Hurricane Irene

OK, I’m about to leave Arlington. I will stay overnight with my sister and her family in Round Hill, VA, to wait out the storm. If all goes well, I will return to Arlington tomorrow afternoon, and maybe Monday will be regular workday.

An earthquake and a hurricane less than a week apart!

Hurricane and Cyclone (green MTG cards)

Published in: on 27 August 2011 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

The Astonishing Train and the Huge Hole (Briefly Lucid Dream, 08/25/11)

This is a dream that I had this morning, perhaps around 5:30 AM. It was what they call a “Dream-Induced Lucid Dream”: DILD.

I’m in the back seat of a car. P—‘s driving, and somebody — the identity seemed to shift from M. to B. to an unfamiliar African-American man — is in the passenger seat of the front seat, “riding shotgun”. (Riding in a car as a passenger rather than as the driver happens to be one of my dream signs.)

P— is maneuvering through a parking lot, and then gets distracted by something. From my viewpoint, I see his head turned to the left, but he’s driving forward and I see that he’s going to hit the rear end of a parked car (which was white, distinctly recall). I yell “P—!!” but he ignores me… and he hits the car. Then he drives off out of the parking lot, apparently not taking responsibility for the accident.

Now we’re driving through a modern city with tall buildings, perhaps 20 stories high, so the streets in between feel like canyons. The city seems to have been built on a hilly area, because there are definite slopes to the streets. The passenger riding shotgun (at this point, I think it was B.) directs my attention down one of the streets, pointing out an ASTONISHING TRAIN. I can see only the part that’s not obscured by the buildings, but I can see that it’s enormous and that it seems to have been built from red bricks! So, it looks like a long three-story red-brick building that’s moving fast, down a street one or two blocks away. I marvel at this engineering achievement, and think how puny a “regular” train looks in comparison.

Then I notice that there’s a HUGE HOLE in the city, like they’re digging a big hole to make the foundations for a building. I am suddenly no longer in the car with other people, and I suddenly become lucid. I recognize that it’s “only a dream” and I jump into the hole to see whether I can fly. Unfortunately, I almost immediately lose the scene — it all goes black, and I fear that I am losing lucidity. I never hit the ground, but I also don’t get around to flying. Darn! I am not sure whether I proceeded to wake up at that point, or whether I slipped into a non-lucid dream or into a dreamless state.

(The non-lucid portion of the dream that led up to the moment of lucidity, the accident in the parking lot, may have been a separate dream, but I believe it was part of the same dream.)

Today’s Earthquake

It was a few minutes after 1:50 PM; some sources say it was 1:51 or 1:53 PM. Maybe the exact time depends on the location.

I was setting up some R code to assemble data for a fancy analysis when I felt a mild shaking. At first, I thought it was somebody in the hallway or perhaps in the floor immediately below us moving heavy equipment. But I couldn’t imagine what could be so big. Our building doesn’t have any wet labs — it’s all computers and office workers — so it couldn’t be, say, somebody moving in a new industrial-sized freezer or a centrifuge or an MRI scanner. I briefly entertained the thought that maybe it was a road crew on Executive Boulevard doing something rather destructive.

Then the shaking became too pronounced to be anything mundane, and I realized it was an earthquake. A co-worker wandered out of his cubicle with a puzzled look on his face and I said “Earthquake!” to him. We skedaddled down the staircase and out the building, along with everyone else. After about 20 minutes, we started filtering back into the building. Nobody was hurt, and there was no apparent damage to the building.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly quiet, partly because many people had left for the day. Federal employees had “liberal leave” and were allowed to go home. But we contractors didn’t have liberal leave, so we put in a full work day. At least, I did.

At home, I found only a few items out of place. Some DVDs had fallen off the top of my old TV, and a wooden statuette/mannequin had toppled off of its high perch.

Magnitude 5.8 – VIRGINIA

(the link I gave originally stopped working!)

Earthquake — red MTG card

The Things (2010)

In this short story, Peter Watts re-envisions the 1982 SF movie The Thing, from the point of view of the alien entity. As in his novel Blindsight, Mr. Watts shows an interest in neuroscience and the nature of consciousness. Maybe this subgenre could be called NSF – Neuroscience Fiction.

As an aside, there was a 1951 movie entitled The Thing from Another World, with a similar plot (alien creature discovered) and polar setting (but Arctic rather than Antarctic); the 1982 move was a re-make of this earlier movie. And yet another movie version, apparently a prequel, is due for release in mid-October this year.

As another aside, 1982 was the same year that the great SF movie Blade Runner, based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, was released.

Ubbo-Sathla, Gray Goo, and The Devouring Mother

Earlier, I had mentioned the fictional Outer God Ubbo-Sathla, a creation of writer Clark Ashton Smith and set in the same Lovecraftian universe as Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth. I find Ubbo-Sathla interesting because of a creepy similarity to certain vegetative goddesses of ancient mythology.

Ubbo-Sathla has been described as a great pool of gray protoplasm, seething and bubbling in a subterranean cave. He has very low sentience, if any at all. To touch him is instant death. He continuously sloughs off a flood of amoeba-like “proto-life,” creatures that wriggle away and over millenia perhaps evolve into other creatures such as insects, cats, and humans.

The creepy thing is, Ubbo-Sathla also re-absorbs living creatures. Sometimes he re-absorbs the “proto-life” creatures immediately after they are generated. Sometimes he re-absorbs more highly evolved creatures, like humans, perhaps learning whatever information these creatures might have gained during their lifetime (perhaps this is how he will regain the sentience he once had?). It is said that someday Ubbo-Sathla will re-absorb all life on Earth. The surface of the planet will then be one vast ocean of gray protoplasm.

The idea of an ocean of gray protoplasm taking over the earth brings to mind the hypothetical danger of nanotechnology leading to a Gray Goo scenario.

Maybe Ubbo-Sathla is the result of out-of-control nanotechnology? Eons ago, an alien civilization sent out nanotech spores to seed the universe with life, and Ubbo-Sathla and all earthly life is the result?

Gray Ooze (classic Dungeons and Dragons)

The Gray Ooze That Ate the Indonesian Villages
— Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2006

Ubbo-Sathla already starting to re-absorb all earthly life!

For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars, Ubbo-Sathla dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth: a mass without head or members, spawning the grey, formless efts of the prime and the grisly prototypes of terrene life . . . And all earthly life, it is told, shall go back at last through the great circle of time to Ubbo-Sathla.

— The Book of Eibon (quoted from the beginning of Clark Ashton Smith’s original story)

Ubbo-Sathla reminds me of a 1958 movie called The Blob and its 1988 remake. (Looks like there’s another remake in the works — I must see it.)

But Ubbo-Sathla reminds me especially of a 1985 movie called The Stuff. In this movie, a sinister white goo is found in an underground chamber. It tastes amazingly good, and once you eat it you want to keep eating it — and then it takes over your mind. See the underground scene starting at 4:55 in this YouTube clip. This huge underground pool of white bubbling goo is the spitting image of Ubbo-Sathla!

For an interesting short story involving Ubbo-Sathla, see Omega, by Gary Myers, in his book Dark Wisdom. This book is a collection of Lovecraftian short stories. Other memorable short stories in this collection are What Rough Beast and From Inner Egypt.

I am a big fan of The Teaching Company, which produces college-level courses on CD-ROM and DVD. One of my most favorite Teaching Company courses is Myth in Human History, by Professor Grant L. Voth. The lectures discuss (among other topics) myths about vegetative goddesses who not only create but also consume life; in some of these myths, the goddess is said to actually eat her own children. One example Dr. Voth gives is an Irish goddess named Danu, from whom all life came, and to whom all life must return. Underground temples like the ancient complex Newgrange (which is possibly a temple to Danu, and which is even older than the Egyptian pyramids) are thought to simultaneously represent wombs and tombs (“cradle to grave”). For more on ancient Irish goddesses and Newgrange, see A Womb Not a Tomb, an article by Geraldine Moane.

