“I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”

Gynoids. Pleasure models. Fembots. Bionic women. Borg queens. Stepford wives. Sometimes they’re hot. Sometimes they’re fierce. And yet sometimes, they all start to look the same.

When’s the last time you saw a female robot who didn’t appear to have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7? Other than Rosie, the robot maid from The Jetsons. This powerful portrait of London-based plus-size model Bea Sweet by digital artist Benedict Campbell (previously on Coilhouse) confronts that question head-on.

It’s great to see a sexy, strong robotic woman who isn’t rail-thin, to imagine a future where robot designers craft something other than Barbies and Kens, or one in which robots design themselves in a way that discards the expectations of their human forbearers. And yeah, loving this doesn’t mean letting go of a deep adoration for Bjork’s All is Full of Love, or, for that matter, Takashi Itsuki’s bruised bondage robot amputees. There’s room for all those things.

A few quotes from Donna Haraway, author of The Cyborg Manifesto:

  • “We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.”
  • “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction.”
  • “The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.”
  • “Cyborg writing must not be about the Fall, the imagination of a once-upon-a-time wholeness before language, before writing, before Man. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.”
  • “It is no accident that the symbolic system of the family of man – and so the essence of woman – breaks up at the same moment that networks of connection among people on the planet are unprecedentedly multiple, pregnant, and complex.”
  • “The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code.”
  • “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”

Alternative Retirement Spaces

Proposed architectural designs for Boom, a 100-acre alternative retirement space.

via Coolhunting:

What began as an innovative project for LGBT retirees seeking refuge from cookie-cutter approaches to conventional retirement has evolved into something much more ambitious. More than 100 acres in the Mojave Desert will soon be the site of a $250 million idea, bringing together 10 architectural firms from five countries to succeed where so many fail by reclaiming shared community spaces that invite pedestrians and casual interactivity among neighbors.

Located near Palm Springs, California—an area known for perennial sunshine and wide-open spaces—Boom will cater to outdoor living with pedestrian pathways and communal spaces, as well as eateries, wellness centers and shops. Living spaces include private homes, assisted living and a nursing home. Each separate development will differ as the individual architects are being given free reign to realize their ideas of livability, adding diversity to the common goal of functionality and livability.

Another exciting facet to the project is that the Boom community already exists in virtual space. Participants can brainstorm and create a shared vision with the developers and architects in these early stages when the buildings are still rendered lines in an AutoCAD program.

…the overarching idea is a space where denizens celebrate life with each other rather than retreat into isolation that so many other modern developments ultimately foster—as lead designer Matthias Hollwich from HWKN explained to his fellow architects, “Boom has to be about living, not retiring, about inclusion and not seclusion.”

Nursing homes can be a scary place. Being stuck in high school was a horrible experience for many of us. It sucked because you were grouped with a bunch of people you had nothing in common with, simply because you were all teenagers. Being in a conventional nursing home is probably similar, except you’re all old and don’t have the prospect of escaping into adult life to look forward to. Perhaps that’s an overly depressing way of looking at it. But according to a recent survey in the UK, more people “fear losing independence in old age than death.” Perhaps being in a nursing home that’s part of a community in line with your interests wouldn’t be so bad. As a friend recently said, “anything that there’s currently a cruise for, there will one day be a retirement community for.” Well, there’s a goth cruise. A rave cruise. One day, there will probably be a Burner/hippe retirement community, with dreadlocked 70-year-olds listening to psy-trance.

Some questions: in the event that you could no longer live on your own, what kind of people do you want to spend your twilight years with? Would you rely on the family you make in the world to create this kind of space? Would you join in a retirement community based on common interests, like hacking/period costuming/witchcraft/polyamory/sci-fi? What would the day-to-day activities in this place be like, in an ideal world? What do you envision really uniting you with people as you get older, as opposed to things that turn out to be passing interests?

Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea

These images are from the stunning book “Mars: Adrift on the Hourglass Sea” by artists Kahn & Selesnick. A description from the artists:

On an altered yet recognizable version of our neighbouring planet, we find a world populated solely with two women. We do not learn their names nor how and when they came to Mars, but we observe their wanderings in a desolate landscape which they attempt make navigable and habitable with an amalgam of high-tech components retrofitted to found artifacts and monuments that appear to be the remnants of a long-gone civilization. The remains of massive stone listening devices are littered about the landscape, leading us to wonder: is this a colony that has collapsed and lost touch with earth? How did its occupants become stranded? Or are these the nocturnal imaginings of two post-apocalyptic survivors?

