Due to a storm, the power has been out at my house for a couple days.
Until I can get back on my computer at home, I'm posting my contribution to the 'White Elephant' game my family plays on Xmas Eve.
Basically, everyone brings a wrapped present to add to the game. Then everyone picks a number & takes turn picking a random present from the pile. My family all have a twisted sense of humor, so some of the presents end up being bizarre or crazy.
This year I was having trouble deciding on what to do for a gift.
Then, in a flash of inspiration, I decided to Photoshop the group pics from Thanksgiving to make insane mixed-up family portraits.
The one with all the guys is really funny because of all the baby heads.
I like to set the bar really high when it comes to creative gifts...
(My face is in the middle, & I'm all the way to the left in the original photo.)
With the utterly incompetent & reactionary GOP caucus in the House of Representatives, it's now near impossible to get anything legislatively productive done. Their hatred for Obama & anything that progressives remotely support overrides their ability to approach problems from a reasonable perspective.
They are currently paying a political price for their inability to do anything than obstruct what even their Republican colleagues in the Senate are trying to accomplish:
It's just a shame that these battles aren't spent on
issues that actually impact the fundamental problems facing the economy
& government. Congress can't seem to do any more than put band-aids
on an amputee.
In honor of this most recent political fiasco cause by the knuckleheads in the House, I dug out the graphic below of Paul Ryan's Republican-backed plan to privatize Medicare & throw America's senior citizens to the mercy of Wall St. & private insurers.
The right-wingers are an endless source of horrible, absurd ideas that benefit nobody except the wealthiest citizens and corporations.
Anyway... for all it's faults, one thing I can appreciate about the Obama administration is their appreciation of thoughtful design & its general outreach to the design community.
Recently, the White House had a poster contest for the proposed jobs bill, which was predictably opposed by Republicans. I spent a few hours to put together this design in the hopes I could win & get a copy signed by the President. Unfortunately, I wasn't a finalist. Oh well.
Using the iconic logo of the Obama campaign, I tried (in my best 'minimalist propaganda' style) to illustrate what the government should be doing - Working *FOR* America... trying to unite Red & Blue and everyone else for common goals...
I have a large 6 ft. print of "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso hanging over my TV.
The painting is a general condemnation of the violence & atrocities of war. However, it is a specific reaction to the bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.
I've spent alot of time studying it & it's possibly the piece of art I've looked at the most.
Below is a really cool animation that splits the painting into the extra dimensions that Picasso envisioned. It highlights the many details of the design that tell the story of death & destruction wrought on innocent civilians.
It brilliantly ends with the focus on the tiny symbol of hope in the chaotic hellscape, the lone flower at the bottom center of the composition, emerging from a broken sword.
The first one was actually put out by The White House, comparing the proposals in Pres. Obama's Jobs Act to the consequences of the GOP's plan.
I'm no mindless Obama drone, but I think he's clearly a helluva lot better than Dubya was. If you watch speeches by the 2 presidents & you still think Obama's the worse one, then you've got problems. Obama's not nearly progressive enough for me, but I would much rather have him stay office than ANY one of the Republican candidates... even that half-genius/half-idiot Ron Paul.
Some critics would argue that this chart's just another piece of Obama Marxist propoganda, but it seems to correlate w/ the news I've been seeing coming out of Congress.
People could use more graphics like this that outline policy differences in a clear way, as long as they are accurate.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only
the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first
Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the
higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of
protection as any other rights."
I would take issued with the last line of the quote in the text, though. I don't think that an conceptual tool like 'capital' should be considered to have rights at all, as individuals or groups of people do.
...that's like saying that computer software has rights.
It could also be argued that capital can be created from sources not normally considered "labor".
The creation of intellectual property can be considered a form of labor, if it leads to further production of goods & services.
What is definitely NOT productive labor? Financial schemes that do nothing but extract value from the economy, for the benefit of manipulative firms & their executives.
There was an excerpt played of this speech at Madison Sq. Garden by Roosevelt a little more than 75 years ago.
President Obama's political instinct is to continually attempt compromise with the Republican party & corporate America.
FDR, however, openly declared war on these right wing factions, who he asserted were preying on the American worker:
to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly,
speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war
begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage
to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is
just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
before in all our history have these forces been so united against one
candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and
I welcome their hatred.
like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of
selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it
said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master."
People love to complain about the government, Wall St. & how "The System" as a whole is corrupt.
