Category Archives: culture

The Confusing Korean Left

Little Boy

These are crazy times. The left wing of Korea is now a proponent of the alt-right’s agenda, specifically with Trump meeting with Kim Jung Un. President Moon Jae-In, in his quest for warmer relations with North Korea have unnecessarily entangled himself with Trump and Kim Jung-Un meeting next week in a summit in Singapore. When it was first cancelled, the extreme right wing in the country was celebrating, calling it a failure of Moon Jae-In. But now that the meeting is back on, it seems that the left is celebrating it as a “win” regardless of the consequences and what the summit exactly means for North Korean propaganda. If you told me that the left wing of Korea would push for a meeting between Trump and Kim Jung-Un two years ago, I would’ve called you insane.

Now I’m not necessarily against western leaders meeting with North Korea. What I am is extremely cynical of these things. First off, Trump agreed to a meeting without even having any concessions. They demanded total abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but there seems to be a disagreement whether North Korea agreed to this. And even if they did, it is very unlikely they would follow through with this, especially with Kim Jung-Un fearing Colonel Gaddafi’s fate after abandoning his nuclear programs.

Second, the Trump administration is not treating this very seriously. I really think they’re just pursuing this and hoping that they would somehow stumble into a peace agreement. Why do I say that? I say that because we’re weeks away from the summit, and we’ve yet to hear any realistic plan to slowly wean North Korea away from their current nuclear trajectory outside of Trump sounding like a genie, “you will be very happy, your people will be very happy, your country will be rich!” And I get very suspicious when clowns start popping in for the summit. There’s word that Dennis Rodman, Sean Hannity, and Sebastian Gorka (a Hungarian Nazi) will be covering the summit for Trump. It’s a damned photo op for conservative “win.”

And again, all of this while Trump makes trade wars with Canada, Mexico, and the EU (and Nikki Haley embarrasses herself in front of the UN).

I like President Moon Jae-In, I really do, but I think he’s got himself caught in a trap. Friendliness with North Korea doesn’t mean the South has to be a wingman for relations with the United States, not at this early stage anyway. It wasn’t too long ago when the North wasn’t too cool with the South. Now he is wedded to the political whims of Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un. Should either man do anything to mess up the summit or sour relations with each other, Moon Jae-In’s enemies would quickly jump on that and use it to attack him. The promise of warmer relations with North Korea is tenable. The promise of peace with North Korea, while ideal, seems unrealistic under current circumstances. And anything short of peace and total nuclear disarmament (something which Trump initially suggested the North agreed to), Moon Jae-In will be attacked for.

In any case, the left should really step back and see what exactly they are supporting here. They are supporting “wins” for two men who will cynically use the meeting for short term political gains and propaganda. The “wins” for both Trump and the North is simply the summit itself. Both men attend the meeting, they shake hands, take pictures. Done. Nobel Peace Prize for one of the worst US presidents in modern history. Any failing from the follow through could just be waved of as fake news. The “win” for the South would take far longer, and proving it to be a “win” would be more substantive. This is a strange and hard gamble for the left.

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Stormy Daniels, Slut Shaming, and the Diminishing Returns of Writing about Trump

Twitter dilemma

It’s very unsatisfying to write about US politics, especially in relation to Trump because whatever outrages me at the moment will soon be overshadowed by another scandal that is bound to come. That, plus with the myriad of controversies surrounding the administration, focusing on one scandal would seem to be doing a disservice to the other scandals/crises which are of equal importance. Just off the top of my head, on March 22, 2018, there is the Russian collusion and Trump’s piety towards Putin where he appears to be bullied/extorted right in front of the world (Putin: Say you congratulated me on my election victory. Trump: Yes, sir.), there is the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal which makes me really want to delete my long-abandoned Facebook account, there is the continuing gun crisis as well as violence against black people, there is the scandal of firing Andrew McCabe 26 hours prior to his retirement, the list goes on and on.

For now, let me focus on Stormy Daniels. There are countless of articles and videos explaining what she’s doing and why she’s doing them. Perhaps she’s doing this for money, exposure, whatever, I’m not really interested in that. She can do whatever she wants, and I really don’t hold it against her for sleeping with Trump back then (he was a goofy character on television). I don’t want to put Ms. Stephanie Clifford in too high a pedestal, but I really do admire how she handles Trump’s defenders and sycophants. Most of them attack her based on her profession and her “lack of morals,” and that’s it. That’s the tired well they keep coming back to. And since she doesn’t really get fazed by people’s slut-shaming, it’s like she’s bulletproof. She just swats their insults off like ugly background noise. And ultimately, isn’t that the nightmare of the conservative male? A strong woman (many of them want to sleep with) who has full control of her sexuality and is unfazed by their slut-shaming?

If Internet statistics are to be believed, the biggest consumers of online pornography in the United States are those living in the Bible Belt. So the same men slut-shaming women who are fighting for their rights, be it the right to use contraception or the right to use their body any way they please, are the same men who probably have had Stormy Daniels cross their screens once or twice when their wives are not at home. It’s a really perverse twisting of self-hate and guilt, and I know self-hate and guilt. I’m a depressed Catholic.

Anyway, it is amazing how so many of Trump’s supporters are willing to ignore his sins while casting stones at Ms. Clifford. I feel like someone should remind them that they’re not married to Donald Trump. They don’t have to live in denial about their partner’s sins. I read one Twitter supporter proclaim that all of Stormy Daniels’ fans are disgusting. This ignores the fact that prior to all of this, Trump was actually a fan of Stormy Daniels, probably one of her biggest fans, enough to send her $130,000. Most men have admired women in pornography before. Many have been obsessed with porn stars. But not many could say they spent $130,000 on one.

In any case, should the whole Stephanie Clifford saga simply just be about her making a name for herself or selling a book or whatever, she’s still coming out of this whole thing not only ethically from a higher ground, but she’s also using a much smarter strategy and employing a savvier lawyer/promoter. She’s never professed to be a good Christian and was never forgiven by evangelical leaders, unlike Donald Trump who has been nothing but a hypocrite throughout this whole thing. If she’s doing this for monetary gain to the detriment of Trump’s marriage, have you ever known Trump to respect other people’s marriages and spouses? Nope. He insulted Ted Cruz’s wife and also McCabe’s. Trump didn’t even respect his own marriages. And really, we can’t really fault her for doing this for monetary gain. Trump has hurt so many people for monetary gain or even just through his public actions (Central Park Five, anyone?). When was the last time Ms. Clifford’s work hurt anyone?

And yeah, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, could teach Trump’s legal team a thing or two about looking sane on television while shamelessly plugging his own agenda. I also doubt if Mr. Avenatti would be paying for his clients sexual dalliances through a home equity loan. Seriously, where did Trump’s lawyers get their JDs?

Well, before this gets too long, here’s to Ms. Clifford or Stormy Daniels. May you get whatever you want out of all of this! I really hope the 60 Minutes special does not disappoint. It’s very telling when the only two people Trump does not attack on Twitter are Putin and Ms. Clifford. Please, live up to the hype. And keep on making Trump supporters hate themselves for wanting to be with you while slowly destroying their orange father figure.

*Update: As I post this, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who had an affair with Trump, is now on television talking to Anderson Cooper about their affair. Also, Trump just tapped one of the chief architects and cheerleaders of the Iraq War, John Bolton, as National Security Adviser. Congratulations, people who voted for Trump because Hilary Clinton was a hawk. As I look back on the entry, it just seems so old now. But then again, I’m sure we’ll be back to talking about Ms. Clifford come Sunday.

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Disappointing My Parents

Swords

Trying to get away from pop music and in many ways, k-pop…  so I turn to KEXP for some indie rock. Then I spent a couple of hours listening to Japanese Breakfast, and I’m like, yeah, this is alright. And then I remember Michelle Zaulner is Korean-American.

She did an interview where she confessed to considering quitting music and pursuing a career which is more aligned with the Asian stereotype growing up with tiger moms. Perhaps be an engineer or something. And this morning, I just saw Hari Kondabolu’s documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ where he talks about not only the problem with the stereotype the Simpsons character is perpetuating, but also about growing up and pursuing a career which is not up to his parent’s expectations. Again, he didn’t grow up to be an engineer or something.

What I’m saying is, god bless the people who pursue their dreams so we can share a bit of their gifts as their dreams become reality. I wouldn’t be enjoying Zaulner’s songs or Kondabolu’s humor if they both pursued careers in engineering.  At least at this point in my life, for this day, I would’ve been poorer for it. So yeah, here’s to following your dreams and disappointing Asian parents!

Speaking of pursuing the arts, I just saw a video of my niece playing the otamatone. I really wish she doesn’t pursue this and go get a STEM career instead.

Be an engineer, Amanda!

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The Beauty of Studio Galleries

Moose_funny

My good friend, Jordan Miller, just aired her woes regarding running a studio gallery. I want to reply with my two cents.

First off, for the holidays, I doubt if many people buy art, especially in a city like Winnipeg in this economy. People do love looking at art… they love looking, but not just Winnipeg in particular, but the whole world in general. For someone to actually buy art, they often have to be invested in the piece or the artist already. That or they just have money to throw around at that moment. So yeah, either you have a fan or you’re lucky enough to come across someone truly compelled to buy your work.

And really this holiday, galleries and all other shops are competing against Amazon and Walmart when it comes to shopping for presents. When it comes to compelling imagery, they’re competing against the whole Internet and the world’s ADHD culture. It’s an uphill battle, and it’s a small miracle and badge on the artist every time someone buys art.

This is where I think a studio gallery has to utilize the artists it has. I think many new artists are under the assumption that once they’re in a gallery, it’s the gallery owner or curator’s responsibility to shepherd new audiences to them. To some extent, this is true. Being in a gallery brings about art enthusiasts as well as other gallery owners. But in a generally static market like Winnipeg, artists cannot expect their audience to grow if they keep on showing their stuff at the same studio gallery. To grow an audience, each artist in a collective should be introducing their friends to other artists in the collective, and thus, growing their community and their audiences. So let’s say there’s an open house, each artist in a studio gallery should at least try to invite friends to come over and see their works as well as the other artists’. “Studio artists tell me they want new people in, not just the people they know.” True. So each artist should bring the people they know and maybe they’ll buy their neighbor’s work and vice versa.

Another way to solve the “new people in, not just the people they know” dilemma is for gallery owners and artists to be sharing information regarding calls for submissions. I was once a part of an art collective in South Korea, and one thing I liked about the community is that people were sharing information and leads regarding opportunities. The organizer would encourage members to take part in shows. This encourages artists to be more productive and be part of the community. It also gives them more experience and hopefully leads them to a much better portfolio. Artists don’t have to be limited to their local community. It’s what the Internet is for. And with several eyeballs scouring the Internet for opportunities and sharing them, that should make the world of artists in a studio gallery a little bit bigger.

My friend mentioned that some artists make deals with buyers and sell work to them privately instead of going through the gallery and losing a commission. Now, there really is no way to work around this unless galleries start forcing artists to sign exclusivity contracts. But really, I think this comes down to the artists themselves. Personally, I feel grateful if a gallery hung my work and happened to find a buyer for me. That’s one person who may have never run into my work and I owe it to the gallery for making the connection. I believe artists should do the right thing and make sales through galleries rather than wait for their work to come down. Buyers wouldn’t normally care if the artist loses on commission or not. And artists, despite finances and all, should really be willing to support galleries who gave them a chance in the first place.

Now, with the two things considered: artists wondering why my gallery owner friend is not shepherding in new audiences for them and artists making private sales, I would assume this comes to either selfishness (and laziness) in the artists’ part or a fundamental opportunity missed by everyone. Perhaps the economy is bad that artists cannot afford to be generous to galleries in return, or perhaps the artists don’t realize how a small studio gallery in a city like Winnipeg could work for them.

So there you have it. If you’re an artist in a studio gallery, take advantage of your community and share resources and opportunities. Be more proactive, if not in your local arts community, then at least over the Internet. Maybe I’m biased because Jordan, the gallery owner, is my best friend, but don’t leave everything to the gallery owner or curator. There’s only so much they can do to help you.

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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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Subway Hero

Fake_Antigue

Saw this over the weekend. Someone was peddling “antiques.” Now I know that many of these “antiques” are made in China, are probably not even a year old, and are probably being sold more than ten times the price they were bought, but who would buy these things? It’s neither antique nor porn. Where exactly does a person put these?

I don’t mind fake “antiques” btw. I would buy them and have them in my house as long as they’re being sold at a reasonable price. Don’t tell me something is from the Ming Dynasty and that I’m getting a deal at $500. Just tell me it’s from a distributor in China and I’ll gladly buy it for $50.

Being in Asia, the anachronism of the bronze figures kinda reminded me of plastic figures like the one below. Again, as a practical matter, where does one display such things?

anime_figure_butt

I try not to stare at disabled people, I really do. I’m sure that many of us have that compulsion to stare at disabled people not because they are oddities, but to make sure that they are okay, just in case they need our help. We’d swoop right in to save the day like Supermen. We don’t stare directly, but we steal glances through peripheral vision, much like men would steal glances at exposed cleavage. The staring (or monitoring) is not in itself malicious. It comes from a good place. It’s empathy. We are concerned about our fellow human beings. It’s not something we do to the “normals” but hey, they’re disabled!

But all too often it truly is just arrogance. Of course they’re okay. They don’t need your help. They were fine many years before they encountered you.

I had a moment like this in the subway over the weekend. There was a blind man in the car. At first, I thought he was a beggar, but then I realized he was just like everyone, a passenger. He was standing right by the subway car door, waiting for his stop. I was trying to have a conversation with the person I was with but I can’t help but steal glances at the blind passenger. Maybe he’ll need help.

Then he fishes out a smartphone from his pocket. I thought it was odd because I assumed he would require something more tactile, but then he placed the phone close to his ear as he typed. Lesson learned: the blind can use smartphones. Butt out of their lives.
As if to make the point clearer, as he steps out of the subway car (bumping to one or two passengers), I noticed that he has a dragon tattoo on his right arm. He’s not so helpless as to not appreciate body art. He clearly doesn’t need my help. He’s doing fine without me.

A person who did need my help was a girl on her phone outside the station who didn’t realize her skirt was caught on her purse and was unwittingly giving everyone a view of her underwear. Who knows how long she’s been walking around without anyone telling her. She was embarrassed, but was glad someone alerted her to it.

It’s not the blind who needed help from me that day. It’s one of the normals.

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