Saturday, January 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/20/17: Investigations, Police Work, C. Brown and Mary Poppins and *Help!*

1.  I guess if plowing through a bunch of episodes of a television series in a single day is binge watching, then plowing through the last six episodes of a podcast series to the very end is binge listening. Much like the movie Spotlight or All the President's Men, In the Dark not only tells the story of arriving at something close to the truth about the 1989 abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling,  narrates the hours and hours of grunt work required to get at the truth. The team working on In the Dark studied countless documents, reviewed hours of video and audio tape, interviewed scores of people, and worked to put this crime and its aftermath into both its local context and into a national one. On the national level,  it documents what happened when, for example, Geraldo Rivera featured the crime on his show, and what the consequences have been as federal and state and local governments have passed increasingly restrictive laws registering and regulating sex offenders. This flurry of legislative activity, beginning about twenty-five years ago, was triggered primarily, but not exclusively, by the Jacob Wetterling case.

2.  On the local level, In the Dark investigates the Stearns County Sheriff Department's investigation of the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling and looks at other cases over the years in Stearns County. In these major cases, the Stearns County Sheriff Department's investigative work was too often slipshod, blind, prejudicial, and negligent. The department made terrible mistakes, seriously damaging the lives of innocent people. In telling this part of the story, I thought the makers of In the Dark were ultimately trying to determine whether this law enforcement bureau, and others, are willing (or capable) of self-examination, of admitting to error and learning from mistakes, of working to improve. I'd say the series was inconclusive on this point.

The series raised another question: Should law enforcement agencies apologize to or seek to make amends with those who have been falsely accused and whose own psychological health and reputations in the community have been badly damaged? Given the sheriff's response to this question, it would appear not. I know this is true from my experience, in 1994, of having a SWAT team leader, backed by a SWAT team, draw a gun on me and a good friend, Jeff, as we were casually and innocently walking to a Zero concert held at the WOW Hall in Eugene and were falsely suspected of an armed robbery in the neighborhood. Luckily, it only took about twenty minutes or so for us to be cleared and no damage was done to our person or our reputations.  If you'd like to read the whole story about Jeff and me, as well as the story of the first time, in 1980, I was in a situation involving the Eugene SWAT team, go here.  Both stories end up being sort of funny.

3.  Really, aside from fixing myself some leftover Shakshuka for a late breakfast and eating some basmati rice with steamed broccoli for dinner and with the Deke finishing her schoolwork in the middle of the day and then heading over to see Molly and the kids (Hiram's Marine band duties at the inauguration would have him away for as long as twenty-four hours, starting at 2 a.m. Friday morning), I spent the day listening to podcasts, with a short break for some reading from the book, The Flavor Bible. After finishing In the Dark, I needed a break from kidnap, murder, and the investigation of police work, and so I listened to the second part of Ed Levine's interview with Marcus Samuelsson on Special Sauce, here. (I will listen to part 1 later).

I decided to end my day of podcasts in bed and decided to give Crybabies a try. I scrolled through the archives until I found a show featuring New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz, here. So, what gets the tears flowing for Andy Borowitz? Three songs, all from when Borowitz was in early elementary school and all songs that activated nostalgic memories for me, too -- although I didn't cry as I listened.  Here they are:

"Christmas Time is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas
"Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins
"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" by The Beatles, from Help!

Both Borowitz and co-host Susan Orleans grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio in Jewish households and they share memories of and insights into their religious and cultural life in Shaker Heights. Their gabbing about growing up helped me see into and understand a bit more about a world far away from what I knew growing up in Kellogg while also listening to these same songs.

It was a pleasant way to close my day before falling asleep.

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