Friday, February 10, 2023

AC: Artificial Creativity

"zen monkey looks into the cosmos"

-Images: Stable Diffusion AI Software
-Prompts & Curating: Paul Micarelli

I have been tinkering with A.I. generated art, using Stable Diffusion software. I am simultaneously amazed & disturbed by the novel imagery that computers are now able to create. As an artist & graphic designer, the A.I. phenomenon makes me feel like a carriage maker at the onset of automobile manufacturing.

The software I'm using is relatively basic, but it can still produce really cool art (as well as hilariously bad formulations). I actually give the software top billing on my posts, because all I'm doing is entering prompts. Yes it's a tool just like Photoshop, but the computer & code creating the imagery is almost spooky and makes you examine the nature of consciousness itself. What we understand to be consciousness or mind is an emergent cascade of phenomena, as is machine learning. However, the ability to explain the system doesn't make it any less mysterious.

The endless amounts of objectively fantastic artwork flooding social media now is just mind-boggling. Just like the Internet itself, there is no way to understand exactly where this technology is going to take society.

I have started social media pages for the A.I. art that I'm collaborating with the machines to produce. If you're reading this, I would greatly appreciate it if you check them out & follow:





There are so many questions & issues that arise from this technology...

• What does it mean for the human artist & creator?

• Will A.I. art be required to be detected & distinguished from human art, in certain circumstances? Or will that prove impossible, and proof of process will be required to verify human-made art if desired.

• Are we entering a "post-reality" reality, where we trust absolutely nothing, and objective truth no longer exists in the digital realm?

...It's all so crazy... what the hell is happening? We'll just have to buckle in & find out!

Here are some articles I've read recently about the topic as I try to wrap my head around it all:

My Modern Met:

Art Trend of 2022:
How AI Art Emerged and Polarized the Art World


What AI-Generated Art
Really Means for Human Creativity

These are some of the images I've prompted that have really blown me away, but there's so much more to come:

"a futuristic organically inspired city with greenery and sleek rounded architecture"

-Images: Stable Diffusion AI Software
-Prompts & Curating: Paul Micarelli

 "jim morrison as a da vinci painting"

-Images: Stable Diffusion AI Software
-Prompts & Curating: Paul Micarelli

"robot in a float tank"

-Images: Stable Diffusion AI Software
-Prompts & Curating: Paul Micarelli

"scene in your mind when you die" 3

-Images: Stable Diffusion AI Software
-Prompts & Curating: Paul Micarelli

"the face of god"

-Images: Stable Diffusion AI Software
-Prompts & Curating: Paul Micarelli

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Chunky Beef N' Beer Canned Combo

 I have been hard at work & created a delicious new product, the canned Chunky Beef N' Beer Combo. 


Sunday, January 22, 2023

"THE INTERNET" - 'Thinking Aloud' with 2 Paul Micarelli's

*Originally posted to the Conscious Living for You blog

  "THE INTERNET" - 'Thinking Aloud' with 2 Paul Micarelli's

Paul Micarelli & son Paul Giuseppe take a walk and talk about interesting topics. πŸ€”πŸ’‘πŸ‘ΆπŸ» 
***Please LIKE & SHARE, Thank You!*** 

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Intact Frog Skeleton


This is a slightly morbid post to start off the New Year, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

Nature Photography
by Paul Micarelli

I found this completely intact little frog skeleton, & the weirdest part is where I found it... This was in the light fixture up in my bedroom walk-in closet. I have no idea how a tiny frog would have got up into that area!

Hopefully this is not an omen for how 2023 is going to turn out.

Here's a picture next to my finger, for scale:

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Donald Trump NFT Collector Cards


 I couldn't believe this is real... I thought it was some A.I. or "deepfake" video:


What a total fucking clown! This is like those crappy late night infomercials I used to watch & make fun of as a kid. After being in the position of the most powerful man on the planet, Trump is back to what he does best - selling bullshit products to absolute morons.

I've mostly kept my mouth shut through all the corruption, treason, egregious criminal activity, & multiple pending indictments, but this is just too much for me! πŸ˜† 

To anyone who thought this con-man was EVER worthy of being anywhere near the Presidency... you should 1) Go look in the mirror 2) Take a good, hard look at yourself, then 3) Smack yourself in the face 10 times, repeating "I'm a dummy!, I'm a dummy!" 

This might sound rude or harsh, but I have absolutely no time or sympathy for all the idiots who thought Trump had any redeeming qualities. If you think Donald J. Trump was a good President or is a good person in any way, you're judgement is on par with someone who thinks the Sun is a mass of fireflies huddled together.

If you want to show just what a fool you are, go ahead & say something about Joe Biden, Hunter's laptop, Dr. Fauci, or anything other than addressing what a stupid goddamn jackass this guy is, and how foolish Republicans were for nominating & voting for him. 

To be fair, my wife & I were talking about this in disbelief, and agreed he is a particular kind of genius - in the same way televangelists are brilliant at getting people to believe their nonsense & send them money. 

Here's the post where the doofus announced the collection before the absurd video started making the rounds:

The cards did sell out- which means there's alot of dumb Trump supporters with $99 to throw away, or (just as likely) it's a laundering operation to funnel dark money into his pockets.

The silly art on the cards showing Trump playing dress-up in imaginary roles, the horrible video editing (because they probably had to do endless takes with his dumb ass), the pure cheesiness of it all... what a shit-show!!!

Anyway, here's a gallery of these "rare" cards that I took from the website. Feel free to donate $99 to me instead. It will be much better hands than Trump's tiny little pale claws. They're all so ridiculous, it's hard to pick out my favorites:

Click Here for More:
Donald Trump NFT Collector Cards

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Elan School & The Business of Torturing Children


Now that I am a father, my perspective on many things have changed & my sensitivity to the experiences of children has heightened.  

I've always been inspired by the innocence and purity of vision that little children possess. They see everything in the world with fresh eyes, and they are trusting little blank slates who depend on the love & guidance of adults to grow.

Seeing my son joyfully experiencing life, full of curiosity & enthusiasm, has brought me tremendous happiness that is hard to describe. However, it has also brought me profound sadness... as I think of the terrible circumstances that so many unfortunate babies & children are exposed to. I always thought that child abuse in any form, physical or mental, is the most most heinous offense a human being can commit. Now that I have a child of my own, seeing reports or stories of little kids being abused by adults ignites a white-hot fire of rage in my heart. What kind of fucking damaged person could possibly look at the face of an innocent child and want to hurt it in any way? It's so sickening that it makes me despair at the state of the entire human race.

So, when I read a lengthy web comic about the now-closed Elan School, I was both engaged by the insane story & utterly horrified by the idea that institutions like that have existed (& sadly still exist).

Joe vs. Elan School

I would recommend reading through the comic, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. It's better to directly experience the powerful graphic journey, rather than try to describe it.

What really disturbed me is the idea that parents would allow their kid to be basically kidnapped and isolated in some reform school, without direct observation of their situation. My son is a toddler now & crazy as hell. He is hyperactive, defiant, and rough bordering on violent. However, he is also extremely smart, sweet & loving, and just a very friendly little guy. I'm hoping he grows out of some of the negative "terrible two's" qualities and we can guide him to be a well-adjusted person. Even if he had behavioral issues when he gets older, I cannot for the life of me imagine just handing him off to some assholes running some disciplinary school to "set him straight". 

The most messed up part is that some of these kids were not even really that bad, they were sometimes just rebellious, smoked some pot, or some dumb shit like that. Young people have been separated from their families for YEARS, while these institutions milked the parents for money and straight up tortured kids whose minds have not yet fully developed & cannot truly comprehend the hell they've been placed in.

These kind of abusive "correctional" methods are still going on with places like the "pray away the gay" camps, or conversion therapy for kids exploring their sexual identity in ways that their families don't approve of.

Even conventional day cares & schools can breed abusive environments that cause unnecessary trauma, but institutions like Elan School appear to be systematic in the abuse & torture of society's most vulnerable members.

It's overwhelming to think of all the suffering going on in the world, especially to little kids who don't deserve the cruelty that so many of them have to endure. I hope that by bringing some light to it, the world can reduce these dark aspects of human nature that propagate through the generations. 


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Human Evolution According to A.I.

"Evolution" by Stable Diffusion software

One emerging technology that I've been watching very closely is the use of artificial intelligence (A.I) software to create artistic imagery.

As a graphic designer, the idea of computers creating art & design comparable to humans makes me uneasy- in the same way a horse-drawn carriage maker must have felt watching automobile factories coming online. I think that the human mind will continue to have a unique place in the creative process, at least for the foreseeable future. However, I look at some of the results coming from A.I. image processing programs & I'm like fuuuuuuuuck... this is amazing. 

From what I've seen, a lot of emphasis has been on the generation of fine art and illustration, creating images using descriptive keywords and style references. What worries me is the use of A.I. for design-related projects like logos, where many options can be generated in a speed & variety that no human designer can match.

Business Insider:
Artists say AI image generators are copying their style
to make thousands of new images — and it's completely out of their control

I wanted to talk about this topic after seeing a post in r/damnthatsinteresting in which human evolution is "imagined" by the A.I. Stable Diffusion software.

Human evolution generated by AI Stable Diffusion


I just stopped typing so I could mess with the program a little bit, and now I'm even more amazed & perturbed. 

This image was generated when typing in the name of my blog, The Monkey Buddha:

This is so crazy to me... I mean, what the hell??? This just shows that even human creativity is just an emergent phenomenon, that can be simulated and improved upon. These technologies and A.I. applications are going to be just as revolutionary & disruptive to culture as the Internet itself was. 

I'm pretty good at spotting Photoshop work, but it's going to be impossible to distinguish the source of photos & images in the near future. It will be interesting & disturbing to see this all unfold, but there's really no way to put this technology back in the box. So, we humans have to do what we do best, adapt & improvise - something it looks like computer networks are beginning to emulate.

Prompt: "computers taking my graphic design job"

In addition to the monkey at the beginning of this post, here are some more screenshots I pulled from the video above:

Finally metamorphosing into complete abstraction...


Friday, October 07, 2022

Let's Grow Brandon!!!

I was inspired to create this graphic by the announcement that President Biden is pardoning federal marijuana convictions, & also directing agencies to review the absolutely absurd Schedule I status of the plant.

I added it to my online shop, too:

The Monkey Buddha Bazaar:
*** Let's Grow Brandon!!!
(Click for Products)

The fact that this relatively harmless psychoactive plant has been an illegal Schedule I drug for so long has created a human rights catastrophe in the United States & the rest of the world, following suit. Cannabis has been used as a medicine & mind-expanding catalyst since before recorded history. Yet, in the last century, society was brainwashed to believe it was bad, despite it's ancient legacy as a healing tool.

National Library of Medicine:
History of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system

I'm not going to get into the long, sordid history of marijuana criminalization, but it is bullshit that so many people's lives have been ruined by the government, law enforcement, and our "justice" system outlawing a plant that simply makes you feel good & alters your consciousness, usually in a positive way. Of course that is exactly why it was made illegal...

In modern times, special interests like pharmaceutical companies & private prisons have been the biggest opponents of legalization (for obvious reasons). However, the majority of Americans, around 3/4, want to end the nonsensical "War On Drugs," specifically on Cannabis.

States are continually dismantling the tenets of the drug war as decriminalization & legalization happens around the country. Being able to buy some nice bud at a dispensary is a pretty liberating feeling, after having to feel like it's this illicit thing for so long. It's only a matter of time when everyone just says, "Enough!" and stops this ridiculous crusade that has needlessly destroyed so many people's lives, worse than the plant itself ever could.

I saw the news, and thought this would be a good play on the dumb "Let's Go Brandon!" meme that has been cracking up conservatives for a year, while everyone else just kind of shakes their head in pity. :(

This is my way to encourage Biden, the government, & society as a whole to change it's perspective on drug laws, specifically regarding Cannabis. Really, Republicans seriously fucked up by not adopting decriminalization first, as a "personal freedom" issue that would appeal to more progressive people, too. However, their perpetual circle-jerk of contrived morality & religiosity would never promote something that brings people actual pleasure and comfort. To be fair, I have been reading conservative forums & comments that agree with this action, even if they don't like Dank Brandon himself.

Anyway, I was not a big Biden fan either, & saw him as a pretty typical politician. He seemed like a fairly normal human being- which was the main qualification against a total scumbag of a human being like Donald Trump. Yeah, I know about Creepy Joe, and it totally sucks that we have to choose between two people like this. Even though I figured Biden would just be maintaining the status quo, I think he's at least trying to address the major issues the country faces, somewhat successfully. Taking an honest look at the drug laws in this country & reforming them would be a huge accomplishment.

So, let's hope that positive social change continues, and as a society we can address these festering issues that are infecting our society - drug laws, health insurance, student loans, incarceration, wealth disparity, corporate power... and the root of it all - money influencing politics

If we don't ultimately deal with the corruption caused by money influencing political decisions, then all efforts to make any other meaningful change will go up in smoke.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Watching the Hatchlings

This summer, a bird built a little nest in a decorative watering can we keep by our front door. We were able to watch the eggs hatch & the baby birds grow until they flew from the nest.

We tried to avoid going in & out that door too much so we didn't disturb them. 

When they were in the featherless stage, with gaping beaks, chirping & awaiting a meal from their mother, they looked kind of creepy. Then, when they grew feathers I guess they smartened up, because they would stay quiet when they heard or saw one of us. Then, one day *poof!* they were gone...

Nature Photography
by Paul Micarelli




Wednesday, September 14, 2022

"HUMOR" - 'Thinking Aloud' with 2 Paul Micarelli's

*Originally posted to the Conscious Living for You blog

Paul Micarelli & son Paul Giuseppe take a walk and talk about interesting topics. πŸ€”πŸ’‘πŸ‘ΆπŸ» 
***Please LIKE & SHARE, Thank You!*** 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Home Honey Bee Extraction

This summer, we had a gap in the siding of our house that became home to a hive of honeybees 🐝 They weren't any trouble & I would watch them come to the bird bath to drink. However, we could tell there were a lot of bees in the siding, & didn't want them to compromise the structure of the house. So, we had local beekeepers from Swazey Farms come out to extract them. 
On their first visit, they used infrared imaging & fiber optic cameras to determine the extent of the hive. It was like Ghostbusters for bees.
Next they scheduled a visit for the extraction, & came back to relocate the hive. 

 They took apart a small section of the house, & removing as much of the honeycomb as possible. They sucked up the bees using a low-pressure vacuum & transported them in ventilated buckets. 

It was pretty awesome to watch, & we were glad they were able to move them without harming them, since they're so important for the environment.
We also got to taste some of the honey... You can't get any more local than your own house!!! My son Paulie kept licking the honey off his finger & going "Mmmmmm!"

*As a special, fun bonus... they also discovered a very large hornet's nest (about the size of a bowling ball) hanging off a tree on the side of our house. It was right next to our gardens, & I can't believe we didn't notice it. Thank god we didn't disturb it on accident. 
It was right at eye level & one of the guys almost walked into it, so they recommended that we let them remove it because they are a super-aggressive species. 
I was going to try to spray it myself, but Loretta said I was being cheap & completely insane (she was correct). So, we told the guys to go ahead & take care of it.
They suited up in all their protective gear (even though they didn't bother wearing any protection for the bees). As soon as they started cutting branches around it, the hornets swarmed them, trying to attack their faces. It was at this point that I thought, "Yeah it was probably not a good idea for me to try to handle this..."


Monday, July 04, 2022

The International Flag of Planet Earth

Today is Independence Day in the U.S.A., or the Fourth of July. It is the day we celebrate breaking away from British rule and becoming a sovereign nation.

There are a lot of American flags flying today, and the red, white, & blue flag is symbolic for our unity as a country. I saw this article about The International Flag of Planet Earth, and how it should be used a symbol to unite the whole of humanity living on this planet, once we expand outward into the solar system.

If Humans Go to Mars, We Need an Earth Flag 

I think it's very optimistic to think that humanity, with all its primitive tribal instincts, would be able to unite as a collective, instead of continuing to exist as competing factions. I would like to think that colonizing space would be a reason to join the people of this planet together, but even space travel will not be able to overcome the monkey mind that drives us to form different sub-groups.

Still, it is a good idea to create a symbol to represent the Earth as a singular political entity.It would at least represent the idea of the people of this world joined as one, even if it doesn't practically work out that way.

I definitely like the use of the Seed of Life configuration of circles. I created a game using the larger Flower of Life pattern called Da Vinci's Challenge, so I am familiar with the powerful visual impact of this symbol.

I have seen some variations on this flag design, & I prefer the "closed/flat" look, especially because the original looks asymmetrical to me:

Hopefully, the human race continues to progress and eventually travels into space to other worlds. Then, perhaps we will be able to minimize our differences to see the common goal we have been working towards since life began - to survive, thrive, & continue the process of life in new places.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Paul Giuseppe - Jedi or Sith?

It's crazy how busy it gets when you have children... Working full time & having a toddler sucks all the time from my day, but I'm grateful to have such a full life. 

I realized I haven't posted in a month, so I thought I'd share a proud dad moment. 

Anyone who knows me or has followed this blog knows I'm a lifelong Star Wars fan. Recently, right around Star Wars Day (May 4th) my son Paulie took his "first step into a larger world".

First of all, I made the mistake of bringing home an electronic Darth Vader bank from my parents' house. 

You push a button and Vader lights up, talks, & moves while blasting The Imperial March. Well, my son has become completely obsessed with this thing. He has already worn out 3 sets of batteries from activating it over & over (....& over & over) again. Sometimes he'll push the button 20+ times in a row. My poor wife is so sick of it, she's ready to Force choke someone out. I never thought I would need a break from hearing The Imperial March, but here we are...

He was playing the thing so damn much, I had to give him a Darth Vader action figure just so that he would leave the bank alone & eat dinner.

Now, he loves watching videos with Vader from the films or Star Wars Kids animations. He also says "Vay-er" in the car until I play The Imperial March through the stereo.

Since he has seen clips of lightsaber duels, I've begun his Jedi padawan training - with an intro to lightsaber combat. He seems to prefer the Jedi lightsabers, while I use the double-edged Darth Maul one. So, even though he is enthralled by The Dark Lord of the Sith, he prefers Jedi weapons. He's a strong little guy, so he wields the toy swords pretty handily.

Really, his first exposure to Star Wars was Yoda & Grogu "Baby Yoda". He still loves these characters, mimicking my imitation of Yoda's laugh "Hmmm-hmm-hmm" & continuously watching the Lego Star Wars video of Grogu in the snow to the point where he knows each part of it. His grandmother gave him a Baby Yoda doll that he was carrying around all day today.

I made another big mistake of showing him a Darth Vader case in his closet, that's full of Star Wars figures, that I was saving for when he is old enough to play with them. Now, he goes to his closet, pointing up to the case & saying "Vay-er" until I take it down. I'm letting him look through them and play with them, but putting them back so he doesn't lose them.

So being such a huge Star Wars fan, it's pretty cool that my son loves it so much already. It's fun to watch video clips online with him, and I can't wait until he's old enough to watch the movies & series with me. Hopefully he embraces the Light Side, and doesn't follow Vader into the ways of the Sith...

Sunday, April 10, 2022

You Are Connected to the Entire Universe

 Originally posted to Conscious Living for You



You Are Connected to the Entire Universe
Graphic by Paul Micarelli 

It has been shown that the large-scale structure of the cosmos is an interconnected web, similar to the net of neurons in our brain, which in turn is similar to the ever-fluctuating connected patterns of the quantum field.

There are theories that at the Plank scale of subatomic realm, all information is connected in a holofractal unified field.

This endless array of connection, that exists at all scales, is an aspect of the fundamental unity of reality of which we are an integral part.

We are a part of The All, and The All is a part of us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Size of the Orion Nebula

Considering that I was just looking at the constellation Orion as I brought in my trash cans from the road tonight, this is a good video to share now. I always look up at the stars, amazed by even the limited number of stellar lights that I can see in the night sky at my house. 

 Orion is one of the most obvious constellations, and was associated with Osiris & his resurrection in ancient Egypt. One interesting fact about this arrangement of stars is their spacial orientation, which is obviously not on a flat plane as it appears. This is a cool diagram showing their relationship in space, from the previous article:

 I love computer animated videos like the one below, because they give a perspective that is almost impossible to achieve strictly through verbal descriptions, or even numbers. Nothing can give you a quality existential crisis like a well-produced 3D animation like this, since it can clearly illustrate certain truths that reveal the mind-boggling nature of our reality.

This video was produced by Epic Spaceman & shows the scale of the nebula in the 'sword' of Orion, compared to our Sun. You just think about the incomprehensible vastness of space, and the mind & ego just "poof" away like an ephemeral cloud of dust.

The Orion Nebula vs The Sun: Scale of the Universe

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Fractal Brain Theory

I finally finished reading The Fractal Brain Theory by Wai Tsang, after a long slog of 2+ years. It might be the longest it's ever taken for me to read a book.

I was slowed down by the birth of my son, & having very little time to myself over the past couple years. The book is also fairly science-heavy, with a lot to conceptually chew on, so I would only read a section at a time.

The central premise of the book is that the structural organization of the brain, and therefore the mind, is "fractal"- recursive or self-similar at various scales.

To me, this is an obvious assumption, since the whole of Reality is fractal in nature. However, this is not a widely recognized characteristic of our brain. The makeup of brain & its functioning expresses similar patterns & qualities as we observe the various scales from the molecular > neural > cortical columns > overall brain.

The ultimate goal of Wai Tsang's investigations is to be able to understand how the mind works so we can create a functional A.I., a truly thinking machine. The way to do this is through a holistic understanding of all the brain's processes, which give rise to the emergent phenomenon we call "consciousness".

Of course, the answer to "How does the brain work?" is the same as the answer to "How does the Earth work?" There is no simply way to sum up all the complex cellular, chemical, & energetic functions that are taking place within the brain at any one time. It is an intricate interplay of systems and components that cannot be teased apart as easily as traditional science would have us believe - with specific areas for language, vision, memory, emotion, etc. The workings of the brain are much more intertwined and distributed than could be described by any one theory. However, Wai Tsang in this book attempts to offer a key to unlock a more integrated picture of the human brain that could help understand it more thoroughly.

Although some of the more technical aspects of the book were a bit over my head, which focused on the mathematical & programming correlations to understanding the brain's functioning, I found the ideas presented intriguing. I think the fractal approach can be applied to many different areas of inquiry. Again, since the Universe exhibits fractal qualities, the aspects of it which we are trying to understand would also exhibit these qualities, true to fractal form. Especially the brain, which is a biological instrument used to perceive the fractal Universe, would then be expected to be organized in a fractal hierarchy.

The stated goal of the book, to discover a path to developing advanced A.I., is a controversial one. There are so many areas where artificial intelligence working on a level beyond the singular or collective capabilities of the human mind would be an unimaginable benefit. However, as a fan of sci-fi such as The Matrix, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Mass Effect, I'm also very wary if the dangers that advanced thinking machines could pose. The outcome of A.I. development will depend on humankind making the right choices in the process. Therefore, we are probably completely fucked.

So, I would recommend this if you are interested in the scientific study of the brain & consciousness, and are also interested in the elegant field of fractal geometry. It's not the easiest book to read at times, but it is thought-provoking and gets the fractal cascades of mental energy flowing through the cerebral cortex.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

"PARENTHOOD" - 'Thinking Aloud' with 2 Paul Micarelli's

*Originally posted to the Conscious Living for You blog

Paul Micarelli & son Paul Giuseppe take a walk and talk about interesting topics. πŸ€”πŸ’‘πŸ‘ΆπŸ» 
***Please LIKE & SHARE, Thank You!*** 


Sunday, February 13, 2022

Future Beach


If there's one thing I love, it's weird shit... & it doesn't get any weirder than this video by Nadia Lee Cohen

The artist's style is a surrealist approach to fashion photography that is unsettling and totally bonkers.



Thursday, February 03, 2022

Movie Review: Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix is one of my favorite movie series, a mind-bending story fusing philosophy, technology, and exploration of the human condition. My wife & I recently asked my parents to babysit so we could take a rare trip to the movies while Matrix Resurrections was still playing. 

We had watched the original trilogy fairly recently, so the story was fresh in our minds. Nothing compares to the original Matrix, but we both really enjoyed this movie and thought it was a solid continuation of the story of Neo and Trinity. The trailer got me super-hyped to see it, and thankfully it lived up to my hype. It had a lot of cool, thought-provoking takes on the Matrix story, and didn't seem like a cheap cash grab.

 There are probably going to be spoilers below, but I'll try not to give too much away...

The story starts out with Neo once again living within the Matrix as Thomas Anderson, now a successful game designer. He created a game, The Matrix (a game within the movie - referencing the movie itself! Woooah..), but is haunted by the feeling that his memories and subconscious connections to the game have some deeper reality... or is he just mentally ill? He is seeing a therapist who is prescribing him blue pills (of course) to help with his seemingly delusional breaks from his current reality.

The fact that there is even a movie with Thomas/Neo after he clearly died in Matrix Revolutions is a mystery. Is this really Neo? Did he survive somehow? This is explained later on as the rabbit hole opens up once again, and we dive deep down into it.

One thing this movie does brilliantly is hold a mirror up to the absurdity and craziness of our "normal" world - the dependence on manufactured pharmaceuticals, ubiquitous technology, inauthentic social relationships, corporate fealty, and our own behaviors based on our limited grasp of reality.

There is also a lot of "meta" self-parody in this movie, exposing the bullshit aspects entertainment & mass media. This is mostly done through humorous situations & conversations involving Mr. Anderson's game company. There is a discussion how Warner Bros. is demanding a new Matrix game, even though Thomas doesn't want to make one. The production company & the money are in control, not the creator.

I thought it was interesting how the advances in real-world technology since the flip phones of the original movie were addressed. One scene I especially liked, that's shown in the trailer, is where he is in an elevator & looks up into the mirrored ceiling to see everyone staring into their mobile devices. We are becoming more "jacked-in" to our Matrix, the Internet, all the time. People's brains are addicted to this connection to virtual space in a way that is making it inseparable from our natural conscious experience.

Inevitably, Thomas Anderson finds out there is more to his reality, as he has suspected all along. After assimilating & neutralizing the threat of Agent Smith in Revolutions, it turns out the machines have kept him and Trinity alive. The machines have kept them in special pods, close to one another for decades after reviving and rebuilding their biological bodies. As the Anomaly, their presence and proximity to one another somehow stabilizes the Matrix for all other humans.

One thing I thought was a great continuation of the story was that after Revolutions and the peace Neo's actions ushered in, the machines began to integrate into human society. Zion was destroyed by continued warfare, but the machines were able to join & help humans in the new city of Io to greatly improve their quality of life. The original Matrix movies had a very "us vs. them" approach to the human relationship to machines, until Neo realized the only way to end the conflict was to merge into a more symbiotic existence.

Although the real Morpheus apparently died after leading the High Council of Zion, a "virtual Morpheus" was created by Neo. Although he was a program that appeared like Morpheus within the Matrix itself, thanks to nanobot-like tech he was also able to manifest in the physical world. Again, it was an interesting concept using advances in technology to come up with fresh approaches to the storytelling.

Eventually, Neo reconnects with Trinity, who is living a fake virtual life with a bot husband, (maybe unironically) named "Chad" & their bot children. The great human mysteries of "Love" & "Choice" once again play the ultimate role in the fate of the two protagonists... and the rest of humanity, as a result.

The ending of this movie is a callback to the end of the first Matrix, but this time Trinity saves the day, and makes me think there may be more to the Matrix story to come.

Although I really like the movie, there were some things that kind of bothered me. The relationship between man & machine was kind of confusing, because there was apparently a peace brokered but people are still in pods and there are still hostile machines and programs. 

 I was really thrown off by how easily both Neo and Trinity eventually got out of their V.I.P. pods in the middle of the machine city. Wouldn't the machines have robots monitoring & guarding these pods with an immense level of scrutiny? Yet, there were no machines to be seen as they were being extracted. The whole "rescue" attempt was probably the part of the movie that bothered me the most. 

I also didn't understand how Smith would still be able to exist, even if his form was altered... and if he was still around, wouldn't he still be able to cross over into the real world?

Anyway, these complaints didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of this visually and conceptually impressive movie. With so many reboots & expansions of fictional properties proving to be shallow or rushed, I was extremely happy to experience such an awesome return to one of the most intriguing fictional worlds in modern media.

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who was inspired by the original Matrix and the other movies & offshoots, such as the Animatrix. It was a deep, innovative journey into the mind and the real & virtual worlds it can inhabit.