The Nose: Library defends life, liberty and pursuit of naughty toga parties

Tacoma News TribuneMay 16, 2014 

Hey, boys and girls, with summer almost here, don't forget your Pierce County library card is a passport to adventure! Use it to explore the Lonely Mountain with Bilbo Baggins, or float the Mississippi River with Huck Finn!

Or why not visit the bacchanalia of the Roman Empire in the time of one of its most depraved rulers? You can wallow in the sleaze of "Caligula, " co-produced by Penthouse magazine in the late '70s and panned by critics as one of the worst movies ever made.

A film so badly overacted, they could've just as well cast Tacoma's Roman Meal centurion in a lead role. A film banned by some countries for graphic violence and pornographic toga parties.

But don't worry, the NR (not rated) edition is available through all 18 branches of the Pierce County Library System, from Fife to Steilacoom.

So carpe diem, kids! Seize the day! Or at least seize a copy of the re-mastered and re-released anniversary edition of "Caligula" the library acquired in 2007.

Get 'em while you can. All but two of the six copies have either worn out or been stolen.

Who needs Elmo's Books anymore? We live in a time when anyone of any age can check out any book or DVD at the local library, no questions asked.

When we were young, a lad needed a stick-on moustache and a fake ID to buy a ticket for a racy movie. Or so we're told by, um, a friend.

Libertas supra omnia: The Pierce County library board reaffirmed freedom for all this week by modifying its minor access policy.

It reads, in part: "Library staff cannot assume the role of parents or the functions of parental authority in the private relationship between parent and child. The Library cannot determine which resources will best fulfill the needs and interests of any individual based on chronological age or level of education."

Or, as Roman librarians might've said, they decline to act in loco parentis.

Of course, we Americans have a little something extra that never dawned on the Caesars - the First Amendment. And you'll never catch us calling for censorship. At least not out loud, in a newsroom.

The reality is, we've raised a desensitized generation, and we can no more resensitize our young than stop the Antarctica ice sheet from collapsing.

They can probably handle "Caligula." Heck, they saw behavior nearly as naughty at the Miley Cyrus concert at the Tacoma Dome.

No, it's the grown-ups who need protection - like John, from Gig Harbor.

Cinema ad nauseum: John checked out "Caligula" from the Gig Harbor branch, not knowing much about it. Looked like a standard swords-and-sandals epic.

He and his wife sat down to watch it last Friday. She bailed out well before the screening ended.

John complained to library honchos and called the TNT to speak his mind. The fact that the movie wasn't labeled X-rated left him aghast.

"I'm taking it back today, " he said Monday. "I've got to get it out of our house. Bad stuff."

Sure is. Critic Rex Reed once called it a "trough of rotten swill."

A local library spokeswoman tells us they considered "very carefully" whether to add "Caligula" to their collection and decided "there are certain works of art that gain fame as much for the story of their creation as the end result."

Right. And certain works of art should be wrapped in brown paper, like how your dad's secret magazines always arrived in the mail.

Vox populi: The people have spoken, and it's not pretty. Some numbers:

*449. Number of times "Caligula" has been checked out in Pierce County.

*133. Number of library patrons currently on the waiting list for "The Hangover Part III."

*83. Number of copies of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy books in the library collection - not including ebooks, audiobooks, large print and Spanish. Most are checked out.

We leave you with one last Latin phrase. It's a cry for help - maybe to the public library system, maybe to God.

Serva nos a nobis ipsis.

Save us from ourselves.

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