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 sorted by relevance for query "trust no one". Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query "trust no one". Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Matter of Trust

V for Vendetta imagery persists around WikiLeaks-related stories. Image Source: Ars Technica.

Back in 1990, Hal Hartley directed a great little film called Trust, starring the late lamented Adrienne Shelley and Martin Donovan.  This dark comedy hinged on a critical moment where the heroine informs the hero that love depends above all on trust.  It's a social value that is also at the root of doing business.  Within the bounds of a contract, we expect that we can trust our partners.  But now, trust is changing. 

In a recent Piers Morgan CNN interview, this was the main point put forth by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss about their former partner Mark Zuckerberg regarding the disputed origins of Facebook.  They maintained that within the bounds of a business agreement, there is nothing irrational about trusting your partner, while Morgan argued that in high-stakes business, people get stabbed in the back all the time.  Morgan said: lack of trust is normal.  You should expect that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Time and Politics 21: Visits from the Dark-Haired Girl


The Dark Haired Girl by Philip K. Dick (published posthumously in 1989). In his Exegesis (published posthumously 2011), Dick admitted that the dark-haired girl who showed him the larger frame of spacetime and predicted totalitarian America was his dead twin sister. Image Source: Wiki.

This post follows on my post on Wuthering Heights, The Brontë Effect (16 September 2016), to explore the implications of inhabiting time as it really as, not as we perceive it. The 'Brontë Effect,' as I coined the term with reference to Dia Sobin's words, describes the 'reverberating Gestalt' one experiences after reading a work of powerful fiction such as Wuthering Heights, which makes one aware of compressed or overlapping time, temporal identities, and spacetime continua in different perceived realities.

To cross the boundaries, first of immediate, everyday perception, then of whole dimensions, then of multiverses, sounds far-fetched, but I have discussed what it means to live in reality while perceiving time in its whole dimensionality, and not as an arrow, here. From the 19th to the 20th centuries, the fourth dimension has been portrayed by writers elsewhere - by Fyodor DostoyevskyOscar WildeH. G. WellsJoseph ConradMarcel ProustRobert Heinlein, among many others - and notably by Philip K. Dick in "A World of Talent" (1954), which I have described hereIn that story, a precognitive boy is terrified by appearances of 'others.' At first, the reader assumes the boy is schizoid and hallucinating, but these are in fact other versions of himself at different ages. He can see all versions of himself, past, present and future.

A single event in time, perceived by an observer: "Subdivision of Minkowski spacetime with respect to an event in four disjoint sets. The light cone, the absolute future, the absolute past, and elsewhere. The terminology is from Sard (1970)." Image Source: Wiki.

Multiple events in time, perceived by an observer who is moving through spacetime. In the fourth dimension, an 'event' is an intersection between space and time, following a continuum, with each event causally relative to the next: "In modern physics, space and time are unified in a four-dimensional Minkowski continuum called spacetime, whose metric treats the time dimension differently from the three spatial dimensions." The above gif shows "[t]he momentarily co-moving inertial frames along the trajectory ('world line') of a rapidly accelerating observer (center). The vertical direction indicates time, while the horizontal indicates distance, the dashed line is the spacetime of the observer. The small dots are specific events in spacetime."

Our souls know a larger experience of space and time; and stories about souls raise perceptional and ethical questions about that larger experience. In an interview, one of Dick's ex-wives, Kleo Mini, stated that all of Dick's novels concerned the "internal workings of the soul .... He wrote about people's souls, not a word I use lightly."

Dick was fascinated by self-alienation and social alienation, the blind spot when you recognized neither your own soul, nor your place in the world. To survive that moral test, he considered how characters' souls might be externalized and projected back at them as different characters - exactly as Catherine and Heathcliff are projected upon one another in Wuthering Heights. In Dick's view, if your soul was personified outside you, you might fall in love with it, but you would not necessarily accept everything about it. You might hate it and not reconcile with it, which would be heart-breaking, torturous, and tragic.

Image Source: Frith Luton.

Image Source: Carl Jung.

Dick was influenced by unsolved soul puzzles with numinous qualities, which he first encountered in the work of science fiction writer, A. E. van Vogt, and later in the writings of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, who thought that people were haunted by the shadow sides of their souls. Jung argued that for people to become psychologically and socially healthy, they must reconcile with their shadow. He further claimed that these shadows could embody an outer experience with the opposite gender in the anima or animus.

In Jung's hetero-assumed schema, when men and women went out into the world seeking love, they encountered opposite-gendered characterizations of their own souls. Jung theorized that men projected their soul's inner female back upon themselves; and women projected their inner male back upon themselves. Better love relationships depended on an ability to reconcile with one's opposite-gendered soul mirrors, such that one found increasingly sophisticated versions of one's mirror in the world. Men could progress through four anima soul shadow archetypes: Eve (the object of desire, who also reflects the security or insecurity around the man's mother); Helen (a woman who is externally able and beautiful, but internally lacking in virtue, faith, or imagination); Mary (a virtuous woman, who differentiates between lust and love); and Sophia (a woman of wisdom, who encompasses positive and negative qualities without being condemned). For women, the challenge was develop her inner masculine, so that she would externally find a man of physical power; then a capable man of action, a war hero or hunter; then a man of the mind, a professor, clergyman or orator; and finally, a man of hermetic enlightenment, one who could awaken in the woman a spiritual reconciliation between her soul's conscious and unconscious.

Image Source: Find a Grave.

In Jungian terms, the love relationship was a moral path in which a human being developed his or her own soul. Love was always self-referential, a struggle to improve and expand oneself spiritually, while other people became external reflections of, and catalysts in, the individual's internal process. All of this hinged on coping with the unseen, and interacting concretely or nebulously with elements of ourselves which exist beyond our linear experience of time. For Dick, the shadow anima was embodied not in a lover or wife, but in his twin sister, Jane Charlotte Dick, who died in infancy. Her presence haunted him all his life. She took form in characters in his work; he granted her far-seeing and Deus ex Machina roles. He further considered temporal aspects of the projected soul because Jane was dead. She was Philip's phantom agent, reporting from the other side. Because of Jane's influence on the famous author, she also inspired other writers. Perhaps this was why Dick considered the anima-animus not in terms of romance - as in Wuthering Heights - but in terms of society and politics.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Time and Politics 6: Dr. AntiSec, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet

X-Files, Tagline from Season 1, Episode 24, "The Erlenmeyer Flask" (1994). Image Source: The X-Files Taglines.

The political and governmental capacity of the Internet is evolving so rapidly that it outpaces all the analysts currently acknowledged as experts in the fields of international relations, political economy and foreign policy.  Every world trade meeting, high end newspaper editorial, and talking head session coming out of the MSM outlets looks moribund and woefully out of touch. Acknowledged authorities on these matters go on about the gold bubble and the price of oil, unemployment and the Arab Spring. A China slowdown and tax policy. Nuclear Japan and nuclear Iran. Analyses are politically skewed, and the audience is expected to be passive.  Viewers and readers are meant to believe what they are politically inclined to be told, whether or not those politics still reflect reality. 

No one in the halls of power observes that the pitched (and remarkably boring) right-left battle between global elites simply does not address current conditions.  To start, take the growing gap between rich and poor, the growing sections of a crumbling, alienated middle class in developed countries, and the disenfranchised everywhere else. The broad consensus attained through prosperity (or its promise) has been pulverized. The old Roman trick of bread and circuses no longer keeps the mob pacified. The Internet itself became part of a series of marketed distractions, petty consumerist addictions, and cheap sham equalities.  A gadget in every hand. But after the recession hit, neither right nor left formulas could hasten recovery, and the popularity of hacktivism increased dramatically. The online distraction became an obsession, and then almost overnight, the foundation of a new world.

Image Source: Ars Technica.

Meanwhile, the factor that authorities and commentators should try to understand, Cyberpolitics, is acknowledged by pundits via a superficial acquaintance with Julian Assange's shenanigans; or it is skimmed over out of ignorance; or it is derisively poo-pooed as the preserve of basement-dwellers and politically naive computer freaks, whose facility with the mysteries of technology is at worst unnerving. Since the province of computer hacktivism is virtual, it is deemed far removed from the gritty, physical day-to-day modern governmental realities of political parties, fund-raising, friendly think tanks and partial NGOs, lobby groups, private interests, intelligence reports, and back room deals. Instead of looking at and encouraging the positive governmental potential of the Internet, Cyberpolitics has been treated negatively as a security issue.

Being a hacker target had, until recently, been deemed by firms simply to be a security problem for their in-house IT staff or for an out-of-house IT security contractor (that is, until the security contractors got hacked - it was embarrassing). In that climate, hackers become king.

One glance at Twitter's #antisec feed, and anyone schooled in the history of politics, and more importantly, the structure of government, would start to wonder whether movements on the Internet could become the Millennial power groups. Beyond their pet causes, hacktivists might reshape democracy and anti-democracy, as well as the very form of the state.

On the one hand, I see why someone would tweet: "The time to act is now. If youre waiting for November, then you still buy into the lies. There r no political parties."  It is not just disenchantment and a bad economy.  It is not just - as some critics have said - bad character of entitled youth. The Internet is changing the fabric of statehood itself.

On the other hand, the blind support hacktivists receive is troubling.  They adore Orwellian language: LulzSec and Anonymous have joined forces for Operation Antisec. The forces marshaled under this banner are following a pretty straightforward radical political agenda that appeals to any angry youth culture. On Friday, Anonymous targeted a private prison Website in Florida. Another attack took down an Ohio-based FBI affiliate, with its compromised site playing the 1995 Dangerous Minds Soundtrack hit, the Coolio redux of "Pastime Paradise" (incidentally, the song is based on J. S. Bach's Prelude No. 2 in C minor (BWV 847): listen here and here, and compare here and here - the provenance of modern media is amazing).  WikiLeaks and Anonymous are promising more big announcements this week: "There's some massive win heading our (and your) way. We we we so excited! In the meantime we continue to root & leak & rm."

