Monday, March 30, 2009

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Four

It always amazes me when I hit the home stretch in posting every day for Lent. When I first begin, I think "Oh God, I only have two or three ideas to write about." Then, in what seems like no time at all, I'm up to Day Twenty and I think "Okay, half-way there, but what am I going to write about for the remaining almost three weeks?" Suddenly I'm up to Thirty and I think "wait, I didn't write about half the things I was planning to." Oh well.

A collection of some odds and ends:

1. Today's Malaprop Overheard In The Elevator At Work
"When things go good, they're leaping like fish in a barrel to take credit for it."

2. Oh, Good. Oh, Darn.
After writing here about the cultural interest in the occult that culminated in the success of The Exorcist, I was interested to see this article in the current Believer: A Devil-Obsessed Conglomeration of Christian Misfits: How The Exorcist, by most accounts the scariest movie ever made, has become completely unscary. I don't agree, but was curious to hear the author's contrary opinion. Unfortunately, the essay isn't very good. Snarky, lacking in insight or context beyond the author's experience and family, it can be boiled down to "I don't believe in the devil; therefore The Exorcist is not scary." Funny, I know a number of non-believers who get seriously freaked out by The Exorcist. Whether you believe or not, I think the movie is such a well-crafted example of horror cinema that I'd be very curious to read a good essay on why someone feels it has become completely unscary. This isn't that essay.

3. Final Installment of 1871 New York Times Article About The Execution of John Hanlon, Child-Killer
Hanlon's Last Days
There being no intention to take advantage of the writ of error in the case, and the appeal made by Hanlon's spiritual advisers for a respite not being pressed after the Governor's first refusal to listen ti it, the condemned man could do nothing but prepare for death in his miserable way. He frequently expressed a readiness to meet his fate, and his demeanor was so collected as to warrant the belief that he would behave at the last moment with the same firmness that he exhibited during and at the termination of the trial.

Last night, after his sister had left him, he read prayers until 2 o'clock this morning, when he retired and slept soundly until 5 o'clock, when he arose apparently very much refreshed from a long fast of seventeen days, during which time noting has crossed his lips except a trifle of bread and water. This morning he manifested the utmost composure, and joined earnestly with the clergymen in the devotional exercises connected with the preliminary ceremony to the hanging. At the scaffold, while the noose was being adjusted by the Sheriff, and the white cap placed over his head, Hanlon fervently ejaculated,* "Jesus forgive me. Holy Mary intercede for me<" and continued repeated the same until the drop fell. Father Barry, at the time the drop fell, was kneeling on the steps leading thereto, fervently praying. In order to prevent the prisoners in the cells witnessing the hanging, pieces of leather were placed over the holes.

Scenes Outside The Prison
What was a matter quite unusual during executions at the prison, a very large crowd of curious people assembled in the street before the front of the forbidding-looking structure. There was not one but knew he could by no means obtain a view of the tragic scene, for the stratagems resorted to in the past, when the execution took place in the prison yard, in climbing trees that stood back of the rear wall, and in clambering on to high roofs on the street opposite, from which just the top of the scaffold could be seen, were all rendered futile by the change of the customary location of the instrument of death from the yard to the northern corridor. The Mayor ordered a large detail of Police to the scene to prevent any disturbance of the peace. Lieut. Smith, of the Seventeenth District, was in command, and had out his entire force of fifty men, in addition to details from other districts, making the aggregate force seventy. This great number was far from being actually needed, but was in compliance with a formality which custom had established.

*Really unfortunate choice of words, given the context.

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