Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MOB HANDED

(The ultimate ผี comment on lynching remains Billie Holiday’s hauntingly elegiac ‘Strange Fruit’)

Ancient lynchings began with the limb-fromlimb rending of pop star Orpheus by frenzied
Greek bobby-soxers, an episode reworked in Euripides’s Bacchæ. ผี Juvenal (Sixth Satire)
descants on the violent emotions of Roman groupies at concerts.

Athenian lawgiver Draco (whence ‘draconian’: FT183:18) fell victim to an accidental friendly lynching, being so thickly showered with coats and cushions that he was suffocated (Suda D1495) – But how did you enjoy the play, Mrs Draco? Canine lynchings, too: irreverent authors Euripides and Lucian were both torn to pieces by marauding Rovers.

Republican Roman radical politician-brothers Tiberius and Caius Gracchus suffered similar
fates (details in Plutarch’s Lives). Tiberius was beaten to เรื่องผี death by a senatorial gang with planks and sticks. Caius’s clubbing was preceded by the mass stabbing of supporter
Antyllus with long-nibbed pens – he got the point. To increase the bounty based on the weight of Caius’s head, the cunning claimant scooped out its brains, replacing them with
molten lead.

With cognate dexterity, since the decapitated bonce of lynched emperor Galba (AD 69) was bald, its carrier managed by hooking his thumb through the mouth (Suetonius, Galba, ch20 para4). One consequence of Cæsar’s fateful game of Ides and Seek (FT221:23) was the lynching of the wrong Cinna: “Tear him to pieces. He’s a conspirator.” “I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.” “Tear him for his bad verses.” – Bill Shakespeare’s tearful lines, JC 3.3.31-4.

Ancient Egyptians would not have been content with Tahir Square. Diodorus Siculus (Universal History, bk1 ch83 paras8-9) describes the lynching of a Roman for accidentally killing a sacred cat – a man of uncertain felines. Philo (Against Flaccus, para44) accuses that Roman governor of organising the first recorded pogroms against Jews in AD 40 at Alexandria.

Centuries later (AD 415) in that same city, egged on by Bishop Cyril, a mob of monks (ironically, lay-healers) lynched the sexagenarian Neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia (a dashing beauty in her day; cf. Maria Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, 1995): “Her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames” – Gibbon, ch47, based on Socrates’s Church History, bk7 ch15, and John of Nikiu’s Chronicle, ch84 paras 87-103.

In light of this, one is entitled to savour comparable episcopal mobbings. Bishop George of Cappadocia was kicked to death on Christmas Eve, AD 361. Gibbon (ch23), perhaps with tongue in cheek, exploiting both pagan and Christian sources, took delight in equating this former fraudulent bacon-dealer with St George of England – try telling that to our nation’s football fans.

In AD 443, the disgraced courtier-poet Cyrus of Panopolis (cf. Alan Cameron, ‘The Empress & the Poet,’ Yale Classical Studies 27, 1982, 217-90) was forcibly episcopated and sent to Cotyæum as its new bishop. His inaugural sermon was instantly famous, consisting as it did of a single sentence ending with an emphatic Amen! As Cameron remarks, the congregation was “evidently too taken aback to lynch him” – as they had his four predecessors. Perhaps they were simply grateful for such unaccustomed pulpit brevity.

Via a bionic leap forward in time, we end with Giuseppe Prina, beaten to death in Milan (20 April 1814) in a riot known as ‘The Battle of the Umbrellas’ (cf. Tim Heald, My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper, 2011, 10) – a fate that should have befallen Steve ‘The Wally with the brolly’ Mclaren. “I ain’t seen one good lynchin’ in years” –
Tom Lehrer, ‘Dixie’ ผี

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Urban legend from around the world The Dead Cat in the Package

A thief steals a package or plastic bag from a shopper but gets only the
body of a dead cat that the other person had been intending to dispose.
Sometimes two packages are accidentally switched—the cat’s corpse with
a package of steaks, a ham, or the like.
This classic urban legend of poetic justice—the thief gaining only an undesirable
item—is extremely widespread and varied. In the United States, the
story can be traced as far back as 1906, though it reached its peak popularity
in the 1950s, and it has persisted ever since. “The Runaway Grandmother”
tells much the same tale, with a different stolen corpse, and “Alligators in
the Sewers” is another urban legend about the disposal of a dead pet.
Most older versions describe someone’s pet cat dying; the owner, an
apartment-dweller, wraps the dead pet with the intention of giving the
package to a friend whom she will meet in a department store; the friend
will bury the cat in her suburban yard. But the package is stolen by a little
old lady who passes out in public when she peeks into the package.
An Australian version of the story published in 1993 in the local newspaper
The St. George Leader renders the typical plot using some Aussie
dialect and place names:
From a reader who swears it really happened to his wife’s mother’s best
friend:
A cat belonging to a little old lady who lives in a home unit at Caringbah
died suddenly two weeks ago.

Unable to give puss a proper burial in the backyard, she placed it in a
plastic bag in the boot of her car and drove to Westfield Shoppingtown
Miranda, thinking to dispose of Mog in one of the many rubbish containers
to be found there.
As she was rummaging around in the boot, a woman walking past
snaffled the plastic bag containing the remains, thinking she had got her
hands on something valuable.
When she later took a peek, she got such a fright she fainted dead away;
ambulances were called and she and the plastic bag containing Mog were
transported to Sutherland Hospital.
Which all goes to prove that (1) you can’t trust anyone and (2) sometimes
the punishment does fit the crime.
Later versions describe a shopper accidentally running over a stray cat
in a shopping mall parking lot. She puts the cat into a plastic bag with a
store logo, leaves it on the top of her car, and it is stolen. Often these versions
end with the unconscious thief being carried from the mall on a
stretcher with the unopened plastic bag placed on her chest by a helpful
bystander. The details of the cat’s death, the mall, the store logo, and the
thief’s behavior are all made very specific and local in these versions.
When the story includes the accidental switching of two packages, usually
the pet owner has wrapped the package, intending to dispose of it
during the day. But each time he or she tries to abandon it, the package
is returned by a “helpful” stranger. Back home that evening, the owner
discovers the switcheroo.
“The Dead Cat in the Package” has inspired numerous cartoon illustrations,
at least two songs, and a poem in mock Middle English. The
Russian author Yevgeny Yevtushenko included a version in his novel
Wild Berries (1981).

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