Thursday, April 18, 2013

Busy...

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to post. As all efforts are being focused on a rather large document/presentation that will likely set the tone for the next major career movement.

But all is well, Project Sunlight, the eco game app I've been helping to produce, has been unveiled at UCSC and we are busy getting a "proof of concept" prototype up and running for all to see.

Your Turn Football is in the can, and the Pick6 dev team is actively looking for major partner to support this amazing cross-platform game app.

The Sana Cruz Museum of Discovery continues to explore new installation ideas. Here are a few of mine:



Most importantly though, for the third year in a row, my April Fools joke had sufficient and satisfying social network traction. Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) would bet easy money that I will never, ever put ink to my body. No offense to my tattooed friends (of which there are many) but c'mon, me? And yet this:

Fooled enough folks to keep me motivated for next April 1. Oh how I love a bit of fun, so needed right now to balance out an extraordinarily busy time.



Friday, March 22, 2013

Balinese Gamelan, the "Interlock Flow" and resolving the dualistic mind: Pt 3


In Balinese gamelan, the Gongs occupy an elevated place of reverence within the orchestra. They are, collectively, the "spiritual heart" of the group, and warrant special treatment in the form of specific offerings and prayers. Gongs are the foundation pulse of gamelan composition, an over-arching frequency that acts as both a container and guide so that the rest of the players find and hold their orientation through the performance. In keeping with classic Balinese dualism, the Gong cycles represent death and rebirth, with the experience of Life created by beautiful music in-between.

While appearing deceptively slow and simple as compared to the fast and furious interlocking notation of the Gangsa, the Gong player's role in the gamelan is considered the most important. They are the keepers of structure, and typically have mastered all the other instruments in the group, so that they may know every note and every sound intimately. In this way, the Gong player holds the full integrity of the music within the cyclic pulses that manifest as the life's blood of Balinese culture.

The Gong holds space for the magic to exist, in the same way that the push-pull pulse of quantum physics creates perceivable reality. I blogged about "quantum possibility waves" in Pt. 2, and how on the smallest measurable level, the Interlock Flow appears to be the dominant mechanic driving everything we know, as a resolved, perfectly harmonized balance created between infinite dualistic forces.

But what about the largest measurable level? I find it absolutely fascinating that all life on Earth is contained within an atmospheric container created by two opposing forces, the highly conductive surface of the Earth (Yin) and the opposing, pressurized perimeter of the ionosphere (Yang). Electrical activity on the planet excites these two forces, and because they are restricted within this tight container, the effect can actually be measured. The natural frequency of the planet then, also known as the "Schumann Resonance" is 7.83 Hz.

But what is even more compelling, is how this pulse manifests on a personal level. Between the dualistic cycle of Awake and Asleep, the brain creates a unique wave frequency. These waves, commonly known as Alpha waves, are generated during the short time immediately before the conscious nervous system switches over to the subconscious. This is the universal human experience of deep relaxation, and if maintained while awake, can be the gateway to deeper and perhaps more meaningful levels of consciousness. This optimized natural pulse, a measurable waveform of 7.83 Hz (!), was called "OM" by the ancient Indian Rishis and is the foundation frequency of both personal Peace, and the container of all Life as we know it. As above, so below. 

In order to be qualified Gong players in this giant musical score we are creating, we need to understand much more than we currently do. While the natural frequency of 7.83 Hz would have been the anchor pulse to guide our collective orientation just a few decades ago, there has been a massive, unprecedented onslaught of man-made frequencies from cell technology, military technology, and so on. These "unnatural" frequencies are now so dense, if they were visible to the eye, we would likely not be able to see ten feet in front of us, anywhere where there are large populations of people. No wonder then, why getting back to nature feels so good.

On a final note, I am working on new ways to connect with my own personal peace and resolve the dualistic mind, using some of this information to construct a more effective visualization. Simple procedure: While playing a pure 7.83 Hz tone through headphones, I imagine the dualities that push and pull my heart (the human electromagnetic epicenter) and slowly close the gap between them until they reach a single, balanced point. Sometimes that point is just a radiating pulse, sometimes it is a person or symbol. But the idea is always the same, in my heart, I call this place "Peace".




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Wizard of Words


I admit, I've never been all that keen on the discipline of Astrology. While I love and am completely fascinated with the intersection of science and esoterica, Astrology has always seemed to me a vague, commercialized and cartoony form of sacred study. And call me a control freak, but the thought of lending even the small choices in life to some random person's creative interpretations of my position in the cosmos seems, um, kind of ridiculous. I tend to avoid horoscopes altogether, preferring the less externally guided path of listening to my own personal navigator, come what may. To each his own, of course. I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with being interested, I've just never felt the attraction myself.

It's a bit ironic then, that my favorite author of the moment is indeed a world-famous Astrologer.  Rob Brezsny's latest effort Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia is totally rocking my world, even though I am neither paranoid nor interested in his first profession. His book, however, is genius. Rob is the grand-poobah of word wizardry, and uses this skill to effortlessly frolic in the deepest waters of the soul. I'm copy/pasting, in his own words, the description of this awesome book:

"DEFINITION: Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It's the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It's a mode of training your senses and intellect so you're able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

OBJECTIVE OF PRONOIA: To explore the secrets of becoming a wildly disciplined, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, scrupulously curious, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lyrically logical, lustfully compassionate Master of Rowdy Bliss.

HYPOTHESES: Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is your birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.

PROCEDURE: Act as if the universe is a prodigious miracle created for your amusement and illumination. Assume that secret helpers are working behind the scenes to assist you in turning into the gorgeous masterpiece you were born to be. Join the conspiracy to shower all of creation with blessings.

GUIDING QUESTION: "The secret of life," said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, "is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do." What is that task for you?

UNDIGNIFIED MEDITATIONS TO KEEP YOU HONEST: Brag about what you can't do and don't have. Confess profound secrets to people who aren't particularly interested. Pray for the success of your enemies while you're making love. Change your name every day for a thousand days.

MYTHIC ROLE MODELS: Prometheus and Pronoia. In Greek mythology, Pronoia was the consort of Prometheus, the divine rebel who pilfered a glowing coal from his fellow gods so that he could slip the gift of fire to humans.

TOP-SECRET ALLIES: Sacred janitors, benevolent pranksters, apathy debunkers, lyrical logicians, ethical outlaws, aspiring masters of curiosity, homeless millionaires, humble megalomaniacs, hedonistic midwives, lunatic saints, sly optimists, mystical scientists, dissident bodhisattvas, macho feminists, and socialist libertarians who possess inside information about the big bang.

DAILY PRACTICE: Push hard to get better, become smarter, grow your devotion to the truth, fuel your commitment to beauty, refine your emotional intelligence, hone your dreams, negotiate with your shadow, cure your ignorance, shed your pettiness, heighten your drive to look for the best in people, and soften your heart -- even as you always accept yourself for exactly who you are with all of your so-called imperfections.

POSSIBLE REWARDS: You will be able to claim the rewards promised you at the beginning of time -- not just any old beauty, wisdom, goodness, love, freedom, and justice, but rather: exhilarating beauty that incites you to be true to yourself; crazy wisdom that immunizes you against the temptation to believe your ideals are ultimate truths; outrageous goodness that inspires you to experiment with irrepressible empathy; generous freedom that keeps you alert for opportunities to share your wealth; insurrectionary love that endlessly transforms you; and a lust for justice that's leavened with a knack for comedy, keeping you honest as you work humbly to liberate everyone in the world from ignorance and suffering.

USAGE NOTE: We employ the adjectival form "paranoiac" rather than "pronoid." That way, it rhymes with "aphrodisiac" and resonates with "paradisiacal" instead of being conditioned by "paranoid."

DISCLAIMER: Material in this book may be too intense and controversial for some readers. It contains graphic scenes of peace, love, joy, passion, reverence, splendor, and understanding. You will not find any references to harsh, buzzing fluorescent lights in a cheap hotel room where a heroin dealer plots to get revenge against the authorities at his old high school by releasing sarin gas into the teachers' lounge. There are no reports of Nazi skinheads obsessed with re-creating the 14th-century Tartars' war strategy of catapulting plague-ridden corpses into an enemy's citadel.

Completely absent from these pages are any stories about a psychotic CEO of a Fortune 500 company who has intentionally disfigured his face to help him elude the CIA, which wants to arrest him for the treasonous sale of his company's nanotech weapons technology to the Chinese. You should therefore proceed with caution if you are a jaded hipster who is suspicious of feeling healthy and happy. Ask yourself: "Am I ready to stop equating cynicism with insight? Do I dare take the risk that exposing myself to uplifting entertainment might dull my intelligence?" If you doubt your ability to handle relaxing breakthroughs, you should stop reading now."


So if that doesn't grab your interest, I don't know what will. On a final note, Rob wrote a few great lines on Love recently, which I think apply quite nicely to the themes of this humble blog.  For me, this is the spirit and the message that sings to the heart of the artist, and, quite ironically, a loving guide of how to engage the creative flow:

"I love your pilgrim soul and I love your ever-deepening eyes.

I love how unflinchingly you peer into the heart of your own darkness.

I love how you're making yourself more and more receptive to truths in their wild states.

I love how you can lose yourself in passion but never shirk your commitment to the good and the true.

I admire the way you never bear a grudge against the mountains that are in your way, but rather just set to work getting around them.

I love your commitment to deciphering the code you left for yourself before you came into this life."

And to this I say: The heart of creativity is a prayer to oneself. Amen.






Friday, March 15, 2013

Evolutionary Character


Design is the largest part of my day to day work life, and has been for a long time. It's not much of a stretch to say I was born prewired for the job, always embracing the creative process as a natural extension of the things in life I enjoy. I feel pretty darn lucky to have translated these creative urges into viable methods of making a living over the years. Thank goodness. I'd make a crappy accountant.

One would assume, given the exhaustive list of designerly output generated over decades of personal and professional effort, that I'd have design flow down to a predictable science by now. Don't I wish…that's just not how good design works. Regardless of experience, design of merit always is and always will be revision perfected, starting out as one thing, but ultimately ending up a product of both the intention, and the unscripted experience of the creative process itself.

People can be described the same way. Whether we like it or not, we are mutable works in process, constantly processing feedback, reinventing ourselves a little bit (or a lot) at a time. Fighting the inevitable call to upgrade old formulas seems to make one rigid, or worse, a fanatical narcissist stuck in a lonely bubble that grows continually smaller. I see it all the time, from priests to punkers, no one is immune to the natural tendency to let what is comfortably predictable become stiffness of character.

Embracing the "Evolutionary Character" however, is a license to be flexible. With it, you are allowed to grow smarter, stronger and happier. As a creative type, I like to conceptualize the Evolutionary Character as the conscious, intentional revising of oneself, perfecting the design we call Life.

Most of us who wish stay flexible quietly battle the creeping stiffness that could, without being kept in check, eventually be used describe us as being "set in our ways". But these days, more than ever before, there are public lives that demonstrate the power of a conscious, re-visionary life. I love to indulge in the stories of Evolutionary Character success. They inspire me, and provide tremendous feedback as to what possibilities exist within my own personal composition.

One such Evolutionary Character story is that of my favorite singer/songwriter Rob Dickinson. Rob fronted the criminally underrated rock band The Catherine Wheel for ten years before they called it quits in 2000, leaving behind a treasure trove of gorgeous, guitar-effect textured alternative classics such as Black Metallic, Crank and Mouthful of Air. During that decade, I can not think of a more influential musical presence in my personal life, and I continue to revisit every album from time to time as a reminder of where I come from and what I am made of. Through the years Rob collaborated with many other artists, and eventually released his only solo album in 2005 to excellent reviews. I loved the album and even made a video to one of his songs to commemorate the first year of my son's life. But soon thereafter, Rob disappeared.

A few years ago, Rob became visible again. But this time, he was not a musician. It makes some sense that so many Catherine Wheel songs could be interpreted as love songs to cars, because Rob Dickinson is a now world famous Porsche designer! Singer, a company Rob founded in 2009, re-envisions the classic 911 as a modern supercar, a hand built masterpiece that is arguably one of the finest sports vehicles ever made, period. He produces 6-10 cars a year, and demand is very high. No wonder why I loved his music so much, having grown up surrounded by hot rods and exotics all my young life, something in his music runs deep in my blood.

With a 250k price tag, the Porsche Singer is the first Rob Dickinson design I can not afford to purchase. But I'm working on that. Like him, I'm upgrading and evolving, working toward the best version of my own Evolutionary Character. I trust the flow, and am resolved to be patient as necessary revisions weed out the stiffness, making room to reach ever-forward. There's also rumor that Rob has been engaging in parallel paths, and will be releasing new music sometime soon. Considering his current success, perhaps connecting with the past under new and less rigid terms will yield amazing results, maybe with refinements on board that would have otherwise been impossible. A Singer, this man absolutely is.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Quotes on Creativity




Scientist, artist, poet and writer, sharing a common understanding of the creative process.


 “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking”
― Albert Einstein

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
― Albert Einstein

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
― Albert Einstein

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”
― Albert Einstein

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”
― Carl Sagan

"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

“You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
― Mark Twain

“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
― Rumi

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun”
― Pablo Picasso

“The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.”
― Leonardo da Vinci


PS: Einstein gets more quotes because today is his birthday :)



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Science Fair Kids Are Alright.

 “Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.” —Carl Sagan

The above picture is a science fair project created by a sixth grader. Seriously. Needless to say I was riveted, and not just because of how impressive it is that such an idea was being presented by a little girl who looks like she might still require the use of booster seat, but because the experiment itself was relevant and fascinating. For the sake of my own curiosity I really, really wanted to know the outcome.

Here's a tip: If you are fruit fly, avoid genetically modified papaya at all costs. Humans might want to exercise some caution as well, until more people like this Jr. Scientist start calling the shots.

This past weekend, it was my privilege and pleasure to be roped in by my SCMOD friend Miguel Aznar to act as a judge for the annual Santa Cruz County Science Fair. Being that I'm all about educational games and design, in one fell swoop I got a decent fix of three awesome things that I absolutely love: Working with kids, science and blue-sky creativity. I walked in curious and motivated, and walked out totally inspired, hopeful that the next generation has what it takes to move the world beyond the troubling mess we are currently creating. Harmless biodegradable plastic alternatives? Check. Detailed studies on health effects of GMO vs organic foods? Check. College graduate level ecology science that made me and my astute fellow judges (mostly scientists themselves) stop and think, over and over again? Check, check and check.

The science was indeed great, and the top prizes well deserved. But who are we kidding, a continuum of ability exists in any group of people. And not everyone at Science Fair is going to demonstrate breakthrough work before they can even legally drive a car. But, everyone did get creative. As I saw it, the ubiquitous creative element in these projects was just as impressive as the science. And perhaps it was even more important, as every one of these kids I talked to took great pride in explaining the details of their creations. In a way, the interview process felt like I was asking an artist to explain a piece of work, and even the "least" scientifically impressive of the bunch had a lot to say, with a credible amount of depth and understanding.

The experience got me thinking about the relationship between science (or any subject really) and creativity, and at what point does western thinking demand that the two be separated? What I was seeing in the roughly 350 individual presentations was a powerful blend of the two. Kids were encouraged to use their imagination to create a meaningful hypothesis, gather data and to be creative in how they present their efforts. They were asked to engage in Shoshin, the "beginner's mind", and to think about science not so much as a process of crunching numbers, but as a channel to express themselves by asking and answering their own questions that they are eager to know about in the world. No such thing as a crazy idea if the curiosity is strong. Does it actually help kids to embrace scientific learning using their own creativity? I certainly remember my 6th grade science project (how crystals grow) and I'm going to hazard to guess that these children won't soon forget what they have created either. That's just the thing, they created these projects as an extension of their own belief systems, which changes everything by making it more meaningful.

So why can't the creative spirit, which works so well and is so magnificently supported in the Science Fair universe, be the focus throughout the process of learning? Why do we force kids to memorize and regurgitate a whole bunch of meaningless data-bits when instead they could be creating personal masterpieces that draw from every educational angle? I guess today I'm asking more questions than usual because in the context of a what could be seen as a national education emergency, the kids are, as always, ready to embrace the new and evolve. The burden of letting go of that which does not serve them is ours, not theirs.

I look forward to making this an annual event. And I can't wait until my four year old is ready to get creative with his own science fair masterpiece.



Monday, March 11, 2013

Marina and Ulay

Please bear with me. It's one of those mornings where I sat down to write with certain intentions in mind, but got sideswiped by something that moved me in a completely different direction. Consider this: In the exploration of creative flow, perhaps one of the easiest and most natural ways to produce is to act with immediacy when inspired, harnessing that which is stoking the creative fire to transform experience into manifested expression. I appreciate the method as a means to an end, and as an exercise in both being present and connected to the workings of the world. However, acts of true creative genius, the ones that thrust our hearts beyond complacent comfort zones towards the raw, emotional spring that wells up, breaks through and truly moves us to feel a deeper human connection….these are different.  True genius lays us bare, and forces eyes wide open to witness the unfolding of our own hearts, and in that space, the reflection demands of the one standing in the mirror, "what is real?".

In this case, the moment the answer is revealed became a entire lifetime lived right before my eyes, as if the artist's heart had been my own.

Marina Abramovic and Ulay were both lovers and performance artists that started out in the early seventies. They continued on their path together until 1988, where they designed a final piece to mark the end of both their professional and romantic relationship. In that performance, each walked toward each other from opposite sides of the Great Wall of China, where they met in the middle for one last embrace, before permanently going their separate ways. Certainly one of the most remarkable and artistic break-ups I've ever heard of, but their story has one more recently added chapter that moved me beyond words.

In 2010, 22 years after their final moment together, Marina performed "The Artist is Present", where she invited strangers in to hold her gaze for one minute. Ulay traveled to her opening night show without her knowing, and this is what happened:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Robot Love


It finally happened. After 17 years of threatening to physically drag my butt out to the barren middle of nowhere, my long time friend and fellow creative spirt Nick Myerhoff finally convinced me to take the plunge and participate in the 2012 Burning Man Festival. And what wild ride it was, surpassing expectations in every way possible. For creatives who have been there before, this festival represents much more than a week of outlandish, dusty fun. This is the western world's Mecca of artistic superheroes; the best and brightest DIY minds in full, glorious bloom. For the uninitiated, all I can say is, there absolutely nothing I could possibly write in one page or a thousand that would do a modicum of justice to the experience itself. And I am a perfect example of why that is true.

For almost two decades now, I've had easy access to the most epic post/pre Burning Man gatherings, hung out with it's core creators, seen zillions of photos, videos and documentaries, and even used to date an amazing woman who ran the Burning Man Film Festival. I'm very lucky to live in an area where there are more "Burners" per capita than anywhere else in the world. Given my creative nature, I've always just fit right in. Any yet, somehow I'd convinced myself that all of this awesome peripheral exposure was enough to fill my thirsty creative cup…so, I didn't really need to actually go, right? Boy was I ever wrong about that one. My first night out on the Playa, witnessing first hand what cannot justly be described in words, basically, my head exploded. What my eyes were seeing and what my brain could actually process were leagues apart, requiring a complete re-synchronization of my creative DNA from top to bottom. I had been altered, modified, upgraded even. And that was just night one….

I could speak endlessly about the breathtaking and remarkably personal experiences waiting to happen in this impossibly perfect temporary city of 55k spiritulized revelers. There are favorite works of art, favorite people, even a favorite temporary building filled with heart-wrenching letters of love and suffering, waiting to be ignited and offered to the endless desert night sky. So many beautiful stories of what a community can do if it sets its mind to create something truly amazing. And for so many of the wild at heart, this place is as much Home as it is the refueling station to spread the spirit of Burning Man beyond its dusty borders.

But I was out there for a specific reason, at least on the surface. And that reason was to represent and support a project born of dreams co-created with my pal Nick, years before. Nick applied for and won a 5k grant to build a giant recycled-object robot sculpture for the largest daytime party camp at Burning Man: Distrikt. Here's is how blue-sky dreaming and artistic collaboration with a creative friend made it to the front page of newspapers and websites around the globe:

From the Dragun Robot blog:

"Nick Myerhoff and Mike Parisi have been misfit artist comrades since 1995 when they worked together on the original Armymen video game at the 3DO Company. Together they spent countless hours envisioning giant robot games, toys and sculptures.….The Giant Distrikt Dragun robot concept stems from Nick and Mike’s 3 year old vision of building giant robots out of auto parts as large scale decorative sculptures. Of course scrap metal giant human forms are nothing new, but ours will maintain some relevance and authenticity based on classic 1970’s Japanese robots. The Distrikt robot will be 20’ tall constructed of recycled sheet metal and scrap auto parts…."

It ended up that Dragun (aka, Recyclatron) was more like 24 feet tall, and required a crew of five awesome humans to engineer and build. Many a weekend was sacrificed and much trial and error went down before the final form found it's way Home, as the 2012 mascot for Distrikt's insanely over the top daytime revelry. And for one crazy week, our giant robot watched over the tens of thousands who came to our camp to dance the days into night, the nights to morning, and mornings into hugs and tears and silty sweat. It was a ecstatic and exhausting journey, and watching it all come together for that brief period of time made me think of that 5 year old robot-obsessed kid, who fell in love for the first time and never, ever gave up. And that is the only "final destination" that matters.

PS: This super cool Distrikt clip below has almost 4 million! hits, not exactly SFW, but if you watch closely you will see the Recyclatron.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Undone, and Done.

Happy Birthday, Michelangelo Buonarroti born March 6th, 1475. Western civilization owes you more than just a debt of gratitude for works of art so great they continue to define the standards by which we see and understand beauty. Yes, the debt runs even deeper, as even up to this day, your works, in all their limitless power, continue to draw us into the mysteries of man's inherent desire to understand God and Heaven. You never stopped pushing yourself to create in the spirit of Divine Flow, all the way to the final effort of your justly celebrated life.

This is Michelangelo's last statue, the unfinished Rondanini Pietà, which he started sometime in his eighties. The depiction of Jesus and Mary at first glance appears to be a Mother supporting her Son, as his bodily form slips away. But seen from another angle, it appears that it is the Son who is supporting the Mother, with her full weight pressed on his back as he gives his strength so that she may stand tall. And still, some say that the two are essentially fused, all barriers dissolved between Mother and Son, perhaps as an expression of Michelangelo's own personal loss (his mother died when he was 6).

Whatever the case may be, the piece stands as unique among his works. It is as much a confrontation with his own mortality and human frailty, as it is a testament to his undying belief in his purpose to merge his hands with God's intent.  It is a rough, haunting final story of a spirit in unrelenting creative flow, even as his body, nearly 90 at that point, wished to pen its final page.

Art critics routinely pass over this work, dismissing it as "pitiful" and a product of mental weakness and loss of power. I don't see it like that at all, but rather, an acceptance of never being able to fully understand that which he loved so much. Fitting then, that he left it unfinished.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Balinese Gamelan, the "Interlock Flow" and resolving the dualistic mind: Pt 2


"There is good and bad, and the river that divides the two, running deep through the core of everything and everyone. The mirrors we encounter in our lives, those who stir our hearts, will reflect all of this back, in all the beauty and devastation we carry as a burden of being human. The Lesson being, not to get tripped up on judging what we See, but to honor the mirror itself, and its infinite capacity for wondrous reflection. "

With regular frequency, an odd but wonderful thing happens when practicing gamelan in the Anak Swarasanti studio. Though all parties present do not utter a word, from seemingly out of nowhere one can hear, quite clearly, the distinct sound of a human voice accompanying the music. Basically somebody is singing along that isn't actually there. It sounds a bit like a musical chant actually, and alternates between male and female in tone. Appropriately, these non-corporal verbalizations seem to come from a talented Balinese singer, as if their part was written specifically for the composition being played. I've noticed this dozens of times now, and have come to enjoy the company of this ethereal, if just ever-so slightly creepy phenomenon. Now, one could make the assumption that perhaps I am just a little off, or maybe something is wrong with my hearing. Or, perhaps I just need to trim down on the meds. Well, I can't really defend myself from being a bit off, but I certainly do not take any medications, and my ears are just fine (despite the Metal years, dude). So what then, could possibly explain the perfectly audible and hauntingly beautiful vocal stylings of a person who does not exist?

The answer is found in part one of this story, but to sum it up, this is just how Balinese music is intended to work. There's not really a human voice present at all, but the audible artifacts of interactions between paired instruments with slightly different tunings, played in interlocking sections. If it still sounds like magic, I am convinced that it actually is to some extent, regardless of "rational explanation". Balinese mysticism explores the idea that acknowledging and honoring the opposites, whether it be man/woman, flat/sharp or the sangsi/polos within a gamelan orchestra, is the path to grasping full consciousness. Furthermore, Integrating the opposites allows us to share the strength of both to create the ultimate balance: Life. Indeed, the transcendence of dualism is the simple Balinese explanation of humanity itself. We are, according to the oldest religious texts of Bali, the result of balance struck between the positive powers of Heaven and the negative of the Underworld.  We are the river between the concepts of good and evil, and "as above, so below" the same river runs through all of us as well. It's worth noting that in Bali, children are seen as angels descended from Heaven to help mankind, and that they are born entirely good, the closest earthly tie to celestial divinity. I completely agree.

While all of this might sound fine in the relatively obscure, ethno-cultural context of Balinese mythology, what is so fascinating to me is how this theme of "reality in the balance beyond dualism", also adopted by many other cultures throughout history, mirrors the bleeding edge of modern scientific knowledge.  I've been following some of the fascinating and incredibly creative integration work of computer geek/scientist/spiritologist Gregg Braden,who has dedicated his life to revealing vital information on the subject. For instance, Mr Braden states that one of the fundamental tenants of quantum mechanics is the idea that there is a "soup" of possibilities  that exist within the infinite invisible energy fields that surround us. In fact, there are two kinds of "quantum possibility waves" in this soup, the coming wave and the going wave, which categorize all the possibilities in our lives as either, well, coming or going. However, when these waves are directed (and I do mean intentionally directed) to interlock, the wave transforms into a pulse…literally a "standing" wave, producing the atoms that construct what we perceive to be reality. 

This isn't guesswork by the way, but the result of  massive amount of scientific research in the field. You may have heard about how quantum particles cannot be observed, without actually changing the observed system. This is what scientists believe to be proof of our conscious ability to affect the material future, as well as the material past. The interesting part of this, to me anyway, is that quantum possibility waves are most deeply influenced by a particular electro-magnetic powerhouse… The Heart! Which, not surprisingly, is the epicenter of our personal electro-magnetic energy production. So it is the heart (which, btw has memory cells much like the brains, but has thousands of times more electro-magnetic energy) that transforms the combination of lower chakras (emotions) and higher chakras (thoughts) into feelings, the drivers to all our Beliefs. When our emotions and and our thoughts combine, the heart is literally influencing the physical reality we truly Believe in. So if this is indeed true, nothing could be more critical than that old saying "Be careful in what you wish for". A good start might be, only wish for that which brings you Peace.

His work is definitely a lot to chew on, but as a creative person with an interest in the science of belief, most of what Mr. Braden is saying falls into place. In a sense, emotionally driven visualization is the essence of our capacity to be creative, and this applies all the way to the extent where we can harness thoughts and emotions to create our desired physical reality. In practice, it points to the heart as a mechanism to integrate "what is coming" with "what has gone", into the "what is" reality we call from the possibilities that surround us, from birth to death.

In my day to day life I struggle with dualistic thoughts, always trying to "conclude" something so that I may neatly wrap it up and move on to the next quandary. And in the past, if I've been really stuck in an impossible to resolve situation, one method to cope has basically been to let myself go numb as survival mechanism, just push through with the least amount of damage. Nothing could be further than what really needs to happen. This is where the power of real prayer, the ultimate creative visualization of the heart, helps to guide the possibilities toward that which heals.

Reboot!

Feedback is good. After a month of rapid-fire blog blasting I'm taking to heart some welcome advice on this practice of turning thoughts public, by narrowing my focus and getting just a bit more serious about about what gets published. There's good reasons to write everyday, but what makes a blog interesting is not so much about stream-of-consciousness flexing and more about crafting with intention. I started out with that idea, but sort of fell by the way of becoming more emotionally attached to the process, rather than being solidly in love with the final offering. In the end, I think breathing new perspective into our collective story is far more interesting for both me and the reader. So, thanks for the feedback, and welcome (again) to The Interlock Flow.

Which, by the way, is a blog about creativity. Indeed, the whole idea behind what it means to find this "interlocking flow" business is to explore that sweet spot of creative output, where who a person is meets the context allowing for the fullest possible expression of mind, body and spirit. It could be writing, painting, business, science, athletics….whatever inspires to create something beautiful as an offering of the heart. I'll routinely celebrate those whom I admire in this universal endeavor to create, in all their many shapes and forms. I'll also be talking a lot about my own creative process, with the hopes of sharing something worthy of the precious time we all seem to have a problem getting enough of these days.

The discipline of birthing novel ideas is a love letter to the heart. And in return, the spirit stays young and fertile, always open to new possibilities, and therefore, new potential futures. Nothing could be more exciting for the evolutionary soul, whose journey plans no destination, but rather a merging with limitless flow. I hope to honor this intention with words that settle in as nothing less than poems to the creative source.



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Make it

I like to encourage people to invest in their own ideas. After all, ideas are much the same kind of stuff as beliefs, and beliefs are the heart's divine integration of thoughts and feelings. What better way to honor all that makes you tick, with the gift of your own heart's divinity? While there are many ways to create a more fully realized sense of self, manifesting something personally meaningful from scratch often yields the greatest rewards. The trick, of course, is to release expectations of outcome, abandon fear and jump in will all cylinders firing.

I could speak of this in almost any context, art, writing, love, gardening, business, music, etc. But today, I really want to write about creating software, because now is the best time ever to extend dreams into the real world, through technology.

Years ago, concepts like wide access to 3D printing and creating your own mass-appeal software were a mere blip on the horizon. Only an elite few even knew where to begin, much less become "producers" themselves. Now, practically everyone in the world has an easy online portal to develop new technology ideas. The creation interface has been simplified to accommodate even grade school level enthusiasts, production costs have decreased exponentially, and distribution can be as easy as a five-minute upload. And if an idea provides a solution that makes sense to you, it will likely make sense to others as well. Technology, more than any other force, is what shapes culture into being. And times they are-a-changing', fast. There's never been a better time to participate in the construction of reality, as we collectively dance on the burning edge of its creation.

Nothing could be more true when it comes to game development. When I started many years ago, it was phenomenally difficult and expensive to make a video game. Today, what might have taken a team of 10 people a full year to create, can be handled by just a few, or even one, at a fraction of the time and cost. Currently, there are over 100 game apps a day being released, made possible by a technology infrastructure designed to give tremendous creative power to the individual "Maker". That's what we are called these days, Makers…I love it.

It took a long time to get to this point however, and looking back, the journey was more difficult than most people realize (I was going to split this blog into two posts, but I think whole story needs to seen at once).

My history of developing video game software goes all the way back to the late nineties, aka, the "ancient days" of the first great polygon-pusher, the Sony Playstation.  While I was always amazed at the collective production horsepower of every team I was ever involved with, work life back then was, to put it mildly, less than supportive of our creative talents. Basically, we spent most of our long days doing the "trial and error" slam dance of engineering gymnastics, as the team's code-warriors toiled over fundamentals of how the damn thing worked. Creative input was kept to a bare, pragmatic minimum and just getting the basics accomplished was a sort of minor miracle back then. Not exactly the building blocks of excellence, I'm afraid. Personally, being a manager responsible in part for keeping the haggard troops alive and motivated, I did not protest, but instead worked ridiculously hard to "set the right example", at one point never putting in less than 80 hours a week, nor grabbing a day off (weekends, holidays, bleeding out my eyeballs, whatever) for almost a full year. Regardless of procuring a fairly reasonable paycheck, this was not a very good living. The conditions were just too rough, people got sick, went crazy, lost their husbands, wives…it was bad.

I'd also like to be clear: I am grateful for the relationships that were created during that time, and give thanks to the many of you who still know me today as your friend. Namaste!

Sadly, the company I was working for at the time adopted this "scorched employee" mentality as the new normal for production, as did many others, setting a dangerous precedent whose effects reverberated throughout my career. And as a result, some of the final products I worked on reflected the lack of care, creativity and completion needed to be great, and, in fact, were just barely profitable. Always overdue and over budget, every game company I worked for from that point on seemed to fall to the dark side, devolving into factories designed to push out sequels, ports and derivative titles. Being surrounded by game professionals, the lack of insight as to what creates a great game experience was truly bewildering, even as companies like Nintendo routinely attributed their massive success to treating the process like creating a work of art. And that's just it…to me it seemed that two distinctly different camps had formed within the industry, those focused on creating an artistic monument to the current state of technology, and those that focused solely on getting something out the door with the least amount of effort. Most of the latter (several of which I worked for) are now out of business, while the former have grown to dominate an industry that now generates more annual revenue than Hollywood.

But before I get lost in the woe-was-me-ness, it was under these difficult circumstances that I became motivated to change things. While Nintendo had clearly established its presence as a creative fountainhead, with little exception, most other companies were suspiciously vacant of the vital creative energy so many people associate with making great video games. Now, that's a huge accusation considering the volumes and volumes of work produced since then. I could get on the phone right now and immediately engage in some pretty heated tit-for-tat with a number of respected and seasoned pros, who would deem that statement to be absolutely ludicrous. But that's just it, the problem with many video game developers is they think they are being creative, even when they are simply reiterating the same small number of concepts using a different skin. Which, is most of the time….different package, same contents. If you do a search for video games that should be considered "works of art" the list is quite small (One of my favorites, btw, is a gem known as Ico! ). The list of great games that genuinely educate, elevate consciousness or attempt anything in the way of breaking through established philosophical boundaries is even smaller. What I found myself immersed in, all those years ago, was a brilliant industry that had convinced itself that it was so smart, that it didn't need to take risks.

So I did. Or at least, I tried to. In the last days of one particular company, I'd somehow convinced our entire production team to mutiny against the dominant paradigm (on it's last dying breath, btw) to focus on a game design I created involving Jim Woodring's impossible-to-describe universe of Frank. The protagonist, a hinduism inspired cat-like creature who never learns anything, would have to find ways to die in order to be reincarnated to the next, more fabulous/horrible plane of existence. We got all of two weeks into that project before being shut down. I still want to play this game.

Years later I got the thumbs up from legendary the pop-surrealist Tim Biskup to create a prototype 3D stacking game based on his wildly successful "Stack Pack" creature series. Not surprisingly, even though the demo was seamless and just screams Work of Art! a financial backer did not appear and the project was shelved (sniff, sorry Tim).

By the mid 2000's my whole perspective was beginning to change. I was sick of all trivial games, even the one's with artistic merit. Basically, I was no longer interested in working on anything but software that somehow contributes the greater good of humanity. My last project, before taking a very long break, was the Inner Active Health Project, a 501 c3 non-profit that used video game technology to bridge the mind-body gap, which I eventually handed over to the Center for Transformational Neurophysiology. They continue to run IAHP to this day.

This past year, I independently released my first science education game, Isopod, to rave reviews. It's the first action game ever, I believe, that uses real critters, in real environments, interacting as they would in real life backed by real science, written by real scientists. Whew! The game is 100% my own vision, with no investors, no bosses and, most importantly, none of the structural limitations that, prior to this time, could have prevented it coming in to being. It's in schools all over the world now, and I look forward to the life changing shifts that will happen as a result. What a ride. What I've learned is this: There has never been a better, easier or more relevant time to put your own ideas to the test. Invest in yourself. Your heart demands it!




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sing


Coinciding with Sony's latest over-hyped PS4 press release, I had planned to come in today and spend a few minutes ranting about the lousy state of the video game world, and how desperately it needs me to help fix some major problems that continue to be "unsolvable", after decades of promoting the same myopic vision, continually falling short of anything discernibly meaningful. Instead, I'm just going to leave it to that one long sentence for now…I need to process and connect with some real-life gratitude. I need to talk about singing. More specifically, Karaoke.

I've always loved to sing. My "big break" came in 3rd grade when I was singled out by my chorus teacher and asked if I would take the lead vocalist role in our school's upcoming Christmas play, "The Candy Cane Kid" (see above photo, with my brother Bryan). I did it, and despite my natural shyness (Meyers- Briggs pegs me as an Introvert, with Extroverted tendencies) my young soul was honored and moved by the experience. In fact, from that point on, I had a legit desire to keep singing close to my heart, as means to both creatively express and, perhaps more importantly, a way to decompress.

Grade school chorus gave way to high school rock bands, then college punk bands, experimental studio projects, and finally, the apex of my path to musical sophistication: Karaoke. Yep, this is were my throat chakra expansions landed, self-respect be damned. Like writing or dancing, I certainly don't kid myself that I have raw talent as a singer, but boy do I have fun, and having easy access to a little fun in life is kind of a big deal.

Ten years ago I would have called myself a full-on Karaoke junkie, and for good reason. Less than two miles from my home there were several great venues to choose from, and a show every night if I would travel a just bit farther. On weekends I would literally spend the whole day signing at the local flea market, and then later in the evening meet up with the same crew of amazing talent that I got to know like family. A few of them were better than just good singers, they were great. Watching a very young James Durbin belt out classic metal songs like a seasoned pro was a sight/sound to behold, even back then. Lisa Leuschner (who would later sing at Karen's and my wedding) became another American Idol alumni, and to this day is probably the most underrated performer in that show's history. But even the less-inclined vocalists, and those who only showed up to watch and offer support, all came to know each other in this clean, fun and safe space where everyone was loved as an equal. We were all there for a common purpose after all, to leave our troubles behind for a moment, and to celebrate life with our little three minute offerings of a heart's best musical rendition. This was a meaningful time in my personal history, as never before or since have I been around a social group whose complete lack of judgement supported such a wide continuum of skill and talent, the opportunity to be safely vulnerable, and in that moment, to be completely real. I could compare it to dancing, which I also love dearly, but there is something strangely healing about being on stage as the center of everyone's attention, just long enough to feel the fire, but short enough not to care. Those were good times.

Inevitably though, times change, people move on, get married, get divorced etc. The flea market closed down, and even though I worked hard with a small group of local activists to get it reopened, karaoke did not return. And when my favorite evening venue shuttered it's doors (the best gay-friendly restaurant/bar this town has ever seen), it really felt like the end of an era. I don't go out singing anymore, or very rarely at best. And today, only one of my original karaoke pals remains in my very small but mighty inner circle. But it's because of him, all these years later, I am still getting a regular dose of karaoke's goofy magic. Today I am expressing some gratitude to Spirit for keeping Max-A-Million in my life for more than a decade now.

By the way, that's not his real name. But as all veterans of the karaoke scene know quite well, every "serious" practitioner must adopt a stage name to achieve the full faux-star effect. Mine was actually given to me, not chosen. Before you ask, the origins of "Mikey High-Note" shall never be disclosed, save for your required physical attendance to be arranged at a karaoke bar nearest you, where I will happily demonstrate the how/what/why this name came to see the light of day.

Max-A-Million has been my most trusted long-term friend since I moved to Santa Cruz. He's a zen master, cultural philosopher, brilliant cook, and damn good singer. Back in the day, he and I would send shock waves through the karaoke community with our ground-breaking duets, singing many songs people didn't realize could be performed as a duet, redefining the possibilities while having the time of our lives. Max is actually an extremely talented performer, and made his living singing the Rat-Pack standards in restaurants, cruise ships and casinos for many years, until he finally decided that singing is more fun when you do it just for fun. About three years ago, he set up a permanent karaoke bar in his living room. While this is not even a remote possibility for most of us, Max, a lover of all things karaoke, is not married and has no kids, so…why not?

It just so happens that the only break I get all week, a two hour "layover" between work and gamelan practice, lands me downtown, right on Max's doorstep. We have been singing, almost every week now for a good long time. I dig 80's new wave and punk tunes, he loves Sinatra and vintage country. Occasionally, it even turns into a little party where other singers show up to do the same. We dim the lights, fire up the disco ball and never have to wait very long before we get our own turn. It's not nearly the same thing as being in a public place, but it doesn't matter. Like giving it all you got in the car, or the shower, are wherever you are most yourself, what's important about singing is becoming the voice for a story you already know and love. It helps us take care of ourselves, and each other.

Yesterday I needed to sing a few specific songs. Some happy, some sad. Max has about 100k to choose from, so I figure whatever mood I'm in, I'll always get to the place I need to be. God bless him, and God bless karaoke.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Calm the Storm

This past year, my body started over from scratch. I am a Bikram yogi.

Two weeks ago I had one of the worst sessions of yoga in a long time. On a normal day, my goal is to keep the struggle on the inside, at least hold a straight face, and perhaps even strive for the most difficult of all advanced maneuvers, pushing up the corners of my mouth. Not giving away your inner turmoil, to "calm the storm" is the path a true yogi, as I am told. I guess this means I'm handling my Facebook profile like a boss? Well…another blog post, some other time.

No, this was a crappy day and I got completely wrecked, inside and out. I was able to push through the standing poses holding a modicum of yogic form, but by the time I hit the floor for the final half-hour of spine stretching, I was a melted, gasping mess of a human puddle. Seemed like no rhyme or reason to it either, just a random (karmic?) side-swipe that left me emotional and dazed for hours after class, wondering if perhaps Bikram Yoga is just too flippin' hard. Of course, I know that it isn't, and as I tell my friend, instructor, and owner of "Bikram Yoga Aptos" Nicole Duke, I'm on the 20 year plan to take over her job. But on that day, "Nicole's Torture Chamber" as she calls it, completely lived up to it's name, and the moment class was over I was out the door to sit on the concrete, mostly naked, in the ridiculously cold (but OMG so refreshing) winter wind, savasana be damned.

I need to give myself a little more credit actually. It's been less than a year adopting Bikram Yoga as regular practice, and there is no comparing even my worst day now with how I began. Decades of bad posture, desk jobs and unattended scoliosis had all contributed to a noticable decline in my structural integrity. My initial practice reflected this damage in a big way, and I almost quit after the first week because it really was so damn hard. Months passed before I could claim predictable success of just getting through both sets of all 26 postures, and even more months on top of that before I would actually look forward to Nicole's difficult classes, as hers have a well-earned reputation for being the hardest and hottest. After all, she has invested in the most state-of-the-art heating/humidity equipment, a world-class studio, and is herself a Bikram yoga national champion. My wife and I joke about the other studios we tried while traveling, and how "vacation Bikram" was such a nice break by comparison, even if it didn't have near the impact. To be honest, a little more vacation yoga in our routine would really be awesome… hint hint, Universe.

Nicole's Torture Chamber is no vacation and she let's you know it. I would describe it as the most physically challenging 90 minutes of mental AND physical exercise any person could ever imagine. But over time I've come to accept this hard work as normal, and I feel incredibly grateful for the magic she creates in that room. Her intention is to bring us to the edge of our own personal best, and then to provide us with tools to "calm the storm" so that we might soon surpass our own limits. I appreciate that so much, now. Was it always my choice to participate in her 115 degree, squeeze-every-fiber-in-my-being-to-the-point-of-breaking routine? Oh hell no. I wanted to run anytime I heard she was teaching a class. Other instructors with a lighter touch, and more liberal use of the all so important water/fresh air breaks were definitely my preference. But as it turns out, child care is only provided during Nicole's classes, which allows my wife and I to practice together. This is a big deal. Karen has become an inspiration, and I can't imagine doing yoga without her now, in and outside of the studio. Yoga has helped us to evolve as a couple, and after nearly nine years of being together, this time feels like a both blessing and a new beginning.

Today, with all the amazing benefits received from Nicole's Torture Chamber, I feel as if I have grown a year younger verses a year older. What price can a "pushing-50" father of a 4-year old put on that?? And, I feel closer to my wife than I have in years, as we have found a common place to mindfully and vitally engage with each other in daily practice. When I say "Thank you" to Nicole Duke, as I do every time after class, I really mean it.

Some stories have a point, or a moral, and some don't. That's just life. But this story actually does. That really lousy day? The one that totally kicked my ass and sent my head and heart spinning around and bouncing all over the place? Well, it was followed by one of my best Bikram yoga sessions ever. It was a breakdown, preceding a breakthrough. And as insignificant or massive as they may be, when these minor miracles happen, I pay attention. This is the voice of Spirit, talking loud and clear.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Mr. Bugs Had Cancer (again)

While the day may eventually come to take a break, I have kept cats and dogs around the house for at least a quarter century. I admit that I am particularly fond of cats, in all their beautiful and mysterious ways, and one gorgeous marmalade girl in particular I have no hesitation in saying was genuinely extraordinary. She was brilliant, articulate and convincingly telepathic, proof in my eyes anyway, that while most creatures are created more or less equal, occasionally there is one created outside-the-box that is truly special. Losing my most beloved feline friend a few years back was nearly as difficult for me as any biped I'd ever been close to. But she was 23 years old, quite elderly in kitty years, and her well-loved life was pretty wonderful from start finish. She had a long, healthy run, as it should be.

This has not exactly been the case for Mr. Bugs, my current fuzzball pal of over a decade. The vet thinks he's about 15 years old, and although he's a sweet and happy critter, he's been dealing with a number of ongoing health issues for quite some time now. I've often wondered if it was the physical and emotional stress of his early life spent in abandonment that took him down this road of chronic health issues, but I'll never really know I guess. I brought him in as a stray when he was about 3 or 4 years old, after at least 2 years of occasional sightings, assuming he was pretty much fending for himself in the 60-ish green-belt acres surrounding my house. It was the day I noticed him sitting upright but motionless in the freezing rain, looking like the saddest creature on the planet, that I just gave in and added a fourth furry friend to my non-human family circle. That was over 10 years ago, and he's the last standing mi amigo el gato of the original bunch.

While he's not in any immediate danger, Mr. Bugs is on a special diet these days to keep his weight down and his skin from itching. I've also starting mixing slippery elm bark into his food twice a week, which has been shown to stave off the most common cat killer, feline kidney disease. He was showing the first symptoms of kidney distress, and I'm very happy to say they have subsided. But it was Mr. Bug's run in with cancer, twice now, that is really worth talking about.

About five years ago I noticed what looked like a small open wound on the top of Mr. Bug's nose. He's an indoor/outdoor cat and has always been a bit of a scrapper so I didn't think too much about it really, until I noticed that the sore wasn't going away. Actually, it was getting worse. By the time I got him to the vet, it was a quarter inch long lesion that had pretty much turned black and continuously bled….not cool. Even less cool was the diagnosis from the vet: Mr. Bugs has cancer, and will likely require most or all of his nose removed if he was to survive.

I struggled with the decisions that had to be made for Mr. Bugs knowing I didn't have a lot of time to make them. While this can get a person trying to "heal" in big trouble, I started doing net research on "miraculous cancer recoveries", and interestingly enough, a substance that had made it into my hands just few weeks earlier started popping up with some very interesting testimonials. It's called resveratrol, a naturally occurring phytochemical (vegetable compound) that accumulates in certain kinds of tissue when a plant becomes distressed. For instance, when red wine grapes deal with excessive heat, cold or even fungal infection, resveratrol is produced in the skin of the grape as a "preservative", for lack of a better word, that protects the fruit. Now, there has been extensive research on resveratrol for heart health and anti-aging, and not just from anywhere, try Stanford and Harvard, if you require academic validation of how interesting this stuff is. But at that time, a "cancer cure" claim was only being made by distressed dog owners who where willing to try anything to save their pups.

As I read what little info was available, two observations started to take shape. One, that direct resveratrol/cancer cell contact appeared to yield impressive results, and two, similar characteristics have been noticed from another more common and better-known substance, green tea extract…..so, why not mix the two and create a topical skin salve?

And that is exactly what I did. Equal parts resveratrol powder and green tea extract were mixed together in a goopy paste that I applied directly to the lesion on Mr. Bugs battered nose, twice a day. The lesion disappeared, completely, within two weeks. That was five years ago.

Obviously, this is one person's story with not a shred of scientific integrity, controls, measurements etc. But I do not take the experience lightly, Mr. Bugs is the last of my furry family after all. That said, just few weeks ago, the lesion made a comeback after the five years of no trace. I caught it early this time, but there was no mistaking what it was. Once again I used the same ingredients on Mr. Bugs, and once again, it quickly disappeared.

There's no arguing the benefits of well-vetted natural medicine. Aloe, folic acid, turmeric ect., all have proven medical effects that traditional Western doctors are only recently seeing as credible. I honestly think the answers for the biggest medical questions are still waiting to be discovered, out there in the jungles and rivers and perhaps even in our own backyards, ready when we are.


PS: Evan Bluetech, one my favorite modern downtempo composers, wrote this piece after his beloved dog Leilani passed away. Beautiful.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Union

 I thought this would be an appropriate post for Valentines Day.

This extraordinary work of art is entitled "Union". It is my favorite piece from one of my favorite living artists, Andrew Jones.

Andrew is creating art history. Over the span of a decade I've watched this amazing visionary spiral out into global consciousness, obliterating all sorts of digital/fine art barriers as he merges ancient technique with bleeding-edge tools of an emerging future. While academic art institutions tend to gloss over the efforts of digital artists, there will eventually be no question of Andrew's tremendous cultural impact. Check out what he did on the exterior surface of the Sydney Opera House, his "million pixel wide mural" or the collaborative performance art he does with his wife Phaedrana. His work is a product of extreme talent, divinely guided innovation and hardcore traditional artistic discipline. I met him at Burning Man last year (he is the founder and creative juggernaut behind Fractal Nation) and all I can say is that he is as kind and humble as he is model for maximizing human potential. I am truly inspired by his magic, both as a person and as a creative tour-de-force.

Union unfolds to me in many layers, all of which hit deep. The image (painted live during the wedding of a local Bay Area couple) celebrates union of the devine masculine and feminine, the marriage of Sun and Moon. Their are eyes closed, and bodies do not touch, and yet the two are bound by radiant Light between them that centers their exquisite bond in perfect, delicate balance. The impression is the essence of what it means to connect on a level of deep soul Love, two people synchronized in the highest thoughts imaginable, saturated by an omnipresent intimacy that transcends both time and physical contact. Staring at this piece still brings tears. It is magnificent.


PS: Union reminds me a bit of this piece, Return of the Sun, which I made for my then unborn son Icaro as a welcome to his worldly arrival.

PPS: Union might be available for sale on Andrew's site (I say "might" as it could already be sold out).





Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2013



For over a decade now, I've been investing brainspace in what eventually became known to popular culture as "The Mayan Apocalypse", essentially the end date of the Mayan calendar's largest cycle. I traveled to Mexico and spent some time talking to local shaman of the Yucatan, followed the discussions of prominent voices from all different perspectives via the mighty 2012 group on Tribe.net, and kept close tabs on the sensible, scientifically grounded work of my anthropologist friend Dr. John Hoopes. John, by the way, is one of the very few people in the world who has access to the most important of all Mayan artifacts, "The Dresden Codex". To be honest, despite all the hoopla (apologies, John) I had no worries about "end of the world" scenarios unfolding in 2012. Like most big stories in our sensationalism-driven culture, only a small bit a truth remains after they are warped and twisted by relentlessly over-hyped consumer media. It is ironic however, that while TV, theater and radio played up the possibility of some kind of convenient catastrophic event, twenty thousand kids die every day from hunger, or more accurately, from not being able to purchase readily available food. The greatest sins of the world continue to be unseen in a quiet, ongoing daily apocalypse, and I, for one, am glad to wrap up this "end of the world" rubbish and move on to more salient issues.

All of that said, I could not have prepared myself for the massive personal changes in heart, mind, body and soul that took place during the course of this remarkable year. At some point I would like to write about 2012 from each perspective, if for nothing more than to create an archive of thoughts and feelings while they are still very fresh. It's also worth saying that I don't kid myself about my writing skills. In a way I feel like I'm just beginning to find a voice for the first time ever…which falls quite neatly into the idea that 2012 was not a punctuated mass apocalypse of any sort, but it was a opportunity for personal rebirth. I know many friends and associates who feel the same way, and I'd like to think those of us affected are all part of collective upgrade that humanity needed so desperately.

For now, I'd like to just briefly touch on what lies ahead for 2013. It's going to be a big year. In 2012 I started a small one -person software design studio Xylem and Phloem, and released my first educational game ISOPOD to excellent professional reviews, as well as tremendous love and support from Apple itself. ISOPOD was even nominated for the prestigious CYBILS Children's Literary Award, which is quite an honor considering they usually only deal with books. If you have or know a child (10 and up) with an iPad and an interest in science, this is a great app, and one of many more to come.

But the real purpose of making ISOPOD, as I have come to see, was to open doors and create new possibilities. I created ISOPOD essentially by myself, and even though there were moments were I felt I was being pushed beyond my limits, the end result spoke volumes. Vetting the value of one's ideas that can be accomplished "solo", is an absolute necessity to finding the right kind of support for bigger ideas. Basically, big money needs to have big confidence before it will do big things. 

And this next project is just flippin' huge.

Xylem and Phloem (now a small team) is proposing a massive educational software undertaking that will transform every book, website, curriculum, and most importantly, every educational app out there into a "gamified" cooperative classroom learning experience. As I write this, we are in negotiation with one of Silicon Valley's biggest names, and the future is looking quite good, knock on the proverbial wood. That's about all I'm going to say on that, for now.

But hey 2013, what else you got?

I've also become a mentor for UCSC's flagship IDEASS program (Impact Designs: Engineering and Sustainability through Student Service) and I'm excited to help guide a group of talented student engineers as they create their first cross-platform science app, available by the end of this summer. You can be certain that it will gamify concepts of sustainable building practices, facilitating an understanding of fairly complex environmental issues via the exquisite beauty of game theory. I love this kind of work, and I feel like it is something that I'm well prepared to handle.

Another exciting manifestation of ISOPOD's critical success is that I've been asked to be a part of the creative team designing exhibits for an emerging children's discovery museum, here in Santa Cruz. Some of what I'll be doing is contributing to the conceptual development of these exhibits, but a big part will be actually building-visualizing the ideas in 3D. Again, what an amazing gig. A giant, scale-relative Strawberry plant jungle, and all the creatures you might find there may soon be leaping from my head to a physical space near you. How cool is that?

And there's more. "Your Turn Football", a game I helped create with some old colleagues of mine is due to be released in the next few weeks. I'm anticipating a very good response (despite blowing the release date to coincide with Football season…good reasons, I promise) as it is the first turn-based, multi-platform sports game ever made. Think "Words WIth Friends" meets The Superbowl. While I'm not a huge fan of Football, it is the creation of these "first time" experiences really gets me jazzed.

And of course, then there are the projects I can't talk about, even little bit. All I can say is, right now is the most intense burst of creative energy I've had in years, perhaps ever. My heart has been cracked open, and what flows in and through, is the desire to do the Best Work of my life.



Monday, February 11, 2013

Aloha



This is me, Waimoku Falls after a slippery, soggy and exhausting incline hike with my wife and son.

Rain-soaked. Mud-splattered.

Heart open. Happy. 

Shake your Booty

I finally shook that incredible (and incredibly sad) song by Ray Lamontange this weekend, but it took two Disco Parties to pry the thing out of my head. In it's place came an amazing instrumental piece from 2005 that landed on the first "mix tape" I ever gave my wife, STS9's "Tokyo". In a span of less than 6 months now, I've personally met and thanked two of the artists on that tape, one of whom was in line behind me while I ordered coffee at Burning Man, and then this weekend at a local skating rink Disco/Birthday party attended by the entirety of STS9, and their children.

While I love it when life reveals sweet tidbits of synchronicity that might somehow support "being on the right path", this weekend was bittersweet as we also said bon voyage to some good friends who have dared to take a road less traveled. Years ago I helped them move in to the house they cleared out Saturday night for one last hurrah, a Disco Party for all to dance and celebrate as they move on to the next big adventure. As I write this, they are boarding a plane to New Zealand where they will live in an RV for at least a year, traveling, living and being together as a family of five.  They are an inspiration, and I have nothing but Love and Respect for them both. I'll miss you guys.

As we shook some booty with good friends, and raised our glasses to courageous adventures, I was once again reminded of how short this trip is. It is a universal truth, I think, that remaining curious keeps us in a state of personal growth. While some might say that taking life-changing risks is irresponsible, the places that fill our hearts with wonder are endless, should we just make the effort to find them.

And still, it's one thing to simply acknowledge, and another thing entirely to actually live it. Hats off to those, like my friends Mahabisa and Zack, who walk the talk. May we all be so wise.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Saddest Song



There is an archetypal beauty I find when connecting with another person's poetic expression of heartbreak. And when wrapped in the building tension and release of a soul-driven musical composition, sad stories become miniaturized, but no-less-than-epic visceral experiences. A well crafted Sad Song draws me in, and for a moment, I can live the intended expressions as if they are running through my own blood. I accept these brief but powerful openings of the heart as gifts.

Perhaps it's therapeutic to anonymously share the grief of an artist, and safely experience their brokenness in the convenience of my own precious time. And in this space, what is shared flows in and through all the ridiculous social boundaries that separate us, leading straight to the core of our collective good, our Empathy.  Loss of a friend. Loss of a Loved one. The ache of Knowing. The despair of not. Sad Songs can honor those things that we cannot bear to speak of, delivering Light to a situation, when that may seem to be an impossibility.

Although I've never been a depressed person (quite the opposite, in fact), Real Life demands a full range of emotions, else we fade into something tragically inauthentic. And while we set our life goals to somehow circumvent heartbreak, it is in these moments that we are asked to become something better than we have been, allowing the heart to feel exactly what it needs to. The heart, after all, has memory cells much like the brain does, and it never forgets, even when forced to temporarily do so. I respond music that reflects the complexity of this experience, the story of being Alive.

But I wonder, can there be such a thing as the "saddest song"? In the same way that we may experience the greatest sorrow of a lifetime, perhaps one could indeed identify a song that sums it all up. Some singer-songwriters get right to the core of the experience, Elizabeth Frasier, Beck, Rob Dickinson, Beth Gibbons, Ken Andrews....all of whom have taken me on their journey with a powerful familiarity.

Right now, the song that hits me the hardest is this one.

"Empty" by Ray Lamontagne

She lifts her skirt up to her knees
Walks through the garden rows with her bare feet, laughing
And I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters

Walk on down the hill
Through grass grown tall and brown
And still it's hard somehow to let go of my pain
On past the busted back
of that old and rusted Cadillac
That sinks into this field collecting rain

Will I always feel this way ‒
So empty, so estranged?

And of these cut-throat busted sunsets,
these cold and damp white mornings
I have grown weary
If through my cracked and dusted dime-store lips
I spoke these words out loud would no one hear me?
Lay your blouse across the chair,
Let fall the flowers from your hair
And kiss me with that country mouth so plain.
Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves
To me it sounds like they're applauding us,
The quiet love we've made.

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged?

Well, I looked my demons in the eyes
laid bare my chest, said "Do your best, destroy me.
You see, I've been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kind of bore me."
There's a lot of things that can kill a man
There's a lot of ways to die
Yes, and some already dead that walk beside me
There's a lot of things I don't understand
Why so many people lie
Well, it's the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged