Review: Dark Matter

“Dark Matter” (DM) is a new sci-fi show at the SyFy channel, produced in Canada. It tells the story of 7 crew members who wake up on their spaceship without any memories. Soon, they learn that they’re wanted mercenaries, and the story continues from there.

There’s not much to tell about the show really: it’s a run-o-the-mill Canadian production trying to pass as a modern sci-fi: dark cinematography, sterile characters and performances, crew-members who bicker at each other as main plots, no actual ethical lessons through the sci-fi lens as you would expect from good sci-fi etc.

Stylistically, the show resembles Stargate:Universe (SGU), and guess what: both its creators were writers/producers in the Stargate franchise. However, it is obvious that even if they ended up with a bad version of SGU, their original goals were instead to provide an alternative to the Firefly fans. I can literally see in my mind’s eye the SyFy business meeting among execs seriously discussing that a Firefly-wannabe show is needed, since it’s something that it’s been missing in the minds of sci-fi lovers.

So, they set out to do a Firefly-wannabe, trying not too hard to feel too much like Firelfy. The indications are there: the oddball little girl who feels like River but dresses like Kaylee, the crazy gun-lover mercenary, the “priest”, the strong female, the mercenary/wanted thing, the being hungry and not having any money, the handler guy. Even the episodes are the same: the western-like feel, the fact that there are no aliens in their universe, the boarding episode, the woman enemy episode (using an android instead of Saffron this time), the mining colony episode and their illness, the stealing job episode, etc etc. Only thing missing is Inara’s whore part (which is telling, meaning that they never pushed the envelope).

In conclusion, Dark Matter is simply a patchwork alternative for fans of Firefly. It’s not as good as Firefly in any sense, but it might be good enough if you’re hungry for some space-based sci-fi. I will not say that DM is a Firefly copycat. That would mean that it’s as good as Firefly, while it’s not. I’d say instead that it’s a poor cousin.

6/10

Psychedelic vs Meta-Psychedelic

I do a lot of t-shirt design lately, which I enjoy immensely (possibly even more than making the collages that comprise the said t-shirts). On my store, I’ve separated my t-shirts as “pop art“, and “trippy“. The trippy ones are the t-shirt designs and collages that I call meta-psychedelic. They’re under the surreal category for sure, but they go a step further than traditional surrealism and towards psychedelia. But at the same time, they’re not these kaleidoscopic traditional psychedelic designs either. A more proper term would probably be “post-psychedelic”, but if the hippies of the world hear that, they’d be pissed off, so I think “meta-psychedelic” is a more universally acceptable term. So what exactly is it? Here’s the difference: traditional psychedelic looks is what you see after you get some low dosage LSD or shrooms (or some infused pot). Meta-psychedelia is what you could (potentially) be seeing when you breakthrough, with higher doses of shrooms, LSD, or DMT. The former just scratches the surface, while the latter goes deeper into hyperspace.

Psychedelic:

Meta-psychedelic:



Is a veg*n lifestyle suitable for all?

A year ago on Youtube, a Philosophy professor asked if it’s ethical to eat meat. Here’s the video, and below, find my reply.

I’ll answer with some questions:
1. Is it ethical for an alien species to come and eat us? If yes, why is it not moral for us to eat an animal? If no, why do you apply your human morals to an alien species that you know nothing about?

2. Is it ethical for an animal to eat another animal? If yes, why can’t we? If no, who appointed you the evolution’s strategist?

3. Is it ethical for a species to eat its own species? If yes, why can’t we eat humans? If no, who are you to paint Komodo dragons unethical?

The usual answer to these questions is that “if you’re an intelligent species, you’re expected to adhere to higher ideals”. And my answer to the ethical and philosophical question posed by the video, is molded that way too: “if you’re evolved-enough, you could go veg*n”. But here’s where I part from all these vegans out there who are trying to push the vegan lifestyle to all humanity: not all humans are evolved-enough.

Our human condition is a mixed bag, there are trials and tribulations in each and every life. Some people need the vitamins, others don’t need them as much, others are in a spiritual path where they’re supposed to leave behind materialistic needs (such as good food), and others are just starting in this level of existence, living a rather animalistic life, and as such, we can’t ask them to just “go vegan” (it’s like asking a toddler to go work for a living).

In other words, the answer to “should we eat meat”, is “it depends“. Nothing is black and white, everything is grey, and it depends on the INTENT (possibly the most important factor), point of view of the beholder, evolutionary path, life goals, and many other factors.

So the right question should be, “are YOU ready to stop eating meat?”. And that’s a question that only YOU can answer. Deep inside you, you know if you should do it now, or wait a lifetime or two.

Subconscious integration

According to Carl Jung, after midlife, the personality is starting to get integrated with the subconscious. Various dreams allude to that, and Jung says that we need to pay attention to these clues.

So last night, I met a young man (looking something between River Phoenix and Nicholas Hoult), who was supposed to be me. He saw me as a part of himself that had separated from him. In my “projection age”, I was also in my mid-20s (as I usually am in most of my dreams).

In his world, he was seen in a similar way we see schizophrenics: a personality in pieces, seeing apparitions that “aren’t exactly there” (that apparition being me). He was told that when integration takes place, I’d disappear from his view. He didn’t want to lose me as a separate being, but we both also wanted to integrate. One way to do this, in the symbolic nature of the dream world, is to have sex. So we did, and was very intense. I woke up almost immediately, clearly disappearing from his view.

From my point of view, I consider him a “soul mate”. Each person has a number of soulmates according to spiritual teachings. The Higher Self splits itself up into different “souls”. That’s your soul family. You’re all both separate beings, and a single being at the same time. When incarnated, you’re a bit more separated, but towards the end of the life, integration takes part, step by step. So that guy/being, was probably just one of my other parts/soul mates.

Didn’t catch a name tho. 😉

Direct sales for artists

Here are some more tips for my friends artists (collage or other visual artists), on how to run your own art shop to maximize your profit (I use the TicTail free engine for my online shop). A 13″x19″ art print usually sells for $40 to $50, plus $10-$15 for shipping (international First Class is about $15). Selling a mug at Society6 can’t beat that (profit is around $1.50), so definitely make your own shop! If your work is hand-made, definitely have a category on your shop for it too (and sell it appropriately at higher prices than your prints). Also consider a Special Edition print category (limited run, on more expensive paper).

——— What you need:
1. Get a larger format printer (13″x19″). The Epson 7610 is a bargain right now, a printer that also sports a scanner, and has pigmented archival inks (which are must-have for art): $150 (currently on sale). Unfortunately, the cheaper Canon and HP don’t have archival capability on matte paper. Your only choice in that price range is Epson because fine art is supposed to get printed on matte.

2. Get the Epson Ultra premium Presentation MATTE 13″x19″ sheets on Amazon: $35

3. Get the Epson ultra premium Presentation MATTE 8.5″x11″ sheets on Amazon: $9 (for smaller size artworks, or for your mobile portfolio) [optional]

4. Get a set of extra Epson-ONLY inks (the one that comes with the printer, it’s just enough to set them up) — never buy from third parties, their inks aren’t archival: $47

5. A printer cable: $5

6. Some rolls, like the Aviditi P3015W Spiral Wound Fiberboard Mailing Tube 15″x3″: $32

7. Extra-Rigid Fiberboard Photo/Document Mailers, 9″x11.5″ (for the letter-sized artworks — if you do these): $15 [optional]

8. Best Print Shipping Labels (you can do your mailing automatically via Paypal and USPS): $9

9. “Do Not Bend” Labels (if using the optional envelopes to mail): $3 [optional]

10. Scotch tape, to secure the caps on the rolls (required by the post office): $5

11. USPS-compatible scale: $20

——— For promoting your work:
1. On EVERY social media post link your title of the work to its TicTail shop page, your name to your shop/page. If on Instagram, have your shop in your profile, and direct people there.

2. Tweak the colors of your collages on Photoshop or the free Gimp — EVEN if you’re a hand-made collage artist. People are going to see your work while scrolling through hundreds of other images on IG, FB or Tumblr. If you want to make an impression, your colors must pop. Vintage collage is faded by default. Slightly alter your brightness and contrast, add some saturation, and if you use Photoshop, you can use the “AUTO” button on the Curves panel.

3. Use a theme on your shop that it’s easy for people to find information about your art categories or about you. Don’t use flashy themes and miniature buttons, just use a straight-forward navigation. Always include an email address (for commissions too!).

4. Turn ON the printer only once a week, when you prepare the orders. Every time a printer turns ON, it drinks ink. And on these smaller printers, ink is expensive. So don’t turn on the printer all the time.

And one advice that no one likes to hear: if you make “pop” collages, you’ll sell more. Sorry friends, it’s the truth. Just like with music, pop sells better than the more experimental (and of course, more artistic) works. That’s a decision you must make as an artist yourself depending on where you want to go as an individual. It took me a while to get over the fact that my more interesting, experimental works didn’t sell almost at all.

——— How to prepare your orders:
1. Go through your week’s orders on the TicTail’s backend, and start printing. In the meantime, add ONE cap on one side of each roll. Leave the other end open.

2. You will need to adjust the size of you collages to scale properly on these sheets of paper. For example, your original collage might have been 5″x8″, but that size resizes well to 11″x17.6″ leaving some border all around too. On Photoshop, use the SHIFT key when you’re resizing, to keep the right aspect ratio.

3. Go through the orders one by one, sign the prints using a standard pen, and then put them in the roll carefully (I use a broomstick to make them roll without wrinkles). Put them in the roll, and close the cap. Add some scotch tape on both sides of the roll. WRITE THE ORDER NUMBER on the roll. This is how you will know which is which.

4. Go to Paypal and click the shipping link under the name of each of your customers. WEIGH the roll or envelope (always round it to the nearest higher value). There you can select USPS First class for envelopes and rolls for the USA domestic shipping. For rolls, you have to also check the checkbox that it’s a non-standard shape, and then type its size (15x3x3). If your roll is more than 13oz you MUST send as “Priority” mail! Print the label (note: it requires Java to print!) and stick it to the roll in a way that the barcode is on its widest (so the scanner won’t have trouble reading it). These are now paid, so you can just drop them to the post office as-is.

5. For international shipping you can only pay for envelopes via Paypal. For rolls, you must go to the USPS web site, make an account there, fill up the custom forms, print them, sign them, and then pay for them at the counter. You can pay via the USPS site too, but you’d have to use a credit card (while on Paypal, it’s all done via it, easier for your bookkeeping).

RE: The Politics of Star Trek

Lawyer Timothy Sandefur wrote an editorial for the “Claremont Review of Books”. In it, he’s saying that Picard’s non-interference politics were a step backwards from Kirk’s constant seek of justice, and that in the movie “Insurrection”, the race of Ba’ku were backwards people, shunning technology and exploration.

Personally, I find his positions immature. His positions are opinions that I would have agreed to 10 years ago. Back then, I’d fight for justice, and I’d interfere too. And I felt that technology and science were everything! But now, at age 42, I see the world differently.

In my opinion, it’s a mistake to interfere in another species’ actions — sometimes even when asked to, unless your own species (or alliances) get in danger because of these actions. It’s part of the evolution of every individual and species and their society to have wars, or even massacres. There is no society that can grow if everything is all rosy, or are held by the hand. The ugly things must happen for the good things to arise and become part of their nature. So who are we to get in the middle of an alien civil conflict “so we save them”? If you don’t let them duke it out, you don’t save them, you just postpone it. On a case by case basis, interference might be justified if the species tries to eradicate itself via nuclear weapons. Second chances can be given, but if they insist in extinction, then this is their right. Stop trying to “save” them. Your human morals don’t apply to all species. Let the universe play itself out.

As for the Ba’ku being backwards people, the author doesn’t get their philosophy at all. The writers of the movie left clues about their abilities: they were able to manipulate space and time via the mind (remember the bits about “the eternal moment” where time was stopping). They needed no spaceships to “explore”. Their minds were constantly as if in deep meditation. With that ability, they could visit not only other planets in their galaxy, not only the rest of the universe, but also other universes! Something that the Federation’s technology couldn’t do!

So, no, the Ba’ku weren’t backward people. They were miles ahead of the other humanoids on Star Trek.

They say that there are 5 “soul ages”: infant, baby, young, mature, old. People who re-incarnate on Earth can be any of these 5. Most of them are in young/mature categories in the Western world (with the Tea Party/religious fanatics belonging in the “baby” category). The way the author sees the world puts him right between “young” and “mature”. Similar ideas as those expressed on Reddit by moralist atheists.

Problem for them is, there’s a 5th stage, the “old soul”. And the old soul sees things differently, and I do too.

So, in the example the author gives, about the looming Klingon civil war, the various soul ages would react as such:

Infant: “Bwahahaha, nuke yourselves already! One less competition/enemy!” (Ferengi/Klingons)

Baby: “I’ll let you fight it out, and then conquer you while weakened.” (Romulans/Cardashians)

Young: “If I help you, you should help me too in what I need!” (Andorians)

Mature: “No, stop what you’re doing! You’re killing yourselves!” (Kirk / Early Federation)

Old: “You’re free to do what you want to do.” (Picard / Late Federation / Most Vulcans)

Aliens? On Earth?

Up to a few years ago, no one in the scientific world would even suggest that aliens exist somewhere out there. It would have been a career suicide. Today, it’s generally accepted that, mathematically-speaking, the probability of intelligent life out there is extremely high.

So where these aliens are then?

I’d like to believe they’re here. Simply because the opposite is too scary of a thought. If they’re not here, it’d mean that WE would NEVER be able to leave our solar system either. This means eventual death, since our species only thrives via expansion.

If on the other hand, there is a way to trick the natural laws and travel in vast distances (e.g. via wormholes), then that would mean that aliens ARE already here. Or have been here.

And honestly, I believe that the second hypothesis is true. The first one somehow makes no sense to me. Having no way to connect with others elsewhere, it would mean that this universe has a… bug in its design. That’s how I see it.

So, if these aliens are or were here, where the heck are they? Why are they hiding from us?

I think Star Trek has given a great explanation about this. According to the show’s Prime Directive, it’s best for each civilization to only be contacted once they have achieved “warp speed”. A similar Prime Directive possibly exists in this galaxy too, but I think that their rules aren’t about warp speed: it’s about proving that the civilization is not self-destructing. A self-destructing civilization means it’d be violent against other civilizations.

It seems logical to me that every single society that achieves technology, goes through what we’re now going through: massive man-made climate changes, exhausting and destroying the environment, life quality degeneration etc. We’re currently on the fast track to extinction, and THIS century is the MOST CRITICAL century in the history of the human kind. It’s a make or break century.

If we use common sense, we change our ways and we survive, then these alien civilizations will reveal themselves. If we do get self-destruct, then there was no point for them to make an effort to reveal themselves anyway. It’s not their job to save us, it’s ours. Their only job is to safeguard themselves and their allies. So it’s up to us to become galactic citizens, or return back to the caves.

Regarding obesity

Let’s address something here: obesity. I wanted to write about it for a while now, but this post on Reddit today convinced me to do so.

Please understand that this is NOT a hate post, because I’m obese myself. They’re my honest thoughts on the subject.

So, in the last few years, there have been a lot of social shift for obese people with messages leaning towards “be happy with who you are”, and “you are beautiful the way you are” etc.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but you are not beautiful the way you are, if you’re obese. You just have pounds and kilos of fat that’s killing you little by little (and I do too). You’re in danger. Not in a rainbow paradise.

There is nothing logical about glorifying obesity just so we can feel good about ourselves, and to fit in, and we feel accepted and all the rest that go with it. It’s in fact the pathetic way of going about it.

The reality is that we’re unhealthy, and we need change. I need that change too, but at least I’m not lying to myself that “I’m beautiful”. I refuse to accept *disease* as a normal way of life.

Collages: Paper or Digital?

Let’s address something: paper or digital collages? Here are my thoughts about it:

1. Paper collages are more beautiful in person than prints. The real scissor cuts add to the surrealness.

2. The crafting part of paper collages is more pleasurable, as is everything that is being realized with our own hands. You do get some street cred for it too. Digital collages on the other hand are much faster to work with.

3. Prints on the other hand, look exactly the same, no matter if they’re digital or on paper (they only look different if you use soft cuts or if you boost the colors on digital collages).

4. Paper collages usually go for anywhere between $100 to $500 on gallery shows. Digital collages go for $20 to $100. Digital special edition prints though can also go for $500, as long as they’re resized up! At the end, it depends on the quantity sold.

5. Galleries rarely want to work with digital artists. This means that if you are a digital artist, you must do all the marketing and promotion yourself. It does take time.

6. Paper pop collages are usually up to 12″ size (usually smaller, and customers often complain about that). Digital collages can be resized and printed up to 36″ without much loss of quality. My most usual digital size is 18″ though.

7. Commissions for big publications or big clients is asked to be done digitally because they’re very demanding and they ask about changes all the time. Most of these changes can only be realized digitally (eg enlargement or flipping of a single element). About 1/3rd of my income comes from commissions.

8. Digital collages allow modifying elements when exporting for products (eg iPhone cases, pillows, t-shirts etc). Because these exports have specific sizes (e.g. too tall, too wide etc) visual changes must be made to accommodate a collage to that product’s ratios. This can’t be done with an already glued paper collage properly. Also, you can airbrush out ad text and logos.

9. Digital collaborations are easier. Nothing to mail out or wait weeks for it.

10. Digital workflows liberate the artist. You don’t have to deal anymore with limitations of sizes and decisions made in the 1950s by some editorial guy who put together a magazine back then. The decision on the size, direction, flip, colors etc are now yours. I understand that some people like the limitations. I witnessed a similar thing with Linux: people would install and use it exactly because they wanted to beat its limits as a desktop operating system. I personally am over that phase in my life. I don’t have the need to beat anything anymore, or fight with it. I just create as uninhibitedly as possible.

The Fall of the Bronze Age and Us

I was watching the Director’s Cut of “Troy” last night, so I soon got interested in reading about the Late Bronze Age.

Right about 1100 BC, all hell broke loose in the Mediterranean: there was massive depopulation & famine, ALL cities were destroyed and burned (not one was left unscathed, and some were burned up to 7 times!), and civilization almost disappeared (we have only small villages with very simple geometric art, while people forgot how to write). So basically, we’re talking about Greece, Asia Minor and Hittites, Israel area and Egypt, all but destroyed. That era is called the “Greek Dark Ages” or “First Dark Ages”, and archaeologists consider these 300 years as much more “dark” than the Dark Ages that followed the fall of the Roman Empire 1500 years later.

Historians give a number of reasons why this happened: raids from the north and from the “sea peoples” (people of different origins got together to pirate), drought and other natural disasters.

Honestly, I think historians got the causes wrong here. Yes, these things happened, but they were not the root of the problem. I believe what happened is rather obvious after a bit of digging among geologists’ information instead: the mines in the Mediterranean ran out of tin!

Tin is a rather rare metal, and without it, they couldn’t forge bronze. Without being able to create bronze, in the Bronze Age, well, you have no Bronze Age anymore. You see, the whole high civilization starting in 3000 BC in the greater area was basing itself on bronze. When that went bust, their trades and economy collapsed. When economy collapsed, massive famine arrived. The ones who survived were trying to kill everybody else to get their hands to a little bit of tin that some might had left.

I base this opinion on the following:

1. There is absolutely no reason to completely burn all cities and kill so many people when you’re simply trying to conquer them. You only burn the cities if you don’t care about the cities, and you only care about what these people had control over that was of little availability: tin.

2. People from completely different nations coming together to pirate (“sea peoples”), only happens when the economy has collapsed. Humans of different origins don’t band together and choose violence, unless there’s no other way. Humanity 101.

And the most damning argument:

3. Iron was known as a metal that could be used by 3200 BC already (pretty much the same time that Bronze was becoming popular). But because it required a special furnace and smelting technique, iron was used very little by blacksmiths. The Bronze Age happened before the Iron Age simply because Bronze was simpler to deal with, not because they didn’t know what iron was.

So, there was no reason for people to switch to iron (especially because we would have to wait many more centuries afterwards to invent steel). And yet, we see a gradual turn from bronze to iron during the Late Bronze Age, despite the practical problems iron had. This to me makes it clear that the people simply ran out of tin, and they were FORCED to *slowly* turn to iron. In the meantime, until they got iron right, the Dark Ages were upon them!

Now, there’s a reason why I’m writing such a post here today.

Think about it for a moment: we have major civilizations that they based their successes on a single metal. When that metal went bust, so did their civilizations. The few who survived, resorted into extreme violence.

Always use History to decode the present and to get a good glimpse of the future.

So, does the above situation remind you of anything? Could this what will happen to us in as few as 50-75 years from now, when our fossil fuels go bust?

We’re in a similar boat, you know: our fossil fuels are going away rapidly, and our solar panel technology is not nearly as effective (the best ones only have 25% efficiency compared to fossil fuels, just like iron was difficult to forge compared to bronze).

Unless Lockheed Martin comes through big time with their announced fusion reactor, we should expect nothing but a similar result: the collapse of our economy, wars over the little bit of oil (and water) that’s left, and a rather Mad Max-like world.

So, I hope I’m gone by that time, and not be re-incarnated for quite a while. 😛