When people actually get out, organize, & try to do something about it, there are inevitably critics who feel like the status quo is better than actually trying to make major changes.
I think the Occupy protests are, overall, an effective force to initiate social and political change. I'm old enough to fondly remember the massive Iraq War protests during the Bush Dark Ages. The broad, sustained nature of the current Occupy protests are now having a large impact on the nation & the world.
Although the movement is fueled by future debt slaves, aka. "college students", there's also alot of labor unions & public workers involved, too. It's more than just a bunch of kids sleeping out in tents in parks. Like any large movement, there are bound to be wackos along with the people who are trying to do the right thing...
What should be the focus, are the stated goals of the movement-at-large:
The basic ideals that the people want to address are: democracy, justice, & freedom from oppression in it's many forms.
Most people don't expect a free ride in life, but we should all expect to have some protection against being exploited or preyed upon.
So, it's very disturbing to see the bizarro world we live in- where the forces that are supposed to protect the people are violently used against peaceful citizens & students who are trying to assert their rights as citizens and human beings.
Why are the victims (The protesting, debt-saddled American people) being criminalized instead of the perpetrators- (the financial & corporate players who have defrauded the country)?
To have any credibility with people interested in the nation-wide movement, President Obama needs to emphatically condemn violence against peaceful protesters. He's publicly sympathized with the sentiments of the protesters, even if he is a partial Wall St. beneficiary. Regardless, he should take action, or at least speak out, to prevent this kind of extreme assholery. It should not be tolerated from any law enforcement in this country, especially against unarmed students & innocent civilians.
My last post was about the inevitability of Death, too... but I'm not trying to be macabre. Being constantly aware of one's own mortality is simply the most effective way to appreciate Life.
I truly enjoy life & have been fortunate to have a very productive career as a graphic artist. However, there are always projects or visual art that I'm thinking of continually but just don't have time to even start. Although I sometimes sketch or write down ideas, most of them are archived in my head until I get to it.
Despite the constant urge to create, I try to remember there's no way to do everything I'd like. Therefore we sometimes have to stop, try to calm the whirlwind inside our head, put things in perspective, & take time to breath while we can.
Much of our memories, especially of the distant past, are facilitated by old photographs. I've got alot of photos from the days of film, but since the era of digital cameras the ability to take pics is relatively unlimited.
Here is a calculation of the total number of photos that have been taken. The total estimated number, 3.5 trillion photos, is probably going to be dwarfed in no time.
Of course, there is also the digital wonder of Youtube, which is also increasing its archive of videos at an exponential rate. The total library is constantly growing which makes it tough to precisely calculate at any one time.
We are creating an ethereal repository of human experience. As long as the digital network (or its futuristic offshoot) is functioning, mankind's memories will remain intact.
Ultimately, all this information is nothing but light. However, as long as all our data needs to be stored in physical drives or servers, it's always susceptible to cataclysms in the physical world.
Eventually, when we are each inevitably implanted with an Apple iThink, our lives will be continually recorded from one or multiple perspectives, perhaps in true 3-D using holographic data.
I've talked before about the Occupy Wall St. protests. Personally, as long as it remains generally non-violent I think the overall goals are eminently reasonable & are helping to guide the national discussion toward relevant issues.
This weekend I had a couple Halloween activities planned, so my costume was Zombie Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs has been one of my personal idols, so it's not really meant to be mean-spirited.
I just thought it was a little crazy & very easy to put together.
Friday night I was out with friends & entered the costume contest for the hell of it. The guys who were judging thought it was funny, so I ended up getting 2nd place... much to my bewilderment. I was up against girls wearing things like sexy police & FBI costumes, so I thought they clearly should've won instead.
Although the $100 prize for 1st place would've been cool, I happily took the runner-up prize- a large Eagles mirror. Although it's a cool prize, I have nowhere to hang it, so my brother's getting it for Xmas, since he said he wanted it.
Of course, I don't really care what happens to the universe after I die since I won't experience it.
It's interesting to think about, though, how long into the future mankind will be able to extend our brief cosmic existence. To do so, we have to extend our presence outside the solar system so we're not at the mercy of what happens to this particular planet. At the rate we're going, it may take a looong time to begin traveling between the stars.
However, there's also the possibility that both the ancient gnostics & South Park were right- that Earth is a cosmic prison that human beings are trapped in... FOREVER.
This weekend, the growing Occupy Wall Street protests spread to cities around the world. It seems that a large number of people have finally had enough with the crooks & buffoons that have been acting as overlords.
In my opinion, this movement is our country's progressive answer to the misplaced priorities of the Tea Party- which was fueled by fear & anger toward the government, but with a blind eye to Free Market abuses & no realistic approach to generate solutions.
Speaking of the Tea Party, this is an insane video of possibly the most empty-headed teabagger out there, actress Victoria Jackson. She's mingling with people in the Occupy Wall St. crowd & boldly displays her insufferable ignorance. I don't know how anyone can talk to her seriously. Could it possibly be performance art on her part?!? I'd recommend forwarding to about 2 min in. Her voice is hard to take, despite the excellent answers by the people she interviews.
The Tea Party has attracted (rightfully) angry Americans looking for alternatives to the 2 party system. However, that movement has mostly been a pawn of big industry, namely Koch Industries, & big media, namely Fox News. That's why the Tea Party's main stated goals are cutting government programs, lowering taxes & reducing regulations. Their desired policies mostly benefit multinational corporations, not the average person.
However, the knee-jerk reactionaries raising hell in the Tea Party were actually ahead of the curve in openly expressing general frustration with a system gone mad. These Occupy Wall Street protests are the result of everyone else in America finally reacting en masse to the many dysfunctional elements of society that have metastasized into systemic failure.
The driving vision of this recent upwelling is not to just initiate reform, but to fundamentally change in the way society operates. Everything is so screwed up, maybe this kind of organized, widespread nonviolent protest this is the only way to start the wheels turning toward real progress.
After reading through the '99% Declaration' policy points, I think these are definitely the right issues to be focusing on. These groups of people are trying to effectively address the problems at their root cause. This is actually a rational & pragmatic platform... not the stoned ramblings of bongo-playing hippies:
Traditional apologists for the elitist tendencies of the status quo are having a hard time adopting the reality of this popular movement into their worldview. America's biggest knucklehead, Fox News' Sean Hannity, is the standard bearer for being wrong on every single issue.
These two U.S. Marines have the right advice for anyone like him, who is foolish enough to dismiss the growing unrest in this country:
I'll end my personal tribute to the legendary co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, by looking forward.
As a college student, one of my senior design projects was to design a computer of the future. This was around 2000, & our labs had the original iMacs & G4 Powermacs. Cell phones weren't common at all & the Internet was just becoming the eminent communication & information tool it is today.
My design for a futuristic computer used a portable handheld device w/ peripherals like a touchscreen monitor w/ embedded speakers & an immersive eyepiece that that was another interface option.
I'll post the renders I made of the concept when I get around to it. Anyway, that project inspired me a few years ago to imagine an Apple-branded computer of the future, called the Apple iThink. It's been featured on websites & magazines around the world.
My "iThink" concept pics & the imaginary specs are at the bottom of the post. I'm determined to update the graphics one of these days.
I've been talking to people this weekend about the impact of Steve Jobs and Apple & no one can really say for certain how the computer interface will be improved after the touchscreen. Perhaps 3D or holographic technology is the next step. However, interfaces that connect directly to the brain seem to be inevitable. Then, our thoughts may be augmented by digital systems. Maybe our memory & perceptions could even be enhanced.
Here's a list of links to stories that I think herald the coming of future devices with iThink Tech:
Since Steve Jobs has been one of my greatest heroes & inspirations in my adult life, I'm keeping the memorial vigil going here for the weekend.
I've seen good articles & videos about him, but I want to concentrate on what truly made him & Apple what they have become. In essence, it was his understanding of beautifully simple design- both cosmetic & functional.
Zen is essentially a study of one's own self & the mind in a pure experiential context, unfiltered by our inherent preconceptions & cultural baggage.
I think this kind of deep understanding helped Jobs' focus on the practical relationship the user had to any of his Apple products. He had a unique vision that allowed him to know how people would think about features & use them, in a sense being empathetic to their needs.
Apple has been great at minimizing user frustration, while simultaneously maximizing productivity. Despite the inevitable imperfections in any given device, the technologies that he popularized seem almost miraculous when seen with fresh eyes. The fact that their capabilities are almost taken for granted is an even greater testament to the way the amazing tech was designed to be interwoven into one's everyday life.
It's truly a shame that we didn't have a few more decades of Steve Jobs' vision to enrich our culture, but hopefully his legacy will continue to guide Apple & the tech industry for year to come.
