My Obsession With One Photo

Ever since I saw it back when I was studying art in university, I’ve always been haunted by Duane Michal’s work, This Photograph is My Proof. It is one of my favorite images. It talks about longing and holding on to things which may or may not be true anymore. It is both sad and happy. It is mourning for love that is no longer there, but it is also celebrating love that used to exist.

대학에서 미술을 공부할 때 그것을 본 이후로 저는 항상 Duane Michals의 사진이 This Photograph is My Proof에 매료되었습니다. 제가 가장 좋아하는 이미지 중 하나이에요. 그것은 더 이상 사실 일 수도 있고 아닐 수도있는 것들을 갈망하고 붙잡는 것에 대해 이야기해요. 슬프고 행복해요. 더 이상 존재하지 않는 사랑에 대한 애도이고, 존재했던 사랑을 축하하는 것이기도해요.

Back when I first saw it, I was in a sad pathetic time in my life. And I guess every time I’m in that space, the picture always comes back to me. “Look, there was a time I was happy!”

처음 보았을 때 제 인생이 슬픈 한심한 시간을 보냈어요. 그리고 그 상황에 있을 때마다 그 사진이 항상 제게 돌아 오는 것 같아요. “이봐, 내가 행복했던 때가 있었어!”

It really applies to any picture and any situation. Here, I can put it on my image and it can equally apply even though my photography does not compare to Duane Michals’.

모든 그림과 상황에 실제로 사용할수 있어요. 여기에서 내 이미지에 붙일 수 있어요. 내 사진이 Duane Michals와 비교하지 않아도 똑같이 사용할수 있어요.

The picture also talk about how pictures communicate moments in the past, and because of that, they might not be true anymore. Pictures lie. In This Photograph is My Proof, the image says something, but the words elaborate things more and perhaps contradicts what is going on. But really, the writer could have written anything else as well. The writer could’ve lied if he wanted to. “Things are still great between us. She loves me. I love her.”

이 사진은 또한 사진을 과거의 순간을 어떻게 전달하는지에 대해 이야기하며, 그로 인해 더 이상 사실이 아닐 수도 있어요. 사진은 자주 거짓말이에요. This Photograph is My Proof에 이미지는 무언가를 말하지만, 단어는 상황을 더 정교하게 만들고 무슨 일이 일어나고 있는지 모순되요.

A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend and purged all of her images on his Instagram. You know why? Because, “those photographs are proofs” that love existed between them once. And now, he would rather pretend that it didn’t exist in the first place. Online, people controlling the message on their images is more pervasive than Duane Michal’s pen. But still, he saw that people control their images, people are sad, and the past is often never as good as the present.

내 친구가 최근 여자 친구와 헤어지고 Instagram에서 모든 사진을 삭제했어요. 왜 그런지 알아? 왜냐하면 “그 사진들은 그들 사이에 한때 사랑이 존재했다는 증거”이기 때문에. 그리고 이제 그는 애초에 그 상황이 존재하지 않는 척하고 있어요. 온라인에서 사진의 메시지를 제어하는 사람들이 Duane Michals의 펜보다 더 널리 퍼져 있어요. 그러나, 여전히 그는 사람들이 자신의 사진을 통제하고, 사람들이 슬프고, 과거가 현재만큼 좋지 않다는 것을 알았어요.

Notice how I’m trying to write some of this in Korean? I’m trying to be more serious with my Korean studies, bad grammar and all.

제가 이걸 한국어로 왜 쓰려고하는지 알 겠어요? 저는 한국어 공부하는것은 진지하게 노력하고 있지라도 잘못된 문법이 보통 사영해요 .

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Tired of Historic Events Yet?

Today, Trump’s MAGA goon squad marched and broke into the US Capitol in protest of President-elect Biden’s electoral votes being ceremoniously counted. This was a coup attempt. This was insurrection and sedition fueled by craven politicians telling MAGA supporters that there is still a way for Trump to win the presidency, that it was somehow stolen from his via complex global, pedophile conspiracies, and that what they are doing is akin to being patriots. The last time forces stormed the Capitol was back in the War of 1812, when the United Kingdom and Canada went to war with the United States. Confederate generals dreamed of someday flying their flag in the US Capitol, and Trump’s MAGA forces this possible. A few years ago, Trump was also in charge of judging whether Gary Busey should be pretend-fired on a pretend job interview. Now, a man with Trump’s wall tattooed on his arm and who traveled with a buffalo headgear to Washington broke several laws making a jackass of himself in the US halls of power. Now, four people are dead.

