News Briefs 16-12-2014

Happy birthday Bill. Remember folks, it's just a ride.

Quote of the Day:

Here's what we can do to change the world right now to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defence each year and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded.

Bill Hicks

Mad Max: Fury Road and the pre Jackpot Years

This is the first teaser trailer for the long anticipated Max Mad reboot, Fury Road, directed by George Miller.

An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There's Max, a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And Furiosa, a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.

A couple of little things first. This story is set on “the furthest reaches of our planet”... far away from what? A place where life goes on as it was before, where the Empire never died? Is it like the post-Collapse world of Cloud Atlas? Is there another instance of humanity across the ocean, that has kept the high tech life of those that came before intact, but are dealing with their own set of uniquely horrifying problems? What is the geography of the end of the world? To further abuse a much abused phrase, a future planet where “the Apocalypse is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." No one single Dark Age for all people, but local variants with different extremes.

Obviously we don't know, can't know and that's not the point of the George Miller's movie. And this is, of course, just a trailer. But the topic of ‘post-apocalyptic’ futures is fascinating to explore, and the Mad Max world provides a good jumping-off point. What is the meaning of this film? Another apocalyptic tale for a dying world? Can it mean something more? What can we read into it? What if we look at it through the lens of the new novel by one of the founding fathers of cyberpunk, who's been imagining the bleak dystopia to come for us since the early 1980s.

SPOILER WARNING: plot details of The Peripheral by William Gibson are discussed from here on in, in far more detail than my original review.

If, like me, you've recently had your brain re-wired by the latest William Gibson book, The Peripheral, then you are already thinking about the world we're occupying now as being set within “the pre Jackpot Years”. That though darker times lie ahead, rays of light are already leaking through for those that might survive what amounts to an extinction event. A whole new world awaits, completely unimaginable from our vantage point, equal parts horrible and wonderful. An idea of the course we're on that reframes the current techno-utopic future of the Singularity, by emphasising the pain and cost involved of such a societal transition. Pointing out that it doesn't just magically get all post-scarcity and mind upload cities, especially if that's all that's focused on.

Before Kurzweil & co re-branded it, the Singularity was never pitched as desirable. The influential Vernor Vinge originally described the post-human era as a dangerous place to be for those that didn't get upgraded in the process (that didn't win the Jackpot). He had some advice for the inhuman inheritors of the Earth, that applies equally to us today:

Though none of these creatures might be flesh-and-blood humans, they might be the closest things in the new environment to what we call human now.

I. J. Good had something to say about this, though at this late date the advice may be moot: Good proposed a "Meta-Golden Rule", which might be paraphrased as "Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors."

Gibson doesn't elaborate upon “the Jackpot Years” until over halfway through the novel. But by then he's made it clear that the events that separate the two time lines in his story have been very, very dark indeed. When Wilf, the future posthuman, finally explains it all to Flynne, the near future human, and thus to us reading it too, it's basically everything bad we ever imagined might happen, short of total annihilation, in a big climate chaos wrapped bundle:

No comets crashing, nothing you could really call a nuclear war. Just everything else, tangled in the changing climate: droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there.”

The future most of can see coming that aren't too distracted to be paying attention. The road we could still be on in the decades to come before things get bad as in feral cities and people dying by the billions. As the survivors run out of room to stack the corpses.

So now, in her day, he said, they were headed into androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad shit, like she sort of already knew, figured everybody did, except for people who still said it wasn’t happening, and those people were mostly expecting the Second Coming anyway.”

Do we want to talk about why the Singularity is known to its critics as the “Rapture of the Nerds”? Vinge continued in his dire revelation:

I have argued above that we cannot prevent the Singularity, that its coming is an inevitable consequence of the humans' natural competitiveness and the possibilities inherent in technology. And yet ... we are the initiators. Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things. We have the freedom to establish initial conditions, make things happen in ways that are less inimical than others. Of course (as with starting avalanches), it may not be clear what the right guiding nudge really is”

As another movie once said, “no fate but what we make”. Mad Max: Fury Road will show us a glimpse into the full Collapse future. (Let's be honest, we know exactly how this movie will play out, it's highly unlikely that it will have a twist ending with it all occurring in a VR simulator as a generation of posthumans kill time in some fan-fic recreation of the past, on their way to seeding a new galaxy.) Again.

