Stumblin’ in the neon glow

It’s speaking in a secret alphabet too.

Download parameter file glow.loo

Well this is day four or something of the orbit counting sin()-cos() discovery. Who would ever have thought that something that had previously only produced junk could ever be so useful as this?

There’s more. All we ever touch is the tip of the iceberg. The more we discover the more we realize that the tip is bigger than we thought.

There’s an oceanic or marine biology project going on right now that’s discovering amazing things in the ocean. New research technology combined with a nice chunk of cash is revealing more of the wonders of our planet.

There aren’t enough taxonomists (or not enough money) to name all the stuff they’ve found so far. Whole species, nameless.

Some fish have been tracked electronically and found to be very busy. They swim like 12 feet per second for a whole month and cover something like 40 billion miles or something incredible like that.

What about Sterlingware? Who will be those ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas?

Have we seen the deep sea creatures of the fractal world’s abyssal plain? No light, high pressure, some live independently of the Sun.

The tip of the iceberg, the shadows of reality, who dares to call themself “knowledgeable?”

“All I know is that I know nothing.” Even that’s an exaggeration.

December 16, 2005

I saw the alphabet singing

Flying forth from the cosmic chalkboard.

Download parameter file music.loo

Every once in a while I stumble on a nice piece of readymade art and feel a little ashamed, like some artistic conquistador, to claim it as my own.

But hey, that’s maritime law, fractal salvage.

Back in high school art class, we had to plan our projects and make sketches before we could start flinging the paint or slapping the plaster.

I can just see the art teacher nodding with approval at a sketch of something like this. I’d get to go on to the final production phase now with my fait accompli instead of the usual getting inspired while you paint method.

Computing is really going to change a lot of things. Pentium Rumplestilskins, turning our straw mouse clicks into gold.

Is that why algorthmic art gets such a cold reception in the art world? Anyone can do it. But not anyone, them, the machines. They’re confused with the concept of computers as artists.

Nobody likes to be replaced by a machine. It suggests their work is mechanical.

Artists without faces. Talent without teaching.

Computing has brought to life a new creative medium. It has devalued the possessions of the traditional art world much like photography did by making realism easy.

Fractal and other algorithmic sources make abstract art easy. The old stuff looks cheap now.

The talent that rested in a handful of great artists or the techniques that took years to learn will be installed in a few minutes.

No more will anyone stand on the outside looking in, because now, the doors are open and art is free.

December 15, 2005

Raytracing with Sterlingware

Get real, it’s just a fractal program.

Download parameter file rayotron.loo

I like the textured, canvas look that these images have. Makes me feel like I’m a real painter and not just some jerk with a computer.

I upped the individual color values on the color dialog which has the same effect as upping the render number. I still can’t figure out how color works with this program, but it’s becoming more intuitive.

Until I saw this forming with my own eyes I would never have believed Sterlingware could produce something like this.

It has the photo-realistic look which Sterlingware excels in, so I guess it’s not totally unique. But it’s the textured look that is normally done by adding a texture layer, something Sterlingware doesn’t do, that gives it that special elegance.

I’ve found that you have to cultivate objectivity. Fractals can be so amazing at times that one is tempted to save everything they make, to be “wowed” by the medium.

After seeing a few thousand, one begins to regain their perspective and the “wow-factor’ disappears. It has to, it’s a shallow emotion. The wow-factor is just one’s excitement over the medium, in this case, fractals.

Once you’ve overcome the wow you’re able to see things the way most people do: casual disinterest. A good image is one that appeals to someone who doesn’t really care for the style or genre it comes from.

When you’ve seen lots of fractals, especially ones you’ve made yourself, you get jaded. After that, images have to be special to grab your attention, they have to have an artistic quality to them.

Art is independent of the medium, although the medium influences the style of the artwork. Art signs no contracts, makes no commitments and never appoints any medium to represent it.

People may say something isn’t art or say they don’t like it. They may say, “That’s not art…” or “Anyone can do that…” or “Real art is…”

Art communicates with its audience in bold yet silent ways. Art is what makes them take a second look and proves that they were lying.

December 15, 2005


The dancing star of sugarland

Download parameter file spritzle.loo

See the joyful network of his little friends, holding hands and jostling about with tiny hops of happiness?

Let’s see, how can I balance this fruity vision with a much needed dose of the sour macabe…

Slaves of Santa.

The first title in a series of grade B movies by an obscure Japanese production company known as NPP. Making a sudden leap from producing television commercials, NPP’s first feature length production became the standard for Christmas movie disasters.

Buying out the screenplay, cast and studio from another company gone bankrupt trying to finish an overbudget horror movie, Moro Ishito, NPP’s owner, hoped to turn it into an overnight Christmas hit.

From the dreary caves of “Santaland” where the elves revolt, to the incredibly violent counter-attacks by Santa and his reindeer over the North Pole, Slaves of Santa is as unChristmas-like as it is bizarre.

Unfazed by the cool response to this first disaster, NPP went on to make a second: Chains of Santa.

Everything’s back to normal in “Santaland” except all the elves are chained to their tables and toy-making machines. NPP can’t seem to drop the horror theme and even filmed a scene, cut from the final release, where Santa eats an elf.

Puzzled by the continued unpopularity of the first two Santa movies, NPP manages to sign on the American martial arts star, Steven Seagal, to play Santa in the third. Although he only appears for a total of three minutes near the end, when the doctors remove the bandages that have covered Santa’s face (and the face of the Seagal’s substitute who played him) all through the movie, Seagal manages to make Atomic Rage of Santa financialy profitable.

Ishito, now CEO and convinced he has the cinematic Midas touch, comes out with a fourth film in the series entitled, Santa 4: Death from Above.

Eleven months of rest in the South Pacific as part of Santa’s anger management therapy comes to nothing when Santa, on the return flight home, ends up seated between two international arms dealers. Buying a heap of assorted weaponry, including several Exocets for his sled, Santa once again shelves peace on earth for another season.

The mature audience only rating slapped on Santa 4 due to the horrendous napalm attack in the final scene’s Night Before Christmas parody, causes it to bomb at the box office and is pulled after only 3 weeks.

NPP is in serious financial straits now but still manages to put together one last entry in the series, Santa 5: Rudolf’s Revenge. Confused by changes in the movie industry and by the recent sucess of the Terminator series, Ishito’s two teenaged sons manage to get him to produce a colossal, 3D computer-animated, million-dollar flop.

Rudolf’s Revenge puts another nail in NPP’s coffin by using Steven Seagal’s likeness for the computer animated character of Santa, leading to a multi-million dollar lawsuit and a court injunction on the movie’s release in the USA.

“New to own” on video and DVD this holiday season.

December 13, 2005

One step beyond

Every day I am bombarded by email from my readers. Lately, they all say the same thing: “Give us something Christmassy and sweet to look at, or we’ll kill you.”

Download parameter file letters06.loo

Here it is, fresh from Santa’s hard drive.

This is my first attempt at faking the layering thing, which, as I’ve mentioned before, really makes fractal imagery rich, lush, and time consuming.

Let me tell you the story of how it came to be…

Once again, fed up with a lack of further fractal discoveries, I asked myself, “Is that all there is to Sterlingware?”

Having been in this, if you will permit me to use old seafaring terms, Sargasso Sea before, I began to think. I’ve learned that there’s a time for tweaking the fine-tuning knob and a time for spinning the coarse-tuning dial.

The first few adjustments just made junk: arctan just doesn’t seem to mix with orbit counting. Sin()-Cos(), on the other hand showed protential.

I had previously lowered the Stalks and Bubble radius from .3 to .08 which prepared the way for the lean squiggles you see in the image. I also reduced the iterations from 20 to 10 which reduced the tangledness to the image.

It still didn’t look so great, but having seen a lot of ugly, scratchy images beautifully transformed by anti-aliasing, and since the image generated quickly at only 10 iterations, I gave that a try.

Things were exciting again. Instant Ultra-Fractal. I did a happy dance.

There you go, young fractal cadets. In the words of our own Captain Kirk, “To boldly go where no one has gone before!”

Don’t let that creative sound barrier keep you from going supersonic.

December 12, 2005

The Cauliflower that Killed

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the produce section…

Download parameter file cauliflower.xpf

Do you ever wonder about poisonous plants?

There’s so many of them. They may have beautiful flowers or exotic markings, attract all sorts of creatures with an alluring fragrance, and then poison them.

The toxins are very sophisticated and may only kill the most common predators while leaving others unharmed.

The most well known type of poisonous plant is of course the mushroom, although technically it’s a fungi and not a plant…blah, blah, blah…

Nobody eats mushrooms while hiking or walking around anymore. Or, you could say, the number of people eating poisonous wild mushrooms has been decreasing every year.

My theory is: One of us is on the wrong planet.

What else would explain such a mismatch of living creatures?

There’s a completely safe, edible mushroom that looks almost the same as another super-lethal mushroom in the amanita family or genus or something.

What does this say? Death to those who don’t pay attention in Biology class.

Maybe the killer plants are on the wrong planet and we’re Okay. That makes more sense: Killer seeds from Outer Space.

While we’re on the topic of freaks of nature, have you ever seen an electric eel go hunting?

I saw this on TV. He, maybe she, lies in a darkened hole in the side of a beautiful coral reef. All you can see is a pair of little eyes peering out of the darkness.

Soon, along comes one of those colorful tropical fish. The eel lets him swim away because he’s too far from the hole and the eel is too lazy to come all the way out.

The narrator says it’s because the eel has many predators and has to stay close to the hole, but that’s junk, I know people just like that eel, they’re lazy.

Eventually somebody comes by the hole and the eel sticks his head out and stuns the poor fish with a bolt of electricity.

Talk about being a sociopath. What would we say if someone hid in basement window beside a busy street and once a day reached out and tripped someone, then dragged him in through the window?

The eel doesn’t have to zap it’s prey, it could go out and get them like any other normal predator, except the electric eel is sick and depraved and gets a thrill from electrocuting unwitting strangers. I’ll bet they don’t eat all of them, either.

Nature ain’t pretty. And the vegetable kingdom is no exception, so watch out.

December 12, 2005

A few of my favorite things

Sing with me…

“Broken up bottles, shattered and fractured.
Ancient old photos, creased, torn and fissured.
Words without meaning arranged in a string.
These are a few of my favorite things.”

Download parameter file rock.xpf

Everyone’s seen the Sound of Music, haven’t they? I’m sick of it. I’ve seen it so many times that last time I actually hoped the entire Van Trapp family would get machine-gunned. It’s not dated, it was always an irritating movie.

Back to fractals. If you choose the Phoenix formula in Xaos and then push the M key to go into Mandlebrot mode, you see this jagged piece of flint.

I’ve also added the filters for edge detection 1 and anti-aliasing. In-coloring: Squares. Out-coloring: Color Decomposition. Bailout is lowered from 4 to 2.

The Phoenix formula makes very interesting Julia things. That’s why the default for the formula is in fact already in Julia mode as opposed to Mandelbrot mode.

To make different Julia images you have to first go into Mandelbrot mode and then choose a new Julia point. The easiest way to do this is to use the Fast Julia window, activated by pressing the J key.

You then click the cursor anywhere on this chunk of rock to see a thumbnail of the Julia that would be made from that point, in the Julia window. If you like it, press M again to “disable” Mandelbrot mode and display the new Julia image.

Which brings me to my point: is this an ugly image?

I often overlooked it because I figured it’s probably been overdone as it’s the starting point for the formula.

Many times however, as I changed random palettes, I would see something impressive, but move on to a Julia mode.

With the color decomposition out-coloring which gives it a halo, and the squares in-coloring which makes the inner part look like the side of a glass office tower, I finally saved an image of the ugly Mandelbrot-mode Phoenix just as it is.

A rather nice looking shard of glass or broken rock.

December 10, 2005


Or maybe, Green Finger Feet.

Download parameter file claws.xpf

It’s funny the things you stumble on when you’re experimenting with a fractal program.

The fractal machine forces us to consider things we would never have imagined.

Doesn’t a painter or traditional artist at least have some idea what they’re going to paint? Is the painting not a product of their thoughts, an expression of their mind?

Fractal programs on the other hand are purely mechanical entities and render an image according to the fractal parameters we choose, and do it in a very carefree and relaxed way, aloof to the comments of trivial humanity.

They produce things we can’t imagine. They’re creative.

This was the idea behind one of my previous blog ideas, Art from New Places.

It’s possible to create computer programs that are creative, that is they make new things. They become a source of artistic imagery that is new.

It’s not so easy to make a program that can produce “art.” But then it’s not so easy to teach people to produce art either.

The term “art” is somewhat subjective and evades definition. Computers need to be clearly instucted and our vague descriptions of beauty just don’t compute.

Computers can produce imagery, things you look at, but only people can pick out the artistic stuff.

The key here is that computers will do things that we wouldn’t and that’s why so much “algorithmic” art (art from mechanical processes), which includes fractal art, is so fresh and exciting. It’s like looking through alien eyes.

Who could paint a fractal?

December 9, 2005

Words and pictures

Pictures can tell a story and words can be nice to look at.

Download parameter file super.xpf

Quite often they compliment each other. At the very least, if one of them is weak, their combined effect makes it less noticeable.

Sometimes a block of writing beside a picture of something is a nice design element. How much more so when the writing has merits of its own.

I read a book on Typography (text presentation), which argued quite sucessfully that most advertisements containing text looked nice but are in fact almost unreadable.

Why? Because text is often used to add, no pun intended, a special “texture” to illustrations, and the designer forgets about the functionality of the text, that is, text can be read, it has meaning beyond its appearance.

The picture in the advertisement speaks to the audience and the words are just there to add, of all things, a graphic element. Perhaps most people never give more than a glance at a billboard or a magazine ad, so the text is rarely read except by that small fraction of viewers who are unusually curious or obsessive.

Maybe advertizing designers know people better than we know ourselves. Images are quickly and easily viewed but writing has to earn an audience’s attention. It’s often not worth the effort it takes to read it.

On the other hand pictures can be very superficial but writing, even a single sentence, can be quite profound and stay in one’s mind for years.

They’re two different genres of art, really and when combined produce a third, the illustrated or illuminated genre.

You can’t separate the textual and graphical elements from each other in an illustrated or illuminated work. It would be like cutting the words out of a Toulouse-Lautrec poster: something would be missing, it would be like a silent movie.

Whoa, it just hit me. Advertising: The Illuminated Manuscripts of our time.

December 8, 2005

Fractal Coil of Terror

Sinister coil of doom. Mysterious coil of fear. Evil cable of horror.

Download parameter file wonder.xpf

Mutant coil of insufferable devastation. Atomic circle-ray of pain.

Iterated cable of non-linear horror. Silver slithering telephone extension of disaster.

Marauding ringlet of incomprensible fear. Extraterrestrial DNA of terror.

Four-footed electophone of needless torture. Coiling, looping Yeti-tail of despondency.

Shocking co-axial vine of innumeracy. Startling continuum of binomial silence.

Appalling lamprey of disunity programming. Lurid scheme of non-contingent systematology.

Stunning radioactive transmission line of perplexed audacity. Remotely functioning mega-wire of irresponsible divisiveness.

Predatory tentacle of total nocturnal incisiveness. Fractal invasion of complex disconsolateness.

Hopeless lingering limb of copper containery. Obliterative climbing finger of superheated sononic pain.

Sensless collaborative concussion of ruminant theory. Collossal sky-train of unrehersed calamity.

Coiling, shaking, trembling totality of immeasurable tragedy. Cataclysmic cyclonal retreat of horrific enduring.

Creeping sasquatch of forensic accounting. Unbounded freature of surality frontieritishness.

Coolondal agonity of gantoolital evanity. Sanpitipal assurantic of fanfooticle dearantistry.

December 7, 2005