Friday, November 21, 2014

Life in Thermal Vision

This is a cool video I saw on Neatorama, showing various everyday activities, as seen through "thermal vision" similar to the alien in The Predator movies.

The camera picks up energy in the infrared wavelength. This energy isn't in our range of visible light (which is a tiny slice of the overall electromagnetic spectrum), but we perceive it as heat.

There is some NSFW material in the video, but it's an interesting look at the energetic information all around us, that we cannot perceive. Using technology, we will be able to experience more of these aspects of reality that are currently hidden from us.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

RIP, Creator of "Choose Your Own Adventure"

I recently found out that the R.A. Montgomery, creator of the interactive book series, "Choose Your Own Adventure" passed away.

Hearing this news brought back memories of my years in elementary school, when I used to love reading any of these books I could get in our school library.

The "Choose Your Own Adventure" series was a novel approach to the medium of printed books. At frequent points throughout the story, you could choose different paths by turning to different pages for various decisions regarding the plot.

I would often 'cheat' while reading a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, by skimming ahead through the thread of pages for a certain choice, to see what the eventual outcome would be. However, I still enjoyed reading through the story to see where my decisions would lead me.

These books were innovative & inspired a generation of young readers. It was a truly memorable series with imaginative themes. "Choose Your Own Adventure" helped shaped my young mind with a sense of creativity & awareness of the importance of choice.

Hopefully this isn't in bad taste, but the news of the creator's death also reminded me of this humorous, but accurate, parody cover-  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Translating Client-Speak

I saw this funny graphic on Lifehacker that attempts to clarify the vague instructions that graphic artists (like myself) sometimes get from clients.

One of the little-known requirements of any graphic arts career is that of being a mind-reader! You have to intuitively be able to understand what your clients are trying to convey to you. Sometimes this is actually the most difficult part of the job, since you cannot progress on a project without figuring out what the client really wants...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rosetta Probe Lands on Comet

click to enlarge

For the first time, the human race has landed a space probe... on a comet!

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

The mission was actually launched 10 years ago & the lander finally touched down today.
Thanks to brilliant scientists & engineers, we have made contact with a 3-mile wide comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, that orbits our sun. 

This event will open the door to deep-space mining & other technologies that will eventually allow us to travel to other planets & stars.
The animation below shows the circuitous route the Rosetta probe had to take to get to the comet. It used planetary gravity to save energy & went into hibernation for a couple years as it approached it's target. The planning & understanding of orbital mechanics that went into this is mind-blowing.

Dangerous Toys

This is an interesting list of toys that were not very safe for the kids playing with them:

Many of the toys on this list were mostly dangerous only if the child or parent were irresponsible. Some, however, had serious defects that could cause injury.

Out of these toys, the only ones I had as a kid was a science lab (without the uranium), cap guns, & a Pogo Bal (Yes, I checked, it's spelled "Bal"). The Pogo Bal was basically just something for kids to jump around on. It wasn't really that dangerous... unless you were very uncoordinated.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

First Glimpse of the Seas of Titan

Space is one of those subjects that I loved as a child, but have even more appreciation for as an adult.

The thought of infinite stars, and worlds of endless variety, puts our own lives sharply in perspective.

I think science fiction, whether it be books, TV, or video games, has greatly contributed to the imagination of what lies beyond our own planet. I'm playing Mass Effect 3 right now, to finish one of the most amazing fictional series that I've experienced, in any medium. These works of art help us envision humanity's place in the galaxy, and to imagine the many worlds and forms of life that may exist throughout the Universe.

When I saw this picture on Neatorama of Saturn's moon, Titan, it immediately instilled that sense of wonder from seeing a new world & imagining the human experience of being there, in person.

The image, taken in the infrared wavelength, shows the sunlight reflecting off Titan's polar seas, which are mostly liquid methane & ethane.

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

I can imagine myself floating in a capsule over this alien ocean & taking in the sight of the environment of another world. Who knows what amazing environments exist on other planets & moons? I wonder how many of these will one day be seen by humans eyes...

Here is a 3D visualization of the surface of Titan, by artist Steven Hobbs:

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Hindus Propose Monkey God Statue in State Capitol

Despite the power shift in the elections on Tuesday, it's good to know that politics in the USA is as crazy as ever.

