Wednesday, September 02, 2015

"It's Not Worth It"


On Reddit, I recently came across a link to this article about Linds Redding, a designer & art director who died from esophageal cancer in 2012.

Business Insider:

Redding wrote an essay reflecting on the time & work he put in with his ad agency, in light of his terminal illness.

His conclusion was that personally connecting with people & family should be one's top priority. Some people are so fixated on success & their job that they don't make time to actually enjoy life.

Linds Redding:

This resonated with me, because I am a graphic artist and have posted many times here about art & design.

I don't feel like what I do is useless, but I also realize many of the products & packaging I create are ultimately disposable.  One quote in the essay, by his typography teacher, stood out to me: "We are fillers of landfills." That is a pretty cynical view, but to some extent, true.

Throughout my adult life I have been keenly aware of my own mortality and the transience of all human endeavor, including my own.

I have entertained the question, "Why bother with anything, if no trace of it will exist in a billion years, anyway?" The only answer I can come up with is, "Because I am here, and I feel compelled to do so."

Through the lens of impermanence, it's easy to question the relevancy of any commercial profession. I definitely don't think I'm "saving the world" with my professional work, as Redding put it. However, I truly enjoy it and can express a lot of creativity through the variety of projects we get. I've also spent time on plenty of my own art and other creative work, like this blog. I find any creative outlet immensely satisfying. I definitely try to keep a balance between my job, creating art, & my personal life.

I think each person should question their existence every day, on both the personal & cosmic level. Doing so makes you aware of how little precious time you actually have in this life, and gives you the "perspective" that Linds Redding was trying to convey.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Nature Photography- Summer 2015

I added a few more photos to my photo album of nature pics:

by Paul Micarelli

These pictures are from this summer, before I started the album online. I'll continue to add older photos from previous years & any new ones I take.

I love nature & being outdoors, and have been lucky to see many different creatures in my lifetime. I am endlessly fascinated by the endless diversity of Life.

This is one of the many rabbits around my house, blending in with the leaves:


This dragonfly was busy devouring another insect, so it was too busy to notice I was sneaking up close to it to get this picture:


I was outside my work one day & heard a loud rustling on the side of the building. This groundhog was trying to get past the gate to the yard:



Monday, August 31, 2015

Painted Greek Sculpture

 I've posted before about the discovery that ancient Greek sculpture was not plain white marble, as previously believed. The Greeks actually painted their sculptures in vivid colors.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

I recently found more articles about this realization, which is changing the way we think about classical art.

Harvard Magazine:

We weren't the only ones to have a misinformed view of art history. During the Renaissance, artists like Michelangelo sculpted in white marble, because this how they believed classical sculpture looked. All the paint from antiquity had been stripped away by that time, so it appeared that the ancient Greeks & Romans created bare marble statues.

Smithsonian:

 This is just one of the ways that technology is helping us gain a clearer view of our ancient past.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Slaughter Beach Spider

Last week, my family was on our annual summer vacation at Slaughter Beach in Delaware.

My family are experts at vacationing & relaxing. I started out the vacation by going with my girlfriend to visit her family in Avalon, NJ for the weekend. On Monday, we took the Cape May Ferry to Lewes, Delaware and drove to Slaughter Beach, where my family was staying.

It was a great week and we all enjoyed ourselves. I love sitting on the beach, running by the marshes, watching the sky at sunset, then making a beach fire pit in the sand under the stars. Being in nature is what I enjoy the most.

Nature can also be creepy, though. On the last day of vacation, my brother Joe almost ran into this large spider which had trapped a butterfly in its web. I added it to my album of nature photos.



"Slaughter Beach" definitely lived up to it's name in the case of this spider & its unfortunate butterfly prey.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Atmospheric Bacteria

 
One of my recent topics of particular interest has been molecular biology & microscopic life.

Many people don't even realize that each of us human beings is actually an ecology of microbial life, living symbiotically with human cells. We are a biome of billions of tiny life forms essential to our physiological functions.

The reason I don't fear germs, bacteria, etc. is because not only are they throughout our body- they are everywhere!

Research is showing that microbes even live in the air, all the way up to the very edge of our atmosphere. I saw an article on Neatorama about living organisms that survive floating miles up, at the edge of space.

Here is the National Geographic article with more info about the research:

NatGeo:


Monday, August 17, 2015

Morphing Logos

As a graphic designer with over a decade of commercial experience, I've created my fair share of logos.

A good logo can become just as iconic as the company, service, or product that it represents.

This is a set of animated GIFs that show logos from some of the most popular companies, and the images morph to show how they changed over time.




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Perseids Meteor Shower 2015


 Last night, I sat out under the starry sky around midnight to watch some of the Perseid meteor shower.

Design You Trust:

Luckily, it wasn't too cold out, and the night sky was very clear. For the hour or two I was out there, I saw at least a dozen meteors. A few of them were very bright, with visible smoke trails. Early on, there was a meteor that was so large that it looked like a missile shooting across a large section of the sky!

Although they are known as shooting stars, meteors are actually small pieces of rocky debris that fall into our atmosphere. As they hit the air & burn up, we see the result as a fireball with a trail streaming behind it.

io9:

The annual Perseid shower is caused by Earth's orbit crossing the much larger orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As we pass through the debris field, hundreds of rocky fragments floating in the wake of the comet are pulled toward Earth.


 Most of these meteors burn up before they get near the surface of the planet, although some that impact the ground are later found, when they are designated as "meteorites".

One of the biggest priorities of the human race should be to locate large asteroids that have the potential to cause major damage should they impact the planet. There are giant rocky bodies hurtling through space that could cause major planetary catastrophe, yet humans are blissfully unaware of the potential for disaster that exists because we have not made the effort to plan for such an event.

Hopefully, the cosmos and its random processes spare us for awhile longer until we get our act together. We either need to find a way to track & deter an asteroid, or we learn to exist off this planet for extended periods of time...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Limits of Human Vision

 Look into my eye....

I saw this interesting article about the sense which I find most important, being a visual artist:

BBC Future:

Originally a congregation of cells that evolved to react to electromagnetic radiation, the organ we call the eye is one of the countless marvels of biology.

Despite the power of sight, our eyes only pick up a small slice of the energetic reality surrounding us. We adapted to see only what we need to to survive in our particular circumstances.

The Monkey Buddha:

As technology advances and digital interfaces are developed to enhance our senses, it's possible that one day humans will be able to detect other energy wavelengths or have a wider range of vision.

I always wondered what the "resolution" of human eyesight is compared to the pixel dimensions of computer screens. It turns out we see at about 120 pixels per degree of arc, which ends up being around 500-600 megapixels.

The eye and visual perception are sources of constant wonder for me. The ability of the eye and the brain to process light energy into recognizable form is a marvel, but it is also fundamental to how humans and other lifeforms perceive our world.

Emails That Every Designer Fears

I saw this funny and disturbingly accurate list of email headings that a designer like myself would dread seeing in their email inbox.

Sad and Useless:

Luckily my studio doesn't really have to deal with clients like these, but I've seen plenty of similar requests over the years. 

People don't typically understand the patience & mental telepathy required to be a good graphic artist or designer. This is probably true for any profession where you interact with people in any capacity, though.




Sunday, August 09, 2015

3D Model of Brain Cortex Cells


There are few technologies that have been as useful for advancing our understanding of the world as computer imaging & 3D modeling.

Using computers and software to simulate previously unknowable systems, we can visualize phenomena from the microscopic to the cosmic scale. One area where these visualizations are extremely helpful is in biology and anatomy. The human body is an extraordinary collection of parts & processes, and there are aspects of it that can only be experienced through computer simulation.

I recently saw this article about the imaging of a small slice of a mouse's brain neocortex, or gray matter.

Huffington Post:

The neocortex is the outer area of the brain that is responsible for complex information processing. The area of brain tissue that was studied was smaller than the cross-section of a human hair, and was sliced up into extremely thin slices. The slices were scanned & the area was reconstructed digitally, so it could be analyzed in precise detail.

The imaged area was based around two nerve cells, and included all the other cells that intersected that densely-packed space. The different cells are encoded using colors to differentiate them. The awesome thing about having a digital model is that the various elements can be separated, isolated, and manipulated to understand their different aspects.



I am fascinated by these kinds of studies and the insight they give into ourselves & the incomprehensibly complex nature of our bodies.

Here is a link to the study from Harvard University:

Cell.com

This short video gives a concise description of the study & the visual representations of the cortical tissue.

 
I've previously posted about the complexity found within single one of these brain cells.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

 Reality consists of infinite layers of endless detail, that exists on all scales

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Deep Dream Images

Deep-Dream-Eye-Botanical-Dimensions

I recently posted about software code that Google researchers have developed, using computers set up as neural networks.

The Monkey Buddha:

The computer uses a feedback loop of image recognition algorithms to find features in the imagery,  and then enhance them. The Google engineers dubbed the process "Inceptionism," because the computer keeps going deeper into the image to discern features & patterns. Even if there isn't really any recognizable elements in the visual data, the computer will still process the information & try to find familiar forms. The images that are filtered through the software often end up with a trippy, bizarre, or dream-like appearance.

This research can give us a lot of insight into the nature of consciousness and altered states of all types. By modeling the way the brain recognizes & processes patterns, we will develop a deeper understanding of our own minds.

There is a web app I saw on Gizmodo that takes the Google code and allows you to upload your own photos & apply the different filters.


There's no control over the parameters for each filter, but it's fun to plug different pics in and see how they turn out.

I put a bunch of my own photos through the various filters and created a gallery of images. The results were mostly pretty interesting. My favorites were made using the "Botanical Dimensions" filter.

There are more images in the linked gallery, below.

Picasa Web Album:

Of course, I had to try adding the effects to The Monkey Buddha logo:

Deep-Dream-Monkey-Buddha-Botanical-Dimensions

This is a self-portrait that came out very strange:

Deep-Dream-Paul-Micarelli-Botanical-Dimensions

Here is a crazy rendering of my girlfriend Loretta. The original photo was taken by her friend Tessa from Colour Contessa Photography. I think she looks like an otherworldly Aztec goddess.

Deep-Dream-Loretta-Botanical-Dimensions

Finally, here is a psychedelically serene picture of The Buddha:

Deep-Dream-Buddha-Botanical-Dimensions

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Wild Weekend

I love nature & being outdoors. Even though my house is near a highway, there is also a lake & wooded areas. I see a lot of wild animals around my house & in my other travels, so I decided to make an album of all the nature photos I've taken.

by Paul Micarelli

I started the album off with some pics of a bunch of different animals that I saw right on my back patio this weekend. I felt like it was an episode of National Geographic.



On Saturday, I noticed movement outside my window & saw a family of wild turkeys walking behind my house. There were two adults & two little ones. They walked a little into the woods, and I saw the adults fly into the trees.



Yesterday, I saw this groundhog peeking out from my woodpile, then he came out to nibble on leaves while standing on his hind legs.



There are always rabbits running through my yard. I saw this one through my sliding glass door.
 
 
Finally, I was visiting my good friend Dr. Phil, who was in town this weekend. While I was sitting by his pool talking & having some afternoon beers, this praying mantis crawled on my leg. I picked it up by his leg to move him & it started attacking my finger.
 
 
 








Friday, July 31, 2015

Wim Hof- The Iceman with Inner Fire


 Last night, my girlfriend & I watched a VICE documentary about an extraordinary man named Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman.



After the suicide of his wife, Wim decided to use his grief as motivation to learn extreme levels of self-control. Through meditation and breathing techniques, Wim is able to control his physiological functions to withstand extreme temperature, pain, and even control the body's autoimmune processes.


He has been extensively studied by researchers, and was even injected with an endotoxin- which his body was able to fight without the normal elevated, inflammatory immune response.

Wim is a living example of the ability for the power of the mind to overcome the perceived physical limitations of the body.

Here is a video of a TED talk he gave outlining his approach.



His method resembles the Tibetan meditation technique of "Tummo" or "Inner Fire". Using this technique, Buddhist monks living on the chilly plateau of Tibet would stay out in the elements overnight, wearing nothing but a wet cloth.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Poconos 2015: Nature & Family


As I wrote in my last post, my family recently spent a week on our annual vacation in the Poconos, PA.


I added some more pics to the photo album, mostly nature pics & photos of the lake.

Picasa Web Album:

One of my favorite things is to enjoy the stillness and observe the natural setting & creatures you find outdoors. When I was out kayaking one day, I unexpectedly came up on a bald eagle perched on a log less than 100ft in front of me. I stopped paddling when I saw it and glided toward it, then it spread its wings & flew by my kayak. Unfortunately, I couldn't snap a photo of it. Here's a view from my kayak as I paddled around the lake:


One picture I did manage to get of wildlife as this photo of a water snake that was swimming by our dock, popping his head out of the water to take a look at us.


There are many deer who are accustomed to humans in the lake community. I was playing with my nephews one evening in the back yard, & I saw a pair of deer right behind them. I told them to be quiet & stay very still. One of the deer came right up to David, so I told him to start stepping away from it. Then, Gregory went right up to one at the edge of the woods & was watching it.


We had a house that was perfectly positioned to see the sunsets over the lake, so we spent a few evenings outside on the deck or the beach watching the sun go down over the trees.


It was another great vacation week with my family, even though my girlfriend couldn't make it since she was studying hard & taking exams for nursing school. Here is a family portrait we took on the steps of our house.


Our family photo: (from the front) Paul Micarelli (me), my dad Paul J. Micarelli, David, 
Gregory, Greg, Susanna, Mandi, my mom Karen, 
Justin, Johanna, Sylvia, & Joe.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Poconos 2015: Flea Market

A couple weeks ago, my family took our annual summer vacation in the Poconos, Pennsylvania.

The Monkey Buddha:

We usually check into to our house on a Saturday, and for the last few years we've gone on Sunday morning to the Blue Ridge Flea Market. We all enjoy going to buy random stuff & see all the crazy crap people are selling.


This year, the first thing I saw as we were pulling up was this truck, with www.junkologist.com hand-painted on the sides. Yes, it's a real (high quality, suprisingly) website, for a junk removal & cleanout service.

Here is the photo album where I'm going to upload some pics from the week. I figured I'd start it off with the "Flea Market Finds":

Picasa Web Albums:

For years, we've been playing a game my sister got us into where everyone looks for the craziest/funniest/weirdest items we can find for under $5. It's one of my favorite games ever, because it forces you to keep an eye out for truly interesting things.

This was my prize find this year, a "Mountain Brew" tin depicting a cartoon hillbilly family that I got for 50¢



Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Explain Graphic Art to 4 Year Olds


I saw this post on BoingBoing and, as a graphic artist, I thought it was a great account of trying to teach young kids about design.

Medium

I have nephews who are 4 & 6, and I've explained my job to them when they asked. They know that at my work I create toys and make cool artwork.  However, I haven't really gotten into any fundamentals of design concepts with them, other than basic shapes & colors.

Understanding the art of design is crucial to understanding the world and the many subtle clues all around us. Even children can begin to pick up on nuances of design choices in our world and what meaning they have.

If a child is responsive and you can get on their level, you can teach them many ideas . One just needs to be creatively simple in the explanations.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lab Chimps Released


In recent posts, I've talked about primate tool use and primate self-reflection.

I'm very interested in the nature of animal consciousness & communication, because I think it informs the fundamental nature of our own experience.

I think humanity is becoming more empathetic as a whole, because other living things are being recognized as sentient minds.

The Monkey Buddha

This video speaks for itself, and needs no philosophical debate. It shows chimpanzees from research laboratories, who were locked in cages for 30 years, being released into a sanctuary. 


I can't see how a person with any empathy couldn't look at these chimps & recognize the experience they must be having when setting foot outside for the first time in decades.





Thursday, July 16, 2015

F*ck That: A Guided Meditation


I am a huge proponent of meditation, the simple act of practicing stillness in the body and the mind.

If meditation techniques were taught to school children, we would eventually have a more sane society.

This is a funny take on the popular guided meditations that are online. In a sense, it's pretty accurate, despite the humorous intent. To let go of all the worries and anxieties of the world, all you have to do is say, "F*ck That".


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mindborstal®

This is a pretty messed-up fake ad I saw on this isn't happiness. It's for a fictional drug called Mindborstal®, for horrible parents who want relief from their children's active minds.

Read the fine print for the full, disturbing details: "Confinement in the comfort of your child's own mind".  


"Always keep within reach of children"

Friday, July 10, 2015

Enra- "Pleiades"


This video of a mesmerizing & beautiful dance routine by Japanese troupe Enra shows the wonderful possibilities of interacting with digital media.
 
We are beginning to blur the lines between "real" & "virtual" by directly interacting with light.


The performance is called "Pleiades," after the star system also known as "The Seven Sisters," which is hinted at in the photo above. This star cluster was used as part of a seasonal calendar for many ancient civilizations.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Primate Tool Use


On Graham Hancock's site I saw another news item that reminded me of the evolutionary jump presented by "2001: A Space Odyssey".


Although we consider the use of tools to be a main difference between human beings and other life, there are many animals that have learned to use tools for specific tasks.

New Scientist:

 Although they are certainly not building particle accelerators or spacecraft, clearly other primates have the ability to intelligently manipulate their environment to achieve predetermined goals.

In fact, chimps have even been able to recognize dangerous human technology, in the form of snares, and sabotage them.

BBC:

Regardless of the capacity that other life can use tools, it is clear that technology defines us as human almost as much as any other factor.

Primate Self-Reflection

After my last post about the poster featuring the proto-homonids in "2001: A Space Odyssey", I saw this animated GIF of a gorilla seeing itself in a mirror.



The gorilla's reaction is similar to that of our primitive ape ancestors in the movie, when faced with the evolutionary catalyst of The Monolith. Both objects facilitate self-awareness in the consciousness of the animal mind.

Different primates have varying degrees of ability to recognize the reflection in the mirror as themselves. 

Livescience:

Here's another funny GIF of a monkey seeing itself in a mirror: