Category Archives: news

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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Mental Help and NFTs

I’ve been on a bit of crisis in the past few days. Luckily, I managed to find a therapist that could help me work through the whole thing. I thought that mental health services wasn’t covered by the Korean national health insurance system, but luckily I found a couple of places that are willing to work with it. Many English-speaking clinics here are targeting private insurance companies so they could charge more, making it difficult people to find help.

저는 지난 며칠 동안 약간의 위기를 겪었어요. 운 좋게도 모든 일을 도움이 될 치료사를 찾았어요. 정신 건강 서비스는 한국 국민 건강 보험이 적용되지 않는다고 생각했는데다행스럽게도 함께 일할 수있는 곳을 몇 군데 찾았어요. 여기에 많은 영어를 사용하는 클리닉은 민간 보험 회사를 대상으로하여 더 많은 비용을 청구하여, 사람들이 도움을 찾기 어렵게 지였어요.

The last time I went to a therapist, a Korean doctor, she prescribed me with so much drugs that I wasn’t able to function normally. It was good to be able to freely vent out my issues, but my doctor didn’t really equip me with coping strategies to help me in the future, just drugs to numb me and help me sleep. As for moving on, I had to come up with my own strategies, which, looking back now, I’m not sure was really healthy.

제가 마지막으로 한국 의사 인 치료사에게 갔을 때 그녀는 제가 정상적으로 기능 할 수 없을 정도로 많은 약을 처방했어요. 내 문제를 자유롭게 풀어 낼 수있어서 좋았지 만, 의사는 미래에 나를 도울 수있는 대처 전략을 실제로 제공하지 않았고, 단지 나를 마비시키고 잠을 잘 수 있도록 도와주는 약물 만 사용했어요. 계속 진행하려면 나만의 전략을 세워야했는데, 지금 되돌아 보면 정말 건강하지 모르겠어요.

I’m hoping this time, it works out better for me. Some prescription drugs would probably help me, too. It’s been getting really, difficult to focus lately. I just need some help.

이번에는 더 잘 결과를 바랍이요. 일부 처방약도 나에게 도움이 될 것이요. 최근에 집중하기가 정말 어려워지고 있어요. 도움이 필요해요.

Let’s talk about NFT and art. Well, I’m not going to explain what it is. There’s already enough material out there explaining what NFTs are. What’s disconcerting to me is how much material CBC.ca has been pushing out about NFTs and painting them out as a democratizing force for artists. Did someone at the news organization buy a bunch of NFTs? Are there artists there selling their NFTs?

NFT와 예술에 대해 이야기합시다. 글쎄, 저는 그것이 무엇인지 설명하지 않을 것이요. Internet에서 NFT가 무엇인지 설명하는 자료가 이미 충분해요. 저를 당황하게하는 것은 CBC.ca가 NFT에 대해 얼마나 많은 자료를 밀어 내고 아티스트를위한 민주화의 힘으로 표현했는지요. 뉴스 기관의 누군가가 NFT를 많이 구입 했어요? NFT를 판매하는 아티스트가 있나요?

With COVID and the lack of opportunities to show works in galleries, I’ve been showing a lot of my works online and in magazines overseas. I’ve been participating in online shows and being more aggressive with my own SNS art account. This doesn’t necessarily pay off in more sales, but I imagine it’s what many people are resorting to now. But the danger of having work out there is that anyone can basically just take your work. I’m not heavy into selling prints, but really, if someone wants a print of someone’s work so bad, chances are, they can just take a high quality image and print it themselves. The control and ownership of an image is what makes NFTs attractive to me. I think if it’s cheaper and less environmentally taxing, artists should be marking their works and making it more difficult for people to steal them. Much like people who produce pornography, artists need to protect their work. Art and artists are devalued enough as it is, and works of art are easily moved, traded, and given away online. Something has to change that. Turning works into NFTs will hopefully give artists more knowledge of where their works are outside of Googling their own names or doing a reverse image search.

COVID 데문에 갤러리에서 예술품을 보여줄 기회가 부족해 온라인과 해외 잡지에 많은 예술품을 보여주고 있어요. 저는 온라인 쇼에 참여하고 있으며 제 SNS 아트 계정으로 더 공격적으로 활동하고 있어요. 이것이 반드시 더 많은 매출로 보상되는 것은 아니지만 많은 사람들이 지금 의지하고있는 것 같아요. 하지만 예술이 Internet에 있는 것의 위험은 누구나 기본적으로 당신의 예술을 맡을 수 있다는 거예요. 저는 인화 판매에 무겁지는 않지만 누군가의 예술을 인쇄하려는 사람은 예술의 이미지를 찍어 직접 인쇄 할 수 있어요. 이미지의 제어와 소유권이 NFT를 매력적으로 만드는 요소요. 저렴하고 환경에 부담이 적다면 예술가들이 자신의 예술품을 보여 주기 쉽고 사람들이 훔치는 것을 더 어렵게 만들어야한다고 생각헤요. 포르노를 제작하는 사람들과 마찬가지로 아티스트도 자신의 예술품을 보호해야해요. 예술과 예술가는 그 자체로 충분히 평가 절하되고 예술품은 온라인으로 쉽게 이동, 거래 및 제공되요. 무언가를 바꿔야해요. 예술품을 NFT로 바꾸면 아티스트가 자신의 이름을 검색하거나 역 이미지 검색을 수행 할 때 자신의 예술품이 어디에 있는지 더 많이 알 수 있기를 해요.

Getting into the NFT market however is another thing. Using blockchain technology and turning works into NFTs require gas fees. Last time I checked, gas fees are ridiculously high, and rates are getting worse as the hype over NFTs increases. Say minting an NFT costs $50. If an artist has a portfolio of 50 images, that’s $2500 he’s already lost on art that already exists with no guarantee on returns. And while people say that the world of NFTs is currently the wild west for artists, artists will still need to sell their works based on their names and reputations (not on the quality of their works. More on this.). Smaller and unknown artists will still compete with more well-known and established artists who already have a more comfortable foothold on the NFT market and can afford to turn more of their works into NFTs. It is not spreading democracy in the art world. It’s dividing artists even more and making it more difficult for newer artists to compete.

그러나 NFT 시장에 진입하는 것은 또 다른 일이요. 블록 체인 기술을 사용하고 작품을 NFT로 전환하려면 가스 요금이 필요해요. 지난번에 확인했을 때 가스 요금이 엄청나게 높고 NFT에 대한 과대 광고가 증가함에 따라 요금이 나 빠지고 있어요. NFT를 만드는 데 50 달러가 든다고 가정 해 보겠습면 아티스트가 50 개의 이미지 포트폴리오를 보유하고 있다면 이미 $ 2500이며 반품에 대한 보장없이 이미 존재하는 예술품에서 잃어버린 거예요. 그리고 사람들은 NFT의 세계가 현재 예술가들에게 황량한 서부라고 말하지만, 예술가들은 여전히 자신의 이름과 명성을 기준으로 자신의 작품을 판매해야합니다. 작고 알려지지 않은 예술가들은 NFT 시장에서 이미 더 편안한 발판을 가지고 있고 더 많은 작품을 NFT로 전환 할 여유가있는 더 유명하고 확립 된 예술가들과 경쟁 할 것입니다. 예술계에 민주주의를 전파하는 것이 아니요. 아티스트를 더 많이 나누고 새로운 아티스트가 경쟁하기 어렵게 만들어요.

And yeah, since we’re talking about blockchain technology, I shouldn’t forget to mention that it takes a huge toll on the environment to mint NFTs. Blockchain technology is resource-hungry. I can just imagine thousands of processors working overtime minting virtual objects that may or may not be assets in the long run. People have estimated that minting NFTs takes anywhere between weeks to years of an average person’s electricity consumption. No wonder it’s so expensive! Now multiply that to several NFTs.

그리고, 우리는 블록 체인 기술에 대해 이야기하고 있기 때문에 NFT를 발행하기 위해서는 환경에 막대한 피해를 입히는 것을 잊지 말아헤요. 블록 체인 기술은 자원이 돼지요. 장기적으로 자산이 될 수도 있고 아닐 수도있는 가상 객체를 채굴하면서 초과 근무하는 수천 명의 프로세서를 상상할 수 있어요. 사람들은 NFT를 채굴하는 데 평균적인 사람의 전기 소비에 몇 주에서 몇 년이 걸린다고 추정했어요. 그렇게 비싼 것도 당연헤요! 이제 그것을 여러 NFT에 곱하세요.

My biggest problem with NFTs is that it turns artists into gamblers and treats art not as art but as speculative commodities. Will my work make it big in the NFT market? Who knows? Let me invest some money into it and see. Well, that worked out. Now let’s turn more of my works into NFTs. With a considerable price to pay to get into the NFT market, artists would be more concerned about the attractiveness of their works as an investment, not as artworks. And I wouldn’t blame them. Celebrities could probably turn non-artworks into NFTs and compete quite well against true artists. As of this writing, Jack Dorsey turned his first tweet into an NFT and is selling it for $250,000. And as for valuing and appreciating art. Forget that. They’re all investments now.

NFT의 가장 큰 문제점은 예술가를 도박꾼으로 만들고 예술을 예술이 아니라 투기 적 상품으로 취급한다는 거예요. 내 예술품이 NFT 시장에서 크게 만들 수 있습니까? 누가 알아? 돈을 좀 투자 해 보겠어요. 글쎄요. 이제 더 많은 작업을 NFT로 전환 해 보겠습니다. NFT 시장에 진출하기 위해 상당한 대가를 치르면 예술가들은 예술품이 아닌 투자로서의 예술품품의 매력에 대해 더 걱정할 거예요. 그리고 저는 그들을 비난하지 않을 거예요. 유명인은 아마도 비 예술 예술품을 NFT로 바꾸고 진정한 예술가와 꽤 잘 경쟁 할 수 있어요. 이 글을 쓰는 시점에서 Jack Dorsey는 첫 번째 트윗을 NFT로 바꾸어 $ 250,000에 판매하고 있어요. 그리고 예술을 소중히 여기고 감상하는 것에 관해서. 잊어 버려. 지금은 모두 투자이예요.

“That’s a wonderful picture. It truly is amazing. I love how colors are so surreal without digital manipulation. Is it an NFT? Why not? You could probably see its price quadruple in the NFT market.” And then the conversation turns more into investments and speculation rather than art.

“멋진 사진 이네요. 정말 놀라요. 디지털 조작없이 색상이 얼마나 초현실적인지 정말 좋아요. NFT입니까? 왜 안돼? NFT 시장에서 가격이 4 배가되는 것을 볼 수있을 것이예요.” 그리고 대화는 예술보다는 투자와 투기로 변해요.

I read an account of one artists who said that with NFTs, he earns a 10% cut every time his work is re-sold. That’s great and all, but then again, did he make art or did he just make a commodity that’s traded? What was the point of the piece originally? Did Warhol ever demand or wish for a cut every time someone sells his work? If I sell my work, it’s gone. It’s not mine anymore. I have no connection with it other than it’s birth. To wish for a cut every time something is sold speaks of a weird greed which could be justified by some people, I’m sure, but not artistically.

NFT를 사용하면 예술품이 재판매 될 때마다 10 % 컷을 받는다는 한 아티스트의 이야기를 읽었어요. 훌륭해요. 하지만 다시 그는 예술품을 만들었나요 아니면 그냥 거래되는 상품을 만들었나요? 원래 작품의 요점은 무엇 이었습니까? 워홀은 누군가 자신의 작품을 판매 할 때마다 삭감을 요구하거나 바랬습니까? 내 예술품을 팔면 사라져요. 더 이상 내 것이 아니요. 저는 그것을 만들었는 것 외에는 아무 관련이 없어요. 그것은 어떤 사람이 정당화 할 수있고 무언가가 팔릴 때마다 컷을 원한다는 것은 확실하지만 예술적으로는 아니요.

Recently, investors burnt a Banksy and turned it into an NFT. These people are morons. First off, artwork doesn’t have to be turned into an NFT to have it exist forever. Diego Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads is still studied to this day no thanks to blockchain technology. Also, making or treating art as investments seems to really go against the spirit of what Banksy does. The man travels the globe and makes wonderful art for free. To willfully destroy artwork and turn it into a digital commodity is like ghoulish capitalists turning wonderful artwork into wasteful nerd coins. And no, it’s not elevating art into a different form. The burning of the piece is not art in itself. This is not conceptual art. This is dumb greed.

최근 투자자들은 Banksy의 예술픔을 태워 NFT로 전환했어요. 이 사람들은 바보요. 첫째, 예술 예술품이 영원히 존재하기 위해 NFT로 변환 될 필요는 없어요. Diego Rivera의 Man at the Crossroads는 블록 체인이 없지만 오늘날까지도 연구되고 있어요. 또한 예술을 투자로 만들거나 다루는 것은 Banksy가하는 일의 정신에 반하는 것처럼 보이요. 그는 전 세계를 여행하며 무료로 멋진 예술을 만들어요. 예술 작품을 고의로 파괴하고 디지털 상품으로 바꾸는 것은 멋진 예술 작품을 낭비적인 머저리 동전으로 바꾸는 끔찍한 자본가와 같아요. 그리고 예술을 다른 형태로 끌어 올리는 것이 아니요. 작품을 태우는 것은 그 자체로 예술이 아니요. 이것은 개념 예술이 아니요. 이건 멍청한 탐욕이요.

“Yeah, but Banksy shredded his own art in an auction before!” Yes, he destroyed it to make a statement. The people who burned the Banksy are hoping to start a trend and rake in profits. What’s their statement? “NFTs are now a thing. Come on and invest on NFTs!”

“그래, 하지만 Banksy는 전에 경매에서 자신의 예술을 찢어 버렸어!” 예, 그는 성명서를 만들기 위해 그것을 파괴했어요. Banksy의 예술품을 불태운 사람들은 트렌드를 시작하고 수익을 올리기를 희망하고 있습니다. 그들의 진술은 무엇입니까? “NFT는 좋아요. 어서 NFT에 투자하세요!”

Again, I’m not against certifying digital works and giving them secure signatures. It’ll be nice to have some sort of virtual permanence to digital works. But the way this whole thing is developing reeks of speculation and greed. And when someone says, “anything can be turned into an NFT,” then not only does it lower the bar for art (down to a celebrity’s hangnail), it makes art nothing more than gambler’s token. After all, “you can bet on anything at the stock market.”

다시 말하지만 저는 디지털 예술품을 인증하고 보안 서명을하는 것에 반대하지 아니요. 디지털 예술품에 대해 일종의 가상 영구성을 갖는 것이 좋을 거예요. 그러나 이 모든 것이 추측과 탐욕의 냄새를 풍기는 방식이요. 그리고 누군가 “무엇이든 NFT로 바뀔 수 있습니다”라고 말하면 예술의 기준을 낮출뿐만 아니라 (연예인의 자른 손톱을으로 레벨도) 예술은 도박꾼의 토큰에 지나지 아니요. 결국“주식 시장에서 무엇이든 베팅 할 수 있어요.”

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Tired of Historic Events Yet?

Today, Trump’s MAGA goon squad marched and broke into the US Capitol in protest of President-elect Biden’s electoral votes being ceremoniously counted. This was a coup attempt. This was insurrection and sedition fueled by craven politicians telling MAGA supporters that there is still a way for Trump to win the presidency, that it was somehow stolen from his via complex global, pedophile conspiracies, and that what they are doing is akin to being patriots. The last time forces stormed the Capitol was back in the War of 1812, when the United Kingdom and Canada went to war with the United States. Confederate generals dreamed of someday flying their flag in the US Capitol, and Trump’s MAGA forces this possible. A few years ago, Trump was also in charge of judging whether Gary Busey should be pretend-fired on a pretend job interview. Now, a man with Trump’s wall tattooed on his arm and who traveled with a buffalo headgear to Washington broke several laws making a jackass of himself in the US halls of power. Now, four people are dead.

I love politics. But as much as I love politics, I also love the law and how it works. This was a disgraceful day in US history in what it has done to politics and what it has done to the law. Now, much has already been said about the Republican politicians who allowed this to happen and to the racist police force who let the seditious terrorists run wild in the government building, but I have to say, I have a bigger problem with the weakness of the Democrats.

Joe Biden, in his response to the terrorist attack, tells the nation that the actions of Trump’s supporters “borders on sedition.” Ridiculous. If that mob caught up to one Democratic senator, who knows what would have happened. Even at this point, he talks about “restoring order.” Restoring order? What about arrests? What about prosecution? People made a mockery and attacked the people’s house. The house of the nation who proclaims to be the model of democracy. The nation whose troops all over the world fight wars to defend. Idiot MAGA terrorists ran amok through those hallowed halls and we are still hesitating on calling sedition what it is?

Even as Trump leaves this year, it will be a disappointing four years for Americans who are keen on democracy and justice. As much as Obama was beloved, he cursed America with probably the stupidest seven words he ever uttered, “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.” A recording of Trump committing an impeachable crime by pressuring officials to manufacture phantom votes for him in Georgia surfaced two days ago, and seemingly without even much consideration, we hear US representative Hakeem Jeffries saying those same dumb seven words, “We don’t look backwards, we look forward.” Then how can Trump or any other officials learn? What’s stopping people from committing crimes in the future? It doesn’t even make any logical sense. ALL crimes in order to fit the definition must have “actus reus,” the conduct of the crime. How else can you establish conduct if you don’t look backward? If someone slaps Hakeem Jeffries in the face, will he immediately respond by, “We don’t look backwards, instead, we look forward to the inauguration of a President Joe Biden and will not allow ourselves to be distracted by these slapping in the face issues.”?

See, back in 2020, armed protesters stormed the Michigan statehouse in order to protest wearing masks. They essentially held the statehouse hostage and the police barely touched them. Not much of consequence happened to the agitators as the nation moved on to the next outrageous thing in the news cycle. Fast forward to now and again, armed agitators fueled by conspiracy theories essentially invade the US Capitol. See how they didn’t learn their lesson?

But wait, that was under under Trump. Are the Democrats still to be blamed for that? Yes, because they have short memories and easily move on. Republicans fueled so many congressional hearing on four deaths in Benghazi. How many congressional hearings will come out of this? How many hearings came out of the storming of the Michigan statehouse? Heck, when Bundy ranchers pointed rifles at police officers during Obama’s presidency, Democrats essentially let them get away with it. Gabby Giffords got shot in the head and the Democrats didn’t use it as a rallying cry for some sort of sensible gun legislation. I’d call the Democrats weak tea, but that would be offensive to teas everywhere.

So yeah, even as progressives like Representatives Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar are calling for impeachment, most of the Democrats will likely try to oppose them or at least try to weaken their call to action. As Trump’s ugliness infected Republicans and the rest of body politic, so will Barack Obama’s weak look-forward, not backward continue to lull Democratic politicians to inaction and complacency. Don’t get too excited about Trump leaving, folks. As we learned in 2020, things can always, ALWAYS get worse.

Note my entry last week. Canada lost the World Juniors yesterday, and now there’s a failed coup. 2021 off to a great start.

December 31

I would like to think that next year will be better than 2020, but I have learned not to be too optimistic, lest I be disappointed. Christmas was a quiet affair spent watching Netflix. New Year’s Eve is probably going to be the same. I can feel myself getting old just thinking about it.

Here’s hoping that 2021 is indeed an improvement over this lousy year. 

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Asshole Dream, Asshole Reality

I don’t have much patience for hearing about other people’s dreams, but since this is my website and no one is being forced to read it, I’m going to indulge myself a bit and talk about an asshole dream I had last night.

My mom passed away back in 2008 of pancreatic cancer. It was rather fast. She started experiencing pain in her stomach around November of 2007, then she was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on February 2008, then she passed away come July. Pancreatic cancer is awful.

So last night, I had a dream that my mom committed suicide. Apparently, she had a fight with my dad during her birthday and she jumped off an apartment building roof in the middle of the night. We were all in shock. I remember my grandmother, her mother, was there too, mourning my mom’s sudden passing. Interestingly, my grandmother passed away two years ago as well. So anyway, it was a pretty depressing dream/nightmare. I couldn’t remember much but several things happened regarding investigations and funerals but eventually, I woke up.

You know when you wake up from a nightmare and you’re all relieved that it was all a nightmare and that everything is going to be fine? Well, I woke up, felt relief, then I remembered that my mom already passed away over ten years ago. I also remember that Korea is also in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections and that I don’t know what awaits me at work. Depressed, relieved, then back to depressed. My brain’s subconscious is a jerk asshole.

Speaking of the coronavirus, for two days in a row now, Korea has been having over 1000 cases a day. Before that, the country’s jumped to over 600 a day. We are currently on a high alert level, close to the strictest level yet, which would mean a total lockdown and closing of businesses and schools. While Korea has been a model for containing the virus with its constant testing and contact-tracing, the country appears to have been caught flat-footed with the second wave. Unfortunately, while the rest of the world is already getting started with vaccination, the government decided to wait it out until March 2021 before getting the vaccine. The government wants to see how the rest of the world reacts to the vaccine first. There is some wisdom to healthy skepticism and caution, but the government seems to be neglecting to help people and businesses while they hold out and wait for life to go back to normal. The Trump administration is being lauded for only providing a $1200 check once to its citizens. Well, Korea only gave out assistance once as well.

As much as I appreciate the government’s initial reaction to the virus, it seems like the government only has testing and contact-tracing in its bag of tricks. Cases are increasing and all we’re doing is testing. They put free testing facilities all over Seoul, even outside my workplace. What I don’t see are financial aid for businesses and for people who are unable to earn a living while they are forced to stay at home. As for waiting and see for the rest of the world to react to the vaccines’ side effects, I wonder if that skepticism would be there if it weren’t for the anti-vaccine movement.

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Here We Go Again.

We are back to lockdown. Seoul will be on lockdown starting tomorrow until the end of the year. We’re now ending 2020 the way it’s been the whole year: miserable indoors, wondering if my job will be safe at the end of it all. Right now, we are required to wear masks at work even at our desks in the office. There are strict limits imposed on restaurants and coffee shops. The same goes for gyms, saunas, study rooms, and karaokes. So far, I haven’t been asked to work from home, but I work with publishing and testing. This might not affect the publishing side of things, but scheduled language tests were canceled a few months ago due to the pandemic.

It’s kinda ironic because just over the weekend, I happened to run into an old classmate from Korean class while I was in a bookstore. This is a class I had to stop attending due to the risk of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to my company. Well, I was thinking of maybe contacting him later for drinks sometime, just to properly catch up. Then BOOM, the government raises the pandemic alarm level. Minimize socializing. Stay home. Don’t take unnecessary risks.

What’s depressing is how all of this has affected many businesses in the city. Bars, restaurants, and stores which relied heavily on foot traffic, especially from Chinese and Japanese tourists have just been wrecked. Shopping and tourist districts have been ghost towns, which is more evident considering it’s the Christmas holiday. We were doing quite well, a couple of months ago, even had daily cases down to less than 50. But for the past few days, there’s been a huge uptick. Just today, there’s over 600 cases added to the country’s total. Luckily, people are not protesting against wearing masks. Everyone understands that it’s a necessity. I just wish the government provided more aid to businesses and made it easier for people to work from home.

There’s hope with the government securing contracts for the vaccine once it becomes available, but who knows when regular people would have access to it? Just like the rest of the world, I don’t think normal people would have access to it until summer 2021. And just to add more to the stressful situation, the government is also currently trying to contain a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu after a couple of cases broke out south of Seoul.

Seriously, I’m just tired of worrying. I’m just tired of wondering if it will be me next. I keep seeing all of these people suddenly put into these dire situations, and I can’t help but constantly be anxious of the axe finally dropping down on my skinny, selfish neck.

All of this comes to one conclusion: New Year celebrations are bullshit. I know, I know. It’s a bit early, but I’m stewing here. Last year, I saw Post Malone and BTS try to make the Times Square Ball Drop still be a thing for young people. I also saw several Japanese acts perform their annual song competition on NHK followed by solemn temple blessings. In Korea, they rang the Bosingak Belfry five minutes from where I work. It was crowded with people. Pengsu, a viral penguin mascot, was one of the bell ringers, which I assume added to the popularity of the usually crowded event. All of these events, all of these “farewell to 2019 and hello to 2020,” all of these blessings… they didn’t stop 2020 from being the disaster that it’s been. I can’t help but think that if 2020 had a face, it would look like Post Malone’s. And now the year is almost past and if we’re lucky, we all just got older fast. The unlucky one lost their livelihood, lost a loved one, or passed away themselves. And yeah, the mayor of Seoul committed suicide six months after ringing that bell (That’s not the only suicide story that happened around my periphery this year as well!).

New Years are like birthdays. They just happen regardless, and the only reason people celebrating them is they happen to survive another year. There is nothing special about them. If anything, the hope one feels at the end of the year should extend to every night when the day turns because that’s exactly what New Years are: just another day passing (how’s that for a somewhat positive turn?).

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Back with this Virus

It’s been weeks now since I last wrote about the coronavirus. Well, we’re going through another surge at the moment, much like the rest of the world. For the past couple of days, daily cases have been going up. Since last week, we were getting a hundred cases a day in Korea. Alarmingly, for a couple of days now, it’s been around 300 a day for the country. A few months ago, we were sitting at less than fifty a day, and now we’re this high.

Just yesterday, the alarm level has been raised. Schools and businesses must be kept at a third of their capacity and close early. Masks are mandatory, and people caught not wearing masks must pay $100. People are advised not to gather, but protests are still allowed as long as the number of people gathered is less than a hundred. Frankly, I think people are simply being careless. The virus is being spread locally. People are going out for dinner and living their lives, all wearing masks, but it’s not a 100% preventative solution. The virus is getting through the cracks. It annoys me however, that still, once in a while, I would hear from co-workers that would still scapegoat outsiders as the cause of the current uphill trend, particularly last Tuesday, she blamed the US military not being strict enough with their personnel.

That’s not to say that foreigners have been saints, however. Foreigners and young people crowded bars a week after Halloween to celebrate. The government cracked down and disallowed Halloween celebrations, but many bars and clubs just postponed the celebrations. The clubs and bar areas got busy but just on different days. Trending recently too was this American baseball player who played for one of the local teams. He was going to be awarded an MVP prize for a game but refused to accept the award because he refused to don on a mask. Asked why, he said the mask kept him from breathing properly. Yep, tell that to the rest of the country, buddy. Talk about being an ugly American.

Despite the news of two promising vaccines on the horizon, I still worry about the state of the pandemic in other countries. I have family in the US and in Canada and infections are going up, particularly in the United States. People are just not worried enough about it. Just the other day, I got in a bit if an argument with my dad who doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the virus despite his elevated risk. He thought I was being silly regarding my concerns with masks and quarantines, especially since he was traveling to the Philippines. “If I’m going to catch it, I’m going to catch it.” Well, we’re all going to die at some point, so why bother wearing seat belts? I told him to quarantine himself for a couple of weeks after arriving, but then he told me that an official in the Philippines told him that there’s no need to quarantine if he passes the COVID test upon arrival. This is all against the regulations set by the World Health Organization, but this lackadaisical backwards approach is exactly why cases in the Philippines is so high.

As for me, due to the pandemic, I’ve been dreading weekends. I don’t want to be stuck at home. I’d rather be at work, doing something, getting busy and tired. Being home is not helping my depression and anxiety. It’s not like my place has felt like home to me anyway. I moved to a new place almost two years now and it still feels alien to me, like I don’t belong there. I’m living in a stranger’s house. In the past couple of months, there’s been a cold, numb feeling in my chest which crawls up to my throat, making it difficult to breathe. I would be worried about it if I didn’t start getting used to it. This mixture of dread, depression, and anxiety is like Clare Quilty quietly shadowing me, never revealing himself fully but always there, always ready to ruin my day. But just like Humbert Humbert, I think I probably deserve it.

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Where Religion and Covid Meets

Abstinence

Back in 2017, after years of scandals and people protesting everyday in Seoul, Park Gun-Hye, the conservative president of South Korea and daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-Hee was ousted from her position, formally impeached, and sent to prison for corruption. She was sentenced for twenty-four years. The protests, which was key in removing Park, was fueled by the president’s inept response to the Sewol ferry disaster where 304 people, mostly high school students, died. This, plus her government’s push for censorship and the discovery that the daughter of a cult leader was unofficially acting as her right hand man and was privy to state secrets pushed people to the streets. It was a natural groundswell which started from journalism, to the Internet, to mainstream media and some celebrities openly pushing for her ouster, and down to the streets. The impeachment of Park Gun-Hye was even seen as a model for how some countries *cough, United States, cough* should handle massive abuse and corruption by the government.

Conservatives in the country afterwards saw these events and tried to emulate it. They tried to push for the impeachment of the current president on made-up charges. Coddling to North Koreans, being inept, being a criminal, anything. The charges were extremely inept since none of them were based on provable facts, and the current president was enjoying an extremely high approval rating when his opponents started to encourage the rallies. Every weekend, they rallied their supporters, mostly made up of senior citizens, to the same place where the former protests used to take place. The protests became a mixture of confused ideologies, Internet rumors, and religion. People walked around with the Korean flag, the American flag to symbolize freedom from the supposed dictatorship of the current president, and the Israeli flag for whatever reason. In some instances, there were even signs asking Donald Trump to bomb North Korea. So much for being patriotic and Christian.

I work near where these protests occurred. They’re supposed to happen only on weekends, but sometimes I would see them on Thursday and Friday afternoons as well. The place I work at is also close to a park popular among retirees. There, old people would congregate, wander about, and shop for useless wares and snake oil. I notice that the same people that walk around the park, are basically the same type of people going to these protests. Often, the people around the park would be carrying Korean and American flags as well.

See, these protests have become more like a social gathering for people. It’s a thing to do in the afternoon. I passed by these protests a couple of times and many people are just chilling. There are even snack and liquor vendors. The frustration and rage that political and religious leaders are fueling, I believe, tend to be more rooted to longing for a feeling of being in control, longing for a time when they were younger and more relevant to society… which is ironically back when the country was under a dictatorship. And really, there is no concrete reason to any of their demands.

A: Impeach the president.

B: Why?

A: Because he’s corrupt.

B: Really, why?

A: Because, uhm, *Insert this politician under him* was corrupt/caught in a scandal/etc.

B: Okay, but he was let go. That’s not the president.

A: Well, uhm, look at the economy! (and on and on we go.)

The people attending these protests are at best bored. At worst, they are stubborn, brainwashed morons. They are being taken advantage of by political and religious leaders. A few days ago, these protests and the mega church where one of their leaders con his followers became the spark that started another spike in covid-19 cases, much worse than the previous ones we had in the country. The religious leader, Pastor Jun, was diagnosed with covid-19. And even after being diagnosed, he was caught walking around, smiling, and not properly wearing a mask. Asked about the disease, he claimed that it was spread by North Koreans who aimed to sabotage his church and the movement. In Canada, this would be seen as a false claim of terrorism. It is irresponsible and illegal.

Now people who attended the rally as well as the police they clashed with, who had no choice but to be there, are now at risk of having the disease. Thousands of police officers are being tested, but tracing all of the people who attended the rally and members of the church is more challenging. Before all of this, doctors were already on strike, demanding significant change in the country’s medical infrastructure, as well as an increase in pay for working in remote areas. Just yesterday, a member of the church who was diagnosed with covid-19 escaped from his quarantine and was caught in a coffee shop. These people are insane. Things were already bad. Religious nuts, craven politicians, and brainwashed senior citizens just made it worse.

Again, South Korea is on high alert. People in Seoul are advised not to travel outside of the city. Masks are required in most workplaces and allowed to be taken off mostly only on one’s desk. Gatherings after work are discouraged. Gatherings of more than fifty people are discouraged. Church services are canceled, as well as afterschool academies. My Korean class was again canceled yesterday. I’m not sure when classes will resume. Many stores were closed yesterday. Clubs, sports facilities, karaoke bars, and PC rooms are closed. Personally, this virus has already cost me money this year, and Pastor Jun and his followers just cost me even more. The economy was going back up but this recent resurgence has brought the economy back down again.

The first case of covid-19 in the country was brought by missionaries who traveled to Wuhan and kept their actions a secret for days. It has spiked several times in many churches. And now, the latest spike is caused by one of the most politically influential churches in the country. I don’t know what it is they do in these churches that they often become vectors for the disease. I’ve gone to coffee shops, bars, schools, company buildings, and restaurants, and they don’t become vectors for the disease as often as these churches.

The nighttime landscape of Seoul is dotted with so many neon red crosses. Unless the government cracks down on these churches, which are technically businesses, this virus will spike again and again. The wonderful thing about God is that he is omnipresent. People could still talk to him at home.

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Covid-19 isn’t free anymore?

Strawberry

I haven’t been very happy with the actions of some foreigners in Korea. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there’s been several reports of foreigners in beaches not wearing masks even when prompted by the police or given free masks by volunteers. There’s even been some arrests after some rowdiness during the July 4th weekend. It’s also, not uncommon to see foreigners not wearing masks as they wander around Seoul. As a foreigner myself, it makes all of us look selfish. Most people in the country are doing their part to contain the virus, and yet there are people around who walk around not wearing masks because “the country is safe.” It’s safe, thanks to most people wearing masks!

So now I understand why people might be annoyed with foreigners, especially since many of the cases of covid-19 now are getting caught in the airport from people coming in, both from foreigners and from Koreans coming home. But now I see that some people are pushing the government to charge foreign nationals for their covid-19 treatment as some form of punishment? Normally, the treatment is free for everyone, but I think some people believe that foreigners are taking advantage of this situation? I’m really not sure where the logic is here.

As of writing this entry, there’s about 14,000 cases of covid-19 in the country. 700 of those are foreign nationals. A couple of the article I read has stated that the treatment is causing an undue burden to tax payers, which is laughable sine the number of foreigners infected is quite small compared to the total number of cases. How much of a burden would that lighten if those foreigners were forced to pay for their treatment? According to the articles, government officials are saying changes will be targeting those who “intentionally cause a burden to the country’s quarantine and medical system.” The language is quite vague, but it’s notable that a couple of the big outbreaks were caused and hidden by Korean nationals. Also, threatening some sort of punishment to foreigners might discourage more from getting tested or properly treated.

As free as the tests are here, it is not really that simple to get a test. One must exhibit symptoms first for a prolonged period prior to getting tested. I am involved with several sensitive projects in my company, and when I learned that someone tested positive in a building I regularly visit, I tried to get tested afterwards. I got a big fat no. I was told to wait until I exhibited symptoms. Now, if I had covid-19 and was spreading the disease while I was awaiting symptoms, I would’ve been jeopardizing several projects and endangering lives. I was very much encouraged to not worry about it, but if I was indeed ill, does that qualify me as “intentionally causing burden to the medical system?” What if I was a foreign factory laborer who is in a more desperate situation? What if I simply was asymptomatic?

I think this is once again the occasional blaming of foreigners and enacting laws to punish them to ineffectively solve problems. I wrote several times about high profile child abuse cases and the way conservative Korean legislators acted was to force foreign teachers in the country to undergo mandatory AIDS tests, despite those cases not having to do with foreigners. Unfortunately, most of the Korean newspaper outlets online are conservative, so maybe I’m just reacting to the outrage among conservatives, but a part of me feels that when Koreans see dumb foreigners walking around not wearing a mask, it’s not a hard proposition to sell.

Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of crime against humanity by the Hague for his neglect with covid-19. He has recovered and posted a picture of himself holding hydroxychloroquine almost as a way to troll the whole world right before he drove off in a motorcycle not wearing a mask. It’s disgusting. How could the people of Brazil have this man as president over Lula da Silva, the man who raised the hungriest people in the country out of poverty?

And speaking of war crimes, Brazil is only second in covid-19 cases and deaths. The United States is still much higher in cases and deaths. It’s death rate is not as high as other countries, but that’s not saying much when you have the resources of the richest country in the world and you’re comparing the country to Spain, Italy, Peru, and Sweden. How come I don’t see Donald Trump being charged with neglect regarding covid-19? The man literally played golf as people died under his watch.

It is scary how China has been flexing its muscles throughout the world. It’s been trying to claim ownership over the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands for years now and it’s curious to hear what President Duterte of the Philippines had to say about this in his state of the union. He’s long been accused of kowtowing (haha, see what I did there?) to China, but when he said that he was inept in matters of war and that he can’t do anything when faced with China’s military might should they claim ownership of the South China Sea, it was very telling.

For one, no one is really talking about going to war with China. But for immediate effect, he goes straight to China’s military might in order to justify his helplessness in the matter. He is right to point out that these matters are best sorted out diplomatically, but you don’t start diplomatic negotiations by saying you are weak and inept. Other countries are facing up against China and they are not coming out as weak as Duterte appears. Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia are not kissing Xi Jinping’s ring over the territory.

If anything, it shows how weak of a bully Duterte truly is. He can only lord over those who are weaker than him. He would extra-judiciously have suspected drug addicts and drug pushers killed, some of which are children, but cowers over forces that would literally take what his country has claims over. The country’s national anthem (Lupang Hinirang- The Chosen Land), much like “Oh, Canada” reads like a love song but ends with a very tragic, albeit romantic promise. The last verse goes “but it is glory, ever, when though art wronged, for us thy sons to suffer and die.” But Duterte, he doesn’t have the stomach for this. “Inutil ako riyan (I am useless there), and I am willing to admit it.”

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Coronavirus Life

Heart_apple

I didn’t realize that most of 2020 is going to be me reacting to the coronavirus. It’s been six months now since Korea woke up to Valentine’s Day with a spike in infections. Though New Zealand has been the only country to fully be rid of coronavirus infections, Seoul has been regarded by many as the gold standard in dealing with the pandemic, especially in terms of contact tracing, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc. However, to this day, Korea is still struggling to have infections lower than 30 a day.

A few weeks ago, the country was on its way to having zero daily infections, but after relaxing on rules on bars and clubs, a few clusters popped up. And now ironically, we’re experiencing occasional clusters cause a rise in infections, most often from religious gatherings. A lot of recorded infections are getting caught via the immigration process and are coming from foreigners, but those are at least getting caught coming in.

What’s annoying, is that many foreigners don’t seem to care much about local regulations regarding the virus. It’s not unusual to see foreigners walking around with no masks on. I was planning to go to Haeundae Beach in Busan, but then I see that the beaches are not only super crowded, foreigners are lounging around the beach insisting on not wearing masks even when prompted by authorities to do so. Just a few days ago, a group of foreigners with US military were shooting fireworks at buildings and people, basically ignoring the police who meekly tried to stop them. Ugh. Youth + coronavirus + hooliganism = gross.

Just last week, my evening Korean classes were canceled for the month because one student from a different morning class was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Fortunately, they traced the virus and found that he contracted it from his workplace, which unfortunately is just a few blocks from where I work. They traced his actions using the mobile app we use to enter our class, and through his credit card activities. They also looked at CCTV footage of him and found that he was wearing the mask the whole time he was in the building. This raised a big alarm for my company and I was worried that it might affect me or my job. It still might. I tried to get tested for the virus myself, but I was told that I needed to exhibit symptoms first in order to qualify for a free screening. If I was “just curious,” I would have to pay the equivalent of $120 US.

Now, I’m quite relieved at the amount of surveillance available to track the one person who canceled my classes for the month. I do realize that a lot of this would be impossible in the US or other countries. Not only is the infrastructure not there, but people would also be unwilling to have their privacy or personal freedoms breached.

I mentioned that I was planning to go to the beach. I’ve been looking to travel outside of Seoul for vacation this year since I won’t be able to travel overseas. I don’t really travel around Korea since it can be just as expensive as traveling abroad. Why pay big money to travel in Korea when you can use the same money to travel somewhere more exotic? And yeah, I’ve already done as many exotic things in the country as I can. It takes quite a bit to excite me. So yeah, I’m not too excited getting stuck in traffic going somewhere crowded within Korea this year.

Aside from my vacation, Korean education, and work being affected, I haven’t worked out in a gym for six months now. Though I try to watch what I eat, I could say I’m currently in the worst shape of my life. Living in a small Korean apartment, I don’t really have the space to work out. As for working out in gyms outside, that would still be ill-advised due to the coronavirus. We’ve been ordered to wear masks even while we’re working on our desks at work, and it’s been quite uncomfortable. I can only imagine how hard that would be in the gym or anywhere working out.

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A few interesting things of late.

The mayor of Seoul disappeared last Thursday. And after hours of searching he was found to have committed suicide due to the pressures of a recently opened investigation into allegations of him sexually harassing an assistant. An ally of feminist and progressive causes, it was a bit of a turn especially in the age of #Metoo.

I wasn’t aware of the allegations when I found out about the mayor missing. I remember I used to work with one of the mayor’s assistants, so I shot her a message, “Hey, where’s the mayor?!” just as a way to keep in touch. A couple of back and forts later, I moved on to other things. The next day, I learned that the mayor passed away. I also learned that he could potentially be a monster to women in his close circles. Then I go back that woman I was messaging the day before. Does she know? Has she heard rumors before? Surely, she must. Do I message back, “Hey, sorry about the news”? How do you respond in that situation?

An odd thing about Korean law is that once a suspect of an investigation commits suicide, the investigation is immediately dropped. Now, I have no dog in this fight. The left in country seem to be suggesting that the mayor was a victim of a smear job while the conservatives are trying to press for more investigations. As a westerner, I figure this shouldn’t be the end of the investigation but the beginning of one. A person is dead, and at least one crime might have been committed. Couldn’t the victim still press charges on his estate for damages if the allegations are true? Couldn’t she press and claim damages on his office? How many victims are there? Alternatively, if he is indeed the victim of a smear, isn’t that a crime in itself? I know defamation is a serious crime in Korea. They should be trying to root out this conspiracy if it exists. This is why there should be an investigation.

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ICE in the US is an evil organization. It has canceled the student visas of all international students if they’re only taking online classes due to the pandemic. They are thus trying to pressure schools to open classes and force the students to take the classes in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This is pure evil. International students are a big source of revenue for schools so they are facing a risk of losing a huge chunk of funds for this year and the foreseeable future. Students on the other hand are now on a limbo. Trump has screwed with their future.

And as I was learning more about this, I also learn that ICE will now be training people on how to make citizens arrest. Great! Empower racists to make citizens arrest on brown people. As if things weren’t bad enough as it is with the police getting carried away with the power they have. Now they’re going to let loose a bunch of overeager racists with their guns on brown people just trying to get by in the middle of a global pandemic. Ugh. Maybe those international students are better off studying elsewhere. The US under Trump is becoming a hole.

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