Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Weekend

This Christmas was alot of fun.

I got to visit with my family & relatives, play with my nephews & niece, exchange gifts, relax, & eat as much as humanly possible. Then I finally had to get in gear to shovel my driveway after it snowed the other night. I was off yesterday, so I slept till noon & then took a few hours to clear the waist-high snowdrift taking up my front yard. I actually like being outside shoveling snow as long as I'm bundled up good & we're not hammered by consecutive blizzards like last year...

All the gifts for my family were made with the help of a laser engraver at my work. They turned out very cool & in return I got a lot of excellent presents. At my age I prefer practical things like tools, clothes, & household stuff. However, I do appreciate luxury items- like the 3/4 lb of beef jerky or the bottle of Gentleman Jack that my brothers got me.

On Christmas Eve, it's now a tradition for my family & relatives to play the White Elephant game. The gift that I made for the game was a picture of my uncle's face that I photoshopped onto a pic of Hugh Jackman at the beach. My cousin ended up picking it & had everyone laughing.

I drew an early number (4) for my turn & the present I chose was a gift bag- that turned out to have a bunch of plastic holly garland in it. :(

Since my turn was so early, there weren't any gifts open that I wanted to steal yet. Luckily, my brother's girlfriend later traded me her gift- a South Park DVD game for it, which was a great trade for both of us.

Here is me trying to figure out what the hell I just opened...

The garland must have sensed my complete lack of enthusiasm, because it tried to strangle me....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmizzle

"Y'all ready for Christmas, biatches?"

It's Christmas time again & I've been busy in my polar workshop making gifts for my family.

Christmas Eve will be a crazy affair w/ a bunch of relatives visiting my sister's house for festivities such as our White Elephant gift game. Then it should be a fairly chill Christmas Day & weekend.

Unfortunately, I will not have an opportunity to celebrate Christmas properly- by dressing up as Santa's traditional demonic helper, Krampus...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Despite staying after work till almost midnight working on Xmas gifts, I stayed up super-late to see the lunar eclipse that lasted from around 1-4 AM when I got home.

It was friggin' freezing outside, but I periodically went out to sit on my back patio & observe its slow progress. I've seen a lunar eclipse before, but this was a rare occurrence of a total eclipse on the day of the winter solstice, which hasn't happened in almost 400 years.

The night sky was perfectly clear & I first went out just as the Earth's shadow started passing over the edge of the Moon. I had layers of clothes on w/ my face all wrapped up in a snowcap, a scarf & multiple hoods. If it wasn't so damn cold, sitting outside in the still of the night for this celestial event would have been completely relaxing.

When the shadow was about halfway over the Moon's surface, it looked totally crazy. Maybe it was partly because my eyes were teary but the glare off one half of the Moon was dazzling, & the other half was dark w/ a reddish tinge. Visually, it was very bizarre. It also seemed to be very low in the sky for some reason. I could see why ancient people probably looked at a cosmic event like this & were astounded.

This is a good representation of what it looked like when the Moon was completely covered & when the shadow was partially over:

I was waiting for the red-tinged shadow to pass as I kept alternating between resting on my couch and peeking out the window. Eventually I passed out sometime after 3:30, still in my coat, & woke up a few hours later for work. I'm definitely glad I got to see such an interesting phenomenon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Paul's Adventures in History III

I have alot of photos of my Dad sleeping in many different chairs on many different occasions. He has worked hard in the food retail business all his life, but when he gets a chance to sit down & relax it usually turns into a snoozefest. Family events or holidays inevitably become napping opportunities for the big guy.

My old friend Dan J. gave me the idea to have him sleeping right through important times in history. I thought this idea was hysterical & created this series of "snapshots" showing Big Paul experiencing historic events in his own special way.

This is the third set of of "adventures" as he sleeps his way through history, & I definitely have enough photos of my Dad passed out for at least one more set:

"Big Paul's Adventures in History"
"Sgt. Pepper" Photo Shoot
My Dad loves the Beatles, but not enough to stay awake during their photo shoot.
"Big Paul's Adventures in History"
State of the Union 2010
Joe Biden & Elmo join my Dad for a patriotic nap during President Obama's speech

"Big Paul's Adventures in History"
Tiananmen Square Protests
The rumbling of advancing Chinese tanks is completely drowned out by my Dad snoring.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fractals: "Hunting the Hidden Dimension"

Earlier I was watching an excellent episode of Nova "Hunting the Hidden Dimension".


