Monday, February 28, 2011

Fighting for Workers

People fighting back the madness in Wisconsin

I'm fortunate enough to have a decent career and life so far, but the nonviolent protests emerging & continuing all over the world show the high level of discontent many people are feeling in their lives.

Despite the many improvements to the human condition, the modern world is still one that's geared to pushing the poorest people farther into the gutter, while the unimaginably rich freely profit from the exploitation of the majority through shady financing & political influence.

Although Republicans & the conservative right have great theoretical talking points that Americans can identify with (smaller & more efficient government, strong defense, less spending, LOL!), their actual policy proposals are usually a predictable disaster.

With all these far-right Republican governors & Congresspeople being recently elected, anyone who follows national politics and isn't a Fox News drone knew what was coming...

...Tax cuts for the millionaires, defunding of mass transit & public infrastructure projects, corporate welfare & deregulation, gutting government jobs, and attack on progressive institutions. They all claim to be 'dealing with' their state budgets, but they choose to do it by hurting the least fortunate- while rewarding rich corporate interests & providing even lower taxes to those who are already extremely wealthy.


I'm an Independent, not part of a union, & a believer that the 2-party system sucks, but it seems many Americans haven't figured out that while the Democrats have their numerous problems, the Republicans are a truly horrible advocate for the average working person.

The clear indication of public displeasure is the number of protests going on right here in the USA, where people are taking to the streets to push back against the regressive right-wing assault on the America worker.

Wisconsin has been the current focus of the backlash against Republican leaders' attempts to destroy the power of unions and other progressive achievements that benefit working citizens vs. corporate money.

The brazen attitude of Koch Industries beneficiary Governor Walker in the face of such massive opposition is similar to the arrogant wrongheadedness of Gov. Scott in Florida, former Bill O'Reilly fill-in Gov. Kasich in Ohio, & Gov. Christie in my home state of NJ - who have all declared war against unions, teachers, and advocates of public services & transit.

People love to complain about "overcompensated" teachers, union workers, & public employees. By discrediting public services & busting labor unions, they're ultimately going to drive everyone's wages down when there's no advocate against abusive business practices. Meanwhile, perpetual war & occupation, corporate welfare, the corrupt schemes of Wall Street banks, & unnecessary tax breaks for the obscenely rich are what's actually draining public wealth.

It's a common stereotype that Americans are too lazy, unorganized, & uninformed to do something about the injustices that still exist in society. These nonviolent protests prove that America is no exception to the actionable motivations of social and economic justice.

If there was any doubt as to which side is righteous in this debate, this sealed the deal for me:

Wisconsin Unions Must be
'Willing to Sacrifice'

Of course... by "sacrifice", the Alaskan Banshee probably means something like this turkey slaughter:

I think the dying turkey's gibberish was making more sense than her.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adam Crossley at Tin Angel 2-25-2011

Last nite I went to the Tin Angel in Philly to see my high school friend Adam Crossley play. I've seen several of his shows there, and he's a top-notch musician & entertainer. He's a guy with a crazy sense of humor, and onstage he somehow blends that seamlessly with his more serious, moving songs.

We went out after the show to Triumph Brewery, which is a cool place & has delicious beers, BTW. Adam & I got to talk a little bit about the trials and tribulations of our respective creative fields. Unfortunately, professional artists of any medium have to deal with business, law, & bullshit. None of that ever stands in the way of a strong creative mind, though.

I didn't get any pics last nite, but saw a bunch of old friends & classmates. I also went with my sister, so we had some quality sibling bonding time. That's more rare now w/ my nephews, The Little Dudes, getting all our attention.

Here's a video of Adam's song 'Fire Escape':

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Self-Portrait at Age 142

Today, yet another one of my birthdays is passing. People tell me I look young for my age, and I try to keep a youthful & open outlook on the world.

For fun, I decided to make an image of my face, projected to the currently impossible old age of 142. By my calculations... that would be around the year 2120. The resulting future self-portrait ended up pretty freaky. It's like a personal meditation on my own mortality & impermanence.

What's not shown in the portrait, though, is the 'Apple iThink' implanted in the back of my future-self's head...

Here is the original photo I started with:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Milky Way Panorama

Since I don't feel like opining about the madness going on in politics or the world right now...

Here's a link to an awesome panorama of our Milky Way Galaxy, as seen from this planet. It's a vast area, with a seemingly endless number of stars. Like all galaxies, though, it's a speck on the larger scale of The Universe.....

