Monthly Archives: June 2015

Canada, I love you.

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I will be visiting Canada this week. I haven’t been home for two years, so I’m quite excited about it. I say “quite” because I’ve kinda been struggling with bouts of depression lately. It’s been like this for over two weeks now and my recent birthday didn’t really help to cheer me up. Birthdays at a certain point become no longer a celebration for surviving a year on the planet, but a marker on how closer we are to death. In any case, here’s hoping that Canada puts me in a better mood.

Being in Canada means being on the move, which means being unable to update the site for a while. It’s not like anybody would miss it, but yeah, my journey back home would explain the lack of updates at the Weekly.

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My sister’s best friend caught this on her TV a few weeks ago. It looks like my art is now gracing television sets all over my home province of Manitoba. Thank you, Shaw. As artists, we all aim to somehow contribute, no matter how small, to the zeitgeist. As an artist with no plans to have kids, my very small contributions are everything I have in terms of a legacy. Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere, will perhaps be inspired to draw and make art.

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Resets and Monogamy

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I had this dream last night where a naked woman was lying next to me, she touched a spot on my back and it triggered a heart attack. She said this way, I’ll die and we’ll end up together for eternity.

Wouldn’t that be great? A quick and easy way to end it all? A great off switch (or reset button, depending on what you believe). I mean sure, a person can just take pills. But taking pills alone isn’t really that quick, painless, or effective. I believe only a small percentage of people actually succeed in committing suicide using pills. Some people advice using a plastic bag over one’s head in combination with the taking pills, but that just sounds too grim.  Of course there’s also Nembutal, but it’s far too difficult to obtain.

I don’t really believe in fate or destiny, but if such a thing does exist, then it doesn’t look too good for my marriage. First off, I just read Chester Brown’s brilliant comic strip memoir Paying for It. In it, he talks about giving up on having relationships and instead just paying for sex. It’s not so much about the adventures of being a john but an analysis of what relationships truly are and what we’ve been conditioned to believe are the meanings of love, sex, and adult relationships.

Around the same time I was reading Chester Brown’s book, I was listening to ‘This American Life’ ep. 95 on Monogamy. Act One, despite being the longest part, was definitely the weakest, and if anything, it reeks of a bored rich couple coping with their failing marriage in ways that doesn’t really connect with most people. “Oh I’ll just spend the weekend decompressing over at the Hamptons!” Nothing against the French, but the husband being French doesn’t help either. The rest of the show was really interesting. Roy Romer talks about how having an affair saved his relationship, and how he was able to separate his sexual needs from his intimacy with his wife. Dan savage examines how successful and how “happy” monogamous and non-monogamous couples really are. And Ian Brown discusses the struggles of being monogamous. In many ways, the show paints monogamy as a romantic fantasy much like a Rockwell painting. If you can be happy with it, then good for you… but then again, it’s not for everyone.

Then on Sunday, I had a rather public fight with my wife in our neighborhood. She ends up yelling at me while I kept my volume to a minimum (I always do). I thought it was rather unnecessary, if not cruel, for her to make such a spectacle. People in South Korea already automatically assume I’m the bad guy whenever we’re in a fight (we’re a mixed couple, she’s Korean). She doesn’t have to yell at me to shame me even further. Of course, one can argue that me posting this online is my equivalent of shaming her. But no one really reads my weekly entries, certainly no one where I live.

Trying times. We’re okay now, but boy that was bad timing.

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Slacktivism as News

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I grew a mustache for Movember once. I didn’t donate money towards cancer research nor did I get my prostate examined. I grew a mustache. That was my bit for help the cause against cancer. By growing a mustache, I was informing people about the need for cancer research and preventative measures… except I didn’t really personally donated money nor make any precautions. Deservedly, I got criticized for it, but isn’t it any different than many of the causes we see on the media these days?

The problem with Internet media is that it’s quite easy to produce, easy to consume, and that many news outlets rely on sensationalistic click-baiting, or what I think is more appropriate, guilt-baiting.

Now, I don’t mind a good cause. But recently, there’s been a lot of energy put on causes that in my opinion don’t really amount to anything in the most practical sense. An issue is manufactured out of a bigger and more real problem and slacktivism is encouraged. They come in all degrees of seriousness, but sometimes they’re so insignificant that it’s no longer amusing. As an example, let’s look at Eli Keel’s article on Salon, It’s time for Marvel to make Magneto black. Yes, this was on a news site.

In the article, he writes that what makes the comic book villain Magneto great is that he is based in a real-world historic tragedy. And now that Marvel is rebooting all of their characters, it’s time to make the character black in order to reference the Civil Rights Movement (ignoring the fact that the whole humans vs. mutants theme in the X-Men books is an allegory to the Civil Rights Movement). Since the election of their first black president, the US has been undergoing quite the surge in racial tensions, especially recently with the way police officers have been policing black communities. But is this really a battle one has to fight in the comic books? Should the tragedy of the Holocaust be replaced by the Civil Rights fight? I don’t think so. I don’t think great black leaders would waste time campaigning to change the motivations of comic book super villains (make Magneto a civil rights bad guy?!). There has got to be a better way to address civil rights issues, and it’s not in changing comic book characters. Sure, comic books have championed many social issues before, and in many ways they have influenced young minds and made them better people, but if you’re going to fight for civil rights, don’t campaign a company to change their characters. It is probably the least you can do for the cause. In fact, you might even alienate people who A)love the character and would not want it changed and B) are annoyed that you are fighting the civil rights fight by barking at comic book creators instead of doing something yourself. Instead of asking people to create a solution, how about making a solution?

And this is what annoys me about many of the Internet causes. It gives people the illusion of actually doing something positive without actually doing something to help the cause. For one, I see too many articles talking about rape culture, perpetuating the belief that we are living in an environment where rape is encouraged/celebrated. Really? But aren’t rapists jailed? When and where do we exactly celebrate the brutalization of women? Not in the United States. But from the way the articles are written, you would be forgiven to think that a third of all women are victims, and that society is high-fiving itself for making it so. And what do the articles ask in return for such dire message? Share the article. Click like. Spread the message and you’ve done your part.

If rape is such a trend in society, then shouldn’t we be more proactive about it? Why are we sharing links? Why aren’t we writing to our congressmen or campaigning at their doorsteps? Why aren’t we locking up all men? Why are we making Youtube videos debating whether video games are training young men to become rapists? Why are we marching half-naked? Whose minds are we actually changing? Either we don’t understand the meaning of “culture” in “rape culture” or our modern day approach to sweeping social problems is the most lackadaisical.

I guess the biggest example of the flash of the pan, guilt clicking, share this or you’re an asshole story is KONY 2012. The campaign to get rid of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, was so viral that I kept seeing it shared on Facebook for weeks. Now while Jason Russell, the campaign’s creator suffered a bit of a meltdown, but the cause itself was worthwhile, after all, Joseph Kony is a horrible guerilla leader. But after all the Facebook shares, television media coverage and street campaigns, Joseph Kony still walks the planet. It made us all feel good liking the stories and sharing it to our friends. It made us all feel worldly, well-rounded, and conscientious. But it didn’t really do a damned thing. Jason Russell was criticized for being a bit narcissistic, appointing himself a savior of Ugandan children. Truly, the whole thing was an exercise in narcissism. We all felt good for “doing” something good, and now we’ve forgotten about those poor children. And I don’t want to be a pessimist, but I believe that even if Magneto became black and everyone on the Internet agreed that there is indeed rape culture aimed against women, ten years from now, we’ll still be having issues regarding race and sexual violence.

Of course, there are many examples of stories that guilt the public, become viral, and actually do something significant. The water bucket challenge was a huge success which allowed the MDA to raise a significant amount of money without that horrible Jerry Lewis. Good for MDA! But with every video of people actually donating money after getting water dumped on their heads, there are others which didn’t really amount to anything, except maybe a few views, a couple of likes, and some comments.

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Quick Boring Post About Editors

It goes without saying publishers need to invest on good editors.  They are almost as vital as the writers themselves. Being in Korea, I notice that editing English text seems to be more of a discretionary afterthought; that is if it’s even considered at all. It’s really a shame that a country that is so invested in learning English, people aren’t really concerned with being accurate in applying the English they paid good money to learn. It’s the reason why Koreans can sometimes be just as bad as a lot of Asian countries in misappropriating the English language (www.engrish.com/).

Editors are vital not only in ensuring grammatical accuracy but also in making sure that contents are appropriate, non-offensive, and sensical (a term which a good editor will catch as not being a “real word”). I’ve been studying Korean and using this book which was published in the country. I imagine it’s designed for foreigners who wish to learn the language in the hopes of interacting with Koreans and perhaps visiting the country. Instead, it gave me an insight into the writer’s xenophobia, lack of sensitivity and outdated grasp of reality.

Horrible

Why would the writer want North Korea to go bankrupt? Doesn’t he/she realize that the country has millions of people, presumably former countrymen, starving? How about the rather casual use of cancer in a language training material? Classy! You also don’t catch cancer like the flu. Your body develops it. As for the bit about Salman Rushdie, I hoped that the book was written in 1989, but sadly, it was written long after Rushdie came out of hiding. Also, why would a news organization report that a writer, who is in fear of assassination, is still in hiding? Who is this news for? Terrorists?

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This last bit turned me off the most.  The book was written by university professors… educators. And yet their jingoism reeks off the page. The Americans are not colonists in South Korea. They are partners. They have just as much to gain from being here as the South Koreans. How could such a sentence be of any help to the American wishing to learn Korean?

Korean publishers as well as anyone in Korean media using the English language, please hire editors. Hire editors and pay them well.

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Everybody Panic!

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I probably won’t get the MERS virus. I regularly interact with people who travel to the Middle East. There are people around me who ARE from the Middle East. But I’ll probably be fine. Probably.

But that’s not what the Korean media would have you believe. I’m not minimizing the seriousness of five local deaths, but for weeks now, there’s been non-stop news regarding the MERS virus spreading like wildfire in South Korea. People are at a panic due to a lack of confidence regarding the way the government has handled and is handling the situation. To date, there has been a new protocol established to track down suspected MERS patients using the GPS on their phones. There is also new hospital procedures designed to isolate patients coming in who suspect they may be infected. However, some people still believe it is too little too late.

The Korean government began by being secretive regarding which hospitals have identified patients with the MERS virus. Understandably, they don’t want people to panic. But instead of preventing panic, people now suspect that the Korean government is simply protecting their political backers by keeping the names of the hospitals secret. They have since reversed their position. Twenty-four hospitals have been identified, and major ones have come forward as identifying MERS patients, but the damage was already done. The people are in fear.

“What happened to all of those patients? Where else did they go? Did they take public transportation? A lot of people don’t really cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze! How many people are infected with MERS and have not been identified? What else is the government not telling?! My supervisor has a cold. Could it be MERS? Should I start wearing a mask? Why is she in the office? Shouldn’t she go to the hospital? What if she catches MERS in a hospital? Which doorknobs has she touched?!?!”

Classes have been suspended. People are walking around wearing masks. People are being encouraged to wash their hands and use disinfectants (As a germophobic, I welcome this!).

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Of course, warnings like this don’t really inspire confidence from people.

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I’m gonna miss drinking camel water!

The whole thing will probably pass the same way the avian flu and SARS scare came and went. It’s just interesting seeing how the panic spreads from a combination of ineffective government response, media hype, and Internet paranoia. It’s like being front and center at the beginning of a public panic.

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Killing (Mostly) Women in Song

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They’re a tad misogynistic (and a wonder that rabid feminists haven’t attacked them yet), but I’ve always been fascinated by murder ballads. It’s almost akin to the Aboriginal traditional of passing their culture and tradition through storytelling. Only in the case of murder ballads, it’s immortalizing a tragic event through song. What fascinates me is that while tribute songs will often reference an event, either directly or indirectly, murder ballads will use what many might argue are morbid details of an event and put them into song.

Two of my favorites are Tom Waits’ version of “The Twa Sisters,” which I believe was an old English tune, around the 1700s…

…and the murder of “Poor Ellen Smith,” here sung by the Kossoy Sisters. Apparently, the song was based on a real case back in the 19th century. It would have been forgotten had it not been put into song. My favorite banjo player, Frank Proffitt, did a cover of the song as well. But here he sings another murder ballad.

Again, Rose Connolly was probably based on an old Irish case. But if you didn’t know that, you’d assume Frank Proffitt just made a confession into a song, or he just fantasized about murdering a women, to which everyone in the room applauds to.

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Gah! School Girls!

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I don’t normally give money to panhandlers and charities, but I decided to start doing so, actively pushing myself to giving. This is not humblebragging or anything, but me trying to do something while I can still afford to be generous. It came to me the other day: there might come a time that I won’t be able to afford to give to others. Might as well do my bit now.

I usually take the bus home. During traffic, I sometimes walk a few blocks and take the bus much closer to my place.  I tell myself this gives me a bit of exercise while skipping all the traffic. That’s what I did last week. I decided to walk a few blocks after work.
As I was walking past the shopping district (Myeong-dong) near where I work, I passed by this foreign couple as I turned a corner. They were being followed by a mob of teenagers. This annoyed me since not only were the teenagers blocking my way and drowning out ‘This American Life’ on my earphones, but I can’t stand gawkers. I didn’t bother paying too much attention at the couple I just passed. I just assumed that the man was some minor, white, foreign celebrity that the school girls were gushing over.

Fast forward to Sunday and my wife was watching some fashion talk show and they were interviewing some female celebrity. Apparently, she’s visiting Korea to promote a couple of brands and there are always lines of people on all the events she went to. She then brings out her brother who she says always accompanies her on her trips. I didn’t pay too much attention until I recognized the couple.

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Hello Chloe Moretz.

My wife was like, “What?! You should’ve stopped her and asked for her autograph!”

And what? Creep a child out?

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