Aaron Cael

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Tonight’s Rabbit Hole: New Chronology

fomenko_worldFirst, forget everything before 1100 A.D. It’s a void, a black hole of prehistory. Nothing happened much beyond a few men got smart enough to climb on horses and make trouble for the people the next town over. Local empires, crude jewelry, casual bloodshed. Forget it. Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, Arab chronologies were all the work of Jesuit scholars in the 1600’s. Inventions like paper, gunpowder, transoceanic travel? All from Europe in the 10th-16th centuries. Oh and Jesus? That’s just a garbled story about the failed reforms of the Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos of the Byzantine Empire’s.

And… that just scratches the surface. It’s hard to know where to start. Russian mathematician Anatoly T. Fomenko has published a seven volume reworking of world history that basically crams all of antiquity into the Middle Ages and makes the prime driver of most pre-17th century world events a Turko-Slavic empire that doesn’t appear in any other system of chronology. The crux of this idea–and the part that intrigues me as a writer–is that commonly-accepted world history is a distorted, stretched out narrative that cyclically plagiarizes actual events. Fomenko links various world events in far-flung places, claiming that despite the distance and time between them, they are the same story, repeated and displaced. This strikes me as a reverse application of the idea of archetypes. Not just are all narratives a repetition of some basic structural form but history is too.

In short: it’s not history repeating itself, it’s the historians.

Fomenko works this all out mathematically, drawing on zodiacs and certain astronomical observations, rejecting others as inaccurate or flat out forgeries. The exciting part of this is that it suggests an underlying formula for generating historical narrative. My question is: could you develop Fomenko’s formulas used to detect these allegedly forged repetitions of historical events to create an iterative process that generates completely new ones?

Stretch the timeline back further; start three million years ago. Add in libraries that account for a greater diversity of hominids, sketching out warring empires of distantly related Neanderthals and Homo Ergaster. Generate the wars of succession in the Cro Magnon Rome. Or go in the other direction and generate future repetitions through the cycles of history: crusades to recapture Neo-Catholic shrines in geosynchronous orbit. The globally observed Crucifixion of an entirely synthetic Messiah, spontaneously generated from the NSA archives of collected human communications.

The New Chronology Wikipedia page is a good start. Just barely scratched the surface of this English-language extrapolation of History: Fiction or Science?



Brooklyn/Beszel/Ul Qoma


Last night I met a friend for a drink at a place called the Brooklyneer, a Brooklyn-themed restaurant in Manhattan. To stress the weirdness of this, let me over-explain: this is a bar that takes its decor, name, and menu inspiration from another sector of the same city. Like you would open a Thai restaurant that takes its inspiration from Thailand.
To stretch that metaphor, much like many Thai restaurants take their menu and decor from one specific, popularized region of Thailand (Bangkok/Central) and its culture without specifically declaring that distinction, the Brooklyneer is not pulling from all over Brooklyn (pop. 2.5 million, roughly the same as Nevada or Jamaica)  for its cultural selection. No, it’s aiming squarely for the culture of what I’ll call Brooklyn Export, a consumer-friendly style that is pretty thoroughly entrenched in the Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn with swaths of Red Hook, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Park Slope as well. Dark wood. Antique motifs. Ethnic flourish + hearty American fare. Craft/Organic/Artisinal/Etc. In this sense, Brooklyn is being referred to not so much a place as a brand. A promise of a certain consumer experience. Thai restaurants, Disneyland, dude ranches, etc.
This isn’t weird at all. This is what the globalized world does and has done since antiquity. Greek wine merchants in Phoenicia, the courtly trappings of Central American Empires brought north to the Mississippi River Civilizations, goddamn red-doored English pubs everywhere. What’s weird is the location. The proximity to its inspiration.  2.4 miles, walking distance. In under an hour (half an hour if it’s urgent and you’re running) you could have that same Brooklyn Brewery beer, that same kimchi-topped hotdog in your hand.
It gave me a feeling of the shattering of location-based culture. That even export versions of a local culture could be had in damn near the same spot as its original version still stands. I wrote down on a napkin: “hall of mirrors. The Starbucks in a Starbucks”
And enclaves/exclaves… I got thinking about China Mieville’s excellent The City and the City, a crime story about investigators tracking murders through a divided city that overlapped in places, divided not by walls but by a scrupulously maintained unseeing by both populations as their lives overlapped on the streets.

A quote:

“You cannot train yourself to successfully and sustainedly unsee and unhear — you do them all the time, but they also fail, repeatedly, and you cheat, repeatedly, in all sorts of small ways. The book mentions that several times. It is absolutely about absolute fidelity to those particular urban protocols, exaggerations or extrapolations of the ones that I think are all around us all the time in the real world; but it’s also about cheating them, and failing them, and playing a little fast and loose, which I think is an inextricable part of such norms.”

