Hello again friends, I have returned! I took what was intended to be a short break from blogging while I finished up funeral school because I am nothing if not an academic overachiever, so I spent the last month of my program studying furiously for finals, and researching and writing a paper, on top of working full time at my actual job as a funeral director. I’m now a fully licensed funeral director, and am only 6 preps away from getting my embalmer’s license, hooray!
As such things tend to go when you’re a chronic procrastinator, my mini-break from writing turned into more of a hiatus, whoops. I did start at least one other post, which I subsequently abandoned because I couldn’t figure out where I was going with it. The post was about a really neat documentary I came across on a slow day at work recently, but I had a hard time working out what to say about it beyond THIS IS COOL, YOU SHOULD WATCH IT.
The documentary is produced by Vice and is relatively short at 36 minutes. It’s about a forensic dentist in Cuidad-Juraez, Mexico, who has figured out a way to re-hydrate mummified tissues. The process involves dunking an entire corpse in his secret solution (he doesn’t say much about what’s in it, because he’s trying to patent it) and letting it soak for a few days until the tissues plump back up. The idea is that it will assist in the process of identifying bodies that they find in the desert, something which happens with an unfortunately high frequency in the area. It’s fascinating to see the process at work — the documentary follows Dr. Alejandro Hernández Cárdenas as he rehydrates a body — but it’s also kind of horrifying to learn the background statistics on how many bodies there probably are in the desert between Mexico and Arizona. If you’re interested, you can watch it here, and feel free to hit me up to chat about it afterwards!
Going back to school, and the research paper I had to write, I’m super excited to have finished that, and not just because writing research papers is an exquisite form of torture for most people (myself included). I’m also excited because now that I’m done with that particular class, I can blog about it! I mean, I probably could have blogged about it before, but if I wanted to re-use content from my paper here before I had handed it in, I would technically have ended up plagiarizing myself, which, while less bad than plagiarizing other people is still considered poor form (FYI students!).
My research topic was (obviously) dead bodies, specifically, dead bodies (or the idea of a dead body) and the way people react to them, which, for Westerners anyway, generally seems to be with a mixture of fascination and revulsion/fear. This was inspired by my own personal fascination with death and dead things — I’ve always been really interested in death as a concept, and dead things as physical objects, and since I started working in the funeral industry I’ve notice that people tend to have this very mixed reaction to the idea of handling dead bodies, like “wow, cool!” but also “ew, gross/scary” at the same time, so I thought, what’s up with that?
Fun side-story about me and dead things: I found a dead baby bird at work last week, and I really wanted to keep it, but I forced myself to throw it away since I don’t have any taxidermy skills, and it’s generally considered uncool to stash dead animals in your work kitchen freezer. I’m still a little bummed about it, especially because I forgot to take any pictures, LIKE A CHUMP. I do have pictures of a huge, dead raven I found one time though, which I also could not keep (Here’s some pictures of it on my very under-utilized instagram). Basically, I need to learn taxidermy so that I can keep all the dead things I find, or, failing that, I could learn how to macerate things so that I can at least keep their skeletons??
Anyway, back to the paper. I had a great time researching it and coming up with ideas but, as usual, I had way more material than I needed for the requirements, and that I could write up in the time that I left myself, so I wasn’t super happy with what I finally produced. I mean, I didn’t get to write about CSI or BodyWorlds at all. Happily though, it gave me tons of blogging material what with all the major theories I did incorporate into the paper, plus the things I left out. I feel like it’ll be nice to just write up a couple of theories or case studies at a time, instead of weaving everything together into a grand narrative in support of a particular thesis statement (not that that’s a bad thing to do, it’ll just be fun to be able to use a different approach). I’m excited to start writing it up — I hope you’ll find it as exciting as I do!