot is a centre of online community building. This is true in general: the weirder the draw, the more enjoyable (at least initially) the community can become for its sheer craziness. People love congregating around insane bullshit. Take this excerpt from a 'squatch' argument, where online squatch authorities battle with skeptics:
  • "That's a really big load of BS you just dumped on us. I've never seen a dead chimp, therefor I have no alternative accept to believe you when you say you know where the sasquatch cemetery is? BTW, nothing says loser quite so much as using the term 'squatch.'"
  • "Sick of fucking morons commenting on Sasquatch related videos. Do a fuck load of research lime I have then come back ,and I'll respect your opinions more. And saying squatch says I'm a loser does it? And why is that? Please do tell. I'm all ears. Nothing says loser more than a comment lime yours. Listen to every damn episode of Bigfoot hotspot radio on here. That's your first task. Especially the episode with coombo. Particularly EPs 18 to 35."
  • "Thanks for the suggestions, but I prefer a reality based life."
  • "'A park ranger saw a burial happening through his binoculars the day after a big squatch was shot by a camper'  what's your source?  The Weekly World News?"
  • "It is reality. Just a part of reality you yourself haven't witnessed yet. Spend a few weeks on a Sasquatch hotspot at the right time of year then come back here. Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean thousands of other people haven't. You think you know everything about this planet. Think again."
  • "Thousands of 'new' species are discovered each year in jungles, wildernesses, deep forests etc. Did they exist before they were 'discovered' by humans? Even if you only count the land which is able to support humanoid life (ie don't include deserts, ice caps etc) then humans still only occupy HALF the habitable land on earth. 6 billion humans live on half the land on earth. The rest is still wilderness. And most of that land has never even been foot surveyed by humans because it is just too impenetrable. If you cannot drive a car or ride a horse through dense woods or rough terrain then you cannot carry food/ water or equipment. So you must walk. That means you cannot go more than a few miles - especially if you have to machete your way through thick bush which is slow and exhausting work. This means there are millions of acres that are effectively free of humans. And that is where most of the bigfoots live. A few stray close to human settlements and that is when they get filmed. Is it not conceivable that a few hundred thousand or even a few million bigfoots might exist in all that untouched land?"
  • "'It is reality.' No. It is fantasy. "Just a part of reality you yourself haven't witnessed yet.' Neither has anyone else. 'Spend a few weeks on a Sasquatch hotspot at the right time of year then come back here.' And perhaps eat some of the local wild mushrooms? ... 'Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean thousands of other people haven't.' That's true. But just because thousands of people THINK they have seen something, (or merely claim they did) does not mean that they really saw what they think."
The dynamic is similar to online communities everywhere; a pecking order depends upon the duration and intensity of the member's communal involvement. You have to do your time in the trenches, or you can forget about being respected. At this point, these people could be talking about anything, from nuclear warheads, to terrorism, financial investment, corporate takeovers, cryptocurrencies, football, video games, space aliens or leprechauns. It really doesn't matter. The real, human action lies in the development of the community, not in discovering the true nature of sasquatches. And so, the more popular Bigfoot becomes, and the more humans congregate around Bigfoot, the more the elusive cryptid remains a complete mystery.