Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 02008 by Austin Brown
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If Indiana Jones had been created by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Stephen Pinker instead of Lucas and Spielberg, he might have been something like Daniel Everett.  His story is as visceral as it is intellectual – it’s got love, beauty, pain and suffering in the South American jungle and a high-stakes search to understand the cognitive underpinnings of human language.

Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes

Everett has simultaneously produced a ground-breaking linguistic anthropology text and a riveting, powerful memoir about life lessons learned on missionary work in the Amazon.  Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle was released on November 11th and he’ll be presenting “Endangered Languages, Lost Knowledge and the Future” as one of our Seminars About Long-term Thinking on March 20th, 02009.

Daniel Everett lived for 7 years throughout 3 decades among an isolated Amazonian tribe called the Pirahã, initially in order to convert them to Christianity.  These unique people speak a language that defies long-standing theories and live a simple, hard life as hunter-gatherers.  His time among them caused Everett to renounce both Christian faith and some of the basic tenets of modern linguistic theory.

Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes includes Everett’s descriptions of the overwhelming beauty of the jungle (something he couldn’t help but notice even while desperately canoeing his entire family up an unfamiliar stretch of river to save his wife and daughter from malaria), harrowing life-or-death struggles (see above), and thoughts on the implications of a people that speak without embedded clauses or a perfect tense (things, demonstrated by this sentence, I obviously can’t live without).

The book has been reviewed by Time and the London Times. A New Yorker article about Everett’s work has been discussed here previously.  And if you’re wondering about the title, it comes from the Pirahã’s lack of small-talk such as ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’: Instead of wishing someone ‘Goodnight,’ they offer a pragmatic reminder of the omnipresent dangers of jungle life.

Buy the book from Amazon through Long Now’s Store page and Long Now gets 15%.

Long View Recycling for a Continent

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 02008 by Kevin Kelly
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Because of the name I noticed this art project:

The Art of Recycling in Antarctica: The Long View

According to the NSF site: The “Art of Recycling in Antarctica: The Long View” project conceived by artist, Michael Bartalos will result in a sculptural book made from recyclable materials collected at McMurdo and South Pole stations in Antarctica. The artist intends that the project will “raise international awareness of resource conservation practices in Antarctica, and by extension, promote and inspire sustainability worldwide.” The sculptural book, comprised of 100 vignettes housed in uniformly sized shadow boxes will be hinged to one another to display as a continuous, free-standing accordion-fold book structure. The artwork’s lengthy form draws analogies to taking “the long view” in regard to worldwide environmental consciousness as exemplified by the U.S. Antarctic Program’s rigorous recycling program.

San Francisco-based artist Michael Bartalos goes into more detail on his web site, excerpted here:

The project is inspired by the environmental mandates of the Antarctic Conservation Act and its principles. In an act of exceptional recycling, nearly all the refuse generated by the U.S. Antarctic Program is periodically removed from the continent. I’ll be looking for a variety of usable material representative of the 3.64 million pounds of solid waste generated by McMurdo and South Pole Stations, and I’ll be referring to Antarctic waste management data to conceptually structure my compositions and determine the relative amounts of each material to include.

In an homage to this legacy, each of my 100 vignettes will symbolically correspond to each year passed since Shackleton’s example of innovation and resourcefulness. Thirdly, the number represents a coming century (at least) of sustainability. Hence the title The Long View.

Bartalos is scheduled to leave in January 09, the height of summer at the South Pole.

Long Bets timeline

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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I met Derek Dukes the other night the founder of Dipity, the maker of the coolest web based timeline software I have seen yet.  You can manually generate timelines, or set up a timeline that is auto-generated out of RSS feeds, Twitters, Facebook updates, etc.  He set up a timeline for Long Bets in about 10 seconds based on the Long Bets RSS feed (seen embedded above).  They are still working on some of the longer term timeline issues like the BC problem.

Long Now Media Update

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 02008 by Danielle Engelman
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The latest Seminars About Long-term Thinking are now available as audio downloads or podcasts and in hi-res video for Long Now members.

*Drew Endy and Jim Thomas in “Synthetic Biology Debate” – audio up now, video coming soon

Mt Rushmore Hall of Records

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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It turns out that Borglum, the man behind Mt Rushmore, also built an underground area behind the giant presidential heads to be a “Hall of Records” (entrance pictured above).

