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 Silent Generation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Silent Generation. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Awaken the Amnesiacs 8: You are Now Inside the Computer

Image Source: The Hedge Mason.

The Urban Dictionary defines Youtube comments as:
"The only place where a polite discussion about kittens can lead to a flame war about government conspiracies."
Conspiracists vary in style. On Youtube, there is a spectrum. David Seaman's vitriol approaches incendiary levels, his this-is-not-a-threat promises are so chilling that they help me understand the history of mass psychology better, especially that of the 1930s.

This post is not exactly about Seaman, nor the accusations he levels in a brooding monotone at the bankers, politicians, deep-staters, evil cabal, establishment figures, and finally - the tech leaders who censor him (like Youtube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, whom he calls "Catshit Face"). This post is about Seaman's and others' rhetorical style in relation to conspiratorial subject matter, and what it means for all of us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Time and Politics 17: The Oath

Microbiologist Dr. Siouxsie Wiles brings science to the public in collaboration with artists who paint with bioluminescent bacteria: "Bioluminescent portrait of Donald Trump at the WSF Brisbane, painted by Ray Coffey. Photo by Chris Proud, Old Museum Network (Queensland Museum [Australia])." Image Source: SBS.

On 20 March 2016, Bill Maher joked on HBO (ep. 14/381) about Donald Trump's ignorance, because Trump claimed to get all his information off the Internet. Trump has also promised to shut down the Internet if he is elected. He stated he would shut down parts of the Internet domestically and internationally when necessary to restrict terror operatives. He later expanded that promise beyond terror threats. Snopes found the reports on Trump and the Internet to convey 'mixed truth'; on 7 December 2015, Trump stated in South Carolina:
"We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what's happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way ... Somebody will say, 'Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Photo of the Day: Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan posing before the Boston Town Hall holding the Pioneer Plaque circa 1973. For my earlier posts on Sagan and his work, see here, here, here and here.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Will Teach You Infinities

Burton reciting present indicative of the English verb, 'to be.' He skips 'it is.' Video Source: Youtube.

Simple observations can be gateways to profound knowledge. Actor Richard Burton (1925-1984) recited the present indicative tense of the verb 'to be' as the greatest poem in the English language. This clip is from In from the Cold: The World of Richard Burton (see it here while the link lasts). A Youtuber dismisses this video: "The man speaks well, of course, but this is pretentious nonsense." Another one says: "Richard Burton believes in aliens--look at his eyes when he says 'they are.' Weird, right?"

That is an interesting remark, because verbs begin by propelling their subjects through the world. With 'they are,' Burton was pondering 'others,' those furthest removed from one's existence. Burton showed here that the simple present tense conjugation of 'to be' indicates a journey from the immediacy of the individual self outward into the world, with decreasing levels of intimacy. Starting with the self as centre point ('I am'), one moves to the next closest person outside of one ('thou'). From there, 'she,' then 'he,' and so on. The progress of the verb through the present ends by taking the speaker to subjects placed at furthest degree of external existence away from the self. That is, 'they are' is a plural, outside, group and implies: 'they exist.' This is how the verb indicates how close the speaker is or is not to the subjects he or she (or it) is discussing.

After that, the verb explains how the speaker relates to time, then reality, and then the flow of time. In other words, the verb must switch temporal tenses (past, present, future) and modal relations to reality (signifying how closely the speaker does or does not connect to reality via the nature of an action taken - a fact, a desire, a command, a conditional, etc.).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rewrite the History of the 1960s

Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty (1885). Image Source.

This week, my post on Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder was highlighted on one of Gen X's best blogs, Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X. While thanking Jennifer James and checking the other links she listed, I was struck by the way Generation X remains ensnared as an echo generation, its identity projected upon from the outside by a narcissistic Boomer narrative. Jen writes: "Part of my intention is to maintain a tiny space on the Internet where evidence of Gen X society can be preserved." Why is her mission such a struggle?

