Tag Archives: art

On Keeping It Inside

Bee

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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Disappointing My Parents

Swords

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

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

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

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

Be an engineer, Amanda!

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On Vigilantes

Snake_bones

Late to the party, but I just learned about Justin Payne’s vigilante channel exposing pedophiles in Toronto. As much as I enjoyed Chris Hansen’s work over ten years ago, I have to be honest that a part of the joy is watching someone get totally humiliated. It’s not so much for the pursuit of justice anymore, but getting high off the humiliation of another human being. Maybe that’s just me, but I suspect that’s what most people watching the show are there for. Chris Hansen for one sure likes to take his sweet time and humiliate perps in front of the camera.

Despite this, I’m a fan of what Justin does. But I’m afraid that he might eventually get hurt or that doing this type of work is just going to permanently damage his psyche. It can’t be healthy talking to several sexual predators all the time, subjecting yourself to their attempts at grooming you. Also, as someone who studied the law, I’m afraid that a lot of what Justin and similar vigilantes do wouldn’t result in criminal charges. They’re often focused on proving mental state which is often the most lurid part that attracts most viewers. But the problem is that they’re not really proving actual criminal conduct. Unfortunately, a crime cannot be committed if they prevented a crime from happening; there is no body. There were (thankfully) no real minors involved, and often no one gets hurt. If anything, these vigilante actions would initially expose the vigilantes to criminal charges or civil damages due to unlawfully taping phone calls, broadcasting without permission, incitement to imminent lawless action, or intentional infliction of emotional distress. I believe this and the fact that some vigilantes entrap their targets are the reasons why most of the people caught by the To Catch a Predator stings were let go.

But this doesn’t take away the fact that people like Justin Payne and these vigilantes are quite courageous for exposing themselves to a number of dangers. They are doing a great service in discouraging pedophiles from preying on minors. I really don’t blame them for taking action, especially if it’s happening in their neighborhoods. It’s sad that some of these potential predator’s lives might end up getting ruined in the process, but it’s even sadder to think what might have happened should they end up meeting real minors instead. It reminds me of Bill Zeller’s suicide note. In any case, I just wish these vigilantes’ approach we geared more toward rehabilitation. After all, the perpetrators’ urges could be considered a mental condition. But on how that could be accomplished, I have no idea.

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The Beauty of Studio Galleries

Moose_funny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#MeToo on Atwood

flowers_tentacles_spikes

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

SwallowtheMoon

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

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Suddenly Pink

Not tonight

God bless Pink! I’ve never been a big fan of her music, but it’s really good for her to speak out and be realistic about the challenges and problems with monogamy. There have been many articles and people talking about it before. Dan Savage, someone I’ve been listening to for years now, has said that the fantasy of monogamy which has been perpetuated by culture and media is basically just that, a fantasy. It is not a happily ever after. It is the beginning of a long and challenging path should you ever be foolish enough to commit to it. And that’s why I admire Pink for basically coming out and saying the same thing. It’s not so often that someone fairly attractive is out there with their sexuality basically come out and say, yes, despite how she looks, and despite how glamorous we imagine her life would be, she struggles living with monogamy sometimes, to the point that she’ll find herself sexless for a year.

Romance is not forever. A person’s spouse will eventually become their roommate, and they will no longer be amused with each other. Of course there will still be a bond there, but becoming romantic or being into someone will often become something they’ll need to work at. And so the best one can hope for is that their relationship turns into waves, where sometimes they’re into the other person, and sometimes they can’t stand them. It’s okay to not be into sex. It’s okay not to have sex. As important as it is, it is not the goal of most couples in the real world. Just getting along with each other is sometimes hard enough. And that hard, unsexy truth is quite difficult to admit for fear of being relegated into the Married with Children, Al Bundy archetype.

This reminds me of Bojack Horseman’s recent representation of asexual people. Sometimes people are really just not into sex. That doesn’t mean they’re devoid of feeling towards other people. They’re just not interested in being intimate with others in a physical manner. Nico at the Mary Sue does a better job of explaining it more than me, but being asexual, just like being monogamous and sexless, seem to be one of those things that people need to come out of in the midst of the culture of being into happily monogamous and enjoying sex. I mean, just look at most characters on television and movies. They’re all having sex. They’re either married, dating, single and having sex, or struggling to have sex. Same goes for most musicians, political figures, athletes, etc. I don’t even need to know about people’s sex lives and I get needlessly informed about it. Just recently, my wife and I were watching Justin Turner hit a homerun and win the game for the Dodgers. She suddenly goes and says, “you know his wife is a model, check out her Instagram.” Is that supposed to make me like him more? I already assumed most athletes are dating models. How is that little factoid supposed to help me enjoy the sport I’m currently struggling to keep interest in? We can’t seem to divorce ourselves from people’s sex lives so we feel pressure to be enjoying sex more.

So yeah, God bless the people talking about the myth of monogamy and the reality of wanting/having sex. It is quite refreshing to see some honest voices talk about these things in a world where sex and the pressure to have sex are ubiquitous.

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Inktober

Typhon

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 Stone Angel

TravelManitoba

I remember being asked to read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence back in high school. It was one of the many wonderful books that our English teacher used to try to infuse some humanity into our young minds. I don’t remember the story much, but I do remember the parallels between the old character in the book and the ultimate fate of Margaret Laurence. It’s like she literally became one of the characters she wrote about. I really should look into the Manawaka series again.

Speaking of Manawaka, my works will be displayed in the town it was based on, Neepawa, Manitoba.  When I used to go camping and hiking with my best friend, I remember visiting there once. Here in Asia, when people think of Canada, the first places that come out of people’s mouths are Toronto and Vancouver. But when they describe Canada, they would often imagine a place much closer to towns like Neepawa.

I love big cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and even smaller ones like Winnipeg, but it is smaller rural towns cradling close to liberated Canadian wilderness that most people here in Asia often imagine. It is in many ways romantic. I guess like me, that image is mostly from the desire to escape from convoluted concrete jungles like Seoul.

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The Bechdel Test

Elephant

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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