Fractals have been a favorite subject of mine & I think it is conceptually at least as important as Relativity.

One new thing I learned from watching this program was that cell phone antenna circuitry is designed according to fractal properties. Generally speaking, it seems like we are figuring out the language of the Universe so we can tap into the Universe.

O M G :(

Geez. This is one room I would NOT want to be in....

Watching things like this make me feel like I'm in Bizarro World.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wanking Bankers

This Irishman has some insightful opinions on the Irish financial crisis & other global economic disasters.

Of course not everyone in the banking industry is bad, but he's not too far off.

The theft of Ireland's national wealth has a direct impact on important things, like preserving it's national heritage:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monkey Day

Today I posted all monkey stuff, because I saw on Neatorama that it's...

Click here for previous posts about MONKEYS.

Radioactive Monkeys

I don't approve of destructive or invasive animal experimentation in general.

Especially seeing my fellow simians in little cages is damn depressing. Just because a creature can't tell you directly doesn't mean it's not mentally miserable and in physical anguish. Sadly, it's unavoidable that life can suck, and there are always twisted people out there with no sense of empathy whatsoever.

In one small victory for the animal rights crowd, I saw on io9.com that NASA stopped a plan to immerse monkeys in high-energy gamma radiation. The purpose was to simulate deep-space conditions.

NASA Halts
Monkey Radiation Experiment for Now

I'm glad NASA came to their senses. Besides, the last thing we need is super-powered apes running around...

Flip-Flop Monkey

I've been blabbing about politics in the last few posts.
For balance, there's nothing like wacky art.

Flip-Flop Monkey

For the record, I can't stand wearing those thong style sandals.
I don't like clothing to be stuck in any crevasses.

Flip-flop close-up:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Abstract Ideals

It seems like the tax/stimulus bill has passed the Senate today by a big margin of 83-15 & continues to the House vote.

By giving the Republicans even more tax breaks for the filthy rich & scolding those damn bleeding-heart liberals who dare to have a conscious, President Obama somehow seems to be pulling off the role of a Grand Negotiator on this issue in the eyes of the general public.

Personally, I still think Obama is doing as good a job as anyone could under the circumstances- in which the GOP are holding up everything until the rich are guaranteed their tax cuts.

However, by dismissing "abstract ideals" like HOPE for the sake of pragmatic compromise on the status quo, he opened himself up to this kind of critical sarcasm:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bernie & Bill on the Tax Deal

The big political battle right now I think is the developing tax proposal. The more progressive Democrats are balking at it's generous benefits for the wealthy & of course the most conservative Republicans will oppose it for any concessions to liberal causes.

The only truly Socialist senator, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, led a non-'filibuster' for over 8 hours to protest the tax bill. I think Sanders is too much of an ideologue on certain things, but overall he puts his voice to work for the benefit of the vast majority of working people.

Despite any good intentions he may have, when I visited Huffington Post I saw one of the funniest headlines ever. I laughed out loud from the ridiculous headline & picture.

Unfairly, they made him look like a total crackpot.

The article about the speech was less sensational:

I watched alot of the first couple hours of his epic speech & he was not incoherently rambling. He was laying out the case for the damaging effects of our nation's crazy social priorities.

Watch it ALL, I dare you-

On the other hand...
In defense of this upcoming deal, President Obama gave the stage over to the ever-loquacious Bill Clinton. I guess the hope was that ol' Bill could polish this legislative turd, that really stinks to the majority of his fellow Democrats. I've always liked Bill Clinton & it's generally agreed that he was a relatively good President. However, with the help of a Republican Congress he also presided over such foundations for institutional failure, such as NAFTA & the de-regulation of the banks.

Obama should have just left right away to go to his party, instead of conceding the podium for that long & having to stand there while Clinton soaked up the spotlight. It seemed a little awkward, but Bill Clinton is knowledgeable and can make a hell of an argument. Hopefully, though, Obama can learn soon not to keep yielding his platform.

Anyway, I think Obama's trying to be tough with his base because they are being unrealistic, to an extent. At the same time, they're also correct- that he appears to be surrendering the debate waaaay to fast, without hammering away the point that some of these "compromises" are a huge detriment to the budget & the economy. He is definitely trying to be a 'moderate' at all costs. Maybe it's just his unavoidable nature, or maybe he's trying to position himself as a true independent leader for the next election.

I think a recent The Word segment from Stephen Colbert had a great take on the need for a fighting spirit when approaching these kind of serious negotiations with a wrong-headed opposition.

