Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 2) - Puzzling Pieces: The "Map"

The Voynich MS "map".
(Click on images for larger views.)

"The Voynich Manuscript isn’t a beautiful book; in fact, it’s crude and cheaply done. It’s traditionally divided into four sections - herbal, astrological, balneological (pertaining to baths), and pharmacological - not for what those sections are but for what analysts, grasping for understanding, think they resemble. The symbols arranged in prosaic lines look like language, though the significance of the “Voynichese,” as it’s called, has never been established. And the illustrations don’t illuminate the mystery; they only throw further shadows on the darkness.

The long herbal section, our first indication that something is off, comprises colorful drawings of what look like uprooted plants alongside paragraphs of text. There’s something unsettling about the drawings; it’s almost like a catalogue of extinct species. Hairy bulbs sprout rust-red tubers and yellow pods. Colorless flowers perch on leaves with spikes like Venus flytraps. A creature, a mix between a dragon and a sea horse, suckles on a speckled leaf. Some of the bulbs have faces.

... Many critics believe that it is a hoax. It’s probably the most persuasive theory, as everything in the book conveniently falls under the umbrella of “total nonsense.” While the European Middle Ages are often perceived as an austere and circumscribed culture, the Voynich Manuscript was conceived by a liberated imagination. There’s a genuine joy communicated through the details, like a monk doodling racy cartoons in the margins of a scholastic text. It could very well have been composed as an elaborate lampoon of medieval knowledge, and it’s amusing to imagine that we’re still falling for the trick."

- Excerpts from a article by Michael LaPointe via The Paris Review (2016): The Pleasures of Incomprehensibility. Inset right is the Voynich MS folio mentioned in the quote featuring the weird little dragon/sea-horse creature.

"The top righthand corner of each recto (righthand) page has been numbered from 1 to 116, using numerals of a later date. From the various numbering gaps in the quires and pages, it seems likely that in the past the manuscript had at least 272 pages in 20 quires, some of which were already missing when Wilfrid Voynich acquired the manuscript in 1912. There is strong evidence that many of the book's bifolios were reordered at various points in its history, and that the original page order may well have been quite different from what it is today.

...the colored paint was applied (somewhat crudely) to the figures, possibly at a later date.

...Five folios contain only text, and at least 28 folios are missing from the manuscript."

- From the Wiki entry for Voynich manuscript. Inset right is the rondel located in the upper right-hand corner of the Voynich map. It seems to describe a fortified castle overlooking a bay (with exaggerated ocean waves) in an easterly direction.

***

Apart from the indecipherable script, what is it about the Voynich manuscript that defies all attempts at definition?

Actually, let me re-phrase that: is there anything about the Voynich MS that makes sense? One has to wonder if the key to the whole dilemma was hidden within those 28 missing pages... and whether those pages were deliberately removed, rendering the remainder ultimately meaningless.

Perhaps, one problem is that we assume the various sections are intrinsically related when, in reality, the only element which ties them together is the enigmatic script. In other words, we have no reason to assume the sections were originally created in the order in which we presently find them nor even created for the same purpose. Was the Voynich MS meant to be an actual manuscript, or was it fragments of a private journal which were cobbled together and somehow survived? Do the bathing nymphs have anything to do with the plants or the star-charts or are they elements of something else entirely? Judging by the marginalia (inset left) we might be looking at a science fiction tale!

In any case, in this (my second) and my third (and last) Voynich post - I'll be tinkering with a few separate elements, without necessarily trying to stitch them into one recognizable whole, and the first of these will be the enigmatic fold-out  Voynich "map" (introducing this post): a series of interconnected vignettes or roundels defining a general locale... although, where this locale was located is anybody's guess!

____________________________________

Location, Location, Location



Despite being wedged between the star charts and a second botanical section, my guess is that the Voynich "map" most likely originally accompanied the bathing nymphs. Once again, contrary to the "medical therapy" hypothesis regarding this section, we might as easily be discussing a narrative: a fictional tale, a fanciful, historical account or plans for the creation of a medieval "spa town".* In other words, the nymph section might have a marginal relation to the rest of the MS and represent nothing apart from the nymphs (and their world) within the context of the narrative. After all, the ladies even seem to have been given names in the illustration (above), indicated by the words inscribed directly over their heads. And, as for their world, well, the image may actually hold a clue. While the various bathing enclosures in the nymph section have been compared to Jewish ritual baths - or mikvah (see Part 1) - or even Roman baths, the background details here more closely resemble a Turkish bath or hammam. Inset right is an example: a medieval Turkish bath in Granada, Spain (sourced here). Below the jump is one in Istanbul, followed by one of several 16th century Turkish baths (Kiraly Bath) which continue to operate in Budapest (the "City of Baths"), Hungary.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Voynich Manuscript (Part 1) - Curious Goods

A "star chart" found in the Voynich MS. The tiny group of 7 stars
in the upper portion of the chart is thought to be the Pleiades
(or Seven Sisters) constellation. If so, it is the only solid astronomical
reference I can find in the MS. (Click-on images to enlarge.)

"...These illustrations range from the fanciful (legions of heavy-headed flowers that bear no relation to any earthly variety) to the bizarre (naked and possibly pregnant women, frolicking in what look like amusement-park waterslides from the fifteenth century). With their distended bellies, stick-like arms and legs, and earnest expressions, the naked figures have a whimsical quality, though their anatomy is frankly rendered—something unusual for the period. The manuscript’s botanical drawings are no less strange: the plants appear to be chimerical, combining incompatible parts from different species, even different kingdoms. (Click on the images to expand.) Tentacled balls of roots take the forms of animals, or of human organs—in one case, sprouting two disembodied heads with vexed expressions. But perhaps the oddest thing about this book is that no one has ever read it.

That’s because the book—called the Voynich manuscript after the rare-book dealer who stumbled upon it a century ago—is written in an unknown script, with an alphabet that appears nowhere other than in its pages... What these glyphs signify—whether they represent phonetic information or numeric values or something else—is anyone’s guess. Judging by its illustrations, the manuscript seems to be a compendium of knowledge related to the natural world, including a section about herbs, a section apparently detailing biological processes, various zodiac charts, and pages devoted to the movements of celestial bodies, such as the transit of the moon across the Pleiades. The writing flows smoothly hesitation from one letter to the next; based on the handwriting, it’s thought to be the work of at least two and as many as eight practiced scribes, and possibly required years of labor."

- From the New Yorker article: The Unread: The Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript, (2013) by Reed Johnson. Inset right is an unidentified botanical illustration from the manuscript.

"...Despite numerous attempts to crack the code by some of the world’s best cryptographers, including Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park team, the contents of the enigmatic book have long remained a mystery. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying. The latest to give it a stab? The Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Alberta.

But Voynich scholars are skeptical. Medievalist Damian Fleming of Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne was among those who responded to news of the work in frustration on social media, specifically critiquing the decision to use Google Translate to decipher the manuscript rather than consult a Hebrew scholar.

...Though we still do not know what the book says, researchers have several hypotheses about what the manuscript is about. Based on the book’s illustrations of plants and bathing women, a number of scholars believe that it’s actually a medical textbook about women’s health—a subject so mysterious that it had to be hidden away in one of the world’s most perplexing manuscripts."

- From the Smithsonian magazine article: Artificial Intelligence Takes a Crack at Decoding the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript. Inset left is a marginalia figure from the women's "bathing" section. Here the "nymph" seems to be depositing something into a disembodied sea-serpent tail as she whisks around in her oddly phallic-shaped vehicle. Note: the red square around a word on the right side of the image is my own notation.

"One of the world's most confounding literary mysteries may finally be, in part, solved: the author of the mysterious and as-yet untranslatable Voynich manuscript has been identified as a Jewish physician based in northern Italy, an expert in medieval manuscripts has claimed. The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated book printed on vellum written entirely in an indecipherable script, leaving scholars and code-breakers scratching their heads since it re-emerged a century ago. Writing in the foreword of a new facsimile of the 15th-century codex, Stephen Skinner claims visual clues in each section provide evidence of the manuscript's author. If proved true, Skinner believes his theory will help unlock more secrets of the coded manuscript.

The scholar draws evidence for his theory of the author's identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript, particularly a section in which naked women are depicted bathing in green pools supplied by intestinal-like pipes. The doctor, whose work includes editing the spiritual diaries of the Tudor mystic John Dee, believes the illustrations show communal Jewish baths called mikvah, which are still used in Orthodox Judaism to clean women after childbirth or menstruation."

- Via the Crystalinks Voynich page. Inset right above are the infamous Voynich "nymphs" in what we can assume is water, but are they actually bathing? And, what are those bizarre features near the top of the page? The uppermost detail looks like one of the open parasol-shapes that appear often in the MS.