In his Jung-infused book The Living Labyrinth, Jeremy Taylor mentions the archetype of a mother goddess who gives birth to all life, but in time devours all. As an example, he gives the example of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, who is described as having snapping mouths in all her joints. You can see a rather creepy drawing depicting Tonantzin, Mother and Devourer of All, the One to Whom All Paths Lead, here. Mr. Taylor references another book entitled The Hungry Woman, by John Bierhorst. (The Devouring Mother is a well-known Jungian archetype.)

Another Aztec goddess, similar to Tonantzin, is Coatlicue. Wikipedia says “She represents the devouring mother, in whom both the womb and the grave exist.” I am wondering whether Tonantzin and Coatlicue are two different names for the same goddess.

Online article exploring the origins of the womb-tomb/cradle-to-grave idea: Mother Earth-Mother Death: The Womb and the Tomb

The temples of vegetative Earth goddesses tend to be underground, like Newgrange. Descending into the underworld is simultaneously symbolic of a return to a womb, and of entering a tomb. The underground location is like Ubbo-Sathla’s subterranean location. Ubbo-Sathla thus has a lot more in common with the vegetative Earth goddesses and chthonic deities than, say, with sky gods like Zeus or Thor.

Here’s a broken link that went to a related story; maybe the website is only temporarily down? (I keep the link here in the hope that it might some day be working again.)

Papers on PubMed regarding filial cannabilism (eating one’s own young).

The idea of the cyclicity of life is reminiscent of the Ash Wednesday incantation: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return”, a quote from Genesis 3:19. Also of the idea of reincarnation.

Huge hidden biomass lives deep beneath the oceans — New Scientist, May 23, 2008.

Ubbo-Sathla lives!

The Tower Of The Mighty God Ubbo-Sathla
— photo on Flickr by Midnight-digital

Mother Nothingness (The Triumph Of Ubbo Sathla)
— heavy metal by The Vision Bleak (2010). Listen to the lyrics. It’s interesting that the non-parenthetical portion of the song’s title is “Mother Nothingness” rather than “Father Nothingness,” suggesting the vegetative goddesses and the devouring mother archetype.

— electronic music by Flint Glass (2007)

— spooky music by Endura (2008)

Review of Mr. Smith’s original tale, by Dr. Hermes:
Why is Ubbo-Sathla particularly heinous?

I think that Clark Ashton Smith knew about the goddesses who devour their own children, so the similarity between Ubbo-Sathla and these mythological figures may not be accidental. At the very beginning of the original story, the protagonist is browsing in a curio shop and finds a magic crystal that leads to his adventures. Right next to this crystal was a figurine of an Aztec god. Although the figurine doesn’t play any role in the story, maybe, just maybe, it is a very tangential reference to Tonantzin/Coatlicue? (OK, that’s a stretch. More likely, the null hypothesis is true, and it was just chance.)

I think it might have been cooler had Mr. Smith made Ubbo-Sathla female rather than male, to leave open the possibility of equation with the ancient goddesses.

For verisimilitude, it also might have been cooler had he given Ubbo-Sathla a name similar to one of these ancient goddesses, as if it were a corruption of the original name, in the same way that he corrupted the names of Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu in his quote from The Book of Eibon (see quoted text above). E.g., a name similar to Danu or Coatlicue, like Danugah or Kwat-Lagu. (Yes, the names Danu or Coatlicue may themselves be corruptions of original names.) Well, I’m sure Mr. Smith had a reason for settling on Ubbo-Sathla.

Addendum (11/27/11): Here are a pair of recent MetaFilter posts that seem relevant:
My name is LUCA, I live on the ocean floor
Did Life Begin As A Ocean-Sized Lifeform?

The latter post in particular has two comments that reference Ubbo-Sathla.