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Symbiartic


The art of science and the science of art.
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Surly Amy and the Charms of Reason


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Scientific Method Surly © Surly Amy

Artwork can amaze and disturb. It’s often the small everyday objects that form the background of our lives that have the most potential power to shock, to jar us away from comfort, and to enable us to see part of the world with new eyes. Magritte’s Empire of Light, with the dwelling in night under a daytime sky. Duchamps’ The Fountain, a urinal on a gallery pedestal.

Amy Davis Roth, a.k.a. Surly Amy takes the small, familiar, comforting pendants around people’s necks and instead of religious icons or small beads, uses them to declare skepticism, scientific enlightenment and messages of empowerment. As well as grade-A class geekery.

As a member of the popular Skepchick blog, she and others have also created a science-art blog called Mad Art Lab. I caught up with her recently for an interview.

- – -

Hi Amy! Tell us about yourself!

Amy Davis Roth, a.k.a. Surly Amy

My mother is the princess Cinderella. You might know her from such films as, Cinderella. My father is Hulk Hogan… Ok sorry, that was an extremely obscure shout out to the cartoon, Home Movies. I loved that show. As for my art education, I am mostly self-taught. I started off as a painter but had very limited space and an even more limited budget and so I turned to ceramics as an outlet for my creativity. It was a craft my mother mastered so I could sneak in her studio and use her extra supplies when I couldn’t afford paint and canvas. I ended up absolutely falling in love with ceramic as a medium and have continued to work with it, going on about 10 years now.  I still appreciate traditional painting and I try to incorporate some of the painterly effects into my ceramic work which is why I use a lot of under-glazing techniques to create my images on the Surly-Ramics jewelry.

Where did the “Surly” name come from?

During the time when I couldn’t even afford to buy art supplies, I had gotten a job as a waitress. A job which I was not very fond of to say the least. The result of that unhappiness, was that I became a very surly little person. The good news was I had started making the jewelry at that time and wearing it into work which, surprising to me, got a really great response. People literally started buying them right off my neck while I was waiting tables. My boyfriend (now husband) and I thought we would give an online art business a try, as it was the early days of the website, Etsy We wanted to come up with a fun name. We just took my personality and combined it with the word ceramics. Surly-Ramics was born. It was one of those hahaha moments that actually stuck. Now people often say, you aren’t so surly! And I agree. I’m not anymore, but I was. I was an artist who didn’t have space or the money to create and I was very unhappy, but now that I can make art full-time, I am grateful, happy, motivated and at least 50% less surly. It’s ok to make up random statistics on a science site, right?

Hey, it’s okay by me! I have a fine arts background after all.

Neuroscience, physics, paleontology: wearable science communication.

An artist acquaintance of mine once extolled the value of ceramic as a medium: that even after a nuclear war, lots of it would still survive for thousands of years. What do you enjoy while working with ceramic? Does it have any vexing challenges?

A customer recently sent me a photo of his house that had burned down. One of the very few things that survived the blaze was one of my necklaces. (See photo, below.) I have to say that the durability that ceramics show when faced with extreme heat (ceramics are often used on spacecraft surfaces for this reason) combined with the fact that the pieces can shatter if dropped on a hard surface gives the medium an almost poetic quality in my mind. Much like humanity, ceramics are strong and fragile at the same time.


One of Roth's creations that survived a fire.

Are there other art mediums you enjoy?

I do love painting in acrylic on canvas and I absolutely adore photography. I plan on making more time for those mediums in the future, but first back to the ceramic studio!

How did the Surlies, the ceramic pendants with science and skeptic symbols and messages first come about?

I was making the jewelry before I learned about the science communities online. I went through what now seems like a whirlwind educational experience where I realized just how much I didn’t know about the world and the cosmos. I met some wonderful social activists and scientists during this time who were an amazing source of inspiration to me. These people gave me something that my art was lacking up until that point, purpose and a message. I now use my art to encourage critical thinking, social justice, humanism and science. I also use my art to raise money to send women to science events and I donate artwork, and some of my proceeds to small secular charities to hopefully encourage more people to learn more about science in the same way I was encouraged.

The author received no kickbacks from this article which is a damn shame.

As part of the Skepchick network, over a year ago you led the launch of Mad Art Lab. What prompted you to tap into the wide world of science-art?

When I first got involved, I felt like there was an absence of creative people  both online and at science and secular events. There was sort of a stigma floating around that rationality didn’t have space for artists since artists often have the reputation of not being critical thinkers. Artists are thought of as ‘hippies’ or ‘dreamers’. Scientists and academics are often stereotyped as uncreative or ‘stiff’ in mindset. I didn’t think either of these were accurate representations. I wanted to simultaneously encourage artists to participate in, and understand science while dispelling these terrible stereotypes that serve to hold back both artists and scientists alike. I often talk about the scientific method when discussing this. (See photo at top.) Artists and scientists are very similar in their process when they are trying to come up with something new or make a new discovery. An artist comes up with a hypothesis as to what their next piece of art might be. They gather data or supplies from what is available to them. They experiment and make a detailed analysis of those supplies, combining them in new ways to produce more data and finally a piece of art. They then come to conclusions as to whether the art is acceptable or complete. Finally  that art is released into the world to be peer reviewed by an audience of consumers or other artists. While not necessarily as strict of an interpretation as in the sciences, it still illustrates the similarities of the creative process that is used in both fields. I also think that science is an unending river of inspiration for artists in the same way that art can be inspiring to science. From the micro to the macro, any artist that has yet to tap into the wonder that is nature and knowledge is truly missing out. I hope the the website, madartlab.com can be a tiny portal into the wonders that abound in our forever building body of information in both the arts and sciences.

The ethereal Pale Blue Dot coasters.

What’s next? Do you have a dream project?

I am definitely becoming more interested in social justice issues especially those that have a science attached to them. Things like protecting the teaching of evolution in classrooms, protecting the rights of women to get safe abortions and the right to trustworthy, science-based healthcare for everyone. In the future, along with expanding Surly-Ramics, I’d really like to get more involved in public art projects that will help to educate people on these types of topics while continuing to do my smaller charity work.

Finally, what’s your favourite colour?

I really love all colors but right now my favorite glaze is Duncan clear crackle mixed with two shades of blue frit.

 

Thanks Amy!

- -
Links:

Surly-ramics

Etsy

Surly-ramic Blog

Mad Art Lab

@SurlyAmy

Facebook


Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at www.glendonmellow.com. Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. roybatty 6:23 pm 08/24/2012

    What a bullshit, puff-piece article.

    If you were an honest journalist, you would describe specifically the incidents going on in the so called atheist blogging world that prompted this piece.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Glendon Mellow 7:20 pm 08/24/2012

    Hey Roy, I’m a blogger and an illustrator, not a journalist.

    It’s an interview. With the exception of Roth’s fun imaginary bio (the imaginary part suggested by me, though I wasn’t specific about the tale she could tell)it’s honest.

    Yes, there’s a lot of crap being hurled at Roth in the atheist blogosphere at the moment. Truth is, I’ve wanted to do an interview and a feature with her on this blog since my co-blogger and I started developing it over a year ago. Mad Art Lab started shortly before Symbiartic appeared, and I know both blogs were in the works a while before that.

    This interview is about Roth’s cool art, not about “incidents going on in the so-called atheist blogging world”. It’s about technique, artistry and activism. Not about her third grade teacher, what she had for lunch or some other blogger’s opinion.

    Pay attention next time please.

    Link to this
  3. 3. julianpenrod 8:55 pm 08/24/2012

    This may be removed for my criticizing the blogger, but there are a number of points.
    Among other things, note where it talks about artists, or “artists”, and “scientists” and creativity. It’s opined that the general perception of “scientists” is that they are “uncreative or ‘stiff’ in mindset”. But notice Ms. Roth’s pieces. Unoriginal reporductions of past illustrations, diagrams, drawings and charts! A polar projection map, a Feynman diagram, a drawing of a plant, the “evolution” of humans, the “scientific” method. Where is there any general vein of creativity in Ms. Roth’s work? What has she produced that isn’t a copy of something else, what sentiment that she espouses isn’t out of Carl Sagan? With respect to what is generally considered “artistic”, Ms. Roth’s pieces do not go beyond the quality of being “decorative”. No real insight, no content, no depth, pictures copied onto clay.
    And all of it making use of an ugly little secret of popularity control. The perception among many that, if you have a place in popular cyulture, a blog, a byline, a stream of publications or exhibits or sales, it means that you have worth. If someone doesn’t wualify by the general perception of a “success”, it’s only because they, as an individual, have no worth. It’s not that the cultural milieu consists of a monolithic machine that jealously guards the perception of cultural value, welcoming those who are, and this may be used as an “esxcuse” for removing this, “the kind of crook they can work with”, desperately opposing the attempts of those who don’t play their game. As a result, all high earning “culture” reflects only the messages, the sentiments, the ideas that fit the New World Order agenda.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Glendon Mellow 9:05 pm 08/24/2012

    julianpenrod, I agree scientists are incredibly creative, and have to be so within the restrictions of evidence and methodology. Artists have comparative freedom in their work, but the work has less impact in my general opinion (insulin impacts lives more deeply than Picasso, imo.)

    I’m not from the school of thought that says the only thing original and worthwhile about a creative art or craft is the message. I also appreciate technique and audience penetration. What appeals to me about the Surlies is the way an everyday item like a necklace can then spark a conversation about evolution, atheism, the universe, or math. Creativity is in the Surlies as a group of artistically-made crafts as well as their individual aesthetics.

    Take a look around this blog. We don’t only feature artists who are enormous financial successes. That’s not a driving criteria.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Beehive Loser 2:53 am 08/25/2012

    Looks like the criticism here was accompanied but flecks of spit shouted at the screen. This blog seems to belong here to me and I like the interviewee. It seems the only reasonable criticism would be, “I don’t like the jewelry”. I do, thanks for the interview.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Glendon Mellow 4:13 am 08/25/2012

    Thanks Beehive!

    *wipes off screen*

    Link to this
  7. 7. Unwanted Guest 2:39 pm 08/25/2012

    What the h*ll is puff-piece nonsense like this doing on Scientific American?

    P.S. now *two* comments here are from “probable Slimepitters.” Happy, Prune?

    Link to this
  8. 8. Ophelia Benson 2:55 pm 08/25/2012

    Great interview, Glendon. I love this passage -

    “I also think that science is an unending river of inspiration for artists in the same way that art can be inspiring to science. From the micro to the macro, any artist that has yet to tap into the wonder that is nature and knowledge is truly missing out. I hope the the website, madartlab.com can be a tiny portal into the wonders that abound in our forever building body of information in both the arts and sciences.”

    Beautifully said, Amy!

    Link to this
  9. 9. Giliell 3:04 pm 08/25/2012

    If any evidence for the hatred thrown at Amy is needed, some comments here serve as wonderful examples.
    If what Amy does isn’t creative I’m wondering why jewelery like hers hasn’t been around for ages, I mean, if there’s nothing to it, duh.

    I’m still biting my own backside for not buying the “Lucy in the sky with diamonds pendants

    Link to this
  10. 10. SpriteSuzi 5:08 pm 08/25/2012

    According to Julian, Amy’s work is “Unoriginal reporductions of past illustrations, diagrams, drawings and charts!”

    So does that mean that if I paint a tree it’s unoriginal, because someone has painted a tree in the past? No, it means I saw something interesting in that tree and wanted to preserve it and to share it. Amy’s work is creative with colors and styles, plus it preserves interesting info she wants to share. I think it’s beautiful. I look at her work, and wish I could afford to buy more of them!

    Link to this
  11. 11. julianpenrod 5:38 pm 08/25/2012

    Again, this may be removed or I may be banned because I take issue with the blogger.
    Unsurprisingly, the intimations of hate in my statements. So in keeping with the directed New World Order mentality not be be acknowledge the difference between criticism, even anger and dislike, and hate. How easy to breed an “us against them” mentality when anything less than complete obsequious worship is defined as “hate”.
    And, of course, there is the unspoken credo that, if someone succeeds it can only be due to hard work and worth, not the clandestine power mongers pulling strings, and, if someone does not succeed, it must be that they are sluggardly and foolish. In other words, if someone is profiled in a blog, you must listen to them, if not, just accuse them of the jealousy of the unworthy and denounce out of hand everything they say.
    Glendon Mellow challenges me that not all the artists, or “artists”, mentioned here are “enormous financial successes”. I never said they were! I did, however, point out that they were getting where they wanted, they were in the public eye, people were talking about them, acknowledging them, buying briskly from them, and according them that prize that so many apply to success, validation. The very fact that someone’s words are treated by someone else, in a high profile place, as valid is equivalent, in today’s thought control empire, with success.
    Look at the previous entries. A blogger who features fractal drawings, basically, computer rendered pieces whose only input is the parameters of the formulas that defined them, assuming those parameters themselves weren’t just from a random number generator. Images purportedly from the Curiosity lander. A science blog network qand a famous medical illustrator. A portraitist chosen to provide a painting of Sally Ride for theSan Diego Air and Space Museum’s International Hall of Fame. The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators.
    There are those who make blogs, but they’re never visited. There are those who submit stories, but they’re never published. There are those who send out articles, but they’re never accepted. There are those who produce art pieces, but they’re never bought. There are many who work at it, but never get recognized, even if they deserve it. Work and worth are not the sole guarantees of success in today’s engineered ersatz for a culture, today’s psychologically programmed, agenda driven, thought control manipulated excuse for a society, and, indeed, they may be qualities that leads the NWO to oppose an individual.

    Link to this
  12. 12. julianpenrod 6:07 pm 08/25/2012

    This may be removed because I will be unflattering to one who denounces me, but Sprite Suzi tries to pretend there is legitimate fault to what I say, and only suggests their own, literally, intellectual paucity.
    Sprite Suzi takes issue with my characterizing Amy Roth’s pieces as unoriginal reproductions of past illustrations, diagrams drawings and charts. Then, to assail the point, purportedly, Sprite Suzie says, “does that mean if I paint a tree it’s unoriginal, because someone has painted a tree in the past?”
    Does Sprite Suzie understand the meaning of the word “reproduction”, as in “copy with no real addition of individualizing content”? If you manage to imbue an image of a tree with insight, meaning, sense, sentiment, content, you can call it original, even if someone else has painted that tree before. If you take someone else’ image an preoduce a re-rendering, adding absolutely nothing individual, it cannot automatically, or even necessarily ultimately, be declared not a reproduction. If you produce a miniature of the Mona Lisa for a brooch, it can still be called a copy, especially if you are producing it for someone to admire the form that someone else takes credit for producing originally.
    And for all that Ophelia Benson extolls the speech credited to Amy Roth, frankly, it hews to the fabric of every single unimaginative valedictory speech since colleges became almost universal breeding grounds for “accredited” know nothings who get jobs through pull and cronyism but wnat to be perceived as intellectual giants. Nothing truly different, just “pie in the sky” “happy talk”. Basically, doggerel. There are software packages sometimes called “gibberish machines” that take particular terms and produce calculated passages using them. Sprinkle high sounding terms into a “gibberish machine” and you have a good chance of getting something that feels the same as Ms. Roth’s explication.

    Link to this
  13. 13. Lyn M 8:09 pm 08/25/2012

    It is a pleasure to see beautiful art that embodies a science theme.
    Keep at it Surly Amy, there is so much room for creativity in the world of science.

    Link to this
  14. 14. Glendon Mellow 9:04 pm 08/25/2012

    Thanks Ophelia! There’s a lot of creativity and insight that goes into those little Surlies, and a lot of potential discussion that can come of them. Glad this interview highlighted how sharp Surly Amy is in the field of science-art.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Glendon Mellow 9:04 pm 08/25/2012

    Thanks for your thoughts about originality, SpriteSuzi! Sometimes, I think a useful image begins to transcend ideas of copyright or originality. My co-blogger Kalliopi had a great post about that exact problem involving the quintessential modern dinosaur diagram a while back, shortly before this blog launched.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Glendon Mellow 9:05 pm 08/25/2012

    Good points Giliell! (#9)

    Thanks Lyn! (#13)

    Link to this
  17. 17. Glendon Mellow 9:11 pm 08/25/2012

    Unwanted Guest (#7) to clarify, this is a blog on Scientific American called Symbiartic, not the entire Scientific American enterprise.

    You may find this post, Blogs: face the conversation by blog editor Bora Zivkovic useful in explaining how the blogs fit into the network at Scientific American.

    Link to this
  18. 18. EssBee 9:46 pm 08/25/2012

    Thanks for this interview! Your jewelery is fabulous, and totally needed, Amy! I’d love to have a Tarantula Nebula brooch, if I only had your skillz. Oh well, guess I’ll go check out your store!

    Link to this
  19. 19. kausikdatta 1:19 am 08/26/2012

    Pardon my impertinence, JulianPenrod – do you suffer from paranoid delusions? Are you in the habit of looking askance over your shoulder every time you set foot outside your house? Your curious insistence on prefacing your long and rambling comments with a note expressing your strange fear of being banned or having your comments deleted seems to point that way. I am sorry that you feel people are out to get you. I mean, they may be really out to get you – but I sure am sorry you feel that way.

    As for your comments, good grief! You love using a lot of words, don’t you, even if they are a little short on substance? Quite akin to the Bard’s description of life: “… tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Spake thee thusly:

    … notice Ms. Roth’s pieces. Unoriginal reporductions (sic) of past illustrations, diagrams, drawings and charts! A polar projection map, a Feynman diagram, a drawing of a plant, the “evolution” of humans, the “scientific” method. Where is there any general vein of creativity in Ms. Roth’s work? What has she produced that isn’t a copy of something else, what sentiment that she espouses isn’t out of Carl Sagan? With respect to what is generally considered “artistic”, Ms. Roth’s pieces do not go beyond the quality of being “decorative”. No real insight, no content, no depth, pictures copied onto clay.

    As Glendon has already pointed out, your perception of what is artistic appears to be shallow and restricted. You seem to be – consciously, and with malice aforethought, I think – deliberately ignoring the fact that Ms. Roth’s considerable creativity encompasses the ideation of the project, the choice of subjects and the variety therein, the transfer of the artwork to a different and difficult medium, the successful completion of the process to create presentations that are pleasant to the eyes, as well as informative, and above all, the conceptualization of a type of artwork that is sure to engender conversations and discussions about topics rooted in science. To accomplish all this through the art is a noble goat and a consummate achievement, for which Ms. Roth must get appropriate credit.

    You further wrote:

    … in keeping with the directed New World Order mentality not be be (sic) acknowledge the difference between criticism, even anger and dislike, and hate. How easy to breed an “us against them” mentality when anything less than complete obsequious worship is defined as “hate”… And, of course, there is the unspoken credo that, if someone succeeds it can only be due to hard work and worth, not the clandestine power mongers pulling strings, and, if someone does not succeed, it must be that they are sluggardly and foolish. In other words, if someone is profiled in a blog, you must listen to them, if not, just accuse them of the jealousy of the unworthy and denounce out of hand everything they say… I did, however, point out that they were getting where they wanted, they were in the public eye, people were talking about them, acknowledging them, buying briskly from them, and according them that prize that so many apply to success, validation. The very fact that someone’s words are treated by someone else, in a high profile place, as valid is equivalent, in today’s thought control empire, with success.

    Did you write all that in one go? “New World Order”? “Clandestine power mongers”, “thought control empire”? If you are not reading too much Tom Clancy (or perhaps – gasp!! – Ayn Rand), perhaps you should really consider getting professional help.

    You also indicated:

    … making use of an ugly little secret of popularity control. The perception among many that, if you have a place in popular cyulture, a blog, a byline, a stream of publications or exhibits or sales, it means that you have worth. If someone doesn’t wualify (sic) by the general perception of a “success”, it’s only because they, as an individual, have no worth. It’s not that the cultural milieu consists of a monolithic machine that jealously guards the perception of cultural value, welcoming those who are, and this may be used as an “esxcuse” (sic) for removing this, “the kind of crook they can work with”, desperately opposing the attempts of those who don’t play their game. As a result, all high earning “culture” reflects only the messages, the sentiments, the ideas that fit the New World Order agenda… There are those who make blogs, but they’re never visited. There are those who submit stories, but they’re never published. There are those who send out articles, but they’re never accepted. There are those who produce art pieces, but they’re never bought. There are many who work at it, but never get recognized, even if they deserve it. Work and worth are not the sole guarantees of success in today’s engineered ersatz for a culture, today’s psychologically programmed, agenda driven, thought control manipulated excuse for a society…

    Awwww…. Is this what all this is about? No one is paying you any attention? No one is featuring you in their blog, no one is reading your blog, no one recognizes your contributions? Is that why you are so needlessly bitter towards Ms. Roth and Glendon? I am sorry to learn that. Please don’t get disheartened. Do keep producing quality work, and sooner or later someone is bound to take notice. I loved your use of the word ‘ersatz’.

    I noticed that you also wrote:

    … colleges became almost universal breeding grounds for “accredited” know nothings who get jobs through pull and cronyism but wnat (sic) to be perceived as intellectual giants. Nothing truly different, just “pie in the sky” “happy talk”. Basically, doggerel. There are software packages sometimes called “gibberish machines” that take particular terms and produce calculated passages using them. Sprinkle high sounding terms into a “gibberish machine” and you have a good chance of getting something that feels the same as Ms. Roth’s explication.

    I am going to enquire why you feel this need for pretensions to great erudition. Your screed against colleges is quite an eye-opener; so I shall refrain from asking that question. Let me try a thought experiment by simply asking you instead: what could Ms. Roth say that you would think of as ‘truly different’, and what kind of response/reaction would you expect from that?

    Link to this
  20. 20. Ms. Daisy Cutter 12:20 pm 08/26/2012

    See, Julian doesn’t like Amy’s work because it’s “crafts,” not “arts.” And we all know that crafts have GURRRLLL COOTIES.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Glendon Mellow 3:23 pm 08/26/2012

    kausikdatta, thanks so much for your excellent responses to julianpenrod.

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, I agree. The difference between “crafts” and “arts” is getting even more washed away in the growing science-art world. Ceramic necklaces, images grown in petri dishes, oil paintings, sculpted fake vat-meat…it’s all part of the diverse, intricate and raucous collisions of art and science – which, and I hope I’m right about this, is not a male-dominated field!

    Link to this
  22. 22. Glendon Mellow 3:25 pm 08/26/2012

    Some visitors are put off by our commenting system, which requires registration – I understand. I know some of you have commented instead over at Butterflies & Wheels, and on Twitter. Thanks for your comments, wherever they’re found!

    Link to this
  23. 23. julianpenrod 5:42 pm 08/26/2012

    Eminently, and ultimately, telling, that the only contradictions to what I said were mocking statements against me personally and gratuitous, but equally unproved, paeans to Ms. Roth. The essence of the fraud that “modern art” is. Nowhere do they take issue and actually demonstrate the actual originality in the illustrations on Ms. roth’s pieces. People compliment that extreme skill and even thought out presentation of Audubon’s portrayals, but they are not classed with Rembrandt! And no map ever produced is considered equal to the “Mona Lisa”. And just using phrases that suggest originality with respect to Ms. roth’s pieces does not make them original or artistic.
    And those who mock do so because they have absolutely nothing to defend their side, so, instead, they try to bloody the other side.
    And Glendon Mellow actually praises them and says their remarks are “good points”!
    In fact, the kind of illegitimate defense brought to bear against my statements is only further proof there really isn’t anything of artistic value in Ms. Roth’s output.
    And, as for the gratuitous attack on my point about comments being removed or my being banned, unsurprising those who want to hate me would seize on that as an “excuse” to suggest paranoia. I’ve posted on many blogs and found myself attacked, my comments removed and myself blocked repeatedly. NPR has something of a reputation in that area. It’s a rare article that doesn’t have at least half a dozen items removed. Their list of causes for removing a comment is somewhat notorious.
    On Discover Magazine’s “Bad Astronomy” blog, I took issue with Phil Plait pretending he took part in a “petition” to stop American Airlines providing a film snippet warning people about vaccines causing autism when, in reality, he had sent them a message threatening to order his legion of fans to stop using the airline. Plait banned me from blogging there. Incidentally, another comment asked Plait how much he received from drug companies to shill for them. Plait not only didn’t ban that individual, but, also, his reply only was, “Show me the proof that I was paid by the drug companies”, but he didn’t deny he was paid!
    Discover Magazine’s “Gene Expressions” blogger, Razib Khan called Thomas Jefferson a “white supremacist” and quoted him as referring to “the white man’s republic”. I said that, even if Jefferson believed whites were superior to blacks, it didn’t make him a “supremacist”, since “white spuremacy” is a reactionary movement. I also said that Jefferson is nowhere associated with the phrqase “white man’s republic”. Khan called me a “suboid” and “unhinged” and banned me from the blog.
    I also once placed comments on a forum ostensibly promoting the idea og chemtrails, but subversively devoted to undermining chemtrail opposition by abuse and mockery. The “administrators” were all “debunker” friendly and even allowed “debunkers” to break the rules! Once, I pointed out an outlandishly overt mistake a “debunker” had made. They arranged with the “administrators” to be allowed to change it, even though no one else was allowed to alter their posts. Then they came back and accused me of not knowing what I was talking about. I then uploaded a picture of the original screen and the new one. The subject was never mentioned again, but it wasn’t long after that when I was banned.
    And, as for Scientific American and Bora Zivkpvic, there was an article a short while ago that claimed past theories about certain eye movements being, at least in many cases, indicative of lying. I said that the article was trundling the “old wives’ tale” fallacy that, “Sure people used this idea long agoi, but not because it worked, but only because people back then were all stupid! Today, we’re geniuses, so anything we say has to be true, even if it doesn’t work!” Bore Zivkovic told me they work by a “three strikes and you’re out”principle”. Bore Zivkovic said their role was to “protect” guest bloggers. Protection against what? Basically, just being contradicted! So I was told that, if I didn’t obsequiously believe everything the guest blogger said, I would be banned! Yes, even Sceintific American uses that policy!
    And, notice, that’s exactly the “validation by popularity” principle I was talking about! The “guest bloggers” are ordered to be accorded accreidation, no matter what swill they trundle, just because they are friends of the higher ups!
    As an aside, kausikdatta says more than they may think by criticizng how many words I use! remember when a piece wasn’t criticized just for being long? Reading used to be considered an important ability! Even if it took a while to convey an idea, it could be accepted. But, the world so many Scientific American devotees seem to embrace, in their own words, is shallow and superficial. “Don’t explain, just superficially incite!”

    Link to this
  24. 24. Glendon Mellow 9:30 pm 08/26/2012

    Julian, I am not going to address why NPR, Plait, Khan, Zivkovic et al have or have not banned you. I’m not them. All science blogging published by major magazines do not constitute a monolith silencing dissent outside the “party line”. It just doesn’t.

    You’re right, Audubon and Rembrandt did not do the same thing.But Rembrandt’s deserved genius and fame does not mean we cannot appreciate the the patient observation and deft hand of Audubon.

    And so it is here. The modern, growing, increasingly recognized world of science-art (or sciart or artsci, there’s no agreed upon name, it’s still in nascent stages) or the sub-fields of bioart, paleoart, paleontography, fractals, medical illustration, makers, craftwork, infographics, cartoons, webcomics, evopunk, contemporary surreal, SF, Fantastic Art, digital explorations and so on are all fair game here on Symbiartic. We seek to bring the sublime, the innovative, the technical, the geeky, the awe-inspiring and the quirky to our readers and community. That includes crafts.

    One thing in my years as an artist and illustrator I have learned is that the scientific community and the scientifically curious public are often hungry for a visual vocabulary they understand. I often tell the story of my first art show, when a friend studying veterinary medicine came over and said to me, “if you don’t know what I’m talking about, never mind. But in that painting, is that a tardigrade?” I said it was. She replied, “I knew it! Because of the hooked feet!” and was elated. She came to an art show and it meant something to her.

    The Surlies are similar. There are people hungry to declare their atheism, their scientific knowledge, their understanding of evolution or math or just plain science fiction geekiness in a way that’s a touchstone throughout their day. Wearing a Surly pendant or necklace helps them do that and that’s special. Maybe not to you, but hey, not all art is for everyone.

    Link to this
  25. 25. greg_t_laden 9:52 pm 08/26/2012

    … I’ve posted on many blogs and found myself attacked, my comments removed and myself blocked repeatedly….

    No way. Really?

    Link to this
  26. 26. julianpenrod 10:42 pm 08/26/2012

    It seems a constant here, misinterpreting or simply failing to acknowledge what I am saying.
    Glendon Mellow starts off defensively, saying, “all science blogging published by major magazines do [sic] not constitute a monolith silencing dissent outside the ‘party line’”.
    I never said they did!
    I never said this or any particular blog definitely would remove my statements or ban me!
    I only added it at the beginning of my statement as I do so many other times.
    It was kausikdatta who accused me of being paranoid and having no reason to place that statement in my comments.
    And Glendon Mellow should remember, it was they, themself, who congratulated kausikdatta on their “excellent responses” to me!
    Which means Glendon Mellow was praising kausikdatta for suggesting I was paranboid when they had no reason to, whatsoever!
    And, while this, too, has the possibility of having this comment removed, that constitutes animosity toward me on Glendon Mellow’s part.
    And, again, while you can say Audubon showed skill, it can be a long way from saying he was an artist. Just as reproducing other people’s drawings, graphs, illustrations does not make Amy Roth an artist! There’s an article on NPR right now, “‘A Contest Of Wits’: A Former Forger Recalls His Art”, about Ken Perenyi. In the course of the article, Perenyi refers to his forgeries as “reproductions”.
    Art has to have a meaning. It can’t be just any aimless, or copied, scribbles. There must be a premium of absolute integrity, insight, content. Something that depends on mockery and accusing another of being paranoid for its defense is not art. Something that is art practically defends itself by itself. I said that there is a delineation between what is considered art and what is considered merely decorative and, frankly, Amy Roth’s material does not transcend decorative. And if anyone wants to occupy that level of humanity that calls decorative art, they will have only themselves to blame when push comes to shove.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Glendon Mellow 11:01 pm 08/26/2012

    Julian said, “There must be a premium of absolute integrity, insight, content. Something that depends on mockery and accusing another of being paranoid for its defense is not art.

    That’s a very outdated notion of art. And I think you mean “fine art”, not just “art”. Even so, it’s outdated.

    Whether you agree or not, this blog is going to keep posting art that has integrity and art that is subversive. Art that has insight and art for laffs. Art filled to the brim with content and art that’s just pretty. Art that is accurate and art that misses the mark. And art used for the purpose of mockery.

    Don’t agree? Stop visiting. No amount of your complaints about what kind of art we post is going to make us conform to your personal notion of art.

    Link to this
  28. 28. Bora Zivkovic 11:16 pm 08/26/2012

    @julianpenrod – this is your second warning.

    To remind you – three strikes and out.

    To clarify – you have one more chance. If the comment is not up to par, your username, all email addresses and IP will be banned not just from this blog but network-wide, and I will monitor in the future to ensure you do not re-register.

    See our Terms Of Use, under the sub-heading ‘Materials You Submit’: http://www.scientificamerican.com/page.cfm?section=termsofuse
    “We reserve the right (but are not under an obligation) to remove or edit any content you provide.”

    Explanation:

    - you post many comments on the network.
    - not a single comment of yours was ever positive, gentle, nice, reasonable, or in any way adding to the discussion.
    - you seem to be anti-science, anti-art, anti-society, anti-people, anti-everything. Not every online forum needs to be cheerful, of course, we can be serious. But nobody wants to be a member of the commenting community if there is one person who consistently brings in negativity.
    - a number of bloggers have complained about you over time. I hate to be the Bad Cop, but for comment threads to be productive, it is important to sometimes remove individuals who are consistently inserting tone that disincentivises others to bring in useful contributions to the discussion.
    - your usual mode is to insist on everyone discussing your own pet peeve. The blogger may have written about Topic A, and other readers want to discuss Topic A, but no, you insist that everyone switches to Topic B. This is derailing the topic. That is one of the definitions of trolling.
    - if you want to rant about your pet topics, feel free to start your own blog
    - free speech means you have the right to rant somewhere online. It does not mean you have the right to rant on any specific place online. This is Glendon’s and Kalliopi’s online home. You are pissing on their carpet, in the middle of their living room. It is time for you to shape up or leave the party.

    Link to this
  29. 29. TikiCosmonaut 3:15 am 08/27/2012

    Great article. Thanks for posting this, Glendon.

    roybatty: “What a bullshit, puff-piece article. […]” julianpenrod: “[…]”

    Ah, the windchimes of the unaccomplished—noises selected for sound rather than any real substance or meaning.

    Link to this
  30. 30. Glendon Mellow 6:06 am 08/27/2012

    …windchimes of the unaccomplished…

    Damn, that’s a nice turn of phrase, TikiCosmonaut!

    Link to this
  31. 31. tapped 2:08 pm 08/27/2012

    Thanks for an enjoyable article! I was already a fan of Surly-Ramics jewelry, and own a few pieces, after learning of it through the skeptical conference scene. Glad to see Amy, and the art+science idea, getting some notice in another sphere.

    Link to this
  32. 32. Glendon Mellow 8:19 am 08/28/2012

    Thanks tapped! If you want to see more about the intersection of science+art, here’s a handy post archive of everything we posted here on Symbiartic in the 1st year!

    Link to this

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