Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Venom" Movie Trailer


I just watched the official trailer for the "Venom" movie. I used to be an avid comic book collector when I was a kid, and Venom was one of my favorite characters.


During the Secret Wars series in the 1980's, Spider-Man acquired a black suit with special powers, like enhanced speed & strength, unlimited webbing, and being able to shape-shift into any clothing. It also just looked awesome. However, it turned out that the "suit" was actually alive, a symbiotic alien life form that had merged with Peter Parker.


He tries to separate from the symbiote, using sonic waves that disrupt the alien. The alien then finds Eddie Brock, a down & out reporter who is ready to commit suicide. The symbiote bonds with Brock, and takes on his aggressive and violent personality. The merged pair becomes the terrifying creature known as Venom, one of Spider-Man's most powerful enemies and a great villain character.


Anyway, the Venom character has been done in movies before, in Spider-Man 3, but the full Venom appeared only briefly and was handled in a pretty lame way. With many years and more advanced CGI since then, this iteration of Venom looks pretty good, and hopefully the character gets more screen time.

Unfortunately, as is the situation with certain superhero movies, the involvement & ownership of these properties by different studios leads to results that do not do the characters or their stories justice. It appears that, because this is a Sony movie and not a Marvel production, Spider-Man will not be a part of this movie, which is idiotic. Venom's origin story IS Spider-Man, so to not include him would be like having a Joker movie with no Batman.

I'm pretty critical of movies in general, especially when it comes to characters that I am very familiar with & like. Sometimes, I wish I could be a consultant for these types of movies to tell everyone how things should be done. When I read other people's opinions online, most people complain about the same things I criticize. Perhaps one day there will be a proper movie with Spider-Man vs. Venom that is true to the original story. Until then, I won't bother seeing this in the theater, but may see it eventually if it seems to get good reviews.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Internationally Approved Weapons

I saw this cartoon on Phroyd's World awhile back, and unfortunately it's still as relevant as ever.



People set up this strange dichotomy in their heads- where killing by a certain group & methods is wrong- but killing by their group using "officially sanctioned" methods (even that which results in collateral damage) is justified.

It's all the same destruction of human life, and especially when non-combatants are murdered, military action can be just as barbaric as the actions of any terrorist group. People who are cheerleaders for war are blinded by patriotic emotion that prevents them from seeing others in foreign lands as fellow living beings.

The detachment of humans from killing other humans, through technology such as drones & smart missiles, is an extremely dangerous situation. It allows for the murder of anyone, with the personal responsibility of no one. This is why so many people are arguing against the implementation of AI and autonomous robots in combat. This terrifying possibilities of this concept is illustrated in the fictional (for now) Slaughterbots video below:



This desensitization of war's effects, leading to the justification for state-sanctioned death of innocent people, is one of the main catalysts for terrorism in the first place. We kill innocents while trying to get the "bad guys", so they kill innocents... and the cycle of revenge never stops.

The only people who benefit from this endless destruction are those who are profiting from it, through the creation & utilization of weapons- the "military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower presciently warned us about at 8:41 in the video below.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Macro Photography- Tiny Beetle

I've been taking some macro photography using a lens for my iPhone that I received for Christmas this year. It is awesome for taking photos of tiny natural features and textures.

by Paul Micarelli

I saw this tiny beetle crawling on my desk & wanted to see how detailed of an image I could get of it. When I say tiny, I mean it was smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen! To illustrate the size, I took a few "zoom-out" photos, showing it in relation to a pen. The macro lens magnified it so well, I was able to see its head & the camo-like pattern on it's back.

 


Monday, April 09, 2018

Cool 3D World


Two things I enjoy are 3D animation and surrealism... and there are few places where those two ideas collide as thoroughly & weirdly as Cool 3D World.






Cool 3D World is a team of artists, Jon Baken & Brian Tessler who clearly delight in using their technical skills to push the limits of the absurd.

DazedDigital.com:

If you want to be completely confused & disgusted, be sure to watch their videos- featuring morphing humanoids, nonsensical scenery, disturbing sound effects, and generally mind-warpingly bizarre animation.


Here are some examples of the insane animations produced by Cool 3D World. For the love of all that's good, do not try to make sense of any of it:

2015 Compilation

Dreaming Boy

Earth & Moon


Thursday, April 05, 2018

Macro Photography- Coral

I received a macro lens for my iPhone from my fiancée's parents on Christmas. I love taking nature photos, and this allows me to capture new perspectives from extremely close up. I will be adding them to my album of nature photos.

by Paul Micarelli

I've been taking some random pictures of things that I think have cool textures or interesting features. This is a piece of coral that I saved from a trip to Mexico many years ago. When you zoom into it, the many tiny pieces of sand embedded in the nooks become more evident.

Reality is endlessly fractal, with ever-more levels of detail to discover.




Monday, April 02, 2018

Frostfire Monkey

I came across this awesome illustration by Italian artist Pierluigi Vessichelli, and since I love anything involving metaphysical monkeys I had to share it!



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Conscious Living for You


My fiancée has brought many things into my life for which I will forever be grateful. One of the most important things is an appreciation for healthy living.

Even before we met, I tried to be conscious of my lifestyle. Although I may have indulged in things that were not beneficial, and ignored various aspects of my life that were detrimental- I did not lead a bad life. I exercised, meditated, and have always tried to be generally positive.

However, she has taken me to another level in all aspects of my life, while I have likewise helped push her to achieve what she wouldn't have thought possible before. We both eat very healthy, stay fit, do yoga, stay in touch with our spiritual lives, learn as much as we can, and try to be positive forces in the world. I've had The Monkey Buddha blog for many years, & she's had a "Conscious" page on Facebook to share information to elevate others.

Recently, I was talking to her about re-branding her Facebook page, and it evolved into an idea I had... to embark on a journey together. She is a registered nurse who has started teaching yoga and has helped people with nutritional plans. I am a content creator, and enjoy teaching people about art, culture, science, meditation, and spirituality. My idea was to create a brand that would encompass all these things that can help other people, and more. Being very experienced in marketing & branding, I thought the name "Conscious Living for You" would be a powerful name to cover all the topics we wanted to address.

The first thing I knew we had to do was create a blog and a Facebook page to begin sharing information and providing content. After taking a month or two to finally get around to it, we finally sat down one night and created both pages:

Blogger:

Facebook:


If you are reading this, your support by "following" or "liking" these pages would be deeply appreciated. We will both start adding interesting and helpful content to those who want to live a better, more fulfilling life.

Eventually, we want to provide guides and original content that we create for our readers. Then, our ultimate vision is to have a studio or some kind of Consciousness Center, for like-minded people to join, learn, and practice with us.

As a graphic designer and creative professional, the most important thing I've learned about approaching any project is to start it! Then, it snowballs and grows. Without implementation, an idea stays just that... an idea. So, now that we've started it, we will continue to nurture this project and make it grow.

Thank you for reading this, and hopefully for supporting our new venture.

Friday, March 23, 2018

March 2018 Nor'easter Photos

 

This past week, we experienced a March Nor'easter here in New Jersey.

The snowstorm was pretty rough (power out for 2 days & cracked car windshield) but I got beautiful pics of the snow covered trees against the blue sky after the storm cleared.

I added them to my album of nature photos:

by Paul Micarelli



 


Monday, March 19, 2018

"Floral Mandala" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract art. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale.

by Paul Micarelli

A radiating arrangement of petal-like shapes morphs into an ever-shrinking circular pattern as it extends out from the center:

 "Floral Mandala"
by Paul Micarelli

**Buy Prints & Products With This Design***
The Monkey Buddha Bazaar:

BUY "Floral Mandala"

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Joseph A. Micarelli's Photo Album

I am the de facto archivist for my family- the one who keeps extensive records and photos. Not only do I keep my own photo archives organized by year & event, but I usually make albums of photo prints for family members' birthdays.

Even though the Buddhist principles of non-attachment (stemming from the realization of impermanence) resonate deeply with me, it is still in my nature to want to preserve memories. I feel it is a way to communicate with others through time & space.

So, I felt this sense of communication recently when I went to visit my aunt on my dad's side of the family. I had spotted some old photos, and she ended up bringing out a photo album that was put together by my grandfather, Joseph A. Micarelli (1922-1984) who was married to Marie (Rietzen) (1925-2003). 

Google Photo Album:

My aunt and uncle had wanted to scan the photographs, and began taking them out of the album, which unfortunately would have ruined the album. Luckily they didn't get too far with it. Most of the photos were captioned with names and dates, so I thought it was important to preserve this info with the pictures. After seeing the care and time that my grandfather had put into making this photo book, I realized where my knack for archiving photos originated! I expressed my interest in taking the album & digitizing it, by scanning each page as a whole. Then, somewhere down the line I could digitally crop out individual photos if I wanted.