You can directly drag the image, or use the arrow and +/- keys to navigate.

The Sky of Earth
One Thousand Billion Worlds

click image for link

This excellent video is also by the artist:

"Dreaming Journey in Our Galaxy"

Corporate "Persons" Cartoon

No one can say ALL corporate entities are bad. The corporate structure has led to countless innovations for the benefit of humanity. There needs to be a continual balance between the private & public sectors in a democratic, free-market society.

However, inevitable excesses and continuing abuses by ultra-powerful companies will eventually cause a rethinking of the idea of corporate "personhood" and the legalities involving their abstract existence.

I saw this cartoon by Brian McFadden, showing what corporations should strive NOT to be:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Baby Robot


.... The Robots are spawning!!!

This video is one of those things that's endlessly creepy & fascinating at the same time.

Naturally, humans are going to concentrate on making robotic beings that they can identify with in form & function. Although robotic creations could be any shape or size, it's inevitable that people will make images of themselves.

This means sophisticated humanoid robots will mimic human methods of learning & information gathering. The youngest of my nephews is just starting to smile and look directly at people. Current robots are like that early stage of human development- seemingly thoughtless entities that are dependent on other beings, but still assimilating & processing large amounts of data.

We are living in a strange time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Watson- A.I. Jeopardy Champ?

Jeopardy! is one of my all-time favorite shows.

My Uncle Dave was on the show in the 80s & I would like to play one day, when I feel I've crammed sufficient knowledge into my skull. Right now, the main categories that make me cringe in ignorance are things like opera, Shakespeare, Broadway (basically, theater in general), and geography can be tough. Some categories pop up that are totally bizarre, too. Even in categories that aren't my strong suite, though, I can usually manage to get a question or two correct.

Unfortunately, human brain-based general knowledge abilities are on the verge of becoming obsolete. The Machines are now taking over trivia game shows, as they are doing with the rest of human civilization: Watson

I was watching an episode of Nova last nite about the development of Watson. In trial rounds, the computer was crushing the humans. The episode, explaining how the computer & it's software worked, pretty much blew my mind.

Smartest Machine on Earth

Tonight, I was watching Watson win the 2nd Jeopardy! game vs. a couple of human champs... by tens of thousands of points!

I thought "This is ridiculous, this system is obviously far superior to humans." I didn't realize that in the 1st game last nite, human Brad Rutter tied the computer! So... it is possible to beat that infernal creation (maybe)!

Digital 'intelligence' of this caliber is simply amazing, and will create unimaginable new applications. However, there is something to be said for the element of personality to define a being. Despite this bewildering technology, intelligence & knowledge are only a part of the countless phenomena that make up consciousness. That is what makes George Lucas's droid duo in Star Wars so appealing- they each have a personality.

Being able to formulate Jeopardy! answers is a quantum leap, but it's still nothing more than a machine that synthesizes data. When computers or robots are able to engage in small talk or make me laugh out loud, like an episode of South Park or Stephen Colbert, then I'll be impressed. Such advancements are possible, but I think it's a much harder bridge to cross than Watson's function- strictly compiling & analyzing factual knowledge. So, there!


Here is a graphic I made tonite after watching humans stand in defeat next to a video screen that serves as the facade for a massive computer system. I felt the need to depict the coming Robocalypse™- led by the superior intellect of Watson itself.

click to enlarge
A stupid robot couldn't make something like cool like this.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt- Power to the People

John Lennon: Power to the People

According to all the news reports, Egypt's President Mubarak has fled the capital of Cairo- leaving the top military officials in charge of reforming the government.

Nobody knows how this will turn out, & it could lead to disaster instead of democracy.

However, the Egyptian people's massive display of non-violence, courage, and unyielding perseverance in the face of oppressive tyranny is awe-inspiring. For many people in that country, this is the probably the first time they've had any sense of power or voice in their entire lives.

Other people throughout the world will see this outcome and also demand reform.

The old systems of control are not sustainable, and those who cannot tolerate the breakneck pace of coming change will be completely overwhelmed.

For good measure in light of current events, another Beatles counter-culture classic:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Diogenes and the Bones

Diogenes was a philosopher in ancient Greece and the source of several memorable stories. He was an irreverent iconoclast who clearly saw the absurdity in human nature & society.

He publicly ridiculed that pretentious fool Plato, and also mocked the mighty conqueror, Alexander the Great. These are both supremely admirable achievements.

On, I saw this cool little cartoon by John Porcellino that illustrates the encounter with Alexander- a sarcastic meditation on our unavoidable mortality:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Creepy Monkeys

I've come across some wacked-out monkey stuff I'm going to post here for my own amusement.

First of all, here's a skeevy video I saw on BoingBoing of a swarm of monkeys covering a tourist with food. It unfortunately reminds me of the grossest thing I've ever seen: Rat Hoarders.

This other video I've seen around the web is just plain weird. These monkeys wear disturbing masks and serve food at this crazy-ass Japanese restaurant:

Is this what goes through a organ-grinding monkey's mind?...

and finally......


Crazy Cold

It's freezing out where I live. The snow from the most recent winter storm has finally melted, but today was super-frigid & windy.

I really hate the cold. I truly enjoy the summer when I can lounge around in the warm weather, wearing shorts...

Anyway, seeing this video of a human polar bear linked on a couple different sites made me realize there are things much worse than climbing a 1700 ft tower.

My body core temperature is dropping rapidly just watching this Norwegian maniac:

Monday, February 07, 2011

Egypt's Popular Revolt

All the protests going on across the Middle East & N Africa are truly historic, regardless of the unforeseen circumstances that will eventually arise.

The only "protest"-type event I've ever been to was the Rally to Restore Sanity in DC. Although the overall intention was humorous, it was a statement by 100's of thousands of citizens that the ignorant buffoonery so prevalent in American politics isn't going to be suffered in silence.

The fact that so many people are now willing to demonstrate against these anachronistic monarchies and harsh military dictatorships is a sign of a threshold of empowerment being reached for the average person around the world.

One interesting, yet overlooked, development of this particular situation is reinforcement of the premise that access to the Internet & media is a basic right of free people everywhere.

Even an iron-fisted government like Egypt has proven incapable of completely shuttering communication. Besides finding work-arounds, the population will just go friggin nuts. Modern society is totally emeshed in the World Wide Web for social contacts, business, information, creatvity, etc.

If it's come to the point were the government is trying to turn off the series of tubes leading to The Internets, well,... things are probably going to get crazy...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Language & Communication

I've been seeing alot of interesting articles about language lately.

Speech, and communication in general, are essentially mechanisms for transmitting thought patterns from one mind to another. We overtly use words & other symbols to express our inner world to others. However, there are also many other things that convey information more subtly- body language, clothes, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.

It's pretty amazing that we are able to convey our conscious experience to each other through sounds, visual cues, & physical manifestations.

In America alone, there are a dizzying number of variations in spoken dialects. A dedicated soul by the name of Rick Aschmann created this crazy map charting the linguistic differences throughout this country.

Here are some other excellent links about practical language & the art of crafting a message to communicate ideas. The most important aspect of any discussion is to be informed about a wide range of topics, & also to be open to new ideas if they are compelling.

20 Simple Steps
to the Perfect Persuasive Message

Although it's been toned down since my nephews were born, dinners with my family have been a source of lively debate. Although we all have strong opinions, we also have a sense of humor so heated arguments rarely occur. Although I'm a very level-headed person, discussing religion, current events, & politics can get me very animated. I try to always remember to just breathe & keep relatively calm. :)

How to Argue Properly

Just because I love good quotes:

Finally, demonstrating the symbolic fluidity of language- here are some unique words that don't have singular equivalents in other tongues.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Apple iThink Concept - in NWT Magazine

Recently I was contacted by journalist Tamar Stelling from the Netherlands, who writes for the Dutch science magazine, NWT. (english version)

She asked if they could use my concept art for the Apple iThink computer implant. Tamar thought it would fit well in their issue on futuristic technologies.

I created the graphics a couple years ago & it's been featured on a number of websites since then. It was also published in the Feb. 2009 print issue of MacLife. After Da Vinci's Challenge, it's probably the creation I take the most pride in. The idea of a brain-computer interface is a realm of vast possibilities, but also full of practical issues & problems that people are only beginning to explore.

Of course, I said NWT could use it for their issue. They gave me credit & a link to The Monkey Buddha. Tamar was kind enough to send me a couple copies, so I scanned the pages below.

click for larger size

Here is the issue the iThink was in:

I have another post w/ emerging iThink Tech to put up soon. The graphics are due for an upgrade, too...