News Briefs 21-11-2014

” I think I am, therefore I am… I think.”

Quote of the Day:

“I put a dollar in a change machine… Nothing changed.”

George Carlin

The Art of Affecting Consciousness

Zep Tepi, by Cosmic Joker

When I was working on Darklore Volume 8, I happened to stumble across a piece of artwork that I instantly knew had to be the cover for the book. Upon looking further into the artist, I discovered a whole body of sacred geometry-based art - all created since just Deember 2012! - that absolutely blew my mind, such as the piece 'Zep Tepi' at the top of this post.

The artist, Steve "Cosmic Joker" Richards, told me that the urge to make art hit him in 2010, but then stopped shortly after, and then again in 2011, but in 2012 "I immediately knew it was staying and it wasn't going to just disappear". Along with this urge came a "throbbing" in Steve's forehead as well as tinnitus.

So for 6 months I just drew non stop bright vibrant pictures with colouring pencils...and then in Dec 2012 I picked up a fineliner [and] haven't stopped since!

My life long passions regarding the nature of reality, consciousness, ancient Egypt, synchronicity, cycles and symbols are themes I'm trying to put into my Art and finding ways of including information too, where symbolic, coded or literal. Trying to make information beautifull springs to mind.

Cosmici Joker Cross

Go check out Steve's "Art of Affecting Consciousness" website, and if you're on Facebook like his page as he is regularly posting images of stuff he's working on.

And if you want to support Steve in his passion, and get yourself something special in the process, be sure to browse his Etsy shop for something you like, or even get in contact with him about a commission if you have a specific idea you'd like 'encoded'.

Link: The Art of Affecting Consciousness

Link: The Cosmic Joker on Facebook

Link: Etsy Shop for The Cosmic Joker

News Briefs 20-11-2014

Where's our Mexican Mockingjay? We've had it with the seagulls!

Thanks to Katniss.

Quote of the Day:

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

~John F. Kennedy

News Briefs 19-11-2014

It has to be heroic.

Quote of the Day:

A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown.

Tom Hanks

Review: The Peripheral by William Gibson

There's a moment midway through The Peripheral where Flynne Fisher, the book's young female near future protagonist, returns from visiting the far future and has to remind herself that she's physically in the present, not situated in the past. Which accurately describes the sensation the reader has of putting the book down at that point too. William Gibson has crafted a step ladder to look over the horizon of present, past an economic and social collapse to glimpse what lies beyond a technological singularity. The science-fictional world we inhabit today quickly becomes mundane, and artful writer that he is, you find yourself not just accidentally thinking of today as the past, but thinking of the now in terms of the language of two separate fictional futures.

In The Peripheral we have Gibson first conjuring the USA in the endgame of the economic collapse to come, according to many a futurist; pitched as kind of a Justified of the Future. The big-box franchises of WalMart and its like, mixed with a society seemingly only kept afloat by the narcoeconomy to one side and the security state from the other. Everybody is hustling, which is how Flynne finds herself subbing for her brother who's himself moonlighting for some corporation, remote-operating as security for... exactly what they're not quite sure, but they presume to be a new game engine.

She witnesses what appears to be an overly graphically rendered death, and events are set in motion. It turns out that Flynne was acting as security for something occurring in a different realm. And by witnessing the event her, her family, friends, town, country and the entire planet's fate are successively entangled with those of its almost god-like residents, and forever changed as a result. Giving the plot an aspect of “as above, so below.”

The novel's plot is simply a matter of having Flynne identify someone from the crime scene. But manoeuvring her into a position to do so takes her and her friends on a compelling and transformational journey.

This is on one level a straight murder mystery. A basic whodunnit. A witness to be protected from unknown, powerful forces. A crime to be solved, wrongs to be righted, notions of order maintained and two different worlds elaborated in the process of the telling. It's the mechanics of this - the how and the why and the frankly amazing setting - that make this a mind-blowing read.

All the signature elements of a Gibson story are here – the attention to detail about fashion that exists on a natural continuum from haute couture to milspec, the Russian gangsters, the tight knit group of former military operators, the spy with spooky powers and deep state access, and the wealthy patron exploiting novelty to find the next angle and increase their capital.

The setting of the crime and home of The Peripheral's second, alternate protagonist, Wilf Netherton, is another Gibson favourite, London. A place that is very much the City, but in a world unrecognisable in many aspects of its every day life – both to us and Flynne. All pretence of a separation between capitalism, democracy and multinational crime has been abandoned and a posthuman kleptocracy is the dominant order. The NeoReactionary Future many of us fear has to come pass.

The circle of wealth and privilege Wilf exists in adds to the contrast of Flynne's everyday struggle just to keep her mother in life-giving medication. As their paths converge their different backgrounds and attitudes are emphasised with Netherton's casual declaration that “it's only money”.