Hackers have been steadily ramping up their rhetoric and actions from pranks to serious threats. It is already Monday 27 February in the UK, and while America watches the Oscars, WikiLeaks have begun publishing the Global Intelligence Files and over 5 million confidential e-mails of the Texas-based security company, Stratfor. It looks like Stratfor's site has been hacked at the same time as well, since they currently have a 14 February 2012 page up advertising: "Jihadist Opportunities in Syria."

Tweets in the past few hours give the tone: "We aren't born under the law. Laws don't apply upon us.. we are legions."

And: "Yikes RT : A wild wiki leak appears: | Bringing emails right in your face! "

And: " to publish security think tank | "

And: "Greece Ministry of "Justice" Website has been Hacked and Defaced by Always Expect Us."

And: "Something dark is churning in my heart. I like it. "

And: ": Academia de Cine / ... YOU´ BEEN HACKED!! We do not forgive."

And: "Federal Trade Commission Server Breached By Anonymous ( Protest)"

And: " University of Washington hacked by xdev "

As the actions escalate and the evolution takes hold, you have to wonder where this will all go. I sure miss the 80s, when we looked at tech with wide-eyed wonder and boundless optimism. The mood of the 1990s, the decade when popular access to the Internet was born, was awash in paranoia.  This was the Dawn of the Paper Shredder, when the X-Files ruled the television. With its smoke and mirrors, virtual Potemkin Villages, invisible hierarchies, unknown authorities and special-access-class of users, I'm not sure the Internet was ever free, or ever lent itself to freedom.  The Internet is very good at setting up online institutions that look like they are dealing with freedom when they are in fact dealing with its opposite.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sheeple in the Year of the Sheep: Illusion and Illumination


Mainly in Asian countries and communities, 2015-2016 is the year of the Sheep, according to the Lunar calendar. Image Source: CNN.

How do we see Sheeple in the Year of the Sheep? Does the Lunar New Year's conciliatory message resolve the trend toward Millennial alienation, conflict and aggression? Can the values of Asia's Year of the Sheep or Goat, such as pacifism, collective action and creativity, ease the tensions caused by western gnosticism? In yesterday's post, I outlined how gnostic beliefs provide the background "social pathology of the political religions." Gnosticism built the central myth of our time: the four-fold Enlightenment illusion of rationalism, of higher knowledge through conflict, of control of the nature, and of human power over the earth. In today's post, I consider the Lunar New Year's symbols as a solution to this problematic myth, despite the fact that 'sheeple' are ridiculed by today's gnostically-minded.

Image Source: Pyramids and Sheeple.


Image Source: Seeking Alpha.

Image Source: Democratic Underground.

Image Source: Red Pill.

Image Source: XKCD.

"Making XKCD slightly worse." Image Source: Simon Software.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on the Revolving Door of Death 2: The Death of the Postmodern Hero

Death of the Flash, COIE #8 (Nov. 1985)

In pulp fiction, character-driven stories, so beloved from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, are now a thing of the past. For many years, but especially since about 2003, DC's comics universe has been awash in death, legacy characters doing the rounds in their fourth versions, dying, and coming back in fifth versions (see my blog entry on this here). DC’s two big events in 2009-2010, Blackest Night and Brightest Day, epitomize the morbid fascination with death and resurrection. Yet the leading lights of the company proclaim that these events in fact will halt the tide of death and reinvest it with meaning, a message that was carried out of Blackest Night. In BN issue #8, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) announces that ‘dead is dead from here on out.’

While we wait for Brightest Day to deliver on writer Geoff Johns’s promise to give death meaning again, it’s obvious that DC and its competitor Marvel have a problem on their hands. During the Modern Age of Comics, which has run from the mid-1980s to the present, the mainstream comics companies painted themselves into a corner when they created the so-called ‘revolving door of death.’ Now, characters die so often in the name of ‘grim drama,’ that readers and critics cynically, or wearily, do body counts at the end of every crossover event. Why has DC killed off more than 650 (at latest fan count here at Legion World) of its characters since 2003? In all this overkill, the 2010 death of the young character Lian Harper aroused outrage at the company for gratuitously manipulating its readers, by taking excess to a new low. There is a deviantART site devoted to the topic here.  Yet DC mistakenly took this emotional response to mean that its creative team had created a dramatic story that moved its readers, rather than comprehending that their audience was expressing annoyance and genuine death trope exhaustion. Why is DC so tone deaf when it comes to hearing what fans are saying? A flood of gore cannot be used to revive the seriousness of already-overused death memes that once were sacrosanct.
 
