Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A Virtual Birthday Card

"Happy Birthday to Mac in the Multiverse"
Corvid-20 sculptures and photo - 2020, BG Dodson
(Click to enlarge)



Mac,
From All of Us
To all of You -
OX




Monday, June 15, 2020

A Contaminated Culture (2)




A live version of Peter Gabriel's tribute/lament to Bantu Stephen Biko, a South-African anti-apartheid activist who was arrested and beaten to death by Port Elizabeth state security officers in 1977.


"You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher."

- The last stanza of "Biko", 1980 Peter Gabriel.



Thursday, June 4, 2020

A Contaminated Culture


Maybe it's just me, but, from Mac's expression in this 2008 self-portrait
(shot from a cell-phone), he seems to be peering into the future...
and that future is now.
  

"SARS is an unknown disease. We don't know where it came from; the possibility exists that it came from space or was cooked up by a terrestrial lab. Already, the virus is mutating. Just beneath the calm surface of newspaper headlines, a viral storm is brewing. We'll probably weather this one out. But what about the next one? And the one after that? 

A barrage of mutations, new vectors, failed quarantines. A choking silence engulfs the planet..."

- Mac Tonnies via this April 17, 2003, blog post. (Note: the initial strain of the 2020 Corona virus was referred to as SARS-Cov-2.)


"Up early. New short-story idea: "The Other Room" (based on a futuristic version of the 'looking glass' technology described in the previous post). In the story, venturing outdoors is rendered virtually impossible due to genetically contrived airborne diseases and pollution. Interpersonal contact is limited to communing with 'neighbors' via high-rez wallscreens. The screens are so advanced that they're easily mistakable for actual separate rooms, fostering a sense of enhanced personal space.

The main character has lived his adult life 'sharing' his germicidally insulated apartment with a female love interest. But all they can do is look at each other and talk; it's as if they're on opposite sides of an invisible glass barrier (which, in a very real sense, they are).

Anyway, toward the end of his life something goes wrong with the programming of his homeostatic apartment building and he realizes that the woman in the 'other room' is a computer program designed to keep him from going crazy -- she never existed; he's wasted his life pining away over a simulacrum. And the World Outside is worse than he's imagined.

. . . And they all lived happily ever after."

- Mac Tonnies via this March 15, 2004 blog post. (Note: From the Life Imitates Art files, here's a couple of recent articles about proposed legislation in England: Sex is now illegal in the UK between people from different households, and the BBC article, Coronavirus: New laws come into force as England lockdown eases. I'm not sure if said legislation passed, but I certainly hope not!)


"Although I harbor serious reservations about humanity's ability to make the evolutionary cut, I'm not without hope. I sense great things in the making. I enjoy experiencing this dire, ever-accelerating point in our species' history; our potential as genuine cosmic citizens challenges the imagination and stretches conceptual boundaries to dizzy extremes.

I'm willing to embrace transcendence or endure extinction. I must perpetually concede either possibility, no matter how dramatically different, regardless of how exciting or dismal. I walk a fine existential edge, fearing and cherishing, enlivened by a vertiginous sense of astonishment and horror."

- Mac Tonnies via this April 19, 2006 Posthuman Blues blog post.


"The New Totalitarians come forward smiling obsequiously like head waiters in third-rate Indian restaurants, and assuring us that everything is for our benefit." 

- A quote from British author J. G. Ballard (1930-2009) posted on Posthuman Blues December 09, 2004.

***

Originally this post was meant to present a number of blog quotes from Mac's Posthuman Blues posts tagged "disease," with the notion that, while it's not possible to determine Mac's view on our current world crisis, reading bits of his output regarding past epidemics might be somewhat illuminating... although the fall-out from past disasters wasn't as severe as that which we are currently experiencing.

That was my intention anyway. But, after spending a great deal of time gathering together Posthuman Blues material, I found some of it disturbing but much more of it consisting of quotes pulled directly from news-pages with merely a sentence or two ad libbed by Mac  it seemed almost  pointless. Well, pointless except to remind us of certain historical information that many of us may have forgotten, although the last of the disease posts was written in 2007, merely over a decade ago.