On BoingBoing, I saw this humorous example of the right-wing's sense of religious entitlement backfiring on them.

The "monkey god" statue is that of Hanuman, the ape-faced Hindu deity who I used as an avatar for this blog for awhile.

Christian lawmakers, in Republican-controlled Oklahoma, wanted the 10 Commandments to be placed on the grounds of the state capitol. Therefore, they passed a law allowing religious displays on public property. Since the state constitution declares that all religions should be treated with the same respect, religious groups such as Satanists & now the Hindus are petitioning to add their memorials to the capitol grounds.

This is a perfect example of the perils of choosing ideologically-driven fundamentalists to govern, using their personal beliefs (instead of common sense & logic) as a guide. They tend to think of personal & religious freedom as the "freedom to do things that we agree with." They want these freedoms for themselves, but will resist others expressing their own beliefs.

The idea of religious freedom, that this country was founded upon, means everyone being able to believe & worship as they choose, uninhibited by the government. However, this principle of religious freedom also means not having any one religion favored by the government. Unfortunately, hard-right conservatives prove time & time again that they can't deal with the idea of people thinking & living differently than them.

For some reason, when I subject myself to FoxNation or other insane right-wing message boards, I always see people frothing at the mouth at how "liberals" are so intolerant. This is the ultimate form of projection, as it is the rigidity of conservatism that is antithetical to the tolerance of other viewpoints & perspectives. True liberals/progressives may think your beliefs are ridiculous, but would not usually try to ban you from expressing it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Election Day 2014

Yesterday was Election Day, and it looks like the Republican party has gained seats in the Senate, to take control of Congress.

CBS News:

I am registered as an Independent & have no love for either political party, but I tend to see the GOP as a more regressive force in modern national politics. This is because their ideology is openly anti-government, so their agenda usually involves making government worse instead of better, while pushing to privatize public services.

Despite the fact that Republicans in the House & Senate have caused much of the political gridlock in DC over the past cycle, the voters mostly place the blame on President Obama & the Democrats for the nation's problems.

I can understand people wanting to change the dynamics of the government if things aren't working. What I cannot understand is how voters can keep re-electing people that are as repulsive as human/turtle/asshole hybrid Mitch McConnell, who has stood for nothing except opposing the President on all matters & enriching his wealthy donors. There are sleazy Democrats, too, but the fact that voters re-elect people like McConnell just boggles my mind.

Because it has the highest ratings out of the entire cable news cesspool, there is no doubt that Fox News (aka. 'The Mainstream Media') has affected the perceptions & opinions of America's voters. I hear people's arguments against the President & for the GOP, and it's clear they are just regurgitating talking points from the right-wing Fox spin machine.

It's funny seeing conservatives think there's going to be some kind of "American revival" now. If anything, the next 2 years are just going to be a bigger shitshow than ever. It's going to be gridlock on steroids.

Republicans love to bitch & complain about how 'progressives' and 'socialists' are ruining the country, but they are completely incapable of creating meaningful legislation that helps the general population. The public is about to see the conservative agenda in action, and it won't be pretty.

I'm sure we'll be seeing Republican bills being sent to the President that:

• further deregulate corporate & financial entities
• roll back environmental laws
• give tax cuts to the wealthiest businesses & individuals
• restrict women's reproductive health choices
• inhibit access to voting
• eliminate social programs
• any other stupid, regressive ideas that form the GOP wish list

We'll have to see just how bad things get over the next couple years, until the next election.

Until then, I'll just be continuing to live my life and trying to do my part to make the world better.

I still stand by my progressive outlook on politics & the perspective of this graphic I made awhile back, showing the "Political Spectrum":

Friday, October 31, 2014

Rosetta Comet in Scale with an Airplane

I've posted before about the Rosetta space probe, that is in the process of making a rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

The fact that we can send spacecraft to land on a comet that's approaching our Sun is nothing short of amazing.

I am very aware of the vast cosmic distances in the Universe, but I still find the size of the comet to be mind-boggling. 

When you think of a comet, you probably imagine a big boulder floating through space. However, at 2.5 miles across, this is a pretty big object. Of course, I'm speaking in terms of scale to us tiny humans. In a cosmic scale, it's a piece of dust.

To give a better perspective on the size of the comet, Reddit user grouchymcsurly placed a 747 jet into some of the pictures, at the correct scale.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Game Review: Dead Space 3

 I played the first 2 installments of this series & reviewed the original Dead Space. These games are 3rd person shooters with a sci-fi horror survival theme.

The first Dead Space blew me away with the sense of fear and dread it instilled, as you tried to survive onslaughts of Necromorphs in creepy abandoned space stations & ships. The second one wasn't as good, but Dead Space 3 brought back alot of the impact I felt in the original.

Although there were excellent sequences in space & zero gravity, much of the story takes place on the ice planet Tau Volantis. This is the planet of origin for the alien "markers" that featured in the series. These markers are covered in strange glyphs and have been found scattered throughout the galaxy. They drive people mad, turning them into marker-worshiping zealots, & also revive dead bodies into the zombie-like Necromorphs. 

Although the frozen setting, with abandoned human settlements & research areas, makes for an effectively claustrophobic environment for Necromorphs to jump out at you, I preferred the settings that took place in outer space. However, there was a sufficient variety in the environments that I never felt that the scenery was visually boring.

The game's strongest point is it's core feature- the survival horror aspect of the gameplay that continuously keeps you on the edge of your seat & ready to scream out expletives. Even when I knew the hideous, relentless creatures were coming, I still freaked out with anticipation at the inevitable vicious attacks. Most of the time, the Necromorphs would unexpectedly come from all angles as I would frantically try to use whatever weapons I had on hand to simply survive the encounter.

While I'm talking about the weapons, I'll mention the creative weapon crafting system in the game. Throughout the campaign, you collect various components such as frames, the actual weapons components, and attachments to customize your weapons in an endless variety of combinations. For example, you can have a gun that fires electrified bolas, with a secondary buzzsaw attached ...or you can have a shotgun, with a secondary rocket launcher. There are many possibilities, which gives you alot of freedom in coming up with weapons that you think will be most effective against the creatures. The only downside is that I found myself spending too much time tinkering with the weapons & having trouble deciding which ones to use.

There were a few select weapons that I used frequently, since the waves of Necromorphs could be so furious & overwhelming that I needed firepower that I knew could take them out quickly. There were only brief moments where I felt that I could relax & there were not going to be any monsters popping out at me.

Besides the unpredictable appearance of the enemies, the mood was mostly set by the visual effect of the environments & the unnerving sounds coming from dark corners or unseen places. Dark areas with flickering lights and strange screeches coming from nearby areas where enough to keep me on edge throughout the game. My only complaint about the sound was that there was too much background music. In the original game, the anxiety was enhanced by the silence of your surroundings, except for your breathing and unsettling ambient noises. I feel like having dramatic soundtracks in certain areas was unnecessary & didn't have the same effect as an uneasy quiet.

 The actual story, following the protagonist Isaac Clarke & the alien markers, was pretty interesting. It raises many questions, for example- Do we really want to have contact with otherworldly intelligences? What if they are hostile, or simply want to use human beings as food or pawns to manipulate for its own ends? What is so special about the individual consciousness versus a hive-mind, devoid of beings with a sense of self? Even if we discovered it, would humans know how to use & interpret alien knowledge or technology? What is love, and does it mean anything outside the people who experience it? Yes, there is a love story & human emotions involved...

Overall, I enjoyed Dead Space 3 & definitely recommend it, if you'd like a games that provides continual adrenaline rushes, due to the fear of being destroyed by undead space creatures.

• The Monkey Buddha's official rating: 7.5

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Closer Look at the Brain

Anatomy is a subject that becomes more amazing as you learn more about it. The brain is especially interesting, since it is the seat of our conscious mind and our sense of being.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

I've come across some information online that provides some deeper understanding about this vital organ & its cells.

This video from New Scientist shows the firing patterns of the individual brain cells, the neurons:

 On BoingBoing, I saw this diagram of various neural cell types:

Finally, this video might not be for the squeamish, but it shows the gross anatomy of an actual brain from a medical donor. The fact that our experience is processed through this soft, wrinkled mass that fits inside our skull is, well... mind-boggling.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Small World" Photomicrography

I am endlessly fascinated by the complex world of which I am a part.

