An experiment in pattern recognition.

I’ve decided it’s time to try a little experiment using my digital camera and imagination. It’s inspired in part by Mac and her comments on the news of the arrest of hardened criminal Kyle Maskell who is responsible for breaking the Virgin Mary or, more specifically, of breaking the dirty windows of a former-office-building-turned-Catholic-shrine that appeared to some folks to have the image of the Virgin Mary on them. Looking at various pics taken of the dirty windows it’s clear that it doesn’t take much to impress some people. Members of the church didn’t take news of the smashed windows terribly well and aren’t all that up for turning the other cheek with regards to Kyle himself:

“I think he should serve a very long time. It’s desecrating a holy place. That’s like going to Lourdes in France and desecrating it.”

Yes, this person is seriously suggesting that dirty office windows are comparable to Lourdes France. Stunning, isn’t it?

The other part of the inspiration for this experiment comes from one of Brock’s comments in which he discovered what appears to be a recreation of a famous painting known as The Scream in a crotch sample (don’t ask, it’s a long story) which surely must be the result of Divine Influence in response to Tish’s bad pun.

Anyway, it occurs to me that I can recall seeing all manner of things in the random patterns of wood grains and clouds and other assorted objects over the years and I’m willing to bet that with a little effort I could easily find plenty of examples that I could capture with my digital camera. My goal is to simply demonstrate that there’s not anything particularly supernatural about these images. They are a side effect of the pattern recognition areas of our brains that help us to deal with the massive amount of visual data our eyes take in by ignoring most of it in favor of looking for recognizable patterns.

If nothing else, it should be fun paying greater than usual attention to my surroundings while looking for some examples so that’s what I’m going to do. If you guys want to help out and have access to a digital camera then feel free to join in. Drop me an email with whatever pics you manage to scrounge up and I’ll include them in an entry about it later on. I figure I’ll devote a week or so to working on this depending on how quickly I manage to accumulate pics.

14 thoughts on “An experiment in pattern recognition.

  1. > Looking at various pics taken of the dirty
    > windows it’s clear that it doesn’t take much to
    > impress some people. Members of the church
    > didn’t take news of the smashed windows
    > terribly well.

    And why should they?

    Les, it IS pretty easy to laugh at people who see God in an oily smear. But its their choice to do that. No need for the guy to be a total asshole and break whatever they consider holy.

  2. It’s amazing how people can see a window smear as being a miricle. Assuming for a moment, that their pretend god was going to preform a miricle, wouldn’t he do something a little more impressive then an ambiguous image in a filthy window? And if this window was really so holy, wouldn’t a good miricle have been to prevent the window from shattering when the stone hit it? Really, some people are just morons.

  3. Oh I agree completely with you, Ingolfson. I think Kyle was completely out of line to smash the windows and is a major asshole for doing so. But then I’d have said the same had they just been plain old windows in a church.

    Having said that, I still think comparing them to Lourdes is just silly.

  4. The photo project sounds interesting.  I’ll send you my photo of driftwood which a friend of mine once told me, “that looks like Satan torturing the wicked”.

  5. I applaud God’s use of contrasting color and his compositional style. It speaks of his experience with the effects of the dissolution of the Christ iconography and includes the supplemental perspective afforded by the analysis of the authoritative profundis firmus technique, and focuses on the interaction of sacred and secular style. His minimalist approach of conveying the “momma’s boy” relationship between Mary and Jesus, while positioning the piece within a locative representation of his authority is ingenious. This leaves us to wonder Who did Jesus love most - Mary or God, and who did he fear the most?  Weighty questions, I fear, for a simple representation of God’s constant attention and desire to create great art.

    Or it could just be due to dirty windows. If that is the case, I applaud dirt’s use of…

  6. Virgin on Mexican Wall Is No Miracle, Church Says

    By Tim Gaynor

    ENSENADA, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexico’s Catholic Church ruled out any divine origin for an image on a hospital wall that thousands of pilgrims are flocking to venerate in the belief that it shows the country’s patron saint.

    The shadowy figure, which the faithful say depicts the Virgin of Guadalupe, appears every night when a light is switched on in the patio of a clinic in the Pacific resort of Ensenada.

    But Flor Guzman, a spokeswoman for the Tijuana Diocese in which Ensenada falls, said Monday the church did not believe the image was miraculous although it was pleased at the devotion of the pilgrims.

    “The church is quite clear that it is not a miracle, but a natural phenomenon that serves to strengthen the faith of the believers,” she told Reuters.

    The image, which appears to be a shadow, was first reported to hospital authorities on April 19.

    “The Catholic Church is not going to report the phenomenon to the Vatican for a thorough analysis because it does not have a supernatural explanation,” Guzman said.

    The Virgin of Guadalupe has been venerated by successive generations of devout Mexicans since she is said to have first appeared to a shepherd in 1531. She is generally depicted in a gown fringed by rays of light.

    Among those flocking to Ensenada are pilgrims with chronic illnesses, some of whom claim to have received miraculous cures.

    “I was being treated at the clinic for an asthma attack, but when I came outside to see the Virgin, I stopped wheezing,” grandmother Maria Esther Valderrama, 66, said on Sunday night.

    “It was definitely a miracle,” she added.

    Staff at the cottage hospital—known simply as social security clinic No. 32—say up to 1,000 pilgrims keep a vigil at weekends.

    They transform the clinic’s courtyard into a shrine of devotional candles, flower garlands and printed prayer slips.

    Mother of three Maria Hernandez murmured a prayer and crossed herself as the electric light blinked to life, casting a shadowy green outline on the hospital wall.

    “I believe in the Virgin with all my heart, and seeing her fills me with indescribable joy,” she stammered as she gazed up at the three-foot-high image.

    Set two blocks back from a port popular with towering cruise ships, the hospital has drawn pilgrims from the nearby cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, and from as far away as San Diego across the border in southern California.

    I’m gonna send them my crotch picture and see if they thinks it’s a manifestation of Jesus or Mary. Couldn’t hurt, right? I might even get on a talk show or two.

    I can see the headline now:
    Man Gets A Little Head From Crotch Picture. Religious Community Is Ecstatic!.

  7. I don’t see a Virgin Mary in the shadow from the light, though I do see something that vaguely reminds me of Kenny from South Park.

    You know, I can see another face in that crotch picture aside from the Scream face. There’s a profile in the grain running down the right hand side of the Scream face. It looks like it’s staring off to the lower left.

  8. I see 4 faces in the crotch shot.  The two already mentioned, a boar/pig face in the bottom left, then another profile hanging just below the one Les spotted.  Kinda like two masks hanging.  Hell, look between the two profiles, and there’s a kinda round nosed, bad teeth face.

    Thanks, Les… now I’m going to see faces in EVERYTHING now… 

  9. Yeah, I think I see most of those images mentioned (excluding the boar/pig face) but the one Les pointed out is eerily complete once you know to look for it.

    I’m never stared at a crotch so long in my life and that’s saying something!

    I even think I see a crotch in the crotch picture but it’s female. Maybe THAT’S why this isn’t a family friendly site.

  10. In the big profile, it’s down-turned nose and protruding bottom lip make it look like a cross between Bob Hope and Alfred Hitchcock.

  11. Oh no! What have I started????

    Thank you so much, Brock! Just think of it as part of my nefarious plan to cure you of your abominatious (is that a word?) desire for men and shrimp.

    I think the refraction of light and impurities in glass plays a part in this window business, not to mention the human urge to join the dots and see something that isn’t really there.

  12. This is great!!!
    After a while Icould see all the ones mentioned, although Les’s took longer.
    I think thats because the first thing I noticed was the head of a Duckbilled Platypus diving near vertically down chasing a little fish. It’s on the right, effectively in the back of the head of the portait Les mentions!

  13. I have to admit that the number of patterns recognizable in that one crotch sample is simply amazing. Who would’a thunk you could see so much simply by staring at a crotch for a long time?

    The humor value involved in this discussion alone is so worth it.

  14. Yeah, but does anybody see the big vagina? It may be a Holy depiction?

    Uhh Ohh, I’ve done it now! I really shouldn’t be allowed in here. It’s never going to be a family friendly site as long as I’m around.

    There’s also a sideways peacock at the bottom of the picture. Peacocks are wholesome (well aside from the name sounding like “pee cock”)

    That’s it! I’m through with me! If I don’t leave quietly, I’m going to have to remove me by force!

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