Category Archives: culture

April Fools, Too

Residents in a Vancouver town have filed a petition to not allow a sculpture to be installed on the South False Creek Seawall in Vancouver. The sculpture is part of the annual Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale and was created by Chinese artist Chen Wenling. He is a world-renowned neorealist whose often grotesque but otherwise very visually arresting works have been exhibited all and one is even installed in Vancouver. ‘Proud Youth’ has become somewhat of a popular landmark near where the proposed ‘Boy Holding a Shark’ is to be installed. Actually, both pieces remind me of another installation, ‘A-maze-ing Laughter’ which I initially thought was a work of the same artist. ‘A-maze-ing Laughter,’ prior to being installed was also subjected to protests, but later became a popular feature in Vancouver’s artistic landscape.

So why do people oppose ‘Boy Holding a Shark?’ Apparently, the grotesque look of the sculpture, which is a call to environmental protection, would harm the natural beauty of the local scenery. More importantly, it could potentially hurt the value of the property around the areas. Personally, I don’t find the look of the sculpture particularly offensive. Looking at art is subjective and this is entirely my speculation, but I believe people who oppose the installation are not the gallery-viewing crowd to begin with. Also, a sculpture belongs in the natural Canadian landscape as much as rows of condos and boats. The opposition due to the look of the piece or how it harms the beauty of the environment just rings a little hollow to me. As for the argument that it would hurt property values, as a millennial living in Seoul who has given up owning a home and can’t even dream of being able to afford a waterfront property in Vancouver, I couldn’t care less about that concern. It seems like rich, white people problems.

Some argue that Canadians should be spending more tax dollars promoting and uplifting Canadian artists. However, the Biennale is a non-profit organization and does not involve the government at all. Canadian taxpayers are not on the hook for the piece. If anything, I tend to be critical of how the Canadian government be it, federal or provincial, chooses public art. I find a lot of public art, especially in my hometown Winnipeg, very uninspired. Just look up ‘Agassiz Ice.’ I’ve written about if before, but it’s a sculpture of glaciers. Glaciers! In a town that has tons of snow and ice for half the year and even has ice and snow sculpture events annually. Described as “monumental,” there is nothing monumental about the three pieces of aluminum. One of the three glaciers is literally three feet tall.

Granted, the tendency for governments and other organizations to choose uninspired corporate art to dot the landscape is not unique to Canada. Seoul has a law which mandates the installation of sculptures to be installed near large buildings. Unfortunately, the choice of works and the fear of offending people and hurting property value has resulted in Seoul being filled with what some has described as “stupid statues.” I’m not saying many of the works in Canada or Seoul are awful, many are in fact brilliant and I applaud them being in the public space, but more often than not, they are meaningless metal features that people simply ignore.

So yeah, God bless organizations like the Biennale for being more adventurous in their selection. Hopefully the city goes ahead with erecting that statue.

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No Tokyo Olympics, Please

It’s really time for the Olympics to get cancelled. It’s time. We all can see the Olympics for what they are. They are a company interested in their own profits. They’re not about sports, camaraderie, or triumph over adversity. The sports and the athletes are just a secondary concern. What the IOC values more is licensing, advertising, and broadcasting the games.

The games have been slowly showing its hand in the past few Olympic games. A couple of years after the games were held in Beijing, people noted the abandoned structures that were hastily built for the games. Then people started questioning whether it truly is worth it to host the Olympics, especially when the money used for infrastructure could be used for so many other things. This was especially true when the Olympics were held in Rio. Last year, the Olympic park was closed due to safety concerns. Hosting the Olympics means spending money on infrastructure that would never be recovered, infrastructure that has a high probability of not being maintained after the games. But yeah, the countries/cities are losing money, but someone is getting rich out of all of the construction and other Olympics-related logistics.

As for the sport, Sochi Olympics has demonstrated that widespread cheating can occur with very little consequences to the athletes. After Russia was caught having a national doping program, they barely suffered any consequences for it, and many of their athletes were later allowed to compete under no flags. Pointless.

And now Tokyo, despite rising coronavirus cases, insists that the city will continue to host the games as scheduled. There will be no spectators, and athletes will not be required to get the vaccine, but will however be required to sign a waiver that they risk illness and death by competing in the city. Why is the UN allowing this? This is akin to South Korea’s old law of revoking foreigner’s visas should they learn they are HIV positive. What if they caught the virus in South Korea? (Instead of having brought the virus into the country) Isn’t that not their fault fully but also the fault of the environment they are in? The UN saw it as discrimination as well as a backwards policy that unfairly treats visitors to the country. In Japan, what if the athletes catch covid in the country and dies? Doesn’t the country or the IOC have any responsibility for it? Doesn’t this shift the blame for catching diseases fully on the visitors and not the country the same way South Korea did before with HIV?

Inviting a host of people from countries all over the world could potentially turn Tokyo into a hotbed for the pandemic and naturally, many of the people in Tokyo are against it. Around 80% of people in a recent survey wanted to have the games cancelled altogether. So the games aren’t really for the benefit of the city either. They don’t want to risk dying from covid should the worst happen as a result of thousands of athletes visiting. Even a group of Japanese medical professionals want the game cancelled. Japanese cities are not doing well with infections and vaccinations. As much as some people are saying that Tokyo has handled the pandemic well. They truly haven’t. They came into the pandemic with so much hubris, even allowing people to go out cherry blossom viewing in spring 2020. And now Americans are officially warning people not to visit the country for the Olympics.

As much as I love Japan, I can’t stand the conservative Japanese government. The Olympics has a policy of not allowing politics to be part of the games, and yet recently, Tokyo has been using a map that shows Dokdo, a Korean island, as part of Japanese territory. This revisionist claim is just par for the course for the Japanese government in the past couple of years. They have denied wartime atrocities and downplayed claims of sexual exploitation. South Koreans are understandably unhappy about the recent Dokdo fiasco and many are pushing to boycott the Olympics altogether.

I believe this push to have the Olympics in Tokyo this summer no matter what is simply companies trying to make good on their investments. I’m sure contractors and other beneficiaries to the Olympics, be it the Japanese government side, the corporate side, or the IOC, who were disappointed last year are still hoping that they can make money off of the event. And it truly doesn’t matter whether the events have people watching them on the ground. What truly matters is how many people will be watching the games on television and online. As for me, I think I’ll be watching better shows on Netflix instead. I can just read about whoever won whatever event on Twitter or Reddit.

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2020 Elections

It’s occupied everything for the past couple of days, so here are my thoughts on the US elections. I would like to say that I overestimated the supposed blue wave, but now it’s apparent that what I overestimated is the sense of decency of Americans.

Voting in 2016, one could be forgiven to not know what kind of president Trump really would be. Aside from the sex scandals and racism against Mexicans, one could still be hopeful that the Donald Trump campaigning would be different once he’s in the Oval Office. But after four years, there’s been a Muslim ban, he’s attacked every minority, alienated his allies, coddled dictators, wrecked the economy, gave over a trillion dollars to the richest people on the planet, allowed Puerto Rico to drown and California to burn, tolerated Nazis, encouraged violence against black people, gassed people for a photo shoot, suggested that Biden would be assassinated five days if elected, asked for the imprisonment of his political opponents, attacked veterans, turned the US military into mercenaries for hire, allowed the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans from a preventable pandemic… I could go on and on. But after all of these, the election is still too close to call. It’s not a landslide. A significant chunk of Americans are fine with the bigotry, ignorance, and incompetence. Trump is not a hiccup. He is the rotten soul of half of the country.

Koreans managed to impeach and imprison their president for corruption while she was in office. They collectively decided they’re not okay with it. Americans saw Trump and half of them asked, “Can I have some more, please?”

When Obama was elected, many people in the country celebrated it like it was a collective good deed. Finally, America was on its way to going beyond the sins of slavery. But really, maybe Obama was the hiccup. Maybe Trump and the people that allow Trump to be as vile as he is as long as they get what they want… maybe they’re the norm. I mean, looking back at my expected landslide, Trump and his cronies were coming in to the election deeply unpopular. They have revealed themselves to be craven, hypocrites, and extremely inept. Fortunately for them, Democrats are also craven and extremely inept. God help Biden, but his policies make him equivalent to a Republican from the 80s. The Democrats are so protective of their own self interests and serving their donors that they went with the most milk toast candidates in the elections. They lost a couple of seats in the House and won’t be able to take the majority in the Senate. This was after Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were at their most vile! Only the loser Democrats could find a way to lose this much to the most unpopular group of politicians I have ever seen in my lifetime. Pelosi and Schumer should be run out of town.

And speaking of Pelosi. Where are those “arrows in her quiver” that she mentioned regarding preventing Amy Coney Barrett from being confirmed? Horrible.

Many Democrats are just as inept. For as many times Trump had suggested that Biden was hiding in a basement, the person who was hiding in a basement the whole time was Barrack Obama. He didn’t really go out and campaign for his former vice president until less than two weeks before the election. Wasn’t he upset about what’s happening in the country or in the world? Why can’t he attack the man whose making a mockery of his old job and killing Americans in the process. Democrats play this rule about being civil when Republicans spit on their face and call them suckers for unnecessarily crippling themselves. They really love shooting themselves in the foot.

Kamala Harris was nowhere to be found as well. Remeber when John McCain ran for president and Sarah Palin was virtually ubiquitous? She was on TV, she was on Saturday Night Live, she was selling herself just as much as she was selling John McCain. After all, she was going to be a heartbeat away from the highest office in the land. Where was Kamala Harris? Why couldn’t she have been out there just as much as Palin was for McCain? Why are Democrats so bad at politics?

So what do I think will happen? Well, I believe as I believed back in Tuesday, Biden will still win this election. As I’m writing this, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Georgia are trending towards him. But really, if Biden wins, he is really inheriting a consolation prize. Half of the country revealed themselves to be fine with bigotry and chaos, and they don’t want him to be president. And already, Mitch McConnell is pledging to block everything Biden would do, starting with his cabinet picks. Biden will win, but without a Senate, the country will be effectively run by Mitch McConnell. The Democrats won’t be able to get much done in the first two years, they will get blamed for it as well as for not being able to fix the many things that the Trump administration broke, and they will suffer politically for it come the next election. It would be like, “you think George Bush was bad? Wait til you see Trump!” Next time, it would be, “you thin Trump was bad? Wait til you see, I don’t know, President Tucker Carlson.”

So yeah, this week, the lesson is if you’re not a straight white man, America hates you and doesn’t care about you. Forget the movies and television shows. The country is not as progressive as that. Go into any room, and there’s a fifty percent chance that the stranger you just met will have a problem with you. Heck, even when the other person is the same demographic as you, they probably don’t care about you. Just look at all of the white women who don’t care about other white women. Which reminds me of my sister asking me why Cubans overwhelmingly vote conservative despite the fact that the Trump administration has consistently attacked Hispanics. It’s because many Cubans don’t think they’re the same as Mexicans. Many Koreans don’t think they’re the same as Chinese. They don’t realize that to the untrained eye, a brown person is a brown person, an Asian is an Asian. They got theirs, so why bother with others. I mean, I know Filipinos who don’t mind the racism against Mexicans, and I’m like, “Dude, you look Mexican!”

And yeah, to hell with reality TV as well. I’ve hated them for years now, even the ones here in Korea, but now I hate them even more. Trump is the product of Mark Burnett, the man who made Survivor and the Apprentice. He popularized the notion that the fakeness on TV shows is real. He rescued Trump from abject ruin and who now pushes the notion that the news is fake or at least anything that goes against my personal beliefs is fake. Don’t watch reality TV. Heck, don’t support Youtubers or any video influencers as well. With enough clout, celebrities get it into their heads that they should be running things. Look at Kanye West. Look at Sargon of Akkad, and look at Donald Trump. Leave politics to those who actually care about politics, people who have put in the time in their communities and have skin in the game.

There’s still a lot of ballots to be counted. Biden might win this election, but the nightmare is far from over. The only cold comfort would be Trump not running things in the Oval Office anymore. It is highly unlikely that the Democrats would ever go after him or his cronies for any crime when they are no longer in power, so don’t get your hopes up. Trump will never spend a day in prison. If anything, he will probably continue to command his Jim Jones cult when he’s no longer in power. This same cult would be the same group of people voting for the likes of Mitch McConnell, so Trump and his ilk would still have a significant amount of power even when out of office. This is why I was hoping for a landslide coming in to these elections. The nightmare will still continue. If you’re in America, your neighbor is horrible. If you’re in Canada, despite Biden winning, America is horrible. The nightmare is the norm.

Or I could be wrong. And Trump wins the elections.

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Wearing Me Down

Space Man

I was done worrying about the coronavirus. I was done. Dammit, this thing has been on my radar since January, and I was done. Granted, I haven’t really been too worried about it until there was a resurgence in South Korea after Valentine’s Day, but the fact that my office is still responding to calls from customers, re-scheduling, informing them about the virus, has got me tired. I’m tired of worrying about my health, about people’s health, about my job, about other people’s jobs. This constant atmosphere of high alert, it’s stressful. It’s like we’re witnessing another global historic event that will affect the way we do things, much like Sept. 11, except this one is dragging along through the year.

Last Friday, I went out with some friends. I think because of the sudden drop in temperature, I got a bit of a cold over the weekend, but I’m almost over it. I usually get really bad colds about twice or three times a year, but this one wasn’t too bad. Still, it didn’t stop me from being overly anxious about it. “Do I have it? Is this it? If Tom Hanks has it, then maybe I have it, too! After all, cases of infection have been documented around the neighborhood I work in. Am I endangering everyone right now? Am I going to be Internet famous as the Canadian guy who got everyone in his office sick?”

Korea’s doing well right now. It’s not quite like Singapore, but it appears that the government has got the whole thing under control. The infection rate has gone way down, and more people are recovering from the disease in comparison. People everywhere are still wearing masks, and we are constantly getting updates on television and online regarding the disease.

The problem is now that Korea and China are on their way to out of the coronavirus hole, the rest of the world is just experiencing the brunt of the disease. Looking at the numbers, Spain and Italy have gone past Korea in terms of infections. Germany, France, and the US appear to be catching up within a week’s time. These countries didn’t take the virus seriously. Just a couple of days ago, people were out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, crowding bars and restaurants, despite news of the pandemic being ubiquitous.

Quite frankly, I think the reason why the rest of the world didn’t take it seriously for so long is because the initial victims were Asians. I suspect western countries saw it as a foreign matter. “It couldn’t happen here!” When WHO declared the coronavirus a global health emergency in January, they explicitly said it was not because of the tremendous number of infected people in China at the time but the few numbers of infected people in other countries. When the disease exploded in Iran, I don’t think people took that too seriously as well. The world has gotten too used to seeing dead Muslims. The WHO didn’t declare the disease a pandemic until the number of infected Europeans starting rising dramatically. That was March 11. Korea was already in the middle of getting the virus under control.

I think Japan is in denial as well regarding their strategy of suppressing their infection numbers by not testing as many people as they should. “It’s not a Japan problem. It’s a problem with other countries.” I realize it has a lot to do with politics as well as trying to keep the Olympics. But even if Japan looks good on paper regarding their infection rates, the rest of the world won’t be able to participate in the Olympics if they are dealing with the coronavirus come July. Just cancel the Olympics already!

So if Korea’s starting to look fine and the rest of world isn’t, why am I stressing about it? I’ll be okay, right? Well, not really. I have friends and family overseas. Aside from that, I worry personally about the economy. People are already predicting a recession in the US, and I can only imagine how that would affect the rest of the world. How would that affect the company I work for? Fear of the disease and self-isolation has already affected many of the industries here in Korea, particularly restaurants, bars, saunas, and gyms. But all of that, couple with the global economy is bound to affect me at some point. Whether I’ll still have a job next month or if my contract will be renewed at the end of the year worries me.

And even though there are good signs in the country, the constant flood of distressing news from abroad is stressful. I love Twitter, but right now, most everything on Twitter is about how Americans and Europeans are totally dropping the ball in responding to this pandemic. This is really the worst time to elect a failed casino owner as the leader of the free world. I wish I could insulate myself and just ignore all of the news out there. But when I look at some of my art friends who are oblivious to what’s happening, just going about their merry way, I get frustrated as well.

And speaking of art (this is still an art Web site), I haven’t stopped making art. However, I stopped looking for art shows to apply to. I imagine galleries are suffering at the moment. Who wants to attend an art opening right now? Same goes for theater productions. Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunity to get my work seen online.

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Self Care

Conspiracy

I’m not a fan of NPR’s Fresh Air. I think I only heard the show’s host Terry Gross once. As a recap of what was a trending story, Adam Driver was being interviewed on the show. The show’s host and producers knew that Adam Driver didn’t like watching his own performances. He stated this on an earlier interview back in 2015 and expressed it in several instances, suggesting it left him unsatisfied, overly critical, or anxious. But despite all of this, Fresh Air decided to play his most recent performance in “Marriage Story” singing, and Driver walked out of the Interview. The story is now making the rounds with a rather displeased picture of Driver accompanying most articles. Come are spinning it as Driver being a demanding method actor type and that he was wrong to walk out of the interview so abruptly.

Psychiatrists are applauding Driver for standing up for his own boundaries and walking out of a situation that he knew was going to give him trouble later on. Normally, I’m not a fan of interviewees walking out of interviews when faced with hard questions but Terry Gross wasn’t really pressing him about anything controversial. They were simply ignoring his request not to be subjected to something which will trigger future anxiety. It benefits no one and they could’ve easily played the clip in question through future edits. He drew a line and they crossed it. He had every right to walk away.

This reminds me of an interview with Billy Bob Thornton as a member of his band, the Boxmasters. The host of the show, the disgraced Jian Ghomeshi, referenced his work as a screenwriter and an actor. Thornton wasn’t pleased with this since they agreed beforehand that his work as an actor wouldn’t be mentioned in the interview since it diminishes what he’s trying to do as a musician. I believe it also sidelines everyone else in the band. This led to Thornton answering nonsensically to Ghomeshi’s questions before scolding him. Now it might seem silly not to mention Billy Bob Thornton’s career in the silver screen, but that just happened to be the line he preferred not to be crossed, and not crossing it wouldn’t do much harm. It’s not like journalistic ethics were being violated if Thornton wasn’t introduced as an actor, much less if Adam Driver wasn’t subjected to watching his own performances.

Now compare both instances to R. Kelly being interviewed and asked about the cases against him. He might have started the interview asking that questions about the case not be asked, but the only reason one would have R. Kelly on an interview would be about those allegations. One would be interested hearing his spin on the allegations or his newest album. Not asking about the allegations would be journalistic malpractice. Just look at any softball interview with Ivanka Trump. She’s often being sold a proponent of business and feminism, but she’s never confronted about the almost blatant hypocrisy of her and her family’s actual actions (and inaction). I believe in most of her adult life, she has never been interviewed by a real journalist.

But back to Driver and him walking away from a situation. The man is an adult. He is an adult who knows what pushes his buttons and what is good for him. If it’s going to give him anxiety or make him lose sleep to subject himself to his own performances, let him walk away. It hurts nobody not to make him watch it. What the host and the producers of Fresh Air did is totally ignore Driver’s boundaries either due to carelessness or worse, to manufacture controversy for clicks. There are better shows on NPR. Go listen to them instead. And be more like Driver, if you can, walk away from stuff that would bother you later on. It’s not so much as being a snowflake. It’s taking care of yourself. Walk away from a bad situation or just avoid it completely. For instance with me, I now avoid drinking heavily. It’s not because I have a problem with alcohol, I just have a problem dealing with drunk people. So I either just stop drinking early or just avoid the situation completely. This can often be difficult in a country like South Korea where people are often helpless against intense societal pressure to drink, but for me, it’s better than stressing over and repeatedly replaying memories in my head the awkward interactions I have with drunk people.

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#boycottjapan Is Sad and It Sucks

Sun God

Instead of going to Japan a week ago, I went to Vietnam instead. I enjoy going to Japan, but the recent tension between Korea and Japan has really made going to Japan inadvisable.

Abe, in his bid for reelection, has begun attacking Korea and imposed restrictions on components necessary for key Korean industries. He is basically trying to damage the Korean economy and has stroked anti-Korean sentiments, saying that South Korea is illegally trading with North Korea and that South Korea is reneging on the comfort women issue which was inartfully “settled” by the last Korean president. This in turn, has sparked an anti-Japanese boycott in South Korea, to which a high-level Japanese politician responded by saying that it doesn’t matter, that Japan’s economy will not be hurt if Koreans stopped visiting Japan and stopped buying Japanese products.

What an asinine thing to say.

First off, South Korea trying to ease relations with North Korea is a good thing. The two countries are neighbors. There has not been any illegal trade with North Korea. If anything, I suspect that Japan is afraid that better relations with the North would jumpstart South Korea’s economy which has stalled in the past couple of years. Of course it doesn’t help that the North isn’t too afraid of flexing its military strength towards its neighbors.

As for the former president “settling” the comfort women issue, President Park Gun-Hye reached an agreement to accept five million US dollars from Japan to help women dubbed “comfort women,” the women Japan’s military forced into sexual slavery during Japan’s occupation. The “settlement” did not include the women during the talks. It also did not include a formal apology and acknowledgement from the Japanese government as well as the royal family. It still allows Japan to deny that they forced women into subjugation in their history books. And if you look into any first year law book, any agreement absent full knowledge and consent from both parties is no agreement at all. The comfort women and their family have to be involved.

So yeah, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. Many of my friends think that I have become Korean in regards to this issue, but I know about Japan’s war crimes long before I set foot in South Korea. I’ve also known veterans who fought the Japanese in World War II. And for Japan to try to skate along without making a full mea culpa and working to have their constitution remove Article 9, which forbids them from having an armed forces with war potential, is worrying at the very least. At least Germany acknowledged its crimes, made a full apology, compensated its victims, and learned from history. Japan has barely done any of this.

I also, don’t like it when countries are being dismissive of their neighbors. That’s me being a Canadian with a chip on my shoulder. I feel South Koreans’ pain in this.

What bothers me about the whole thing is that, while Japanese politicians seem to not care about local industries dependent on Korean customers, Koreans equally don’t seem to mind hurting other Koreans who are involved with Japanese products. I’ve passed by Uniqlo and Muji and there was no one there except clerks with nothing to do. Tour companies are having their customers cancel their trips. No one is buying Japanese beer. And many are even avoiding going to 7-11 which is owned by the Lotte Group, a South Korean/Japanese conglomerate. It’s getting ugly, and the little guys are the ones who are feeling the pain, not Abe and his cronies.

Nationalism is ugly. It is not patriotism. I understand South Korea in this matter, and in many ways, they really don’t have a choice. The recent Japanese election results showed that only the very few old people really support Abe and most young people don’t really care much about politics. Heck, the Japanese media don’t really show much about the Japanese/Korea tensions, when it’s always in the news here in Korea. This Japanese blind spot tells me that despite my hope, these tensions will last longer, maybe even until the Olympics. What’s dumb is that while Abe is quick to condemn and punish South Korea for what it claims are support to the North, it won’t condemn and punish the United States for actively supporting, and in fact, coddling the North Korean regime. Missiles launched by the North Koreans in the past few days were launched with little fear of sanctions by the United States. I would argue it is a direct result of Trump’s cozy relationship with Kim Jung Un. And yet, Abe would rather stroke sentiments against South Koreans.

Yep, Abe’s Japan would alienate the Koreans, but God forbid they say something against the Americans.

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Art Forgery Drama

Good Beef

There is an interesting documentary on the works of the late Norval Morrisseau, ‘There Are No Fakes’. Morrisseau started the Woodland style of painting, using imagery from First Nations cultures showing the insides of creatures in a sort of x-ray effect.  His works are far more colorful and playful compared to the more traditional images in Inuit and West Coast art.

Unfortunately, many of his works have been forged, and a lot of what is passing off as original Morrisseaus could potentially be fakes made by an art forgery ring. I’m not sure if the documentary will show anything past what has already been detailed when I first learned about the Morrisseau forgery in Maclean’s last year, but what interested me was the very title of the film, ‘There Are No Fakes.’

Is it because somehow Morrisseau’s family was connected to the forgeries? Or is it because the forgeries themselves, just by the very fact that they are connected to the drama of Morrisseau and his legacy make them valuable on their own? Or does the documentary basically say that if you love an image and that you find it beautiful, you shouldn’t really care about its authenticity or its monetary valuable. That art is art. They are not objects to be traded or treated as real estate investments. They are far bigger than that. (I sincerely doubt that this is where the film will go.)

The leader of the forgery ring, Gary Lamont, was sentenced to jail back in 2016 for being a sexual predator. I’m not sure if many of the news media at the time mentioned his involvement with producing forged Morrisseaus, but according to one of the victims, the forged pieces represent a very abusive period. Gary Lamont would manipulate and abuse young men while the works were being produced, between 1993-2007, when there was increased demand for Morrisseaus and when the artist’s health was slowly declining.

I’m sure there are still more to this story, right now galleries and owners are still insisting on the authenticity of many works, but I do hope that the worst is over, and at the very least, no one is producing more forged works. Growing up in Manitoba, I remember seeing some of Morrisseau’s works and even more works inspired by him. After learning about the forgeries last year, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen a real Morrisseau.

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On a Friend Dying

Mother Too

A friend of mine died recently. A few years ago, he came out with his HIV diagnosis… then a few days later, he confessed his love for me. I’m a cis gender male. He knew this. But it was something he just needed to simply get off his chest. He wasn’t asking for anything, nor was I expected to do anything about it but listen. In the spirit of confessing his health crisis at the time, I suppose it was time for him to come out with his feelings as well.

That was a healthy thing to do.

If you love someone, regardless of what the circumstances are, tell them. It doesn’t have to be reciprocated. We’re all grown-ups, and love doesn’t work that way. In any case, just tell them. Best case scenario, such feelings might eventually be reciprocated. At the very least, it tells that person that whatever they’re doing, they must be doing something right since someone loves or admires them.

This was a good lesson that he demonstrated. He also showed that a good life is possible despite a dire reality. The looming shadow of a grim health diagnosis can be very difficult to get over, but as he later moved on to a simpler life, he appeared happy… I’d say even much happier at times compared to when I used to hang out with him. Maybe it’s because he was more honest with things. Maybe it’s because he was closer to his family at the time. Who knows? But I noticed that after his diagnosis, he seemed more upbeat, or at least more fulfilled with what I would’ve foolishly judged as a simpler, slower existence at the time.

Rest well, buddy. It was good knowing you. I wish I was a much better friend, however. I guess now you’ll know the ultimate truth about your online “prison skanks.”

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Hello Misery

Flower

When I was a kid, my uncle gave me a collection of Joker stories. It was a decent collection of works, starting from his origin as the original Red Hood to a story about the Joker celebrating his birthday. It was a much more compelling collection for my young brain compared to another book which the same uncle gave me a year before, a collection of Ra’s al Ghul stories. It was great that I was getting a bunch of comic books at the time, but I sometimes wonder why I kept getting collected stories of Batman villains. Did my uncle have a thing against the Caped Crusader?

Since I read and re-read that book, along with other Batman comic books, the Joker has always been the most fascinating of the DC villains for me. Marvel has its share of compelling villains, particularly the X-Men and Spider-Man’s roster of foes, but the Joker for many comic book readers is the most beloved villain in the industry. Some might say that it is because despite him being cartoonish, he has a very human quality which keeps him apart from the overly fantastic qualities of the likes of Lex Luther or some purple space tyrant in any book or film. This is true to some degree, but I believe it is something else. The Joker is the revenge fantasy of the miserable.

And really? Who isn’t miserable? Who wasn’t miserable as a teenager? Getting picked on, not having a girlfriend? Who’s not miserable now? Stuck in a dead end job, have a wife/girlfriend who doesn’t care about you, have no woman in your life, no future, etc.

When you’re miserable as a teen and you read comic books, heroes like Batman or the X-Men might inspire you. They have miserable lives as well, but through different means, Bruce Wayne with year of training coupled with immense wealth and the X-Men with their super powers, they manage to make something out of their miserable lives and perhaps make the world a better place. But those characters all have their trump cards, they all have their deus ex machinas which lifts them up from their impossible situations: infinite wealth, super powers. The allure of the Joker is that his super power is that he’s insane… he’s insane, and more importantly, he’s miserable. And that’s an element that everyone in the world has infinite access to. With enough misery, maybe you can become a super villain like the Joker. Maybe life would be more interesting then. You can’t be Batman or Iron Man. You hardly have any money in your bank account. And you certainly don’t want to work out or train or be a real hero like a police officer or something. That takes too much time. Also, it’s much, MUCH easier to terrorize people than to actually save people from criminals or any danger. Where will you find people to save? There are people available to terrorize everywhere. And bonus points, there’s no Caped Crusader to stop you. The Joker is easy access.

Just look at the mass shooters in the news. They are all miserable and most of them have this grand delusion of being famous. Spreading misery around is the shortcut way to infamy, to being bigger than what they are. That’s why a lot of people refrain from publicizing their names too much. That is giving the criminals exactly what they want. And isn’t that the Joker’s modus operandi? Do something horrible, terrorize people, get caught, and yet be satisfied knowing that the terror he caused will forever live on in the hearts of those on the outside.

I think this is why the Jared Leto version of the Joker was so disdained and totally doesn’t work. Most people who loved or at least understood the Joker know that it is a character born out of misery. On paper, Jared Leto has never been “not cool.” He was a teen heart throb, still has lots of adoring fans, and he plays in a band. And his “cool” Joker was not miserable at all. He was ripped. He got a grill. He has tattoos. He was barely hiding the fact that he was Jared Leto, Jared Leto who spent a couple of hundred dollars in a Hot Topic. He was everyone the miserable teen who loved comic books wouldn’t hang out with in school. He was co-opting a truth which he has never realized, a “cool guy” trying to be a juggalo and failing at it.

It is interesting how the character basically started out as a gimmicky thief, then later turned into a maniac often inspired by sociopolitical purposes. It is like the character grew and became disenfranchised with itself and realized that everything around it has gone to hell… and snapped. And again, isn’t that what happens with a lot of these mass shooters in the news? In many ways… that is the fantasy. Life is getting worse, but that’s okay, one day you’ll just snap and not care about anything. Boom. That’s your super power. And by the way, I’m not saying that our collective fascination with the Joker is a bad thing or not, but the character does touch on the nihilistic side of humanity, when everything is so bad that nothing holds meaning anymore, and maybe out of all of that misery, maybe we will come out as bigger, more interesting characters. Forget Bruce Wayne. It’s too late for us to be born rich. But it is never too late to be miserable and crazy.

Looking at this new Joker movie coming up, I could see that the character is again digging deep into the misery in order to transform into the laughing villain we all know. Joaquin Phoenix, is literally morphing his body, looks miserable, and yet totally relatable in his expressions. The Joaquin Phoenix will be the most common costume for men come Halloween 2019. I’m excited for it.

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On Wonderful Canada and Much-Needed Marijuana Legalization

Triangle Man

Congratulations to Canada for being sensible enough to finally end senseless marijuana prohibition. Most people who have had experience smoking marijuana know that it is much less dangerous compared to drinking alcohol. I remember back in university, one of my first presentations in sociology class was about the how smoking marijuana and the US’ war on drugs have created this unjust more against marijuana despite the fact that alcohol, which is completely legal, can cause aggression and is involved in roughly half of all murders, rapes, and assaults. Compare that to marijuana. When was the last time you saw an aggressive person high on marijuana? It can cause a bit of paranoia, of course, but more often than not, its sedative effect is the most common experience.

I think most people who want access to marijuana in Canada already had access to it prior to legalization. It’s not that difficult finding marijuana in Canada. I remember back in university, marijuana tends to find you instead. The problem with marijuana is its legal consequences and how that affects people. Fortunately, Canada is planning to release and perhaps clear the records of felons caught with a certain amount of cannabis. However for some, it may be too late already.

People sometimes say that marijuana is a gateway drug. You start with marijuana and you move on to more potent illegal drugs. However, I saw how the prosecution of marijuana possession is the gateway to more serious crimes. One of my best friends in school tried selling and even growing marijuana when we were in high school. I remember he even asked me for advice for effective growing methods, but what do I know? Anyway, he was caught with possession or with possession with intent to sell and was sent to juvenile detention. I was already in university at the time and was spending time with a different circle of friends. I did hear from him and about him occasionally and learned that he later got involved with harder drugs, manufacturing methamphetamines, and even breaking and entering. The last time I saw him, he was out in a rough part of town, looking worse for the wear.

Even with marijuana being legalized, it would have still been illegal for him to be possessing drugs at such a young age, but both the stigma and the allure won’t be there since the drug would be legal. It would almost be akin to hiding a pack of cigarettes. But I believe his detention got him in the wrong path, not the drugs itself. He wasn’t poor back then or anything. He was raised in a middle-class household with both parents. It was simply the allure of drugs that got him in. Compare that to the rather mundane allure of legal cigarettes and alcohol to young teens.

And that’s just with teens. I know someone with a suspended sentence for possession of marijuana, not for recreational use but for her cancer-stricken husband’s medical use. With legalization, there would be less stigma and no more need for unintended grief for those who need the drug. It’s good to have a bit more sensibility in the current world where more and more things seem to stop making sense as the days go by.

Well, hopefully with legalization and taxation, there will be a growth in industry and government revenue across Canada. This will also hurt gangs and the illegal drug trade since one of their cash crops has now effectively become public domain. And with the wide availability and the proper monitoring by the government, hopefully people would not have any need to find and experiment with stronger drugs. If anything, I expect Canada to become more of an attraction to our southern neighbors. I remember occasionally finding young American crossing the border on their past their 18th birthday in order to legally drink alcohol, party in bars, visit strip clubs, and take advantage of the relatively low Canadian currency. If cities and the government play their cards right, we might just become North America’s Netherlands.

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