The Interval at Long Now Bottle Keep: Time in a Bottle

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 02012 by Mikl Em
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Lance Winters, Master Distiller of St. George Spirits, says the nature of his craft is to archive the essence of a time and place. Lance has helped us make an aromatic gin featuring Juniper berries harvested amongst the 5,000 year-old Bristlecone Pines on Long Now’s Nevada site. Our gin will only be served at the The Interval at Long Now. Supporters of the Founders Bottle Club campaign can reserve a bottle of this rare Long Now spirit and help fund the construction of The Interval. Bottles are still available contact us for details.

Prototype Long Now gin at St George Spirits photo by Jillian Northrup

Lance sees parallels between the art eau de vie distillation and the mission of Long Now:

We take a photograph of the way something smells and tastes and we lock that away on the most archival format we can do. You can crack a bottle of our stuff open a hundred years from now and it’s going to smell the same way it did, by and large, as when we distilled it. So we’re able to capture an olfactory slice of time.

So, you should expect Long Now gin to taste like this:

Long Now's Nevada property on Mount Washington photo by mikl-em

More videos about The Interval and related projects on the Long Now Vimeo page.

Lazar Kunstmann and Jon Lackman Seminar Media

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Preservation without Permission: the Paris Urban eXperiment

Tuesday November 13, 02012 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Kunstmann and Lackman Seminar page for Members.


Audio is up on the Kunstmann and Lackman Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.


Preservation Without Permission – a summary by Stewart Brand

Their video showed clandestine urban “infiltration” (trespassing) at its most creative. Paris’s Urban Experiment group (UX), now in their fourth decade, have a restoration branch called Untergunther. They evade authorities to carry out secret preservation projects on what they call “nonvisible heritage.”

Being clandestine, they do not reveal their activities except for instances that become publicized in the media; then they reveal everything to set the record straight (and embarrass the media along with the authorities). In the video presented by Untergunther member Lazar Kunstmann and translator Jon Lackman, we see a hidden underground screening room and bar beneath the Trocadero in Paris’s Latin Quarter. When police discover it and shut it down, the equipment is surreptitiously removed to a site deeper in the city’s vast network of underground passages, where film showings continue to this day. One year the group’s annual film festival was staged and performed overnight in one of Paris’s great monuments, the Panthéon, built in 1790. In the video (excerpt here) we see a small boy slipping through newly crafted underground passageways, picking a lock, opening the cupboard with all the Panthéon‘s keys, and gliding on his skateboard beneath the great dome across the ornate marble floors by Foucault’s original pendulum as film enthusiasts set up a temporary theater and have a clandestine film festival—gone without a trace by dawn.

Elsewhere in the Panthéon the explorers found a neglected old clock displaying stopped time to the public. In 2005 they decided to repair it. They converted an abandoned room high in the monument into a clock shop and hangout. With clockmaker (and UX member) Jean-Baptiste Viot they spent a year completely reconditioning the 1850 works of the clock. Now that it worked again, they thought it should keep time and chime proudly, but someone needed to wind it. They approached the Director of the Panthéon, Bernard Jeannot, who didn’t even know that the monument had a clock. At first dumbfounded, Jeannot publicly embraced the project and applauded Untergunther.

Jeannot’s superiors at the Centre des Monuments Nationaux accordingly fired him (early retirement) and brought suit against Untergunther. The court determined that fixing clocks is not a crime, and in France trespassing on public property is, in itself, not a crime. Case dismissed. Spitefully, the new Director of the Panthéon has made sure the clock remains unwound, and he disabled it by removing an essential part.

Lazar Kunstmann explained (through Jon Lackman) Untergunther’s perspective on cultural heritage, particularly “minor” heritage—the countless objects that embody cultural continuity but don’t attract institutions to protect them. Who is responsible for such “nonvisible” heritage? The protectors should be local, self-appointed, and nonvisible themselves, because exposure of the value of the objects attracts destructive tourists. Preservation without permission works best without visibility.

Since 2005, Untergunther’s new precautions against discovery have successfully kept its ongoing preservation projects hidden. As for the Panthéon clock, that essential part the Director removed to disable it has been purloined to safekeeping with Untergunther. Someday authorities may allow the clock to tick again. In the meantime it is in good repair.

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

Charles Mann on the State of the Species

Posted on Monday, November 26th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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Charles Mann, a former SALT speaker, asks (and gets pretty deep into answering):

Why and how did humankind become “unusually successful”? And what, to an evolutionary biologist, does “success” mean, if self-destruction is part of the definition? Does that self-destruction include the rest of the biosphere? What are human beings in the grand scheme of things anyway, and where are we headed? What is human nature, if there is such a thing, and how did we acquire it? What does that nature portend for our interactions with the environment? With 7 billion of us crowding the planet, it’s hard to imagine more vital questions.

– Orion Magazine

It’s a long and informative essay, and the Japanese concept of hara hachi bu, described near the conclusion, may seem particularly poignant if you’re still recovering from Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

(Image: World Map of Human Migrations)

Help Long Now build a new space for long-term thinking

Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 02012 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Salon Space

The Long Now Foundation is creating a new place for ideas, and it will serve great cocktails!

We have begun a campaign to transform our space in Fort Mason into a salon, museum, cafe and bar.  We invite you to check out the video and if you can, please support us by reserving a Founders Bottle of one of the amazing spirits created exclusively for the project by St George Distillery in Alameda. We welcome group and company donations as well if the bottles are out of your personal price range.

Thank you for your support,

Alexander Rose
executive director
The Long Now Foundation

Peter Warshall Seminar Primer

Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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“Enchanted by the Sun: The CoEvolution of Light, Life, and Color on Earth”

Wednesday November 28, 02012 at the Cowell Theater, San Francisco

Peter Warshall’s work is aimed at helping people understand the cultural and ecological systems in which they’re embedded. He studied biology at Harvard, anthropology under Claude Lévi-Strauss, and has worked in communities and companies the world over, consulting on conservation and helping build consensus among groups with diverse and often conflicting environmental needs.

He was an editor and contributor to the Whole Earth Review, where he often expressed his deep understanding of ecology and human nature through poetic, interdisciplinary essays. In 1998, he offered a brief exploration of the similarities between painting and ecology, discussing, for example, trends in composition and color and how they relate to the analysis of ecosystems:

Henri Matisse (in his cutout phase), Gustav Klimt, and Paul Klee experimented tirelessly with configurations of patches of color: different sizes, the shape of each patch, the orientation of “floating” patches with the canvas’s straight edges and with other patches inside the artwork’s boundaries. Landscape ecologists similarly ponder patches such as beaver ponds in a watershed or forest groves dotted among evenly textured farmlands. The “right” configuration can bring harmony to either canvas or landscape. To conservation biologists, for instance, the size and shape of a patch of forest may mean the difference between protection of a rare warbler’s home or nest parasitism by cowbirds. Informed intuition serves both painters and naturalists well.

Art as Landscape/Landscape as Art

To bolster one’s informed intuition about place, he offers a quiz that Kevin Kelly once declared a Cool Tool. It starts with a simple declaration to “Point North,” and concludes by asking if you can “Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.”

Warshall leads us on a journey from inside our brains out into nature and on up to the Sun on November 28th at the Cowell Theater. You can reserve tickets, get directions and sign up for the podcast on the Seminar page.

Subscribe to the Seminars About Long-term Thinking podcast for more thought-provoking programs.

Rick Prelinger Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Rick Prelinger on Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 7

Rick Prelinger on
“Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 7”


Tuesday December 11, 02012 at 7:30pm Castro Theater

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! &#8226 General Tickets $10


About this Seminar:

Rick Prelinger, a guerrilla archivist who collects the uncollected and makes it accessible, presents the 7th of his annual Lost Landscapes of San Francisco screenings. You’ll see an eclectic montage of rediscovered and rarely-seen film clips showing life, landscapes, labor and leisure in a vanished San Francisco as captured by amateurs, newsreel cameramen and studio filmmakers.

New sequences in this year’s high-definition feast will include the Japanese-American community in the Western Addition before redevelopment; shipwrecks off the Northern shoreline; 1930s demonstrations for China Relief; even more Sutro Baths scenes; family films from the Mission, Richmond, Sunset and Excelsior Districts; rediscovered films of San Francisco transit; and newly discovered, never-shown documentary footage of the Tenderloin and waterfront. Much of the show will be scanned from Kodachrome and original 35mm material.

As usual, this year’s Castro Theatre screening is an interactive experience: audience members will BE the soundtrack, identifying places and events, asking questions, loudly discussing San Francisco’s past and future as the film unreels.

Finally, if you have family or historical films of San Francisco, it’s not too late to help out — please contact Rick through The Long Now Foundation, and we’ll arrange to have your films scanned and possibly included in this year’s show!

Our Story in 1 Minute

Posted on Thursday, November 8th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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Our Story in 1 Minute – a quick, inspiring reminder of how far we’ve come, with original music by MelodySheep aka John Boswell.

(Thanks, Stuart!)

The Bedrock of Politics

Posted on Tuesday, November 6th, 02012 by Alex Mensing
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NPR’s Robert Krulwich recently shared on his blog a fantastic stitching together of processes that operate on vastly different time scales: geology, economics and politics. It took the eye of a geologist – Steven Dutch – to recognize the deep-time significance of a narrow corridor of counties running through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and into the Carolinas that voted majority Democratic in the 02008 U.S. presidential election. That swath of land is largely populated by African Americans, which is the most immediate part of the answer, but the story begins about 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.

The Deep South had a shoreline that curled through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and there, in the shallow waters just offshore, were immense populations of floating, single-celled creatures who drifted about, trapped sunshine, captured carbon, then died and sank to the sea bottom. Those creatures became long stretches of nutritious chalk.

When sea levels dropped and North America took on its modern shape, those ancient beaches — so alkaline, porous and rich with organic material — became a “black belt” of rich soil, running right through the South.

That’s the geology part of the equation. Then comes the economics – when Europeans began farming crops like cotton in the South, they were using slaves. The most fertile areas were where slavery was most profitable, so the percentage of the population that was black became the highest in the region. That demography – or, at least, very significant traces of it – remains today, and is responsible for the political part of the story.

This, says marine biologist McClain, explains that odd stretch of Obama blue; it’s African-Americans sitting on old soil from ancient organisms that turned sunshine into fertilizer.

Stewart Brand, co-founder of The Long Now Foundation, has described what he calls ‘layers of time,’ (described on our website). Different sorts of processes operate on different time scales, and those processes are layered one on top of the other – there is a sort of foundational order to them. Nature operates slowly. Culture operates more quickly, and is based on nature. The political landscape is many layers above the geological landscape. This story illustrates brilliantly one of the ways in which geology shines through the millennia to shape the quicker, more malleable processes of our human activities.

Looking Back on the 21st Century

Posted on Monday, November 5th, 02012 by Charlotte Hajer
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“These days, excess energy is very expensive, but for most people it just doesn’t matter. Most communities are locally self-sufficient. Everyone grows food using permaculture principles. Agricultural monoculture became deeply unfashionable during the great GM disease outbreaks of the 2030s. During the chaos, we were smart enough to keep the Internet going. Giving up broadcast television meant wireless broadband really took off. That, combined with holographic conferencing, meant that people finally could really live anywhere they liked while working somewhere else. With no need to travel for meetings, commuting vanished like a bad dream. Of course, the need for real human contact didn’t. most towns, villages, and districts have communal working areas, paid for out of local taxes in local currencies, which let you work together with your friends and neighbors these mix/meet spaces are incredibly creative.”

Perhaps this is how the people of the year 02100 will look back at the developments of the 21st century. Or maybe it’ll look more like this:

“It is five minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve at the end of the last day of the twenty-first century. In Dar es Salam, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States of Southern Africa (USSA), revelers from across the region have traveled on the Trans-Africa high-speed train network to witness the arrival of the new century at a massive fireworks display and international gathering in East Africa’s “harbor of peace.” Wearing a variety of light, thermo-regulated fabrics in bright, fashionable colors, party-goers and families mill around in droves at the city’s popular waterfront overlooking the Indian ocean, its warm waters an ancient conduit of intercontinental trade.”

These scenarios appear in The Futurist’s series on Exploring the year 2100. The magazine recently invited members of the World Future Society to imagine what human life might look like in 02100, and the result is a diverse collection of essays that offer colorful glimpses of possible futures. The collection also features an article by futurist and Long Now Board member Paul Saffo, who predicts that we’ll live longer, more curious, and more spiritual lives:

“In 2020, science’s relentless explanatory logic had believers on the run, but in the decades that followed, it became clear that an ever stranger, more capacious universe had ample room for the divine, the spiritual, the mystical, and the mysterious.”

To read more about these and other glimpses of the future, pay a visit to the World Future Society’s corner of the web!

The Long History of New World Wine

Posted on Friday, November 2nd, 02012 by Charlotte Hajer
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The term “New World Wine” may be a bit of a misnomer.

In 01976, a British wine merchant introduced California wines to France by organizing a blind tasting event for local connoisseurs. To everyone’s great surprise, bottles from California won first place in each category, and thereby earned a place on the international map of fine wine.

This “Judgment of Paris” may have brought California wine to the global stage, but unbeknownst to many of those tasters (and to many wine lovers today), California has been making wine since long before the 01970s. In fact, California’s winemaking industry may be about as old as the United States itself.

Viticulture was first brought to the Western United States by Spanish missionaries in the 18th century. Because they needed wine for the performance of Mass, these missionaries had brought vine cuttings with them from Mexico, and planted a vineyard by every new mission established in California. In those days, they cultivated and fermented what was known as the “Mission grape,” which had originated in Spain but found its niche in the New World. Until about 01850, most California wine was made from this Mission grape; today, only a handful of producers still grow this varietal.

The Gold Rush of the late 19th century brought new waves of migrants to California, and gave a new boost to the burgeoning winemaking industry. California offered a favorable climate for grape growing, and with a growing demand for wine, many European settlers tried their hand at cultivating grapes. Armed with new varietals and new winemaking techniques, these growers established the first commercial wineries in Northern California.

In 01920, Prohibition put a damper on the winemaking industry. A few wineries were able to switch to the production of sacramental wine or grape juice, but most were forced to close their doors, and many a vineyard withered. After the twenty-first amendment was passed in 01933, the industry embarked on a long process of recovery, finally culminating in a renaissance during the late 01960s and 70s.

Despite the impact of Prohibition, many of today’s most celebrated Northern California wineries have a long legacy that dates back more than a century. Charles Krug Winery was founded in 01861 by a man of the same name, and thereby became the first commercial winery in the Napa Valley. Schramsberg, a producer of sparkling wine, was established just a year later. The brothers Beringer founded their winery in 01876, and Chateau Montelena – producers of the Chardonnay that won the Judgment of Paris – dates from 1882.

But perhaps the oldest of Northern California’s wineries is located in Sonoma. Founded in 01857, Buena Vista Winery spearheaded the development of the region’s winemaking industry. Its founder, ‘Count’ Agoston Haraszthy, introduced new European grape varietals to the area, pioneered new winemaking methods, and established a local viticultural society. It is here that Charles Krug learned how to make wine before he went on to establish his own business in Napa, four years later.

Financial troubles forced Buena Vista to close its doors in the late 19th century. Despite several attempts at revival, the winery has been unable to reclaim its past glory – until recently, that is. In 2011, the winery was bought and then carefully restored by Burgundy Native Jean-Charles Boisset. His goal in this project was not just to produce great wine; Boisset hoped to offer a tribute to California’s long legacy of viticulture.

“A lot of people think that the California wine world was born in 1976 after the Judgment of Paris tasting, but no, it started way before,” he said. “The wines are great, but we can explain to people what a great region it is through its long-lost heritage.”

Buena Vista winery reopened its doors this past summer to offer tours of its historic facilities, and tastings of its new bottlings. A great start to a history-themed tour of the Napa and Sonoma valleys, perhaps?