Sunday, March 30, 2008

Better than Escher?

Yes, but let's give the old guy credit for having to work with such primitive tools -- like himself.

That's right; I don't have to calculate or plan anything in my own head like what's-his-name did. With a single, thunderous click I unleash an awesome whirlwind of mathematical calculations, the simplest of which would leave me frowning and scratching my head.

Folks like me often forget (or don't know) how many sets of "shoulders of giants" we stand on and what those giants are doing down there. (Is it any wonder I often feel like a conqueror, standing astride this apex of culture and science?)

But that's only one of the reasons I'm better than Escher. Or wait. Actually, that's the only reason I'm better than Escher -- it's that simple!

Perhaps there is something from the mind of that Escher guy in one of my photoshop filters? That's not a bad guess, especially considering how incredibly Escher-like this image is (I made it, not Escher). Declaring myself to be better than him (was he a man or a woman?) is my little way of tipping my hat to him/her.

Why then should anyone hold on to works by MC Escher, or look at them, when they've got my stuff? Well, lots of reasons. First of all, they make me look good.

Escher worked almost entirely in black and white while I work with millions of colors, although I restrain myself (most of the time) by sticking to a 256-color palette to reduce file sizes, and for some other reasons I can't remember.

If Escher was alive today (he isn't, is he?) he'd want to steal my enchanted tool kit and run out the door with it. But I wouldn't stop him. In the classic sage-like response to just about everything, I would just roll on the floor laughing. And then download the whole lot once more. Times sure have changed, haven't they?

What would Escher be doing today? He'd probably be writing graphical programs with a mathematical angle (no pun intended) like fractals or 3D; trading his pencils for pixels in an instant. He'd know better than to compete head to head with the likes of someone like me. Smart guy.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nobody said a word, but I knew

There was a time when the radio made pictures. There was a time when you could see the sounds you heard. You could look at the radio waves.

Abandoned now, the memories still exist. Ask anyone, like me, around my age, how the radios at one time used to come with a little TV screen, the size of someone's palm.

I guess it was like a cell phone picture screen, but you didn't see icons and a little computer screen, you saw the radio waves. They shimmered, sort of, and made scratchy looking, wavy shapes.

There's nothing like it today. The colors changed a lot, and when you turned the tuning dial, the picture shook and crackled like the music did.

You couldn't do a screen capture or save anything. Some people got really good at it though, and would show off the pictures they could make on their radios during recess time at school.

I don't remember when the aliens came back, but that's when all the radio screens disappeared. Nobody said a word, but I knew. I was playing with my radio and watching the scratchy colors and that's when I saw their ship appear on the tiny screen. I saw it coming through the sky. Just one ship.

Not long after, my brother's was gone and no one at school had one anymore, either. I kept mine hidden, but they found it.

Nobody said a word, but I knew.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Are you ready for bubbles?


I don't know what made me pick up Sterlingware again. After a year or two of experimenting with the formula parser in Inkblot Kaos and Tierazon and a whole bunch of photoshop filters, Sterlingware didn't seem exciting anymore.

Once again, I'd thought I'd squeezed every good thing out of Sterlingware. Sure, like every progam it was still good for making raw material to morph and zap with photoshop filters, but I figured its days of stand alone usefulness were gone.

I started with the old the combinations that had been successful in the past; that's a good way to review things and get back in the grove, but the old paths lead to the old places. I started with twister-weed and sine-trap; high color teethed grass and water falls; and then on to all those other rendering methods that I had always had high expections of, but had never worked for me...

That's the point when I would usually give up out of frustration and move on to some other program, looking for new horizons. But this time I became fascinated with something that I'm sure I had already experimented with and abandoned: guassian sine dimension 9.

Visions of bubbliness

Sinister, and circular, bubbles14.loo

What's weird is I'd seen these before, but at the time, I wasn't ready for them.

It reminds me of the perlin noise images I've seen by Samuel Monnier and Paul DeCelle. Although I'm sure these two types of imagery are not related mathematically, they both have that same endless cloud feeling to them, of infinite resolution and unpredictable patterns.

Unpredictable. That's what creativity is all about: making something you haven't seen before.

I used to think stuff like this was garbage. But now I realize I just wasn't ready for bubbles -- back then.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008



Incoming (1999)

Duck and cover, Orbit Trappers. There's been some shelling this week on the Fractal Universe Calendar front.

Although I noted that the current Fractal Universe Calendar editor should presume she has been contacted with the questions raised in my last post, I would describe the response so far as tepid. To speed things along, I visited the web page for the FUC, where I discovered the following notation on its FAQ page:

We hope you will find that your questions have already been anticipated and answered. If not, please contact us. We will try to answer you personally, and add your question with it's answer to this page -- here. Where necessary, we will contact the publisher on your behalf for clarification.

That seems easy enough. So I sent off the questions I outlined last go around. No reply so far, but I find comfort knowing if the editor is unable to answer any or all of my questions, she will send them posthaste to the publisher. That should save me the trouble of having to contact Avalanche Publishing myself. So, in the meantime, I'll wait and patiently -- between checking boiling pots and watching paint dry -- keep refreshing the FAQ page to see if there's any reply.


Since I've heard that Orbit Trap is kind of like The Devil's Workshop, there's no sense in being idle, so I packed up my keyboard and ventured offworld. During my travels, I discovered the announcement calling for submissions for the 2010 FUC had been inserted into various fractal nooks and crannies. Being a citizen-blogger, and in the interest of keeping the social clubs of Fractalbook fully informed, I posted the following disclaimer wherever I found the FUC submission entreaties:

Some of us in the fractal community have reservations about the manner in which both the Fractal Universe Calendar and the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest are run. While blogging at Orbit Trap, we have written extensively to detail why the protocols of both competitions should be carefully examined in regard to professionalism, favoritism, ethical breaches, and conflicts of interest.

I understand this is a controversial topic in some quarters -- but it is one that profoundly affects all of us as artists and the genre of fractal art as a whole. As such, the manner in which these competitions are managed should be carefully scrutinized and openly discussed.

We have a right to speak out -- even if what we say upsets some of you and challenges the status quo. We did not come here to argue. We came here only to share information.

Please visit our blog, consider our arguments, and draw your own conclusions. Thank you.

Terry Wright
Tim Hodkinson

And that was that. Deed done. Services rendered.

But, no, a great clamor arose from the darkest heart of Fractalbook. A few of its denizens stirred from their trances of mutual admiration.

Over on, sporadic OT commenter lycium/thomas made the following observation:

urgh, all you guys live for is to whine about art competitions you don't stand a chance of winning

I just didn't have the heart to tell him that his own chances of winning are also iffy, since the judges of BMFAC and old-new editors of the FUC currently comprise 40% of the exhibited/published material.

Meanwhile, at the Renderosity Fractal Forum, who should show up but former OT heckler-troll Ken. He's fractaldom's very own Howard Beale. He has one mood: mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. Here's a shot of his latest imparted wisdom:

Contrary to Orbit Trap's opinion, these events [the two main fractal competitions] are only two events. In the grand scheme of things, they are really insignificant. Every artist, whatever their medium or genre, has a large number of ways to present and expose their art to the public, if that is their desire.

Ken's thinking is, so what if fractal art's two major competitions are crooked and corrupt. It's no biggie. Just turn a blind eye. Move on. Nothing to see here.

Activism is not Ken's strongest suit. It seldom is for people dedicated to embalming the status quo.

And what exactly these "large number of ways" to also present one's fractal art in competitive scenarios are, well, Ken didn't say, although, with some wishful thinking panache, he described himself as "a critic" while pitching his own blog devoted almost exclusively to hating Orbit Trap's cyberguts.

After correcting a few of Ken's more vivid distortions, I felt a comparison of the two blogs might indeed be in order. I wrote:

I do hope forum members here take a challenge to visit both blogs. I agree that looking closely at tone is a must, as well as keeping a running tally of the number of insults, distortions, and ad hominem attacks one finds. Members should also carefully compare which blog presents empirical evidence and which relies on emotional venting. Ask plenty of questions, too -- like which blog has a sense of humor? What longstanding ties do the individual bloggers have to various people managing or judging the two competitions? Which blog plays a whistleblower role by presenting controversial, even unpopular issues relevant to fractal art and artists -- and which one merely responds negatively to the issues raised by the other in order to keep the status quo safe and its established power structure intact?

Ken seems distressed that we will not provide a working hyperlink for his blog here on Orbit Trap. We refrain from doing so only out of regard for the mental health of our current sentient readers. For the more masochistic among you, well, there's always Google.

Oh, wait. One good thing about getting briefly reacquainted with Ken: he revealed his real name. He turns out to be one Kenneth Childress. Now, we can safely refer to him as simply Childress -- thus preserving the informal tone for known friends and still unknown troll-hecklers. Childress has been calling us cowards for nearly a year now, although he stubbornly refused to reveal his own secret identity. We're nearly beatified that he's finally come out of the re-iterated closet.

But the real action was on a forum over on deviantART where a few Fractalbookers were scurrying like cockroaches on lemon cake crumbs. First, beebee127 had something to say:

As far as fairness in the image selection for the calendar, I'd say that since it is a private enterprise, and the editor has accepted payment of a guaranteed image, the balance actually becomes unfair. Compensation for months of work is nothing more than any of the others receive for only submitting. That's not fair, but that's really not our business, is it?

I didn't quite see things his her way and wrote:

If the Fractal Art Calendar was a true publishing venture, it would be run like one. The publishers would hire an editor and pay her or him (with a check) for services rendered. Those services would entail directly soliciting artists to contribute original work to the calendar.

But that is not what happens. Instead, the entire venture is couched in a competitive scenario. The editor is actually a screener who pares down the many entries to a more manageable number. The misnamed editors turn these finalists over to a "publishing team" who function as judges and select winning submissions for inclusion.

Editors surely deserve payment, but a compensation that includes the editor's work in the publication -- especially when the selection process is competitive rather than solicited -- is widely regarded as an unprofessional practice that runs an increased risk of invalidating competitions on the grounds of promoting favoritism and increasing the risk of conflicts of interest. The FU Calendar process further allows editors to submit their own work into the final pool of artists selected to be sent to the publishers. As a result of these unusual protocols, just over 40% of the images that appeared in the Fractal Universe Calendar from 2004-2008 was the work of just four former or current editors.

If the calendar was run as a conventional publishing enterprise, whether private or public, I'd have no problem with it. But since it has become one of only two major art competitions for our field, I'd say it is very much the business of all of us to insist that our competitions be run with the highest professionalism. If you and others are indifferent to having strict, commonplace standards, then I fear fractal artists will always be seen as amateurs and hobbyists, at best -- and hacks, at worst -- by the larger art community.

It wasn't long, though, before a few of the BMFACer-loving, kewl kidz from Keith MacKay's Wedreamincolor blog rolled in wearing tattered body armor.

Up first was sharkrey, although he had a little trouble initially comprehending the difference between facts and opinions. But once we got that distinction cleared up, he synthesized his argument with the following frat boy reasoning:

Your argument has the appearance of being based not on empirical data but on emotions. Reminds me of the college joke about the difference between a slut and a bitch. A slut being someone that will screw anyone, a bitch being someone that will screw anyone but you.

To which, I observed:

I laid out my ideas with specificity and in a deductive chain of reasoning. You've merely overgeneralized and completely misinterpreted what I said in my first response to you...


Personally, I find your college joke in bad taste. I would think most of the female artists in this community would find it offensive. The joke, in no way, says anything about what I wrote, but it probably says something about you.

Up second, and saying nothing about the joke (silence vaut acceptation?), was former OT troll-heckler WelshWelsh. First, she offered me the address for Avalanche Publishing (which I already had), then tried to sell me the same snake oil refrain she's been peddling for months:

...take the bull by the horns and start your own competition and exhibition. Go on: put your time, your money and your effort into showing people how you think it should be done. Of course, if you did that, then your own rules would forbid you displaying your own work: how's that for a lose/lose situation?

To which I replied:

Besides, I've already answered this question from you and others. I used the analogy of laws. Although I don't write the laws, as I citizen I expect them to be fair -- and, if they are unfair, I have the right to speak out. The same applies to these competitions. Although I did not create them, as a fractal artist I expect them to be fair -- and when they are unfair, I have the right to say so.

And, in a reality check, are you really arguing that in order to offer any criticism of anything, one must also do the very thing one is criticizing? By this logic, before I can justifiably critique a presidential candidate, I must also run for president myself? I can't complain about the food in a restaurant unless I'm willing to barge into the kitchen and cook the same meal? I can't sue my neurosurgeon for a botched job unless I also take a crack at operating on my own brain? Is this your argument? Seriously?

Before I criticize others for committing murder, I must experience the act of killing myself.

Things probably went further downhill when I added:

If I had the desire to start my own contest, you can be certain I would not include my own art or writing. I don't consider that trade-off to be "lose/lose." Instead, I believe such a stance must be expected professional behavior for ethical curators, judges, editors, and contest managers.

With her usual aplomb, she ended one post by first quoting me before adding her own jab:

"I wish I had better news about these contests. I'm sorry if what I point out upsets people. I'm upset, too." Crocodile tears, Terry, crocodile tears. Pardon me if I don't snivel in sympathy.

To which I observed:

Please hold those crocodile tears yourself. Both you and sharkrey are contributors to Keith MacKay's Wedreamincolor blog (which, curiously enough, also lists the FUC editor and the BMFAC director among its contributors). MacKay banned me after a single post. That's his right, and I'm not upset. But you can't have it both ways. You can't complain about our actions, while, at the same time, you say and do nothing as a contributor to another blog that does something similar -- only with lightning speed. Tim and I certainly gave you and your friends a much more reasonable chance and put up with your antics for a considerably longer time than I was allowed on your group blog.

Why is it that our former troll-hecklers are so quick to decry our acts of "censorship," but remain still and silent as living statues when identical actions occur in their own backyards? The hypocritical double standard of their convenient situational ethics is stupefying.

What a crazy weekend jaunt. It's good to be back among friendlies and in the creature comforts my "home turf."

Still need more psychosis in your life? Well, the full forum exchanges are there at the links for any of you willing to risk elevated acid reflux. Please stay tuned for further bulletins.


Image made with Sterling-ware. Post-processed until the image shouted just a few seconds too late.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Postcards from the Future

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Springtime on the Fractal Plains

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


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Facelift (2008)

The call has sounded again for the 2010 Fractal Universe Calendar. And the website for all things FU has been given a text-heavy facelift. But peel away the new cosmetic facade, and nothing has changed.

The FU folks get really upset if you call this whole shebang a contest. Check our archives for details. So, this year, they've pulled out all the stops to be unwaveringly clear to inform you that the venture is an "image submission process." But, hey, categorically, under no circumstances, is it a contest. How do we know? Because, like your mother, they said so. From the FU website FAQ page:

We would like to stress that while this is a wonderful opportunity for the fractal community as a whole, this is *not* a contest. The publisher will choose images that it sees as most commercially viable.

And, in case your eyes cannot focus in the new, denser FAQ verbiage, the posted announcements around various fractal venues, like Renderosity's Fractal Forum, also reinforce the non-contest nature of this year's process:

We would like to stress again this year that this is a commercial venture, and not a contest. The publisher will ultimately decide the final 13 images that will be included in the calendar.

You see, it's that second statement that presumably is the deal breaker. Because the publisher makes the final selections, the "image submission process" does not resemble a contest.

And we've argued before -- and say with a sigh again this year -- such a claim is ludicrous.

What exactly is one supposed to call this "image selection process"? If it's a publishing venture, it certainly deviates from standard practice. Publishers traditionally hire an editor who solicits material directly from those that publishers hope to publish. The editor is financially compensated for her or his services.

But what happens here? The FU "editor" actually is a screener who pares down submissions to a more reasonable number. After this initial cut, the finalists are tranferred to the publishers who serve as judges that make the final thirteen selections included in the calendar.

The model for this whole process is not one of proactive solicitation. It is, in fact, competition. And my edition of WordWeb Pro notes that a synonym for competition is contest.

And, if the process is competitive, then questions can be asked about the manner in which this particular competition is being run.

Like, in this case, how are the editors compensated? The traditional method is to simply pay them -- with a check. And one has to ask why that method is not used here. Instead, the FAQ tells us:

This year, Avalanche Publishing has again agreed to include at least one image from the editor in the final 13, in recognition of efforts as otherwise uncompensated editor / facilitator.

Neither Tim nor I have ever argued that the FU editor(s) should not be compensated for services rendered. We have, however, questioned why compensation has to be including the artwork of the editor. When such rewards are given, especially in a competitive environment, propriety becomes suspect and issues of professionalism should be raised. Contrary to what our adversaries claim, such compensation is professionally frowned upon because questions of conflict of interest invariably come into play.

If the publisher is willing to monetarily compensate artists for inclusion in the calendar, then why not just pay the editors directly for their efforts? This simple solution would eliminate suspicious activity like... the fact that just over 40% of the Fractal Universe Calendar selected entries for the last four years were made up of images by the previous four editors.

The mists are lifting. Why should FU editors lobby for change? Apparently, it's good to be the editor.


For all of the fresh text covering the FU site, here are a few things that still aren't clear:

*What exactly is the editor's compensation? I'm confused. Ex OT troll Ken claims "at least one image included" is the only payment. But ex-editor Keith, in a now deleted (by him) OT comment, suggested that the standard payment ($200 for an image or $400 for a cover) is also given to images by editors. Which is it?

*Why doesn't the FU site list the editors for past years? Is it because the powers that be don't want you to do the math and discover the ratio of included images by editors?

*Who exactly are the we mentioned in the quotes above? This year's FU contest website lists only one editor. The only other person listed is someone who maintains the website. Is this person part of the us? And how is the site's web designer compensated for her services?

*In the past, editors have often had more than one image included in the final selections. Precisely how many of the editors' own images can be included in the preliminary cut of 200? The FAQ does not say.

*The FAQ notes that the list of the final 200 images will not be made public. Why -- other than because we say so? There are no privacy issues involved. And artists who made the cut might have added incentive to submit again the following year.

*What protocols are in place to help prevent conflicts of interest -- like editors or even "the publishing team" recognizing the submitted work of friends or family? Blind judging is apparently not strictly used, since the FAQ notes that signatures are allowed on submissions.

*What, exactly, does this mean?:

Q: Will artwork, other than that submitted to you via this website, be considered for inclusion for the calendar?
Yes -- possibly. In the past, Avalanche Publishing has requested specific fractals or fractal types. Special requests of individual artists may be made by approaching them directly.

Okaaay. So, why not just do this in the first place? Pay editors to make solicitations. Then you'll have a true publishing venture, and OT will never again question your operating methods. But, apparently, you're running a competitive process to generate material -- and doing solicitations, too? Will you publish a list showing which images were submitted and which were solicited? What is the percentage of solicited images included (say, in the last five years)?. Can FU Calendar editors (past or current) be among those artists who can be directly solicited? This whole bit sounds suspiciously like Damien M. Jones' BMFAC rationalization of needing "a hedge against insufficient quality."


We hope you will find that your questions have already been anticipated and answered. If not, please contact us. We will try to answer you personally, and add your question with it's answer to this page -- here. Where necessary, we will contact the publisher on your behalf for clarification.

Fair enough. Consider yourself contacted...


Of course, Avalanche Publishing -- or any publishing firm -- is free to publish whatever fractal art it chooses. Then again, as artists, all of us have a stake in what is presented to the public as the contemporary face of fractal art. Do you feel the Fractal Universe Calendar's face in this regard needs a comprehensive facelift?

But that's another post for another day.


Image made with QuaSZ. Post-processed until the image also asked for a tummy tuck and boob job.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Secret, Invisible and Ever-Unknown

Photographed by Sterlingware, the Hubble Telescope of Fractals (Sterli12.loo)

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Bird That Gave Birth to the Moon

Click for Sterlingware Parameter File

There is a new legend that tells how a bird gave birth to the moon.

For thousands of years the bird had laid eggs and all of them had been eaten by animals in the forest.

The bird started by laying eggs on the ground, which were of course quickly found and eaten.

Next the bird laid her eggs under the ground. Some of these were dug up and eaten by animals on the ground and others were found by animals inside the ground. But the rest that stayed hidden, died and rotted in the ground.

Finally the bird laid her eggs in a tree. They were far away from the animals down on the ground and inside the ground, but not from the other birds. The birds came and ate the eggs.

For a thousand years the bird laid no more eggs because she was sad. But the bird started to get bigger and bigger because of all the eggs storing-up inside her. One night the huge bird looked up into the sky and said, "I will fly as high as I can and lay my eggs at the top of the sky. I am filled with children and I can't go on living like this. If they also die, then I will die with them."

The bird, who had now grown to a giant size, flew up to the top of the sky and instead of laying many eggs, laid a single enormous egg then returned to her tree to see what would happen to it.

The next night, all the animals gathered under the bird's tree because they were excited about this bright new egg in the sky that was so bright it seemed to give them a second daytime. They laughed at the bird whose eggs they had eaten and said, "too bad your tasty children aren't here to see this!"

The bird replied to her children's killers, "Say goodbye to your easy hunting in the nighttime. This shining moon you see is the birth of a thousand eyes. The animals you used to hunt will now see you and escape. And with every new moon, when it is dark like before, you will be the one who is hunted, because your starving friends will turn on you in the dark."

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Temple of Saturn

Brought to you by the proud sponsors of the 2012 Olympic Clickism Team!

[Your Company's Name Here]

I'm trying to get Clickism recognized as an official Olympic sport.

Of course, if that happens I probably won't even qualify for a spot on my country's first official team to compete at the next Olympics. The competition gets pretty stiff once that fabled Olympic status is conferred on any sport.

But that's Okay; I train hard and run fast so that others will train harder and run faster. Just remember; it takes a lot of losers to make one winner. Who is the winner of a one-man race? Without a crowd of losers, a winner is nothing. But do the losers ever get any thanks or recognition? No. Anonymity is the left hand of losing.

Here are the hurdles that I've met, and mastered in my most recent race in the arena of Clickism. Do not be impressed! I went off-course many times before arriving at the finish line.

From Sterlingware, the starter pistol of champions, by Stephen Ferguson (Sterli01.loo)

Altered with "Mirror Mirror.8bf" by Alfredo Mateus

Clicked on "Add Or Sub.8bf" by Andrew Buckle (Andrew's Filters)

And finally, click on Almodovar.8bf, another sports enhancing filter (not yet banned) by Andrew Buckle, and you'll arrive at the finish line, to the sounds of applause (the 100m finals are being run in the same stadium), and the image posted at the top. If you haven't suffered a serious injury (or been tackled by some nut in the crowd), you'll be around to lose another race.

Grasshopper; Consider the way of the loser. Inspire others to lose so that you may win -- so that you may be a winner at losing. Don't order a lot of team jackets and uniforms, though. Nobody wants "LOSER" written across their back. Pride in losing is self-indulgence.

And self-indulgence is futile because self-indulgence has only 256 colors, which is not enough for any being who wishes to use photoshop filters. Go soak your head in vinegar until you understand this.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Troll Prima Donna

Troll Prima Donna

Troll Prima Donna (2000)

Another paradigm shift: trolls are hecklers. They aren’t satisfied with the nearly infinite opportunities on the Internet to build their own spaces and places and express their views. They’d rather steal our voice and burn down our house.

Anyone who starts a blog, especially one functioning in part as a whistleblower, is eventually going to have to deal with trolls. You can be amused by them. You can shrug your shoulders and endure them. You can elect not to “feed” them. You can delete them and move on. Here on Orbit Trap, Tim and I have been through the entire evolutionary cycle, and now we’ve entered the last phase.

Let’s start with the obvious. We are as much members of the “fractal community” as anyone else. We, too, have the right of free speech. This is our blog. We write it. We do not automatically owe anyone who shows up an audience with “Orbit Trap.” We do not have to hold a courtroom in our comments section to validate or justify our right to speak out. We do not have to repeat the rhetorical chain of our arguments -- on demand and ad infinitum -- to people who have never bothered to attentively read what we wrote in the first place.

But, even as I type this post, I know our adversaries are firing up their keyboards to tell you (at great length) how we are cowards who have abridged their free speech. Just remember -- they are hecklers.

Hecklers, by their actions, violate the free speech of others. Is that not true? When you are attending an event, whether or not an admission was charged, do you enjoy having the occasion interrupted by a heckler? Are you upset, or even raise your own voice in protest, when the heckler is removed by security? Why not? Could it be because the environment of that particular event wasn’t the heckler’s space or place?

Orbit Trap is our space. It’s like our auditorium. We built the space, made a stage, provided a microphone and sound system, and opened the doors for an audience. We assume visitors show up because they want to hear what we have to say. I know I tend to visit blogs I enjoy reading and usually shun those that raise my blood pressure. When a heckler turns up in our space, we might choose to initially engage him or her for the sake of discussion. But if no discourse develops, eventually, for the sake of our audience, we usher the heckler outside.

Orbit Trap is also our place. This blog is like our home. We get to specify what kind of behavior we will tolerate in our home. Would you invite a heckler into your home -- to scream in your face, insult you, mock you, or dress you down in a smug and condescending fashion? No. You’d ask the heckler to leave, and if the heckler refused, you’d have her or him removed from your home.

A heckler does have free speech rights -- but the exercise of such does not have to be tolerated in your spaces and places. By removing the heckler, have you denied him or her all free speech rights? No, you merely said my space and place are off limits. The heckler is free to rent a hall, furnish it with a stage, plug a mike into a sound system, and have at it. Say anything. 24 hours a day every day. And maybe an audience will even show up.

The Internet provides nearly endless opportunities for hecklers to find their own spaces and places -- including some devoted exclusively to fractal art. And, if hecklers want a more personalized home, there’s always Blogger. Hecklers can create their own blogs in less than five minutes. Some of our adversaries have already done so, even as they slap up posts about how we denied them freedom of speech.

Things might have been different if our hecklers hadn’t been hecklers. For proof, please review the archives. It’s clear that those who challenged us didn’t come to OT to discuss or debate. We know our claims are controversial and aren’t averse to having critics. But our hecklers don't want you to hear what we have to say. Their purpose is to shout us down through intimidation while diverting your attention. They hope, by putting up enough white noise, that you will be unable to see the big picture. They imagine you will be easily manipulated by such tactics. They are imperious but fear exposure. The status quo privileges them, and they want nothing to curtail the creature comfort perks of their self-selected fiefdom. So they storm our castle with bluster because we threaten to tear down the walls of theirs.

OT has no army, but we do have an audience. The “silent readers” Tim mentions are no myth. I know you’re out there. I can see you on OT’s daily stats. I understand why you don’t comment here. After witnessing our open house reception, who in their right mind would want such bile and grief to pervade their lives? It’s enough that you listen to what we’ve said and make up your own minds. We’ve laid out our case. You’ve heard what our adversaries have said and witnessed their methods. Weigh their tone. Reach your own conclusions.

And if you think we are right, then shift your private paradigm. Once you understand our fractal emperors have no clothes, you can’t screen out their lack of royal robes. There’s no going back to the old feudal system where they hold court and toss bread crumbs out the window of their passing carriage. You don’t need to become a whistleblower yourself. That Pandora’s Box has already been ripped open. You just have to understand what’s really going on. Knowledge is enough to begin a course change. Maybe you’ll talk among your friends. Maybe you’ll set up your own spaces and places. Maybe you’ll start your own Fractalus-like collectives with like-minded peers. Or add guest galleries to your site. Or build your own fractal art contests -- no matter how small scale at first. Or maybe you’ll boycott the existing contests until they are run fairly and professionally.

Don’t let a small non-juried clique, selecting themselves as “the most important fractal artists in the world,” control an art movement that also belongs just as much to you and me and all of us. Take it back -- using baby steps, if necessary -- but begin to take it back.

Don’t let the prima donna trolls lying in wait under the bridge prevent you from crossing any longer.


Image made with Vchira. Post-processed until the image became bored and decided it was above me.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Another paradigm shift: This blog, Orbit Trap, is a whistleblower. I think that's why there's been such hostility to it and such little open support. That's always the way it is with the unpopular role -- of whistleblowing.


Whistleblowing, by it's very nature occurs in environments in which power is monopolized and everyone therefore falls into one of two categories: The Bosses, and The Bossed.

If power wasn't being monopolized then whistleblowing would never occur and attempts to act like a whistleblower would appear ridiculous and simply be ignored. A dictatorship is an example of a monopoly of power, in a political context. It's a classic example of conflict of interest and the resulting influence that such a monopoly of power has on everyone who isn't part of the monopoly.

You don't go to the courts and file a lawsuit against a dictator because the dictator owns all the judges. The judges, who would normally be expected to be independent (so they can judge independently) are, like everyone else who plays a visible role in the country, deeply dependent on the favour of the dictator for their positions and, should they ever decide to blow the whistle and oppose the dictator -- jeopardizing their personal comfort or lives.

In an environment where no single group has control of everything, criticism is much more freely offered and issues are dealt with routinely, in their early stages, and thereby prevented from developing into deep-rooted and systemic (i.e. whistleblowing) problems in the first place.

In the fractal art world however, control over contests, calendars and just about everything else has become monopolized. The "official" face of fractal art is nothing more than a clique who use that "official" status as an opportunity to promote themselves -- an opportunity which they could never have gained on the artistic merits of their work alone. The monopoly is maintained by the intimidating influence felt by anyone else who wants to gain recognition in an art form which the clique claims to represent and whose most publicly visible examples they administer as their private fiefdom.

Someone has to be the one to blow the whistle on all this if there is going to be any hope of changing the perception and attitudes amongst people in the fractal art world who, if they had knowledge of these things, could easily act to change the way things are run.

Criticizing judges and editors for their conflicts of interest clearly leaves one open to retaliation via those very same conflicts of interest that one is attempting to expose. Few are willing to suffer the consequences of challenging the same authorities who have both the power to correct themselves and the power to punish those who are challenging them -- no one except a whistleblower.

So, my only comment to the Kens and Tobys (and the next Stooge to be sent from our adversaries) who show up to defend the status quo of the fractal world is this: Leave it to the many silent readers of Orbit Trap to judge the merits of what we say and come to their own conclusions. If you really feel our whistleblowing is a false alarm, then present your objections in your very own venue in infinite length and in total freedom. Then the audience can freely choose if they care to listen to you.

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Monday, March 03, 2008


Hi, my name's Suzyfrak745632

My latest paradigm shift: The online fractal "art" world is primarily a social network where one's "art" is used to gain admission to, and build a network of friends. My impression is that something like 90% of all the fractal "art" activity online is little more than an attempt to participate in a social scene and not a serious interest in fractal art as one would suppose it to be.

If you want to join a motorcycle club, you've got to have a motorcycle. If you want to join a fractal "club", you've got to have some fractals. It's Facebook with fractals.

This is not a criticism of the fractal art world exclusively. I suspect that this sort of "social-hobby" mingling goes on in many places on the internet and has in fact gone on in the past for centuries in the form of cultural clubs formed around various ideological, literary or artistic themes. The internet however, has enabled it to take a quantum leap creating communities where art (or whatever the original theme was) takes on a token role, conveniently disguising groups that engage in idle chit chat and gossip as "art" communities.

What lead me to such a conclusion was a perennial question that for years kept puzzling me: "Why is art on the internet so boring?". And this one: "How can there be so many people displaying art online and yet there be less creative output than one of my high school art classes?".

I think this aspect of the online fractal art world has been misunderstood and its inclusion under the label of fractal art has diluted and devalued the whole genre -- in the eyes of those who don't see it for what it really is. Once the Fractalbook crowd is factored out, I think the remaining handful of artists, styles and opinions is much more easily understood and will take on a greater and more progressive influence.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Us and Them


Aigaios (2008)

All I want is some good Clean Fun
All I want is some Good Clean Fun
--Descendents, "GCF"

It's not torture when we do it...
--Bark of the Moonbat (and countless others)

When so many love you, is it the same?

--Neil Young, "Cowgirl in the Sand"


Reader Toby -- Orbit Trap's wanna-be moral conscience and corrections headmaster -- is typing again.

In fact, he's taken up verse in the disguise of social commentary. Having created a new Ultra Fractal formula, he's decided to dedicate it to Tim and me for our "untiring efforts to publicize UF" on Orbit Trap.

So, I thought maybe we'd offer a bit more free publicity to Toby's doggerel -- and to the subsequent comment raves about it. You can read the doings here on Renderosity -- assuming you have a membership to that art community.

But here's a taste of the poem for any non-members who don't wish to hand over more personal data to who knows who:

In strident tones of hate,
they shout before the gate,
hoping that the masses heed their call.

'Tis a shame they cannot see,
that their source of misery,
lies within and will not yield to the spar

And what was my reaction when I read Toby's poem?

I laughed.

I laughed because I can take a joke -- even one at my own expense.

In one sense, Toby's right. I sometimes take things much too seriously.

Why should I give myself ulcers over whether fractal art contests are fair? Does it really matter that UF's viral popularity provides no inoculation against the spread of homogenized, production line art? Surely not. Better to chortle at yourself and reshuffle some priorities. Here in the U.S., a senseless war drags on as elected officials and pundits actually debate (and with a straight face) whether torture is acceptable. Civil rights, some as old as the Magna Carta, are being scrapped in the name of security. And I better not speak up or readers might flee from OT for the taboo of my mixing politics and art. That's your cue. Feel free to now question my patriotism and insist the wiretaps and library lists and drug tests only trouble people who have something to hide.

And the shifting strain of daily life is certainly weightier than any disagreements played out on some blog. The give and take of love needed to make a marriage last. Holding on to one's children -- and letting them go. Watching friends sink under the waters for the third time.

So a good-natured poke in the ribs is much appreciated, Toby. Thanks. Every laugh -- even those that sting afterwards -- is a gift.


But can I add something, Toby? I'd surely laugh even harder if your joshing came ashore without a boatload of hypocrisy.

All those "strident tones of hate" you mention seem to me to be found at the "gates" of Orbit Trap's comments section. That's where the barbarians shout. Can you hear them? Listen. Tim and I are "cowards." We're "overly stupid." We're "so damn cocky and presumptuous." We owe multiple apologies and should just "get over it." We "talk out of our ass." Yup. Yup Yup Yup.

And, Toby, while Tim and I are doing all this spiritual spelunking inside to excavate our sources of misery, would you mind embarking on an inward journey, too? After all, haven't you been the one wagging your finger and chiding us how we should be ashamed for our mean-spiritedness and lack of noble purpose? Let's roll some recent Toby comment footage:

Ah! another positive contribution to the fractal art world! Thank you guys so much for all the joy and light that you spread in our community...


Somehow that got lost in all the mocking and insinuation, I guess.


You must feel some sense of personal injustice to put so much energy into constantly harping on the subject. Or perhaps it is a function of your own psychic state: you just need a target on which to focus and discharge your anger...


I find decent criticism in our little fractal art world sorely lacking, but if you really wish to contribute positively then you must find a way to present your views responsibly, which means that your criticisms should spring from insight and should be presented in a way that will not be perceived as an attack on those at whom it is directed.

I think I'm beginning to understand how your worldview turns, Toby. It's only negativity and mocking and insinuation and irresponsibility and attacking when we do it. But, when you do it, it's just good clean fun.


It's harder, though, to laugh at the echo of comments rooting on Toby's cleverness. Springing from insight can be damned if the butt of the joke deserves to be bludgeoned. Apparently, one can yuck up attacks -- if the cause among the cloistered is seen as just. Dig those smiling here-here emoticons -- with plenty of thumbs-up praising going down, too. Toby's insights are "wise" and "excellent." "Loved the poem" chimes one. "A lovely...bit of words" sings another. Just another day of (what Toby once called) "idle, coffee-table chat." Where's the harm in it?

Of course, some of these people I once counted among my friends in the fractal community. In some cases, I hosted their art in guest galleries on my web site for many years. If they are not a judge for BMFAC or an editor for the FU Calendar, I've never questioned their motives or behaviors on OT or anywhere else. So why are they so quick to light the torches outside Frankenstein's castle? Maybe they have stock in Ultra Fractal. Or could there be other reasons for hopping on the bashing bandwagon?

Overall, I think art communities like Renderosity and DeviantArt do a lot of good. They are useful places where beginning artists can get tips and advice from more experienced practitioners. However, among some people anyway, these sites occasionally lead to the shadings of insider quip-trading on display here. When such behaviors take root, these communities have little to do with art. They become only country clubs for socializing in small ponds that seem like oceans to the participants.

It is precisely these kinds of cliques that turned me off to art communities. There's a kind of cloying smugness about them that should have been left in high school. Part of the problem stems from the infrastructure itself. Popularity indexes are embedded in the environment. Everyone can always see the stats you've racked up -- page views, comments, favorites, and friends. Or, worse, and to your public shame, everyone instantly knows how poorly your art is faring. Clearly, competition is the prevailing rubric.

So you draw your wagons into increasingly smaller circles of self-satisfaction. Maybe you begin, even if subconsciously, to make art that will score more mouse clicks and a higher percentage of compliments. Before long, everyone in your circle is a genius producing masterpieces every hour on the hour. Outsiders who question such a cozy status quo threaten world order. Better put them in their place -- before they become popular enough to take your place.

Is insulation like this -- where "so many love you" and everything you say or do -- healthy for artistic growth?

Uh-oh. I think someone's getting too serious again. Quick. Somebody write another satirical poem that starts a new snarky thread.

After all, it's not discharging anger when you do it.


Image made with QuaSZ. Post-processed until it blew out to sea.

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