New York Japan CineFest 2016

I attended the wonderful New York / Japan Cinefest, at the Asia Society recently, which was one of the highest quality short film festivals I have seen, in terms of presentation and curation. 

During the screening, I took notes on my phone capturing imagery and snippets of subtitles dialogue which, for whatever reason, in this particular series, of short films had a poetic resonance. 

"They gave up their lives"

A young girl pulls their stingers from her mother's spine; as she gathers the dead bodies of the honey bees, she tells them "thank you" for sacrificing themselves to cure her mother's muscular sclerosis

The matron of a matcha-making family describes a cup of tea as a creative moment, as you wonder - will it be good? A full bodied, flavorful matcha is a form of happiness.

"When I make dolls of dead people I think about when they were alive. There used to be more people in this town, now there are more dolls; I'll probably live forever"

Kumamoto. I love you

The young are beautifulbut the old are more beautiful than the young.

If you knew this secret, Tomo, you wouldn't be able to stay in kumamoto

Last night I dreamt I turned into a beetle. You were an oak tree dripping sap on me

She's a stranger But...? yeah. She doesn't know who I am. She'll probably spend the rest of the afternoon wondering.

Momentary incidents may remain in others hears for an eternity

PostHuman Blues

Surfing the web for articles on the subject of the "digital afterlife,"  I stumbled upon the story of Mac Tonnies, a futurist and science fiction writer from Kansas City, Missouri, whose blog Posthuman Blues amassed a dedicated readership of friends and followers from 2003-09, before Tonnies suddenly died of a heart attack. He was only 34 and ostensibly bound for greatness. Saddened by Tonnies' premature death, his fans rallied together to preserve his memory online by posting remembrances. and keeping the now 10 year old blog up and running. It's fascinating as a case study in how communities honor the dead online, pre-Facebook.

Curious to learn more about Tonnies, I browsed the blogspot memorial site. It quickly became apparent that reading 300 pages worth of material on an outdated blog it would offer neither an efficient nor pleasurable reading experience. Fortunately, the entirety of Posthuman Blues is available in paperback on Amazon. It's been a pleasure reading through two volumes of Tonnies' writing in paperback. The posts feel very much alive and somehow timeless in the form of a book in a way that they wouldn't in their original, timestamped context online. Tonnies' reflections vary in length from 2-500 word essays, and rants on the decline of western civilization at the turn of the millennium, interspersed with kernels of science fiction ideas and unpublished works of fiction.

It led me to wonder how many other critically acclaimed blogs or web-based micro fictions have made it into print. Probably a vanishingly small number relative to the boundless blogosphere, though I would like to see more of these born-digital blogs make it into book form. 

Word processing

After years of reading from the screen and suffering eyestrain -- I once had  perfect vision and then gave myself myopia -- I acquired my first laser jet printer this year. This little guy.  I read a ton of screenplays, and prefer to revise my own work on the page. As much as it pains me to kill trees, there's a great satisfaction in writing and printing. Printing itself now feels like an atavistic impulse toward an industrial process; the mechanical whir of a laser jet, of heat and toner, scorched into bleached paper with a chemical odor. On the other hand, the experience of reading on a physical page feels more human and grounded. Imagine printing the entire internet. Would the paper needed to represent a zettabyte of text decimate the world's forests? Ask a librarian. 

Michael Mandiberg attempted to print all of wikipedia as an artistic gesture (though maybe it's as practical as it is poetic): The stark visual of those white hardbound books arranged in rows, containing a fathomless volume of information, boggles the mind. 





An ansible is a fictitious machine capable of instantaneous or superluminal communication. typically it is depicted as a lunch box-sized object with some combination of microphone, speaker, keyboard and display. It can send and receive messages to and from a corresponding device over any distance whatsoever with no delay. Urusula Le Guin states that she derived the name from "answerable," as the device would allow its users to receive answers to their messages in a reasonable amount of time, even over interstellar distances.

Variations on the device from other science fiction worlds include: a sympathetically vibrating Black Crystal from The Crystal Singer, aetherschreibers  from The Age of Unreason, Symbiotic Crystalline Resonance Transmissions from The Gap CycleCausal channels which use entangled particles for instantaneous two-way communication from Stross's Singularity SkyHyperspatial needlecast, a technology infinitesimally close to instantaneous to the point of being immeasurable, rhodomagnetic waves hyper-wave relaybipolar mathematics or ancient communication stones.

Outlandish hypothetical technologies

"Lazars are named after Bob Lazar, that guy from Area 51 who exposed UFOs at the base (supposedly). Despite this, Lazars are not flying saucers but actually a gas-like form of claytronics. How to describe them: Think of a ghost. Not a cheesy "white sheet over your head" ghost you see in cartoons and old movies; I mean like a proto-typical state of matter that's entirely amorphous and seems separated from reality. Or think of a gas, like the vapors from dry ice. That's how I'd describe a Lazar.

