Pac-Man redux

It’s been a month since Google celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the video game Pac-Man.

According Google VP Marrisa Mayer, Google was “overwhelmed” but “not surprised” with its success.

So, due to the great demand, access to the interactive Pac-Man doodle is now permanent and can be accessed at:

1) To begin a game, click the “Insert Coin” button, it’s located where the “I’m Feeling Lucky Button” is found. If you want to play with two people, click the “Insert Coin” button twice. Additionally when two players decide to go at it, Ms. Pac-Man joins the fun.
2) Want to / Need to mute Pac-Man’s sounds? No problem. A mute button is located in the lower left corner of the game. Click to toggle it on, click again to toggle it off.
3) From the Google blog, “Pac-Man is controlled with arrow keys or by clicking on the maze, Ms. PAC-MAN using the WASD keys.


Pac-Man anniversary

Google offers a free online Pac-Man game to celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary.  To play Pac-Man on the Google home page, click “Insert Coin” and when the word “Ready!” appears, use the arrow keys to control your Pac-Man.  Only hurry! The interactive game is posted through Sunday May 23rd only.

Table top Pac-Man game

It’s hard to believe Pac-Man turns 30 today, and while it wasn’t my first video game (that honor goes to Pong), Pac-Man still holds a special place in my heart.

My wife and I played Pac-Man in video game arcades, on our Atari 2600 video game console, and on the table top version I gave her as a gift.  And yes, both games are stored safely away in my bedroom closet.  And they still work!

Care to share your video game memories with us? I recall riding my bike with my high school buddy to Long Island’s Roosevelt Field Mall to play the only Pong game in Nassau County.  We poured quarters into that machine, playing for hours.  At that time in the 1970s the mall had enclosed walkways connecting the stores.  It was usually deserted on Saturday mornings in the summer.

Pac-Man links:
Google Celebrates Pac-Man’s 30th Birthday with an Awesome Playable Google Doodle from Geekosystem
Celebrating PAC-MAN’s 30th birthday from The Official Google Blog

Atari 2600


Digital finger painting

Is digital art the wave of the future?  Will computer technology define the art of the 21st century?  In a previous post MadSilence paid tribute to the artistic power of the mouse.  Now we pay homage to the “digital” digit.  Can the fingertip replace the brush and palette knife?

Artist Jorge Colombo believes it can.  Colombo has taken digital art beyond the mouse, wired or not, to a place where he can “draw and see the image in the same place.”  Colombo sketches covers for the New Yorker magazine on his iPhone using the Brushes application:

Brushes is a painting application designed from scratch for the iPhone and iPod touch. Featuring an advanced color picker, several realistic brushes, multiple layers, extreme zooming, and a simple yet deep interface, it is a powerful tool for creating original artwork on your mobile device.  Brushes allows you to choose any color (including transparency) using the hue/saturation color wheel. With a generous level of undo and redo you never need to worry about making a mistake or backing up too far.  Brushes records all of your actions when painting. These actions are stored in a .brushes file which you can download directly from your iPhone or iPod touch via Brushes’ built-in web server.

Amazing!  A digital application that does what the physical brush always did for the artist.  According to Colombo, “There’s something tactile about working with my fingers directly on the [canvas].  You can be just as organic and casual as you would be with a brush.”  Hmmm…  Seems a bit unusual to use the adjectives tactile and organic for a digital application.

The Brushes application offers the portability of watercolors without the clean up, and accessibility due to low-cost and ease of use, at least for the iPhone owner.  But how does a Brushes “painting” compare with a traditional painting?  Check out this video of Colombo sketching a gas station on his iPhone with Brushes.

Jorge Colombo Sketches Covers For The New Yorker On His iPhone. Image source: if it's hip, it's here.

Of course, Colombo isn’t the only artist that creates iPhone mini masterpieces.  Even British artist David Hockney has added this app to his artistic repertoire.

For more information:
iPhone Artist Jorge Colombo from
Jorge Colombo’s iPhone cityscapes (6 pictures)


White Noise Fades Away

Sharp 3S111 Red-orange B&W TV, Space-Age design.
It’s sad to think, with the recent change from analog to digital television, that my vintage 1970s, orange-hued, space-age portable b&w TV will no longer be able to pick up a signal.  Nor would the b&w television my brother & and set up in our bedroom in the 1960s, wire coat hanger antenna extended out the window, festooned with a flag made of aluminum foil.
We spent hours adjusting that antenna until the white noise faded away, making the television programming that much sweeter.  We would become quite adept at adjusting rabbit ears, a skill made obsolete with the advent of cable television and digital TV.

Now those rabbit ears may have been promoted to the status of collectibles and exotic artworks, but there’s still the chance they may capture some stray television broadcasts.  As reported at CBS

“The antenna is alive and well,” said Michael Godar, who runs one of the nation’s few hand-made antenna companies out of a TV repair shop in Gilbert, Arizona. And he says that, even at the dawn of the digital age, there’s plenty of life in that old antenna. “There was almost a sport adjusting your antenna on your TV,” said Sieberg. “Oh yeah, battling it, you know, Image via CBSespecially when you had a remote control,” laughed Godar. “You’d change the channel and then get up, adjust the antenna!” Antennas are as old as television itself. Their limitations were spoofed in the very first episode of Jackie Gleason’s “The Honeymooners.” The antenna is the sole survivor of our analog past. And while it just receives over-the-air channels, digital is the reason there’s more of them. “An antenna will still work,” said Godar. “Even some of these antiques here will actually pick up a digital signal.” Of course, some things never change. You still need to be in a place where it’s possible to get good reception. In fact, unlike an analog signal with its fuzzy picture, a weak digital signal can leave you seeing . . . well, nothing at all.
Artist Rick Doble works with television static to produce abstract works of art.  His organic imagery is created in PaintShop Pro v.6, from original digital photographs of different static patterns on a television screen.  Doble has tried to capture the essence of white noise and television snow.  A memorial to things past?

Virtual Advent Calendars!

A yearly tradition for my family - the advent calendar!

A yearly tradition for my family - the advent calendar!

Advent calendars are a tradition at my house.  You know, the ones made of thick paper with a colorful picture on the front and lots of tantalizing little doors!  One of my favorite times during cold Decembers was coming home from high school and opening the day’s door to find a tasty morsel of German chocolate inside.  Sadly in Japan advent calendars are few and far between, and my local import store sold them all in one week (lesson learned: always buy something when you see it, nobody here restocks!) so this year I’m depending on virtual advent calendars!

One of my favorites this year is Jamie Oliver’s version of the advent calendar.  If you’ve never heard of him, he’s the guy known as the Naked Chef, a wonderful fighter for real food in school cafeteria lunches and more cooking at home.  His calendar features cooking videos and recipes for the holidays!  If you like what you find, also check out his “Ministry of Food” video podcast.

Intute, a great arts and humanities resource, has their own version of the advent calendar which features “academic resources on the Internet on a variety of themes – artists’ lives, anniversaries, soldiers’ experiences during the First World War, international awards, film, dance, English literature and languages and literatures from around the world, as well as a few subjects which imply that “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…””

The Tate in London has a cute advent calendar with a different artwork chosen by a 4th grade student every day from their Children’s Collection.  Today’s work is “Bull 1″ by Roy Lichenstein (I really love the kids comments on the artwork – it would be nice to recapture that simple appreciation of art ^^).

Electric December '08 - a smorgasboard of new directing talent.

Electric December '08 - a smorgasboard of new directing talent.

Electric December ’08 is an advent calendar with a different movie from an up-and-coming film-maker each day.

And on a more religious note, I thought that this advent calendar, called “Following the Star,” was a beautiful piece of Flash work that really invites us to sit and reflect on the spiritual side of Christmas.

As I told my students when I explained Christmas to them, it doesn’t matter what you do to celebrate Christmas, whether it’s with a Advent Calendar, barbecuing on the beach in Australia, creating edible works of art in the kitchen, or going to church on Christmas morning, what’s most important is spreading  joy and love!

~MS the Younger

(Oh, and PS, don’t forget to check out this awesome Nintendo 8-bit music style Christmas album ~_^)


To learn more about the  History of the Advent Calendar:
“This page from a German advent calendar company presents information on the origins of advent calendars and a short history of their evolution from simple chalk lines marking off the days in December until Christmas to paper calendars with windows.  The online Advent Calendar Museum provides photographs of calendars from the 1940s through 1960s. Also includes a brief history of the Sellmer Company in Stuttgart and an online tour of calendar production.”

Via the Librarian’s Internet Index (LII)

~MS the older & wiser

The Art of Webcomics

I was browsing the web this afternoon when I was struck by the comic that had appeared in my inbox. Comics have come a damn long way since pen and paper!

A Look at Comics through Time:

Hokusai as father of modern manga? Matt Thorn’s take on “The History of Manga.


The mouse that roared: digital explosion

g3448-4802-dlilogo.jpgIs it possible, as alleged by New York Times writer Nicole Cotroneo, that “The next Salvador Dali is just as likely to wield a computer mouse as a paint brush”? And if so, what does this statement foretell about the future of painting? The Long Island Digital Arts Festival provides a venue for the exploration of digital art.


Digital artists use computers and technology to create images. According to Wikipedia, digital art is:

Art created on a computer in digital form. Digital art can be purely computer-generated, or taken from another source, such as a scanned photograph, or an image drawn using a mouse or graphics tablet.

The Digital Long Island arts festival, composed of juried, invitational, and student exhibitions, is the first of a potentially biennial event providing a platform to display art in all forms using technology as its basis. At first glance the exhibition at Mills Pond House appeared much like a conventional exhibition, offering framed canvases. The exhibition labels highlighted the difference: the framed objects included 3D computer generated images (CGI), digital prints, digital paintings, inkjet prints, digigraphs, ink on canvas, and even hand sewn digital prints.

Looking closely I found no evidence of brushstrokes, no sign of the artist’s touch. The image was glossy and sharp, but had Khadem merely achieved the mimesis of classical European academic painting, or was this something else entirely? And was something vital lost in the transition?

Upon entering the exhibition the viewer is faced with two artworks created by digital artist Alain K. Khadem. I was captured by the imagery in his paired artworks, “Abuse of Power” and “Retribution.” The pair was created using Adobe Printshop and Illustrator and is printed on canvas. I was reminded of the style of painting called trompe-l’oeil (literally, “fool the eye”) and the paintings of 19th century American artist William Harnett. If you enjoy realist still lifes as I do, as well as the contemporary revival of the neoclassical style, visit Khadem’s website:


 Abuse of Power and Retributionby  Alain K. Khadem (digital painting)

And while I was delighted with the retribution visited upon Khadem’s hammer, I was puzzled by the nature of his artwork, and its relationship to traditional painting. Looking closely I found no evidence of brushstrokes, no sign of the artist’s touch. The image was glossy and sharp, but had Khadem merely achieved the mimesis of classical European academic painting, or was this something else entirely? And was something vital lost in the transition?

Artist Renata Spiazzi states in her artist biography that digital art “…should not imitate other media [but] should reflect the new technology”.  Certainly Spiazzi’s “Bridge” is a powerful abstract statement but how does the image reflect this new technology? 


Bridgeby Renata Spiazzi (digital)

The sharpness of the image and its glossy finish certainly bear witness to its digital birth, but beyond that I am uncertain as to how technology impacts art.  

What value is there to the human touch handling brush or palette knife? Is digital art merely a new medium, like watercolors, pastels and acrylics? Is there something special about the physical impact of the artist on the painting that a machine cannot replicate?

Gallery owners, intimately attuned to the marketplace, may perceive the difference better than I. The website digital acceptance provides a telling quotation from Spiazzi concerning her experience in finding galleries willing to handle her digital art:

“One of my trips to a gallery really surprised me with the answer I got from the gallery attendant (I hope it wasn’t the owner). When I introduced myself and told her that my medium was digital, she said, ‘Oh, but we want the hand of the artist to touch the work!’ I was upset and answered, ‘What about the artist’s MIND?’ She looked at me like I was from Mars! Michelangelo says in his poetry much the same thing: ‘La man che obbedisce all’intelletto…’ (The hand that obeys the intellect.)”

An interesting statement concerning “the hand of the artist” but I’m not sure what it means. What value is there to the human touch handling brush or palette knife? Is digital art merely a new medium, like watercolors, pastels and acrylics? Is there something special about the physical impact of the artist on the painting that a machine cannot replicate? Alternately, what does the new technology add to the creative process? I’m not sure of the answers but I recommend you visit Spiazzi’s website:  Her digital artworks are lovely, even if touched in their creation by the artist’s mind and mouse alone, not hands and fingers.  

Perhaps Maurice Hutchinson’s digital prints can provide further insights. Hutchinson starts the creative process with a penciled sketch which he then digitizes. The digitized image serves as the bottom layer and foundation of the composition. Hutchinson then digitally paints and builds successive layers of elements upon it to create the final image. Once this step in the process is completed, the digitized final image is ready to be professionally printed.


Dream Weaver by Maurice Hutchinson (digital print)

Could it be that Hutchinson transforms his traditional pen and ink sketches into something more attuned to the aesthetic sense of his audience? When the impressionists first displayed their art the critics were dismayed with its wild and unfinished nature. A generation would pass before the public’s aesthetic sense adapted. The digital artist may well be responding to an audience raised within a visual environment densely populated with digital images from digital cameras, cell phones, and the Internet. Digital recordings have altered the music we hear. Is it possible that digital art will alter the art we see?  

I realize now I entered the Digital LI arts festival with a chip on my shoulder, and prejudice in my heart, being prepared to denigrate digital art. I departed with my aesthetic sense stimulated, my interest engaged, and a plethora of unanswered questions.   I’m eager to learn more about digital art.

Related links:
Mouse Almightyby Nicole Cotroneo (The New York Times, November 4, 2007)
A glitch on the road to digital art by Aileen Jacobson (Newsday, November 4, 2007)
Digital Art Museum
Renata Spiazzi, Digital Paintings (AAASD Allied Artists Association)



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