Monday, May 04, 2015

Star Wars Day 2015

Today is May 4th, which is now known to many people as "Star Wars Day".

Star Wars is one of my favorite topics to post about, and it's been my favorite movie series since I was a kid.

Like most fans, I didn't think I'd ever see more movies that took place after the original trilogy. Now, with Disney & J.J. Abrams taking control of George Lucas's vision, there are more films on the way to expand the already rich Star Wars fictional universe.

Today, Vanity Fair released a few new photos from the set of the next movie, "Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens".

Vanity Fair:

Resistance pilot Poe Dameron & the newest version of the classic X-Wing fighter.

Star Wars Day Bonus!
Here's a previous post, with a GIF of a lightsaber-weilding monkey:

Person Gives Monkey The Finger & Gets Kicked


 In my last post, I was talking about the inner life of animals. Many animals, especially primates, have complex social behaviors & dominance hierarchies.

From the looks of this video, it definitely seems that monkeys can feel insulted.

This kid was apparently taunting the monkey, before giving it the middle finger. The monkey didn't take that crap & gives him a 4-foot flying dropkick. The guy looks like he can't believe he got knocked over by a monkey kick.

As much as I  love discussing a wide variety of topics on this blog, I never get tired of amusing monkey antics.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Non-Human Rights


It is interesting to see how humanity struggles with how to view the rest of the animal kingdom.

The Western, Judeo-Christian view is one of human dominance over other forms of life, where animals are put on the Earth for man to use according to his will. Some other religions & philosophical systems, however, see all life as interconnected & sacred.

A deeper understanding of the perceptions and mental experiences of other living things is leading us to a more insightful relationship with other creatures. People are beginning to realize that many animals also feel pain, enjoy social bonds, and have a rich inner life.

I am currently reading a book that my girlfriend's parents gave me, called "Baboon Metaphysics". They know that I like anything about monkeys or apes, and the book is excellent so far. It is about the observations of intricate social hierarchies and complex behaviors in primates.

The experimentation and industrial farming we currently force upon animals will one day be seen as ignorant savagery.

There are currently people fighting to gain certain rights for non-human species, in order to prevent their exploitation & abuse. One group, The Nonhuman Rights Project, is legally arguing for the "personhood" of chimps Leo & Hercules. They are trying to get these chimpanzees released from captivity into a sanctuary.

NPR:


It has also been announced recently that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will stop using elephants in their acts.

National Geographic:

I think people are going to have to seriously reconsider the status of animal life, starting with species possessing complex cognitive functioning- like primates, dolphins, elephants, and other mammals.

Once a more empathetic view of these animals is established, then our relationship to other living beings can be re-examined.

Only then, will a more harmonious existence with all life in our world be possible.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

3D Yin-Yang

I saw this cool animated GIF of a ying-yang, rendered in 3-D computer motion graphics.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:


The yin-yang is a symbol from the religion known as Taoism, which sees the world as a natural flow state- a dynamic harmony of both opposite & complementary forces.

This animation demonstrates that multi-dimensional interaction quite nicely & creatively.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Future is Fungi


 Discover Magazine:

I recently listened to this excellent presentation by mycologist & naturalistic innovator Paul Stamets, about the role that mushrooms and other fungal organisms will play in the future of humanity & the planet.



The talk is an hour and a half long, and well worth the time to listen. It is full of thought-provoking information and research about the vital role performed by these unique lifeforms in the natural ecosystem. Stamets also discusses some of his technological developments, using living fungal systems.

Some of the important mycological breakthroughs that he discusses include the following uses of fungi & mycelial matter:

Cancer treatment through improved immune function
Water filtration
Antibacterial & antiviral properties
Cleanup of oil spills 
De-contamination of radiation zones
Biopesticides to repel harmful insects
Replenishment of depleted soil

The most unique aspect of the fungus is its mycelium- the branching, thread-like connective matter that is usually hidden within the soil or in its symbiotic partners. These are the chemical & enzymatic pathways that allow fungi to sense their environment and create novel strategies to deal with any situation they come across.

The visible forms we usually associate with fungi, such as the mushroom caps, are just the fruiting parts of the fungus that are used to release spores. The vegetative part of the fungus is actually the mycelium, within the soil.



