Saint’s Skull in the Bargain Bin

This news from Ireland:

A severed head alleged to belong to the patron saint of genital diseases will hit the auction block in Ireland Sunday.

Saint Vitalis of Assisi died 640 years ago, but the Italian Benedictine monk's encased head can now be yours.

Auctioneer Damien Matthews of Matthews Auction Rooms estimates the ancient skull could fetch up to $1,650.

Only $1650? What's the world coming to when (cue swelling strings)…a saint's skull sells for a song?

On a more serious note, I find this story a bit fishy, because I find it hard to believe that it's legal to buy and sell human remains in Ireland. But perhaps they have some sort of permit.

Tatort No. 800: The Foul-Mouthed MILF and the Man With No Friends Investigate

So, last Sunday's Tatort was number 800, and introduced a new pair of investigators for Frankfurt, Connie Mey (Nina Kunzendorf) and Frank Steier (Joachim Król, not to be confused with Joachim Kroll).I'm not that up on Tatort, but I think these are completely new characters.

Overall, I thought it was quite a fine little episode. The female character, Connie Mey, is apparently mean to be an spry, earthy MILF who worked her way up from the lower echelons of the police service to become a detective. She parades around police headquarters in push-up bras and tight jeans, looking like a train station topsy, and demonstratively eats lunch 'with the guys'. I'm sure she has an quaint working-class regional accent of some sort, but I couldn't place it.*

Steier, on the other hand, is apparently mean to embody a certain sort of über-civil servant, living in the darkland of a brutally truncated, barely-human existence. He never talks about his private life, apparently has no friends or relatives, and always remains coolly formal when on duty — unless he experiences an access of rage, which seems to be the only emotion he can feel. At night, he lurks around in his darkened office listening to jazz, apparently occasionally taking a nip from a flask. I have the feeling we are going to find out that his glaring social deficits were the result of a ghastly personal tragedy: He's the wreck he is because one day in 2005 his beautiful young wife and their freckled children exploded, perhaps, or were eaten. What I will secretly hope for is a more original explanation: he's just a born German civil servant, who has obediently pruned away every aspect of his personality (charm, humor, wit, lust, curiosity, etc.) that doesn't directly relate to fulfilling his duties.

This contrasting pair meet randomly, when a very odd man who talks to himself wanders into the Frankfurt main police station at night, wanting to report the 'murder' of his brain-damaged son, who is dying. The man has what seems to be an outlandish story of his son being 'murdered' by a staged traffic accident whose true nature is covered up by a cop in return for some kind of sexual blackmail. Mey, who is working late to finish a report, doesn't want to deal with this unstable guy alone, so she seeks out any other colleague, in this case Steier, who is lurking in his office for some unspecified reason. The crazy guy claims to know precisely who killed his son — a young female postal carrier. He has been stalking her, and getting more and more violent. He wants her arrested for murder, and threatens to take the law into his own hands if she isn't.

It turns out that the weird stalker's story is not completely invented, and the plot revolves around figuring out why he's so angry at the postal carrier and whether he might make good on any of this threats, which in turn means figuring out how much truth there is to his account. The atmosphere of this Tatort was gloomy: the background was the impersonal grid of Frankfurt's anonymous new suburbs, and there was little music. The crazy guy was complex: filled with irrational hatred, but also with some legitimate complaints, yet with a nasty mean, cunning streak. It's wasn't edge-of-your seat entertainment — Tatort rarely is — but it held my interest, and was much less didactic than your average Tatort. In particular, the writer resisted the urge to make the unbalanced character a blameless victim of society.

I found it pretty amusing how foul-mouthed this show was. In a moment of frustration, Mey screams 'Fuck!' (yes, the English word, used exactly as an English speaker would use it), and the crazy guy uses the German work 'fickt' for good measure, and even squeezes off a 'terrible cunt' (beschissene Fotze)** at one point. I hope no children are watching, or they might grow up swearing like Anglo-Saxons!

* Maybe she's from Preungesheim, and her accent is the infamous Preungesheimer Plärre. Sorry, I just like saying the word Preungesheim. I even like typing it!

** Sure, it's not a precise translation, but since 'terrible cunt' has been etched into the collective consciousness by Withnail and I, I thought it made sense.