Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Flower of Life animation

I saw this animated GIF on Awakening Our Truth. The original source is dimensao7.
 

It shows the construction of "The Flower of Life" pattern, from a series of interconnected circles.

The Flower of Life is a symbol used in sacred geometry. This is the study of mathematical properties of nature, relating to the common forms found throughout our reality.

Contemplating the mysteries of this timeless pattern brings a greater understanding of the creative forces that make up our Universe.

I used the Flower of Life symbol as the basis for the strategy game I created, "Da Vinci's Challenge".



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Colors" by The Mercadantes


I am a graphic artist, so the perception of color plays a major part in my career & my life.

This video I saw on Gizmodo is a basic concept, showing a medley of images grouped together by color. However, it illustrates the rich variety of visual form and color passing before our eyes, that most people take for granted every day.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

"The Monkey Buddha"-10 Years!


I created this blog, The Monkey Buddha, 10 years ago today, on June 28, 2005!

The very first post I wrote was about a creation that I feel is one of my most notable achievements so far. It is an award-winning strategy game that I designed, based on the timeless principles of 'sacred geometry', called "Da Vinci's Challenge".


In my second post, "Intro to The Monkey Buddha", I stated the reason for starting the page:


"Hopefully, this will be a place where I can finally share the ridiculous amount of info I have stored in my brain and its silicon symbiote I call my Apple Computer. I am looking forward to posting all kinds of important news, nuggets of crazy wisdom, interesting technologies, political rants, and useless fun crap.

Please bookmark this site and check back every once in awhile... I will try to be vigilant & continue posting new items. Basically, this blog will reflect the world and its infinite complexity - from my own infinitely limited perspective.
Enjoy!"

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of this creative endeavor, I wanted to share some interesting things about it.

Since I started posting to The Monkey Buddha, I've been able to fit every one of the 1,591 posts to date into one of these categories- click the links to explore!

Here are the Top 5 most viewed posts, since I created the page. My review of the iPhone was by far the most popular article.

1) iPhone 4S: Full Review

2) The World Was Always Awful

3) Monkey Business T-shirt 

4) Logos with Hidden Messages

5) Interview with Alex Grey


Although I love to write about all different topics, I am a professional graphic artist. The Monkey Buddha has also been a place to show my art, such as 3D renderings and graphic design work.


After years of uploading images, I've also built up a huge database of visual imagery in my Picasa Web Album.

Picasa:

For me, blogging has always been a purely creative pastime, an opportunity to express my thoughts and interests publicly for anyone who happens to see it. I truly appreciate anyone who follows this page or The Monkey Buddha Facebook page.

I have never tried to directly make money from this page. There have never been ads or even a donation button on the page.

On occasion, I have shared some products featuring my designs that are available in my Cafepress shop.

Cafepress:


Like so many others, I am a endlessly creative person, and this blog is a tremendous outlet for my ideas. It is a credit to Google that they offer this free blogging platform to people.

Sometimes I wonder, though... What would happen to all my work if Google or the Blogger service stopped existing? Would all my thoughts & work be lost? It's almost like the idea of a Tibetan sand mandala, where the intricate creation of the Buddhist monks is swept away after completion, leaving no trace. It is a meditation on impermanence, the fact that neither we humans nor our accomplishments will last forever.

However, there is the possibility that, because I've had the opportunity to add my presence to the Internet's electronic hive mind, my writings and artwork will outlive me for a time.

Hopefully, humanity will expand into the Universe beyond Earth, and my thoughts & artistic work will continue to exist in the repository of our species' shared knowledge as we travel to the stars.

I'd like to think that the content of this blog will last for many more years, and perhaps even decades- so that The Monkey Buddha can continue to inform, entertain, and perhaps enlighten others into the future.


http://monkeybuddha.blogspot.com/2010/12/drawing-internet.html

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Psychedelic Computer Dreams


I recently read about research that Google is doing using their image recognition neural networks. These networks, that mimic the neural architecture of the brain, are programmed to recognize features of pictures such as people, animals, and buildings.

