Disappeared Art

Nothing to see here.  Move on...

Disappearing should be an art form, a seductive way of leaving the world. I believe that part of disappearing is to disappear before you die, to disappear before you have run dry, while you still have something to say…
Jean Baudrillard

As Tim noted yesterday, the online images for the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Fractal Universe Calendar have disappeared.

Continuing their unbroken pattern of maximum secrecy, neither the current editor nor the publisher — Avalanche Publishing — apparently feels the fractal community deserves any explanation for this sudden turn of events. The FUC folks certainly weren’t shy about asking fractal artists to go to the trouble of making and submitting work — even if those who administer the calendar will no longer go to the trouble of displaying the contest’s winning images — and, of course, certainly can’t be bothered to explain the reasons for their abrupt change in policy. I suspect Tim’s speculation is on target. It’s a deliberate move designed to soften criticism from guess who.

So, isn’t it at least a little ironic that the only current online source to showcase a number of the winning entries for the 2010 Fractal Universe Calendar Contest is — wait for it — Orbit Trap?


Yes. I know. It is tiring when the FUC’s myopic critics just can’t grasp that the Fractal Universe Calendar is (to quote its website) *not* a contest — especially critics like Diane Cipollo over at Bella Online. She was more than jubilant (although probably supernaturally pre-influenced by Orbit Trap via a time traveling wormhole) back in 2004 to be one of the town criers for the 2006 edition of the Fractal Universe Calendar. Why she even seemed to be on a first-name basis with the editors for that year: Tina and Linda. And what was the title of her article? As Condi Rice once said — I believe the title was:

Open Call for Fractal Universe Calendar Contest

No doubt OT’s former hecklers will immediately begin armoring up (in a strictly semi-rhetorical fashion) and making plans for invading Cipollo’s comments section to verbally set her straight. I guess she didn’t get the talking points memo.


And inquiring minds might be asking why Damien M. Jones is pushing the Fractal Universe Calendar hot and heavy over on his Fractalus main page — announcing first the submission deadline and now noting that submissions have closed. Is he merely a concerned citizen? Perhaps, but an examination of the site shows the only fractal art contests announced and archived on Fractalus are those Jones hosts on his own server and plays some part in administering.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image(s) of the Week: 6 Reviews Using 6 Words

Shield by Tamrof Boynton

Shield by Tamrof Boynton

Superb minimalism. Careful composition. So lovely.

Dog03 by Cornelia Yoder

Please. Merciful God. Make it stop.

Signal by Earl L. Hinrichs

Coming through clearly for ten years.

Shroomies by Stan Hood

Shroomies by Stan Hood

Shroomheads understand why Stan is God.

Bird's Eye Primrose by Harmen Wiersma

Bird’s Eye Primrose by Harmen Wiersma

Absence makes the fractal grow fonder.

deepnessinthesky_nuked by lyc

deepnessinthesky_nuked by lyc

Someone left the cake out in the rain Strontium-90-laced radioactive fallout.


Yes. I know. That last one was twelve words. It just kind of got away from me.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What We Know and What We Don’t Know

State of the Art Fractal Art for 2010

Six Images from The Fractal Universe Calendar 2010

Break out the cheese dip, fractal artists. Your 2010 Fractal Universe Calendar (hereafter known as the FUC) has finally arrived.

You might not have noticed, though. Although there was plenty of publicity earlier this spring calling for submissions in various fractal haunts, the announcement of this year’s winners has been a pretty lo-fi affair.

Given the high degree of secrecy surrounding the internal operations of the FUC, I figured it might be helpful to break this review into two parts: what we know and what we don’t know.

What We Know:

We know images selected for the Fractal Universe Calendar are determined by holding a contest — contrary to the claims of the editor, the publisher (Avalanche Publishing), the FUC website, and Orbit Trap’s most voracious adversaries. How are art contests generally run? Submissions are sent, are pared down by screeners, and winners are selected from among the finalists by a judge or judges. How is the FUC run? Submissions are sent, are pared down by an editor or editors, and winners (images selected for the calendar) are chosen from among the finalists by Avalanche’s “publishing team.” See the big difference? The FUC folks and their droogies are hedging their bets you won’t notice the semantic substitutions they’ve made: editor for screener and publishing team for judges. And why not? Such doublethink is currently enjoying a pretty good run and has met with considerable success in recent years — at least in the United States. The Bush Administration, for example, simply changes the name for rampant clearcutting to healthy forests initiative. Presto!! Truthiness to the rescue!! No wonder everyone associated with the FUC constantly shouts in your face that the whole enterprise is NOT A CONTEST. Without the means of a contest format, the privileged ends of some participants could not be achieved.

We know that from 2004-2008, just over 40% of the images that appeared in the FUC were the work of only four people: three former editors and the current editor. This year, images by past and present editors come in at 31% — better, yes, but still comprising nearly one-third of the winners. There are no records of any contests before 2004 on the FUC site, so a comprehensive number-crunching of the entire FUC history is not possible — or, at least, not available to Orbit Trap.

We know the editor, Panny Brawley, who did the initial screening, has her own work included in the calendar. This practice is called “a payment.” Brawley also received a real payment of $200 — the standard acceptance fee per image (a cover pays $400). All FUC editors receive such “compensation.” We also know that including a judge’s work in a contest is universally considered professionally irresponsible, since the practice raises the stakes for questions on how that contest handles matters like conflicts of interest, ethical lapses, fairness, and other possible improprieties. Both the Fractal Universe Calendar and the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Competition include the work of judges in their products/exhibitions.

We know Linda Allison, former FUC editor, collected the most booty this year. She made $600 and is the only artist who had two images (one the cover) accepted. In fact, according to the merchandise page on Allison’s web site, she has appeared in every Fractal Universe Calendar since 1999.

We know Tina Oloyede, another former FUC editor, has an image accepted. She is was listed as the webmistress responsible for maintaining the FUC web site.

We know that two of the past FUC editors selected for this year’s calendar also have served as judges for the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest and had and/or will have their self-selected work exhibited with that contest’s “winners.”

We know that Toby Marshall has an image accepted. In fact, he told us so himself. You’ll find Marshall’s very public defenses of the FUC scattered throughout OT’s comments. Another OT hater and FUC defender, Ken Childress, admitted in a recent post on his blog that he “snagged” $600 from the 2003 FUC for two images (including the cover).

We know that former FUC editors have sometimes had more than one image accepted for calendars they have edited. Keith MacKay, one of last year’s editors, had two images (including the cover) accepted for the 2009 edition. This means that editors can select their own work to be among the “finalists” that are sent ahead to the judges.

We know that the Fractal Universe Calendar is the only annual, mass market publication that features a selection of contemporary fractal art and artists culled by using a competitive format.

We know that the prevailing aesthetic criteria for the majority of the images consistently appearing in the FUC is a heavily saturated spiral produced most commonly by Ultra Fractal and initially popular circa ten years ago.

We know that nearly all the present and past editors use and are associated with using Ultra Fractal as their primary software. The same is true for the judges of the BMFAC. We also know that the majority of images selected for publication/exhibition for both contests were made using UF.

We know there is a possibility that some images for the calendar may have bypassed the juried submission process and been directly solicited. The FUC FAQ notes:

Q: Will artwork, other than that submitted to you via this website, be considered for inclusion for the calendar?

A: 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.

We know the FUC contest does not use blind judging. From the FUC FAQ:

Q: Should I add a signature and copyright notice to my jpg files?

A: If you wish you may add this to your 600×600 fractals [the required size for submissions], but please do so in a way that does not mar the quality of the image. Initial submissions to the editors or publisher will not be used for any purpose other than to make the final selection for the Fractal Universe Calendar 2010.

We know that the Orbit Trap bloggers posted blog entries, emailed correspondence, and sent personal letters to the editor and to Avalanche Publishing asking them numerous times to address questions we raised and to clarify their practices. They ignored our requests, and we received no replies from anyone associated with the contest.

What We Don’t Know:

In a word: plenty.

We don’t know who Avalanche’s judges (“publishing team”) are. In any legit contest, you know upfront and from the beginning the names of the judges and generally are given information about their professional qualifications and accomplishments. The FUC web site repeatedly uses the plural pronoun us. Since only Brawley is specifically mentioned, who are us? Are members of the Avalanche publishing team: artists? art critics? curators? programmers? mathematicians? people associated with fractal art in any way? Are any of the artists who appear or have appeared in any FU Calendar on the current or any previous publishing team? Have any of the BMFAC judges ever been on any iteration of the publishing team? Are there any personal connections (family members, former students, etc.) between those who submit and those who judge? How can one ascertain the professionalism of a contest if the editor(s) and publisher insist that the contest judges not be known?

We don’t know how many artists appearing in any given calendar were directly solicited and did not have to be juried through the standard submission process. In other words, how many people regularly get a free pass to slip into the calendar unnoticed (and unjudged) through the back door? Are some of the solicited artists also former editors whose work appears regularly and comprises roughly 30-40% of each calendar? Why won’t the FUC site or Avalanche Publishing release a list of names of those artists who were approached directly? Moreover, why do the calendar’s organizers refuse to print a list of both the artists and the images that were sent on as finalists? The BMFAC, to its credit, lists all submissions, winners, alternates, and (an army of) honorable mentions. In fact, it is common for art contests to list the names and titles of finalists. Why do the FUC editor(s) and publisher fear releasing such information openly?

We don’t know why the FUC web site is not housed on Avalanche’s main site and/or server. Why is it set up as a separate web page — almost like an offshore pirate radio station? A much more common arrangement for a publishing venture would be to find it indexed on the publisher’s main site — complete with a listing of staff. Moreover, the site would be run by the publisher — and not independently farmed out to the editors who are employees. So, who hosts the FUC web site, and what is their compensation for doing so?

We don’t know why information about the FUC contests stops at 2004 on its main web site. If the answer is lack of space, then why not just list the information about past artists and include only thumbnails — or even just one page of plain text? You’d think the organizers would want to showcase the calendar’s history and commercial staying power.

We don’t know why the artists are paid a flat fee instead of royalties. What rights do artists maintain for their images? And, in a related matter, how lucrative is the calendar for the publisher? The FUC must continue to make a reasonable profit or it would cease to exist. Their profits are none of my business, you say? Maybe so. I only ask because many distributors of media content pay royalties for images they accept. And, if I was an artist about to appear in a mass market publication, I’d be asking myself these very questions. I have musician friends who wish now they had done a bit more research on the contracts they naively accepted from their record companies.

We don’t know what safeguards are in place to prevent editors from recognizing the work of family, former students, or friends. Any? None are spelled out on the FUC web site — which even states that submissions may contain identifiable signatures. For that matter, how many images of an editor’s own work is she or he allowed to include in the finalists that are sent forward to the publishing team? One? Five? Ten? Are editors allowed to directly solicit material from other artists (and with what, if any, limitations), or is that a prerogative limited only to judges?

Too many questions? Are we a little paranoid? Maybe we’d feel less like the organizers weren’t hiding something if they weren’t hiding almost everything. And, truly, we’d be pressing less hard if they’d just come out and made a good faith effort to answer some of our questions when we initially asked them.


And there you have it. Orbit Trap has already made clear how we feel about this particular publicity stunt masquerading as a contest that consistently feathers the nests of a privileged few. You can read about our take in the archives until your eyes ache. But all we ask is that you draw your own inferences and conclusions from what is known (and, in some cases, had to be dug up and pried out) about this contest — and then ask yourself why the FUC organizers are very determined to keep so much internal information unknown. We asked about the particulars for you many times and in multiple ways. We got drawn blinds and slammed doors for our efforts.

Are our adversaries right? Are we a being a nuisance because we seek to know specifics as to how this contest is run and continue to raise questions about the whole shebang due to its secrecy and unconventional practices? Or would you, too, feel better about this business after hearing more of the details and receiving a few straight answers?

I hope you have better luck learning the truth than we did. One thing is definitely clear. The FUC editors and publisher don’t want any of us to know how they are running this show. But I hope OT’s observations and questions raise more questions that keep rattling around in your head — at least until the call for submissions for the 2011 Fractal Universe Calendar begin appearing.

That’s assuming, of course, you haven’t already had your fill of all the “fun” they promised you’d have this year.


Wait. Don’t leave. I don’t think I’m done yet. Since the FUC folks refuse to soothe our inflamed brains with the balm of concrete information, we have only one recourse. Speculation!!

Now, please understand I’m not saying any of what follows did happen. Thanks to the FUC organizers’ habit of thoroughly shunning OT’s questions, I have far too many gaps to state in the fictions about to unfold any categorical progression of actions. I hate to be reductive and all, but curiosity about knowing what actually went down is why I asked the FUC bigwigs questions in the first place. So, given their brick wall of silence, I must turn to the art of extrapolation. Think. Think more. Given what we know and what we don’t know, what overarching worldview and particular sequence of events can be conjectured as occurring behind the scenes of the FUC headquarters?

After weighing the known and the unknown, I have postulated three possible scenarios. Take it away, Mr. Narrator:

[Cue shimmering film flashback effect.]

Scenario 1:
The universe is a Fractalbooker paradise. Every made fractal, especially gaudy spirals generated in UF, is a perfect and unrevisable masterpiece. Artists flock to social communities where compliments and hugs materialize out of the ether underneath every graciously shared image. Although artists claim to want “constructive criticism,” to actually give such a thing would be gauche — and, of course, completely unnecessary. After all, criticism is irrelevant, you silly. Everyone knows the perfect fractal form — the garish, seizure-inducing spiral — became the official state-sanctioned fractal nearly ten years ago, and is the only fractal deemed worthy of receiving the official FUC (Fractalus Universal Code) stamp of approval. In fact, classes have been established to teach the way of the one, true fractal (hey, some scifi extrapolations really do come true). All other fractals are considered rogue enemy combatants. They must be rounded up and heavily saturated until all the art is tortured out of them. The BMFAC judges are honored by having their own wing added to MOMA. Ken Childress wins the Pulitzer Prize for Rhetoric. Everyone knows and groks the wisdom of such things. Everyone except those cowardly, involutional wankers over at Orbit Trap. Every pixel tied in some way to them must be expunged from cyberspace — or, better yet, those rebel bloggers must be incinerated alive on pyres in order to be purified of their heretical views. Their ashes will be then shot into the sun — and a chemical reaction will then occur turning our star into the solar system’s largest smiley face.

In this universe, the FUC works as follows. The FUC editors would gladly work for free — no, strike that, they would pay Avalanche $200 for the honor of editing the calendar. But, alas, the publishing team, after attending a weekend motivational speaking seminar run by the BMFAC sponsors, INSISTS that the editors own work MUST be included in every calendar. The editors labor long hours — coughing and editing by dim light in wretched conditions worse than a gold farming sweatshop. They meticulously weed out any images they recognize from previous editors, family members, former students, and close friends — until their publishing team greedhead overlords, mock laughing out of soundtrack time like braggart kung fu henchmen, DEMAND they pass on those images that their ethical qualms had previously set aside. “It would be unfair to let past editors have 30-40% of the months,” say the FUC editors meekly in their best Oliver Twist voices, “and it’s categorically unjust to bypass the submission process and allow past editors and friends a free pass through the rear entrance.” DO IT roars the publishing team in a voice like Thor while making nooses out of their golden parachutes and washing their faces with thousand dollar bills. The dejected editors, who, in Neil Young’s phrase, tried to do their best but could not, scurry about like cowed ants completing their thankless busywork and forlornly put the final touches on screening another round of entries — knowing that if they dare question the orders of their star-chambering fat cat publishing team who spend too much time in stadium skyboxes watching the Saw series, their families will find themselves as extras in a realistic simulation of that franchise’s next sequel.

[Cue ominous Jaws-like theme music.]

Scenario 2:
Same universe as in Scenario 1. After all, sadly, that is the real world. But…with two critical differences. First, every few months, the Orbit Trap blog receives a comment like this: “You know. When I stop for a moment from making gimcrack spirals and typing out supercool **V**s and read what you’ve like written and actually reflect on your uh ideas, I can’t help but think…hey, maybe these dudes would agree to be one of my friends after visiting my deviantART page!!” And, second, in reality, the Orbit Trap bloggers have only scratched the surface of the FUC perfidiousness. The truth is much much worse than the Orbit Trap bloggers, who, in a remarkable coincidence, closely resemble Antonio Banderas [Note: my wife made me cut that part over concerns for what she called “verisimilitude”] could have ever imagined. I. Mean. Ever. Ever. Imagined.

In this universe, the FUC works as follows. The editor herself runs the whole selection process and involves her friends who are also contributors to help her. She accomplishes this sleight of hand by freely invoking the solicitation loophole clause. Her compadres are all more than pleased to host the website and do everything else for next to nothing because it means they get to use Avalanche’s money to publish their own work and peddle that influence in the fractal community. All they have to worry about is Avalanche taking exception to what they submit in their 200 short list of works and wanting something else instead. They know well that 200 submissions could cover the work of 20 people exclusively. They pad the 200 with their own best works and include along with it the worst work of all the others which they know will be rejected. After all, they learned long ago that the type of work published in the calendar will never change. Obviously, Avalanche now doesn’t have anything else to choose from, do they? This scenario fills in a few gaps, too. Why else does the calendar consistently exhibit a style so closely mirroring the editor’s own work? And how else could so few artists be so improbably lucky for so long, such as Linda Allison who almost seems to own an endowed chair in the calendar? It’s all because the editors are running the calendar as their own little fiefdom, and Avalanche couldn’t care less. Why? Because the editors have done a snow job on them by telling Avalanche that what they get in the 200 works each year is the absolute best in fractal art, and Avalanche doesn’t know any better.

[Cue fade in.]

Scenerio 3:
A universe and worldview falling somewhere between the saccharine utopia of Scenario 1 and the pernicious dystopia of Scenario 2.


All artists are vain. They long to be recognised and to leave something to posterity. They want to be loved, and at the same time they want to be free. But nobody is free.
–Francis Bacon

I decided not to add my usual hyperlinks to this review. Just because…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image of the Week: Paul DeCelle

Moment in Blue by Paul DeCelle

Moment in Blue by Paul DeCelle

Ultra Fractal is certainly versatile but too often images produced with it quickly lose their freshness to my eyes. The reason is found in its composing process in which striking new formulas are shared and then widely stepped on by the throngs of UF users. Once these variations-on-a-theme floodgates open, what was initially novel quickly can become drowned in a backwash of mass replication. This rapid, consumptive cycle is probably why I can usually tell immediately when an image was made using Ultra Fractal. It is also why I have reservations about the Mississippi School of Anti-Fractal Art™ teaching classes in the use of UF. Sign up today and soon you’ll be speed cloning the styles of others in no time!!!

So it’s always a surprise and a delight to see an artist use UF in a completely unexpected way. I’m not surprised, though, that the latest revelation comes from Paul DeCelle. He has long been on a quest to find new ways to coax fine art out of UF. His current knock-offs of abstract art pieces are the most exciting UF work I’ve seen since Jock Cooper rooted around in Bryce to create the stunning works found in his Mechanical Gallery.

Today’s image of the week is what DeCelle calls a “UF rendition” of a painting by constructivist artist Lars-Gunnar Nordström. You can compare DeCelle’s rendering to Nordström’s original here. DeCelle has a number of these abstract renditions displayed in his Renderosity gallery, including other works by Nordström. As they say in ad agencies, DeCelle’s re-creations certainly “break through the clutter” of the deluge of the usual UF and Apo fare. DeCelle is to be commended for taking risks and for revealing the wonders of a kind of digital cubism. He could have been content to reap oohs and aahs for burnished metal spirals he can probably crank out in his sleep. Instead, he has successfully opened up fractal art to a new way of seeing.

To their credit, the Fractalbookers at Renderosity understand DeCelle is on to something good. Unfortunately, they also have a serious case of artistic poison ivy and are itching to pry open DeCelle’s secrets to keep fractal assembly lines well oiled. And, with a sigh, I suppose the spirit of open source sharing will triumph in the end. Soon, the enigma of DeCelle’s process will be revealed for dissection on the UF List. Then, once the tweaking feeding frenzy begins, how long will it be before fractal renditions of poker playing dogs and Elvis on black velvet begin to re-clutter the galleries of art communities and smother what was once vibrant?

I remember what an aesthetic kick it was when I first saw UF work done using BringItIn. But, within a week, my eyes were stabbed when they were subjected to my first spiral-made-with-kittens. After that, every BringItIn-enhanced image just made me want to gack up a hairball.

So, readers, enjoy drinking cream before it turns sour. Here’s hoping that DeCelle continues to share his ground-breaking work but keeps his mysterious secrets secret — at least until I can stock up on a few cases of Maalox.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Image of the Week: Stacy Reed

A Farewell to Regret by Stacy Reed

A Farewell to Regret by Stacy Reed

Popular fractal programs certainly take their share of hard knocks. Apophysis, for example, seems to fiind itself frequently floating in critical backwash, and here on OT we’ve been known to take a few shots at Ultra Fractal (and still have more to say on that subject). But it isn’t the fault of the program if some art communities get overrun with fractal kudzu pumped out of these generators like a sewage treatment plant running at full capacity. A program is only as good or bad as its practitioners.

In the right hands, any program, popular or not, is capable of producing breathtaking work. Sometimes, when I sour on the homogenized glut of Apo and UF images crowding the Fractalbook niches of communities like Renderosity and deviantART, it’s refreshing to visit galleries by artists the caliber of Paul DeCelle and Dan Kuzmenka to see how Ultra Fractal can be stretched — or to hang out with the Faber Brothers to remind oneself of Apo’s versatility. Other artists, like Harmen Wiersma or Maria K. Lemming have forged and found potent individual styles that supercede whatever programs they use. These are the kinds of artists I will be likely want to spotlight on a bi-weekly basis when OT’s Image of the Week swings around to me.

A visit to Stacy Reed’s She Dreams in Digital site is a good place to start though. There’s plenty to see (and hear) besides the art, including photos, music, informative articles, engaging links, and a desk even messier than my own. But it’s Reed’s art made with Apophysis that keeps me clicking my bookmark.

At times, Reed’s work reminds me a little of Karin Kuhlmann (see Blackbird Fly), although Reed prefers a less painted and more unsaturated look. Reed also, to my eyes anyway, creates more tension and energy in her work than most Apo users can muster. This is likely achieved through careful attention to both perspective and absence. Look how measured placement of light draws attention to the focal points in Abstract Fractal — Floral. Reed tells us she’s just “messin with stuff,” but I expect a keen eye complements serendipity here. Seduction is another stunning, minimalist image where absence, light, and (especially) motion powerfully evoke mood.

Reed is also drawn to including lyrics or poetry (as in the featured image above), usually by others, to accompany some posts in order to highlight correspondences. And, although I’m not much taken with mixing generated fractals with RL material (and here’s a good objectification of why), the faint suggestion of sunlight and clouds nicely calls attention to the recherché detail in Mystical Tree.

Have fun exploring Reed’s blog/site. Prints are available. Don’t blitz by the sculptures. And be thankful that her desk is not as messy as it used to be.

Tim will be back next week to review another image and artist. Until then…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Spleen (2008)

[Click on the image above to see the view with binoculars.]

The first section, entitled “Spleen et idèal,” opens with a series of poems that dramatize contrasting views of art, beauty, and the artist, who is depicted alternately as martyr, visionary, performer, pariah, and fool. The focus then shifts to sexual and romantic love, with the first-person narrator of the poems oscillating between extremes of ecstasy (“idèal”) and anguish (“spleen“) as he attempts to find fulfillment through a succession of women…Each set of love poems describes an erotic cycle that leads from intoxication through conflict and revulsion to an eventual ambivalent tranquility born of memory and the transmutation of suffering into art. Yet the attempt to find plenitude through love comes in the end to nothing, and “Spleen et idèal” ends with a sequence of anguished poems, several of them entitled “Spleen,” in which the self is shown imprisoned within itself, with only the certainty of suffering and death before it.
Barry Veinotte


From the “Flowers of Evil’ series. Poem by Charles Baudelaire. Translation by William Aggeler.

Image made with Orca. Post-processed until it became just another disorienting encounter.


UPDATE: The third image in this series can be seen on my blog.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

To the Reader

To the Reader

To the Reader (2008)

[Click on the image above to see the view with binoculars.]

The poems [in Flowers of Evil] found a small but appreciative audience, but greater public attention was given to their subject matter. The principal themes of sex and death were considered scandalous, and the book became a by-word for unwholesomeness among mainstream critics of the day. Baudelaire, his publisher, and the printer were successfully prosecuted for creating an offense against public morals. In the poem “Au lecteur” (“To the Reader”) that prefaces Les fleurs du mal, Baudelaire accuses his readers of hypocrisy and of being as guilty of sins and lies as the poet.
Language is a Virus

Flowers of Evil is perhaps the most influential book of poems of the nineteenth century. The title, like the poems themselves, establishes a dialectic between beauty and sin. A flower usually evokes the beauty of innocence — of nature in fragile, expectant bloom. But, the poet posits, is there not beauty as well in the excesses of nature, in the ugly aspects of being, in an amoral life? Is not even — or especially — the freshest flower always on the verge of decay? Baudelaire adored lust, ennui, and avarice. He opens his collection of poems with an address “To the Reader,” which announces both his own and his addressee’s propensity for falseness: “You — hypocrite reader — my twin — my brother.” Within us all lie the flowers of evil.


From the “Flowers of Evil” series. Poem by Charles Baudelaire. Translation by Robert Lowell.

Image made with Orca. Post-processed until it became both putrid and sublime.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Never a Discouraging Word

Is this blue right and proper?

Blue Buffalo (2001)

Aristocracy has three successive ages. First superiority, then privileges, and finally vanities. Having passed from the first, it degenerates in the second, and dies in the third.
Vicomte De Chateaubriand

It will surprise none of Orbit Trap’s readers to learn we have had no reply to our inquiries about how the Fractal Universe Calendar is run. Nearly two weeks have passed since I wrote to Avalanche Press, and nearly a month has gone by since I emailed the FUC editor. We were certainly not flabbergasted to pick up only radio silence.

However, I was a little taken aback to see this year’s FUC editor’s busy schedule leaves her time to chat with the calendar’s supporters. The propaganda machine hums along without a glitch over at the Fractalbook niche of Keith MacKay’s blog. And an insular group it is. Among that blog’s contributors: Keith MacKay (former FUC editor), Panny Brawley (current FUC editor), Damien M. Jones (director of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest), WelshWench (retired OT heckler), and kymarto (aka Toby, another retired OT heckler). An objective bunch dedicated to carefully weighing both sides of every issue — to be sure.

I could pose my questions to the editor there I suppose. But wait. No. I just remembered that I’m banned at that blog after making just one post months ago. I guess I have no alternative but to respond here instead.

MacKay begins his post by urging fractal artists to submit to the Fractal Universe Calendar. He recounts his hits and misses in having material accepted (without crunching his acceptance rate with all other submissions), and he explains why he had fun serving as an editor last year. He forgets to mention that part of that fun probably involved placing two of his own images in the calendar while serving as one of the competition’s editors — including gracing the front cover for the 2009 version. He dispenses this wisdom:

My advice now is to participate in the calendar for the fun of it. Don’t do it for the money. I mean, it’s $200, or $400 for a cover image.

Well, he should know. But we’re still confused — probably because the FUC editors and publishers refuse to answer our questions. Our adversaries (like retired OT heckler Ken) have been adamant that the FUC editors receive only the inclusion of one image as a payment — although editors are free to include other images (how many — no one will say) of theirs into the final cut of 200 images given to “the publishing team.” Is that true (we’ve asked and asked)? Or was MacKay also paid a total of $600 for having his two images selected/grandfathered in? The answer appears to be: yes. Don’t take my word for it. Take his. Here’s what he said in an OT comment thread last July:

I am getting $600 for my 2 images. I don’t know, should I turn that down for violating somebody’s notion on what good fractal art is? I don’t think so. I need a new lens for my camera.

I dunno, Keith. Those heavy, epistemological, what-is-art underpinnings do certainly cloud the issue. What about recasting the question? Maybe from this angle: As one of the competition’s editors, do you feel that reaping such rewards yourself might be regarded in some quarters as ethically suspicious and professionally sleazy? Any reaction to that line of questioning?

So, FUC editors are paid for having their own work included. Would that not make for even more incentive (or do I mean conflict of interest) to include plenty of your own material into the pruned mix sent on to Avalanche? We might be less paranoid if the editors or publishers would just spell out the boundaries for us — like we asked. From where we sit, it looks easy for MacKay to urge artists to participate for “the fun” when, as an editor, he took in the competition’s largest monetary haul last year, and his work comprised almost 1/6 of the calendar. I guess editors do have more fun.

Later in his post, MacKay can’t resist sending OT a shot. In closing, he observes:

If you do have a question or concern about the calendar, contact the editor privately. That is the right and proper way to do it.

Really? And any other way is rude? Perhaps Miss Manners should inform the FUC web site about their glaring etiquette faux pa. Here’s what the FUC site recommends:

If you have any questions or queries regarding the process which have not been answered in the FAQs please contact Panny via the enquiry form.

And that’s exactly what I did. I used the enquiry form to pose my questions. Heard zip back. Wasn’t I, in fact, contacting the editor privately? MacKay makes it all sound so laid back and informal. Gosh, maybe I should have just driven over to Brawley’s place and dropped in for Sunday brunch. We could have genteelly conversed in homespun tones as we sipped sweet tea and nibbled cornbread in the rose garden. Her butler, Wilfred Brimley, might have served us bran muffins on silver platters as he cooed: It’s the right thing to do.

In contrast to our boorishness, MacKay is well bred. He certainly has no qualms about pumping up the calendar competition in a public forum when — in keeping with his own rules of decorum — he could have more properly sent his support to the editor privately. Apparently, defending FUC’s honor in a safe Fractalbook sacristy is not ill-mannered — or, dare one suggest, even tawdry. But we who openly question the competition’s workings must be held to a different (double) standard.

And there’s more juiciness to be found buried in the comments. Like this zinger from MacKay:

I am confident that Panny will show the publishers what’s out there by providing them with a range of fractal styles. The editor and publisher needs to see what is available.

It’s a point Brawley wholeheartedly echoes:

I wish the Publisher would include some of the newer, fresher type of images, but that’s not the proven method of a viable commercial venture for them. But you can bet your bippy that they SEE some of the great new works, whether they choose them or not.

I, too, wish the publishers would choose “newer, fresher” images so the calendar-buying masses will no longer have the archetype of a fractal seared into their brains as having to be a garish, over-saturated spiral — the image of which will likely soon be appearing next to the word fractal in dictionaries everywhere. But aren’t we all glad that the publishing team at Avalanche — experts holding advanced degrees in contemporary art, I’m sure– get exposed to the very best we fractal artists have to offer…before chucking everything innovative and experimental into the recycle bin and once more selecting the same old same old. I mean — really — what’s the point? Why waste everyone’s time — and, worse, build up false hopes for artists who have submitted images on the cutting edge? It’s like pitching movie projects like The Departed or No Country for Old Men to China’s Shaw Brothers Studios. No matter how indie and hip a project is, in the end they will always just want to make another kung fu movie about Shaolin monks. This isn’t a service. It’s a shadow play.

Besides, we’re obviously an ungrateful lot. To hear this crowd talk, we plebes should be on our knees thanking our betters for even letting us in the door. Rick Spix makes this point:

I think some folks don’t realize that the two founders of the thing probably could just as easily have not included anyone else and kept it all to themselves as Tina and Linda were/are both quite capable of coming up with 13 top-notch pix by themselves had they wanted to. And easily too, I reckon. I, for one, am pretty grateful for that act of selflessness — truly in the spirit of the old “Stone Soap Group” from the heydays of Fractint, imho.

Big of them, right? Of course, if the founders had kept everything to themselves, it would indeed have been a private publishing venture, and OT would have absolutely no problem with any of it. Artists would have been personally contacted and then contracted to publish their work — much like Alice Kelley does with her Fractal Cosmos calendar. Instead, the FUC became a fuzzy competition with considerable insider privileges. It’s hardly an open source utopia like Fractint. No one has to compete to contribute files to that software. There are/were no ruling-overlord-editor-types in the Stone Soap Group, so there was no one receiving special privileges or insider compensation. But the FUC editors definitely get a few perks while they are having all that fun. As we’ve shown, 40% of the included FUC images from 2004-2008 were the work of four past or current editors.

Brawley ends her pep talk with a return back slap:

Submit — tell your friends to submit, and have fun!

As always, I thank Keith especially for his support. It’s a very welcome change from some of the press the Calendar gets every year.

Ever wonder why those negative reviews turn up on your door step each year? Tired of that annual bad press resurfacing? Here’s an idea. Fix your competition in two easy steps by:

1. Make it a true publishing venture. Pay editors a stipend (as in money but not art) to solicit material directly from artists who are making fractal art that adheres to “the Avalanche look.”

2. Do not include an editor’s work under any circumstances.

And you’re done. That’s it. And you’ll hear no more fuss (from us, anyway) about the process. I suspect the content angle might still draw fire from time to time, though.

And speaking of hearing nothing…

We might have less cause to accuse you of imperial behavior if you acted less like royalty who can’t be bothered. It just looks bad. It looks bad when you profit from having a privileged position and then boast about buying new camera equipment with your booty. It looks bad when you land grab via self-selection 40% of your own exhibition and then bill it as being filled with “the most important fractal artists in the world.” Says who? Says you. It’s a solipsistic loop. Can’t you see that? Here’s how I think you come across:

Let them eat spirals...

We’re the phone fractal art company. We don’t care. We don’t have to.

And it’s true. You don’t have to care. And Orbit Trap doesn’t deserve a response. Ignore us — just as our adversaries suggest. Everyone knows, after all, we’re bitter and cowardly. Better to huddle in your secure Fractalbook lairs where never a discouraging word is heard. Congratulate one another about the righteousness of good deeds that come from privilege and the fortitude of actions producing mutual benefits to the conclave. Whatever else, keep that chorus singing a refrain that you deserve the status you’ve claimed for yourself — especially as you enter the third stage of the aristocracy. Omnia Vanitas.

Meanwhile, out where the serfs stand in muddy water, deadlines are approaching. The competitions must go on — and will likely draw even more participants than in previous years — participants who hope to at least be let in for a tour of the servant’s quarters. Maybe this is the year you’ll twist your pixels into enough of a formulaic spiral pretzel to finally get a country club invitation — or, at least, you’ll snag an email saying you almost made the grade. Or, better yet, perhaps this go-around you’ll receive one of those 50 (and why not make it 250 this year?) meaningless honorable mentions from BMFAC. Then, you can feed your dreams a steroid drip. You’re empowered at last merely by rubbing elbows with the powerful. Shout your triumph to the world (in an obscure forum thread): I’ve reached such a level of acclaim that I will no longer even have to be juried. I can just proclaim myself a winner with a simple speech act.

Word Made Flesh. That’s you. You imitated masterpieces made by the masters. You took the fractal art courses in Mississippi. You colored spirals rightly inside the properly restricted stylistic lines. You, too, deserve to carve out some exhibition space or a calendar month (or two) for yourself.

But to those of you who do submit with less success, once all the fun you’re having wears off, and the results turn out to be same as it ever was, and you’re left feeling empty and cheated, and you find yourself still standing in a mud hole as you watch the emperor’s carriage, shades drawn, pass you by…

…don’t say you weren’t warned. Because if you come, hat in hand, to us here at OT and begin talking of revolution, well, we now know from being lectured by our betters what is the “right and proper way” to respond.

We’ll smile condescendingly, turn the blinds up, and pretend you never said anything at all.


Image made with Fractal Zplot. Post-processed until it became so blue it quit roaming.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Open Letter to Avalanche Publishing

April 10, 2008

Avalanche Publishing, Inc.
P.O. Box 55
Delafield , WI 53018

Attention: Publishing Team for the Fractal Universe Calendar

Dear Publishing Team:

I am writing you out of concern for the protocols used to solicit materials for your annual Fractal Universe Calendar.

I co-edit Orbit Trap, a blog devoted to fractals and fractal art. My partner, Tim Hodkinson, and I have become increasing concerned about the manner in which several major fractal art competitions are run, including the Fractal Universe Calendar. There appear to some serious questions of propriety in these competitions over issues of professional standards and conflicts of interest.

We have not only published our inquiries on our blog, but I have also taken the time to personally contact this year’s editor, Panny Brawley, to see if she might speak to our questions. The FAQ page of the Fractal Forum site clearly states that any questions not covered in the FAQ will try to be addressed and added to the FAQ page — or, if not, the publisher will be contacted. Here is the relevant passage:

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.

I have now waited several weeks for a reply from Ms. Brawley, but I have heard nothing. I also have to assume that no one at Avalanche was contacted by her either, or I (or Orbit Trap) probably would have received some correspondence. Consequently, because of this lack of response, I have decided to write you directly in order to pose our questions.

One of our main concerns is why Avalanche Publishing solicits selections for the Fractal Universe Calendar using a competitive scenario. Although the web site claims “this is *not* a contest,” it certainly has the trappings of one. Your editor is actually more of a screener who whittles down the bulk of open submissions to a more manageable number. These finalists who have survived the initial cut are then sent to “the publishing team” who function as judges to make the final selection of thirteen images. This competitive framework is our major concern.

Such a competitive configuration seems to run counter to your usual selection methods. Under the heading of “Does Avalanche accept art submissions,” your own FAQ page on the Avalanche web site notes the following:

Due to the increasing amount of unsolicited materials we have been receiving each year, we no longer accept unsolicited submissions of transparencies and artwork. Avalanche editors will contact specific artists and photographers for submissions.

But all submissions for the Fractal Universe Calendar are unsolicited — at least by your definition. None of the open submissions for the contest result from direct contact with individual artists. Or, on the contrary, are specific artists sometimes approached? Later, in the contest FAQ, the following appears:

“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.”

So content for the calendar is and is not solicited? If that is the case, why not just scrap the competition and have editors contact specific artists in the first place? Why not hire an editor who is a fractal artist, like Ms. Brawley, pay her a stipend, have her keep an eye on various fractal sites and art communities for a year, and then allow her to contact specific artists to submit works that fit with the calendar’s aesthetics? This would seem to be more in line with your usual practices. Moreover, by removing the competitive structure from the submission process, the questions about professionalism and conflicts of interest will vanish. As long as the Fractal Universe Calendar selection process is competitive, and the current practices are in place, questions of propriety will continue to arise. Here are a few that Orbit Trap has raised:

How are the Fractal Universe Calendar editors compensated for their services? We have heard mixed reports. One former editor noted that payment was strictly the inclusion of one image in the calendar. Another suggested that some monetary payment was also included — either for doing the editing or for having an image published. We have also heard that editors are free to include their own work into what is selected for the initial cut. Is this true? Is there a limit on the number of his or her own work an editor can include to the 200 images sent to the publishing team? What is that limit?

We feel that including an editor’s work — under any circumstances — into material that she or he is editing should raise questions about professionalism. But doing so in a competitive format is even more egregious and increases the likelihood that conflicts of interest might occur. This is not fanciful thinking either. By our calculations, just over 40% of the images published in the Fractal Universe Calendar from 2004 to 2008 were the work of just four people — all of whom were present or past editors.

Do you consider this ratio to be fair? Is this the reason the editors for previous years are not listed on the Fractal Universe Calendar web site?

Other questions:

–What protocols are in place to help prevent potential 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 Fractal Universe Calendar FAQ notes that signatures are allowed on submissions.

— The same FAQ also states that the list of the final 200 images will not be made public. What is the reasoning for keeping this information private? There is no privacy issue involved, since artists willingly submitted their work for public show. Moreover, if given attribution, artists who made the cut might have added incentive to submit again the following year. Why not say who made the cut — and even list the number of images by a given artist that were passed on to the publisher?

–Who exactly are the we mentioned throughout the text of the Fractal Universe Calendar web site — especially since only one editor is listed? Is the reference to “the publishing team”? The only other person mentioned 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?

I hope you do not misunderstand us. We are not questioning your right to publish a calendar and to use whatever material you wish. We are just questioning why you are using a competitive framework. By doing so, and by using the current practices, you run an increased risk of raising questions about impropriety — particularly in regard to standards of professionalism and to possible ethical shortcomings. If, instead, you managed the Fractal Universe Calendar selection process as a more conventional publishing venture — hiring and paying an editor to solicit work directly from artists — I would not be writing you in the first place.

I hope you will be able to answer our questions. I thank you for your time and effort, and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience.


Terry Wright

Orbit Trap


Snail Mail:
Cruel Animal Productions
P.O. Box 25901
Little Rock , AR 72221-5901

We have written about the Fractal Universe Calendar on Orbit Trap on and off for several years now. Here are links to several recent posts:



This letter has also been posted on our blog.


I mailed this letter today to Avalanche Publishing — and I also sent the letter via the email contact on their web site. If I receive any reply from the publisher, I will publish it here on Orbit Trap. I certainly hope the publishers will be more responsive than this year’s Fractal Universe Calendar editor has been so far.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Snorkeling in Wool

Everything has been created out of sea-mucous, for love arises from the foam. -- Lorenz Oken

Hyperbolic coral forms by Christine Werthiem and Margaret Wertheim. Photo by Alyssa Gorelick.

From the “Goings on about Town” section of The New Yorker, 4-7-08:

Crocheting the Coral Reef: The Institute for Figuring, a Los Angeles based organization dedicated to bringing fractals, hyperbolic space and other high-flying mathematical and scientific concepts down to earth, has embarked upon an unusual project that’s inspired by the plight of the Great Barrier Reef. It is promoting the creation of woolen models of a coral reef, using techniques of hyperbolic crochet that were discovered by the mathematician Daina Taimina.

More on the project from the New York Times, 4-4-08:

This environmental version of the AIDS quilt is meant to draw attention to how rising temperatures and pollution are destroying the reef, the world’s largest natural wonder, said Margaret Wertheim, an organizer of the project, who was in Manhattan last weekend to lecture, offer crocheting workshops and gather recruits. The reef is scheduled to arrive in New York City next month.


Ms. Wertheim, a science writer, and her twin sister, Christine, who teaches at the California Institute for the Arts, came up with the idea of creating a woolly homage to the reef about two and a half years ago. The Wertheims, 49, grew up in Queensland in Australia, where the approximately 135,000-square-mile reef — and the billions of tiny organisms that it comprises — is located. But the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is much more than a warning about global warming. It marks the intersection of the Wertheims’ various passions: science, mathematics, art, feminism, handicrafts and social activism.

So what’s the back story on hyperbolic crochet anyway? We turn to the Institute on Figuring for the real skinny:

Hyperbolic crochet was itself the outgrowth of an unexpected branch of geometry. For two thousand years mathematicians attempted to prove that the only possible geometries were the flat, or Euclidean, plane, and the sphere. Great minds expended themselves on the effort, only to discover in the nineteenth century that a third option was logically necessitated. The discovery of this new “hyperbolic space” ushered in the field of non-Euclidean geometry, the mathematics underpinning general relativity, which aims to describe the shape of the cosmos. Mathematicians’ skepticism about hyperbolic space had been based in part on their inability to imagine how it would look, for they had no way to model it physically. Most were thus astounded when, in 1997, Dr. Daina Taimina, a Latvian émigré at Cornell University, presented a hyperbolic structure made with crochet.

Nature, meanwhile, had discovered the form in the Silurian age. Lettuces and kales — the crenellated vegetables — are manifestations of nearly hyperbolic surfaces, while in the oceans, corals, kelps, sponges, nudibranchs and flatworms all exhibit hyperbolic anatomical features. And so a woolly manifestation of a reef is not as unlikely as may first be supposed. Through the lens of crochet we may thus discern a hitherto unsuspected line connecting Euclid to sea slugs. Ways of constructing once perceived as “merely” women’s craft, and dismissed from the cannon of scientific practice, now emerge as revelatory forms of a more complex, embodied way of thinking about the world both mathematically and physically.

Now you know, fractalists. Ditch those mice and tablets. Pick up your needles and hooks instead.


And this information popped up in my Inbox this week. From the New York Times, 4-6-08, “In the Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Until They Drop“:

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

This news will likely warm the dark hearts of some of OT’s adversaries. Isn’t this exactly what Tim and I deserve for our many blogging perfidies? The. Death. Penalty.

But wait. Haven’t some our most vocal troll-hecklers recently gone on to form their own blogs? Hmmmmm.


And now — an update on our attempts to get some direct answers from this year’s editor of the in-progress Fractal Universe Calendar contest, um, competition, uh, sorta-publishing-like activity. Here’s what we’ve heard so far:

That’s right. Absolutely nothing. No emails. No letters. No updates to the FAQ on the FUC web site. But you already knew the answer, didn’t you? And it’s what we expected, too. After all, our fractal emperors can’t spare the time to address the riff-raff and hoi polloi as their carriages pass through peasant villages. Better to turn a blind eye to such peon baseness. Why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?

And to think our adversaries say we are the cowards.

Besides, maybe if the BailOutters and UFractali and the most important fractal artists in the world* ignore us, we’ll just go away.

Except we won’t. We are here to stay and are committed to bringing fairness and professionalism to both the Fractal Universe Calendar and the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest.

And I’ve waited long enough for a reply from the FUC editor. Now, I’m going to write Avalanche — the publishing company that produces the Fractal Universe Calendar. Maybe someone in the publishing house will be more inclined to address at least some of my questions. Stay tuned.


*It appears the link to this ostentatious, self-proclamation made about (by?) the self-selected, judge-winners of the 2006 BMFAC is no longer working. I wonder why? Just to keep its collective memory fresh for our readers, here is the claim that was made:

It [the 2006 BMFAC exhibition] will examine quality works from the most important fractal artists in the world.

Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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 FractalForums.com, 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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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…

…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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

"The Best Fractal Art Ever Created"

Well, it’s an exciting neck and neck (sea)horse race over at the idreamincolor forum where the locals are busy buzzing and definitively storming the hive while answering this honey-dripping question: What Is the Best Fractal Art Ever Created?

Next week, rumor has it, members will reboot cerebrums to grok something less philosophically taxing…like: Which Is the One True Religion?

As one might imagine, there’s plenty of aesthetic wrangling and mucho diversity of opinion being displayed. So far, according to OT’s exclusive exit polls:

To everyone’s surprise, the forum moderator’s friends are doing extremely well in the balloting. So, too, and most unexpectedly, is the moderator himself.

Naturally, much of the “best” fractal art “ever created” is found exclusively at online think tanks art communities like Renderosity and DeviantArt. If you aren’t a member, well, sad to report your museum experience has suddenly gone dark, and the best fractal art ever created will remain unseen behind a shadowy scrim. Your only solution: register immediately, surf around billboard-blinking-gif undressed Poser babes, through software ads, over backslapping comment litanies, near parameter tweaking festivals, and, finally, settle and soak up all the self-similar greatness in a heavily commercialized and remediated environment.

Despite pundit predictions, Ultra Fractal images are absolutely trashing competing programs. In fact, now that I think back, I don’t remember seeing any competing programs in the listings. According to poll workers, most of the voters appeared to be UF users as well. A coincidence, no doubt — and certainly one within the statistical margin of error.

Our correspondent live at campaign headquarters reports that the Fractal Universe editors and Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest judges are reaping major repeat lever pulls — apparently proving P. T. Barnum‘s observation that if you select yourself as one of “the most important fractal artists in the world,” there will always be suckers born every minute who will line up to proclaim you also produce the best fractal art ever created.

And this just in from the editorial desk. No doubt some of OT’s recent commenters will applaud this survey as a positive, blogging landmark in finely honed fractal art critiquing. They will argue, unquestionably, if nothing else, this symposium delivers on crucial epistemological criteria like insisting that suppositions should “spring from insight” and — more importantly for those exercising keen critical sensibilities — empirical evidence is invariably “presented in a way that will not be perceived as an attack on those at whom it is directed.”

In fact, I can feel the love all the way over here. Why it’s the penultimate Über Top Twenty OF ALL TIME!!!!




Sorry. I got a little carried away there. I had to take a short break to towel myself off on the fainting couch.

I was so pumped by all the excitement because I wanted to add my thoroughly uniterated two cents to this list of lists. But then I remembered that I could not participate since the moderator had banned me from the forum after just one post. Oh woe. If I understood what gnashing of teeth was, I’d do it.

But, fortunately, I am able to still post here at Orbit Trap — thanks to the Chinese communist overloads who allow Tim and I to front this blog as their propagandistic puppet-stooges when we aren’t kept busy in the OT sweatshop dabbing toxic paint on exported and easily breakable toys.

Even so, I present my suggestions with much sheepishness. I know my entries for the best fractal art ever created pale when compared to the dispassionately selected works being critically metastasized just around the cyber-block. Nonetheless, after considerable soul searching and generator-wringing, here are my top five picks:


And after you've explored my infinity -- eat me!



I have complex recursion -- and a warmer personality than most fractal artists!



100 Layers!!  No post-processing!!



I'm sorry.  I'm only the handiwork of God.  How can I be expected to compete with Ultra Fractal?



My dimensions were too small for the BMFAC entry requirements.


I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. The Big Bang‘s parameter files and The Creator‘s iterations just cannot measure up.

If only they’d used Ultra Fractal instead…


Web sites for photo credits: broccoli, frost, clouds, trees, and galaxies.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Light On

Leave a Light On

Leave a Light On (2008)

Reader Toby, in our comments section, has finally taken up the challenge to address some of the points Orbit Trap has raised about the two major fractal competitions. He also added a few additional rimshots for good measure.

I admit it’s tempting to rip right into the snark. Wouldn’t everyone savor an entire post of juicy call-and-response cleverness like this?


As a personal aside, I find your meretricious writing style quite juvenile and hardly worthy of your obvious intelligence, but that is just a matter of taste.

Ouch. What does one say to such a stinging remark?

Option One: Apologize? I’m very sorry. The next time I make my weak arguments, I promise to use a style you find more pleasing.

Option Two: Fight fire with fire? I understand, just as I’m sure you’ll understand when I tell you I find your powers of observation and deduction to be somewhat lacking.

Option Three: Go all Zen? It’s just a cheap shot, Grasshopper. Journey inward and become one with it. Then you will attain the peace that passes all understanding.

I think I’ll choose Option Three….


Fun, yes, but ultimately off the point.

Toby’s post has more branches than an arterial system. But I will limit my response to his observations on fractal competitions. Much of the rest of his lengthy screed is diversionary fog. Toby said he perused OT’s archives, but I suspect he did not dig deep enough to find the big picture. If he had, he’d know Tim and I have previously addressed most of his arguments. Perhaps that is nature’s way of letting us know it’s time for a refresher course.

I never said anything about the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest until its second year. I gave Damien M. Jones a free pass the first go around and chalked it up to establishing initial seed money to get the project off the ground.

But last year’s contest had identical regulations and protocols — which were announced months before a sponsor was even named. How could the phantom sponsors thus be responsible for mandating the stipulations of the contest? Are they telepaths? And, even more astounding, what are the odds of two completely different sponsors insisting on indistinguishable arrangements?

No, there is a more logical assumption. Jones, as the resident “fractal art expert,” convinced the initial sponsors to accept his own regulations — like exhibiting the judges’ work. The second year, with the competition established, the late-arriving sponsors simply fell in line and accepted the existing procedures. Although Jones claimed he included the judges’ work as a “hedge against insufficient quality,” BMFAC handed out nearly fifty honorable mentions last year. And yet the big prize, the exhibition in Spain, will be nearly half-filled with the work of the contest’s own judges. Face the facts. BMFAC was deliberately created, first and foremost, for the judges’ own self-promotion. Everything else is an afterthought.

Toby notes that Jones was “uncomfortable” with the BMFAC arrangement and agrees that including the work of judges is “rather unusual and not particularly desirable.” You don’t say. Isn’t that just a euphemistic way of avoiding coming right out and stating such a practice is unethical and unprofessional? Why might such collusion be universally frowned upon? Because a contest’s results look rigged rather than fairly juried? Why was Jones so uncomfortable if his actions were so reasonable and appropriate? Because people like me might raise questions about their propriety?

Even if Jones did not write the rules himself, which is improbable, he’s not off the hook. No one forced him to accept the terms of his ethics-deprived sponsors. He made his devil’s bargain freely — knowing full well it would likely make many others uncomfortable, too. He chose what was expedient over what was correct. As a result, we are left with a contaminated competition.

Toby laments OT’s “slanted, polemical style” and claims that the entire BMFAC set up was not for “self-glorification” because the entrants’ work was “clearly separated” from the judges’ work. But such a separation, which in no way validates including the judges’ art, only occurs at the contest’s 2007 web site. There is no such separation on the 2006 BMFAC home page. Moreover, was any distinction between “winner” and “judge” made last year at the exhibition? Here is what is not in doubt. The judges stake out their 40% of the wall space first — guaranteed and completely unjuried. The rest of the contest is then filled in around them. That’s self-glorified enough for me.

But Toby’s entire point is bizarre. Does simply announcing that one is going to cheat allow one to then cheat with impunity? Being open about including the work of judges in a competition does not magically wipe away all ethical concerns. But I will grant that it is certainly arrogant.

Toby asserts that Tim and I implied that “judges and entrants [my emphasis] are a self-serving clique” and that we “failed to acknowledge that no artist’s names were known to the panel during judging.” Toby is being less than honest here. Neither Tim nor I have ever had anything ill to say about the contestants in any fractal competition. In fact, we have repeatedly made clear the selected artists are deserving of recognition and acclaim.

The 2007 BMFAC exhibiting judges are another matter entirely. Are any of them not members of the Ultra Fractal community? Certainly there is room for more aesthetic variety on the judging panel. And when you combine the UF backgrounds of the judges with the mandatory, mammoth, made-for-UF scale in the entry requirements, well….

Furthermore, how does Toby know the judges did not see the names of the entrants? The BMFAC site makes no such notation. In fact, some of the winning entries contained visible artist signatures. And were additional steps taken to ensure that judges/teachers in the Mississippi School of Anti-Fractal Art™ did not recognize the work of their own students — some of whom were selected as winners? In truth, a strong case can be made that BMFAC’s organizers consistently showed an overall laxness in preventing conflicts of interest.

Toby then ticks off the usual refrains about the Fractal Universe Calendar: it’s not a contest, including the editors is fair compensation, and the publishers rather than the editors are the final arbitrators.

If the FU Calendar was nothing more than a publishing venture, then the editors would directly solicit contributions. Instead, images are submitted and pruned by screeners. These editors are paid in part by having an image included in the final product, but are also free to add more of their own images into the initial cut. They then turn over a batch of pre-screened “finalists” to the publishers who act as judges. This is indeed a competitive process. I believe all accepted entries, including those of the editors, also receive a monetary payment.

Things go bad at the screening level. Again, we have a case of those doing the editing being “exhibited” in the calendar. That’s a fair compensation, you say? Would you still feel that way knowing that just over 40% of the selected entries for the last four years were the work of four past or current editors?

Just as 40% of the exhibition in last year’s BMFAC is comprised of the work of the contest’s judges.

I don’t have to study pattern recognition theory to see what’s going on here.

Again, as with Jones and his sponsors, the FU Calendar editors willingly choose to enter into their agreement with the publishers. The editors certainly deserve to be paid for their services. But they could aspire to professional standards by declining the option of having their own work included. They don’t.

We’ve made it clear that the publisher (Avalanche) is free to do whatever it pleases. Spiral away we say. It’s their money. But the editors aren’t forced to agree to the publisher’s terms, so why express surprise, yet alone anger, that someone might question whether such conduct is proper?

Toby then concludes that “it is Damien who comes out clean here” and asserts that Jones’ decision to “cease hosting your site was a rational act of self-preservation, which he appears from the record to have done honorably and sensitively.”

If you read the email exchange carefully, you’ll notice that Jones abruptly blocks access to my web site and informs me the situation is permanent. There is no mention of me being a “security threat” until much later. Nowhere does Jones ever show that I had either the ability or the inclination to damage Fractalus — which, as many readers know, is probably one of the most battened-down, secure servers on Earth. The suggestion that I could access files other than my own is absurd. No. Jones was trying to cover his butt. He knew how his actions would look, and he resorted to smearing me for the sake of damage control.

Such a ploy is not a new tactic on his part. Some years before, he used an identical maneuver to toss Paul N. Lee off Fractalus. Lee, too, had a record of being critical of Jones and suddenly found himself labeled a “security threat.” To my shame, I believed Jones’ explanation and said nothing at the time. I apologize openly to Lee — here and now — for my silence and for anything I ever said that wounded him. I was wrong not to look for the truth. What happened to Lee eventually happened to me, and I find nothing honorable or sensitive about any of it.

Toby finishes with a shot chiding us that it’s “easy to criticize when it isn’t you bearing the responsibility, isn’t it?” You think so? Toby should try moderating this blog for a month and see if he can still find his way home after the experience.

Odds and Ends

Ah, back to blogging after some wandering in RL wilderness.

The holidays nearly did me in. Although anti-depressants are currently weathering a storm of debunkers, their alleged restorative process might be an appropriate metaphor. Getting through the Yuletide Ho Ho Ho-ing took some uptaking. But recovery from Christmassacre required serious re-uptaking.

Halloween. Now that’s my idea of an enjoyable, even religious holiday.


This post is just odds and ends. Fragments. Bits. Discontinuous. Blogging for the televisual throngs.

Best to type quickly until my internalized remote control begins to surf.


Some regular OT readers will no doubt be surprised to learn that I actually have some friends — and some of our frenetic regulars might even make for the fainting couch to hear that some OT readers really do send me messages that do not fall into the category of hate mail.

I know. There are those who won’t believe me until I’m interrogated point blank while wired up on The Moment of Truth.


I am a mathematician, and I’d like to stand on your roof…
Ron Eglash greeting African families while researching fractal architecture

One friend sent me this link to a sixteen minute video featuring Dr. Ron Eglash, an ethno-mathematician, discussing how fractal patterns are featured prominently in African architecture and art — and even in board games and hair braiding. Eglash’s presentation is first-rate as he mixes geometry (and symbolic code) with humor while illustrating many of his observations directly from his laptop.

He certainly knows his stuff. He received a Fulbright to look at African locales and their structures up close and personal. I especially enjoyed his demonstration showing the noticeable fractal patterns in villages across the continent. He used schematic drawings and overhead photography to make a most convincing case. He further notes that fractal forms are not universally found in all indigenous groups but are unquestionably widely represented throughout African culture.

I think anyone who is fractal-addicted or fascinated with algorithmic art will enjoy this stimulating presentation.

If this topic sounds a little familiar, I wrote a post on fractals and African art in the early, mellower, kumbayaa days of Orbit Trap.


And now, as Monty Python liked to remind us, for something completely different.

Another friend sent me to look over this installation in order to flush out my artistic preconceptions. Such work should make all of us feel better the next time someone tells us our art looks like…well…like…

Anyone have a Rolaids?

Cloaca (2000) by Wim Delvoye

[Photograph by Dirk Pauwels]

Honey, did you close the lid?

Cloaca (Detail)

[Photograph by Cristoph Neerman]

Artnet, in a post titled “A Human Masterpiece” by Els Fiers, fills in the gaps:

Cloaca, the latest work by the Belgian conceptualist Wim Delvoye (b. 1965), has just closed out its run at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MuHKA) in Antwerp. It was a room-sized installation of six glass containers connected to each other with wires, tubes and pumps. Every day, the machine received a certain amount of food.

Meat, fish, vegetables and pastries passed through a giant blender, were mixed with water, and poured into jars filled with acids and enzyme liquids. There they got the same treatment as the human stomach would supply. Electronic and mechanical units controlled the process, and after almost two days the food came out of a filtering unit as something close to genuine, human shit.

During the exhibition, the smelly assembly line caused quite some consternation. It seemed to bring an infernal message into the world. There is enough dung as it is. Why make more?

Worse, the installation was placed in a cold, clean space at the museum, where it was nourished by a first class chef who prepared two meals a day in an attached kitchen. The atmosphere suggested a hospital equipped for a strange experiment — the birth and care of a machine that eats and defecates — a mechanical baby. “Hi,” it seemed to say, “I’m almost like you.”


Delvoye has given a name to his harsh creature: Cloaca, referring to the ancient sewer in Rome. But while the cloaca maxima proved to be useful, this Cloaca goes beyond every purpose, except of course revealing of the meaning of art. So, too, the spending and earning of money is part of its purpose. The machine daily delivered turds that were signed and sold for $1,000 each.

Delvoye has since gone on to make new improved iterations of defecating machines. Version 8.0, Super Cloaca, consumes 300kg of food and produces 80kg of waste daily.

And you say you’re having trouble selling fractal prints? Perhaps the problem with your art is that it’s just not as tactile as Delvoye’s:

Vacuum Packed! Quality Assured!

Delvoye also set himself the task to insert the products of Cloaca in the global economic system. The Casino Luxembourg had a special Wim shop where you could buy a Wim action figure but also a whole range of Cloaca products: Cloaca T-shirts, a 3D Viewmaster, Cloaca toilet paper, posters, etc. But that’s just a merchandising detail: the Cloaca machines are works of art which produce works of art. On show were dozens of vacuum-packed Cloaca eliminations made during the 5 first exhibits of the machine around the world. There’s apparently a waiting list of collectors eager to buy one of those, and the faeces made during the New York exhibition are the most sought-after.
–from “Wim Delvoye: Cloaca 2000-2007” on We Make Money Not Art

This project takes the museum guide‘s admonishment of please don’t touch the art to a new level.

In fact, metaphors expand almost exponentially here. Is this elevating the low or undercutting the high? Is the message that all modern and postmodern art is crap (literally!!) or is this analysis from absolutearts.com more in line with your thinking:

Cloaca brings together trends in contemporary art that are usually considered separately. At one extreme is a growing interest in how art and technology intersect, particularly with regard to where life begins and ends, and the impact of artificial intelligence, robotics, software, and bioengineering on cultural production. At the opposite end of the critical spectrum is the investigation of abjection as a fundamental part of the human condition. Cloaca addresses both of these areas of inquiry by drawing direct parallels between the contemplation of art, the contemplation of our body and its functions, and the degree to which each are effected by advances in medicine, gene mapping, and technology. In its imitation of human behavior, Cloaca even functions as a modern-day golem.

Maybe, in the (ahem) end, we should let the artist have the last word

When I was going to art school, all my family said I was wasting my time, and now I have made a work of art about waste.


Go for the Jugular

Go for the Jugular (2008)

And speaking of art stuff that stinks…

Tim’s latest post on Anti-Fractals was definitely on target. A noticeable trend among some of the more prominent (through their own self-promotion) Ultra Fractal artists is to produce fractals that don’t look like fractals. In fact, these fractals (and Tim provided examples) seem to want to mirror conventional art — especially abstract expressionism resembling melted ice cream.

As Tim notes, UF’s upgrades have been deliberately designed to remove fractalness by adding Photoshop Jr. graphic manipulation tools. Now Xtreme layering and masking can be done in a “pure” fractal generator without suffering the heartbreak and guilt of “cheating” with Photoshop. Working in UF strictly in order to make large prints is a defensive rationale I often hear. But anyone with weightlifting processors and plenty of RAM oomph can post-process on a grand scale fairly easily in Photoshop. No, the real reason is probably an ailment found in royal blood — closer to a kind of disinterested, entitled snobbery.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see fractal art look less stereotypically identifiable as such. I’ve been hitched to that wagon for many years.

But how ironic is it that some of these fractalists freely exploring the increasingly non-fractal, non-representational modern art event horizons are the very people who will insist other feudal fractal artists remain confined within safe, conventional, same-as-it-ever-was boundaries.

Let’s revisit the rules for acceptable entries in last year’s Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest:

We want to show artwork that is uniquely fractal; artwork that uses fractal tools to produce less-fractal imagery is not as desirable.

Why do I keep expecting to read some huckstering small print ad speak like:

Using Ultra Fractal not included. Limitations not applicable to contest panel members.

Look at the images Tim included in his post. No, the rules did not apply to BMFAC’s judges. They were free to be as progressively avant-garde as they wished. That way they can come off looking more cutting edge — more convention-smashing than the regular entrants they conveniently artistically hogtied.

And if you want to join the vanguard of these pioneers, you best follow their lead and imitate their style. Better yet, just clone their representations by enrolling in the Mississippi School of Anti-Fractal Art™.

But don’t expect apologies anytime soon from this bunch who profit out the eating end by self-selecting their own work and then profit again out the defecating end by hanging that same non-juried work into a juried exhibition they themselves have judged.

Do you smell something?

I do. Every one of the BMFAC judges should be ashamed.

But they aren’t. At all. On the contrary, they’re getting big time promotional exposure as heavily trafficked blogs like Boing Boing send websurfers scurrying to gawk at the contest pages.

This is mixed blessing, of course. The true exhibitors and winners — those who actually had to enter the competition, who played fair by the hypocritical rules limitations the judges imposed but were not bound by, and who were juried and selected — deserve every recognition. I hope the BMFAC site is swamped with people coming to see the real winners. This achievement spotlighting their talents should be widely seen.

But it’s a travesty that the judges who set up this promotional self-glorification to further their own careers are also openly reaping rewards. BMFAC is a rich “field of dreams” for them. Apparently, if you build an arrogant publicity stunt, they (sadly) will come.

Fractal artists everywhere should be outraged at such transparent ploys.

Instead, though, a few supporters of the BMFAC judges continue flamethrowing me emails insisting I apologize for pointing out our fractal emperors have no clothes.


Image made with Fractal ViZion. Post-processed until even vampires wouldn’t come near it.

Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



Termites (2007)

Termites are morphologically uncomplicated insects, in contrast with their astonishingly complex social behavior.
–Robert L. Smith, Termites

Several weeks ago, while commuting to work, I was listening to Dana Gioia, director of the National Endowment of the Arts, chatter away on National Public Radio about how no one reads anymore. He claimed that the majority of Americans had not read a single book (including technical manuals) in 2006. Apparently, other amusements have replaced a good read — films, video games, and (probably) making digital art.

Which is too bad. Reading is a wonderful way to gain insights into the world — or even into something smaller — like the (assuming it exists) fractal community.

Last weekend, I found myself reading a collection of essays called Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory (edited by Marie-Laure Ryan). One essay in particular stood out: “Virtual Termites” by Lance Olson. Olson was talking about the influences that led author William Gibson to pen his groundbreaking cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. According to Olson, one of the primary influences on Gibson was an essay by iconoclastic film critic Manny Farber called “White Elephant Art and Termite Art” (later compiled in Farber’s book, Negative Space, 1974). Olson summarizes Farber’s argument as follows:

Farber distinguishes between two kinds of art. The first, for which he holds contempt, is White Elephant Art, the sort that embraces the idea of a well-crafted, logical arena, incarnated in the films of Francois Truffaut. Proponents of this near-school produce tedious pieces reminiscent of Rube Goldberg’s perpetual-motion machines that exude a sense of their own weight, structure, and status as masterworks. The second kind of art, which Farber advocates, is Termite Art. This is the sort that stands opposed to elite aesthetic culture, embraces freedom and multiplicity, is incarnated in the films of Laurel and Hardy. Proponents of this near-school produce pieces that gnaw away at their own boundaries, leaving little in their wake except traces of enthusiastic, assiduous, and messy endeavor.

See any parallels to Fractaldom?

I would argue that White Elephant Art can easily be seen in the Fractal Universe calendar selections and the overall UFractalus “school” that dominated the exhibition selectees of the first two Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contests. After all, are not these two entities the most public displays of the aesthetics of contemporary fractal art? Are these competitions not spun to the masses as the best fractal artists currently have to offer? Run the verbal footage from the 2006 BMFAC page:

It will exhibit high quality works by the most important fractal artists in the world [emphasis mine].

There’s your ruling cultural aesthetic — spelled out clearly and definitively. A pastiche of self-selected, self-proclaimed masterworks by our community’s White Elephants.

The Rube Goldberg analogy fits, too. UFractalus school images are more built than made. Raid the parameter file repository and start stacking and connecting the elaborate pixellated parts. 100 layers. No post-processing. Better yet — sign up for UF courses so you too can duplicate the reigning, assembly-line, “correct” fractal forms.

Or don’t. Just make your own art. Explore the road not taken. Use programs other than Ultra Fractal. Post-process with wild abandon until you discover something you made and you like. Let accidents happen and embrace them for their surprises and suggestions — like Laurel knocking Hardy on the head with a 2×4. In their films, the accidents make the meaning — not the construction of the plot.

Gnaw away at the calendar swirls and the pre-fab UF look. As Farber observes:

Termite Art has no goal except to chew through its own limits, fuse and confuse, create zones where “culture” can’t be located precisely, and where the artist can be cantankerous, extravagant, pushing creative possibilities and not caring what the results might be. It just keeps gnawing outward.

Keep gnawing until the foundation that houses the school of “the most important fractal artists in the world” begins to buckle. Then, just maybe, the prevailing aesthetic of fractal art will cherish personal vision and idiosyncrasy, value vitality over methodology, and be unselfconscious of its origins as either a “program” or a “style.”


Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

Image made with Fractal ViZion and post-processed until the Orkin Man arrived.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Summer in Malibu

Summer in Malibu

Summer in Malibu (1999)

Nine campers view photos
of longboarders and swells of smoke.
Hot Hub said industry crosstalk.
Click the link to flame on and off

premises. Dry weather, a tourist,
checks in and tan lines glow
white hot. Wet suits curdle. Surfers
crawl a foam floor nosing

wipe out exits. The coast highway
burbles plastic, cut by lasers.
Santa Ana blew back in from Texas
till stars flared on hillsides.


Hot Property

Firefighters fighting the Malibu fire in Carbon Canyon, 2007

Photograph by Adam Housely

From “Let Malibu Burn: A Political History of the Fire Coast” by Mike Davis:

Fire in Malibu has a relentless, staccato rhythm. The rugged coastline is scourged by a large fire, on average, every two and a half years, and at least once a decade a blaze in the chaparral grows into a terrifying firestorm consuming hundreds of homes in an inexorable march across the mountains to the sea. In one week last month, 10 homes and 14,000 acres of brush went up in smoke.


From the very beginning, fire has defined Malibu in the American imagination. Sailing northward from San Pedro to Santa Barbara in 1835, Richard Henry Dana described (in Two Years Before the Mast) a vast blaze along the coast of Jose Tapia’s Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) Spanish prohibition of the Chumash and Gabrielino Indians’ practice of annual burning, mountain infernos repeatedly menaced the Malibu area throughout the 19th century. During the boom of the late 1880s, the entire ex-Tapia latifundium was sold at $10 per acre to the Boston Brahmin millionaire Frederick Rindge. In his memoirs, Rindge described his unceasing battles against squatters, rustlers and, above all, recurrent wildfire. The great fire of 1903, which raced from Calabasas to the sea in a few hours, incinerated Rindge’s dream ranch in Malibu Canyon and forced him to move to Los Angeles, where he died in 1905.


While county crews were still racing to the scene, the implacably advancing fire ambushed its first victims at a ranch a few hundred yards downhill from the water tanks. Miscalculating the fire’s velocity, residents Ron Mass and Duncan Gibbins foolishly attempted to defend their homes with a garden hose. They recognized their mistake almost immediately, but it was too late. Mass jumped into his Jeep, but the fire caught him before he could get out of the driveway. Hideously burned, he managed to stagger to the edge of Old Topanga, where firefighters saw him, his blistered arms “outstretched like a scarecrow.” British screenwriter Gibbins, meanwhile, had dashed back to rescue his cat. He ran right into the fire’s deadly thermal pulse. It charred 95 percent of his body. Paramedics later discovered him, barely conscious, in the ranch’s swimming pool. “‘I don’t want to die,’ he said over and over,” recounted the Times. “Smoke poured from his mouth, and he talked in the terrible high-pitched squeal of a man with lungs scorched beyond repair.” (Gibbins died later in the hospital, but Mass survived his third-degree burns.)


Malibu at dusk was a surreal borderland between carnival and catastrophe. Nonchalant crowds played video games on the pier while television news helicopters hovered overhead like noisy vultures and the Coast Guard cutter Conifer stood offshore, ready to evacuate residents. Beneath the flaming hills, the Pacific Coast Highway was paralyzed by a hopeless tangle of arriving fire trucks and fleeing Bentleys, Porsches and Jeep Cherokees. Hundreds more locals trekked out on horseback, by bike or on foot. A few escaped on skates. Three hundred Sheriff’s deputies were brought in to guard against looting. The chaotic exodus was oddly equalizing: panicky movie stars mingled with frantic commoners. Confronted once again with its a destiny as a fire coast, Malibu replied in the vernacular. “This is hell, dude,” one resident told the Times. “I’m expecting to see Satan come out any time now.”

Although today’s featured image was made in 1999, the firestorm cycle returned in 2003 and again just last month to wash through Malibu’s hills and canyons like a brimstone heavy.

There is nothing wrong with making beautiful fractals — or engaging in art for art’s sake. But like all good art, fractals can and should travel other roads not taken — political-social-cultural expression, mirrors to nature, and humor (including sarcasm and irony).

Or historical documentation — which, at least for today, burns the most fiercely.


Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

Original poem, 2007. Image originally made in Sterling-ware and post-processed until blowback produced a blue screen of death.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Price of Professionalism


Naysayer (2007)

The price of professionalism is no more costly than the mistakes of amateurs.
–Slogan for MonkeyIT

The fractal contest fracases refuse to “go gentle into that good night.”

After much sound and fury (signifying nothing?) in the OT comments, I finally posed this challenge seeking whether someone could:

explain to me why these contests make good ethical and professional models that reflect well on the fractal community…

To her credit, artist WelshWench made the attempt. I’d like to take the opportunity to address some of her points because they just might shed a bit more light on the problematic nature of both the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest and the Fractal Universe calendar competition. It is my hope that elaboration here will help to further clarify why both Tim and I have openly expressed concerns about how these competitions are being administered.

But first, I’d like to thank WelshWench for keeping her remarks civil — a trait lacking in some of our critics.

WelshWench says:

I disagree that there is a conflict of interests when rules and conditions are clearly set out. No one who entered a fractal image for either the Calender or the BMFAC who had basic comprehension skills could have been under any misunderstanding whatsoever.

I disagree that they are conducted in an “unethical” manner for the same reason.

I have never argued the rules were not made public or were deceptive in any way. Instead, I have tried to point out that disclosure does not automatically make rules fair or ethical. Whether contestants agree to submission requirements also has no bearing on their justness. You seem to be arguing that contest organizers can set their own standards for propriety as long as they make a public, transparent disclosure of their intentions. Here are a couple of results from such open books: 40.3% of the images selected for the Fractal Universe calendars from 2005-2008 came from just four people — the two current editors and the two previous editors. This year, the BMFAC “rules” allowed the judges to claim 40% of the exhibition space. If, next year, the “rules” set out that BMFAC’s judges will claim 90% of the available walls, will you still have no problem with the rightness of such stipulations?

Basically, we have asked questions about these contests in two areas: professionalism and conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest occur when judges have personal interests that give them motives for accepting or rejecting entries for reasons other than perceived artistic merits. Wikipedia notes the following:

A conflict of interest exists even if no unethical or improper act results from it. A conflict of interest can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the person, profession, or court system.

Conflicts of interests in art competitions are acknowledged and have been widely addressed. For example, the College Art Association established guidelines in their “Statement of Conflict of Interest.” According to that text, one situation that “may present a potential conflict of interest” is the following:

The juror has a personal relationship with the nominee. Personal relationships that may create a conflict of interest include: family member, domestic or professional partner, research collaborator, teacher/mentor, student, dissertation advisor/advisee.

We have noted before and documented that current or former students of at least one judge were selected for the BMFAC exhibition. We asked if any safeguards were in effect to guard against such conflicts of interest — and have received no reply. Although WelshWench claims that the “rules and conditions have clearly been set out,” this is not true; neither competition specifies procedures for handling potential conflicts of interest, including personal relationships judges have with contestants.

We’ve also wondered about Ultra Fractal’s prominence in the BMFAC contest. The massive submission sizes could be seen as favoring UF over some other programs incapable of producing such large dimensions. Moreover, a high percentage of exhibited images have been made with UF — and most of the judges work primarily with that particular program. So what’s the problem? Another “potential conflict of interest” mentioned by the CAA is:

The juror could benefit from the decision financially.

Several of the judges receive payment for teaching courses on the use of Ultra Fractal. Would they not thus potentially have a stake in its promotion — more sales? more students? Again, what safeguards were in place to prevent any possibility of influence peddling? This is a legitimate question. After all, as we saw above, a conflict of interest can exist “even if no unethical or improper act results from it.” Several BMFAC winners admitted taking UF courses taught by a judge or judges.

One might further ask if there are other BMFAC ties to UF — especially since Jones, the contest director, hosts both the BMFAC site and the Ultra Fractal site on the same server— not to mention his personal galleries there, too. If nothing else, he likely benefits from considerable linked cross-traffic — and some of those surfers will stumble into his print pricing page.

WelshWench says:

You have a valid point that most competitions/contests do not include the judges work. But then most contests/competitions which are completely open charge fees for entries and quite a few I have seen which are solely for digital works also require the artists to stump up the cost of printing and framing, which is not the case for either of these.

The fees charged in many cases are, I would suggest, not only to cover the cost of the actual exhibition venue and associated publicity but also used to compensate the judges for their time. I would also suggest that having a single piece of one’s own work exhibited is minimal compensation for the time spent judging the submitted works.

Indeed, most contests in any of the fine arts do not include the work of judges. And why is that? I’d argue it’s because doing so instinctively raises wave-the-red-flag ethical questions and fuels concerns about an appropriate level of professionalism.

You’re right. Entry fees are common — used to cover the costs of displaying work, of publicity, and of paying judges. But you’ve left off something — something of critical importance for this discussion. Entry fees also commonly pay for screeners — individuals hired to prune down the large bulk of initial contest entries into a smaller, more manageable group of finalists who are then chosen for awards by (in most cases) a single judge or (sometimes) by a modest panel of judges.

And this is the stage where both fractal competitions go wrong. Why? Because they have turned their screeners into judges. Then, to make matters worse, they compensate them by allowing inclusion of their work to be displayed beside those they have juried. The result? The contests become flooded (at a rate of about 40%) with the screeners-now-judges’ works at the expense of the contestants. And how does this look to the outside? At best — it appears extremely unprofessional. At worst — it looks openly and unmistakably rigged.

Now, if these screeners were merely paid for their work and had none of their art in either competition, would I be asking questions about possible improprieties? No. If the panel members of BMFAC had winnowed the entries and passed on finalists only to Professor Mandelbrot for judging — and then included several fractals of his –would that process be acceptable? Yes. Even respectful — as a gesture of courtesy to a judge — one judge.

But 40% of the final product? In the case of the FU, which is a hybrid of a publishing venture mashed with a competition, the editors function as screeners, and then the bigwigs at the publishing house make the final call. Why not just pay the FU screeners strictly for their services — and hire even more screeners as insurance against potential conflicts of interest? Even if one accepts WelshWench’s view that including a “single work” is “minimal compensation,” it’s worth noting that inclusion in FU also comes with a paycheck — and editors can submit additional work of their own (beyond the one piece grandfathered in as “minimal” compensation) into the batch of “finalists” sent to the publishers. Obviously, it’s good to be a current or former editor at FU — as seen by the astronomical acceptance rate for that diminutive group of four individuals.

BMFAC is worse because it’s grounded in being first and foremost a publicity package for the judges. It was set up to front an invitational exhibition (of Jones’ buds) who then are given a blank check to mix their unjuried work with that of the judged-by-them “winners.” Thus, the judges’ art takes on a more prestigious glow as the distinction blurs between juried and self-selected pieces. WelshWench’s minimal compensation of one image per judge adds up quickly here — especially since these judges aren’t content with just being shown in the same space as the innumerable web-based “prizewinners.” No, BMFAC judges insist upon the resume-packing (and probably more profitable in the long run) wallop of inclusion in the gallery exhibit. With a ratio of 10 judges to 15 “winners,” the judges swallow up almost half the walls — and that’s before a single contest entry dribbles in. Talk about having your cake and eating it way beyond “minimal compensation.” The judges have front row, reserved seats that come with free backstage pass perks.

And, yes, it’s nice not to have shell out expenses to mat, frame, and ship a print to Spain — but a price is still being paid by the artists. They are giving up some artistic control over how their art will be presented. Jones says the printing and framing done for BMFAC is of the highest quality, and I have no reason to doubt him. Still, I’d always prefer my prints to be done by my own professional printer — who understands how to bring out the best in my work. I also prefer keeping control over what inks and papers and canvas and mats and glass and frames will be used when my work appears in public venues. You have to ask: will a free contest assure the same quality control as you would?

WelshWench says:

So here’s a serious, if hypothetical, question for you: would you prefer to see very many fractal artists excluded from entering competitions because they couldn’t afford the entry fee and/or the costs of printing and framing? What about a contest that attracted many times the number of final exhibits at $25 a pop? How much of a profit do the organisers have to make before that verges on unethical?

To answer your hypothetical question requires some context. Do I want to see fewer artists enter fractal contests because financial constraints leave artists unable to afford entry fees, framing fees, and shipping fees? Of course not. But compared to what? Compared to having contests where conflicts of interest are not fortified and judges get a back door bye allowing them to eat up nearly half the presentational space? Well, what’s the lesser of two evils? I’d rather have a fair but pricier contest than one blowing off professionalism and shrugging off improprieties. Free lunches usually come with some kind of consequences.

Would I like a fractal contest that price gouges artists in an attempt to blatantly line the organizer’s pockets? Absolutely not. Such competitions would be grossly unethical and should be vigorously condemned. If a fractal contest appears that conducts itself in such a fashion, I will be here on OT to speak out immediately against any such practices that border on extortion.

But there are no such fractal contests at the moment. There are only the two under discussion. Their practices are not hypothetical.

Besides, are these the only choices available — favoritism vs. profiteering? How about a fractal contest run like most of the art contests you alluded to earlier? One that keeps the professional distance between judges and contestants, charges a reasonable entry fee to pay organizational and screening/judging expenses, outlines guidelines guarding against conflicts of interest, and keeps entry requirements expansive enough to include as many programs (and thus styles) as possible? Perhaps the fractal community needs a guild or an organization to draft some generally agreed upon guidelines. There is a precedent. The Graphic Artists Guild composed and adopted such a document back in 1980.

WelshWench says:

I think there’s room for both sorts of contest. But from what I’ve seen, without the organisers of the Calendar competition and the BMFAC, there wouldn’t be any purely fractal competitions, let alone ones that people could enter at no cost to themselves.

I think there are really only two categories of art competitions: those run with a high degree of professionalism and those run with a low degree of professionalism. Personally, I’d rather face the prospect of having no purely fractal art competitions than continuing on with the status quo unchanged.

Why? I think we are all paying a very high cost for how these two contests are being handled. Ask yourself: how does it look to those outside of our small fractal fish tank when our competitions are nearly half-filled with the work of judges rather than contestants? Do we want fractal art taken seriously by the larger art world? Then we better begin appearing to art outsiders like we are professionals who care deeply about ethics and standards. Doing so means adhering to established practices designed to safeguard the integrity of our competitions — as well as being willing to make sacrifices other art professionals routinely endure to ensure competitions maintain integrity and evenhandedness. We should not be defending questionable practices as either business-as-usual or as better-than-nothing.

There’s always a price to pay for professionalism. I wonder if our community has evolved to the point where we are willing to pay it.

If not, then hunker down and get used to art establishment honchos viewing us as amateurs and hacks who seem all too willing to turn a blind eye to corruption and cronyism.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Damien, Inc.

A Crash Course in Reaganomics

A Crash Course in Reaganomics (2000)

The medium is the message…
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media

Marshall McLuhan was concerned with the observation that we tend to focus on the obvious. In doing so, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time. Whenever we create a new innovation — be it an invention or a new idea — many of its properties are fairly obvious to us. We generally know what it will nominally do, or at least what it is intended to do, and what it might replace. We often know what its advantages and disadvantages might be. But it is also often the case that, after a long period of time and experience with the new innovation, we look backward and realize that there were some effects of which we were entirely unaware at the outset. We sometimes call these effects “unintended consequences,” although “unanticipated consequences” might be a more accurate description.
Mark Federman, “What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?”

Now that the pixel dust surrounding our open criticism of the mechanics of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest seems to have settled, it is worth examining the reactions we received here at Orbit Trap. For the most part, our observations were ignored — at least in terms of refutation. At best, the few explanations we received took the form of providing historical background. We learned the ostensible rationale for allowing BMFAC judges to mix work with the judged (those plebian sponsors insisted on the terms). We got the deep background on how The Fractal Universe calendar competition was established way back when and designed from day one to allow editors to conveniently slip their own work into the final product. The history lessons were mildly entertaining — but none of them addressed the critical ethical lapses and jaw-dropping conflicts of interests displayed by the two best-known fractal competitions.

And what was the primary reaction to the questions we raised here on OT? Attack. Besmirch. Insult.

The consistency of the responses reminded me of a post by political blogger Digby when she discussed what she called cognitive relativism. The context for her remarks was drawn from the recent flap when Rush Limbaugh called Iraq War critics with military backgrounds “phony soldiers.” Digby noted:

The Republicans have so fetishized the troops that it causes severe cognitive dissonance (and a potential fracture with their base) for Rush to come right out and say what he wants to say, which is that veterans and soldiers who disagree with the president on the war are traitors. But it slips out in little ways: “staff puke” and “phony soldier” and his insistence that you can’t be a good “Republican” (soldier) and be critical of the war.


It’s all wrapped in the warped worldview I described above, in which the Democratic party is not just wrong, it’s fundamentally illegitimate. And anyone who disagrees is a traitor, including, apparently, the vast majority of Americans who do not support this war.

Digby, of course, is alluding to the tendency of the American right-wing attack machine to question the patriotism of neocon critics. Worse, such critics deserve castigation as traitors for even daring to raise questions or to challenge status quo policies.

Tim and I began to notice similar reactions once we suggested that all was not quite right in Fractaldom. We were “cowards” who refused to “get over” the way things inherently had to be. We were “behaving irrationally” and “tempted to do something rash” (see the comments to this OT post) — and our assertions were “ridiculous,” “beyond absurd,” and “utter poppycock.” Some commenters demanded repeated apologies. It was clear we had to be “self-serving,” boring,” and “pedantic.” In other words, if the messengers are stabbed often enough, then perhaps readers will forget what messages were delivered in the first place.

And, as Digby noted, there was a further sense that even raising such questions was fundamentally illegitimate. Damien M. Jones threw this in my face: “You’re no prophet regurgitated from the belly of a fish, forced to deliver a message of impending doom.” How dare I cast myself in a Moses role to bring down truth from the mountaintops — by having the gall to be deranged enough to question Jones’ actions and thus continue to “speak out of my ass”? And Keith MacKay, in a (now deleted) post thread on his newly established forum, explained his decision to ban me from his forum’s blog was to insure I wouldn’t keep on “pissing on the fractal community” — as if raising questions about the appropriateness of how fractal contests are run somehow personally tarnishes every fractal artist. In short, Tim and I are “traitors” to the community for speaking up in the hope that people administering fractal competitions do so in a fair and ethical manner.

But, just as Rush Limbaugh can’t wrap his mind around the fact that some Iraq veterans can be Democrats, OT’s critics can’t see that Tim and I are just as much a part of the fractal community as they are. Moreover, they seem unable to comprehend why we prefer a clean neighborhood to a dirty one.


There’s something else on my mind lately.

It’s one thing to suck up 40% of the wall space for an exhibition — as the judges for this year’s BMFAC did lately. But it’s another thing to buy up 40% (or more?) of the web space used to present fractal art galleries, software, and contests.

And, yet, that is exactly what Damien M. Jones has done.

You have to give him high marks for cleverness. If you build your own server, they will come. And come they did. To join his in-house web ring — the Infinite Fractal Loop. To nestle their web pages on his private fractal clearinghouse — Fractalus. To download his personally championed software — Ultra Fractal. To enter his contests and read his Fractal FAQs and join his mailing lists. Welcome, one and all, to Damien, Inc.

And what does Jones reap for all of this sowing — besides bandwidth expenses? Who knows if he gets a cut of the UF profit pie? And who cares? Not me. I’m not against artists or programmers making money for their creative efforts. But still I wonder. Is Jones truly a saintly, altruistic patron of the fractal arts?

Certainly, he gets some benefits from underwriting a controlled environment to his own liking. Hits aplenty come to his site(s) — and, eventually, make their way to his personal gallery, his aptly named Egosite, his personal rants, or his account of conversion to Christianity. Just as the BMFAC contests make sure the judges have their space first, there’s no shortage of Jones to be found on the “collective” that is Fractalus. Even though Jones uses the plural “we” to describe the mission of Fractalus, the site definitely starts with and centers on him.

And that’s why Jones’ empire reminds me of Reaganomics. It focuses on what George W. Bush once called “the have-mores” — like the privileged few who are hosted by Fractalus — or the FODs (Friends of Damien) who double as BMFAC judges — or the Olympians invited into the BailOuts, a private, invitation-only UF fractal list/club. The rest is all trickle down. You serfs might get dribbled an Honorable Mention in the latest contest — but only as a tossed bone to ensure the judges have a permanent place-setting at the annual exhibit table. Or, here, have a crumb — a small spot in the IFL ring — a corner nook to park your blog.

Yes, Jones once offered to house Orbit Trap on Fractalus. Tim and I thanked him, but said no. Why?

I guess we fretted over those “unanticipated consequences” Federman mentioned earlier. As McLuhan notes, he who controls the medium controls the message. If you’re snugly nuzzled in somewhere under Jones’ web blanket, don’t get too comfortable. Don’t question the natural order. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. It’s his house, kids. And his rules.

And what happens if you cross him and his? I know.

You’re thrown out into the street — because what you see as free expression can be twisted and labeled as irrationality. And once you’ve abandoned reason, aren’t you thus more prone to rash behaviors– like having the nerve to presume to disagree with Jones? You’ll surely be called a “security risk” — after the fact, of course — and must be given the boot to protect the safety of the good squatters who politely keep mum on Jones’ server. Never mind that you’re hardly a genius kid hacker huffing down Cheetos in a basement in the Philippines and wouldn’t know the first thing about cracking ice (hey, I read Neuromancer) to pillage folders. Never mind that most of this blog’s readers know that Fractalus has to be one of the most buttoned-down, secure servers on this planet. Such charges must be laughable. Such actions by Jones will be obviously punitive. But with plenty of obfuscation, maybe people will be gullible enough to believe you were ousted because you posed a threat.

But it’s not a server that’s threatened. It’s Jones’ empire itself.

So to anyone homesteading in Jones’ kingdom, just bear in mind it’s a feudal system — and there’s a price to pay your lord for that free lunch. Don’t rock the fractal community cruise ship kitchen by openly preparing unpleasant or noisome opinions. And, always, keep any adverse thoughts turned down to a simmer.

Otherwise, that fractal trickle will likely become a drip evaporating in dry air.

And, then, once that happens, as Baudrillard claims and Morpheus of The Matrix observes: Welcome to the desert of the real.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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 chron.com (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.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

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.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Placing the Blame


Soma (2001)

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.
Oscar Wilde

Why is it that people who question the improprieties of the BMFAC contest are repeatedly told they must “get over it.”

Yet, if Dzeni and other supporters are still able to comment, then why can’t I do the same?

Moreover, if any contributor posts here on Orbit Trap, our masthead makes it clear that his or her opinions can be “confronted and possibly disputed.” Dzeni confronted me. I can return the favor. Blogs, by definition, don’t have “get over it” clauses.

So, instead, let’s “get to it” by examining a few of her points:

I’d argue that “that” fractal contest can be seen as a win/win scenario.

It’s certainly that for the judges. They’ve set up the system, so they can never lose — plus they have the honor of both exhibiting and judging without being judged themselves. And their résumés get double the padding — one line for service as a judge, and another line for being in an exhibition. That’s what I call “win/win.”

A bunch of people put together an exhibition every year and invite submissions. They are clear on the criterion and the process.

Submissions are invited only after the judges have first gobbled up nearly half of the gallery space for themselves. Yes, they are clear — even brazen — about disclosing what they are doing. I’ve never argued otherwise. The question is whether their actions and guidelines are ethical and fair.

They don’t charge an entry fee.

I don’t like entry fees either. But part of what they are generally used for is to pay the judges for their services. Such compensation avoids the obvious conflicts of interest found in BMFAC. Of course, the organizers could probably make arrangements to have BMFAC’s judges paid rather than displayed, but they apparently find the current arrangement more cozy.

Even if I don’t win or get a special mention, I’m no worse off than I was before.

True, but the judges are certainly better off than you and the other participants. Without contestants, the judges have no show for themselves. Why do you think they handed out 55 ALTs and HMs (compare this to only 5 HMs at this year’s MOCA contest)? You (and 50+ others) almost made it. Try your luck again next year. The judges, of course, won’t need luck. All they need is people like you to enter.

Life’s not fair (get over it).

That cliché is sure true. But is a shrug the best response to life’s unjustness? One should be allowed to speak out against aspects of life that are not fair. I’d rather examine unfair things and the people who do them than just get over everything. And why do I think that getting over it (which you tell me to do four times in your post) really means drop it or shut up?

Life is too short to moan about “that” contest.

Life is also too short not to point out iniquities — like the contest’s improprities. I care about the fractal community as much as anyone. I have to “live” here, too. I’d prefer the neighbors in my fractal neck of the woods act professionally.

Go and create some great art.

I can blog about the contest and make art at the same time. I see you did.

Art is subjective. What the contest panel chose may not be what you would choose.

Very true. I think the winners are all superb artists and deserving of recognition. I have no issues with the contest’s winners. My writings have been strictly focused on the behaviors of the contest’s director, organizers, and judges — and on the fairness of the rules.

…it gives us all a great opportunity to evaluate our work, to see what others are doing and hopefully to become better artists.

There’s plenty to see everyday if one belongs to an art community like Renderosity or DeviantArt. Moreover, unlike the contest, these places provide far more evaluative interaction (like tutorials and critical feedback) with other artists.

The panel get to exhibit their work.

Do they ever — in a contest they have judged. That’s the whole problem. If, instead, their work was being displayed in an invitational art show, no one would be questioning the appropiateness of their actions.

They are probably not going to change their mind because two people disagree.

Don’t let the comments on these posts mislead you. Tim and I are not the only people who feel this contest needs closer scrutiny. But, I agree with you. Judging how the BMFAC judges have behaved, they probably cannot be reasoned with or shamed into having any epiphanies.

At the end of a day, you can choose to find a way where everyone wins or you can gripe and moan so that everyone loses.

This is a false dichotomy. I prefer a third choice — one that isn’t centered around winning and losing. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself — so you do what you think is right.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Cowards of Us All

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all.
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I know it is sometimes difficult to speak out. There can be consequences. One might be embarrassed — attacked — even punished. So far, only one person has spoken out directly to us here at Orbit Trap about our remarks on the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest.

And he wrote to call us cowards.

He feels we are cowardly because “you don’t address any points made to your posts.”

So I think I’ll make the time to show him he’s wrong. I hope, in the process, the blog’s readers come to better understand why Tim and I have raised our voices against some of the practices of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest — and have questioned the motives of some of the people involved.

In my last post, I deliberately mentioned no names. But since Ken, a commenter who seems to want to play the role of our collective conscience, used names, then, for the sake of clarity, I will do the same.

Funny thing about a conscience, though. Sometimes, as Hamlet notes, it nags and aches and does cause one to fear and fall silent. But, other times, it sears then scorches until one feels compelled to speak out.

I have put this response up as a main post. I would not want to be accused of speaking while milling about in shadows. If Tim and I are cowards, we are not the kind who prefer to hide.



You’ve written to us so much lately that Tim and I are ready to promote you from heckler-in-residence to contributor emeritus.

Unfortunately, I seem to be in a bit of a bind here, though.

First: Damien says, in a post earlier in the summer on Orbit Trap, that I “killed” OT “by driving off everyone” who had an opinion different from mine.

Then: you claim, in the comments for this OT post, that “you’re cowards because you…ignore direct questions.”

I think this is called a Catch-22. If I do respond, then I am a tyrant who quashes free speech. But if I do not respond, then I am a coward who hides from his critics.

So which is it? And what should I do?

Wasn’t it Orwell who said a picture of the future could be imagined as “a boot stamping on a human face forever”? I guess I’d rather be the boot than the face.

First, can we get a few big concepts straight? Then we’ll get down to some specifics.

You’re right. Contest organizers and directors can establish any ground rules they like. They are free to dictate restrictions on programs and image sizes and colors and styles and whatever. They can limit a contest to just fractal artists of Burmese heritage who live in the Arctic Circle. Totally their call. I never argued otherwise.

Countries can do the same. They can make their own rules. Rules like we’ll throw you in a gulag if you protest or we’ll bind your feet if you’re born a girl or we’ll torture you and call it “enhanced interrogation techniques” or whatever.

Here’s the catch. Just because contests and countries have the power to make rules, it does not follow that those rules will be inherently ethical or fair. If they are, in fact, unethical and unfair, then people (at least in free societies) have the right to say so. You agree?

Being informed of rules is not usually a problem either. Nearly every contest spells out its requirements and guidelines in very specific detail — ranging from deadlines to restrictions to oh-by-the-way-we’re-going-to-include-the-work-of-the-judges-who-judge-you to whatever. I never argued that the BMFAC contest was not clear or open in stating its rules.

Countries usually make their rules known, too. I recall seeing a photograph last year of two Alabama water fountains in the 1950s that said WHITES ONLY and COLOREDS ONLY. See? The rules were plain to everyone. Nothing was hidden.

But, again, just because a contest’s regulations are posted and public, it does not inherently follow that they are ethical and fair. Are you with me so far?

The contest’s origin and history were also explained — even outlined. True. But having a history doesn’t mean everything is above board. Enron had a history — but it was not above board. Bosnia has a history — part of which included ethnic cleansing. Maybe everything is and always will be shipshape. Or maybe a contest was set up well but has become corrupt over time. Or maybe it was rigged from the get go and now everyone just shrugs and glumly accepts the terms. But, again, having a history doesn’t give contests or countries an ethical pass. In fact, sometimes when digging into a contest’s history, one uncovers questions.

Sponsors of contests can, once again, dictate absolutely anything — especially since they hold the purse strings. They are, in truth, demi-gods of absolute power. All fractal artists must show up at the exhibition wearing thongs decrees one. All images must be created with an Etch-A-Sketch while submerged in tequila shouts another. As a contest director, you have to decide if you are willing to agree to the sponsor’s terms. If you agree, then you are bound to carry them out — even if they are absurd — or troubling — or patently unfair.

I hope this prologue deletes a few items from our mutual Inbox before we begin.

Now, Ken, you seem to really want some point by point rebutting. I’ll try to suppress my timidity and start:

You want the entries of the selection panel hidden.

No. I want them completed excluded. Banished totally. Outta there. No entries — period. They are the judges. They are not the contestants. Most people agree there is a big difference between the two.

BTW, where is this list of “universally accepted protocol[s]” that you like to mention?

Oh — just about everywhere. I’d argue no respectable, legitimate art contest mixes the judges’ work with the work of the judged. In the digital art field alone, there are contests by acronyms like MOCA, LACDA, ARTROM, MODA. The Art of Digital Show recently completed a major competition. None of these entities mix and match like BMFAC. Restrictions on conflicts of interest — like judging the works of students and friends — are also commonplace. I quoted one of these in my post, but I guess you missed it. But let’s throw the ball back in your court. Can you name any five art contests anywhere that do allow inclusion of the contest judges’ work. Well. Okay. You’re right. The Fractal Universe calendar. You can have a head start here. That one counts for your side — I suppose — adding a second sorry blot on the overall lack of professionalism in the fractal art community.

It is disingenuous to keep raising this as an ethical issue when it was clearly the decision of the sponsors.

Maybe last year. Maybe. But the sponsor this year (Fundación España Vodafone) must be telepathic, since the contest rules were announced many weeks before any sponsor was even named. No, I’m afraid the director and/or the judges are most likely responsible. Besides, even if past or present sponsors insisted on such guidelines, no one had an automatic weapon to the heads of the director and the “panel members” to insist they comply.

You want to force the organizers/sponsors of the contest to conform to the rules you want, rather than the rules they choose.

Nope. I’m just pointing out that the rules are highly unconventional, biased to help a specific program and its artists, and give the judges a one way free ticket to paradise. Ally ally in free.

Since you can’t affect the rules for this contest, you want to raise bogus ethical issues about it. That is why I say create your own contest or exhibition and run it by the rules you think an exhibition should be run.

Yes — to the second part of the first sentence — minus the “bogus” part. I explained why I shouldn’t have to make my own contest in a previous comment. Remember? I used an analogy to not wanting to write my own laws either. Apparently, you’ve forgotten. And I can certainly appreciate all the expense and effort involved. I really can. I just appreciate ethics and fairness more.

You see, back in that “written record” that you feel already explained everything, Damien said the following:

So I have a choice: I can either run a contest completely how I would like, and pay for it myself, or I can accept money from a sponsor that comes with conditions. What you’re saying is that you find the strings unacceptable. I’m saying that, given the choice between no exhibition and one with some preconditions, I’d prefer to have the exhibition. At least I’m doing *something* Years from now, when fractal art is more recognized and easier to get funding for, others will have the privilege of refusing money that has strings attached. At the moment, I don’t have that option.

Yes. He’s doing something, all right. Something ethically questionable. He argues he’s on the frontier, so he can bend the rules. There’s no law or justice out on fringes of civilization, so Damien is forced to become judge, jury, and exhibitioner. Later on, when fractal artists have their own cable channel, others can run things “without preconditions” (that is, fairly). Well, that’s swell. Or maybe what happens instead is that a “history” is put in motion, and the contest is never again run using customary ethical safeguards. Damien says he didn’t have “that option.” But he did have a choice and he made it — and he now enjoys its benefits — like having his own unjuried art worked into the contest he oversees every year. Some of his friends/panel members made choices, too, and soon hopped aboard without giving much thought to the “preconditions” either. They, presumably, also didn’t have “that option” but do receive similar compensation.

Even the director knows the rules are being bent. He’s fine with that. So are you, Ken. But I’m not.

You don’t like Ultra Fractal.

I’ve never said any such thing. It’s a great tool and capable of producing amazing work in the right hands. What I don’t like is making submission size restrictions that favor UF over other programs — and loading up the judging panel with nearly all UF artists — and then winding up with the majority of the contest’s exhibited images being rendered in UF. Could it all just be a coincidence? I’m just asking…

You think images are excluded because have not been generated by Ultra Fractal.

I think that’s a real possibility, yes. UF can go huge. That’s one of its advantages. Not every generator can easily render images to the mammoth size required by the contest. The director knows this, too — otherwise he wouldn’t have made a joke in the contest announcements that Apo users should Start now if they are planning to enter. More than just fractal programs are affected by the size mandate. People who post-process to a considerable extent are also going to be less likely to enter.

You don’t like artists works who use Ultra Fractal.

Certainly not true. I have featured many UF artists and artworks in the guest galleries on my web site. Would I have done so if I didn’t like the artists and their work? I’d put up a link to show you these galleries, but, unfortunately, they are now offline because I had to unexpectedly move to a new web host and procure a new domain.

A better question to ask is how many people submitted images that were not made with Ultra Fractal. And, if the number is small, ask yourself why.

Hmmm. I never thought to do that. But it is a good question. Here’s a possibility. Maybe many non-UF artists’ programs couldn’t render large enough images to meet the near-mural size restrictions. Could that be why the number is likely smaller? Thanks for the insight.

You think Damien is a dictator.

I never said any such thing. Besides, everyone already knows what Damien actually is.

You don’t like having to produce a large image.

You’ve obviously never watched me make my art. I always work in large sizes. That’s how I’m able to sell prints. I had no trouble rendering entries for the contest — and two of my submissions were highly post-processed. But I’m fortunate to have plenty of RAM and lots of computer firepower. So, I don’t need UF to scale up. I’m guessing many fractal artists are not so fortunate in the equipment they have at their disposal. Thus, the immense image sizes are indeed a hindrance for some.

You don’t like artists taking classes from other artists and participating in a contest.

That doesn’t bother me at all. What I said was I think teachers judging the work of their students is a clear conflict of interest. I linked to two examples in my post. I also asked what safeguards were in effect to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

But, since you know the circumstances behind the exhibition (no matter how much you pretend to be ignorant), this really is just nonsense.

You lost me here. Are you saying it’s foolish to worry about students being judged by their instructors? I think it’s highly unprofessional. Or, are you telling me the contest guidelines addressed this issue? Where in the BMFAC rules did it say: Teachers judging the work of those they taught? Sweet. Well, if you already have judges exhibiting their own work with those they’ve judged, I guess anything goes.

You would like to have anyone who ever took a class from any of the judges to be excluded from entering because you think the judges are so shallow that the mere fact that a current, or former, student entered an image in the contest is going to sway their decision.

I guess you have more faith in human nature than I do. I’d prefer judges not to judge the work of their students — or their friends either. Why not simply remove such potential conflicts of interest? Again, it’s a basic question of professionalism — even if one believes the judges are fine people who would not be swayed in any way.

I suppose it is possible that one or more of the judges may have recognized an image and knew who created it. But, for this contest, do you really believe that this is significant, or an ethical concern?

Definitely. Always. Any judge who recognized the work of a friend or a student should have immediately recused him or herself from voting. Moreover, this action (that so-and-so was a friend/student of Judge X) should have been kept from the other judges. Adding to this problem was that the judging could not have been completely blind because the images of three of the fifteen winners contained signatures. Do you want an impartial contest or not, Ken?

You don’t like people show appreciation to someone else for writing a particular formula.

This is not what I said. Slap backs all day. I said I worried that since many of the winners are trading the same formulas, one runs an increased risk of presenting a show of similarly styled artworks.

You think there is a grand, universal conspiracy by Ultra Fractal and/or those who use it to take over the world and prevent any one who uses other tools or methods to create fractal…

No, I don’t. But I’m pretty sure Paul does. He calls this secret cabal The Fractali. I assume he took the name from the Illuminati. Personally, I think Paul is a smart guy. He could be right.

You continue to imply that there are ethical issues with Damien and the panel of judges by the questions you raise when you know how and why they were selected.

Exactly. You’re finally starting to get it. They basically selected themselves, set themselves apart from being juried, judged others, and then hung their work beside the winners.

How can the contest be a publicity stunt by Damien and the judges when they were approached by the organizers and asked to participate?

As I noted earlier, the rules this year were set long before the organizers had a sponsor. Here is how Damien explained several months ago in the “written record” (to your satisfaction) why the contest judges had to be included in the exhibition:

I am well aware that people were not happy about judges’ work appearing in the ICM exhibition alongside contest entries, but we made it clear from the outset that contest entries would not be the only art shown. This year is no different. The sponsors require this as a hedge against insufficient quality being submitted.

Glad to know I’m not the only unhappy camper. Again, if this is true, Damien signed on to the terms. But who held his feet to the fire? And why was “this year” (2007) no different — especially when a sponsor wasn’t listed until weeks after the rules had been made public? Sounds like everything just got carried over. However, at least in the current contest, there’s a whole battalion —55, count ’em –of exceptional “alternates” and “honorable mentions.” What good fortune — especially since most art contests only manage to scare up about 5 to 10 HMs. But Damien is now lucky to have excellence to burn — surely more than enough to take up the slack for all those sponsors’ fears of “insufficient quality.” So, it looks like next year the director and the judges can finally breathe a sigh of relief and not be coerced by preconditions into displaying their own work. Right?

Did they conspire to take over the contest and mold it to a form so that they could make an exhibition to flaunt their own art?

Looks like it. Absolutely. Down to the last detail. Give yourself a Gatorade shower. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Other complaints you raise are emotional and ill-reasoned. I would expect better of you and Tim.

And, well, if pressed, we pretty much feel the same way about your comments.

But, your complaints must be objective to have any merit.

I think we’ve tried to look at the contest and honestly report what we found. And are complaints the same as opinions? If so, then they are probably, like art, subjective.

If I’ve made any factual errors, anyone is more than welcome to correct me.

Well, I’ve tried my best. As for errors in logic, I admit there were more than I could get to.

It would also be interesting to see perspectives from other people, pro or con.

Finally — something we agree on. I, too, would enjoy hearing what others have to say about the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest.

I’d like to think Hamlet might have been wrong. Conscience only makes some of us cowards.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Questions about the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest…

A New Way of Seeing

A New Way of Seeing (2007)

…you should be asking — asking now that Version.2006 has a year of dry paint and Version.2007 has just rolled its wet pixels off the assembly line– asking before you start your generators and begin revving your fractals for next year’s Version.2008:

~Why is the judges’ work exhibited with that of the winners? Isn’t this breach of universally accepted protocol in itself enough to invalidate the entire contest? Can viewers easily know which artists were self-selected and which were juried? In other words, are distinctions between judges (who this year are semantically disguised as “panel members”) and winners thoroughly and consistently made obvious — at the exhibition in Madrid, in every online gallery, and in all promotional materials? Who made the decision to allow the judges’ work to be shown with the winning art? Who selected the judges, and what criteria were used to make the choices? And what is one to make of the 60/40 ratio in this year’s exhibited work ( Winners: 15 / Judges: 10)? Is this whole thing really a competition at all — or is it more of an invited exhibition where the judges walk their own work in through the delivery door and hang their art (with apparently no shame) beside the winners? How can anyone then tell the winners from the choosers? Shouldn’t this competition be either a juried contest or a by-invitation-only exhibit — but certainly not both?

~What percentage of the exhibited images (including art from the judges) from both last year and this year were created using Ultra Fractal? Over 75%? Higher? Don’t these numbers suggest the competition is just a facelift of the old Fractalus art contests dressed up in formalwear to better glitter for the press, seem more cosmopolitan to the viewers, and appear more inclusive and broad-based to the artists? But, if this actually is a retread in new duds and on steroids primarily designed to pump up UF art and artists, shouldn’t all the contest’s promotional and advertising materials make that fact explicit?

~Why is the submission size for entries so large when the director surely understands that artists using programs other than UF, as well as artists who post-process heavily, would face obstacles that could easily exclude them from competing? Why, in fact, do all prints have to be made to the specifications of doors and picture windows, as clearly seen in this short video piece about last year’s contest found on YouTube? Is bigger always better to display fractal details? Do we need to blow up the Mona Lisa or The Scream to plasma TV dimensions to “improve” them? Wouldn’t an exhibition of prints of an assortment of sizes be just as elegant and even more aesthetically pleasing? Or are the titanic entry requirements intentionally mandated to insure a certain fractal program (guess which one) is emphatically privileged?

~How many of the winners, alternates, and honorable mentions are now taking or have taken classes from contest judges who teach art students at the Visual Arts Academy? Did one of the judge’s students report her two entries were recognized in the contest– one as an alternate and the other as an honorable mention? Did another student selected for the exhibition note her his winning entry was created as a masking exercise in one of the judge’s classes? Did these judges recuse themselves from passing judgment on entries they recognized as being from their own students? Moreover, were any safeguards put in effect to insure judges refrain from making a recommendation when they recognized a friend’s work? Aren’t such reasonable guidelines commonplace protocols in literary and art contests? Here is an excerpt from the entry requirements of the annual literary contest held by the Associated Writing Programs:

To avoid conflict of interest and to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, friends and former students of a judge (former students who studied with a judge in an academic degree-conferring program or its equivalent) are ineligible to enter the competition in the genre for which their former teacher is serving as judge.

How can the people responsible for the contest not see such an inherent conflict of interest? And doesn’t a situation where winners are thanking other winners for their formulas and where students are selected for inclusion by their teachers run an increased risk of presenting an exhibition showcasing a single, inbred, highly homogenized style?

~Isn’t Professor Mandelbrot generally considered to be the father of all fractals? Did he know that the work exhibited under the auspices of the “contest” that bears his name caters to the UFractalus school and is nowhere near a representational sampling of the current, multi-dimensional breadth of contemporary fractal art? Would he maybe prefer “his” contest to display more diversity in its range of fractal styles, programs, forms, and visions?

~And, in the end, isn’t the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest just a publicity stunt by the director and the judges to concoct a “prestigious” contest out of whole cloth and gild it with a veneer of juried rigor? Isn’t it both a sham and a scam that allows their own work never to risk the uncomfortable scrutiny of being judged itself — but to instead be safely grandfathered into an exhibition of their own creation?


Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fiends without a Face

Fiends without a Face

Fiends without a Face (2007)

Weird for the sake of weird…
Moe Szyslak, The Simpsons

We know fractals are said to be supposedly infinite, highly recursive, and sometimes interpreted through aesthetics. But can the exaggeration and irony of camp be one of those aesthetic crash dives?

The critters in this image reminded me of the “monsters” from that psychotronic gem Fiend without a Face.

Brains.  More brains.  Oh wait.  I am one...

I ain’t got no/body since she left me
And I don’t know why
But I’m startin’ to cry
I ain’t got no/body…
–“Ain’t Got Nobody”, Grand Funk Railroad

Another one of those remarkable strings of nuclear accidents in the 1950s unleashes a rash of caterpillaric brainstems snaking through the Canadian countryside and snacking on the locals’ left and right hemispheres. Viewer empathy begins to leak into the mix as many of the spine-sucking creatures are dispatched with macho gusto by pistols at point blank range. When shot, their brainstems curl like ribbons, and their cerebrums emit leaking oil sounds as strawberry preserves dribble out of their lobes. Once the bumbling technicians have their skulls drained like unwanted swamps and the responsible nuclear plant is destroyed, each rampaging neck-clinger becomes a literal no-brainer and melts into what looks like bubbling custard.

Necking on the first date?

Hi there. You’re only the peripheral romantic interest in this film. So you won’t actually be needing your brain for this role.

And you thought all you had to worry about were Chernobyl collateral damage and truly infinite waste storage in Yucca Mountain and elsewhere.

I’ve argued previously on this blog that fractals have attributes associated with fine art. I guess the reverse is true, too. Fractals can also take the low road. As we learn from hey I coulda written that crap on Wikipedia:

Camp has been from the start an ironic attitude, embraced by anti-Academic theorists for its explicit defense of clearly marginalized forms. As such, its claims to legitimacy are dependent on its opposition to the status quo; camp has no aspiration to timelessness, but rather lives on the hypocrisy of the dominant culture. It doesn’t present basic values, but precisely confronts culture with what it perceives as its inconsistencies, to show how any norm is socially constructed. This rebellious utilisation of critical concepts was originally formulated by modernist art theorists such as sociologist Theodor Adorno who were radically opposed to the kind of popular culture that consumerism endorsed.

So can fractal art now be considered postmodernist? After all, someone once told me my art(ifact) was “all surface.”

And, yeah, I think this post could be seen as a metanarrative

Until someone totally deconstructs it in the comments…


Image rendered in QuaSZ and mildly post-processed until my brain went missing and I stopped.

Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Who Dissected Roger Rabbit

Who Dissected Roger Rabbit

Who Dissected Roger Rabbit (2007)

The function of art is to disturb. Science reassures.
Georges Braque

Andrea Yates believed that cartoon characters told her she was a bad mother who fed her children too much candy…
Court TV News

For some reason, disembowelment and bloodshed is a helluva lot funnier when it’s animated. We have no idea why. It’s just the way it is.
Atom Films

This image has, well, guts.

There’s been quite a bit of talk on this blog about breaking the traditional assumptions that fractal art is grounded in an aesthetics of beauty. Fractals are abstract. So how can they “mean” anything? And, if they are non-referential, does this imply they can only be wildly pleasing to the eye? Exhibit A: Another saturated spiral explodes from its slick paper as one turns over each new month in a Fractal Universe calendar.

Still, there has also been plenty of talk here lately about “ugly” fractals. Fractals “with dirty faces.” Fractals that refuse to be eye candy. Fractals that assault rather than soothe the senses.

Is my image today in bad taste? Or merely a comment on the exaggerated violence found in many cartoons. After all, a far worse fate usually awaits Tom in every Tom and Jerry short. Lawnmowers shaving him from tail to skull. A falling iron transforming the top of his head into a landing strip.

Wile E. Coyote gets today’s picture — even if Itchy and Scratchy feel it doesn’t go far enough.

One of Tex Avery’s whistling wolves getting smashed with a frying pan that turns his face into a dinner plate is funny. Cartoon characters whispering to Andrea Yates and telling her to drown her kids in a bathtub is not funny.

And fractals, as art, can steer viewers either way.

So is my image today disturbing? Or as funny as being pulverized into an accordion shape by a falling anvil? Or is it just silly or pretentious or bland. Whatever. You — the viewer — get to decide.

But I’m betting it’s not pretty.

Detail of: Who Dissected Roger Rabbit

Upper left corner detail of Who Dissected Roger Rabbit


Image made with Sterling-ware and post-processed until I chased it off a cliff, waved goodbye, and disappeared downward leaving only a small cloud of smoke behind.

Rooms with a View. Please note the new address. Regular readers will know why I was forced to move.
Blog with a View

A Written Record

What follows is a complete transcription of a series of email exchanges between Damien M. Jones and myself discussing topics recently posted to Orbit Trap.

The correspondence begins on Sunday, July 8th, 2007, and ends on Wednesday, July 11th, 1007.

The only editing I have done is to remove all email addresses, street addresses, and private server links.

I swear this is an accurate and complete transcription of the correspondence between us on the dates listed above. I will take additional steps to testify to the accuracy of this transcription, if necessary.

If Damien feels the transcription is in any way doctored or dishonest, he is free to post his own transcription of our email exchanges as well.

I want it specifically noted that Damien M. Jones granted me explicit permission to post these private emails. I also agreed to post my own private emails.

Readers can backtrack through recent Orbit Trap posts and comment threads for additional background information and to read exactly what has been written since Saturday, June 23rd, 2007.

The email exchanges follow sequentially by date:


Date: Sun, 08 Jul 2007 17:07:59 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Orbit Trap


I’m writing to you privately because I want to clarify something you said in a comment on Orbit Trap, in response to Keith Mackay’s comment on “Take It to the Limitations”. You said:

“…I questioned who stood to gain by keeping these limitations in place and suggested that the rules are possibly designed to privilege certain artists, programs, and styles. … I complained that some contests are not honest in their promotion and marketing. There are two types of contests that compel me to challenge the truth of their broad and subjective pronouncements.”

And then you specifically linked to the ICM 2006 promotional page. So I want to be clear: are you accusing the organizers of the contest of skewing the contest in favor of their preferred artists? Of making factually incorrect statements? Because that would be a pretty serious charge.

I must tell you that I find the increasingly hostile atmosphere at Orbit Trap distinctly unwelcoming, and I am not the only one to so observe (even though I may be the only one to point it out to you directly). That PNL gleefully promoted this discussion to various other fractal newsgroups and discussion lists should tell you something.

Damien M. Jones


Sun, 8 Jul 2007 15:56:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


I agree that discussions can sometimes get heated on blogs — and maybe even hostile. A case in point: your recent replies to Tim. However, I defend the right of Orbit Trap contributors and commenters to be passionate about expressing their beliefs.

My view about contests is drawn from my experiences in the publishing world. There, any competition that winds up including work by judges or editors is immediately regarded as unethical and compromised. In fact, judges and editors are expected to be so aware of the possibility of bias they must recuse themselves from even considering the work of friends or students should that work happen to be recognized. Competitions have been overturned when these regulations were not strictly followed. Where is a similar commitment to the appearance of fairness and objectivity in fractal art contests?

I have no ties whatsoever with Paul. I don’t care what he does.

It has never been my intention to create a hostile atmosphere. Discussion implies there are at least two ways of viewing any issue. Contrary points of view are sometimes controversial.




Sun, 08 Jul 2007 21:18:07 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


As I have explained elsewhere on the net, the appearance of judges’ work in the ICM 2006 exhibition was at the request of the sponsors, and the judges were not informed of this prior to the close of submissions. Furthermore, nobody was paid for their participation in the contest, nor was there an entry fee (both of which are common in other art contests). If you wish to express an opinion it is best to know the facts, and you only need ask me.

As to the hostile atmosphere, there is nothing wrong with being passionate, but when people start hinting, and then outright accusing, of improper bias and unethical behavior, you should not be surprised when the responses get a little heated. Honestly, half the time I think Tim is being deliberately provocative just to get a response, and if there’s one thing I do not like, it is being manipulated. So I’m telling you, as a friend, that I have been extremely reserved in my responses even though I’m exceptionally pissed off.

I believe in free speech, but in the US there are limits placed on free speech to prevent its abuse damaging another person. Even aside from legal limits, there are good taste limits, and OT is rapidly getting to the point where those limits are being crossed. I don’t care to participate in such “discussion” and I am not alone. Nothing will relegate OT to insignificance faster than shouting down an opposing voice to the point where they decline to continue the conversation. Keith’s calling you to account for questioning his ethics is right on the mark; you did question it, just as you questioned mine, and for us not to take it personally is for us to ignore what you said. If you stand behind your words, then I must assume that you meant exactly what you said, which is that Keith (acting as calendar editor) and me (as judge for the ICM contest and exhibition) acted improperly. That’s as personal as it comes.

I have a reply to you and a reply to Tim that are sitting, waiting for me to “cool down” before I respond. Experience has shown me that posting with a hot temper is rarely beneficial.

Damien M. Jones


Mon, 9 Jul 2007 07:39:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


If you carefully read what I have written, I hope you’ll see that I am not alleging that anything improper has occurred. However, based on how your contest and the “Fractal Universe” have been run, it should not surprise you that some questions about fairness might be raised. I assure you, I am not the only one concerned about this issue.

I am just the messenger. No need to kill me. There are alternatives to the practices that have been used by both contests. No one will ask uncomfortable questions about objectivity and ethics, if the judges are not mingled with the judged — whatever the reasons for this arrangement. If both contests are run using commonly accepted professional standards, then questions about the appearance of impropriety will not be raised. That is all I am saying.




Mon, 09 Jul 2007 09:01:55 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


I had hoped to hear from you again before posting my reply. I’ll be doing that later today.

I neglected to follow up on one thing you said:

– I have no ties whatsoever with Paul. I don’t care what he does.

My point in mentioning it–since I know neither you nor I particularly care for him–was that if he is encouraging people to view the discussion, there is something in it he enjoys. He has never, to my knowledge, ever before promoted OT. The reasonable conclusion is that he either enjoys the UF-bashing (since he shares some of Tim’s views on it) or he likes watching you and I argue about bias in fractal art, or both. His delight in watching us argue probably comes more from who the participants are than from the topic; not only do we not care for him, but I believe the feeling is mutual.

I’m a bit cooler this morning, but I’m going to have to address allegations of impropriety rather directly. As a director and organizer of both the 2006 and 2007 contests, that’s my (unpaid) job. You are leaving me with few options.

Damien M. Jones


Mon, 9 Jul 2007 11:10:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Surbject: Re: Orbit Trap


I debated whether to send you a private note. I’m reluctant to share personal feelings in email ever since Sean Dean burned me years ago. But I’m taking a chance here:

I do not wish to argue with you. I never did. I certainly don’t want to give PNL any joy. Trust me on that.

I have no control over what Tim writes. He alone is responsible and issues with him should be taken up directly with him.

I am also holding back. I don’t feel I’ve shouted anyone down. I do feel I have been personally attacked for trying to raise a general issue. And, like you, yes, I’m pissed off, too.

But, believe it or not, I am your friend. I do respect you. You are a leader in our community. Some would say you are *the* leader. But it’s like the Spiderman saying. Your position comes with great responsibility.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do — just show you how things might look to others. As a leading figure, like it or not, people will scrutinize you. Any contest you oversee, people will expect to be run with the highest professionalism. It should be made as open as possible to include as many artists, programs, and styles as you can — OR it should clearly identify its specialty or sub-genre in promotion and marketing. The judging should be done as blindly as can be arranged, and the judges always kept separate from contestants and winners. Please at least consider adopting these widely-used practices. If you do, questions about the appearance of impropriety will disappear and never re-surface.

Whether they tell you directly, many people have made judgments about how this appears and have questions of their own. Appearances, yes, can be deceptive, and nothing fishy is probably going on. But it doesn’t help when Keith gets on a public blog and talks about what he is buying with his winnings from a contest he edited where his own work made up 1/4th of the published material. That can’t be spun to look good. Surely you can see that.

You can certainly use OT to explain the circumstances and facts of what has gone on with your contest. That will help clarify, but only up to a point. If yours or any contest continues running without using conventional practices and safeguards, then it’s a safe bet questions about how the whole thing looks will keep coming up.

With respect,



[No Time Stamp]
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


Your last email was… unexpected. I had already resigned myself to a particular course of action, but now I am reconsidering. I’ve included my original note below, so you can see what I was thinking, in the hope that perhaps we can improve our communication. I understand that you’ve been burned on email before (Sean Dean does not have integrity, IMO) so I’m going to go out on a limb a little bit and share perhaps enough for you to burn me.

My issues with Tim I’ll take up with Tim, but since you and he started this blog together, it’s not completely unreasonable to think you’re of relatively similar views on many things. I apologize for lumping you in with him.

I am well aware that people were not happy about judges’ work appearing in the ICM exhibition alongside contest entries, but we made it clear from the outset that contest entries would not be the only art shown. This year is no different. The sponsors require this as a hedge against insufficient quality being submitted; it is, after all, their money at risk. I estimate at least 20,000 euros to do something like this, and that is if everything is done as economically as possible. If I were a sponsor, I think I’d make damn sure I could get my money’s worth. Had I the money to fund my own exhibition on my own terms, I think I would. But in that case I wouldn’t hold a contest, I’d just invite people.

– It should be made as open as possible to include as many artists, programs, and styles as you can — OR it should clearly identify its specialty or sub-genre in promotion and marketing.

You honestly expect us to completely spell out exactly what we mean by “fractal art” in the promotion and marketing material? When there isn’t even a widely-accepted definition of exactly what fractal art IS? What kind of insane world do you live in? And, aside from that, did you even look at what was selected last year? (Rhetorical question.)

– The judging should be done as blindly as can be arranged

You’re speaking out of your ass on this one. The judges never see the names of the artists until after the selections are made, unless the artists include signatures on their submissions (in clear contradiction to the rules).

– and the judges always kept separate from contestants and winners

As I’ve indicated, this is a direct request from the sponsors. Frankly, since our judges aren’t paid, this seems a reasonable way to compensate them for the time they spend reviewing entries, especially since they can’t enter the contest anyway.

– Please at least consider adopting these widely-used practices. If you do, questions about the appearance of impropriety will disappear and never re-surface.

If I were just running a contest, for the fun of running a contest, I would completely agree with you. But the 2006 and 2007 contests were unique opportunities, with funding, to make fractal art available to a much wider audience, including a huge portion of the public of Madrid. (The Conde Duque site rarely draws in so many visitors! It was amazing!) But the money required to organize such an event comes with strings attached. We’ve been open about those strings. Nobody is forcing you to enter. If you think it’s skewed or rigged, don’t enter.

So I have a choice: I can either run a contest completely how I would like, and pay for it myself, or I can accept money from a sponsor that comes with conditions. What you’re saying is that you find the strings unacceptable. I’m saying that, given the choice between no exhibition and one with some preconditions, I’d prefer to have the exhibition. At least I’m doing *something*. Years from now, when fractal art is more recognized and easier to get funding for, others will have the privilege of refusing money that has strings attached. At the moment, I don’t have that option.

As for Keith: there is nothing deceptive in what he did. You keep using words like “contest” and “won” but it’s not a contest. Let it go. By the agreement they have with their publisher, each editor is guaranteed one image in the calendar. Naturally they submitted more than one, to give the publisher a choice of which image. If the publisher chose more than one of theirs, in preference to the other hundred or so they sent, is that really the editors’ fault? Furthermore, they are not judges: they are editors, performing a work for which they were compensated. Their responsibility is to satisfy the publisher, not the submitters.

As I said, I’ve included my original email below, so you’ll understand where I was at this morning. I’m not now this pissed off, so in a way it’s here for entertainment value. I’ve included as well the blog post I was going to submit at the same time as the email. Now I’m going to revise it.


—–8<—– [original email]


– If you carefully read what I have written, I hope you’ll see that I am not alleging that anything improper has occurred.

On the contrary, a plain reading of what you wrote indicates that you did exactly that:

– Instead, I questioned who stood to gain by keeping these limitations in place and suggested that the rules are possibly designed to privilege certain artists, programs, and styles.

That is, certain rules are engineered to favor certain people. That’s an outright claim that some contests are “rigged”. General rule stated; then you move on to state another rule, and give two specifics. Strictly speaking, you don’t connect the two specific instances with your first complaint, yet given the rest of your discussion and mentions of various rules from either of those two specific instances, you strongly imply that your first complaint applies to them as well.

Your second complaint:

– I complained that some contests are not honest in their promotion and marketing. There are two types of contests that compel me to challenge the truth of their broad and subjective pronouncements.

Read that one to yourself again. “Truth of their subjective pronouncements.” They’re subjective, Terry. There is no truth in a subjective pronouncement. You mention the ICM contest specifically, here:

-Type one is the contest that claims to showcase the genre’s finest artists. As an example, this contest openly trumpets “it will exhibit high quality works by the most important fractal artists in the world.”

Quality, which I personally verified was quite high. “Most important” is purely subjective. One might even suggest that by being included in an exhibition at a major international mathematical conference, and a joint exhibition at a major cultural center in Madrid, that the included artists *become* important, but that would be sophistry. How would you factually define “important”? Important to you? Important to me? Or maybe… important to the contest and exhibition organizers and sponsors?

Then you bitch about the Avalanche calendar:

-In the FAQ section of the calendar’s Fractal Forum, the editors state they try to “produce a calendar that is representative of the current state of our art.”

I ask you: if the editors try, based on the material submitted to them, but the publisher elects to go with their proven money-making formula, did the editors fail? Did they not do what they said they would do(try)?

Furthermore, you keep referring to the calendar as a “contest”. If you want to stretch the definition that far, when the editors clearly state that it’s not a contest, but a publishing submission contest, then I have a few other scenarios that you’d better be prepared to call contests:

1. Grades, for any teacher who grades on a curve. Grading on a curve means you not only have to do well, but better than your classmates. That clearly means your classmates set the bar, rather than the instructor.

2. Magazine publication, for any magazine which accepts contributions from the general public. Each magazine has limited space, and submitters vie with each other for that space. Oh, and they’re also competing with the in-house writers, and the winners often get paid for their content.

Are these contests? Or merely competitive events?

But here’s the final clincher, the point where you pretty much bluntly state that you think Keith (editor) and I (judge) acted unethically:

– Good luck with your new camera lens. Maybe you can use it to focus on an examination of the ethics of editors and judges whose own work is somehow included in the fractal publications and exhibitions they are assigned to objectively oversee.

So don’t tell me you never accused me or Keith. You damn well did.

– However, based on how your contest and the “Fractal Universe” have been run, it should not surprise you that some questions about fairness might be raised.

There are always questions. And no, I’m not surprised; I know that many were not expecting to see judges’ images included in the exhibition, even though at the beginning of the contest, in the rules, we did state that there would be more images in the exhibition than just contest winners, that the winners would be “included” in the exhibition. Our original plan was to invite artists to contribute specific images, but our sponsors (ICM and FECyT) instead asked that each panel member provide one image. Since we disclosed in advance to contest participants that other images would be included, and the choice of whose extra images would be included was determined by someone other than the judges, there is no conflict here.

– I assure you, I am not the only one concerned about this issue.

– I am just the messenger. No need to kill me.

Well that’s just the problem. “Don’t kill the messenger” usually applies when the messenger doesn’t know the content of their message and is merely delivering it (i.e. a paid courier) but that’s not true in this case. You could have emailed me and asked me about it privately before making public declarations that somebody must be benefitting from the “bias”. Instead, you chose–chose–to announce it publicly on your blog *first*, raise a ruckus, be a bit of a demagogue, and then try to claim you never made an accusation. What a crock.

Nobody is holding a gun to your head telling you to deliver the message. You’re no prophet regurgitated from the belly of a fish, forced to deliver a message of impending doom. You’re Terry Wright, and you chose your message and method of delivery. I had assumed you were a friend, but this is not how friends fix their problems.

Since your allegations are public, I will respond to them publicly. It will probably be my last OT post. Your tactics leave little room for real discussion.


[Note: Damien then includes an early draft of his post “A Forum for Accusations.” Although much of the phrasing is identical to his post, there are some differences. I include the draft to show the complete email that was sent to me.]

I’ve been watching and participating in the increasingly hostile discussion here over the past two weeks. I don’t mind a little friendly discussion, but I don’t like to see misinformation propogated (about UF), so I lost my temper once (and then apologized). But in the discussion following Terry’s “Take It to the Limitations” thread, Terry wrote a few things which I feel need to be addressed directly:

Instead, I questioned who stood to gain by keeping these limitations in place and suggested that the rules are possibly designed to privilege certain artists, programs, and styles.

I complained that some contests are not honest in their promotion and marketing. There are two types of contests that compel me to challenge the truth of their broad and subjective pronouncements. Type one is the contest that claims to showcase the genre’s finest artists. As an example, this contest openly trumpets “iit will exhibit high quality works by the most important fractal artists in the world.”

Good luck with your new camera lens. Maybe you can use it to focus on an examination of the ethics of editors and judges whose own work is somehow included in the fractal publications and exhibitions they are assigned to objectively oversee.

Now maybe you don’t see that as an outright accusation of bias or improper behavior, but it seems fairly clear to me that Terry is accusing both Keith (the editor in the last paragraph) and me (the judge in the last paragraph) of being unethical, because Keith’s and Panny’s artwork appears in the calendar, and because my and other contest panel judges’ artwork appeared in the exhibition.

I believe Terry’s accusation is without merit and, frankly, in poor taste. As Keith has already explained, Avalanche’s agreement with the editors is that each of them is guaranteed one image in the calendar, in exchange for doing the work of sifting through all of the entries and providing a “first cut” to the publisher. This detail of the agreement is in fact documented in the very same FAQ that Terry linked to with his other complaint, so he should have been well aware of this when he made his accusation. Not only that, but this is the same arrangement Avalanche has had through all the years I’ve been aware of their calendar–all the way back to when Rollo Silver was the editor and first opened up the calendar to submissions (prior to that, Rollo was the only artist to appear in the calendar).

As to the contest which Terry refers to, we quite clearly stated in the rules, right there in the preface:

Other artwork to be included in the exhibition will be from invited artists. These rules do not cover the invitation process, only the contest.

The decision to use judges’ artwork as the invited artists was not made by the judges, and the judges were not told of this until late in the selection process. For this year’s contest, we know in advance that judges’ artwork is to be included, so we have made the disclosure more explicit. I don’t know how we can be rightly accused of unethical behavior when we have been frank about this inclusion.

Each reader will form their own opinions, but I believe from this it is clear that these accusations have no place in rational discourse and serve no purpose.


Mon, 9 Jul 2007 13:14:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


Thanks for getting back with me.

Your email is rather lengthy. I will look it over and respond privately sometime tonight.

If you feel the need to post what you’ve written or reply in some other fashion on OT before then, you should do whatever you feel is right.




Mon, 9 Jul 2007 16:07:03 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


I think we have to agree to disagree. Despite your justifications, I am not swayed to your point of view.

I guess the next move is yours.




Mon, 09 Jul 2007 22:24:27 -0400
From Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


– I think we have to agree to disagree. Despite your justifications, I am not swayed to your point of view.

So that I do not misunderstand you, then, you disagree with ALL of these statements:

1. That you accused both Keith Mackay and myself of behaving unethically in our participation in the calendar and contest, respectively;

2. That such an accusation, made in a public place first rather than trying to resolve the issue privately, was inappropriate;

3. That Keith and I in fact acted ethically;

4. That in fact, juried art shows typically compensate the jurors, and that when such compensation is not directly by payment, it is by automatic inclusion in the show;

5. That the calendar is not a contest, but an editing/pre-screening service provided by Keith and Panny, for which they are compensated.

If, in fact, you agree with any of these statements, please let me know.

However, your statement that you disagree was not qualified, so I must assume it refers to all of the above, as they are all points under discussion. I know we disagree on many other things, and those things do not bother me, but these five are key points in this issue and I want to be clear that I am not misrepresenting your position when I respond to it.

Damien M. Jones


Mon, 9 Jul 2007 21:01:19 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


Just so YOU do not have any misunderstandings.

I only said I was not swayed by what you wrote in a previous and supposedly private email. And that was all I said. What I believe is what I have posted to the blog. If you truly do not wish to misrepresent me, you should confine any public remarks to those posted writings.

Why do you even care whether I agree or disagree with your point by point analysis of your own justifications? I have never made ANY of the five statements you list in your last email. Each one is nothing more than your own speculation or assumption.

This is the last “private” email I am exchanging with you on this matter.



Tue, 10 Jul 2007 07:54:45 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright|
Subject: Re: Orbit Trap


– I only said I was not swayed by what you wrote in a previous and supposedly private email. And that was all I said. What I believe is what I have posted to the blog. If you truly do not wish to misrepresent me, you should confine any public remarks to those posted writings.

As you wish.

– Why do you even care whether I agree or disagree with your point by point analysis of your own justifications? I have never made ANY of the five statements you list in your last email. Each one is nothing more than your own speculation or assumption.

I was attempting to make sure I understood clearly what you meant by “disagree”. I’m sorry that you didn’t understand the point of communication.

– This is the last “private” email I am exchanging with you on this matter.

So, you do not need to respond to this email.

I’m not going to publicly post your private emails, Terry. I was never going to. But I’m really quite sad that you saw what I wrote as “justifications” (meaning that you still believe I did something wrong, and was trying to excuse it). That’s what you wrote, it’s crystal clear it’s what you believe, you stand behind what you wrote publicly (which is an outright accusation), and you still can’t see it.

Orbit Trap is dead, and you killed it by driving off everyone who had an opinion different from yours, with your politics and your rantings. So much for promoting discussion.

Damien M. Jones


Wed, 11 Jul 2007 16:25:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Subject: Eclectasy Hosting


I received a call from Lynn this afternoon. She tells me you contacted her because you said you were unable to contact me.

You must have somehow misread my last email to you. I only said that I would not exchange any further emails with you about the current topic being discussed on Orbit Trap. Otherwise, you should feel free to write me whenever you like.

Lynn said that you mentioned something about removing Eclectasy from the Fractalus server.

As Eclectasy’s web host, you have always had such a prerogative.

For the record, Lynn knows nothing about what has transpired on Orbit Trap, nor is she responsible in any way for what I do or say.

If you wish to stop hosting all of Eclectasy, you may do so at any time. However, as a courtesy, it would be nice if you’d first make sure that all members of the consortium have back-ups of their web sites before cutting off their access and deleting their material from your server. I do have back-ups of my site. As the only person who has been paying for Eclectasy to be hosted, I will expect a refund for the balance of days that have been paid for but were not hosted.

If you wish to remove only my site from your server, then you should contact Lynn to discuss terms and payment in order for her to remain hosted by you. Again, I will expect a refund for any remaining days I paid for but for which I am not hosted.

Either way, if you elect to stop hosting my site, I will expect you, as a professional, to completely remove everything of mine from your server — and to keep nothing of my original material in your possession.




Wed, 11 Jul 2007 20:55:11 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Eclectasy Hosting


I wrote Lynne earlier today to let her know that I would no longer be able to provide you with access to my server. She is the owner of the eclectasy.com domain. I know that she is not responsible for your actions; however, I knew that I would not be granting you further access (except as necessary to download a copy of your content) and that would likely mean eclectasy.com would need to be moved.

I fully expected her to transfer the eclectasy.com domain to another host, and I stated I was (and am) willing to help you all find an inexpensive host, and to assist in making the transfer as smooth as possible. She called me to further discuss the matter, and I informed her that hosting with more storage and transfer capacity than I offer is now available for a quarter of what you have been paying. I suggest GoDaddy, Yahoo, or Network Solutions; all offer inexpensive hosting.

She did ask why I had taken this step, and I indicated that your recent Orbit Trap postings have destroyed a lot of the trust I had with you. She declined to make a formal decision at that point, but instead called you. She called me back a few minutes later and said she was going to consider her options and possibly speak with you again tomorrow.

As the domain owner of record, it is Lynne’s call as to where eclectasy.com is hosted. Wherever she chooses, I will not continue to host your content longer than August 15, 2007, or sooner if you request it. Once I remove your content, I will be quite scrupulous in removing it completely, even from the archiving system that logs all prior file versions. Your content will be totally expunged, as you request. Should there be any remaining balance on your account at that time, I will return a pro-rated portion to you. I had never contemplated anything less.

My professionalism, as far as I’m concerned, was never in question.

Damien M. Jones


Wed, 11 Jul 2007 19:00:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
CC: Lynne Edel
Subject: Re: Eclectasy Hosting


Your professionalism is most certainly in question.

Upon trying to access my web site on Fractalus, I have discovered you have blocked my access with password protection — contrary to the terms you offered in your last email.

You have, in effect, voided our arrangement as of this moment, since I no longer have a fully operational web site, although I have paid you in good faith to provide such service.

As far as I am concerned, your action immediately terminates any business arrangement we had concerning my web site, regardless of who is the domain owner. I paid the bill. I get the refund.

I will not pay you another dime, and I insist upon a pro-rated refund as of today, Wednesday, July 11th, 2007. I have paid through July 31st, 2007.

Thanks for the professional courtesy of allowing me to retrieve any overlooked back-ups from my web site. And thanks, too, for apparently knowingly overcharging me for all these years.


P.S. I have cced Lynne a copy of this email that includes all of our correspondence on this matter. She deserves to know what really happened, instead of receiving a cut and paste version.


Wed, 11 Jul 2007 22:25:55 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
CC: Lynne Edel
Subject: Re: Eclectasy Hosting


– Your professionalism is most certainly in question.

Hardly. Given your temper tantrum, and the fact that you have developed a motive for causing damage, a prudent suspension (not elimination) of your access in order to protect the other hosted content on my server was appropriate. If you knew anything about web hosting you would know that, but you don’t, so again you’re making accusations that are unwarranted.

– Upon trying to access my web site on Fractalus, I have discovered you have blocked my access with password protection contrary to the terms you offered in your last email.

What I said was that I would help you transfer content. Since I’ve suspended your access for administrative purposes, pending a final decision from Lynne as to what to do with eclectasy.com, what I was going to do was ZIP your content to allow you to make a single (far more efficient) web download. Another common practice.

– You have, in effect, voided our arrangement as of this moment, since I no longer have a fully operational web site, although I have paid you in good faith to provide such service.

I have already indicated that I would refund your money. It will go out tomorrow, if you could please provide a current address to send it to. (Yes, I can dig this out of my records if I have to, but since they’re in storage it will take longer.)

– As far as I am concerned, your action immediately terminates any business arrangement we had concerning my web site, regardless of who is the domain owner. I paid the bill. I get the refund.

I never indicated anyone else would get the refund. I only indicated that Lynne, as the domain owner, decides what happens with the domain name.

– I will not pay you another dime, and I insist upon a pro-rated refund as of today, Wednesday, July 11th, 2007. I have paid through July 31st, 2007.

This works out to be a refund of $27.10.

– Thanks for the professional courtesy of allowing me to retrieve any overlooked back-ups from my web site. And thanks, too, for apparently knowingly overcharging me for all these years.

Actually, I didn’t knowingly overcharge you. Since I don’t pay even remotely the same for my hosting as you do, I didn’t comparison shop for your class of service until today. You have the ability to host your web site with most low-cost hosts, but I don’t; I offer too many customized services and I require a co-located server, with hardware that I own. Never mind that I offered to host you for free in the beginning, but you all insisted on paying for service. (You forgot that part, didn’t you?)

– P.S. I have cced Lynne a copy of this email that includes all of our correspondence on this matter. She deserves to know what really happened, instead of receiving a cut and paste version.

Did you forward her a copy of all your private emails to me earlier this week? So that she gets the full story?

Damien M. Jones


Wed, 11 Jul 2007 19:52:54 -0700 (PDT)
From: Terry Wright
To: Damien M. Jones
Re: Eclectasy Hosting


Please send the refund to:


Out of concern for your privacy, I did not send anyone, including Lynne, either your private email rants or my responses. If you wish to send your emails to Lynne, that is strictly your business.

Your dropping hosting of Eclectasy was Lynne’s business — as you pointed out — since she owns the domain name. Our private discussions about current writings on Orbit Trap only involve you and I.



Wed, 11 Jul 2007 23:01:02 -0400
From: Damien M. Jones
To: Terry Wright
Subject: Re: Eclectasy Hosting


As promised, a full set of your content, should you wish to download it, is available here:


I will keep this file online through August 15, 2007 or until you tell me to remove it.

Damien M. Jones

~/~ ~/~ ~/~

This concludes the transcript of private email exchanged between Damien M. Jones and myself.

Take It to the Limitations

I was really glad to read Damien’s recent entry. I completely agree with him that all fractal artists post-process and that no one fractal tool is proprietary. He is absolutely right. It makes no difference whether I knock my fractal around with masking and layering in Ultra Fractal or import my fractal into Photoshop and put it through similar paces. And I also concur that no one definition of fractal art can be definitive. It’s not surprising I’d see eye to eye with each of these statements. I’ve been saying all of these things for almost ten years.

It’s probably true people might see my work as digital rather than fractal unless told otherwise. But I believe the same could be said of much of the more creative, experimental work that many cutting edge fractal artists have produced in the last few years. I did not mean to pull up old corpses — only to show the difference between then and now. It’s getting tough these days to separate what’s fractal and what’s digital. It’s likely the judges of the 1999 contest I referenced would not recognize most work coming out of UF and other programs today as fractal. That’s because everyone is indeed post-processing — and doing so more and more with every generator upgrade.

So, given that the fractal/digital divide is fuzzy, and knowing that we now live in a new golden age of fractal tolerance and latitude, why are limitations still being placed on artists? Oh, I know sponsors of contests can set their own rules. As a writer, I learned early on not to submit a free verse poem about baboons to a formal poetry contest about kangaroos. However, at least the literary contests will always specify the guiding parameters when reporting the winners: best rhyming poems about kangaroos. By contrast, some major fractal competitions strongly suggest that the winners represent the best fractal artists in the world. In truth, what these contests really showcase is only someone’s idea of what a fractal ought to look like. I wonder whether the public ever comes to see that the selected art represents only a substratum of our multi-faceted, rapidly mutating genre. How ironic is it that these limitations are still being put in place at the very time fractal art is relishing blowing up its boundaries.

Maybe this is all just one big technical vs. visual practicality dichotomy. Or maybe fractal artists should be considering less theoretical and more practical questions. Like: Should a contest’s incomplete snapshot of fractal art be presented as broadly representational to the public? Who stands to gain by using limitations to set the agenda for what the public sees as legitimized fractal art? Damien, I think, said it best: “So really, who gets to decide what is and is not fractal art?”

My last blog post wasn’t just about post-processing. It was also a plea for fractal artists to insist on having artistic freedom without limits. The stakes here could not be higher. If we, as fractal artists, continue to believe that our art must be a particular something to be accepted — whether to “look fractal” or conventionally spiral away over the days of each month — then we shun rather than follow our Muses. Even worse, I fear for the future of our genre. We risk getting stuck in permanent craft mode and never breaking into the blossom of becoming a broadly recognized and established artistic movement.

A Dream of Post Post-Processing

Yes. I’m returning to rant again on my favorite pet peeve: the never-say-die stink surrounding post-processing. I know some of you feel this is a dead issue. We all get along now…

…except we don’t. The old biases just keep cropping up.

From “Recent Evolution in Fractal Art” from Ken Keller’s site:

I consider the definition of Fractal Art to mean images that are originally produced with a computer program that is dedicated to fractal image generation. It is also assumed that minimal post processing is applied to the final, presented image. Layered fractal images are categorized as Fractal Art, but not images that are collage type images using other than fractal image elements (such as ‘put a pretty girl in front of a fractal’ ). Layered fractals are produced by many fractal generation programs and each layer is indeed a genuine fractal.

Keller might “assume” such limitations, but I refuse them. It’s big of him to give a program like Ultra Fractal a thumbs up allowing hundreds of collaged layers the benefit of still being minimally post-processed. Each layer, he claims, is still a fractal — even if the final composite is smushed together like hash and stacked like mashed-up pancakes. Anything goes, apparently, as long as the manipulation properly occurs inside the fractal software. Export your fractal out — and, well, you’re out — or out of control. Moreover, it doesn’t matter how much filtering firepower is built directly into one’s fractal software. Ultra Fractal can do animations. XenoDream can do lighting effects similar to software by Flaming Pear. Filters come standard in both Fractal Explorer and Fractal Forge. Do each of these onboard adjustments still use only “fractal image elements”?

And let’s hear from Chasm — described by Joseph Trotsky as “the master of artistic post-processing”:

It is my opinion that fractal pp will remain fractal art, as long as the pp has not ruined the original fractal patterns. Chasm has described it in a most beautiful and clear way: “I was pleased insofar that I’ve managed to preserve the original fractal contour and much of the coloring, and not ruin the image in a filter-frenzy.”

Trotsky and Chasm are much more radical than Keller. They actually believe the fractal artist can wander outside of the (ahem) parameters of the fractal-generating software. But don’t stray too far from home. That way a filter-frenzied madness lies — even if Photoshop filters do run by using algorithms. Trotsky calls extensive post-processing “fractal abuse” and “fractal vandalism.” Only if the forms are preserved can the art remain “fractal” rather than catch-all “digital” — obviously an inferior iteration allowing infestations like “black smears” to cloud otherwise serious art. And, whatever else you do, don’t ever alter the original fractal forms. They are sacrosanct. Go too far, and you’ve crossed an artistic line drawn in the sand by those who’ve been touched by God (or math — a lower case god) to be gifted enough to discern such fine distinctions.

Even the popular fractal art contests once run through Fractalus seemed to share a similar sensibility. Here is a bit of the “Post-Processing Statement” from the 1999 contest:

One of the limitations fractal artists accept is that the medium — visual representations of mathematical formulas — imposes some restrictions on the creative process. Producing beautiful images despite the restriction is part of the challenge and beauty of fractals.

If you choose to process your image, that is OK as far as the rules are concerned. But you should keep in mind that the more obviously you alter the image, the less pleasing it is likely to be to some of those who vote. The key word you should remember is enhance. We’re not really interested in who can apply the most complex filter combinations in Photoshop to produce something barely recognizable as a fractal. We’re interested in great fractal pictures.

One wonders, given the image manipulation features now pre-built into programs like UF and XenoDream, if the pictures produced today would have seemed “barely recognizable as a fractal” back then.

So, what’s my problem with all of the above?

For one, I don’t like limitations on making art — especially when the restrictions seem designed to benefit some fractal artists while punishing others.

For another, if everything above represents the current fractal art canon — and I believe it probably does — then I’ve been permanently banished outside the castle walls.

Let’s get a couple of things straight.

Making a fractal is not the same as making art. Anyone can make a fractal. In fact, anyone can make about twenty in less than a minute using a program like Fractal ViZion. Does that make one an insta-artist? No. I can stand in my backyard with a digital camera, spin in circles, and snap the shutter randomly. I may be taking pictures. I am not, however, making art. Fractal art is not exempt from the longstanding characteristics that define visual art: composition, depth, perspective, texture, and so on. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that quickie render you just slapped up on Renderosity might not really be a masterpiece. Fractals have to be made with more than math and craft to become art. If not, they are just fractals — just empty snapshots of the backyard.

Furthermore, every fractal artist post-processes. No exceptions. If you’ve changed your fractal from its initial iteration and removed it from the generator, you’ve altered it. Use image compression? Unsharp mask that sucker? Add a signature or frame or watermark? Upload that baby to the web to float in HTML? You’re guilty of post-processing.

And even…did you layer upon layer that poor thing in UF? Guilty. Juan Luis Martinez explains why:

We say a fractal image has been post-processed when it has been imported into a graphics editor to adjust any of its original properties. That results in a modification of the master picture as it came out of the fractal generating software alone. This is a normal practice in digital graphics creation, but still divides the group of fractal artists in two camps: those who prefer to leave the fractal as is (keeping its natural form) and those that routinely enhance its appearance with the intent of improving or increasing the artistic output. Ultra Fractal helped to change that perception because most fractal artists are using it almost exclusively, unleashing its power to combine several layers into a single image. Since all adjustments are done inside the same application, some people think they’re not post-processing the picture, but the truth is that all those operations are altering the base image, equaling what will normally be post-processing.

So, the only questions about post-processing then are how and how much.

Apparently, if you believe the poobahs, using your fractal generator, no matter how extensive its built-in manipulation functions, is cool. You are still and always will be a legit fractal artist. But export your fractal to another graphics program and begin flailing away, well, you’ve somehow cheated. Or, worse, you’re ignorant. You failed to read the rule book and follow the universally understood (even if arbritary) limitations.

And how convenient is it that the most expensive fractal software also has the most post-processing capabilities? No wonder I used to see something like this tagged to posted images at on-line fractal communities: Made with UF. 100 layers. No post-processing. Who are you kidding? You bludgeoned that thing within an inch of its pixels! But you’ve manipulated nothing because you’ve miraculously remained within the (self-imposed) limitations and kept your extensive collaging activities strictly inside UF? I bet I could export each of those layers into Paint Shop Pro, mush them together, and come up with something wildly close to what you did.

The limits thing? I understand that, I guess — up to a point. On my web site, I describe my own work as “fractal-based digital art.” But, frankly, I think that’s what UF makes, too. I’m wondering if these fine distinctions matter less to me than they do to others. I’m more interested in breaking out the art part of fractal art — not making bonds tighter. I’ll blow up the fractal forms if I like the effect. I’ll post-process a fractal to the point where code words like frenzy don’t begin to cut it. I’ll do whatever it takes to drag that fractal lake and dredge the art out of my fractals. In a variation of the Vietnam paradox about saving villages, sometimes I have to destroy the fractal in order to save it.

And, however much I atom-smash the stalks and spirals out of my images, when you strip away all the multiple layers and many adjustments, you end up with the original parameter file.

Just like that very first fractal made in UF way back when by somebody somewhere before everyone else decided to pile on.


Here’s a demonstration of my point.

Let’s roll some footage:

Base fractal for The Last Bee

Here’s a fractal made in FraSZle. I tweaked it a bit in the generator (but I guess that’s okay). I used it as a base for this:

The Last Bee

The Last Bee (2007)

I thrashed this one every which way possible — but the fractal forms are still relatively intact. Did I cheat? Or was I going about trying to make art from what I initially saw as a backyard picture?

Here’s lower right corner detail from the first render:

Detail of: Base fractal for The Last Bee

And here’s lower right corner detail from the finished image:

Detail of: The Last Bee

Did I go too far? Was I merely “revising”? Or just using the colors and textures to highlight the overall arrangement? In short, was I exercising artistic control? Or was I committing the sin of “post-processing”?

Here’s another case. I warn you though. Don’t stray far from the fainting couch. This one probably constitutes “fractal vandalism.”

Here is the base image from FraSZle

Base fractal for Evolution Impulse

and it somehow became this:

Evolution Impulse

Evolution Impulse (2007)

Uh-oh. Break out the smelling salts. Somebody colored outside the lines.


So what do I want?

I want these distinctions and limitations lifted. Given that so much manipulation can now be done in so many fractal programs, I want all post-processing bias put down for good. No more pulling the stake out of its heart so it can wander undead in the night and drain fractal artists of their freedom to punch through artificial boundaries. I’m tired of knocking at a fractal contest door and having it slammed in my face. I don’t like being told I’m not playing by rules I think are nonsense and that are deliberately designed to repress creativity and artistic freedom. And I’m fed up with people claiming their programs get a bye for fractal purity but mine do not — especially since both are now doing much the same thing in the same ways. And, finally, I’m tired of reading drivel like this — seen on a DeviantArt fractal contest held last year:

Post processing using an image editing program such as Photoshop, or Paint Shop Pro is allowed as long as the focus of the image is a fractal.

Oh yeah. We wouldn’t want the focus of an art contest to actually be on the art.

Didn’t you get the memo?


Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,


The Twister Forms

The Twister Forms (2000)

My dream starts to get strange
on The Plains. Blue balloons
drift over my town as rain mode begins
and gusts curve. In one fictive package
hot moves up when I swing my arms
demolishing clever word games.

Shuffled letters soon drown
and my notebook paper
driven back into trees.


It’s that time of the year again here in Arkansas…


Twister (2001)

Head for shelter under an overpassor maybe not


Rooms with a View
Blog with a View

The Twister Forms made with Sterling-ware. Twister made with Fractal Zplot. Both post-processed to the point of gale force. Poem made from scratch and found in a notebook from 2005.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,