Most heart-warming thing I heard today: “Whenever a pregnant women suffers from organ damage like heart attack, the fetus sends stem cells to the organ helping it to repair.”

The love goes both ways folks, babies aren’t just nutrient leaching parasites.

(Although.. they kind of are, I mean – that fetus is doing the bare minimum to support its host’s survival, it doesn’t remotely care about teeth and hair loss and – GAH! – childbirth.)

Woah, where’d it all go?

Random fact I found out today: the average sperm count of a man has, WORLD WIDE, dropped to half of what it was 45 years ago.

Apparently the rise of plastics plays a role in this. The production of BPA plastics that release chemicals, grew exponentially during those decades. Apparently those chemicals, that we so frequently ingest, affect our hormone levels and can actually affect fetal development resulting in depleted sperm production.

However, before we start to panic about the population being wiped out, we should take note that the 50% sperm level is still a respectable baby-making average of 47 million sperm per milliliter. Which leaves us plenty of room to panic about all the other shit we’ve caused.

This got dark quickly.

The Hyowon Healing center in South Korea offers funerals for the living.

I’m sure most of you have spotted the small but technically crucial flaw in this service.

Okay so it’s not as crazy as it sounds, or maybe it is but I’m so used to hearing crazy these days that by comparison this is simply lower on the scale. Anyway, the center offers a funeral experience where people reflect on their lives, write their last testament, take funeral portraits and then lie in a closed coffin for 10 minutes. The idea behind it is that if we simulate our death it makes us more aware of our lives. Which makes sense when you consider how many people who have been in life threatening situations re-evaluate what they want. When you comprehend how fleeting and fragile life is, it tends to feel a lot more precious.

Intriguing side note Barnes and Noble now sells a “I’m Dead, Now What” fill in the blanks planner. It covers things like, where to find your bank accounts, last will and testimony, feeding of the pets and plants … I hinted about wanting one but my mother felt it was not an appropriate Christmas gift for her to give me.

South Korea apparently has a great need for stimulating this awareness, its suicide rate in 2016 was twice the global average.  An unusually high proportion of suicides are amongst the elderly population: poverty, an abysmal chance of being employed after 50, and not wishing to burden families with caring for an elder, are cited as the contributing factors for this heart-breaking situation.

Despite the healing center’s work, the suicide rate continues to be scarily high. Here’s the thorny problem, you can lead people to understand how precious life is, but how do you alleviate the constant struggle they face that fights against that understanding?  Because that is what struggle and hardship does. Pain and misery completely undermine the concept that life is a gift to be treasured, and replaces it with the thinking that one day the suffering will be over.

Hmmn, this started as a “look at this quirky thing they are doing in South Korea” post, but it got dark very quickly. Still, as Mr Rogers said (according to Tom Hanks in that recent movie and my paraphrasing), “To die is human. Anything human is mentionable. Anything mentionable is manageable.”

The Unclaimed Baggage Store

I just found out today that Alabama has an Unclaimed Baggage Store. The store buys baggage from the airport that never made it home, and then sells it on to the general public.

The store’s website has a very informative About section explaining how it all works (they only buy luggage that hasn’t been reclaimed within 3 months, and only after any insurance claims have been paid out), and they have a brilliant You Found What? page detailing the really weird stuff they’ve gotten. Fifty vacuum packed frogs was my favourite, you can enjoy the rest here (including massive gemstones and shrunken heads) https://www.unclaimedbaggage.com/about/you-found-what/

However, one issue goes unmentioned: the dirty laundry suitcase. We all know how this works, you go away for a relaxing holiday with zero intention of doing any washing, so you come home with a bag whose contents lack that laundry fresh fragrance, instead emitting odours of your worst thrift shop nightmare. Now if the store gets a case full of used clothing, what do they do? Do they wash them? Do they immediately discard them into the trash? Even the expensive designer stuff? What if it’s ambiguous as to whether or not the clothes are dirty, do some unlucky staff members have to administer the sniff test? Do they get paid well?

These are the pressing thoughts that plague me.

 

A teeny thrill of possibility.

It’s the best part of New Year, that feeling of a fresh start. The best part used to be the snogging at midnight, but parties change as you get older.

We all do it, we all heave a sigh of relief that this year with all its tribulations is gone and surely, SURELY everything will be better this year. Then David Bowie dies and it’s all down hill from there (2016, you were particularly cruel).

However, there is something just a little bit exciting about entering the 2020s. I don’t know if it’s because we’re conditioned to associate them with the good times glamour image of the 1920s, or if they come with the same excitement that you get on entering your 20s as a person when you’re an independent (in theory) adult, but you’re still young and glorious and nothing can stop you from having a good time.

Cheers folks to a decade of roaring.

 

Can you smell sm-

After blithely brushing off my mother’s concerns about the Saddleridge fires being close to us – “For Pete’s sake Mum, it’s fine. The fire is at least 10 miles away, and it’s a completely different set of mountains!” – this morning I left the house and got hit by the smell of smoke. Also, the sound of sirens.

Now, my mother will face the difficult choice of whether to be disturbed by this news, or elated that she’s right.

Joker’s not causing any copy cats, media hype though…

Ooh goody another opinion about Joker, just what you wanted. I will keep it short, promise.

Errrr so yeah, I don’t get the feeling that any one who actually watches Joker is going to get the urge to go forth and shoot people because of it, it is not that sort of movie.

Joaquin Phoenix gives a haunting performance that will score him an Oscar nomination, but the truth is no one wants to be this guy. The pre-Joker Arthur Fleck does not have the appeal of Jack Nicholson’s flippant charmer; nor Heath Ledger’s beautifully insane and insanely beautiful twisted genius; nor Cameron Monaghan’s young, irreverent criminal mastermind and unstoppable puppeteer. Even Jared Leto’s disappointing, unhinged gangster take on the Joker is essentially cooler, prettier, more imitation tempting than this.

Nor is the violence glorified. Fleck is given a gun that initially he doesn’t want. The murders he commits are spur of the moment, even his last act of violence live on TV – which certainly appears pre-meditated since he brought a gun with him – isn’t what he originally intended. The killings are quick, brutal and not thought out. Fleck doesn’t appear entranced by them, the audience isn’t either, you just want to move onto the next scene.

Don’t misunderstand, this is a great piece of work (aside from a few jarring moments where nods to the Gotham story are included that detract from the realistic nature of the film, but they’re so quick you don’t really notice them). The exploration of  a mentally ill, poverty stricken, lonely man living with the responsibility of caring for a decrepit parent in a society that doesn’t care, is masterful. It provides a realistic insight into how a compassionate man with small, attainable dreams becomes a warped, unrepentant murderer.

The thing is though, save for one dance scene down a flight of steps, there’s nothing you want to copy from this character. Joaquin Phoenix perfectly plays the person that you ignore because their mental health makes you feel guilty and uncomfortable. He’s not the person you want to be, he’s the person who makes you count your blessings that you your life is not as bad as his. The character of Arthur Fleck is malnourished and fragile, he’s middle aged and unattractive. The normally handsome Phoenix transforms for the role, sporting chewed up nails, deep nicotine stained fingers, broken yellow teeth, lank, greasy hair, looking generally grubby like he needs a really good wash.  We see much of him in his underwear in his apartment, giving us the impression of lounging in his own grime. You can virtually smell the staleness of the apartment; the echoes of cheap, bland meals; and garbage building up in the streets.

It’s not until the very end of the film that Fleck demonstrates any of the bravado we associate with the Joker. Even then at the conclusion when Arthur Fleck is first viewed as an anti-hero idol, he’s still the person that makes you decide to move to a different carriage on the train.

People watching this film are unlikely to feel their blood pumping. If anything inspires a mass shooting it’ll be all the news stories running at the moment causing panic that it could happen.

Last note. Interestingly enough the film’s other familiar characters – Thomas, Martha and Bruce Wayne, and Alfred – aren’t remotely appealing either. Thomas Wayne instead of being a benevolent, good man, who also happens to be a successful titan of industry, is the epitome of privilege and obsequious wealth, a pompous, uncaring politician. Martha, fleetingly reduced to a trophy wife. Alfred, brusque, abrupt, hostile. And little Bruce, so quiet and unresponsive, a lonely little sociopath in the making.