Sunday, May 30, 2010

Outdoor Leisure

I'm done posting about video games, so I'm going to be enjoying the weather outside for the rest of the weekend.

Starting this afternoon, I will be busy stuffing my face with food, drinking beer, & playing horseshoes for the rest of the holiday.

Speaking of enjoying the outdoors, here is a shot from my kayak as I floated down the river near Wharton State Park & Batsto. I went with a group of about a dozen people for a birthday & it was a great trip.

Video Games & Dreams

I saw this interesting article on that explores the link between the virtual experiences of video games & dreaming.

It makes sense that people who immerse themselves in simulated game worlds would also be more active in the mental simulation of dreams.

I've talked about some of my dreams before, but there are many times that I barely remember what I was dreaming about once I wake up. Only the occasional dream really sticks in my memory.

Nightmares or a sense of fear are almost non-existent in my dream world. When I was younger I used to dream of falling from the second floor of my house, but never monsters or crazy stuff like that. The worse dream I'll have now is maybe an awkward social situation or forgetting a locker combination.

On the other hand, I also never have dreams of crazy fantasy worlds or really out-of-the-ordinary things. The wildest thing I can remember is the ability to fly through the atmosphere. Most dreams I'm interacting normally with other people or trying to get from place to place.

If dreams were really influenced by video games, I'd have dreams about fending off alien invasions, carrying out missions as Vader's secret apprentice, or fighting demonic knights & samurais!

The Master of the Dream-world

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Game Review: "Dead Space"

My old pal Phil recently let me borrow the game Dead Space & it seemed like a cool theme: a space-based 3rd person shooter.

We both grew up in the first video game generation, with my earliest childhood memories being simultaneous with the advent of the Atari 2600. I've been able to witness the state of the art progress from Asteroids to a highly-detailed, immersive virtual reality like Dead Space.

This particular game was new for me because I haven't played "survival horror" type games, & this one's a doozy. I don't really care for horror movies either- because usually they simply don't frighten me. Dead Space was by far a creepier & sometimes scarier experience than I've ever had watching a horror movie, though.

It actually blew me away how effectively the visuals & sound created a mood paranoid isolation that was almost overwhelming at times. The crazy thing's that it's not an abundance of common noise like gunfire or dialogue that's unnerving- it's the lack of constant noise that makes the creaks, scuttering of unseen creatures, & droning ambient sounds much more eerie. The most constant sound is the thuds of each step in your heavy suit, & your breathing- which becomes faster or more labored if you are running or hurt. When a zombie-like infected monster jumps out at you or appears from a hidden dark corner with a blood-curdling shriek, it was often startling enough to make me yell all kinds of profanities at the screen.

Even more intimidating are the parts where you enter zero-gravity or travel to the outside of the ship & there's no sound at all in the vacuum, beside your own breathing inside the suit. You can be walking & quickly turn to see a grotesque creature creeping up right behind you that you can't even hear coming.

This trailer below actually sums up the overall atmosphere of game perfectly, especially since the evil 'lullaby' can be sometimes heard in the distant background during the game:

Visually, the awe-inspiring graphics are at different times either stunning or horrific. At certain points it felt almost like I was there, taking in the serene view of outer space. Although there are alot of corridors & rooms because it's a ship, at certain points there are amazing vistas of cosmic scenery. When you are outside the ship or in front of large glass panels you can look out to see asteroid fields, planets, & stars. The great thing about many modern games is the ability to roam around the virtual world at will & check out the awesome artistic detail that goes into these game titles.

Basically, the story revolves around an infection that turns people into mutant space creatures of different kinds, called Necromorphs. This mass infection has something to do with a religious cult and a powerful alien artifact. The story is secondary to the unpredictable, yet inevitably sudden appearance of monsters continually trying to kill you. Although there are gigantic creatures you have to battle, the most disturbing are little infected babies with writhing tentacles growing out their backs.

To destroy the many creatures stalking you, you can use a number of different weapons, the main one being a plasma cutter that shears off limbs or heads. You also have the cool ability to use a type of telekinesis to move objects from a distance. Another attack option, if they're too close, is to just stomp on them until their body smashes apart. Even if you shoot of a limb or two, the Necromorphs will often continue to relentlessly crawl after you until you decimate them. Needless to say, it is a really gory game with blood & body parts splattering or floating around everywhere.

