Happy New Year!
Oh-seven has begun, and with its arrival has come the gift of paid labor, and the sorrow of spousal abandonment. Two days ago my wife left for India on her annual trip to places located outside this country. It's part of her business school curriculum, and because she's traveling with a bunch of other b-school students and teachers, I'm not too worried. She called last night for a minute or so from the airport in Mumbai to let me know all was well and that she was alive. In any event, she's left me to my own devices for three weeks. I'm sure it'll be fine for a while, but I figure by the end of the 3 weeks I'll be pretty well tired of life in Decatur with just me and the cat.
The paid labor I referred to is a new storyboard gig, this time for a commercial for a prescription canker sore medicine. The spot's pretty funny, or should be. If you see a burly guy in a pink body suit using a flamethrower on your TV screens some months from now, you'll know that's the spot I was talking about way back on January 4th. After it's aired, maybe I'll post up some of the boards.
In world news, the Iraqis -- or to be more specific the minions of Sunni cleric Moqtada al Sadr -- hanged Saddam Hussein just before the new year, and the cell phone-video taken of the scene has now been widely distributed on the internet. Yesterday Slate.com posted it up with a prominently featured link, complete with "Warning: Graphic" tag, seemingly daring users to click and watch the final seconds of Saddam. I already blabbed in this space about how I thought it was wrong to execute Saddam (or anyone actually), but I'd say the snippets I've seen from these ghastlty videos says much better than I can that no matter how you gussy it up, murder's still pretty much just murder. (For the record, I've seen the first video that was released which cuts off as the noose is being fitted around Hussein's neck; of the full snuff-film version, I've seen just the first few seconds). Most of the people complaining about the execution don't seem to be put-off he was executed, only put-off in regards to HOW he was executed. It was less a hanging and more a lynching, they say. For instance, Saddam was taunted by the Shiites who were killing him. They told him to "go to hell" among other things. They wore masks and shouted "Moqtada", referring to the powerful and thuggish Shia cleric who's often described as the real power in Iraq these days. Conspicuously, the Saddam death videos bear a close resemblance to the other snuff movies that have come out of the Arab world since 9/11. The beheading of Daniel Pearl, the beheading of Nick Berg, and other videos featuring masked men murduring helpless Westerners are all done in badly-lit rooms, and feature armed masked thugs and the defenseless victim awaiting their fate. All of them stomach-turning.
I suppose if everyone in the room with Saddam had been solemn and quiet throughout the execution, if someone had hoisted a few 10Ks into the corners to push back some of the dinginess, maybe there wouldn't be this outcry over the execution from the paid chatterers. But I doubt it. I don't think it's the insults or the dinginess or the haste with which the execution was carried out that's got people curiously upset. I think it's the video. For the first time that I can remember, the American people are seeing what an official execution of one of the bad guys looks like, and the fact that it's not all that different from the disgusting Nick Berg video is what's got people feeling bad and then feeling bad about feeling bad because of who's getting killed in an quasi-official way.
Anyway, enough of the high horse.
So I ask this: if capital punishment looks basically the same no matter what milieu it's placed in, might that suggest that the death we deal in this country -- brightly-lit, solemn and unmasked as it is -- has the same stink of murder to it as what was done to Saddam? Maybe I'm being optimistic, or maybe I'm overstating the level of outcry, but perhaps the nausea some folks feel over what was done to a mass-murderer like Saddam doesn't bode too well for capital punishment in the U.S. Then again, maybe I am being overly optimistic.