Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Hallowe'en!

Sepik: Arts from Papua New Guinea: "The first exhibition in France to be devoted to the arts of the peoples of the River Sepik in Papua New Guinea ... [an] exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly brings together 230 works from its own collections and from those of 18 European museums." This display of ethnographic art from Papua New Guinea runs from 27 October 2015 to 31 January 2016 in Paris. Image Source: Alambret Communications.

Happy Hallowe'en! This year's countdown proved truth is stranger than fiction, and horror is often not what it seems to be. From a press release kindly sent to me by Alambret, on a current Paris exhibition of the arts of Papua New Guinea:
The Sepik is the longest river in Papua New Guinea. It is situated in the north of the island and covers a distance of 1,126 kilometers before it disharges into the Pacific Ocean. Large swampland, since the first millennium B.C. this area has sheltered peoples who live on the banks of or in areas close to the Sepik River and its tributaries. These societies have evolved in a world where every object lends itself to being sculpted, engraved or pictorially represented by animal and human figures or abstract motifs.

Sculptures, hooks, necklaces made up of pearl oyster shells, slit drums, bamboo flutes, wickerwork headdresses, coconut bowls, panels of painted bark, modelled-over skulls, whether they belong to the everyday or appear during ceremonies, are adorned with images or signs linked to nature and ancestral figures either human or animal.

The exhibition presents the results of 35 years of research led by Philippe Peltier, Markus Schindlbeck and Christian Kaufmann. The pieces presented were chosen for their formal qualities and their ethnographic interests. Some of them are icons of the art of the Sepik. They all demonstrate the great diversity of forms developed and materials used by the inhabitants of the river banks.
The press release for the exhibition is here.

As for fantasy, if you want to watch a scary film tonight, I recommend It Follows (2014; see it here); filmed in Detroit, it is original, low-tech, and terrifying. After a one night stand, a teen girl finds herself relentlessly pursued by a dumb entity which can possess those around her. That simple and familiar premise is executed brilliantly, partly because the young characters are trapped in unsettling retro horror time loops. You can see Gen X director David Robert Mitchell explain the opening shot for the NYT, here. Below the jump, see a clip from the film, and a Millennial or Generation Y-oriented analysis of the film.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Watcher

As of October 2015, 657 Boulevard, Westfield NJ, was on the market for USD $1.25 million. Image Source: Christian Hansen/Gothamist.

Every horror fan knows that when you buy property, you should beware the amazing real estate deal. In June 2015, a lawsuit in Union County, New Jersey, USA suggested that a house there sold with a hidden legacy. The court papers read like a cross between The Amityville Horror (1977) and When A Stranger Calls (1979). In June 2014, the Woods family sold their six-bedroom house at 657 Boulevard, Westfield, to the Broaddus family for $1.3 million, which was a steal because Union County is a prosperous place with nice schools and good jobs: it is 119th in per capita income among 3,113 counties in the United States. Perched on the Atlantic seafront, sheltered by the Watchung Mountains, the motto of this leafy enclave is "We're connected to you!"

Yes, we are: in June 2014, three days after the new home owners at 657 Boulevard moved in, they started to receive hostile anonymous letters, threatening their children and claiming that for generations, the house and its inhabitants have been stalked by the letter writer, a malevolent voyeur described in court documents as 'The Watcher.' The Daily Mail:
“Police have not yet released the letters but the profilers say they would be able to tell a lot from the handwriting, sentence structure, use of grammar and tone. In the messages, which date back to last year, the stalker said that his family had been 'watching' the house for generations. He also claimed he would be able to see the family through their windows. And he accused them of updating the house. ‘You have changed it and made it so fancy,' he wrote. 'It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed its halls, when I ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there… Stop changing it and let it alone.’ One letter read: 'Why are you here? I will find out. 'My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?' He seems to be referring to the Broaddus family's three children. In the first letter, dated June 5 [2014], he wrote: 'Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me. 'I asked the [prior owners] to bring me young blood. And now I watch and wait for the day when they [sic] young blood will be mine again.'

'Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will. I am pleased to know your names and the names now of the young blood you have brought to me. 'Will the young bloods play in the basement. Who has the rooms facing the street? I'll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better.' All the windows and door in [the house] allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. 'I am in charge of [the house].'
The buyers sued the house's previous owners for not disclosing information on the Watcher before the sale. Courthouse News reported that the plaintiffs invoked the 'decency of civilized society':
All told, the letters are "the epitome of extreme and outrageous conduct so severe in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society," the complaint states.
The Watcher's letters state that he had communicated with the sellers, but to win the case, the buyers have to prove that the sellers already knew about the Watcher when they sold the house. New Jersey does not have a law forcing sellers to disclose negative information about real estate. Nolo: Law for All advises that hauntings and other psychological stigmas are encouraged by sellers of New Jersey real estate, but disclosures remain voluntary; it is up to the house buyer to ask if the property is stigmatized:
What to Disclose If the House Is Haunted or Otherwise Stigmatized

There are some "intangible" problems with a property that buyers cannot discover through an inspection. A property may, for example, be "stigmatized" if it is affected by psychological or other factors that have nothing to do with its physical condition but affect whether it would be desirable to live in. Examples of such stigma include a house that is allegedly haunted or where a violent death took place. In New Jersey, you do not have to disclose these things BUT, if the buyer asks you about them, you must answer honestly.

Filling Out a Disclosure Form

In light of the various disclosure obligations described above, most Realtors in New Jersey will require that the seller fill out a SELLER'S PROPERTY CONDITION DISCLOSURE STATEMENT to share with prospective buyers. You may attract more buyers if you are willing to let them know straight up what condition the property is in before they make an offer. If you do not provide a disclosure form, you may well scare off a buyer who thinks there must be issues with the property that you'd rather not disclose. This form provides facts about the history of repairs to the property and almost every physical aspect of the property, from the basement sump pump to the rooftop. Sellers usually deliver it to prospective buyers when they express an interest in making an offer on the property. The form is not required of a New Jersey seller. In fact, some sellers refuse to fill it out, for fear that they may make an innocent omission or representation. If you do fill it out, make sure you answer it completely and honestly. Failure to do so could set you up for a potential suit for misrepresentation or failure to disclose.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Remote Camera Hacks

Image Source: Time to Break.

Digital home invasion. Stick that Post-it over your laptop camera, because here is a real life premise for a found footage film if I ever saw one. In July 2015, a hacker sent a woman in Toronto, Canada photos of her sleeping with her partner, taken through the camera of her boyfriend's computer. Police were unable to protect the couple after the captures were posted on her Facebook account. VICE:
It was the end of a long day, and Chelsea Clark and her boyfriend had settled in for a Netflix marathon on his laptop. "We were for sure watching Adventure Time," says the 27-year-old bartender. "Pretty normal Wednesday night stuff." Yet the couple's rather unremarkable, rather intimate evening soon became anything but.

Logging into Facebook after work the next day, Clark says her blood ran cold. An anonymous account had sent her a series of photos of the couple's evening, seemingly taken from the laptop's camera. "They were so freakishly intimate," she says.

"Realy,cute couple [sic]" was the only message.

Terrified, Clark immediately called the Toronto police. "It felt so invasive, like someone was in my house with me." ...

The images were taken using her boyfriend's PC laptop, a computer Clark says she never uses. "It's just for video games and occasionally we'll use Netflix on it," she explains. From there, the perpetrator managed to make the link to Clark, hacking into her Facebook account and adding himself to her contacts to send the images. "I have my privacy setting set so that no one can message me except friends," she says of her Facebook account. "So when I got an unknown [message] I thought it seemed weird," she says. "I went into history to see when [the user] was added and it was just before the messages were sent."

Cyber security expert Eric Parent says the context suggests the perpetrator knows the couple. "Or we're dealing with someone who took the time to understand the relationship between these two people," says Parent. "And that takes digging, since it's not because I saw you on a webcam that I know who you are."

The (now-deleted) Facebook profile used to send the photos offers little insight into the perpetrator's identity (Mahmoud Abdo seems to be an incredibly common name, and is likely a fake). Alongside profile pictures featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker or strange motivational sayings, the person followed a variety of soccer club pages and belonged to a group called "Spammers and Hackers." The user's location is listed as Cairo, Egypt. ...

Parent warns that hacking a webcam is relatively easy. "If you have access to the physical computer, all you need is some tech knowledge and a USB key and you're done," he says. Remote access, he explains, requires some form of user involvement. "Something has to be clicked, a doc has to be opened," he says. But all in all, it's a relatively simple hack that can be hard to detect. "It's very difficult to protect yourself from this type of attack because the stuff that we do normally, like opening email, is stuff that just happens," says Parent. "The best thing you can do is to have security software, keep everything up to date, and cross your fingers."
Also in July 2015, a Canadian man heard an eerie voice screaming obscenities and shouting "Wake up baby! Wake up baby!" at his infant child. The voice came from the hacked baby monitor in the nursery. In late 2014, several reports noted that a Russian-based Website, Insecam, streamed thousands of hacked security cams and Webcams in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. These articles fine tuned the growing paranoia that nothing on the Internet is private.

Image Source: VICE. See another report on this case, here.