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The “Thinair” Story

The phrase “thin air” comes from “The Tempest” (1610) by William Shakespeare. In Act 4, Scene 1, the main character, Prospero, abruptly ends an impromptu celebration for his daughter's forthcoming wedding, dispersing the spirits and illusory scenery he'd enlisted. As the performance dissipates, Prospero tries to clarify what's happened:

Our revels now are ended.
These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Nature of Art and its Creation

If it is art, we are affected by it. Feel surprise, challenge, delight, sorrow, any or all, but something. True art is by its nature subversive.

We can't see it and remain unmoved. Having seen it and seeing we are different than before, we know we are in the presence of great art.

A few years ago someone asked, “where do the ideas for these images come from?” Stunned speechless for a second, I was scrambling internally to reply to an impossible to answer question. I truly didn't know, but the questioner seemed genuinely curious, so bad to just let it go. Then in a flash of inspiration “The Tempest” popped into my head.

As human creation art reveals the artist, and is no less an image of “such stuff as dreams are made on.” Art is the artist's dream, stark or hazy, still as intangible as luminous and weightless air. Yes, it's true. Art, if it is art, arises from a misty depth, or it isn't art at all.

Languages of the web

“You know, that bit in the middle of your navbar is kinda weird, what does it mean?”

Call it a “computer program”.

(thin^air->ART!) is an application coded in the syntax of the programming language Scheme. It would be created like this: (define (thin^air->ART!) do /... stuff .../ here). When (thin^air->ART!) is run, however little or much /...stuff.../ does gets carried according to the dictates of its instructions.

But it's just a hypothetical procedure, no one has actually defined it. Even if it were concretely defined, it's still highly likely to fall well short of magically turning thin air into art. Art isn't reducible to a simple or even complex computations. Technologies provide tools we use to create art, and we do have very impressive tools indeed, but tools aren't the source of artistic creation. It's an obvious enough point, yet too often forgotten.

Here's the final piece of the puzzle. The logo as a fragment of Scheme code is a tribute to the wonderfully inventive people that created the Scheme language, the web, and for all the hard work it takes to send untold billions of pages to you.

At one time there really was a server written in Scheme (and C), a project started out of curiosity about Scheme and the intricacies of the web. From scratch it became a working web server in less than a month—not just an amazingly short time, it was pure fun! OTOH developing it into a complete and efficient program was quite a task, an adventure and at times a sheer nightmare.

Today my web serving works differently, but the thrills and horrors still abound. Yes it can be quite a pain, but I'm not sure I'd do it any other way.