The web-like structure of the fungal mycelia can be seen as a fractal representation of the interconnected nature of reality, which exists on all scales and in different forms.

This same kind of connectivity also defines the structure of large-scale cosmic network of galaxies, neural architecture in the brain, layouts of human cities, and the global distribution of The Internet.

Connectivity is a fundamental characteristic of The Universe.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Green Earth

Today is Earth Day, and it's a good opportunity to reflect on the importance of the living ecosystem that sustains life on this planet.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:
I love nature and being outdoors, so Spring is a time I truly enjoy. The return of animals, warm weather, and greenery on the plants & trees makes dealing with the winters of a temperate climate worthwhile.

The industrial age has wrought all kinds of havoc on the Earth, some of which may be irreversible- such as climate change and mass extinctions. However, I feel like we are finally entering a time where mankind will learn to once again live in symbiosis with nature, instead of trying to subdue it & exploit its resources.

People are increasingly looking toward nature-based solutions to approach technological problems.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

By working with nature and using design solutions based on living systems, we can begin to undo the damage from centuries of destructive human activity.

I made this graphic below to express the importance of maintaining a vibrant, living planet- in order for humanity to thrive, along with the countless other lifeforms that dwell here with us.

There are many items available in my Cafepress shop with this "Green Earth" design on it, if you'd like to check it out:

The Monkey Buddha Bazaar:




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Molecular Movies & Medical Animations


Despite being an artist by profession, I've always been interested in science. The more I learn, the more mysterious the world actually becomes.

Biological life & the human body are endlessly fascinating. When you begin to learn about the functioning of Life on a microscopic level, a whole new world opens up that is both strange and beautiful in its complexity.

For me, it it is much easier to comprehend something when I see a visual representation of it. That is why I love computer animations & digital renderings of otherwise hidden phenomena. Technology allows us to visualize previously unimaginable or inaccessible information.

Recently, I found this page of computer animations that illustrate various processes that occur on a molecular or cellular level.


The animations are broken up into categories. When you click a movie, it can take you to the site of a university or lab with even more videos. It is great resource for those with an interest in microbiology, or for those who are just curious about the infinite complexity and variety of living systems.

 I've seen this awesome animation before, which is titled "The Inner Life of The Cell". It shows the ecosystem of cellular activity that is going on within our bodies all the time, without us even being aware of it. A full version, with narration describing the processes shown, can be found here.



Here are more amazing computer-rendered visualizations, from Hybrid Medical Animation.

Vimeo:

latest promotional reel from hybrid medical animation on Vimeo.

The mind cannot help but marvel at the organization and endless intricacy of these processes. In fact, here's a video of what happens as the mind is marveling at such things:




Monday, April 20, 2015

Drug War is Over (If You Want It)

(click to enlarge)

I created this poster to express my dissatisfaction with "The War on Drugs" and the harm it has caused our society over the past 100 years.

Feel free to save it, share it, print it, distribute it, remix it, or do whatever you want to do with it! If you could link to this page as a source, it would be appreciated.

At first, I considered using the phrase "(Drug) War is Over" in the graphic. However, I decided to keep it phrased without the 'drug' reference. This way, it can also be seen as a call to end the overall "war" mentality that keeps us in the primitive mindset of aggressive primates.

The inspiration is obviously from the "War is Over (If You Want It)" poster that John Lennon and Yoko Ono distributed during their famous "Bed-in" peace campaign in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War.


 Today (April 20th) is the counter-culture holiday known as "420".

I don't usually delve into the issue of "drugs" on this blog. I don't really think it's anyone's business what kind of legal or illegal materials you ingest, as long as you're not doing serious harm to yourself or others. When it comes to mind-altering substances or techniques, I think Graham Hancock said it best, "If we are not sovereign over our own consciousness, then we cannot in any meaningful sense be sovereign over anything else, either."

Regardless of how you feel about the various issues regarding drugs, it's hard to argue that we have had positive results in addressing drug use within our modern culture. Most people would agree that the conventional approach to the "War on Drugs" as been a failure in almost every respect, other than lining the pockets of law enforcement, the prison industry, and criminal drug cartels. Countless individual lives and families have been ruined by the senseless crusade against the use of these plants & chemicals. Drug use & abuse should be considered health issues, not criminal offenses.


The most absurd aspect of the Drug War is, without a doubt, the classification of the Cannabis plant as a Schedule I controlled substance. In my life, I've seen people under the influence of pretty much every substance imaginable. Alcohol and opiates are, by far, the most debilitating, addictive, and destructive in large doses. However, these are legal- sold everywhere in stores in the case of liquor, and prescribed by doctors in the case of pain-killing opiates.

The worst effects I've ever seen in reactions to marijuana are not very harmful, like people becoming ravenously hungry or feeling paranoid for a short time. Most of the time, people under the influence of THC are quite happy, peaceful, and content to enjoy whatever they are experiencing at the moment.

Using cannabis can be habit-forming, and the act of smoking anything is obviously not great for the lungs, so there are some downsides to it. These are not nearly sufficient reasons to criminalize the plant, though. The lethal dose (LD) of marijuana is so high that it is physically impossible to overdose (OD) on it.  Despite this fact, this mildly psychoactive plant is placed in the most controlled category- more restricted than most highly addictive opiates. It is absolute madness, based on historical ignorance and century-old propaganda.


In the future, people will look back on this time period with disdain, like we currently look on the Prohibition Era. The mass incarceration of people, especially over offenses for relatively harmless drugs like marijuana, will one day be widely seen as a violation of human rights on a grotesque scale.

The tide is already turning, with many states in the U.S. decriminalizing cannabis. The "dominator culture" (as Terence McKenna would say) cannot suppress the will of the people to affect their own minds.

Since ancient times, human beings have used various plants, substances, and physical techniques to alter their mental & spiritual states. In some cases, it has even been institutionalized, as in the case of Eleusinan Mysteries or indigenous shamanism. There is a growing movement of people who want to re-introduce these archaic techniques & sacred rites back into society, to help awaken it from its ego-induced slumber.

Another effect of the Drug War and our current approach to drug scheduling is the inability to study certain compounds for scientific purposes. Despite their low toxicity & lethality, Schedule I substances like LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA cannot currently be researched for possible treatments to PTSD, depression, or other mental conditions.

The bottom line is that the current approach to drug policy is unjust, unproductive, and completely irrational. This is also true for many aspects of our society- like politics, education, and health care. Maybe by ending the farcical "War on Drugs," we can focus our energy on changing other important aspects of our culture.

Ultimately, this is an issue of personal freedom- We are not truly free, unless we have the freedom to explore our own minds.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens- Teaser 2


I was born the year Star Wars came out & have been a fan since I was early enough to remember.

It is a modern-day myth, with both ancient roots and a glimpse into the future. The Star Wars saga has secured a place in the public consciousness that will last for generations.

Being such a fan, I've also been very critical of the movies as pieces of cinema. I remember being extremely excited for the prequels and the backstory of Darth Vader. Although Episodes I-III aren't nearly as bad as people make them out to be, there were definitely questionable creative choices & opportunities lost.

When Disney took over the Star Wars franchise & announced new movies, I was actually optimistic that we'd get quality movies that expanded the Star Wars movie timeline into the character's future.

So far, the progress of "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" has been extremely promising. The first and most important choice was to keep the original cast from the original trilogy. The fact that this happened is huge in keeping with the continuity of the characters & story.

The updating of Rebel & Imperial elements from the original movies seems to be right on target, so to speak. Everything I've seen in the first 2 teaser trailers looks great.

This trailer has really sparked my excitement to see this next installment of the series. The first shot is just awesome: 


With the speeder in the far background of a desert planet (Jakku), moving past the aged remains of a downed X-Wing- the camera pans over the ruins of a giant crashed Imperial Star Destroyer looming in the background.

You get the feeling that the era of The Galactic Civil War between the Empire & Rebellion was a long, long time ago.

The scene gives a sense of size & scope that I wished Star Wars would utilize more. Space is so vast, and some fiction, like the game Mass Effect, tries to give you a sense of that immensity. This is a masterfully composed scene that makes you viscerally feel the scale of the situation. It also is a profound statement on the impermanence of mortal endeavors, no matter what the scale or motivation.


I was also struck by the iconic image of Darth Vader's helmet. However, it is now twisted & melted, from the funeral pyre that Luke Skywalker made for his redeemed father's body & black armor, in "Return of the Jedi".

