Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine Rose



I took this closeup photo of one of the roses I gave to my fiancée for Valentine's Day, using a macro lens on my iPhone.

by Paul Micarelli

Flowers have been used throughout history as symbols of the ephemeral nature of love & beauty. Their organic, aesthetic appeal of a rose blossom has biological and metaphorical parallels with the human body.

It is important to literally "stop & smell the roses"- meaning that we take the time to become conscious of our surroundings and perceptions of them. Mindfulness to the world around us, in all its infinite variety and nuance, reveals the deep beauty in all existence.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Connect

There's been a meme I've been seeing, consisting of images that are variations of the Connect 4 game box.

I like this one, which just gets rid of the game all together, with the suggestion-



Ironically, games often facilitate connection between people, whether we are playing others in-person or playing people online. 

I've spent a lot designing games, and they are catalysts for human interaction that are unique and memorable. However, it is also good to be able to socialize with people without the need for an activity to facilitate it.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

"Alien Bionet" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract imagery recently. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale. This is one of my favorite pieces of my abstract art.

This organic tangle of fluorescent strands reminded me of a biological structure or a colony of microorganisms from another world.

by Paul Micarelli

 "Alien Bionet"
by Paul Micarelli

**Buy Prints & Products With This Design***

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Saturday, February 03, 2018

Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension

I noticed that fractal Mandlebrot set resembled the Universe in this medieval picture of "God the Geometer"

I have shared this documentary before, but this is one that is worth reposting. I just watched it again the other night, and it is an excellent intro to the mathematical concept of fractal geometry.


Fractals are one of the most important concepts to grasp, if one is trying to understand the nature of reality.

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

The main quality of a fractal is recursion, which means repeating characteristics. These self-similar qualities are found throughout the natural world, and are a fundamental property of The Universe on all scales. Using relatively simple formulas, complex patterns can be generated with computers that reflect these iterative qualities.

These patterns can be represented by visual data and graphics, to produce the eye-catching artwork that is now so familiar. I have created many pieces of abstract art using fractal software. Here are some examples:




Friday, February 02, 2018

Colorful Shrooms & Demon Peppers

My buddy is a beekeeper, but he's also a talented artist. He creates a lot of art that is based on the plight of bees & their environment. Check out his Instagram page where he posts some of his art:


Recently, I scanned & fixed up a bunch of his artwork for him. One of his marker drawings was a cluster of orange mushrooms in the mountains. I was messing with the hue adjustment after scanning it, & thought it would look cool if it cycled through a bunch of different colors.

I created an animated GIF & uploaded it here:


Here's the original:


Here's another drawing that was a collaboration. He had a marker drawing of a hot pepper, dripping with honey, being held by a bee-covered demon hand! He was planning on using this image to promote his family's "hot pepper" flavor of honey. I took his drawing & enhanced it in Photoshop:


Here's the scan of his original drawing:


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trump™ State of the Union 2018


I've made a personal tradition of pouring a whiskey on the rocks and watching the annual State of the Union speech by the current U.S. President.


Sitting through speeches from Bush, and now Trump, have been exercises in tolerance, though it feels like masochism. They're just not believable or wise characters (to anyone who hasn't gulped down the Kool-aid). Sure, Obama was a better speaker and a more thoughtful politician, but his State of the Union speeches were just the same dog-and-pony show. The purpose of this ceremonial speech is to express a vision of this country and society, and ideas on how to move it forward it a positive and realistic way. It's very hard to do that meaningfully or effectively in a 1-2 hr speech that needs to be simplified for the masses.

Trump did a decent job of reading off the Teleprompter, and didn't make a total ass of himself... Woo-hoo! The bar is set so low for this guy, that Republicans were basically applauding him for remaining coherent & finishing each sentence.

Every single State of the Union consists of the opposition party sitting & scowling, while the President's party is applauding & standing. However, the clapping after every line was just getting silly, and the sound of Trump clapping at himself into his mic just felt like it was to feed his ego, more so than in celebration of the content of his speech.

The Democrats are catching shit for not standing or clapping at different parts of the speech. It's hard to react to someone you disagree with, without coming off as a jerk. The GOP dealt with the same optics during Obama's term. The reason for the lack of enthusiasm is not because liberals or progressives don't care about the issues that Trump was talking about. The reason is- Trump is just not sincere about any of it! It's all lip service, & laughably bad lip service, at that.

I mean, let's be honest, the only thing Trump cares about is Trump. The guy is a known fraudster, a con-man, and a shitty businessman who has screwed over countless people, especially entrepreneurs to make himself money. The fact that his supporters have fallen for his ridiculous charade feels the same as when you hear of elderly people losing their savings to an obvious scam.

Then, there is the issue that the Trump administration, despite acting like a force for law & order, are completely subverting the law and national security to empower Russia. Yeah, I know, "NO COLLUSION!"....yeah, ok. Trump's connection to Russia & Putin isn't hard to figure out. As I said before, he's such a shitty businessman and credit risk that American banks wouldn't loan to him. Therefore, he had to go to foreign banks and perhaps less-than-reputable organizations to get financing. He obviously never wanted to release his taxes and financial info because it would make him look bad in some way. Otherwise, he'd be waving it in the cameras and bragging about it.

Now, there are investigations going on and some of his people have already been indicted. The problem for Trump is that he is treating every twist & turn in the worst way possible. Trump is not a genius. He's not even kind of smart. He's a dummy. Sometimes it's hard to know if he's intentionally lying or if he genuinely doesn't know what he's talking about. Thank God, because a smarter narcissistic sociopath might have done more damage by now.

30% of the country and the Republican Party have proven that they'll fall in line behind anyone unquestioningly, no matter how unqualified or incompetent. I wonder who will be next on their ballot in 2020. Jim Bakker perhaps? Ted Nugent? Really, how low can we go here? I'd rather not know...

Ok, now I'm starting to rant. Let me talk about the content of the speech. Oh, wait, there wasn't much more than the typical platitudes, & inspirational stories that politicians use as props. I'll just say that the most disturbing aspects of the speech to me were the blatant authoritarian appeals. He really wants a Trumpocracy, where neither merit nor integrity matter, only loyalty to him.

• Keep Gitmo open!
• We must have unquestioning praise for the military & police forces.
• Cabinet members should be able to fire agency employees for "not being a good American"!
• Let's increase our already bloated military, and start a new nuclear arms race!
• "USA! USA! USA!" (Idiocracy is coming true)

These were a few of his extraordinarily dangerous ideas. I also love the fact that he talks about lowering drug prices, then talks about escalating the war on drugs. The connection & irony is completely lost on him.

Who could've imagined that putting a self-absorbed man-child, reality-TV host, failed casino owner, & product huckster in charge of the country would be a bad idea?

Well, I know I did, even back in 2016!:

http://monkeybuddha.blogspot.com/2016/03/president-ahole.html

 As a postscript, let me say that having Joe Kennedy III give the Democratic rebuttal shows just how fucked the American political system has become. Out of the millions of people in this country capable of being political leaders, the Dems bring out another Kennedy? Sure he spoke better than Trump and did his best to put on a show, but it all seems so contrived.

We have to figure out how to evolve beyond the limitations of the 2-party system, and the dangers of 1-party rule, if our democracy is going to survive.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Going Clear" & Scientology


Last night my fiancée & I watched the HBO documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief".



I have already extensively researched the "church", it's founder L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor David Miscavige, but I was still thoroughly amazed by the documentary. We kept looking at each other, thinking "What the f...????"

The basic ideas that Hubbard formulated for Scientology are not any crazier than some other New Age ideas. He claimed that people have mental blocks created by emotional or unconscious energy that has built up and not been resolved. Through instruments such as e-meters and the complex hierarchical system known as "The Bridge to Total Freedom," these barriers in our consciousness can be overcome. "Going clear" refers to the process of removing these mental obstructions.

Where it gets really crazy is in the more advanced stages of "The Bridge" when you begin to learn about Xenu and the history of the Universe, according to L. Ron Hubbard's wild imagination. You are only revealed this secret information once you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, of course.



Scientology preys on people who, by their very nature, are vulnerable and looking for answers. Unfortunately, this is also the strategy of many other existing religious faiths. Once a system of thought or belief reaches a certain size, it naturally begins to institute systems of control to maintain its structure. The only way to maintain a religious institution is to relentlessly keep recruiting people, & then ensuring that they don't leave the bubble of influence.

More importantly, Scientology seeks out high-profile people or celebrities who have deep pockets to donate to the organization's billion-dollar bank account. Meanwhile, certain members like those in the SeaOrg are allegedly kept in virtual servitude, working for less than $1/hr. Through an onslaught of lawsuits and legal delays in the 1990's, Scientology managed to secure tax-exempt status from the U.S. government, even though it should have been bankrupted from back taxes owed, instead.

The whole thing is totally bonkers, and the most disturbing thing to me is always the cult of personality that exists in these situations. The worship and reverence for serial liar and con-man L. Ron Hubbard is so stupid. The images of the members in their faux-military regalia, attempting to appear important, was the silliest thing to us:

 

It was definitely interesting to see how all the people who came out to speak against Scientology had (at one time) been true-believers & top members in leadership roles. They eventually realized they had been brainwashed and completely captivated by this organization. Each one was finally pushed to the brink by the church's shitty practices.

As someone highly resistant to following authority of any type, I personally can't understand the mindset that allows people to be manipulated in this manner. One look at L. Ron or Miscavige, and it's "clear" to me that they are power-hungry creeps. I guess people desperately looking for direction or deeper meaning in life are more easily swayed by those offering those answers.

Although I am very interested in merging scientific & spiritual worldviews, Scientology is not a good way of doing it. There is danger in any organization having unchecked power over it's members, especially when controlled by a single personality.

"Going Clear" was an excellent documentary, but it was pretty disturbing to watch. It gives a compelling look at not only the operation of Scientology, but how people get sucked into other cults & religions, too. Human behavior is an endlessly fascinating phenomenon...

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Creator" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract imagery. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale.

"Creator" imagines the Source of all existence not as an anthropomorphic deity, but as an abstract flux of energies in the infinite quantum field. The Great Mystery is how these seemingly random field interactions give rise to the orderly phenomena we perceive on the gross level.

by Paul Micarelli

  "Creator"
by Paul Micarelli

**Buy Prints & Products With This Design***

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Monday, January 22, 2018

"Fantasy Photos" Promo Video #1


Fantasy Photos
"The Only Limit is Your Imagination!"
• CUSTOM PORTRAITS! • 
• PHOTO BOOTH- for PARTIES & EVENTS! •

Right now, I am self-employed as a freelance graphic artist, Paul Micarelli Design. Although this is my main source of income right now, I'm also the owner of a custom photography business, called Fantasy Photos.

https://www.fantasyphotos.net


Last year, after I was laid off from the studio where I worked, I decided to pursue my dreams by creating my own businesses. Although it's very slow & difficult to build a service from scratch, the experience has been the most rewarding journey I've ever had.

Since I'm the sole proprietor of both companies, I do everything myself right now. Although I'd love to just handle the creative end of things, I also need to do invoicing, marketing, book-keeping, and everything else. Thankfully, my wonderful fiancée helps me with the Fantasy Photos business when we go to festivals or have the Fantasy Photo Booth set up.

https://www.fantasyphotos.net/fantasy-photo-booth

I have been busy with my graphic design work recently, and the opportunities for Fantasy Photos seemed to slow down for the winter. I'm not going to as many live events, due to the cold weather.

Therefore it was a good time to create some promotional material, and I decided to make the promo video at the top of this page. My brother is the owner of MicPros, an audio/visual production company. He helped me put together the video according to my direction. I took his video & created the soundtrack using the Garageband software.

I'm happy with the way it turned out, and think it represents the sense of fun & quality I strive to infuse into the brand.

Please "Like" & "Share" with others, to help me spread the word about Fantasy Photos services. Thank you!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Domain of the Golden Dragon

Recently I went to visit my aunt, from my Dad's side of the family. She bought out an old album of black & white photos, that my grandfather had put together in the mid-20th century.

Since I'm the archivist of my family, she entrusted them to me to digitize the photographs. I am in the process of scanning them, and it's an amazing feeling to flip through these memories that my grandfather had the foresight to document. He had no idea that one day his grandson would be using a computer to digitally preserve his experiences. It makes me wonder how my life & work might continue to affect people after I pass from this world.

Among the many pages of photos from the 1940's & 50's was this awesome certificate- "The Domain of the Golden Dragon". It was a humorous document from 1944 that was bestowed upon to my grandpop, Joseph A. Micarelli. He was a cook in the Coast Guard and was one of 9 children in an Italian family from Boston. He passed away when I was in first grade, so although I remember him, I didn't get to know him as much as I would've liked.

After looking it up online, I discovered that this Golden Dragon certificate was given to sailors who crossed the International Date Line.

I sent a pic of it to my brothers & sister and told them "Guys, I hate to break it to you, but Pop-pop was in a secret society!"

(click to enlarge)

Because this is such a cool document from my grandfather, & I love anything to do with secret societies or ancient mystery schools... I'm going to transcribe the whole thing!

••••••••••••••••••••

DOMAIN of the GOLDEN DRAGON
Ruler of the180th Meridian

International Date Line
 
To all Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, wherever ye may be and to all mermaids, flying dragons, spirits of the deep, devil chasers, and all other living creatures of th yellow sees, Greetings: Know ye that on this 21 day of SEPTEMBER 1945 in latitude 009º longitude 180º there appeared within the limits of my august dwelling the 

USS LST 20

Hearken Ye: The said vessel, officers and crew have been inspected and passed on by my august body and staff. And know ye: Ye that are chit signers, squaw men, opium smokers, ice men, and all-around landlubbers that Joseph A. Micarelli having been found sane and worthy to be numbered a dweller of the Far East has been gathered in my fold and duly initiated into the

Silent Mysteries of the Far East

Be it further understood: That by virtue of the power vested in me I do hereby command all moneylenders, wine sellers, cabaret owners, COOKS, managers and all my other subjects to show honor and respect to all his wishes whenever he may enter my realm. Disobey this command under penalty of my august displeasure.

Golden Dragon
Ruler of the 180th Meridian
WLE Sinkler

Copyright 1944 by Lloyd Wofford


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Quantum Mandala #3

 

I have an app called Forge of Neon that allows you to make these awesome 3D designs made of light points & trails.

As I was making one of these designs, it reminded me of a combination of patterns of quantum energy & a spiritual mandala. So, I decided to make a series of "Quantum Mandala" designs in both looping animated GIF format & as a video.

On the fundamental level, Reality is an infinite sea of pulsations of patterned energy. This is an attempt to visualize the beauty & intricacy of these ubiquitous energy patterns that form our world.


by Paul Micarelli
 
 
 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Vitas "7th Element"


I saw this video mocking the "Bitcoin bubble" posted in a Reddit comment about cryptocurrency. I thought the actual music video used was crazy & hilarious. In the video comments, someone gave the name of the original song- "7th Element" by Vitas:



Here's another version:


Apparently, the Latvian singer Vitas also has a "normal mode".

As far as digital forms of monetary exchange are concerned, the economy is all numbers and digital signals, anyway. I think Bitcoin & cryptocurrency is an interesting approach to society's economic needs. There's no reason that traditional money or economics has to be the only game in town. As technology progresses, all our currently held systems or institutions will be eliminated or adapted. 

Eventually, society should evolve into a post-currency mode, such as the fictional model used in Star Trek:

The Monkey Buddha Archives:

Thursday, January 04, 2018

White Elephant 2017

Every year on Christmas Eve, my family plays a game called "White Elephant".

Each person brings a mystery present & puts it in a pile. Everyone draws numbers, then takes turns picking & opening a wrapped gift. When you're number is drawn, you can choose to steal a gift from someone else. If someone gets a gift stolen, they pick a new one from the pile.

My family (including me) has a wacky sense of humor and is pretty competitive, so things get crazy fast.

Probably the weirdest gift was this framed piece of "art". It is a nicely matted Happy Birthday plate, with fake butterflies glued onto it. My Dad stole it from someone- but that's only because it also came with a gift card to Cracker Barrel restaurant! Anyway, It was so bizarre that I had to post it:


The gift that I brought was a gag gift, having fun with my Uncle Ron. I used my expert skills to Photoshop his face onto Michelangelo's sculpture of "David," & called it "Ronald". Uncle Ron is a real ball-buster and loves to crack jokes on everyone, so this is my way to give him some good-humored payback.

My nephews were allowed to play with the adults this year. I saw my one nephew go for the box on his turn, & I muttered, "Oh no...." He opened it up & everyone went nuts, laughing at my ridiculous creation.

Anyway, Uncle Ron tried to steal the masterpiece to "keep it out of circulation" as he said. Unfortunately for him, my brother-in-law stole it again, and put it right on his mantle. Luckily, Uncle Ron's got a good sense of humor & realizes he will never out-do me when it comes to prank gifts!



Usually I get lame gifts when I play the game. This year, however, I picked Bailey's Irish Creme chocolate truffles, which I like. I told all the kids they had alcohol (they don't), so no one would steal them from me! It was another fun Christmas Eve with the family playing a fun game that has become an annual tradition.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

"Mood Swings" by Paul Micarelli

I'll be celebrating the New Year in Philadelphia with my brothers & our significant others this weekend, so I won't have a chance to post until 2018.

This has been a crazy year. I have been planning a wedding & busy starting my own businesses, Fantasy Photos and Paul Micarelli Design. However, I still try to keep my pulse on news & current events.

Having the ridiculous human being known as Donald Trump as President of the US has proved to be the embarrassing disaster that anyone with any common sense could have predicted. Only the most insulated conservative true-believers think he has any redeeming qualities whatsoever. I have mostly given up on commenting on politics, especially Trump's painfully obvious con-game on the country, because every damn day there is something that makes reasonable people throw up their hands in disgust or disbelief.

I don't know what this upcoming year will bring, but at this time of transition it is important to remember that the only constant is change, as Heraclitus observed. All things will pass in time, including Trump, America, humanity, planet Earth, the Universe, and ourselves. Every moment is a bardo, or transitional state from the past to the future. The only "real" time is the ever-changing NOW.

The ancient Romans used the two-faced Janus as the symbol of the transition of the new year. In that spirit, I'm posting this creation I made, using two stylized self-portraits:

"Mood Swings"
by Paul Micarelli

In reality, my emotional state is pretty stable, & I don't swing between moods nearly this drastically! My whole adult life, I've practiced meditation techniques and, more recently, different styles of yoga. I've learned to control my emotional reactions, without bottling them up in an unhealthy way. I still have deep emotions, though, and sometimes I can lose my cool like any other person. Everyone has varying states of mind and conflicting sensations:

Emotional & Calm • Good & Bad • Hot & Cold • Light & Dark • Happy & Sad • Loud & Quiet

Reality, according to human perception, seems to consist of these kinds of binary states & dualistic extremes. The truth, however, is that out of the Infinite Unity, all seemingly opposite things arise & dissolve. Duality and multiplicity are illusions of our discerning consciousness and our mind's desire to seek patterns of categorization.

These conceptual models of opposites are helpful as tools in understanding the world, but can blind us to the fundamental "One-ness" of everything.

As we move continually into new states of being, may we keep this truth in mind- and realize that all the phenomena in this world is a dance of energy in an infinite field of possibility.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Shaman's Mask" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract imagery recently. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale. This is one of my favorite pieces of my abstract art.

When I made "Shaman's Mask,"the image looked to me like a psychedelic version of a tribal mask that a shaman or a medicine man would wear. The shaman is one who travels inward, dissolving the ego and merging with the source of all things, to understand & deeply integrate with the nature of reality. Using the knowledge of life and the world on all levels, a holy person can find the best way to guide people who need healing or advice.

Spiritual energy radiates from the white light behind the shaman's mask- the blinding mystery of infinity leaking through the fractal, energetic plane of existence.

by Paul Micarelli

 "Shaman's Mask"
by Paul Micarelli

**Buy Prints & Products With This Design***

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: "Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi"

 
This past weekend, I went to see "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" in 3D.

Having been born around the time of the original Star Wars, my love for this series has been one of the constants in my life. It has inspired my love of science & technology, my sense of spirituality & view of the nature of Reality, and my approach to understanding myself. It is definitely the most influential creative work in my life, so it's hard not to get excited when a new story from this fictional world is told. Most adults who have grown up with the Star Wars universe don't just get a taste of nostalgia, but an actual child-like feeling of awe at the imaginative scope of these movies.

These are modern myths, and they are like guides for the individual and our culture on how to understand and approach the world. "The Last Jedi," although far from perfect, continued the Star Wars mythos in an amazing way. I can (& will) nitpick the things I didn't like, but overall I really enjoyed the movie and am ready to see it again. Many of the familiar tropes were turned upside down, and some of the deepest additions to the lore since "The Empire Strikes Back" were introduced.

My favorite aspects of the Star Wars saga are the mystical elements surrounding The Force. The ideals of spiritual development and transcendence are presented to the mass audience in a way that no other work of art has been able to do.

I had written about some of my thoughts & hopes for the movie when the trailer came out:


I tried to avoid spoilers beforehand, but I still saw some details online that gave away some of the key plot points. Despite knowing a few secrets going in, the movie still gave me some really surprising moments with some "WOW!"-inducing developments.

If you haven't seen the movie, I'd recommend to stop reading now. I'm going to talk about a lot of the details that you may want to be surprised with.


******SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!********

First of all, although I really liked it, there was alot in the movie that wasn't so great... Fortunately, the best scenes in "The Last Jedi" were some of the most awesome parts of the entire saga.


I think the biggest wasted opportunity was the lack of development of Supreme Leader Snoke. There was no contrast between his Dark Side training of Kylo Ren with the Light Side training of Rey by Luke Skywalker. It is one of the biggest complaints I'm seeing online- that all the buildup and show of power by the enigmatic Snoke is left hanging by his unceremonious death. We have no context to where he's from, how he became powerful with the Dark Side, how he corrupted Ben Solo, or almost anything about him. I was hoping there would be a comparative sequence of Kylo & Rey training with their respective masters, but there was no glimpse into the Dark Side whatsoever. Snoke is an evil jerk with a lust for power & control, who has impressive Force abilities... other than that, we got nothing. I'm sure his character will be fleshed out in expanded materials, but they should have given him even a little more background.

However, the fact that Snoke was killed by Kylo Ren, after so cruelly and arrogantly antagonizing him, was one of the really shocking moments. Kylo basically did what his idol & grandfather Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader couldn't do- kill his master and take control of the fascist military regime seeking to rule the galaxy. He succeeded where Vader failed, but I think he'll find that he still has feelings of fear & inadequacy that cannot be cured by gaining more temporal power.

Star Wars is obviously about war & the battles that are fought in the world. There was some excellent commentary about the business behind war, and military contractors who get rich from profiting off death & destruction from both sides. However, I would have instead liked more focus on exploring the mystical elements of the Star Wars galaxy & The Force. We got nothing from the Dark Side, and although there were some great nuggets from Rey's time with Luke, it felt like the Jedi history and ancient knowledge wasn't explored as extensively as I would've hoped.

Part of the reason is the way that Luke Skywalker's character is treated, which appears to be another major point of contention among fans. Instead of the super-powered Jedi Grand Master many were hoping to see, we initially meet Luke as a grumpy hermit who has actually cut himself OFF from The Force! His failure with his nephew Ben, whose dark nature resulted in the complete destruction of Luke's new Jedi academy, was the reason for Luke's exile. Right from the beginning, when he casually tosses aside his father's lightsaber after Rey hands it to him & walks away, you know he was right when he said "This is not going to go the way you think!"


Failure is a theme in this episode, with most of the characters failing in some way or another.  This is emphasized when none other than Yoda appears to Luke, late in the film. I was hoping for a whole council of Force ghosts to appear, including Obi-wan, Qui-gon, & Anakin, but maybe that's for the grand finale in Episode IX. When "young Skywalker," as Yoda calls him, is ready to burn down the ancient Jedi tree & sacred books (which he didn't know Rey had taken with her), Yoda appears as a Force ghost to drop some of his crazy wisdom on the disillusioned Jedi. He states that failure is the greatest teacher, and helps Luke come to terms with his own shortcomings.

Although some fans are outraged at this portrayal of Luke, it makes him more human and reveals that even the greatest heroes in the galaxy can have flaws and insecurities. As for his contemplation of murdering his nephew when he senses the evil within Ben as his student, it is no more unbelievable than any of the other times Luke was tempted by the Dark Side, his own anger, & fear.

I like the idea of Luke going to the first Jedi temple to be a hermit, living an ascetic life of humble daily toil like a simple monk. However, the cynicism and downright disdain for the Jedi way was a bit jarring. I was satisfied with how he taught Rey that the Sith & Jedi were just human conventions, and the living Force that permeates all creation was something that was beyond ideology or any organization. It was a little strange, though, to have Luke teaching these lessons if he didn't even want anything to do with it. However, I really liked the scenes of Luke finally taking on Rey as a student, in the mode of a kung-fu movie. The focus on meditation, breath, and spiritual introspection were exactly what I hoped would be included in her training. He tried to convey the "grey" principles that I was hoping would be discussed in this movie. The idea is to move beyond false dichotomies like "light" & "dark" to find balance- embracing the totality of existence to live a life of spiritual purpose and deep understanding.


To this point, there was a mosaic in the simple stone structure of the first Jedi temple that was visible, but not in detail. It represented the Prime Jedi, the first Force user to form the religious order that would last for millennia. I wanted to see a better image of it, so I found this scan online from The Art of The Last Jedi book. It shows the first Jedi in meditation pose, with the lightsaber creating the division between alternating light & dark in a yin-yang style design. I wish they had shown it & explained it briefly... but like so many other intriguing details, it was left in the background.



Luke's progression through the movie leads to the climax of the story, where he re-connects with The Force after finally forgiving himself for his past failure. Jedi Master Skywalker then exhibits one of the most powerful displays of The Force ever seen. During the final battle on Crait, as the First Order (led by the new Supreme Leader Kylo Ren) is about to destroy what's left of The Resistance, Luke suddenly appears. After facing down the line of walkers and ships on the battlefield, Skywalker emerges unscathed from a barrage of artillery fire ordered by a furious Kylo, who lands his ship to face his uncle & former teacher. After dodging Kylo's attacks (with moves that I thought were cool, but a little too reminiscent of The Matrix movies) something strange happens... Kylo seems to slice him in half, then pokes him right in the chest with his lightsaber in disbelief, as Luke stands there unfazed. Channeling his old friend & Kylo's dad, Han Solo, Luke says "See ya 'round kid," & disappears! Still physically back on his island, Luke had used a remote Force-projection of himself to distract Kylo & allow the Resistance, including his sister Leia, time to escape.

“The supreme art of war 
is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

-Sun Tzu

During the confrontation, the scene cuts to an awe-inspiring view of Luke meditating & levitating on a ledge at the island. He is trembling & obviously exerting an immense effort to project his astral form across the galaxy, so clearly that it fools everyone. After the confrontation when Kylo realizes he's been bamboozled, we cut back to Luke collapsing onto the ground & crawling back to his feet. Facing twin suns like those seen in the first appearance of Luke on his home planet of Tatooine, Luke finally looks serene and in harmony with himself and the world. Then he achieves the ultimate state of being, dissolving his physical form and becoming one with The Force. He has become an ascended master, similar to stories in our world of Tibetan Buddhist monks who are able to transition into "light bodies" and transcend this physical realm.

It was an absolutely epic sequence, and my favorite part of the film. It showed how powerful Luke Skywalker was, and was an awesome send-off for the greatest hero character of the modern age. Those who wished they could have seen Luke tearing up legions of stormtroopers with his green lightsaber and over-powered Force abilities missed the point completely. By playing the enlightened trickster and using his powers to save his friends & not destroy his enemies, Luke had reached a refined spiritual state that was the ultimate expression of Force mastery.


"Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand men, 
is he who would conquer just one- himself." 

-The Buddha

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was the perfect way to end Luke's story. It was a great contrast between the humble Jedi who passed on gracefully, full of purpose, in peace, & on his own terms- vs. Snoke who, for all his grand power, was cut down in a pathetic & meaningless death. The best part is that now Luke will be a Force ghost who can continue to teach Rey, maybe haunt Ben, and be an influence that he could never have been in life!



So yeah, that was my favorite part. Both Rey & Kylo were also amazing in this movie. Rey is an excellent character, embodying the light side in a way that is pure, yet full of emotion and intuition. By making Rey's parent's nobodies, it shows that anyone in this world can be powerful and a catalyst for positive change. You don't need to be a Skywalker or a specific lineage to be of consequence. This is further emphasized at the very end, when a slave boy on the casino planet subtly levitates a broom to his hand, looks to the stars, and holds up the broom like a lightsaber. This is symbolic of the new generation of Force users who will emerge and be taught by Rey.


Because redemption is such a major theme of Star Wars, I have a feeling that maybe Ben Solo will eventually come back from the Dark Side- and either have a romantic connection & a family with Rey, or will join her in teaching the new Force sensitives. Before, I would have thought the "Reylo" love possibility was ridiculous, but this movie shows a connection between them that is difficult to brush off. Their fight together against Snoke's guards after Kylo killed him was intense & awesome. Kylo Ren really grew into a complex character that is completely unpredictable and has a future of limitless possibilities. Whatever happens... as Luke said, he will definitely NOT be the "last Jedi"!

Speaking of ridiculous, I do feel like Leia's "big scene" was a bit out of place, or at least could have done better. We know Leia is also Anakin Skywalker's daughter, so she is obviously strong in The Force. During the First Order attack on her ship, her conflicted son Kylo/Ben can't pull the trigger to destroy her ship's bridge. It doesn't matter because one of his wingmen do it anyway & blow up the bridge, with Leia, Admiral Ackbar, & others in it. Leia's seemingly lifeless body is floating through space, but she wakes up... & flies Superman-style back into the ship! When I was watching it, this really took me out of the movie & made me go "Whaaaat?!?" I guess it is neat to give Leia powers, but I feel like the way the scene was filmed was kind of weird. Otherwise, it is great to see her character, along with the other characters from the original trilogy continuing their stories along the new faces in these sequels.

Like any of the Star Wars movies, there are plenty of details & plot points that I could pick apart to criticize. At least the dialogue didn't reach the cringe levels that the Prequels did, especially between Anakin & Padme. The interactions between Rey & Kylo in this movie were much more compelling and dramatic.

People have been complaining about the whole mission on the casino planet of Canto Bight & the new character Rose- a mechanic for the Resistance, animal lover, & Finn's fangirl. I would've preferred all this & the space battles be cut back to make room for more of the Jedi history and Force training. Unfortunately, every Star Wars movie has these side quests and seemingly tangential aspects.

Overall, I really enjoyed "The Last Jedi", and could keep talking about it, like people around the world are already doing. Because the good scenes were so jaw-droppingly awesome, and it delved back into exploring the mystical & philosophical concepts that I love- this movie is now one of my favorites of the entire saga. It has set up some really wonderful potential for the final Episode 9 of the series.

I look forward to experiencing the culmination of a lifetime of being a Star Wars fan, by watching the conclusion of this epic & timeless story. Like the legend of Luke Skywalker in the movie, the Star Wars story will continue to inspire me and countless generations in the years to come.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Neijing Tu"- Taoist Inner Landscape

I have been doing hatha yoga pretty regularly for awhile now. There are a couple yoga studios near me that my fiancée & I go to once a week, and I practice on my own, as well. It is a great way to stay in shape and have a healthy connection between body & mind.

In addition to regular yoga practice, I have also attended classes on Kundalini yoga. Kundalini refers to the "serpent energy" of the nervous system that rises up the spinal column into the brain. This energy can be harnessed and directed within the body, using a combination of physical and meditative techniques. There is no doubt that the human body has energetic properties, and yoga practices like Kundalini allow us to utilize these energies- like our physical body uses our hands & arms to lift objects.

In my Facebook feed, I saw a comment in which someone posted this image of what they called "Taoist Kundalini":



Since there was no further explanation, but the image intrigued me, I did a reverse image search on Google. The Taoist diagram of the "inner landscape' is called Neijing Tu. It uses nature to represent the various energies and systems in the human body. Meditators & self-explorers were familiar with these subtle aspects of our being, that we are beginning to re-discover. Ancient people described and mapped these abstract concepts to the best of their ability. For the Eastern followers of the Tao, this meant relating the ideas of our inner landscapes to the external nature world.

Here is a PDF with an extremely detailed description of the subject matter in this "Neijing Tu" diagram:


While browsing Google Images, I also came across this interesting graphic "Taoist Inner Alchemy Anatomy Chart: Relationship of Body, Mind, and Spirit". As much as I love science & factual knowledge, that is not the only mode of thinking available to us. Sometimes the allegorical and metaphysical connections made by ancient cultures have as much meaning as our physical observations.

click to enlarge

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mall Knockoff Toys

The other night, my fiancée & went Christmas shopping at the Hamilton Mall in NJ. It's the first time I've been in a mall in... I don't even know how long!

Although the mall wasn't empty, there didn't seem like there was a lot of shoppers for the holiday season. It's evidence of the impact online shopping has had on brick-and-mortar stores, and malls, in particular.

Anyway, I was in one store, called Unique Gifts or something, with all kinds of useless crap to buy. I walked buy the toy racks and was pulled in against my will by the hilarious selection of cheap knockoff toys from China & other east Asian countries.

I have a soft spot for knockoffs & bootleg toys, mostly because of the ridiculous "Engrish" and horrible graphic design. I've had many years of experience designing toys, games, & their packaging- so it's amusing how bad some of the products & graphics on the packages can be.

Here are some of my favorites, I had to get photos of the funniest ones:

This was the first one that caught my eye: 
"Super Dino Force", Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles combined with Jurassic Park dinosaurs.

 
 This one cracked me up- "Street Fighter: Man Wrestle"
Featuring Super MAN!

 
Low-budget Justice League: "Super Justice Force". 
The only weapon they need is the katana blade.
"Ultimate Fighter Hero" complete with Luchador mask, and ladder, chainsaw, & spiked bat accessories for ultra-violent play!

 
 "Universal Hero"
A ninja Capt. America ripoff with Wolverine Claws

  
No, this is not a Transformer, it is a "Universal Super Change Robot"!

 
Finally, an archery set with a knife & Native American stereotype thrown in for good measure.

Friday, December 08, 2017

"4D Gem" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract imagery recently. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale.

"4D Gem" is a rare multi-dimensional jewel, of infinite detail.

by Paul Micarelli

 "4D Gem"
by Paul Micarelli

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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Quantum Mandala #2


I have an app called Forge of Neon that allows you to make these awesome 3D designs made of light points & trails.

As I was making one of these designs, it reminded me of a combination of patterns of quantum energy & a spiritual mandala. So, I decided to make a series of "Quantum Mandala" designs in both looping animated GIF format & as a video.

On the fundamental level, Reality is an infinite sea of pulsations of patterned energy. This is an attempt to visualize the beauty & intricacy of these ubiquitous energy patterns that form our world.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Big Paul's '69 Camaro


Recently, I came across an article on HotRod.com that my Dad had showed me recently.


Big Paul loves cars, and especially classic muscle cars. He was reunited with his old 1969 orange Z28 Camaro, that he sold in the late 1970's, around the time I was born.

I remember seeing it in old photos, and he was finally able to get back behind the wheel after he met the current owner, Steve Shauger. They are now friends, and have visited each other on a few occasions.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Centipede

I saw this multi-legged creature crawling in my bathroom. I think it's a centipede of some kind?

Since I don't like killing animals (no matter how creepy-looking) I caught it & took it outside. I put it in an old tree stump so it could crawl along its merry way, back in nature where it belongs:

Monday, November 27, 2017

IN-SHADOW- A Modern Odyssey


I came across this absolutely mind-blowing short film (13 min.) while scrolling through the many inanities of the Facebook news feed. I reposted it, with just a Keanu Reeves-like "Woah."

Official Website:


It was written, directed & produced by Lubomir Arsov, and it is a work of genius by those involved.

The movie attempts to rip apart the facade of maya, the illusion that envelopes our society & our perceptions. This cosmic web of apparently unique phenomena is actually a singular Unity, an underlying energy at the quantum level. This infinite array of interacting, energetic patterns only seems to be a bunch of different things on the level of human perception.

The virtual light show in our skull creates the appearance of difference. Good, bad, neutral, moral, immoral, positive, negative, horrible, wonderful, indifferent... they are all modes of that fundamental base energy that has no human characteristics (but somehow still gives rise to those characteristics in the human form).

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven 
unless its roots reach down to hell.”
-C.G. Jung

IN-SHADOW explores the darker sides of human nature & culture, before annihilating it all in a psychedelic, spiritual ascension. Systems of control on a personal level, as well as on a social scale, are unmasked. Industries such as pharmaceuticals, factory farming, mass media, fast food, banking, politics (yes, politics is clearly an industry), military, and technology are all shown as interconnected systems with negative aspects that are manifested from the base impulses of greed, fear, hate, and ignorance. Of course, they are not all completely bad, but are among the most commonly corrupted.

The Jung quote above, from the IN-SHADOW movie page, refers to the transformation that signifies all hero journeys- the descent into the "lower" realms of human experience, before merging with the light. This is a theme that occurs in many stories, including my favorite Star Wars. We have to understand the worst aspects of the world to know what we might face and how to overcome it. If we can't overcome it, we need to know how to at least be at peace with ourselves and our collective infinite nature.

If you've already read to this point & haven't watched the movie, take about 10 minutes to check it out. It is an awe-inspiring movie that is worth watching.

As one of the YouTube comments said,

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Infinite Imagination" by Paul Micarelli

I have been processing my large archive of abstract imagery recently. I want to share them online and create prints for exhibits & sale.

"Infinite Imagination" represents the endless, recursive loops of mental energy that create consciousness.

by Paul Micarelli

 "Infinite Imagination"
by Paul Micarelli

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nature of Love

Last night, I was browsing Instagram, and came across a quote that inspired me.

It was a quote by Aristotle on the nature of love:

"Love is composed 
of a single soul 
inhabiting two bodies." 
- Aristotle

I'm engaged to a woman who I consider to be my soul mate & spiritual partner. We have a deep connection that comes from many years of finding ourselves, dating other people, and being friends before entering a relationship with one another.

We refer to our life together as a "Figure 8", where we go out into the world for our individual endeavors, then come back to one another & share our experiences together.

When I saw this quote, I was compelled to create a graphic that illustrates this figure 8, or infinity symbol, as an energetic expression of our connection.


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