In my thoughtwork, one of things I've dwelled on that seems truly out-of-this-world is the existence of a type of ælcorus where a group of people as lazars would come together in some form of cloud (literally a cloud) in a communal harmony (though their bodies wouldn't be entangled with each other; what a mess that would be!), as such could be the closest thing to a higher state of consciousness.  (Lazars can take any shape, humanoid or otherwise), or become balls of light. Wanna go into space? As in bare outer space? Use a lazar.  Can you get too spread out? Yes. Yes you can, but you can reform or pull out of a Lazar at any time if you don't like how crazy things are getting.

That, or they'd just use lazars in haunted houses. Programmable ghosts, amirite?


"Super-light, which I've dubbed the Light of Bæphomet. This is just a type of light that can become visible through solid walls and can pass such information through said walls- already can be done with wireless tech"

"Photosynthetic augs: fusing nano-fuel cells with the technology of solar panels, which could allow for extreme amounts of energy to be derived. This particular variety allows you to take pure radiation and thermal energy and turn it into material and energy for your body, effectively eliminating the need for oral-based consumption. It's still eating. Just eating light. "How mad! Do you actually mean you want to stop people from eating?" 


"Deus Ex gave me a fantastic idea: how to separate consciousness across multiple entities. Perhaps I could be conscious in one place and another at the same time? Kind of like Bot Domination, but with more consciousness to go around. I was kind of leaning in this direction with loopkill already.

On that topic, when it comes to metahumanism,  superconsciousness could be possible to create a transhuman-like being without actually being transhuman. Unless giving more conscious control of your body is transhuman. I figured that this would be how Ælcorus could work in some regards. It's giving you the ability to control emotions and reason and feelings at a much better efficiency so I don't see how it could "take away free will" like that other guy said. If anything, it would grant you even more free will, free from the binds of natural/nurtured development. I never saw how free will is as free as they say if the human mind is as shaped by its environment and its own genetics; metahumanism would give you the chance to push past that, so that sound like true free will to me.

I guess some people think that our current state is as advanced, as free as it could ever possibly be. An ape  would think that it's the greatest it can possibly be, as much as a dog would think its breed is the best it could be. I don't see why us humans wouldn't see it the same way. But we can't really imagine metahumanism because we only have this one consciousness that we're slaves to for life so I can see why we'd think that."

Keeping Time for Eternity

Scientists are addressing the urgent task of developing a clock, in the form of a 4D crystal, that will keep time even after the universe ceases to exist.

In other words, the scientists would aim to create a ring of charged particles, with the resulting electromagnetic forces causing the structure to rotate perpetually. At its lowest quantum-energy state, also known as its ground state, the system has no disorder, or entropy, and there is no way for its entropy to increase over time. Thus, the crystal’s temporal structure and timekeeping ability would continue even after the universe reached a state of “heat death,” also known as thermodynamic equilibrium, when it had devolved into entropy.


55 Trillion Links

Consider the Internet as one global machine.

In his talk The Next 5000 Days of the Web Kevin Kelly presents a spec sheet for this machine (circa 2008):

55 trilion links, 1 billion PC chips, 8 terabytes per second of traffic, 255 exabytes of storage

In comparison, the human brain has an estimated 86 billion neurons and about 100 trillion synapses (the number of stars in 1,500 galaxies)

"To a first approximation," says Kelly "the size of this machine is the size in complexity of your brain… however your brain isn’t doubling every two years. If we say that this machine (the Internet) is one human brain, by the year 2040 this machine will exceed humanity in processing power" 

An Archive of Einstein's Brain

For $9.99, anyone can download the app and take advantage of digitised images of nearly 350 brain slices taken from the collection bequeathed to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland by the Harvey family estate in 2010. The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Chicago digitized the slides for the app.

Liat Clark,

Burning eBooks

All traces of Jonah Lehrer’s e-book, *Imagine*, recently vanished from the shelves of online bookstores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The gesture of expunging tarnished content has incited a debate; is it possible to burn an e-book?  Maria Konnikova of the Atlantic reflects on questions of censorship in online retail and the nature of books:

An e-book is not a physical book. That point might seem trite until you stop for a moment to think how much simpler it is, in a certain sense, to destroy electronic than physical traces.

Readers on the Daily Beast respond:

But the opposite is equally true.  That is, it is much harder to destroy electronic than physical traces. As anyone who has lost control of an image of themselves online can attest, electronic artifacts can be copied anywhere and everywhere at the speed of light, and be stored anywhere and everywhere.  They are extremely difficult to wipe out.

In 2011, artist Paul Chan published  Wht is a Book? an eBook examining the ontology, and mortality, of books: 

What is reading? How does reading turn into knowing? How does knowing become doing? Does it matter if knowing only knows? What is a book? Is reading a book different from reading a menu, or an affidavit, or a painting? Why are books associated with bodies? When books are burned, why is it natural to assume that people are next? Does it have to do with Eros? How do you burn an eBook?

