Monday, March 31, 2008

Jesus . . . and His Old Man?

Referencing the Virgin Mary Pretzel and Cheesus, this eBay auction offers a Jesus Tortilla. Heated up for breakfast a few weeks ago, the tortilla has been in the freezer since the owner noticed the face of Jesus. I see Chewbacca.

There's not much else to say about this tortilla other than it's out there in the world, for sale to the highest bidder. I knew we would start seeing more sacred snacks!

Am I the only one that sees the fedora wearing, bespectacled man with a goatee and moustache smiling down on Jesus? Do you think it’s God? Or a young Wookiee?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Don't Let the Cat Lick That Spot

Florida residents Laquan Joyner and her husband Theo Grimes have been praying for a sign from God, according to this KARE 11 report. They believe their prayers were answered in the form of this stain, located next to bottles of shampoo in their shower. They both believe this to be an image of Jesus and for that reason, “they will never clean the spot and they now treat the shower like a shrine.” Looks to me like the stain might be a result of having never cleaned that spot in the first place.

I doubt we’ll ever see a better visual manifestation of a religious or secular icon in a shower than the V.I. Lenin shower curtain included in Madonna of the Toast.

And in case a dirty shower is not an image that you want to carry around with you this weekend, how about some kitten cuteness? According to this CBS 4 report, and supported by those trendsetters over at, a litter of 6 cats born in Sacramento, California, included this little guy with the message “I Love Dot” (I [heart] [dot]) in its hair. The family that owns the cat claims that mom’s name is Dottie, so “the message of love is clearly for her.”

All together now: Aaaawwwwwww . . .

Monday, March 24, 2008


Steve Cragg, a Houston, Texas, youth minister discovered this Cheeto a few years ago. At first he thought it looked like a dog, but then he turned this cheddar-flavored gnarl of corn meal and thought it looked like Jesus, and one of the kids named it: Cheesus.

For a couple of years, Cheesus surveyed this temporal realm from a spot on one of the youth minister’s bookshelves. According to this KTRK report, Cragg made his discovery public in the name of Easter cheer. But, he says, “I do not think that God makes Cheetos that look like Jesus or creates images of Himself on screen doors. I do know that God reveals Himself to us in a zillion different ways . . . Seeing the image of Christ in a Cheeto means that I was able to imagine it. God's creation is full of signs and things that can and do remind us of Him."

Cragg’s thought certainly fits with the old Madonna of the Toast credo – What do you see? – so maybe he’s just a guy with a good sense of humor. It doesn’t seem like he’s gearing up to sell it on eBay, so I guess it’s back to that perch on the bookshelf.

Speaking of eBay, and another small, crunchy foodstuff, that Illinois Corn Flake sold! The auction was reinstated, thanks to the guile of the two McIntire sisters. Selling a perishable item is verboten on eBay – it’s why the Virgin Mary Pretzel didn’t sell. According to this FOX 5 report, though, these two young ladies devised a way to get around the rule. They auctioned off a coupon redeemable for the state-shaped corn flake. Genius!

Monty Kerr, owner of a trivia website, paid $1,350 for the coupon. The money is going to be used for a McIntire family vacation. Kerr is going to drive from Austin, Texas, to Virginia to pick up the cereal bit. Apparently, he will include the item in his traveling pop-culture museum.

I hope it has a gift shop!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holiday Inspired Visions

Well, it’s Good Friday once again – I think plenty of folks would argue that all Fridays are good ones – but this one gets all of the attention. Certainly was true last year for Madonna of the Toast, which, along with yours truly, got featured on the CBC's The Current. The book had just come out and images of Jesus had been spotted in a church in Prince Edward Island and on a baking tray in Kamloops, British Columbia (above). Time to bring in that guy with the book.

We head to warmer climes this year: Citrus Heights, California. According to the Fox 40 report above, Manny Duenas was doing yard work last Sunday – Palm Sunday – when he discovered the image of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus on this palm tree branch. It gave him goosebumps even though it looks like it was pretty sunny and warm. Only moments away from being tossed into the compost bin, the branch has now made the rounds on local news reports and Duenas gets his fifteen minutes, and an uncluttered yard!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Illinois Corn Flake

Grabbing fist-fulls of Corn Flakes one morning as she was getting ready for school, 15-year-old Emily McIntire noticed this single flake and said, “Oh my goodness, it's Illinois.” Dubbed “The Great Illinois Corn Flake,” Emily and her sister Melissa say that their folks told them to sell it on eBay, for fun. They want to buy more cereal, their favorite breakfast. Residents of Illinois get free shipping. (The McIntire sisters live in Virginia.) Yahoo linked to the story this morning and at one point today, the bidding had topped $200,000! As of around 10pm on Tuesday, March 18, however, the auction has been stopped and the item removed. I’m guessing that like the Virgin Mary Pretzel, this foodstuff was pulled down due to eBay rules and regulations, and shockingly high bids.

What’s with states of late? It must be the Presidential election and all of the primaries. The media has been focusing our attention on these primaries and now everyone has “state fever.” State pride really seems to be making a national comeback these days, as folks in places like Mississippi have been basking in the media's gaze. Texans have always been a proud people. Mass-holes: they’re a real phenomenon.

Of late though, the Midwest has been flexing its pride, almost eradicating state boundaries. Who doesn’t remember the cow named Michigan from just a couple of weeks ago? Sufjan Stevens created a full-length album about Illinois. Do you think that I can tie it into this Corn Flake? I can, check out these lines from his song "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!"

Chicago, in fashion, the soft drinks, expansion
Oh Columbia!
From Paris, incentive, like Cream of Wheat invented,
The Ferris Wheel!

See. I got the cereal thing going for me, and the Illinois factor. Apparently, Cream of Wheat debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair.

It goes on, this regional pride for expanses of flatness. Mike Perry, a graphic designer I’ve worked with, has so much Midwest pride that it’s the name of his website:

Now, Stevens and Perry and their appreciation for those regions pre-date this election cycle, but then again, neither of them, as far as I know, has ever claimed to see a state floating in their favorite cereal. The cow, however, is a recent story, so I’m sticking by my newly-hatched theory that the current US election climate has inundated us with graphics of states, divvyed up by red and blue districts, or even more elaborate color schemes to represent which candidates claimed certain districts. We see them everywhere, on newspapers, on the internet, television, livestock, mud flaps and wine stains. Plus, there has been so much talk lately of Michigan and Florida redoing their Democratic primaries. And for what, it doesn't look like either of these states will hold another round of primaries.

Even though the auction for this Illinois Corn Flake has ended, for now, I bet there’s a run on the cereal and then a spate of stories about flakes that look like states – especially Pennsylvania: my home state!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Belief Turns to Blindness

According to this article from the BBC, Catholics in India have gone blind from looking – no staring, for extended periods of time – into the sun with the hope of espying the Virgin Mary. This article from the UK’s Telegraph claims that 48 people have lost their sight. The incidents have all taken place in Kerala, in the district of Kottayam, spurred by a rumor “that a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary could be seen in the sky.”

Since last month, hundreds of the devoted have gazed at the sun, prompting health officials to launch an advertising campaign about the dangers of staring directly at the sun. Local churches have denounced the miracle.” Ophthalmologist Dr. Annamma James Isaac says, “All our patients have similar history and symptoms…They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun.”

This bizarre story comes on the heels of another purported miracle in the region linked to a hotel and its Mary statues “crying honey and bleeding oils and perfumes.” It seems that the crying statues have spurred the rumor about being able to find Mary in the sun.

The assimilation of Christianity into indigenous belief systems is fascinating and well-documented. In Madonna of the Toast, I touch briefly on the subject when discussing Our Lady, or Virgin, of Guadalupe, and this story from India hinges on the same historical tendency. When European missionaries showed up in South Asia, Asia, Africa and the New World, they learned quickly that the best way to drive home the teachings of the Bible was to connect the lessons to already established spiritual and cultural traditions, as pagan as some of them might have been.

I have spent a very small amount of time in India, but even the shortest stay makes clear the very strong connections between religion/spirituality and everyday life, as festivals, temples, shrines and personal devotions cannot be missed, no matter where you are. These traditions have been going on far longer than Christianity, and so it makes perfect sense that they would infiltrate Christianity.

A story like this one originating out of the US is unlikely because religion – no matter your religion – is personalized to the point of being private, or internal, as you go through your day at work or school or running around doing errands; and then it is contained within various houses of worship. In a place like India, everything blends together and such lines of distinction are impossible to discern.

It would be utterly fascinating to read an interview, or conduct one, with one of these blinded people. Was it worth it? Did they see something? Anything?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Virgin Mary Pretzel Update

SAGA OF PRIZED PRETZEL TAKES SAD TWIST FOR SELLERS”: So reads the headline of this article from Eugene, Oregon’s The Herald-Guard. Remember the Virgin Mary Pretzel from a couple of weeks ago? Over the course of a few days, thanks to plenty of radio publicity, an eBay auction for this Rold Gold pretzel that to its seller resembled the Virgin Mary (in a joke, “Look at what people will buy” kind of way) had incited bids for as much as $2 million! Now, that was most likely a hoax, but the supposedly sacred snack did get several seemingly legitimate bids in the $5,000 range. Thing is, eBay shut down the auction: twice.

Michael Fleming, owner of the pretzel, is flummoxed. At first, eBay revoked the auction because the item was perishable, and thus a health risk. But then the pretzel reappeared, which commenced more bidding, as well as many spin-off pretzels.

From the article:

When bidding ended at 8:51 p.m. Thursday — dozens of offers ranging up to $5,100 were logged.

That’s when a computer-generated e-mail from eBay arrived, informing them that the site had once again invalidated their auction: This time, administrators had reason to believe an “unauthorized third party” had posted the auction, Fleming said.

The message also informed them, “Do not respond to this e-mail.”

Now the pretzel is in a safety deposit box, and Fleming blames eBay for denying a charity a financial windfall, for he and his radio-show cronies, in light of the high bidding, had agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds.

When you look at eBay’s policies regarding such sales, it doesn’t say that sellers cannot offer perishable items. It says this: “Sellers who list perishable items should clearly identify in the item description the steps that they will take to ensure that the goods are delivered to the buyer safely. For example, sellers of perishable goods should offer overnight delivery and ensure that the goods are properly packaged.” I don’t think Fleming and friends included any specific language about how the pretzel was being preserved, but I also find it hard to believe that anyone willing to spend real money on such an item would eat it. Nonetheless, I can understand why eBay has to be cautious about such sales.

I wonder if these policies came about as a direct result of Diana Duyser’s infamous Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese, which I describe in Madonna of the Toast as “a foodstuff transfiguration created from the alchemy of Land ‘O Lakes Cheese, Publix brand bread and no oil or butter.” Duyser’s auction was also once revoked by eBay, but only because people thought it was a hoax. When it became apparent that Duyser’s grilled cheese would indeed by sold and delivered to the highest bidder, the auction was reinstated, and the rest is history.

Michael Fleming might not make the history books, but he certainly got his 15 minutes of fame, and since the pretzel remains available, I bet he’ll give himself another go on the media merry-go-round. I just hope that his safety deposit box is climate controlled. If the pretzel is anything like Duyser's grilled cheese, it will resist mold for over a decade.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Michigan Cow

This is a splotch on a cow.

This is the cow, and his name is “Michigan.” Why? Because, that splotch resembles the state’s shape. According to this WTVF report, this Simmental steer is one of 30 cattle found on Jacob and Georgia Kessler’s farm in Spaulding Township. The Kessler’s typically sell the cattle for beef, but ‘ol Michigan has been spared the slaughterhouse because of this spot. The Kesslers are waiting for a buyer who wants to use Michigan as a mascot, presumably for some sort of Michigan-related institution or business, not for some devious purpose instigated by the long-running Michigan-Ohio State rivalry (which apparently dates back to the late 19th century). Either way, I'm rooting for Michigan -- the cow!

Virgin Mary Water Heater

This KOLD report tells, very briefly, of a Virgin Mary water heater that according to residents of Douglas, Arizona, appeared “some time ago.” Noticed on a rusting portion of the water heater, this image draws enough people to justify encasing it in glass. But this doesn’t mean you can’t see it. The report concludes: “When you get to Douglas, Arizona just ask around town.” You’ll be pointed in the right direction.

I’m not sure why this Mary made the news last week, and the cagey chronology is of no help. Wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Douglas is a border town? A part of the community but nothing to create stir over, especially since these sorts of manifestations have a long history in Mexico, originating with the Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Here in Madonna of the Toast land, we've seen lots of these belled, feminine forms on the sides of houses, in trees, on stones and doors, but this is the first one on a water heater.