The book can be viewed and purchased on Blurb. The artists write on Tumblr, “the ideal book we designed for the series, 12”x12” hardcover, 80 pages, available now through blurb online only, until a publisher daring enough picks it up. A full preview of it is on the website.” $108 may seem somewhat pricey, but that’s actually because Blurb is expensive for people to use, not because they’re trying to make a huge profit. If a real publisher picked up this book, it would be more affordable. Fingers crossed.

More images, after the jump! [via Synaptic Stimuli & Wurzeltod]

Moebiuswear By Cyclus

As I have previously disclosed, I am the the last person one should come to for fashion advice. Were one to approach me modeling an ensemble made of corrugated cardboard I would doubtlessly praise its sharp, awkward creases oblivious to the inappropriateness of packing material for use in clothing the human body.

Do not take my posting these fine bags from Cyclus as a statement of fashion preference then. Instead I present these bags as appropriate gear for, what I think you will agree dear reader, is an inevitable future. When we are wandering the deserted wastelands, on occasion upon the back of a pterosaur, I imagine these will be the bags of choice. Taking their design from the scaled body of the pangolin, or spiny anteater, and made from reused inner tubes, their segmented design makes for a pleasing shape, providing their wearer with a versatile carapace for storage. I especially like the smaller backpack which, when worn, looks like a pill bug desperately clinging to its owner’s back.

Via Core77

Anouk Wipprecht’s Wearable Tech

Daredroid, Pseudomorphs, Fragilis and Intimacy.

Anouk Wipprecht creates garments that move, breathe, and react to the environment around them. Wipprecht started with a background of fashion, theater and dance, but a growing interest in interaction design and electrical engineering inspired her to develop clothing that appeals as much to the DIY/tech crowd as it does to fans of haute couture. “Instead of the body having to give a purpose to a design” Wipprecht said in a recent interview with Fashioning Tech, she’s interested in developing “design [that] gives a purpose to the body.”

Wipprecht has crafted projects such as Intimacy, a set of garments that become transparent when in proximity of each other, Fragilis, a dress that evokes the heart and veins through lighting and motion, and Daredroid, a cocktail-making robot dress equipped with IR sensors that administers booze through pneumatic control valves. More projects can be found on her site. Here she is discussing Pseudomorphs, her self-painting dresses:

Patton Oswalt: “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die.”

The last supper… before Oswalt’s “a-pop-calyplse.” Image from The Last Supper Collection. Painting by Misha.

Yesterday, Wired published an essay by writer/comedian Patton Oswalt titled Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die. It’s about the demise of geekdom, the rise of otaku culture in America, and what it means to be living in a world where Boba Fett’s helmet appears “emblazoned on sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells.” All this discussion is very near and dear to our hearts, and was eloquently explored by Joshua Ellis in an essay called Children by the Million Wait for Alex Chilton, which appeared in Coilhouse Issue 04.

Both essays make the point that “we’re on the brink of Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.” But where Joshua Ellis suggests that we’ve won the culture war by essentially remaking the world in our image, Patton Oswalt argues that  “with everyone more or less otaku and everything immediately awesome… the old inner longing for more or better that made our present pop culture so amazing is dwindling.” This, he warns, produces “weak otakus” – not a generation of artists, but one of noncommittal pop-culture consumers. “Why create anything new,” he asks, “when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie?” The proposed solution to this problem steers the essay into a weird, fantastical place. In order to rebuild geek culture, Oswalt argues, we must first bring about the “Etewaf Singularity.” He goes on to explain:

It has already started. It’s all around us. VH1 list shows. Freddy vs. Jason. Websites that list the 10 biggest sports meltdowns, the 50 weirdest plastic surgeries, the 200 harshest nut shots. Alien vs. Predator. Lists of fails, lists of boobs, lists of deleted movie scenes. Entire TV seasons on iTunes. An entire studio’s film vault, downloadable with a click. Easter egg scenes of wild sex in Grand Theft Auto. Hell, Grand Theft Auto, period. And yes, I know that a lot of what I’m listing here seems like it’s outside of the “nerd world” and part of the wider pop culture. Well, I’ve got news for you—pop culture is nerd culture. The fans of Real Housewives of Hoboken watch, discuss, and absorb their show the same way a geek watched Dark Shadows or obsessed over his eighth-level half-elf ranger character in Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the method of consumption, not what’s on the plate.