You can't see who's holding the helmet, but I've read that the villain is someone obsessed with collecting Sith history & relics, which would nicely parallel the main character Rey's background as a scavenger.

The familiar, but evolved, visual elements seem like a natural progression of the Star Wars universe. The fighter craft and uniforms of both sides are reminiscent of the older movies, but with an updated look. The Stormtroopers are still in their familiar white armor, but there are subtle differences.

When I saw this scene, I noticed the new troopers, T.I.E. Fighters, and Imperial symbol on the banner. When I looked closer, though, I noticed the lone figure standing on the stage. Perhaps this is the new heir to Emperor Palpatine's position, as leader of the Imperial forces?


Hordes of people are online picking this trailer apart for clues & tidbits that might tell us more about The Force Awakens. It seems like most people agree that this initial look gives reason to have high expectations when the newest installment of the Star Wars saga is released this Christmas.

I am definitely excited about the potential of this movie. The kid in me is ready to experience new additions to the Star Wars story with fresh eyes.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Animusic


 In my random Internet browsing, I came across an absolutely outstanding set of videos.

They are computer animations which create virtual "music videos" in virtual environments. The playlist is called "Animusic"  computer animated music, uploaded by YouTube user Effchen.

YouTube Playlist:

The 3D-rendered computer graphics are stunning, and really mind-bending if you take the time to watch them.

The great thing about computer animation is that we can create & experience completely virtual spaces that look realistic- but are in fantastic environments with seemingly impossible instruments & objects.

The Animusic videos have different themes, using the wonderfully surreal visuals to illustrate the music. 

The first video I saw was "Gyro Drums," a crazy take on the percussion solo.




"Resonance Chamber" features classical string sounds, The video features a strange, but elegant-looking, hybrid instrument. It is being played by spider-like mechanical fingers.




There are also more futuristic & hi-tech themes, like "Fiber Bundles". Here, a rhythmic synergy is created between the light and the music to create a synesthesia-like effect.




I would recommend checking out the whole playlist, for more of these awesome videos. 

Once virtual reality (VR) applications really take off, there will be no limit to the virtual spaces & novel experiences that the human mind can explore.

The official website for Animusic sells the videos on DVD & Blu-ray.


They also have some videos on their YouTube page.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chimp Knocks Down A Drone

 
This is a video of something that never stops amusing me - apes & monkeys doing crazy things.

It's from a Dutch zoo, where a surveillance drone was filming while flying over the chimpanzee enclosure.

As the remote-controlled drone glides over taking video footage, one of the chimps up in a tree smacks it with a branch. It's enough to knock the drone out of the sky. Some chimps then proceed to pick up the flying robot & look into the camera of this strange object.

It almost seems as if there's a deep, metaphorical meaning to this seemingly simple action...

Perhaps it can be seen as a symbolic of the struggle in modern culture- between primitivism & advanced technology.

Maybe it's a reminder at how ineffective our technology can be, in the face of the overwhelming power of nature.

Perhaps it's a "cosmic giggle," related to Terence McKenna's theories about the evolutionary transition from apes to technology-using humans. It's also relevant to his idea of the archaic revival, or the reversion to ancient tribal values & more 'primitive' modes of existence...

Mostly, I think it's just chimps being funny.




Friday, April 10, 2015

Mandala of American Life


I saw this interesting & somewhat humorous "Mandala of American Life" on Ultraculture.


It is called "Americosmos" by Darrin Drda.


(click for larger image)
The image is a depiction of the "American way of life"- in the form of a Tibetan Buddhist mandala, or sacred diagram.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

It shows the illusory existence that so many people in this country experience, and the habitual patterns that give rise to our insane way of living.

There is a more in-depth description of this modern-day mandala here:


The traditional Bhavacakra mandala, known as "The Wheel of Life," is used as a meditation tool by Buddhists. This mandala is a representation of the idea of samsara, or the cyclic nature of existence.


The circular wheel containing the images represents the cycle of life & death, with all the various karmic activities that lead to suffering.

The very center of the mandala shows animals representing the 3 poisons; attachment (bird), aversion (snake), & ignorance (pig). People create their karma by acting through these poisons. In "Americosmos," the 3 poisons are shown as a dollar bill (greed), a tank (hatred), and a TV (delusion).

The thin ring around the center represents people ascending in consciousness on one half (white), and people descending to lower consciousness in the other half (dark).

