The Time Giant is a literal giant who lives for a very long time, and therefore observes the actions of human beings on a zoomed out scale (centuries, millennia, and sometimes full-on geological scales). He is useful for considering what still remains visible from a great temporal height. What appears as a timeline to human beings appears just to be a timedot for the Time Giant. His ethics, his moral prerogatives, are radically shifted to account for his unique perspective. He is commonly found in landscapes and in contemporary art (which I’ve blurbed about here).
The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of “slow violence” to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today. Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard-charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode.
Related: hyperobjects (Tim Morton); Cruel Optimism (Berlandt).
A hallucinatory experience (or perhaps entirely real?) resulting from studying microhistory too much. The ruins of previously imagined potential futures, ruins of desire, ghosts of never-realized entelechies. Often the result of hallucination, drug use, or studying too much history, one finds oneself suddenly swept up in a world that could have been but never was. The pentimento of intention/desire.
According to Gibson you can be cured of these semiotic hauntings by really bad media: think porn, binging Netflix, Tom Swift novels:
“Hell of a world we live in, huh?” The proprietor [asked as I sat] anxious to….submerge myself in hard evidence of the human near-dystopia we live in. “But it could be worse, huh?”
“That’s right, I said, “or even worse, it could be perfect.”
He watched me as I headed down the street with my little bundle of condensed catastrophe.
The Angel of History (Angelus Novus) is Walter Benjamin’s invention, from his “Essay on History”:
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
the Ticktockman: inspired by Harlan Ellison’s “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”
the Clockminder: inspired by Melville’s “The Belltower,” Langdon Jones’ “The Great Clock,” Forrester’s “The Machine Stops,” and Moon (2014), and the Doomsday Clock.
the Grasshopper: inspired by Karl Ernst von Baer’s imagination of what the world would look like from the perspective of insects. A combination of Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, and Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” Similar to the Slow Violence Snail.
Karl Ernst von Baer:
How would we understand the natural world, with all its processes, if our life span was radically shortened? our normal perceptions, such as a bullet, would suddenly fall squarely within our experiential world. And the majority of sounds would suddenly appear very low, oscillating into our hyper-sensitive ears as if they were a mere thousandth of their normal vibration rate. Most importantly, the frame of our observation would shift radically: sun and moon would stay in the sky for long periods of time, and seasonal change would be so slow as to be imperceptible. As this short lifespan does not quite cover a lunar cycle, we would not observe any regularity in waxing and waning patterns.
Time Lord –> Dr. Who