My big sister died two days ago. I say she’s my big sister, but she’d lost so much weight that she was tiny, half my size.
There’s three of us altogether, I’m the youngest, my middle sister is five years older than me, and then there’s three years between her and the eldest. We’re a team. I’ve been dreading for years this feeling of our team being irrevocably broken, surprisingly it doesn’t feel like that. Physically there’s only two of us, but the bond is still between three. We’re still a trio, a triangle actually, every point equally connected to the other two.
The pain is awful, suffocating, but I knew it would be. What’s overwhelming me is the fear of what’s ahead. There are people’s lives as well as mine that are going to change dramatically, changes that feels impossible to make during a pandemic, I’m at the center of it all and I’m terrified I won’t be able to get it right. Part of me wishes that the only thing I had to do was just feel pain.
It hurt worse the day after she died than it did the day before.
When I wake up my mind races with everything I need to figure out, and side by side my mind also remembers what should be happening instead. She should be recovering from surgery, I should be getting her bed ready for her with clean sheets and making sure my niece finishes her homework, I should be calling people to let them know the surgery went great and she’s doing well. I should not be freaking out about something dumb like her car payments.
This morning something popped into my head and more quickly than I could say the words I had reminded myself to tell her, and then remembered she was dead. I’m worried I’ll have dreams where I’ll wake up thinking she’s still alive.
In the cuttlefish world, there are roughly ten males to every female. So imagine a scuzzy nightclub, underwater, and picture a lone woman – who happens to be a cuttlefish, see picture for reference – happily bobbing her many appendages in time with the music.
Now imagine a bunch of cuttlefish blokes around her. There’s Bodger, Dodger, Codger, Slogger, Blogger, Lil’ Todger, Big Todger, The Lodger, Tarquin, and Dave. They are employing various tactics to impress the lady, a discerning fish with an interest in vintage Italian Vespas. Her name is Mavis, but childhood pals still call her Wavy Mavy.
Bodger, Slogger, Codger, Lil’ Todger, Blogger, and The Lodger are engaging in macho intimidating waving of arms and tentacles overseen by Dodger. Dodger will then step in and declare victory with some spectacular in-your-face tentacle waving, because he let all the others do the hard work and hasn’t tired himself out – sneaky bastard. We all know that guy.
During all of this Big Todger is at the bar doing shots and telling a teary eyed lobster that there are plenty more crustaceans in the sea. Tarquin is oblivious to all the fighting and crying and is cheerily spinning in circles on the dance floor and yelling to no fish in particular, “YEEEAH! I call this one the ‘air filter’.” As for Dave.. where is Dave?
Dave is a small cuttlefish. Certainly much scrawnier than Lil’ Todger, positively dwarfed by Big Todger, and has regularly been sat on by Dodger. Dave is not one of those scrappy, determined, have-a-go, cuttlefish. No. Dave is clever, Dave is opportunistic, and Dave is horny.
Dave can see that no man is going to get past the long reach of Dodger’s brawling arms and tentacles, but he also knows that none of the lads are going to diss one of Mavis’ mates. So he nips to the loo – the single stall with the full length mirror – and tucks his male tentacles so that his body looks more female, and then changes both the colour and markings of his skin to match a female. Appropriately disguised he saunters on past Dodger and the gang, to get close to Mavis.
Now some of you might be thinking, “Hold on, I know this scenario. New girl in the group is going to get accosted by all the rejects. Dave is going to be found out… or he’s going to get experimental.”
Not so. Dave the cunning cephalopod can not only tuck his tentacles and apply make-up like a boss, but he can also use that fantastically squishy body of his to mimic the shape of a female who is with egg. All the boys back off because.. well I’m not sure why actually. Maybe it’s simply the knowledge that their hopes and dreams of being a baby daddy are not going to happen with this girl.
Anyhoo, Dave has managed to sneak past his rivals and Mavis, who is a pragmatic girl, is really rather impressed by this brain above brawn approach and ends up getting it on with Dave. Afterwards Dave, flabbergasted that this approach worked, sated, and drunk on success, floats off to join Tarquin on the dance floor.
Dodger has not cottoned on to this deception and sees only that Mavis has been ditched by her up the duff bestie, and uses the opportunity to tell Mavis that this is her lucky night… the Dodginator is here to take care of all her reproductive needs.
Here’s where it gets interesting – or more interesting because frankly sneaky cuttlefish sex is fascinating right from the start – Mavis might be up for this. Yes big brains are sexy, but sometimes us girls don’t need to connect on an intellectual level. Ahem.
So Mavis can have sex with Dave, and Dodger, and Tarquin if she wants, men who can dance are super attractive, also Big Todger because why not? Each of them will give her a sperm pouch – exactly what it sounds like, a pouch filled with their swimmers – and then… this is so brilliant. Then, she can decide whose sperm pouch to use. It’s not arbitrary. Mavis gets to decide whose sperm – if any – she likes best, and use that to fertilize her eggs.
Cuttlefish understand that it’s a woman’s right to choose.
Parking is not my forte. I used to be OK at it, at times even heroic – yes I will squeeze that small car into that way too tiny space, for I am the owner of a small car damn it, and it is my civic duty to shimmy into spaces that no mere mortal in an SUV would ever consider.
Alas my tiny car got totaled (totaled.. totalled??) whilst it was parked on the street by a big monster of a truck, and now I drive my relatives’ much larger vehicles and I suuuuuuuck at parking. Meter away from the curb, or scrape the hub caps on the curb – it could go either way. Front end sticking out, or back end on a wonky angle, I can achieve either of those but not the elusive middle ground of ‘parallel’. Note inverted commas, because in my universe it is a whimsical concept made up by impractical dreamers.
One would think that parking in the time of COVID would be easier because, well have you seen parking lots now? EMPTY. I have urges to pop down to my local Trader Joe’s not to shop but to drive in and out of every available space, just because I can. (Translation Note for Brits. Trader Joes is a popular chain of small grocery stores that make you feel really good about shopping there: nice staff; normal prices; yummy, cheap, own brand booze; great food; kind of feels healthy even though it’s probably not. Without exception, they never have enough parking. Remember the days when you used to see how many of you and your mates could squeeze in a phone box? Like that, but imagine everyone is the size of Geoff Capes.)
Anyway, this line of thought is semi correct, the place I had to go to this morning was maybe a quarter full, and all the cars were parked as far away as possible from one another. No more of this dire need to get the spot nearest the entrance, now we’re all focused on avoiding other people. So parking was a cinch. However then I got out the car and saw I had completely taken up two spaces. Even with no other vehicles around me I’m still rubbish at parking.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.