This London is in the far future Vernor Vinge warned us about in his classic “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era”. Their powers are immense – nanotechnological assemblers make them near omnipotent - but the world has been vastly depopulated in the transition. They have seemingly everything, but are also not without their own problems. As fellow cyberpunk writer Bruce Sterling has described this likely scenario:

“The posthuman condition is banal. It is crypto — theological, and astounding, and apocalyptic, and eschatological, and ontological, but only by human standards. Oh sure, we become as gods (or something does), but the thrill fades fast, because that thrill is merely human and parochial. By the new, post Singularity standards, posthumans are just as bored and frustrated as humans ever were. They are not magic, they are still quotidian entities in a gritty, rules — based physical universe. They will find themselves swiftly and bruisingly brought up against the limits of their own conditions, whatever those limits and conditions may be.”

The bridge between these two worlds is a piece of magical technology of unknown workings and providence. Exactly the kind of thing to occupy the attention of a posthuman kleptocrat who has seemingly everything we could ever imagine.

Treating the past like a toy pocket dimension. One that is accessed via something like a game server, its residents treated like game pieces and then used as a board to compete against others as if it was all just a Real-Time Strategy.

The act of reaching back changes the present, for reasons also not understood, while the future goes on. This is a comfortable scenario to those familiar with the Many World's theory. A different timeline, or continuum, branches off but the connection between the two is magically maintained by whatever it is that initiated it in the first place.

The human citizens of Flynne's present, and the neoprimitives of the post-Singular world – populations that have survived the singularity with their baseline humanity intact – these are both valuable sources of novelty to the posthuman klepts, something that with all their power (and possibly a consequence of it), they seem unable to generate themselves, but are desperate for, if only to relieve their boredom.

To those conversant with early cyberpunk fiction, the mining of the past to enrich the future is a familiar scenario, as explored in the Mozart in Mirrorshades short-story, from the Mirrorshades anthology. To others, the short-lived tv series Terra Nova may serve as a reference point.

Flynne is transported into this future world by the same game server device connection. Just as Neo breaks out of and then jacks back into The Matrix across realities, and Jake Sully pilots his Avatar across space, Flynne, and the others who come to join her, operate remote bodies; varying from bioengineering humanoid drones, to exoskeletons, to almost indescribable physical objects.

To say any more now would really ruin the enjoyment of reading such a masterful tale. The vocabulary of these futures is slowly built up such that by the end of the story you're reading a sentence with a completely different meaning ascribed to it than before you'd started this book.

Speculative fiction serves to pose not just well constructed thought experiments of what might become, but to also cast a new light on the present in doing so. Just as the klepts come to use their far future knowledge to grind the lives of Flynne & co. like it was just another MMO, so we can inform our own actions today by reading this tale about two tomorrows.

Most notable to me, apart from the foreground of economical collapse and subsequent radical transformation, is the thread of extinction woven into the world view. One of the characters is in permanent mourning for the species being killed by the ecological collapse under way right now. Another keeps simulacra of animals long vanished from our world as household pets, resurrected to act as perhaps no more than a status object. As Gibson is wont to do, this is an emergent part of the zeitgeist that is being tapped into. The question it leaves me with most of all is, as consciousness of this is raised, what is to be done?

All of which makes The Peripheral more than just a tightly constructed, fascinating piece of story-telling. It makes it an important element in a cultural conversation that desperately needs to be more visibly taking place.

***** HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Is the Phaistos Disc an Homage to Motherhood?

The Phaistos Disc

Is the Phaistos Disc an homage to motherhood?  Academia is undecided.

Discovered in 1908 in the Minoan Palace-site dedicated to Phaistos – a Minoan deity – by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier, the Phaistos disc has been an enigma for more than 100 years.  Oft written about, rarely understood, never truly deciphered, the Phaistos disc is a remnant of a civilisation long dead, a civilisation connected most intimately to classical Greece, and possibly even…Atlantis.

There are those who believe, with some credibility, that the great Atlantean society was in fact the Minoan peoples situated on the volcanic islands of Santorini and Crete.  Some researchers claim that the massive volcanic eruption centered in Santorini’s Thera, was the very same cataclysmic event described in Plato’s Criteas and Timeas, the event which caused the demise of the so-called island of Atlantis.  Details are scant, of course, since all of the modern conjecture about Atlantis is based on best guesses and ancient legends, but of the many Atlantis theories, the Minoan eruption theory is among the more believable.

Of course, all of that is moot, as it pertains to the Phaistos Disc, if we cannot understand what it says, and thus far we cannot.

The Phaistos Disc, much like other linguistic puzzles – such as the Voynich Manuscript – has been the focus of much study and debate, and until recently all theories about its content were on relatively equal footing.  To date there have been no less than 23 decipherment attempts, all of which claimed some measure of success.  Both linguistic and symbolic interpretations have been put forward, but none has offered any sign of a congruent, predictable language or system of communication…until now.

