Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Curiouser and Curioser

In an earlier post, I blogged briefly about two  local events, fascinating enough to anyone who experienced them directly, but ultimately no more than Facebook fodder, soon gone from the mind, like the wind.

One of these, however, continues to develop, and to prompt reflections of a larger compass than Gee-whiz lookit this shiny coin.

We begin partway through the earlier post, then elaborate.


[Later update]  The story is getting weirder, so I’d better elaborate.  This, from an e-mail sent to friends:

Early this evening, S. and I walked to the library, via the dockside on Lake *****.   There were half a dozen people standing around, and a couple of policemen.  Someone pointed to what they thought looked like a human corpse floating not far from the dock.  I peered to make it out;  it looked like Hollywood’s idea of a zombie.
Now, today at work, a friend had given me a nice Halloween drawing, so the first thing that occurred to me was that it was a Halloween prank.  A couple standing beside us concurred.

Twenty minutes later, as we returned from the library, we saw: half a dozen patrol cars; two or three fire engines; a large inflatable boat labeled “marine rescue”; an ambulence or two; and various other vehicles with flashing or whirling lights.  Some firemen were trudging back from the scene, one of them holding a long gaff.  “Uhh… looks like it wasn’t a Halloween prank”, I said.  The fireman would neither confirm nor deny, saying only “The police are handling it.”
The dock was now surrounded by yellow tape.  No attempt had been made to fish the body out, though an officer in a yellow rubber wading-suit was maneuvering waist-deep next to the body.  From a new angle, and now taking the whole thing more seriously, I could see that it was indeed human, or had been;  its hands stuck up from the water, rigid as claws.

This is pretty much what it looked like, only on its back.
[Update 10/10/13]   I shared this incident with some friends and coworkers, current or former residents of this town, and however slight it be in the larger scheme of things, it piqued their interest.  One of them today asked whether the “Flyer”, the local giveaway rag, had reported on the story (which is indeed a big one for our sleepy hamlet).   And so I dragged today’s issue from our sopping front lawn, dried it, and perused.
My heart gave a start, confronted with a large color photograph of the dockside area of that very lake!  Only -- no mention of the body.   Instead, a story about the little three-foot-by-three-foot artificial boxed islands, planted with tall grass, which have been dubbed “floating wetlands”.  Cute, but actually a silly designation, since the point of wetlands is to absorb excess water, whereas this particular lakelet, itself brought into being only by the labors of engineers, suffers rather from chronic aqueous insufficiency.

[Update, a couple of days later]  Finally, the briefest of mentions has appeared on the Web.  The deceased was in his thirties, of no known address.  But -- get this -- the police are saying, “No signs of foul play.”
Corpse appears in broad daylight in six inches of water, looking like a mummy that has been dead ten thousand years.  No-one knows how it got there.  Hands turned into zombie claws.  “No signs of foul play.”

[Update, evening of 20 October 2013]  No -- Wait -- this is too weird.
My wife was driving home from the computer lab this evening, on **** **** Parkway, which runs by that very lake, and noticed two squad cars.  Between them, on the roadway … a large, compact pile of (possibly human intestines).  But otherwise no body.   “They looked fresh,” she said.
[Update 22 October 2013]  And again, no reflection of this in any news source that I can discern.
My wife commented:   If we just chanced upon these incidents, within a few days and within walking distance of each other, and they go unreported -- how much else might be going on that we don’t know about?

Both these bizarre incidents look less like accidents, or any sort of crime that makes straightforward sense -- more like warnings, like the horse’s head in the bed.

More generally, the situation suggests the layers of oddity beneath the surface of things.  A historian remarked, anent the “Umbrella Man”,  that as you brought up the focus on the lens of history, new and inexplicable features begin to appear:  much as, beneath the solidity of macroscopic objects, lies the tracery of molecules and atoms;  and beneath these, obeying different laws, the quarks and other elementary particles.


So, possibly a couple of crime-scenes, though not reported as such, and evidently destined to be forgotten with the facts forever undiscovered.  Might there be anything there, if someone were to dig?
There might;  but eventually you also might find that (as philosophers say) “your spade is turned”.    For, consider a vastly more high-profile case, which  has received intensive attention from professionals and from the commentariat, turned every whichway, examined from every angle, for several years: the murder of one Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italia, in 2007.
In the international panoply of crime, the incident was of scant inherent moment.  A total unknown with a lot of louche friends winds up dead, no political angle, nothing there, really.   What launched the case to international attention, and kept it there,  was that one of the accused (the only one people cared about) was a Foxy Young Female -- de rigueur for the fickle public to give a darn about anything -- cast ambiguously in the role of villain or victim (and certainly vixen):  Amanda Knox.

We touched briefly on this case in a note focused  not on the crime but on its massage in the media.   And now this week’s issue of the London Review of Books has a retrospective on the case.  The LRB’s coverage is immeasurably better than the fawning glurge from the New York Times Book Review which prompted our original rant.   (People who read, or riffle through, the NYTBRev, probably imagine that they are holding something pretty highbrow in their hands.  They are not.)  A vast range of evidence has been adduced and argued-over, from something as sophisticated as Luminol, or as absurd as a turd. (Memo to murderers:  Don’t forget to flush!)
I’ll spare you the details of the new account.  The takeaway is that, after all these years, and all the forensics and analytics, we still don’t really know who, how, or why.

Felix qui potuit   rerum cognoscere  causas …

It has well been said, that the unexamined life is not worth living.  But even examined life may  not yield to our understanding.


Hamster Break

This hamster is not a suspect in any of these cases.  At least, according to its lawyer


Probably these local anomalies will fade with as little left behind them as a day of unsettled weather.   Yet possibly, years later, after the smoke from the Zombie Apocalypse has cleared, historians will gasp:  My God.  So that hamlet was the new Sunnydale -- the location of the Hellmouth.


[Update 25 October 2013]  On the matter of  Can we ever really know anything about what happens -- From this coming Sunday’s NYTimes Book Review:

Kennedy, the Elusive President

With roughly 40,000 books about John F. Kennedy published to date, and hundreds planned on the 50th anniversary of his assassination next month, why is it we still know so little about the man and the president?

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