"Isn't it better to have love & lost,
than to have fought & WON?"

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

ABC News Parenting: Da Vinci's Challenge

My parents' neighbor forwarded me a link on a news article she saw about the game I created back in college- "Da Vinci's Challenge".

It's nice to see it getting some more recognition by ABC News correspondent David Murphy. Da Vinci's Challenge is the work I'm most proud of & is due for a comeback soon. In my completely unbiased opinion, it is the greatest strategy game ever conceived.

Obama the Middle Man


I think it's fairly obvious now that President Obama is definitely NOT a raging Marx-Loving Socialist Liberal.

With this tax & stimulus deal The White House is working on, it is clear that Obama is a pragmatist... a maddeningly moderate pragmatist.

I'm an Independent, but more often agree with policy positions that are so-called 'progressive'. Even if I don't agree with an idea, though, I'll often try to see things through the lens of someone with a different view. Obama & the tax/stimulus bill in development have led to a strong debate on issues like taxes, the national debt, & entitlements. Initially, I had a knee-jerk response from my lefty instincts to the ridiculous concessions to the super rich - such as the extensions of the top tier tax cuts, fiddling with the estate tax, etc. The seeming lack of a Presidential fight over this deal & the scolding of his supposed left-wing 'base' over their criticism has liberal politicians & bloggers flipping out.

It's actually amazing that he (or the government in general) has the ability to get anything done with a country full of us 'sanctimonious' maniacs- all trying to get their own Utopia. As even-headed as I usually am, I would never be able to patiently deal with the numerous loathsome characters in Congress & all of the political shenanigans.

His refusal to cater only to either party's hardliners is why Obama's inhumanly persistent efforts at building consensus have the ideologues on either extreme of the political spectrum freaking out. I think he would probably like to institute more progressive social policy, but he is working within the constraints of political & legislative realities.

Tonight I heard some lady on CNN saying Obama was "Bush on Steroids". This is a laughably silly statement. If Obama disappeared, & Dubya magically popped back into office... she & most of the country would soil their pants in despair!!!

I don't care what anyone says, Obama's still trying to salvage a flaming car wreck that would have violently exploded if 'McPain' were running things now. Thankfully, McCain is back to grumbling about gay soldiers in Senate hearings, while The Alaskan Banshee only maintains power over the lives of wild animals & her Twitter followers.

(... FOR NOW!)

The 20 Awesomest Monkeys

I can't resist a list of monkey videos I saw linked on The Chive.

Calling all these 'awesome' might be an overstatement, except for this tiger-taunting monkey:

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

WebGrabber for Downloading Websites

Recently I was joking with my Mom about being the "voice of conscience" in the back of my head. Both my parents definitely instilled a sense of preparedness for whatever life has to offer, good or bad.

Although I don't expect things that I create to last forever, it's good to have backups & copies of things in case unfortunate events occur. Most of my visual art, both professional and otherwise, I have digitally copied and saved in different drives or media. Redundancy can prevent serious loss of work.

One thing that has bothered me in writing this blog is that all the written content is on Google's servers- but I had no copy of it offline.

Since I've been writing The Monkey Buddha for over 5 years now, I thought it would be wise to back up all posts on this blog. Of course, I hope that something crazy- like the Web going down or a disruption to Google's services- doesn't happen. Still, I feel better knowing that the work & time I've spent is less likely to be lost or destroyed.

After a short search, I found a website for a program called Webgrabber that lets you extract any website from The Internets so you can back up the info on a hard drive or disc. This is the Mac version:

Webgrabber for Mac OSX

or, I found this program too for other Windows/Mac/Linux:

It only took about 20 minutes and 25 megabytes of space, not including images that I already have copies of. Now I have five years worth of my writing backed up OFFLINE for posterity & my own peace of mind.

One day, if I have extra time and money I'd like to print portions of The Monkey Buddha by date or topic. Actually, it turns out that service already exists, so anyone could get a compendium of my views on robots, the Mayans, politics, art, The Universe, monkeys, or any of the other myriad topics that have caught my attention.

Monday, December 06, 2010

3D Virtual Spaces from Photos

This kind of virtual model-generating program is a teasing glimpse of visualization technologies soon to come.

Basically, a cloud of data generated from hundreds of photos of the same place is used to calculate the spacial relationships of that area. It's always amazing to me that people can figure out how to make computer codes to do this sort of digital alchemy.

Seeing the unfinished 3D settings on the black background gives the models a very surreal appearance- like I'm watching the Matrix taking shape.