Spoiler Alert:

The game's dark, threatening mood puts you in constant survival mode & you're ready to blast anything that pops out at you. It turns out that the alien force is also psychically messing with your character's mind & perceptions, which adds a psychological twist to the story. I was reading about the development of the sequel "Dead Space 2" & there were actually complaints that this 1st game was TOO SCARY. This is coming from people who play games fighting off killer zombies and enemy hordes of all kinds.

I didn't expect this kind of terrifying intensity from a video game, so Dead Space is now definitely one I highly recommend... just not for the faint of heart.

• The Monkey Buddha's official rating: 8.5

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hobos 'Riding the Rails'

Last night I was watching an episode of American Experience on PBS about the Depression-era conditions that forced people to become vagrants traveling between cities on railroads. You can watch the whole episode online:

The idea of a "hobo" has always had a slightly humorous & nostalgic quality that has even sprung up on The Internets.

The documentary, however, was pretty sobering look at the crushing poverty faced by people in the early part of the 20th century. There were no social safety nets nor business opportunities of any kind. Even after all these years, the memories of loneliness & hardship were making some of these old dudes break down sobbing during their interview.

This tragic era is a historical reminder for those who think that Capitalism is the answer to everything. Interestingly, at the end of the program, there was also a look at President Franklin Roosevelt's remedy for the conditions causing the hobo phenomenon.

The government implemented the CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps. This was a New Deal program that put millions of young men to work creating national parks & other projects. This is exactly the kind of investment that should be made right now to create jobs & improve the country. Of course, free market conservatives would go ballistic over any such thing being created nowadays. I'm sure Fox News would endlessly run headlines about "Obama's Socialist Work Camps" if such a visionary program were implemented under this President.

Incidentally, I've also previously watched the excellent American Experience episode that focuses specifically on the CCC:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Matrix Baby

While browsing Geekologie, I saw the above photo of a little baby hooked up to some kind of brain scanning machine that reminded me of something from The Matrix.

"Newborns Can Learn in Their Sleep"

I found the image so damn creepy I felt that I just had to make the animation- superimposing an invading Sentinel over his fragile biological form. It looks like The Machines are wrapping tentacles around the helpless baby's head, steadily working their way into it's curious little human mind....

Wake up, kid!!!!

Technical PS: Since Blogger & Google don't even support animated GIF files, that is about the only thing I use my Myspace account for. It took me an hour to remember how to upload an animated GIF to Myspace. I kept getting a 'format not supported" error. You have to cancel the Flash-based photo uploader, & then click the 'click here' link for the basic photo upload... multiple times.

It's weird that you still have to figure this kind of crap out just to upload an animated image. Yeah it makes some Myspace pages look like virtual versions of this, but it's convenient to be able to upload animated files if needed.

Star Wars Stuff- Propoganda, Parody, & Production

I've seen a bunch of cool Star Wars stuff around the web recently.

On The Chive there's a collection of Star Wars propaganda-style posters that I thought were really good:

had a couple posts about Star Wars stuff too.

The "3 Wolf Moon" meme has received a perfectly hilarious Ewok makeover:

I also thought this post was neat, about the original making of the opening Star Wars prologue.

A light table was used under a 6 foot film w/ transparent type. The camera was slowly guided over the length of the crawl.

Media production was such a pain in the ass before computers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Trained Drinking Monkey

Also seen on Neatorama, this particular monkey would be a fun companion for my canoe trip tomorrow...

Game Board Quiz

On Neatorama I took a quiz about one of my numerous specialties: Games.

I get to work on alot of fun projects at work like designing art for toys & games. Despite the deadlines & such, it's an industry that I've always been interested in creatively. As a kid, I used to collect the blister card packages for my GI Joe, Super Powers, & Star Wars action figures.

On this quiz I only got one wrong- for a 93% score. Who the hell has ever heard of "Anagram"?!?!

Joe Rogan "Talking Monkeys in Space"

I posted last year about a couple clips I saw of Joe Rogan's comedy special "Talking Monkeys in Space." The other night, I watched the whole hour & it was nuts.

One part that got me thinking was when he was talking about technology working us toward being telepathic. Just imagine when we are all fitted with an iThink implant. Anyway, he talked about all kinds of crazy stuff that I thought was really funny overall.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul & the Myth of Freedom

Rand Paul's
Ideal Business Model

There has been a major focus of attention toward Rand Paul, the winner of Kentucky's Republican Senate primary.

I've felt that Rand's father, Congressman Ron Paul, has made some valid criticisms of the government & financial institutions like The Fed. Especially in the years of Bush/Cheney regressive Republican rule, Ron Paul seemed like a semi-sane voice from The Right. However, I've also seen him make arguments for his "Libertarian" ideals that just aren't practical or reasonable at all.

The big ideological problem (that his son Rand Paul has seemed to adopt) is the belief that government intervention in almost any matter is negative & should be minimized to practically nothing.

This is the crux of the sudden spotlight following Rand's primary win under the 'Tea Party' banner. He has been on the record repeatedly saying the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is flawed because it intrudes on personal ownership. His argument is that the Civil Rights Act was good for removing institutionalized discrimination, but business owners should not be told what to do by the government. He contends that the conservative Golden Calf, aka 'The Free Market', will sufficiently affect businesses to prevent social discrimination. This is, of, course, f*cking stupid.

US News & World Report:

Rand is already complaining he's "insulted" that people are insinuating he's a racist. Whether or not he's a racist isn't the issue, however. The real issue is his naïve & dangerous political ideology that sees the federal government as only a problem to be eradicated- instead of a possible source of social solutions. Unlike alot of media nitpicking over the controversial statements of public figures, this actually deserves scrutiny because it is representative of the broader political philosophy of Rand Paul & his fellow Teabaggers.

The very sharp Rachel Maddow devoted ten minutes of her show to the visual spectacle of Rand Paul dancing around the direct question, "should the Woolworth's counter have been allowed to remain segregated in 1964?" He could not say "Yes!" because that would have been a historic political suicide. However, his delusional fantasy of personal freedom & property rights prevent him from saying "No" because he seems to feel a business owner should be able to do whatever the hell he/she wants without government intervention. Therefore, he floundered around the TV screen like a fool without the courage to say what he obviously believes- that a business should be able to refuse service to a person for any reason, such as being black, foreign, gay, or Ginger.

The only problem with Rachel's interview was that she didn't push him enough in defending parallel scenarios. If the government has no place regulating business, than why have health inspectors, building codes, or liquor licenses in restaurants? I guess any place, even Chuck E. Cheese should be allowed to sell booze, build with hazardous materials, & let roaches all over the food. Sure, people may stop patronizing businesses that suck, but the whole system will have devolved into chaos in the meantime with countless people being negatively affected.

Government is not perfect- no human institution can claim to be. However, there are alot of things that the federal government is best suited to deal with. Whose going to maintain public land, invest in infrastructure, & prevent Wall St. mega-banks from preying on consumers?... a bunch of Teabaggers w/ "Obama=Stalin" signs???

This notion of "Personal Freedom" that is so dear to the Libertarian perspective is a silly myth that clouds their worldview. The idea that government doing less will always makes us more "free" is idiotic & counter-productive. No matter what, we humans are always slaves in some way - from birth to death. Freedom is an imaginary concept that has no functional meaning in the real world. If government isn't making us do things against our will, then corporate interests will find ways to enslave us. If we can somehow shake off the shackles of the business & financial world, we will still be inhibited by our environment, other people, or even our own body & mind.

These short-sighted Teabaggers with no sense of social responsibility or ability to reason outside their own narrow & selfish self-interests are hopefully playing their only practical role... winning GOP Primaries. This way, these extreme right-wing dopes can be more easily defeated by more moderate or even progressive Democratic candidates in the general election.

80's Bully Megacut

Growing up in the 1980's was a unique experience. Looking back, it was like American culture's awkward teenage phase.

