Toynbee Tiles
March 26, 2002 2:50 PM   Subscribe

"Toynbee ideas in Kubrick's 2001 resurrect dead on planet Jupiter" Wha?!!? Our very own BentPenguin has made oblique, intriguing reference to this meme which I call upon intersted Mefites everywhere to help elucidate... quick, before it drives me nuts! More>
posted by dash_slot- (25 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hints: It seems to be a message...
- deliberately obscure, possibly religious;
- widely dispersed in location;
- associated with an (uninvestigated?) address [scroll to bottom of first link];
- made of fragile thermoplastic;
- containing occasional references to violence/conspiracy.

What do the MeFiSleuths make of this one? Particularly, if I may ask, Bent (may I call you 'Bent'?) - when do you first happen across it? and what on earth is the connection to IMAX and the rest? Hmmm?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:53 PM on March 26, 2002

Zimmerman Flew Tyler Knew Turk 182
posted by harrycaul at 3:06 PM on March 26, 2002

“Graffiti from Mars”, that's a good explanation, but personally I feel it's David Mamet.

Very interesting link, dash_slot, and I can't wait for bentpenguin's response...
posted by bittennails at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2002

More here.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2002

n-e-a-t-o. very cool link.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:34 PM on March 26, 2002

Fuck Toynbee, he doesn't even have a posse.
posted by machaus at 3:51 PM on March 26, 2002

Fuck Toynbee, he doesn't even have a posse.

But Topato Potato Does.
posted by drezdn at 3:58 PM on March 26, 2002

Slueths out there might want to check these guys out.
posted by Mid at 4:07 PM on March 26, 2002

Seemed like it was some middle-aged guy who lives with his mom in the basement in Philly who cant talk.
posted by stbalbach at 5:28 PM on March 26, 2002

Seems an awful lot like Obey.
posted by McBain at 5:38 PM on March 26, 2002

Okay, not exactly a double post because it was only mentioned as an aside in another comment. But there were some good sources about what the heck they are...
posted by nprigoda at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2002

This site has the passage from Mamet.
posted by O9scar at 7:13 PM on March 26, 2002

Obey does link to it, but I find it weirder that I am higher on google than memepool and the article I linked to.
posted by catatonic at 8:34 PM on March 26, 2002

Sorry, third paragraph from the bottom on the Obeygiant link.
posted by catatonic at 8:35 PM on March 26, 2002

Okay, I'm an idiot. Obey doesn't link to anything, it just talks about the phenomenon. And the article I linked to does have the google lock, beating me out in the ranking. It's been a long day.
posted by catatonic at 8:38 PM on March 26, 2002

Here are details on the construction of tiles found in South Philadelphia. Scroll down a bit to the post by Justin K.
posted by shinybeast at 9:27 PM on March 26, 2002

I'm *still* seeing those everywhere in New York City. There's a few of those things around; another one is a little cartoon figure, shaped almost like a kidney bean, that's painted on walls and sidewalks.
posted by metrocake at 9:50 PM on March 26, 2002

I remember seeing messages in a similar format, though not limited to 2001, all over Philly as early as 92. They were made with a material that PennDoT was experimenting with to make more durable lines than painting. You could roll it up right off the street if it hadn't been driven over yet. Then you could cut out words or block print like designs with a knife, though I would mostly see quotes. The intricate inlays and alien technology came in later.

beware the posse of the secret street art cabal...
posted by roboto at 11:31 PM on March 26, 2002

The article clearly suggests that Mamet is a vector of the story, not its source.

One suggested source was the Bradbury story the Toynbee Convector. But I'm now inclined to believe that Arnold Toynbee's infamous pantheism, expressed in writings about Zoroastrianism and the cult of Mithras (i.e. Jupiter) -- which Toynbee believed were the root philosophies of the later monotheistic Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) -- has more to do with it.

And there's the mysterious coincidence (?) that Hadrian erected an altar to Jupiter on the site of the Resurrection.

One of the coolest moments of my life was finding one of these across the street from my office in Chicago's Loop, back in the summer of 1999. It was in the asphalt right off a curb, smack dab in the middle of a crosswalk. Alas, the city is pretty anal about the quality of life in the Loop these days, and after only a couple of months the sign disappeared. I did get a photo, though.
posted by dhartung at 1:36 AM on March 27, 2002

dhartung -- I believe there is still one on the west side of Michigan Ave. near the Water Tower. I will check the next time I am up there.
posted by Mid at 5:08 AM on March 27, 2002

(Mithras wasn't Jupiter, though later on the cults may have gotten conflated. He was Mitra, one of a trinityof Vedic gods (the others were Varuna and Aryaman, if I remember right), whose cult for some reason reached Persia and then Europe via the Hellenistic world. Jupiter, *dyaus-piter, god-father?, was probably related to Zeus somehow. My memory is very creaky on that, though.)
posted by rodii at 5:50 AM on March 27, 2002

It's not MetaFilter - it's & MemePool -- hey, at least it's not! Anyway - I've been quite amazed by the Toynbee thing... I have a friend in DC this week who is supposed to investigate some of the known ones there and let me know what they look like up close.

I put together some stuff from various sources (, various websites) and although much of the info has been posted around already here it is (sorry about the lenght):

Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) was ofcourse a British Historian best known for putting forth the notion that man's perception of his history shapes his future.

In 1983 Ray Bradbury wrote a whimsical little short story called "Toynbee Convector". It's a cute story about a time traveler who travels 80 years into the future and then returns to the present to report about future man's great accomplishments. Because of this great vision of the future, people band together to fix social problems and attain the enlightened world glimpsed by the time traveler. Fast forward 80 years and it's reveled that that time traveler's story was completely fabricated. Thus man's perception of what things should be like shaped his actions.... a sort of futuristic take on Toynbee's ideas. Indeed - the word "Toynbee" is considered to be a time travel plot device now in certain sci-fi literary circles.

In 1991 Bradley Denton wrote "Buddy Holly is Alive and Well On Ganymede" - a quirky resurrection story involving Jupiter's largest moon. And of course Jupiter and man's ascension into enlightenment feature heavily in Kurbrick's 2001 (although Jupiter itself features more prominent in the forgettable 2010 follow up.)

So what does that leave us? UFO cult? Sci-Fi overdose? Urban art-fiends doing it on their own because they think it's cool? Cerebral graffiti for a global gang of sci-fi inspired street artist?

What a strange thing.... especially considering that these plaques have been showing up on city streets for over a decade now. Want even more stranger? Realize that these messages aren't just painted on the road or sidewalk - some how they are "embedded" into the asphalt. Consider this post from Plastic:

"The form of the messages was actually weirder than the content. I tried pointing it out to some of my college buddies once and they said "yeah yeah, some nut is stenciling weird messages on the street," until I pointed out that they weren't just painted. It looked like someone had used a hot stencil or a really heavy weight to emboss the message into the street, so the lettering actually sank into the surface. (Or perhaps they somehow laid down additional blacktop to form the message.) The raised portions were then painted white. People I pointed this out to agreed it was really weird and we couldn't figure out how someone could do such a thing to a street quickly enough not to be caught. "

Some are calling these 21st century crop circles... the first few in NYC being done by some deranged individual and the rest being copy cat cacophonist stuff.

From the paranoid schizophrenic side of the story comes an accompanying street manifesto by the same artist/loon - it reads in part:

"john knight ridder is the philadelphia [illegible, "thug" it looks like] [illegible] hates this movement's guts - for years - takes money from the mafia to make the mafia look good in his newspapers so he has the mafia in his pocket john knight sent the mafia to murder me in may 199x [illegible for 10 words or so] them xxates to my face [illegible] and knight-ridders great power to destroy in fact, john knight went into hellion xxnce of joy over knight-ridders great power to destroy i secured house with blast doors and fled the country in june 1991 NBC attorneys, journalists and security officials at rockefeller center (illegible) fraudulently [illegible] the "freedom of information act" all [illegible] orders of NBC executives got the u.s. federal [illegible phrase] F.B.I. to get Interpol to establish task force that located me in dover england which back home got union goons from their own employees union to send down a "[illegible] journalist" - who - with ease - xxx xxxx bashed in lights and windows of neighborhood - as well as men outside my house. they are stationed there still. waiting for me. n.b.c. c.b.s. group w westinghouse, time, time-warner, fox, universal - all of the "cult of the hellion" each one were much worse than knight-ridder ever was (mostly hellion jews) which k.y.w. [a local tv station in philly] and n.b.c. executives told john
knight the whole town gloated in joyous fits on how their soviet pals found a way to turn it into a [end]"

posted by wfrgms at 7:45 AM on March 27, 2002 [1 favorite]

Another connection: the theme to 2001 is Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (in English, "Thus Spake Zarathustra"). Zarathustra is another name for Zoroaster, who figures prominently in Toynbee. Strauss of course took his title from Nietzsche; perhaps there's a connection there as well.
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on March 27, 2002

dhartung: my mamet comment was in jest, it had a nice ring to it.
posted by bittennails at 2:29 PM on March 27, 2002

thermoplastic road marking
posted by roboto at 4:26 PM on March 27, 2002

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