For example, I don't know if many of us ever knew about this event (via this April 13, 2005 post), one for which Mac reserved comment:

"Labs scramble to destroy pandemic flu strain. Nearly 5,000 labs in 18 countries, mostly in the United States, were urged by the World Health Organization to destroy samples of the dangerous virus because of the slight risk it could trigger a global outbreak. The labs received the virus from a U.S. company that supplies kits used for quality control tests."

And, then again, there were those three bubonic plague-infested lab mice which went missing from a biocontainment lab in New Jersey posted on September 25th of that same year. Mac's comment?

"So far no one has been reported dead from bubonic plague, so it looks like we lucked out. Emphasis on "luck."

Lest we forget, also from 2005 (apparently a banner year for medical lab disasters) and posted on October 8th we have a report of a deadly Spanish-flu virus reconstructed by alumni at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and stock-piled in Georgia... supposedly under "strict safety conditions" and (allegedly) to "predict future pandemics and develop new vaccines and treatments." Interestingly, its DNA sequence was made available on the internet. Understandably, Mac compares those "strict safety conditions" with the earlier story about the rodents at large.

One of his final disease posts - Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US - from July 25th, 2007, begins with the sentence: "Deadly germs may be more likely to be spread due to a biodefence lab accident than a biological attack by terrorists."

Ah, yes, as if "biodefense" wasn't potentially a form of terrorism. In any case, regarding the present pandemic, despite media efforts to bring global-warming into the fray and/or blame it on animal contact, etc., if recent history tells us anything it seems equally as likely (if not more) that the Corona virus strains originated and/or were contained in some medical lab or bio-weapons lab as was initially reported.* The worst-case aspect of this possibility is that a new pandemic cannot be very far behind. After all, not only can accidents happen, accidents will surely happen. This is a given. It's a Murphy's Law kind of thing... and I've heard Murphy was an optimist.**

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Wisdom of Cockroaches

Archy the cockroach - a character created by Don Marquis -  in the throes of poetic passion; drawn by Creole artist, George Herriman, known for his surreal comic strip Krazy Kat (1913-1944) - Herriman articles here and here.


"i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i cant eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have removed
she nearly ate me the other night
why dont she catch rats that is what she is supposed to be for
there is a rat here she should get without delay"


***

And, so begins the saga of Archy the cockroach - a reincarnated free-verse poet - and his female sidekick, an alley cat named Mehitabel, who was the reincarnation of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra (!). Both were the creations of Don Marquis (1878-1937), a columnist for the New York newspaper, The Evening Sun, in the early half of the 20th century. Originally written as a daily column, Marquis eventually published compilations of Archy's poems - illustrated by George Herriman - in three books during his lifetime: archy & mehitabel (1927), archy's life of mehitabel (1933) and archy does his part (1935).

I just discovered Archy and Metitabel quite recently. As for Mac Tonnies - a huge fan of Kafka's Metamorphosis - it seems that he'd have caught on to the cockroach poet with the feline companion a long time ago. But, I don't think he ever did... or he would definitely named one of his own cats Mehitabel!

As it is, I'm missing Mac more than ever these days. Wouldn't you give anything to hear his thoughts on the recent Pandemic Pandemonium, possibly the most surreal "current event" that any of us have dealt with in our lifetimes? Well, that is, apart from those few existing survivors of WWII. Not that this is a war exactly, although the Big Boys in Charge would have us believe just that (see here). And, really, cats and kitties, I'd put my 2 cents in if I had the slightest clue as to what's really going on. Sadly, there are so many holes in this pandemic narrative, we'd be better off knocking some golf balls around.

Well, that is if we were able to... and not confined to our indoor habitats like so many rats in their individual cages. Which kind of reminds me of this man I met in California years and years ago. He had a whole high-rise apartment complex in his backyard composed of cages stacked on top of each other. Each cage contained a well-fed white rat... live food for his pet boa constrictors which he kept housed indoors in glass terrariums. I'd like to think this was not a metaphor for our present situation.

So, how will this nightmare play out? Will there be a tomorrow? Who can say? Meanwhile, I've posted more cockroach wisdom after the jump. Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2019

"What is essential is invisible to the eye"

"The Little Prince on Asteroid B-612" - illustration and caption from the timeless tale
 Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a story about an extraterrestrial child
who fell to earth; first published in 1943.
"L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." ("What is essential is invisible to the eye")



"All men have the stars," he answered, "but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems . For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You - you alone -will have the stars as no one else has them-"

"What are you trying to say?"

"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night... you − only you − will have stars that can laugh!"

And he laughed again.

"And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure... and your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, 'Yes, the stars always make me laugh!' And they will think you are crazy..."

- An excerpt from Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.* Full text in English can be found here; in French try here or here.


__________________________________

*Note on the life of Saint-Exupéry (sourced here):

"By the time his work was available in France, Saint-Exupéry had already been presumed dead for a year, and his death was every bit as mysterious and fascinating as his life. After making his way to Algiers and talking his way into the Free French Air Force, he was once more able to fly even though both his physical and mental health were questionable. On a 1944 reconnaissance mission, his plane disappeared, and he was never seen again. Whether he was shot down by an enemy or perhaps crashed the plane in a suicidal maneuver remains unclear. The author’s body was never recovered, and it wasn’t until 1998 that a clue to his fate was found in the form of his silver identity bracelet, which was discovered by a fisherman off the coast of Marseille in the Mediterranean. The remains of his plane were found there by a diver in 2000."


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Shadows of Ancient Galaxies

Dark Cosmic Nest, 2019, DS; a re-imaging of a graphic found here.
Click images to enlarge.


"Although once invisible to us in the vast reaches of the universe, 39 massive ancient galaxies have been discovered by astronomers using multiple space and ground-based observatories. This is the first discovery of its kind, the researchers said.

'This is the first time that such a large population of massive galaxies was confirmed during the first 2 billion years of the 13.7-billion-year life of the universe. These were previously invisible to us,' said Tao Wang, study author and researcher at the University of Tokyo, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. 'This finding contravenes current models for that period of cosmic evolution and will help to add some details, which have been missing until now.'

The new prevalence of these galaxies, which are connected with supermassive black holes and dark matter, contradicts the current known models of the universe.

Given their age and distance, the massive galaxies were hidden from our view because their light is weak and stretched. The universe is also expanding, which makes the distance greater. Over that distance, visible light becomes infrared, according to the study."

***

Happy Birthday to Mac in the Multiverse.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Dangling Conversations & Trifurcated Views


"Time needn't be relevant in the cosmic screening room. Whether a particular pattern emerged in the past or future is irrelevant. Information from the 'past' and 'future' (mere cognitive constructs) freely integrate. This is a realm without spatial or temporal boundaries. It's something like the 'implicate order' suggested by physicist David Bohm. The 'explicate order,' of course, is the intricate sensory illusion that we inhabit. Or think we do.

The ever-changing patterns in the protean cloud dictate the nature of whatever universe happens to be illuminated by our imaginary laser. Since our perceived reality is constantly modeled by the myriad ones and zeroes in the timeless cloud, we find ourselves diced into informational slivers. From this perspective, "continuity" is meaningless. The 'I' writing this sentence could be hundreds of billions of 'I's removed from the one that wrote the last sentence. More disturbingly, 'I' might not have existed at all until right . . . now." 


"The newly formed 'I' happens to have 'memories' of composing this essay, but memories, like everything else, are simply advantageous fluctuations in the filmic cloud, subject to constant revision. And since I'm ostensibly a component in day-to-day reality, it's inevitable that the randomly constructed parameters that define my world -- all of it, from my living room to the coffeeshop down the street to the structure of galaxies -- is every bit as flimsy and malleable. Reincarnation is quite real. It's happening all the time -- invisibly. 

