Disposal Economics


When Public Executions
Were the Crowd’s Delight

Immortality is one of those dreams that would turn into a nightmare if it’d ever become reality. Even without the proverbial zombies roaming the earth, we still need desperately to die on a regular basis.
Not pretty, for sure, but a vow of support to all blessed forms of natural death, the economics of crime and punishment, and the ecology of making sure we dispose properly of the bodies of those who passed on.
According to the Annals of Improbable Research, modern forms of execution went through considerable changes until reaching the efficiency and swiftness of contemporary death rows. Or so that was the plan. Such evolution also reflects changes in our footprint on the planet.
Thus, if ancient Hebrews, living in barren lands, executed people by stoning, Arabs in nearby deserts used a sword to decapitate them. Impaling was an ancient and popular method, and the Romanian Prince Vlad III, likely to have inspired the myth of the Dracula, was an avid adopter. Turks preferred metal spears, but in most of Asia and the Tropics, bamboo was the preferred method to exact justice. To each its own horror theater.

DEATH METHODS & CROWD FAVORITES
Arguably, few could beat crucifixion as a public spectacle, though. It was the Roman way, and Jesus, its cèlebre poster boy. It even had an opening act where the condemned had to drag his own wooden crossbar to the site of the execution to the crowds’ delight. Romans could be cruel but not free of ecological concerns, though.
They saw how wasteful the method was – not of blood and guts, which there were plenty to go around – but of trees. And soon, an alternative was devised. They’d bend and tie with ropes two trees, and have the arms and legs of the doomed attached on each of them. Then the ropes would be cut, for a clean, quick end, with no waste of timber.
In Medieval Europe, the auto-de-fé, i.e., to burn alive at the stake, was the sanctioned method of execution. It killed Joana D’Arca and countless others, accused of heresy, witchcraft, and other peccadillos.

HEADS ROLLED, FIRING SQUADS SHOT
In the 18th century, a new method made people literally lose their heads over it, and became forever associated with the French Revolution: the guillotine. It replaced the sword executioner and it killed thousands but it could not slay two popular beliefs: it was not invented by Joseph Guillotin and it did not kill him either.
It never caught on in North America, where hanging was the preferred way. Still, forest depletion was a constant concern, so with the Civil War, death by firing squad was a more economical alternative.
With the added convenience of serving to execute more than one person at a time. As we mentioned before, (more)
__________
Read Also:
* Last Call
* Last Supper
* Out to Get You

Continue reading

Gone With Goya

* On the passing of art critic Robert Hughes, we raided Colltales archives to republish a small post we wrote a year ago this week. It’s a humble recollection of a casual meeting in New York, when we had a chance to go a few rounds with the man without being knocked out.
Hughes, a Type A personality with a talent for conveying visceral narratives of art and history, and an equal flair for the grand gesture, will surely dominate obituary pages in today’s newspapers of both sides of the Atlantic and in his native Australia, we’re sure.
We’ll certainly miss his great mind too, and the kind of art critic that he represented, which seems to be on its way out these days: the relevant contributor, not just the rubber-stamping reviewer.
Robert Hughes was 74. R.I.P.

An Exchange With Robert
Hughes He Doesn’t Recall

‘A note about Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky threw me for a spin today.
The note, on DangerousMinds.com, was about “The Steamroller and the Violin,” first feature of the man Ingmar Bergman credited for having “invented a new language, true to the nature of film,” as the blogger Paul Gallagher writes.
In a second, I went back in time, to a brief encounter on a street of SoHo, New York, with the Australian art critic Robert Hughes. Having as a rule never to approach someone famous, I confess, I did make an exception at the time.
Hughes had just published a highly praised biography of Francisco de Goya and I wanted to ask whether he knew the Continue reading