I love politics. But as much as I love politics, I also love the law and how it works. This was a disgraceful day in US history in what it has done to politics and what it has done to the law. Now, much has already been said about the Republican politicians who allowed this to happen and to the racist police force who let the seditious terrorists run wild in the government building, but I have to say, I have a bigger problem with the weakness of the Democrats.

Joe Biden, in his response to the terrorist attack, tells the nation that the actions of Trump’s supporters “borders on sedition.” Ridiculous. If that mob caught up to one Democratic senator, who knows what would have happened. Even at this point, he talks about “restoring order.” Restoring order? What about arrests? What about prosecution? People made a mockery and attacked the people’s house. The house of the nation who proclaims to be the model of democracy. The nation whose troops all over the world fight wars to defend. Idiot MAGA terrorists ran amok through those hallowed halls and we are still hesitating on calling sedition what it is?

Even as Trump leaves this year, it will be a disappointing four years for Americans who are keen on democracy and justice. As much as Obama was beloved, he cursed America with probably the stupidest seven words he ever uttered, “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.” A recording of Trump committing an impeachable crime by pressuring officials to manufacture phantom votes for him in Georgia surfaced two days ago, and seemingly without even much consideration, we hear US representative Hakeem Jeffries saying those same dumb seven lines, “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.” Then how can Trump or any other officials learn? What’s stopping people from committing crimes in the future? It doesn’t even make any logical sense. ALL crimes in order to fit the definition must have “actus reus,” the conduct of the crime. How else can you establish conduct if you don’t look backward? If someone slaps Hakeem Jeffries in the face, will he immediately respond by, “We don’t look backwards, instead, we look forward to the inauguration of a President Joe Biden and will not allow ourselves to be distracted by these slapping in the face issues.”?

See, back in 2020, armed protesters stormed the Michigan statehouse in order to protest wearing masks. They essentially held the statehouse hostage and the police barely touched them. Not much of consequence happened to the agitators as the nation moved on to the next outrageous thing in the news cycle. Fast forward to now and again, armed agitators fueled by conspiracy theories essentially invade the US Capitol. See how they didn’t learn their lesson?

But wait, that was under under Trump. Are the Democrats still to be blamed for that? Yes, because they have short memories and easily move on. Republicans fueled so many congressional hearing on four deaths in Benghazi. How many congressional hearings will come out of this? How many hearings came out of the storming of the Michigan statehouse? Heck, when Bundy ranchers pointed rifles at police officers during Obama’s presidency, Democrats essentially let them get away with it. Gabby Giffords got shot in the head and the Democrats didn’t use it as a rallying cry for some sort of sensible gun legislation. I’d call the Democrats weak tea, but that would be offensive to teas everywhere.

So yeah, even as progressives like Representatives Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar are calling for impeachment, most of the Democrats will likely try to oppose them or at least try to weaken their call to action. As Trump’s ugliness infected Republicans and the rest of body politic, so will Barack Obama’s weak look-forward, not backward continue to lull Democratic politicians to inaction and complacency. Don’t get too excited about Trump leaving, folks. As we learned in 2020, things can always, ALWAYS get worse.

Note my entry last week. Canada lost the World Juniors yesterday, and now there’s a failed coup. 2021 off to a great start.

December 31

I would like to think that next year will be better than 2020, but I have learned not to be too optimistic, lest I be disappointed. Christmas was a quiet affair spent watching Netflix. New Year’s Eve is probably going to be the same. I can feel myself getting old just thinking about it.

Here’s hoping that 2021 is indeed an improvement over this lousy year. 

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Bah Humburgers

I started not liking Christmas back in 2018, what a horrible Christmas that was. Looking back, I’ve had different kinds of Christmases in my long existence: warm family-oriented celebrations with gifts and all sorts of food, depressing Christmases spent all by myself, saucy Christmases similar to those found on Internet videos, but Christmas 2018 truly ruined Christmas for me. It was the worst. I don’t want to dwell too much on the details, but it started a miserable trend to which I’m not sure I could recover from. And now every Christmas, I get reminded of that horrible night. Ever had that happen to you? A holiday you’ve cherished since childhood has been turned into a depressing reminder? Well, that’s me. So yeah, I’m really in no mood for trees, decorations, and presents.

And now it’s 2020, and it seems like the rest of the world is catching up with my feelings towards Christmas. Everyone’s sentiment towards the holidays is just a little bit closer to how I feel about it. It’s a day where you’re supposed to find joy despite everything in your life being miserable and hopeless.

In any case, I hope you’re doing better than I am. I hope your holidays, your year, and your life is better than mine. Smile and be happy. Things can only get better, count your blessings, someone else’s situation is always worse, etc. Etc.

….

Let me continue my depressing rant with what I imagine is an unpopular take: photorealism is not art, at least most people’s take on photorealism is not art. It annoys me how people are too focused on the initial shock at the skill of rendering an image with an almost photographic precision when the image itself is not saying anything that the original photograph already said. It doesn’t matter whether I see the works on galleries or on Instagram. They are not art. Simply, they are an exercises in meticulous reproduction. Re-drawing a photorealistic image of a beautiful woman by hand doesn’t change nor add meaning to the original photograph. It’s merely a change in medium. If anything, it just tells me that the artist spent an inordinate amount of time staring at a picture of a woman doing something a colored printer can easily do. Photorealism is akin to having great penmanship and re-writing great literary works. It is re-writing, not writing.

Steve Martin said that the joy of looking at Edward Hopper paintings, or many other paintings for that matter, is figuring out the meaning of the work. Why are elements of the work placed in a particular way? What are characters or objects in the piece meant to tell the viewer? This is why some works can endure being seen once or twice, like a long game of chess. And once you figure it out, the work is dead. It is very easy to lose interest in it. This is why most photorealistic pieces don’t work for me. The one thing that most viewers try to figure out is, “How did the artist do this?” and “How long did it take?” And the answer is already in the questions. With enough time, practice, and even techniques like tracing or drawing grids, I believe anyone can duplicate photographs. And once the viewer comes to that answer or has recovered from the initial awe of realizing that, “it’s not a photograph,” then it’s just a quick stroll around images that don’t say anything beyond the original.

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy photorealism. I do. I actually like the works of Torlakson, Blackwell, and others, as well as the hyperrealist movement as a whole. But most photorealist works that try to pass off as art, in my opinion, is not really art. They are bland exercises. Photorealism is often craft disguised as art. And even that comment is doing a disservice to many people who do crafts because some “crafts” could very well be works of art. I cannot say the same for the many of the photorealistic works I see. I’m sure the artists themselves are very talented and are demonstrably quite resilient and patient, but they are better served doing other types of work. The real tragedy in all of this cuts two ways. Talented people are spending too much time making art that is shallow and not really art, and people are actually taking the time to look at and admire “art” are not getting anything out of it other than, “wow, the artist is really talented. He didn’t say anything, but he is really talented.”

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Asshole Dream, Asshole Reality

I don’t have much patience for hearing about other people’s dreams, but since this is my website and no one is being forced to read it, I’m going to indulge myself a bit and talk about an asshole dream I had last night.

My mom passed away back in 2008 of pancreatic cancer. It was rather fast. She started experiencing pain in her stomach around November of 2007, then she was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on February 2008, then she passed away come July. Pancreatic cancer is awful.

So last night, I had a dream that my mom committed suicide. Apparently, she had a fight with my dad during her birthday and she jumped off an apartment building roof in the middle of the night. We were all in shock. I remember my grandmother, her mother, was there too, mourning my mom’s sudden passing. Interestingly, my grandmother passed away two years ago as well. So anyway, it was a pretty depressing dream/nightmare. I couldn’t remember much but several things happened regarding investigations and funerals but eventually, I woke up.

You know when you wake up from a nightmare and you’re all relieved that it was all a nightmare and that everything is going to be fine? Well, I woke up, felt relief, then I remembered that my mom already passed away over ten years ago. I also remember that Korea is also in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections and that I don’t know what awaits me at work. Depressed, relieved, then back to depressed. My brain’s subconscious is a jerk asshole.

Speaking of the coronavirus, for two days in a row now, Korea has been having over 1000 cases a day. Before that, the country’s jumped to over 600 a day. We are currently on a high alert level, close to the strictest level yet, which would mean a total lockdown and closing of businesses and schools. While Korea has been a model for containing the virus with its constant testing and contact-tracing, the country appears to have been caught flat-footed with the second wave. Unfortunately, while the rest of the world is already getting started with vaccination, the government decided to wait it out until March 2021 before getting the vaccine. The government wants to see how the rest of the world reacts to the vaccine first. There is some wisdom to healthy skepticism and caution, but the government seems to be neglecting to help people and businesses while they hold out and wait for life to go back to normal. The Trump administration is being lauded for only providing a $1200 check once to its citizens. Well, Korea only gave out assistance once as well.

As much as I appreciate the government’s initial reaction to the virus, it seems like the government only has testing and contact-tracing in its bag of tricks. Cases are increasing and all we’re doing is testing. They put free testing facilities all over Seoul, even outside my workplace. What I don’t see are financial aid for businesses and for people who are unable to earn a living while they are forced to stay at home. As for waiting and see for the rest of the world to react to the vaccines’ side effects, I wonder if that skepticism would be there if it weren’t for the anti-vaccine movement.

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Here We Go Again.

We are back to lockdown. Seoul will be on lockdown starting tomorrow until the end of the year. We’re now ending 2020 the way it’s been the whole year: miserable indoors, wondering if my job will be safe at the end of it all. Right now, we are required to wear masks at work even at our desks in the office. There are strict limits imposed on restaurants and coffee shops. The same goes for gyms, saunas, study rooms, and karaokes. So far, I haven’t been asked to work from home, but I work with publishing and testing. This might not affect the publishing side of things, but scheduled language tests were canceled a few months ago due to the pandemic.

It’s kinda ironic because just over the weekend, I happened to run into an old classmate from Korean class while I was in a bookstore. This is a class I had to stop attending due to the risk of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to my company. Well, I was thinking of maybe contacting him later for drinks sometime, just to properly catch up. Then BOOM, the government raises the pandemic alarm level. Minimize socializing. Stay home. Don’t take unnecessary risks.

What’s depressing is how all of this has affected many businesses in the city. Bars, restaurants, and stores which relied heavily on foot traffic, especially from Chinese and Japanese tourists have just been wrecked. Shopping and tourist districts have been ghost towns, which is more evident considering it’s the Christmas holiday. We were doing quite well, a couple of months ago, even had daily cases down to less than 50. But for the past few days, there’s been a huge uptick. Just today, there’s over 600 cases added to the country’s total. Luckily, people are not protesting against wearing masks. Everyone understands that it’s a necessity. I just wish the government provided more aid to businesses and made it easier for people to work from home.

There’s hope with the government securing contracts for the vaccine once it becomes available, but who knows when regular people would have access to it? Just like the rest of the world, I don’t think normal people would have access to it until summer 2021. And just to add more to the stressful situation, the government is also currently trying to contain a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu after a couple of cases broke out south of Seoul.

Seriously, I’m just tired of worrying. I’m just tired of wondering if it will be me next. I keep seeing all of these people suddenly put into these dire situations, and I can’t help but constantly be anxious of the axe finally dropping down on my skinny, selfish neck.

All of this comes to one conclusion: New Year celebrations are bullshit. I know, I know. It’s a bit early, but I’m stewing here. Last year, I saw Post Malone and BTS try to make the Times Square Ball Drop still be a thing for young people. I also saw several Japanese acts perform their annual song competition on NHK followed by solemn temple blessings. In Korea, they rang the Bosingak Belfry five minutes from where I work. It was crowded with people. Pengsu, a viral penguin mascot, was one of the bell ringers, which I assume added to the popularity of the usually crowded event. All of these events, all of these “farewell to 2019 and hello to 2020,” all of these blessings… they didn’t stop 2020 from being the disaster that it’s been. I can’t help but think that if 2020 had a face, it would look like Post Malone’s. And now the year is almost past and if we’re lucky, we all just got older fast. The unlucky one lost their livelihood, lost a loved one, or passed away themselves. And yeah, the mayor of Seoul committed suicide six months after ringing that bell (That’s not the only suicide story that happened around my periphery this year as well!).

New Years are like birthdays. They just happen regardless, and the only reason people celebrating them is they happen to survive another year. There is nothing special about them. If anything, the hope one feels at the end of the year should extend to every night when the day turns because that’s exactly what New Years are: just another day passing (how’s that for a somewhat positive turn?).

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Just Dance?

My wife and I, we have Just Dance at home. I don’t play it, but she’s occasionally plays the game to work out or just to de-stress. I believe we have all of the releases since we started buying it for the Wii, even the two Just Dance Japans. We got it for the Wii, then for the PS3, then for the PS4. Something happened on 2018 however. The game, which to be honest, looked like it spent most of its budget on music licensing and often had poor production and didn’t spend too much money on the presentation and graphics, suddenly, it changed its UI. The makers of the game decided to incorporate a subscription service along with the main game. Now, when you load the game, not only do you see all of the games on the disc, you also see games from Just Dance Unlimited, a monthly gaming subscription service which allowed users to stream songs from past games.

Now, we didn’t have any reason to subscribe to this service. After all, I believe we already have all of the songs from previous releases. We just have to fire up the disc from other consoles and voila! But now we’re on a situation where we are constantly being sold a product we don’t need. And if anything, we are currently being reminded of other good songs in other games, with choreography my wife is more familiar with, instead of the new ones on the disc. It’s an awful, awful design. It’s like buying Super Mario 2 and constantly being reminded about how awesome Super Mario 1 is and how fun it would be to fire up that game again instead of slogging through the newer game.

But I think the biggest crime of the change in UI is that it treats the customer like a bystander instead of a customer. Now, I understand the concept of the “game as a service” model, but I think developers too often forget the “game” part in that phrase. I just bought a game, do I have to be reminded that I have to pay more to enjoy a fuller experience right from the start? And this is especially annoying to someone who already has the other games, a real loyal customer. “Thanks for your business, now re-buy all of the stuff again.”

So yeah, after 2018 came out, the 2019 and 2020 versions came out and were quite forgettable. They didn’t get much play. Or if they did, we ended up firing up the older CDs after being reminded of other songs in the Just Dance catalog. As for 2021, the game is already being sold on a massive discount after just being released last month. I’m not sure whether it’s because of poor sales or they are just banking on people paying for the monthly service after buying the disc. As for us, my wife is more into Beat Saber at the moment. This is another aspect where Just Dance dropped the ball. They didn’t even bother having the most popular band on their game. Beat Saber just released ten BTS songs on their platform last month. Just Dance won’t be missed.

So why am I writing about Just Dance right now? I’m not big into dance games, but the problem I saw with Just Dance permeates many aspects in business at the moment. People forget what they’re all about in the first place in their drive to push for more sales. And it’s not just with games. I wrote about Instagram last week. They’re turning into an advertising/shopping platform, forgetting that people are there mostly to share photos, grow their own following, and make their friends insanely jealous. This happens out in the real world, too. I remember going to a very popular Genghis Khan Japanese barbecued lamb restaurant a while ago. This place usually has a long line-up. But when we sat down and started eating, our server was in such a rush grilling meat and having us finish our meal in order to sit more people waiting in line. The dish is supposed to be slowly savored with drinks and conversation. It’s not fast food.

Anyway, I know businesses can’t help but try to make more money, but they should at least try to be more subtle about it. Make the “upgrade” icons less intrusive. Let customers enjoy themselves more before trying to milk them for more money. I just paid for a bottle of champagne for the table. Don’t ask me to fork over another $200 for a plate of cheese the minute the bottle arrives. At least flirt with me a little first and throw some lies at me. Call me handsome. There’s a delicate dance to these things, otherwise, customers will be turned off and leave. Don’t they teach this in business school?

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A Sinking Ship

Instagram has changed for the worse. Let’s talk about the change in algorithm first. Whoever is in charge of Instagram has decided to make it harder for people to get noticed and get followers. I used to think that it was just me, I thought I had reached a plateau, but then I started seeing complaints from others as well. They’re either not gaining followers, or worse, they’re losing them. When I first started posting regularly, it was not unusual to gain around 100 followers in every week or so. These days, my growth is at a snail’s pace. And with Instagram upgrading me to a creator account, I could see that my engagement and growth is incredibly low. But that’s not all I see. I now constantly see Instagram offering to promote my posts for a price.

I’m guessing Instagram is now pressuring people to pay in order to promote their posts and hopefully see their follower numbers grow. Maybe I’m naive, but these makes me very suspicious of every post I see on “top,” especially if I keep seeing the same account over and over again. Instead of a social network service, it’s turned into a paid commercial service. Users are either being asked to become paid advertisers or deal with other users who are now probably paid advertisers themselves. Add to that the regular advertising users see on their feed.

Of course people are trying to fight back against this trend, asking followers to save their posts, comment, or share to other users, instead of just liking them. These actions are supposed to increase their visibility and allow them to grow. But I don’t know if this will work in the long run. The platform seem quite intent in preventing organic growth. Not to toot my own horn, but I like to think of myself as a pretty decent artist. And when I see someone with mediocre skills get several hundred likes from their tens of thousands of followers, it’s like an ant staring at a mountain. This person probably either boosted their account somehow or has been paying for promotions, and Instagram likes it that way.

Instagram has also decided to make shopping a major part of the platform. Looking at it, they’ve given the stores of the accounts I actually follow very small real estate compared to corporate brands and online stores on the platform. Shopping and browsing through the actual accounts I care about also requires more clicks to look through. Sifting through the stores Instagram is promoting, I notice that perhaps Facebook and Instagram doesn’t have enough data about me. It’s like stumbling through some stranger’s Pinterest/Etsy page. If they’re trying to simulate caring and actually knowing their user base, they’re failing me. I don’t think Instagram will be taking over as one of my go-to platforms for shopping anytime soon.

So what does this do to me? Well, aside from not growing, nothing really. I imagine this is more frustrating for people who are intent on growing their accounts for visibility, business, or whatever, but if the end goal is business, Instagram is discouraging the influencer route and forcing people to reconsider paying for promoting their accounts. I think they’re also catering to people who are already selling through Instagram, not to new players. It was good to see my account organically grow within a couple of years. Honestly, I felt I had better feedback and more exposure as an artist compared to having my works in physical galleries in Korea. But seeing this current trend, I’m worried that Instagram will soon become the next Facebook.

It’s a good thing that Instagram is currently just images and short videos. If it becomes more like Facebook and becomes a platform for fake stories that trick my dad, then I will move on to the next thing.

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Back with this Virus

It’s been weeks now since I last wrote about the coronavirus. Well, we’re going through another surge at the moment, much like the rest of the world. For the past couple of days, daily cases have been going up. Since last week, we were getting a hundred cases a day in Korea. Alarmingly, for a couple of days now, it’s been around 300 a day for the country. A few months ago, we were sitting at less than fifty a day, and now we’re this high.

Just yesterday, the alarm level has been raised. Schools and businesses must be kept at a third of their capacity and close early. Masks are mandatory, and people caught not wearing masks must pay $100. People are advised not to gather, but protests are still allowed as long as the number of people gathered is less than a hundred. Frankly, I think people are simply being careless. The virus is being spread locally. People are going out for dinner and living their lives, all wearing masks, but it’s not a 100% preventative solution. The virus is getting through the cracks. It annoys me however, that still, once in a while, I would hear from co-workers that would still scapegoat outsiders as the cause of the current uphill trend, particularly last Tuesday, she blamed the US military not being strict enough with their personnel.

That’s not to say that foreigners have been saints, however. Foreigners and young people crowded bars a week after Halloween to celebrate. The government cracked down and disallowed Halloween celebrations, but many bars and clubs just postponed the celebrations. The clubs and bar areas got busy but just on different days. Trending recently too was this American baseball player who played for one of the local teams. He was going to be awarded an MVP prize for a game but refused to accept the award because he refused to don on a mask. Asked why, he said the mask kept him from breathing properly. Yep, tell that to the rest of the country, buddy. Talk about being an ugly American.

Despite the news of two promising vaccines on the horizon, I still worry about the state of the pandemic in other countries. I have family in the US and in Canada and infections are going up, particularly in the United States. People are just not worried enough about it. Just the other day, I got in a bit if an argument with my dad who doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the virus despite his elevated risk. He thought I was being silly regarding my concerns with masks and quarantines, especially since he was traveling to the Philippines. “If I’m going to catch it, I’m going to catch it.” Well, we’re all going to die at some point, so why bother wearing seat belts? I told him to quarantine himself for a couple of weeks after arriving, but then he told me that an official in the Philippines told him that there’s no need to quarantine if he passes the COVID test upon arrival. This is all against the regulations set by the World Health Organization, but this lackadaisical backwards approach is exactly why cases in the Philippines is so high.

As for me, due to the pandemic, I’ve been dreading weekends. I don’t want to be stuck at home. I’d rather be at work, doing something, getting busy and tired. Being home is not helping my depression and anxiety. It’s not like my place has felt like home to me anyway. I moved to a new place almost two years now and it still feels alien to me, like I don’t belong there. I’m living in a stranger’s house. In the past couple of months, there’s been a cold, numb feeling in my chest which crawls up to my throat, making it difficult to breathe. I would be worried about it if I didn’t start getting used to it. This mixture of dread, depression, and anxiety is like Clare Quilty quietly shadowing me, never revealing himself fully but always there, always ready to ruin my day. But just like Humbert Humbert, I think I probably deserve it.

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Grandma

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away last night. Due to COVID-19, I won’t be able to make it to the funeral. 2020 really knows how to make an impression.

I never met any of my grandfathers. Both of them passed away before I was born, Less than two years ago, my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away in Hawaii. I officially don’t have any grandparents anymore. And my father, he is technically an orphan. As I’m writing this, he’s trying to catch a flight to the funeral, but with COVID-19, quarantines and all, who knows if he’ll even make it. But yeah, as a son, at the very least, he has to try.

It’s been many years since I last saw my grandmother. At the time, she was proudly showing off the dress she planned to be buried in. Even back then, she had a very comfortable relationship with death, and she planned and paid for everything. It was morbid, pragmatic, and in many ways hopeful. Perhaps death isn’t that scary. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned, I haven’t been the best grandson to her; I barely kept in touch. And though I love her, I was mostly absent from her life.

She was an educator, teaching elementary school students. I have some memories of her teaching me some math when I was younger. I remember starting out being notoriously bad at math, although later, it became one of the more easier subjects for me. Maybe it was thanks to her, or maybe it was thanks to a cosmic triangle I wore on my head to make myself smarter.

My grandmother raised my eldest sister when she was young. She was like a second mother to her. When I and the rest of my siblings were born, we had nannies take care of us, but that doesn’t mean my grandmother wasn’t a part of our lives. I still remember her homemade remedies for minor ills which she administered to us when we were young. I always thought of them as superstitious gypsy magic.

Growing up, she hated me playing video games. She said that it would ruin my eyes. Admittedly, back then, my eyes were a bit dry and itchy, and I did blink quite a bit. But right now, I’m the only one in the family not wearing glasses. So maybe it was the opposite. Maybe it made eyes better. Also back when I was ten years old, she taught me and my sisters how to play mahjong. God bless her.

There are more odd stories about my grandmother, including hypnotists, dancing statues, and dead Japanese soldiers, but I’ll just leave that for another time. For now, I would like to remember her as a selfless woman who cared for everyone, made our lives more colorful, and mourned for my mother as if she was her own daughter.

I love you, Grandma. May your soul rest in peace.

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2020 Elections

It’s occupied everything for the past couple of days, so here are my thoughts on the US elections. I would like to say that I overestimated the supposed blue wave, but now it’s apparent that what I overestimated is the sense of decency of Americans.

Voting in 2016, one could be forgiven to not know what kind of president Trump really would be. Aside from the sex scandals and racism against Mexicans, one could still be hopeful that the Donald Trump campaigning would be different once he’s in the Oval Office. But after four years, there’s been a Muslim ban, he’s attacked every minority, alienated his allies, coddled dictators, wrecked the economy, gave over a trillion dollars to the richest people on the planet, allowed Puerto Rico to drown and California to burn, tolerated Nazis, encouraged violence against black people, gassed people for a photo shoot, suggested that Biden would be assassinated five days if elected, asked for the imprisonment of his political opponents, attacked veterans, turned the US military into mercenaries for hire, allowed the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans from a preventable pandemic… I could go on and on. But after all of these, the election is still too close to call. It’s not a landslide. A significant chunk of Americans are fine with the bigotry, ignorance, and incompetence. Trump is not a hiccup. He is the rotten soul of half of the country.

Koreans managed to impeach and imprison their president for corruption while she was in office. They collectively decided they’re not okay with it. Americans saw Trump and half of them asked, “Can I have some more, please?”

When Obama was elected, many people in the country celebrated it like it was a collective good deed. Finally, America was on its way to going beyond the sins of slavery. But really, maybe Obama was the hiccup. Maybe Trump and the people that allow Trump to be as vile as he is as long as they get what they want… maybe they’re the norm. I mean, looking back at my expected landslide, Trump and his cronies were coming in to the election deeply unpopular. They have revealed themselves to be craven, hypocrites, and extremely inept. Fortunately for them, Democrats are also craven and extremely inept. God help Biden, but his policies make him equivalent to a Republican from the 80s. The Democrats are so protective of their own self interests and serving their donors that they went with the most milk toast candidates in the elections. They lost a couple of seats in the House and won’t be able to take the majority in the Senate. This was after Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were at their most vile! Only the loser Democrats could find a way to lose this much to the most unpopular group of politicians I have ever seen in my lifetime. Pelosi and Schumer should be run out of town.