“Into this room the records of what our people aspired to and what they have accomplished should be collected and preserved, and on the walls of this room should be cut the literal records of the conception of our republic, its successful creation, the record of its westward movement to the Pacific, its presidents, how the memorial was built and, frankly. Why.”

– Gutzon Borglum.

It was never completed past the first 70 feet, but a recent effort by the historical society placed a small cache of records there.  Rushmore is an interesting case where one man’s obsession (carving the mountain into presidential faces) later became a monument synonymous with national identity.  I had no idea there was a “library” like function also associated with it.

Long-term materials testing on the ISS

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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 Through our partnership with Applied Minds we were invited to include one of our materials on a NASA material experiment called MISSE on the International Space Station. We included a sample of commercially pure titanium, that was black oxide coated, and laser etched (pictured below).  This is the same material/process that we made the front side of the Rosetta Disk out of. Now we get to find out how well the disk would hold up if exposed to open space for several years…


This experiment is a continuation of sorts of the material research started back in 01984 with the Long Duration Exposure Facility that Kevin Kelly posted about earlier.

Drew Endy & Jim Thomas “Synthetic Biology Debate”

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 02008 by Stewart Brand
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Drew Endy and Jim Thomas

Terms of biocontainment

“I want to develop tools that make biology easy to engineer,” Drew Endy began. The first purpose is better understanding fundamental biological mechanisms through “learning by building.” The toolkit of Synthetic Biology starts with DNA construction and ascends through DNA parts, to devices, to standardized systems. An organism’s DNA code, and therefore the organism, can be digitally uploaded, stored, distributed, and downloaded. Life forms are programmable…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

Land art listed and iconified

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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 Kevin Kelly sent in this well organized site of US land art with spiffy icons, GPS coordinates and websites for each. (Spiral Jetty, Star Axis and Roden Craters icons shown above).

Underground Wonders

Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 02008 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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This is an updated post of one of my early blog entries here at the Blog of the Long Now.  Over the last couple years I have found even more amazing underground and stonework spaces. Since we hope to build the space for the 10,000 Year Clock underground, for the last 10 years I have been collecting references and images of the great, ambitious, and or inspiring underground spaces and stonework of the world (in some cases they are also lessons of what not to do). I thought I would list some of that collection here to share them, as well as ask for any recommendations or references you all might have. ( I continue to collect so please send along your favorites.)  You can click through most of the images below to collections of images or blow ups of the shown image.


Hang Son Doong

  • Eski Kermen a medieval city-stronghold in the Crimea.



Sub Base



Long Now Wine Gets High Marks

Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 02008 by Austin Brown
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Long Now’s eponymous red wine by the Pelissero winery was recently reviewed by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.  Both the 2005 and 2006 vintages received “outstanding” ratings of 92.

Antonio Galloni says,

The 2005 Long Now possesses awesome richness, nuance and detail. A blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera, it sweeps across the palate with tons of dense, layered fruit. The wine’s considerable richness covers the tannins nicely, but there is plenty of structure underneath. This is a gem from Giorgio Pelissero.  Anticipated maturity: 2010-2018.


The estate’s 2006 Long Now (Nebbiolo, Barbera) is a massive, powerful wine. With some time in the glass its voluptuous dark fruit gradually comes forward, enhanced by overtones of minerals, spices, toasted oak and menthol. This remains a very reticent, brooding wine in need of several years of bottle age, yet it is very promising.  Anticipated maturity: 2011-2021.

The Pelissero winery is a 3rd generation winery in the Piedmont area of Italy that has been growing wine grapes for several millennia.  They are traditionally known for their Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes.  The Long Now wine is their first blend of the two grapes, and we were honored that they named it after our project.  The labels are printed with archival inks on acid free paper and the corks are flame marked “Long Now”.

Pelissero’s Long Now wine can be purchased at various online wine merchants such as Vinfolio or International Cellar.  The Long Now Store page lists outlets in California carrying the wine.  Some of the older vintages have received similar ratings and recent in house tests here at Long Now confirm they are maturing wonderfully :)