Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Most Ancient of Art

“They’ve invented everything.”
-Picasso, touring Lascaux Cave

It's easy to take for granted how much information is available to a person in modern society. Even in my lifetime, I've seen an explosion of knowledge & widespread dissemination through The Internet. For a person like me who's been intensely curious since I was a child, looking back to the time before the web now seems like The Dark Ages.

Even in that span of a few decades, there's been great changes in the way people & society understands things. Of course, there are many aspects of humanity that haven't changed- even since the dawn of humanity, at least tens of thousands of years ago. One of these constants is the use of art & creative expression.

I've read alot of good articles about prehistoric art. As an artist myself
, & someone who is very interested in history, it's a topic that never stops fascinating me.

Past Horizons:

New Yorker:

It's human nature to look in wonder at the amazing examples of prehistoric art found around the world. We can't help but try to think back & place ourselves into the minds of our distant ancestors. Although they were like us in so many ways, it's tough to imagine the mindset of human beings before the onset of complex language & the cultural baggage ingrained in modern humans.

Experts always try to interpret ancient art through the lens of those people who created them millenia ago. However, it's impossible to completely know the motivations & behaviors of people from such a remote time. Like anything else, the more information we get helps us form a more accurate & intricate of a picture about a particular situation or process. 


When it was in IMAX, I went to see the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary about 30,000 year old cave paintings in France. It was interesting to see the prehistoric art of Chauvet Cave filmed in a way that's more visually informative than still photographs.

The French site for Lascaux Caves has an interactive virtual tour:

30,000 years is a span of time that's truly incomprehensible. Yet, individual humans survived over all that time, and the species has carried on...

Here's an article with many wonderful images of the world's oldest known works of art:

Daily Mail:

In another time, external distractions & information bombardment didn't prevent people from being directly in tune with themselves & their world. Techniques for exploring inner space were practiced intently. These techniques are keys to understanding the paintings that were created in the cavernous underworld over thousands of years, by people who had tapped into a continuity that was able to extend beyond their own lives. Members of ancient society who were able to develop creativity & healing, today generically called shamans, were the intermediaries between the human world and the invisible dimensions, inside & outside the mind. Through generations of experimentation, these highly-respected people learned how to alter their consciousness through music, psychoactive plants, ecstatic dance, creative expression, & environmental manipulation (often of an acoustical nature). Their creative vision would then be manifested to benefit others.

Recently, I watched this thought-provoking documentary that was linked on The Secret Sun blog. It looks realistically at the complex and relatively exotic methods employed by ancient shamans. These shamanic techniques of consciousness expansion are only beginning to be understood by modern researchers.

These dark cave chambers were very sacred spaces to our ancestors, but we can only speculate what kind of ritual behavior took place in the flickering firelight of these entrances to the underworld. I definitely think that there was a sophisticated understanding of natural processes, like acoustics. When I was in Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, we clapped in front of the Temple of Kukulkan to hear the echo that was engineered to sound like bird chirps. It was a pretty crazy effect. It's not hard to imagine that mid-altering acoustical properties where utilized in settings like sacred caves. Early man's mind must have been awestruck by the effect of these mysterious, extraordinary settings.

Raw Story:

Awhile ago, I saw a link to this brilliant interactive work of art by Patrick Farley, which tries to imagine the experience of proto-humans before "The First Word". Some people might find it controversial & it's cautioned to be NSFW, but I think it's a profound & amazing visual work that's part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part Terence McKenna theory, & part Altered States.


Mankind has a deeply rich heritage, but the average person doesn't bother to connect with the vast genetic & cultural history we all carry within us. Learning about the stories of those who came before us informs us on own personal journeys & the direction of our society as a whole.

Luckily, even the most sterilizing aspects of modern society will never whitewash the creative spirit that has driven human beings to new states of mind throughout time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Optical Illusion of Dimension

I don't have much to say about this work of visual genius, a crazy optically-induced virtual tunnel.

It's simply one of the best, most astounding optical illusions I've ever seen- & I've seen quite a few...

Definitely click for a larger image:

A fractal can be plotted on a 2-dimensional surface, but can be "zoomed" into, for a virtual dimension of depth. Similarly, this flat image is crafted to give the appearance of a virtual dimension of depth that can only be perceived by the viewer.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flower Meditation

"Nature is not human-hearted."

The above quote is a favorite of mine. It's a reminder that the world we inhabit is neither sympathetic nor antagonistic to the human condition. It is what it is, & we are just along for the ride.

Ever since humans first began to think symbolically, flowering plants have always been a pervasive symbol of beauty & the fragile impermanence of Life.

I love nature in general & try to take time to closely observe the wonders surrounding us. Plants fascinate me because they are such a different kind of life than animals. I've been fortunate to visit places like Longwood Gardens, with amazing botanical displays.

According to the teaching of the Flower Sermon, The Buddha silently held up a lotus flower for his followers to contemplate. His followers tried to rationalize possible "meanings". However, one disciple, Mahākāśyapa, simply smiled with the awareness of direct, unfiltered experience.

Similarly, it is thought that a sown ear of corn was held up before the initiates during the ancient Mysteries of Eleusis in modern-day Greece.

Both of these "mind transmissions" used the incomprehensible generative power of nature to shatter the mental preconceptions of the initiate.

The mystery & the revelation are always right in front of you.

It's up to you to see it... wherever you look.

With the aid of modern photographic technology, we are able to have an even greater appreciation for the mysterious beauty of these living systems.

I made this animation "Lotus Meditation" based on the metaphor of the lotus flower to describe the ascendant spirit trapped in the muck of the physical world.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Zen Sapience

I came across this wonderful illustration of a "Monkey Buddha" so, of course, I have to post it.

The artist is Garyck Arntzen, who goes by the name "magnaen".

by magnaen

click to see it full size, in all its awesomeness...

It's reminiscent of 'The Monkey Buddha' graphic I made for this blog, except much more subdued:


Subversive Messages Using Corporate Logos

Since I'm on the topic of altered logos... here's a set of thought-provoking images.
They are cynical illustrated messages, made from signs resembling popular company logos. They're from the art studio, TrustoCorp.


Honest Corporate Logos

As a designer, I love to see good parodies of existing logos & branding.

On Failblog, I saw a very funny set of altered corporate logos, for some of the world's most well-known companies:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Internet's Crazy Pictures

I'm a sponge for visual novelty, & seeing the totally weird pictures people post online is always amusing.

There are countless photo blogs featuring bizarre pics, such as my personal favorites; • Picture is UnrelatedThe ChiveFusion Anomalog. I've had my share of crazy pics posted here, & they are all in the archives:

I saw the *NSFW* list below posted on Facebook & thought it was a great representation of the strangeness that the human race is saving to computer servers around the world.

This photo, of a creepy little old lady in a diner, is one that continually haunts me. 
It is unfortunately true, that what is seen cannot be unseen....

Here is one that wasn't included on the list, but damn well should have been. It's one of the most wacked-out pairs I've ever seen:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fox & Friends Follies

One reason U.S. politics is in such a sad state right now is the news media specifically targeted to the lowest of the low-information voters.

My news sources are very diversified: • Google NewsPulseDemocracy Now!Huffington PostTalking Points MemoBBCGuardianPolitico & many, many more.

I never hesitate to express my disdain for Fox News, due to its habit for the blatant misrepresentation of facts & its warped, myopic worldview. It's news for easily agitated people who don't really understand the dynamics of the world around them.

The late Steve Jobs put it best, when talking to Rupert Murdoch about his channel:

"The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is constructive-destructive, and you've cast your lot with the destructive people. Fox has become an incredibly destructive force in our society."

I'll watch Fox sometimes (...if I'm feeling masochistic), simply because I try to understand people who have different opinions, even if I think those opinions are idiotic.

It's shocking to me when I hear someone say they rely only on Fox News for all their info... it's a sad, scary little world to be stuck in, really. Although some of the straight news programs can be ok, most of the opinion shows are absolute brain garbage.

Out of all the right-wing lunatics, knuckleheads & ignoramuses who have graced that channel- Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Eric Bolling, Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Michelle Malkin, & unfortunately so many others, there is one special trio whose air-filled heads allow them to float above the rest.

Of course, I am talking to the daily clown show that airs each morning, called Fox & Friends, starring Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, & Brian Kilmeade, some of the most clueless individuals I've ever seen on TV. You'd have to strap me down in a chair, like in A Clockwork Orange, to make me watch a full episode.

Most morning talk shows are bland & insufferable (for me anyway). However, F&F takes their inanity to dizzying heights that have become the object of endless mockery for The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, & SNL.

I have compiled a list of greatest hits & spoofs for these 3 strange human beings, that I'm finally posting... Enjoy!




Friday, January 11, 2013

State-of-the-Art Motion Graphics

On io9, I just saw the cool FX reel for The Avengers movie, above. I'm a harsh critic of superhero movies, but I thought Avengers was definitely one of the best so far. Here's my full review:

We are now able to create utterly convincing virtual realities & previously unimaginable visual imagery, using digital technology.

It's tempting to say that computer graphics can't possibly get much better, but that would be foolish. As long as the continuum of technology keeps progressing, the human brain will be treated to ever more novel stimuli.

I'd also bookmarked this link of various short videos, featuring cutting-edge video effects:


I really liked this video, "Mindplotter"

While I'm on the topic, here's another video I saw on BoingBoing awhile back, with some of 2012's innovations in various fields of computer-generated art & design:

Finally, also via BoingBoing, a nostalgic retrospective of the state of computer art, from the 90's through the 2000's:


I have grown up watching the evolution of digital graphics, & I'm looking forward to seeing what progress lies ahead...

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Game Review: Journey

After spending many weeks intermittently playing the excellent "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" whenever I had some free time, I finally finished it to make way for some new titles I received as Xmas gifts, 'Journey' & 'Saints Row 3'.

Despite generally being non-violent & a pacifist, I usually like to play 1st & 3rd person shooters. Violent video games are always a scapegoat when mass shootings take place- but like anything else, they are only dangerous in the hands of a person who's already deranged. "Saints Row 3" is one of the more over-the-top games I've ever seen & is rated 'Mature' for good reason. Playing that game, though, is not going to make the average person go out & do something crazy in real life.

On the other hand, I also like to play games that have artistic merit deeper than just amazing graphics & production values. "Shadow of the Colossus" for PS2 was a title that was really outside the box & compelling from an aesthetic point of view.

After seeing reviews & some footage, "Journey" seemed to be an interesting game that broke the mold.


Since the game itself was fairly quick (I finished it in 2 short nights), I'll try to keep this review brief.

The main character is a mysterious robed figure, who travels across a desolate but beautiful landscape. As you travel through the different environments, you uncover clues about a civilization whose Arabesque ruins are everywhere.

There is no dialogue at all, & the story behind the lost civilization is told through stylized murals that are illuminated as you progress.

In the distance, there is always a mountain with a cleave in it, emanating bright light like a beacon. This is the obvious goal - to reach this far off peak. The mountain itself is a symbol of the divine feminine, Mother Earth, & the seemingly insurmountable challenge of the hero's journey.

The game itself is a metaphor for Life. By the time the unconventional ending is reached, you realize that the goal was not actually some final endpoint, but to enjoy the experience of the journey.

There are a couple instances in the story when the character "dies" & is dissolved into a totally white screen. This resonated with my experience of The Clear Light that I once experienced myself.

This is a unique game that is definitely worth checking out if you like titles that offer something different than the standard fare.

• The Monkey Buddha's official rating: 8.5

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Overview Effect & Cosmic Consciousness

 “You develop an instant global consciousness, 
a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, 
and a compulsion to do something about it. 
From out there on the moon, 
international politics look so petty. 
You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck 
and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, 
‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”  

- Edgar D. Mitchell 

I've posted many times about the wonders of the Universe, and humanity's place in the cosmic order.

Since my childhood, I've been fascinated by the mysteries of outer space. As an adult, my sense of awe over the infinite size & complexity of the cosmos has only deepened. I often think- if our species survives the transition to permanently living in space, what will be our relation to our home planet?

40 years ago, astronauts on the Apollo 17 mission, heading for the moon, took the iconic photo of a fully illuminated Earth. This photo, known as "The Blue Marble" photo, is one of the most widely distributed images, on the very planet it depicts.

To celebrate the anniversary of this pivotal time in the history of the human race, the video below was made with the help of astronauts- describing the utterly profound experience of viewing the Earth from orbit.

It is a great piece... something every person should see. If I could, I'd take Edgar Mitchel's advice & take each person by the scruff of the neck & make them watch it.

If thinking about the Earth, & the life it contains, from this perspective doesn't affect your consciousness... then nothing will.

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

2013: Entering the Warp Zone

From the look of this animated GIF... 2013 is going to be a very interesting (& mind-bending) year!

seen on BoingBoing