Sunday, April 03, 2005


In book retail we called them "the ghouls": these are the individuals who rushed into the store to buy any merchandise written by or about a recently deceased public figure, and the management (including myself) would encourage this behavior by assembling a display of such items as soon as we'd heard that Sinatra or John R. Cash or whoever had bought it. I must've been interviewed by local TV a half-dozen times at Borders because somebody famous had kicked off. Inevitably an overly made-up young Broadcasting and Cable subscriber with a microphone and cameraman would pose me in front of a display of Princess Diana books and ask me questions about what customers were buying and saying about the dearly departed (BTW--Diana was the worst case of maudlin ghoulishness on the part of the US public. In my ten-plus years in book retail I never saw anything like it, and that awful Elton John rehash playing in the store all day nearly resulted in my own martyrdom).

The cable news coverage of Pope John Paul's "near death" state this weekend exemplifies this nonsense. Do we really need round-the-clock coverage of an old man dying? The Catholic Church has lost popes before without an army of nitwits pontificating (no pun intended) and speculating and editorializing, creating an empty media event. I single out MSNBC for its particularly cheesy Windham Hill-ish dying pope music and graphics.

When the pope falls ill, it's news. When the pope dies, it's news. All the rest is morbid pandering to the ghoulish.

I disagreed vehemently with Pope John Paul II on many things--most notably birth control and preventing AIDS--but I agreed with him on war and the death penalty, and recognize he did a lot to end tyranny in the Old World. He did make moves toward tolerance of other faiths, and recognized the crimes of Christians in an unprecedented way. BUT he also held the throne of St. Pete while countless youngsters were sexually abused, and as far as I'm concerned he has to take some responsibility for the shameful attempts by the Church to hide these crimes and to protect repeat offenders from public justice. I also wish he'd been more liberal about the role of women in the Church and about homosexuality (I know many homosexuals, and not a single one of them is evil!), but I'm not a Catholic, and don't even believe in God, so my opinion amounts to nada anyhow. J.P. II was one hell of a marketing genius; recognizing that his brand wasn't selling in Europe anymore, he went vigorously after the third world, and turned canonization into a publicity machine, canonizing more saints than all other 20th century popes combined--by 300%! He was in many ways a fascinating guy, and must've been a superior intellectual to speak and/or read 11 languages. So adios, adieu, etc.

I'm reminded suddenly of my Latin prof at Loyola college: Father Fitz was in his 80s and used to tell me seriously when we talked politics that regardless of what the Pope said, Loyola should hand out condoms to its students and let them drink beer in the dorms. "In a culture of life we need to act in practical ways that increase the likelihood our kids won't die from AIDS or drunk driving." In other words--kids will get drunk and fuck regardless of what the Pope taught, so the Church should try and limit the harmful effects of drunkeness and fucking. Sounds reasonable! Maybe the next pope will work on this.

Because the papal coverage saturated the cable channels, I didn't spend too much time surfing the tube this weekend--Cha was in Toronto with her parents for a funeral and I watched a couple Netflix arrivals:

Ok, admittedly I'm slumming, but I liked this. It never took itself seriously, and actually had some wit and featured clever killings to boot. The charm of the first few Freddy films arose from Wes Craven's ability to fool his audience; his characters would seamlessly drift from reality to dream state, the viewer never sure but always suspecting they were now in Freddy's territory. In F. vs. J. we get some fine transitions along these lines, and even a visit to Freddy's corny boiler room. I've never been a fan of the Jason movies, though I've seen three or four of them--when the two horror genre heavyweights battle it out we get half WWF, half faux Kung Fu Matrix parody. You may be surprised by the result. As my old friend Evil Twin used to say: "Freddy rules because he fucks with people before killing them." Indeed.

Sexy, disturbing, and very interesting. Imagine Adaptation meets Mulholland Drive with a bit of Satyricon thrown in for good measure. I'd like to wait a few months and watch this again to see if I really like it--some images stuck with me, in particular an enormously hung guy slathered in grey clay on a beach becoming engorged. What a strange close-up, with sticky sound effects to boot! Watching Sex and Lucia is like dreaming for three hours with eyes wide open. Apparently there's an R-rated version for those who don't like excited male genitalia. I'd recommend it for its intellectual honesty; Cocteau would have approved of this meditation on the writer's life.