It's worth pointing out that the original film was created in reaction to the early 1970s oil crisis, but that we're now living in the days of Peak Oil proper. Where another energy catastrophe and subsequent societal collapse is being held off in large part by frakking the planet; a word that sounds bad enough, without it already being a pejorative from a fictional scifi timeline (BSG). That's already triggering earthquakes. And the western democracies are doing it on their home turf too; though mostly in territory deemed politically expendable to their current administrations. Where land grabs on an unprecedented scale are being termed geoengineering.

We are a worldwide civilisation coasting with the fuel gauge nearing empty, thinking there must be another service station just over the horizon. So crank up the radio, let's sing along to some tunes, it'll be just fiiiiiiiine.

Many peak oil bloggers contend that the real moment to do something to prevent the Collapse so graphically rendered above was after the preview first given in the 1970s. That Mad Max should've been a guardian of a road not taken. Instead, here we are. Celebrating him again. And the doomed world he's a patron saint of leaks out all over the place. Like the entire plot of the excellent UK series Utopia. Like the grim prophecy of this scene in Newsroom on the reality of Climate Change.

Hopefully, unlike previously ignored attempts by the Hollywood machine at eco-catastrophe fiction – I'm looking at you, Waterworld – this very grindhouse film will focus attention and serve as more than a distraction. An over-the-top, cathartic outlet against a background of equally disturbing events – from the crackdown on Occupy Hong Kong to the CIA Torture Report, and every protest turned police action across North America in between. Whatever this all mutates into in the coming months. We don't need that.

Thinking about this as “the pre Jackpot Years” helps us reframe the narrative. Something better can come out of all this. This doesn't have to be the prelude to a future high-speed, nightmarish post-apocalypse, worse than the slow motion one we're in now. We don't have to wait for it to accelerate into an unavoidable crash and collapse. There is no techomagical Singularity that will save us. We must wake up behind the wheel and plot a new path on the map of the possible. Our civilisation survived the twentieth century and everyday Fear of the Bomb. We can make it through this too, and build something better. All the pieces are here already, waiting to be recombined. From advances in automated factories and 3D Printing to basic science and amazing speculations on the origins of life.

What comes next is up to us. In many ways we're limited only by our imagination. Why books from In The Dust Of This Planet to The Blood Of The Earth argue strongly for a change in consciousness in how we view both the world now and to come. What we make out of the building blocks we already have is for us to choose. Buckminster Fuller once said: “whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment.” We just have to decide how to build a future worth living for all of us, correct our direction away from Oblivion and towards whatever version of Utopia we can agree upon. Or plan for life amidst the chaos and barbarity of Bartertown.

We Wish You A Graily Christmas - Fortean Holiday Reading From Our Book List

With the holiday season just around the corner, it's worth reminding readers that if you're searching for a last-minute Xmas gift, or are just looking for something to feed your brain on during the silly season, it might be worth considering a book from Daily Grail Publishing. Not only are they chock-full of Graily goodness, but each sale helps keep this site running as well as supporting the various authors and researchers associated with each book. First, our stand-alone books on topics ranging from shamanism to UFOs, lucid dreaming and the afterlife:

Daily Grail Books

We also now have eight volumes of our Fortean anthology series Darklore available:

Daily Grail Publishing's Darklore Series

Thanks to all the Grailers out there for your ongoing help, support and patronage over the past year - we hope you have a safe and happy holiday period!

News Briefs 12-12-2014

  • Marie Celeste reveals how strange life in dark water can be.
  • Younger Dryas comet impact enfolded in Giza Pyramids?
  • Geminid meteor shower visible this weekend.
  • Organic compounds synthesized by cosmic impacts?
  • Deepening mystery behind source of comet’s water...
  • Ice on comet suggests different origin for oceans.
  • The Great Green Wall fights sands of time.
  • Staring into the imaginary abyss.
  • Final destination altered by from psychic.
  • Unraveling the algorithm of your dreams...
  • Life on Mars?
  • Leaf butterflies and evolution.
  • Ornithological family tree unveiled.
  • Focusing the scope of NASA’s search for life on other planets.
  • Space & Time, via Christopher Nolan.
  • Thawing climate change policies in Peru?
  • Aquilops, the bunny-shaped dinosaur.
  • Rising temperatures and dwindling water supplies.
  • Shocking evidence of the looming robot uprising.

Endless thanks for another enlightening year at TDG. Here's to a brilliant, bountiful 2015!

Quote of the Day:

David Bowman

Carnivora Gardinum: Timelapse Video of Carnivorous Plants

Just in case you've forgotten, Earth is an alien planet. Film-maker Chris Field put over a year of effort - with 107 days of straight shooting with 2 cameras - into creating Carnivora Gardinum, a short video featuring both timelapse and real-time footage of carnivorous plants doing their thing. Wonderfully dark.

A Fortean Feast with Joshua Cutchin

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In case you haven't done so already, I encourage you to head over to Mysterious Universe and listen to their latest podcast, which features a fascinating conversation with Joshua Cutchin, a guy who's been researching an all too-neglected aspect in the annals of Forteana: The exchange of food stuffs with humanoid entities.

I first learned of Joshua through my Cosmic Compadre, Micah Hanks, who had him as a guest on The Gralien Report some time ago. Many of the things he said in that radio show resonated with my own views re. the UFO phenomenon, and from there we started to exchange e-mails and became fast friends. Joshua asked me for my opinion in his investigations on what he calls 'Entity food' and I was more than delighted to do so, mainly because I found in him a true Fortean in every sense of the word; like Micah and myself, he's not afraid of dipping his fingers into fields that are often considered to be as separate as oil and water. But as any decent chef would tell you, it is when you dare to mix the 'unmixable' that new flavors and textures are discovered --and if you doubt me, then I bet you'd never tasted a good mole.

From Joe Simonton's cardboard-tasting pancakes, to the Celtic taboos which admonished not to taste any food and drink in Fairyland, I'm sure that Grailers will find Joshua and his research a real treat.

(And in case you happen to have a good personal experience to share for his still-to-be-published book, you can contact him at foodtaboo@gmail.com)

Bon Appetit!

News Briefs 11-12-2014

Last News Briefs of 2014 for me. My, how time flies when you're having Fort!

Thanks to the whole TDG community for another stellar year. Enjoy the holidays!

Quote of the Day:

“If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.”

~William Blake

Are These Amazing Underwater Structures Evidence for a Lost Civilisation?

Graham Hancock at Yonaguni

Our good friend Graham Hancock is currently 'periscope down' in writer's terms, submerged in the first stages of writing the 'sequel' to his massive bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods, currently under the working title of Magicians of the Gods. As an early piece of provocation, however, he's released the short video below showing him submerged in a different way - at strange underwater sites that some have suggested were shaped by human hands, and which were above water during the last Ice Age.

Whether they are natural or man-made, one thing is certain - these are spectacular dive sites. For those who might want to dive them one day, the locations featured in the video are: Kerama (Aka Jima), Yonaguni, Chatan and Aguni.

Natural or man-made? You decide. (Point of information. Sea level rose just over 120 metres - 400 feet - at the end of the last Ice Age. All the structures seen here would have been above water until about 12,000 years ago).

You can learn more about Graham's work at his website, and I also suggest liking his Facebook page and/or following him on Twitter.

News Briefs 09-12-2014

Short and sweet so that I can sleep!

Quote of the Day:

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.

Alan Watts