Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Potato Chips: A Salty Sacrament?

I’m a big fan of potato chips, both as snack and Madonna of the Toast fodder. In fact, right before I read about the Jesus chip above, I had just polished off a bag of jalapeno chips, the perfect compliment to a PB&J sandwich.

The chip that Linda and Brian Hershey found while eating at a restaurant in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, doesn’t seem to have any additional flavoring (I assume it was salted), unless you count the face of Jesus as a flavor. Regardless if anyone ever has the chance to taste this particular chip, the Hersheys very much consider the discovery a sign that they are on the right path in life. About six months ago they, along with their 15-year-old daughter, accepted Jesus into their lives, and this chip bolsters their decision. Furthermore, just before Linda noticed Brian about to eat the chip, according to this Chambersburg Public Opinion report, the couple had been talking about quitting smoking. And now, perhaps they will, or not.

Of course, the doubters have chimed in, accusing the Hersheys of doctoring the chip. I’ve looked at lots of chips and I don’t think this one has been altered. Selling it on eBay has also been brought up, as has eating it – I guess that would be like taking communion, but tastier. As of now, the Hersheys are undecided, though they are worried about preserving the chip and its crispy countenance.

I should put them in touch with the ultimate maven of potato chips that have iconic qualities: Myrtle Young. One of the true stars of Madonna of the Toast, Young is the friendly octogenarian from Indiana who to this day lives with her famous collection of potato chips that resemble famous figures like Bob Hope and Mickey Mouse. She’s been on every late show of the 1980s and her collection has been featured on The Simpsons – now that’s fame!

If the Hersheys read the book, they would know exactly how Young has kept her chips safe, even when she used to shuttle them all over the world. I don’t know if Brian and Linda will ever travel with their Jesus chip, but they are certainly in the process of getting some decent figurative mileage out of it . . .

Monday, February 16, 2009

Does an Image Trump Location?

Jubilee Fellowship parishioner Mary Mitchum took it upon herself to give the church’s lectern a new shine. According to this Augusta Chronicle article, Mitchum stripped the old finish off and applied a new coat of varnish. As soon as she brought the lectern back to the church someone claimed to see Jesus in the wood grain: “There were two eyes, a nose, hair and maybe even a halo.”

Now, I don’t see much of anything in this photograph, but as regular readers know by now, it isn’t about what I see. What do you see? I’m guessing in this instance many of you won’t see much, but here is the story nonetheless, orbiting around in the 24-hour news cycle, a fleeting shooting star that only a handful of people may ever actually witness.

I’ve spent time in Augusta, Georgia, and even been to a church there, twice – once when my grandmother remarried and then again when she passed away, back in the mid-90s. She had moved there and on more than one occasion I spent several weeks on end in those hot, humid summers. We stayed with extended family and they had a pool so it wasn’t that bad, but those trips were the first time I realized just how different the country is depending on geography. With most of my family peppered around the northeastern part of the US, the funniest accent I had heard was an uncle’s “a”-heavy Boston speak. The drawls in Georgia can be syrupy, the same way people tend to move when the heat is at its fiercest.

Fact is, due to all sorts of circumstances, life is different in Augusta than it is in Philadelphia or Berkeley or Austin. And the same was true back when I was a kid first visiting places outside of the area where I grew up.

When I first endeavored this whole Madonna of the Toast project I had assumed that the stories would be limited in terms of geographical range. I was wrong, happily. While there are some geographic tendencies for these stories, namely areas heavily populated by Spanish-speaking populations (e.g. California, Texas), for the most part the stories favor the image over where the image is seen.

I haven’t really fleshed this idea out yet, but I haven’t thought about Augusta, Georgia, in a while either. I haven’t been back there since that funeral, yet I still have strong associations with the place. These images of Jesus and Mary seem to transcend place on some level, which I guess is the true power of iconography.

More on this once I’ve thought about it more . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Recession Proof

About 10 years ago, during a remodeling, the wooden door seen above was installed at Jarrett Ford Lincoln Mercury in Dade City, Florida. Recently, because of the recession, people working at the car dealership have some extra time on their hands, and one of them saw Jesus on this door, according to this St. Petersburg Times article. Or is it Sasquatch or a “Persian prince” (whatever that means)? There are some different opinions about the image, but the form has clearly given some people in need of something to do, something to do.

Chips Davis, who runs a dent removal service, was the first to liken the 3-foot tall shape to Jesus: "Anybody who's seen pictures of the burial cloth and image of Christ that's on that cloth — that same image is on that door.” (Davis attends church; I would think he’d be able to name the Shroud of Turin.) Anyway, he took a photo, sent a copy to the St. Petersburg Times and posted the image on his Facebook page.

Receptionist Ruth Johnson is credited for the Sasquatch quip and customer James Bauman Jr. suggested, “Christ in a Jedi outfit . . . [or a] Persian king." Then, as the article explains it, Bauman touched on a number of topical cultural markers, citing “significance in the stain, just as there is in Barack Obama being president and Israel's conflict with Hamas.” He said: "I believe the Rapture is just around the corner.” It’s beyond the scope of this post to figure out how all of this bundles up into a sure sign of the end, but if you’re reading, John, feel free to leave a comment.

General manager Cliff Martin hadn’t noticed anything until it was pointed out to him: "I like to say we're blessed but we're not breaking any sales records, so maybe we're just blessed to be in business." Judging by how quickly the US is shedding jobs, I’d say he’s right.