Monday, January 4, 2010


In an article on called "How to Bring in the Clowns", the author, AuntPhyl, reminds us that "Clowns grab attention. Whether it is because of exaggerated face paint, outrageous hair, oversized shoes or wonderful tricks, a clown stands out from the crowd. You can have a fun weekend sale or event with a hired clown. It is easy to bring in one of these comic performers or a crazy car full of tumbling, horn-tooting and balloon-twisting clowns. Here is how to bring in the clowns. She then essentially directs us to the yellow pages under "Clowns".

Today's anniversary of the Coney Island execution of Topsy the Elephant (see my yesterday's essay, "Elephant Execution") brings up certain themes -- disconnected, but connected -- that have been swirling around the news in the last week.

There certainly was something pathetic-clownlike about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt (if it actually was that: to bring down an airliner over Detroit, his hi-tech explosive maneuver failing in a very low-tech way. But there will certainly be nothing pathetic about our president's vow of "retribution" (

Interesting words, those -- "vow" and "retribution". They are chillingly similar to those of the CIA "vow" to "avenge" the terrorist attack that killed seven of their own in Afghanistan ( And yet they are clownlike all the same, in a Heath Ledger Joker kind of way.

But these clowns of "vows" and "avenge" and "retribution -- clowns because they will all suffer sado-slapstick blowback -- have a particularly destructive effect on their audiences. Consider, for example, the most recent Rasmussen poll telling us that 58% of Americans favor waterboarding the hapless crotchbomber. Most of us know that torture brings out false information, but more than half of us want to torture him anyway. Kind of like "vows" "avenge" or "retribution".

I was reminded of this yesterday while googling for a photo of Topsy and coming across an even more disturbing graphic of another elephant execution -- that of "Murderous Mary" 11 years later, for similar motives of profit. Mary, killed her keeper in a mood known only to an elephant, but apparently quickly passing. The crowd began chanting "Kill the elephant!", and a local blacksmith pumped two dozen rounds into her with little effect. Fear spread (or was spread), as it easily does, into the business community, and nearby towns threatened to ban the show if Mary was in it.

I'm sure Mary's owner was conflicted over his decision, but it's likely that the loss of his investment in Mary would be less than a potentially ruinous blacklisting, and he decided, like Edison, to kill Mary in public. Not soft on elephant-terrorists he.

Mary was sent by rail to Erwin, Tennessee, where 2,500 people paid to see her hanged like the murderer she was. Wikipedia's taciturn obit goes like this: "The elephant was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial crane. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing Mary to fall and break her hip as dozens of children fled in terror. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt and was buried beside the tracks."

Here (PG 50!) is the postcard:

Bring in the clowns. And the circus-like attractions. And the hi-tech equipment. And the paying spectators. Clowns grab attention. You can have a fun weekend sale...

And of course, however mischievous, one doesn't usually PUNISH clowns --as our government court's dismissal of our government's case against our government's hired Blackwater murderers due to our government prosecutor’s ineptitude (apparent or planned), causing "trouble" for our government's foreign policy shows. More clowning around.

While looking for a Topsy graphic yesterday, I came across another photo that seemed alarmingly relevant. It is a bit of a stretch of course, and you can't tell a book by its cover, but if one inked in a little black moustache, wouldn't this capitalist entrepreneur of electrocution, sitting with his toys, resemble someone else?

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