Like Besźel and Ul Qoma in Mieville’s novel, New York has its own overlapping territories. Places adjacent that seem to live in different times, different countries. A physical substrate, yes, but that’s just what holds up this multitude of shared hallucinations, holograms folded through each other, shimmering in the concrete-amplified wet heat of summer. It’s a city with all four-dimensions stretched and broken and chewed on by use, neglect, experimentation, by an infinite number of schemes to squeeze one last dollar from it all.

Naturally, the beers were $7. It’s in Manhattan, after all.

MIAR: Most Inconvenient Augmented Reality System

One failed novel ago–working title “出口 DeGuchi”–I was fooling around with a plot point that relied upon an interface somewhat like Google Glass but without the glass. This was 2006 or so, VR headsets and bulky sunglasses with little screens in them were out there but not suitably satisfying/immersive for something that would be a convincing additional to daily reality. Not to mention they were expensive, dorky, and very obvious that you were using it. And they took you out of the reality you were in, rather than adding to it. An interface for ubiquitous computing would have to be cheap, durable, and subtle.

Synesthesia was also on my mind. How it worked, how we interpret sensory input and either categorize it or let it all come rampaging in to overturn the furniture in our mental rooms. I was living in Japan at the time and had one of those 3 am chats at the bar about how Japanese stoplights were the same shades as the ones in the rest of the world but they called the bottommost color “blue” rather than “green”. Again, 3 am profundity aided by far too much Carlsberg. But it got me thinking: what if you could figure out the language of the raw sensory input before it was received and interpreted by the visual cortex? Or the auditory cortex? Could you spoof input, send errant signals? Could it be controlled well enough to make it an interface? Could you play Quake?

So I started writing about such a system. Cheap, subtle, crazy. A wearable computer generating audio cues that are interpreted by a hacked brain as visual input. Nothing more obvious than a smartphone and headphones.

The key thing, of course was using some powerful drugs to induce a synesthetic state in the user.

MIAR_drugsOh and of course, figuring out what that raw audio input would be, what it would produce. Likely, every human brain is significantly different. i.e. we’re all seeing a different blue, just it’s close enough that we can all call light of those wavelengths reflecting back “blue”.

But I’m a writer. I can write a fictional team of researchers smart enough to get around that. Thank god I don’t have to actually make such a thing.


And what would you use it for? Well, the first generation would likely be a toy. Put color overlays over things. Low resolution graphics. All part of the discovery process of what parameters you can tweak for what result. Since the human head doesn’t come with a video-out port (not even a goddamn USB), this might be the sort of thing the user has to tweak for themselves, knob twiddling to change the nature of the audio to create certain test patterns.


And of course, the sci-fi plot twist: BUT WHAT IF THE BAD GUYS GET AHOLD OF SUCH GREAT POWER? Well, then they’re most likely going to put up ads for Nabisco products and online Masters degree programs in your peripheral vision. Y’know, the Faustian bargain of modern civilization.

Anyway, since this concept was woven through the standard Holden Caufield in Osaka first time novel writing bullshit, it went down with the ship. Might have to pull this idea back out for something more interesting and shorter.


Media Diet: City, Dollhouse, Duckling

Somebody went and made that New York By Elevated Public Transit video we’ve all collected scraps for. And a damn good job.

I would also submit for your consideration the unembeddable video for Can’t Stop Feeling. A sight gag that stays fresh for the whole 3 minutes.

>>Free dollhouse plans http://www.letsbuildadollhouse.com/

>>One of the greatest things to come out of the Occupy movement is a greater awareness among citizens of how their government works and what people’s rights are in regards to speech, assembly and public space. Notably, how those in power do their damnedest to ignore all those things. Here’s a fun little bit of home work: http://whownspace.blogspot.com/2011/12/occupy-department-of-buildings.html

>>Ugly Duckling Presse online chapbook archive http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org/catalog/online-reading/

>>Projection mapping and sharpie of the sort of crystal/fractal/gridded mountains I paint obsessively. I need to get close to this and see it. Badly. http://www.creativeapplications.net/environment/eyjafjallajokull-vvvv-events-environment-inspiration/

>>Article on Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis http://www.gnosis.org/pkd.biography.html

>>”Welcome to the Official web page of The African Federation of Free States of Africa, also known as the African League for Peace and Prosperity. The Federation is an Alliance of Sovereign African States, it’s aims and purpose are to promote Democracy, Freedom and Peace in Africa.” Equatorial Africa divided by cultural groupings into potential, unrecognized states.  http://www.africafederation.net/