By Virginia Heffernan
I’m here at overcast South by Southwest, the annual tech-music-film rodeo in Austin, Texas. The cool girls are frantically charging their app-heavy iPhones. In their branded ponchos and awesome New Cure jeans, they’re prepping for a panel shortly on female orgasms.
Don’t fret: I have no time to chip off cheap jokes on matters so ... profane. I cannot take my eyes or fingers off a much, much more sacred tech adventure: the Pope App.
I promise I’m not just trying to wrangle #pope and #sxsw—two trending topics on Twitter—into this one piece. Nah, I am just fixated on the work of the Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus. Clever developer name, no? Took lots of focus-grouping; rejected were PONTCN and POHPE.
Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus is a real shop, a dicastery of the Roman Curia, no less, founded in 1988 and dedicated to the proposition that the gospel must be spread, at all costs—by electronic media, if necessary. This should come as no surprise. Unlike other religions—shomer-Shabbas Judaism, no-games hippie’ism—that can get nervous around the conjunction of electricity and holiness, convert-making Christianity has no such qualms.
In fact, the Holy Roman Empire (not holy, not Roman, nor an empire, I know) is credited with having invented the gosh-darn codex—better known to us as the BOOK—just to spread the good word to yokels who couldn’t find their way around a scroll. In the 20th century, the awe-inspiring Global Recordings Network, determined to make the good word intelligible in every known language, even the oral-only ones, created ingenious hand-crank audio technology that plays in deserts and jungles.
So the Word that begins everything continues to drive it all, at least at the Vatican. And if that means a Pope App, well so be it.
The Pope App, a beaut with lucid graphics and lush photography, delivers all the information I need about the pope. Which, these days, is not a little. As some of you may have heard, #pope took a buyout and they have to find a new guy.
While we wait for word from the papal conclave, the photos pour in: cardinals praying in St. Peter’s Basilica; cardinals and more cardinals praying. Are they so prayerful on most days? They’re like the SXSW girls with iPhones—they never look up, even as they’re here, in Austin. The cardinals are ignoring the basilica in the same way. I guess even if cardinals—in their dashing red and black—can’t be here now, then I shouldn’t feel so…
But no, I don’t want just to study pictures or wait for the big news. I also want to read the words of His Holiness Benedict XVI—and all his press releases are here. I do love the one from Feb. 28 where he says he is “happy to be here … surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your kindness, which does me so much good,” and then announces that he’s no longer the Catholic Church’s supreme pontiff but “simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on earth.”
Benedict sounds so joyful since he let go of the big job. What a relief it must be to be a pilgrim and not a pontiff—a holy, otherworldly relief known exclusively to this one mortal man. (I have to admit I can’t figure out what happened to those other abdicating popes of prehistory, so I can’t even fantasize about their relief.) How extraordinary to be reading these words on my iPhone, here in Austin.
There’s so much pomp, obviously, attached to the Vatican and the pope. It’s more than pomp; it’s metapomp. It’s so easy to call it ludicrous, so I will. But it’s also mind-bending to think that this outgoing pope, this pope emeritus, this person born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, once envisioned himself called to this extraordinary role—and then stopped envisioning himself this way.
What a bold thing: to make the manically audacious claim at world-historical importance, and then embrace your life as an ordinary human, a pilgrim, once again.
Benedict XVI’s move—with all the high hats and bowed-head cardinals in heavy-metal colors and puffs of grayscale smoke—may be a symbolic move. Certainly, it’s one so symbolic it can even be appreciated by a non-Catholic about to go to a female orgasm panel and peering nervously at a tiny cracker-size screen. But it’s powerfully symbolic.
Appitude: John Paul 2.0? Pius XP? The pope, of course, has an appFri, Mar 8, 2013 3:27 PM EST
By Virginia Heffernan
- Storm along East Coast dumps snow, snarls traffic1 hour 17 minutes ago
- Senators: Put cameras on train tracks, engineers33 minutes ago
- Indian heartland votes give BJP boon over Congress1 hour 34 minutes ago
- Seizure of nuns stokes Syrian Christian fears11 hours ago
- Nobel economics winner Fama says risk of global recession in 2014
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - One of the three Americans who won this year's Nobel prize for economics said bloated public deficits on both sides of the Atlantic meant that recession remained a real risk for 2014. Eugene Fama, who shares this year's 8 million crown ($1.2 million) prize with Robert Shiller and Lars Peter Hansen, said on Saturday that highly indebted governments in the United States and Europe posed a constant threat to the global economy. ...
- JPMorgan emails show China family hires made to win deals: NYT
(Reuters) - Internal JPMorgan Chase & Co emails and computer files being examined by U.S. authorities show that the bank favored hiring people from prominent Chinese families in order to win investment banking business, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The documents show that a JPMorgan program designed to prevent questionable hiring practices was ultimately viewed inside the company as "a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China," the Times said, adding that it had reviewed copies of the emails and computer spreadsheets. In one email, an executive said that hiring sons and daughters of powerful people in China "almost has a linear relationship" with winning assignments, the Times said. A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment on the report, as did representatives of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the office of the federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, which are investigating the matter.
- Supreme Court justice denies stay in airline merger
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Saturday night denied a last-ditch effort by a group of consumers and travel agents to stop the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. The application was denied by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's public information office said. The combination of American's parent, AMR Corp, and US Airways Group would create the world's largest carrier and follow last month's resolution of antitrust objections by the U.S. Department of Justice. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, plaintiffs led by California resident Carolyn Fjord warned that "irreparable injury" could be caused to the domestic airline industry if the deal goes ahead as planned.
- ThyssenKrupp says keeping its European steel unit
Germany's ThyssenKrupp is holding on to its Steel Europe business, a company spokesman said on Saturday, responding to speculation that a sale could help its current restructuring efforts. German magazine Focus, citing no sources, reported that ThyssenKrupp Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger had told an internal leadership meeting it was wrong to believe that a sale of the European business could support the company. Hiesinger in August dismissed any speculation on a possible sale of Steel Europe as "nonsense", but such talk has resurfaced due to the conglomerate's weakening finances. ThyssenKrupp, which has suffered three straight years of losses and racked up debts, is trying to move away from a bulk steel market, hit by weak demand and overcapacity, to more profitable products such as elevators and factory components.
- After vote, lawsuits likely next hurdle for Volcker rule
By Douwe Miedema and Sarah N. Lynch WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. regulators adopt the Volcker rule on Tuesday, they will make good on a promise by politicians to rein in banks' ability to gamble with their own money. The coordinated action by five separate regulatory agencies is seen sparking a court challenge as Wall Street tries once again to avoid one of the harshest elements of the post-financial crisis crackdown. The rule, championed by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, was a last-minute addition to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and takes aim at a business that had been a big money spinner for banks before the crisis. "For something of this magnitude and this controversial ... there will be somebody who will challenge it," said Brian Cartwright, an advisor at consultancy Patomak Global Partners and a former general counsel at the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the agencies voting on the measure.
- Libya lost $7 billion to oil strikes, must find new buyers
Libya has lost more than $7 billion and faces new competition from Algeria and Nigeria in oil markets due to strikes at oilfields and ports drying up exports, Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said on Saturday. A mix of militias, tribesmen and civil servants have seized most oil ports and fields to demand more political power or higher pay, throttling Libya's oil export lifeline. The OPEC producer is facing turmoil as Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's government struggles to control dozens of former militias which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi two years ago but which have refused to give up their arms. Arusi said Libya had lost 9 billion Libyan dinars ($7.29 billion) in oil revenues after output had fallen to 250,000 barrels a day from 1.4 million bpd in July.
- Ex-SAC trader points to Cohen testimony in insider trading case
A former SAC Capital Advisors trader, set to go on trial next month on insider trading charges, wants to cite in court some 2012 testimony given by the hedge fund's founder Steven Cohen, claiming it rebuts the government's case. He filed court papers late Friday seeking to use testimony given by Cohen to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May 2012. Martoma contends the testimony will show he had nothing to do with decisions to trade in Elan Corp and Wyeth in 2008. Filed in U.S. District Court in New York, the Martoma documents showed how extensively investigators questioned Cohen about the trading at the center of the case against Martoma, who was charged in November 2012 with insider trading in what is said to be the most lucrative such U.S. scheme ever.
- Asian shares underpinned by China trade, falling yen
By Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian markets were poised to move higher on Monday, energized by a potent cocktail of upbeat Chinese trade data, a weaker yen and a firm finish on Wall Street. Both the dollar and the euro extended their gains on the yen, with the single currency hitting a five-year high in what should be a boost to Japanese exports, profits and stocks.