Sunday, March 22, 2020

Joker is super creepy - and brilliant in pretty much every way

It's understandable that critics had mixed
 feelings about Todd Phillips' Joker.

We're living in different times than the
 1970s, which is the decade the movie
 feels like it's from. Movies from that decade like Dog Day Afternoon,
 and Taxi Driver were character studies of people
 who rebel against the rules and morals
 of society.

Joaquin Phoenix is the best version 
of Batman's Joker that will ever exist.
 He is brilliant and deserved his best
 actor Academy Award. But, like Travis
 Bixler and other 70s anti-heroes, he 
is beaten down both literally and
 figuratively by everyone around him.
 Joker is a man with a physical
 condition and a mental illness that causes 
others to bully and berate him. Viewers 
are taken along by his struggles and
begin to side with him, even as his
 acts become more and more heinous.

Some have argued that Joker is 
irresponsible in that it could inspire
 crime by gun-toting outcasts and
skinheads who feel victimized.  While I suppose that could happen,
 it seems more likely that this is a
statement of how bad the problems -
 of income inequality
, bullying, and and throwing our mentally-ill
 population onto the streets without any
 medical care - have gotten.

Joker: 5 out of 5 stars

Other Joker facts of note:

  • His campaign of terror has been
 going on as long as his nemis 
Batman has existed. He appeared 
in Batman comic #1 in 1940.

  • Joker is the highest-grossing R-rated
 movie ever, making more than
 $1 billion.

  • No wonder I liked the movie so
 much. Other than Phoenix's master
 class in acting, Phillips directed
personal faves The Hangover and
 Old School
  • In the comics, the Joker was, in 1988, appointed 
UN ambassador to Iraq by
Ayatollah Khomeini.

  • In 2011, he had his own face cut off,.
  • Perhaps another thing that makes the
 Joker so interesting is that he has
 numerous origin stories. He's an
 enigma, un-categorizable. He tells
 different stories about himself at
 every turn. In this movie, he was
 abused and tortured as a child,
 or at least that's the story that
 eventually surfaces inside his own

Friday, March 20, 2020

Debbie Downer interlude: What about the world without us?

This seems like a prescient time to go back 
and finish Alan Weisman's classic science
 exploration The World Without us.
 I didn't quite finish it when it was
 released in 2007. The chapter "Where Do
 We Go from Here" seemed like a good one to visit.

It begins noting when animals would
 miss us, perhaps especially timely as
we hear fake news reports of dolphins
 having returned to the boat-less canals
 of Venice. Turns out the answer is
 that not many would miss us, except
 for hair and body lice, and follicle mites, which are so tiny that hundreds
live on our eyelashes alone. The 200 
bacteria species inside of us would also 
miss us.

A CDC expert featured in the book
 says that threats like the SARS Coronavirus
 can take out a lot of people but have
 a tough time penetrating everybody, and
 just having access to soap and water
 can go a long way to preserving humans.
 Fruit bats are suspected to be the source
 of the worst viruses, which then spread
 through infected human body fluids.

Some experts interviewed thought new technologies or environmental destruction are likelier sources of our demise. They also say no virus could kill all the people on earth. Even a 99.99
 percent die-off would 
leave hundreds of thousands of survivors. One expert points out that the one virus
 that could be most successful would be
 one that would make our sperm impotent.
 Crisis-pregnancy centers would be the first
 to notice because nobody would be visiting.

In 21 years, there would be no more
 juvenile delinquency and, as resignation sets in,
 spiritual awakening would replace panic. The seas and land would replenish with animal
 life and forests and wetlands would come back 
because of less need for new housing. We 
probably wouldn't have resource conflicts and,
 thus, no wars. The planet would slowly return
 to the Garden of Eden.

Some silver lining to our current COVID-19 virus, eh?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Best Magazine Reads: Trash is new, and so are ways of composting it

I don't know if composting will ever take off in the U.S. But at home in Takoma Park, the city picks it up weekly and it's a service I've really come to appreciate.

The days of throwing food in with the rest of the trash are long gone. No more stinky kitchens. Plus, we have a big bucket of food waste each week that is going back into the earth rather than joining the landfills and oceans like most of the world's trash.

While composting sounds like such a new and novel thing, it's actually what has been done with our discarded stuff through almost all of history. As an article in the March 9 issue of The New Yorker notes, "trash is new."

In the 1800s, there was almost no disposable packaging in existence and food waste was reused by people, turned into products such as soap, or shipped to farms for animals and agriculture.

While my home town in way ahead of the compositing curve in the U.S., according to the article:

  • We've got nothing on South Korea, which recycles 95 percent of its food waste.
  • South Korea's 13,000 tons of food waste each day becomes compost, animal feed, and biofuel.
  • New York City hopes to reduce landfill dumping by 90 percent by 2030.
  • Most people in the U.S. have no idea what composting is. When the author asked a middle-aged New York man what a nearby bucket was for, he guessed "bones."
  • One idea New York could enact would be to charge people by weight for their trash, offering incentive for
  • people to separate out food. In San Francisco, a similar idea has resulted in an 80 percent capture
  • rate for food waste, and in Seattle, a 60 percent rate.

Maybe there is hope for us.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A perfect near-spring day in DC

If you ever have to go to a DC United game, go with my friend Peter. Not only is he just a generally great guy to hang with, he also cheers relentlessly for the home team. 

We tend to ride our e-bikes everywhere together, which is by far the best way to zip around Washington DC. That means that we can efficiently get around to see much more than the average traveler in this city. We can also drink a little more than the average traveler. Sure, you're not supposed to drive and move around, but it's quite a bit safer on a bike than behind the wheel, as long as you know what you're doing. 

Anyway, I had missed seeing DC United last year in their first season in the beautiful new stadium in southwest DC. This was the first game of their second season there, and they came back for a 2-1 win over Miami.

Before that, we went to the final Georgetown game of the regular season - a heart breaking 1-point loss to #ll Villanova. And after that, I moved on to my buddy Jason's kids-friendly 45th birthday party. 

It was kind of the perfect day in the fantastic city that I've now called home for 21 -21! - years. Life is good. And I'm glad I get to spend it with friends and family. And sports. That I love.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Where in the world do I wanna go?

My bucket list of places to go travel is still pretty big. I've been lucky enough to visit all the continents so far except Australia and Antarctica. And I think I've hit 45 states in the U.S. But there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to get to.

One of them is coming up for a family spring break (coronovirus-willing): campervan-ing across Southern California. We'll start in L.A. 'burbs Santa Monica and Malibu, then we'll make our way out to Palm Springs. The Frank Sinatra-sparked allure of the place has always intrigued me. Then we'll camp in perhaps Coachella, Joshua Tree, perhaps the Mojave Desert, Death Valley, and Red Rocks outside Vegas.

Also high on my travel list to still see?

  • Hawaii, for beach beauty and mountain hiking
  • Japan, for the majestic mountain peaks - and subway-rich cities 
  • Hong Kong and Singapore. while we're in that region 
  • Riding a train around the parts at Europe I haven't seen, like Croatia, Portugal, Italy, and Greece
  • All of the parts of Africa I haven't been to yet. If north and west Africa are anywhere like west and south Africa, they are can't miss, and that, to me, feels like the way humans were supposed to live, not like the plastic wasteland we live in here in the (somehow still beautiful) U.S.
  • Honorable mention: India, Australia, New Zealand, and the Amazon (I've been to many places in Brazil, but not the deep forest yet). 
  • Oh, and also, Ireland and Scotland (for ancestral purposes), Liverpool (for, I would hope, obvious purposes), and Costa Rica (for adventurous purposes).