Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jesus Doggie Door on eBay

For you long-time readers, this Jesus doggie door is nothing new. Back in January 2007, I blogged about Roger Bowman’s tale of disobedient dogs and how this scratch-formed Jesus face saved them from the pound. What is new, however, is this eBay auction – to the winner goes the doggie door, framed for posterity. Apparently, according to Bowman’s thorough eBay explanation, he has lost his job and needs a quick cash infusion to cover his mortgage.

Like the economy, plenty has changed about this story since it was first reported. One of the dogs is dead, and Bowman no longer believes that the image resembles the Shroud of Turin, though he maintains that it is Jesus, partly because of the iconic beard and long hair, but also because of other circumstances: “The compelling factor in judging this image is the convergence of both the image, which had never before been observed in any way prior to the day it was discovered in full form, and the fact it appeared on an item that was of extreme relevance to the most important issue facing my family at that time.”

As of writing this post, the current bid stands at $1,850. Needless to say, it has generated ample press, like here. It’s hard to imagine why such a personal object for Bowman would be worth much to anyone else, especially in this dire economic climate, but the display case alone is pretty nifty: “The backlight is created from ultra-thin fluorescent tubes that are housed in a pre-manufactured backlight device with a semi-opaque front. It is typically used to backlight transluscent [sic] store signs such as fast food menus.” If there’s one thing that says “classy” and “spiritual” to me, it’s fast-food menu lighting. Actually, the lighting is necessary if you want to see this semblance; it has been rigged to replicate how the sun lit the doggie door on the day when Bowman first noticed the image.

Should you want to kick in for airfare and provide notice one week in advance, Bowman and his dog Hercules will attend an “unveiling,” and presumably pose for some photographs.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recognizable Is Not Always Reliable

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris maintains a New York Times blog, Zoom. The November 12 post meditates on, among other things, “the perceived reliability of the source,” a topic inspired by a reader comment. Very apropos for stories about recognizable images appearing in unexpected places, no?

Morris cites two very different examples to explore the idea of “reliability”: Colin Powell’s now infamous 2003 testimony during the UN Security Council, when he held up a vial that “could have” contained anthrax; the classic Ansel Adams photograph Winter Sunrise, Lone Pine, CA, a print that Adams took the liberty of spotting out an “LP” on a hillside because he found the Lone Pine initials a desecration of the natural environment. In both cases we as viewers believe the subject presented. With Powell, because he was, and is, a distinguished figure, an expert, etc., he knew what he was talking about; Adams’s reputation as one of the greatest nature photographers of all time results in viewers assuming that he always presented nature exactly as it stood before him when he snapped the shot.

The perception of a source’s reliability builds trust amongst those informed by the source. As Morris describes it: “The saddest thing of all is that without trust, civilization would be impossible. We can’t possibly ever know everything through first-hand experience. We can’t check everything nor hold everything up to scrutiny. We have to depend on others for information. In some cases, the dependence on others is not critical; in others, it is of crucial importance.”

Morris also mentions the human propensity for mistaking an image for the object itself, a notion dating back to Plato, which I cover in Madonna of the Toast and have discussed here countless times. He follows this thought with another question: “Why do we trust our eyes?” I don’t think it’s our eyes that need to be questioned, however, as they are only two surface parts of “seeing.” It is our brain that makes us trust, or distrust for that matter.

(Purported Jesus image on a laptop screen, which is being auctioned on eBay.)

Now, the stories that populate this blog are not of “critical importance,” but a great majority of them come to us via a media source, starting from a network affiliate covering a local happening, followed by rebroadcasts on other affiliates, sometimes inspiring a gathering where people gawk and pray, which in turn creates more media interest. People, at first, respond to the news report that relays the image of the image you may or may not get excited about, or believe. But, in the case of my recent Infotainment post, the news source didn’t even bother to report facts about an old Youtube video of a Jesus cloud. Yet, the report circulated internationally.

Here then, in such stories, the reliability of two sources comes into question, that of the discoverer and that of the report of the discovery. When someone sees a Virgin Mary stain on a window or the shape of Jesus in a tree stump, that is the story. Rarely do the media outlets do anything journalistic, they just pass along something they’ve been told and it becomes “news.” Ever since I began nosing around in these occurrences, I’ve been fascinated by the cultural ripples they create as perpetuated by the media. The recipients of these media-generated stories react in one of two ways: with utter devotion, or utter derision. Yet, either stance accepts the reliability of the two sources in question. People either see the face of Jesus in the stain, or quip that it looks more like Charles Manson or Jerry Garcia. I’ve never come across one of these stories where a news item concludes with evidence suggesting, or proving, that the image in question was manipulated.

Is it me, or in this realm is the reliability of a source unimportant, a non-issue? Why is that? In matters of global affairs and art, to name but two, it’s a huge issue, but with these stories reliability seems to get a pass.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

French Toast for Muscles, and Jesus

It’s not the first piece of toast emblazoned with an iconic face to come out of Florida, but it is the first piece of French toast with the face of Jesus, and two swans, at least that's what Troy Eckonen sees. I dare you to tell him he's wrong.

It was during breakfast at Mack’s CafĂ© in Pompano Beach when he noticed the visage. According to this First Coast News report, Eckonen “and friends also see Christ's left arm raised and holding a cross, as well as two birds over the left shoulder.” Eckonen says he will not sell his Jesus French toast on eBay – probably because it will be worth much more to him in the business it brings into his gym.

Turns out Eckonen is a body builder and owner of Tropical Gym, which seems like a pretty serious gym, judging by its website with lots of photographs of Eckonen and various Mr. Olympia’s. This is Eckonen:

This photo gallery has been set up on Tropical Gym's website with more images of the French toast, replete with the important question, “What do you see?

Sound familiar? It’s the Madonna of the Toast catchphrase, and it’s finally taking off! Of course, if I ran into Eckonen and he wanted to claim it as his, I’d probably give him credit if I thought it would keep me from being mauled and splattered into something that people have to squint at and wonder what it is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And the Angels Sing

The election is over (YAAAAY!), and so now it is back to business as usual, or as usual as matters can be in these parts. This story is a pre-election story, but just about a week old. It came to me via a Google alert, and I was tickled by the fact that the writer cited this here blog to give the story a bit of context (though she should have mentioned the book, too).

Found near Johnny Mercer’s Pier in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, this shell immediately struck the stroller as resembling the Virgin Mary. According to the article, “like a good entrepreneur,” the person that found the shell, no doubt reeling from religious ecstasy, put it up for sale on eBay. Nothing surprising in that, but what is surprising is that the shell sold for $135 after 26 bids.

The shell’s ribbing does create the effect of a robe, and its belled shape echoes the iconic form of Mary, but I’m not quite sure why this item would sell while so many other more or less similar items do not sell, or sell for a couple of bucks. I guess some people really like shells.

But that’s the beauty of these stories, there is so much you can never know and wondering can be the real joy.

I wonder why a pier in North Carolina is named after Savannah, Georgia’s most famous son?

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Story of the “Potatobama” image here.