Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP MJ, We'll Always Have Pareidolia

I know, I know this is just adding flame to the raging fire that is the media coverage devouring the death of Michael Jackson. Regardless what you think of his music and/or his eccentric behavior no one can deny he will go down as one of the most famous human beings of all time. His image, as varied as it has been over the decades, has disseminated across the globe with the same verve, reaching the same point of saturation, as the images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

So it should come as no surprise that an example of Michael Jackson pareidolia exists. The first mention of this strange facial apparition appeared back in April at Forgetomori. A reader who had been watching the legendary 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman noticed what looked to him like the face of MJ (circa 1990s) suddenly appearing in the crowd.

The motion GIF above isolates the apparition’s appearance. Hoax or genuine pareidolia – what say you?

On a personal note, as someone in his mid-thirties my sense of self and my own quirky tastes had just started to take shape when Thriller came out. I’ll never forget kneeling on the floor with my brother, a little tape deck between us, as we listened to the title track over and over again, grinning with demented delight at Vincent Price’s voice and then dancing around the room like zombies. Hearing the choice tracks from Thriller and Off the Wall, along with such Jackson 5 classics as “Never Can Say Goodbye” over the past 24 hours or so, the soul and energy of these songs hold up against the test of time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another Virgin Mary Tortilla

The manifestations of Jesus and the Virgin Mary on tortillas is so common new instances start to sound like the start of a bad joke. But here we are again, this time in Harlingen, Texas, where, according to this KRGV report, a couple discovered this image of the Virgin Mary on a freshly made tortilla. The unnamed devout couple considers the form a blessing and have since enshrined the tortilla and taken it to a local church to be blessed.

Roadside America has a great description of the original Jesus tortilla: “No one realized at the time, but the 1977 appearance of Jesus Christ on a flour tortilla set the international standard for miracle sightings . . . the Miracle Tortilla was the first to fully wrap around the collective pop subconscious.” Discovered in New Mexico, the tortilla remained a point of interest until 2005, when the granddaughter of its creator took it to school for show and tell where it broke after being dropped.

Maybe this new one will take the place of the original Miracle Tortilla or inspire another movie, though I doubt it since more are bound to come along . . .

Friday, June 12, 2009

Holy Mamma!

What does the image above look like to you? Pretty womanly, right? Estimated to be approximately 35,000 years old, the discovery of this ivory female figure was made public a few weeks ago in the journal Nature, according to this New York Times article (which is also a few weeks old).

Found in a cave in southwestern Germany, the explicit form stands apart from other extant examples of Paleolithic art. The emphasis on the breasts and vulva makes it clear that the person who carved this object was celebrating the role of women in reproduction.

There have been several similar discoveries in the same region over the past 70 years. Archaeologist Paul Mellars, as quoted by The Times, said of the region and the artifacts it has yielded, it is “a veritable art gallery of early ‘modern’ human art . . . [which] must be seen as the birthplace of true sculpture in the European — maybe global — artistic tradition.”

This dovetails with my review of Miri Rubin's Mother of God, which you can read over at The Rumpus. Rubin’s fascinating book elucidates how images of Mary were used to spread Christianity, very much based on her unique status as a human vessel for the divine. I approached the book from the Madonna of the Toast perspective. The tropes and trends Rubin identifies as the major factors in establishing Mary’s allure fit with the stories I relay here. How? Because no matter what you believe, these are human stories, all of which can be distilled to archetypes, like this curvy carving.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Wonders of Yeast

According to this Daily Telegraph report, Claire Allen of Ystrad, Rhondda, Wales, opened a jar of Marmite so she could spread some on her son’s toast. The face of Jesus was staring at her from the back of the lid. She showed her husband Gareth: "When I first looked at it I wasn't sure, but when I moved it away from me it started coming out. I thought Christ, yeah, she's right - that's the image of Jesus.”

This is the first Madonna of the Toast story where “Christ” is used as an exclamation to emphasize the presence of Jesus’s face in an unexpected place. This is not, however, the first time that Marmite has been an aspect of these stories. If you haven’t read the book you wouldn’t know. But way back in 2006 as I was wrapping up the book, British artist Dermot Flynn made quite a splash in the UK media with his Marmite art – “Marmart” – images of which appear in Madonna of the Toast. (Interestingly enough, Flynn is represented by Dutch Uncle Agency, which also represents my buddy Noma Bar.)

Surprised that yeast extract could be so dynamic?