Harry and Sandra Choron, both with long-term experience in the publishing business, have released their latest book, Look! It's Jesus!. You can tell from the cover (a slice of toast with an image of Jesus burned on to it) that the Choron's approached the project with a mix of awe and a sense of humor. Hair Balls spoke with the couple recently by phone and discussed their heavenly project.
Hair Balls: How did you start this book?
Sandra Choron: We kept seeing images of Jesus that people found everywhere. We saw a couple of the ones in the book on TV, a couple on AOL and started putting that together with the fact that the whole world is looking for a miracle these days. We decided that if we can just get people to look at things more carefully, who knows, maybe they really will find Jesus. That seems to have clicked.
Hair Balls: Was everyone who contributed a photograph for the book a believer?
Sandra Choron: It crossed all sorts of social lines, it was rich people, poor people, people who were religious, people who weren't. Some people weren't religious and finding the image, didn't exactly make them religious, but it made them think. "If I didn't think there was a God before, maybe now I'm not so sure."
Harry Choron: There was one image that I spend days going after. It was a Jewish fellow who had a motorcycle accident and it torn up his knee pretty bad. After the initial inflammation it started to heal and the image of the Virgin Mary appeared on his knee. His take on all that was, "Well, I've never been religious before, but I'm thinking of converting." (Laughs) I tried and tried to get that image -- I mean it was nasty, but it was the Virgin Mary, all the way.
Turn the page to see Cheesus, the Cheeto shaped like Jesus...
Hair Balls: There are several images in the book of images found by people in Texas, a couple here in Houston.
Harry Choron: The very first image I obtained was from a fellow in Houston, who was a youth director for a Methodist church. He was the one who discovered the famous -- or infamous -- Cheesus, which is a Cheeto in the shape of Jesus. His reaction pretty much set the tone for the book. He said that he doesn't believe that God sends down Cheetos in the shape of Jesus, but still he used that Cheeto as a starting point for a conversation with his students about how we can find Jesus everywhere.
And there was another fellow from Texas, he had a meteorite fall in his back yard. I came across [his story] and I just had to see it. He sent me all kinds of photographs. One of them, he had written in White-Out what all the parts were -- where the crown was, where the face was, the beard. He was very enthusiastic and called me everyday for two or three weeks, urging me to include it in the book. Oddly enough, he had another meteorite fall in his back yard just a few weeks ago, but this time there was no Jesus on it.
Hair Balls: Were there some images that you weren't able to get?
Harry Choron: I found a wonderful Kit Kat Jesus. Someone had bitten into a Kit Kat bar and in the cross section, there was a perfect image of Jesus. I couldn't find that. So I ran out to the supermarket and bought four boxes of Kit Kats. I tried to reproduce it, but I just couldn't...
Sandra Choron: But he gained six pounds, so it wasn't a waste.
Hair Balls: Someone who's good with a computer can create an image of Jesus on just about anything. A little Photoshop, a little imagination. How could you tell the difference from the genuine images and the manufactured ones?
Sandra Choron: We turned down a lot of images that looked like they had been Photoshopped. Pictures of Jesus in the sky, and Mary in the clouds, there were lots of those.
Of course, once people heard that there was a $28,000 Jesus tortilla chip online, people started inventing images. Right now people have stuff up on e-Bay that's just so phony, with a price of $10,000 or $20,000. Those people are looking for a miracle too, just in a very different way.
But none of the images we accepted were tampered with in any way. We were very careful about that.
Harry Choron: There is one photo that was retouched slightly. It was Rotting Grape Mary. The person who sent it said, "Either you airbrush my chipped nail or you can't use it." She happened to have black nail polish, so it was very each to retouch.
Hair Balls: Speaking of Rotting Grape Mary. Some of the photos have, well, slightly irreverent names. Ash Tray Jesus, Lava Lamp Mary, Bunk Bed Jesus. The person who discovered the image contributed not only a photo but a short description of how they found it. Some of those stories are pretty funny, others are very, very serious.
Harry Choron: One thing that the book doesn't do is it doesn't make judgments about anyone. All of the comments and all of the stories come from the people who discovered the images and there's no editorial spin on this. If someone took this seriously, it's represented that way. If someone took it as a joke, it's represented that way.
Sandra Choron: We might not have taken all of the images seriously, but we certainly took all of the contributors seriously.
Hair Balls: As soon as the book hit my desk, I took it in to show our associate editor. She opened it up and the first thing she said was, "Look, Jesus has a penis."
Harry Choron: What? Which photo was that?
Hair Balls: Butternut Wood Jesus.
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Harry Choron: Wait, I've gotta to that page. (Pause) Oh, look, it's a penis. (Laughs)
Sandra Choron: Maybe that's our next book.
Hair Balls: Going from the truly ridiculous to the sublime, there is one image that is breathtaking, the Helix Nebula. It's a NASA image, from the Hubble Telescope. That's amazing.
Harry Choron: The scientists who first saw those pictures called it the Eye of God. And it is, it's amazing.