Arts & Culture » Juice

Chance encounters



Even when the first guy wrote the first encyclopedia, the world was already too incomprehensible for that knowledge to matter. And with each passing day, more is added to the list of things you don't know, can't know and haven't done. The caprices of life are so far beyond our comprehension that even really smart people can't predict or defend themselves against fate, much less regular schnooks like you and me.

No amount of self-improving, tea-leaf reading, Boy Scout training or vitamins could prepare you for the fact that one morning you could leave your Miami mansion, stroll off to buy your newspapers and come home, not to that mansion, but to Italy as a can of ashes.

Fashion victim

As the first reports of Versace's murder trickled in, it seemed obvious: the killer was someone who couldn't fit last year's beer and Corn Nuts into this year's Little Black Dress. Lots of women curse in dressing rooms that they would like to kill them a designer. And since both Miami and murder spawn copycats, it seemed like picking off celebrities might become a trend.

Then it became clear that Versace was alone in the resonance that his death would have for the public. Like white noise, we hear of a thousand killed in a earthquake in Japan or hundreds killed a fire in Singapore and we barely notice. But because Versace was familiar he mattered, even though his death wouldn't affect most of the people talking about it unless he designed clothes for K mart.

Versace's fame was also the only thing that made prime suspect Andrew Cunanan famous. He was suspected in several other slayings, but only after Versace did the reward leap to $65,000 and the "Wanted" posters go up in gay bars, giving new meaning to the words drag net. Everyone practiced saying, "You're under arrest, sugar," like Christie Love used to do. People followed the incoming reports in order to make them more knowledgeable than my friend Larry, who suggested that the police "stake out Burdines, because eventually this guy is going to need a new shirt and a bottle of CK1." This is actually a smarter idea than anyone on the local news had. Ever concerned with cloying, horrible, voluntary spins on the hometown in a desperate search for the local angle, they all thought the real story was the fate of the Versace store on I-Drive.

"Senseless killing" is another way newscasters like to describe murder, as though there were other, more sensible killings occurring regularly, ones they could really understand. In the end, they are all senseless killings and being alert is all you can do, and sometimes even that isn't enough. As of this writing, Cunanan hasn't been caught, even though the FBI knows who he is, what he looks like and has a fleet of well-trained people with great equipment whose only function on earth is finding people. There's just no explaining that.

There's no explaining anything. This well-trained, well-armed, helpless FBI is a microcosmic illustration of the whole human condition. We use so many techniques to solve and predict that the very attempt at order produces chaos. It's like a vaccine: The disease is lurking somewhere in the cure. The sheer number of factors we employ against chaos all seem to add up to chaos itself.

Misfortune teller

Just get a load of all these variables given credit, proven or not, for having a hand in the predictability of events:;;

Astrology, psychology, astrocartography (astrology of the place you were born), birth order, past lives, animal instinct, acting out, prenatal nutrition, spells and bindings, early education, higher education, karma, dharma, collective unconscious, heredity, environment, luck, parental influence, ancestral memory, intuition, subconscious motives, chi, genetics, breast-feeding, tidal pulls, numerology, preconceived notions, palmistry, natural intelligence, emotional intelligence, feng shui, conspiracy theories, dream analysis, alien meddling, body clock, tarot cards, evolutionary processes, angels, ghosts, cultural psyche, physical fitness and the divine intervention of more gods than anyone would want to try counting.

You'd think by putting them all together you'd come up with some fool-proof way of knowing what to expect. But the more factors conjured to explain a thing, the more random it seems. Sure there are some things, like fluoride toothpaste and caller ID, that you'd think provide protection on some level. But tartar and weird callers still manage to get through.

Versace gets murdered, a news program devotes a broadcast to the firing of "Annie," millions of dollars are spent on Martin Lawrence movies and people actually watch them. Can anybody look at all this and not decide that the only senseless act is still believing that any of it makes sense?


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