The more people take extensive hi-res photography of an area, like that of the website 360º Cities, the more data there is to fill in the blanks & increase the resolution of the virtual re-creations.

Just the panoramas of Roman areas on 360º Cities are enough to keep me occupied for hours. The virtual panoramas of the Sistine Chapel or Raphael's School of Athens give a much better impression of the space than flat photos.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Drawing the Internet

On Neatorama I came across this cool idea for a website: "Can You Draw The Internet?"

Anyone can submit artwork that depicts the amorphous phenomenon we call The Internet. Little kids can make drawings on the same page as professional artists like myself, or anyone who feels like being creative.

I thought it was a cool idea & wanted to make something... so I did. The general idea immediately popped in my head. I wanted to make an image of the colorful contents of the web melding with the increasingly digitized mind, in a synchronized explosion of cognitive novelty.

click image for hi-res

From The Monkey Buddha Visual Archive:

"A digital self-portrait
representing the mind integrating with &

transcending physical technology
through immersion into the realm of pure energy.

The Internet is the beginning of a conduit
into a non-local experience of consciousness."

With the many colors bursting through the circuit boards, I wanted to suggest the rich, diverse content of the web & the countless individual personalities that participate in it. The ancient "Flower of Life" pattern was added as a element of order and unity that the mind can coalesce from seeming chaos. The encroaching digital tendrils could be signaling an enlightening process... or they could be enveloping a digital death's head. I'd prefer to think mankind is going to advance as a result of our technological knowledge, ensuring better chances of survival, & not worse.

Anyway, that is my rendition of The Internet. Vote for it on the website & see the other drawings:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Colbert Has Lost His Mind

Comedy Central late nite w/ The Daily Show & Colbert Report is nightly viewing for me. Their irreverent look at the day's news continually unmasks the absurd aspects of human nature.

Stephen Colbert
is consistently great... just last nite, he invented Meat Goggles!

Tonite's show, though, was probably the most stunningly sardonic things I've ever seen. He ruthlessly mocked race, religion, politicians, the banking system, and federal law in a barrage of satire that rivaled his 2006 roast of President Bush...

Oprah the Queen Bee

This animated GIF cracked me up:

I thought it was really funny, but wasn't even going to post about it.
I just sat down to watch TV though, & the first thing I saw was a MiND TV segment about the 1st set of bee hives on The White House grounds.
Then, I changed the channel to an episode of Life on Discovery ... narrated by Oprah. :P
...so... I guess the TV convinced me to mention it.

It turns out, the original video spoof is from Conan O'Brian's new show.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WikiLeaks Turns Into a Flood

Even though the massive release of classified material from WikiLeaks is the big news right now, I really don't know what to make of it.

Is it really a foundation dedicated to freedom of information & transparency?

Is it a modern day Robin Hood, fighting the invisible ruling elite?

Is it a propoganda outlet for political, financial, or security forces?

Is it a small part of an orchestrated globalization agenda, trying to destabilize nation-states?

Is it a dangerous terrorist organization?

No one who follows world affairs can deny that it has impacted society in a significant way. Now that the masses have had a taste of the myriad intrigues, scandals, and going on behind closed doors in high places, they will undoubtedly feel the need to get more.

I don't have an opinion on whether this is good or bad. To me, it's just a phenomenon to observe. I'm sure if I was a senior member of the US State Dept., my opinion might be drastically different. That's why I stay happily un-involved in active politics. The world is just too damn crazy to manage on a large scale.

This new info crisis posed by WikiLeaks definitely seems to be one of the many seismic changes that are currently facing mankind and affecting how we manage our world. Generally, open flow of information is a good thing. However, human beings are still individual souls & not part of The Hive Mind... yet. Therefore, there needs to be some degree of personal privacy afforded people, even those in public service. Whether releasing all this classified material of varying significance will have a net positive or negative effect isn't clear.

On the other hand, blowing the whistle on corporate or financial wrongdoing is almost always a positive action. If Julian Assange can keep himself out of jail and the sniper crosshairs, his next target seems to be one of our major creditor overlords, Bank of America.

After reading about him and the whole situation, I'm definitely intrigued by the cognitive shockwaves Assange is making around the world. His stated mission of exposing corruption and shining a light on the "bastards" seems noble enough. Without personal knowledge of Wikileaks operations & Assange's true motivations, though, I admit it's possible there's something more nefarious to it. Really though, how much more nefarious could they be- compared to subversive intelligence agencies, corrupt officials, or parasitic mega-banks?...