Sunday, December 30, 2012

Getting in Gear for the New Year



As 2012 comes to an end, we can look back on what the past year meant for us, & wonder what unimaginable things 2013 will have in store.

I try to live each day fully & consciously, with no regrets. I'm fortunate to have relatives & friends to share great times with. My family is very close & we all look forward to the times we are together on vacation or during the holidays.

This holiday season has been no exception, Christmas was alot of fun this year. My nephews are old enough to enjoy all the Xmas craziness. Our holiday dinner & gift-giving were very lively.

I received some excellent Xmas gifts, mostly books, clothes & a couple video games. I already started playing Saints Row the Third, which is like Grand Theft Auto, but even more over the top. So far it really good. On the totally opposite end of the spectrum, I also received 'Journey' which is more of an artistically-inclined title.

I've been playing through the excellent 'Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood' for the last couple months. This weekend, I finally finished the main story to make way for other games. I'll try to write a review of it soon. I previously played 'Assassin's Creed II' & it also took me forever to finish. It takes me so long because I try not to spend alot of my spare time playing games. Also, besides playing all the side missions, I often just wander the virtual spaces in the games- admiring the level of detail & design that goes into these elaborate productions.

I got a few new books I'm looking forward to reading, too. My parents got me "Net of Being", the new book of visionary art by Alex Grey. Here is a recent interview he gave to VICE.com:


Though I've long been familiar with Grey's work, the book is still astonishing in its profound beauty. Several years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Alex & his wife Allyson. They were both great to talk to & Alex signed a print of his painting "The Artist" for me. It's an experience I'll always remember & treasure.



My brothers also got me some great books. One gave me Stephen Colbert's "America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't" which is full of his characteristic ironic humor.

My other brother got me "The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology" which is about the legitimate engineering achievements of the Maya. The technical knowledge of these people has been overshadowed recently by the whole 2012 Calendar hype.
Now that Dec. 21, 2012 has passed... maybe instead of prophecies & end-time predictions, people will focus on the more practical wisdom these people possessed.

There is still much to be learned from the people of ancient cultures. As we continue our journey into the future, it's always important to refer to the mistakes & lessons from history- to continually inform us moving forward.


Terence McKenna Omnibus 2012

The late Terence McKenna was one of the extraordinary minds of the 20th century. I became aware of him at the end of his life around the turn of the millennium. I've listened to many of his loquacious, humorous, & mind-expanding talks since then.

He was a true visionary who was unafraid to look deeply into reality, human nature (in all its weirdness), & the infinite mystery before us.

Most people would find his ideas to be waaaay 'out there', but I see him as a true Crazy Wisdom master.

One of the few things I really thought he was off the mark was his "TimeWave Zero" theory. He postulated that on Dec. 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan Long Count cycle, there would be some kind of manifestation or emergence of a Singularity. In this scenario, "Time," as we know it, would collapse. Consciousness would expand into a higher dimension or state of being.

Based on calculations using his fractal timewave theory, McKenna called this history-ending event: "The Transcendental Object at the End of Time". There may still be some kind of event that alters global consciousness at some point, but he was obviously mistaken to pin it on a specific date.

Over the past year. I've been watching the progress of a video series, documenting McKenna's ideas & lectures. The final episode was recently uploaded to coincide with the end of 2012, so here is the link to the series & the first video embedded:



The Solar Vortex

It may not be 100% scientifically accurate, but I think this video illustrates an interesting way of looking at the motion of the solar system through space.



This animation is simply looking at a process beyond the scope of our immediate perception, from another frame of reference. Relativity is essentially the recognition of different consciousnesses experiencing different things, depending on their situation. With modern technology, humans can more accurately model frames of reference outside our own experience. These vast, cosmic processes are now being looked at in new ways that may help illuminate us greatly.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa is a Communist


I made this poster to expose the danger of The Red Socialist Menace from the North.

Santa Claus is the ultimate proponent of wealth redistribution & the anti-Capitalist sentiment known as "giving".

Santa, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, St. Nicholas...this subversive character has many aliases, like a terrorist.

His example is teaching the children that it's okay to just give things to other people, with no form of compensation. This foreign threat is clearly anti-American, and is taking money from the most important people- the "job creators" who benefit from Western culture's insatiable thirst for crass commercialism.

Maybe one day, the USA will do the right thing, & take out this hostile invader with an unmanned drone strike on his flying sleigh.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Christmas Craziness 2012


The holiday season is upon us once again.

Today I will be going to my sister's for Christmas Eve festivities. We traditionally play The White Elephant game, which is always fun & hilarious.

Here's some random Christmas craziness I've come across recently:

The insufferable idiots on Fox & Friends, talking to Santa Claus about the silly "War on Christmas".