Vanishing streams

"Almost 30 per cent of recorded history, shared over social media such as Twitter, has disappeared, according to a new study of the Egyptian uprising and other significant events… 11 per cent of the social media content had disappeared within a year and 27 per cent within 2 years. Beyond that, the world loses 0.02 per cent of its culturally significant social media material every day” technology review via @auremoser

How many photos have ever been taken?

By Jonathan Good

Digital cameras are now ubiquitous - it is estimated that 2.5 billion people in the world today have a digital camera. If the average person snaps 150 photos this year that would be a staggering 375 billion photos. That might sound implausible but this year people will upload over 70 billion photos to Facebook, suggesting around 20% of all photos this year will end up there. Already Facebook’s photo collection has a staggering 140 billion photos, that’s over 10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress.

Even accounting for population growth the exponential growth of photos is incredible (we take 4 times as many photos as 10 year ago). Today every party, birthday, sports game and concert is documented in rich detail. The combination of all these photos is a rich portrait of today, the possibilities of which are illustrated by a tool like “The Moment”. As photos keep growing we take a clearer and clearer snapshot of our lives and world today - in total we have now taken over 3.5 trillion photos. The kind of photos we are taking has changed drastically - analog photos have almost disappeared - but the growth of photos continues.

An Archive of Images Orbiting Earth to the End of Time: Trevor Paglen Launches "The Last Pictures"

Someday millions of years from now, if not sooner, someone visiting Earth might wonder: who left these machines orbiting a cold dead planet? 

And if they were to locate the EchoStar XVI communication satellite among the cloud of debris, they would find a message left by 21st century artist Trevor Paglen. THE LAST PICTURES is an archive of 100 images depicting this moment in history, launched into geosynchronous orbit from Kazakhstan on a payload destined to become space junk. It is a troubling monument, an epitaph, a question mark, speeding across the skies to the end of time.

This is not the first time-capsule humans have launched into space, nor will it be the last.  Though in contrast to its precursors, this one anticipates an eerily silent future for humanity, when no one is around to tell our story. 

The first Golden Record, curated by Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan, launched in 1977, offers hypothetical alien recipients a peace-loving image of Earthlings joining hands in multicultural harmony, disclosing little evidence of trouble in paradise. Voyager was a message of interstellar love, an olive branch reaching to the stars. 

The Last Pictures can be seen as the reverse side of that coin, an articulation of profound uncertainty. Paglen’s archive represents a sobering amendment to the sweetly optimistic message developed by Sagan’s team. If the images on the Golden Record now look somewhat naive, with glimmers of Norman Rockwell’s America, Trevor Paglen’s tormented monochrome portraits of the 20th century are beautifully disfigured, more akin to the work of Diane Arbus and Edward Burtynksy.

As archives aspiring to convey meaning across millennia, both Last Pictures and Voyager ultimately reflect the biases of their respective cultural milieux and the personal visions of their creators; no single time capsule can speak for Earth, for all of humanity, for all time. 

It’s worth pointing out another major distinction between these projects. Voyager wants to be received, or else it wouldn’t have been set on a trajectory racing past Pluto to the nearest star. Its encoded meanings imply a non-human audience, as it puts forth an idealized image of Earth’s inhabitants as if to say “Please visit us, we’re friendly and intelligent”. Last Pictures is a message in a bottle tossed from a sinking ship. It presumes that thousands of years from now, there won’t be a soul to see them. And even if there were, Trevor Paglen seems to prefer that the images remain locked away forever. An early prototype of the plaque bore the inscription:

 Please do not disturb me. Let me stay here so that I may witness the end of time.

The Last Pictures serves as an epilogue to armageddon, providing indirect explanation for  how we annihilated ourselves; but who is the audience for such a message?What is the meaning of a monument without visitors, or images without viewers? How does one construct a time capsule for a completely unknown, and unknowable, audience? What is the point of making art, taking pictures, or writing books if one day all will be forgotten, cast into oblivion? As an artwork, the Last Pictures embodies this unfathomable mystery and will undoubtedly have a place in our dialogues about time and responsibility as long as we are around to wrestle with the meaning of the objects we leave behind.

 In conversation with Werner Herzog hosted by the New York Public Library on September 19, 2012, Paglen remarked that the future has always been uncertain, at every point in history. Our time is hardly exceptional in that respect. 

It’s 2012, but let’s not forget that the future is a process; the world has ended many times before; beyond the present apocalypse, a succession of doomsday scenarios await. As any great work of art, or prophesy, the Last Pictures should provoke reflection and remain open to interpretation. For Paglen, however, there is no question that our last words will be, “we committed suicide”

For examples of other time-capsules and messaging projects, check out Moon Arts, Earth Tapestry, and Rosetta Disk