There are infinite continuous levels of reality- from the spectrum of the cosmic phenomena of the very large, to the tiny features below our threshold of perception.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

With advances in technology & photographic techniques, it is now possible to visually experience things that have never been able to be seen before.

On this isn't happiness, I saw some awe-inspiring photos from Nikon's photography competition that focuses on microscopic phenomena.


 The website has galleries of entries going back a few decades.

Here are a few of my favorite images from this year's competition:

Conochilus unicornis (rotifer), actively feeding. (Charles Krebs, Washington, USA) 
Ceriodaphnia sp. (water flea). (Rogelio Moreno, Panama)
 Paramecium division. (Arturo Agostino, Italy)
 Ant eye. (Noah Fram-Schwartz, Connecticut, USA)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Stars Warsiors" Bootleg Toys

A couple of my favorite topics, that I've posted about many times here, are bad design & Star Wars.

In my travels through the Internet, I came across a ridiculous pairing of these two favorite things, in the form of a set of bootleg toys called "Stars Warsiors".

I tracked the source down, to the website of illustrator Brad McGinty, who claims he found them in a dollar store... but I'm not sure I believe it.

I want to think these are a subversive art project, & that no manufacturer could actually produce something this absurd.

On his blog, he had pictures of these insanely bad toy knock-offs & created a Star Warsiors T-shirt.

Paper Pusher

Here are the hilariously-named figures, in their equally crappy packaging:

Door Ladder

Karate Farmer

And my favorite...
Wise Puppet

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Simpsons Universe Zoom

This is an awesome looping animated GIF, made from one of the opening sequences from The Simpsons.
It playfully suggest the infinite, fractal nature of our own Universe.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"The Monkey Buddha" on Facebook

 I've started a Facebook page for The Monkey Buddha blog.

If you are on Facebook, please 'Like' the page, to get the latest posts in your Newsfeed.

I'll also put a link on my profile info, on the side of this page.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Civilization: Beyond Earth" Trailer

 I used to play the original "Civilization" game when I was a kid. You used strategy & resource allocation to build up cities and control areas of a map. It was very addicting & was a fun way to simulate the evolution of nation states.

A few years ago I bought my brother Civ IV for his birthday, since he also used to love the game when we were younger. Even though the core gameplay was similar, the graphics were light years better & the game was much more sophisticated, overall. He says he's spent many hours building nations & empires, so apparently it's just as engrossing as the original.

I recently saw a trailer for the latest installment of the series created by Sid Meier. This game moves off our home planet, among the stars.

The trailer for the new Civilization is cinematic & doesn't show any of the gameplay. However, it is a thought-provoking look at man's destiny to leave the planetary womb of Earth, to find other inhabitable worlds throughout the infinite expanse of interstellar space.

I've posted here many times about the importance on space travel for the survival of the human species.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

Besides the technological hurdles that must be overcome, we tend to forget the emotional dimension that will inevitably accompany humanity's migration off-planet. The trailer very effectively conveyed the deep emotional experience that will be felt by our descendants when this journey begins. It also shows the influence of ancient institutions, such as religion & politics, will have on the endeavor.

Ultimately, human beings must break out of this tiny speck in the Universe if we are to continue our genetic & memetic evolution. If we have a destiny, it is among the stars. The time to start reaching for them is now...

The Monkey Buddha:

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Greatest (Worst) Optical Illusions

• Did you stare at the picture above for 5 minutes, looking for the shark?

• Does the inability to see the number "82," in the picture below, upset you?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you fell for some of the world's worst optical illusions!

I saw these, and some other hilariously fake optical illusions, here:

Sad &Useless

To make up for those trick illusions, here is a cool video by Young Rival that is a motion stereograph. When you re-focus your eyes, as shown in the beginning of the video, a 3D image appears within the seemingly random visual noise. These autostereogram images were popularized in the 90's, in Magic Eye posters & books.

Young Rival also made this entertaining video that I came across awhile back, featuring the amazing face-painting skills of James Kuhn:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meditating on Death & Impermanence

I've posted this picture before, but found a better quality image. It is a picture of an enlightened being meditating on Death.

"Of All Mindfulness Meditations, 
That on Impermanence and Death 
is Supreme."

Although it seems macabre to think about dying, I deeply love Life & the incomprehensible miracle of being alive. One thing that keeps me fully aware and appreciative of the experience of living is the awareness of my own mortality.

The realization that, one day, I will no longer be in this world helps me to live with a greater sense of immediacy in the present moment.

The Buddha taught that meditating on the inevitable death, decay, & dissolution of one's own body was a way to overcome the ego & delusional sense of "self" that is an illusion of our limited perceptions.

Only by accepting and contemplating the idea that our bodies will soon cease to exist, can we overcome the fear of death and truly awaken to the rare treasure of being alive.

“This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. 

To watch the birth and death of beings 
is like looking at the movements of a dance. 
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.” 

-Guatama Buddha

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Ape Brain & Risk

On Boingboing I saw this funny & accurate comic, from the Tom the Dancing Bug strip by Ruben Bolling.

It looks at how the primitive monkey mind of a human being evaluates the risks associated with different threats.

People tend to conveniently ignore overwhelmingly evident dangers- such as those presented by climate change, or disease due to poor diet & lack of exercise.

However, mention the statistically-unlikely threats of terrorists or the ebola virus, and people go, well, ape shit...

The fake Daily Mail headline below is also funny & relevant. This is how anyone with a certain level of awareness sees the news media, which grabs our attention by blatantly appealing to the primitive fear & conflict responses in the brain:

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Oculus Rift & Virtual Space

I've been closely following the development of the Oculus Rift, the virtual reality hardware at the forefront of popular VR technology.

I'm looking forward to experiencing the Oculus one day, but it should be clear to anyone that the possibilities of immersive VR are limitless.

Far from being a useless or escapist distraction from the "real" world, virtual reality is simply a new way to receive novel information & sensory input. It's no different than a movie, TV, a book, fine art, or any other human creation that can stimulate our minds.

Video games are a primitive form of virtual reality, in which you are able to explore situations & worlds that exist only in the human imagination, both individual & collective. Although I like to exist in the physical world, I've always enjoyed video games. They are almost an 'alternate consciousness' consisting of explorations into engaging scenarios & mental states.

By synergizing our brains with electronic media (or other future tech that we can't imagine), perhaps we will eventually create parallel streams of experience. We might also be able to fractalize our minds, creating numerous embedded levels of simultaneous thought.

Below are a few Oculus Rift applications that I think are especially cool-looking. Some of them deal with one of my favorite topics, and the source of humanity's future in the Universe, ...Outer Space.

Being a huge Star Wars fan, the idea of using lightsabers in virtual reality is immediately appealing. This demo looks pretty awesome:

The movie "Interstellar" is using a virtual trip into space as part of their marketing efforts:

Here's a look at some of the latest Oculus Rift software, which shows the vast possibilities inherent in this medium:

I think it's interesting how there are video games in some of these virtual worlds... games within games, realities within realities. Its similar to the idea of fractally embedded consciousness I mentioned before.

Finally, here's a very funny video, showing the reaction of a Ugandan security guard who loses himself within the Oculus VR:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Emoticons, Emoji, & Visual Communication

In my last post, I talked about the merging of mind & machine, which could result in the evolution of visually telepathic communication.

In fact, this is already occurring, through the increasing use of graphic elements in our day-to-day digital interactions. People use pictures in email, many posts on social media are basically images or video, and text messages are now reliant on emoticons or emoji to accompany their words.

Emoticons are traditional type characters used to create a simple graphic. The most basic & common are the smiley face :) and sad face:( which instantly let the reader know if there's positive or negative connotation to a message. Emoticons can add much-needed emphasis or emotional expression to a message. I saw this video outlining the history of emoticons on Neatorama:

Emoji are a relatively newer phenomenon that originated in Japan, meaning "picture character". They are pictographs that are used in smartphone texts or social media. Unlike emoticons, that rely on existing typefaces, emoji can represent a limitless array of objects & ideas.

Ever since I got an iPhone, I've been using emoji in many of my text messages. I use them mostly when communicating with people I'm close to, in order to convey how I'm feeling, humorous ideas, or just to have fun & make combos of emoji to try to create a mini narrative without using any words at all.

Gawker recently had fun with the idea of telling a story using emoji, by creating headlines for a fake newspaper, The Emoji Tatler:

The ability to convey ideas through pictographs is undoubtedly leading us to a much deeper system of symbolic language.

