Next month, I am getting married to my wonderful fiancée Loretta. We were good friends for a long time before dating for the past four years. I truly consider her my life partner, and we support each other in every aspect of our lives. We even created a blog together, called Conscious Living for You, to promote healthier lifestyles using our unique areas of expertise.
To celebrate our transition into an official married relationship, we had our bachelor & bachelorette parties on the same day this past weekend. I am 40 years old now, and didn't want to go the "traditional" route of strippers & getting wasted. I told my brothers I wanted a day of playing paintball with my friends & a chill night out.
So, we went to a local paintball place and played for 5 hours, then went to a tiki bar later in the evening and closed the place down after 7-8 hrs. They had horseshoe pits, pool tables, & it was open-air so we got to safely observe the lightning storms going on around us for a little bit as they passed through. A lot of my friends & family came out, and we all had an awesome time. It's humbling to know that I have so many great people in my life that are there to support me. It was a great day, and by the time we got back to my brother's house, I passed out immediately on his couch. Luckily I controlled my alcohol intake, so I didn't feel like garbage the next day.
Here's a pic of the 10 guys that came out for paintball (that's me in the middle), and there were twice as many at the tiki bar.
At the end of paintball, I succumbed to peer pressure & "ran the gauntlet". All the guys lined up, & I had to run past them while they blasted me. I tried to shoot back at first, but the searing pain of being hit by all those paintballs at one time made me go into protective mode & I just ran the hell out of there as fast as I could. After I stopped running, I reflexively yelled out every expletive known to man & promptly cursed out all the guys.
I had welts all over me and by the next morning there were bruises covering the half of my body that was facing the firing squad. I saw it as a rite of passage- enduring pain & suffering to spur a transition into a new phase of existence. However, I would definitely NOT recommend any one else taking part in this insane activity. Loretta was not happy about my battle wounds, and when I sent her the pic, she texted back simply, "Those mother fuckers".
This multimedia style using shadows by filmmaker & artist Vincent Bal blew me away with the creativity involved. He calls his art Shadowology or Shadow Doodles- he takes the shadows of ordinary items and creates whimsical compositions based on them.
Last weekend, my family went to Lancaster for a dinner & show at the Rainbow Comedy Club. For the last few Christmases, my parents have given our family tickets to the theater and reservations at the Richmond House bed & breakfast. We always have a great time on the trip, and before heading home, we usually stop at some antique markets in the morning.
This year, we went to Shupp's Grove in Adamstown, PA. It's set nicely in a wooded area, and luckily the weather was good. When I go to these places, I am astounded at the amount of random crap on display. There's just tables & tables of STUFF of all kinds. Some of it is valuable antique, most of it is total junk, & much of it is probably open to interpretation.
I love to take pictures of the weirder and more humorous items I see at these markets. Since I'm a man of few wants & needs, I rarely see anything I actually want to buy. The one thing I'm a sucker for is books. This time, I did get an American Medical Association: Encyclopedia of Medicine for $1.
Anyway, here are some of the crazier items that caught my eye...
This creepy-ass clock man was one of the first things I saw:
I always notice monkey-related things for this blog.
Here's one made from a coconut shell:
Decorative Eggs, one of the collections of random items on display:
We created the brand & the blog as a resource for people who want to lead a healthier lifestyle. In addition to being a creative professional and being interested in spirituality & meditative traditions, I have a science background and love to learn about everything. Loretta is a nurse and a yoga teacher with a strong medical education.
Together, we want to introduce concepts and research that supports lifestyle choices that lead to positive results for the mind, body, and spirit.
It might seem like a weird question. Our perceptions experience the world as made of matter & energy. However, we now know that there are much more exotic properties to reality at the most basic quantum levels.
How does existence organize itself out of the seeming chaos of the quantum field? How is information preserved throughout all levels, to give rise to atomic order, physical form, forces, and all the other systems that keep the Universe running as it does?
These are deep questions that compel us to dive head-first into infinity, to try and comprehend the unimaginable complexity that we are immersed in.
If the Universe is really made of information, then how much can be stored in a given space? According to the article, the maximum limit is 10^69 bits per square meter, and if you tried to pack information more densely than that, it would collapse into a black hole.
This idea of the world as information has been discussed by the late Terence McKenna, who said
“The syntactical nature of reality, the real secret of magic, is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.”
By "words", he was referring to information- the idea is that by understanding the way in which the Universe processes information, we can use that knowledge to affect it according to our intentions.
McKenna also was interested in "novelty" or new phenomena, which the article also discusses as an aspect of information theory. Basically the Universe favors surprises & additive or cumulative information. Nassim Haramein has also been exploring the possibility of unifying our view of physics through the organizational patterns of sacred geometry, and he has proposed the theory that ALL information in the Universe is stored at EVERY point in the field. It is a fractal, holographic storage system built into the fabric of reality itself.
