Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond


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The Industry of Modern Art: A Talk by Reg Murphy

August 18th 2012 — The Industry of Modern Art by Reg Murphy

Our next meeting will take place on Saturday 18th August, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, starting at 8.00pm. The talk is by Cork Skeptics member Reg Murphy, and promises to be a fascinating look behind the industry of modern art. Reg has a degree in Fine Art from Limerick School of Art and is an avid art enthusiast. Reg has supplied an outline of the talk below.

In this talk I won’t deal with lofty questions like: what is art? What is the meaning of art? etc.; these are subjective issues best left to philosophers and not truly accessible to skeptical analysis. What I will talk about is Modern Art’s essential relationship with Money, Prestige and Entertainment. Modern Art, for better or worse is a big worldwide industry which employs tens of thousands, entertains millions, generates billions (literally), and causes (occasionally) mass trauma and outrage. Decisions concerning it often go to the highest levels of Government and it is often used as branch of diplomacy.

In a heavily illustrated slide lecture, I hope to give a fun and irreverent (i.e. free of jargon) overview, providing a highly condensed history from French Impressionism to the current day, revealing:

The Artists: Where do I start?
The Collectors: Visionaries, fools or prudent investors?
The Dealers: Smarmy charlatans or the hand maidens of Culture?
The Critics: Vindictive failed artists or heroic cheerleaders?
The Media: Vulgarians or honesty reflecting public bafflement?
The Curators: Elitist snobs or a sincere desire to stimulate the public?
The State Galleries: A waste of public money or vastly important tourist draws?
Government: Arts spending; the role of Cultural heritage and national prestige.

Most importantly, and perhaps not widely appreciated: How visual art became a mass spectacle (a very modern phenomena).

All these elements will build up a picture of the current contemporary art scene and will show that despite stupidity, hubris and greed, the public are the winners and are in fact, greatly enriched.

This talk is open to the public, and is free to attend. Directions to Blackrock Castle Observatory can be found on our information page. We hope to see you there!

 


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Tim Minchin in Cork Opera House – two tickets up for grabs

***Congratulations to William Grogan, whose name was drawn first at our meeting on Friday. Many thanks again to everyone who entered the competition.***

The outrageously funny and talented Tim Minchin is playing in Cork Opera House on the 31st of October.

Tim is the originator of the wonderful beat poem “Storm“. He also wrote the lyrics and music for “Matilda The Musical” with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His show is a mixture of comedy, polemic, skepticism, anarchy, and lots of fantastic tunes.

In conjunction with Blackrock Castle Observatory and Cork Opera House, we are pleased to offer two free tickets to one lucky winner.

To be in with a chance to win, simply drop us a mail* at corkskeptics at gmail dot com, with the subject “Tim Minchin at the Cork Opera House” and we will add you to the list. We will announce the lucky winners at our next Cork Skeptics meeting on October 21st. Best of luck!

* We will not share your information with anyone and we will only use it in the context of this competition. One entry per human being please!


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Q: What’s better than a story about aliens over Russia?

A: A story about mystery female cat-like aliens over Russia’s diamond capital of course.

The story is reported in the Daily Mail, so that already proves that the story is true beyond all reasonable doubt.

The only facts that you can really glean from the story is that a Russian aviation employee in Yakutsk’s air traffic control seems to have had an anomaly appear on radar that they could not identify as a legitimate flight. The fact that it is unidentified certainly makes this a UFO, however it does not mean that it can be assumed it is a craft of visitors from another world.

The solid gold money-shot has to be this quote:

“I kept hearing some female voice, as if a woman was saying mioaw-mioaw all the time”.

No sniggering please.

When examining stories like these skeptically, several questions need to be asked:

  • What evidence does anyone have apart from the report that there was a radar anomaly that the air traffic control monitor was unable to assign a valid flight number to?
  • How credible is the witness who reports hearing voices: could he have been mistaken, could he have been mischievously making it up?
  • Could the anomaly have been something else: private airplane, flock of birds, electronic malfunction, deliberate hoax?
  • Why is the story so short on real facts: no names, no dates, just vague references to some unspecified person somewhere and an anonymous month-old Youtube video that appears to have been filmed some time before hand?

Whether there is life out there is one question. Whether that life is capable of space-flight is entirely another. And whether space-faring aliens could travel to distant solar systems and buzz traffic control employees at relatively obscure airports is one that I would cautiously prefer not to affirm, in spite of the Mail’s assurance that “experts claim it is widely known”.

In the immortal words uttered by Squeaky Voiced Teen on The Simpsons“Keep watching the skis!”


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Pareidolia : Faces in Places

At the meeting last week, I talked about pareidolia and how our minds are hardwired to see faces in randomness. Many of the pictures were taken from an entertaining website called “Faces in Places” where inanimate objects seem to appear almost human.

While these pictures are funny, few people would associate anything particularly miraculous about them. There is a class of visual illusions that dominate the media however, and this is religious pareidolia. Some of the most widely reported examples of pareidolia are situations where the object or picture resembles a religious figure, such as Jesus or the Virgin Mary. The following examples are taken from the website “Nothing to do with Arbroath“, which keeps a tab on such things.Keep in mind that these examples have been reported in just the last two months alone.

I’ll put up more examples of pareidolia as I find them. Meanwhile I’ll close with my favourite example from the meeting: Buzz Lightyear.

via (The Telegraph)