Google Research Blog:

Google software engineers have taken these image-detection algorithms and tweaked the process, so it essentially goes in reverse. Instead of recognizing existing features in an image, the computer looks for and generates imagery where there isn't any already.

The results of this process are psychedelic, slightly surreal artificial visions that the Google engineers call "Inceptionism".

The Guardian:

For instance, the network can be given an image and instructed to search for edges, which are enhanced and filtered with colors.



It can also "dream" of images that aren't there, by searching for familiar forms and reinforcing them- as in this image of a cloudy sky, in which the computer pulls out animal-like forms. This is similar to a human daydreaming and finding recognizable shapes in the clouds. 



The important aspects of this process are the image recognition feedback loops, applied to the visual analysis that the computer is making. It is an iterative process of searching for recognizable features, then re-applying it over and over, to create hallucinatory fractal visuals.


Perhaps this is a glimpse into the nature of the psychedelic experience, in which the brain experiences resonant feedback loops of information.

The brain normally suppresses neural activity and feedback patterns that would be hallucinatory & distracting, but I suspect substances that unlock visionary states open up this activity.

Motherboard:

Although this may help us to understand what is going on when a person has a psychedelic experience, the research is also useful for understanding consciousness, in general.

For more images from Google's neural net research, you can visit the photo gallery of Google software engineer Michael Tyka:


There is even an interactive livestream Twitch channel of a neural net bot that creates ever-changing psychedelic imagery in real time.

The visual output is based on user suggestions, derived from a predetermined list of inputs. These inputs are categories of a million images that were previously introduced to the network.

Watch live video from 317070 on www.twitch.tv

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Big Paul's Adventures in History VI


I have a lot of photos of my Dad sleeping in many different chairs, on many different occasions.  

He has worked hard in the food retail business all his life, but when he gets a chance to sit down & relax, it usually turns into a snoozefest. Family events or holidays inevitably become napping opportunities for the big guy.

My old friend Dan J. gave me the idea- to have pictures of my Dad sleeping right through important times in history. I thought this idea was hysterical & created this series of "snapshots" showing Big Paul experiencing historic events, in his own special way.


This is the sixth set of of "adventures," as he sleeps his way through the most important events in history.

To commemorate my Dad's birthday & Father's Day, I made the 3 new History Adventures below.

Click the link to see the whole series:

"Big Paul's Adventures in History"
Building the Pyramids

As Egyptian workers toil on the Giza plateau, my Dad slumbers in the desert sun.


"Big Paul's Adventures in History"
Roman Gladiator Games

Despite having a front row seat to the bloody spectacle of Colosseum gladiator battles, Big Paul is not amused & sleeps through the noise of a roaring crowd.


"Big Paul's Adventures in History"
The Discovery of Fire

As a primitive human struggles to harness the power of fire, my Dad Paul effortlessly takes a power nap.
  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Monkey Talks


I recently finished the book Baboon Metaphysics, that my girlfriend's parents gave me last Christmas. They know I love anything about monkeys. The book details some of the field studies of communication that goes on between baboons, as well as other primates.

http://www.amazon.com/Baboon-Metaphysics-Evolution-Social-Mind/dp/0226102440

Here is a video with the authors of Baboon Metaphysics:


The book also hypothesized about the nature of the monkey mind, and how it is similar and different from the human mind. Although there was detailed evidence of meaningful calls & signaling, the authors stopped short of claiming that the monkeys actually had "language" as we understand it.

I think the line between animal communication & human language is a fuzzy one, arbitrarily delineated by us humans. Although they don't have grammar and sentence structure, animals are clearly communicating complex ideas.

Daily Mail:

Chimps & other animals have been proven to be highly intelligent, even surpassing humans in some ways.


It is interesting that animals were trained to understand human language, and only now are we beginning to unlock the meaning in animal socializing.

Perhaps one day there will be a way to achieve a fluid understanding between humans & other living things. This will greatly increase the empathy that people have for Life, in all forms.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Pyramids: Fantasy & Reality

I was doing random Google images searches, for a new round of Big Paul's History Adventures for my Dad's birthday. While I was looking for pictures of the Egyptian pyramids at Giza being built, I came across some interesting things.