On the news tonight, I saw that Steve Jobs passed away.
Although it will be said millions of times, he was a true genius and a visionary who literally changed the world.
My own career and entire creative life has been influenced by the great functionality of Apple computers. I've 'converted' all my siblings to Mac & it's superiority to Windows is clear to me.
Although I don't have an iPhone or iPad yet, I've long recognized the revolutionary potential of portable digital devices. Apple has had a major part in making tech, and therefore the human network, more mobile.
What set Apple apart was the minimalist design approach & ease of use. Steve Jobs revolutionized the tech industry several times over and led Apple to becoming one of the most important companies in the world.
I hope that Apple continues to fulfill the vision implemented by its founder, in order to improve the lives of people around the world. I'm forever grateful to Steve Jobs for sparing me from Windows hell.
Empathy is the ability to mentally & emotionally connect to another being.
The inability to experience empathy is a trait of a psychopath. I think that avoiding cruelty towards other living things is a primary moral rule. However, I'm also a realist. I know we live in an insane world, where unimaginable suffering exists all over the globe, at all times.
I think that keeping sentient wildlife encaged & tortured in experimentation is immoral, regardless of the scientific value. The whole issue of factory farming is another animal issue I'm not going to get into now, but generally we should be finding ways to reduce suffering, not increasing it.
Anyway, this story about lab chimps being outside for the first time is proof that these animals are consciously experiencing life basically the same as we are. They are feeling, seeing, hearing, and reacting to their situation. To inflict prolonged pain on such creatures is not justifiable & can't be good for the soul.
I think this trader is being honest to the extent that he's giving a clear glimpse into the mind of a sociopathic financial parasite.
He's also right that without checks on their power & influence, Goldman Sachs and the other 'too-big-to-fail' banks & investment firms are an unstoppable cancer draining the wealth from society.
I don't enjoy working with numbers, so I would never work in the financial industry. Trading stocks & managing investments would be like my nightmare job, it just seems so crazy. Maybe, to some extent, it is:
Obviously, not everyone who works for a bank is a greedy lunatic out to pillage mankind.
However, the fact that the looting of our country by these corporate vampires has gone completely unpunished has given rise to the 'Occupy Wall Street' protest in NYC that has been going on for almost 2 weeks.
The great populist of our time, Michael Moore, was on MSNBC live from Wall St. earlier & stood up for all the working people who are preyed upon by the nation's banking institutions. He's right on the money, so to speak.
I've got a good job & need to pay my bills, so I've got nothing to get really pissed off about. However, I'm glad there's all those activists who are there. They are helping to bring awareness to the massive injustices happening on in our county, so people feel empowered to speak out and take action against them.
I saw this cartoon on The Chive, asking the eternal question:
Besides the weird mutant humanoid that's supposed to be a baby, this is a great illustration.
It perfectly captures the perpetual inability of human beings to fully appreciate the only time that really exists - NOW.
I wake up every day with the realization that I might not make it to the next one. Truly accepting your own mortality in an immediate way helps increase awareness and acceptance of your own experiences.
I just finished the 700+ page The Golden Bough by James George Frazer. I've been reading that book at work during my lunch breaks. Fingerprints of the Gods was my vacation book, & I'm almost done that too.
The Golden Bough was excruciating at times to read, but I pushed through it. Mostly, the book is a scattered list of every superstition & folk ritual imaginable. It is a repository for details of various cultural traditions & taboos, but there are so many examples it's hard to absorb it all.
The ultimate purpose of the book was to investigate the ancient rites that took place in the sacred Arician groves at Nemi in Italy. Supposedly, there was a priest-king who guarded the grove. His successor had to break a limb from a sacred tree & kill him to take his place.
However, getting to the possible history & reasons behind those sacred rites is a long, tortuous road. As I said, most of the book just becomes a rambling list of superstitious beliefs among various peoples. It's tedious to read through, even for someone interested in cultural anthropology.
One part of the book that was interesting is a chapter on the god-man Osiris of ancient Egypt. The Fingerprints of the Gods questions the astronomical connections & possible historical foundations of the Osiris legend. The Golden Bough instead looks at the link between Osiris and agriculture, especially the growing of corn.
These varied aspects of the same deity show how symbolically multi-faceted the ancient people were. Our ancestors were able to encode vast amounts of knowledge into characters & stories that could be passed down through the ages.
I judge a book by the chance I'd read it again. There were some interesting sections, but it's safe to say I don't think I'll be taking this lengthy book on again anytime soon.
Despite the dismal field of candidates, I watched the last GOP debate the other night that was sponsored by corporate partners CNN & The Tea Party, Inc.
I still think the Republicans have no chance to beat Obama if Mitt Romney isn't the nominee. He's the only one remotely electable. Some of the candidates are more far out than others, though. Ron Paul is partially immersed in a Libertarian fantasyland. I completely agree with some of his ideas, but then he goes into illogical extremes with his fictional idea of individual "freedom" which always trumps the good of society.
However, Michele Bachmann, a Congresswoman from a district of crazy people in Minnesota, is out somewhere on her own planet. Besides being one of the most untruthful politicians in DC, she basically wants to eliminate secular government & institute a theocracy based on her own warped view of reality. It always amazes me how many of these government-hating Republicans want to be career government employees...
Anyway, I had the image of her iconic Newsweek cover sitting on my desktop, because I knew I could make something crazy w/ it. ...so, I threw this animated GIF together of "Hypno-Bachmann".
Don't look at it too long or she will suck out your soul.
Tonight, President Obama used the setting of a joint session of Congress to try and initiate some action on the country's unemployment rate & related economic problems.
The guy can give a hell of a speech & I agree with many of his ideas, but dealing with Congress to pass effective legislation is another story. Measures such as, re-hiring first responders & teachers, fixing schools, working on infrastructure, small business tax breaks, etc., should be a no-brainer. It is Congress, though... so it's hard to be optimistic. There are a few GOP knuckleheads who didn't even want to do their jobs and show up for the joint session addressing a critical national issue. These buffoons are supposed to be relied upon for reasonable compromise?
It's crazy that there are so many people unemployed when there's potential for so much work to be done. It's even crazier for people (like the cult of Ron Paul) to think that the Free Market can somehow magically solve everything. If the private sector is stagnant & the source of jobs needs to be purposeful government projects, then so be it. People complain about teachers or cushy gov't jobs with their generous benefits- but somehow a CEO for a bailed-out company who gets a bonus larger than the entire company's tax burden deserves it & is just 'living the American dream'. It's silly.
Anyway, it seems to me that creating constructive, functional public works projects would be a wise investment. Any improvement to the effectiveness of education would be an even greater benefit to society.
Both of these would also help to reduce the "entitlement" culture that right-wingers loathe so much. Speaking of which, I saw this absolutely ri-dic-u-lous video that I'm not even going to embed because it's just tooo much, even if it is a parody. I can imagine it's what some people imagine everyone getting public assistance is like.
The bottom line is: the more people who are working, in the public or private sector, the less likely it will be for the other related economic problems to develop.
If I could be their PR consultant, my slogan for Obama's campaign would be "Working for America".
Since I like to get all perspectives on the issues of the day, I'll probably force myself to watch some of the debate tonight between the GOP Presidential candidates.
It's difficult to watch the tired old arguments of these candidates, especially after I just watched other more insightful politicians offering real solutions to the country's problems. I was watching an interview w/ Sherrod Brown from Ohio regarding job creation, who I think is right about most issues I hear him talk about. Then, on C-Span, I saw the last part of a speech on the House floor by Dennis Kucinich regarding the NEED Act that he is sponsoring.
I'm really interested to see who ends up the GOP nominee. If they don't pick Mitt Romney they're crazy. He's the only one who most independent voters would even think about voting for. Rick Perry is just Dubya Part II & he's the only other one with any chance.
One thing I'm sure will not change from watching the debate is that I wouldn't vote for any of them. I think Obama's a far better choice, despite his faults. My biggest problem with President Long-Legged Mack Daddy is that he has not governed like the socialist far-left progressive that his opponents make him out to be. He's been more of a Wall Street-sponsored corporate Democrat, who just panders to the base on some issues. If anything, his presidency has definitely demonstrated how difficult it is to realize fundamental institutional change. However, even if he did aggressively push to enact progressive programs, he would continue to be challenged by the defiant & unified opposition.
As an Independent voter, I don't have any party interest in having Obama stay another term. I'm more concerned with the fact that each one of his Republican challengers would probably be a disaster if they were in charge.
This article by a former GOP staffer on the state of the party-at-large seemed to be pretty accurate to me: