Tuesday, February 18, 2020

CGI Challenge with Beeple


I have posted about CGI artist Mike Winkelmann, aka "Beeple" who completely confounds my mind with his abilities and productivity.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

Beeple has made a piece of computer art every single day for over a decade. The amazing thing is that it is rarely crap, & in fact, his work is usually pretty awesome. His everyday images range from sublime, to technically impressive, to completely sick & twisted. Along with Alex Grey, he is one of my favorite contemporary artists.

This video lets us see Beeple in action, and he is like an insanely talented Bill Gates with a sailor mouth.




Monday, February 10, 2020

The Flower of Life in "Assassin's Creed: Origins"

I am currently playing "Assassin's Creed: Origins" and it is a virtual journey through time that is taking me months, at the rate I play video games nowadays. Having played most of the other titles in the Assassin's Creed series, this one is just as amazing. Because I have so little time to spend gaming, I only choose titles that I know are going to be worth it.

All of the Assassin's Creed games take place in different time periods, and the level of research and immersion that goes into the stories and visuals just blows my mind. "Origins" takes place in Ptolemaic Egypt, right before the birth of Jesus.

I will give a full review & an album of my in-game snapshots once I finish the main story, but there was a cool tidbit I wanted to share now...

Back in college, I created a strategy game called "Da Vinci's Challenge" that is based on The Flower of Life, an ancient symbol that is part of a system called sacred geometry. This is the study of geometric and mathematical properties that have mystical or profound qualities that hint at the patterns defining reality.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

"Da Vinci's Challenge™" & Flower of Life History


As I was playing Origins, I entered a bathhouse as part of a mission, and began to explore (as I find myself doing in every other part of the game). There were mosaic floors that were part of the intricately detailed decorations in the building. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a section of The Flower of Life pattern was used in the floors of the baths.



Then, I walked into a side chamber to see a more complete Flower of Life symbol, formed in the mosaic floor tiles:




The Flower of Life has been used as decoration throughout history, all around the world.

Flower of Life Artifacts


This kind of attention to detail is what makes these games so damn awesome, and so rewarding to experience.

Stay tuned for the full review! It might be a few months, but I'm sure I'll have plenty to rave about once I'm finished.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Coming Soon: Paul Giuseppe Micarelli



I don't usually post a lot about my personal life here, but I am excited to announce that my wife Loretta & I are planing on having a son, Paul Giuseppe Micarelli!

She is about halfway through the pregnancy right now, at week 22, or 5+ months. Ever since we first started dating, we knew we wanted to have children and and a family. It's something we talked about and planned extensively before and after we got married. It helped that we were both in our 30's & 40's when we started our life together. We both had plenty of life experience, knew what we wanted, and were ready to take the steps to make it happen.

We also believe very much in mindful, spiritual approach to life, hence the brand we formed together called "Conscious Living for YOU".  Conception and our approach to having a child was no different, and we practiced visualization and mindfulness as we attempted to create new life.

Conception happened on the very first try, since I was using an app to track her menstrual cycles. We found out she was pregnant at her mother's Donna's house, after she missed her first period. After she took the test and saw it was positive, I went into the bathroom with her mom her step-dad Steve and we all hugged and celebrated. I told me parents, Paul & Karen, that night, but help off on breaking the news to the rest of my family.

I broke the news to my other family members totally out of the blue. It was at one of my nephew's birthday parties, and I had got done working a Fantasy Photos event and was pretty tired. Loretta wasn't even there, and I had mentioned something about her having a skin rash, but not wanting to take steroids because... Oops!... & I stopped myself. I looked around at everyone, looking back at me confused. My mom was standing right next to me and was the only one that knew. I looked at her, and she made a funny face like "I'm not saying anything!"

Finally, I was just like "Screw it," and told everyone that she was pregnant! They didn't know if I was serious or not, because of the weird way I blurted it out. I assured them I was, in fact, serious, and they proceeded to have a good laugh about it.

Right before Christmas 2019 we finally heard the baby's heartbeat. We both were very emotional and got choked up hearing that our baby was apparently healthy in there. Hearing the quickly beating heart makes it seem so real, it's an indescribable feeling for a parent-to-be.



Then, on New Year's Eve we got bloodwork and genetic testing results back, which were all ok. The nurse told my wife that we could know the gender of the baby, if we wanted. I'm usually very patient, but in this case I absolutely wanted to know and did NOT want to wait any longer for the results. So, Loretta put me on speakerphone with the midwife while I stood outside my work. When she told us it was a boy, I broke down sobbing, after thanking & hanging up with the midwife. My wife asked me, "Are you ok?" over the phone, because she heard me crying uncontrollably. It was truly the happiest moment of my life, besides marrying Loretta, and I felt like my head was spinning all day after getting the news.

I would have been just as happy if I was expecting a daughter, and had names already planned out either way, but we both were hoping for a boy & felt that's what it was going to be. My name is Paul Michael Micarelli, and my father's name is Paul Joseph Micarelli. I wanted to keep the tradition of Paul "___" Micarelli going, and we decided to use Giuseppe, since that was my grandfather's name (Joseph (Giuseppe) Armando Micarelli) and it also honored both my Dad's middle name & her dad Joe.

The most recent step was to see ultrasound imaging of the baby a couple weeks ago. I had never seen ultrasound images in person, and was amazed at the ability to see the sound waves forming pictures phasing through various parts of the baby's body, showing bones, his skull, the beating heart, and the protrusion that suggested, yes, this was definitely a boy! I was also amazed at how much he was moving, watching his arms and legs shifting around in real time. Within the past week, we have finally been able to really feel him kicking around, and you can feel strong movement from the outside of her belly now.

Here is a picture of the profile, with his head to the left looking up, & his hands in front of his face.


Here is a cool image of the top of his head to the left, & the bottom of his feet in the middle.


That weekend, we had a gender reveal party for our immediate families even though we already knew it was a boy. We like to have celebrations, and wanted to share the wonderful news with the people who are closest to us.



Everyone is excited to meet this new human, and he will definitely be a Monkey Buddha Baby. I hope that we can instill wisdom, compassion, and strength into him that will benefit the entire world.

The pregnancy has definitely not been an easy one for Loretta, mostly due to exhaustion (which is unlike her usually active lifestyle) and skin rashes/irritation that has lasted for months despite seeing specialists of all kinds. We joke that it because the psychic powers of the baby are so strong that it is causing her body to go haywire. Realistically, it's probably due to her lifestyle & diet changes, as well as the flood of hormones & biochemical reactions she is dealing with.

We just pray that the baby stays healthy, and is delivered without complications. The one thing I've discovered already is that fear is something to stay constantly vigilant against. The mind can produce endless scenarios about what could go wrong, and one must stay focused in the present so the mind doesn't dwell on the infinite negative possibilities. I continue to be grateful, and appreciate the blessings that I am able to experience. When this child is born, my gratitude will be boundless as I try to lead him toward a long, happy life in this crazy, wonderful world.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Game Review: Star Wars Battlefront II

 
After a several-year hiatus, I have finally gotten back into gaming. My wife got me a PS4 for Christmas because I was always talking about how cool certain games looked. I guess she felt bad that I couldn't enjoy one of my favorite pastimes anymore.

The console came bundled with a few games, but knowing what a huge Star Wars fan I am, she also got me Star Wars: Battlefront II. It was the first game I played & I was pleasantly surprised on how good it is.



I had the "original" Battlefront II for Playstation 2 and it was awesome. I can't tell you how many dozens (maybe hundreds) of hours my brother & I probably put into that game playing each other in Versus Mode over the years.

When the next-gen Battlefront II first came out, it got a bunch of bad publicity due to the publisher, EA, including loot boxes and limited content. To their credit, they've addressed a lot of the negative complaints and improved the game greatly since its release. When I first launched the game, I downloaded the latest updates which included a lot of additional free content.

I haven't ventured into the realm of online gaming, so I stick to playing the story or arcade mode- where you can play the computer or another player with a split screen. My wife grudgingly agreed to play me when I begged her to humor me... but she then kept asking me for "One more game!" because she really got into it. We just put it on "Heroes Only" so we can play as the lightsaber-wielding characters, which is more fun than using the troopers with blasters. There's nothing quite like playing as The Emperor alongside your wife playing as Darth Vader, cutting down waves of rebels like true Sith Lords.



When playing Arcade Mode, I'll sometimes use the troopers because there are so many great variations from the Star Wars movies- Jet Troopers, Clone Commandos, classic Stormtroopers, and now even Sith Troopers from Episode 9.


The space battles, where you're flying in starships, are also pretty awesome. The flight controls are a little weird at first, but with some practice they become easier to get the hang of.



In general, the graphics and sound are amazing. It really puts you into the Star Wars universe and is visually stunning, with the iconic sounds of blasters and lightsabers adding to the authenticity. While playing the story, and sometimes even during an arcade battle, I catch myself just looking all around, impressed with the settings.

I finished the Story Mode, and the additional epilogue "Resurrection". I thought it was very enjoyable overall and thought it weaved a new narrative into the existing "Star Wars" canon very well. Unfortunately, this game had a more interesting & coherent vision than the entire "Sequel" trilogy! I kept thinking, "Wow this really feels like Star Wars, but is also fresh" - from the settings, to the integration of new & familiar characters, to the story itself. The new movies, on the other hand, were a goddamn mess story-wise, and were disappointingly limited in scope & imagination.

The Battlefront story mode takes place after "Episode 6: Return of the Jedi" immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star. It follows an Imperial Special Forces commando, Iden Versio. Iden becomes disillusioned with the Empire after the death of Emperor Palpatine triggers orders for "Operation Cinder," which even targets worlds that are home to Imperial loyalists. You follow her journey as she eventually switches sides to the Rebellion/New Republic. The great thing about the game is that you also get to play as other familiar characters, including the main heroes, Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando at different points. The great thing is that the inclusion of these characters feels like a proper extension of their stories told in the original movies, and not random or shoehorned placement to give them an appearance in the game.

Overall, Battlefront II is a great game that has excellent replay value & is guaranteed fun for any Star Wars fan.

• The Monkey Buddha's official rating: 9.0


Sunday, January 12, 2020

Neuralink Brain-Computer Interface


Well, it took only 10 years... but technology is finally catching up with my concept for the "iThink" Apple-branded brain/computer interface.

The Neuralink tech that is being developed by Elon Musk's company uses thread-like electrodes that are embedded into the brain using a device similar to a sewing maching. The threads are implanted directly into the brain, but not directly connected to neurons.

Engadget:

This concept is truly dystopian & frightening to many people, but I think it is the next logical step in the "meta-volution" of the human mind.

As much I love the natural world and feel like it is good to disconnect from the web & devices from time to time, the organic structure of the brain will soon need to be augmented beyond the external digital tools we are currently using. The rate of digital information flow and capabilities of A.I. are just advancing too quickly for biological evolution to keep up.

Some of the abilities that could result from tech like Neuralink are:

• "Telepathic" brain-to-brain communication

• Instantaneous mathematical and scientific calculation

• Access to an unlimited databank of multi-sensory media

• Virtual or augmented reality that is directly experienced in the mind

• Expanded multi-dimensional consciousness beyond our current "single point" awareness

• Real-time language translation

• GPS combined with Google Maps to facilitate information-rich navigation

• Etc., etc., etc.

Yes, this technology has the potential for negative uses (mind hacking, unwanted advertising, inability to disconnect)... but ALL tools have that risk. This is the danger that sci-fi classics such as Star Trek's "Borg" and The Matrix have tried to warn us about. However, the same tools that could be extremely dangerous also have the potential to create amazing beauty & benefit for humanity.

As the late, great Timothy Leary said:

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

"The level of intelligence has been tremendously increased, because people are thinking and communicating in terms of screens, and not in lettered books. Much of the real action is taking place in what is called cyberspace. People have learned how to boot up, activate, and transmit their brains.  

Essentially, there’s a universe inside your brain. The number of connections possible inside your brain is limitless. And as people have learned to have more managerial and direct creative access to their brains, they have also developed matrices or networks of people that communicate electronically. 

There are direct brain/computer link-ups. You can just jack yourself in and pilot your brain around in cyberspace-electronic space." 

-Timothy Leary (Chaos & Cyber Culture) 

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Below is the Apple iThink concept that I envision back in 2009:

The Monkey Buddha Achives:



Sunday, January 05, 2020

"Adam and Eve" by Alexandr Kumpan

There's nothing I love more than seeing an image that stops me in my tracks & makes me think "....WTF?!?"

This illustration by Alexandr Kumpan that I saw on r/ImaginaryMindscapes did exactly that - with alien creatures that look like a cross between xenomorphs + jellyfish taking on the roles of Adam & Eve, consuming some strange forbidden fruit. This is just one of the artist's collection of disturbingly psychedelic images.

"Adam and Eve" 
by Alexandr Kumpan





Sunday, December 29, 2019

Gut Health & Mental Health



There are so many things that influence our state of physical & mental being that are interrelated, yet we are relatively unaware of them.

One thing I've been interested in for awhile now is the relationship between the microbiome in the gut & it's effect on not just our physical well-being, but also our mind and emotions.

Science Focus: 

When you see the entire human body has a fully-integrated system of trillions of cells, bacteria and other microorganisms, this idea of seemingly separate parts influencing each other seems less far-fetched.

The gut-brain connection results from chemical signals being produced by the microbes in the intestines affecting the nerve endings in the digestive system, which travel up the vagus nerve into the brain. 

There is also speculation that gut bacteria digest fiber to produce fatty acids that travel through the blood stream & have an epigenetic effect on gene expression in brain cells.

Whatever the mechanism may be, there is a clear link between what we eat and both our physical & mental state. Getting proper nutrition is not the only dietary concern, but we should also be mindful of how the food we eat could possibly lead to inflammation or other effects that could influence our overall heath.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Review: "Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker"


Last night I went to see the final installment of the 9-part "Skywalker" story. It is something I have been waiting for my entire life of 42 years, being a die-hard Star Wars fan since I was a child.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

I will leave a spoiler-free general review first, then get into more specifics with a "spoiler alert".

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It "felt" much more like a Star Wars movie than The Last Jedi, but Episode 9 was just as much as a mixed bag for me as was Episode 8 (and really all the Star Wars movies) - with things I thought were great, as well as choices that I thought were downright horrible. However, I felt the same way about parts of the prequels and original trilogy, so my in-depth criticism is not unique to the sequels.

Unfortunately, there was one specific aspect of this movie that really killed the film (& now perhaps even the entire series) for me. This detail, really an omission, resulted in me leaving the theater fairly disappointed once I realized that it wouldn't materialize (pun intended). See below in the spoilers for what I am talking about.

Throughout "The Rise of Skywalker", there were truly "WTF!" moments where I was completely thrown through a loop, usually in a good way. Although I had ideas in my head about what I would've like to see, I also appreciate unforeseen twists- as long as they make for a good story.

If you are a dedicated Star Wars fan like me, you obviously have to see this movie in order to see how this "trilogy of trilogies" ends. However, there is plenty to both love and criticize, so it is undoubtedly going to be as divisive as the rest of the Star Wars saga.

Read on, if you want to see my specific thoughts on "Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker".



****WARNING!: SPOILERS BELOW****
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So, I'll start off my more in-depth review by saying that this Episode contained several things that I hoped for & have posted in this blog.

When I saw that the Emperor and the ruins of the Death Star II would be involved, I hoped that a horror movie vibe would be used, with Palpatine haunting the ruins like an evil spirit in a haunted castle. Although it didn't play out exactly like this, the Death Star and the Sith planet of Exogal definitely had a horror film feel to them, in both the visual and sound design. Although he wasn't a Sith ghost, the re-animated Emperor Palpatine as a clone zombie (or whatever the hell he was) turned out to be pretty creepy. I thought having his decaying body connected to the giant mecha-arm thing was pretty cool. In addition to being one of the more "fun" Star Wars movies, with very effective humor (unlike The Last Jedi), it also had the scariest moments of Star Wars movie. It might frighten the crap out of little kids at certain points.



Whereas in "The Last Jedi" we got to see the first Jedi Temple & got some Force philosophy from Luke, in this movie we got to see Sith artifacts, rituals, and planets, which was something new & interesting.

However, one thing that the movie got wrong right off the bat was having the movie open with Kylo Ren on a smoldering forest planet, but with no indication that this planet was actually Mustafar- the lava planet where Darth Vader was defeated by Ob-Wan and resided in his imposing fortress, seen in Rogue One. I had no idea, & found this out after seeing the movie. I can't believe they wouldn't show Vader's castle or give some sort of clue that the planet was Mustafar. In fact, focusing more on Kylo Ren exploring his grandfather's former abode while encountering aspects of Vader's past would have been awesome.

*Sigh*

I have a lot of "should have" criticisms of this movie... God, where do I start???

Let me just get out what I see as the biggest, most egregious flaw in "The Rise of Skywalker" -

WE NEVER SEE 
FUCKING ANAKIN SKYWALKER!!!!!  

"GGGGAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!" (That is my nerd scream of disbelief and disappointment) The ONE thing that I (and many other fans) thought needed to happen in this movie did not happen. How are you going to wrap up the story of Anakin Skywalker & his family and NOT show Anakin's spirit appearing at some point???? In his own words, "It's outrageous, it's unfair!!!" This decision is absolute friggin' insanity and ruined the entire movie for me, especially when it gets to the end of the movie and we see Luke & Leia's ghost appear to Rey. I was ready to see Anakin (& maybe the countless spirits of other Jedi) appear in the wide open space behind them, which would have been epic.


But no, this scene passed, the movie ended, and I realized that Anakin is basically persona non grata in the final trilogy of a series that is supposed to be about him & his damn family!!! The frustration and incredulity I feel as a life-long Star Wars fan who has been immersed in the lore of the stories is maddening.

On the topic of Force ghosts, although it was cool to see Luke as a Force ghost, the effect seemed kind of "off" to me. The apparition seemed too blue, or clear, or something that didn't feel like the original trilogy's appearance of the Jedi spirits.


Anyway, after I got home and was reading other people's reaction to the movie, I realized that Anakin WAS in the movie - with the other voices of the Jedi, calling out to Rey to defeat Palpatine. Sorry, but that is just not good enough for me. I could barely tell which voice was Anakin's or the other Jedi. On the other hand, having the stars in Rey's vision as she's lying on the ground materialize into the different Jedi or some other way of visualizing them would have had so much more of an impact. Imagine seeing Anakin, Qui-Gon, Yoda, Obi-Wan, Ashoka, etc. all appearing before Rey - it would have been amazing. Nope, we got a bunch of jumbled up voices with a closeup of Rey's face... a massive lost opportunity to connect to the iconic characters of the entire saga.

Now on to the big reveal... that Rey is actually a Palpatine, the Emperor's granddaughter! I mean, come on!...

Although I guess it's an explanation for why she is so ridiculously overpowered, this idea is still a bunch of straight-up BULLSHIT. The twist in The Last Jedi - that she really was no one & had no family - should have remained intact. The idea that someone with no special lineage can still be strong in The Force is a powerful concept. Nope, we have to re-twist the twist & make Rey a Palpatine, because... why the fuck not?

Then, we get Kylo/Ben finally turning back to The Light for a few minutes, so.... he & Rey kiss in the middle of this creepy Sith temple??? So I guess Rey loved Ben all this time, despite his murder of countless innocent individuals, genocide on a planetary scale, & mental and physical abuse to her personally. I thought Padme's love of Anakin despite his descent into The Dark Side was hard to swallow, but this was a point in the movie where I was like, "Yikes, this is bad".

The final insult to the whole treatment of the Skywalker lineage was to have the last Skywalker (Ben Solo) die, but PALPATINE'S bloodline lives on & takes the Skywalker name??? What the hell?!? Ok, there's some poetic justice in the Emperor's offspring renouncing his dark side legacy and taking the namesake of his antagonists. However, the way it was done with the random old lady in the desert asking her name was so forced & such a ridiculous way to end this saga. Then Rey finally lights up her yellow saber at the end of the movie, never having got to see her use it. I'm sure this is setting up the future "Rey Chronicles" movies ($$$!!!) where we'll see her new lightsaber in action & her training new Force sensitives.



I was hoping that Rey would use the "Skywalker" name as a formal title, describing the new line of Force users that would have shamanic connotations.

I've been on a rampage here & could probably write a small book about my criticisms, so let me backtrack and say what I DID like about this movie.

Speaking of shamanism, I felt like there was some interesting shamanistic undertones. In the beginning, the scene when Rey was levitating in the woods showed her connection to The Living Force, the natural source of life and energy.


Also, when she & Kylo each entered the Sith temple, from the side there was a cool visual of a line of light behind them in the darkness. This was like the "light bridge" that a shaman passes through on the way to the underworld. Once in the realm of the dead, the shaman brings back knowledge or supernatural abilities to facilitate healing the individuals of the community.

Another aspect that I thought was good was the introduction of healing as a Force ability. This spoke to the shamanistic nature of The Force and it's users. Unfortunately, I felt it was overused, with everyone bringing each other back to life.

At first I thought it was dumb that Ben was able to bring Rey back to life at the expense of his own life. However, I read afterward that by doing this act of self-sacrifice, Ben was able to achieve what his grandfather Anakin was unable to do- bring back the one he loves from death. So, Ben did what Anakin couldn't on several fronts due to fear- he destroyed his master Snoke and became the ruler of the galaxy, and also saved the one he loved.

I thought Leia being trained as a Jedi and having her own lightsaber was pretty neat, but why wouldn't this have been known earlier? It also makes a lot of the events of the sequel trilogy nonsensical. Why didn't she reach out through The Force to her son earlier? Why couldn't she have trained Rey instead of Luke in the first place?

Although there were a lot of really cool things to come out of the sequel trilogy, I think as a whole Disney (Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, & everyone involved in producing this trilogy) basically fucked it up.

All the Star Wars movies have plot holes and cringe-worthy aspects, but the new trilogy was basically a movie-to-movie re-hash of the original trilogy with very limited imagination. There were so many angles that could have taken the series in a fresh direction, like exploring the ramifications of a malevolent A.I., or introducing an existential alien threat from outside the galaxy, or having Snoke be a corporatist whose extravagance & power depended on exploitation of the masses, etc., etc., etc. However, we got endless retreads of the "Empire vs. Rebellion" dynamic. Oh wait, this time there's a planet that can destroy other planets! Oh, no no wait, this time we have a gigantic FLEET of Star Destroyers that came from out of the blue, with planet destroying cannons on each of them!!! Ugh.

I could have lived with all the flaws if they would have at least tied up the Skywalker saga by addressing Anakin in some way that provided closure to his legacy. Instead, there was barely a mention of him and no sign of him at all in any of the movies. It really is a fatal flaw that has soured my outlook on the whole sequel trilogy.

Clearly, I am passionate about this story because it's one that I've grown up with, and it has informed me about life, the world, and myself since I was a little kid. Because I am such a devoted fan, I have also been an extremely harsh critic. I will continue to see "The Rise of Skywalker", as well as the other movies, multiple times over the years because they still entertain & inspire me. Maybe my opinions of some of these negative aspects will change, but I doubt it. The stupid things that George Lucas did still seem totally fucking stupid to me. Unfortunately, Lucasfilm & Disney did not hire me as a consultant, so we are left with the movies we have.

As flawed as they are, the Star Wars movies are still part of an epic saga that incorporates philosophy, spirituality, humanism, and a sense of wonder & possibility that will inspire people for generations. I feel fortunate to have witnessed the unfolding of such an amazing work of fiction over the course of 42 years, and look forward to sharing the stories with my children. It has been a truly awesome journey.

"May The Force Be With You"...


Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Rome" TV Series


I recently finished watching the HBO series "Rome" with my wife. We have been watching it sporadically and finally saw the final episode this weekend.

Inspired by this show, I recently posted about an artist re-creating the likenesses of the Roman emperors.

The show follows the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, the first autocratic leader of ancient Rome. Of course, the show features many other characters, some historical such as Marc Antony, Brutus, and Cleopatra.


We enjoyed the show, and I think the production values & writing were really good. Like humans today, the ancient Romans were full of interesting personal tendencies and cultural norms. Some of them were similar to our current behaviors, some were wildly different. I think the show did a great job of showing many aspects of Roman home life, religion, politics, and everyday experience.

The thing I love about well-produced historical TV or movies like this is the ability to really place the viewer into the time period being presented. The detail of the costume and set designs gave an excellent sense of the Roman experience. The re-creation of the city of Rome, with it's varied locations, provided a sense of accuracy that helped make the story believable.


My only complaint about the show would be the use of British accents for the majority of the characters. This took me out of the immersion that the show otherwise provided very successfully. Why wouldn't the actors use Italian or Latin accents, even if they were speaking English? It was just a weird choice that led to some cognitive dissonance for me as I watched it.

Despite that minor flaw, overall the show was really good and touched on the major historical events of Caesar's life. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical dramas or ancient Rome.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Ape Agape

I recently came across a couple psychedelic simian images on the Shamanic Sacra-Mental Spaces blog that I thought were pretty awesome.

The first one is "Stoned Ape Theory" by Tim Marr. It illustrates the theory espoused by Terence McKenna (whom I've posted about a lot here) that our primate ancestors had an evolutionary boost from eating psilocybin mushrooms that was a factor in accelerated cognitive development.


The second "Ape Agape" image is by Samuel Farrand, and would be the next step after the previous picture! After ingesting a psychedelic compound, the ape's experience transforms into a energetic mindscape of abstract patterns.


This image reminded me of the 3D image I created called "Psychedelic Symbiosis", which drew a comparison between the structure of neural and mycelial connections.



by Paul Micarelli

Friday, December 06, 2019

Gothic Nautilus

I see a lot of content of all kinds, and love looking at amazing artwork that blows my mind. However, sometimes I see something that stops my online scrolling, & I'm just "Wow'd"!

This laser-cut stainless steel sculpture, Nautilus Penta, by artist Wim Delvoye just made me amazed - at what the human mind can conceive & what the technology it excretes is capable of actualizing.

It is an intricate gothic-style cathedral spiraling into itself to create a nautilus shape.


I have experience laser cutting 2-dimension pieces, and something like this is just insane to me...



Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fractal Broccoli


 I've seen photos of Romanesco broccoli online, identifiable by the fractal arrangement of its florets.

Fractals are basically self-similar patterns, with the same characteristics at various levels of scale. Romanesco has at least 3 levels of self-similarity, with groupings of smaller florets on the larger florets.

I finally saw this visually interesting vegetable in the supermarket for the first time, so I knew I had to get it! I wanted to see how it tasted.

Below are some photos I took, with both a regular & a macro lens. The last photo is the result - the steamed Romanesco broccoli for dinner, with baked chicken and waffle fries w/ Sriracha.

It was definitely more bland than regular broccoli, but I always spice up my veggies anyway. I like the texture of the Romanesco much better. It didn't have the little leaflets on regular broccoli that get stuck in your teeth.

Anyway, I will definitely get it again for other dishes. Besides, I love to look at the fascinating fractal form, so it's worth getting for that alone!



 


Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Mandalorian - Episodes 1 & 2 Review


Since I don't even own a TV anymore, and definitely wouldn't subscribe to Disney+, I took my friend up on an invite to watch the first couple episodes of the Star Wars series "The Mandalorian".



There are spoilers further down, but I'll give a general review first.


"The Mandalorian" refers to the main character, who is from the planet of warriors called Mandalore. His armor is similar to that of the infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett from the original Star Wars trilogy, although it is not known if Boba Fett's "father" Jango & his armor were actually Mandalorian.

Overall, as a life-long Star Wars fan who is very critical, I think the show is really good. The production quality is great, and the excellent practical effects look even better than the occasional CGI that isn't quite as polished as the movies.

The story & characters so far are engaging, and truly feels like it takes place in the Star Wars universe. There are familiar alien species in the background, hints of the Imperial remnants that exist after Return of the Jedi, and technology that fits well visually with the "look" of Star Wars.

For instance, in the second episode, the story involves a Jawa sandcrawler - so you get a look at the gypsy-like scavenger/trader society these little creatures live in.

We also get to see a lethally efficient IG-model assassin droid in action & it's awesome (see the trailer). In Empire Strikes Back, IG-88 basically just stood there with the other bounty hunters assembled by Darth Vader.

The great thing about expanded content, like this series, is that there's a chance to explore aspects of the Star Wars characters & details in more depth.

I would definitely recommend checking it out if you're a Star Wars fan, and really love diving into the infinite depth of the mythos.



*****SPOILERS AHEAD*****



So the big twist at the end of the 1st episode was that the precious bounty that The Mandalorian was contracted to retrieve for a former Imperial official was a 50-year old "baby" of Yoda's species. Even though the child was in an immature, infant-like state, it is shown to be already able to manipulate The Force in significant ways.

If I would've read this idea before seeing the image or the episode, I would've been skeptical that it could be pulled off without being ridiculous. However, I thought it was pretty cool, especially as the Yoda baby basically becomes The Mandalorian's little sidekick in his levitating crib during the 2nd episode. It helps that the CGI for the character is great, and looks much better than the various spacecraft in certain scenes. The little baby, obviously strong in the Light Side of The Force, and a ruthless bounty hunter, charged with keeping it alive, make an interesting duo.

I'm definitely into the story, and look forward to seeing how this unexpected pairing plays out.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Animated Chakra Energy

I have done quite a bit of research and thought on the ancient concept of "chakras," or centers of energy that exist as aspects of our being.

Chakras are often considered a mystical or esoteric concept, an abstraction that is visualized as a focus of meditation. However, these energy centers correspond to physical centers of neurological and glandular importance.

I created this animation using the Forge of Neon app, illustrating the flow of energy through the chakras within and around the human body.

by Paul Micarelli

After I finished it, I kept adding more details - imagining how the energy would interface with the surrounding Unified Field, absorbing and transmitting light.

I thought the "Thousand Petaled Lotus" that is supposed to blossom from the crown chakra would be analogous to the cascading bio-electric fields that our body creates.

by Paul Micarelli


My wife & I have taken Kundalini classes that have given me a deeper perspective on this concept. She now teaches a "Chakra Flow" yoga class that progresses through poses focusing on the 7 major chakra centers.

Several years ago, I created a Chakra Ascension Series that illustrates each of the chakra points as a progression of an individual through ascending levels.

Here is an animated GIF version of the series:

http://monkeybuddha.blogspot.com/2014/08/chakra-ascension-series-animated.html

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Autumn Leaf Macro Photo


 Macro photo of a multi-colored autumn leaf. 

by Paul Micarelli
 
The fractal contrast between the green & red, with yellow in between, is so vibrant.

Then you look closer and see the microscopic texture, and realize that there are millions of cells working as a system & forming this structure...

We exist in a practically infinite continuum of scale, from the quantum to the cosmic... (and this doesn't even include other dimensions that may be outside our ability to experience or comprehend, at all).

Thursday, October 31, 2019

How Roman Emperors Looked

There are many ways to recreate and visualize aspects of history. I've written about using 3D rendering & virtual reality to see what ancient buildings and areas looked like.

Reconstructing the past can also be done using physical media. My wife & I are watching the series "Rome" and I love how the visual presentation really puts you into that time period. My only complaint about that show is that the Roman characters all have British accents... it makes no sense!

Anyway, after watching an episode of "Rome" I was looking up paintings & busts of Julius Caesar, and looking to see if anyone tried making modern-day representations of him. I came across this article about the C├ęsares de Roma project, in which sculptor Salva Ruano accurately recreates the faces of Roman emperors.

wesee.ist:

The classical white marble busts we are used to seeing are modeled accurately, but really don't express the humanity in these ancient people. It is pretty stunning to see these hyper-realistic faces, based on ancient busts and other reference. The life-like details, along with the effective lighting, bring out the personality in their likeness.

Here are a few of the more famous emperors:

Julius Caesar :



Octavian (Caesar Augustus) :




The OG Neckbeard, Emperor Nero :




This video I just found shows the incredible about of detail that Salva Ruano puts into these sculptures:



Friday, October 25, 2019

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker - Final Trailer


 I am 41 years old and was born when the original Star Wars came out. Since my earliest memories, the Star Wars saga has been my favorite fictional work, and has contributed so much to the person I've become.The imagination, the mysticism, the vision have inspired me my whole life - including into adulthood.

I always hoped that I would live to see this saga conclude as a "trilogy of trilogies", even after it seemed like the Prequels would be the end of the movie series.

I've had my fair share of criticisms of all the movies, but it's only because I love the movies so much, and they are such an important cultural phenomenon of our time. The Last Jedi, which has proven to be a very divisive film, had some of the very best and the very worst of the Star Wars legacy in it.

I can say that the trailers for the 3rd trilogy have been awesome - due to the cinematography, the stellar music by John Williams, and great editing. After seeing the final trailer for Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker, I can say I'm hyped for this movie and hope the saga is concluded in a proper & meaningful way.



As the one trailer for the D23 Disney Expo showed, this is a conclusion of a truly epic story arc that spans decades in both the real world, and also in the fictional galaxy far, far away.



Dark Rey with a double Sith lightsaber.. Whaaaat?!?!?
Just a Force Vision, or a  clone???

It is late on a Friday night, and I could go on for hours about this stuff, so here are a few things that I think need to be in the final movie of the Skywalker saga:

As I just said, this is the Skywalker saga. There needs to be some kind of resolution to the story of Anakin Skywalker's family. Besides his grandson Kylo Ren's obsession with his mangled helmet, "The Chosen One" has been mostly absent from the Sequel trilogy.

Emperor Palpatine is clearly playing some kind of role in this movie. He is another character who has spanned the entire 9 movie stretch (I think the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO are the only characters to appear in all the movies, which is a great statement on how AI might be able to continue beyond our human lifespans). At first, I thought it would be cool if Palpatine's spirit somehow stayed intact, and his evil ghost haunted Kylo & Rey as they made their way through the Death Star, making this movie like a sci-fi horror flick.

Is this an ancient Sith throne, or the seat of power for another unnamed entity?


However, the trailer makes it appear that Palpatine is in a physical incarnation. Perhaps he is a "scarred & deformed" mecha-Emperor - whose grotesque remains are held together by technology & his indomitable, malevolent will. That would be an interesting angle, one explored in The Clone Wars cartoon where Darth Maul survives & has cybernetic limbs.
 

Speaking of the Emperor, there is a confrontation between Kylo & Rey in the iconic ruins of the Emperor's Death Star throne room, which somehow survived the atmospheric entry and impact as the battlestation crashed into the moon of Endor.


It would be awesome if we see the spirits of the "thousand generations" of Jedi who live on in Rey manifest somehow. My personal wish would be for Anakin, Luke, Leia and Ben should come together as 3 generations of Skywalkers in spirit & physical form to finally defeat this evil power.

Perhaps Leia faces Ben/Kylo at some point, like an inverse of Luke facing his father. There are many interesting possibilities.

I am hoping that the title "Rise of Skywalker" refers not only to the return of Anakin Skywalker in some form, but also to a new approach to Force users that rejects the rigid standards of the Jedi/Sith and blaze a new path - known as "Skywalkers" in honor of the legendary family.

"Skywalker" is a term used in shamanic cultures to refer to someone who takes visionary flight, and was clearly a reference used by George Lucas when creating this story. The best aspects of Star Wars are the mystical & philosophical elements, and I look forward to seeing what The Rise of Skywalker adds to this mythos.

There also looks like there will be some amazing large-scale conflicts. They hopefully will have more weight than the slo-mo space-chase and alien racehorse escape of The Last Jedi.


One big question and the source of endless internet fantasies is the nature of Rey & Ben's connection (dubbed "Reylo").


Do they team up at some point, and what happens? Does she just look past the fact that he was a murderous, power-hungry megalomaniac? Does Kylo die, and Rey carries on the Skywalker legacy in name only? Do they forge an alliance and together start a new line of Force users? Whatever is decided, it should at least give a sense of purpose and finality to their story, and the saga as a whole.

Well, those are my thoughts for now, but I'm sure I will have plenty more to say once I actually see the final movie in the Skywalker movie saga. Only a couple months to go for the culmination of a lifetime of being a Star Wars fan!