And speaking of Pelosi. Where are those “arrows in her quiver” that she mentioned regarding preventing Amy Coney Barrett from being confirmed? Horrible.

Many Democrats are just as inept. For as many times Trump had suggested that Biden was hiding in a basement, the person who was hiding in a basement the whole time was Barrack Obama. He didn’t really go out and campaign for his former vice president until less than two weeks before the election. Wasn’t he upset about what’s happening in the country or in the world? Why can’t he attack the man whose making a mockery of his old job and killing Americans in the process. Democrats play this rule about being civil when Republicans spit on their face and call them suckers for unnecessarily crippling themselves. They really love shooting themselves in the foot.

Kamala Harris was nowhere to be found as well. Remeber when John McCain ran for president and Sarah Palin was virtually ubiquitous? She was on TV, she was on Saturday Night Live, she was selling herself just as much as she was selling John McCain. After all, she was going to be a heartbeat away from the highest office in the land. Where was Kamala Harris? Why couldn’t she have been out there just as much as Palin was for McCain? Why are Democrats so bad at politics?

So what do I think will happen? Well, I believe as I believed back in Tuesday, Biden will still win this election. As I’m writing this, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Georgia are trending towards him. But really, if Biden wins, he is really inheriting a consolation prize. Half of the country revealed themselves to be fine with bigotry and chaos, and they don’t want him to be president. And already, Mitch McConnell is pledging to block everything Biden would do, starting with his cabinet picks. Biden will win, but without a Senate, the country will be effectively run by Mitch McConnell. The Democrats won’t be able to get much done in the first two years, they will get blamed for it as well as for not being able to fix the many things that the Trump administration broke, and they will suffer politically for it come the next election. It would be like, “you think George Bush was bad? Wait til you see Trump!” Next time, it would be, “you thin Trump was bad? Wait til you see, I don’t know, President Tucker Carlson.”

So yeah, this week, the lesson is if you’re not a straight white man, America hates you and doesn’t care about you. Forget the movies and television shows. The country is not as progressive as that. Go into any room, and there’s a fifty percent chance that the stranger you just met will have a problem with you. Heck, even when the other person is the same demographic as you, they probably don’t care about you. Just look at all of the white women who don’t care about other white women. Which reminds me of my sister asking me why Cubans overwhelmingly vote conservative despite the fact that the Trump administration has consistently attacked Hispanics. It’s because many Cubans don’t think they’re the same as Mexicans. Many Koreans don’t think they’re the same as Chinese. They don’t realize that to the untrained eye, a brown person is a brown person, an Asian is an Asian. They got theirs, so why bother with others. I mean, I know Filipinos who don’t mind the racism against Mexicans, and I’m like, “Dude, you look Mexican!”

And yeah, to hell with reality TV as well. I’ve hated them for years now, even the ones here in Korea, but now I hate them even more. Trump is the product of Mark Burnett, the man who made Survivor and the Apprentice. He popularized the notion that the fakeness on TV shows is real. He rescued Trump from abject ruin and who now pushes the notion that the news is fake or at least anything that goes against my personal beliefs is fake. Don’t watch reality TV. Heck, don’t support Youtubers or any video influencers as well. With enough clout, celebrities get it into their heads that they should be running things. Look at Kanye West. Look at Sargon of Akkad, and look at Donald Trump. Leave politics to those who actually care about politics, people who have put in the time in their communities and have skin in the game.

There’s still a lot of ballots to be counted. Biden might win this election, but the nightmare is far from over. The only cold comfort would be Trump not running things in the Oval Office anymore. It is highly unlikely that the Democrats would ever go after him or his cronies for any crime when they are no longer in power, so don’t get your hopes up. Trump will never spend a day in prison. If anything, he will probably continue to command his Jim Jones cult when he’s no longer in power. This same cult would be the same group of people voting for the likes of Mitch McConnell, so Trump and his ilk would still have a significant amount of power even when out of office. This is why I was hoping for a landslide coming in to these elections. The nightmare will still continue. If you’re in America, your neighbor is horrible. If you’re in Canada, despite Biden winning, America is horrible. The nightmare is the norm.

Or I could be wrong. And Trump wins the elections.

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