Monthly Archives: January 2017

Take the Bus

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It has happened. Donald Trump is the president of the United States and is the leader of the most powerful military force in the history of mankind. It is unbearable to see that he hasn’t improved or become more “presidential” since he got elected, but it’s not like I wasn’t expecting him to anyway. It is really disappointing that the people around him, his handlers, are letting him continue make statements like suggesting that the US military should take the oil from Iraq, in a speech made to the CIA nonetheless. It is a very simplistic, naïve, and foolish way of looking at the Middle Eastern conflict, one that could potentially endanger the lives of US troops, especially the ones who are currently working in concert with the same people Trump suggests stealing resources from. It is a particularly dumb statement to make, especially in front of the CIA, which deals with complex, nuanced geopolitical matters, not ones that could be solved simply by “taking the oil,” which would not only make matters worse by reinforcing local suspicions and Islamic fundamentalist propaganda, but also constitute a war crime.

With Rex Tillerson, an oil tycoon, becoming the US Secretary of State, who knows what geopolitical and military actions will be taking place in the future all in the name of cheap oil?

And no. While Obama was a more stable, knowledgeable, and polished politician when it comes to geopolitics, he’s no better when it comes to oil and the environment. The US got curbed much of its need for foreign oil by damaging its own environment. Offshore drilling and hydraulic fracking has dramatically increased under the Obama administration. He even famously swam with his daughter in the Gulf of Mexico to calm outrage against the damage done by the BP oil spill and offshore drilling in general. In my opinion, it was one of the lowest points of his presidency.

But Trump isn’t he only one making disappointing moves this week. Trudeau’s cabinet recently welcomed the Trump administration’s approval of the Keystone pipeline. A lot of Canada’s recent wealth has come from the exploitation of the dirtiest of its resources, much to the detriment of the environment, and in many cases, to the communities affected by the leaks, particularly First Nations. It is one of the bigger disappointments in a government that tries to sell itself as more progressive than our southern neighbor.

So yeah, with oil getting cheaper due to a free- for-all oil exploration in North America and with embargoes in Russia bound to be lifted, why would Trump even suggest taking the oil out of Iraq? Because they can’t get rich enough. They won’t stop. The GOP will cut off insurance coverage to millions of Americans just so the richest of the rich can get a tiny bit wealthier. The same is true for oil companies. They can’t get big enough. The US administration will be devoting much of its power making sure it helps the oil companies, and Canada would be more than willing to help them, regardless of increased tensions in the Middle East or ruined communities in North America.

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On Chelsea Manning, Whistleblowers, and Circuses

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President Obama just commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence and she’ll be out in spring. This is good. What she did was heroic and she exposed a crime which the United States was committing. She was sentenced excessively compared to many whistleblowers before her, this despite essentially admitting to all charges and facing the consequences head on in a plea bargain without any real bargaining. As for Snowden and Assange, I tend to be more on the side of the United States when it comes to explaining the difference between Manning and the likes of Snowden and Assange. Chelsea Manning faced the consequences of her actions. As much as I appreciate what Snowden did, he eventually escaped to Russia. What he did was courageous, and he was definitely facing a world of torture if he stayed in the United States, but he didn’t really face the consequence of his actions. It would be very hard for the US Justice Department to pardon someone who flagrantly escaped justice. Maybe it’s the cruel Roman Catholic in me, but it’s very hard to make a saint out of someone, when they didn’t suffer martyrdom.

And as for Assange, he is currently not facing any charges from the United States. He is hiding in an embassy from rape charges. They could very well be drummed-up charges designed to silence the founder of Wikileaks or perhaps influence the media outlet, but the recent actions of Wikileaks already has me and other people suspecting that government powers have already influenced Wikileaks. (Notice how Hillary Clinton’s e-mails have essentially stopped leaking after the election?) His recent reneging of his offer to go to the US and face any charges once Chelsea Manning was set free also shows what type of character Assange is. I’m with Christopher Hitchens on Assange, he is an “unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda.” Sure, some of the information from Wikileaks has been very important for freedom of the press, but for Wikileaks to somehow positions itself above all scrutiny and somehow act as the bastion of all truth-telling, it makes it all the more useful tool for political manipulation be it from Assange or other forces.

And really, God help the people victimized by powerful men, regardless of political affiliation. If the rape allegations against Assange happen to be true, imagine being one of the victims seeing Assange’s face on television. I have a problem with people facing accusations and later dealing with the stigma of being a rapist. This is why I never bought in to the Mattress Girl and her campaign. But I also have a problem with people skirting the justice system and not settling the matter at hand.

Anyway, I’m sure with Trump and his supporters warming up to Wikileaks and the Russians, Snowden and Assange have a better chance of getting pardons in a couple of days. That is, as long as Wikileaks doesn’t release any harmful information against the Trump administration. But if Wikileaks didn’t challenge the government and release any information on the Trump administration within four years, would they still be Wikileaks?

The Ringling Bros. Circus is closing down after over a century of being in business. This is all good news. It’s a bit sad that the circus is basically going extinct and along with it, many skills and artistic acts, but such is life. We’ve also moved on from vaudeville and burlesque acts. Many people are celebrating it because of the circus’ history of abusing animals, but I’m happier with the fact that with the circus dying, this means fewer children will be learning to be circus performers instead of focusing on their education. I know this is not really the case with the Ringling Bros., but I once saw a Chinese circus, and as amazing as many of the acts were, it was really depressing the number of children or young adults performing in the show. These kids should be at home studying, instead of risking their necks for a few dollars.

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Save Me, Virtual Reality!

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It’s official. I’m into virtual reality. I decided to splurge a couple of days ago and invested on a PSVR. With stocks limited, they’re still a bit hard to find here in Seoul, with many people re-selling them at ridiculously over-inflated prices (over $1000 from some sellers!). Thankfully, I managed to get lucky and snag one at a reasonable price.

The Oculus Rift is available in department stores, but I’m not really that excited over its design as well as the fact that the experience it offers seems to be more of an isolated one. I think the HTC Vive suffers from the same thing. Also, both units require quite a large amount of space dedicated for your virtual reality experience, space that’s hard to come by in Seoul. That and I haven’t even seen the HTC Vive at all in the country.

The best aspect of the PSVR is that it outputs both on the headpiece as well as the television. This way, my wife and I can share the experience. We play a lot of video games together and this just adds a new way for us to experience media either as games or as visual experiences. The resolution is not that great, but the immersion is pretty decent. Once you’re in it, your brain is actually tricked into feeling artificial motion and space. Higher definition would be great, but so far, I don’t think it’s necessary. I guess it’s just a matter for developers to actually make good use of the little processing power they have for the machine instead of relying purely on visual horsepower.

So far, I’ve been enjoying horror games and other scary experiences the most. It is amazing the dark places the mind will go to when playing scary media on virtual reality when you’re alone in the house. My wife has been enjoying the more lighthearted games on virtual reality. Things like Job Simulator or Hatsune Miku. I would compare the novelty of virtual reality to the novelty of motion controllers when they were first popularized a few years ago. It’s quite exciting and I’m hungry for new virtual reality experiences.

The only drawback so far is that I can’t just sit with a virtual reality headset for hours on end. It can get pretty nauseating, so I have to take a break after an hour or so. It’s not like regular video games or movies where you can just park yourself in front of the television for hours. Maybe my body will start coping better the more I use it. Lots of people are complaining that many of the titles developed for virtual reality are short experiences. For now, I’m fine with that.

In any case, here’s hoping that companies continue to develop for the platform. I really don’t want it go out the way motion controls have basically faded out. Keep making things for me to see in virtual reality and escape my real-life problems. PSVR has been my most exciting purchase of the year so far. Who knows, maybe once I upgrade my PC, I’ll invest on beefier headsets. The movie experiences I’ve seen so far have been promising. The games I tried have been very immersive. I haven’t checked out VR pornography though. I’m kinda squeamish about that. I have a feeling that would somehow cross over to an almost medical territory.

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Goodbye 2016

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2016 was not the most horrible of years, but it was one I’m not that very happy with. There are many celebrities who have died, but that’s all part of life, and I’m sure all years have their share of wonderful people dying that year. Personally, I happen to like Scott Weiland, but I can’t really blame 2016 for his death. There are disappointments over politics, but I believe the worst that the Trump election could be is still yet to come. He’s still a person with his own will and conscience. He can make the next four years good or as bad as people fear he would.

That and I have to remind myself that I am a Canadian. It doesn’t do me too much good to follow American politics too closely. I can disappoint myself with Canadian politics just as well. (Why did Trudeau have to approve that damned pipeline?)

I haven’t done too many art shows this year, but that’s a mixture of luck, with not many art shows coming my way, and with me not being as aggressive with my work. Work-wise, not much has changed. But I’m content where I am. I’m just glad I’m not struggling as many people are. And as for personal matters, I only have myself to blame for any failings last year.

I met a couple of scumbags last year too. Boy, were they scumbags!

As for good things, two nieces were born last year. My sister as well as my sister-in-law both had daughters. It’s good to see their families grow. My sisters are making sure their lives in North America are turning into a particular Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song. My good friend, Alicia, visited me last year.  We went to Japan with her and her boyfriend. It wasn’t without its bumps, but it was good to see one of my oldest friends. I happened to save someone who fell on the subway station while they were here too. I guess that’s something.

I also found one of the best beaches to go to last year.

Here’s hoping that 2017 would be better. So far, with Canada losing to the US in the Junior Hockey championship game yesterday, it’s not off to a good start. But perhaps that’s just an early glitch.

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