Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Multimedia Talents of Stephen Ferguson

I think there are few people in the Fractal Art world today who have such a wide range of talents as someone like Stephen Ferguson. While Steve is mostly known for his programming and mathematical skills which were so clearly displayed in his creation of the very popular fractal programs Sterlingware and Tierazon back in the late 90s, he has always been, and still is, a dedicated fractal artist. In fact, I've always thought that it was Steve's artistic appreciation that helped him to make what I consider to be the most creative fractal art programs ever.

So I wasn't really all that surprised when I came across Steve's newest project -- a YouTube Fractal Art slideshow set to music. Of course, many fractal artists (and their fans) have put together slideshows of artwork and added a music track from a favorite song or famous classical composer like Mozart, Steve has included his own music, composed and played by himself.

Steve did tell me he didn't really "write" the music, but instead just made it up as he went along, and then added a drum track and an extra guitar track afterwards, but I thought it was pretty good and just confirmed my earlier suspicions that Steve is just as much an artist as he is a mathematician and computer programmer.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I present the Art, Music and Guitar playing talents of Stephen Ferguson -- Orbit Trap's first musical guest:

The video is also viewable from Steve's own site.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vote-Spamming: Or How To Know You've Hit Rock Bottom

A recent online poll:

Is Vote-Spamming a Problem?
Yes - 32 votes
Not sure - 18 votes
No - 1,456,776 votes

"Any contestants found spamming to obtain votes will be disqualified from the contest."
I read this in the rules, does this mean I can't tell my friends about the contest?
We welcome you to invite your friends to visit the contest and vote. Spamming would be if you were emailing people that you didn't know or posting messages on message boards, to come and vote for your entry.

(They're talking about parents out hustling votes for their online baby photos! --From The Parent Site Photo Contest Faqs:)

Top Three Reasons Why People Vote-Spam:

1) Vandalism -- we all like to wreck things
2) Group Support -- my friends like to wreck things
3) Community Support -- let's all come together and wreck things

But seriously folks...

The covers of Yellow Pages directories or any other kind of telephone directory are not art venues, they're just advertising opportunities. Whether you live in New Zealand or anywhere else, these cover "contests" are publicity stunts to draw attention to a commercial publication (most of which are struggling to stay in business these days) which usually gets tossed in a drawer and forgotten or tossed in the garbage.

Advertisers pay careful attention to whatever medium their customers pay attention to and the Yellow Page directories (Business telephone listings) compete with newspapers, magazines, radio, television and now the internet for advertising revenue because that's where the eyes of people who buy the services of business are.

Often times the Yellow Pages (it's a multinational trade-marked company) resorts to publicity getting events to advertise themselves because if people start to forget the Yellow Pages exist then they don't even think of using it and businesses regret the money they paid for their big ad and start to take out smaller ads in them the next year or don't bother with it at all. It's all about catching people's attention and selling that attention.

And what better way to do this (i.e. cheap and easy) than by having a competition to design the front cover for their Yellow Pages directory. Of course they aren't going to let anyone actually design the front cover; they've got professional design staff to do that (they do the ads inside too). What they are going to do is encourage everyone in the territory serviced by the directory to send in an image, knowing that all the while these "artists" are talking about the Yellow Pages to their friends, family, co-workers, neighbours, (blog readers)...

Of course almost all of what they receive is garbage and only fit for the door of a grandmother's refrigerator but this isn't a search for talent, it's a quest for public exposure and word of mouth advertising (the best, and the cheapest). The "finalists" are really the winners of the contest. The Yellow Pages picks a few images that they'd actually be willing to see on their cover (buried underneath their logo, and a hundred other things listed on the cover) and that's the end of the whole cheap charade.

No! Then they add yet another iteration of publicity by inviting everyone to vote for "the winner" (the Yellow Pages doesn't care which of their hand-picked finalists gets "picked" by the public) and milk the whole publicity stunt one more time to get that last drop of public attention from the contest cow. The deck is stacked and the Yellow Pages wins regardless.

Is it fair? What if some of the finalists are featured in their local papers while others are ignored by their's, being preempted in their own locality by a large warehouse fire or a brazen noon time convenience store robbery or a sweet old lady who's just celebrated her 106th birthday? -- or a lazy art reporter who thinks that maybe an art contest for the cover of a Yellow Pages directory ...isn't art

Is it? No, it's a cheap advertising stunt. What is it about artists that makes them such suckers for contests like this? Save your energy and efforts and especially -- your piece of mind -- and forget about these promotional stunts. You're only allowing yourselves to be used for the self-promotion of the contest organizers. You want $500? or whatever the lousy prize money is? Get a part-time job for a couple weeks. It's easier than fooling around with circuses like this.

At the very least, stop using the fractal art community (or any art community) to vote-spam these cheesy contests. All it does is perpetuate a selfish attitude which has in the past destroyed any serious art contests that have ever tried to use public voting and subsequently destroyed the trust that they were based on.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The World According to Fractalbook

Let's go parking, baby, and I'll show you my page views...

****V**** is for Victory

[Image initially seen at the Sun Gallery.]

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are filled with passionate intensity.

--William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

Fractalbook is Facebook on fractals.

Fractalbook has little to do with fractals, and even less to do with fine art. Fractals may be a common hobby that links Fractalbookers together, but neither fractals nor art are the raison d'etre for Fractalbook.

Fractalbook is about networking -- about socializing -- about schmoozing.

There is only one art to be found on Fractalbook. The fine art of sucking up.


Fractalbook does not care about your technique or your aesthetics or your software. The fact that you market a line of virtual lingerie for Poser Babes lounging around in animated gifs bores Fractalbookers.

Only one question holds the interest of Fractalbookers: Will you be my friend?

Or possibly: How many page views-full screens-comments-fave saves-toplist votes do I I I have?

Or maybe: If you'll scratch my back post, I'll...

Fractalbook is not lizard-based. It's canine-driven. It's all scratch and sniff.


Every Fractalbooker is a genius. And every post is a masterpiece. Or this is what everyone will tell you. If, and only if, that is what you tell everyone else. Often. Always.

Everyone is nice on Fractalbook. Even when everyone initially shuns you. Because you are not yet in with the in crowd. Just do more open toadying, and you will be fine.

Fractalbookers often say they want constructive criticism. But they don't. They much prefer fawning sycophants.

If you actually give constructive criticism in Fractalbook, you will be seen as not nice. In fact, Fractalbookers will then assume you are an asshole. And we all know assholes don't have many friends. Or get many hits. Or rack up many faves.

That's because assholes in Fractalbook place their dignity over their social status.

Silly assholes. They actually think Fractalbook is about art.


Fractalbookers think Fractalbook has noble, even highbrow origins. Something like a quilting bee or a debating society. But even more cultured. Like maybe their own personal Louvre where each Fractalbooker can be both artist and patron. Master craftsman and astute critic. Philosopher-king and mountain mystic. Pablo Picasso and Robert Hughes.

But an Art Pantheon is not the blueprint for Fractalbook. It has roots in a much more familiar model.

High School.

Fractalbook is not about art appreciation and criticism.

Fractalbook is instead driven by twin engines: Popularity. Gossip.

It's not what you make in Fractalbook that counts. It's what you say to who you know.


Which brings me to the point of this post. We had a really good look at Fractalbook in action this week. For a background, look at this comment Dzeni left on Orbit Trap a few days ago. And then look at the response she got on a Fractalbook conclave here. This one incident is a microcosm of Fractalbook.

So, what happened? Well, it's hard to tell. But Fractalbookers don't care much for ferreting out facts or understanding background details. They act only on knee-jerk emotion.

Dzeni was among three finalists in a competition. The winning image would appear on the phone book for a major metropolitan area in New Zealand. Judging would be based on an online popular vote. A local paper ran an article about the competition. However, for some reason, the article featured two of the finalists but said nothing about Dzeni or her entry.

Dzeni wrote Orbit Trap to solicit support to rectify this situation. Of course, since Orbit Trap is not a Fractalbook site, Dzeni did not have to be nice. As everyone knows, we at OT believe in constructive criticism and are therefore assholes who, in turn, must be insulted. And, who knows, slams aside, Dzeni might succeed in appealing to our sense of fair play since we sometimes write on the "perceived injustice" of corrupt contests like the BMFAC and the FUC. Here, says Dzeni, is a bona fide case of fractal contest injustice. Do we have the guts to pursue it?

Well, do we, punks?

The Fractalbookers definitely had the guts. They flocked, in an ironic post entitled "Democracy Sucks," to Dzeni's defense and began swamping the contest site wielding their mighty ***V***'s to rescue both their "friend" and the good name of Fractal Art (capitalized like Good Deeds in an old morality play). These Fractalbooking warriors, armed only with keyboards, were most valiant. Listen to their battle cries:

I voted for you...twice actually, because I have two e-mail accounts (hopefully that'll help offset the newspaper's impact).


voted again from another email account. Good luck!!!!!


I agree, contests where anyone can vote don't say much for talent but more about how many people you know, or how much work you put into rounding up voters.

Hey. Wait. That last guy is no Fractalbooker. What an asshole. He's actually making sense by stopping to reflect on the issue at hand.

In the end, I'm not sure how much of a mass appeal Dzeni made or how many sites she went imploring. She certainly pandered heavily for votes (for two contests) on this blog where she is a contributor.

Here comes the guts part. Should the Fractalbookers rushing blindly to vote to correct such egregious fractal injustice have first paused to ask a few questions?

It does seem unfair that Dzeni was left out of the paper. She certainly has every right to point out the omission. But is she also justified to plead indignantly for votes? Should those voting not be professional -- whatever the circumstances -- and cast their ballots for the image they feel is best?

And who is at fault here: the competition or the paper? Dzeni assumed those running the competition were to blame, so she asked her "friends" to act quickly to offset the situation by punishing the contest sponsors' obvious fractal bias with a tidal wave of mass votes. But maybe the paper is the party at fault. Maybe they just ran out of space. Maybe since her image was the only one that didn't have "Auckland" in the title, they decided not to publicize it. Maybe they found Dzeni's piece too political or something. Or maybe they were going to do a follow-up article later.

Maybe, indeed. It turns out the paper was the culprit. And they say they are going to do another article featuring Dzeni. But, even after this resolution, Dzeni is still openly campaigning for votes and needs them "now more than ever."

I wonder. Do those votes now leave a somewhat bitter aftertaste? Or are they merely chits to be called in when the next Fractalbooking "crisis" pops up?

And was this really a case of fractal injustice? After all, although Dzeni's entry has a fractal background, it looks like more of a mixed-media Photoshop piece. Could this whole kafuffle not be about fractal art but all about netting the most votes? And who benefits here? Our genre and our community? Or Dzeni -- who's admits she's competitive, did her networking homework, and stroked the right shock troops?

The odd-asshole-out above is right. This is not about talent. This is about how many friends you troll for to vote for you you you and push up your stats.

And that's Fractalbook in a nutshell. Art, like democracy, sucks. It's all about me me me and my primary place in the clique.

Welcome to the world according to Fractalbook. It's the rule of the worst, and the triumph of the most passionate and determined suck-ups.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Big Changes Proposed for the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2009

I'm sure that the decision to go offline this year was the just the thing they all needed to do some really serious thinking and re-engineering of the contest. I really admire people who are honest enough to just wipe the whole slate clean and start all over again.

The whole issue became so sensitive and emotional that I want to be careful that I don't shoot off my mouth here and say outrageous things like, "We won" or "Orbit Trap forced them to make changes"; I just see it as a victory for the whole community and let's just leave it at that, shall we?

I've made a list of what I think are the best proposed changes so far and, like I said, these proposals will be a great move forward for all of us Fractal Artists and I really want to thank those who've had the courage to even put this on the table, considering all that's gone on in the past.

It's not so much any one of the points that stands out, so much as what they all come together to form. It's a real example of the whole being more than the sum of all the parts. If these proposals are adhered to, and I really don't see why things at this stage would break down, then next year's contest is going to be a really big event.

Proposal #1
No More Reptile Clause

King Solomon said something like lizards are the smallest of creatures and yet you find them in the palaces of Kings, meaning their small size actually enables them to do things that people can't. It'll be good to see a contest where all the winners come in through the front door and none through a secret crack in the wall.

Proposal #2
Just One Real Judge

King Solomon said a lot about judges too -- and I think it was all bad. Oh well, you gotta have one. But one's enough. They'll have no trouble finding someone with some formal art credentials that will be happy to spare the hour or so that it takes to look through a couple hundred images. The judge won't have to drive anywhere. We'll upload the images and send the Esteemed One the link. Pick twenty -- the job's over. No questions asked.

Take my word for it; sorting the wheat from the chaff is pretty easy in art. And if you don't have a clue who the "most important fractal artists in the world" are then that makes it even easier.

Proposal #3
Contest Calendar to be Sold on Ebay

The rationale is: If it's good stuff then people will want a copy of it. Make it into a calendar. The exhibit is in the summer -- sell the leftovers on Ebay in the Fall when everyone else is selling calendars. The shipping is minimal; just a few bucks. Rip em off on the shipping, they'll never even notice. Charge five and it'll only cost a buck fifty. That's why everyone calls it shipping and handling. Yeah. I'd handle them pretty good if I got paid four bucks just to put them in an envelope. Maybe that's something I could help out with.

Proposal #4
Alien Encounters

I don't know exactly who suggested this, but it's a proven fact that all forms of life relate instinctively to fractal art just like Earthlings (that's us) do. It's because mathematics is the same everywhere in the Universe; a sort of universal thing. Top that off with the recent revelations in the news that up to 10% off all internet traffic is extraterrestrial (mostly satellites), and I think there's a good chance that some of those alien visitors will want to submit something to the contest. So let's not put any software restrictions or "Terrestrial-centric" obstacles between Bob from Pluto and him taking his rightful spot in the winner's circle. I say open things up to everyone, even if they can't handle our gravity or take the atmosphere for more than a few seconds.

Yeesh. That's nuts! Forget #4. Why would they ever consider such a thing?

But seriously. I'm really looking forward to next year's contest and all these changes that are being put forward. 2009 is going to be a whole new contest!

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