Day #115: Oingo Boingo – “Dead Man’s Party”
Well, we had to pass on the Trailer Park Boys show tonight, but given that Bubbles has been appearing in a lot of memes lately, I will take that to mean that enough kids have been discovering the show through Netflix and it won’t be long before the boys are back in town. Yes, even back in DC.
Phil and I decided to wind down the evening instead with the holy trinity of weekday wind downs: burritos the size of our faces, bottles of hef, and a movie. Tonight’s choice: the Simon Pegg and Andy Serskis black comedy, Burke & Hare. Yes, more British movies. What can I say? This is the second movie about the Burke & Hare murders that put a stain on Edinburgh’s medical schools back in the day (the murders occurred between 1827 and 1828). The first time around, in the early 1970s, it was a British horror movie. But, as I said, the new version is a black comedy. And one with plenty of familiar faces. At least if you’ve been paying attention to British comedies in the last few years. You’ll see some of the cast of Spaced in there. Bill Bailey from Black Books. Stephen Merchant from The Office. Even Simon Farnaby and Edward Hogg who have made appearances here and there in The Mighty Boosh (see the crimping episode).
Without giving too much away, the Burke & Hare murders were the result of a change in capital punishment laws that seriously reduced the number of executions. Now surely, not being so barbaric deserves a big thumbs up. But, in a surprising sort of historical ecology, medical institutions were dependent on those executions for bodies to use as classroom cadavers. It was the only way they could get cadavers by law. What’s worse is that Edinburgh was a city with some of the most reputable medical institutions in the world. People came from all over to attend their schools. That there was one or two cadavers a year for a huge number of ambitious students just wasn’t going to fly.
Naturally, Edinburgh’s medical educators turned to the black market, which was loaded with grave robbers. Or, guys like William Burke and William Hare (the Williams), who saw that they could make a better killing by killing. (They supplied a private anatomy lecturer). Long story short, the whole thing eventually lead to new laws that allowed medical institutions to accept donated cadavers.
We hadn’t heard anything about this bit of history from our tour guides while visiting Edinburgh last summer. It would have given us reason to stop over at the Anatomy Museum and point at display cases and say “Ewwww” a lot.