Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fresh-made Rothko

These days, you could find yourself travelling half-way around the world in a few hours. And in the world of art: a couple clicks and you could find yourself in the Louvre. That's the reality of our tiny, modern world: technology takes our little feet and straps jet engines on them.

Unfortunately, there are no licensing requirements for these turbine-powered, photoshop filters. The accidents will continue. He's my latest attempt to land safely in the Louvre.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Stone of Mystery!

Look at it. Stare into it.

Learn it's mysteries --if you dare!

Stop! Stop!
Your mind is in its icy grip!
Run, you fool!
The Stone of Mystery will DESTROY YOU!!!
Your puny brain can not survive its thunderous torrent of KNOWLEDGE!!!
(sung to the tune of, "Here Comes Santa Claus")

Could this be the innocent precursor of... The Stone of Mystery?

I started with an old record cover I found at; India Inked it, double resized it and wheeled it into the ever promising, and soon to be famous, block wave filter from digiKam's showFoto. Then I cropped out a piece of it that looked great at the time, but which I have since deleted. This was then distorted several ways to produce something that looked like a Mayan temple painted pink and sitting in a snowstorm, which I then deliberately saved as a black and white, two-color file, for some reason.

Upon noticing the fine, intricate lines it had just then acquired, I returned to the block wave filter (the roulette wheel of filters). It was double resized again and finally, shackled to the table, sent back up and reanimated with the filter set on high (77 instead of 25).

Voila. The tricks of Clickery made plain. It looks easy, so easy, until you learn the torturous route I travelled to make it.

But, I am a hero, and thus, it is my lot to wrestle with the heroic. And now, unable to endure the comfortable ease of victory and it's resulting decadent rewards, I struggle onwards, always onwards, to reveal...

Son of... Stone of Mystery!

Cheaper to produce.
But, featuring previously unreleased scenes, that didn't make the final cut, the first time, because the movie going public were not ready for them.
Has a much better soundtrack, too.

-with thanks to Universal Pictures Inc., 1957

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Friday, October 19, 2007

The Dead CEO Watches His Back

The Dead CEO Watches His Back

The Dead CEO Watches His Back (2007)

Your decisions
passed on cancer. A memo meant
as a joke kills
quicker than all layoffs.

Death won't get you
a bye. Workers lean from chemo
and fleeced pensions
speak of you to lawyers.

Your investing
and gilded chute fold up in wind
like a bum umbrella.
Safe in the grave

your pockets are plucked
by grifters and mentored vultures
and needy downsized proles
pray you rot more.


And in recent news. From (10-8-07):

The Supreme Court reacted skeptically today to arguments that banks, lawyers, accountants and suppliers should be held liable for helping publicly held companies deceive investors.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that federal law imposes strict limits on shareholders who want to sue companies and firms other than the one in which the investors hold stock.

The two conservative justices subjected a lawyer for corporate investors to tough questioning during arguments as the justices try to set boundaries in stockholder lawsuits for securities fraud.


The outcome of the case will determine the fate of a separate suit by Enron shareholders who are seeking over $30 billion from banks accused of colluding with the energy company to hide its debts.

If the court rules against investors, "it will mean the end of the case" for Enron shareholders and the banks that were primarily liable, attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing Enron stockholders, said outside the Supreme Court after the arguments.

It's good to have friends do favors like appoint Supreme Court Chief Justices. You find yourself having to watch your back less -- even after death.

Face Detail: The Dead CEO Watches His Back

Face Detail of The Dead CEO Watches His Back


Poem based on the image. Image initially made with Fractal Zplot. Post-processed until every pixel invested in its future lost everything.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I've been reviewed

I deleted lycium's (Thomas Ludwig's) original comment to my posting about Fractal Art isn't Rocket Science. But his expansion on the theme expressed in his original Orbit Trap comment grew to become an interesting work of art and well worth reading. It was posted in the site, where I recently found it. It's not exactly a "positive" review, but for someone like me, any attention is exciting.

A word about criticism. I once read about a sage who adopted the habit of sending all his new students off to listen to his critics. He defended this somewhat unusual teaching practice by saying that until his students had refuted the claims of his critics, he could not begin to teach them anything. I hope you will take lycium seriously and consider the possibility that what he says about me could quite very well be the truth.

Copied verbatim from The boxed, indented text is the quoted references from my posting to which lycium responds. His responses are the regular text which follows:

lycium's review begins here...

just when i thought orbit trap couldn't get any worse... tim posts this gem:

i want to take a little time to reply here in detail, where more programmers can see what this man thinks of us.

Quote from: Tim
Would it help me if I had such a solid math and programming background as these super stars did? It doesn't seem to be helping them out too much.

let the slandering begin...

now honestly, how can someone with such earth-shatteringly poor "artworks" (which bear essentially no fractal traits at all, ignoring the 16 colour lsd-inspired palette) even think to question the works of others, let alone the forerunners of our field?! such collosal arrogance is SO rare, even among arrogant people.

Quote from: Tim
Moving on. What confuses things is that the "tool-makers" can also perform the role of "tool-users". But the skills and abilities that lead to good tool making are irrelevant when it comes to using those tools to make art.

as if he would know; as if he has the faintest inkling as to what sort of skills and abilities it takes to design a vast fractal parameter space, or a flexible colouring algorithm, or a simple control system and all the other things necessary to hide the reality of fractal generation.

Quote from: Tim
They might as well be two different people because when the "scientist" takes up the tool he made, he begins the same process of discovery as everyone else who takes up that tool.

inhuman ignorance meants superhuman ego. notice how he puts scientist in quotes (!!).

Quote from: Tim
"Crafting nunchuks vs. swinging them like Bruce Lee."


Quote from: Tim
Sure, the tool maker immediately knows how to operate the tool,

allow me to inline a quote from just sentences earlier: They might as well be two different people because when the "scientist" takes up the tool he made, he begins the same process of discovery as everyone else who takes up that tool.


... and here is the tour de force:

Quote from: Tim
Actually the tool maker may have a handicap: he may think he has an edge over the one who is merely a tool-user and come to think his tool-making experience gives extra weight and an enhanced quality to his artwork.

really, this one needs no comment.

Quote from: Tim
Artistic activities, on the other hand, have psychological challenges (objectively evaluating your work; creative inspiration) that the quantitative sciences have less of.

too bad he has neither: (selected from his many "cutting edge" block wave filtered images; there are plenty of these littered about the blog)

tim is just as poor a spokesperson for the social sciences as he is for the fractal community (quoted from We invited the Fractal Community to speak for themselves and they didn't want to. We spoke for them and they told us to shut up.

Quote from: Tim
Furthermore, the precision and absoluteness of the quantitative sciences creates a mindset or approach to art that I think can be a stumbling block in the evolving, shifting, combinant and recombinant, alchemical world of art.

nevermind "different perspective" or "broader view", it's a stumbling block to have a clue how the software you're using works. yup.

Quote from: Tim
But Fractal Art is Art; it's got its own set of skills and talents, which in the same way, also count for nothing when applied to the world of mathematics.

no, you utterly fail at logic. having a grasp of basic maths DOES help with making fractal art. you just wouldn't know because you don't have it, so stop being so damn presumptuous and cocky.

...end of lycium's review

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Party Guys

Party Guys

Party Guys (2007)

I need my head examined
I need my eyes excited
I'd like to join the party
But I was not invited

--Elvis Costello, "Two Little Hitlers"

At first look, tonight's image seems to show a "couple of wild and crazy guys." But is there something darker around the edges?

Elvis Costello initially wanted to call his Armed Forces album Emotional Fascism. On that sequence of songs, Costello mixes themes of fascism with contemporary vapid relationships and empty socializing.

The man's obviously a visionary.

Apparently, the (Nazi) party's not over. From Blog KC:

A month after an abortive attempt to relocate the Aryan Nations headquarters to KCK, another white supremacist group has held a national conference in Overland Park. The craziest part is that the group held a Hitler birthday party at The Berliner Bear in Waldo and the owner claims he didn’t know about it. M.Toast tips us off to the group’s photo album, showing it must have been really hard to not to notice 30 Nazis, a podium, and a Hitler birthday cake.

Last night on the TV news the owner said he wasn’t there for the Hitler party. He just let them in and left for two hours, and they weren’t “in uniform” when they showed up. Even if that’s true, it would mean that none of his kitchen or wait staffs called to say “um, we have Nazis in the restaurant.” Unless he just turned over the whole restaurant, bar and all, and the Nazis cooked their own food.

Check out these budding Eva Braunoids:

We made a reservation for a thousand year Reich...

They say you're nothing but a party girl
Just like a million more all over the world

--Elvis Costello, "Party Girl"

Whatever happened to reserving the right to refuse service to anyone? I guess these customers were wearing appropriate shoes -- and shirts -- mostly brown ones.

And what Baskin-Robbins whipped up that Happy Birthday Hitler cake?

But maybe Costello's connection between totalitarianism and lampshade wearers is dead on. Look at the party guy on the left. Is he wearing an earflap helmet? And do I see a thin mustache on the party guy on the right?

Oh, waiter. I'd like to send this fractal back. As an idea, I think it's undercooked.

Detail of: Party Guys

Lower left corner detail of Party Guys


Originally made in Sterling-ware. Post-processed while watching the "Springtime for Hitler" dance numbers from Mel Brooks' The Producers.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Click-ism: a Manifesto

I've been reading a book about various "-isms" in the art world. Eagerly wanting to follow in the footsteps of those great, outspoken artists of the past and to contribute something new and personal to the exciting pursuit of labels and the ever teetering tower of human achievements, I propose... Clickism.

First rule is: Mouse clicks only.

Second rule is: Start with any kind of image you like, but when you get finished the result should bear no resemblance to the original and in fact, can only be connected to it, with some doubt and lingering uncertainty, by careful DNA testing.

Third rule is: One level of undo, only. Clickism is forward thinking and reflects the relentless progress of technology which refuses to admit mistakes but rather sees them as a challenge and attempts to correct them with more clicking.

Fourth rule is: Stay lazy. Sure you can open your image up in a graphics program and start masking and layering and all that sort of artist stuff, but "painting" is not clicking. Better yet, use software that won't allow you to use advanced graphical techniques, with the sole, and very important exception of....

Fifth rule is: Photoshop Filters. Freakier the better. It doesn't matter if they don't add anything of value to the image --yet, it just makes for more excitement, and the challenge I mentioned in the Third rule, of trying to make something awesome out of something apparently hopeless and growing increasingly dark and shapeless.

the horror, the horror ...of Clickism

Sixth rule is: If you can remember where you came from, then you haven't gone far enough. Apply several crazy filter effects just to get warmed up, and then let 'er rip! Pretend you're being stalked or followed by a crazy man or some insane wild animal infected with rabies or a strange new disease introduced by aliens crash landing their spaceship in a remote and forested region and you've got to lose them by choosing a series of completely unpredictable and incoherent choices. If the crazy man or the animal catches up, let them help out. Always have a clear idea of where you're going and don't go there.

Seventh rule is: More filters. That which does not crash your program will make you stronger. Don't ask "why?", instead ask, "what if?". Look for ones that are "helpful" to the team not necessarily "useful" on their own. Distortions or anything that makes simple but random shapes are always useful, eventually. You never know what will be the final filter that turns something progressively awful into the Mona Lisa of Clickism.

Eighth rule is: The rules are never finished. Ask yourself, "What could I do that I haven't done?" "What am I not thinking of?". When you think you've reached the end and can't make anything that even looks half good, then you're just tired. Get some rest or do something else. Pretty soon you'll be back and ready to set sail like Sindbad on a new voyage filled with more of the surprises and mysteries of Clickism.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Evening Stroll

As an art lover, one thing I enjoy about the Internet is that I am always only a few mouse clicks away from a museum.

When Orbit Trap first began, I wrote a post called Morning Walk where I wandered into a few fractal galleries and reflected on what I saw. I'd like to take up that concept again on a semi-regular basis. There is so much good fractal (and fractal-based) art tucked away in the nooks of the Web. It seems to me that one of the obligations of this blog is to dig out fractal gold when one strikes a rich vein.

The advantage of an evening stroll over a morning walk is that hot coffee can be transubstantiated into Jack Daniels. Hopefully, the art we see tonight will burn as it goes all the way down.

No need to call a cab. We're here.

"Promiscuity" by Karen Jones

Promiscuity by Karen Jones

Karen Jones uses minimalistic suggestion to create sumptuous, evocative images. Very few fractal artists can elicit sensuality as well as Jones. Anyone who's worked much with fractals knows that occasionally anatomical surprises sometimes show up unexpectedly. But the result is usually not much more than a giggle. Jones' mines fractals to bring out expressions of sexuality. Her images never result in sniggering. Instead, they are emotionally comforting -- even awe-inspiring.

Jones divides her galleries into thematic blocks. All are worth exploring, but I find some more moving than others -- especially when she walks on grander, more abstract territory. In the "Philosophy" section, for example, the green sweeping arcs of "Sermon" (I'd add links to referenced images, but Jones does not provide such a mechanism) and the fragmentation and use of open space in "Haunting" are both extremely effective. I also like parts of the "Nature" category, especially the stark forms of "Visions of the Moon" -- which reminds me a little of the work of Susan Gardner, another superb fractal minimalist.

But it's in the area of "Sexuality" that Jones excels. Images like "Sleeping Nude" and "Awakenings" are extremely tactile when examining fleshly desires. But there is nothing prurient or salacious about Jones' art. Her ability to capture the tenderness and beauty of sexual activity is a remarkable achievement.

"Haberdasher" by Terry W. Gintz

Haberdasher by Terry W. Gintz

Next stop is Into the Mystic, the sprawling site of programmer/artist/photographer/poet Terry W. Gintz. Gintz might be best known for his considerable talents as a programmer (Fractal Zplot, QuaSZ, Fractal ViZion, Crocus, and many others), but today I'm hanging out in his "Poemscapes Gallery." Having "defaced" (as I was once accused) a few fractals with text myself, I like this media mixing. Gintz has good instincts -- using both photographs and fractals to complement his original poetry. The balance works well to create a synergy where neither the image nor the text subsumes but rather brings about a harmonious balance. Moreover, especially compared to some other fractalists who dabble in verse, Gintz is an excellent poet in his own right. His writings are always integrated seamlessly and thematically to his images. Nature (and its ongoing, encroaching loss) is one common theme -- but Gintz also shares a deep affinity with the Beats -- especially in how poets like Corso would blend elevated language with more common vernacular. "Rush Hour (Zero Emissions)" serves as a prime example of this tendency:

This seething beneath the surface
this impatience for action,
a matchbook of dreams
a flood of farthlings.

No use shooting for grouse
when the roasting pan eludes us.

Watch the fender, buddy!

The metaphors of fire, hunting, and flocking all combine to suggest the restless turbulence about to explode in a rush hour road rage. Other favorites of mine include the heavily post-processing and lush language of "Specialty of the House" (and a poem as sensual as Jones' work) and an upset-the-9/11-oxcart piece called "Postscript to Atta's Sunset Diary" with an ending sure to puzzle the irony-deprived. I hear that Gintz has wandered into areas other than programming and fractal art lately -- and with his prodigious talents I guess that's no surprise. But I always find new surprises in the recessed longitudes and latitudes of his "poemscapes."

"Shell 51" by Stefan Vitanov

Shell 51 by Stefan Vitanov

We've been plenty critical here at OT of this year's Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest's judges over the last few months. However, one thing they sometimes got right was the competition's winning and alternate selections. I especially liked Susan Chambless' luminescent "Shuttered Windows", Liz Nixon's radiant "Brushfire" (is it a heavily processed Apo image?), and Vivian Woods' complex, dynamic "Merlin's Quest." It was also nice to find a few XenoDream images in the winner's circle, including "Sunset Mood" -- a striking piece from Stefan Vitanov. A quick surf over to his galleries is well worth your time.

There's so much to see, it's hard to know where to start. I wandered first into Vitanov's "Ruins" room -- where one finds a stunning assortment of Fractint works crumbling away like Roman antiquities. I dug the precision of "Architectural Study" and "Golden Temple" -- quite a contrast to the chaotic, colorful collisions in his "Abstract" gallery like "Short Before Sunrise 3."

But it's the 3D art from XenoDream that really dazzles -- like the image above from the "Shells" gallery or much of the art from "Dreamscapes." Ornate cityscapes, like "Downtown (Part 2)" -- this one complete with a fractal sky -- rise up to tower in elaborate, telescopic detail. One of my favorites, and certainly among the most rarefied, is "House of Despair" -- a monolith that reminded me (with a shudder) of the blown-away facade of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building after the Oklahoma City bombing. Tolkien fans will have fun scrutinizing "Near the Mordor's Gate." Is that the Eye of Sauron I spy at the apex of the tallest pyramid? And I've only scratched the surface of Vitanov's expansive site.

Well, it looks like the blog's about to close for the night. I hope you enjoyed taking a jaunt with me. I plan to take more walks and strolls in the future. After all, there's no shortage of inventive fractal artists in cyberspace.



And speaking of the contest-under-a-microscope, the discussion of the propriety of the 2007 Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest spilled over into the Xenodreamers YahooGroup last week (you'll need to become a member in order to read postings). The contest director and I had a few short exchanges. The most interesting moment was when I asked:

Now that you and the panel members passed out a whopping 71 awards honoring quality this year, doesn't that mean you can comfortably scrap including the judges' work (40% of the exhibition, by the way) next year and keep the contest strictly for the contestants?

To which contest director, Damien M. Jones, said:

Actually, yes.

It will be interesting to see if he actually keeps his word. Or will, once more, the contest scapegoats sponsors again "insist" (weeks before being named and via telepathy) that the previous model of hanging (on the wall) judges be kept intact? Time will tell.

Of course, our critiques here at OT had absolutely nothing to do with this sudden, surprising reversal. Jones said the whole issue was "dead," and I noted that our OT Inbox suggests the contest controversy is far from deceased. Jones retorted that the email he's received notes Tim and I are "being ridiculous," and I observed in turn that

It's possible my circle of correspondence is not quite as closed as yours.

Jones, echoing the tired "sour grapes" refrain of other OT commenters, questioned my motivations by observing:

We made it much clearer right from the start that panel members' artwork would also be included. Apparently you didn't find the terms too objectionable, since you entered the contest yourself. Aren't you just complaining because your work wasn't selected?

I responded by saying:

I've never denied that you did not make your terms public. But open disclosure does not mean your guidelines are inherently ethical or fair. The question is really one of propriety.

You've accused me of "sour grapes" several times now. The fact that I entered the contest actually shows just the opposite.

I like to enter contests -- at least once. You learn a lot about a contest by participating in it. You come to see how things are run and how you are treated as a contestant. In many writing contests, you cannot see or read the winning work unless you do enter. Once you've "experienced" a contest, then you're better able to decide if further participation is in your best interest.

I've been writing for 32 years and making art for 11 years. I bet I've entered probably 200+ contests. I did not win or place in most of the competitions I entered. Yet, in all that time, I have only questioned the operation of two contests: yours and the Fractal Universe calendar. There's a reason. You both have something in common -- you mix the work of judges/editors with those they have judged/edited. Such a practice is widely regarded as an unprofessional conflict of interest.

If I was all eaten up with the bitterness of not being selected, wouldn't I be firing off vinegary missives each time I lost? Yet, I've only raised questions about two contests in over thirty years.

It's a matter of principle, Damien.

Stay tuned. As Yogi Berra liked to say: It ain't over till it's over.


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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

a little water

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Mourning Becomes Fractalus -- Act III

Mourning Becomes Fractalus


My Sources Say No, Sucker...

I am well aware that people were not happy about judges' work appearing in the ICM exhibition alongside contest entries...but our 40% of the show must go on!!

Is this a carrot which I see before me...?

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. --Martin Luther King Jr.


...with still more apologies to Eugene O'Neill.

Made with an early version of Comic Book Creator. Fractal images used are my own. Text is a mashup of my own writing collaged with comments made on this blog.

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