TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

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.



Showing posts with label Batman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Batman. Show all posts

Sunday, November 10, 2019

New Post at The Dragonfly: The Joker as a Third Way Villain


Image Source: The Independent.

I have a new post up at The Dragonfly:

The Joker as a Third Way Villain

The post considers how psychologists replaced priests and why negative depictions of mental illness have supplanted demonology. This year's Joker film attempts to build on modern views of mental illness by reconciling rational and emotional aspects of villainy.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Your Friends, The Dark Overlord


If you want to see the Dark Overlord files, go here. Image Source: Time.

A group called the Dark Overlord claimed responsibility for the 2017 Netflix hacks. They have also lately hacked London Bridge plastic surgery clinic and released celebrities' medical files onto the Web. On 31 December 2018, they rang in the New Year with the announcement that they had breached a law firm and stolen 10 Gigabytes (18,000 documents) of legal papers, video, and audio files relating to 9/11 insurance claims with Hiscox Group. The trolls at 4chan were unimpressed:
"Q: who did 9/11 in your opinion based on the docs?

A: We don't really give a fuck. We want internet money.

We've already released a select few documents to serve as proof of our claims. We're about to change the fucking world. Edward Snowden's NSA leak will be pale in comparison."
And:
"We are all broke and also we don't feel like going to jail as we are all just 16yo virgin keyboard worriers. How come you couldn't find someone to give you a suitcase of money?"
And:
"Q: Hi, thedarkoverlord, Have you considered that information may well be used crash the monetary system you hope to be compensated in?

A: Fantastic question, mate. We're not concerned about that as we receive our payments only in internet money like Bitcoin. The monetary crash will be your problem. We always advise our clients to diversify and acquire different convertible currencies."
Some trolls were less skeptical. After viewing the document below, which was released on 4chan, one noted that 'Iron Mountain' documents had been shredded:
"HEY GUYS THIS IS SOMETHING!!!!

Flight 93 was shot down by National Guard because it was heading to Iron mountain, a military base.

Shredding documents related to that seems like a crime/treason!"


In fact, Iron Mountain is a Boston-based data management company; their history is here. But the company has also partnered with the US government and maintains an underground data storage facility called Iron Mountain in Pennsylvania, USA. They have a staff of 2,700 and they do hold Flight 93 evidence.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Awaken the Amnesiacs 11: Depart from the Camera Obscura


A natural instance of a camera obscura: an image of the New Royal Palace at Prague Castle projected onto an attic wall by a hole in the tile roofing (2 August 2011). Image Source: Gampe/Wiki.

For this weekend's solstice, the blog journeys into the darkness, the blind spot. Try this experiment. If you are left or liberal, try watching or reading conservative news and alt-media for a week. If you are conservative or libertarian, force yourself to listen to or read liberal-left media for a week.

The holidays are a good time to do this, when many people encounter friends and family they haven't seen in awhile, and have conversations which reveal uncomfortable political differences. Have compassion for your fellow human beings at holiday dinner tables, because we are all equally hammered by divisive and misleading propaganda.

If you follow the 'wrong' politicized narrative for a few days, you will notice that people are being fed the exact same story with which you may be familiar, but the players are changed.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Awaken the Amnesiacs 9: A True Mirror of a Better World



The preface to this post is a new piece I have published at Vocal Media:


Part of my series, Awaken the Amnesiacs, involves coming to terms with life in a surveillance state, where privacy has been lost. My earlier post, Reflection Reversal, introduced the idea that computer screens and monitors act like mirrors which turn viewers into objects, rather than subjects.

The core of this idea is the fact that we think we are in control of technology. Tools are objects and we are subjects. Right? We think we are using computers to empower and express ourselves. But there is a warning sign in our addiction to technology.

Our technology is constantly subliminally objectifying us, enslaving us, and siphoning off our energy. This unconscious inversion of individual integrity is creating underlying cognitive dissonance, tension, anxiety, and stress. As a result, we are absolutely convinced that 'something is wrong' with the whole world. There is endless harping, conflict and confusion over 'who is to blame' for this grating distress. It never occurs to us that 'what is wrong' is the lens we are using to view reality, not reality itself, nor the people [insert annoying/threatening group here] who bother us.

Thus, part of resolving 'what is wrong' with the world is not to: ramp up our attacks on the annoying people who bother us; or to withdraw into depressive, individual introspection; or to get lost in wacky spiritual practices or cults; or to become engrossed in conspiracy theories as a comforting alt-reality; or to lose yourself in virtual reality environments like Facebook or video games; or to heal what is wrong by self-sacrificing to aid the world and help others; or to immerse yourself  completely in the real world, like work, job, bank account, and hard, cold facts no matter what ...

Part of resolving 'what is wrong' with the world involves reconsidering the art of perception and self-perception in the turbulent times of the nascent surveillance state.

So how should we define ourselves? As we see ourselves, as others see us, or as technology sees us? The conventional self-help wisdom these days is to define ourselves from the inside out, not the outside in. We are counseled to know ourselves, and to go forth in the world in an authentic and grounded way.

The Limits of Consciousness

Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth (18 July 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Good luck with that! Before you can get past the social contract, the job, the expectations, the cv - before you can tame your ego and become a soulful human being through internal consciousness and then try to awaken beyond consciousness - and before you can even get to the fact that computers are constantly undermining that process - there is another problem.

Consciousness -- the final frontier | Dada Gunamuktananda | TEDxNoosa 2014 (16 April 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

The True Mirror

We almost never see ourselves accurately, at least physically. Because we primarily have used mirrors to see ourselves, we do not see ourselves correctly, nor do we know how others see us.

Robbie Burns Day just passed, and the great Scottish poet wrote in his 1786 poem, To a Louse:
"in the original Scottish, 'O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!' Or, in modern English, 'Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.'"

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pedogate: Spin and Victimhood


On 18 February 2017, a mansion on Turkey Run Road in McLean, Virginia, USA burned down. Conspiracy theorists assumed that this fire related to their theory of Washington's corrupt establishment, and involved the destruction of child abuse evidence. News sources reported that the mansion was owned by the United Arab Emirates and the people who lived in the house escaped unharmed. Image Source: WUSA-9.

We live in a hybrid condition, between past and future, between the 20th century and the 21st. In this hybrid condition, we see a number of problems: systemic corruption; taboo ideas and extremist language ramp up the energy of discourse; increasing efforts to use technology to impose control in old ways. This leads straight to totalitarianism, the very thing everyone claims they want to avoid.

The only antidote, the only possibility of recovering balance, would be to lay down ideological arms, step back from left-right arguments, and express compassion for those of opposing views and situations. Almost no one seems ready to do that.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A 1930s' Revival


Image Source: New York Post.

I hoped for a respite from the political nightmare, but that is not happening. Instead, there is a chilling déjà vu of the 1930s. Hillary Clinton launched the 'resistance.' Donald Trump's national security leak to the Russians has an Israeli source; the scandal damages his presidency. The leak endangers a spy who is working inside ISIS and who provided information which led to the laptop ban on airplane flights.

The alt-media are discussing the Seth Rich murder case because it challenges the Democrats' narrative that the Russians hacked the US election. A private investigator and federal investigator came forward to maintain that Rich was WikiLeaks' source of Democrats' e-mails. Contrary to the claims of Rich's family, the alt-media think DNC leaders murdered Rich for leaking 44,053 DNC e-mails to Julian Assange via the hacker Guccifer 2.0. Even the alt-right do not trust this trail of information, yet they conclude that the source which compromised Clinton's electoral campaign was not Russian. Rich's laptop, which could confirm his connection to WikiLeaks, is held by the FBI; his murder is unsolved. This story is dismissed as a right-wing conspiracy theory to draw attention away from Trump's intelligence leak.

The alt-media point to a Podesta e-mail, which states that a warning example should be made of a "suspected leaker." The dates do not line up to support the conspiracy theory: Podesta's e-mail dates from February 2015. WikiLeaksDNC material covers January 2015 to May 2016. Rich was murdered in July 2016. The alt-media further argue that the murder was covered up by the Chief of Washington, DC police at the request of the mayor and the DNC. It sounds like Gotham City!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mind and Government, Terror and Ideology: Reframed


1907 photograph of an 1872 Leon Berger model guillotine, stored with its body basket. The photograph was reproduced by someone who currently makes historic replicas of guillotines. There had to be someone out there doing this. Oddly, there is more than one. Some people make mini-guillotines as a side hobby. The 1792 French Revolution guillotine mini-model plans are offered to aspiring carpenters on the Internet for USD $38, here. The finished mini-model (perfect for your back yard?) is here; the full-sized 1792 model, five times larger, built from the same plans for a Belgian museum, is here. Image Source: Bois de Justice.

This post was written before the terrorist attacks in Nice (14 July 2016) and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray (26 July 2016). With regard to those attacks, no disrespect is intended in discussing today's anniversary of the end of the Terror during the French Revolution. To be clear, although this analysis runs up to the present, it does not source radical Islamic terrorism in the western political system. I would argue that jihadism has its own specific origins, although it ironically mirrors as nemesis a western concern with the relationship between fear and control in psychology and politics.

This post on politics is the second of three on how perceived understanding or framing of reality diverges from hard facts, and creates problems in the historical narrative. I have a theory that when human beings build governments and devise theories of government, they project outwardly their awareness of the inner structure of the human psyche. That is, when we build and control society in the outer world, we embed how we think, perceive and feel into those constructions. And if there are parts of ourselves we would rather not face, we embed the suppression, too.

On a basic level, it makes sense. We fear our capacity for savagery and bloodshed, and know that the hell-pit at the dark end of the behavioural spectrum is something we ought to avoid. That is why the idea of climbing toward something higher through renewed social order is so appealing. The initial drive begins with a justified fear of the demons inside us and a moral journey to find the "better angels of our nature."

The French Revolution presents a powerful example of that journey and its challenges. Today marks the 222nd anniversary of the end of the Terror (6 September 1793 - 28 July 1794), a period of mass execution of enemies of the Revolution. It is ironic that 'terror' - described today as the greatest nemesis of global civilization - played a critical part of the establishment of modern western politics. Although there were revolutionary precursors in England and America, the founding moment began with the French Revolution. Everything we take for granted, from left-wing and right-wing politics, to the basic rights of human beings, was most clearly expressed there.

Today's post reconsiders the circumstances in which the west's current political ideologies developed, to see how the story of rational modern politics diverged from its reality. The French Revolution came dressed in the rhetoric of liberty, equality and fraternity, respectively sources of liberalism, socialism and nationalism. Revolutionaries changed how we measure time, months, hours, days. 18th century perceptions of time were different from post-revolutionary modern ones. The revolutionaries standardized weights and measures - previously a privilege of the nobility - with the creation of the metric system. They developed the modern media in their propaganda. They overturned a corrupt and bankrupt absolutist monarchical system, a privileged nobility and aristocracy, and a dominant clergy.

They did it through a commitment to rationalism. 1789's Tennis Court Oath was a pledge to develop a constitution, made in the spirit of earlier writings from the empiricist political philosopher and father of modern liberalism, John Locke (1632-1704). Locke's plan for government derived from his view of psychology. With his certainty that the mind was a tabula rasa, Locke insisted on experiential and logical systems of governance. He espoused the natural rights of man, of life, liberty, and property. He protected those innate values was through the social contract, imposed from outside upon the consenting individual in an embrace of nuture over nature. But starting with man's natural rights, he maintained that no one is innately superior to anyone else. He removed God and superstition from human politics, government and law, by stating that all men were divinely appointed to their state in nature. There was no divine right of kings: all people are equal.

From that natural and secular socialist equality, Locke derived fraternity and liberty as human beings left the pure state of nature and entered the body politic. As far as fraternity was concerned, toleration depended on having sufficiently enlightened, educated and morally informed citizens, who understood that some surrender of liberty was necessary to maintain a commonwealth. That social contract, if properly ordered, would clearly broadcast the principles and preconditions of mutual tolerance inside a nation. Within those non-totalitarian bounds, liberal citizens were free.

Locke influenced the French philosophes, notably Voltaire (1694-1778) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Further principles of liberty and separate powers came from other Enlightenment thinkers such as Montesquieu (1689-1755) to form the familiar 18th century values of the American constitution and the French Revolution. These thinkers drew the line between a divine source for the unified Church and State in absolutist monarchical systems and enlightened, secular, humanist, rationalist, democratic republics, with a separated Church and State. According to Montesquieu, there were underlying collective psychological trends in political development toward victory or defeat. Different types of government used varying core principles to drive those trends. The transition from monarchy to republic marked a shift in principles from honour to public virtue. But what must be avoided above all was a loss of liberty through fear. Wiki:
"[T]here were three main forms of government, each supported by a social 'principle': monarchies (free governments headed by a hereditary figure, e.g. king, queen, emperor), which rely on the principle of honor; republics (free governments headed by popularly elected leaders), which rely on the principle of virtue; and despotisms (enslaved governments headed by dictators), which rely on fear."
Thus, removing God from everyday government had created an interesting philosophical gap in the conception of modern politics. The unknown and unknowable had to be understood in new rational ways, or they would give rise to fear and dictatorship. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), Locke cautioned against raising children by intimidating them with fear. He warned against servants filling children's heads with fear of the dark, or goblins and monsters. Infantile superstition and threats bred subjection in grown men:
"Such bug-bear thoughts once got into the tender minds of children, and being set on with a strong impression from the dread that accompanies such apprehensions, sink deep, and fasten themselves so as not easily, if ever, to be got out again; and whilst they are there, frequently haunt them with strange visions, making children dastards when alone, and afraid of their shadows and darkness all their lives after. I have had those complain to me, when men, who had been thus used when young; that though their reason corrected the wrong ideas they had taken in, and they were satisfied that there was no cause to fear invisible beings more in the dark than in the light, yet that these notions were apt still upon any occasion to start up first in their prepossessed fancies, and not to be removed without some pains. ...

And to let you see how lasting and frightful images are, that take place in the mind early, I shall here tell you a pretty remarkable but true story. There was in a town in the west a man of a disturbed brain, whom the boys used to teaze when he came in their way: this fellow one day seeing in the street one of those lads, that used to vex him, stepped into a cutler’s shop he was near, and there seizing on a naked sword, made after the boy; who seeing him coming so armed, betook himself to his feet, and ran for his life, and by good luck had strength and heels enough to reach his father’s house before the mad-man could get up to him. The door was only latch’d; and when he had the latch in his hand, he turn’d about his head, to see how near his pursuer was, who was at the entrance of the porch, with his sword up ready to strike; and he had just time to get in, and clap to the door to avoid the blow, which, though his body escaped, his mind did not. This frightening idea made so deep an impression there, that it lasted many years, if not all his life after. For, telling this story when he was a man, he said, that after that time till then, he never went in at that door (that he could remember) at any time without looking back, whatever business he had in his head, or how little soever before he came thither he thought of this mad-man."
Locke's rational suppression, denial and dismissal of fear remained a weak alternative to the absolutist monarch's God. Given his denial of a priori knowledge and insistence on a posteriori knowledge, Locke faced the dilemmas of the rationalist, locked inside his own mind, guided only by his sense impressions of the world. Locke did consider what lay beyond empirical experience. In chapter 27 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), he argued that worldly identity depended on an eternal, immaterial soul, incarnated in a physical body in the real world. In one example, that notion led him to suggest that a human being's worldly personal identity was distinct from the soul's consciousness. Worldly personality did not extend beyond the individual's rational thoughts, memories and life experiences. An eternal soul would have had past human lives, but a temporal individual personality housing that soul would have no memory of those past lives. In other words, Locke admitted that there were things beyond a posteriori awareness, but we have no rational access to them. Our only access to consciousness when building our personal identities would be through real life experiences and the memory of real life experiences. And that was the rock on which modern political order must be built.

However, when it came time to build the rational project during the French Revolution, to bring down the absolutist monarchy and remove God from government, the unknown manifested in the undertaking, in the form of the irrational element of fear. The rationalization of western politics depended on the Terror, on force as an instrument of fear to impress conformity to those ideals. Modern politics sealed a commitment to high intentions, rejected superstition and hereditary inequality; but it did so through mass intimidation and mass killing. From a psychological point of view, this means that when we strive toward highest purpose, we are still enmeshed in lowest impulses. The history of the French Revolution reflects a conscious-unconscious duality, as western political ideals emerged from bloodshed. The complete formula of the French Revolution would have been: liberty, equality, fraternity - and terror.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Do We Need to Press the Progress Button?


A Bersin study of the modern learner and employee (26 November 2014). Image Source: Todd Tauber/Dani Johnson via Bersin/Deloitte.

The above infographic comes from Bersin, a human resources analysis site for Deloitte. It explains how technology has transformed the cognition and behaviour of today's employees. It confirms that technology has fragmented time and attention spans, and overwhelmed and distracted people. Technology is also eroding traditional roles and the structure of workplace authority.

Josh Bersin founded the Deloitte-affiliated research group, and gives his 2016 prediction on human talent here. You can download the 2016 report here. Bersin concludes that this year, the worlds of management, human resources, employee evaluation and productivity are in upheaval due to technology; his solution is to make those humans conform more exactly to the technology, rather than investigate the cognitive disconnection evident in that process:
Everywhere I go, from India to China to London, New York and Silicon Valley, I hear people tell me they are totally reinventing the process of performance management. As I describe in the report, the big change here is not doing away with ratings or changing the way we assess people, but rather a completely new way to think about management itself, and the role managers play. This is a profound change in thinking, forcing us to rethink our culture, rewards, the role of managers, and how we direct and align people in the organization. Companies today are turning into “networks of teams” so many of the traditional management practices we developed over the last 20 years are open to debate. ...

We recently had the opportunity to host GE as they described their new approach to performance management. GE, which is rebranding itself as the "leading digital industrial enterprise," has decided that simplicity, focus, and development is core to their new performance management process. The company has radically simplified its process, is experimenting with mobile apps, and is rewriting the book on how to drive a high-performance meritocracy. ...

What started as a small idea (the concept of the “always on engagement survey”) has now become mainstream, as companies in all industries realize that they must compete and operate based on culture. If you don’t know what your culture is and you’re not watching it on a daily basis, you can’t possibly curate and improve it. So the world of pulse surveys, always-on feedback tools, anonymous suggestion systems, and corporate “Like Buttons” is upon us. One of our clients now has a red/yellow/green button people press at the end of their shift, telling management how well their day went every day. We in HR have to take this one on and build systems and frameworks to harness all this feedback so executives can make informed decisions on a regular basis. ...

We are doing a lot of research on this topic right now, and my conclusion is that the current models we use are broken. Books like Leadership BS ... and The End of Leadership ... tell a story: we simply are not building leadership fast enough, early enough, or with enough of an open mind. As I describe in the report, it’s time to accelerate people into leadership earlier in their careers, put a greater focus on mentoring (leveraging the boomers who aren’t retiring yet), and create new models and reward systems for talent mobility. ...

I haven't seen this much disruption in corporate learning since I started as an analyst back in the early 2000s. Employees are now in charge, video learning is everywhere, and hundreds of new learning tools and platforms are entering the market. The L[earning] & D[evelopment] profession and function has fallen behind, and after three years of double-digit growth, it’s time for L&D to focus on digital transformation, learning experience design, and open peer to peer learning like never before. The report gives more detail, but let me simply say that in today’s economy, where income inequality remains a top political issue, “The Learning curve is the Earning Curve” – so your employees and job candidates expect you to turn corporate learning into a magnificent part of your overall employee experience. Lots to do here.
The red-yellow-green button system mentioned above reveals how this 'innovative overhaul' ironically leads to human resources and managerial professionals technologically monitoring and assessing employees within shorter and shorter timeframes. Where it used to be once per year, then once per quarter, now it is once per day - or less - once per hour, once per half hour. The red-yellow-green progress button is an app developed by Microsoft, see here; it is also available from other companies, and progress button systems are now ubiquitous. And so the conceptualization and mechanization of human productivity continues, as a reflection of a computer program. In 2012, PM Times criticized the red-yellow-green button system and suggested there should be a two button system, with the buttons labeled yellow and orange; the yellow-orange system was meant to come closer to a reality of a permanent, low-grade crisis of always falling behind. Looking at the 2014 chart above, that is actually closer to the Millennial reality, but only if productivity is to be measured by the very tools which are undermining and transforming it:
My options are now:

Yellow: The project does not have any known issues but there is still high risk that something could go wrong (as demonstrated by the cone of uncertainty). As with any project in flight, we are managing it cautiously and we are doing our best to deliver successfully.

Orange: An issue has surfaced and the project goals are in jeopardy. We are triaging the issue(s) and at this time we believe we can still be successful Red: An issue has surfaced and we do not believe 100% project success can be obtained due to the discovery. More than likely we will either miss the desired date, or exceed budget, or not be able to deliver the desired scope by the target date.
In short, human productivity is hampered by, and evolving in unknown ways, due to mechanization and technological over-exposure. So the solution is more mechanization and more technological over-exposure? One could assess workers like human beings, operating in a human environment with human capabilities, not as extensions of a software program's progress assessment capabilities; employees should not be considered as though they were so many pre-built agents in a Multiple Agent Simulation System in Virtual Environment (MASSIVE) CGI crowd scene. It is the unreflective exploitation and application of technology, piled on technological assessment and evaluation, within already flooded technological environments, which together are the problems here, not the irreducible fact that human beings naturally find creative ways to evade these overwhelming circumstances.

MASSIVE simulated human actor for cinematic scenes are listed here. They range between USD$3000 and USD$5000 each; but they are also available on 30-day rental contracts. MASSIVE's motto is 'simulating life.' Above, AI-driven character animation in The Dark Knight (2008). Image Source: MASSIVE.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Art of the Retcon 3: Time and Heroism in the Multiverse


Morrison's 18 Days retells the great Mahabharata in an animated CGI drama on Youtube (you can watch it here). 18 days is the length of the battle in the Mahabharata. Image Source: Broken Frontier.

The wavering fictional reality of DC Comics resembles theories from today's quantum physicists.  A comic book fantasy of multiple Earths and multi-dimensional universes aligns with contemporary scientific ideas of a fractured multiverse and mysterious dark matter.  It makes one wonder: if our physicists are right and the multiverse is real, what sort of creatures are we because of it, and how do we feel its effects?

Multiversity #1 (October 2014). "Every comic you ever read is real." – Grant Morrison. Behind the Panels review: "Morrison directly challenges the reader. 'Whose voice is speaking in your head anyway? Yours?' The same narration urges us to stop reading. That’s when things get beautifully weird."

Are we pawns of a larger order we will never perceive? Scottish writer Grant Morrison would say: yes. He is delivering his long-promised crossover, Multiversity, right now via DC Comics, and a glance at the multiversal map below shows that he is combining years of esoteric interests - mind expansion through drug dreams, a fascination with ancient Indian epics and religions, and a belief (expressed in 2012's Supergods) that modern superheroes are manifestations of ancient gods. More importantly, in Multiversity, the heroes exist along a metafictional continuity with our reality and time. They are part of humankind's long quest to define the line between creation and destruction, from which everything else follows in this world, and other worlds too.

DC's map of the Multiversity (August-September 2014; click to enlarge). Image Source: DC Entertainment.

From 2009 to 2013, Morrison worked with Dynamite Entertainment and Liquid Comics to produce 18 Days, a retelling of the Mahabharata, in which a classic Indian battle sees the age of gods give way to the age of men. Two of the founders of Liquid Comics are author Deepak Chopra and his son, Gotham Chopra. Deepak Chopra famously discussed these ideas with Morrison at several comics conventions; the Chopras also published a book about it, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes (2011). CBR reported on one such discussion in 2006 in San Diego:
Superheroes, in Chopra's view, are not external beings. "These are archetypal beings that stoke the fire of life and passion in our own souls. These are potentials that exist within us, and by creating these superheroes through our own collective imagination, we are in a way serving our deepest longings, our deepest aspirations, and our deepest desires to escape the world of the mundane and the ordinary and do things that are magical."
Morrison draws from Indian traditions to marry that consciousness to the cosmos of existence. Thoughts become physical substances in other dimensions. The great epic of the multiverse involves the genesis of values in that consciousness through dharma and karma, action and negative action, creation and destruction, good and evil. In our reality, mythical heroes are legendary archetypes. But Morrison insists that these paragons embody physical forms in other times and places.








18 Days concept art by Mukesh Singh. Images Sources: Decode Hindu Mythology, Comic Vine, Concept Art, Dynamite Comics, Planet Damage, Mukesh Singh.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lost Cities: Kowloon Walled City, the Faux and the Real



From Yahoo and WSJ Live, a retrospective on Hong Kong's infamous Kowloon Walled City, which was demolished 20 years ago:
The Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong was once the densest place on earth, a virtually lawless labyrinth of crime, grime, commerce and hope. A Wall Street Journal documentary tracks its colorful legacy 20 years after its demolition.
For nearly a century, Kowloon Walled City was a gang-ruled place of low rents, no licences or taxes, drug trades, brothels and illegal dentists. Somehow, it gained further mystique because it sat across the street from an international airport, and landing jets notoriously scraped just over the slum's rooftops. The fascinating culture of this city-inside-a-city has been represented across eastern and western pop culture in video games, mangas and movies. Known as the City of Darkness in Cantonese, it particularly resonates with depictions of gritty urban landscapes in the 1980s and 1990s, and served as an inspiration for Ridley Scott's futuristic Los Angeles in Blade Runner. It recently inspired designers of Gotham sets for the British-American movie, Batman Begins (2005). City of Darkness Revisited notes only two films were actually shot inside the real Kowloon Walled City (see a clip of footage from the real city shown in Bloodsport below the jump):
only two films were actually shot within the confines of the Walled City, the Jean-Claude van Damme vehicle, Bloodsport [1988], and the far superior Johnny Mak film, Long Arm of the Law [1984]. In fact, the Walled City and one of its alleys only make a short appearance in Bloodsport, when the Jean-Claude character and his Chinese minder are making their way to an illegal fighting venue supposedly located there.
An interior facade reveals the city's staggering honeycombed character, built up without any architects. Image Source: La boite verte

 

 

Images Source: Greg Girard see more of his photos of the real Kowloon Walled City here. Other photos of the city are here and here.

Former inhabitants testify to Kowloon's tight-knit society:
"We all had very good relationships in very bad conditions. Even now, many people stay in touch with each other even though some old friends are overseas," Shum said. "People who lived there were always loyal to each other. In the Walled City, the sunshine always followed the rain."
Such is the nostalgia for this grim yet fascinating slum, that Japanese business interests have built a reproduction of Kowloon Walled City as an arcade and theme park south of Tokyo (see the theme park's main site here). The development blog, here, insists on historic faithfulness ("all materials produced from the scratch"; "real garbage from Hong Kong were sent by parcel"). HuffPo:
Kowloon Walled City, an infamous now-demolished Hong Kong slum, is enjoying new life as a three-storey Japanese arcade and theme park just south of Tokyo.
David Gilbert, a digital product manager, posted photos of the Kawasaki Warehouse on his blog, documenting stunning details of the resurrected Walled City – in all its dark and rusty glory – save for hints of modernity in its restrooms.

"The juxtaposition of a high-tech Japanese toilet in an authentically grimy bathroom had to be seen to be believed," described Gilbert.

Set designer Taishiro Hoshino, the mastermind behind the arcade theme park's time-bending alchemy, paid close attention to details from the actual slum city.

Hosino and his team examined photographs and video of the Walled City, retraced Chinese calligraphy on signage, tracked down Hong Kong mailboxes, balcony bird cages, and reproduced its neon signs.

Striving for full authenticity, he even persuaded a friend in Hong Kong to mail him her family's trash.
"I was later told that they were totally confused about my request," explained Hoshino in a detailed "Behind The Scenes" post on his website.
This development echoes other odd Millennial efforts to transform famous ruined (and not-ruined) locations of the 20th century into 21st century entertainment centres - a tourist-industry trend notably evident at Chernobyl and formerly-shuttered asylums and prisons in the United States. More images of the original city are below the jump.

The outside facade of the Japanese Kowloon Walled City theme park, which has been artificially aged and grimed up.  Image Source: HuffPo.

More images from Japan's faux Kowloon Walled City theme park, complete with faux brothels, fake open air meat markets, real Hong Kong mailboxes which were shipped to Japan as props - and grimed-up toilets, whose conveniences are actually clean and hyper-modern.  Images from HuffPo.


 





One of the meticulously-created Japanese faux-Kowloon mock-ups. Image Source: Hoshinogumi

"A slight departure from the theme park's authenticity, those wishing to leave must walk through a red-lit hexagon passageway, stepping over stones set over an illuminated pool toward a circular ying-yang door." Image Source: HuffPo.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Curios: Upcoming Hollywood Memorabilia Auction


Up at auction: the 1940 Buick Phaeton automobile from Casablanca (1942).

An amazing array of Hollywood props, scripts and other memorabilia is going up for auction at Bonham's in New York City on the 25th of November, 2013 at 1 p.m. Eastern - from the Maltese Falcon prop, to wafers of Soylent Green, to Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman suit and Michael Keaton's Batman suit. And Bonham's have storyboards from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Soylent Green! The original prop.

They have signed contracts, countless costumes (some are breathtaking, have incredible craftsmanship, or are sci-fi classics) and posters, and they have Francis Ford Coppola's working script (here) from The Godfather (1972). They have a script from Citizen Kane (1941). And Marilyn Monroe's high school yearbook.


All film genres, classics from all decades. See the auction house's Website here. You can bid online.


The iconic lead statuette of the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 film of the same name.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Retro Darkness Around Hollywood Stars


"Whatever happened [to] my friend Corey Haim?" The Thrills (2004); (song here; lyrics here). Image Source: Cynema via J. Haim.

There has been a lot of Hollywood retro around of late. There was this post on Joan Crawford and this one on Crawford and Garbo; and there was this post on Hollywood turning surreal in the 1940s.

I recently read James Hutchings's The Case of the Syphilitic Sister, a pulp Minutemen-esque story at Jukepop Serials. His metahuman reworking of the 30s' mystery thriller is a fascinating Millennial mash-up. It is not set in Hollywood, but the cultic tone of Hutchings' work reminded me a bit of the Black Dahila and the unfortunate celebrations after Whitney Houston's death last year.

The rise and fall of today's stars eerily repeat parties, scandals and deaths of yesterday. It is almost as though the stars of each new generation become doubles of the ones who came before; they face the same highs and dangers.

I generally don't follow Hollywood gossip unless something remarkable happens like Britney Spears shaving her head and chasing after paps with an umbrella. But lately, the huge success of Justin Bieber has reminded me of the appeal of the Gen X teen heartthrob, the late Corey Haim. It is a compelling story: a Canadian teen carries some northern magnetic secret south in an intrepid bid to win American hearts, and succeeds. That secret might be genuineness, honesty, innocence, and hope from a land similar enough to be familiar, but actually quite different; whatever it is, it is a secret forgotten and lost in America's heart of darkness. The Canadian kid who goes to California to make it big was a central trope in David Lynch's neo-noir "poisonous valentine to Hollywood," Mulholland Drive (2001).

For some time, I've noticed lingering efforts to get Haim a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one online petition is here). I have always thought (80s' nostalgia aside) that Haim was an actor who had a great deal of talent that was misdirected through formulaic vehicles in his stellar youth. Then, due to sexual abuse by his Hollywood minders, he became mired in drug addiction.

He lost the magical light in his acting that would have brought him more serious roles as an adult. Could he have regained it? He still had charisma in roles just before his death, especially when he played against type, as in Crank: High Voltage (2009). But the drugs - and what they masked - had nearly sucked out his soul. He never matured into a DiCaprio. And he was never allowed to pull a no-holds-barred Mickey Rourke comeback. I do not know whether Haim could have managed what Rourke did in Sin City (2005) if he had stayed clean and kept working into his forties.

There was nothing, looking at Haim's original promise, which said he could not have done either. After his breakthrough role in Lucas (1986), Roger Ebert famously anticipated both Haim's promise and sad fate:
Lucas is played by Corey Haim, who was Sally Field's son in Murphy's Romance, and he does not give one of those cute little boy performances that get on your nerves. He creates one of the most three-dimensional, complicated, interesting characters of any age in any recent movie. If he can continue to act this well, he will never become a half-forgotten child star, but will continue to grow into an important actor. He is that good. 
What would Haim have become, had he not been, as Alison Arngrim put it: "corrupted in every possible way" by his Hollywood guardians? It is a little tricky for his fans to ask Tinseltown for recognition, since the silence around Haim's death is evidently bound up with the dark side of Hollywood - and entertainment in general. One would think in the wake of the Savile scandal in Britain (mentioned in this post), that Hollywood would do more to recognize victims like Haim to make amends for its own ugly history of paedophilia. Perhaps giving Haim a star would publicly open that can of worms, and force some quarters to account for crimes committed. Perhaps, as in the Savile case, Haim's ruined talent (and the miseries of other victims) will only be acknowledged in Hollywood after the perpetrators are dead.
 
One blog commenter points out that paedophilia in Hollywood is hinted at in the famous movie, The Godfather (1972):
In The Godfather, they briefly referred to this vile behavior - with parental approval. Producer "Jack Woltz" has the birthday party for a very young actress at the studio (even gives her a pony), then later at his home when he's having dinner with "Tom," you see the little girl at the top of the stairs, crying and disheveled. Her mother takes her back into the bedroom.
If anything, Hollywood's silence about Haim's death at the Oscars and SAG awards might confirm what his friend and co-star Corey Feldman claimed: that the industry is sitting on a terrible open secret that it does not want to acknowledge. That, and the industry is filled with callousness.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 16: Bollywood Dracula

Batman, Vol. 1, #351 (Sept. 1982) © DC Comics.

Horror is a genre which explores moral boundaries and changing values. In other words, it pegs the Zeitgeist. Vampire stories appear wherever something is going wrong in a society. European vampires had origins in the Black Death and in the transgressions of the late medieval nobility (as here and here). From around 1800 onward, the Romantic insomniac suave and decadent vampire reflected the sordid vanities of aristocrats. That preoccupation with class inequality persisted over the next two centuries in the Old and New Worlds alike, whether the vampire was a Gothic immigrant, a surrealists' favourite or an expressionistic caricature, pulped (like DC comics' Batman character, who is basically a metropolitan playboy vampire-turned-vigilante, although the editors make the connection plain only occasionally), or reworked as a celebrity, a rock star, an addict or a fashion model (as below). Millennial America produced vampires who were suburbanites and depressed teenaged vegetarians.

In India, two of the Ramsay brothers directed Bollywood's vampiric answer: Bandh Darwaza (1990).  This film is a clunky cult favourite, whose vampire spans the distance between old-fashioned Indian familial expectations and a rapid move into the modern world. See it below the jump.

There is a list of depictions of Dracula in popular culture here.

Noot Seear's vampiric Mona Lisa for Yves Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche ad campaign in 1998 cast another light on the mysterious smile. Image Source: Cute and Beauty Girls.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nuclear Culture 14: Crossroads between the Virtual and Real in the Nuclear Quiet

Turning points: in the radioactive evacuation zone near Fukushima, a weed called Common Mullein reclaims Japanese highways. Image Source: Kotaku via ENE News.

The Classical Greeks had two concepts of time, one quantitative, one qualitative. The latter was something they called kairos:
Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature. Kairos (καιρός) also means weather in both ancient and modern Greek. The plural, καιροι (kairoi or keri) means the times.
Kairos was, for Aristotle, the contextual meaning of a time; in the New Testament, it is "the appointed time in the purpose of God," the turning point when the divine apparently intersects with human affairs. That is likely a concept with long, pre-Christian roots. Paul Tillich interpreted Kairoi as moments of crisis when the word of god becomes literal reality. For the non-religious, this is merely a metaphor, but the idea - of the fictional, the fanciful, the imaginative themes of private emotional worlds of faith and introspection suddenly becoming reality - remains sadly familiar. The terrible and shocking transition when the virtual becomes real is a Millennial concern, and applies even more in non-religious terms.