Idol Chatter

A British singer borrows an American president’s phrase when painting graffiti on Israeli property that is characterized by Palestinians as a land grab. I’m not sure what I am more struck by: the scope of history, politics, music, and culture that came together in that one act, or the fact that some graffiti on a faraway wall made headlines across the globe.

Reuters reports that Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters (“The Wall,” “The Dark Side of the Moon”) “scrawled ‘tear down the wall’ on the concrete panels of Israel’s West Bank barrier on Wednesday.” He was doing some touring before performing a concert that drew an estimated 50,000 Palestinians and Israelis. His red spray paint and marker pen–and the phrase he borrowed from President Reagan’s famous reference to the Berlin wall–attracted quite a bit of attention.

“‘It’s a horrific edifice, this thing,’ Waters told reporters as he stood beside a section of the barrier in Bethlehem. ‘I’ve seen pictures of it, I’ve heard a lot about it but without being here you can’t imagine how extraordinarily oppressive it is and how sad it is to see these people coming through these little holes… It’s craziness.'”

Israel says they’ve built the wall to protect against suicide bombers. Palestinians see it as a thinly veiled attempt to claim more land. Whatever your thoughts or mine, simply the fact that a rock icon made a graffiti comment about it has drawn more attention to the conflict than the latest exposé by “60 Minutes” or “Nightline.”

Waters’s concert, incidentally, was moved from Tel Aviv when some of his fans complained about him playing in Israel. Instead, he performed in the Arab-Israeli village Neve Shalom, which literally means “oasis of peace.” His graffiti and accompanying statements certainly didn’t decrease the number of cars braving the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway and Route 3 between the Latrun and Nahshon intersections to hear another rendition of really old songs by really old guys.

As far as saints go, free-standing statues, mass cards, portraits on the walls, ceramic figurines, and tiny iconic pendants that you can dangle from a chain are par for the course for anyone who grows up an Italian Catholic–namely, me–or, I’d guess, just plain Catholic regardless of ethnicity. In my house you didn’t have to go far before you bumped into some martyred man or sainted lady, though, like for many Italians, St. Anthony–the famous finder of lost things–was the reigning favorite in the hearts of my grandmother and mother.

But roadside billboards? Now that’s a new one.

Beginning Monday, Loyola Press, a Catholic publishing house based in Chicago, will be treating city drivers to some saintly wisdom on their commutes to and from work, with a campaign called “Use Your Common Saints.” St. Jude–also know as the Patron Saint of Desperate Situations–is first on the list for billboard glory, and will be advising motorists that he “knows an alternate route” (ha ha!). A new sign will follow every two weeks until the end of August, featuring the following:

July 10: “St. Joseph says construction takes patience.”
July 24: “Joan of Arc says keep your cool.”
August 7: “St. Anthony offers roadside assistance.”
August 21: “St. Ignatius encourages Mass transit.”

What’s behind this inspired effort to quell summer road rage and breakdown despair? The instant success of their book “My Life With the Saints,” by James Martin–with a dash of company social consciousness thrown in:

“Our goal is to nurture faith-filled lives,” says Joseph Durepos, Loyola Press Acquisitions Director, in a press release about the campaign. “Proclaiming these messages on the Kennedy [Expressway] drives home the idea that God is with us in all that we do, even when we are stuck in traffic.”

I admit, I could use more than a little assistance from St. Joseph in the patience department when I sit in N.Y.C. traffic. Maybe the saints will soon be gracing expressways beyond Chicago if the campagn is a success. Until then, I’ll have to rely on my portable mass cards and pendants.

Steve Skelton–an author and minister–has been going around telling anyone who’ll listen that Superman is a Christ figure. He’s got a good point, what with the whole “only son sent to earth as a savior” angle. Now The Advocate tells us that the Man of Steel might be gay, or at least is an icon to gay people, what with his closeted secret identity and all.

Can both these be true? Wouldn’t that make our supreme comic-book hero–gasp–a gay Christ figure?

Before making up your minds, consider these other factors: Superman might also be a Methodist, a Moses figure, a Jewish golem, or a twist on Nietzsche’s ubermensch. And Bryan Singer, the director of “Superman Returns”–himself gay (and Jewish)–has called the hero “the most heterosexual character” in all his films.

Sounds to me like the Man From Krypton may be having an extended identity crisis that’s leaving him unsure of his own religious leanings, religious/allegorical allusions, and sexual preferences. Maybe some super-counseling–or a turn at our Belief-o-Matic quiz–can help him sort out who he really is.

Tyler Perry–and his large black-woman alter-ego, Madea–have conquered stage, screen, and more recently, page, with the best-selling “Dont Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings.” Now, to coincide with the DVD release of his “Madea’s Family Reunion,” the Hollywood darling is giving something back to his (or her?) fans by helping you create your own online family tree, complete with photos.

Click here to set up your virtual family photo wall:

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