X-Men #136 (Aug. 1980)

There’s more to this than a vicious circle of commercialism. Let’s go back. The death of a hero in any medium, let alone in comics, was once the height of drama. It grew out of older roots in epics, fairy tales, literature and religious sources. It was a narrative line that was almost never crossed. It carried weight. And because it was a powerful dramatic tool, it was invariably a commercially successful plot device. Practically every comics fan recognizes the famous X-men cover of Cyclops holding a half-dead Jean Grey. The cover foreshadowed her death in the next issue, when she sacrificed herself to save the universe in the Dark Phoenix Saga. According to Marvel wikia, issue #137 from September 1980 was “the first time that a major Marvel Comics super-hero [wa]s killed off on-panel.” Jean Grey’s death might be considered a harbinger of the Modern Age.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nuclear Leaks 15: Fukushima - Media Blackouts and Media Nightmares

Tape on Fukushima's leaky pipes. Image Source: AP via HuffPo.

Caption for the above photograph: "In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), a section of a hose, top, from which tons of highly radioactive water appears to have leaked into the ocean, is seen covered with vinyl tape at the tsunami-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Thursday, April 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)"

Hello darkness, my old friend. Fukushima (福島) means 'Island of Bliss,' or 'Island of Good Fortune,' but every new headline contradicts the name of the prefecture and its crippled Daiichi power plants. 'Shima' means island, and ironically the homonym 'fuku' (拭く) means '(to) wipe or mop (up).'  Because Fukushima's enemy is invisible, there is a lot of leeway for interpretation about what is happening. Journalists and bloggers complain of an international media blackout, possibly requested for diplomatic reasons by the Japanese government. At the same time, officials are reluctant to explain what is happening and cause panic among citizens. They likely fear that anything they say now could inadvertently confirm later liabilities. Adam Broinowski comments:
Stories of tragedy, heroism, resilience and recovery filled the daily news ... [after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami] ... [o]ne local from the area responded in poetry: The stars were amazingly beautiful, but I saw fire burning red beneath the black sky in the east. It was silent, but we could hear explosions somewhere, and the smell of burning was in the air. The Fukushima meltdowns have long been in gestation and were finally born from a movement of ocean and earth. Not so much an historical caesura as its ‘3/11' naming suggests, Fukushima is a re-telling of an old story, only in capitals.
Since 1971, Fukushima Daiichi's weaknesses have grown out of hubris and complacency, which persisted despite decades of international warnings (see here, here and here). Considering the noise against the nuclear industry and nuclear weapons in the 1970s and 1980s, the silence from the media now is deafening. The world's greatest ever environmental disaster is unfolding. Where are political environmental talkers, like Al Gore, who was all over the press a few years ago about global warming and melting ice caps? Why isn't a documentary film-maker political activist like Michael Moore getting to the bottom of corporate secrets in the nuclear industry in America? Silence, like a cancer, grows. Our words like silent raindrops fall, and echo in wells of silence.

MSM silence around Fukushima is a real problem. Local media and wire services are reporting events at the plants, but MSM news programs do not give the information high profile coverage. This silence is creating an information vacuum, increasingly filled by Internet chatter, and the latter exhibits troubling signs.

Hence, Fukushima is becoming a prime example of how the Internet is shaping Millennial consciousness. The Internet is now a strategic - possibly a decisive - factor in any unfolding disaster, because it can alter the generally perceived context of a crisis in the blink of an eye. In a similar way, the power of the Internet was initially demonstrated after 9/11, when online communications allowed 9/11 to become the subject of malevolent second-guessing of governmental, political and social authorities; Cyberspace, which was supposed to become the ultimate source of renewed democratic freedoms, enabled toxic reinterpretations of an increasingly frayed reality.

The first decade of the 2000s confirm that the media lessons of 9/11 were not lost on politicians and power-brokers, nor equally on little people, who realized that social networking and online media tools allowed them to craft the cachet of micro-fame. In this atmosphere, fake or ignorant online sincerity about a disaster looks more authentic than that of unplugged-in people, like the workers at Fukushima, who struggle to contain the actual disaster, and who may die trying to protect us.

Why would cyber-citizens trust their friendly neighbourhood online conspiracy theorist more than the representatives they elected to office? The very act of questioning authority on the Internet now bequeaths automatic, unsubstantiated and false credibility to any cyber-personality who bothers to engage that trope. And while some commentators are sincere and trying to engage in the world around them for the common good, others have agendas; and still others are wolves in sheep's clothing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Internets: Democratic Online Revolutions and Not-So-Democratic Internet Hoaxes

Respond to business proposals

Manage relationships

Match your personal style

Image Sources: Gmail Autopilot.

There's a tongue-in-cheek report at Red Gage (here) that Google is experimenting with artificial intelligence technology to help Gmail users field the avalanche of messages in their inboxes with auto-responses (Hat Tip: @Altaire).  This is the kind of funny little Internet story people talk about over the water cooler at work.  But it has huge implications.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Post-Apocalypse Rehab


Image Source: Archillect.

Some readers may have noticed a shift in attitudes, mood and consciousness since the summer. Several people have commented to me that they feel as though this year was split down the middle. The first half was what you thought reality was, and the second half is what reality really is. The evidence is anecdotal, but I explain that common feeling in terms of piling technological change upon global change, until what we experience does a somersault and collapses over upon itself to become something else. It is as though we became addicted in the first fifteen years of the 21st century to eradicating the 20th century. And now, after all the hammer blows, we are finally succeeding.

The 2nd century BCE Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra blown up by ISIL in July or August 2015. Image Source: Wiki.

Not so fast - the 20th century dies hard. Every attempt to erase its history promises a return of its worst excesses. Holocaust denial, 9/11 denial, this denial, that denial. This summer, ISIS beheaded Palmyra's lead archaeologist and blew up temples in Palmyra's ruins. You can see lists of cultural heritage sites destroyed by ISIS herehere and here. These sites were the pride of 20th century archaeologists and represented the common history of humanity:
In the midst of this eradication of history, deniers say: 'get informedYou need to know the real truth.' US critics claim that the American administration funded ISIS to topple the Assad régime. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has stepped forward to defend what remains of Syria's government. At the UN on 28 September 2015, Putin, KGB-turned-environmentalist-soothsayer, demanded of western leaders: "Do you realize what you've done?" It was a masterful speech, because a lot of it was true, but it was true in a way that played to competing cultures of truth. In late 2014, Putin argued that the Americans engaged in "unprofessional politics," by continuing their Middle East objectives through ISIS proxies. One cannot deny the Americans' dismal half-baked imperialism, implemented through isolationist and exceptionalist navel-gazing, but none of that makes Vladimir Putin the pacifist voice of reason. Nor does it make ISIS into the capitalist mercenaries which Putin claims them to be.

Machinations in international affairs are an odd form of denial, too. However the dominoes fall, no Realpolitik truth about ISIS brings anyone closer to preparing for the hardcore reality ISIS is conceiving, the one in which, following bloodshed across the Levant, they blow up the Egyptian pyramids, assassinate the Pope, and destroy the Vatican in RomeISIS plans to take over India by 2020 in an effort to spark a world war. One commenter below a Times of India report did not believe a word of it. Why would ISIS invade India? "They are planning to wash clothes haha."

The new media men. Image Source: Business Insider.

The ISIS reality - in which beheadings are the norm and most of Syria flees the ISIS advance, while ISIS fighters cross the Sinai Peninsula, other ISIS groups close in on Jordan and Lebanon, and the Saudis build a giant anti-ISIS wall along their border with Iraq - brings 20th century lessons back to the table. The question is not where ISIS came from, who funded them, or who can destroy or control them. The question is: what is ISIS? The Islamic State is bigger than the great power politics out of which it grows. ISIS turns the post-apocalypse into a pre-apocalypse. Their colourful armageddon includes a baby cyclops Antichrist and a Jesus who will supposedly resurrect to help them fight Israel, although the story ignores bits of Islamic prophecy they do not like. So - they are not as doctrinaire as all that. ISIS fighters represent something larger than an internal Islamic Sunni revolution. The medium is the message: their mythological doomsday brand is a perfect commodity to go viral in the market of global communications. What is ISIS? The Islamic State's media men are anti-history pioneers, who explore how far they can go, now that history - at least in the virtual realm - is dead. The Islamic State fills the gaps between the state-centric real world and virtual anti-statism.

Technology and the Internet allow any history to be rewritten, erased or disbelieved, and in the resulting environment, anyone can do anything. There are no limits. Pro-ISIS Websites dismiss reports of ISIS atrocities as online fakes. Malleable history initiates a power game around the creation of reality and enables a resurgence of violence. Malleable history awakens the shadow self in human nature.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Interview: Generation Y: Real World Praise, Virtual Control



I am pleased today to interview Matthew Duhamel. He is a writer and animator who recently wrote an opinion piece (here) at the Website Kotaku. The piece is entitled: All My Life I Was Told I Was Special. It Was A Lie.

Matthew, thank you for doing an interview with Histories of Things to Come to follow up on your Kotaku piece. You spoke in general terms about your age group. Your background chimes with some of the experiences commonly associated with Millennials. Therefore, I’ll include some generational questions, even though obviously an individual perspective can’t pinpoint group attitudes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Turning Point

Where are we going again? One of Inge Morath's rediscovered 1955 Parisian ball photos. (Thanks to -T.) Image Source: Time via The Inge Morath Foundation / Magnum Photos.

Although I've criticized the Baby Boomers' iconoclastic destruction of social values and institutions (here and here), it's time to give them some due in that regard.  Their influence has been compounded by the parallel effect of the Tech Revolution, which has rendered past perspectives and morals obsolete.  However, the ensuing Millennial aporia - a confusion or lack of values - may not be entirely bad. One thing the Boomers initially successfully attacked, not without some justification, was the external labeling imposed by social behaviour and cultural expectations that stifled people and held them back. The only problem is they replaced the old labels with new ones and they also questioned people's capacity to devise alternatives.

We are at the turning point. People without external reference points or viable directions coming to them from society can have trouble orienting themselves.  What is expected from society when the outside prompts and social signposts are gone? What can one do, when everything, especially on the Internet, is a tabula rasa? What do the faithful do when organized religions seem to have lost capacity for building communities with motives grounded in genuine spirituality? What do the politically-minded do when political faiths furnish nothing but empty 18th and 19th century slogans unsuited to current conditions? Will they really take refuge in self-righteous blindnesses, vicious polarities, and internecine mutual accusations between Left and Right? The decline of externally imposed orders and cultural traditions is fracturing personal egos like so many billion eggshells.

On this blog, I've written posts (here, here and here) that indicate that economic troubles intensify aporia.  People experience heart-breaking levels of stress as they face the upheavals of the global economy. The middle classes are dying or evolving. Going bankrupt, losing everything, losing a house (or never having the chance to own one), losing faith in the system, losing faith in the American dream (if you're American) - or being absorbed into a grand global culture (no matter where you're from) - all of this is deeply unnerving.

In social, spiritual and material vacuums, conflicts grow. Yesterday, I posted pieces on the intenstification of weapons research and the implementation of psychological testing on military personnel, which is being conducted with a view toward civilian applications. Ignoring the signs on the horizons won't help. Those reports made me think of a passage in Daniel Deronda: "There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their own lives--where the slow urgency of growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed husbands." One day, the chaos that grew in the obscure distance is on your doorstep.

The obliteration of externally imposed values leaves one real option.  As we turn the bend toward the unimaginable and accelerating future, and the institutions that once defined authority and stability in our societies remain only as gin palace exteriors, there is a time lag that allows for individual and collective introspection.  There is a need to find new values internally.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lessons from Building the Outer Brain


The NYT reported that smart assistants can be (re-)programmed by ultrasonic signals, which are inaudible to their owners. Image Source: NYT / Lynn Scurfield.

There have been several headlines about AI and robots in recent weeks. All of them involve a gap between what we want to see in technology (and in ourselves) and what we don't want to see.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Riding the Wheel of Fortune


Waterwheel at Daio Wasabi farm in Azumino, Nagano, Japan. The farm appeared in Akira Kurosawa's film, Dreams (1990; see film clip, below, and my previous posts on that film, here, here, and here). Image Source: Youtube.

Is time a circle? Sometimes, it looks as though the wheel turns and returns. The wheel of fortune represents two opposing things: a divination of the future, or luck at the roulette table. That means the wheel, which is also a symbol of human technology, mixes a message about the passage of time because it combines order with chaos. The wheel supposedly reveals the points where Fate meets Fortune. Looking at a problem linearly, we might believe the past is gone, done and fixed, indicating the path of future destiny. But if time is a circle, we can revisit the past, gamble again and change its story.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: The Slender Man, An Internet Monster


A Slender Man Hallowe'en costume (2012). Image Source: imgur via Twisted Sifter.

On the Internet, a Web-based horror folklore is called a 'creepypasta.' Among creepypastas, the creepiest of all is the Slender Man. Slender Man is a monster invented in 2009 on the 'create paranormal imagesphotoshop thread at the site Something Awful; he is a Millennial spectre, invented by Eric Knudsen (pseud. Victor Surge) to give the Web a virtual haunter of children and young teens. Know Your Meme:
"Slender Man (a.k.a Slenderman) is a mythical creature often depicted as a tall, thin figure wearing a black suit and a blank face. According to the legend, he can stretch or shorten his arms at will and has tentacle-like appendages protruding from his back. Depending on the interpretations of the myth, the creature may cause memory loss, insomnia, paranoia, coughing fits (nicknamed 'slendersickness'), photograph/video distortions and can teleport at will. The urban legend has inspired fan arts, fictional creepypastas and a mockumentary series in the style of the 1999 indie horror film Blair Witch Project. As the character has grown in popularity, he’s gained a number of other nicknames including The Operator, Der Großmann, Mr. Slim, The Administrator, Daddy LongLegs, Mr. Thin, The Tall Man, The Thin Man and Slendy."
In the evidential narrative style of X-FilesBlair Witch Project, and RinguKnudsen added to his Slender Man photographs, and in forum posts began to create false 'true story' cases on the thread. These details put fake historical meat on Slender's bones; other contributors added scraps to the fake casebook:
  • “We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…” – 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.
  • One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. – 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.
  • 5/24/95**1994: Wilks Estate. One subject reported nothing out of the ordinary before taking photograph. Lower stairs area was said to be very dark. Subject states that after the camera flash she heard a sound like a watermelon being *unable to understand subject*.
  • 5/25/93**Subject unable to recall events after manor power failure. Unable to question other two identified subjects. Camera and film acquired from Gloria Cready, current resident of Woodview Mental Hospital and Psychological Rehabilitation Clinic. Film mostly uncontaminated despite mass of blood and human tissue present on camera. No positive ID on anomalous tall and slender subject. Facial blur caused by possible contamination.
  • 6/7/93**Early digital analysis indicates tall subject may have no eyes. Anomalies, previously thought to be film errors and flash artifacts, now thought to be appendages.
  • 6/10/93**Final identified subject reported missing along with other thirty-three patients and staff of Woodview Mental Hospital and Psychological Rehabilitation Clinic south wing.
  • 6/18/93**Further inquiry to cease immediately. (see report No.3339-2)
  • This first photo was given to me by my uncle, a police officer who was part of the investigation trying to find nine missing teens who had gone camping in the local mountains six years ago. It was developed from a disposable camera found at the campsite. None of the missing teens have ever been found, and all their possessions were still at the campsite. He was pretty drunk and shaken up when he gave me this, and made me promise I'd never show anyone else.
  • The second photo is of an elementary school fire in 1978. No official cause was ever found. Seven students and a teacher became trapped and died before firefighters could respond. Many of the students and teachers from the time have a history of anxiety disorders and panic attacks, even those who weren't at the school on that day. At least one has since committed suicide, and several others legally changed their names once they reached adulthood and have disappeared.
  • **Alert**Alert**Deployment Request**ANTI-S WALKER UNIT to deploy to --Wichita--Kansas--
  • Steinmen Woods**Both subjects were hunting in the Steinmen woods four hours before sundown. Surviving subject states that while hunting both men grew uneasy as fog levels rapidly increased. A constant murmuring sound accompanied by a low hum eventually became apparent to the two men an hour after the fog increased. An object falling out of tree stuck one of the men in the left shoulder causing him to discharge his weapon. Object said to be the body of a man of unknown age. It was very precisely dissected, with major internal organs still contained within the rib cage in what looked to be clear bags. Surviving subject placed organ bag within backpack. Attack followed several minutes later after a "low children's laugh, like a giggle". Surviving subject ran until he reached his vehicle. Subject then drove to assumed safety. Backpack destroyed. Surviving subject is classified as a B7 witness. B7 witness to be placed in quarantine "Blind Box" until resolution.
  • 2007:Investigation team discovered twenty-two bodies of both genders and various ages impaled on broken tree branches in a radiating circle pattern with chest mutilation as often noted with Slender Man. Upon confirmation, lead investigator ********* called for an immediate evacuation of investigation team at 1700 hours. Bodies first discovered at 1100 hours. Deadline for safe evacuation of team with only viewed physical evidence of Slender Man approximately 1730. Lost contact of team at 1725. Safety procedures fell well within established protocols. Reason for abnormality is unknown. Second team recovered camera equipment one week later. Slender Man safety procedures require this incident's physical photographic evidence to be disposed of by no later than 10/20. I honestly don't get what half this poo poo means. I'm done with this Slender Man stuff. It's starting to make me uneasy. It's like reading the GBS ghost story threads before I go to bed. Why do I have to look at this stuff while it's super late? Luckily, my friend is coming over.
Everyone chatting in the Something Awful forum agreed that Knudsen had created something frightening and original, a big monster begging for a bigger story. One commenter thought Slender Man reminded him (or her) of the scary (and true) 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident in Russia. Another wrote:
"Slender Man would make a pretty nice horror novel in the lines of House of Leaves. Essentially, make the novel a collection of witness statements, newspaper clippings, pictures, drawings, articles discussing evidence for an against the slender man and, to tie it all neatly together, a few stories of people who want to track the slender man, unravel the mystery, [a]nd the kicker would be the last 20 or so pages would be missing, with only scraps of paper left, arranged as logically as possible, just excerpts, words, rips, ink stains, etc."
Another said, "Slender Man is scaring the crap out of me for some reason." Others thought that Slender Man would be great subject for a movie. When you go back and read the forum thread now, you can see how the Internet can be a hotbed of genuine creativity, as it was supposed to be. This was folklore, generated in a brand new way. The Something Awful forum offered a new narrative form, an organic, virtual reality story-telling standing on the shoulders of oral tradition, fairy tales, urban legends, spiritual mythologies, religious texts, and ghost stories. That, in itself, is fascinating and culturally significant. Scholars of mythology have deemed Slender Man to be an authentic example of digital folklore: he is open-sourced, communally-created, variable in form, and audience-response-driven. Commentators have since remarked that Slender Man's appeal exploits the fears of the Digital era:
"Shira Chess describes the Slender Man as a metaphor for 'helplessness, power differentials, and anonymous forces.' Peck sees parallels between the Slender Man and common anxieties about the digital age, such as feelings of constant connectedness and unknown third-party observation. Similarly, Tye Van Horn, a writer for The Elm, has suggested that the Slender Man represents modern fear of the unknown; in an age flooded with information, people have become so inured to ignorance that they now fear what they cannot understand. Troy Wagner, the creator of Marble Hornets, ascribes the terror of the Slender Man to its malleability; people can shape it into whatever frightens them most. Tina Marie Boyer noted that 'The Slender man is a prohibitive monster, but the cultural boundaries he guards are not clear. Victims do not know when they have violated or crossed them.'"
This faux-real authenticity, as the directors of the 2016 Blair Witch sequel will tell you, is extremely hard for artists to achieve; sometimes a fable's original power only strikes full force in a particular time and place. This happened with Slender Man. What the Something Awful forum members did not reckon on was that Slender Man would inspire a real horror in real life.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Devil is in the Details


The British Guiana 1c Magenta (1856) has a sailing ship image and the colony’s Latin motto, "Damus Petimus Que Vicissim" or "We Give and Expect in Return." Image Source: stampboards.

The most rare and valuable stamp in the world is the British Guiana One Cent Magenta, which is worth almost USD $9.5 million, according to its last auction in June 2014. As far as we know, there is only one 1c Magenta. It is so rare and valuable that it is the only major stamp not in the private philatelic collection of Britain's royal family, who have been collecting stamps for as long as stamps have existed. The stamp was discovered in 1873 by a 12-year-old Scottish schoolboy, Louis Vernon Vaughan, who found the stamp among his uncle's papers in Demerara. He saw that the stamp was not listed in his catalogue and sold it for six shillings to a local collector. According to online inflation and currency conversion calculators, six shillings in 1873 would be equivalent to approximately USD $259 in September 2015 values.

The stamp is so rare because it was produced in an emergency issue at the Georgetown newspaper, the Royal Gazette, when a British ship did not deliver enough stamps needed for the colony. Since its discovery, the stamp has had many adventures, exploded in value, and gained worldwide attention due to its uniqueness. In 1878, the greatest stamp collector in history, Count Philippe la Renotière von Ferrary added it to his collection. In 1922, the British royal family tried to buy it and failed. In 1970, a consortium of Pennsylvanian businessmen bought it. In 1980, the heir to the Du Pont fortune bought it; and the stamp spent the late 1990s up to 2010 in the owner's bank vault, while the owner spent time in prison for murdering an Olympic gold medal wrestler. The current owner has briefly lent the stamp to the Smithsonian. If you want to see it and you live anywhere near Washington DC, visit the Gross Stamp Gallery at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, where the 1c Magenta is on display between June 2015 and November 2017. The Museum warns: please call in advance to confirm the stamp's availability at +1 (202) 633-5555, since it will be periodically removed from display for preservation.

The story of this stamp is a lesson about paying attention to details and the origin of real value. It took the eyes and perspective of a twelve-year-old boy to see the value of the stamp, that is, a boy not yet brutally shaped by the world, whose imagination was still fully available to him and completely his own. Before the stamp's 2014 auction to current owner Stuart Weitzman, the Du Pont trust placed the stamp in the care of Sotheby's auction house. The Sotheby's agent who was temporarily entrusted with the stamp recognized that it takes that youthful perspective - to have one's eyes open to the wonders of the world - to recognize this stamp and things like it of immense value:
David Redden, director of special projects at Sotheby’s, said the “British Guiana” was a stamp of almost mythical repute among philatelists. He said: “For me, as a school stamp collector, it was a magical object, the very definition of rarity and value: unobtainable rarity and extraordinary value."
Imagine digging through an attic stuffed with old junk. You shuffle through a sheaf of dusty papers, and a tiny square of wine-coloured paper flutters onto the floor. You step on the scrap of paper, pull it off your shoe, toss it out, and throw away the second example in the world of the British Guiana 1c Magenta, which would have been your biggest lotto ticket ever, if you had only known, if you had only been paying attention to the details.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Evolution of Corporate Persons

"Placards and posters attached to crowd barriers outside the Ecuadorian embassy [in London] voicing support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange." Image by Pete Riches (16/08/12); Image © Demotix; Image Source: Global Voices Advocacy.

One startling feature in Kim Stanley Robinson's sci-fi predictions for the future, which rang true in a most unsettling fashion, was the size of corporations in his Mars Trilogy. He imagined them as becoming more powerful than nation-states.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

DCU Continuity for Terra: The Rosebud of the Citizen Kane of Comic Books

Gar: "Of course.  But this is -- all wrong?" Blackest Night: Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)

Why write a continuity for such a hated character?  I wrote this continuity and analysis because I’ve always been deeply impressed by the Judas Contract as one of the greatest stories ever told in superhero comics. It is an undisputed classic, the height of what can be achieved in the medium. As a young fan in the 1980s, like many teenaged readers of the New Teen Titans at the time, I bought the issues at a newsstand, and yes, Marv Wolfman and George Perez ruined the summer of 1984 for me with the death of this charismatic and troubled character. Reading a story like that at such an impressionable age was like sitting in a master class on the tremendous power this genre of pulp fiction can have when it’s at its best. The serial format also meant that the full story – including the NTT Doom Patrol arcs – unfolded from about 1981 to 1984. There were no solicitations, no previews, no internet boards to give you a hint of what was coming. The aftermath stories are still unfolding today. It is impossible to convey to younger comics fans, or newer fans of the Cartoon Network version of Terra, what that long time delay did in terms of understanding this story and the character.