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 Retro-Futurism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retro-Futurism. Show all posts

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I Love My Microchip

The new slavery: employers are now microchipping employees the way a veterinarian would microchip the family pet. Image Source: Mark Gasson/BBC.

I Love My Microchip: Employers are now micro-chipping their employees and the BBC thinks this is a good idea.

Predicting the biometric future of 2017 in 2007: NBC Prediction That We Will All Have an RFID Chip Under Our Skin by 2017 (28 May 2010). Video Source: Youtube.

The LA Times reports on BD EpiCenter software, which "provides advanced data management for all BD Microbiology systems" and confirms that the Internet of Things will incorporate biological entities:
"'The biggest benefit, I think, is convenience,' said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door merely by waving near it. 'It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.' ... 'I mean, people have been implanting things into their body, like pacemakers and stuff to control your heart,' he said. 'That's a way, way more serious thing than having a small chip that can actually communicate with devices.'"
On 2 August 2017, Dave Williams, a Mozilla systems engineer in the UK, explained the benefits to the BBC:
"'I have the world's worst memory,' says Williams. The fact that he now has a gadget on him at all times that opens doors and unlocks his computer — one that he can’t leave at home or forget — is a huge advantage. 'It's also fun to give someone my number and email address by touching their phone to my hand.'"
Microchipping is recommended for commuters so they don't have to buy transit tickets. Image Source: Independent.

The claims that microchips will be used to monitor public health, improve workplace efficiency, and enhance tech users' convenience distract target audiences from the fact that microchips are the foundational element of a new slavery. Soon, being microchipped will be a prerequisite for being employed. Not only is it possible that you won't get hired without a microchip, you may not even be able to travel to work without a chip in your hand.

In past centuries, slaves were branded like livestock to show ownership. For centuries, serfs and slaves fought to become free citizens, demanding constitutions, democratic elections, and civil rights. The resolution to that journey is to be microchipped, live in a faux-democracy, and await World War III in a 5G supercity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Good Morning Pyongyang

Good Morning Pyongyang, North Korea © by Alexandre Spalaikovitch/Yemaya Productions. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Today's post reveals the incredible city-wide wake-up call broadcast at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. in Pyongyang, North Korea. It looks and sounds a lot like Blade Runner, which drew heavily from 1980s' Asian aesthetic influences. Compare to my similar posts, 1968 on the Way to 2019 and Kowloon Walled City, the Faux and the Real. See this interview for some reflections from North Korean defectors on what life was like there before they left for South Korea, by way of China.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Next Gen Prophet

Next Gen/Prophet by Office courtesy of DMT Tapes FL (2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Yesterday, I went into a shop where there was a vinyl LP record player used as a prop; it was playing an early Van Morrison album that I have not heard in - a long time. The saleswoman told me her daughter, who is in her twenties, has never seen a vinyl record player and couldn't figure out how to turn it on. The record player was brand new, because vinyl LPs from the 1960s to the 1980s are back in fashion. From DMT Tapes FL, here is a track from the digital album: Compositions for Abandoned Shopping Malls (16 May 2015; Hat tip: Dan Bell). This retro-1980s electronic music is tagged alternative vaporwave / florida ambient / future funk / outsider ambient. Wiki:
"Vaporwave (or vapourwave) is a music genre and art movement that emerged in the early 2010s among Internet communities. It is characterized by a nostalgic or surrealist fascination with retro cultural aesthetics (typically of the 1980s, 1990s, and early-mid 2000s), entertainment technology, consumer culture and advertising, and styles of corporate and popular music such as lounge, smooth jazz and elevator music. Musical sampling is prevalent within the genre, with samples often pitched, layered or altered in classic chopped and screwed style. Central to the style is often a critical or satirical preoccupation with consumer capitalism, popular culture, and new-age tropes. ...

Music educator Grafton Tanner argued in his 2016 book Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts that 'Vaporwave is one artistic style that seeks to rearrange our relationship with electronic media by forcing us to recognize the unfamiliarity of ubiquitous technology.' He goes on in saying: 'Vaporwave is the music of non-times and non-places because it is skeptical of what consumer culture has done to time and space.' In his 2016 review of Hologram Plaza by Disconscious, an album in the mallsoft subgenre of vaporwave, Dylan Kilby of Sunbleach Media stated that '[t]he origins of mallsoft lie in the earliest explorations of vaporwave, where the concept of malls as large, soulless spaces of consumerism were evoked in some practitioner's utilization of vaporwave as a means for exploring the social ramifications of capitalism and globalization,' but that such an approach 'has largely petered out in the last few years in favor of pure sonic exploration/expression.'"
See my earlier posts on ambient music:

Image Source: reddit.

