Friday, December 21, 2007
Swirl Cone (2003)
Inert gas blanketing during melting in holding furnaces. The melt surface is blanketed with argon or nitrogen in order to keep oxygen away from the melt surface, using either a patented vortex sprayer or swirl cone. This reduces gas pick up and oxide formation.
--Technological product offerring describing molten-metal blanketing from Air Products
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Warhead Waiting Game (2007)
Wednesday, December 19, 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 2x4. In their films, the accidents make the meaning -- not the construction of the plot.
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."
Originally posted at Orbit Trap.
Image made with Fractal ViZion and post-processed until the Orkin Man arrived.
Technorati Tags: fractal, fractals, fractal art, digital art, art theory, termite art, white elephant art, manny farber, fractal universe calendar, benoit mandelbrot fractal art contest, ultra fractal, gnaw away at the borders
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Pass the Angora (2000)
Kathy: Say, what are you -- an angora wholesaler?
Monday, December 17, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Frog Prince (2007)
George Walker Bush's story is that of a jester prince who always had his Poppy there to wipe up the frog guts from the pavement.
--miah, from Scientia Est Potentia
If our non-elected prince turned back into a frog:
From the ASK ME ABOUT MY GOVERNOR files:
I quit blogging about politics some time ago -- and nearly quit blogging completely.
Why bother? Since the 2006 election -- the so-called Democratic victory -- little has changed. The War of Lies Inc. drags on without an end in sight. The Dems seem content to suck their thumbs and give sub-30% approved Bush whatever he wants. Nothing changed. I went back quietly to my art.
But now, to my astonishment, my former governor, Mike Huckabee, long known in these here parts as "The Huckster," is apparently being taken seriously on the national stage and could well be my next president. And just when I was celebrating finally being rid of him after a long eleven nightmare years in Arkansas.
The Huckster has a huge chip on his shoulder. Enough is never enough.
Tie down the silverware, too. The Rev-Bro-Gov will turn the White House into his private rectory.
You say you wanna theocracy? You always knew Bush was putting you on with all that Christian pandering to the base. Just a Rovian ploy. Not our boy Mike. He's a true believer in the whole literal Biblical, non-evolutionary, Adam and Steve, don't be Left Behind scenario. And The Rapture is only a red button press away.
And forget about gay rights (you'll probably be "isolated" anyway) and abortion rights (it's a holocaust, you see). Expect no compassion from this compassionate conservative -- unless you're a rapist the Clinton-haters hate. Preacher Mike is quick to forgive when the Lord's work results in his own political expediency.
I shudder when I contemplate hard drive crushin' Huckabee Supreme Court appointments. Bush will look enlightened by comparison.
But Huck's no bumbler like Bush. He's as slick and glib as they come. Quick with a joke, too -- usually at someone else's expense. Bad humor is his private rhetoric to avoid substance on any issue. You'll be laughing all the way to Armageddon.
But, unlike The Huckster, your one-way ticket into heavenly glory hasn't been pre-punched.
Long time Little Rock writer John Brummet has Our Former Governor pegged:
The Dumond matter raises worthy questions about Huckabee's ability or willingness to think beyond what his moral and partisan instincts tell him. The tobacco issue raises equally worthy questions about the chip on his shoulder and a rationalized sense of entitlement.
Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times has long had Huckabee's number. Read his Salon article here.
Mother Jones has a fairly good listing of quotable Hucksterisms here.
Unfortunately, writer David Corn leaves out some of my all-time favorites. Like Huckabee's signature on a document proclaiming women's role as a servant to men.
Who hearts Huckabee? Certainly not me.
Wake me when his MSM lovefest is over...
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Summer in Malibu (1999)
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.