Several months ago I was in an automobile crash. My memories contain the adrenalized moment of impact, the literally breathless aftermath as I pondered the crushed metal and broken glass, and a trip to a hospital inside an ambulance. It would appear I survived, albeit bruised and aching. But who am I to tell the story of what 'really' happened? Perhaps the arc of my life, as defined by the fluctuating patterns (and bits of would-be pattern) in the cosmic screening room bifurcated shortly before I collided with the other car. In one variation I came to a bloody end. In yet another there was never an accident at all."


"I pick the crash incident not because of any intrinsic importance -- at the most fundamental level, the blind dance of possibilities doesn't care if I live or die -- but because it illustrates how flawlessly one or two frames can be altered (or randomly inserted or deleted) to potentially catastrophic effect in the observable world. So long as a pattern remains intact -- and it will, since it has infinite space and time to organize itself -- so will some permutation of 'I.'

Which begs the question: What happens when someone dies? It's possible that informational death is impossible and that the person who "dies" in the "explicate order" is expediently recycled, living his or her life again and again in a state of total amnesia. Or maybe something like my crash incident applies and that observers who die -- in the directly perceivable world -- are shuffled into a future in which they "miraculously" survive their own crashes (or cancer treatments or heart transplants).

There's nothing concrete or absolute about our so-called universe. It is an alluring, insidiously clever simulation. The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics implies that the universe is constant "branching" into parallel, exclusive states. A better term, in light of the scenario described above, might be 'flowing.'"

- Mac Tonnies from this November 8, 2003 Posthuman Blues post.

***

"Yes, we speak of things that matter
With words that must be said
'Can analysis be worthwhile?'
'Is the theater really dead?'
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow
I cannot feel your hand
You're a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
In the borders of our lives"

- Lyrics from The Dangling Conversation (video), 1966, Paul Simon.


I guess the anniversary of Mac's birthday, i.e., the beginning of his last, known, brief journey through our "directly perceivable world," is becoming sort of a extravaganza this year on Post-Mac Blues. Not since the very early days of this blog have I posted so frequently... well, apart from the series which inspired this one. And, there's one more birthday-related post yet to come: a sort of Araqinta greeting card.

Mac's quote above is actually a fuller version of a quote appearing in this post, one of a series on PMB appearing in October of 2012. I even find myself using the same graphics, pulled from M.C. Escher's Another world. I guess Escher's odd little avian/human hybrid resonates with me still. Inset left is Still Life With a Spherical Mirror  found in the last entry of that series.

I didn't particularly want death to be a theme of any of the birthday posts, but, for the past 2 weeks I have had one song going through my head... over an over again like an endless soundtrack: an old, wistful Simon & Garfunkel tune: The Dangling Conversation. I don't know where it came from and I don't know why, but, in an effort to finally relieve myself of it, I thought I'd better work it out.

As it was, Mac was a fan of the 60s folk/rock duo Simon & Garfunkel despite the fact that they parted ways before he was born, and, with Mac in mind, I finally had an epiphany: unexpected death is somewhat like a dangling conversation. Your relationship with the departed person is left hanging in the air with no visible means of support as if someone cut the telephone wires mid-conversation... or your cell phone's battery hit 0 at that same crucial moment.

But is a dangling conversation necessarily a narrative cut short?

This reminds me of a photo of Mac I mentioned recently: the one in the tattoo parlor. As it was, I wasn't the only person who had never seen it before. Mac's mom, Dana, confirmed that  she hadn't seen it either. And Dana knows Mac's Flickr pages like the back of her own hand. She did remember the other photos (I'd forgotten), but not that one.

So, what are the chances of a new photograph appearing in a departed man's online Flickr album 9 years after his death? I suppose anything is possible in cyberspace and one shouldn't take a minor glitch too seriously. It might just be the results of Flickr's constantly changing formats... or, really, it could be that Dana and I are mistaken and it was hidden there all along.

Then again, theoretically, it might just be that the borderlines between the Universe's "parallel, exclusive states" are weakening - the veils are growing thin - and all sorts of phenomena are beginning to bleed through.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Men Who Lift Us Up

Franky Zapata surfing the clouds on his Flyboard Air.
(All photos in this post can be clicked to enlarge.)

