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Image Macros: I'm in Your X, Y'ing Your Z

Okay, now that I've spent the first three days of this week talking about LOL Cats, it's time to move on to something marginally more advanced: the "I'm in Your X, Y'ing Your Z" Image Macros.

According to several web sources (which are so not-work-safe I won't link them), this genre of Image Macros started with the statement, "I'm in your base killing your d00ds" (that last word being a Leet spelling of "dudes"), from a classic video game. Non-gamer translation: "You lose."

This Image Macro genre first came to my attention, you guessed it, as a LOL Cat:

After the jump, I explore some unique characteristics of the Image Macro, including a political Image Macro.

Of course, things had to go a level deeper than just Leet speak and cats. The day after the 2006 US Congressional Election, a version of the "I'm in your X, Y'ing your Z" Image Macro appeared showing Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Boing Boing featured the image, which read: I'm in ur house impeachin ur doodz." (They also featured a rather wonderful LOL Bird.)

Nancy Pelosi

Five days after the election, a top 10 list appeared, with a hilarious variety of Image Macros based on the theme. My favorite:

I'm in ur base killin ur doodz

So this is fun and all, but what's the point? Well, I believe that the Image Macro is a new form of art, native to the web. This new form has some unusual characteristics -- primary being that most images are by anonymous authors (though some communities create the macros collaboratively, with known authors). The images are frequently reproduced in blogs (*ahem* like this one), in which the main attribution is simply the location where the image was found. In their inherent anonymity, Image Macros are like Graffiti (minus the tagging).

Another unusual characteristic of Image Macros is the rapid adoption and evolution of new genres. A single popular image can spawn an entire genre of Image Macros with their own syntax and style. Responses to an original image range from copycat images (if you'll excuse the expression) to fairly complex new statements. You can see this in action in the "Invisible" LOL Cats, in which Invisible Bike leads to Invisible Bike Crash, and finally to Invisible Everything. While classical art is responsive in this way, the speed with which the genre is created, extended, and integrated with other genres is impressive.

Also, due to the sheer number of Image Macros in the wild, lots of sites have created their own collections, generally going on for many pages. We've linked earlier in the week to the LOL Cat blog, I Can Has Cheezburger -- after being linked by Digg today, they have shut down temporarily due to excessive bandwidth usage. Each of these sites is effectively an online museum of art, curated by amateurs. You can see the influence of the curator in some collections in which images have been presented in a particular sequence (it's a fairly crass example -- not for the easily offended -- but the "ceiling cat" sequence at the end of this collection shows what I mean).

Here's a small, non-ordered collection of some LOL Cat X/Y/Z favorites, to reward you for reading this far:

I'm on yer table trimn all yer plants

Bustin ur mythz

Im in ur truck makin the duliverys

Grammar Cat

So what do you think? Do LOL Cats and X/Y/Z Image Macros qualify as art?

Tomorrow we'll wrap up the Image Macro series with some unexpected evolutions of the form. Stay tuned!

Resources related to today's post: LOL Cat site with lots of X/Y/Z examples (many images above are from this site). See also the collection from the "Error: Access Denied" site.

This article is part of a series. Read the rest:

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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