My aunt kindly lent me the book, so after a month or two of not getting around to it, I decided to just take a day and scan away! I didn't want it to be something that I was holding onto for years, because I never made the time to get it done. Because the pages were larger than my scanner, I had to scan each page in halves, then stitch them together on the computer. Once I got the process going, I got in the zone and finished it in one day.

I uploaded the photos to the Google album, linked above, and made the high-resolution images available to my family on Facebook and through email. It feels good to reconnect my extended family (of which there are many) to the lives and memories of our ancestors.

My Pop-Pop died when I was in first grade, so luckily I do have some vague memories and impressions of him. Looking through & saving these old photos gave me a new level of connection to him and my other relatives.

As I scanned these photos, I couldn't help but think how amazed he would be to know his grandson was using computers to save and share his images with the entire family. I guess that's why I also archive photos and info from my own life- in the hopes that one day I will be able to communicate across time & space through them, and reach out to those living in the future.

Here are a few pics from the album:

My grandfather Joseph Micarelli around 1940, 18 years old:

My grandparents from my dad's side, Joseph & Marie Micarelli, on their wedding day May 12, 1945:

The Micarelli family photo from 1934. 
There were 8 boys & 1 girl and they lived in Boston:
 




Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Dissolution" by Paul Micarelli


 Turning inward, the ego and the sense of self begin to dissolve into abstraction... 

This is an experimental video made using the Imaengine app. I created the soundtrack in GarageBand.


Filming, Editing, & Soundtrack by Paul Micarelli

Monday, March 05, 2018

FTL


I'm keeping the space theme going, from my last 3 posts- about Interstellar, Black Hole Simulations, and the Andromeda Galaxy. Space travel is one of the most important topics facing humanity. How fast we can travel off-planet and sustain ourselves, in space colonies or inhabiting other worlds, will determine if our species survives any potential cataclysm that might affect us on Earth.

On r/space I watched this short film called "FTL" about an astronaut who leaves our planet, to pilot the first craft to travel faster than the speed of light (FTL travel). His mission is to travel to an already-colonized Mars to drop off a communications satellite, presumably using some sort of gravitational warp drive to make the trip in a fraction of the time. Unfortunately, this technological achievement is recognized by some form of higher intelligence, which pulls the ship & it's pilot to an awe-inspiring first contact.



It had some of the same themes as the movie Interstellar, which I just watched the other night. It addresses the question of the limits people will go to make new discoveries- including giving up their families & personal relationships as a sacrifice for the common good of the human race. It also explores the possibilities of what might happen when we meet with beings of higher intelligence.

This was very well done for a short film on a limited budget, and carries the emotional weight of experiences that humans will very likely face as we travel to the stars.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Movie Review: "Interstellar"


Last night, my fiancée & I watched "Interstellar". Admittedly, I pick space movies to watch a lot, so she wasn't too thrilled at first about watching it. However, we both really liked it & spurred conversation today about black holes, the nature of space-time, higher dimensions, relativity, space travel, and cosmic consciousness.



I found myself kind of internally criticizing some of the movie's more scientifically far-fetched scenarios, but it's just sci-fi & entertainment, after all. Despite the fictional nature of the story, it was full of questions & possibilities for real science.

Space.com:

"Interstellar" actually helped spur scientific research, through the process of creating accurate visual effects to simulate approaching a black hole. Interestingly enough, simulating black holes with computer graphics was the topic of my last blog post.

Besides the scientifically-inspired attempts at accuracy, the visuals in the movie had a transcendental effect similar to those of "2001: A Space Odyssey".

The interstellar craft approaching the black hole, "Gargantua".


The story takes place in an unspecified time in the near-future, when the population of Earth is facing a blight that is destroying crops. In a time of global famine and planetary depletion, NASA makes finding another world to inhabit a top priority.

The main character, Cooper, is a pilot who is recruited to travel through a known "wormhole" in space-time near Saturn. The wormhole leads to another galaxy, and appears to have been created by an advance collection of intelligent beings. Astronauts had been previously sent through the inter-dimensional tunnel to find inhabitable worlds in this new galaxy, and Cooper was chosen to join a crew to follow up on these missing scouts.

Cooper leaves both his daughter "Murph" & his son Tom behind, sacrificing his relationship with them to save them and the rest of the species. The familial connection between Cooper & his daughter is the driving force of the movie. Due to relativistic effects of traveling near the speed of light & entering powerful gravity wells around distant stars, there is a experienced time differential. Cooper ages at a rate much slower than his daughter, and also enter hibernation for periods of his journey. They can communicate through some kind of quantum data feed I believe, that allows the ship to receive messages, but they cannot send any back to Earth.

The film explores many of the effects that physical and cosmic forces would have on various modes of space exploration. The strange effects of the theory of relativity are fundamental elements of the story & visual effects.

Although the exotic physics concepts were enough to make "Interstellar" interesting, it then went into an almost metaphysical level. Without giving too much away, the movie shifted into a mind-blowing vision of higher-dimensional space, where time is no longer seen as a linear. It appeared as an almost spacial quality, where all space & time can be seen as an interconnected terrain that can be navigated like our familiar 3D experience.


The ability to enter this dimension, where all space & time exist, leads to a narrative loop that the main characters find themselves in. It turns out that humanity's destiny may be an existence as multi-dimensional energy beings. Cooper's encounter with this mode of reality ends up being the reason he gets there in the first place- leading to a circular causality that is reminiscent of the "grandfather paradox" in time travel.

"Interstellar" was a long film, (especially with Comcast's bullshit commercials, throughout an OnDemand movie) but it was well-worth watching. Yeah, some of it was pretty ridiculous, but it was really thought-provoking and visually stunning. Especially if you are interested in space travel, physics, cosmology, the idea of higher dimensions... or just enjoy a beautiful, mind-bending film, I definitely recommend this movie.

Official Monkey Buddha Rating: 8.5

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Simulation of Falling Into a Black Hole


Continuing on the cosmic theme of my last post, I wanted to talk about black holes. I saw this really cool simulation taken from the point of view of someone being pulled toward a black hole.



The comments led me to a page from JILA, the joint physics institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder & the National Institute of Standards and Technology.


This page has several animations and steps describing the process of approaching the event horizon of a black hole. It also outlines the weird breakdowns of physics that happen in these exotic anomalies in space-time.

I took a screenshot of the video below for the beginning of this post, as the black hole distorts and warps the light coming from the galaxy behind it.



My first exposure to the science of black holes was my high school physics class & Stephen Hawking's classic "A Brief History of Time". This book explores the deepest mysteries and most mind-boggling discoveries in physics, especially cosmology, in terms most people can understand. The insights into the theories of relativity and the nature of reality were true mind-openers for me.

The Mystery is Endless. For every explanation we create about The Universe, several more questions will be created. This is not a source of despair- but a profound realization of the fractal, practically infinite detail & scale of our world.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Andromeda Panorama

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/hs-2015-02-a-hires_jpg.jpg

As my 40th birthday approaches, I have reached a point that most people consider "middle-age". Age has never really been a concern for me. Every day is a gift, and my life is lived in moments... each of which I consider miraculous.

I feel young, and am beginning my life many ways. I'm getting married this year to an amazing woman & life partner. I've started 2 businesses, and have interesting opportunities opening up for me as I type this post. My main career, at this point, is being a freelance graphic designer as Paul Micarelli Design. Also, my custom portrait & photo booth business Fantasy Photos is also going to be gearing up for festivals and events during the warmer months.

There are many things to be thankful for, and just being alive is a blessing. This adventure in consciousness has been an amazing experience already, & I plan on enjoying it for many years to come.

If I feel like I'm getting too wrapped up in the details and issues of life, I step back & take the cosmic perspective on things.

Recently I went with my fiancée to the Edelman Planetarium at Rowan University, my alma mater. The main show was an animated exploration of "Mayan Archaeoastronomy". It illustrated how the culture of the Maya in ancient Mexico created architecture that was related to the heavenly bodies.

Before the show, there was a nice presentation about the stars and constellations visible in the night sky at our location. As the projector zoomed in and out of different stellar areas, I was reminded of the unimaginable vastness of The Universe.

Then, I saw this high-resolution image online of the Andromeda Galaxy (at the top of the post). This insanely detailed composite photo further illustrated the seemingly infinite fractal scales of the cosmos. The picture was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year.

NASA:

This galaxy, that is relatively huge & full of billions of stars, is just one of trillions (?) of other galaxies! HERE is a zoomable version, and you can see that as you zoom into any tiny section of the galaxy, it is literally filled with stars to the point where it looks like visual static.

It is truly humbling & mind-boggling to consider our place in this sea of light and energy that manifests in so many forms. Although my four decades have been like a flash in the cosmic scale of time, and my presence is a speck in the endless depths of space, I have cherished it & lived to the best of my ability.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Trump™ President's Day


To celebrate President's Day, I would like to honor our current President, Donald J. Trump. He is an honest and respectable man, who has spent his life working hard & using his genius intellect to earn wealth through reputable means.

As someone who has shown nothing but respect & empathy to women, minorities, and those less fortunate than him, he is the perfect person to lead this country. President Trump has a calm, steady temperament that we need in these dangerous times of fake news from the "lame-stream" media, with their pesky journalists and facts. 

His humility is truly the example that Jesus and all the prophets & saints of history would envy. We can take refuge in the knowledge that God's own hand is guiding President Trump's finger on the nuclear button.


In this photo, we have President Trump shaking hands with Ted Nugent- the lovely and patriotic man, who, by their current trajectory, will be the Republican party's next nominee. What a class act! In his elegantly tasteful black jacket & camo cowboy hat, Mr. Nugent is giving the President a beautiful American flag guitar out of a high-quality cardboard box. We can only hope to have someone like Mr. Nugent, who is just as qualified & dignified as Mr. Trump, to follow in his footsteps. 


God willing, Donald Trump will declare himself Supreme Commander of America and elections will no longer even be necessary. Then, we will begin a glorious multi-generational Trump Family reign over our country, with Ivanka and Barron following their wonderful father, as the rightful hereditary rulers of this country!


So let's all take a moment, bow our heads, and thank God for having the omniscient wisdom to put such a knowledgeable & highly-qualified individual in the most important position on Planet Earth. 


🙏🇺🇲💰🌎

(Re-posted, with great amusement, from my Facebook page

Seed of Life- Gold on Black

I created a gallery of my 3D-rendered art with downloadable, high-resolution images:

 by Paul Micarelli

Here is another addition to the gallery, featuring 7 golden rings arranged into the "Seed of Life" configuration. This symbol is a fundamental element of sacred geometry, which is the fusion of mystical wisdom and scientific knowledge. These self-referential patterns illustrate how the laws of nature organize reality.

"Seed of Life- Gold on Black"

Feel free to download any of the images in the album above, for use as wallpapers or backgrounds. If you share it, please give credit or a link.

I don't run any ads here, so I'd appreciate it if you check out my Cafepress shop. There are prints and products with this design available:


The Monkey Buddha Bazaar:
 Seed of Life - Gold on Black

To help support "The Monkey Buddha" and my artwork, please donate using the button below. Thank you!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine Rose



I took this closeup photo of one of the roses I gave to my fiancée for Valentine's Day, using a macro lens on my iPhone.

by Paul Micarelli

Flowers have been used throughout history as symbols of the ephemeral nature of love & beauty. Their organic, aesthetic appeal of a rose blossom has biological and metaphorical parallels with the human body.

It is important to literally "stop & smell the roses"- meaning that we take the time to become conscious of our surroundings and perceptions of them. Mindfulness to the world around us, in all its infinite variety and nuance, reveals the deep beauty in all existence.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Connect

There's been a meme I've been seeing, consisting of images that are variations of the Connect 4 game box.

I like this one, which just gets rid of the game all together, with the suggestion-



Ironically, games often facilitate connection between people, whether we are playing others in-person or playing people online. 

I've spent a lot designing games, and they are catalysts for human interaction that are unique and memorable. However, it is also good to be able to socialize with people without the need for an activity to facilitate it.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

"Alien Bionet" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract imagery recently. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale. This is one of my favorite pieces of my abstract art.

This organic tangle of fluorescent strands reminded me of a biological structure or a colony of microorganisms from another world.

by Paul Micarelli

 "Alien Bionet"
by Paul Micarelli

**Buy Prints & Products With This Design***

The Monkey Buddha Bazaar:
BUY "Alien Bionet"

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension

I noticed that fractal Mandlebrot set resembled the Universe in this medieval picture of "God the Geometer"

I have shared this documentary before, but this is one that is worth reposting. I just watched it again the other night, and it is an excellent intro to the mathematical concept of fractal geometry.


Fractals are one of the most important concepts to grasp, if one is trying to understand the nature of reality.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

The main quality of a fractal is recursion, which means repeating characteristics. These self-similar qualities are found throughout the natural world, and are a fundamental property of The Universe on all scales. Using relatively simple formulas, complex patterns can be generated with computers that reflect these iterative qualities.

These patterns can be represented by visual data and graphics, to produce the eye-catching artwork that is now so familiar. I have created many pieces of abstract art using fractal software. Here are some examples:




Friday, February 02, 2018

Colorful Shrooms & Demon Peppers

My buddy is a beekeeper, but he's also a talented artist. He creates a lot of art that is based on the plight of bees & their environment. Check out his Instagram page where he posts some of his art:


Recently, I scanned & fixed up a bunch of his artwork for him. One of his marker drawings was a cluster of orange mushrooms in the mountains. I was messing with the hue adjustment after scanning it, & thought it would look cool if it cycled through a bunch of different colors.

I created an animated GIF & uploaded it here:


Here's the original:


Here's another drawing that was a collaboration. He had a marker drawing of a hot pepper, dripping with honey, being held by a bee-covered demon hand! He was planning on using this image to promote his family's "hot pepper" flavor of honey. I took his drawing & enhanced it in Photoshop:


Here's the scan of his original drawing:


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trump™ State of the Union 2018


I've made a personal tradition of pouring a whiskey on the rocks and watching the annual State of the Union speech by the current U.S. President.


Sitting through speeches from Bush, and now Trump, have been exercises in tolerance, though it feels like masochism. They're just not believable or wise characters (to anyone who hasn't gulped down the Kool-aid). Sure, Obama was a better speaker and a more thoughtful politician, but his State of the Union speeches were just the same dog-and-pony show. The purpose of this ceremonial speech is to express a vision of this country and society, and ideas on how to move it forward it a positive and realistic way. It's very hard to do that meaningfully or effectively in a 1-2 hr speech that needs to be simplified for the masses.

Trump did a decent job of reading off the Teleprompter, and didn't make a total ass of himself... Woo-hoo! The bar is set so low for this guy, that Republicans were basically applauding him for remaining coherent & finishing each sentence.

Every single State of the Union consists of the opposition party sitting & scowling, while the President's party is applauding & standing. However, the clapping after every line was just getting silly, and the sound of Trump clapping at himself into his mic just felt like it was to feed his ego, more so than in celebration of the content of his speech.

The Democrats are catching shit for not standing or clapping at different parts of the speech. It's hard to react to someone you disagree with, without coming off as a jerk. The GOP dealt with the same optics during Obama's term. The reason for the lack of enthusiasm is not because liberals or progressives don't care about the issues that Trump was talking about. The reason is- Trump is just not sincere about any of it! It's all lip service, & laughably bad lip service, at that.

I mean, let's be honest, the only thing Trump cares about is Trump. The guy is a known fraudster, a con-man, and a shitty businessman who has screwed over countless people, especially entrepreneurs to make himself money. The fact that his supporters have fallen for his ridiculous charade feels the same as when you hear of elderly people losing their savings to an obvious scam.

Then, there is the issue that the Trump administration, despite acting like a force for law & order, are completely subverting the law and national security to empower Russia. Yeah, I know, "NO COLLUSION!"....yeah, ok. Trump's connection to Russia & Putin isn't hard to figure out. As I said before, he's such a shitty businessman and credit risk that American banks wouldn't loan to him. Therefore, he had to go to foreign banks and perhaps less-than-reputable organizations to get financing. He obviously never wanted to release his taxes and financial info because it would make him look bad in some way. Otherwise, he'd be waving it in the cameras and bragging about it.

Now, there are investigations going on and some of his people have already been indicted. The problem for Trump is that he is treating every twist & turn in the worst way possible. Trump is not a genius. He's not even kind of smart. He's a dummy. Sometimes it's hard to know if he's intentionally lying or if he genuinely doesn't know what he's talking about. Thank God, because a smarter narcissistic sociopath might have done more damage by now.

30% of the country and the Republican Party have proven that they'll fall in line behind anyone unquestioningly, no matter how unqualified or incompetent. I wonder who will be next on their ballot in 2020. Jim Bakker perhaps? Ted Nugent? Really, how low can we go here? I'd rather not know...

Ok, now I'm starting to rant. Let me talk about the content of the speech. Oh, wait, there wasn't much more than the typical platitudes, & inspirational stories that politicians use as props. I'll just say that the most disturbing aspects of the speech to me were the blatant authoritarian appeals. He really wants a Trumpocracy, where neither merit nor integrity matter, only loyalty to him.

• Keep Gitmo open!
• We must have unquestioning praise for the military & police forces.
• Cabinet members should be able to fire agency employees for "not being a good American"!
• Let's increase our already bloated military, and start a new nuclear arms race!
• "USA! USA! USA!" (Idiocracy is coming true)

These were a few of his extraordinarily dangerous ideas. I also love the fact that he talks about lowering drug prices, then talks about escalating the war on drugs. The connection & irony is completely lost on him.

Who could've imagined that putting a self-absorbed man-child, reality-TV host, failed casino owner, & product huckster in charge of the country would be a bad idea?

Well, I know I did, even back in 2011!:

http://monkeybuddha.blogspot.com/2016/03/president-ahole.html

 As a postscript, let me also say that having Joe Kennedy III give the Democratic rebuttal shows just how fucked the American political system has become. Out of the millions of people in this country capable of being political leaders, the Dems bring out another Kennedy? Sure he spoke better than Trump and did his best to put on a show, but it all seems so contrived.

We have to figure out how to evolve beyond the limitations of the 2-party system, and the dangers of 1-party rule, if our democracy is going to survive.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Going Clear" & Scientology


Last night my fiancée & I watched the HBO documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief".



I have already extensively researched the "church", it's founder L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor David Miscavige, but I was still thoroughly amazed by the documentary. We kept looking at each other, thinking "What the f...????"

The basic ideas that Hubbard formulated for Scientology are not any crazier than some other New Age ideas. He claimed that people have mental blocks created by emotional or unconscious energy that has built up and not been resolved. Through instruments such as e-meters and the complex hierarchical system known as "The Bridge to Total Freedom," these barriers in our consciousness can be overcome. "Going clear" refers to the process of removing these mental obstructions.

Where it gets really crazy is in the more advanced stages of "The Bridge" when you begin to learn about Xenu and the history of the Universe, according to L. Ron Hubbard's wild imagination. You are only revealed this secret information once you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, of course.



Scientology preys on people who, by their very nature, are vulnerable and looking for answers. Unfortunately, this is also the strategy of many other existing religious faiths. Once a system of thought or belief reaches a certain size, it naturally begins to institute systems of control to maintain its structure. The only way to maintain a religious institution is to relentlessly keep recruiting people, & then ensuring that they don't leave the bubble of influence.

More importantly, Scientology seeks out high-profile people or celebrities who have deep pockets to donate to the organization's billion-dollar bank account. Meanwhile, certain members like those in the SeaOrg are allegedly kept in virtual servitude, working for less than $1/hr. Through an onslaught of lawsuits and legal delays in the 1990's, Scientology managed to secure tax-exempt status from the U.S. government, even though it should have been bankrupted from back taxes owed, instead.

The whole thing is totally bonkers, and the most disturbing thing to me is always the cult of personality that exists in these situations. The worship and reverence for serial liar and con-man L. Ron Hubbard is so stupid. The images of the members in their faux-military regalia, attempting to appear important, was the silliest thing to us:

 

It was definitely interesting to see how all the people who came out to speak against Scientology had (at one time) been true-believers & top members in leadership roles. They eventually realized they had been brainwashed and completely captivated by this organization. Each one was finally pushed to the brink by the church's shitty practices.

As someone highly resistant to following authority of any type, I personally can't understand the mindset that allows people to be manipulated in this manner. One look at L. Ron or Miscavige, and it's "clear" to me that they are power-hungry creeps. I guess people desperately looking for direction or deeper meaning in life are more easily swayed by those offering those answers.

Although I am very interested in merging scientific & spiritual worldviews, Scientology is not a good way of doing it. There is danger in any organization having unchecked power over it's members, especially when controlled by a single personality.

"Going Clear" was an excellent documentary, but it was pretty disturbing to watch. It gives a compelling look at not only the operation of Scientology, but how people get sucked into other cults & religions, too. Human behavior is an endlessly fascinating phenomenon...