(1) The Crow and the Cardinal
During my recent trip to Canada (in July) I was impressed by the gentle, sing-song chirrup of cardinals - those uncommon red birds - in the neighborhood trees around my mother’s house that woke me up each morning. Or, I should say that I woke up to the accompaniment of cardinals’ song, not that it woke me up. (I was already awake in the early morning because of jet lag.) Then by comparison, when I returned to Tokyo, I returned to the habitual, ugly Caw!! of the large jungle crows that inhabit this city, picking through the morning’s garbage at 4 a.m. How shall I compare them? The cardinal is musical, easy to listen to, inviting and seductive. The crow is loud, obnoxious, brazen, like a terrible, spotty boyfriend come to my door on a motorcycle to take my daughter away and … well, who knows what. The cardinal will elope with my daughter, but the crow will bang my door down to get her.
Remember last December 30thwhen former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was executed in Baghdad by hanging. He was followed to the gallows a couple weeks later by more of the condemned from his group trial. For people, the past tense of “hang” is “hanged.” The past tense of “hang” for inanimate objects is “hung.” So, we can say that a man was hanged to death, while a picture was hung on the wall. So, Saddam Hussein and his henchmen were “hanged,” not “hung” as many people incorrectly say. However, that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the botched execution of one of the condemned who was hanged a couple of weeks after Saddam. You might remember reading about it in the press. The man’s head was ripped off of his body when he dropped. It demonstrates incompetent hanging technique. Of course, accidents happen, and long experience of hanging in the United States lead prisons to draft “Hanging Tables” - statistical charts that take the body weights of victims into consideration when calculating the distance a body must drop in order to break its neck but without ripping the head off the body. Remember that when a person is hanged the rope breaks the neck. But the broken neck is not what kills him/her. Death comes after several minutes by strangulation as the rope crushes the larynx. That is why when criminals are sentenced to death by hanging the sentence reads “Hanged by the neck until you are dead” rather than just “hanged.” It’s the deprivation of air, not the hanging itself that does the killing. The broken neck renders them paralyzed below the neck, so the condemned are supposed not to suffer, because they have no feeling. But conclusions like that are probably just the rationalizing fantasies of the living. In any event, after a hanging a body must dangle between three and twenty minutes before death can be declared. They’re not dead yet!
Now, back to the Iraqi defendant accidentally beheaded by hanging because his body weight was not properly taken into consideration during his execution. Picture it. A perfectly conscious man put to death by having his head ripped off his body. Ughh!! That’s ugly. That’s gotta hurt. Plus, it is not what he was sentenced to, strictly speaking. It seems like a clear case of torture to me. But wait, maybe the Americans and their allies are onto something here. Since America is not averse to outright torture of detainees, why not re-work the entire execution protocol in U.S.prisons?
Figure it like this. No more electric chair, gas chamber, hangman’s gallows, firing squad or lethal injection gurney. A new device: a heavy wooden chair, like the electric chair, with all kinds of leather straps to hold the condemned down and rendered motionless. Then, instead of needles, gas, or electric current a many-legged, spider-like metal device is lowered from the chamber ceiling and takes a firm grip under the victim’s chin. Then either with one quick upward jerk, or perhaps even slowly to induce more experience for the victim and the observers, the head is ripped / torn off. Wow!! I think I’m on to something here.
And, how about female inmates? Any special consideration for the weaker sex? Imagine the eroticism of ripping the head off conscious female felon. Or, maybe not. I don’t mean to be gratuitously or pathologically gruesome. Remember, I didn’t think up this stuff. Government actions - especially American and Iraqi government actions - thrust this information and their associated ideas into the public discourse.
(3) High School Reunion
My mother is excited about the 50th anniversary reunion of her high school class from Leaside High School in Toronto. I don’t get it myself. I will never attend a reunion, even if time and place permitted it - which they do not, since I am living in Japan. One of the great things about Japan is that it is (almost) the furthest away from Guelphthat I could get without starting to get close to it again from the opposite direction. The thing is, school was so bitter and cruel that I am more interested in digging a big hole and throwing the lot inside it, to be buried alive, of course, than I am of revisiting the place or renewing acquaintance with those people. For what purpose? To remember the good times? To share in a spirit of brotherly love the joys of our lives, our triumphs and accomplishments as well as our trials, not to mention just our simple survival? There weren’t any good times to remember, as best as I can recall. Oh, the bitterness and cruelty of it! I would have to be one pathologically sick puppy to revisit it. I mean, to hell with all those people I attended school with. Bad memories. Bad days.
Mom is excited because she and Dad always kept in touch with their high school friends, and are still close to them. By comparison, I know nobody - absolutely no one - from elementary school, high school, and even university. Outside of my family in Canada and my family in Japan, I have a long relationship with only one person on Earth, a British man here inTokyo. Maybe it is a generational difference. Maybe people of my parents’ and grandparents’generations are/were more prone to enduring school relationships while my generation and those even younger are not. I certainly think it is possible.