Image Source: Youtube.

Image Source: We Heart It.

Image Source: Phoenix 2772.

Vaporwave Wallpaper (2015). Image Source: Wallpaper Vortex.

Vaporwave Wallpaper (2016). Image Source: Wallpaper Vortex.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

When Hairdressers Dominated the Earth

RT (12 August 2016): I destroyed the far right in Britain (and I grew a moustache). Image Source: Twitter.

I was going to leave the blog for a bit, but then ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage's post-Brexit moustache stopped me in my tracks. As a publicity stunt, it was so weird and economical. The Internet melted down. Ladbible wondered "what the fuck is going on"? Farage hasn't always been so lucky with moustaches.

The moustache debuted in an RT interview yesterday. It wasn't just the moustache. It was RT's colour scheme. I couldn't focus on what was said, because watching it felt like being loaded into a time machine and being shot back to 1985, when as one Youtuber put it, "hairdressers dominated the whole earth." I could not understand. When did turquoise and pink neon come back? Then I remembered they are the trending transgender colours of 2016. As for the moustache, I have a lot of posts on iconic 1980s' styles and media, but this is the main one; that post includes a clip from Scarface (1983) with Robert Loggia sporting the same facial hair.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

How iPhones Will Look to People in the 2070s

From Twitter: "The Philco Predicta is an American television made in several models by the Philco company in the late 1950s."

"Kuba Komet Television manufactured from 1957 to 1962 in West Germany." Image Source: Twitter.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fifth Dimensional Memory and the Fortress of Solitude

Image Source: engadget.

In the quest to store information permanently, the University of Southampton has developed a memory chip so durable that it will last until after our sun burns out:
Using nanostructured glass, scientists from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional (5D) digital data by femtosecond laser writing. ...

Coined as the ‘Superman memory crystal’, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

Professor Peter Kazansky, from the ORC, says: “It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations. This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we’ve learnt will not be forgotten.”

The researchers will present their research at the photonics industry's renowned SPIE Photonics West—The International Society for Optical Engineering Conference in San Francisco, USA this week. The invited paper, ‘5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Writing in Glass’ will be presented on Wednesday 17 February [2016]. The team are now looking for industry partners to further develop and commercialise this ground-breaking new technology. Contact Professor Peter Kazansky to find out more. Learn more about the SPIE Photonics West conference and exhibition. Read about the special legacy gift presentation made to UNESCO in celebration of the IYL2015 [International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies 2015].
In a related report from 17 February 2016, Engadget revealed Southampton's curious mixed impulse toward the ultra-new and ever-permanent:
Researchers at the University of Southampton's Optical Research Center announced on Tuesday that they've perfected a technique that can record data in 5 dimensions and keep it safe for billions of years. The method etches data into a thermally stable disc using femtosecond laser bursts. The storage medium itself holds up to 360 TB per disc, can withstand temperatures up to 1000 degrees C and are estimated to last up to 13.8 billion years at room temperature without degrading.

Each file is comprised of three layers of nanoscale dots. The dots' side and orientations, as well as their position within the three standard dimensions, constitute its five dimensions. These dots change the polarization of light travelling through the disc which is read using a microscope and polarizer.

... In the three years since their first demonstration, they've ... recorded the entirety of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Newton's Opticks, Magna Carta and Kings James Bible.

"It is thrilling to think that we have created the technology to preserve documents and information and store it in space for future generations," Professor Peter Kazansky from the ORC said in a statement. "This technology can secure the last evidence of our civilisation: all we've learnt will not be forgotten."
To make their research accessible to the public, scientists exploit popular culture and so must not complain when the masses comprehend science with pseudoscientific labels and mystical weirdness. Tagging this memory chip with fifth dimensional capabilities shows the University of Southampton's media-savvy, and they have asked us to respond with one big "quantum wow." Anything in '5D' is incredibly popular right now; it is a pseudoscientific catch phrase, like 2016's anti-ageing creams, which claim to work by altering your DNA. Invoking the fifth dimension in a press release alludes to a gnostic vault up to a supra-spiritual existence. 5D is a loosely-grasped point of perspective, above regular three-dimensional reality and the fourth dimension of spacetime. I have previously alluded to 5D concepts herehere, here and here.

Superman in his polar citadel, the Fortress of Solitude, stocked with memory crystals. Image Source: Superman Homepage.

Southampton's optics researchers do not show much interest in the deeper meaning of durable memory, of what it means to preserve knowledge until after our sun burns out. If they knew anything about the Superman story, they would understand that crystallized memory implies a push beyond the normal human capacity to remember, toward the alienated superhuman, into the moral and physical challenges of permanent isolation.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Virginia Slims ad (1984), "theory of slimness," encouraged women to smoke to stay thin. Image Source: Stanford University.

A news item from June 2012 reported that cancer deaths were on the rise among Baby Boomer women, particularly in the southern United States. The cause was the successful Virginia Slims marketing campaign, which equated long slim cigarettes with women's liberation in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s:
a recent study published on June 25 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says that lung cancer deaths are "steady or rising" among middle-aged women who live in the South or Midwest.

What could be the cause of such a dramatic, unexpected spike? The researchers of this study point to two factors: a cultural shift in the 1960s-70s, and different geographical attitudes regarding anti-smoking legislation.

"In the 60s and 70s, there was a sharp increase in the number of girls, not boys, who started to smoke," said Ahmedin Jemal in an interview with USNews.com's HealthDay. Jemal is vice president of surveillance research for the American Cancer Society and the lead author of this study. "These women are now in their 50s, and already we're seeing a sharp rise in deaths from lung cancer in this group."

A generation of women reached late adolescence and their early 20s at a time when women's empowerment was on the rise, according to HealthDay. A 1968 cigarette campaign tied to that cultural shift, "You've come a long way, baby," marketed Virginia Slims to teenage girls and young women.

According to Reuters, the study is based on data for more than one million U.S. white women aged 35 to 84, who died of lung cancer between 1973 and 2007.
Virginia Slims women's cigarettes were developed in 1968 by Philip Morris. But it was the brilliant and insidious women's lib marketing by the Leo Burnett advertising agency that made the brand a household name.

An introductory Virginia Slims ad from 1968 looking back a 1915 wife, busted for smoking. Image Source: pinterest.

Virginia Slims ad (1969), "first, you got the vote, and now you've got a cigarette all your own." Image Source: etsy.

"Someday" (1970). Image Source: Fortune City.

Virginia Slims ad (1971), Superwomen, "biologically superior to men." Image Source: eBay.

Virginia Slims ad (1972-1973), "slimmer to fit you." Image Source: pinterest.

Leo Burnett is the same Chicago-based agency that handles Fiat, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, GM, McDonald's and Pfizer (makers of ChapStick, XanaxLipitor ("the world's best-selling drug of all time, with more than $125 billion in sales over approximately 14.5 years"), Zoloft, Viagra and the occasional genetically-modified virus). Wiki:
From inception, Virginia Slims have been designed and marketed as a female-oriented fashion brand, generally targeted towards a younger demographic (18–35 year olds). While various themes have emerged in the marketing campaigns over the years, the basic threads have been independence, liberation, slimness, attractiveness, glamour, style, taste, and a contrast to men's cigarettes. A report by the Surgeon General of the United States has interpreted these marketing strategies as attempting to link smoking "to women's freedom, emancipation, and empowerment." This report also tied the increase of smoking among teenage girls to rises in sales of Virginia Slims and other "niche" brands marketed directly to women.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the themes of feminism and women's liberation, with the slogan "You've Come A Long Way, Baby" were often used in the ads, and often featured anecdotes about women in the early 20th century who were punished for being caught smoking, usually by their husbands or other men, as compared to the time of the ads when more women had equal rights, usually comparing smoking to things like the right to vote.
The genius of the firm's Virginia Slims ads lay in the way they paved the way for inverted feminine thinking about the emancipation of women while female consumers simultaneously became enslaved by cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine. The Virginia Slims ads were the opening chapter in an incredible narrative. The ads' reverse mindthink was the real innovation, such that now empowerment and liberation can be ironically and cynically reversed in Millennial ads for nicotine cessation aids and electronic cigarettes.

Nowadays, a woman could be liberated, but all that's taken as read, water under the bridge, no longer an issue. This allows Millennial ad makers to return to oversexualized feminine ads targeting men and women, which trumpet empowerment through base self-indulgence. By the 2010s, the message was not women's freedom in society using the cigarette as a phallic symbol of strength, but libertine freedom to manage addiction in an eco-friendly way.

Virginia Slims ad with Cheryl Tiegs and a tool chest offer (1974). Image Source: Found in Mom's Basement.

Image Source: CDC.
Nevertheless, in this post-post-feminist world, the classic women's lib message is still jumbled in there, too. In 2013, CBS reported a coming cancer care crisis for Baby Boomers, with projected shortages of oncologists and huge amounts of money diverted toward cancer drug development. The Boomer health crisis is a driving force behind medical tourism to countries with socialized health care; and it is behind the enormous current political pressure for free and subsidized health care in the United States. In May 2014, the FDA accelerated the approval of a new lung cancer drug, Zykadia, produced by Novartis. Lung cancer drugs offer identical messages about professional women's power and freedom to choose their destinies.