However, alot of great pop culture also came out of it. This picture I found searching Google Images: "80's" is a good sample of 80's icons:

This video I saw on the Huffington Post highlights the very best scenes & one-liners of the biggest jerks & a-holes from 80's movies. There is a whole lot of awesome on this clip:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Falling Sarah Palin

Back during the Dark Ages of the Bush/Cheney presidency, I first turned to progressive political blogs & humor as way to assure myself that I was sane in a mad world.

One funny little time waster I somehow came across was on a site called called "Falling George Bush". It's nothing more than a physics-based image of Dubya that you can toss around like a ragdoll. It's simple yet awesome. Genius, actually.

I had the site bookmarked & recently saw the addition of 3 "Falling Sarah Palin" variations. MY favorite is definitely the one where you can bounce The Queen of the Teabaggers happily around an endless supply of gigantic fetuses.

To be fair & balanced, there are also versions with Democrats that you can toss about.
Falling Sarah Palin

The Crossbeckler Stance

This video from the ever-funny The Onion is pretty good.
It's described as "Semi-Literate Former Gold Prospector Given Own Cable News Show " .

Basically it's a caricature of "The Cafferty File" on CNN- Jack Cafferty's news report w/ with a cranky attitude. There's plenty of good ol' Palin/Hannity regressive know-nothingness sprinkled throughout Joad's barely coherent ramblings.

I hereby nominate Joad Cressbeckler to be President of the Teabaggers.

The Onion:

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Doors- "When You're Strange"

The other night I got caught up watching a documentary on PBS. It was about one of my favorite bands, The Doors, & the artist who has been an inspiration of mad creativity to me since I was a teenager- Jim Morrison.

Youtube videos:
The Doors

It was a installment of a series titled "American Masters" & despite already seeing alot of documentary footage about The Doors, it totally sucked me in. It was so good that I didn't even realize I was missing The Daily Show at the time.

PBS American Masters
"When You're Strange"

Here is the website for the film itself, with a page of video clips:

Official Site:

Clowning on Glenn Beck

The Daily Show & Colbert Report both had a little fun this week with the Minister of Teabagging Propaganda, Glenn Beck.

In my opinion, cynical self-serving bullshit artists like The Prophet Glenn & 'Grizzly Momma' Sarah Palin deserve all the mocking scorn they invite. Despite their delusional self-assurance that impresses the more gullible segments of the population, they are demonstrably wrong about so many things. "Drill Baby Drill!" ...stupider than ever.

On the Daily Show, Lewis Black expertly diagnoses Glenn Beck's case of "Hitler Tourette's":

Then, the clowning continued as The Master himself, Stephen Colbert, unloaded on Glenn Beck's apparent aspiration to be an albino jackass version of Martin Luther King:

Colbert Report, May 12, 2010:
"Glenn to the Mountaintop"

Thank goodness for the giants of political humor pointing out the absurdity of these dopes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reborns: Fake Babies

A story my family told me while we were all at dinner this weekend completely blew my mind.

My parents took my sister's family out to eat, & while they were waiting they were approached by an adult couple who said something about my little nephew. The woman was also holding a baby, nuzzled up to her neck while she talked about it.

At some point, everyone noticed the baby she was holding wasn't moving around. Then, they realized that it was actually a life-like doll. Yes, a doll.

My sister was bewildered I guess & said something along the lines of 'Oh, I thought it was real."
The lady looked intensely at my sister & sternly corrected her "It's a 'her'... & her name is ______"

Of course, they said it was the most awkward situation you could possibly imagine. To make it thoroughly bizarre, the couple kind of hung around the table as my family waited to be served. The lady talked about how the doll was cold because of the chilly weather, & other completely imaginary things. They started talking about a long car trip later that night, which would be tough on the 'baby'. Finally my Dad had enough I guess & suggested, "Well, you better get going then..."

Although they seemed a little 'off', the consensus seemed to be that neither appeared outright crazy. As I was listening to this story at the dinner table, me & my brothers had our jaws to the floor. My parents thought it was a prank, like a hidden camera show.

Immediately, my mind started reeling with questions & general confusion.