This is a great post with scans from the Christmas toy wish books from 1978, the year I was born:



An awesome example of needlework, based on a scene with Will Ferrell & Artie Lange from the movie Elf:


 

Hopefully, Christmas isn't cancelled this year...
It looks like Santa has run into some trouble:



Never mind, it looks like Santa ready to ride... in all his psychedelic glory:



...and finally, a Christmas greeting from Cousin Eddie, in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation":




Saturday, December 22, 2012

13.0.0.0.0 A New Day, A New Baktun

Me, at the Temple of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza, Mexico 2006


Yesterday was December 21, 2012, the end of the Great Cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Unsurprisingly, the world did not go down in flames- nor was there a global higher consciousness shift.



Although I've tried to understand & admire the Mayan awareness of cosmic order, I've also always been skeptical of claims of some kind of drastic event or catastrophe happening on that date. I'm glad that it wasn't Doomsday, because I've got alot going on this weekend & I'm tying to celebrate Christmas!



Basically, all that happened was the passing of an artificial measure of time, created by the Maya of Mexico. The astronomers & mathematicians of the Mayan culture were brilliant. It's a tragedy that so much of their knowledge has been lost to human memory.

Monkey Buddha Archives:
 
The hype about prophecies & doomsday predictions overshadows the amazing ideas they had about the natural cycles of the universe. Their conception of time, and therefore their calendar, involve the cosmic scales that cosmologists & theoreticians grapple with today. Only the Maya didn't have integrated circuit computers or data analysis software. They had generations of observation, calculations, and meticulous record-keeping, all wiped out when the Church & conquistadors subjugated Central America.

I was fortunate to travel with my family to Mexico in 2006 & experience an amazing week. I have told many great stories about the week in the Yucatan, & I"ll never forget it. The highlight for me was visiting the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Walking into the main plaza, I was awestruck by the site of the famous Temple of Kukulkan. This classic pyramid is known for the staircase, which forms a shadow of a serpent down the pyramid, which ends at the bottom with a sculpted head of the feathered serpent. This only happens during the solstice, and to further align itself to the Sun, the total number of steps + the platform = 365, as in the solar year. Like the Egyptians, they encoded their cosmic wisdom into their monumental architecture.

So... we start a new cycle in that calendar, but Time is not bound by a man-made conception of it. Despite or memories of the past & mental models of the future, we are ever-present in the continuous flow of NOW.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Da Vinci's Challenge" Game Promo

Recently, I uploaded the above promo video for the award-winning strategy game,

It's an introduction to the many mysteries of 'Da Vinci's Challenge', which I invented back when I was a graphic design student in college.

The circular game board is the ancient symbol known as The Flower of Life- which can be found in sacred art & architecture throughout history.

Players place Oval & Triangle pieces in their color on the board, to form "Secret Symbols" of different point values.

'Da Vinci's Challenge' is a creation that I think transcends any particular time or demographic.  I believe it has many possibilities for future development in different media. This 'teaser trailer' was made from footage shot for a longer video that I'm planning on putting together. It will hopefully be part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund development of a 'Da Vinci's Challenge' digital game app.

I'll post any big developments here, but you can also "Like" the page below on Facebook to get updates & related content.

The Official "Da Vinci's Challenge" Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Da-Vincis-Challenge/221856891275417

Here is the website for our company, 3 Amoebas, Inc. with more info & links about the game:
http://www.3amoebas.com

My brother helped me out immensely in editing this video. Here's the website for his company, MicPros, which also has a link to his YouTube page:
www.micpros.net

"Da Vinci's Challenge" TM & © 3 Amoebas, Inc.
US Patent No: 7,114,721

America, Guns, & Perpetual Violence


Unfortunately, America's news cycle has been dominated by yet another tragic mass shooting. This particular incident is of a truly horrible nature, because it took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School- in which very young children were senselessly slain.

Last night, I was at Sunday dinner over my parents' house. As I played with the kids, my preschool-age nephews & a little girl who is like family, my mind reeled at the thought of someone harming a defenseless child. How could someone so brutally destroy the innocent, joyful lives of those little kids?!?! I don't usually resort to vulgarities on this blog... but it's pretty goddamn nauseating.


The cynically realistic part of me recognizes that it's just one example of the endless atrocities and tragedies inherent in human existence. There are tens of thousands of children dying every day, from hunger alone. Life can be a horrible, messy business. However, you'd have to have a total lack of empathy to not be outraged by such a revolting act as happened in that school.

The main social issue currently rearing it's head, once again, is the debate over "gun control". Personally, I don't think the desire for the outright banning of legal firearms is ultimately as effective as gun safety & regulation.

Despite always having been a pacifist & not really a 'gun person', I recognize the possible need for deadly force- if used for defense. I think citizens should be able to own weapons & guns... stockpiles of them, if they want. Even though it can be argued that the rights of the 2nd Amendment apply only to well-regulated militias, I wouldn't interpret it that strictly. Even though alot of people may disagree, I think citizens should even be allowed to own heavy weaponry like assault rifles.

My main argument for widespread gun ownership is for self-defense of the population, against:
1) government tyranny 2) personal crime or 3) foreign invasion.

As long as we inhabit this dangerous physical realm, individuals & communities should have sufficient means to defend themselves from more heavily-armed threats.

I know the right-wingers are freaking out that Obama's coming to get their guns, but I don't think the extent of the paranoia is warranted. I'm not saying there aren't elements in the government who would love to see a disarmed populace. That's when the real "systems of control" would kick in. I just think there's so many friggin' guns out there, it would be tough for Big Brother to snatch 'em all up. Frankly, I don't think anybody really knows what the hell to do about the regulation of guns in this country!

I do think there needs to be some balance between legal ownership of firearms, & the inability for mentally impaired people to have access to them. Of course, there will never be a perfect system, but there is always room for improvement.

One thing that's always emphasized on the news, which I find to be a complete red herring, is the perennial idea that video games are the problem with society. I've played the most violent & depraved games out there. However, I have never had the urge to do physical harm to another human being. As I said before, I'm a pacifist at heart- no matter what crazy ass things I see on TV, in movies, or in video games. Sure, there are impressionable people out there who are easily influenced by certain media. Does that mean everyone else has to be scapegoated for it?  

Like pretty much anything else... guns & video games are only hazardous when used by people who are mentally unstable in the first place.

The underlying problem which people are beginning to recognize, is our country's social schizophrenia, its treatment of mental disorders, & the lack of publicly available health care, in general.

NPR: 

One aspect of this nation's health problem is the over-medication of the country's youth, using psychoactive prescription drugs. The modern answer to dealing with people's troubled minds is to prescribe the appropriate pill. These synthetic substances are tested in clinical trials, but it's all a farce. There's no way you can truly predict all the toxic effects of a potent chemical cocktail- especially when it comes to altering the function of a undeveloped & unstable mind.

Huffington Post:

Some people think the answer is to have more God & prayer in schools. Mandating religion & prayer is not going to prevent a rampage like this. A murderous lunatic could be inspired by 'God's Will' as much as anything else, so belief in God won't stop a madman. Whatever you think it is,"God" is clearly not going to stop the madness, either... despite any prayers that might be offered. Nobody's keeping kids from praying in their own heart while they're in school. They can go to their respective religious services or gatherings outside of the classroom to find spiritual community.

I'd prefer to see the widespread utilization of "Mindfulness Meditation" classes, as part of all health curriculum from K-12. I would also like for the government to subsidize free lessons at community colleges or libraries. It would be the best investment the government ever made. Meditation classes do not need to be connected to spiritual content at all, in order to be effective at bringing peace of mind.

 Mindfulness is simply the practice of quieting the mind & cultivating self-awareness.

This type of instruction would go a long way to giving people of all ages techniques to soothe the chaos in their mind.

Coincidentally, I just came across this NY Times article about meditative practice:

NYT:

There will NEVER be perfect, universal peace in this corporeal world.

This is a harsh truth.

However- if we can provide more effective mental health care & tools for self-improvement to individuals, society at large will be less likely to suffer these kind of preventable tragic events.

There are many people in the world suffering greatly. Some are simply unable to cope with the dissonant realities being perceived by their senses & mind. No healthy person can contemplate the depths of madness that would lead a person to carry out something so evil.

Thankfully, this kind of behavior is still an anomaly. We can hope that these tragedies force people to confront these big issues that need to be addressed. It's only through awareness, intelligent debate, and the open sharing of solutions that society can overcome its many serious problems.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Geminid Meteor Shower Watch

Tonight, I bundled up heavily & laid out a blanket on my cellar door, under the clear night sky. I decided to stay up late & watch the Geminid Meteor Shower.

Huffington Post:

I live near the center of a small town, so it's definitely not pitch black out. It's dark enough, though. Tonight is clear & it's a new moon, so I can see alot of stars. In a couple hours, I saw at least a few dozen shooting stars. There were several really bright ones, with visible trails. It was definitely worth sitting out on this 35ยบ winter night to see.


Basically what's happening is that the Earth is passing through a debris field of some large, rocky object. As the pieces of asteroid or comet hits the atmosphere, it burns up. It's human nature to be awestruck to these mysterious rocks from the sky. Ancient people, without our technical knowledge, must have viewed these celestial events with wonder & some fear.

Thanks to the modern-day tech, namely the Stellarium app for my iPhone, I was able to tell that the brightest object in the sky tonight was, in fact, Jupiter. It was directly overhead & I lay there marveling that I was able to visually perceive a huge ball of gas that far away. Since it's a planet, all the light we see is reflected from the Sun.


Out in the infinity of space, there are countless stars, & they are even more incomprehensible distances away. I always enjoy being able to relax & ponder my particular experience in this vast cosmic process.

It's easy to feel insignificant when faced with the expanse of space, but our bodies are a whole world compared to a cell... or even a molecule! Our universe is One Infinite Fractal. Human perception of this multidimensional fractal is only zoomed in at one level, but there are countless levels- it's a continuum! Our level is not more or less significant than another. It just is...

Before going in, I saw a 2nd meteor follow right behind a 1st one, almost right into Jupiter. Within a minute, I saw another one go right between Castor & Pollux- the 'heads' of the constellation Gemini that give the meteor shower its name. I thought that was a good sign to call it a night...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Nature of Reality in the Present Moment

There have been endless books, essays, & discussions about the nature of our experience. I have tried to absorb many people's insights from throughout history, in an effort to affect my own consciousness.

A very wise & insightful friend introduced me to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. I saw the book she was reading, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, which led me to watch several of his talks online. He is like a German Yoda. I consider myself to be a very laid back personality, but Meister Tolle is probably one of the most chilled-out dudes I've ever seen. Even on video, he emanates a sense of peace & good-natured calm.

YouTube: 

Like any guru, he is simply a human & has no special powers. However the essence of his teachings resonates with me, and they are no doubt helpful to many people.

The main focus of his lectures is the importance of stopping the mind-stream, that produces the endless chatter inside our heads.

This internal dialogue of our conscious mind, known as The Monkey Mind to Buddhists, drowns out our ability to directly & fully appreciate the present moment...the continual experience of NOW.


Our mind somehow constructs the models of reality we call "The Past" & "The Future". However, these ideas are just creations of our mind used to navigate the flow of our experience.

When Tolle talks about the essential, pure stillness of the mind, I cannot help thinking back to a near-death experience I had in my early 20's. My consciousness shifted into what I can only describe into an all-encompassing bright white light. The closest analog I can find is the idea of The Clear Light, also in Buddhist teachings. There was no thought, perception, or feeling. It was like my brain had rebooted, & I was getting a white start-up screen inside my mind.

I've been able to refer back to that empty, yet illuminating pure state when I try to still my mind. Maybe it was just my neurons firing in a last gasp of activity, but I feel like a window was opened into another aspect of the process of consciousness.

When you cleanse the mind of mental analysis, learned knowledge, & emotional judgement... even temporarily... you can begin to glimpse the infinity we are a part of.





"Sense of Right Alliance" Action Figures

My professional career has consisted mostly of designing graphics or packaging for games & toys.

Even though I consider myself a pro who aims to produce quality work, I also really get a kick out of seeing absurdly bad design.

Alot of toys are made overseas in China or India, especially cheap products & knockoffs. However, most U.S. toy companies at least have the sense to get their graphic design work done here in The States. When done in another country, the language & cultural differences make for hysterically awful design.

Although it's great for a laugh, it also makes me feel secure to know that creative jobs, like mine, are not in any immediate danger of being shifted to cheaper labor in other countries. Consumers know when something is crap- by the quality of the art used in the design of the product & packaging.

Here is a classic I recently came across, a set of action figures labelled the "Sense of Right Alliance". It is a collection of Earth's mightiest heroes... plus Shrek & a Car?!?!:


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Visualizing Economic Issues


 The political process driving the decisions about our nation's economic priorities is absurd. It's hard to pry facts out of the discussions by pundits & political operatives. Luckily there are some people doing research, trying to get some actual information.

CNBC:

In particular, the Republicans in Congress are publicly taking a stand for the mega-wealthy top 1% - by proposing to raise the Medicare eligibility age, instead of raising tax rates a few percentage points on the top earners.

Speaker Boehner & the House GOP are taking some flack for their crappy proposals from other conservatives, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Daily Kos

Raising the Medicare age is one of the many stupid, bad ideas floating around these budget discussions right now. It's insane that it's considered "shared sacrifice" when the budget is balanced by screwing old, poor, & sick people. Meanwhile, millionaires and mega-corporations making record profits on the whole are expected to be given a pass.

Paul Krugman summed up the masochist aspect of this approach to economics perfectly:

RAW Story:


I like to personally look into things deeply before making conclusions, so I've actually visited the budget proposal sites for both parties:

The White House

House of Representatives Budget Office


Here is my official analysis of all the budget details:


Although I've read the overviews and scanned some of the content, looking at all those tables & numbers makes me remember how happy I am to not be an accountant. I'm just not too interested in reading pages of charts & figures.

All I know is that things are getting worse for many people & alot better for a few. There are ways to balance society & the economy so capitalist markets can exist, with government playing an effective role in regulating society for the benefit of the population-at-large. 
...I know, I'm a real dreamer.

Anyway since I'm not really trying to pick apart details, I've seen some charts recently that reflect general trends. These trends should be at the center of any discussion of revenues vs. spending cuts to public programs.

First of all, the idea that we should completely avoid taxing the extreme wealth in this country is idiotic. Of course, we also need to cut imprudent government spending & continually reform it all aspects. However, rich people & corporations can obviously afford to sacrifice for the system more than someone disadvantaged or barely getting by. The ultra-wealthy are enjoying the lowest tax rates in 50 years. The financial crisis can't be that bad if we don't need their "sacrifice" too.