Image Source: Cigarettes Guide.

New clichés for the English language. Image Source: pinterest.

See more Virginia Slims ads, and evolving commercials from the tobacco industry, smoking cessation aid companies, e cigarette businesses, and lung cancer drug firms, below the jump.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Freezing Time Before the Watershed

The Ballad of Narayama (1958) concerns the Japanese legendary practice of ubasute, or, abandoning the elderly in the mountains to die. Different characters obediently accept the practice or violently reject it. Image Source: QBranch.

In story-telling, there are several famous characters who try to freeze time before a watershed moment changes everything. They are traumatized by the moment of change and their rigid attachment to the past is almost always self-destructive. Perhaps this is a way of defining a ghost, someone who acts against the course of the world's destiny and becomes trapped in one frame of time, rather than moving along through many frames of time.

The need to accept change  in order to live in a healthy manner is the larger reason for the ancient injunction: Don't look back. This is the message in myth and religion, as with Orpheus and Eurydice or Lot's wife. Fables, ghost stories and superstitions are full of warnings against mirrors that can capture a hostile past, reflect it back at you, and trap you forever.

"Lot's Wife" pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel. Image Source: Wiki.

Sodom's destruction. Lot and his daughters escape, while his wife turns to a pillar of salt. 12th century mosaic, Duomo di Monreale, Sicily. Image Source: Wiki.

Lot leaving Sodom, with his wife looking back. Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) by Michel Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurf.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 13: NeverEnding Pasts and Futures

Barret Oliver, who played lead character Bastian Bux in The NeverEnding Story (1984). Image Source: Suzy Turner.

Yahoo, among other sites, has posted a 'where are they now?' article about former Hollywood child stars. Favourite targets of this unwanted attention include the actors who starred in the 1984 film, The NeverEnding Story, a late Gen X favourite based on the 1979 German fantasy book by the same name. Ah, for the pre-CGI days when puppets were serious effects creations on movie screens. You can hear the film's sugary pop theme song by Limahl, here.

Barret Oliver more recently. Image Source: Showbizgeek.

Then-and-now articles focus on Barret Oliver, one of the lead actors in the above-mentioned film, and Yahoo is dismissive in the most superficial way about Oliver's occupation today:
Barret Oliver
Better known as: Bastian Bux in The Neverending Story
Last seen: Working as an arty photographer specialising in 'historic techniques'.
I especially like the scare quotes around 'historic techniques,' as though it is bad enough that Oliver became an arty photographer, let alone one experimenting with a style that is not considered contemporary. But is he really so out of step with the times?

An example of Woodburytype in a late 19th century photograph: Woodburytype of Octave Feuillet (1876/84). Image Source: The Art Institute of Chicago via Wiki.

In 2007, Oliver published A History of the Woodburytype, about a photographic technique and style that is synonymous with our vision of the modern past. The book's blurb reveals the background on the technique and its creator, Walter Bentley Woodbury:
In 1864 Walter Bentley Woodbury introduced a process for mechanically reproducing photographs that changed forever the way the world looked at images. Aesthetically beautiful, permanent and infinitely reproducible, the Woodburytype was the first process used extensively to photographically illustrate books, journals, museum catalogues, magazines and even campaign materials. More than a century after its heyday the Woodburytype stands as a pinnacle of photographic achievement. This book traces the history of Woodbury's process from the early technology and experiments to its commercial success and domination of the illustration field, and further attempts to adapt it to industrialized methods, and finally, to its eventual disuse. Also covered is the story of how Woodbury overcame daunting personal odds to bestow this beautiful photographic process upon the world. ...
Though the process continued in use for several years, the key period of its popularity, especially in terms of later being replaced by the half-tone process, was the 25 years after 1870. The Woodburytype has been noted by curators and librarians for years, but very little has been published on it or about how to identify the prints. Oliver is an independent scholar, and this is the first in-depth study of this process and of Woodbury. ... This book, beyond its technical aspects, broadens understanding of how photography became a truly modem medium of mass cultural import.
A deeper look at Woodburytype reveals that Oliver's famous movie role and his recent artistic preoccupation reflect each other. Like the meta-story The NeverEnding Story, there are layers of reality in Woodburytype. Imitations of Woodburytype today create a 'historic' look: there are sepia-toned quasi-Woodburytype photo apps on smartphones, cameras and image manipulation software. In short, Woodburytype is today's meta-photographic style, signifying early photographic technology and past times.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living in the Past, by Millennial Choice

Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse lives by choice in the year 1938 as much as possible. Images Source: Yahoo.

Dutch Gen Xer Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse runs an Amsterdam-based historical consultancy, HAB 30-45, which provides advice about everyday life from 1900 to 1950. You can see their Flickr album from the work they do here. Teeuwisse also has chosen to live in conditions from the 1930s as much as possible. From Yahoo:
In a small apartment in the modern center of Amsterdam, Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse parties like it’s 1938.
The owner of a historical consultancy company, Teeuwisse, 41, lives her work, forgoing most modern belongings and conveniences of the 21st century in favor of a life straight out of the 1930s.
“The only modern thing I have in my house is my computer; I need it for my work,” she said. “I also have a modern fridge, but only because I haven’t found a nice 1930s one yet and they no longer deliver ice for ice boxes.” ...
“As a student, my house was a mix of all sorts of old things, but slowly I started to focus it all and eventually I decided to just go for it and aim for the lifestyle of a lower-middle-class woman in Amsterdam in the late 1930s,” she said. “I felt right at home.”
Her favorite year, specifically, is 1938, because in addition to being a great example of the time she loves – the “golden age” of architecture, design, fashion and movies – it was also before the start of World War II and Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands.
In her apartment on the second floor of a building constructed in 1918, Teeuwisse lives with all the “modern” amenities of a 1930s woman. She describes her space as “a typical working-class house with a front room, back room, bedroom, ‘wet room’ (bathroom) and kitchen.”
The cozy apartment is filled with Dutch furniture from the 1920s and 30s, with a fireplace and radio and no television. ...

Even the way Teeuwisse keeps house is old-fashioned.
She runs a 1920s vacuum cleaner over the rugs, and washes the floors with vinegar, scrubbing on her hands and knees. She does all her laundry by hand using a washboard, a block of soap, bleach and a brush – “the smell is lovely,” she said. ...

“I just started doing it as an experiment to see what it was like, to learn about the past, and then I realized that I liked doing it that way and saved lots of money, that it was better for the environment, and that I didn’t have to put a big ugly white metal or plastic noisy box in my house,” Teeuwisse said, referring to modern appliances like washers and dryers.
Teeuwisse spends many of her mornings getting to know neighbors, going to a flea market in her neighborhood with her dogs and chatting about “the good old days” with seniors.
But because she has a company to run, she also spends part of her day with her laptop, doing research, “so that part is not very 1930s,” she said. However, she does use a Bakelite phone, introduced in 1931, instead of a cell phone to conduct business.
And when the workday is done, she spends her evenings listening to old music, reading magazines or books, or playing board games with friends.
“And of course sometimes I have to darn stockings,” she said.
Despite all this, Teeuwisse said she’s not particularly nostalgic. After all, she didn’t live through the era she mimics.
“I combine the best of the past with the best of the present to create a new tomorrow,” she said. “I don’t hide from reality. I do not pretend it is the 1930s. I do not ignore what goes on in the modern world. In the end, it is just a lifestyle.”
One might say that the way Teeuwisse has generated publicity with her time pocket lifestyle shows considerable Millennial media savvy. See more images of Teeuwisse and her apartment, filled with 1930s' furniture and books, below the jump.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Faux Antiques and Real Antiques

Image Source: Metafilter.

Not far from my house, there is a big Victorian house going up for auction at the end of the month. The owner is an antiques dealer. The word is that an old lady lived in the house for decades. When she died, the dealer picked it up for a song. He renovated it, kitted it out like a museum, and is now selling the contents and property; and I guess, he is hoping to turn it over for a profit. I saw the property at the auctioneer's open house, and what got me thinking about antiques was the basement.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kremlin Postscript

The Kremlin, bringing back antiques, one diktat at a time. Image Source: Wiki.

Like many, the Kremlin likes freedom of information only when it serves its own purposes. Russian officials have lately supported WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden because these men embarrassed US authorities. But Putin and "the ruling Russian ... siloviki, a powerful faction comprising former and present security servicemen," are less enthusiastic about local whistleblower and blogger Alexy Navalny. And now the Kremlin is worried about ... leaks.

Triumph Adler TWEN 180 typewriter. Image Source: The Telegraph.

Just when we thought old-fashioned typewriters were only good for making Steampunk sculptures, Russian authorities are returning to using typewriters as a secure method of preparing documents. The Telegraph:
A source at Russia's Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is in charge of safeguarding Kremlin communications and protecting President Vladimir Putin, claimed that the return to typewriters has been prompted by the publication of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, as well as Edward Snowden, the fugitive US intelligence contractor.
The FSO is looking to spend 486,000 roubles – around £10,000 – on a number of electric typewriters, according to the site of state procurement agency, zakupki.gov.ru. The notice included ribbons for German-made Triumph Adle[r] TWEN 180 typewriters, although it was not clear if the typewriters themselves were this kind.
The service declined to comment on the notice, which was posted ... [in the first] week [of July 2013].
However an FSO source told Izvestiya newspaper: “After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about Dmitry Medvedev being listened in on during his visit to the G20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents.”
Unlike printers, every typewriter has its own individual pattern of type so it is possible to link every document to a machine used to type it. ...

Nikolai Kovalev, the former director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, told Izvestiya: “From the point of view of security, any means of electronic communication is vulnerable. You can remove any information from a computer. There are means of defence, of course, but there’s no 100 per cent guarantee they will work. So from the point of view of preserving secrets the most primitive methods are preferable: a person’s hand and a pen, or a typewriter.
Below the jump, some of the nicer vintage typewriters currently on eBay. It's sad to see them lined up in this elephants' graveyard, some still with their silk ribbons, of interest only to collectors. How many of today's gadgets will still function in 100 years?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

4-D Smart Buildings

MIT's Skylar Tibbits at his recent TED talk. Image Source: Stratasys.

In February 2013, Millennial architect Skylar Tibbets announced that he is combining building design with our increasingly minute scale of understanding of the physical world through genetics and nanotechnology. Tibbits and his colleagues plan to replace traditional construction practices with "people, machines and materials that collaborate," through organic programming and 3-D printing. Structures will build and rebuild themselves over time, hence making the tech '4-D.' These designs are pre-programmed on the nano-scale to remodel themselves while drawing energy from the environment. BBC reports:
The way we build our structures has become more and more sophisticated. But the materials we build them from are static, waiting for us to fit them to the required shape.

What if they could assemble themselves – and even change form if they needed to? The emerging technology of 4D printing – where 3D-printed material changes shape over time – means we may be able to build things that can adapt to our use or the environment around them, says MIT’s Skylar Tibbits.

Tibbits believes this technology could lead to more resilient, lighter structures – ones which can respond to the world around them.
There is some talk about using 4-D printing in space exploration, although that will depend on how the building materials function in space. WebProNews reports that this future construction revolution depends on new materials and how they react to water:
Stratasys says that it’s heavily invested in the future of 4D printing. It’s currently researching a new type of material for 3D printers that can self assemble after being printed. Here are the details from the Stratasys blog:
What makes the transformation and self-assembly possible is the breakthrough development of a new material used in multi-material 3D printing by Stratasys Objet Connex 3D Printers. The self-folding material is actually composed of two base materials – one that is water expandable and the second that is not water expandable. The water expandable material, which is still in the R&D phase, is able to absorb water and to be programmed to behave and transform in a specific way. It is a highly hydrophilic material that absorbs water molecules when immersed and can change its volume by more than 150% relative to its dry state. When this material is coupled with the static material it can drive predictable shape transformation of the multi-material 3D printed object. Both materials are printed simultaneously on a Stratasys Objet Connex 3D Printer.
Research into 4D printing is only just getting started, but Tibbits already has some ideas on how 4D printing can benefit certain industries in the short term. The big one is space exploration as self-assembly could help NASA and other space agencies reduce costs by simply sending the parts into space, and then those parts self-assemble into an object at the desired location.
See a TED talk with Tibbits explaining his architectural 4-D tech below the jump.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Back to the Land - Again

Infographic Source: Agricen.

One glance at all the glitzy tech out there, and you would think that it would be safe to say that the last thing on anyone's mind right now is another Back to the Land movement. Yet BBC World's show The Bottom Line just interviewed American investment pundit Jim Rogers, who predicts that is precisely what the future holds. As the above infographic from agricultural biochemical company Agricen testifies, in the next 40 years, we will have to produce as much food as in the previous 10,000 years combined.

I don't know where they got their statistic, but it is an alarming one. This trend, though, points to the key for critical cultural transformation of developed economies in the coming decades. Rogers has seen young workers flooding into MBAs, marketing, PR, communications and tech over the past 30 years. But he argues: "You can't eat press releases."

Meanwhile, farmers are a dying breed: the average age of farmers is getting higher and higher in all the developed countries as farmers' children depart for cities to seek their fortunes. Rogers tells financiers to leave Wall Street and take up farming: "The stock brokers are going to be the ones driving taxis in the future, and the farmers are going to be the ones driving Lamborghinis." Rogers tells investors: buy farmland, and buy it now. AgWeb reports:
Rogers has been a fan of farmers and agricultural commodities for many years. "I am extremely optimistic about agriculture. First people thought I was nuts when I first started telling people to buy farmland, then they thought I was nuts, now they are trying to buy it too."
He believes that even though commodity prices have reached historic levels the past few years, they will continue going up, at least for a while.
"Even though demand has been going up for a long time, we are still consuming as much as we are producing," he says. "The 3 billion people in Asia have seen TV how we live in the U.S. and want to live that way now. Before this is over, prices of all agricultural products around the world will go higher."
Rogers, who was raised in Alabama, now lives in Singapore. He predicts Asian countries, such as China, will be the global economic leaders in the future.
He also believes they will hold the best investment options. "I don’t want to have many assets in the U.S. I am a U.S. citizen, but I think in the future there may be laws that keep you from taking money in or out of the U.S."

Huge Money-Making Potential

Rogers says, if you are going to keep assets in the U.S., farmland is the best option. "Farmland is a great way to preserve your wealth and increase your wealth, if you can stay with it."
Even with farmland sales topping $20,000 per acre, he doesn’t believe the market is in a bubble. But, you won't see him at Midwestern land auctions dropping that kind of cash.
Instead, he says there are greater profits to be made buying land in other parts of the world, such as Paraguay, Africa and other developing nations. "Percentage gains will be higher in other countries than the U.S., he says.
Rogers says if the U.S. continues to have large debt issues, which is likely, agriculture will become more and important. "When a currency declines, the people who have real assets are the ones that make money. If the dollar collapses, one of the few ways you’ll be able to reserve you wealth, and even make money, is through productive farmland."

An Aging Workforce

Rogers says the only reason he is nervous about agriculture’s outlook is that America’s farmers are growing older. Currently, the average age of U.S. farmers is 57, a number that has been steadily rising for two decades.

Even with technological advancements, Rogers is worried about the future. "Somebody has to be in the fields, even if it is a robot driving your tractor," he says. "Someone has to tell the tractor what to do. Unless we do something about getting manpower into agriculture, eventually we run out of food."
He encourages young people to consider a career in farming, if for no other reason, the money-making potential. "The stock brokers are going to be the ones driving taxis in the future, and the farmers are going to be the ones driving Lamborghinis."
Is it time to remember the 1960s and 1970s, to crack out copies of Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News? Will Harrowsmith magazine - which folded in 2011 - be revived?

Harrowsmith, devoted to Canada's back to the land movement, once was Canada's leading magazine read outside the country. It was published between 1976 and 2011. Image Source: Vaxxine.

Farming is big industry now - there are even tractors which drive themselves, sort of like Roomba vacuums, except much larger and remote-controlled via the farmer's computer. Contrast the anachronistic paradox of back-to-the-landers who use horses for cultivation 'because it's better than the environment.' These newcomers are naïve (farmers certainly see them as such), but these neo-traditionalists have a point about modern farming techniques becoming so industrialized that they are alien to the homely, hard work of earlier days. And it is homeliness, the search for the return to what really matters, which sees the value of farmland and agriculture rise, emotionally and economically in times of economic distress. Land is irreducible. And it isn't all for dreamers, since as Rogers indicated, demand for food will rise globally in the coming decades. Farming will be a viable economic undertaking and agricultural land will become increasingly valuable.

To return to the land is essentially a conservative movement, but a Millennial back to the land movement potentially will bring progressive maker movement solutions to farming: less Big Industry, genetic modification and heavy pesticides - more organic farming and cooperatives, supported by newly invented, high tech solutions. This will happen, that is, once farming's new arrivals get tired of ploughing their farms with horses.

Because of the Great Recession and growing demand for agricultural products, plus the inherent emptiness of the imploding materialist consumer culture, the great urbanization trend of the 19th century has begun to reverse itself, 21st century predictions of Super Megacities notwithstanding.

As young Greeks return to agriculture, they realize farming is not that easy. Image Source: Olive Oil Times.

Nikos Gavalas and Alexandra Tricha tended to their snail farm in Chios, Greece. Image Source: NYT.

Over the past year, young Greeks, facing unemployment rates of well over 50 per cent (currently, it's 57 per cent), have returned to the land and agriculture in order to survive the recession. Some of them are creating communes, organized through the Internet and social media. The Orthodox Church owns about 40 per cent of agricultural land in the country and is allowing anyone who wants to farm Church lots to do so.

Gen Y students at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay spent their spring break of 2011 not at Daytona Beach, but learning sustainable agriculture in Virginia. Image Source: University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Millennials in America are looking back to the 1990s, when Gen X graduated into a recession. That era saw Gen X move into high tech as the economy recovered. But there were books published at that time, such as, New Pioneers: The Back-to-the-Land Movement and the Search for a Sustainable Future by Jeffery Carl Jacob (1998) which hinted at alternatives. Perhaps it is starting to become evident to Generations X and Y alike that recovery, when it comes, will not be the long golden age of post-war prosperity that the Boomers enjoyed in their youths. Rather, it will be a brief respite before another recession. More crashes are constantly predicted over the coming decades (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here (thanks to -H.)). When that realization dawns, who wants a PR job? You want fundamentals. The world will never be the same. But you can go home again.

Image Source: Survivalist and homesteaders' page on Facebook.

In Canada and the US, urban farming is very popular, as are Millennial homesteading, hobby farming and backyard farming. A lot of people blog about their experiences with a so-called post-consumer lifestyle. There are shops with supplies and Websites with advice on how to stay off the grid. The Mother Earth News runs an annual list of Star Modern Homesteaders. You can see the 2013 nominees here.

The Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada. Image Source: Wiki.

There is a problem for the back to the land movement: the next generation cannot afford to buy out retiring farmers. In British Columbia's idyllic Fraser Valley, a small area that is intensively cultivated and brings in half of BC's produce, land which cost $40,000 to $60,000 per acre only a couple of years ago has now surpassed that figure. Thanks to the value of blueberry crops planted there, land prices are rising:
In the Fraser Valley, land that would have sold for $25,000 per acre five years ago is now going for $50,000 to $80,000 an acre, even up to $100,000 an acre or more with high-return blueberry crops already planted.
In spring 2013, the Canadian government determined that farmland values remained the same or rose in all ten provinces through 2012. In Quebec, farmland values rose nearly 20 per cent over six months at the end of 2012. In Ontario, farmland values are soaring, jumping year by year; they rose 46 per cent between 2008 and 2012. Where an acre of dairy farmland in eastern Ontario sold for $5,000-$8,000 in 2011; one acre sold for up to $15,000 in 2012;  and through 2013, one acre in the same area is approaching $20,000. This is partly due to cultivation of biofuels, and partly due to the demand for commodities. In southwestern Ontario, where growing seasons are longer and the climate is moderate - the Niagara region is at the same latitude as Bordeaux, France and northern California - land prices are higher:
“If you’re looking at (buying) a 100-acre farm, which is not a big farm, you’re looking at $1 million to $2 million — as a starting point,” says David Sparling who heads the Agricultural Innovation program at Ivey business school at Western and who co-authored a recent report on farm investment in Canada. “That’s something new in agriculture.” ... “The fact is, you go to a coffee shop ­— and I know this joke is circulating — and at the coffee shop you can look at some ordinary guys and say, ‘there sits a table full of millionaires.’”
Prices of farmland in America are also climbing. Farm and Dairy:
“If interest rates spur up and commodity rates would fall, then maybe land prices could tumble,” said ... [Rusty Kiko, of Kiko Auctioneers and Realty in Canton, Ohio]. “The bottom line is that they aren’t making more land. I’m optimistic about the future of agriculture.”
Farmland price changes from 2011 to 2012, USA. Image Source: Farm and Dairy.

"Lambing time. Sarah Boden, a former journalist with the Observer, returned to her native Eigg [in Scotland] to farm sheep and cattle." Image Source: Murdo MacLeod for the Observer.

The Land asks: Can Britain Farm Itself? Image Source: Fife Diet.

In Britain, people are dumping increasingly insecure white collar jobs to return to agriculture. There is a Campaign for Real Farming that announces its aims in eight steps. The Campaign begins by calling an entire generation back to the land. Agriculture is in total disarray, and everything needs rebuilding and streamlining. The Telegraph, unsurprisingly, jumped on the bandwagon already back in 2010, and insisted, It's Time to Get Back to the Land. The Land, a magazine about land rights, asked Can Britain Feed Itself? in 2007. At that time, its proposal excited little interest. Now, post-recession, it has revived its plan for British farming self-sufficiency or near-self-sufficiency and the interest is there.

Leaders of Incroyables Comestibles in Fréland in Haut-Rhin, in the Alsace region of France. Image Source: Incredible Edibles.

In France, communal gardens have become very popular and are supported through social networking. From the Anna Lindh Foundation:
Called Incroyables Comestibles, the French version of the Incredible Edible movement, which began in the UK in 2008, involves planting collective vegetable gardens in easily accessible public spaces, such as school yards and in front of police stations, from which each can pick for free, according to his or her own need. In France, this movement began in the spring of 2012, and has spread to the four corners of the Republic, thanks in part to social media.
In the Loire valley, Pierre-Yves Fromonot and his wife and his wife offer internships on how to return to organic farming. You can see a report on their business here. There is also renewed interest in, and respect for, some old French agricultural techniques, as evident in this 2012 story about a Californian chicken farmer who traveled to northern France to learn how to better care for his poultry and to bring back healthier, non-genetically modified breeds.

See an interview Jim Rogers gave to Forbes in 2012 below the jump on this topic.