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.

~/~

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14 thoughts on “Damien, Inc.

  1. This is a rather nice collection of fiction and lies you have assembled in this post. Far too many to reply to. It’s also quite a study in revisionist history as well. I’ll make a couple of comments on some rather interesting “recollections” you have made.

    For the most part, our observations were ignored — at least in terms of refutation.

    No, your observations were not ignored, and they were all refuted. You didn’t like the refutations, so you keep saying they weren’t addressed. And, I’ll note yet again, neither you nor Tim provided a single piece of evidence of any ethical wrongdoing by any of the Mandelbrot contest judges, nor the calendar editors. True, you don’t like the rules and setup of the respective contests, but that is not evidence of ethical problems. And yes, you do owe them an apology for your accusations without any evidence. And yes, you are a coward for not publicly offering the apologies or providing evidence to back up your charges.

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

    Cry me a river Terry. You dished out plenty of “attacks”, “besmirches”, and “insults”. Now you just want to whine about being on the receiving end. If you are going to make “controversial” posts, then be adult enough to stand by them and defend them. But, quit whining like a five year old about being “picked on”. In addition, what is this post other than yet one more whining attack on Damien and those associated with the contests you don’t like?

    …OT’s critics can’t see that Tim and I are just as much a part of the fractal community as they are.

    Of course you are. But, because of this blog, you both are becoming, if not already are, an embarrassment to the fractal community. This blog is a joke as far as any contribution to the fractal community is concerned. It does provide for rather amusing fictional reading.

    But it’s another thing to buy up 40% (or more?) of the web space used to present fractal art galleries, software, and contests.

    Are you really serious? This is overly stupid, even for you. Last I could tell, anyone can get web space to put up galleries, offer software, host contests, blog, etc.

    I understand you feel persecuted and unfairly treated. But, life isn’t fair. So, grow up and get over it.

  2. Ken,

    What lies have we told? Where is the “fiction” in what we have outlined?

    Let me make this as clear as I can. The ethical wrongdoing is written directly into the contests’ rules.

    These competitions are deliberately set up in such a manner that embeds practices that are unprincipled and inappropriate. Any self-respecting professional should understand that mixing the work of judges/editors with those who’ve been judged/edited creates serious conflicts of interest that open doors to ethical breaches and call the integrity and legitimacy of both contests into question.

    Posting their rules does not mean the contests are inherently fair, nor does public disclosure let the organizers off the hook ethically. If anything, the directors and judges of these two competitions should feel additional pressure to demonstrate why their contests are fair in the light of utilizing such unusual protocols. To date, they have not lifted a finger to do so.

    Nothing has been refuted. Instead, we’ve only been given histories as explanations. We are told: The FU calendar contest has always been run that way — which, of course, does not validate its conflict of interest. We are told: The BMFAC sponsors insisted on the judges’ work being included — but that doesn’t make the situation right. It only means that Jones and the judges agreed to these questionable terms (which, rather conveniently, enabled their own work to comprise 40% of the exhibit). We are told: The BMFAC sponsors wanted a guarantee of “sufficient quality,” yet a whopping 55 awards of excellence and merit were handed out to “winners” this year.

    This is not fiction, Ken. Nor are these answers either. They are, at best, rationalizations.

    It’s not simply that I “don’t like” these competitions’ rules. They appear to be deliberately written to allow serious breaches of professional conduct that lead to conflicts of interest and are consciously designed to reap rewards for the judges/editors.

    And what of our other unanswered questions, Ken? What about former or current students of BMFAC judges being awarded prizes? Were any safeguards in place to protect against such conflicts of interest — or, for that matter, to ensure that judges did not rule on the work of their friends? Did judges recuse themselves when such situations arose? We’ve yet to hear a word from any of the directors or organizers on this subject.

    Why were the BMFAC entry requirements so massive that many fractal programs were essentially excluded? Why not allow prints of varying sizes to be exhibited? Was it the fault of those pesky, insistent sponsors again? Or could the sizes just happen to favor a certain program that has a long historical association with the contests run by Fractalus? Look at the bulk of the work produced by the BMFAC judges — some of whom are even paid to teach classes in the use of a specific program.

    And it’s not a “lie” that I got kicked off both Fractalus and the Eclectasy domain (although I paid for the hosting of all Eclectasy sites for over six years) because I was “irrational” for doing nothing more than disagreeing with Jones. I was no security threat, as anyone with a shred of sense knows. His was a purely punitive action. And if it can happen to me for speaking out, then it can just as easily happen to others.

    I, too, think the fractal community deserves a few apologies. Perhaps they should come from those practicing unprofessional conduct — rather than from those who have so “cowardly” pointed out that ethical questions exist and feel strongly they are problems facing every fractal artist.

    And, Ken, “refuting” my arguments by telling me I’m “whining like a five-year-old” and “overly stupid” does not exactly qualify as reasonable discourse. All you have done is sidestep our observations, reiterate debunked rationalizations, and offer a continuing stream of ad hominem attacks.

    From your (repeated) comments, I hold out no hope that you and I will ever see eye to eye. We will, I assume, just have to agree to disagree. But I know there are many others in our community who are very concerned with the methods and practices used to run these two fractal contests.

  3. “I know there are many others in our community who are very concerned with the methods and practices used to run these two fractal contests.”

    Aaah … it’s a long time since I posted on UseNet, so it’s just as long a time since I had the opportunity to comment “Oh-ho, so the lurkers support you in email, so they?”

    Where are these other people? Seriously. Where are they? Where is this support of your “cause”?

    @Ken: Well said.

    @cruelanimal: give it up mate. The only reason people are still reading this blog is because they’re indulging in the age-old pasttime of slowing down to look at a train wreck.

    Yup, that includes me. Yup, that makes me as much of a voyeur as anyone else. *shrug*

  4. Voyeur?

    No. It makes you an avid fan, WelshWench.

    You, and all the rest who claim that Orbit Trap is not worth reading and yet, –can’t seem to stay away. I dare you to stop reading!

    Orbit Trap is the only place on the internet where you can get honest opinions on the fractal world. And that’s why folks like you, Ken and Thomas love to hate us. You’re part of a sick online “community” where cliques and in-groups try to control and bully everyone who’s different, or thinks differently, than they do.

    The well-crafted insults and “yup”, “yup”, “yup” tactics are your hallmarks for embarrassing people who have an independent mind. Those dirty tricks don’t work here on Orbit Trap, or any other blog on the internet.

    Go back to your little forums, and your little group of back-slapping friends who’ll never disagree with you because they haven’t got the guts to say what we do.

  5. WelshWench,

    Where are these other people?

    Well, despite your insinuation, I don’t have to make them up. Feed subscriptions to Orbit Trap have steadily risen since Tim and I became the sole contributors and are now at an all time high.

    Besides, what’s the incentive for our supporters to come forward — unless they desire more personal ridicule, character assassination, and verbal bullying in their lives? As I noted, what happened to me could just as easily happen to them. They know that, and I don’t blame them for conveying their views privately.

    Blog are not forums, after all, so “lurking” is much more common in the blogosphere. Moreover, some blogs can rack up comments if a group of contributors treat it more like a forum — but, in such cases, chatter doesn’t necessarily mean that particular blog is being read much outside of its own contributors.

    A point that segues nicely into this next question:

    Where are your supporters, WelshWench — outside the insular conclave of the wedreamincolor blog…whose contributors include you…and the BMFAC contest director…and both editors of the FU calendar. It’s good to know that your blogging colleagues hold widely representational and completely unbiased views concerning how these fractal competitions are run.

    And I’m still waiting for any of you to explain to me why you believe allowing judges to include their own work in contests they’ve juried or in publications they’ve edited is commonly considered a practice that shows a high degree of professionalism. Any takers?

    And, WW, did you also notice that here at OT we did not delete your post (or the entire thread) and then immediately ban you — which is what Keith MacKay did to me after a single comment to your group blog? Makes one wonder who’s not getting over what while refusing to move on. Doesn’t such Draconian treatment suggest something about the company you are keeping? I’d say…

    Yup…

  6. I have a longer, more detailed, reply I may post, but for now I’m just going to say the following.

    You set this blog up to make controversial posts. There is nothing wrong with this. But, if you are going to make controversial posts, then you should be expecting that you will generate replies critical of your posts. You should then not complain about being “Attack[ed]. Besmirch[ed]. Insult[ed].”

    In fact, you both were guilty of the first attacks, besmirches, and insults. You chose to levy those personal attacks and accusations against the BMFAC judges and the calendar editors. You had no proof, only complaints and opinions about how the respective contests are run. Some of your complaints may have some merit, and some may not. You would do well to remember that you should first tell the truth, then give your opinion.

    You could have chosen different, more constructive, ways to voice your objections. You chose to make personal attacks and accusations with no proof other than your opinions and complaints. That was a very unprofessional approach. The natural reaction was what you got.

    Then, you proceed to try to play the “victim” of being unfairly treated. This is not only unprofessional, but juvenile. IOW, you got what you first dished out and then proceeded to complain about it.

    A significant amount of the recents posts on the subject merely complain about how you have been “treated”. This latest one is basically just that with a rant about Damien with smatterings of incoherent, irrelevant political ramblings. Essentially, an ad hominem attack on Damien.

    Perhaps people like to read your posts and the controversy they create. But, any opinions of these people are irrelevant to the discussions unless they choose to voice them. Referring to these “invisible” supporters doesn’t help your case. I’d welcome posts from supporters, just as I’d welcome posts from critics. More points of view give a wider perspective on the issue.

    However, I’d have to ask, do your supporters really agree with your objections, or do they harbor some animosity towards UF and its dominance in the fractal community and associated people, forums, or contests and like to see someone “taking on UF”?

  7. Ken,

    Oh, I’m sure you have a much longer, more detailed post somewhere in you…

    Have you considered starting your own blog? I would think the limited space of the OT comments page cramps your expansive style.

    I already told you that we’ll have to agree to disagree. What is the point of having further conversations? I might feel differently if I believed you were actually listening to anything that’s been said previously.

    The contest organizers really did do things. Their actions are concrete and visible and public — not fictional. Jones did indeed respond in a very specific manner. The comments we’ve received from our critics have certainly taken a more ad hominem slant than our own posts questioning how the competitions have been run.

    Readers can sift through the OT archives and see all of this for themselves. They do not have to take either your word or mine to determine what has transpired.

  8. I’m not interested in running a blog. Plus, I’m afraid you’d pick on me. :-) Besides, I don’t have the talent to approach your verbosity:-)

    I’m listening to you just fine. At least as far as the attacks on the contests go. I basically ignore your off-topic nonsense that is irrelevant to the contest rants.

    The issue is not as simple as agreeing to disagree. You are wrong in your portrayal of the seriousness of the issues involved and how things transpired. You are overstating the issues, and charges of ethical vioations are false. The actions you have taken to try to bring to light the issues were wrong. You were the attacker, and are now trying to play the victim. That is classic passive/agressive behavior. Those are things that I felt strongly enough about to continue to reply.

    Let me comment on the calendar to summarize just how off-base you are. No doubt you’ll rationalize away anything said, but readers might benefit.

    The Fractal Universe calendar is a commercial venture. The publisher makes the agreement with the editors. The editors make this agreement known to all who choose to submit images to be considered for inclusion. There is nothing ethically wrong or unseemly about this. It is the way it is for this calendar, and people can participate or not. That is the situation in a nutshell. There are no ethical issues whatsoever at issue here. You might as well complain that only brightly colored spirals make it into the calendar and the ethics of that. But, that is the choice of the publishers, and you really have no basis to challenge their business decision.

    Your charges of ethical wrongdoings by the calendar editors are slanderous and completely false. That is why I keep saying you should apologize to them for your false charges. Everything is above board that I’ve seen regarding the calendar. You’ve brought nothing additional to the discussion that gives any credance to your ethics charges.

    The same is true to a lesser degree with the BMFAC. I could organize an exhibition and ask people I chose to submit images, and perhaps even have them select images from general submissions to include in addition to those I asked to contribute. If I’m paying the bill, that is within my right. No doubt you’d accuse me of ethical violations for doing this, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

    I believe it is you who is not listening to anyone. You have this crusade that you have entered into and seem to continue it no matter what. You can’t admit when you are wrong, and just keep digging further and further into your hole. This last post is nothing more than a political rant combined with a personal attack on Damien.

    I’ve said before some of your issues with the BMFAC may have merit. But, your chosen method of personal attacks and baseless charges overrides any validity you might have. Damien responded to the way you went after him. You attacked, and he got defensive. You never attempted to be constructive in any addressing of your issues; you were destructive from the start. Are you so blind that you cannot recognize that fact?

  9. Tim said: Orbit Trap is the only place on the internet where you can get honest opinions on the fractal world.

    No. It’s the only place where readers get your opinion.

    You’re part of a sick online “community” where cliques and in-groups try to control and bully everyone who’s different, or thinks differently, than they do.

    Sick? LOL! If you’re accusing me of being one of these mythical bullies, you’d better be prepared to justify that accusation, and if you’re accusing me of being one of the bullied, well you really don’t know me at all! Your interpretation is so off the mark as to be laughable.

    Is it so very hard for you to comprehend that other independently-minded people may have opinions that differ from yours?

    I’m perfectly well aware of the difference between usenet, blogs and forums but in all the many and various places where people can express opinions, I have yet to see anyone else express your opinions, let alone your near-libellous comments about the ethical standards and motives of others.

    Cruelanimal said: “Feed subscriptions to Orbit Trap have steadily risen” and implies that more feeds = more supporters. No, it just means more readers.

    “Where are your supporters, WelshWench” Where did I ever claim to have any any? I speak for myself. If you meant “where are the people with whom I might agree on these issues more than I agree with you” well then, they’re here: commenting in the sundry blogs you’ve posted over the last couple of months.

    @both: I think you missed a real opportunity by focussing on perceived wrongdoings on the part of the contest organisers instead of having a discussion around the paucity of fractal art in exhibitions, let alone the lack of exhibitions purely of fractal art.

  10. WelshWench,

    What does “support” for our points have to do with assessing their validity? Do our observations have to be popular to be legitimate?

    The public opposition, at least on OT, has come almost exclusively from members (like you) of Keith MacKay’s forum and blog — which, as I noted, includes the director and the editors of the contests we’ve discussed. I only turned the question of support around because you seem to suggest such opposition enjoys wide endorsement. Where I wondered — outside of your own small (and hardly objective) community?

    Why chide us for missed opportunities? Maybe we will get around to the subjects you mentioned. In the meantime, what’s stopping you from taking up whatever fractal topics you believe have been overlooked? Don’t you contribute to two blogs yourself?

  11. cruelanimal said:

    “What does “support” for our points have to do with assessing their validity? Do our observations have to be popular to be legitimate?

    In answer to your second question: no, no-one’s observations necessarily have to be popular to be legitimate. They do, however, have to be rational, accurate and verifiable to be legitimate which is where most of yours fall short of the mark.

    You and Tim have consistently referred to your ‘supporters’ – but only until it suits you to claim they are irrelevant.

    And please … (my) own small and (hardly objective) community ? Were you aiming for a touch of post-modern irony?

  12. WelshWench,

    You said:
    They do, however, have to be rational, accurate and verifiable to be legitimate which is where most of yours fall short of the mark.

    Let’s keep things simple and look at just two accurate and verifiable facts.

    The BMFAC “contest” judges comprised 40% of this year’s exhibition. Is that not true?

    40.3% of the images in the Fractal Universe calendar “competition” held from 2005-2008 came from just four people — the two current editors and the two previous editors. Is that not true?

    Is it legitimate to raise questions about conflicts of interest in lieu of such results? Is it rational to inquire whether these competitions are being run according to widely accepted professional standards?

    Although we’ve outlined plenty more background details here on OT, that’s the big picture in a nutshell.

    Now, if your answer to both of the above questions is No, then you and I have a fundamental difference of opinion. Like Ken, who has been recycling his same stance since June, I know where you stand, and, in the end, I disagree with your views. As such, why do both of you think you can shame or bully me into backing down, or apologizing, or being somehow swayed to your position by continually repeating the same talking points? Instead of ridiculing my rationality, once again, just as Jones did last summer, why not calmly explain to me why these contests make good ethical and professional models that reflect well on the fractal community?

    Unless you can bring something fresh — something that has not been previously addressed — to this discussion, I see no reason to continue conversing.

  13. 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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

  14. 40.3% of the images in the Fractal Universe calendar “competition” held from 2005-2008 came from just four people — the two current editors and the two previous editors. Is that not true?

    Perhaps. But, assuming you are accurate, you skewing the numbers to make the situation appear worse than it is. How? By lumping in the current editors with previous editors and using that total over the entire period, when in fact, the current editors only edited the latest calendar, which isn’t on the web site yet. That makes your figure probably about twice as high as it should be.

    But, so what? The reason is that the publishers chose the images. Are you now going to claim the publishers are unethical for their business choices? Since the publisher picks the images, what is your beef with the editors? Did you ever consider that perhaps the editors know what kinds of images the publisher likes and create images with that in mind? I had two images in the 2003 calendar. Are my ethics somehow in question because of that?

    I explained quite concisely the situation with the calendar. You ignored it. You just can’t seem to comprehend the simple fact that the calendar is a business arrangement, not a rigorous “contest” that you wish to imply it is.

    Is it legitimate to raise questions about conflicts of interest in lieu of such results?

    In the case of the calendar, NO it is not. You are wrong.

    In the case of the BMFAC, maybe. But, the burden of proof is on you to show the conflicts of interest. I know you think you have. But, your arguments are rendered invalid simply because the BMFAC is not the rigorous contest you imply it should be. Because it was never set up with the rigor you want, and the situation was clearly explained, your charges don’t apply.

    Now, you can argue that it should be a rigorous contest run “according to widely accepted professional standards”. But, that is a separate argument entirely from your ethics or conflicts of interest charges.

    Is it rational to inquire whether these competitions are being run according to widely accepted professional standards?

    In the case of the calendar, NO it is not rational. I’ll say it again in the slim chance it will sink in. The calendar is not a contest. It is a commercial arrangement with a calendar publisher. Even if you want to consider it “effectively” a contest, it is not, and should not, be one run with the kind of strict rules and rigor you keep imply that all contests are run by.

    In the case of the BMFAC, maybe. But, it is not setup as a contest in the strict sense you want it to be. In hindsight, it probably should have been called the “Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Exhibition”. Then, most of your issues disappear. I’ll say it again, some of your points “may” be legitimate. But, your destructive, personal, irrational attacks destroy any legitimacy you might have.

    Your arguments are basically semantic. You are taking the word “contest”, in the BMFAC case, and implying that it is (or should be) a contest run according to the strict “professional” standards you wish or claim it should be run by. There can be contests that are as strictly formal as you want this one to be, and by implication imply incorrectly that all contests should be. But, you know it was never set up that way, yet you still imply all kinds of ethical issues because it hasn’t been run in the way you know it was never intended to be run. I call that disingenuous.

    Now, you could have discussed your issues with the contest in a civil, rational manner without the personal accusations and attacks and you might actually have had some valid issues.

    As such, why do both of you think you can shame or bully me into backing down, or apologizing, or being somehow swayed to your position by continually repeating the same talking points?

    Why is pointing out where you are wrong, and showing the flaws in your arguments “sham[ing] or bully[ing]”? Isn’t that what Tim essentially is doing by telling us to “go away”? Something about a pot seems to apply here.

    What are you doing except repeating the same arguments? The only new information from you are new ways to personally attack your targets.

    why not calmly explain to me why these contests make good ethical and professional models that reflect well on the fractal community?

    1) The calendar is not a contest. See above for more details.

    2) The BMFAC is not strictly a contest in the sense you imply. It is more of an exhibition where people are invited to submit images that might be chosen for inclusion in addition to those asked by the organizers to contribute. Again, semantics. You are arguing from a false premise. There are many different kinds of contests. I’m sure you know that. As a professional writer, you should know that words can have different meanings and connotations depending upon context. That is the case here.

    In both cases, exposure of fractal art to a wider audience is a good thing. The world outside this blog probably hasn’t given the “ethics” of either of these ventures even the remotest consideration. The purchasers of the calendar or viewers of the exhibition don’t care “how” the images made it to the respective venues, they just care that they did.

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