I think there will be eventually be communication that we can't even conceive right now. Expanded perceptual abilities will lead to directly-shared experiences and conceptual constructs between interconnected, electronically-augmented minds.

Originally, the funny picture below, that I saw awhile back, led me to writing this post. The graphic asks if we're about to come full circle, by mirroring the use of pictorial Egyptian Hieroglyphs through emoji & picture-based language:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Fusion of Mind & Machine

Technology has always been one of my favorite topics. Although, I consider myself to be deeply connected to nature, I am also comfortable with the many powerful uses of computers & the Internet. 

Many people are afraid of the relentless progression of technological development, and worry about the potential loss of "human-ness" that will result from our dependence on tech. I see all technology simply as a set of tools- with the potential for good, bad, & even neutral, consequences.

Humans have always had an integral, & often dependent, relationship with our inventions. There have been countless mind-augmenting technologies over the millenia, in the realm of communication. Spoken language, written symbols, the printing press, and the World Wide Web are all creations that have allowed the human mind to better connect with other minds.

Email, text messaging, social media, and other electronic systems are slightly more advanced steps toward a form of technological telepathy. The fundamental goal of a human being, in relation to other beings, is simply to connect. What digital devices are allowing us to do is make these connections in increasingly novel ways, at instantaneous speeds.


Right now, there is a Occupy Central protest in Hong Kong, advocating for representational democracy. The protesters are using the FireChat app to bypass the Internet & cell coverage, allowing peer-to-peer "mesh networking". This type of connection is extremely difficult for authorities to stop, since it is not reliant on a central or common network that can be blocked.

This demonstrates that technology is a source of evolution, that is every bit as real as biological mutation. Technology is a transformative aspect of the human experience- adapting & changing to fit the situation, and much more rapidly than natural selection.

As much as I truly appreciate the many positive uses for digital tech, there are just as many potentially hazardous outcomes. Unfortunately, I don't think humans will outgrow their capacity for maliciousness & desire for control of others before this technology develops.

In addition to humanity's flaws, perhaps the machines themselves could be a subtly invasive force. Sometimes I imagine electronics as silicone creatures, that are evolving to latch on closer & closer to humans, trying to merge into us like some kind of parasite. Computers are getting smaller, and moving closer to our bodies, via smartphones & wearable devices. Eventually, they will be embedded in our brains and incorporated directly into our biological systems. Then, we will become as dependent on the benefits of our iThink brain implant as we are on our mobile devices today.

If this ultimate symbiosis between mind & machine happens, could it be a source of cognitive liberation, through limitless mind-expansion,... or a virtual trap for our consciousness?

Earth. We are One:

Regardless of the possible consequences, both science & the technologies it produces will continue to ceaselessly advance. This year, scientists have achieved direct brain-to-brain communication, so the era of truly interlinked minds is rapidly approaching. Then, perhaps instead of sending clumsy symbolic communications such as text or even the primitive monkey grunts of our voice, humans will be able to directly share thoughts among minds.

As the late, great philosopher and psychonaut Terence McKenna said,
"It is not what we thought telepathy would be, 
which, I suppose (if you're like me) 
you imagine telepathy would be hearing what other people think... 
It isn't that. 
It's seeing what other people mean."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Monkey God Gets an Identity Card

I saw this funny story about a biometric identity card that has been issues in India to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god.


Hanuman is a revered character in the Indian mythological pantheon. I used imagery of Hanuman in my early depictions of The Monkey Buddha, for this blog.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Unmasking the Ape

I saw this funny image on fusion anomalog.

If someone were to try to un-mask The Monkey Buddha, a similar situation would occur. Underneath my "human" face, I am actually just a clever primate.

I did a Google image search & found an image of the full cover, from Strange Adventures Vol. 1, #55

Monday, September 22, 2014

Game Review: Assassin's Creed 3

 I've recently finished another installment of one of my favorite video game series, Assassin's Creed.

Assassin's Creed III is another virtual trip back in time to another era in history. Unlike the previous 3 Assassin's Creed titles, which took place in the "Old World" mainly in Renaissance Italy & Constantinople, this game is set in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.

You still are playing as Desmond Miles, a modern day Assassin who can virtually tap into his ancestral memories, using Animus technology that unlocks past experiences from the information in one's DNA. The game is basically a virtual reality simulation, experienced by the virtual character within the video game itself. Virtuality within virtuality...

The enigmatic "First Civilization" still plays a role in the series, as a society of advanced humanoids who were destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of solar energy, many thousands of years ago. Their holographic personalities remain embedded in certain locations, to guide the human race toward preventing another mass extinction event like the one they experienced. There are various technological artifacts they left behind, "Pieces of Eden", which grant the user extraordinary powers. The historical conflict between the Templars & the Assassins is a race to find these powerful devices, in order to use them to further their own agendas.

I think this series should really be called "Time Traveler", because the amount of detail put into recreating the look & feel of each time period is nothing less than astounding. My biggest complaint about the game is that I personally find colonial America to be an incredibly dreary time period. Even though there were many pivotal historical event going on, the architecture, dress, and lifestyles of the day were dull & uninspiring.

Despite my personal lack of enthusiasm for the time period, the Ubisoft team did an extraordinary job of capturing the feel of America's early days. You get to experience first-hand the major events of the Revolution- The Boston Massacre, Paul Revere's ride, Lexington & Concord, and The Boston Tea Party.

There are also many locations recreated with meticulous detail- such as, colonial Boston with the famous Green Dragon Inn where the Revolution was planned, British-occupied New York City, the encampment at Valley Forge, and several British forts. There is also an expansive wilderness with seemingly endless areas of forest, streams, mountainous terrain, and wildlife that can be hunted to use for trade items.

The wilderness is also the location of a Native American village, which is the home to the main character, Connor. His real name is Ratonhnhaké:ton, and is half-European & half-Iroquois. He got the name Connor from the old Assassin, Achilles, who trained him at the Davenport Homestead- which becomes like a home base during the game.

You actually start out playing the game as Connor's father Haytham Kenway, a British Templar. As Haytham, you travel by sailing ship to America, to start the journey that will lead to Conner's birth and eventually reunite father & son later in the game. The way in which the game has you travel to the colonies by ship & makes you feel like you are en route to the new land is a very immersive way to introduce the game.

Besides the main characters, you also interact with some of the famous figures in early American history- including a raunchy Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, Marquis de Lafayette, and even George Washington, who is shown as the powerfully charismatic (yet flawed) human being he undoubtedly was in real life.

The gameplay is very much in the tradition of the other AC games, with stealth elements, easier free-running (with the ability to travel through the treetops), an array of weapons from the period including the customary Assassin's blade, and improved combat mechanics- which makes taking on large groups of enemies very fluid.

There is also the added element of naval missions, in which you take the wheel of a large sailing ship to steer it and direct cannons at enemy vessels. At first I wasn't too impressed with the naval aspect, but as I played through more of the missions I really got into captaining the ship & sailing into the intense battles at sea.

The main campaign of the game is characteristically expansive. Due the limited amount of time I devote to video games nowadays, it took me a couple months of sporadic playing to complete the main sequences. Unfortunately, instead of feeling a sense of wonder at exploring, as in Renaissance Rome & other locations like in previous episodes, I mostly wanted to just get through this game & finish it- so I could get the hell out of the dismal Colonial experience.

This was probably my least favorite Assassin's Creed so far, for the reasons I stated above, but that doesn't take away from the monumental achievement that the production of this game represents. If you want to get a taste of the events & life in America during the Revolutionary War, there is no better way than Assassin's Creed 3.

• Official Monkey Buddha Rating: 8.0

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Size Comparison of Science Fiction Spacecraft

In my last post, I explored the unimaginably vast distances of outer space. The question facing us mere mortals is, "How do we travel across these seemingly impossible distances?"

In the past I've posted the awesome charts, made by DeviantART user DirkLoechel, that compare the size of fictional spacecraft from a wide number of sources- such as the popular movies Star Wars & Star Trek, and video games such as Starcraft & one of my favorite games, Mass Effect

On Gizmodo, I saw (what he claims to be) the last update to this awe-inspiring collection of fictional space vehicles. They include ships of mind-boggling size, up to 24,000 meters, or almost 15 miles long! The beauty of building in space is that there really is no size limitation due to gravity fields or restrictions on the area that a vessel can take up.

by DirkLoechel

(click for larger image)