Friday, May 28, 2010

The Finger

At first I thought it was a sinister warning from some local branch of the mafia, in connection with an unwitting violation on my part of the ancient Sicilian code of omertà. Then I read the covering note, and breathed a sigh of relief. Some excellent colleagues in New York have caught wind of The Finger: A Handbook, and were put in mind of this discarded portion of a sculpture that is in their care, and from which it was carefully removed some time ago by a skillful objects conservator—on the grounds that the fingertip was a crude repair to an old loss. I say “crude” because you can tell from the gluggy over-use of adhesive cement at the join that it wasn’t exactly the deftest job. Few such restorations ever are, except the ones you cannot detect without a microscope and/or x-radiograph machine. Of course, the ritual lopping of real digits is these days pretty much confined to the criminal Yakuza of Japan. I am told that certain animated cartoons in which characters are depicted à la Mickey Mouse and The Simpsons, i.e. with only four on each hand—in other words for graphic simplification—these require the painstaking editorial restoration of the “missing” digits, so as not to terrify Japanese children. True, it is difficult to see how a Japanese child could seriously conclude that Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald—to say nothing of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, or Maggie—were separately or indeed corporately exposed to the hideous ritual humiliation of some finger-lopping reprisal, but I suppose stranger preoccupations have proven stubbornly durable among East Asian cultures.

1 comment:

  1. Now here's a good "burning alive or drowning?" type question. Finger-lopping or foot-binding?

    Tough to say.