The size and antiquity of the pyramids makes them an irresistible source of mystery & wonder. I've studied many different theories on their construction & purpose, and I think some ideas are more likely than others.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

I found this digital painting at Letter from Mad Plato, showing cybernetic aliens supervising  the construction of the pyramids using advanced technology. It's fun to wonder about the possibilities, no matter how outrageous they may seem.


Despite the staggering scope of these immense (& seemingly superhuman) structures, I am pretty confident that their creation is well within the engineering capabilities of ancient humans.

During my search, I also watched this video that makes a compelling case for the use of hydraulic engineering in the construction of the Great Pyramid. I think this theory by Chris Massey is definitely thinking outside the box. There are some obvious problems with the ideas presented, but it's more likely that the pyramid builders used the laws of nature more than other-worldly alien tech.


 The pyramid's limestone blocks being floated through the Nile-fed water channels,
using air-filled animal skins bundled with papyrus.

 A hydraulic lock in an enclosed water channel, going up the side of the pyramid. 
The floating blocks would rise to the top of the construction using natural buoyancy.

A glaring question about this theory would be: How would the Egyptians have created enough pressure to maintain such a massive column of water, while also preventing the walls of the channel from bursting? The Romans were able to get water to flow uphill for short distances, but this seems like a much more difficult feat.

Regardless of how it was built, the fact is that it was built- using some combination of forces and technology. By using human ingenuity, ancient builders understood that natural forces could be used to do the work, instead of teams of men of animals.

Although the Great Pyramid and other ancient structures will always have an element of mystery, we will continue to unravel their secrets as our own knowledge & wisdom as a species grows.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

iThink Tech 2015

In my last post, I shared a project from my college years, called the Omega Computer.


The project assignment was to design a computer of the future. Years later, I revisited the challenge of imagining futuristic computer technology & took it a step farther.

Instead of the external, portable devices used in the Omega Computer concept, I designed a computer brain implant called the "Apple iThink". You can see the specs of the iThink in my original post:



Since I made those graphics, I've closely followed developments in science and technology that are leading toward a brain-computer interface, like the iThink.

I see technology, like my iPhone or computer, as extensions of my mind. The mystic sentiment that "consciousness is in all things" seems more true, the more I look into Reality. The Universe is made up of something more fundamental than particles or atoms- The Universe is made of information.

Human consciousness is just one manifestation of the Universal Information Field (UIF), that can manifest in infinite varieties. There is no reason why the ordinary conscious experience of the biological brain cannot be modified or enhanced to create novel states of being.

Of course, every step of the way there will be problems and questions that have to be addressed. Certain choices and directions may have unintended or negative consequences. However, I think it is inevitable for humanity to continue to seek new abilities, information, & understanding. We have uniquely mastered technology for this end, and will continue to expand both the individual and collective consciousness through technological means. Perhaps suprisingly to some, this technological innovation will be continue to be simultaneous, and perhaps symbiotic, with deeper spiritual and philosophical understanding about the nature of ourselves and our world.

I've collected links which, individually, are amazing developments. However, when seen as precursors to technologically-augmented consciousness, these scientific breakthroughs signal new frontiers in the human experience.

Time:
2045: Kurzweil on When Humans, Machines Merge


New Scientist:
Cyborg Tissue is Half Living Cells, Half Electronics

Extreme Tech:
MIT Creates Glucose Fuel Cell to power Implanted Brain-Computer interfaces

Daily Mail:
The Groundbreaking Microscopic Thread That Could Let Us Plug Our Brain Into a Computer

Waking Times
Decoded Neurofeedback: Matrix-like Learning With No Conscious Effort
 
Extreme Tech:
Brown University Creates First Wireless, Implanted Brain-computer Interface

The White House:
BRAIN Initiative Challenges Researchers to Unlock Mysteries of Human Mind

Kurzweil AI
Organic transistors for brain mapping

Popular Mechanics:
Going Wireless and Restoring Memories: The Incredible Future of Brain Implants

CNet:
What Google Glass Aspires to Be

Technooccult:
DARPA Wants to Fit Soldiers with a Little Black Box Brain Implant

The Atlantic:
•  The Not-So-Distant Future When We Can All Upgrade Our Brains

DefenseOne:
The Military Is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD

The Verge:
Google Leads $542 Million Funding of Mysterious Augmented Reality Firm Magic Leap

Techcrunch:
The Ongoing Quest For The ‘Brain’ Chip

H+
Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision

BBC Future:
The Code That May Treat Blindness

Smithsonian:
A Flexible Circuit Has Been Injected Into Living Brains

Aeon:
Hive consciousness: Do We Really Want to Fuse Our Minds Together?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"Omega Computer" Concept


The "Omega Computer" concept was a graphic design project that I created in college, during my senior year at Rowan University in 2001.

My project (which I was allowed to choose) was to design "a computer of the future". I wanted to incorporate cutting-edge technologies that I thought would need to be developed for future electronic devices.

by Paul Micarelli- 2001


In 2001, there were no smartphones or portable networked devices. Most people had just monochromatic cell phones (with no cameras). Commercial touchscreen tablets were just hitting the market, but were a long way from being as popular as the iPad would eventually become.

I think my predictions have proved to be pretty accurate, because many of these features are now standard functions of the iPhone, Android, and other mobile devices. The eyepiece I designed is similar to Google Glass and other augmented reality headsets.

Some of the ideas still haven't been seen on the market yet- like the outer casings of the Omega components being infused with electronic ink (e-ink), so that it can instantly change and display any color, texture, or design. Also, Nikola Tesla's idea of wireless electric power transmission is just now beginning to gain traction in commercial products.

I created the Omega Computer back when I was a graphic arts student, so my design skills were rudimentary compared to what I could do now, after 14 years of professional experience. I don't think it's too bad, though- considering my inexperience, as well as the limitations of the Photoshop 6 and the Infini-D 3D modeling software I was using at the time.

Even for a student project, the "Omega Computer" concept was definitely ahead of its time!...

  
Components of the Omega™ Computer system.


 

The portable Omega Computer device, housing the Qflux™ Quantum Processor, camera, and fully-customizable color e-ink skin. It's communication & electric power are completely wireless.



Info sheet for the portable Omega Computer device, housing the Qflux™ Quantum Processor, camera, and color e-ink skin.

"Revolutionary: Omega's computer system is the most user-friendly, powerful personal computer ever created. All devices receive wireless data and electricity so you don't have to deal with cables of any kind. Surf the internet quickly and connection free from any location. The Omega unit is compact and comfortable to hold in your hands and takes up little space when placed on a desktop. Not only is it elegantly designed, but the plastic casing is infused with electronic ink that allows you to customize the color and design of the Omega's shell at any time.

Powerful: Powerful is an understatement when describing the Omega Qflux quantum processor. This extraordinary technology uses the energy fluctuations of atomic particles to carry out computations, much like transistors of a silicon processor. However, the Qflux processor performs parallel computations at lightning speed compared to a silicon chip. This makes handling even large, complex processes such as video and 3D instantaneous!

Security: Omega gives you unprecedented security through fingerprint scanners embedded in the left & right 'click' buttons on the unit. Anybody with a different fingerprint is automaticallly recognized and prompted for a password which you can provide. Omega stores their fingerprint and name until you choose to remove them. Omega also contains a tracking device which allows the unit to be found if lost or stolen,

Multi-functional: No other device can give you the multimedia experience of the Omega. It combines  traditional computing with music and video playback, 3D virtual reality gaming, GPS navigation, telephone and video communications, and graphics. An integrated camera allows digital photography and video (when used in combination with the Head Mounted Display) or video conferencing when sitting in front of the computer. All processing is performed in real time regardless of complexity or size due to the revolutionary  Qflux processor.

Maximum Storage: Using holographic data storage technology, information is efficiently stored in the 3D space of a small cube. This tiny space holds 50 tetrabytes of information, or 5,000 gigabytes! This is much more storage capacity than any magnetic hard drive storage ever used in personal computers. All this space means room for every program, file, video, game, book, and song you want!"



The Omega Interactive Display with embedded speakers can be either placed on a monitor stand or held.


 

Info sheet for Omega Interactive Display.

"Interactive: Omega Interactive Display is a flatscreen, touch-sensitive LCD monitor  that allows you to write, choose items, draw, and navigate directly using the Omega stylus. Input devices such as the mouse and drawing tablets are unnecessary with our easy to use interface.

Compact: Our 17" display is 95% viewing area, with almost no surrounding casing to take up space. You get a combination of sight and sound in one compact unit with the stereo speakers embedded behind the screen. The display also folds in half for easy transportation or storage.

Wireless: Since the Interactive Display is powered by our wireless electricity transmission and also has a wireless data connection to the Omega Computer unit, there are no cords or batteries to deal with. This means you can use it anywhere- on the sofa, in the kitchen, or outside! If you want to stay in the office, you can attach it back to its stand for a space-saving work area.

Multi-media: Our Interactive Display contains high-quality 6"x9" flat stereo speakers to complete the Omega multimedia experience. Watch video, enjoy lifelike gaming, or hear crystal clear music while computing without the burden of seperate speaker hookups!"


 

The Head-Mounted Display is an eyepiece, with a microphone, earphones, and a high-resolution screen that tracks your eye movement. It is fully interactive with the other Omega™ computer devices.



Info sheet for the Head-Mounted Display


"Mobile: Omega's HMD (Head-Mounted Display) is a wireless personal interface for mobile, private computing. The screen in the LCD eyepiece is navigated by looking around the screen. The cursor tracks where you are looking  using low power lasers that follow your eye movement. The buttons on the hand-held Omega unit are used to "click" an item.

Comfortable: The headband and eyepiece arm are fully adjustable for maximum comfort. Also, the eyepiece can be detached and positioned over the left or right eye. The unit fits over eyeglasses and the screen is designed for minimal occlusion, meaning the screen does not black out your surroundings, but seems to be superimposed over it. This lets you easily focus back and forth between screen and environment.

Versatile: Omega's lightweight HMD contains  a high-res LCD screen, stereo headphones, and a microphone to communicate and interface easily in one unit. Can be used in conjunction with the Omega keyboard for typing applications."




The Omega portable keyboard is ergonomic and folds up to be easily transported. It also has the same e-ink shell as the Omega computer, so the keys and skin are fully customizable.
 


The Omega computer being used with the keyboard and the screen on its monitor stand. All the Omega components have full color e-ink shells, for fully customizable appearance.


 

The Omega computer being used with the interactive touchscreen with a stylus. All the Omega components have full color, e-ink shells for fully customizable appearance.


 

The Omega computer being used with the Head-Mounted Display (HMD) eyepiece. All the Omega components have full color, e-ink shells for fully customizable appearance.


 
  
he Omega computer has un-hackable quantum encryption and fingerprint scanners for maximum security.



 

 All the Omega components have full color, electronic ink (e-ink) shells for fully customizable appearance. This is the first computer system to incorporate e-ink on the outside casing. Changing the color, pattern, or design of your Omega devices is as easy as changing your desktop wallpaper!





These are the outside panels of a brochure presenting information about the components of the Omega computer system.



These are the inside panels of a brochure presenting information about the components of the Omega computer system. 

 "Wireless: Omega and all peripheral devices are wireless, meaning no connections or power cables! With PaulMic Technologies startup plan, for one low price you receive wireless power to your unit for as long as you own your Omega, NO BATTERIES OR CORDS NEEDED! All device and internet connections are cableless, so there is no hassle of confusing hookups.

Powerful: The Qflux quantum processor uses atomic energy fluctuations to compute faster and more efficiently than any silicon chip. Now the infinite possibilities of this technology are in the palm of your hand for graphics, gaming, and calculations. Now files that take enormous processing power, such as video and 3D rendering are instantaneous and take place in real time. The Omega's holographic data storage gives you 50 tetrabytes of storage for all the files and programs you'll ever need. Store libraries of music, games, and video in a space the size of a sugar cube! The cube-shaped storage unit stores data simultaneously in 3 dimensions for compact storage and instant retrieval.

Versatile: You don't work on Omega, you work with Omega. This is the first computer designed to conform to your needs at any given time. You can use any combination of peripherals with the Omega unit depending on your situation. 
the Omega combines the functions of a multitude of devices for a single, integrated, true multimedia experience. The Omega runs traditional computer programs, from word processing to graphics, a digital video/still camera, a GPS navigator, phone communication, music & video playback, ability to store and read volumes of ebooks and magazines, and high-tech gaming.

Stylish: The Omega unit, keyboard, and monitor stand all have a state of the art color electronic ink infused into the plastic. This allows you to customize the outer appearance of any of these devices with any color, pattern, or design that you like- at any time! Also, all Omega products are ergonomically and aesthetically designed to appeal to your sense of comfort and style.

Secure: Omega's click buttons read your fingerprint for personalized security. If someone else wants to use your Omega, all they have to do is type or say a designated password when prompted. Omega will then recognize their fingerprint when used. Therefore, you have peace of mind knowing that only you or your family and friends can access your Omega. If lost or stolen, the Omega has an embedded tracking device that works along with its GPS system to allow authorities to pinpoint its exact location.

Portable: All Omega devices are designed for easy transport and use on the go. The computer itself is lightweight and small enough to hold in your hand (the picture at far left is actual size). The touch-sensitive flat screen monitor and keyboard fold up for compact storage. The head mounted display unit is omega's mobile interface with  integrated microphone, earphones, and LCD display. Best of all, there are no wires or batteries to deal with when on the go thanks to Omega's wireless energy receiver."
 

Friday, June 05, 2015

All the Stars Visible from Earth

This image I saw on Reddit definitely puts our small part of the Universe in perspective.

It is a visualization of the area (the blue sphere) in the Milky Way galaxy containing all the stars visible in the night sky from Earth.

click to enlarge

All the stars that we can see with the naked eye are actually confined to a very small section of our galaxy. There are countless stars throughout the rest of the galaxy that are not visible from our relatively tiny planet. Of course, the Milky Way is just one galaxy among billions- each with billions of stars.

The scale of the universe is truly incomprehensible, and leaves the mind reeling at the size & complexity of our reality.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Battling Impermanence

On BoingBoing I saw a few images from a Tumblr blog of 8-bit computer art with random sayings.

Tumblr:

I liked this one & feel this way on a certain level:


Why do people feel the need to create or leave any kind of lasting impression? Art & creative activity is a way to extend ourselves in space & time, to try and overcome the overwhelming reality of impermanence.

Although I feel compelled to be creative and productive every day, when you think on a cosmic scale-
in billions of years, no physical record of our individual lives will exist. The human race very probably won't even exist.

So, in the long run, does anything really matter?

Even if the answer is "No."- that doesn't mean we have to feel despair, or that we can't experience things positively. In fact, the idea of impermanence can make one even more compelled to live fully and soak up what each moment & experience has to offer.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Look Inside a Brain Synapse


I've always been amazed by anatomy & biology. Life is mysterious, & any explanations we may try to formulate cannot penetrate that essential Mystery.

Science is the ongoing investigation of this infinite Mystery, which gives rise to endless additional mysteries! Scientific understanding and technology (especially 3D digital imaging) allow us to explore aspects of reality that were previously inaccessible, or even unimaginable.

The brain & nervous system is especially interesting, because it it the source of our conscious experience. The video below that I saw on National Geographic is a specific look at the synapse of a neuron, or brain cell. It is from a scientific paper that maps the proteins in these synaptic connection points on the ends of each cell, that allow chemical messages to be sent through the neural network.

 click to enlarge



The mind-boggling fact is that all this complexity is packed into a single synaptic area, on a single neuron. There are billions of these cells working together at near-instant speeds to maintain our biological functions and to create the holographic sensorium in our heads called "consciousness".


As much as I love to understand and learn about the world & the universe, looking deeply into these infinitely complex features is enough to melt your brain.


 Speaking of which, here is another video that gives some basic information about the brain and neurons that is still thought-provoking. There is nothing like the brain trying to understand a video about itself.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders 2016

https://berniesanders.com/

Growing up, I never had a interest in politics or current events. I always had a pretty good idea what was going on in the country and the world, but never really cared about who was President or what Congress was doing.

That changed completely after George W. Bush was selected by the Supreme Court in 2000, and we subsequently entered an 8-year neoconservative nightmare. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, my 23-year old self sat up and started to pay attention, like so many other people. This blog served as an outlet for my frustrations and disbelief at the insanity being perpetrated at the time.

Along with the rest of the world, I watched with horror as Dubya and his puppet-master Dick Cheney launched (unfunded) trillion-dollar wars of invasion & occupation in the Middle East. It was perfectly clear to anyone with even a bit of insight that these wars were meant to exploit the region's resources, gain imperial footholds, and enrich defense contractors & investors. Waging war & fighting terrorism are often a means of making more money for wealthy, unscrupulous people.

The occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan were giant historical blemishes on America's foreign policy, but there were countless other problems created in those years- resulting from the incompetence of the Bush administration and short-sightedness of conservative policy, in general.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, a giant sigh of relief swept over much of the world. Although Obama's terms have been, in many ways, a vast improvement over Bush's, it has become clear that he is not the progressive savior people thought he would be. In fact, the U.S. government under the leadership of President Obama has continued or expanded some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, it seems like there is only so much a President can do to change the mind-numbing bureaucracy of the government, the power of the military industrial complex, or the intransigence of an opposition Congress.

So, what should the citizens of the United States do?...

Should we throw our hands up and refuse to vote or participate in our democracy, claiming the system is hopelessly rigged for the benefit of monied interests? The answer is, "No!"

Politics, as vile as it can be, affects everyone in our society. It is much too important to leave to the devices of those who would seek to control or disenfranchise us. There is strength in numbers. Only by overwhelming consensus and cooperation can we, the people, overcome the imbalance in political power wielded by the top 1% in control of the wealth of this country.

As this election season started to add potential Presidential candidates for 2016, it looked like we might be doomed to an un-inspired choice of Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush- either way, a continuation of a political dynasty backed by Wall Street and big money.

Then, out of the blue, came Bernie Sanders from Vermont- the only Independent U.S. Senator. I've viewed a lot of cable news & have followed politics closely throughout my adult life. Having watched him over the past decade, Sen. Sanders has been a consistent voice of common sense policies and responsible government that functions for the benefit of the majority of working-class citizens. After hearing the incessant bullshit spewing from the other national politicians and TV talking heads, it was always refreshing to hear Bernie Sanders speak to the issues in a way that any reasonable person would understand and agree with.


Today, Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for President of the United States, much to the delight of myself and many other people looking for fundamental reform in the way this country operates.



If you want to know what he is about, watch the many videos of his interviews online, or find out about his policy positions & what legislation he has backed.


One thing is certain, he is a more authentic champion for the average American than Hillary Clinton, or any of the corporate puppets that the Republican party can shove into the spotlight.

The media will try to marginalize him at first- by depicting him as a "fringe" candidate, the political equivalent of a crazy uncle, or *GASP!* a Socialist.

As support for his campaign continues to grow, he will become a force to be reckoned with. If enough people hear his message he will have a real shot at becoming the President and bringing some much-needed real progressive policy to the White House.

So, on the day of his campaign announcement, I'm enthusiastically supporting Bernie Sanders and what he stands for. I'll be spreading the word about this man- who has the proven integrity, honesty, and solutions we need to address the complex and seemingly insurmountable problems this country faces.

Here is the full video of Sen. Sanders' speech announcing his candidacy, in which he details his ideas for changing the American political landscape for the better:



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stereoscopic Music Video



Being a visual artist, I love optical illusions. One that still fascinates me is the stereoscopic image.

vision3d.com
Although it is challenging to "see" at first, once you figure out how to view a stereogram, you can do it at will.

By slightly un-focusing & crossing your eyes, you can make a pair of images overlap within your visual field to form a 3D image.

This music video for "Black is Good", by Young Rival, uses stereoscopy to achieve moving, 3-D forms out of what appears to be random static.

For best results, practice the technique on stereoscopic still images first- then watch the video in HD.



Young Rival also had another captivating video for "Two Reasons", with a series of entertaining face paintings:


Monday, May 18, 2015

American Horror Story: Freak Show


I don't really watch TV anymore... The only programming I ever watched anyway was cable news, documentaries, & Comedy Central shows. Now, I don't even bother with TV news, and I only watch content from Comedy Central occasionally. My girlfriend & I both try to find more constructive uses of our time, so neither of us invest ourselves in full seasons of any TV series.

However, we decided to make an exception & watch "American Horror Story: Freak Show", because it appealed to our appreciation for the bizarre and weird. After months of intermittently watching an episode here & there, we finally watched the series finale last night. I enjoyed the series and think it's worth seeing, for all its grotesque craziness.

When I first started watching AHS: Freak Show, I immediately recognized the strong influence of the 1932 cult classic film, Tod Browning's "Freaks". It became one of my favorite movies in high school, after I bought a VHS tape from a video store that I worked at as a teenager. "Freaks" shocked audiences of the day with its casting of real circus freaks and sideshow acts, leading to it being banned from theaters.

 
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As a kid who liked anything strange & out of the ordinary, "Freaks" was right up my alley. It was disturbing, yet thought-provoking and profound. It also gave deep insight into human nature and questioned the nature of our perception of "normal".

Tod Browning & the cast of "Freaks" (1932)

"AHS: Freak Show" is a modern day incarnation of the black & white film, in the form of a TV series. Most of the characters are direct adaptations of the real-life freaks that were cast in the original classic movie.

Many of the themes in the show are very similar to the movie. The feeling of rejection & being an outcast from society plays heavily in the show. A solution to this sense of rejection is the strength that can be found by "finding the others," as Terence McKenna used to say. By sticking together with other freaks, they could become a surrogate family for one another. This provides protection for one another through a communal existence, independent from the rest of society.

Another theme that I love in both the show & movie is the idea that the truly twisted and monstrous characters are actually the "normal" people, who are narcissists, sociopaths, and outright killers. The freaks just want to perform and live together in their traveling carnival, but the schemes of those outside their community constantly threaten their existence.

The owner of the freak show, Elsa Mars

The owner of the freak show is Elsa Mars (played by Jessica Lange), a German woman with dreams of becoming famous and moving to Hollywood. She loves her "monsters" as she calls them, but ultimately her narcissism is greater than her concern for the freaks. She has horrific demons from her past that come out as the series progresses, and this throws into doubt whether or not she can be considered a freak herself.

The utterly crazy Dandy Mott
 
One of my favorite non-freak characters is a rich, spoiled psychopathic man-child named Dandy Mott. He is a person that you love to hate, because he is such an evil & arrogant bastard. However, his craziness & complete disconnect from normal human behavior can be entertaining.

 Twisty the Clown

'The creepiest and most horrifying character was the Killer Clown who was featured prominently in the first several episodes. I personally find clowns to be have a slightly disconcerting quality anyway, but this clown was just plain terrifying. Unfortunately, his character didn't last throughout most of the series.

The leading "freak" characters of AHS: Freak Show

There are a lot of good characters in the show, including- Sarah Paulson as the 2-headed girl Dot & Bette, Kathy Bates as a bearded woman, and Neil Patrick Harris as the shell-shocked traveling salesman with his creepy murderous doll that speaks only to him.

Although the plot led to some shocking surprises and mind-bending circumstances, the acting and extraordinary characters are the show's strongest element.

I would recommend "American Horror Story: Freak Show" to anyone with an interest in the macabre, grotesque, or downright insane aspects of humanity. It makes you consider whether we are ALL freakish on some level.