Friday, October 19, 2007

The Dead CEO Watches His Back

The Dead CEO Watches His Back

The Dead CEO Watches His Back (2007)

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

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

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

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

~/~

And in recent news. From 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.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Party Guys

Party Guys

Party Guys (2007)

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

--Elvis Costello, "Two Little Hitlers"

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

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

The man's obviously a visionary.

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

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

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

Check out these budding Eva Braunoids:

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

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

--Elvis Costello, "Party Girl"

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

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

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

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

Detail of: Party Guys

Lower left corner detail of Party Guys

~/~

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

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Evening Stroll

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

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

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

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

"Promiscuity" by Karen Jones

Promiscuity by Karen Jones

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

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

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

"Haberdasher" by Terry W. Gintz

Haberdasher by Terry W. Gintz

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

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

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

Watch the fender, buddy!

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

"Shell 51" by Stefan Vitanov

Shell 51 by Stefan Vitanov

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

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

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

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

~/~

BMFAC UPDATE--

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.

~/~

Originally posted on Orbit Trap.

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