• What's the car ride like for those people- do they put the doll in a car seat & keep talking to it?
• What the hell is going on in their house & do they have visitors who can put up with that crap?
• Were they at all envious of being around a family w/real baby or do they see it as another family that's just like them?
• What outrageous reactions must they get from strangers who don't have my relatives' consideration & experience with unpredictable wackiness?

Even though I didn't experience it first hand, I can't stop thinking about the peculiar quirks of human nature that could give rise to such behaviors.

I joked that if I was there to see it, I would have acted like I was tickling the doll's chin & then ripped it's head off!!! Yes, that's horrible.
However, the compassionate side of me has some empathy for what must be intense emotional distress that is trying to be alleviated.

This kind of thing makes me think about all the crap that billions of people have to deal with moment to moment in their own imperfect individual worlds. It also makes me thankful that I've had a decent run in life so far, with a social network of many family & friends. Personally having the joy of family w/ little nephews & nieces sprouting up, having loved & felt heartbreak, having experienced the loss of death, it's understandable that some people could snap under the inevitable pressures of life. Desperate desire for love, tragedy, or trauma can make people do unreasonable things.

Just because I can sympathize, though, doesn't mean I find this kind of craziness acceptable for otherwise functioning members of society who aren't suffering from something like Alzheimer's. We all live out fantasies to one degree or another through movies, video games, acting, role playing, etc. However, if you seriously expect total strangers to buy into your personal delusions & act like a freakin' doll is alive, then you are just being insane AND rude- not a great mix.

Anyway, my sister sent me this link someone wrote about this fake baby phenomenon, which are commonly called 'Reborns':

My Fake Baby. Yikes!

There is an embedded link to the BBC site about this (hopefully) rare trend:

Watch, & be astounded:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cosmic Self-Portrait

My Photos on Picasa:

Looking at detailed pictures of outer space is a sure way for me to become lost in thought... trying to imagine the unimaginable complexity & scale of the Universe we experience.

The deep space images that have been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have changed the way humanity thinks about it's place in the cosmos. Several photos have become iconic in their own right because of their visual power over our subconscious.

Maybe we are so drawn to images of stars because they are our physical heritage:

Anyway, looking at new Hubble photos was the inspiration to picture myself in a 'Cosmic' form, kind of like the character Galactus. In Photoshop I relatively quickly melded my persona among the countless stars that formed the elements in my body- & will one day consume them again.

Manly P. Hall & Symbolic Art

I was reading a Secret Sun blog post regarding Saint Ronald Reagan's occult fascination with philosopher Manly P. Hall. A video was embedded of a 6 part series "From Knowledge to Wisdom." I ended up listening to the entire lecture by the elderly wise man.

Hall's book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, is a favorite of mine. I might have to re-read it after I finish the elegant version of the Tao Te Ching that I'm enjoying & contemplating, 3 or four verses a day.

The Youtube video page also has a link to the Philisophical Research Society, where I found a database of interesting arcana for anyone interested in philosophy & art history.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Seinfeld is one of my all-time favorite TV sitcoms.
The characters are all timelessly crazy, the situations are unfailingly hilarious, and the overall absurdist philosophy of the show gives a quirky look into human nature.

I came across this great remix of scenes from Seinfeld, made to look like a trailer for a sentimental drama that's based on the character of George Costanza. It's amazing how the original humorous context of the scenes can be edited to look so serious & melodramatic, especially for a schmuck like George.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The KFC Double Down

Although I can appreciate the noble sentiments behind a vegetarian lifestyle, I personally can't see myself giving up eating meat. Despite the horrors of slaughterhouses & factory farming, the process is one I can all-too-easily overlook in favor of the end result.

My family is a pack of carnivores. The dudes tend to break out in a "Meat, meat, meat!" chant before an especially hearty dinner. My sister's the only one who avoids most types of animal flesh, but even she eats chicken. I tend to eat fairly healthy, but am also not adverse to excessive indulgence on occasion.

When I saw a commercial for the KFC Double Down- with 2 pieces of fried chicken replacing bread- I knew I had to get one. I went right to KFC on Friday to grab one for lunch.

It was exactly how you'd expect bacon, stuffing, & cheese between 2 slabs of crispy chicken to taste: Delicious!