The large divisions within the wheel show the six realms of samsara. The higher god-like states of being are on the top half, and lower hell realms are in the bottom half. These are the various states of being that a person can find themselves in during their lifetime.

The outer rim of the wheel show the 12 causal links, more specific activities that show how people get trapped among the six samsaric realms. They are basically a lesson in cause & effect, the essence of karma. Our thoughts and actions affect our being, and without awareness we are stuck in habitual or destructive behaviors. In "Americosmos," these 12 links are related to the endless cycle of consumerism, which traps us in the attachment to material goods & worldly experiences.

The giant demon holding the wheel is Yama, Lord of Death, representing impermanence & the transience of life. In "Americosmos," Yama is replaced by what the artist humorously calls "Uncle Samsara," a figure representing the illusion of nationalism & cultural identity.

Finally, the Moon on the upper left (in both images) represents liberation from the suffering associated with samsaric existence. It is possible to break the cycle of karmic conditioning and habitual behavior & thinking, to attain a state of Nirvana. This is the state in which suffering from unsatisfactory experiences cease to arise, due to a more peaceful & conscious state of mind.

The Buddha in the upper right points the way to the Moon, representing liberation. He pointed the way to this liberation through his teachings. The Four Noble Truths are the description of the problem of suffering, and The Eightfold Path is the Buddha's prescription to alleviate this suffering.

Mandalas, like these, are way to graphically depict profound teachings, in a way that people can easily understand. They are meditation aides that should be carefully studied, understood, and pondered to cultivate a higher awareness and deeper consciousness.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Carbon3D CLIP Fabrication




"Any sufficiently advanced technology
 is indistinguishable from magic."

Last week, I was watching a TED talk which made me think of the quote above, by the great Arthur C. Clarke.

The presentation was by Joseph DeSimone, the CEO of Carbon3D. He was demonstrating a new approach to 3-D printing, that was inspired by the T-1000 "liquid Terminator" from the Terminator 2 movie.



He was showing Carbon3D's innovative technique, called CLIP- "Continuous Liquid Interface Production".



Instead of laying down layer after layer of plastic material, like current 3D printers, Carbon3D CLIP technology uses a pool of liquid resin or polymer. A tray is slowly raised out of the polymer, while a combination of oxygen & ultraviolet light are used to cure the material as it is continually lifted out of the liquid. The process is controlled by software that directs the UV light to cure specific areas as the object is being formed.

The effect is definitely magical when you see it, because it appears that the object is being spontaneously created from a liquid puddle.

In addition to being faster than traditional 3-D printing, it is also a sturdier way to fabricate objects, since there are no striated layers that form weak points in the material.

This new technology has the potential to not only revolutionize 3-D printing, but manufacturing & fabrication on a mass scale.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Hanuman Jayanti


Here in America, Christian & Jewish people are celebrating Easter or Passover, respectively. I consider myself to be a person of world interests, so I like to learn about the traditions of different cultures.

It turns out that today Hindus celebrates the festival "Hanuman Jayanti". It is the birthday of the popular god of the Hindu pantheon, the monkey-faced Hanuman.

I have posted about Hanuman before, and I actually used him as the avatar for this blog when I first started it, since he looks kind of like a "monkey buddha".

Monkey Buddha Archives:

A couple days ago, my girlfriend said the instructor of her yoga class told her about the festival for Hanuman. That's how this celebration came to my attention. She also played this instrumental of the Hanuman Chalisa, a devotional hymn.





Friday, April 03, 2015

Why Are We Here?


I recently came across this vintage-looking picture, asking the eternal question of human existence:

"Why Are We Here?"


My answer would be... 
There is no reason "Why?"

'Meaning', 'purpose', & 'reason' are all subjective, abstract creations of the human mind. 
I don't think there is any external reality or inherent aspect of the Universe that determines a "purpose" to a person's life.

Despite the lack of any "meaning" to life, outside of the conceptions of our minds, there does seem to be a couple functions of Life, in general- & and of humans, in particular:

• The most basic function is simply survival of the organism. This primary biological directive actually serves to facilitate Life's secondary function...

• This secondary function is the propagation of information across time. For billions of years, this has meant copying genetic information to another generation. Now, perhaps the transmittal of memetic information, such as stories, art, writing, history, etc. can also be seen as part of that function.

I would also say that, in a universal sense (and perhaps on a spiritual level), the phenomenon of Life is a way for Reality itself to create a feedback loop of experience. In a sense, the perceptions of living things exists to feed information back into the quantum field, existing everywhere in constant fluctuation. I would say this is a "function" of Life, more than a "meaning" or "purpose".

The idea that "Life has no meaning," should NOT be a depressing or negative assertion. If this bothers you, it's a sign that you're stuck in an ego-centric point of view. Why should any one of the billions of talking, technology-using, hairless monkeys that have walked this planet have any particular "meaning" assigned to it?

The wonderfully empowering fact is, that people can create ANY meaning they want for their own lives.

The Universe represents endless possibilities and opportunities for each person to carry out their existence, in the way they feel most fulfilling. There is no cosmic or divine standard that we should be seeking to fulfill. Each person's destiny is a mixture of circumstances and how one responds to these circumstances at any given moment.

By being the conscious, creative engines of our own lives, we can follow a path that makes us feel positive and fulfilled, as individuals. We can create meaning throughout our lives, as an artist brings creations into existence.

There is no meaning to seek, and no mysterious purpose to uncover, outside yourself.

Just try to be present in each moment, appreciate the experiences you get to have, & live in the way that feels right to you.


Thursday, April 02, 2015

Star Wars Anime-"TIE Fighter"


This is a short film (7:30min) in anime style, depicting the Star Wars universe from the point-of-view of The Empire. It's pretty awesome.




The animation was done by Paul Johnson, aka MightyOtaking, aka OtaKing77077. It took him 4 years worth of weekends to create, and his effort resulted in a stunning depiction of the Imperial Navy going into battle with Rebel forces.

There are a lot of visual references to the classic 1990's computer game TIE Fighter, which I played constantly when I was in high school. In this video, the cockpit design of the TIEs, the Interdictor-class Star Destroyer (with gravity well generators, to prevent hyperspace jumps), the different TIE Fighter styles, and other details are reminiscent of the game & other aspects of the Star Wars expanded universe.

The only thing I wasn't really crazy about was the crazy guitar soundtrack. I guess it fit with the anime style animation, but I would have preferred some John Williams orchestral music. Otherwise, it is an impressive piece of Star Wars fan art.

On a related note, the name T.I.E. Fighter stands for "Twin Ion Engine". George Lucas's views of futuristic technology were prescient. Researchers are currently developing ion propulsion systems for a new generation of spacecraft. It is an extremely effective mode of accelerating vehicles or unmanned probes. It's just one of the ways Star Wars, like other science fiction visions, can be manifested into reality.

Popular Science:



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Movie Review: Samsara

 
Recently my girlfriend & I watched a movie that I had been wanting to see for awhile. I have eclectic taste in movies & this one caught me eye.


Samsara is a visual journey, with no dialog or narration.  There is a wealth of spectacular imagery of people & places around the world.


It is really a meditative work of visual art that features other examples of human spirit & creativity, such as the activity of making a Tibetan Sand Mandala. This is an expression of impermanence that is destroyed after many hours of meticulously forming grains of sand into a complex composition.
 

The word "Samsara" means the endless cycle of birth, death, & rebirth- along with the karma (or consequences) that come from our thoughts & actions.

Samsara is also used to describe the transient qualities ever-changing world around us, with all its imagery, sounds, and experiences. In this context, it usually refers to the tendency of the world & it's myriad qualities to trap us in the karmic cycle of life & death.

There are interesting thematic threads woven throughout the footage of the movie. One striking part of the film that I didn't expect was the juxtaposition of factory workers & industrialized farming. There are many more interconnections between the many sights & visual elements presented in the movie.

It's something that needs to been seen, & not described. I'd definitely recommend Samsara to anyone who would appreciate watching a rich tapestry of visual imagery, in a thought-provoking look at humanity and the world around us.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Aliens to Apes

"The iconic Alien is to us what we are to apes:
small, pale, big-headed. and with unfathomable technology.
We even abduct them for medical experiments."


If alien abductions (of the medical experiment kind) are true, then this graphic I saw on fUSION Anomalog is pretty accurate. Humans would just be a relatively primitive species, being studied by a more technologically-advanced bipedal species.

I've had had vividly realistic dreams about encounters with alien spacecraft & extraterrestrial beings, and I wouldn't be surprised if many abduction reports are actually a terrifying combination of lucid dreams & sleep paralysis.

I also suspect that there is also a role to be played by the subconscious re-living the experience of birth. Many of the feelings of helplessness & terror associated with these encounters could be remnants of our feelings as a baby. Perhaps it is a resurfacing of memories of being brought out into the bright lights & clinical setting of a hospital room.

The classic 'grey alien' archetype seems to be like a future, hairless version of human beings- or perhaps it could be a genetically-related species that has evolved parallel to us, but in a divergent way to have major differences from us.

I wouldn't be surprised if our planet was like a zoo, for more advance beings to visit and observe. If such beings were able to exist in other dimensions, their appearance & function might even be beyond our current ability to comprehend.


It's absurd to think that there is no life anywhere else in the Universe. In fact, Life probably exists throughout the cosmos, in an endless array of shapes & sizes. Anyone wondering what other forms living things could take, just need to look at the variety on Earth to see the countless possibilities. 

It's conceivable that races from other star systems could have a similar anatomy to us humans. However, I think alien beings could be much more incomprehensible in form than a familiar humanoid shape. There's no reason why they'd have to so closely resemble us.

Whatever they are (if they're real), this is an awesomely realistic rendering of the gray alien by 3d artist Andrew Baker:

by Andrew Baker


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spiral Galaxy NGC 5023

I saw that NASA recently released yet another awesome Hubble image.

It is a view of the edge of a spiral galaxy, named NGC 5023. It is over 30 million light years away from us.  Click the link for full resolution images:

Hubble:


Astronomers have counted about 30,000 stars in this photo, but it is only a fraction of the millions of stars that this galaxy likely contains. It looks like there's a lot of stars in this image, but most of them are actually too faint to be seen, even by the Hubble telescope.

When I look into a photo like this, my mind reels at the immensity and vastness of our cosmos.

This galaxy alone has millions of stars, probably billions of planets, and countless other bodies & features... and it is only one single galaxy, out of 100 billion.

We are each a point of consciousness in this endless sea of creation, manifesting out of the practically infinite fractal Universe.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Creating New Senses


Our reality is defined by our sensory input- hearing, vision, taste, touch, smell, and any other signals sent from our body to our brain.

Our central nervous system is encased in blackness, & our experience of the Universe is determined by the signals sent from our sense organs.



Today I Found Out:

We usually don't think about the extremely limited scope of our perceptions. Human beings are only picking up on a small portion of the world around us. There are signals all around us that we are completely unaware of, without the use of tools or devices.

For example, the visual light that our eyes can see is a tiny slice of the overall electromagnetic spectrum.

http://monkeybuddha.blogspot.com/2014/11/life-in-thermal-vision.html


Similarly, our ears only hear a certain frequency range of vibrations in the air that we perceive as sounds.

These are limitations of the senses that we do have. There is a vast amount of information that we are not equipped to sense at all.

Other forms of life have organs that can sense environmental cues to which we are totally oblivious.

• Bats use sound waves to visualize objects in 3D space for echolocation.
• Snakes can detect infrared wavelengths to sense heat signatures.
• Birds have specialized cells that detect their orientation to the planet's magnetic field.
• Bees can see ultraviolet light reflected off flowers.

Nautilus:

The other night, I was watching an excellent TED talk by neuroscientist David Eagleman about using technology to augment our perception of reality, by facilitating new sensory inputs.

TED



His premise was that the brain is capable of receiving sensory data from input other than our biological sense organs. The human brain is like an extremely adaptable computer, that can interpret signals from an unlimited number of possible "plug & play" devices.

The brain has the astounding ability to take incoming data from unfamiliar sources & interpret it to help formulate an understanding of the world. Our minds are pattern-recognition systems with capabilities that we cannot even imagine. It's ironic that the brain doesn't not even know the limits of its own potential.

In the future, is inevitable that people will continue to "hack" the senses, in order to expand the human experience & understand the world in new ways.

NOVA:




People are already experimenting with ways to detect new stimuli in the environment. I've seen stories about individuals embedding magnets under their skin so they can detect the strength of electromagnetic fields.


External sensing devices, neural implants, and perhaps even new biologically-engineered sense organs, will change how the mind can experience the infinite aspects of the Universe.
 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Black And The Blues- "I'm Sad"

 
When my Dad (Big Paul) was a teenager in the 1960's, he formed a band with his childhood friends. The first band he was in was called "The Black and the Blues". Their big influence was The Beatles, at the height of "Beatlemania".

My Dad and some of the other guys went on to play together in other bands, too. Some of my earliest memories are of seeing my Dad playing music with "Snuffy" or "John, Paul, Kat Band".

He still has some of the vinyl single records they had pressed. I used one of the records in a collage that I made for him for Father's Day. It had old photos of "The Black and the Blues," that his friends had shared on Facebook.



One of the band members, Chuck, came across their single, "I'm Sad" that someone has digitized & uploaded to YouTube. The person who uploaded the song also added some vintage 60's footage, that gives it a music video feel.





My Dad is a very laid back guy. However, when my brother & I showed him the YouTube video, he lit up & was amazed that someone had put their old single on the Internet.

Here are some other YouTube links to where the song has been uploaded:




Now, my father & his friends have achieved digital immortality, and their memories & music will hopefully live on into the future.

"The Black and the Blues" band members were:
• John Carnuccio
• Chuck Emma
• Paul J. Micarelli
• Charlie Pestritto

Here's a "Then & Now" pic of the band, from after they got together in 2014:

Front to back: Charlie, Paul, Chuck, & John

My Dad's friend Chuck, another member of The Black and the Blues, brought to my attention the fact that a live cover of the song was also on YouTube.

The band, The Kumari, is from the UK and did a cover of the song at The Purple Turtle Bar. My Dad & his former bandmates were amazed that, not only did anyone know about the song, but that a modern-day band bothered to learn & perform it.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Vinyl Toy Design


 In my professional career as a graphic designer, I get to work on alot of products for toy & game companies. I've helped design many products, their packaging, and marketing materials. I also have had my own ideas published, like the game Da Vinci's Challenge.

Recently, I've been busy making prototypes of a few original concepts that I'm hoping to get to market. Even the process of creating a single new product takes many hours of planning, creative effort, testing, revising, and refining. Then, getting it manufactured and marketed is a whole separate process with its own challenges.

This video from toy designer Joe Ledbetter, that I saw on BoingBoing, is an excellent look at what goes into designing a product- in this case, vinyl toys.


Monday, March 09, 2015

Flower of Life Yin-Yang



Recently I wondered if I could form a Yin-Yang symbol, using the black & white pieces for "Da Vinci's Challenge".

It turns out that you can make a close approximation:



"Da Vinci's Challenge" is a board game that I created as a college student, which was published in 2006. It is a strategy game that uses an ancient symbol, known as 'The Flower of Life' for the gameboard.

This picture of the yin-yang I made on the board was first posted on the official Facebook page. Please check it out, for more pics & info about the game & it's background:

Facebook:

Thursday, March 05, 2015

"City of the Monkey God"


 On Raw Story, I saw an article about the discovery of a lost city, the legendary "City of the Monkey God".

At first, I thought it was a story about the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, whom I've used as an avatar for this blog.

It turns out, the lost city is not in India, but in the Central American jungles of Honduras. These ruins have not been looted or disturbed in centuries. So little is know about the mysterious culture which lived here, that it has not been named yet.

NatGeo:

After legends about the city lingered since at least the 1920's, modern researchers launched a search for the "White City" of the monkey god. The site was discovered using lidar laser surveying, after a valley in the rain forest was identified as a possible location.

This shows how the use of technology & our accumulated knowledge has helped unlock our past in ways that were previously unimaginable.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

MRI Scans of Food

I came across this interesting set of animated GIFs, showing MRI scans of various fruits & vegetables.


We are expanding our perceptions, and therefore our consciousness, into previously imperceptible dimensions.

Here are a few of my favorite ones:






Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ape to Angel

While doing a Google image search, I came across this pic of a divine-looking monkey that I tracked down to DeviantArt member leoplaw:

by leoplaw





I'm always interested to see art that combines monkeys and the sacred, similar to the graphic I made of the mascot/logo for The Monkey Buddha:




When searching for the source of the image, I also came across this album cover for "Ape to Angel" by artists Pitch Black: