Category Archives: life

Space Death


Jumping from a building to your death is probably the most basic ways people can kill themselves. With enough height, forget the cracking of bones, the exploding of skulls, and the damage done to tissue upon impact. Forget all of that. Those are minor things compared to the grandeur at play. It is the collision of a human body with planetary forces. This is a person being killed by physics. Just as we are all ultimately born from the remnants of ancient dead stars, this is a planet ultimately killing a person. Just as a little bit of sunlight doesn’t usually hurt people but it will kill a person if they manage to fly out into space and come close enough to the sun, so too would the Earth’s gravity kill a person should they decide to embrace it freely from a distance of over ten floors. It is space death without the spaceship. Imagine floating in space and colliding with a wayward asteroid. But with jumping off a building, you are colliding with a planet populated by people you couldn’t care less about anymore. Your horizon is now shifted by 90 degrees, and it is the weight of the Earth slamming on you, with all its continents, mountains, forests and seas. All of the Earth’s trees, creatures, and secrets crush you as the planet’s gravitational pull over you infinitely overwhelm your own gravitational pull towards the planet. It’s like a heroic death envisioned by Ray Bradbury. When people get hit by vehicles, people would describe it as such. Greg got hit by a bus. Susan was crushed by a train. But with jumping off buildings, “Joe slammed into the planet Earth.” It just sounds more epic. Should I jump to my death, I think it would only be fitting to wear a spacesuit. Maybe wear a blindfold to emulate the darkness of space, drink tons of alcohol to get courage and emulate space sickness, and wear earphones to listen to some music and drown out the outside noise. Astronauts listen to music, don’t they?

The only thing I could think of that would be more primordial would be breathing in helium, one of the early gases in the universe. The problem with this however is that setting up a helium bubble takes a lot of human aspect and design to make it happen. It’s not very primordial, is it? Also, most helium distributors now sell canisters with enough oxygen in them to make sure they cannot be used for probably one of the most comfortable ways to commit suicide. I’d call these companies killjoys, but that term doesn’t really make much sense in this scenario.

Despite the rather grim entries these past few days though, I am not seriously thinking of killing myself. I feel like that is something that has to be said. It is weird how talking about suicide always has to be prefaced by saying, “I’m not thinking of killing myself, but…” And even if you mentioned that, regardless of how explicit your warning is or how happy you appear to be, people will always be thinking that you’re suicidal or depressed to some degree. It’s like saying, “I’m not racist, but…” You will always sound racist no matter what you say to finish that sentence. Some bigoted commentary and suicidal musings cannot be uttered without being thought of as being a bigot or suicidal. Anyway, I’m not suicidal, but I’ve been thinking a lot about jumping off tall buildings lately, that and dying in space.

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Forgetting Me

Rabbit Headlights

After the last couple of days, I now believe that the animated movie ‘Coco’ was teaching a bad lesson. It had great things to say about family, but the part about remembering dead relatives is a tad misguided.  The lesson needed tempering. Sure, it is only natural to remember our loved ones long before they’re gone, maybe even learn some lessons about their lives especially if they’ve made a significant impact to their families or the larger community while they were alive. But outside of that, I’m not sure if it really benefits the dead in the most pragmatic sense.

It has been a very rough recently around me. People have been dealing with health issues, with some having the possibility of passing in a few days or so. With this rather depressing mood, I’ve been thinking how things truly are for the dead once they have passed. Life does not stop. And I believe we sometimes overvalue our impact in other people’s lives, which is part of the reason why we fear death. What about my wife? What about my family?

They will all eventually move on.

If there’s one valuable thing that Facebook has taught people is that people do eventually get over you. People move one after a person’s metaphorical “death” in their lives. Our old classmates, co-workers, and exes have fulfilling lives without us. They move on and we become strangers to them, as much as they probably become strangers to us. “Boy, he’s gained weight since I last saw him.” “Oh wow, she’s got kids now.” Life does not stop. We might not have died, but we might as well have because they wouldn’t really know at this point if we did. And I’m not really sure if it benefits me if any of these people from an earlier part of my life, as wonderful as they are, remembers me. A part of me thinks wanting people to remember you is a tad arrogant.

If my church teachings are to be believed, the secrets of the universe will be unveiled to you right after you die. Your plate is full right after you die. You’ve got the whole world and beyond to know and experience. Do you really want others to suffer long after you’re gone? Do their remembrances and broken hearts make the secrets of the universe that more appealing? Wouldn’t time at that point be meaningless and we’ll eventually see all of our living relatives in what is equivalent to a millisecond?

One of the reasons why I don’t have children is that I don’t want to burden others with my death. It’s one of my regrets with marriage. Should something happen to me, I don’t want my wife suffering long after I’m gone. It would be far better for me to die single in a lightly attended funeral than to leave behind a widow who will struggle her life back together after I’m gone. But then again, maybe that’s the “remember me” arrogance talking. I married a strong woman. I’m sure she’ll move on just fine without me.

So yeah, I think there’s comfort remembering our loved ones. Memories of my mother still warm my heart, followed by bouts of longing and depression. I can’t help it. But yeah, in my case, it’s arrogant to ask people to remember me after I’m gone. Perhaps the kinder and better message would be “Forget me. Live a good life without me.”

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Black Man in a Bank

Comic Sans

As much as I complain about my wife sometimes, I really do appreciate her for her patience with me, not just for my many issues and personal failings, but just for the mere fact that I’m a foreigner, and sometimes being a foreigner can suck in South Korea. I can only imagine how it is being married to one.

I’ve been living in South Korea for over ten years now. I’ve been a customer of the same Korean bank for over ten years as well. It can be a bit difficult for foreigners to get credit cards in Korean banks, especially since many foreigners don’t stay in Korea for long, but with my long record and my stable job, the bank at the time didn’t think twice to sign me up. This was a few years ago. I thought I had a great relationship with them.

My wife and I went to the bank to apply for a small loan. This was not unreasonable since most married couples do have loans and like most metropolitan cities, the whole thing runs on debt. We intended to borrow money under both of our names, with me being the breadwinner and my wife as a Korean national, being a sort of guarantor that we won’t take off on our debts. I didn’t have too much hope since I expect most banking institutions in the country would probably still be a bit cautious regarding lending to foreigners, even if they intend to stay in the country. I earn more than the average Korean, but I’m not rich by any metric. Being a foreigner might still be a bit too big a hurdle to pass for them to give me a loan.

What my wife and I got instead was the proverbial black-man-getting-denied-a-loan treatment. (No, I’m not black.) Despite being a loyal customer for years, the clerk, who was a senior consultant at the Euljiro, Seoul branch of KB Bank, didn’t even bother to look at my records. He didn’t even ask for my ID, which I figured was the least they could do to make sure that I was indeed a foreigner staying in the country legally. I was a loyal customer and the clerk simply assumed that I was “just a teacher” who probably couldn’t pay back my loans. (He did suggest this. He didn’t even ask me for my job!)What upset me more is that they did this to my wife, it’s almost like she was the foreigner. I could take the slings of racisms just fine, but I get more upset if my wife gets it by proxy. Maybe it would’ve been better if I wasn’t there. It definitely would’ve been better if she was married to a Korean. They would have at least looked at his taxes and banking records.

Yeah, maybe the bank just has a policy against loans with foreigners or couples with foreign spouses contributing the majority to their household income. Who knows? But if they do, I get it. I truly do. But couldn’t they at least hide their biases a bit? At least give me some dignity and pretend they’re looking at my records and consider me as a proper customer. Heck, I spend money, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy just as much as the next guy. And if you ask some of the disgruntled people I work with, I’m spending and contributing way too much compared to them.

And no, it’s not all banks here. We went to another bank and they were much more accommodating to us. It’s just that the person we talked to first at the bank I’ve been a customer with for so many years decided to be an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t intending to be a bigot asshole, but he sure acted like one.

So yeah, despite the Pyeongchang hype, Korea can sometimes still be ugly to foreigners. It’s getting better, and incidents like this happen to me less often. But when it does happen, it still stings like a motherfucker.

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Marijuana and Pole Dancing


So California finally legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Unfortunately, the US Attorney General removed Obama-era protections for marijuana sales in the state, allowing the federal government to stop and arrest people who are in possession of what is still considers as a controlled Schedule I drug. And as much as the right wing in the United States yell about states’ rights when it comes to things like gun, contraception, and marriage laws, I doubt if they would be as loud when it comes to California allowing its citizens to enjoy cannabis.

The fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal benefits basically ignores all of the people using the drug to help them deal with pain, especially in cancer treatments. It’s people ignoring evidence over fear and rumors. The same way there is evidence and history of prohibitions creating illegal activity (the prohibition gave birth to an era or organized crime in the US after all), some people, most importantly people in the US Justice Department, believe that drugs gave way to the existence of Mexican drug cartels, not the drug war creating a demand that only illegal actors could fill. Once again, people are ignoring evidence over fear.

In Korea, marijuana possession could land you in jail. The country is very strict when it comes to cannabis and opioids, but alcohol in the country is extremely cheap, and it’s not that hard to find either people getting belligerently drunk at night or simple unconscious.  I understand the protectionist attitude when it comes to opioids, especially since the country has an extremely high suicide rate. But when it comes to marijuana, a part of me thinks that a bit of cannabis would help a very stressed out populace. Instead of drinking with friends and getting angry or mopey, people could just get high, relax, and take a nap. Unfortunately, Korea borrowed America’s drug war and using drugs still carry a significantly negative stigma (but go ahead, drink soju with your coworkers until you black out!).

I’m just hoping that people get over it already. Marijuana is not the Devil’s lettuce. The fear and mystique regarding drugs, much like anything unknown, is only there because gossip and hearsay takes the place of actually knowing. Smoking a little pot will let you know that it won’t turn your brain into mush, it won’t make you any more evil, and it won’t make you look any cooler. I remember a coworker once asked me if I’ve ever tried cocaine, eager to hear exciting cocaine stories from Canada. Much to her dismay, I told her no. If people were actually told the truth about drugs, there wouldn’t be this haze of intrigue and fear around them. They would be as plain as Tylenol. Tylenol helps you deal with pain and fever. It could get you constipated too. Marijuana gets you high and mellows your mood. It helps you deal with pain as well. Cocaine gets you really high.

Speaking of demystifying and truths, I can’t stand how pole dancing is being mainstreamed, even in South Korea. This might be a bit of a reversal of my liberal attitudes with drugs, but I’m just annoyed at how it’s being whitewashed and sold as some sort of exercise, when it’s basically erotic dancing. There are far better and safer exercises out there. And no matter how far removed a person might be to its original intent, in my mind, as well as many other men’s, it’s still erotic dancing. Its original intent, back in the burlesque days, was to keep the women upright after being inebriated with either drugs or alcohol or both. And I suspect that the a lot of the women who are trying out pole dancing as an exercise has never spent one night in a disgusting strip club. Much like Chris Rock, if I had a daughter, I would work twenty hour days just to keep her from dancing on a pole.

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On Keeping It Inside


On Monday, I suddenly fell terribly ill. I got up early in the morning, worked out, then BOOM, my health just suddenly turned and I couldn’t go to work. My stomach turned upside down, my chest started hurting, I felt terribly nauseous, I got a fever, and my head felt like it was going to explode for the better part of the day.

I had an especially terrible weekend. I’ve been quietly dealing with depression and anxiety for weeks now, but it just came to a boil a couple of days ago. During my mother-in-law’s birthday, my wife ended up embarrassing me during dinner. She started complaining about me and my lack of Korean skills, and much to my surprise, my brother-in-law and my mother-in-law rose up to my defense. I really don’t mind people talking about me, especially since my Korean is indeed quite poor. But my wife talked about me as if I wasn’t even in the room. And by the time I wanted to talk, by the time I was about to do the one thing she wanted me to do (speak  Korean), she stopped me and said that the conversation has moved on to another topic. How terribly, terribly condescending. I felt like I was trapped in a Cat Stevens song. And really, is complaining about spouses just another interesting topic to talk about and later dismiss on a whim? What should we talk about next? BTS?

When I was young, my father picked on me a lot. He picked on all of his children a lot. I was particularly annoyed at the injustice of him picking on my intelligence when I couldn’t recall him achieving any great heights in life due to his mental brilliance. One particular instance I couldn’t forget was when I was having trouble memorizing the multiplication tables at a young age. As my sisters and I were sharing a snack, it was a can of shredded potatoes called Pik-Nik, he stopped me from eating and told me to go upstairs and memorize the multiplication tables. I don’t get to snack unless I memorize from 1 to 12. It was unnecessarily cruel. What bothered me most about the incident was how jarring it was. It was late in the afternoon, we were having a snack, then he comes home and suddenly tells me to go upstairs and that I don’t deserve anything until I learned my multiplication tables. It sounds quite minor, but as a child, I felt like the biggest idiot in the world. I started thinking that there might have been something wrong with me. And to this day, even though I have long been on good terms with my father, past incidents like that will always remind me that he was not the best person to grow up with. He might have been a good husband, a good friend, or a good leader, but he was never good with children.

That feeling of being inadequate, that feeling of maybe there is something wrong with me, I felt that during dinner with my mother-in-law. Worse, it was casually brought up by my wife who was supposed to be on my side. It made me love my in-laws more and love her less.  God bless those good people! But like a good Catholic, I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. Why spoil the whole weekend for everyone when it was just me who was hurt?

We spent the night at my in-laws and I tried to be a good son-in-law. Thank goodness it snowed heavily. As lame as it may sound, the cold snow actually brightens my mood a bit. In any case, I kept everything bottled up inside. Then Monday comes, I get ill and the doctors couldn’t give a cause to my downturn other than stress. Stress. This is the first time keeping my depression bottled up inside has made me physically ill.

Worthington Industries, an American metals manufacturing and distribution company announced two years ago that all of its portable helium tanks will only contain 80% helium. If you’re going to get a helium tank, make sure you get 100% helium.

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#MeToo on Atwood


I’ve been watching Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace.’ It’s a bit of a slow burn, but after some time, it’s turning out to be a compelling horror story. Horror. It’s a horror being a woman in the not-so-distant past, even in a country like Canada. The story is about a white, Irish immigrant accused of murder and the events that led to her supposed crime. A white woman… granted, she’s an Irish immigrant back in the day when the Irish were suffering from discrimination, but imagine how much more horror there would be should the story be about a woman of color, say an Aboriginal woman in Canada.

This reminds me of the Louis CK joke; that time travel is only suited for white males. Women and minorities do not have the luxury of going back through time and not being in danger of being persecuted. History is too often a horror story for us. It can be very risky if not suicidal to revisit the past.

That’s not to say things have changed much in some cases. Minorities still feel the bitter sting of racism, and women are still constantly victimized by powerful (and even not powerful) men. This #MeToo hashtag has prompted public confessions and accusations regarding sexual harassment. Almost every other day, I see another prominent person being accused of being inappropriate. And that’s just the ones making the headlines. There are of course confessions from ordinary people about what happened to them as well. It would seem that the world is still occasionally a horror story for them as well.

The movement started with women speaking out, but it would appear that it’s not so much as women being victims, but about men taking advantage of their power because there have been confessions and accusations regarding men sexually abusing other men. It would seem that people being in power, who are most often men, is the problem. It’s the power. I guess that’s why it’s often said that rape is not really about sex, it’s about exerting power over another person.

This brings me to what happened to me back when I was fifteen. I was working part-time in an office, taking phone calls. After working in an A&W restaurant, I was glad to work in an office environment, even though I was just taking calls for most of the day. Things were going smoothly, and I was starting to really get used to the routine after school when my supervisor, a woman who was roughly twenty years older than me, leaned close and asked if she could sit on my lap while I worked. I just smiled at the suggestion and acted as if it was all a joke. But I never did return to that place. I wouldn’t want to know where that would lead. I was a child, I was fifteen.

I taught fifteen-year-olds before. I taught sixteen, seventeen, eighteen-year-olds before. I would never make such a comment or say anything that would be confused as such.

So, I guess that’s my #MeToo. Nothing really serious happened, so it didn’t bother me much. I remember I was more in disbelief at what actually happened. In any case, I count myself lucky that that’s the “worst” that happened to me at my most vulnerable in the workplace. I’m guessing most women would have a worse story to tell. In some ways, some people still live in Margaret Atwood’s dark imagination.

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Swallow the Moon


Too busy for thoughts, but not for art. God bless us all.

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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 Bechdel Test


Take the Bechdel test and apply it to women in real life. You’ll find some women simply do not pass the Bechdel test despite being free from the skewed gender norms in fiction.

Take the test and change men to the person’s significant other, or perhaps their children. Now you have a nice little game waiting for the other person to say, “my wife” or “my kid.”

Keep nodding your head to show you’re paying attention.

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Could be Tomorrow


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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