Category Archives: art

Inktober

Typhon

There is such a thing as too much vacation, too much spare time that your mind gets bored and frustrated that you start seeing all the negativity and unhappiness that you usually block from your mind with work. The things that you’ve drown out with bits and pieces of your soul start to resurface again. You start creating small dramas to entertain yourself. Maybe you set small fires here and there just to test the waters and see that you’re still alive. It’s not to be mean or anything, but the mind just needs a bit of stimulus for no other reason that it needs it. Unfortunately, you end up going too far and that small fire has burst into a barn fire, then to a raging conflagration. Then you’re no longer bored but exponentially more miserable and unhappy, and you still have a few vacation days left, a few more days to make things worse.

God bless work. God bless keeping busy.

And speaking of keeping busy, God bless Inktober. I recently saw an NHK video on Hayao Miyazaki struggling to make his last film, ‘Boro the Caterpillar.’ He was obsessing with animating a furry caterpillar using traditional hand-drawn techniques. Though people were constantly pushing to him new computerized ways of streamlining the process, even showing him an AI that would make its own animations, he insisted that CGI removes the human element, and many things that the artist and the audience sees in nature in terms of light, motion, and life itself, are lost in the computerized environment, and totally missing the signature look of what makes Ghibli films what they are. Things got so heated at one point, that he almost saw it as an insult to have AIs animate what amounted to monstrous figures.

In many ways, I agree with Miyazaki. There’s just something about hand-drawn work that makes it more compelling than ones generated with the aid of computers. The viewer can feel the hand of the artist, the effort. We can see with the artist’s eyes and there is evidence to where his attention lingered. Now these can also be true with CGI images, but they’re often crisp to the point that it feels cold and alien. It can easily be mistaken that I am seeing an interesting image made by a computer instead of me seeing an interesting image made in an interesting manner by an artist. An artist. The art in the process is more apparent with hand-drawn works.

This is why, despite me not being active with Inktober, I appreciate that it celebrates and encourages hand-drawn works. It is very tempting to do things via the computer, with drawing tablets getting cheaper and more ubiquitous, and web comics and digital paintings being more popular. But in my opinion, the computer filters out the human touch in creating images. Perhaps it’s the ease in the process of cleaning images up, but it could also be the process of making images on the PC itself.

Coincidentally, the 10th item on the Inktober prompt list is gigantic. This is my interpretation of the Greek giant Typhon.

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The Stone Angel

TravelManitoba

I remember being asked to read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence back in high school. It was one of the many wonderful books that our English teacher used to try to infuse some humanity into our young minds. I don’t remember the story much, but I do remember the parallels between the old character in the book and the ultimate fate of Margaret Laurence. It’s like she literally became one of the characters she wrote about. I really should look into the Manawaka series again.

Speaking of Manawaka, my works will be displayed in the town it was based on, Neepawa, Manitoba.  When I used to go camping and hiking with my best friend, I remember visiting there once. Here in Asia, when people think of Canada, the first places that come out of people’s mouths are Toronto and Vancouver. But when they describe Canada, they would often imagine a place much closer to towns like Neepawa.

I love big cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and even smaller ones like Winnipeg, but it is smaller rural towns cradling close to liberated Canadian wilderness that most people here in Asia often imagine. It is in many ways romantic. I guess like me, that image is mostly from the desire to escape from convoluted concrete jungles like Seoul.

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About Innocently Prodding Someone’s Bum

Saint

When it comes to childhood or child-rearing, some things just don’t translate to North America or just 2017 in general. I remember when I first came to South Korea, I was teaching English to young children. Some of the boys would play around shoving their fingers into each other’s bottoms, occasionally including mine. It was playful and not sexual at all, but in order to avoid any confusion, I discouraged it in class. I have my suspicion that it probably originated in some sort of sexual submission/domination dynamics, but I really don’t think the kids were thinking of that. It was horseplay. It was horseplay that was odd, and is probably less common now than it was even ten years ago.

The thing is this isn’t really a Korean thing, shoving things up bottoms as a form of horseplay. It is an Asian thing as far as I can tell. If I grew up in Japan, I probably would’ve had to deal with kancho. In Taiwan or China, I would probably deal with it under a different name. I remember having to deal with it as a young child. It wasn’t amusing back then. If anything, I always thought it was a throwback to when kids and people in general truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t put much malice in it. I just thought that the other person better wash their hands afterwards.

But it really doesn’t translate to North American countries. Not in Canada. Not at all. Kim’s Convenience tried to explain it to mixed results, and as much as I understand the practice and don’t want to be the straight person in the skit, it really does seem like a throwback. Even when the Korean character equated the practice to a wedgie, it didn’t really help the situation. When was the last time you got a wedgie? Even I am too old to experience the hilarity of giving and/or receiving wedgies when I was young. It was outdated back then, and it would be seen as cruel now. In fact, the only person who was interested in shoving things up my bum as a prank was my father, who I imagine used to play around with his peers that way when he was a child back in the 60s. Different environment, uncomfortable to put up with now, but I move on. It’s the same way I saw my young Korean students when they were keen on putting fingers up bums… different environment. I don’t want to be ethnocentric and tell them that it’s wrong or put malice into it; I just discouraged it like every other horseplay.

But in the same spirit of ethnocentrism, in Canada, we don’t shove fingers up children’s bottoms as a form of horseplay. It’s not that there’s malice in it, but it’s best to avoid doing it to prevent confusion. It’s not really wise trying to shoehorn questionable horseplay or pranks from other countries into North America when it could be interpreted differently, especially in this day and age. If an immigrant parent or grandparent does that to a child, and by some miracle, the child is okay with it, the neighbors, friends, or other relatives might not be. It’s best to avoid that confusion. There other aspects to one’s culture that are much better to pass on to the next generation, things that won’t get one suspected or arrested for abuse.

 

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Fidget Spinners and Buddha are Unrelated

Buddha

I just had a long vacation. I didn’t go out of the country but I did go out of town for a bit. I spent most of my vacation working at home. Yes, I have several jobs. So yeah, yay staycations! One good thing is I got back to making art. Yay art!

This work is not really about fidget spinners, but it is there. And while I really don’t have much against fidget spinners (they do serve a purpose for those dealing with ADD), I’m a tad annoyed with their ubiquity. It’s not that I’m railing against trends or shaking my fist on what kids find fascinating these days. After all, my living room looks like an arcade. My wife and I spend a lot of time playing video games together instead of watching movies. It’s just that fidget spinners seem to embody the laziness of current trends.

Take television for example. The most popular shows, at least in South Korea, tend to be reality television. Put a camera crew with some celebrity, have them eat something, call it a show. Forget writing. Look at movies. Take an existing intellectual property and turn it into a movie, forget the hard work of creating something new. And I can go on and on with rehashes and the laziness of all sorts (get off my lawn, you kids!).

And then we have fidget spinners. My wife was surprised at what little it does. Remember when there was skill involved in novelty toys? Things like the yo-yo or a skateboard or even Japanese kendamas. Now you just have things that just spin. No skill whatsoever. Buy it and boom! You’re in the club! Because learning to play something takes too much time. It’s the smartphone + Google combo of toys. Why learn something and retain it in your head, when you have a phone and Internet connection that would make you an instant expert on things? And that is where the fidget spinner fails. You buy it, you play with it for a couple of minutes, then you forget about it. It’s bubble gum. You didn’t get anything out of it other a couple of minutes of distraction. You didn’t even get to challenge your dexterity. It is a forgettable shiny object, just like a lot of things.

Now, I think I’ve wasted way too many words on fidget spinners.

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Lending Credibility

Fake news

Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

 

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Missing Vietnam

Mosquito

Vietnam is a great place. The people are friendly, the architecture is charming, it’s amazingly safe, and the beaches are wonderful. It rained half the time I was there, but it was not so bad that I couldn’t explore the city. What surprised me about the trip was how cheap everything was. Food and drinks were cheap, especially compared to Seoul and other places I vacationed before. It was just insanity. I could see myself retiring there if my measly pension would not allow me to live in Seoul or Canada.

Another thing that surprised me was how safe I felt despite walking around in dark streets. I didn’t feel like I was gonna get mugged or kidnapped or anything. It’s more dangerous walking around in downtown Winnipeg. I was staying in a rural, touristy area, but compared to the rural areas I stayed at in the Philippines, my wife and I felt so much more secure. We felt fewer eyes looking at us.

What bothered me, however, was the apparent prejudice against Korean tourists. We stayed at Hoi An, the Old City. The place being a UNESCO heritage site, it is protected and needs maintenance. This requires funds from tourists, and some walkways welcome donations or have signs that ask people to present their tickets prior to passing. This policy appears to be enforced lackadaisically, as people just come and go without presenting any tickets or being asked to buy them. That is, unless you’re Korean. My wife and my sister-in-law’s family got asked to present their tickets, but not once was I asked. We also observed other tourists pass by and they don’t seem to be bothered by city officials. My wife and I thought it might be a colonial attitude, where white people are not hassled but other ethnicities are. But I wasn’t hassled, Chinese tourists weren’t hassled, it’s just the Korean tourists who were being asked for tickets. And we’re not crazy. We observed close by while having drinks. It seems like a scam, feels unjust, and was the only thing that really left a bad feeling in me.

That and the countless mosquito bites.

 

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Could be Tomorrow

Lungs

I’m off to Vietnam this week. I don’t know much about the country and its beautiful people, so I’ll talk about The Handmaid’s Tale instead. What a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s work (a Canadian treasure)! Good job, Hulu! What’s really interesting about the book and the show itself is that if there’s ever a more apt book to adapt for the times, it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Being a work of “speculative fiction,” much like books like The Road or Blindness, it doesn’t need much fantasy in order for something to become our reality. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, religion and military dictatorship just needs to marry together, something which humanity has experimented with several times before.

And it’s not like we’re that far off from Ms. Atwood’s fiction. The world is becoming more and more militaristic. Many countries’ police officers are starting to look more like military forces. There’s a loud growing movement of conservatism with their adherence to religious dogma and a distrust of science and news media. And more and more, dictatorial rule seems to be coming back into fashion with many people blindly supporting strong men. Even my father pines for the days of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and praises the likes of Duterte. The show did a great job of incorporating current trends and technology and making it part of the narrative. It almost screams at the viewers, “this could be you! You’d better do something about it” It’s not enough that we trust our collective goodness as a society. Our hubris, our confidence that several others will do good despite of our inaction, will lead to our eventual downfall. I’d like to believe more Americans are sensible, and yet Donald Trump and his ilk run the country. I was impressed at how friendly, welcoming, and seemingly sensible everyone was the last time I visited the Philippines, but they’re the same people who would deny their neighbors are being killed for their vices, even if it happens almost every day. My workplace is surrounded by people who yearn for the days of dictatorial rule in Korea.

It is scary. It really wouldn’t take much.

 

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Oh Manitoba!

Manitoba_Arts_Network

Thank you Manitoba Arts Network for having my works for their 2017-2018 touring exhibition. It’s always nice to have people appreciate my work, that the works I make are not just for me personally, that they could mean something else to some people as well.

 

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WiderScreen

WiderScreen_Tommi Musturi

My work is featured in a Finnish magazine. They’re a handful of images from my upcoming “Fever Dream” collection which will be making its way around my home province. I didn’t really think that the Finnish site would be interested at first, but it’s good to see some of my images out there. The site’s current theme is the use of text as an object of study and a work of art. I guess my style of work falls into that category. Although instead of focusing on things like fonts or the beauty of text itself, I use it more as building materials, as a means to add texture and to both literally and metaphorically add more emotions to the pieces I’m working on. I’m also more interested in the reason outside of obvious occasions such as books, notes, etc. why people write things down and why people read them. Why deface a wall? Why read graffiti? Is it a reflex or a need? Why write on a blog that no one will read? Why read a blog that no one reads? Is it more for the writer or for the reader? Who is getting their needs met from the exercise?

In any case, I recommend reading through the articles. Not all of it is for everyone, but I’m sure everyone would find something of interest. I particularly found Anders Carlsson’s article quite enlightening.

BTW: That image up there is by Tommy Musturi.

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Father’s Day Post

Waiting for my turn

I don’t write too much about Canadian politics because as much as a faux-progressive Justin Trudeau has been, he’s still miles better than Harper. I really can’t complain too much with regards to Canadian politics. But if there’s one thing that’s continued to be ignored regardless of whether it’s Harper, Trudeau, or even Chrétien, it’s Aboriginal issues.

As much as I applaud the CBC for featuring the works of Drag the Red (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/drag-the-red-bones-1.4166029), it’s still the same old effort with no real response from the government. Concerned citizens are still out there, dragging the river looking for bodies or any evidence of people missing. Members of the First Nations, specifically Aboriginal women, have a higher risk of ending up missing compared to other groups, and despite this trend, there hasn’t been any real change to correct this. And what’s tragic is, with all the Aboriginal women missing and being ignored, if there’s ever a white woman missing, her case would dominate the headlines. This is why people are out there trying to find members of their community by themselves. And perhaps it might not be the most effective means of trying to find bodies or evidence; I believe they do it mostly as a means for catharsis at this point, especially with the rather gloomy approach of dragging the river for bodies instead of looking for a living person.

I learned about Drag the Red a few months when the group started first started looking for bodies. I’m afraid the group will continue to exist well into the future, and the government will continue with their same replies. “If they feel like they’re doing something to address what THEY SEE is an issue, then we support that.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iDzIQW0XE) I could understand the risk versus reward approach, especially if the authorities in Winnipeg in particular are working on a very limited budget. But how often are we as Canadians going to keep on saying to the First Nations every time they have a problem that we just don’t have the resources for them?

And while I already linked a VICE video, here’s another VICE feature on missing Aboriginal women (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz63Vppw3gE)!

Before I forget, happy Father’s Day!

As much as I love my father, he’s the biggest Duterte supporter. I have two problems with that. One, Duterte is everything Canada and most western democracies are against. He’s a strongman dictator who happens to think casually about rape and thinks anyone involved with drugs should be murdered. Second, why is my dad so involved with Philippine politics? Shouldn’t he be more involved with Canadian or American politics? That’s where his kids and his grandkids are! It’s like he moved to Canada and enveloped himself into this hyper-nationalistic shell.

In any case, I’ve debated people like him regarding the whole Duterte situation and I’ve written about him before, but one argument that annoys me most is the line, “you don’t know how it is as an outsider; people who live here know better,” which basically means that any outside opinion is disqualified since we don’t get the whole breadth of the experience- we don’t see how much the country has improved under the tyrant Duterte.

Well, first off, that is one of the most common defense of battered spouses. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jZqwq7N-ps) “You don’t know him like I do. We’re doing fine.” I would argue that anyone on the inside is far too gaslighted to know what’s good or not, and that anyone who actually thinks that Duterte is good is too deep in the bubble to know any better. It would take a concerned outsider to point out what’s wrong in the situation.

And like many things Duterte, it doesn’t take too much to point out the hypocrisy in the whole situation. If outsiders’ opinions regarding a situation are not qualified, then what qualifies an outsiders’ opinion regarding a drug user’s lifestyle? Perhaps drug users totally fine with their lifestyle and believe it doesn’t affect them negatively. Who is to say, as an outsider, that they are doing society wrong by getting involved in drugs? Maybe the outsider, in this case Duterte and his followers, should try some drugs to get more insight. And what about the Muslim crisis in Mindanao? Why is the rest of Philippines forcing their some of their minority to be part of the bigger country? Maybe those smaller communities are happier are Muslim nations.

Lastly, as prescribed by Godwin’s Law, it is exactly outsiders’ opinions that got Hitler and the Nazis to stop murdering Jews. What’s chilling however is that it was Duterte who initially compared himself to Hitler, and his supporters didn’t even bat an eye.

So what am I saying to the lost Duterte supporter who happened to have stumbled into my page? Look at your neighbors. Perhaps it’s a good idea to listen when they tell you that you’re in a bad situation.

Oh and yeah, happy Father’s Day!

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