Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “missing persons”

Speaking in bones

Speaking in BonesSpeaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a rather disappointing book. It features Dr Temperance Brennan, who, like the author, is a forensic anthropologist, trying to assist in the solving of crimes through the examination of human remains, especially bones.

It started off quite well, and introduced me to several things that I didn’t know — that there were such things as websleuths, amateur detectives who use information from the Internet to try to match unidentified dead bodies with reports of missing persons. It sounds like quite a good idea, until you discover that there is also a great deal of rivalry and sometimes hostility among them. But that kind of thing appeals to the family historian in me, because a lot of family history is in effect looking for missing persons.

Colin Darlington Rogers once wrote a book on Tracing missing persons and found that most of the readers were actually genealogists and family historians, so he wrote another book called The Family Tree Detective which was a pretty good how-to book for its time (pre-Internet), in England and Wales, and has followed it up with several more.

So I was thinking that this might be an interesting missing person’s mystery, but then it seemed to fall apart as I read further. The first thing that struck me as strange was that the author seemed to be enjoying commercial sponsorship. I kept wondering about that, when the protagonist didn’t just make calls on her cell/mobile phone, but we were told specifically that it was an iPhone. And when she was searching the Internet for websleuths, she opened her Macbook to do so. And her mother didn’t just go on a computer course, it was an Apple computer course. So I was wondering if she was getting paid for each mention of the brand name.

That was slightly irritating. But it was also annoying when the author tried to end every chapter with a cliff-hanger, and when you read the next chapter the “cliff” turned out to be nother more than a nine-inch wall. One was led to expect dire and perilous happenings that turned out to be quite banal.

And then quite a lot of the plot turned on the beliefs of a weird religious sect that majored on exorcism. Now there are lots of weird religious sects out there that do very strange stuff, like spraying people with insecticide and getting them to drink rat poison. But the one in the book seemed inauthentically weird. It struck me that that is one of the problems of using the web for research. It is great for verifying information when you have a framework of knowledge to put it into, but if you try to research from scratch without knowing what you are looking for, but can get seriously led up the garden path. And while there is a considerable difference between social anthropology and physical anthropology, reading a book by a social anthropologist, like Demons and the devil by Charles Stewart might have been a better preparation.

So yes, it was disappointing in the end.

View all my reviews

UKZN professor missing

There have been reports on Twitter that Professor Steve de Gruchy has been missing since Sunday after tubing at Mooi River.

Professor Steve de Gruchy is an ordained minister in the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Professor of Theology and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He also serves as Head of the School of Religion and Theology, and has been Editor of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa since 2003.

The most recent news on Twitter, at the time of writing, was:

delmelinscott Please pray for Prof Steve De gruchy. He is missing after a tubing incident in Mooi River yesterday.

posted 19 hours ago.

I have been working with Steve de Gruchy’s father, Professor John de Gruchy of the University of Cape Town, on a research project on the history of the charismatic renewal movement in Southern Africa.

Update 24 Feb 2010

New reports say that since there has been no sign of him since Sunday, he is presumed to have drowned.

Memory eternal!

The disappeared

When we commemorate Youth Day on 16 June, one of the images that comes to mind is the press picture of one of the first children to die on that day, 12-year-old Hector Pietersen being carried by an older boy, with Hector’s sister, Antoinette, running alongside.

But I did not know that Mbuyisa Makhubu, the boy shown carrying the dying Hector Peterson, was never seen by his family after the photo was taken, until I saw this blog:

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever

Mbuyisa Makhubu is rarely named when the photo is displayed or reproduced, and the fact of his disappearance is rarely mentioned. Another thing that is rarely mentioned, but which typifies South Africa in those dark days is that the photo, though it became famous around the world, it destroyed the career of the photographer Sam Nzima.

Last Thursday I listened to some radio talk shows, where the theme was Youth Day, and there was more on it, because it was the 30th anniversary of the , and there was some talk about the fame of Hector Pieterson. Some thought that his name had become too prominent. He wasn’t the first to die, he didn’t organise the resistance. It was just that there happened to be a photographer handy, so Hector unfairly got most of the publicity. It sounded as though some speakers resented Hector Pieterson, as though he hasd deliberately sought publicity by getting himself shot. But Hector Pieterson is dead, and the speakers are alive. Others speak of Hector Pieterson as the new Che Guevara, but that is an exaggeration the other way.

And Mbuyisa Makhubu disappeared, like many others then and since.

There is another blog entry, dated 16 June, a reminder of another disappearance. A more recent one this time.

Holy Archangels’ Monastery near Prizren, Serbia: Remembering Kosovo’s New Martyrs

This picture was less widely splashed across the world’s newspapers, because in the West it represents a decidedly unfashionable cause. Every picture tells a story, but often the full story goes unheard, and we don’t know the story behind the picture.

These events, at different times and places, were brought together at the Orthodox youth gathering on Youth Day 2006, where a Serbian monk spoke to South African youth.

During the rule of the military junta in Argentina that was ended by the Falklands War in 1982, it is estimated that some 25 000-30 000 people disappeared. There, attempts are being made to link some of the children of the disappeared with their families. But for many families there is no hope of finding their disappeared.


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