Sol, Portugal

Sol, Portugal

A 'Sense' of American Culture


What do convicted killer Christian Longo, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Emperor Varius Avitus Bassianus, Lady Gaga and the American femme fatale have in common? They have all recently caught the attention of Portuguese columnist Carla Hilário Quevedo, who offers readers of Lisbon's Sol newspaper a look at the widely divergent threads that make up American culture today - and a little of ancient Rome's.


By Carla Hilário Quevedo


Translated By Cristiane Teston


March 14, 2011


Portugal - Sol - Original Article (Portuguese)


I read a disturbing article in The New York Times about Christian Longo, a prisoner on death row in the Oregon State Penitentiary [photo below]. Longo killed his wife and three children. He is 37 and has been awaiting execution for eight years. The time has served to end his denial and attempts to deceive others about what he did, acknowledge his heinous crimes and call off his requests for a pardon. Longo now accepts that he must die for his crime, and has one final request: he wants to donate his organs. Although there's no law that prohibits him from doing so, his request was refused by prison authorities. The three drugs used for lethal injection permanently damage the organs. But that isn't the case in all states. In Ohio or Washington State, a larger quantity of a powerful barbiturate is used, which isn’t as destructive. It's disconcerting that someone sentenced to death is suggesting a less intoxicating way to die with the intent of saving anonymous lives. Others on death row have followed Longo's example - and none are now seeking to alter their sentences. Since a good deed doesn't compensate for a bad one, why not accept the donation? It won't save them from hell.


Death row inmate Christian Longo: Not only has he dropped his

demand for a pardon, he is asking that his execution not damage

his organs so he can donate them. Many of his fellow inmates are

following suit.



Benedict XVI will go down in history as more than just a Pope who fulfilled his responsibilities. Let's look at three courageous statements of the Catholic Church leader, starting with the latest. Benedict XVI stated that the Jews aren't guilty of Jesus Christ’s death, firmly rejecting the accusation that for centuries legitimized the rudest anti-Semitism and justified the most egregious crimes of persecution against the Jewish people. The second important statement appeared in his New Year’s message, when the Pope condemned violence against Christians in the Middle East and called for religious freedom as the way forward for the establishment of peace. The third statement came in late January and went largely unnoticed. In his annual address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, which approves annulments of marriage [video below], Benedict XVI said that no one can claim a right to a wedding ceremony. The rise in U.S. marriage invalidations is the basis of great concern for the Pope, who advised faithful who say they are prepared for this important step in their lives to seek premarital counseling. Marriage isn't for everyone.  





Those who've never heard of Roman Emperor Varius Avitus Bassianus (218-222), also known as Elagabalus or Heliogabalus, have an excellent opportunity to learn of his story and the painting that made him famous. Just read Mary Beard’s article from The Times Literary Supplement, with the lovely title Facts Among the Flowers, about the publication of The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction? by Leonardo de Arrizabalaga y Prado. Mary Beard talks about the painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema called The Roses of Heliogabalus. At a sumptuous dinner, Elagabalus and his friends observe an apparently pleasant and lovely scene. Multi-colored flower petals fall over the other guests, who are all lying on the floor. The story is, after all, about a mass murder. There were so many petals that the guests were asphyxiated. When Alma-Tadema’s painting was presented to the Victorian public, one critic praised its technique but expressed reservations about the scene chosen by the painter. The new book about Elagabalus seems to confirm the rumors, but the veracity of the story isn't as important as knowing the fears of the time. Don’t buy the book. See the painting [below].


Alma-Tadema's 1888 painting The Roses of Heliogabalus, which depicts a

mass murder by one of ancient Rome's most depraved emperors, Varius

Avitus Bassianus (218-222).

[Click Here for Jumbo Version]



Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta/aka Lady Gaga, was interviewed by Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes [video below]. At age 24, she has been appointed the worthy successor to Madonna, who she's so often compared to. The comparison never seemed evident to me, but the interview served to reveal that Lady Gaga is a star just like Madonna was - or is. Madonna exploited fame with such success that the biggest complaint she confronts now is that she's 50. Lady Gaga says of herself that she's an expert in the "art of fame," but her description of the concept is better than its title. She says fame is created and controlled by the artist. The trick is to divert the attention of the public in the direction of her choice - Lady Gaga - not to what matters to her fans: her personal life. The solution is to "invent a life" on stage that doesn’t coincide with her own, but meets the expectations of those who watch it. And the expectations are always the same: people want to see the fall and resurrection of their heroes. Fans want to see death? Lady Gaga simulates death. They want resurrection? Gaga breathes in the next music video. This is clever, but still requires further explanation.




In Obit Magazine, Kevin Nance complains about the extinction of the femme fatale from American cinema [video example below]. With bitter irony, he suggests that the closest thing to a vengeful and manipulative woman nominated for an Oscar this year was Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old girl from True Grit played by Hailee Steinfeld. It’s true that we no longer see beautiful women and amorality like we used to. The misogyny used to be channeled differently, as if evil has gradually stopped carrying the name "woman" - perhaps because of a fear of feminist retaliation. However, Nance recalls that the role model of the independent woman who resisted being a victim was represented by the extraordinary power of the femme fatale. Beautiful, insolent, and above all, determined to get what she wanted. She was irresistible, not only to the men who were deceived by them, but the public which longed for her and hoped the story ended well - or rather - badly for everyone else. Perhaps it's too late to bring back these demons with angelic eyes and legs that never end. Nowadays, girls just cry and suffer and suffer and cry. Or they kill with karate blows. What a bore ...




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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US March 31, 12:23am]


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