Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ape to Angel

While doing a Google image search, I came across this pic of a divine-looking monkey that I tracked down to DeviantArt member leoplaw:

by leoplaw

I'm always interested to see art that combines monkeys and the sacred, similar to the graphic I made of the mascot/logo for The Monkey Buddha:

When searching for the source of the image, I also came across this album cover for "Ape to Angel" by artists Pitch Black:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Symbiotic Life

I have been reading a lot of material lately about the effect of our microbiome on the body & mind. The microbiome is the collection of single-celled microorganisms throughout our living tissues.

In fact, the number of bacterial cells far outweighs the number of actual human cells. Physically, we are a biological vehicle for genes & also for other organisms.

We mostly live in a positive symbiosis with these tiny creatures living throughout our body.

NY Times:

I've long suspected that these microorganisms have had a greater effect on us than we'd like to admit.

Now, it's being discovered that gut microbes affect our eating habits, and even our psychology.

Psychology Today:

Even the act of intimate kissing is an exchange of billions of bacteria.

Science Daily:

This is why, despite liking cleanliness, I'm not really a germaphobe. I feel that we are surrounded by and infused with microorganisms, so it's nothing to fear.

However, reading this NatGeo article about the destructive symbiosis of invasive parasites & seeing the accompanying photos might make someone change their mind- if the parasites haven't already done it for them...

National Geographic:

George Lucas was ridiculed for including "Midichlorians" in the Star Wars prequel movies, as the microbiological source of the mystical energy field surrounding all living things- The Force.

Like so many things, Lucas was actually prescient in his recognition of the influence of symbiotic microbes on a living being.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Illusion of Time

As I mark yet another amazing year of my Life, it's a chance to reflect on the mystery of time.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

Despite being the basis of our experience & a fundamental measurement in science, we still really do not understand the nature of time.

This article questions whether time, as we understand it, even exists-

Popular Science:

I personally think that Terence McKenna was onto something when he theorized about the fractal nature of time.

All Reality, including both time & space, can be understood to have fractal qualities. They can be looked at in different levels of endless, self-similar detail.

Ultimately, the only true experience of time is the moment of NOW.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Toy Fair 2015

Last weekend, I went to the Toy Fair that's held every year at the Javitz Center in New York City.

I design packaging & products for the toy industry, and several of our clients have booths at the show. We get to see the work we do throughout the year on display here. I also had product development meetings with a few companies and made some new contacts.

It's also good to walk the floor and check out what other companies are doing. The Javitz convention center is huge and there is alot to take in. I was only there for a day, which isn't enough time to really see everything.

I took some photos of the various sights at the show. There is a slideshow embedded below, and a link to my Picasa web album.

The Monkey Buddha Visual Archives:

This is me enjoying a glass of champagne, after a meeting toward the end of the day:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Da Vinci's Challenge" Wallpaper

I made a high-resolution 1920x1600 desktop wallpaper, from concept art I made for the "Da Vinci's Challenge" game.

It features 'The Flower of Life' symbol that forms the game board. There is also Leonardo da Vinci's self-portrait & some of the 'Secret Symbols', used to score in the game.

(click for full-size image)

I also recently updated my post explaining the more esoteric aspects of the game design, including some photos of the game in its various incarnations:

The Monkey Buddha Archive:

Click the link below for some 'Flower of Life' wallpapers for mobile devices, that I also made:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"The Mind"- Alan Watts

 I saw this video on Oerbital. It is a short, but utterly vital, bit of wisdom from the great Alan Watts.

Monkey Buddha Archives:

He addresses the fundamental problem of the human mind. How do we stop the endless chatter & worry of the "monkey mind," in order to bring calm to our consciousness?

Alan Watts was one of the first public figures to bring the teachings of Zen Buddhism to the West.

Reading Alan Watts' "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are" was one of the influences in my early adult life that completely changed my perspective on reality.

I've listened to dozens of his lectures online and consider him a guru, although I've never met him.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Destino" by Dali & Disney

 I don't usually post much about my personal life on this blog. However, this Valentine's Day marked a special event for me. It was the first anniversary for my girlfriend & I. We are both fairly non-conformist & individualistic people, so it's funny that we have such a cliche day to celebrate a relationship. It was when we had our first date, after being very close friends for many years.

Despite dating some wonderful women in my life, this is the first serious relationship I've had in a long time. I was never one to just settle or grasp onto another person just because I was lonely or felt societal pressure. Even as my 30's were passing me by, I was resigned to the fact that I'd rather be alone than be in a situation that I didn't find fulfilling.

Thankfully, my patience and honesty with myself has paid off. I've found someone who I feel completes me and is everything I've been looking for in a companion. After a year, we have continued to grow closer & deeper in our understanding of each other. We share an interest in deep issues and the infinite knowledge available in the Universe.

We've talked recently about the issues of destiny and impermanence.

• Is there such a thing as "destiny"? How does this relate to free will vs. determinism?
• Is "beauty" something that is transcendental & permanent, or is it meaningful because it is fleeting & impermanent?

These are some of the things that I was thinking of when I shared this animated masterpiece with her for Valentine's Day. It is called "Destino" a collaboration by one of my favorite artists, Salvadore Dali, and Walt Disney.

"Destino" (which means 'destiny' in Spanish) was originally started in 1945. It is full of Dali's dreamlike & bizarre imagery, and there are some aspects of the soundtrack that are very reminiscent of Disney movies. Most of the animation was completed between 1999-2003, with the use of traditional animation & some computer graphics.

The finished product is definitely "Dali-esque," with the haunting feeling of the beautiful, ephemeral, and often strange nature of life & love.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A.I. & The Future of Machines

I've been reading & seeing a lot of insights into the possible consequences of the continuing progression of digital technology.

There is a spectrum of opinion on the subject- ranging from optimists who think robots & artificial intelligence will be a great help to human beings, to pessimists who envision Terminator-like doomsday scenarios of robot domination. There are also people (like me) in the gray area, who think there could be both good & bad results of A.I., depending on how the technology is developed & used.

Although I've been seeing thoughts about this topic from different sources, this article (below) that I originally saw on Reddit is a long, but deeply thought-provoking article. I would highly recommend reading the entire article or bookmarking the page.

It explores the many possibilities presented by artificial intelligence and advanced machines, and correctly concludes that there will be changes and effects that we cannot even conceive at this time.
It's a similar situation to how nobody could fully predict the profound effects that the development of the Internet would have on communications and creativity.

Wait But Why:

Although I would say that article is a must-read, Newsweek also published a shorter piece about the same topic that's easier to digest.


I also just watched a TED talk the other night about the advances in machine learning, that is equally fascinating and frightening.

In the absence of some global catastrophe that destroys humanity & our technological achievements, I think there is no end to the progression of robots and machine intelligence.

Once zero-point energy & quantum computation are harnessed, it will be an entirely new world of possibilities, both positive and negative.

Like media and stories dealing with the subject of "man vs. machine", such as Mass Effect & The Matrix, I believe that the way forward is synthesis

"Digital Self-Portrait" by Paul Micarelli

We must consciously integrate digital technology and robotics into our physical being, for the purpose of augmenting our bodies & minds. We may evolve into a new hybrid creature of unimaginable abilities, but this is the way of the Universe.

As the great philosopher Heraclitus stated, "Nothing is permanent, except change."

Who knows?
Maybe with human help one day robots & machines will even learn to love...

Monday, February 09, 2015

Space Monkey

On OMG Posters! I saw illustrations from a sticker pack by Stand Out Stickers.

One of the illustrations is this awesome & crazy-looking astronaut ape, by Jared Moraitis.

When I was originally trying to figure out what to call this blog, almost 10 years ago, I deeply considered whether to use "Monkey Buddha" or "Space Ape" as the title. 

I decided that "The Monkey Buddha"covered my personality more broadly. However, I am still amused by the idea of a monkey using the space technology of slightly more evolved monkeys.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Riding Light: Trip Through the Solar System

I came across this video that gives an impression of the vastness of space, in
just a part of our own solar system.

It's called Riding Light, and it is a simulation of traveling from the surface of the Sun out to the largest planet, Jupiter.

The video simulates traveling at the speed of light (without relativistic effects) in real time, so it takes eight minutes to reach the Earth.

The whole video is 45 minutes long, which is how long it would take to travel from the Sun to Jupiter, at the speed of light.

This gives us an idea why moving humans across interstellar distances poses such a problem with conventional technology.

Until we develop warp drive or some other propulsion that bypasses the limits of relativity theory, even getting to planets beyond Mars is a difficult proposition.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Asterank: Asteroid Database

 This is an awesome online database that tracks all of the asteroids in our area of the solar system.

Asteroid Database and Mining Rankings

Although there are vast areas of emptiness in outer space, there are also alot of bodies of various sizes floating around out there. These objects range from the size of cosmic dust particles, to comets that are miles across like 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, to asteroids the size of small planetoids.

If we were smart, the human race would be pouring significant amounts of money into tracking objects that could have catastrophic collisions with Earth.

Unfortunately, humanity is full of stupid, shortsighted people who would rather spend resources on fighting and killing each other. Hopefully we can evolve & come to our senses before this threat is actualized.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Book Review: "1421: The Year China Discovered America"

 My brother lent me a book he read that, due to my interest in history, he knew I'd enjoy. I recently finished reading it & definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in world history.

by Gavin Menzies

The premise of the book is that the land mass we know know as "The Americas," as well as pretty much every other area of the globe, was explored by the Chinese in 1421-1423. What makes this idea so controversial is that this age of exploration took place about 70 years before Columbus supposedly discovered The New World.

I'm not one to take anybody's word on anything, and there are plenty of people with websites devoted to debunking the theories & evidence Menzies puts forth. However, I also believe that most of history has been lost, and there are endless things we do not know or understand about our collective past.

The author, Gavin Menzies, is a sailor and a former commander of a submarine in the British Royal Navy. He contends that on March 8, 1421, Emperor Zhu Di of the Ming Dynasty launched an expedition fleet to explore the world. China's wealth, manpower, and advanced naval engineering enabled them to expend the resources to launch this ambitious voyage. The admiral of this fleet was eunuch Zheng He, still a legendary figure, whether or not the feats ascribed to his fleet in "1492" are all true.

As the giant ships of the Chinese treasure fleets sailed around the world, they were commissioned to find new lands, chart astronomical data, and possibly trade with any cultures they came in contact with. Menzies puts forth information throughout the book that he believes to prove the Ming fleets reached both the West & East coasts of The Americas, Australia, Antarctica, and West Africa. He puts forth convincing arguments and visions of how these events happened, but there are detractors who dispute his interpretations of the evidence and his sources.

From what I've learned about the ancient civilizations of Central America, such as the Maya, it doesn't seem far-fetched to me that there could have been encounters with Chinese explorers there. The story of Kukulkan and the shared use of feathered serpent & dragon iconography is interesting.
by Anthony Lyon

While this far-reaching expedition was underway, the Forbidden City was hit with a disaster when lightning struck one of the buildings. This unfortunate act of nature caused a fire that burnt the entire complex to the ground. It led to a series of events that eventually resulted in a new, isolationist emperor who effectively ended the Chinese age of exploration. All records of outside foreign influence were destroyed, and this supposedly explains why the tremendous achievements of the treasure fleets have been forgotten.

Although I remain skeptical of all the claims in the book, I can appreciate it for the same reason that I enjoyed reading "Fingerprints of the Gods" by Graham Hancock. I think that anyone who questions the "official" story in any field should be heard, and the evidence examined openly. Even if all the evidence doesn't hold up, or some questionable sources are used, I don't think that warrants completely dismissing a theory. Science, despite it's countless achievements as a system of inquiry, can still reflect the human tendency to want to preserve the status quo.

Even if "1421" presents false assertions or makes faulty conclusions, it is still worth reading because it gives a different perspective on the accepted version of history. We should constantly be challenging the ideas & stories that have become ingrained into our collective consciousness. Sometimes it takes a drastic upset of that consensus to move our understanding of the world forward.