Head of the Statue of Liberty, displayed in 1878 after completion at the Third Universal Exhibition, or World's Fair, in Paris. It was exhibited in Paris for several years before being shipped to the United States. Image Source: Albert Fernique (born c. 1841, died 1898) / LOC via pinterest. Published in 1883 in Frédéric Bartholdi's Album des Travaux de Construction de la Statue Colossale de la Liberté destinée au Port de New-York (Paris).

The Boomer narrative, that blinkered, one-track view of history, started as a story about 1960s' youth counterculture and fighting for liberty from the establishment. Boomers' liberties made them into libertines, who erected a monument to their own whims and pleasures around the period from the 1967 Summer of Love through 1969. The entire world now seemingly turns around that temporal pivot. Sometimes, it is also treated as a historical bottleneck. For the post-war period, 1967-1969 becomes a shorthand for the social, political and economic history of what happened in developed countries, and everything must go through that chokepoint, as it relates to the Boomer story. But what if everything didn't go through that chokepoint? What if that is not the way things happened? What if other histories ran concurrently from the 1940s through to the present that go unacknowledged because they don't fit the generational story? What if this is not a story about generations at all? What if you can find millions of individuals who don't fit the generational idea, and what if constructing a whole new social order around social alignments based on horizontal categories like 'age' is fake? If any of these suggestions are possible, then the history of the 1960s needs to be radically overturned and rewritten.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturation Point

Image Source: Business2Community.

Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.

Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Godspeed to the Stars, Mr. Nimoy

Image Source: Star Trek.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, has died, aged 83. He played a half-alien, always relying on cold logic, but saved by his capacity for human empathy and emotion. Nimoy's final tweet, telling his followers to 'Live Long and Prosper' (Hat tip: The Verge):

Clip from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). Video Source: Youtube.

Long Lovejoy and Little Dumbell. NASA's astronomy picture of the day, 27 February 2015. Image Source and © Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST) NASA APOD.

Caption for the above photograph: "Buffeted by the solar wind, Comet Lovejoy's crooked ion tail stretches over 3 degrees across this telescopic field of view, recorded on February 20. The starry background includes awesome bluish star Phi Persei below, and pretty planetary nebula M76 just above Lovejoy's long tail. Also known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula, after its brighter cousin M27 the Dumbbell Nebula, M76 is only a Full Moon's width away from the comet's greenish coma. Still shining in northern hemisphere skies, this Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is outbound from the inner solar system some 10 light-minutes or 190 million kilometers from Earth. But the Little Dumbbell actually lies over 3 thousand light-years away. Now sweeping steadily north toward the constellation Cassiopeia Comet Lovejoy is fading more slowly than predicted and is still a good target for small telescopes."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Farewell to H. R. Giger

H. R. Giger in 1978. Image Source: IB Times.

Very sad news today: Swiss surrealist artist Hans Rudolf 'Ruedi' Giger died on 12 May 2014. He was 74. Giger was a Posthuman visionary who glimpsed an uncomfortable future, where humans and machines would combine biomechanically around sexuality. In the 1960s, Giger contemplated grotesque human bodies, twisted by nuclear radiation. Other influences on his work included H. P. Lovecraft, Samuel Beckett and Edgar Wallace, all of whom created fantastical worlds which were metaphors for layers of human consciousness.

Giger with alien design. Image Source: Twentieth Century Fox via Guardian.

Giger gained worldwide renown for his design of the monster on Alien (1979). Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon met Giger and saw a book of his sketches during Alejandro Jodorowsky's ill-fated film adaptation of the novel Dune. Giger's images helped inspire O'Bannon's earliest Alien script; on O'Bannon's urging, director Ridley Scott asked Giger to design the alien, based on Giger's painting Necronom IV. Giger also designed the Facehugger, the Chestburster, the Derelict spaceship, and the Space Jockey. He and fellow Alien production artists won an Oscar. Giger worked on later movies in the franchise as well as other films.

The Necronom IV (1976), inspiration for the alien. Image Source: IB Times.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boomer Legacies: End of the Vietnam War

The blog is on a break right now, but for today, see some images and music commemorating the end of the Vietnam War, 39 years ago on 30 April 1975. This day is celebrated in Vietnam as Liberation Day or Reunification Day to mark when Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) from the South Vietnamese and the Americans.

Views of the war, also known as the Second Indochina War (1956-1975), are skewed by the fact that it stands at the crossroads of a huge counter-cultural revolution in the west. For the American government, participation was part of a strategy to contain Communist states. But the more complex causes of the war involved local Asian and anti-French conflicts exploding after the post-World-War-II revival, and subsequent collapse, of French Indochina in the First Indochina War (1946-1954).

Monday, November 11, 2013

War and Living Memory

"Remembrance Day at the John McCrae House (birthplace, museum, & memorial) in Guelph, Ontario Canada. A detail shot of the 'altar' of the memorial, with the complete poem 'In Flander's Fields' and the line 'LEST WE FORGET' inscribed on it. 2 Canadian remembrance day poppy pins and part of a wreath are visible." (11 November 2009). Image Source: Wiki.

Today is Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day, which observes the end of hostilities of World War I. It also commemorates the end of World War II and the fallen in other wars such as Korea and Vietnam and post-Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The two world wars are passing from living memory. Wiki has a list of the last surviving World War I veterans in the world. Almost all of them have died since 2000, save for three remaining veterans in Bulgaria, China and Greece. They include: Bright Williams of New Zealand, died 2003, aged 105 years; August Bischof of the former Austrian Empire, 2006, aged 105 years; Erich Kästner of the former German Empire, 2008, aged 107 years; Pierre Picault of France, 2008, aged 109 years; Delfino Borroni of Italy, 2008, aged 110; Yakup Satar of the former Ottoman Empire, 2008, aged 110 years; Mikhail Krichevsky of the former Russian Empire, 2008, aged 111 years; John Campbell Ross of Australia, 2009, aged 109 years; John Babcock in Canada, 2010, aged 109 years; Frank Buckles in the United States, 2011, aged 110 years; Florence Green in the UK, 2012, aged 110 years.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Zero Scrap Value

One Horse Shay. Image Source: Wiki.

We all have to die one day. Since the '60s in the west, death has no longer been considered a part of the social contract, so people don't talk about death and dying the way they used to. Instead, they talk about not dying, about cheating the Reaper - as though anti-ageing and potentially not dying at all somehow is the next stage after your retirement package. They do this rather than face mortality with dignity.

This blog sometimes explores anti-ageing from the perspective of the most high profile Baby Boomers who are interested in the topic. They are ever in search of the Fountain of Youth. For a different point of view, I asked my dad and his friend, both tough old septuagenarian Silent Generation fellows, about death. They liked Dennis Hopper's ad for retirement planning, pulled after his death from cancer in 2010, where Hopper sits at a crossroads and says, "Ya gotta have a plan."

The Ameriprise financial planning ad, aimed at Boomers, runs:
"So here you are, a little confused. Did you think the road to retirement was an expressway? Come on, this isn't some random road trip. Your dreams are out there somewhere. You can't start this journey without knowin' where you're goin'. You my friend, you need a plan." 
 You can see it here on Youtube. You can see other Ameriprise ads aimed at Boomers, here and below.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ego-Enclosed Micro-Societies

Image Source: Time via Flavorwire.

By now, anyone who follows generational issues will have heard about Joel Stein's Time cover article (here) on how the Millennials will save the world. Joel Stein is a Gen Xer, and he should know better than to indulge in the same generational stereotyping that Time magazine used to condemn his own age group. Did his bosses put him up to it? For an overview of how Time cover articles have perpetuated  generational myths, see JenX67's response to Stein here. This is the worst kind of social propaganda and it deserves full condemnation.

If Stein had made broad generalizations about races instead of age groups in his Time article, there would be outcry across the MSM. Even when the message is positive, age stereotyping is no different than racism. Stein's article depends on two Boomer-generated narratives which depend on one another: 'Gen X is the anti-Boomer generation that failed'; 'Gen Y is the generation that will bear the Boomer mantle and save us.' This shows that Boomers, in their quest to build an immortal legacy, made age stereotyping and discrimination socially and professionally acceptable. The fact that Boomers now suffer from age discrimination themselves does not change the origin of the labels and their negative effects.

We need a new language to discuss generational matters and a new way to understand society that bridges age differences. Mr. Stein's unfortunate example aside, Generation X has become known (or rather: not known) for communicating about social experience in non-collective way. As a result, Boomers and Millennials often seem to think that Generation X has not accomplished, and is not accomplishing, anything. Where are Gen Xers, anyway? Why can't you google 'generation X' and come across ten national and international lobby groups and central hubs belching forth Propaganda on the Generation X Self? Where are the trumpeted announcements? Where are the big high profile articles in national magazines? Where are the Gurus and Big Leaders who associate themselves publicly with Gen X? Have you seen a Gen-X-labeled TV show lately? Where are the signposts which point to what Jeff Gordinier called the generational "kitsch" known as 'GENERATION X'? Gen X does not often speak the same language that Boomers and Millennials do. Like the so-called 'Silent Generation,' Gen Xers do not associate their successes with their generational identity. But that does not mean their successes do not exist.

Boomers and Gen Y cannot and will not 'change the world' until they abandon the mass-marketed illusions of ego-enclosed micro-societies and consider the behaviour of the Silent Generation and of Generation X. There are ways of functioning in society other than through self-definition and advancement at the expense of other age groups. The problems we face require consensus, cooperation, mutual respect and humility - and the smashing of generational stereotypes. We must abandon the promotion of the 'ego' as the ultimate source of virtue, power, strength, prosperity and success.

Consider what Millennials would be 'expecting' now, what they would be saying about themselves, and how they would be behaving, if they had been fed a different story from birth, a story that did not involve a grand manifest destiny for their collective Self. What if that story had simply said that they are all different, even though they share some cultural experiences with others their age? What if it had said that they have something to contribute, just as other people of other age groups do. Nor will their contributions constitute the sum total of success or accomplishment of civilization. It will be just another brick in the wall, another drop in the bucket. And yes, they have to defer to those with greater knowledge and experience, usually (but not always) a function of age. Similarly, those who follow them will have to defer to them, because in time, Millennials will know more than their successors.

For decades, youth-oriented marketing has peddled the idea that an explosive, 'fresh outlook' is the silver bullet in every circumstance, that brand new approaches are the best way to solve age-old problems. Usually, technology is mentioned as the game-changer. High tech has transformed age old problems into completely different issues, and Millennial brains are needed to grasp uniquely novel circumstances. It simply is not true.

Millennials who cling to the myths they were sold as children and teens in the 1990s will discover that they have been duped into supporting a very old school power structure. In that structure, the will not only not be leaders, they will be at the bottom of the pile. This Boomer-led establishment will tell Millennials any flattering lie about Gen Y's identity in order to retain power. If members of Gen Y continue to believe mistakenly in the marketing labels they are fed - and even if they believe anti-marketing which is supposed to be more credible but delivers the same myth in different packaging - they will find that their real world circumstances continually and increasingly do not match the world they were told they would find. That discrepancy should be their biggest warning sign to wake up. The last thing in the world they should do is get on that train, and start labeling others and themselves.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Saudade for the Pre-Tech World

Youtube has a lot of great twentieth century media, which let us know just how different things were only 15 years ago.  One Youtube channel called Retrontario plays snippets from television shows and advertisements played locally in the Canadian province of Ontario in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. For those familiar with the area and time, Retrontario particularly conjures up the way Toronto used to be, when it still deserved the nickname 'Toronto the Good' (see my related post here).

Retrontario also carries several examples of TVOntario's public television offerings. Founded in 1970, TVOntario was and is Ontario's answer to America's PBS. It flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, when public TV was at its height. For decades, TVO's Elwy Yost hosted popular highbrow chatter about cinema and movie-making on Magic Shadows (1974-mid-1980s; see the opening here) and Saturday Night at the Movies (Yost hosted SNAM from 1974-1999; the show will be cancelled at the end of the 2012-2013 season due to budget cuts).  The end of a show like this symbolizes the end of an era on public television, pioneered by the so-called Silent Generation.

The province of Ontario has sometimes epitomized a negative stereotype of the Canadian character: stodgy, stuffy, earnest, traditional. The mentality of Toronto's sober, cautious, polite and well-fed burghers prompted Jan Morris to call ending up in Toronto, "second prize in life" in her book, Among the Cities.

However, on the positive side, it was that same stolid propriety that saw TVOntario cultivate in Ontario's public TV audience a civic attitude and responsibility toward intellectual engagement with culture. In a way similar to some efforts in the United States at this time, on PBS, and notably by Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show, TVO saw television as a medium of education. The aim was to depict a desired, prosperous and cultivated society. Television programs which dealt with popular and mainstream culture were crafted toward this larger purpose of higher culture.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Retro-futurism 24: 1968 On the Way to 2019

Real smog in Beijing.

This week, Beijing accumulated hazardous, record levels of smog. From Total Dick-Head: "Dear Readers, that's not a still from Blade Runner you're looking at. That's the smog in Beijing, and some crazy building, and, like, a video billboard." See more pictures of the city this week, here. Real life dystopia, real life noir.

Real smog in Beijing. Image Source: Kotaku.

Blade Runner cityscape.

Go inside to escape the smog and complete the Future Noir mood. From @paleofuture aka Matt Novak: "So got me those Blade Runner whiskey glasses for Christmas and I'm basically the luckiest guy I know." One of my friends, M., was so interested, he tracked them down on the Internet. You can buy them here.

Image Source: @paleofuture.

From the glass seller, Firebox:
We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. We’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. But we haven’t seen anything half as cool as the Blade Runner Whiskey Glass.

Yes, Blade Runner fans, now you can relax after a stressful day ‘retiring’ replicants by getting to grips with the very same tumbler used by Rick Deckard in the seminal 1982 sci-fi movie. And when we say the very same we mean it because the moody Blade Runner’s glass wasn’t just a prop, it was a hand-made crystal glass, mouth-blown by artisans at boutique Italian company, Arnolfo di Cambio – and so is this!
Blade Runner still with Harrison Ford playing Deckard (1982) © Warner Bros. Image Source: Live for Films.

You can watch Ridley Scott's legendary film here. The fantastic Vangelis soundtrack is here. All the book covers for different publications of Philip K. Dick's original 1968 story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? are here. In the original story, Rachael's dissociative responses are explained by her being raised on a spaceship during a botched colonization attempt of Alpha Centauri. The story opens with the death of a 200 year old turtle.

If you've never seen this film, you are lucky to be able to see it for the first time. Do not be one of the newbies on Youtube who cluelessly misses the point to this dystopic Techno-Creation Story: "Just finished watching it!!!!....possibly the worst movie ever...how did this movie get so much priase...smh."

"Can somebody help me understand why this movie is #1 on sci fi lists? i am a huge Sci fi fan and i just watched this movie due to all the glowing reviews...I was hoping for an amazing film..i must admit i found it incredibly boring with little substance...I could not get into it at all...for me the coolest part of the movie was that pyramid building and the opening scenes of the future skyline lol...yea i get it harrison ford may be a cyborg,,i am shocked that people like this so much...."
Dick's original story, written in 1968, described human alienation from the Freudian Self and from the external environment; the flip side of that alienation was the growing role of technology in propagating the Egotist as Creator. It is almost as though Dick envisioned the 20th century's ultimate dilemma, bloodbaths notwithstanding.

That dilemma was the point at which the Id, the Ego and the Superego would fracture and become separate agents, or whole groups, in society. In light of Blade Runner's continuity from 1968 to 2019, this post continues my series (begun here and here) on the ideas developed by the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers in their youths and explores what became of those ideas.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wire Hanger Moments

Joan Crawford (1905-1977). Image Source: George Hurrell via Photographers Gallery.

In this post, I mentioned a friend’s encounter with a Millennial who did not recognize Joan Rivers on television and had never heard of Alfred Hitchcock. Because pop culture and marketing so relentlessly target the youth market, maybe its not surprising that some members of that demographic don't see the world beyond themselves. Recently, a Gen Y commenter on Twitter claimed that one of the most discussed topics today in the world is his generation, the Millennials.

Really. There’s nothing else out there? The economy. The Web-turned-surveillance-society. The Arab Spring. Asia’s markets. The environment. The energy crisis. Space exploration. The tech revolution. Politics. Terrorism. Impending nuclear war.
Mass media create false realities; and it takes awhile to see past the bubble that has been tailor-made to cater to, and shape, one’s own demographic, nationality, subculture and class.
The path to understanding the falsity of generational labels begins when some extra-generational pop cultural reference leaves the uninitiated in the dark. Never knowing who a known figure is or was, is part of a natural process of forgetting in public memory. On the other hand, that memory is sometimes renewed through remakes, biopics, homages, quotes and similar references to earlier pieces of pop culture. In those cases, members of the younger demographic become aware that what they are looking at, or listening to, is a cultural artifact that is an echo of an echo of an echo.

I think back on my own Gen X ‘Joan Rivers ignorance’ moments. One of them came from the American sitcom, A Different World, the late 80s’ Cosby Show spinoff. In one episode (29 October 1992; see it here), main characters Whitley (spoiled rich girl) and her husband Dwayne (hard-working, bright Cosby scion) get robbed. All that’s left in Whitley’s designer clothes closet is wire hangers. “I hate wire hangers!” she shrieks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Professor Hawking

Brain Pickings celebrates Stephen Hawking's 71st birthday today with a 1991 documentary (directed by Errol Morris, music by Philip Glass) about the famous physicist, who stated:
Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.
To see the film, go here or here. In the documentary, Hawking remarked (starting at 0:13:05) that cosmology of an expanding universe does not preclude the existence of a Creator (something he later disputed) but it does limit the timeframe in which the universe might have been created. Hawking's fascination with time as the key to the cosmos also prompted him to ask: why do we remember the past, but we don't remember the future?

From the cover of A Briefer History of Time (2005). Image Source: Skeptic.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Retrofuturism 22: Go Back to 1968 with the Situationists

Leading Situationists, London (1960) (from l. to r.): Attila Kotányi, Hans-Peter Zimmer, Heimrad Prem, Asger Jorn (covered), Jørgen Nash (front), Maurice Wyckaert, Guy Debord, Helmut Sturm, and Jacqueline de Jong. Image Source: Wiki.

There is always a big difference between the ideas of the moment as they were at seminal points in history and what they became. Dismal outcomes alter our understanding of concepts that once inspired. A good example is flowering of thought that graced the year 1968. As economic problems and other tensions drag on in the new Millennium, criticism of the Baby Boomers is reaching raw points and promises to become ever worse.

One of history's most valuable lessons is to take the past on its own terms, and not to bend it anachronistically with hindsight. Sometimes, looking at the past without thinking about what was to come recovers lost information and neglected perspectives. An arbirtary enforced reading from those looking back is disarmed. Accordingly, this blog will in coming weeks occasionally review some visions of the Millennium which developed during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, before the Boomers' future was set in stone.

First up: the Situationists. They were really a Silent Gen movement, a short-lived and limited European movement, which was a weird type of Marxism enacted by means of artistic creation. The Situationists tried to recover freedom as an imperiled source of creativity in modern capitalist societies. They drew conclusions that are now commonplace among Millennial conspiracy theorists, marketers, spin doctors, hackers, gurus and visionaries: "Their theoretical work peaked with the highly influential book The Society of the Spectacle in which Guy Debord argued that the spectacle is a fake reality which masks capitalist degradation of human life."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Generation Z's Revenge

Image Source: Mediahunter.

Picture this. It is 2045. The focus is on Generation Z, born roughly between the late 1990s and the late 2010s.  They are almost exclusively the children of Generation X and are already known for their total immersion in technology. The oldest members of this cohort are now almost fifty years old, the youngest are about to turn thirty. Some commentators imagine today's children will enjoy future prosperity, thanks to the arrival of the Singularity. But no matter what their opportunities, like every other generation, they will be helped, hampered or hindered by their elders' legacies. Those legacies could be dire. Assuming the members of Generation Z are not dying in World War III or its aftermath, here is a snapshot of some problems today's children could face. The following is a purely hypothetical scenario, based on some ideas, perspectives and facts that are currently available.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Old are You Really?

Greta Garbo (1905-1990) in the 1930s. Image Source: MSN.

At a Christmas party recently, an interesting topic came up among several Baby Boomers. 'How old are you in your head?' Meaning, to what age does your mind hearken back as some point with which you associate your core identity? Two men in their 60s said they felt inside that they were in their late 20s. I, the Gen Xer, said I thought of myself in my early 20s. No one, including the older people from the Silent Generation who were there, went above their 30s. There was a consensus that a cognitive dissonance arises, wherein everyone is still 20- or 30-something in their brain, and meanwhile the body ages and becomes more and more at odds with the mind. I don't think the age of one's core identity coincides with one's mental age. The three are distinct: age of self-identity; mental age; physical age.

Joan Crawford (1905-1977) interviewed on The David Frost Show in 1970. Image Source: My Pretty Baby Cried.

This is similar to something one of my friends, C., noted about women: many of them style their hair for the rest of their lives with the same look they had when they felt they were at their most attractive; for many, that decade is apparently the peak of young adulthood. I don't think this is the case as much as it used to be. There used to be a Gloria Swanson parodied stereotype of older women who were young in the 1930s walking around with turbans in the 1950s or even the 1970s (by which time they had come back into fashion). Perhaps this lagging hairstyles trend among women has waned. We can all be thankful that we don't see many Gen X women walking around with late 80s' hair.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Let No One Say These Things Were Never Real

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Image Source: Cnet via Inocuo/Flickr.

One of the clearest and most sobering signs of the Millennial anti-reality malaise is the upswing in Holocaust denial. When a British prince can show up at a costume party dressed as a Nazi, you know there is a softening around the whole memory of the Second World War and of that war's genocidal underbelly. Specific denial comes in many forms. It criss-crosses through wild anti-Illuminati and anti-Masonic chatter, which sometimes revives and updates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for online doom cultists and 9/11 conspiracy theory buffs. There is a whole contingent which views the present politics in the Middle East through a meta-Holocaust lens. There is a blandly expressed, but equally nasty, anti-Zionist political discourse floating around, notably in highbrow circles. This last viewpoint either takes the Holocaust skeptically or obliquely challenges the Holocaust's continued historical relevance.

The Holocaust remains relevant for all the historical reasons that it became a bloody watershed in the past; for the reasons that it plugs into troubles today; and for one more reason related to both, which ties the past, present and future together. That last relevance is the fact that the Holocaust was so horrible that it made, and still makes, us question reality. Even survivors from the death camps repeatedly echoed the sentiment expressed by Harry Herder, a liberator at Buchenwald: "We see it, but we don't believe what we see."