Here's a NYT chart showing the tax rates of the past 50+ years:


One of the funny things about hearing how the Obama Administration is "anti-business" is that corporate profits in general are at record highs. Unfortunately, worker's wages are at an all-time low in relation to GDP. If Chairman 'MAO'bama was really the Great Communist Menace, this would be the exact opposite:


I also think it's clear that the government has a role to play in subsidizing certain industries. The idea of a completely "Free Market" is delusional. People think "entitlements" & "welfare" are giant drains on the economy, but government enables bad behavior through corporate welfare on a much larger scale. The way Wal-Mart takes advantage of its workers is a prime example.

Think by Numbers:



Of course, many of these problems have solutions... some that neither party are willing to advance.

One idea that makes too much sense is a "Medicare-for-All" approach to healthcare. Everybody pays into the healthcare system & it is disengaged from private industry. I don't see why an employer should be responsible for providing private health insurance. It seems like this is an area where the federal government absolutely needs to be involved in taxation to "provide for the general welfare."

Anyway, trying to figure all these problems out is crazy, and it's why I have no desire to get into politics. However, I think it's every citizen's right & duty to speak up about how we think a solution could be found.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Appreciating the Night Sky


I saw a link to this video on BoingBoing about the profound sight of the star-filled night sky.

If possible, it's best to view the video in fullscreen HD.

Yosemite National Park:

Even though I live in a relatively populated area, it's still possible on clear nights for me to look up and see a starry sky.

When I go to a more isolated lake in the Pocono mountains for vacation, I sit out on the dock with my brothers & my brother-in-law, late into each night. While relaxing with beer & cigars by the lake, we get to see a much more brilliant sky, where the Milky Way band is easily visible. Known to the ancients as the Great Rift, it's easy to see why this celestial feature instilled such wonder in our ancestors.

 The Milky Way (& it's alignment to other heavenly bodies) is the central focus of all the theories about the end of the Mayan Baktun this month- December 2012. I've talked about this phenomenon before, but I've got plans for Dec. 22... so I'm hoping the 'galactic alignment' doesn't screw things up too much!

The Monkey Buddha Archives:



Anyone with an imaginative spirit is naturally enthralled by the vast cosmos that surrounds us.

It's hard NOT to feel like you're mind is going to explode when you think deeply about the scale and complexity of the Universe.
It is entirely possible to oscillate between nihilistic feelings of utter insignificance... to ecstatic, awestruck wonder at being One with this amazing existence.


From Paul's Portrait


On a related note:
One app on my iPhone that's indispensable is Stellarium. It is augmented reality software that lets you pick out stars & planets in the sky. It is an amazing use for a smartphone that would have seemed impossible less than a decade ago.
The other day, I was out to eat with my parents & I saw a bright object right next to the moon. Using Stellarium, I was able to point out that it was Jupiter!
It definitely comes in handy while sitting out at night looking at the stars with friends or family.

Pixar & Dreamworks- Movie Logo Designs



 As a graphic designer, I know firsthand the importance of logo design and product branding.

I've been able to work with businesses of varying sizes, from small businesses to mega-corporations. When you are dealing with large companies, decisions tend to happed by committee.
Having a bunch of different people providing input for something vital like a logo can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. When there's a strong & inspired vision leading the process, however, good results are more likely.

Pixar Animation Studios, one of the most successful companies ever, is the spawn of two geniuses who are my personal inspirations.

Pixar began as an offshoot of George Lucas's graphics division at Lucasfilm.
Then, Apple founder Steve Jobs invested in its corporate formation. He also provided the spirit & vision for the company that continues today.

I came across this excellent article which examines logos from the movies by Pixar & Dreamworks. I love this kind of insightful graphic analysis: 

Retinart

Ultimately, though, all art is a matter of opinion. Although I may not agree with some of the critiques, it's always good to hear people's reasoning.

Hitman Monkey

This captioned photo has been around awhile, but it's still ridiculous & funny:




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Circle Trademarked


This post is hereby a notice that The Monkey Buddha has trademarked & copyrighted the form known as "The Circle".

The newspaper USA Today is first in line to get sued by my extensive team of high-powered lawyers, since they had the audacity to simplify their corporate logo into a plain blue circle.



Stephen Colbert had some fun with this provocative decision on his show:


*Okay, obviously, this is a joke... since a general shape, like the circle, cannot be claimed as intellectual property.

However, it's meant as a thought exercise in what it means to "own" an image or creation.

iPhone & the Dematerialization of Tech

It's easy to take for granted how many features are conveniently packed into our ever-present mobile devices.

Miniaturization and consolidation are the future, and one day all these functions may be accessible right inside our head with an iThink neural implant.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

I came across this graphic from the CATO Institute, illustrating the many physical gadgets that the iPhone has replaced:

Here's another (slightly more humorous) comparison I saw on fUSION Anomalog that also demonstrates the consolidation of physical technologies:


Friday, November 23, 2012

David the Cookie Monster

Yesterday, I got to visit with alot of my Dad's side of the family for Thanksgiving dinner. It's always fun playing with all my nieces & nephews because they are full of imagination & pure joy for life.

Today is my nephew David's birthday. He is a funny little guy, who's developing a personality that's part loveable scamp & part bad-ass attitude.