Since there’s no going back—no reverse on the out-of-control locomotive we’ve created—we’ve got to dump nitro into the engines. We need to get serious, and I’m here to outline my own personal fantasy: We start with lists of the best lists of boobs. Every Beatles song, along with every alternate take, along with every cover version of every one of their songs and every alternate take of every cover version, all on your chewing-gum-sized iPod nano. Goonies vs. Saw. Every book on your Kindle. Every book on Kindle on every Kindle. The Human Centipede done with the cast of The Hills and directed by the Coen brothers.

That’s when we’ll reach Etewaf singularity. Pop culture will become self-aware. It will happen in the A.V. Club first: A brilliant Nathan Rabin column about the worst Turkish rip-offs of American comic book characters will suddenly begin writing its own comments, each a single sentence from the sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces. Then a fourth and fifth season of Arrested Development, directed by David Milch of Deadwood, will appear suddenly in the TV Shows section of iTunes. Someone BitTorrenting a Crass bootleg will suddenly find their hard drive crammed with Elvis Presley’s “lost” grunge album from 1994. And everyone’s TiVo will record Ghostbusters III, starring Peter Sellers, Lee Marvin, and John Candy.

This will last only a moment. We’ll have one minute before pop culture swells and blackens like a rotten peach and then explodes, sending every movie, album, book, and TV show flying away into space. Maybe tendrils and fragments of them will attach to asteroids or plop down on ice planets light-years away. A billion years after our sun burns out, a race of intelligent ice crystals will build a culture based on dialog from The Princess Bride. On another planet, intelligent gas clouds will wait for the yearly passing of the “Lebowski” comet. One of the rings of Saturn will be made from blurbs for the softcover release of Infinite Jest, twirled forever into a ribbon of effusive praise.

The essay continues on to describe “year zero for pop culture,” in which we’ll be stuck with nothing but “a VHS copy of Zapped!, the soundtrack to The Road Warrior, and Steve Ditko’s eight-issue run on Shade: The Changing Man” to work with for creating new culture. Oswalt goes on to describe the society that emerges: it includes entire musical genres spawned by Road Warrior (“waste-rock” and its counterpoint, “flute-driven folk”), the creation of the Iranian Beatles, and the ubiquitousness of Shade as “the new Catcher in the Rye.”

A great read, right down to the comment thread. For the full essay, click here. [Via William Gibson, whose name, incidentally, appears in both essays, both times in the passages describing the authors’ personal golden age of otaku/alternative culture].

One possible visualization for how Patton Oswalt’s “Etewaf Singularity” may play out – with the world being destroyed by 8-bit characters from old video games. Amazing video by Patrick Jean.

Living Day To Day In The Post-Apocalypse

Nathaniel Lindsay’s Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse addresses an almost completely overlooked subject in the world of informational videos: how one should go about daily life in a world ravaged by a nuclear holocaust when the remaining population has been reduced to a shambling band of mutants and/or have all resorted to cannibalism. I will admit I was skeptical at first, after all this video hails from Australia, a land populated by the worst England had to offer making its citizens decidedly untrustworthy, not to mention that their theories of what the world will be like after a cataclysm having a strange preoccupation with vehicular combat (no doubt due to the fact that when England founded this prison continent they made it illegal for citizens to own cars. Fact. (Editor’s Note: That is not a fact. What is it with you and Australia?)) Any worries I may have had proved unjustified as Lindsay makes sure to point out the real threat of post-apocalyptic civilization: killer robots. Killer robots with lasers.

Via The Daily What

All Tomorrows: “Fear is the mind-killer”

After a brief hiatus, David Forbes’ All Tomorrows column, your informal classroom on the glories of sci-fi’s Deviant Age, returns to Coilhouse. Welcome back, David!

Paul took a deep breath to still his trembling. “If I call out there’ll be servants on you in seconds and you’ll die.”

“Servants will not pass your mother who stands guard outside that door. Depend on it. Your mother survived this test. Now it’s your turn. Be honored. We seldom administer this to men-children.”

Curiosity reduced Paul’s fear to a manageable level. He heard truth in the old woman’s voice, no denying it. If his mother stood guard outside… if this were truly a test… And whatever it was, he knew himself caught in it, trapped by that hand at his neck: the gom jabbar. He recalled the response from the Litany against Fear as his mother had taught him out of the Bene Gesserit rite.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Chilton published car manuals. So it must have come as some surprise, 45 years ago, when, out of nowhere, they released a lengthy, phenomenally strange science fiction novel by a nearly unknown journalist. The man’s agent wasn’t even enthusiastic about the manuscript and it had seen rejection from every reputable sci-fi publishing house before squeaking into the pages of Analog.

Dune, read the imposing cover, with its evocatively psychedelic sand swirls and tiny white figures straining against an implied storm. The John Schoenherr art revealed little about the plot or themes inside, other than to convey a sense of struggle and desolation in an otherworldly place.

Opening it up, the reader was plunged into a story of universe-shaking drugs, dynastic backstabbing and heterodox mysticism sprinkled with a tumble of words (Bene Gesserit, Kwisatz Haderach, Sardaukargom jabbar) so strange as to constitute a second language. Whatever the sci-fi readers of the day might have expected, this was doubtlessly not it. By all rights, this unexpected book should have sunk beneath the proverbial sands, awaiting rediscovery in a friendlier artistic age.

Instead, after a somewhat tepid start, it proved a runaway best-seller, sweeping every award sci-fi had to offer. Dune would go on to define the rest of Herbert’s life and ripple into the surrounding culture with an impact that no one, including its author, could have foreseen.

In many ways Dune was the epic Omega to the Alpha of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; released about a decade before. It was sci-fi’s answer to fantasy’s magnum opus, and its only book that can rival Tolkien’s in terms of cultural influence. Herbert’s masterpiece proved tenaciously infectious, its tendrils stretching into all sorts of unexpected corners of the culture, with even its mantras showing up as warning or inspiration.

What is it about this ornate myth that keeps fascinating new generations, why has Dune outlasted its era with such influence?

A Beautiful Grid of Art and Science

The superbly-designed website SpaceCollective dedicates itself to study of topics such as transhumanism, robotics, experimental architecture, and pretty much anything else that one can equate to “living the life of science fiction today.” Most of the site’s activity centers around blog posts and collaborative university projects, but one of the most stunning portions of the site, dense with complex, inspiring visuals and information, is the gallery.

There are six pages of scienctific psychedelia – a absorbing mixture as varied as Googie architecture, macro shots of hydrozoa, renderings of magnetic structures, jellyfish automatons, microchip embroidery, concept art from sci-fi films, and much more along the same lines. Two random images from this gallery may not have much to do with each other, but all together, they make a surprisingly cohesive whole. Quotes from the likes of Verner Vinge, Buckminster Fuller and Jorge Luis Borges cycle between the imagery, and most images are hyperlinked out to further sources. Enjoy!

Realistic Fake Vintage Photo of Tatlin Tower

At 1,300 feet, this structure of iron, glass and steel would have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower. Designed in 1919 by Vladimir Tatlin, the building – officially called The Monument to the Third International – was planned to be erected in St. Petersburg as the headquarters of the Comintern. The tower was designed to contain twin spirals tapering upwards and encasing a cube-shaped lecture hall, a smaller pyramid for executive meetings, and a cylinder housing an information center, delivering bulletins and manifestos via radio, telegraph and loudspeaker.

Each part of the building would rotate at a different speed.  The cube was proposed to rotate and complete 360˚ after 365 days, the pyramid would complete a full 360˚ rotation every month, and the cylinder would complete its rotation within 24 hours. There were also plans to build an open-air screen on the cylinder, and for the cylinder to project messages onto the clouds. The building was never constructed due to financing and structural concerns, though an interesting build effort took place in 2006.

There’s also this short film by Lutz Becker. The first YouTube comment below the video captures it perfectly: it’s “mad, impossible, brutal, audacious and beautiful.”

[image via]