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dead of winter

February 3, 2012

Sunday the northern hemisphere will be smack dab in the middle of winter:

45 days of it done, 45 to go.  What better way to celebrate than with a football

game which will feature an ad with a middle-aged Ferris Bueller?  This time of

year steers me to thoughts of various kinds of death and loss.


There’s never any shortage of such images in the visual media.  Some of the

current best samples are on HBO, which is rerunning Season One of The Wire,

a gritty, unblinking look at the street drug trade in a Baltimore ghetto; and

Season Two of Treme, about a New Orleans neighbourhood struggling to

rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.


Jude and I also recently watched Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman, an absorbing

film about Albert Pierrepoint, an executioner who hung 460 people for the

British government.  He was an unremarkable man with a remarkable job.

Timothy Spall played him as a man who honoured his profession while still

respecting his customers.


Pierrepoint was born to it, in a way.  His father and uncle were also hangmen.

He is shown at his work, striving to be as quick and painless as possible.  He

usually accomplished this within 14 seconds.  In a rare show of ego, he once

prided himself for doing it in less than eight seconds.


The film is nonjudgemental and avoids being gratuitously gruesome while

still giving us a strong sense of the process.  There’s a remarkable sequence

where Pierrepoint has to become hyper-efficient to kill hundreds of Nazi war

criminals; and a stunning scene where he has to hang a friend.  It’s the most

engrossing cinema I’ve seen in a long time.  And historically accurate.


So yesterday, as I sorted through a pile of rubble that had once been the shake 

roof on our house, I’m thinking about OD’d Baltimore junkies, Katrina flood

victims and Nazis with neatly-snapped necks when I find this: 

This fungus fulfilled its genetic destiny and sprouted in a dark, dank, cold Canadian

February.  It braved the odds and succeeded.  I was heartened by how it cheerily

carries on its business.  Then again, it doesn’t have to lug around awareness of

Albert Pierrepoint.                     

  1. beth reed permalink
    February 4, 2012 10:01 am

    Cool picture of fungus and interesting topic. At least this guy was quick with his work. I started watching Inglorious Bastards and turned it off. I have to be in a certain frame of mind to watch some things and that movie was not for me. At least not today.

    • February 4, 2012 11:33 am

      Pierrepoint is the opposite of Tarantino’s film. It’s cool and objective where Quentin is emotional and gory. If you ever watch it, I’d like to hear your review.

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