 I took a series of photos while he was having an absolute blast- eating his favorite delicacy, cookies & milk.

His faces are hysterical, so I made them into an animated GIF & uploaded it so I could show people on Facebook. It's too funny not to share.


For his Cookie Monster birthday party last weekend, I also made this graphic for him:


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Relativity in a Photo

I forget where I saw this picture, but using the amazing Google Image Search helped me find its source.

It was featured in the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest. 




The photographer, Don Chamblee, captured the inside & outside of a moving streetcar simultaneously.

The result is a strikingly simple visual representation of the Theory of Relativity.

Although there's alot of calculus in Einstein's famous formulation, it's basically the recognition that every mind is an independent point of reference. Each person's singular manifestation of consciousness in space & time defines that particular experience.

The thing that's hard for most people to wrap their heads around is that Reality and Consciousness have been experimentally proven to interact. It is not a one-way street, from external cause to our affected perceptions.

We are part of a interconnected Unity... manifested for a short time as a process that we recognize as the form of individual human beings.

2012 and Fractal Brain Theory

I came across this excellent 2 hour lecture by Wai H. Tsang that thoroughly examines the structure and functioning of the brain & how it relates to consciousness.




Although there's alot of neurobiology & medical information in the talk, there's also some really great insights into more subtle aspects of human nature.

He wraps up his detailed talk with some wonderfully profound connections around 1hr 03min into the talk. I'd recommend at least watching the final 1/2 hr. segment.

One realization he points out is the seemingly fractal quality of the realities experienced in our minds.

On my iPhone right now, I'm reading the e-book of Robert Anton Wilson's "Prometheus Rising". The book describes the theoretical "Circuits of Consciousness" model describing the neurological & epistemological basis of one's mind.

One thing R.A.W. stresses is the idea that attentive self-examination of one's own mental states leads to the ability to 'meta-program' oneself.
This refers to the ability to break out of unconscious mental & behavior patterns, through a feedback loop of self-awareness.

By understanding how our own brains create the various phenomena we call "consciousness," we're more likely to develop a more informed, complex view of ourselves & the reality we experience.

"Zoom" by Rafa Jenn

I saw this cool print on OMG Posters!

It is a very simple (but beautifully executed) example of fractal design- containing self-similarity at various scales.

by Rafa Jenn 


Ape Man vs. Wonder Woman


This is a rare glimpse into my personal life:


Wonder Woman gave me quite a smackdown...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Cloud Atlas" Review


This week, I saw 'Cloud Atlas' & I highly recommend it. The movie weaves together several interconnected storylines that take place throughout various times.

The scenes take place in the 1800's, the 1970's, the current day, a futuristic "Neo-Seoul" in the year 2144, & what I believe is an apocalyptic off-world colony in the year 2321. The same actors are playing different characters for each time period, but the makeup & acting are so superb that it's not even noticeable.

It's an amazing work of art, that makes you think on a whole different level. If you are someone who like to ponder deep, philosophical issues then you must see this movie.


Even though the film itself is a wonderfully bold endeavor, there's alot of subtle details & aspects to the story that make it necessary to watch it at least twice to fully appreciate. Visually, "Cloud Atlas" is awe-inspiring. The various settings throughout the different eras are used to their maximum effect, and they give a profound sense of man's fragility & transience in the larger landscapes we inhabit.

Despite our temporal nature, "Cloud Atlas" also shows the transcendent effect that individual souls can have over time, extending beyond their singular lives to effect the world to come.


It is a movie that is hard to describe effectively, & just has to be seen. Your mind will be greatly expanded by this cinematic masterpiece.

 

The Power of Sleep

I saw a link on BoingBoing to PBS Newshour's interesting segment looking at the nature of sleep. Although sleep is something that everyone does, it still an enigmatic process in many ways.

PBS Newshour



Toward the end, the video also has some info about meditation and it's benefits. In my life, I try to make plenty of time for both sleep and meditative stillness.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Type Designs by Zag


Although I've seen his work on various sites, it's worth checking out the gallery of Shahir Zag:


There are some great ideas & witty expressions amongst his work.

This one reminded me that World Was Always Awful, but there are also examples that are positively inspiring.


GIFs of Infomercial Idiots


 
I consider myself a connoisseur of infomercials. The worse the product & the advertising... the more I'm entertained by it.

The Monkey Buddha Archive:

Since my teenage years, I've studied the shameless TV personalities & the shoddy wares they have peddled - Billy Mays, Marshall Sylver, & of course, The Master, Ron Popeil.

One thing that always cracks me up was how the infomercial always makes completely normal activities seem like a total pain in the ass, or even a recipe for utter disaster.

I saw a great blog linked on Sad & Useless and BoingBoing that features nothing but animated GIF images of these hapless fools in various infomercials.

You should scroll through the collection at least 3 times to appreciate the full absurdity of it:


I think WDTSG stands for the 'Where Does This Show Go' forum & FWP is 'First World Problems'.



Waking Times

I came across an excellent website, with thought-provoking articles on all kinds of interesting topics.

