Flashbacks, May 12, 2006

The Boston Phoenix has been covering the trends and events that shape our times since 1966.
By EDITORIAL  |  May 11, 2006

FAMOUS LAST WORDS | 5 years ago | May 11, 2001 | Dan Kennedy imagined Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s final moments.

“If things go according to plan, the execution of Timothy McVeigh will be carried out with all the drama and moral grandeur of a dog’s being put to sleep.

“Next Wednesday, May 16, shortly before 7 am, McVeigh will be led into the death chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Outside the walls, a media circus will take place. Inside, however, the procedure will be bureaucratic, antiseptic, almost medical. McVeigh will be strapped down, and IV needles will be inserted into his veins. He’ll offer his last words. Supposedly he’ll recite an 1875 poem by William Henley that closes with ‘I am the master of fate,/I am the captain of my soul.’ But who knows what his final outburst will really be? This, after all, is a man who has referred to the babies and toddlers he killed in the Oklahoma City bombing as ‘collateral damage.’

“Then the procedure will begin, so precisely calibrated not to offend modern sensibilities that the first thing to hit McVeigh’s veins will be a painkiller. Only then will the fluids that will arrest his breathing and stop his heart be administered. By 7:30 local time — 8:30 on the East Coast — it will be over. The worst mass murderer in American history, the stonehearted killer of 168 people, will be dead.”

ACID TRIP | 10 years ago | May 10, 1996 | Gary Susman interviewed director Jim Jarmusch about Dead Man, his latest film, starring Johnny Depp.

“The project marks Jarmusch’s first foray out of the contemporary pop-culture-strewn urban landscape that has been the setting of his first four movies. Of the Western, he says, ‘It’s not one of my favorite genres. I like it because it’s a frame that becomes allegorical, and you can put a lot of things in that aren’t related to the period of the Westerns. I like the fringe Westerns, by Monte Hellman, Peckinpah, Leone. The critic Jonathan Rosenbaum coined the term ‘acid Westerns,’ which are Westerns made by people who have taken acid, I guess. He said Dead Man is an extension of that genre. Which I was happy to hear.’

“Has Jarmusch taken acid? ‘Not recently,’ he deadpans....

“Certainly it’s not a conventional Western. Jarmusch took pains to avoid the look of a typical Western. For one thing, this meant shooting in black-and-white. ‘That’s because it’s a story about a guy that goes into a world that becomes less and less familiar,’ he says. ‘We are so used to the colors of the Western landscape that they are not unfamiliar. To keep the atmosphere eerie and a little trippy, it was necessary to remove that information.

“Robby Muller, the director of photography, and I went scouting locations, and if we saw a landscape that looked so magnificent, like a calendar or a postcard, we would deliberately turn our backs. Instead of a John Ford–like vista, we would find a tree or a rock or something else interesting.”

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