Category Archives: education

The City’s Limited Funds

Cherubs

When I was training as an artist, I had my heart set on being a sculptor. My first professor was very encouraging. He taught me how to weld and work with steel. I didn’t have much money back then, but he allowed me to make pieces out of the scraps we had in the sculpture studio. I really enjoyed making small pieces of metal art. I was often in the sculpture building early in the morning hammering and shaping steel like a prairie anachronism.

Come second year, I had a different sculpture professor, Gordon Reeve. I didn’t like him one bit. He wasn’t shy in showing his favoritism to a couple of the female students. He tends to be quite cliquey with the thesis students as well. Suddenly, it was like high school all over again. Only the professor was one of the asshole kids, and I have to prove my worth to him. Instead of challenging me, I was uninspired. The only thing I learned from him is that when showing your works during a review, make sure to have good lighting and environment. Get ready to amp up the bullshit. If the only thing a student learns is how to sell works instead of how to make good art, then the 120 hr program was a waste. Maybe it was me, maybe it was him. I say it was him.

Fast forward a few years later and I learned that he was commissioned by the city to create a sculpture in Assiniboine Park. This was a park near my old high school. I used to go there all the time. I would eat lunch there, take a walk, visit the zoo, or enjoy the Leo Mol sculpture garden (Leo Mol was a Ukranian-Canadian sculptor, superior to Gordon Reeves.). Reeves already had several public sculptures in the city. This one however, was the worst. Named ‘Agassiz Ice,’ it’s a set of aluminum sculptures modeled after a glacier in Nunavut. In the grandest of imagination, they would be imposing structures conveying the relentless force of time and nature. Instead, the city got a set of humble figures which look like aluminum sheets the size of a couple of minivans.

I was upset about it. Not only was I hearing about Gordon Reeve again, but I was terribly unimpressed at how the city spends its money on public art. The piece looks like any mediocre government-mandated corporate art in front of buildings here in Seoul. They could’ve used that money to fund other art programs instead. Heck, they could’ve used that money to fund better artwork. It’s illegal, but I had half a mind to have taggers paint a price tag on it, making the piece mine, much in the same vein as Marcel Duchamp. But I also wanted to send a message to viewers as to how much the city was spending on mediocrity. I mean, Google it yourself. Doesn’t that sculpture look like any sculpture one would find prior to entering a golf course? Anyway, I was convinced by artist friends that it was a bad idea. And since they’re the ones who have to put up with it and I just simply have to not read any news about Winnipeg for a while, I decided not to commit any act of vandalism.

But why am I writing about Gordon Reeve and Agassiz Ice? I just thought about them because recently, I had to explain one of the cultural ‘attractions’ in my hometown, the Canada Museum for Human Rights, a $350 million project sitting in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. It is a museum designed to educate visitors about the sufferings in the world. If the news and the Internet is not enough for you, then drive over to downtown Winnipeg and learn about all of the atrocities in the world! Ironically, from its creation, it was rife with controversy. Not only was it built in Indian sacred ground, the inclusion of what was to be exhibited has turned into a suffering Olympics among the city’s different cultural groups. Not to mention, it doesn’t even include the current Israel/Palestinian conflict. That’s our cultural attraction, folks. A museum built to either infuriate or depress visitors.

So yeah, that’s what bugs me about my hometown sometimes. We spend so much money on things that don’t make anyone happy. So much money on grand visions that end up either being incredibly mediocre or simply a headache. It’s not cultural, but for less than what they spent, they could’ve built the largest indoor water park in the Western Provinces. That would’ve at least brought in some tourists into the city. I mean, seriously? Outside of school field trips, who will drive to Winnipeg to get depressed?

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Thoughts on Peter Nygard

Squidy

I was a bit surprised to learn about the allegations regarding Peter Nygard. For the uninitiated, Peter Nygard is the founder and was the head of Nygard Fashion. He immigrated to my hometown in Canada at a young age and built Nygard Fashion to become one of the richest men in Canada. His stores are all over Canada. I remember them being a common presence in department stores where women can buy athletic wear at a reasonable price.

I always remember Peter Nygard as a patron of the arts. When I was in art school, I and other artists were invited to suspend our studies for a semester in order to work and make art in his property in the Bahamas. It seemed like an amazing opportunity at the time, but it also meant abandoning the current semester. Not only did I have student loans at the time, I was also the recipient of a couple of scholarships. I wasn’t sure how dropping my studies for a semester would affect future loan and scholarship applications.

The person in charge of coordinating the whole project seemed a bit stand-off-ish as well. The sculpture tech in the studio, him and my sculpture professor at the time seemed to be far too in-love with their own greatness to be good instructors who encouraged their students. Honestly, I was going to pursue sculpture instead of drawing in university, but that sculpture professor turned me off completely. Anyway, I decided not to go.

I heard from some people who worked on the project, and they weren’t too happy about the experience. There was the usual work during the day and get blink drunk and party at night stories, but that didn’t really surprise me. Any kid in university or a fresh graduate on his first job would more than likely be indulging a bit. What surprised me are stories about people being overworked and being woken up at odd hours in the morning for what seemed like random tasks. I also heard about people contracting infections or getting ill during their stay, but I always dismissed that to being in a tropical environment and not being used to it.

Anyway, I didn’t really think about those anecdotes too seriously since I sorta admired the guy. He’s a self-made man. He’s an old-school patron of the arts. He reminded me of Bob Guccione. And, he dated Anna Nicole Smith, who I kinda had a thing for after watching the third Naked Gun movie. Just looking at Peter Nygard, he looked like the head of an elderly man with long, slick gray hair photoshopped into the tanned body of a club bouncer. He’s built like a boss villain in a King of Fighters video game.

So it was a bit tragic to hear that he is now being investigated for sexually assaulting around 36 women, 17 of them being Canadian. Apparently some of them are minors as well, with at least one incident occurring in my hometown. Several close executives are being investigated as well for covering up and allowing the crimes to continue. The Bahamas property was also alleged to be one of the places where he would gather women, many of them locals who happen to be minors, and force them into sex acts. There’s even allegations that he had minors defecate into his mouth. Interestingly, this is very similar to what the founder of McAfee, John McAfee, was accused of having women do to him in his private depraved kingdom in South America.

Nygard International has filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of the allegations against Peter Nygard. There goes a legendary patron of the arts from my hometown. If all is true, what a scumbag!

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How About Just Stay Home Instead?

The experience of going to university is supposed to be opening one’s eyes, widening our horizons. Just by that virtue in itself, the nature of universities is very liberal. You meet people, you learn about the world, etc. This is why I don’t understand people entertaining the idea of conservatives posing as libertarians in campuses fighting against the liberal bias in academia. It is such a bold-faced farce that it boggles the mind how far it has come.

Turning Point USA has been wildly successful disseminating its poison in campuses. They have a professor’s watch list which aims to drive professors which they deemed as having a leftist bent out of campuses. They also provide platforms for far-right bomb throwers like Milo Yiannopoulos. It is a shame that Canada is not immune to this and now Simon Fraser will have a chapter calling itself Turning Point Canada in its campus. Despite distancing itself from the American group, it doesn’t take much to see how close it is the originators down south.

“Millennials seems to be increasingly more liberal, so this is just about offering an alternative view. Our professors and so on are increasingly majority liberal and maybe even further left than the Liberal Party of Canada.” How is that any different from Turning Point USA? And as much as the co-founder claim that they are not fans of Milo Yiannopoulos, I’m sure they would be more than happy to host his speeches in Canadian schools of Milo’s stock hasn’t fallen so low that he is now hawking pills for Alex Jones.

See, the reason why there are so many liberals in university is because once you open your mind to learning, to questioning, to empathy, then it is very difficult to subscribe to conservative or what many people would define as libertarian values. Read a couple of books, talk to a couple of people, grow up a little, and you’ll realize that Ayn Rand is a selfish hack. Why come to university to reinforce conservative values when the very act of leaving your small town and living and studying in university is the very definition of being non-conservative? Be conservative? Then live by your old codes, stay in your town, and don’t bother learning new information. Why go to university in order to learn more? Why spin a cocoon when all you want is to remain a caterpillar?

And maybe I’m wrong here, but in terms of academia married to liberal thought, has there even been progress in anything while being fueled by rigid conservative ideals? Has there ever been anything new and wonderful that originated in selfish libertarian values that didn’t end in outright disaster? Laissez-faire is great in expanding the marketplace of ideas and freedom in theory, but caveat emptor will ultimately be too tiring if not deadly. Conservative academia is farce and libertarianism is an unworkable selfish dream.

This really worries me right now because the alt-right’s current darling, Jordan Peterson, is a Canadian, and his pseudo-intellectual arguments, though sometimes difficult to discern, is really quite ridiculous and is nothing but vile racism and misogyny. We also recently had a terrorist incident inspired by incels, a men’s group who gather online and share misogynistic and racist sentiments due to their inability to get attention from the opposite sex. So yeah, Canada now has old hatred cloaking itself open-mindedness, academia, or victimhood right in its own backyard.  The hateful right is coming for our universities and will soon target our teachers.

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Dick Fisted

Korean_brand

I met a Canadian teacher a couple of weeks ago. He’s only been on the country for three months. It was showing because I had to teach him a couple of things regarding Korean table manners, which really made me wonder about his handlers. They really should’ve taught him better or he could’ve been more observant.

My friends and I were talking with him when the subject of the HIV test came up. In South Korea, in order to be issued a visa to teach English, a foreigner must have a criminal background check as well as an AIDS test. Now, I don’t mind the criminal background check. In fact, I believe it should be par for the course for any instructor in any country to have a criminal background check. The HIV test however is a tad insidious.

The requirement was put into law a few years ago at a time when Korea had a rash of high profile criminal cases involving Korean teachers taking advantage of their students and either getting light sentences or being reshuffled back into the system. It was also a time when suspicion against foreign men specifically was being encouraged by a hate group who pushed stories to online outlets and TV networks which were more than happy to propagate them. The media would show stories villainizing male English teachers. Curiously, they tend to ignore female English teachers.

Lawmakers responded by making the HIV test a requirement, ignoring the fact that there were no credible stories about foreign English instructors spreading HIV, and that the law does not address the actual problem of leniency towards actual Korean criminals. Failing the HIV test would prevent foreigners from working in the country. It’s a xenophobic law which suggests that foreigners harbor HIV and doesn’t consider the possibility of foreigners catching HIV from a Korean partner. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who happens to be Korean himself, urged the government to end the tests, calling it a violation of human rights. But the government ignored him, and the tests remain as a requirement for foreign English teachers to this day.

What’s funny is that it being a requirement for English teachers, that in itself reflects on its origins: the suspicion against male English teachers. It is not required for any other work visas, even for entertainment visas, which in many countries have been the avenue to which prostitutes enter. Korean men have also been frequenting South East Asian countries and have relations with prostitutes themselves. There are establishments in these countries that are geared solely towards Korean clientele, and yet no one is checking Korean men for HIV after coming back from their business trips.

Given this background for the law and the test, it was a mixture of amusement and sadness when the English teacher I met said that he too had to take the test, but instead of being annoyed or outraged at the requirement as well as the presumption that foreigners bring HIV to the country, he was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. He said that his handlers explained to him that it was a requirement for health insurance purposes.

Now, I don’t know how much time he spent considering this explanation. But there are so many holes in that excuse that it doesn’t take much to disprove. Are they testing for HIV so they could pay for the instructor’s expenses? If they fail and they are not allowed into the country (only about 20+ countries do this), doesn’t that show discrimination? And if they are testing for insurance purposes, how about testing other medical conditions, something without a stigma, perhaps diabetes or asthma?

Attitudes towards foreign men have slightly improved in recent months. Travel shows dominate network television, and foreign men speaking in Korean now appear in Korean talk television. This new trend has people forgetting that just a couple years ago, the fear of the foreigner scourge has been put into law, and that it continues to be a requirement to this day. And while things are currently better, it will only take one or two high-profile stories before the media sparks another moral panic. The Korean National Police Agency just recently announced a cracking down on crimes committed by foreigners by “forming voluntary crime-prevention groups” in response to an increase in foreigner-committed crimes by 5000 a year. In my opinion, this is small when considering the increase of the foreign population in the country. But I read that action as empowering local hate groups and vigilantism, and I suspect that like before, it is a misguided response to an altogether different problem.

Now, someone please explain to that naïve teacher why the HIV test is a bad thing.

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Did I Help Start a Dumb Porn Site?

Not_Now

Started making art again. Yay! It’s been a while, a month perhaps, since the last time I made art. I’ve just been sitting in front of my sketch pad not wanting to draw a thing. Artists would know this… wanting to do something but not knowing just what to do… having the television run on the background, watching time waste away. Luckily, I’m now inspired to work and make something. It’s good to finally want something done on paper.

I also started studying again. I always want to be reading something for a purpose. Fiction has its place, but I already flood myself with so much fiction that it’s good to study and perhaps retain something that might be useful at some point. Last time, I took a law and justice course to get myself reading something productive. I like to think that at the end of my studies, despite me not suddenly working in law, it has made me a better Canadian by knowing a little more about the country’s law and history.

This time, I’m trying my hand at html coding and javascript. It’s always been something that I regretted not knowing how to do. People assume that I’m a bit of a nerd and that I know my way around computers. I actually do know my way around computers and electronics, but I have no idea about programming. It was something that I totally missed back in the 90s. It’s time to change that.

Speaking of coding and computers and people assuming that I know how to do things. I remember back in university when I ran into an old high school friend who just disappeared from my life. He ran into some trouble back in high school and became sort of a delinquent. Drugs, break-ins, juvie, etc. Anyway, I was crossing the street on my way home when I suddenly ran into him. He told me he’s trying to do well but he needs some help. I wasn’t about to give him any money, but I told him I’d help him out. He said he wanted to educate himself; that he wanted to learn more about computers, and maybe run a website or something. Maybe I could help him sign up for a course.

Pleased with hearing all of this, we immediately went to a computer college, talked to some advisors, and got him some materials to look through for his courses. I even took him to financial aid, so maybe he could apply for some assistance. All of this in the span of a couple of hours. Pretty efficient.

With my good deed done, I was beat and ready to end the sudden reunion and wish my old friend good luck on his new chapter in life. Before saying goodbye however, I asked him what does he plan to do in the future after learning more about computers.

“You don’t see Native women porn on the Internet. I think I could have the first Website to feature that.”

Disappointed and disgusted, I wished him good luck anyway. I didn’t see him again for seven years.

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