Monthly Archives: December 2018

Reading the Christmas Barometer

Conversation

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I have become bitter, old, and cynical, but it is still my favorite holiday. It’s my favorite holiday when it’s good. Otherwise, it’s one of the most depressing days of the year. If it’s bad, it becomes a barometer of how messed up your life has been. What the hell have you been up to that you can’t even get a Christmas that is joyful?

The thing with Christmas is that it always brings me to a time when my family and I were still living together. My mother was still around, everyone got presents, and we even shared the evening with our cousins and extended family. There were tons of food and something Christmas-related was on the television to further amp up the mood. It was close as I could ever be to experiencing a Norman Rockwell painting. And yes, I do realize that nothing could ever replicate the holidays of my childhood, especially with rose-tinted glasses, but every year, I just want a decent meal and an evening that doesn’t end with me sleeping depressed.

Joyful is the last word I would use to describe Christmas this year.

There was one Christmas when my family, after having celebrated and opened all of our presents, was subjected to the sounds spousal abuse happening over at our neighbor’s house. It was pretty bad. To this day, I could still remember the sound of that poor woman being choked, as well as the knocking of her husband’s mother saying, “that’s enough… please stop it.” I don’t remember how the whole thing ended, but I do remember that no police officers were called to the scene.

There was another Christmas when I spent the holidays all by myself. I was in midst of the lowest depression. Nothing was working out in my life and I found myself wandering the city all by myself while people around me laughed, cackled, held hands with their loved ones, and made me all the more depressed. I remember one of the good things about that year was that it was actually snowing. It reminded me of being back home. See, when everything is bad, it’s the smallest things that count. What surprised me that year was that I got messages from two people I long discounted from my life. One from an old student and another from a friend whom I like to think I once helped out through her depression. It was good to be remembered. And at that time, I like to think I did something good to be remembered during the holidays. My life was messed up, but at least I did a bit of good for some people. I wonder what they’re up to now?

I’ve never been seriously bullied in my childhood, but I do remember being ostracized or being called names at one point or another. It was nothing serious, and I used to brush them off, but I do remember its sting and the cold lump it built on my throat, slowly making breathing a little bit harder. I’m sure everyone knows this feeling. I never thought about those feelings much before, but on Christmas, that’s the exact sensation that I felt. I’m a grown man, but I felt insecure, ugly, inept, unloved, not normal, and in a word “weird.” It was one of those few instances when I truly felt I didn’t belong… that something was truly wrong with me. That cold lump on my throat was making it harder for me to breath, and as I type these words, the sensation is still so fresh that I can still feel its sting. It’s like I am that neighbor lady being metaphorically choked.

I actually sometimes wonder if that actual benign lump in my thyroid is a manifestation of insecurities, Christian guilt, actual guilt, depression, and anxiety, and that it will someday grow and choke the life out of me.

Ugh… what am I writing? It’s December 26! It’s a low bar. I had a shitty Christmas. I hope everyone had a better Christmas than me.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Boycotting Jackassery

Grandma

Ad boycotts are great. Boycotts are great. Jack Schafer is wrong, dead wrong. Ad boycotts or boycotts in general are democracy in action. It’s the people telling companies exactly what they want, and the companies responding in return.

Jack Shafer writing for Politico, defends Tucker Carlson (and even previously defended Bill O’Reilly) and his right to have a platform where people are allowed to express their views freely, and argues that if advertisers were only allowed to support shows whose political views they support, then the only shows on TV would be the blandest centrist shows which cater to all demographic. Cenk Uygur  from The Young Turks doesn’t like the idea of pressuring advertisers either, saying that if a person doesn’t like a show, then just don’t watch it. Let it die a natural death.

The problem here is that toxic ideas, especially from those with a following, don’t die a natural death. Despite being deplatformed, if Alex Jones makes a controversial vile statement, his followers will still amplify it. But by the very fact that he is deplatformed, the extent and the damage he can cause is contained to a minimum. Ann Coulter doesn’t really have a regular media platform outside of her social network, but because she occasionally shows up on television, her celebrity status and her vile ideas remain. You can’t just “not watch” Ann Coulter and hope she disappears. It doesn’t work that way.

Jack Schafer and Cenk Uygur are wrong in thinking that companies, when they advertise in a show, are supporting the political message of the show. They might and they could but they don’t definitively do just by the virtue of advertising there. What they do however is enable shows to spread their message. Companies’ goals are to reach the audiences of the shows they advertise on. That is simply it. In doing so, they allow the shows to continue their programming. They want to sell things, not sell a political message or change hearts and minds. Some companies might be politically motivated, but by and large, that’s not how companies and advertising works.

Advertising keeps shows alive, and shows will remain alive as long as they have viewers and advertisers who are interested in said viewers. Tucker Carlson could turn his political show into a cooking show, but as long as viewers watch the show and support the advertisers’ products, the advertisers will continue to keep the show alive (not necessarily support the show’s views. Stop thinking this). But how do you let a show or a television station know that you are not happy with something when you don’t watch a particular show in the first place? Then you go to what you actually use or support in your real life, the advertisers. Bill O’Reilly survived years with seniors having his show on right after Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. People who are politically “woke,” are generally younger and couldn’t stand up against him and boycott his show when they don’t watch his show in the first place. And Bill’s hold with his senior audience is rock solid. So how does one act against him, go after his advertisers.

Boom. It worked.

And as much fearmongering there was about slippery slopes and threats to the free speech, Bill O’Reilly’s show has been off the air for a while now. People are still free to speak. Bill is still free to peddle his hatred on other platforms. The same goes for Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, and Gavin McInnes.

The whole free speech argument is a shell game. It is a way to distract from the vile things someone is saying in order to appeal to someone’s ego or righteousness. “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech.” Sure. But notice how people who usually say that are hatemongers or conservative trolls? And as much as progressives will often defend the free speech rights of hatemongers when their advertisers are being threatened, it never really goes the other way around. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was an attack on free speech and freedom of the press, and yet I don’t necessarily hear the loud voices on the right standing up for the dead journalist. What about Colin Kapaernick’s free speech? These people on the right are not playing it straight, folks. They’re simply not.

See, the right’s problem with ad boycotts and boycotts in general is that they usually don’t work when it comes to their causes. Remember the boycotts against Nike, Starbucks, NFL, Keurig, Apple, etc.? They simply don’t work. Wars against Christmas have been fought every year and there have been boycotts against companies, but yet most of these companies still stand. The right wing’s victories in these boycotts, if there even are, are often miniscule and symbolic, certainly nothing worth smashing your own Keurig coffeemaker over.

So yeah, Tucker Carlson is human garbage. It’s a shame that major networks keep giving him shows time and time again despite being human garbage. People are boycotting his advertisers right now because Tucker Carlson suggested that immigrants make the United States dirty, then later doubled down on the claim, stating that illegal immigrants produce about five pounds of garbage per person as they cross the desert. Someone tell him Americans generate an average of 4 pounds of trash per day and 1500 per year. Tucker Carlson is a white supremacist, nationalist turd. Advertisers on his show help keep his racist platform alive. Sure, they might not necessarily support his message, but they sure allow him to say them.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Drawing and Joylessly Drawing

Monster

I started drawing at a very young age. Drawing was probably the only thing I was good at when I was young. I wasn’t particularly smart or athletic. I remember my father speculating that drawing is probably the reason why my handwriting was so poor. That was something I would keep on hearing many more years later. Growing up with three sister and not many boys my age around my neighborhood, I tended to entertain myself by playing G.I. Joes, video games, or drawing. I loved drawing. I would draw anything. I even remember copying illustrations from encyclopedias as practice. Later on, in elementary through high school, I got heavily interested in comic books. If you look at the back of my notebooks, they would all be filled with super hero illustrations. I thought I could be a comic book illustrator someday. Whenever the opportunity came, I participated in art contests. They were good experiences even when I didn’t win. They taught me at a young age how to work on specific themes and that art, at least art that pays, is often creating what others want you to make, and not what you want to do.

I didn’t attend art classes until I was grade nine. By that time, not to brag, I was already more skilled than the kids in my class. I was not sure if I learned any skills in high school art classes except for how to mat and frame works. The thing that I value most is learning about art history. My teacher tried to wean us from drawing cartoons and teach us about composition and learn about the masters in art history. It worked. I stopped trying to become a comic book illustrator and no longer drew heroes for my friends to hang on their walls. I was more interested in high art. I remember learning about Chiaroscuro and selling my first piece on canvas to one of my English teachers. It was a poor imitation to Chiaroscuro’s style depicting the piercing of Christ’s side. I think I sold it for $80 Canadian.

It was during high school when I first started developing my small drawing style. Oddly enough, my first piece done this way was made for an English project. I remember it was made mostly of lines and scenes from Hamlet, culminating in the death of Ophelia, the prince’s most innocent victim. I continued drawing with the same drawing style throughout university. There were times when I tried to move away from small drawings, venturing into sculpture and even making gigantic drawings, some measuring around 15 or 20 meters wide. But I kept coming back to the small drawings. I was encouraged mostly by my thesis professor, who despite me saying I was growing desperately bored of being hunched over drawing and writing small words, he told me that it was quite unique to hear of an artist being bored and yet unable to stop drawing. I have to continue making small drawings until my eyes fail me.

That was many years ago. I still haven’t stopped. Vision is still 20/20.

These days, I draw for the sake of drawing. I draw because I have to. I draw to whisper secrets onto the paper and in doing so momentarily free my mind from their burdens. I regret that I didn’t follow through on being a comic book illustrator. I regret that I didn’t explore how to become an illustrator for encyclopedias. Now and then, I regret missing out on learning how to tattoo and developing my own style of body art. I regret not working on being a commercial artist. But then again, maybe that would further discourage me from making art. Work sometimes takes the joy out of something you would do for free.

I don’t draw to make money. If some of my works sell, then it’s a blessing, but I don’t draw to sell my works. My images are not putting food on my table. I draw to show my works if the opportunity arises, but creating shows or making works to sell at shows are not my motivation. If it were, then maybe I’d be selling more works. I draw because I have to; it is a need. I do appreciate the little audience I have and am grateful to those who enjoy and have purchased my works. Even if people don’t buy them. Even if people just stop and stare for a second at a piece hanging on a wall. I am truly grateful for their time. I have no illusion that I will be a famous artist someday. That is why I appreciate the people who stop and enjoy my art when I know there are far better artists that they could (and should) be looking at.

So what is the point of all of this? The point is, drawing and making art doesn’t have to have a distinct purpose. You don’t need to make art to sell or to show people or to do whatever. You could just be making art just because you want to or need to. That is not particularly insightful and I know I’m not the first person to say that, but I think it is particularly true in my case. There are times when I am totally sick and bored of making art. I am left uninspired. But this need, this itch, this monkey on my back keeps me making more images. It pushes me to make something even when it is ugly as sin.

Sometimes people make art for no reason. They just enjoy it.

Sometimes people make art for no reason, even when they don’t enjoy it. They just have to.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Time Flies Anonymously

Time Flies Anonymously

My grandmother passed away over a week ago. I was in Hawaii to pay my respects and to reunite with my family briefly. The occasion was a mixed.

My grandmother has been bedridden for so long now that it was a relief that she no longer has to suffer in the hospital. A couple of times before, we had scares and talks about letting my grandmother go peacefully and naturally. But in all honesty, after seeing pictures of her with so many tubes keeping her alive, however lucid she was, there was nothing natural about living like that. She was a wonderful, albeit complicated lady. Back in her day, I see her turning heads whenever she entered a room. Life is a blessing, youth is a blessing. I can only imagine the difficulty and pain living in such an unnatural state. In any case, it was good to honor her one last time. It was also good to finally thank my aunt for all the years she has devoted to my grandmother, always taking care of her throughout her most difficult years. My aunt is a saint.

My grandmother now joins my mother and my uncle. It is sad, but through recent years, I have seen a significant part of my family on my mother’s side just disappear from my life, including my own mother. It really hit me hard especially when I saw the picture above from one of my cousins. This was taken in early 2000s. There are eight people in the picture. One of them is me. Four people have already passed away. One person is a stranger to me. The two children in the picture have now grown and have three children between themselves. I don’t remember much from this moment, but I do recall that this was taken after a lunch gathering, and another person at the table not included in the picture is no longer with us as well. Every time I try to think of that moment, I can’t help but think of death no matter how happy the occasion was.

Time flies, folks. Tell your mother you love her while you still can.

I love you, Ma. I love you, Mommet.

Tagged ,