"French inventor Franky Zapata has successfully crossed the Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard for the first time, after a failed attempt last month.

Zapata took off from Sangatte, northern France early on Sunday morning and landed in St. Margarets Bay, near Dover in England. The journey took just over 20 minutes, according to Reuters news agency.

'I had the chance to land in an extraordinary place. It's beautiful. My first thought was to my family. It was huge. Thanks to my wife who always supports me in crazy projects. We worked very hard,' he told CNN affiliate BFMTV...

The inventor captured the world's imagination when he took to the skies above Paris at Bastille Day parade in July with the board that can reach an altitude of nearly 500 feet -- with the potential to go much higher -- and a speed of 87mph."

- Excerpt from this August 4th CNN report. The photograph of Franky Zapata and his wife, Krystel, was found here.

"The 40-year-old set off on his Flyboard from Sangatte in the Pas de Calais region on the northern coast of France at about 6.17am for the 22-mile (35km) journey to St Margaret’s Bay, beyond the white cliffs of Dover.

Escorted by three helicopters, he completed the crossing in 22 minutes, reaching speeds of up to 110mph (177km/h) flying 15-20 metres (50-65ft) above the water. He arrived into the bay to the applause of dozens of onlookers and journalists.

Zapata has been developing his hoverboard for the past three years, undeterred by losing two fingers in its turbines during its maiden flight in his garage near Marseille."

- Sourced from this August 4th Guardian article. The image (inset right) was found here.

"Fantasy film aficionados would recognize Mr. Zapata’s invention. In “Spider-Man,” the Green Goblin sows terror from something very like the Flyboard Air that Mr. Zapata piloted across the channel. Marty McFly uses a similar vehicle in “Back to the Future 2.”


Defense Minister Florence Parly was equally taken by the machine. “Innovation is not a gimmick.” The hoverboard could serve as “a flying logistics platform, or an assault platform,” she suggested, conjuring an image of squadrons of individually airborne infantry descending on an enemy.

But not tomorrow. 'As it stands, the Flyboard Air has no operational use,' says Marion Laguës, spokeswoman for the French Defense Innovation Agency, a branch of the General Directorate for Weaponry, which is helping to finance the development of new, quieter jet engines.

Whether the Flyboard Air is indeed an aircraft or not is a question that nearly wrecked the whole project. French civil aviation bureaucrats grounded Mr. Zapata in 2017 because he had no pilot’s license and his experimental machine had not been certified."

- Excerpt from the article: Not just a toy: Channel-hopping hoverboard draws military’s eye.
Image (inset left) found here.

"His Flyboard has also attracted the attention of the French military, which in December gave Zapata’s company, Z-AIR, a €1.3m (£1.19m) development grant. He has said his invention wasn’t quite ready for military use because of the noise it makes and the hours required to learn to fly it.

Zapata eventually hopes to use his hoverboard to fly much higher, something that would require him to carry a parachute, guidance equipment and possibly an oxygen tank. He is also developing an idea for a flying car."

-  Excerpt and image (inset right) also sourced from the Guardian article linked to previously. Also, videos of Zapata's flight and be found on YouTube here and here.

***



As fate would have it, on August 4th of this year, while Franky Zapata was flying through French skies on his Flyboard Air destined for the White Cliffs of Dover, humans were dropping like flies on the western side of the Atlantic, victims to 4 mass-shootings.

Some men lift us up and some men take us down (literally). But, as I've already vented about the latter (here), in memory of Mac's birthday I thought I'd post something he'd love to see... and want for his very own! Well, okay, at $250,000 it's not something the average consumer can afford, and, chances are, navigating it looks much easier than it currently is. Moreover, the military or law enforcement sectors - i.e., where the money is - might embrace it, leading to this sort of thing. But, if the military decides to pass on the Flyboard Air, maybe the various space agencies of the world might find some use for it. I can easily envision the first humans on Mars utilizing it to scout the Martian terrain. (Well, provided gravity doesn't pose a problem, and after reading this, I still don't know!)

In any case, the best news is that Franky Zapata's next project is developing a flying car... and, while it seems that a number of prototypes for flying cars are already gathering dust, and a new tease occurs every year - here's last year's - something tells me that Z-Air's might be the first one to really take to the skies!


Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Process of Time


All photographs in this blog post were taken by Mac Tonnies and
found on his Flickr pages. Click to enlarge.

"The future isn't an inevitability; it's a process. It reaches back in time with delicate, enveloping fingers and beckons. We proceed into the future like slender pseudopods straining to break free of a parent cell. The transition is amorphic, dangerous and continuous. We are always on the front lines, waging temporal war within the privacy of our own skulls. The future is not ours, although it can be. Maybe this is what a multiversal intelligence seeks: not the chatter of electromagnetic transmissions, but the intricate lacing that occurs when spacetime is tempered with conscious intent. Finding us, it insinuates itself into our ontological flow. It replicates until its presence is so familiar we cease to even notice. We are silent partners, weaving new matrices of causality."

- From Mac Tonnies and sourced from this February 12, 2003 Posthuman Blues post.

***



Inside, the crew stirred within their communal environmental VR, roused by an unspecific sense of incipience. Zack felt it in the air, a certain heaviness that descended over the spires and narrow, cobbled avenues. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as he stood in front of the noisy café. As he watched, the faces of onlookers morphed into pixilated anonymity. He experienced a rush of strange nostalgia as the sky over Prague grew metallic, strewn with listing spheres and half-glimpsed workstation icons. His muscles tightened and the noise of conversation and scuttling cars blurred into the sound of electronic surf, pounding endlessly against the shores of his consciousness.

A blare of synthesized instruments. Prague had redshifted to a niggling afterimage, and he was alone in a strange green room that smelled of discreetly rotting vegetation. A barbed device, looking something like a spider as conceived by an aspiring surrealist, detached itself from his scalp, leaving a constellation of reddened impressions.
A voice: familiar, unwanted: "Welcome home, Zack."

He sagged into a mattress of gengineered lichen that buoyed his limbs and spine as if offering him up for sacrifice. His ears buzzed. He could still taste coffee. The spider-interface dangled above his head, twinkling mockingly in the glow of the room's diagnostic screens.
"Lights," he heard himself say. "Turn on the damned lights."

The room erupted in yellow light, emitted from organelles embedded in the walls and ceiling. The room was alive; in fact, it appeared to have grown more verdant in his long sensory absence. He breathed a quiet sigh of relief. There had been fear of native biota wrecking the Isis' genetic architecture, leaving the ship an undifferentiated blob of metal and biomass hovering between stars.

Elsewhere, he knew -- or, more accurately, sensed -- his crewmates awakening in dimly glowing rooms of their own. The metal spider curled its limbs into a somehow dangerous-looking sphere and drifted on a tether of fiber-optic cable. For the first time, he noticed the microgravity; the only thing keeping him from ascending was the mattress' faintly adhesive embrace. He freed his arms and watched his thin, colorless hands with the studied patience of a forensic scientist happening across some vital and mysterious piece of evidence.

He hadn't used his body in... 203 years, ship time? Unless something had gone wrong... but the voice had said "welcome home," hadn't it? A chill raced down his spine as he considered the possibility of software corruption. Two centuries of exposure to interstellar space could have plunged the AI into a lethally premature senility.

- An excerpt of an untitled, unfinished science fiction short by Mac Tonnies published in this January, 2008 blog post.

***

The Dog Days of summer are upon us and, here in the States, all the murder and mayhem that traditionally is said to occur during the months of July and August is in full force. August is also the month of Mac's birthday and the time I make my yearly pilgrimage to his blog and Flickr pages in search of inspiration; some new thing that brings Mac back - if only for an instant - endowing this memorial with a tenuous foothold in the process of time.


And, I am never disappointed; each time I am mysteriously led to posts and photos that I may have merely overlooked in the past but which seem as if I'm seeing them for the first time. Both quotes - and (at least) 3 of the photos posted above - I can swear I've never seen before. The little oddity shown directly above I have seen before but I'm quite sure it wasn't there 9 years ago. The next-to-the-last photograph - a mirror image of Mac shooting photos in a tattoo parlor - is especially eerie to me. How could I have missed that? What's really odd is that in the photo he appears to have tattooed forearms. Is this even possible? Maybe it's just me - always a distinct possibility - but, then, strange thoughts come to my head. And, they're not original. What if, for instance, time is a continuum and, within the process of time, the past continues and the future is already occurring... and each has the ability to change the other? In other words, changes occur across the board... and, maybe, all these new artifacts archaeologists keep finding are new!

And, (maybe) Mac Tonnies has recently tattooed his forearms.

***

"About a year ago I was in a deplorably ill-conceived suburban coffee-shop sipping espresso and using one of the complimentary computers (which, remarkably, hadn't been trashed by viruses). I struck up a longish conversation with a girl on the adjacent terminal (mostly about subjects covered by this blog, which I was busily updating).

At one point I casually mentioned that the shop in which we were sitting would probably wind up as a bona-fide archaeological site within the next thirty years. I don't think she liked the sound of that, because the conversation ended shortly thereafter.

But hey, she asked."

- Mac Tonnies from this January 26, 2008 blog post.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Red Ale for a Red Planet

The label for Phobos beer - released as a seasonal ale in 2015 by
the Ecliptic Brewing Co. based in Oregon.

"Hopped entirely with citrusy, tropical Azacca hops, Phobos is named after the Martian moon that circles the Red Planet. Eight types of malts were used to give this beer a deep caramel flavor and rich red color that would make Old Man Mars proud. Phobos finishes creamy and smooth."

- Commercial description for Phobos single hop red ale found here.

"Good appearance, dark red-brown with foamy head. The aroma is mild earthiness, not a whole lot there. The taste is much more complex. Chocolate, spice, alcohol, caramel, bread, a bitter finish. A bit of citrus in the taste. This is an odd, but satisfying beer. For a single hop beer, I expected the hops to be the focus, but Phobos is all about the malt. A lot of chocolate and dark caramel flavors, even a hint of dark fruit. If I was closing my eyes I might even call it a stout. Very tasty overall, just much different than your average red ale."

"22oz bottle served in a tall pub glass. Beer pours surprisingly cola brown in color, merely tinged with red, and forms a thick pillowy foam. Even more surprising is the pronounced coffee malt aroma. I was excited to try this beer because, while I'm not often excited by red ales, I don't think I've ever tasted Azacca hops before, and I approve of single hop brews. There is an edge of hop bitterness here, but it's not the center of this moon's orbit. Instead, this beer is all about a complex and interesting malt profile, with great balance of flavors, roasty and nutty notes of coffee, toffee. Recommended."

- Two reviews of Phobos found here.

"Phobos is named after the Greek god Phobos, a son of Ares (Mars) and Aphrodite (Venus) and the personification of fear (cf. phobia). Phobos has also been proposed as an early target for a manned mission to Mars because a landing on Phobos would be considerably less difficult and expensive than a landing on the surface of Mars itself. A lander bound for Mars would need to be capable of atmospheric entry and subsequent return to orbit, without any support facilities (a capacity that has never been attempted in a manned spacecraft), or would require the creation of support facilities in-situ (a "colony or bust" mission); a lander intended for Phobos could be based on equipment designed for lunar and asteroid landings. Additionally, the delta-v to land on Phobos and return is only 80% of that for a trip to and from the surface of the Moon, partly due to Phobos's very weak gravity."

- Excerpt from the Wiki entry for Phobos, where both photos of the Martian moon were sourced.

A close-up of Phobos. Note the weird, white "stretch mark" pattern 
on the foreground surface, right above an oddly blurred area.

"Mars has two natural satellites: Deimos and Phobos; the latter orbits Mars closer than any other moon orbiting the other planets in the solar system, and it’s currently undergoing a process known as orbital decay.

In short, this means that Phobos is slowly drifting closer to Mars over time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has an impact on the gravitational pull between Mars and Phobos. As this tug strengthens, the tidal forces exerted on Phobos are increased, and this quite literally tears the moon apart.

Phobos’ surface is covered in strange lines, and according to planetary scientists, these are ‘stretch marks’ that result from the tidal forces that are being exerted on the moon as it orbits Mars. If the moon’s orbital decay continues at its current rate, then the moon could be destroyed in the next several million years, resulting in a planetary ring around Mars."

- Excerpt from this June, 2019 article: Can We Prevent Phobos' Inevitable Demise?

***

Well, Phobos (the beer) has been around for 4 years, but I never heard of it till recently. But the minute I did, well, it goes without saying... (Thanks, BG!)

In spite of the photo inset left, Mac wasn't actually much of a beer-drinker... coffee was his drink of choice... morning, noon, and night. But, something tells me he would've loved this ale even if only for the label. Then again, who knows, some people think it has a "coffee-malt aroma"... he might've become a fan!

Needless to say, there hasn't been anything particularly earth-shattering in the news these days... a tease here and there... but mostly just recycled old stuff. For instance, I recently saw an article which claims that there's been a "Parallel universe breakthrough." See here and here. Big Think has an article about it, too. But, then I notice The Guardian was reporting something similar last year. The most interesting bit I found was actually news in 2014:

"New data suggests that it may be plausible that one of those parallel universes could be bumping into ours. The ESA's Planck telescope has discovered very bright light at the edge of our universe that really shouldn't be there. It's brighter than we would expect it to be, and the idea is that the light could be spilling in from another parallel universe bumping into ours."

Well, at least that sounds fairly cosmic.

I'll comfort myself with the thought that somewhere out there in the multiverse - and maybe right this minute - Mac is nursing a mug of Phobos.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Day of the Jellyfish

Birthday Cake by Salvador Dali? No, a "Flower Hat" jellyfish by Mother Nature.
(Click-on images for enlargements.)

I was'nt  planning on posting these lovelies till June 1st, but it appears neither they (nor my muse) could wait. And, no, one doesn't question these things. So, here they are from top to bottom: the Flower Hat jelly, the Black Sea Nettle, and the ultra-violet Halitrephes jelly (often referred to online as the "Fireworks" jelly). The first two photos were sourced from this article in which we learn:

"Scientists have discovered jellyfish fossil snapshots in rocks believed to be more than 500 million years old. That makes them even older than dinosaurs!"


Photo credit: Aurelien Guichard

Which kind of alerts us to the possibility that jellyfish know things that we don't! The thing is, allegedly, jellyfish do not have brains. But, then again, it sort of appears as if jellyfish are brains... alien brains, but brains nonetheless.

And, don't argue with me.


The Halitrephes jelly.

Speaking of aliens, however, while searching around for the most amazing jellyfish I could find, I found this article: The Sky is Alive; Are Many UFOs Atmospheric Creatures?, a reposting of a Fortean Times article. If you go there - and you should - you'll find a photo of a UFO flying over Denmark in 1974 which looks, well, exactly like an airborne jellyfish. So, are some UFOs atmospheric organisms? I don't know... but, I once created a tiny planet which did have an ocean-like atmosphere and did have weird marine-like creatures flying around.
Anyway, it's a cool concept whether technically true or not.*

Meanwhile, here's a great clip of the Halitrephes-in-motion. For more jellyfish images, try this page.

_________________________________

* On the topic of UFOs, here are 2 excerpts from a May 27 CBS News article: U.S. Navy pilots reportedly spotted UFOs over East Coast.

"Some U.S. Navy pilots reported seeing unidentified flying objects while training over the East Coast in 2014 and 2015 in interviews with The New York Times. According to The Times, multiple Navy pilots spotted "strange objects" with "no visible engine" reaching 30,000 feet and going hypersonic speeds...

According to the report, the pilots who reported the aerial phenomena "speculated that the objects were part of some classified and extremely advanced drone program." In another instance, one pilot told Lt. Graves that he "almost hit one of those things" and that he described it as looking 'like a sphere encasing a cube.'"

Of course, like much UFO news, this story comes out years after the fact. In this case, five years. Oh well. CNN also has an interview.