Archive for gold

Beowulf

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Osiris was a commercial success, though not a romantic one. Things ended badly for Isis, who lost her beloved husband Osiris, and for Sophie, whose love interest Ahmad disappeared. Maybe the shows at QARY were too real, thought Sophie, and affecting material reality. What a crazy thought.

As the next production Sophie selected Beowulf, which also had an underworld theme. To be precise it was an underwater cave, but that was near enough.

“I’ve seen monsters here,” said Albert, the quarry’s last manager before mining operations ceased. “There were days when you couldn’t bear to go in for fear of what lurked in the shadows. You tasted the dust, darkness made you see things, and rocks made you hear things. The quarry seemed alive to us and sometimes when we went too far, she punished us. Many good men were lost over the years, about one every season. They were our sacrifices to the mine. I’m glad you’ve brought the quarry back to life, but you better be careful with her.”

They gathered for a pre-production meeting. Sophie said, “Okay, we’ve pretty much decided on layout. We’ll make the first chamber Heorot, the mead hall, the second chamber Grendel’s mother’s lair, and the third chamber the Dragon’s cave.” Everyone nodded. “Instead of a linear narrative, this time we’re trying something less structured.” They nodded again. “Each chamber has a monster which can move between the stages, so raising the drama.”

This was their fourth production together, and the team had gelled. They had a good understanding of each other’s preferences, relative weaknesses and strengths.

Within four weeks the production was ready to go. The first three nights were sold out in advance. QARY had become a big money spinner for Lucerne.

The first chamber was stunning. Its bare rock walls, floors, ceiling and pillars were filled with projections. They seemed covered by rich tapestries and paintings, and hung with swords, shields and armour. The gems on the weapons glittered like stars.

Feasting Dane warriors were slaughtered by gruesome Grendel. He crushed their skulls and ribs and feasted on their brains and hearts. Brave Geats came from across the waters to help them; their King, Beowulf, killed the monster by ripping off his arm.

The second chamber used mood lighting only. It was the underwater lair of Grendel’s mother, who had continued to slaughter warriors as revenge for her son’s death. The epic battle between her and Beowulf caused splashes of red to multiply till they filled the whole chamber.

The third chamber also used mood lighting. After Beowulf’s victory in Denmark, he had returned to Geatland and ruled for fifty years. One day a dragon guarding a hoard of gold was awoken, and laid waste the land. Beowulf’s final heroic act was to rid his kingdom of this cruel dragon, and whilst doing so he was injured and died.

During the performance, groups of people hid in chambers and moved around. There was indeed no separation between mythic and historical, and real and imagined events. These people were fighting modern monsters – drugs, alcohol, glue, lust, greed, anger and many other addictions. The dark corners of QARY were the perfect place to indulge them all.

Programmable Matter

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Everything was possible with the 3D printer. AMP co.’s prototype had so far produced another printer, a worm, a baby girl, and a 4D crab, and a variety of holy objects including Moses’s Tablets of Law, Buddha’s begging bowl, Siva’s drum and Thor’s hammer, though they couldn’t be sure if these holy objects could be equated with the original items. At best they were period copies, and at worst, accurate reproductions.

They were thinking of how to fabricate the original mythic elements of Creation – often expressed as water and clay – and ultimately, the dot of pure potential from which the universe evolved.

Alfred said, “This printer is more versatile than I thought. We have to be careful how we use it. It’s taken fourteen billion years for us to reach this point of creation.” He stopped and thought for a moment in his habitual fashion, staring at the cogs and levers of the large photocopier sized machine. Then he said, “Recreation.”

They both remained silent. They glanced around the workshop in which so much had happened since they’d met by chance and begun working together. The Bible says that God created the world in a week. It had taken them three weeks to reach the point of recreating it.

Alfred said, “I don’t think we should go too far. We shouldn’t test the limits yet. Who knows what might happen.”

Sami nodded. “You said that you wanted to monetize your invention. Why don’t we focus on that? Let’s see how we can apply what we’ve learnt to commercial purposes.”

“That’s the hardest part! How to benefit from your own work?”

“I’ve had a thought,” said Sami. “The problem with stuff – all stuff – is obsolescence. Whatever the item, it still ends up in landfill, or is recycled eventually. The first is totally wasteful, but the second isn’t much better. The amount of energy required to collect, sort, process, redesign, remanufacture, and redistribute is huge. If we could…”

Alfred nodded along enthusiastically and then interrupted. “Use fluid particles to make flexible matter. We have found a way of making anything we want; we just need the right materials and data. But all things are made of the same material – atoms! The only difference is how they are put together. If we can retain the energy inherent in an object, stored in the form of materials, we just need to change the data. We can reprogram the object to become something else! I was wrong before when I said we can’t create gold. We can create anything. That’s what the ancient alchemists were saying.”

Sami was delighted by this chain of thoughts. He developed the idea further, saying that they only needed to fabricate the object once with the 3D printer, but could encode it with multiple possibilities. Then the owner could decide which item he needed, and activate accordingly.

After a month of experiments they had it – a bed that becomes a chair, then a desk, then a table, and then a bed again. It was perfect for students living in studios. Their next model was a backpack that became a sunlounger, then a sailboat, then a paraglider.

“We should probably build a stretcher option into that model,” said Alfred. “We can do many things, but we can’t program the weather or remove human error.”

