Ravenna/Sat Oct 24/11:41 pm:

Officer David Sullivan reports: "A person knocked on her home's front door, located off a walkway on the south side of the property. When she responded to the knocking, she observed a small fire burning on her porch. She did not see the person who had knocked; all that she saw was a medium-sized grocery bag that was on fire. She extinguished it with water from inside the house. The bag was empty, and it appeared to have done no property damage before being extinguished. SFD checked the porch and cleared from the area without further actions. We examined the burned bag and the surrounding area. There was no evidence about the identity of the suspect(s) and [the motive for burning the bag]... Sgt. Pendergrass was apprised of the incident. We cleared the scene after assisting victim with cleaning up the burned paper bag and providing her with a case number."

Ravenna/Sun Oct 25/12:08 am

: Officer San Miguel reports: "[After] I arrived at the scene and observed a dumpster on fire in the alley behind 12th Ave NE, SFD Engine 22 arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire. I talked with complainant one, who was standing outside when we arrived. He had attempted to extinguish the fire with an extinguisher before we arrived, but it started back up. Complainant one stated that he was in his apartment when he could see the reflection of the flames through a window. He did not see any persons in the area.

"I spoke with complainant two via phone, and she advised that she had been inside her apartment at that address when she could see smoke outside of her window. She stated that she did not see any persons in the area besides complainant one using a fire extinguisher on the dumpster... The only damage from the fire was to the dumpster and its contents. Sgt. Pendergrass responded to the scene and screened the incident."

The first of two points: I simply love these types of crimes—crimes that are really about nothing, or closer yet, crimes that do not have a core, a subject, a substantial cause. These crimes only have effects: the fire consuming the shopping bag on the porch, the red flames reflected on the window, the rising smoke seen through a window. The cops and complainants look for a suspect, a meaning, but all they find are ashes and dust. Something happened and vanished—indeed, the very condition of all things, from stars to starfish.

My other point has to do with the burning paper bag. It recalls an image that an American philosopher, Graham Harman, loves to present and consider in his lectures and essays—the image of fire burning cotton. This beautiful image, which has its roots in ancient Arabic philosophy, shows how the fire essentially focuses on one thing about cotton: how it burns. The fire is indifferent to or ignores other aspects of cotton: its whiteness, softness, roundness. The fire uses up only a single aspect of the cotton, its flammability. Similarly, the fire on the paper bag only focused on a single aspect of it: that it burns. Nevertheless—and this is Harman's point, the heart of his philosophy, which is called speculative realism—the fire, even if it consumed the whole bag, did not exhaust all of the things that the bag could be: a shopping bag, a garbage bag, an obstacle to an ant. The paper bag is inexhaustible.