Monthly Archives: September 2015

My Package Is No Good

zoidberg

Back after the Chuseok break (that’s the Korean Thanksgiving holiday). Didn’t do much art, but I did send art to galleries for future shows. Unfortunately, one Korean postal worker didn’t want to deal with me and just wanted me to go somewhere else. The exchange, which was all in Korean, went like this:

Korean postal lady: You can’t send these.

Me: Why not? I sent packages like these here before.

Korean postal lady: You can’t.

Me: Why not?

Korean postal lady: Go to Gwanghwamun postal office.

Me: Why can’t I send these here?

Korean postal lady: Go to Gwanghwamun postal office.

Me: What’s wrong with these packages?

Korean postal lady: You can’t.

Me: Why?

Korean postal lady: Go to Gwanghwamun postal office.

Me: Good job, lady.

Very helpful. I did go to Gwanghawun postal office. Everything went fine. I explained the earlier exchange and the postal worker there had no idea why the packages were rejected.

Now, I’ve been in South Korea forever. I’m trying to learn the language, but sometimes, even when I speak the language, people don’t have the courtesy to address me like a normal person and explain things to me so I could understand. What’s the point of learning the language if people won’t even talk to you, especially a government employee? Luckily, I know exactly what “gwanghwamoon oocheh cook” means, but could you imagine if I was a foreigner who didn’t speak a lick of Korean? They would be lost, feel dejected, and have this awful story about their racist experience in the post office. And poor Timmy who is waiting for a present from grandpa living in South Korea would never receive his package.

Of course, this was just a minor incident. And just as the lady wasn’t helpful, others more than made up for it with their willingness to assist me. Unfortunately, it’s the negative experiences that often stick to memory more than the positive ones. I remember people cutting in line and not minding other people more than kind, considerate strangers. Just look at this article. I’m still writing about a five-day old incident when other more positive things have happened to me since.

I guess what I’m saying is, forget that lady! She probably doesn’t deserve it, but for the rest of the country, I really wish she go straight to hell. People like her ruin the experience of being in this country with their lack of empathy or sometimes downright xenophobia. The same is true for many countries. Most people are friendly and hospitable, but there’s a few that would ruin the whole experience for people, the asshole minority.

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Why, Richard?

protester

So this 14 year-old kid Ahmed Mohamed goes to school with a clock he made for a science project, shows it to several teachers, some of them say that it “looks cool.” Then one teacher gets nervous, thinks it’s a bomb and calls the cops. The school wasn’t evacuated, the cops say it wasn’t a bomb, and the kid was handcuffed anyway. Now, people are saying that this was a case of Islamophobia. And I would say yes, it seems patently obvious. I don’t think a box with wires sticking out of it in a school is any more menacing than a couple of people brandishing their AR-15s in a Walmart. Both are legal, only the second example is designed to elicit an example. Only the second example involves things that are actually designed to kill people.

And if you compare the incident to how predominantly white gun-carry advocates walk around the country unmolested, there’s a good argument that this is just as much as being a person of color in America as it is about being a Muslim.

I already talked about how Bill Maher sometimes loses me with his Islamophobia. It is one thing to be an atheist, but it is another thing to be an Islamophobe. The hysteria over the brown kid carrying a science project around school showed such an abandon of logic that I was hoping someone as intelligent as Bill Maher would not try to justify. I tend to be sympathetic to atheistic arguments, and I really don’t want to claim that there is religious persecution after many fundamentalist Christians cry wolf about their “suffering,” but when he said that people were reasonable to be suspicious of Ahmed Mohamed, this is exactly the type of light Islamophobia that results in children being handcuffed.

He is not alone in this either. Even Richard Dawkins tweeted that the kid was a fraud. He suggested that the kid passed himself off as an inventor and made a clock that suspiciously looks like a bomb. All of it just to get arrested, create a viral story, and later on get scholarship offers and an invitation to the White House. Bravo, Richard Dawkins. You’ve just become a Twitter nut job (at least in this case). There’s always the possibility that we’ve all been victims of this brilliant kid’s masterful hoax, but Occam’s razor suggests that it’s probably just a kid who made a suspicious-looking clock.

Steven Levitt once wrote about atheist books and the mysterious market for them. Who buys these books? There is a market for holy and religious books, after all, the religious need the books to enlighten themselves more about their faith. And the religious would never buy atheists books. At least, I imagine they won’t. Why would they? But what about atheists? If you truly don’t believe in the existence of God, then why buy a book to affirm your belief? You don’t need reinforcement on a non-belief. As Steven put it:

“So who is making these anti-God books best-sellers? Do the people who despise the notion of God have an insatiable demand for books that remind them of why? Are there that many people out there who haven’t made up their mind on the subject and are open to persuasion?

Let me put the argument another way: I understand why books attacking liberals sell. It is because many conservatives hate liberals. Books attacking conservatives sell for the same reason. But no one writes books saying that bird watching is a waste of time, because people who aren’t bird watchers probably agree, but don’t want to spend $20 in order to read about it. Since very few people (at least in my crowd) actively dislike God, I’m surprised that anti-God books are not received with the same yawn that anti-bird watcher books would be.”

I think Steven kinda brushed on the reason why anti-God books are selling recently. Conservatives hate liberals and would buy books that bash liberals. I’m guessing that some atheists actively hate the religious, or at least see them as intellectually inferior to some extent, and perhaps get some joy out of bashing them. Instead of adopting a liberal attitude about things and truly not caring about religion unless said religion affects them somehow, some atheists get trapped into a sort of game of one-upmanship the same way political parties do. Of course, this is not something truly unique to atheists. The same could be said about some of the religious.

And this is where Bill Maher and Steve Dawkins sometimes sink to. Yes, yes, religion is bullshit. But that’s coming from our “enlightened” bubble. Ethnocentrism is judging others based on their ethnic group, especially in terms of customs, language, and religion. Perhaps people find value in their religion in ways that I do not. Who knows? I’m not about to judge other people as long as it doesn’t affect me. Believe in God or don’t, just don’t make it my business. But when giants of the atheist way of thinking start bashing huge swaths of people, it sours the whole thing for me. It is lazy and misguided. The same way some current feminists are spoiling the movement by being hyper-sensitive, censorship-advocating, misandrists, some atheists are turning into outright bigots.

I’m not saying that the religious are being persecuted. I’m not, especially in terms of Christians in North America. But casual bigotry towards other religions makes cuffing children, not allowing refugees into countries, and outright bombing cities, a tad easier to do.

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Dumping the Girl

Vagina

And these “men’s lifestyle magazines” don’t even have pornography, they have less raunchier pictures of models and celebrities. Which is fine, but most of those pictures eventually find their way on the Internet. Do they have interesting articles? Not really. Most of these magazines have tips of pleasing the other sex that are as out of touch and redundant as Cosmopolitan’s. Their reviews on technology and whatever products they’re hawking or “amazing workout tips” are all available online from alternative dedicated sources. At least Playboy, Hustler, and Penthouse would sometimes have great interviews and articles. Also, all three publications have a history which has value, something I’m not sure Maxim has.

Before I go on a full rant, let me go back to Maxim Korea. They recently published probably the most offensive cover I’ve seen in a long while. I’m feminist in many issues, but I wouldn’t call myself a feminist (especially with the seemingly acidic tenor of the current generation of feminists). I admittedly objectify women at times, but it comes from a place of desire, even love of women. It comes from a primordial curiosity. I do not hate women. Women should be seen for all that they are, but there are also moments when women are there to be objectified. That’s just how the world works, and I’m sure the same thing is true about men to some extent as well.

But the cover of the September issue is nothing but pure misogyny.

Maxim

I find this a hundred times worse than Hustler and Penthouse at their raunchiest. How could a magazine editor be so out of touch? How come no one in the company thought this was a bad idea? Unless that is exactly the whole point of the cover: a stunt, a way to gain publicity regardless of the negative public outcry. Hustler caused quite a stir back in 1978 when it published a cover of a woman being fed to a grinder with the bottom reading “We will no longer hang women up like pieces of meat.” But Larry Flynt intended the cover to be a jab at criticisms of pornography.

hustler_cover

What is the Maxim cover about? It’s rather devoid of meaning. The woman in the cover serves much like an accessory and not much else. I don’t mind having people as accessories. People do it with men, women, and children, but as a “men’s lifestyle magazine,” the cover seems to depict nothing but violence against women. There’s no irony or social statement. If there was, I’m missing it entirely. I read it more as a complete domination of the opposite sex. It’s not enough that women serve as pretty clotheshorses and lust fodders inside the magazine, they get to be tied up and dumped in a trunk as well. If that’s not the message, then please, someone explain it to me because I don’t get it.

But let’s be honest, there is no message. The cover is creatively empty. The editor just wanted a bad boy image using the stereotypical Korean gangster fantasy (Korean gangsters DO NOT look like this) and put a woman in the trunk simply because that’s what you do in a men’s magazine, you put women in the magazine somehow. It’s just lame, dumb, and offensive. I don’t really have so much ill will against Maxim Korea and other “men’s lifestyle magazines,” but creatively empty, lazy, out of touch, and offensive covers makes the impending demise of some publications a tad pleasant for me.

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Feeling the Menstrual Tension?

Bison

I miss Canada.

I’m not sure if it was Cesar A. Cruz or if it was Finley Dunne, but art should “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted.” I don’t 100% agree with the idea. After all, some art is just meant to be pretty. But yeah, some art is just so dumb that it hurts knowing that the government is paying for them. This is people’s money which could be better used for other public good instead of financing tripe.

Stop it Poppy Jackson, stop it (http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/26219/1/got-some-spare-menstrual-blood-this-artist-wants-it). I’m sure you can make artistic statements without rolling around in schlock. Apparently, she is asking for women to donate their menstrual blood for an upcoming performance piece. Now, this isn’t the first time she’s used menstruation in her performances, but I guess this time she’ll be needing more blood aside from her own. This is why people dismiss art and artists. It is Jackass stunts disguised as high art.

What irks me more is that the media just buys into the whole thing and doesn’t call it for what it is: a giant cry for media attention.

Looking at Jade Jackman’s article on Dazed, a lot of it is just artsy BS.

In recent weeks, there has been a growing feeling of tension – especially within creative and online communities – at the treatment of menstrual blood. But, Jackson does not feel under pressure by this to make something more ‘extreme’. Instead she feels that the similarities between topics signifies that a frustration is building in our culture and actually makes messages from all the artists a lot more powerful.

What growing tension? Does anyone feel this tension online or otherwise? This is why people are turned off. It doesn’t reflect what is going on in the real world. I consider myself quite the consumer of online information, and as far as I can tell, there is no “growing tension” regarding menstrual blood. It just naturally gets a negative reaction the same way any other bodily substance/wastes does.

These days we go to the Internet for a lot of things and it loses that one-to-one flavour that you would get with your doctor.” She adds, “The human contact of speaking is replaced by isolated online activity, so through use of the substance of people’s bodies I’m hoping to bring some of that closeness back.” On top of that, Jackson mentions how much more risky it is performing with other people’s blood as due to any potential of diseases she cannot “just throw it around as if it were her own.

Good luck trying to bring that “closeness” back. Most people would be finding out about her work online and that would be the end of it. The same activity she tries to fight is the same monster that feeds her. And yet Dazed doesn’t point this out.

If Poppy Jackson is gonna try to play around with other people’s menstrual blood, claim it’s high art and have media outlets encourage it, then what prevents Ryan Dunn from doing the same thing after he swam in people’s excrement? (http://jackass.wikia.com/wiki/Poo_Diving) Isn’t that almost the same thing? Isn’t he bringing closeness back by immersing himself into what could arguably be one of the most intimate aspects of a person? Isn’t there as much revulsion over feces as there is over menstrual blood? And as a bonus, fecal matter is universal, while menstrual blood is not. Mr. Dunn’s “piece” is more universal and far riskier than Poppy Jackson’s stunt.

And yet Arts Council England and the British Council have yet to reach out to Mr. Dunn.

This is why when someone hears performance art, they often assume someone will be prancing around naked doing something weird. People do schlock because they know the media will feed into it. It makes making “traditional” art a losing battle since most of the ears and eyeballs are trained onto either the naked lady or the excrement she’s playing with.

I fear that a hundred years from now, while generations of artists before produced Pietà, Burghers of Calais, Guernica, etc., art students will learn that the past few years have produced mostly stunt artists and sales people… people that played with excrement and sold it well.

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