Noch Aye

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , on March 11, 2012 by javedbabar

“I thought that drinks weren’t allowed,” said Moreen. The circus troupe had started drinking when they’d left the Village, and continued all the way up the Lucerne Valley Road. The Russian clowns downed vodka; Jamaican acrobats limbered up with rum; English jugglers drank both cheap and premium gins, according to their social class; Goan magicians made fenny appear and disappear; the Chinese doll family drank thimblefuls of baijiu; the Mexican couch-spinner had tequila and mezcal – he said “one for each end”; the German sword swallower liked schnapps to “heal his mistakes”; the Iraqi cannonball said that only arak “kept his tummy in”; Greek plate-spinners said brandy “balanced their ears”.

“We are circus people,” said the Scottish Ringmaster, sipping 23-year-old malt whisky, “We make our own rules.”

“You could get into a lot of trouble for drinking,” said Moreen. “They are pretty tough here. The whole Valley is dry.”

“This is the land of water. Water is wet!” said the Ringmaster loudly. “Noch aye!”

“Noch aye!” the circus troupe members replied.

“Isn’t it Och Aye?” said Moreen.

“Well usually it is, but we make our own rules. If those gold diggers want entertainment, they’ll have to cut us some slack. Noch aye!”

“Noch aye!” everyone called out.

It is inappropriate to be drinking on a schoolbus, thought Moreen. The driver seemed to agree with her and stopped the bus halfway up the Valley.

“Right, you lot,” he said through his beard. “I’m going to tell you this once only. Drinking is forbidden in this Valley, and also on this bus, which is used to transport children to school daily. I’ve turned a blind eye till now, but break time’s over. You better put those drinks away and sharpen up your act.”

The Mexican couch-spinner rose from his seat. The Iraqi human-cannonball did likewise. The Scottish Ringmaster rose up too, and indicated for the other two to sit down. They screwed up their faces, but followed his order.

“Ok, you’re the boss,” he said the driver. “Then he faced the troupe and said, “Ladies and gentlemen! You heard the man. Let’s drink up.” Everybody raised their glasses and downed them. “Thank you. Now put them away – at least till we get through the checkpoint.” The driver slowed the bus again. “Ok, I didn’t mean that. Ladies and Gentlemen! No more drinking on the journey at all please.”

The driver sped up and called out, “If I see anyone drinking I’m turning around and taking you back, and reporting to the Authority.

They soon reached the Golden turnoff, lined with black security fencing and guard dog patrols. Depleted supply in Africa and Asia meant that gold was more precious than ever; a vital component for cellphones, laptops, satellites, solar panels, catalytic convertors, airbag and braking systems, and a million other things. And of course, it was the only universally recognized currency, come hell or high water. Golden had been designated a “Fundamental Framework” zone.

The security guards were idle. They didn’t smell or spot the booze. They ordered everyone off the bus and then back on again. They asked troupe members to perform some tricks. Most were on work visas and didn’t want fuss, so obliged.

The Balkan chapeaugrapher rolled his eyes, and transformed his white, ring-shaped piece of felt into a pirate’s hat, a Russian fur hat, a nun’s wimple, Admiral’s hat, skyscraper, baseball cap, baby’s bonnet, mortar board, an iPod, a barrister’s wig, and Mickey Mouse ears. The security guards laughed and clapped. The Peruvian knife thrower was called upon. He threw five knives at a cedar, five at a fir, five at a pine, and his last five knives removed guards’ hats and pinned them to the security fencing. They reached for their guns but then burst out laughing, and gave him high-fives. The Israeli fire-dancer was required to produce a turn. She ran her standard repertoire of poi, fire hoops, batons, nanchaku, and fire whips, then fire-eating and fire-breathing, and lit all their cigarettes for a finale. The guards cheered, and then stamped the troupe’s passes.

They asked Moreen her reason for visiting Golden. She said that she was looking for work there. “What kind of work?” asked the biggest guard.

“It depends on what’s available. I’ll consider most things.”

“Will you now?” said the big guard. “Wait here for a minute.”

The circus troupe were back on the bus now. Only Moreen remained. The guard told the driver to start up the bus and get going. “But what about my passenger?” he said.

“She hasn’t been cleared yet,” said the guard. “We’re waiting for instructions. We’ll send her on the next bus.”

“We’ll wait for her,” said the driver.

Moreen was scared. What did these guards want with her? She should have chosen her words more carefully – not said that she’d “consider most things”. The Ringmaster climbed down from the bus to enquire about the hold up. When they told him he was incensed. “You let fifty drunken reprobates through, and you want to keep this perfectly respectable single woman here for no reason? Gentlemen! That’s ungentlemanly behaviour. What do you think you’re playing at?”

The big guard placed his hand on his gun. “Buddy, you may be King of the Ring in your world, but here I am God. What I say is Law. Now be on your way or I’ll arrest you for obstruction.” His fellow guards prepared to handle their guns, and didn’t know what happened to them next.

They later recalled being flipped about, being wound around people’s heads, swung around, ejected a hundred metres, having their tongues set on fire, being sawn in half, thrown about repeatedly, pinned to boards and spun about, having pies pushed in their faces, and the bus disappearing in a puff of smoke.

“What did you do to them,” Moreen asked the Ringmaster.

He said, “We just taught them a lesson. That was no way to behave with a lady. We circus people like to follow the rules.” He winked at her. “Our rules.” Then he called out, “Noch Aye!”