"Kennedy and Churchill use Hildegard von Bingen's works to point out similarities between the Voynich manuscript and the illustrations that she drew when she was suffering from severe bouts of migraine, which can induce a trance-like state prone to glossolalia. Prominent features found in both are abundant "streams of stars", and the repetitive nature of the "nymphs" in the biological section. This theory has been found unlikely by other researchers.

The theory is virtually impossible to prove or disprove, short of deciphering the text. Kennedy and Churchill are themselves not convinced of the hypothesis, but consider it plausible. In the culminating chapter of their work, Kennedy states his belief that it is a hoax or forgery. Churchill acknowledges the possibility that the manuscript is a synthetic forgotten language (as advanced by Friedman) or a forgery as preeminent theories. However, he concludes that, if the manuscript is genuine, mental illness or delusion seems to have affected the author."

- From the Wiki entry for Voynich Manuscript. Inset left is an image from Hildegard von Bingen's illustrated work, the Scivias codex in which she describes one of her visions. More images can be found here.

"This manuscript is of Martian origin, the strange astrological interpretations, the plants which don’t seem to exist on this planet. And last and finally a language that cannot be deciphered by humanity, or any “earthling” because the language and the writing system did not originate on our planet. Considering an advanced language beyond our own may be impossible to decipher even given thousands of years without access to this language in any other form. This book which seems to be drawn on parchments from earth, by an earthlings hand, may in fact shed light on the fact that advanced beings from Mars have “abducted” Earths inhabitants and given them tours of their own home planet. I had even heard some theories that suggest Leonardo Da Vinci could have written the book as a child. Perhaps he was the “abducted” taken and taught about another planet and it’s biology with sensitivity to the beings that inhabit the said planet." 

- Excerpt of a comment left on Nick Pelling's Cipher Mystery (VMS) page. Inset right are two "nymphs" that seem to be standing in structures which look like levitating fish or mermaid tails... joined by a rainbow.

***

As a self-described Fortean, Mac Tonnies always loved a good anomaly, and I seem to remember Mac mentioning the Voynich Manuscript at some point in time, if only in passing, but I can't remember when or where. A radio show, perhaps? In any case, there's no mention of it on Posthuman Blues... which leads me to believe that, as a popular Fortean subject, it hadn't yet surfaced on the internet before 2009.

In any case, if you (like me) thought the Voynich MS - a mysterious, anonymous manuscript carbon-dated from the 15th century - was merely a perplexing medieval herbal written in an unintelligible script, well, then, guess again, cats and kitties, because it's far weirder than that! "Martian," in this case, is an almost sober proposition.

I can't exactly remember the first time I heard about the manuscript but, at that time, the only interior shots online were its botanical illuminations accompanied by the cryptic script. It wasn't until recently, however, that I happened to come across a few articles implying the Voynich mystery had been solved (by AI) when I found links to the VMS image files via the website of Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (where the  manuscript is housed). As for the Big Reveal, well, the AI hypothesis had already been debunked by the time most of the articles were written. And, this seems to be the trend: new Voynich code-breaking claims appear frequently, but, thus far, well, the champagne remains on ice.

Meanwhile, I wasted no time in heading over to the Beinecke pages and checking out the MS images for myself. As there's about 200 of them this was no small feat. I chose to upload the "sequential" .jpg files and, basically, the first 113 pages are filled with botanical images. Arriving at image #114, I found the first diagram (above, inset left, and below)...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) (Updated 3/18/18)


From the PBS series of the same name.

"This could well be our final century. But I agree with Stephen Hawking: If we can begin to migrate into space -- and reap the rewards waiting for us there -- we will have ensured a certain immortality. And there's real reason to hope we can create a "back-up," whether on the strange gray shores of the Moon, the mysterious wastes of Mars, or both. Indeed, stark environmental realities, exacerbated by a surging population, have made space migration imperative for a long-term human future."

- Mac Tonnies from this (2006) PHB post.

***

Mac mentioned Stephen Hawking fairly often on Posthuman Blues. Although he didn't always agree with him, I'm fairly certain he would've had something (respectful) to say about his passing. At the same time, Hawking had been popping up a lot in the media in recent years - even on PMB (notably here and here) - so his was an unexpected loss.

Vale to Stephen Hawking, a truly amazing human.

For more information, there's the BBC article: Stephen Hawking: Visionary physicist dies aged 76; and an obituary from the NY Times, Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos. Other articles of note: Stephen Hawkings Six Wildest Predictions From 2017, an older link Mac had posted to PHB, Stephen Hawking: "Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution", and, lastly, Stephen Hawking sampled on Pink Floyd’s The Endless River.

***

A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation

"In his ‘no boundary theory’, devised with James Hartle in 1983, the pair described how the Earth hurtled into existence during the Big Bang. But the theory also predicted a multiverse meaning the phenomenon was accompanied by a number of other ‘Big Bangs’ creating separate universes.

In his final paper, Hawking and Mr Hertog – professor for theoretical psychics at KU Leuven University in Belgium – explored how these universes could be found using a probe on a spaceship. The paper – named A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation – also predicted how our universe would eventually fade into blackness as the stars run out of energy. Hertog told the Sunday Times: ‘He has often been nominated for the Nobel and should have won it. Now he never can.’

... Carlos Frenk, professor of cosmology at Durham University, agreed that it has previously been impossible to measure other universes. She said: ‘The intriguing idea in Hawking’s paper is that [the multiverse left its imprint on the background radiation permeating our universe and we could measure it with a detector on a spaceship.’"

- This update emerges from the Metro article (with the misleading title): Stephen Hawking predicted the end of the world in new research submitted before he died.



Friday, February 16, 2018

The Dream Machines


Hover FI Combat - CG image - 2017, Jomar Machado
(Click-on images to enlarge.)

"Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come."

- Henry Ford, 1940.

"A flying car is a type of personal air vehicle that provides door-to-door transportation by both ground and air. The term "flying car" is often used to include roadable aircraft and hovercars.

Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the twentieth century, but no flying car has yet reached production status.

Their appearance is often predicted by futurologists, with their failure ever to reach production leading to the catchphrase, 'Where's my flying car?'"

- From the WIki entry for Flying Car. Magazine cover found in the NY Times' article: Why We're Not Driving the Friendly Skies.

The "Spinner" from Blade Runner.

"If I'm a member of the "blade runner generation" then where the hell's my flying car?"

- Mac Tonnies from this 2007 Posthuman Blues post.


***

Well, finally we've gotten past Xmas, 2017! It was getting kind of weird there for awhile... like time stood still or something. In reality, I'm having a hard time keeping just one blog afloat these days. But, as so often happens with Post-Mac Blues, just as I begin to think its run has come to an end - and really, gang, it's been over 8 years now - something comes along to change my mind... something that reminds me of Mac and something I know he'd like... in this case: Jomar Machado's retrofuturistic flying machines!

Okay, it isn't as if flying cars are a recent development; the concept has been around for years and years. And, there seems to be a million varieties; many of them prototyped and just waiting to be snatched up by somebody... like the vehicle inset right (and found here). Alas, no. No flying cars for sale. And, even if one just happens to make it as far as the production phase, chances are it won't be remotely affordable by 90% of us (see this article).


Hover Bike II - CG image - 2017, Jomar Machado

However, we can dream. Brazilian designer and CG artist Jomar Machado certainly does... designing all sorts of cool airborne vehicles which are worthy of a sci-fi film series all their own. Think "dieselpunk"... Mad Max meets Blade Runner meets... well, you get the picture. I've posted a few of his gems here, but many more can be found on his CG gallery page. Apart from his tricked-out retro classics, he has a multitude of amazing utilitarian vehicles as well.


Hover Mercedes - CG image - 2018, Jomar Machado

1939 Airstream Clipper.
Which brings me to my final point... because, as it so happens, I'm all about rides these days, and I could not think of anything cooler than an airborne automobile... with defense weaponry! But, personally, what I'm really waiting for is Machado's Hover Airstream! Seriously, folks, if there's people who are thinking in terms of flying houses - and there are - well, seems to me a flying trailer isn't too much to ask for. And, it can be made into an RV or a motorhome... like a Winnebago! :-)

***

On a related note, here's a nod to Elon Musk and his latest dream machine: a Tesla Roadster launched into space (!) earlier this month.

"According to Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, the car was blasting David Bowie's Space Oddity as it travels through the solar system. Musk also named the dummy 'Starman' after another song by the late musician."

Starman in orbit.

Quote and photo found in Space.com's article: A Car in Deep Space': Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster Leaves Earth With 'Easter Eggs'.




Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Past, Present and Future


Christmas 2017 at the Tonnies' house.


"This is interesting. I just realized it's 3:00 AM on Christmas Eve and I'm blogging about viral holocaust.

Happy holidays from Kansas City!"

- Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, December 24, 2004.


"Enjoy Xmas while we still have the oil-based infrastructure to transport useless crap to malls for overzealous shoppers to snatch up. It won't last."

- Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, December 20, 2008.


"I wanted a Wicked Laser for Christmas, but I suppose I'll settle for an ion ray gun."

- Mac Tonnies, Posthuman Blues, January 8, 2006.


***

Well, the world may be going to hell in a tote-bag, but, happily, the year is almost over. Honestly, though, where would this blog be around the holidays if it weren't for Dana Tonnies and her Christmas trees? (Thanks again, D.)

Last year's theme was a Blue Christmas; this year's theme is plaid... and next year? Well, hopefully, not a "post-apocalyptic" Christmas... although, as a theme, it's not half-bad. All you'd have to do is spray-paint the tree matte-black. Kind of like the trees in California about now. (Sorry about that folks.)

Anyway, cynics tend to get a lot more cynical around the December holidays. In our defense, it might be all those Xmas-related pop tunes which are played non-stop in department stores for weeks before the fact... you know, prompting consumers to spend all that money (they don't have)... and/or provoking the occasional brain hemorrhage...

Mac wasn't exactly a raging fan of the holiday... well, except for the gift part. And, as any reader of Posthuman Blues would know, he loved getting those! Below the jump are some more Xmas quotes from Mac.

Meanwhile, today's the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year; the good news being that, by tomorrow, the days will begin to get longer... just in time for Xmas and the New Year. And, my wish? May we all have happier holidays than we think we will! ;-)


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Join the Adventure" (Updated February 19, 2018)


An image from a 2004 encounter near San Diego between two
Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets and an unknown object.
Photo by U.S Department of Defense.

"The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth."

- Excerpt from the NY Times article: Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program.


"Join the Adventure"
The original Bigelow Aerospace logo.
"His signature quirk, however, is an obsession with space that extends beyond his business interests. In addition to the $100million Bigelow has already put into Bigelow Aerospace (and the $400million more he has promised), he has doled out millions to fund research into alien abductions and UFO sightings. He’s done some of the work himself, personally interviewing hundreds of people who claim to have had extraterrestrial encounters. In fact, one of the main reasons he’s so eager to get his stations launched is that he thinks they might provide a step toward making contact."

- A reference to Robert Bigelow from this Wired page.


***


Well, according to the Daily Galaxy, apparently SETI's Seth Shostak wasn't terribly impressed, but the latest bombshell regarding the Pentagon Defense Department's Secret UFO program has loads of other tongues wagging.

Similar to the CIA's unexpected confession in January of 2016, it seems the Defense Department had - and, possibly, has - its own covert UFO investigation in existence: the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

I think the most intriguing aspect of the story is the involvement (and investment) of Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, a man who, among other things, claims to be an experiencer. Mac admitted having "his eye" on Bigelow in 2004, and judging by a few PB posts, seemed to admire him.

There are a number of recent articles regarding the Pentagon's disclosure... here are a few:
Newsweek's WE MAY NOT BE ALONE,’ FORMER PENTAGON UFO OFFICIAL SAYS ABOUT EVIDENCE OF ALIEN LIFE; Live Scence's Do You Want to Believe? Government UFO Search Never Stopped; the BBC's Pentagon ran secret multi-million dollar UFO programme; The Times' follow-up On the Trail of a Secret Pentagon U.F.O. Program, and, lastly the Huffington Post which may have been the first to break the story.

As luck would have it, however, there's more end-of-the-year news...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Second Birthday





Eight years ago today (depending upon your point of view) Mac had another sort of birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mac!





Friday, September 1, 2017

Vale "Tuscon"...


Dark City with David Peeples


"Urgent message to Tucson Phoenix Peeples, Mac's friend and Latteland comrade:

No, no no, NO MORE MEMORIALS! So, y'all get well real soon now, ya hear?

...and, that's an order!

ox,
The Management :-)"

- An urgent message to David "Tuscon" Peeples posted here.

***

Well, I'm very sorry to have to report this, but Mac's friend and Latteland compadre, David "Tuscon" Peeples, failed to take my "order" and slipped away into the aether Thursday, August 24, while in the company of two friends.

David was a great guy... a kind person with a wonderful sense of humor. He was close to Mac, and after Mac passed he was appreciative of this blog. We kept in touch via email from 2010 to 2014. He was always sending me photos, articles and humorous bits he found online, or forwarding things he received from his many online friends. I've uploaded some of the photos he sent me after the jump.

As it was, he'd been ill for some time and I get the feeling he just finally let go. I'd like to think he and Mac are sitting in some off-planet, intradimensional cafe right now and laughing over a cup of joe.

Well, it could happen!

(But, we'll miss you anyway, Tuscon.)

Oddly enough, while going through David's email correspondence I found a drawing by Mac I hadn't seen... "Angry Hotdogs! Keep in mind, Mac was a (rather militant) vegan... and tended to get a bit carried away... (!) ;-)

Angry Hotdogs by Mac Tonnies

More from David after the jump...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

... And Many Happy Returns!


Google does the eclipse.

Mac would've turned 42 this past Sunday, the day before the (infamous) solar eclipse. I was unable to come to the table either of those days, but it isn't as if I wasn't thinking of him. As far as 42 goes... well, 43 is a better number... and also the reverse of 34, his age when he passed. Would Mac remark very much about being in his early 40s? Probably not. But, something tells me that being perpetually remembered as a young guy in his thirties would appeal to him.

As far as that hyped up eclipse went... well, here in New Mexico it was obscured by a thick blanket of clouds. Go figure. Generally the New Mexican sun burns off any cloud cover immediately but this was not the case yesterday... so, it was all rather a nonevent. Oh well... supposedly an even better one is arriving in 2024. Meanwhile, I think the best thing about this one was Google's adorable animation (above).

(Note to Mac: Happy, Happy Birthday, baby... and we're all wishing you a happy return real soon! By the way, in (belated) honor of your day I put some Bowie tunes on the sidebar... and, as a bonus, a bit of Mars archaeology (below).

___________________________________

To Mars!

A close-up of the Martian surface via the Curiosity rover.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS


"I've had dreams of archaeological sites appearing locally - specifically, Martian formations suddenly transplanted to Earth . . . in one case, my backyard!

(The latest was only a few nights ago; I meant to write about it on my blog.  I'll put that on my "to do" list.)

- Mac Tonnies via an email to myself dated June 26, 2006.

***

That Mac dreamt of Martian archaeological sites shouldn't be too surprising... hell, he wrote the book! That these same sites appeared on Earth in the dreams, however is a bit curious. Had he unconsciously determined that ancient Martian history is, in a sense, our own?

Speaking of which, remember the Mars Archaeological Society tee-shirt design? Well, I recently found some other Spirit Rover .jpgs in my files which feature the immediate surrounding areas - and a few more mysterious objects - where a few of the tee-shirt artifacts were found.  (I've posted them after the jump.) That they're impossible to identify is what we might expect from extraterrestrial objects. That they might seem vaguely familiar, however, is another story entirely. A genetic memory?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blade Runner 2049




Coming to theaters everywhere October 6, 2017 is the long-awaited sequel to the original (1982) Blade Runner - a film that Mac never could get enough of - Blade Runner 2049. I wish I could beam up the new film to him just to hear his reaction. Favorable or unfavorable? In any case, another run with Rick Deckard can't be a bad thing.

The new story line fast-forwards to 30 years later, Los Angeles, California. Apparently, another blade runner (played by Ryan Gosling) discovers a "dark secret" threatening humanity which sends him on a quest to find the blade runner we all know and love, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who's been missing for 30 years. The film also stars Ana De Armas, MacKenzie Davis, Sylvia Hoeks, Lennie James, Carla Juri, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto.

Ridley Scott, director of the original film, only co-produces this one, while Canadian Denis Villeneuve (director of the much-acclaimed film Arrival) is at the helm.

Below is another version of the trailer. And, here's the website. For past posts with video clips of the original film try here, here, or here.






Saturday, July 15, 2017

Just in case you missed it...


Mac & Friends

"In the 1920s, after the death of his mother, Houdini began focusing his energy on debunking psychics and mediums. Although he eventually focused on proving these people to be fakes, his initial entry into the world of the supernatural began when he attempted to contact his dead mother. However, he found that the mediums he met were often frauds. He began investigating their methods and claims and later became a self-appointed crusader against them. He knew he could duplicate their methods on stage and it was not long before his efforts to reach his mother became secondary to his need to expose the frauds. Ashamed of having masqueraded as a medium during his medicine show days, Houdini began making notes for a book. However, to prove that he did have an open mind, the magician made a pact with his friends that when he died, he would make contact, if at all possible, from the other side. He devised a secret code with his wife Bess so that only she could divine the legitimacy of the message."

- Found on this Harry Houdini page.

***

I confess, comrades, I haven't exactly been in top form these days... nor have I had the luxury of routinely spending hours and hours online... so, I tend to miss stuff, or put stuff off, or neglect things which I normally wouldn't. One such "thing" happened to be a podcast Greg Bishop featured on Radio Misterioso the 23rd of last month: Paul Kimball – Returning to Old Haunts... which I just listened to the other night.

As it so happens, Greg recorded the show in Nova Scotia where he'd gone to attend Paul Kimball's wedding. (Congratulations, Paul; wishing you and your partner much happiness!) As for their chat, well, a broad range of subjects were in the mix, up to and including Paul's recent close brush with Nova Scotia's political arena.

But, the real reason this post appears here is because Paul just happened to mention a recent experience of his - during the filming of one of his "Ghost Cases" television shows (examples can be found here and here) - regarding close friend, Mac Tonnies.  Nope, no spoilers here, but the Houdini quote above is a clue! Here's a direct link to the podcast. Thanks, Greg and Paul!

___________________________


Urgent message to Tucson Phoenix Peeples, Mac's friend and Latteland comrade:

No, no no, NO MORE MEMORIALS! So, y'all get well real soon now, ya hear?

...and, that's an order!

ox,
The Management :-)



Monday, April 24, 2017

The Halls of Science Fiction



The October, 1962 cover of Galaxy Magazine found here.
All Galaxy Magazine issues can be found here or here.
(All images can be clicked-on for larger views.)

"My fiction writing took a decided turn for the morose after I first really watched "Blade Runner." Now I'm almost incapable of writing a story that isn't set in a bleak, urban near-future where it rains a lot and characters have conspicuously easy access to consciousness-altering technologies ranging from particle accelerators to funky designer drugs.

Here's an excerpt from a blessedly unpublished novel about neurology and quantum physics I wrote in 1998/1999. This particular project, while educational, ultimately failed because of Kitchen-Sink Syndrome. I was trying to graft way too many weird ideas into one story, producing more than a few scenes like the following:

...He looked up at a ceiling festooned with video cable, a kind of sloppy fish-net used to suspend the few books and videocassettes left over from the Roma he had used to know. She had reduced them to squalid ornaments. 

To what purpose? Zak thought. He felt he was traipsing through some piece of misguided conceptual art. He looked back at Roma, who slowly detached herself from the mothering animatrons and walked toward him, bare feet unscathed by the debris covering the floor. Flecks of dried blood fell from her thighs as she walked. Zak could see the illicit dance of sinew in her neck and calves. 

He forced himself to stand still. Roma walked within touching distance and spread her palm, revealing a single Pentium chip. Only on second glance did he realize it had been pressed deeply into her flesh, and even then he wanted desperately to believe it was simply trompe l'oiel, something to be wiped away with a warm, soapy cloth. 

"Look," Roma said. 

"I'm looking" 

"She leaned closer until Zak feared she would collapse into him. "Look closer." 

He did. And for the first time he saw the shimmering matrix embedded in her skin, a rambling fractal composed of strands thinner than spider silk. The strands, faint but unmistakable, branched from the Pentium chip and traced riotous patterns up her wrist, arm and shoulder. 

Roma pivoted like a runway model striking a pose, letting the light reveal the matrix in its entirety. It spanned her entire body: galaxies of triangles and squares that caught the light and threw it back at him in eye-scalding clarity..."

- Mac Tonnies from a May 17, 2004 Posthuman Blues post. The cyborg image (inset, right) by Victor Habbick can be found here. (Sorry, Victor, I found the image before I found your site. I liked your cyborg best. Think of it as free press. If you'd rather, I will most certainly remove it... only please don't send the goon squad.) And, if cyborgs are your thing, here's more.


"The literary genre of science fiction is diverse, and its exact definition remains a contested question among both scholars and devotees. This lack of consensus is reflected in debates about the genre's history, particularly over determining its exact origins. There are two broad camps of thought, one that identifies the genre's roots in early fantastical works such as the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (earliest Sumerian text versions c. 2150–2000 BCE). A second approach argues that science fiction only became possible sometime between the 17th and early 19th centuries, following the scientific revolution and major discoveries in astronomy, physics, and mathematics.

Question of deeper origins aside, science fiction developed and boomed in the 20th century, as the deep integration of science and inventions into daily life encouraged a greater interest in literature that explores the relationship between technology, society, and the individual. Scholar Robert Scholes calls the history of science fiction 'the history of humanity's changing attitudes toward space and time ... the history of our growing understanding of the universe and the position of our species in that universe. In recent decades, the genre has diversified and become firmly established as a major influence on global culture and thought.'"

- An excerpt from Wikipedia's The History of Science Fiction. For lists of Science Fiction categorized by country of origin, go here. For a listing of Sci-fi/Fantasy artists, see this page. Inset, left is the cover from Philip Jose Farmer’s Strange Compulsion, a science fiction novel published in 1953, and found in this Huffington Post article.

***

Seven Oracles found here.

Call me crazy, but, while science and technology may have evolved in leaps in bounds in the past several centuries, science fiction has gone a lot further and faster into the unknown realms. Scientific discovery, after all, is limited by its very nature. It can only analyze existent phenomena and is focused on the here and now. Science fiction, however, is only limited by the human imagination... and from what we can gather, there are no limits to the human imagination.

Of course, science fiction authors are often science fans to some degree - Mac was - but, as for the general public, well, when it comes to topics like Mars, robots, exoplanets, spaceships and the like, they are likely to prefer the more entertaining fiction over the disillusioning facts. And, why not? NASA might still be searching for water on the Red Planet, but a host of sci-fi visionaries - up to and including Ray Bradbury - "discovered" it years and years ago. In other words, scientific data pales in comparison with the pseudo-scientific dreams which pre-date it...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Red Sun Named Trappist-1


"PLANET HOP FROM TRAPPIST-1e
Voted best "hab zone" vacation within 12 parsecs of Earth"
A new NASA tourist poster done in that terrific retro style we first saw here.
(Click to enlarge.)
(Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech)



"NASA made the announcement in a live press conference after triggering much speculation over their big "discovery beyond our Solar System".

The new exoplanets have been detected orbiting an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1, which is located about 39 light-years away from our Sun in the Aquarius constellation.

Astronomers led by Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège in Belgium first detected three exoplanets around the star back in May 2016, using Earth-based telescopes.

But it wasn't until the team studied it more closely using NASA's Spitzer space telescope that they discovered an additional four planets in the system."

- Excerpt from a Science Alert article posted earlier today: BREAKING: NASA Announces the Discovery of a Potentially Habitable 'sister Solar' System.


***

I have a severe case of anxiety-produced writer's block these days but, while the angels continue to be left hanging in the air over at The Other Blog, it seemed imperative to finally move Post-Mac Blues past Christmas, 2016!  Ya think?

I had another post planned altogether - and was having a bitch of time with that one, too - when Google came to my rescue with one of their fun animations featuring a bunch of little bug-eyed planets begging for attention. I (dutifully) clicked on the animation and, presto, I was presented with another option for this post; not a better post, but, happily, a shorter one! And, actually, it might be quite exciting: seven new exoplanets have been discovered orbiting a dwarf star named Trappist-1 (named after the telescope which found it).  Moreover, they are earth-sized, possibly fit for bearing water... and, well, possibly life as well, although it never pays to get too excited about these things.


As for the other post, well, it'll get here eventually... ;-)


Friday, December 23, 2016

A Blue Christmas

Christmas tree by Dana and Bob Tonnies, 2016.

Remember 2013? No, of course you don't. Humans tend to blot out bad memories, while frantically looking forward the Next Best Thing. Which, I suppose, is what inspired me to create my (delusional) January, 2016 post:  A New Year. Optimism is a dish best served before the main course. Because, as we know, as loathsome of year 2013 may have been, 2016 was a proverbial downward spiral... beginning with the death of David Bowie (a bad omen to be sure) , and ending with the American election of the Scary Orange Man Who Would be King (where's George Carlin when we really need him?)... not to mention all the other deaths, murder and mayhem that occurred in-between. No, it was not a good year.

And, as for 2017? Don't worry, kats and kitties, I'm not even going to discuss it. Instead I decided to ring out this old year the same way I did for the Xmas of 2013, because, once again, Dana Tonnies came to my rescue and supplied me with a lovely photo: her Blue Christmas tree.

And, I decided to post videos related to Mac's favorite old band, Simon and Garfunkel, on the sidebar*... because "blue" isn't ever really bad... sad, maybe... but not bad... and, as in the case of Dana and Bob's tree, quite pretty.

So, I guess it's time for a holiday, everyone... and, once again, Bob, Dana, (Mac) and I wish you the very best.

* Unfortunately, it looks like YouTube has now begun corrupting even the tiniest of  embedded videos with commercial content. There might be a way around this... if not, well, it so turns me off I may just stop posting videos.

***

And in "other news": There were a number of things I meant to post here this year, but, for whatever reason, was unable to... so, I'll post a few links here for your amusement:




Oh, and before I forget (again),  earlier this month I had a very long, strange, lucid dream featuring Bruce Duensing. The thing is, I never met Bruce in person, but he seemed quite corporeal in the dream. And, whether or not it means anything (and, although I remember little else), he was alive, well, happy, and writing a new book!