Ultimately, these are all just labels and primitive attempts at our monkey mind to grasp the infinite expanse & depth of our world. However, by thinking about these things and better understanding this miraculous existence we inhabit, we actually fulfill our purpose. We ARE the Universe itself, learning & cycling back information into a feedback loop that informs every aspect of reality. We are at the same time a tiny piece, yet an integral part of the whole.
I saw this cool concept for a Star Wars character on r/ImaginaryJedi and it got me thinking...
How awesome would a story line in the new movies have been where the main antagonist was an A.I. like this- who could somehow wield the Force, or simulate it? What kind of interesting dynamics could have been explored if there was a dichotomy established between cybernetic intelligence vs. organic life?
In the artist's page for this rendering, he talks about this being from an alternate timeline, where the Separatist Droid Army prevails and eventually leads to artificial intelligence that can manipulate The Force: "Some alternate history path lead to the early death of Darth Sidious
(possibly at the hands of Mace Windu) before the infamous order 66. Then
the separatist suddenly came with a new AI development in superior
tactical droids. But something didn't went as plan. And then the AI took
over and began the systematically eradication of all organic life in
the galaxy. In response the fallen Republic built a response, another
type of new AI that could replicate "the force" in synthetic ways. Like
manipulation of gravity, magnetism, anti-matter, photon particles, etc."
How would a human (or any other sentient, biological species) address the threat coming from a computerized or robotic being that had a cold, calculating decision to destroy all life? Perhaps it isn't even a single being. Maybe there is a hive mind or collective intelligence in which the droid is just a vehicle for a digital cloud consciousness.
There are so many mind-bending possibilities, and to some extent some ideas have already been explored in other media, such as Marvel's Ultron storylines, Mass Effect games and many others. The complex relationship between human & machine is always a very relevant topic. So why didn't Star Wars go this route in the new trilogy?
I've been waiting to write this post, & thinking about level to which this single illustration intrigued me. So, to be honest, it made me realize just how un-creative the new trilogy has been when you really consider it. This is coming from a lifelong Star Wars fan, who credits these movies with heavily influencing my outlooks & perspectives on many aspects of life. I've written reviews for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and I truly enjoyed them for what they are. However, they have serious flaws and the stories are pretty unimaginative after seeing how they are unfolding so far.
For instance, instead of something compelling like The Droid Emperor, we got Supreme Leader Snoke, whose enigmatic potential was literally cut down unceremoniously by his apprentice Kylo Ren in Episode 8. As I explained before, I understand the attempt to have a contrast between Snoke & Luke's worldly exits, but it seems like there was so much left hanging or completely untouched there. When I got my first glimpses of him in the gold robes, I thought there would be some study of him as the conniving ultra-capitalist or social elitist, with opulent gold or decorative surroundings. It would have been a great contrast to Luke's simple hermetic existence.
Nope, we got him sitting in The Emperor's Throne Room 2.0, with the exact same techno-bland "Imperial" color scheme (with some more red). Again, I understand echoing aspects of the movies or creating rhythmic patterns in visuals or storytelling, but it doesn't seem like any real conceptual risks were taken. Before Episode 7 & the first look at Snoke's hologram, I remember seeing concepts for him that looked like a snake-like alien. That would have been so much more terrifying and compelling than a disfigured old humanoid:
Which also reminds me of the overall lack of cool aliens in these movies, either new or from existing species. As someone said in a comment thread- There is a casino planet... but no Hutts are around? The crazy, yet familiar aliens are one of the main factors that define Star Wars. They were mostly absent from The Last Jedi. This, and the lack of interesting locations, led to Episode 8 feeling shallow and not very rich in world building.
In addition to a more alien Snoke or a robotic villain, what if they drew from the Legends material & had an extra-galactic alien threat like the Yuuzhan Vong that invaded the Republic? ...Nah! Lets just have The Galactic Empire 2.0... I mean, The First Order, somehow running the galaxy again despite being comically inept. Then the Republic reverts back into the Rebellion & we're back where we started in A New Hope. Again, this is all simply a lack of imagination.
Probably the best part of The Last Jedi was the revelation of Luke's Force projection power & transcendence into the equivalent of a light body. Unfortunately, there was way less focus on Force training (both light & dark) than I had hoped. There is so much metaphysical depth to be examined, but it seems like The Last Jedi sacrificed this potential for inane side plots and nonsensical space chases.
My final complaint is how Luke was handled. I didn't mind that he exiled himself to an island on a remote planet. The fact that it was the location of the first Jedi temple made it interesting. The absurd part is that Luke "cut himself off" from The Force while in exile. This is so dumb. How can you even do that? It's like saying, I cut myself off from the quantum field. Even worse, he proceeds to teach Rey about The Force. Why would he share that knowledge if he didn't want to be connected to it? It would have been much cooler to see Luke as a wise (but still hardened) old master who sought solitude to deepen his connection with the Force and achieve understanding- not act like it doesn't exist! On a more positive note, they did do the right thing by making him win by not actually fighting at all in the final battle, a very Taoist approach to his showdown with his nephew.
Ok, so those are my rants, inspired by the excellent & imaginative concept art at the top of the post. I still love the Star Wars movies and I'm hoping that the conclusion of the Trilogy of Trilogies in Episode 9 is satisfying. It should tie up loose ends and encompass the entire saga. It is a tall order based on what has been produced so far in the new series, but there are definitely ways to bring this epic story to a fitting ending. We'll see what Disney & Lucasfilm deliver...
I saw this awesome oil painting of Boba Fett on r/imaginaryjedi & loved the perspective. The reflection in his faceplate shows Darth Vader confronting Han Solo, Chewbacca, & Leia after Lando Calrissian leads them into Vader's trap at Cloud City.
Boba Fett, was one of the cooler Star Wars characters, especially before the prequels demystified his background. The persona of a enigmatic, bad-ass bounty hunter in weapon-covered armor was a great addition to the series.
The artist is Christian Waggoner, and the original title isn't quite accurate, but it doesn't take away from the quality of this image.
During the Secret Wars series in the 1980's, Spider-Man acquired a black suit with special powers, like enhanced speed & strength, unlimited webbing, and being able to shape-shift into any clothing. It also just looked awesome. However, it turned out that the "suit" was actually alive, a symbiotic alien life form that had merged with Peter Parker.
He tries to separate from the symbiote, using sonic waves that disrupt the alien. The alien then finds Eddie Brock, a down & out reporter who is ready to commit suicide. The symbiote bonds with Brock, and takes on his aggressive and violent personality. The merged pair becomes the terrifying creature known as Venom, one of Spider-Man's most powerful enemies and a great villain character.
Anyway, the Venom character has been done in movies before, in Spider-Man 3, but the full Venom appeared only briefly and was handled in a pretty lame way. With many years and more advanced CGI since then, this iteration of Venom looks pretty good, and hopefully the character gets more screen time.
Unfortunately, as is the situation with certain superhero movies, the involvement & ownership of these properties by different studios leads to results that do not do the characters or their stories justice. It appears that, because this is a Sony movie and not a Marvel production, Spider-Man will not be a part of this movie, which is idiotic. Venom's origin story IS Spider-Man, so to not include him would be like having a Joker movie with no Batman.
I'm pretty critical of movies in general, especially when it comes to characters that I am very familiar with & like. Sometimes, I wish I could be a consultant for these types of movies to tell everyone how things should be done. When I read other people's opinions online, most people complain about the same things I criticize. Perhaps one day there will be a proper movie with Spider-Man vs. Venom that is true to the original story. Until then, I won't bother seeing this in the theater, but may see it eventually if it seems to get good reviews.
People set up this strange dichotomy in their heads- where killing by a certain group & methods is wrong- but killing by their group using "officially sanctioned" methods (even that which results in collateral damage) is justified.
It's all the same destruction of human life, and especially when non-combatants are murdered, military action can be just as barbaric as the actions of any terrorist group. People who are cheerleaders for war are blinded by patriotic emotion that prevents them from seeing others in foreign lands as fellow living beings.
The detachment of humans from killing other humans, through technology such as drones & smart missiles, is an extremely dangerous situation. It allows for the murder of anyone, with the personal responsibility of no one. This is why so many people are arguing against the implementation of AI and autonomous robots in combat. This terrifying possibilities of this concept is illustrated in the fictional (for now) Slaughterbots video below:
This desensitization of war's effects, leading to the justification for state-sanctioned death of innocent people, is one of the main catalysts for terrorism in the first place. We kill innocents while trying to get the "bad guys", so they kill innocents... and the cycle of revenge never stops.
The only people who benefit from this endless destruction are those who are profiting from it, through the creation & utilization of weapons- the "military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower presciently warned us about at 8:41 in the video below.
I saw this tiny beetle crawling on my desk & wanted to see how detailed of an image I could get of it. When I say tiny, I mean it was smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen! To illustrate the size, I took a few "zoom-out" photos, showing it in relation to a pen. The macro lens magnified it so well, I was able to see its head & the camo-like pattern on it's back.