Until I have time to write some more angry skeptical rants here is a frolicking reindeer. ok, maybe its an elk.
All the well-known Skeptics are globetrotting this week so, in an attempt to fit in, I thought I would tell you about my recent trip. Art Basel is an international art exhibition held each year in both, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami, USA. I went to the one in Miami, because I don’t think my car would make it to Switzerland. If you ever find yourself in South Florida around the first week of December try to make it over to some of these shows. From Picasso to Shepard Fairey to Hello Kitty, I promise there is some art collection just for you.
This year my wife and I concentrated on the smaller fringe shows which popped up around the main convention. This gave us the opportunity to see incredible cutting edge stuff along with (to be frank) some real crap. My wife is good at defining which is which. Fanciful taxidermy creating a whimsical creature which is part iridescence peacock and part full scale rhinoceroses – that’s art. Decaying foam seat cushion secured to the wall with a piece of wood – that’s crap.
The experience reminded me of a film I saw a while back focusing on a painting know as “Man with Golden Helmet.” It is a beautiful work of art, owned by the Staatliche Museum in Berlin. Up until recently, this work was attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn. It depicts a somber soldier wearing a decorative helmet, staring sternly at the viewer. The juxtaposition of the old war-hardened man and the elaborately cast helmet is magnified by delicate brush strokes emulating the dancing and glowing light on the polished metal. The entire thing has that ethereal Rembrandt radiance and was the museums crown jewel. It was world famous. The museum had a specially curtained off section, devoted to it and crowds of people would line up three rows deep to get a glimpse of the little painting. Then suddenly, in 1985, a council of art experts determined that the work was not painted by Rembrandt at all, but instead, most likely created by one of his students.
That’s when people stopped coming around to see the little painting. With no more crowds, the painting was moved to a side wall of the museum, around a corner. If you didn’t know to look for it today, you might walk right past it. It’s the same painting, just as beautiful, just as masterfully crafted, only the master isn’t Rembrandt. The painting’s worth has been downgraded to a tenth of what it was originally. But as a reviewer noted, what is a tenth of priceless?
As we walked through Art Basel, my wife picking off art as though it were a shooting gallery, this one’s art; this one’s crap. Art, art, crap, BLAM, BLAM, BLAM! I thought there was a Skeptical lesson here. I, for one, am not too quick to define what is “art,” and what is not. I’m more of the opinion that everything that man makes (or has ever made) is art, from feather covered sculptures, to things nailed to a wall. As to whether it is good art or bad art - that’s a different story. And as to whether other people will perceive what you create as being true art…well, I think that’s just dumb blind luck.
A while back I spoke about pareidolia, the act of seeing specific images in vague random shapes. It was easy for me to find a bunch of pictures of the virgin marry to illustrate the phenomena, So I started looking for some pictures of the big man, himself. They were also easy to find - Jesus on toast, Jesus in an x-ray, Jesus in a Kit Kat bar. But, there was one picture in particular, that I came across, that I specifically did not use. When you stare at this picture, if you squint your eyes, and you use your imagination you can clearly see the image of Jesus in…I’m sorry, I can’t say it. It is too crude for my blog. Believe it or not, I DO want to maintain a certain civility in my posts. And this image of Jesus would be crossing the line.
But I can’t stop thinking about it. Not because of where the image is, but because of what the implications of this image appearing in this particular place, are. You see, the fact that the image of Jesus can clearly be seen in… this place, could very well be absolute proof that there is no God.
According to Christian beliefs, God is responsible for all things. He designs the sunsets. He determines the number of leaves on every tree. And, he determines the growth patterns on the hair on….
If he really existed, he did this. He is responsible for this image. He is the guy who put THAT there. There is no way around it. You can’t say it was man’s fault for seeing it. God is all knowing. He knew that there would be some bozo with a cell phone camera and the rudimentary skills to upload images to the internet. If God didn’t want us to see Jesus in this place then why has he been conditioning us for all these years to spot Jesus in all those other places - in potato chips, and tree bark and oil stains? If Jesus really is appearing in all those ordinary places then you can’t blame us if we suddenly see him so clearly in…NO I WON’T SAY IT.
God does not exist. That is the only reasonable explanation. The alternative is too appalling to imagine. There can be no other explanation. If he exists, he is an insane deity, baiting us, wanting us to identify this horrible image. He is waiting, like a tiger in the tall grass, waiting to judge us unworthy, to cast us to hell - ready to pounce, wishing with all his heart that we fail. GOD IS MAD, YERNING TO ENVELOP US ALL….. Oh, ok. Here’s the picture.
Here is the progression. After discovering the dirty animals in the rafters I started asking friends what I should do about it. Some suggested poison, but I was afraid my cat might get into that. Some said I should trap the animal but I already have experience with this. In the end, you find yourself in possession of a ravenous, spitting, growling, devil beast contained in a flimsy cage, which you then have to set free in the woods someplace. Here is a little advice. After relating the ghastly story to your friends of trying to unlatch the cage door for this flea (and possibly rabies) infested vermin, do not finish by showing them a picture that you snapped on your phone of the trapped beast. All you will elicit is sympathy for the monster and comments of how cruel YOU are. I swear there was spitting and growling and clawing at the cage handle. It was horrific
So where does the strobe light fit in? Well one of my friends suggested I put a strobe light in my garage at night. He said this would drive the raccoons out. And although this guy smokes a lot of weed, his suggestion seamed to make sense. I like thinking outside the box. Here is a solution that doesn’t involve hurting the animal and also doesn’t involve personal danger to myself. We should all try new things. So I got out my disco strobe light (yes I have a disco strobe light) and hooked it up. And now I present to you the song that resulted:
Can you believe this video? Don’t they know that the American Heart Association put out a report, way back in 2008, recommending that people NOT use mouth-to-mouth while administering CPR. The AHA found that uninterrupted hands-only CPR (100 compressions a minute) works just as well as the standard CPR for adults experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. If you want accurate instructions for CPR, I suggest this website instead. It’s much better, with text only - no annoying pictures.
I wrote the article below for the magazine The Humanist. It appeared in their July/August 2009 issue. I thought I would post it now because I have a lot of new visitors. You can all see how geeky I really am. I hope you enjoy it.
While you look at these pictures of Mars and others from Presidia Creative think about the following: Liquid water and Methane have been detected on that planet. We all know why water is important but what’s so great about methane? With very few exceptions, methane is a byproduct of life. Granted it’s probably only bacterial but that’s still cool because life someplace else could answer a big question about life here.
You see the funny thing about life here is that it’s all the same. That is to say, all life uses the same building blocks, the same proteins, the same DNA base pairs, etc. It doesn’t have to. It could have been anything, even that silicon pizza Horta from Star Trek. Who knows what bacteria on The Red Planet are like? Or stranger still, what if the bacteria on Mars has the same type of chemistry as everything here? That would mean that meteors caring life from Mars seeded this planet. We could all be Martians.
Either way, we need to be sending more rovers to Mars