Goodbye, Norm.

Norm MacDonald passed away a couple of days ago. Now I don’t agree with everything he says, but he is one my favorite comics in the world. It breaks my heart to know that I’ll never heard any new material or pearls of wisdom from him. I truly identify with his humor, his weaknesses, his rants, and his propensity for non sequiturs.

Not many people knew that he had cancer for over nine years. He purposely kept it from the public. It’s funny looking back at his materials, especially the one about cancer and “bravely battling cancer.” He noted that no one really battles cancer, and if you die from cancer, you don’t really lose. Since the cancer also dies with you, it’s technically a tie. There are many popular Youtube clips of him, but I’m sure that one cancer bit is one among many that people will be watching.

One thing he mentioned in one of his shows however is that when someone is afflicted with cancer, people tend to talk about their experiences regarding their suffering. It amplifies the suffering and perhaps that’s where the term “battling cancer” comes from, because it lionizes them. In sharing their experience, they willingly or perhaps unwittingly garner sympathy which is in many ways not brave. What’s brave is keeping it to yourself, and shielding people from the pain and suffering you are feeling. When someone has cancer, it is not a unique thing that is happening to them. Most people get cancer. And the insight regarding suffering through cancer is something that most people will know soon enough. Best to keep that to yourself and have people lead normal and happy lives for as long as you can afford it.

He mentioned the stuntman and actor Richard Farnsworth whose last film was ‘The Straight Story,’ about a man who rode a riding lawnmower across the United States. He starred in the movie while he was suffering from cancer and never told anyone. He was nominated for Best Actor in 1999 and lost to Kevin Spacey for ‘American Beauty.’ Norm can’t help but think that if people knew that it was probably Farmsworth’s last film and that he was currently dying of cancer, he would’ve easily won the award. But Farnsworth kept it to himself because he didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. So the Academy went to an accused rapist.

Now, I see where he is coming from. But my mother passed away at a much younger age than him and deteriorated quickly after her diagnosis. She never used her cancer to garner sympathy, nor did she want anyone’s sympathy. She just let her children know that she was sick. In fact, she kept me and my older sister out of the city as much as she can while she was ill. She told us that things we’re okay and that we didn’t need to visit. It wasn’t until her last days that I was asked to come back home and be with my dying mother. I knew why she did that. She was thinking much like Norm MacDonald. She was shielding us from the pain and suffering, and wanted us to live our lives normally. But looking back, I really wish she was less brave and asked for us to come home sooner. I really wish I got to spend more time with her.

Much like ‘Rashomon,’ I guess it all depends on whose perspective it is. To the ones with cancer, perhaps they don’t really want to gather sympathy. They don’t want to share their suffering with others. But as for their loved ones, they simply want to take the suffering away from their dying relative. They want to sympathize and lionize them, in many ways eulogize their loved ones while they can still hear what they are saying. They want to make the passage of death softer and easier because their own fear and insecurities of confronting their own deaths in the future.

In any case, the world is a sadder and less interesting place without Norm MacDonald. Even in death, he got people thinking and perhaps smiling. I love you, Norm.

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Inktober is Coming

Inktober is almost here. The prompts for every day of October is already out. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate about this October drawing initiative is that not only does it encourage people to make art, but it also does the hardest thing about drawing for me: coming up with ideas of what to draw. I think I spend half of my time tormenting myself thinking of what to draw as opposed to actually drawing. Thank you, Inktober. Here’s to trying to keep up with all of the daily prompts!

I just realized that it’s been a while since I’ve applied to any shows. Being busy and with the pandemic, it’s been very difficult to find an outlet which could cater to my works. I do make art regularly, it’s just that I haven’t been very active in trying to get them out there, especially with the postal services messed up and prices to send work overseas skyrocketing. There are tons of opportunities out there online, but I haven’t been spending the time getting my heart broken by applying to juried shows. It’s time to get busy.

The image here is one that was suggested to me. Make a busy traffic scene. I didn’t want to end up with the opening scene of ‘La La Land’ or the music video for ‘Everybody Hurts,’ one of REM’s worst songs, so I tried to look at traffic from an unusual point of view, from down below. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it fully translates. Half the time, I have to explain to people what is going on and why they are only seeing the undersides of cars.

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On OnlyFans

So what was that whole thing with Onlyfans about? Well, just a quick recap of the events. Onlyfans, a platform that is made popular by creators selling homemade pornography, has grown even bigger due to the pandemic and many adult-performers opting out of mainstream pornographic productions. Looking for bigger investors, they announced that they will no longer be hosting sexually-explicit content, effectively alienating the creators that made them big to begin with. After a huge backlash from their creators and users, the company decided to go back on their announcement and continue to allow sexually-explicit content “for the moment.”

The initial move has been compared to Tumblr banning sexually-explicit content. For those unfamiliar with the events, Tumblr used to be huge, rivaling Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. Then it decided to ban sexually-explicit content and its user base just plummeted. Now barely anyone uses Tumblr. Now, the sexually-explicit content Tumblr had wasn’t just raunchy pornography, it also included blogs on the LGBTQ community which were underrepresented online. But due to being forced by Apple, which has a notoriously anti—pornography stance, Tumblr had to follow suit in order to be available on Apple’s IOS platform and thus lost most of its value. Not many people remember it, but the whole thing reminds me more of Playboy magazine when it decided not to feature nude pictorials anymore. It was a move that spectacularly failed and had to be reversed later on when the publisher realized that GQ already exists.

I read commentary that Onlyfans needed to weed out sexually-explicit content in order to please payment processors like Mastercard who are quite conservative. Some even blamed Christian lobbyists as the ones pushing for the move. I also read that the problem that investors and payment processors are trying to avoid is the risk of being involved in child pornography. Onlyfans, being a platform for homemade pornography, it is possible for content with minors in it to be hosted in the platform. That, and perhaps other legal albeit unusual proclivities that investors might not be comfortable with. Now, instead of Onlyfans investing more money in policing their content, prematurely decided to scuttle the most profitable portion of their users. Laziness plus greed.

With that in mind, it also reminds me of the pump and dump scheme prevalent among cryptocurrencies these days. Influential personalities will publicize a new cryptocurrency, not mention that they are invested heavily on it, or perhaps even the creators of the cryptocurrency, and once people buy a huge amount of the cryptocurrency, they sell all of their shares and watch the value plummet on all of the people who trusted them. I’m thinking the heads at Onlyfans were trying to secure huge investments in order to expand, increase the value of the company, leave the company with their golden parachutes, and watch a pornless Onlyfans shrink to oblivion. The only problem was the backlash was so swift and so severe that their investors and payment processors got wind of the inevitable downfall that the plan had to be postponed.

And I say postponed because Onlyfans already showed their cards. Their creators better start looking for a plan B should Onlyfans finally decide to ditch them for good.

Regarding to the initial reactions, however. There were two interesting camps. The one trending on Twitter were the ones celebrating the downfall of Onlyfans and meme-ing that the girls on Onlyfans now have to find real jobs. Well, first off, sex-work is actual work. If anything, I think the men celebrating the plight of sexworkers are the same men who secretly enjoy pornography but don’t really pay for them. They hate women and feel slighted by not having the option of being able to take of their clothes and have swarms of women willing to pay for their time online.

The other interesting camp are from adult actresses who believe Onlyfans is offering a false sense of security among its creators. They are also giving naive young girls an “easy way out” by making easy money online. This is a more interesting take which I’m more keen on hearing. Apparently, Onlyfans is not very keen on its security and creators often have to deal with being hacked, stalked, and terrorized online. Not to mention that nudes online can easily be leaked and once your nudes are online, it’s there forever, often for free. Creators are also competing with one another. One girl posting for the first time is competing with several others who have bigger user bases, more content, and more experience with the platform. I do wonder how many people actually make a decent amount of money on Onlyfans and stick with it as compared to those who try it out for a few months and just flame out.

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A Friendly Reminder

So I haven’t been very careful with my anti-depressants in the past couple of weeks. This led to me not taking them for three days, which gave me my first experience of SSRI withdrawal syndrome.

For those not taking anti-depressants, it takes a while for your brain to get used to the medication. Once it gets used to them, to suddenly cut it off can cause a wide array of symptoms. That’s not to say that anti-depressants are addictive. The symptoms can be wildly uncomfortable, but it’s nothing like getting off hard drugs. I talked to someone who suffered a similar experience as me and basically the choice is either to just continue taking anti-depressants as needed or to slowly taper off using medication, working with a doctor to do so.

So what did I experience? First, it was sudden motion sickness, which became more occasional until now. Depression is not so bad but I got a bit anxious for a prolonged period a couple of times in the past couple of days. There’s this constant headache which I first thought was caused by my stiff muscles, but now I believe is also caused by SSRI withdrawal. I’ve gone and renewed my prescription and taken my meds, but I’m not sure how long will it take before these symptoms disappear.

What’s most interesting to me though is that the nights are longer and I’ve been experiencing a series of vivid dreams. One dream apparently involves a roller coaster ride with the talking bird from Aladdin and a white, fluffy dog. I woke up and found it so interesting that I had to write a message to myself on my phone so I could recall it in the morning.

The next dream was me and an English fellow testing out medieval weapons for some reason. Then it was followed by a visit from an old artist friend and my best friend in the middle of a grammar test. Then finally, what started out in what I assumed was either a very romantic or an intimate sex dream with my partner devolved into a ghost choking me beneath the sheets. I can still remember the ghostly hands as they approached my throat. I was screaming, begging for mercy, when my partner woke me up. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed from a nightmare before. This was a first.

When I woke up, my head was hurting. But I think I was still in a confused and irrational state. The first thing I did was eat a baguette in order to get sleepy again.

And I did get sleepy and slept again for a short while. I dreamt of sending tiny white snails in an envelope to a friend.

So yeah, don’t skip on your meds, folks. Or better yet, live a happy and fulfilling life and don’t get depressed in the first place!

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Moth Joke

I was on vacation and this is me being a tad lazy and uninspired. It’s my version of my favorite Norm MacDonald material. Life is super sad. It can be tragic. But we can still smile, fake it, and move one.

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Passing

Been reading about Morris Blanchard, who goes by the Ojibway name Onagottay. He’s a Canadian artist who claims to be Anishinaabe and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. For the uninitiated, Anishinaabe is a group representing indigenous populations of North America which include the Ojibway, Cree, Algonquin, etc. The Sixties Scoop was an initiative of the Canadian government of taking Indigenous children and assigning them white foster parents in order to integrate them into white society, remove Indigenous influence, and weaken the claims of land rights of indigenous communities in the future.

Unfortunately, despite being a celebrated First Nations artist and an “elder” teaching Ojibway in a local language program, it would appear that Blanchard is totally Caucasian. His brother and his ex-wife both claim that his autobiography of surviving the Sixties Scoop and living in the bush is all fiction. His brother says that their ancestry is Norweigan, English, and French. Now, like many Canadians, there’s a likelihood that there might be some First Nations in his bloodline, but not to the extent that Blanchard has carved and sold his persona.

Now, one can admire his visual works absent his misrepresentations, but it’s offensive to think that this artist has primarily used a First Nations story to make a career of himself, even being employed by Queen’s University teaching Indigenous language and culture. It’s one thing to steal and disrespect First Nations by misappropriating their culture, which I still think is oddly called “cultural appropriation.” But it’s another thing to steal the suffering minorities and claim it as your own. I find it more offensive than a thousand people wearing an Indian headdress as a fashion statement. He is actively stealing the history, suffering, and wisdom from other survivors.

He makes interesting visual works. Let him do that. I am fully on board with admiring works of art absent the vile character of the artist. That’s why I can still look at works of Paul Gauguin or occasionally watch a Woody Allen film. Blanchard can be just like Kirby Sattler, an artist who paints inaccurate realistic portraits of Native Americans. But just like Kirby Sattler, he must own up to his own history and say that he is an outsider admiring the beauty and culture of the First Nations, not claim to be First Nations himself.

I remember back in university. One of my first friends was First Nations. We hung out and met a local elder who was very friendly with us. He even invited me to a sweat lodge. I didn’t realize in the beginning that he mistook me for being First Nations as well, probably due to my complexion. I had to sheepishly admit that I wasn’t First Nations when he asked me what tribe I was from. Graciously, he still maintained that I’m welcome to the sweat lodge and visit his community.

Apparently, Blanchard would’ve gone along with the mistake and happily passed as First Nations throughout his university life.

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What now?

Over the weekend, I had a bit of a panic attack in the middle of a public argument. Personally, I find public arguments quite immature and I really hate being a part of them. I say a part of them, but usually I’m just on the receiving end, trying to calm the situation down. Being a visible minority in Korea, you’re most likely to be seen as a villain the minute something scandalous breaks. But having been particularly anxious for days now, then having a public argument after a night of drinking, I just started getting tunnel vision, had trouble breathing, and a panic sensation rushed to me. I had to run to a convenience store for something to drink and a bit of space to breathe.

I’m not sure if the Xanax is working. It’s not smart, but I quadrupled my dose the other day, but I can’t even tell if it’s working or not.

I don’t know if I’m good with people anymore. An acquaintance of mine called me a raconteur the other day, but that energy… the smiles, jokes, and anecdotes… they take a lot out of me. I can’t maintain that for a long time. And that doesn’t work too well with people who really know me. I’m still convinced that I’m only good in small doses. A bit more of me and you’ll realize I’m trash. It reminds me of something I read the other day, “I don’t know you. That’s why I love you.”

I believe it was Chappelle who observed that women in relationships create folders in their head where they file every mistake a man makes, ready to pull it out for an imaginary divorce that may or may not happen. That could very well be true. But I find that I also make my own folder of my own failings, of awful things that are said to me, of all of my blunders, and that my mind accesses it every time I get anxious, or worse, randomly in importune moments. I could be peeing in the bathroom, holding my genitals, then all of a sudden I’m sad and could no longer pee. Am I alone in this? Does this happen to others? I suppose I should save these questions for Reddit.

I’m rambling, I know. But it’s been a minute. Enjoy the art.

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A Wellness Check

It’s weird being emotionally numb. I try to feel more, connect more with the people around me, but it’s weird. As much as I try to be a better person, be a much better person to the people around me, especially the ones I love, I feel like doors are closed right on my face. Either that, or truly no positive feedback is coming my way. Am I reading people wrong, or am I just not feeling any joy recently? It’s really weird. Even my depression lately has not gone through any wild swings, but it’s just become this dull background noise.

I celebrated my birthday last week, and instead of being joyful or excited, I found myself being more anxious than anything. What the heck is going on? My medication and therapy has been working for a while lately, but recently, I’ve been in an odd place. I remember my birthday anxiously waiting for things to go bad. I was waiting for the evening to turn for the worse.

Work has been a good escape. My activities are automatic and I don’t have to think much while I keep busy. It’s when I have time on my hands that I get anxious or depressed. Art has been helping, and I’ve been making more art recently than usual. It’s not a good thing when I’m making more art.

The problem is, outside of my therapist, I don’t really have many people to talk to about these things. Either I feel embarrassed or guilty, or the conversation inevitably turns into the other person making the situation about them, like a suffering Olympics of sorts.

I’m a shit person.

……………………. No, I’m a shittier person.

Can we talk about me being a shit person first?

……………………. Sure, but you have to understand that I’m shittier.

Okay, fine you’re shittier.

……………………. Excellent. And my shitty life is all your fault.

Thanks.

It’s been a weird few days. I am extremely grateful that I don’t have it any worse. I am always grateful for the people around me and the blessings and kindness that I experience. I truly don’t deserve good things. But I’m not sure if I’m getting as much joy out of them, or maybe my joy is just being dampened by me telling myself that I’m an extremely shitty person (because I really am).

I wish my doctor would prescribe me with better medication. Either that or give me better strategies to dealing with anxiety or this state of numb joylessness. I feel like I’m just passing time. And if time passed without any major incidents, without me making things worse, then it’s a good day. How is that for an existence? Maybe I deserve that. But the people around me, especially the people I love most don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve that from me. God, please, help me get better. Help me be better,

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April Fools, Too

Residents in a Vancouver town have filed a petition to not allow a sculpture to be installed on the South False Creek Seawall in Vancouver. The sculpture is part of the annual Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale and was created by Chinese artist Chen Wenling. He is a world-renowned neorealist whose often grotesque but otherwise very visually arresting works have been exhibited all and one is even installed in Vancouver. ‘Proud Youth’ has become somewhat of a popular landmark near where the proposed ‘Boy Holding a Shark’ is to be installed. Actually, both pieces remind me of another installation, ‘A-maze-ing Laughter’ which I initially thought was a work of the same artist. ‘A-maze-ing Laughter,’ prior to being installed was also subjected to protests, but later became a popular feature in Vancouver’s artistic landscape.

So why do people oppose ‘Boy Holding a Shark?’ Apparently, the grotesque look of the sculpture, which is a call to environmental protection, would harm the natural beauty of the local scenery. More importantly, it could potentially hurt the value of the property around the areas. Personally, I don’t find the look of the sculpture particularly offensive. Looking at art is subjective and this is entirely my speculation, but I believe people who oppose the installation are not the gallery-viewing crowd to begin with. Also, a sculpture belongs in the natural Canadian landscape as much as rows of condos and boats. The opposition due to the look of the piece or how it harms the beauty of the environment just rings a little hollow to me. As for the argument that it would hurt property values, as a millennial living in Seoul who has given up owning a home and can’t even dream of being able to afford a waterfront property in Vancouver, I couldn’t care less about that concern. It seems like rich, white people problems.

Some argue that Canadians should be spending more tax dollars promoting and uplifting Canadian artists. However, the Biennale is a non-profit organization and does not involve the government at all. Canadian taxpayers are not on the hook for the piece. If anything, I tend to be critical of how the Canadian government be it, federal or provincial, chooses public art. I find a lot of public art, especially in my hometown Winnipeg, very uninspired. Just look up ‘Agassiz Ice.’ I’ve written about if before, but it’s a sculpture of glaciers. Glaciers! In a town that has tons of snow and ice for half the year and even has ice and snow sculpture events annually. Described as “monumental,” there is nothing monumental about the three pieces of aluminum. One of the three glaciers is literally three feet tall.

Granted, the tendency for governments and other organizations to choose uninspired corporate art to dot the landscape is not unique to Canada. Seoul has a law which mandates the installation of sculptures to be installed near large buildings. Unfortunately, the choice of works and the fear of offending people and hurting property value has resulted in Seoul being filled with what some has described as “stupid statues.” I’m not saying many of the works in Canada or Seoul are awful, many are in fact brilliant and I applaud them being in the public space, but more often than not, they are meaningless metal features that people simply ignore.

So yeah, God bless organizations like the Biennale for being more adventurous in their selection. Hopefully the city goes ahead with erecting that statue.

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No Tokyo Olympics, Please

It’s really time for the Olympics to get cancelled. It’s time. We all can see the Olympics for what they are. They are a company interested in their own profits. They’re not about sports, camaraderie, or triumph over adversity. The sports and the athletes are just a secondary concern. What the IOC values more is licensing, advertising, and broadcasting the games.

The games have been slowly showing its hand in the past few Olympic games. A couple of years after the games were held in Beijing, people noted the abandoned structures that were hastily built for the games. Then people started questioning whether it truly is worth it to host the Olympics, especially when the money used for infrastructure could be used for so many other things. This was especially true when the Olympics were held in Rio. Last year, the Olympic park was closed due to safety concerns. Hosting the Olympics means spending money on infrastructure that would never be recovered, infrastructure that has a high probability of not being maintained after the games. But yeah, the countries/cities are losing money, but someone is getting rich out of all of the construction and other Olympics-related logistics.

As for the sport, Sochi Olympics has demonstrated that widespread cheating can occur with very little consequences to the athletes. After Russia was caught having a national doping program, they barely suffered any consequences for it, and many of their athletes were later allowed to compete under no flags. Pointless.

And now Tokyo, despite rising coronavirus cases, insists that the city will continue to host the games as scheduled. There will be no spectators, and athletes will not be required to get the vaccine, but will however be required to sign a waiver that they risk illness and death by competing in the city. Why is the UN allowing this? This is akin to South Korea’s old law of revoking foreigner’s visas should they learn they are HIV positive. What if they caught the virus in South Korea? (Instead of having brought the virus into the country) Isn’t that not their fault fully but also the fault of the environment they are in? The UN saw it as discrimination as well as a backwards policy that unfairly treats visitors to the country. In Japan, what if the athletes catch covid in the country and dies? Doesn’t the country or the IOC have any responsibility for it? Doesn’t this shift the blame for catching diseases fully on the visitors and not the country the same way South Korea did before with HIV?

Inviting a host of people from countries all over the world could potentially turn Tokyo into a hotbed for the pandemic and naturally, many of the people in Tokyo are against it. Around 80% of people in a recent survey wanted to have the games cancelled altogether. So the games aren’t really for the benefit of the city either. They don’t want to risk dying from covid should the worst happen as a result of thousands of athletes visiting. Even a group of Japanese medical professionals want the game cancelled. Japanese cities are not doing well with infections and vaccinations. As much as some people are saying that Tokyo has handled the pandemic well. They truly haven’t. They came into the pandemic with so much hubris, even allowing people to go out cherry blossom viewing in spring 2020. And now Americans are officially warning people not to visit the country for the Olympics.

As much as I love Japan, I can’t stand the conservative Japanese government. The Olympics has a policy of not allowing politics to be part of the games, and yet recently, Tokyo has been using a map that shows Dokdo, a Korean island, as part of Japanese territory. This revisionist claim is just par for the course for the Japanese government in the past couple of years. They have denied wartime atrocities and downplayed claims of sexual exploitation. South Koreans are understandably unhappy about the recent Dokdo fiasco and many are pushing to boycott the Olympics altogether.

I believe this push to have the Olympics in Tokyo this summer no matter what is simply companies trying to make good on their investments. I’m sure contractors and other beneficiaries to the Olympics, be it the Japanese government side, the corporate side, or the IOC, who were disappointed last year are still hoping that they can make money off of the event. And it truly doesn’t matter whether the events have people watching them on the ground. What truly matters is how many people will be watching the games on television and online. As for me, I think I’ll be watching better shows on Netflix instead. I can just read about whoever won whatever event on Twitter or Reddit.

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