Thursday, September 29, 2016

Stick Bug

I was walking outside & saw this large stick bug on my car.

It looked so much like a stick that you'd never be able to see it if it were on the ground or on a tree.

At first, I couldn't tell which side was its head, until it moved its antennae. I thought the pincer-like appendages were its mouth, but it was actually its backside!

by Paul Micarelli 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First U.S. Presidential Debate 2016: Clinton vs. Trump

I've posted many times about politics over the years. However, during this election season, I don't feel as connected to political news as I have in the past.

It's partially because I cancelled my cable TV subscription and don't subject myself to the relentless onslaught of meaningless chatter from the talking heads. If there's something happening that I'm interested in, I go online and find objective information about it. Then I look to see what people are saying about it. Another factor in my disillusionment is the unfortunate reality that both candidates are not choices that I feel excited about.

I'm registered as an Independent, so I don't pledge blind allegiance to any party or affiliation. I was solidly in favor of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary, who I've seen fighting for the citizens of this country for years. Bernie represented the highest aspirations of progressive-minded Americans, with a vision for remedying the core problems facing this nation: campaign finance, the private health care mess, and unscrupulous banking practices. At the same time as the Democrats were debating the important issues facing the country, I recognized the entire Republican field of candidates as the pathetic clown car that it was- totally void of any substance or insight into the real causes of people's everyday problems.

When Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination, I shared the lack of enthusiasm that so many others experienced. I don't think America should be in the habit of electing political family dynasties, regardless of whether they are Clintons, Bushes, Kennedy's, or any other recognizable name. Hillary also seemed like she had a lot of baggage, especially with her ties to Wall St., and was disliked by many people. At least she has extensive experience in government and has worked to make positive change on various fronts.

As much as I personally despise Donald Trump and everything he represents, I was actually rooting for him during the GOP primaries. All the other candidates were absolutely friggin' horrible, and at least Trump was exposing the absurdity in the whole political process. I felt a guilty sense of entertainment at watching Trumpzilla stomp across the landscape of the conservative establishment and tearing the party to shreds.

I was thinking, as bad as Hillary may seem, nobody would really vote for such a vile and dangerous ignoramus like The Donald... right? The guy is a con-man, a self-promoting charlatan. He cheats small businesses, has the mentality of a toddler, rips off the public in numerous ways, possesses a poor understanding of even the basic political issues, has a fascist and hateful disposition, and is just a complete asshole. There's NO WAY he can be President... RIGHT?!?!?!

by Paul Micarelli

Well, I began to be disturbed by the many people who were saying they supported Trump and planned to vote for him. I can understand not wanting to vote for Hillary, but everything that's wrong with her is exponentially worse with Trump. All the things Trump fans accuse Hillary of embodying- lying, incompetence, greed, lust for personal power, indifference to the country's problems, etc.,- all these things are fully manifested and completely unfettered in Donald Trump. However, people are under the delusion that Obama has destroyed this country, we can build a wall around Mexico to keep out scary illegals, and that the U.S. Government should really be run like a for-profit business. Trump feeds this fear and ignorance by talking about the United States like it's a dangerous & poverty-stricken shithole from coast to coast.

Trump is a shitty human being, and a shittier businessman. However, people somehow still like the guy and think his shady business experience qualifies him to be President. Despite having a pretty strong revulsion toward him, I tried to keep an open mind going into this first Presidential debate.

Despite making a legitimate argument against NAFTA and other trade deals early on in the debate, Trump quickly devolved into the cartoonish cretin that everyone with a minimum of common sense knew him to be.

I watched in disbelief as the things spewing out of his mouth defied facts, logic, and elementary school grammar. I had prepared for the debate by dulling my nerves with a large whisky on the rocks, and indulged in a couple additional beers to make it to the end without losing my mind. How Hillary generally maintained her composure in the presence of such lunacy is extraordinary.

I'm not going to get into the minutia of the debate, there have already been countless posts & articles analyzing every aspect. It was hard to appreciate in real time, but Sec. Clinton repeatedly goaded him into subtle confrontational traps. Trump, in his sheer ignorance & arrogance, stepped into them every time, while flailing around with no idea he was ripping his own limbs off.

I couldn't believe the horrible, stupid fucking things he was saying:
Yeah, he ripped off small business contractors & didn't pay them... He's smart because he doesn't pay taxes like a normal citizen... Everyone agrees Rosie O'Donell deserved getting called a fat pig... We can blow an Iranian ship out of the water & it won't start a war... Stop & frisk policies are constitutionally sound... He never said the Chinese invented global warming (he did)... and on and on and on...

There were many, so many, ridiculous quotes that made me go "WTF?!?!" but my favorite had to be:

"I don't know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC, [Clinton is] saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

This remark had everyone in the room absolutely dying from laughter. It was unbelievably silly and over-the-top, even for Donald.

The more I watched Trump speak, the more I felt like it had to be some kind of disturbing hallucination. This couldn't be real. Every time he closed his eyes, he looked like a strange, pouting creature with three mouths on his face. Luckily, I'm not the only one who thought this, and of course the Internet had produced images illustrating this weird perception:

In the past, I've been flabbergasted when the mainstream media pundits declared George W. Bush or Mitt Romney successful in their debates, no matter how bad they performed. Therefore, when I saw that pretty much everyone who didn't have their head up their own ass (including conservatives!) said that Hillary trounced The Donald, I knew that it wasn't just me who saw Trump as a loser of epic proportions. As Donald himself would say... "Sad!"

Despite the stark contrast in the two candidates, I don't think the debate changed the minds of any firm supporters of either side. Democrats backing Clinton would never vote for someone who is clearly more dangerous, unqualified, and unhinged. If you are already a diehard Trump supporter, you are likely impervious to all the facts and reason that show what a disaster he would be. The funny thing is, he doesn't give a crap about his supporters or anyone else. All Trump cares about is the Trump™ brand and his own wealth and power. He is the very ugliest aspects of the ego, personified.

If you were an "undecided" voter beforehand, though, I can't see how Trump's pathetic showing would inspire any confidence whatsoever. Especially next to Hillary Clinton's relatively calm demeanor & competent grasp of the issues, the only way he could have looked less Presidential would be if he flung his own poo at the moderator.

It ain't over until it's over, though. There are two debates left, and I guess some unthinkable turn of events could take place. The world will keep watching and hoping that the joke of a Trump Administration doesn't become a seriously disturbing reality.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Solving the Plastic Problem

One of the major technological & ecological issues that we meed to deal with is the ubiquitous use of plastic products.

Besides being created using non-renewable petroleum products, the pollution caused from plastic waste is causing massive, negative consequences on ecosystems.

I've posted before about efforts to clean up the plastic waste that has accumulated in the oceans:

The Monkey Buddha:

There are other solutions being studied & implemented to help address this serious problem that we are leaving for future generations.

One answer is to develop biodegradable packaging made from plant fibers.

SF Gate:

Scientists are also looking into creating packaging materials made from compacted fungus mycelia.


Another way to help eliminate existing plastic waste is to use bacteria or other organisms that actually consume plastic materials.


I believe that human ingenuity can solve almost any problem that human greed and short-sightedness can create. We just need the drive and creative thinking to make it happen.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Enjoy Your Life

On Reddit, I saw this ancient mosaic, found along the border of Turkey & Syria. It was from the ancient Greek/Roman city of Antiocheia.

It shows a skeleton lounging by bread & a jug of wine. It's a statement on appreciating our own mortality and the time we get to spend in this lifetime.

It reads "Be cheerful, enjoy your life."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Poconos Blue Heron

This summer, I went on vacation with my family in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

The house that we rented was on Big Bass Lake, which was very scenic and enjoyable. I would regularly go out on a kayak fishing and just enjoying being on the lake.

There was a large blue heron that I would see fly across the lake and land at different spots along the water's edge. I tried to paddle quietly in the kayak and get close a few times, but it would notice me & fly away.

I was finally able to see him fairly close by, while it was busy looking for fish in the shallow area by the shore. By paddling very slowly and drifting toward it, I was able to use my iPhone that I had with me to take some pictures & video. The quality was good enough for me to edit together a montage of the footage and upload to MonkeyBuddhaVids.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Roko the Robo-Monkey

I can't resist posting about any story that combines technology & primates.

Recently I saw this article about Roko, a concept for a biomimetic robot that would simulate the movement of a chimpanzee swinging through the trees. The concept was designed by Kaan Yaylali, and is a unique take on the form & function of robots.

Daily Mail:

Roko is meant to be a sort of rescue or delivery robot, that can reach areas that would be difficult to access in other ways. It could travel through thick jungle or other remote areas to reach people who need rescue or supplies.

Although it looks like a Monkey Terminator, autonomous machines like Roko could perform many useful tasks that could be of great help to humanity.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Resonance: Beings of Frequency

While working on photo retouching, I often listen to talks or documentaries that interest me. I came across this film that looks at the possible effects of the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) given off by the digital devices that are so ubiquitous in the modern world.

We are truly beings of frequency, arising from the energetic source of the quantum field. We are also connected to natural energies that we have evolved to be attuned to, such as the visible light spectrum and the Schumann Resonance

Therefore, the fact that we are literally awash in electromagnetic fields of all kinds has to influence us in some way.

For example, this is a visualization of just the fields emitted over New York City by cellphone signals blanketing the urban landscape:

Nickolay Lamm

These and many other energies are permeating our bodies almost continuously, every single day.

Although I love the miraculous advantages that electronic devices and digital tech provide, I often wonder how it interacts with our biological processes. I work on a computer all day and always have my cell phone on me, so it is cause for concern & further study.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Disappearing Black Dots Illusion

Being a visual artist, I love optical illusions and other ways of hacking the visual processes of the brain.

The Monkey Buddha Archives: 

Created by Jacques Ninio, a French researcher in visual perception, this is one of the more striking visual tricks I've seen. The black dots in your peripheral vision disappear as your eyes focus on different areas of the grid.

I first saw it on a Reddit thread, and also found good explanations of the phenomenon:

"Your visual system is built with nerves cells that fire in response to different arrangements of dark and light. You should be able to see a circle in your peripherals, but the criss cross pattern really messes with that ability. It surrounds the dots with information that severely interferes with the visual system's way of signaling "here's a bright edge around a dark circle"

The strength of the grid pattern (at this level of contrast) overpowers the ability of the brain to detect the circles when they are so spaced out. Our mind is basically filling in the blanks with the bold, regular arrangement of lines. When the grid is lightened, the circles become easy to see all at once.

Also for comparison, see this similar pattern, but with the circles in a more tightly arranged, regular spacing:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Book Review: "Cannibals and Kings"

I recently finished my summer vacation reading, "Cannibals and Kings" by anthropologist Marvin Harris. It was a book that my brother had read for one of his classes as a history major. He correctly thought I'd like it & gave it to me.

 Among my favorite topics are cultural anthropology & ancient history. I've read a lot about peoples around the world and consider myself pretty well-informed about various cultures. However, this book gave me a completely new perspective on the dynamics of human civilization. It was very enlightening and opened my eyes to the processes that cause human collectives to act in certain ways.

The main purpose of "Cannibals and Kings" is to analyze the environmental pressures that result in seemingly peculiar cultural norms. The behaviors & institutions Harris studies are widely varied across time & geographic location. I'll sum up some of the thoughts he presents:

• Animal sacrifice characterized by the earliest religions, including Old Testament Judaism, served the function of valuable protein redistribution by the priestly class. Relatedly, many of the culinary taboos instituted as religious law by these societies were a result of the inability to sustain certain types of animals for food in a particular location. For instance, the pig was outlawed as "unclean" by Jewish law due to the fact that pigs are environmentally detrimental to maintain in the climate of the Middle East, more so than because of the possibility of parasites or other factors.

• Human sacrifice and cannibalism practiced by the Aztecs and other people was the result of the need for protein sources. It was also an institutional form of population control. The Aztecs, for example, had little in the way of abundant animal protein and this was a way to provide it, while keeping the exploding population, resulting from urbanization & expansion, in check. Of course, the major social drive for insitutionally-sanctioned murder was (and still is) to maintain the power structure of the elite class, by instilling fear in the population.


• Certain rigid political hierarchies arise as a result of the need for the social organization. That high level of bureaucracy is required when implementing large-scale hydraulic engineering for agriculture- such as that of the pharaonic dynasties of ancient Egypt and it's reliance on the sustenance of the Nile River.

• In India, the reverence of the cow as a sacred animal that cannot be eaten comes from the value of the animal as a source of agricultural work, which outweighs it's nutritional importance.

There are many other anthropological situations analyzed in the book, all of which I found truly fascinating and thought-provoking. As I said, it completely changed my understanding of these cultures of which I thought I had a relatively good understanding.

Most importantly, the author takes the cautionary tales presented by these studies of past societies and talks about our own precarious environmental situation. It is truly a case of "those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it." For all our accumulated knowledge and technical advancements, we just as susceptible to disaster if we mismanage our resources, especially food and water.

I would highly recommend "Cannibals and Kings" to anyone with a deep interest in history, anthropology, ancient cultures, human behavior, or the development of civilization. It was a rewarding read that changed my perspective and gave me greater insight into the human condition.

Monday, September 05, 2016

History of Labor Day

For many people, Labor Day means a day off from work, and holiday cookouts.

However, the real significance of Labor Day is the fight by workers to maintain their dignity and human values, in the face of continual exploitation and de-personalization by those powers driving cultural institutions & means of production.

Graphic from