On October 20 of this year, Associate Director and Erasmus Coordinator of the Technological Education Institute of Crete, Gareth Owens, presented his own findings and theory about the meaning of the cryptic symbols imprinted on either side of the disc.  Owens claims to have deciphered most of the symbols and describes it as “the first Minoan CD-ROM featuring a prayer to a mother”.  He identifies several words emerging from the symbols, most pertaining to motherhood, and believes that it is an homage to a Minoan deity connected to fertility, pregnancy, and birth.

Owens’ confidence in his interpretation, which was a joint effort in conjunction with linguist and Professor of Phonetics at Oxford, Dr. John Coleman, lead him to claim that the Phaistos Disc can now be used as a Rosetta Stone for the ancient Minoan language.

The Phaistos Disc

Though, as with any ancient artifact of this nature, his theory isn’t accepted by all.  Researcher and expert on symbolism and ancient language traditions, and author of the book The Decipherment of the Phaistos Disc, Dilip Rajeev disagrees with Owens, calling his interpretation “implausible”.

The basis for this objection is in the assertion that the disc is not an alphabetic text, as Owen’s suggests, but is instead decipherable as a body of symbolic text, similar to traditional Chinese kanji.  The difference, according to Rajeev, is that symbolic characters depend on association with other characters to derive meaning.  For instance, when one symbol appears on its own, it can have a particular meaning, but when paired with other symbols that meaning changes, sometimes drastically.  In alphabetical texts, such associations are much less important.

When viewed this way, Owens’ interpretation of the disc is certainly called into question.  Though we’ve all heard these claims and counter claims before.  You’ll recall that the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript has been thought solved several times too, though in each case, as with Phaistos Disc, the claims are inevitably marred by competing theories and minor details in disagreement with each other.  It may be that these artefacts are truly indecipherable, after all, they’ve held their secrets this long.  No doubt though, researchers will continue to chip away at the meaning behind the symbols, and may, eventually, provide us with definitive explanations for these mysteries.

News Briefs 18-11-2014

Interested in psychedelics? Make sure you have a copy of The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia on your bookshelf!

Thanks David.

Quote of the Day:

Our hearts are battered, but they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed.

Ed and Paula Kassig

Evidence for Psi From the People Doing the Research

Telepathy

Evidence for Psi is a new anthology edited by Damien Broderick and Ben Goertzel, with essays contributed by researchers in the field, including Rupert Sheldrake, Jessica Utts, Stephan Schwartz, Roger Nelson, Ed May, Suitbert Ertel and more:

Psi is the term used by researchers for a variety of demonstrable but elusive psychic phenomena. This collection of essays provides a detailed survey of the evidence for psi at the level of scientific examination.

Key features of apparent psi phenomena are reviewed, including precognition and remote perception (knowledge of future or distant events that cannot be inferred from present information), presentiment (physiological responses to stimuli that have not yet occurred), the effects of human emotions on globally dispersed machines, the possible impact of local sidereal time on psi performance, and the familiar feeling of knowing who is calling on the phone.

Special attention is given to those phenomena that make it difficult for scientists to get a clear understanding of psi. The body of psi research, while complex and frustrating, is shown to contain sufficiently compelling positive evidence to convince the rational open-minded observer that psi is real, and that one or more physical processes probably underlie observed psi phenomena.

You can find a full list of the essays included at KurzweilAI.net (where you'll also find the usual comments beneath the fold mentioning James Randi's challenge, and so on...).

Link: Evidence for Psi on Amazon.com

News Briefs 17-11-2014

In pre-Soviet Russia, comet land on you...

Quote of the Day:

Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops

H.L. Mencken

Breaking Rocks: Great Pyramid Vandals Get 5 Years Prison

Vandalism in the Great Pyramid

Late last year we covered the story of two German 'amateur archaeologists' who had chipped some stone off the wall in the relieving chambers of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, with the goal of dating it to see if the orthodox timeline for the pyramid's construction held up. I noted at the time that despite their lack of credentials, the pair seemed to have official permission to do some research within the pyramid, and that heads might roll as a result.

Fast forward a year, and that is exactly what has happened:

An Egyptian court sentenced three Germans and six Egyptians to five years jail on Tuesday for stealing fragments of a pharaonic artifact from Cairo's Great Pyramid, a judicial source said.

A court in Giza, south of the capital, sentenced in absentia three Germans -- who had claimed they were researchers -- for stealing pieces of an ancient scroll bearing the name of the Pharaoh Khufu, as well as rock samples, the source said.

Six Egyptians, including three employees of the antiquities ministry, two pyramid guards and the director of a travel agency, were also jailed for five years for aiding the robbery, the source said.

I'm not sure what this "ancient scroll bearing the name of Khufu" is though - unless there is some confusion and they are referring to Khufu's name being written on the stone wall of the relieving chamber.

And the rolling heads may get bigger in the near future as well, with Zahi Hawass now under investigation over claims he helped the German vandals.

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