The themes include meditation, GMOs, environmentalism, The Archaic Revival, scientific exploration, & more.

There's so many good articles, it's tough to pick out single examples.

I have it bookmarked in my browser:


It's great to have resources online that contribute to elevating people's consciousness...


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Dream Within a Dream

"All that we see or seem, 
is but a dream within a dream."
 -Edgar Allan Poe


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Resurrection of Barackhenaten


Four years ago, Barack Obama defied conventional wisdom by being elected President of the United States. Millions of people realized that, unlike the 2 buffoons on the "McPain" Republican ticket, this guy had some intelligence to fuel his lofty rhetoric.


Before he was elected in 2008, I half-jokingly compared him to the rogue Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten- who eliminated the various cults of the time & instituted a religion only worshiping the Sun deity, Aten.
Though he's not as radical as the ancient sun-worshiping king, Barack Obama has earned a similarly lasting place in human history.


Although I've been quick to point out the President's flaws over the past few years, I also realized that America's interests are much better served by keeping Obama in office instead of Mitt Romney. I don't think Romney is a fundamentally bad guy... but he's a capitalist ideologue, a religious zealot, and a smug billionaire who would have governed with big business in mind, & not the business of the people.

As I watched the election returns last night, I was tuned in to CNN most of the time. John King did an excellent job analyzing the numbers and reporting on the dynamics of the election. Some of the talking heads on the CNN panel are horrible, but thankfully, there was more reporting than punditry. (Why are Alex Castellanos & Ari Fleisher on TV, but I'm not?!?!)
I was also using the CNN interactive electoral map to follow along throughout the night. Having tools like that makes the process much more accessible & easy to understand.

As I mentioned in my post from Election Eve, I had been following Nate Silver's 538 Forecast (which turned out to be 100% accurate!) & also the Intrade prediction markets. The polling & statistical analysis pointed toward a strong likelihood of Obama winning the Electoral College. It's even being reported now that the Obama campaign was using sophisticated statistical computer models to figure out where their resources would be best allocated.


The right-wing pundits, on the other hand, proudly exhibited their foolishness for the world to see before the election. These knuckleheads not only denounced Nate Silver's scientific computer models, but many also made ridiculous predictions for a BIG Romney win, which had no basis in reality. Fox News and talk radio have created an ignorance bubble in people's minds that's hard to penetrate.

The fact that Romney himself bought into the hype & didn't even write a concession speech shows the arrogance & cluelessness that the country would have been subject to if he had won.

One of the great media moments of the night was the on-air hackery of the right-wing's political guru from the Bush years- Karl Rove, aka 'Turd Blossom'. Rove raised millions for Romney SuperPACs & actually tried to influence their live reporting, in order to benefit his millionaire donors with a Romney election. The rest of the country & facts be damned. The fact that Fox News lets a scumbag like Rove have any kind of presence shows how little credibility they have.

Last night President Obama was re-elected, despite the personal animosity so many people feel toward him. Enough reasonable people were able to see through the right-wing media's distortion of his record to know that his term has been generally positive for the country. If it weren't for the relentless obstructionism of the opposition party, the country would be progressing at a much better rate. People who don't actually understand the workings of government find it easier to blame problems on The President, even if they aren't of his doing.

Unfortunately, the federal government is likely going to be facing more gridlock, thanks to continued Republican control of the House of Representatives. Despite having already wasted precious time & legislative initiative in their failed, petty attempt "to deny President Obama a second term"- the childish, obstructionist mentality of the GOP in Congress is unlikely to change.

I'm an Independent voter, but it's clear the Republican Party has further proven itself to be a political dinosaur, an anachronistic relic featuring the country's most ignorant & regressive ideas. The national party is unable to shake its most foolish members or its ideological chains, stubbornly refusing to recognize the rapidly changing pace of the country & the entire world. You know a political party has problems when you can say that their "Rape Guy" didn't win... & it can refer to more than one person!

*Why wasn't Pres. George W. Bush out campaigning for Romney?.... because the petulant man-child & his Republican administration almost destroyed the economy during his 8 long years. Trotting out Dubya the Smirking Chimp would quickly remind voters just how little of the country's dire straits were actually created by Obama.

The major problem exposed in this election for the GOP & the right-wing is their collective refusal to deal with reality. They cling to antiquated, unworkable ideals and warped perceptions that make them look completely unreasonable to the rest of society. They are a factory of absurd ideas • you can balance the budget simply by cutting government programs • banks and multinational corporations should be free of government regulation • union members are paid too much, but CEOs deserve their obscene compensation; etc. On social issues, the conservatives have completely alienated independent voters, who see nothing but bigotry & irrational fear coming from the Right.

There were alot of important races last night. It was nice to see jackasses such as Allen West & Joe Walsh get kicked out of office. Unfortunately, thanks to the brain-dead voters in her district, it looks like Congress has not yet gotten rid of "The Queen of the Loons", Michele Bachmann.

On the bright side, alot of good people got elected to Congress, like consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. There were a bunch of progressive women senators elected, which is a good thing for the Senate.

Though anyone in that position is assimilated into the machinations of "The System", Obama is as good a person as anybody to be in the executive office. Until we evolve as a society to the point where we don't need a singular personality to equate with leadership, all we can do is elect someone who is smart & insightful, yet strong enough, to deal with the unimaginable problems facing any President. Despite the many obstacles to his agenda for the last term, Barack Obama has proven over & over again that he is up to the task.

He is handling a job (that would overwhelm most people) with extraordinary tenacity & the will to do what's right for all the citizens of the country. He has been an inclusive President who has repeatedly reached out to his political opposition to create meaningful policy, only to be rebuffed and opposed by the myopic Republicans every step of the way.

The Republican party suffered major defeats as a result of their intransigence last night, but it's doubtful Boehner & McConnell will now magically decide to act in good faith with The President.

Of course, we can always Hope...


Monday, November 05, 2012

Political Madness 2012: Election Eve



Well... tomorrow millions of America's sheeple (including me) will go to vote for a new leader, as well as a path for our country & the world.

It's the culmination of 2012's election season of Political Madness:


I know people of all political persuasions who back different candidates, & also people who will refuse to vote at all. I try to see all sides of all issues. It's understandable why there's so much cynicism toward voting & "The System," in general.

Despite the many flaws in both candidates, and the voting process itself, the act of voting had definite real-world consequences... which I choose to have a say in.
My superficial reason for voting is that I enjoy discussing politics. Complaining about the government if you don't exercise your right to vote is hypocritical.

I'm registered as an Independent. However, anyone who knows me or happens to read this blog knows I'm firmly on Barry O's side in this one. Mitt Romney is almost a caricature of an out-of-touch billionaire, with a horrible personality to match. His stated policies would purposely make government more ineffective, while ceding power to corporate interests & Wall St.

Does anyone seriously think we'd see the following headline under a President Romney?


There are definitely undecided people out there, like my own parents who I was talking to tonight & have legitimate issues deciding which candidate would really be better.  It's true that each candidate & their policies have flaws. I just happen to think Mitt Romney's flaws would be much more detrimental for the country as a whole. For the record, here are some unbiased comparisons of the candidates:

Find the Data:

The argument that Obama's made the country worse (or has not done anything), is disputable at best. The economic numbers are mixed, but the economy's at least improving compared to the situation Bush left. Republicans have this myth of being better on the economy, but that's just a political myth. The national economic numbers since Reagan consistently prove otherwise.

No President will be perfect, but I'm baffled how someone would think Obama is anti-business Socialist menace. If anything, business in general are doing better since he's been in office:

Think Progress:


I blame most of the ignorance in political discourse on Fox News & the right-wing reality distortion machine. The opinion programming on Fox News is simply brain poison. It's important for me to listen to the opinions of reasonable conservatives, who may have insights I haven't thought about. However, Sean Hannity, Fox & Friends, and Ann Coulter are anything but reasonable. Entering their narrow, little world is like taking a trip to some hate-filled, idiotic alternate reality.

Although numbers can always be twisted, the interesting thing about modern technology is the amount of data that can be processed & analyzed in short time spans.
For the past couple months, I've been closely following Nate Silver's popular "538" blog on the NYT website. I've also been watching the Intrade markets for this election cycle. I'm not a gambler & I don't play the stock market, but I think market dynamics is an interesting prediction method. We'll see if the forecasts are correct, but they seem more objective than listening to the pundits of either side.


Of course, statistical models CANNOT predict the Political Madness that inevitable arises during Election Day. 

With GOP-led state governments trying to blatantly hinder people's right to vote, & the questionable state of electronic voting... there are plenty of room for shenanigans.

We will soon see what direction the next 4 years will take. Either way, alot of people will inevitably be pissed off!

*On a side note, my answer to many problems of the Presidency would be to replace the 1-person office with a 5-person executive council. This council would be made of 2 people from each major party, & also a 3rd party candidate. I might expand on this idea another time- but it would be a more representative system.

Until that day, we citizens have to take sides & make a choice. There's NO way I'll be choosing R-Money... but if he somehow wins, I'll probably have plenty to rage about on this blog for the next four years. Until we find the answer, here are some videos of Republican leaders vs. Mitt... and also Mitt vs. Mitt Himself:





Saturday, November 03, 2012

Non-Functional Thoughts



I came across this website of random absurdities, some of which are very interesting & clever:


This also reminded me of one of my all-time favorite SNL segments, Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy.

Sistine Chapel Turns 500 Years Old


One of the great works of the Renaissance, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, had its 500th birthday.

CNN: 

Michelangelo was famed as a sculptor, but Pope Julius commissioned him to paint the famous frescoes in the 16th century.

He rejected the scheme intended for the design of the painting & instead made the Vatican accept his grand vision for the composition. It's one of the most well-known works of art in the world, with good reason.

I came across this beautiful virtual reconstruction of the chapel, from the Vatican's website: