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    A prescient fortune cookie for the mysterious artist in the NYTimes lobby

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | October 10, 2007

    Almost every day for the last few months (even on weekends), you could see a man wearing a T-shirt hunched over his Apple Powerbook in the lobby of new The New York Times building. He would be furiously tapping away while little green lights would pulsate across the longs chains of screens dangling in formation against the orange walls.

    Mark Hansen, a stats professor from UCLA and an artist, hard at work for years on end at a New York Times art installation project

    One day, curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped and talked to the man and his laptop. He introduced himself as Mark. I thought he was an artist (one of a pair, the other, whom — oddly — I never saw, is Ben Rubin) the Times had hired to do a modern and digital exhibit for our lobby. Turns out he is also a statistics professor at UCLA who started his career at Bell Labs (who knew?). Though I will point out that the semester has started and he is still in our lobby.

    What about classes? I asked. He flies west Thursdays mornings, teaches a class, has dinner, and flies back Thursday night on the red eye. And he is back in our lobby by Friday mornings.

    We chatted about the art display that he was working on — which is essentially taking a lot of digital feeds from the New York Times (obits, wedding announcements, quotes, photo captions) and turning them into something visual.

    My little contribution is that when I first talked to him a few months ago, I had mentioned, “There is nothing surprising.” Which was a passing comment for me. But apparently something he took to heart. So now there are more surprising things to come — which means for him, of course, more work.

    He’s still in our lobby.

    Then one day, Mark told me he got a fortune which, for obvious reasons, he felt spoke to him. He kept it in his notebook.

    A prescient fortune cookie for Mark Hansen, artist and stats professor

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