Tag Archives: canada

A Little Less Conversation

Irony

I have come to realize that there are some people I could only speak to in short bursts. Anything more, and they start to annoy me, I annoy them, or we get into a dumb argument. The chances of conversations going sour get even higher during drinks. I’ve learned to be really careful with these people. I don’t speak much and I avoid drinking with them as much as possible, all to preserve our relationship. It’s like an amalgamation of two clichés: cruel to be kind and absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s absence to be kind.

I always thought of myself as a bit of a raconteur. I deal with language, and a part of my job is talking to people and getting them to open up about things. So being impatient with people could only mean two things. Either I don’t have much patience for what the other person has to say, or I really don’t care much about being around that person.

I have fallen in love with This American Life. I find myself listening to old shows. And despite being dated, I still learn a few things on many topics.

I listen to Howard Stern quite a bit. He is a great entertainer and interviewer. I’ve been a fan for years and I’ve mourned the passing of Eric the Midget and miss the colorful commentary of Artie Lange. When Howard retires, I know there will be great big hole in my life. But lately, I’ve been listening more to This American Life. While the Howard Stern Show is great entertainment, I feel like I’m not learning much. Of course, if I really wanted to learn a lot via audio, I could be listening to Korean language tapes in order to learn how to speak Korean. I just feel that This American Life is a good middle-ground between the pure entertainment that is the Stern show and the strictly bitter pill that are the language tapes.

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On Ancient Cases of Fellatio

Nelson_Shanks

Love the talent but hate the person, that’s exactly how I feel about Nelson Shanks. In a world where people make art careers without even knowing how to draw accurately, he maintains the (arguably) unfashionable tradition of academic painting. Just looking at his Website, it is amazing that such a talent still lives and breathes and creates magnificent work. It is like the work of a man taken out of the Renaissance; wonderful and beautiful paintings. The man has more talent that many artists could ever hope to have.

This is why this whole business with the Bill Clinton is all the more disappointing. In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily, he reveals that he’s hidden references to Monica Lewinsky in Bill Clinton’s portrait which was destined to be hung at the National Portrait Gallery. He said that he found the former President’s lie offensive and that the affair was a shadow to the Clinton presidency. He was quoted saying that the 42nd President was “the most famous liar of all time.”

clinton_shanks

How obnoxious is that?

Now, I enjoy putting hidden messages and allusions not just in my work but also in the works I see and follow. But Shanks just put his own personal politics in what is meant to be an apolitical peace, lied about it during the process, and missed the irony throughout the whole thing. And what was so unforgivable; the former President’s extramarital affair, something which is a personal matter that his family appears to have moved beyond from? The hidden “humor” is crass, misplaced, and really should not be brought up now since everyone has already moved past it. Poor Monica Lewinsky deserves a life past her youthful indiscretions.

Regarding shadows to someone’s presidency, I think the big shadow in the Clinton presidency is their relationship with the banks and how they deregulated them. It is an overbearing cloud that still haunts the world to this day.  And as for lies, I think the biggest lies are the ones that cause the most lives. George Bush and Dick Cheney got American into an unnecessary war. It cost thousands of military and civilian casualties and created a quagmire which Barrack Obama perpetuates.  How’s that for a shadow over someone’s presidency?

The shadow of that dress is not that overwhelming in comparison.

A part of me thinks the whole thing is just a cry for attention. I wonder if setting up a dress to cast shadow during the painting process even truly happened. Shanks claims the Clintons have been trying to get the portrait taken down from the National Portrait Gallery, but representatives from the gallery deny this and the Clintons apparently couldn’t care less. If this was a cry for attention, it really is quite sad because the man is amazingly talented and shouldn’t need to court the raving right wing in order to get attention.

I don’t mind politics in art. I think it’s the artist’s job to tell truths in their work. And should it be in the realm of politics, then so be it. But harping at the Clintons regarding an old scandal just seems petty and ridiculous. And in the end, what message is the artist truly trying to say? I think it speaks more about the artist’s narrow minded politics than anything else.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just my progressive leanings, but I don’t think conservatives make for good messengers in art. I haven’t seen any good examples. There are some good technical artists out there; but most of the time, the work just comes off looking bizarre, hateful, hypocritical, and deeply misinformed.

one_nation_under_God_blasphemy

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Dead Strangers

motivated

I was reading a great obituary over the weekend. It was tragic, but inspiring. It was of this young lady who devoted so much of her life to charity, so much of her life to helping others. It’s really sad, but she was one of those people whose life Lao Tzu was referring to when he talks about flames that burn bright but burn half as long. (http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/jennifer-joy-logan-1982-2015/) Though younger than me, she probably helped more people in her short life than I ever did… than I ever will. I was and am not as generous as she was. And for that I do feel a tremendous amount of shame and regret.

The beauty of such obituaries (and no, I don’t often read strangers’ obituaries) is that not only do they celebrate a person’s life, but they also inspire others. Perhaps they push others to be more grateful for what they have, enjoy the moment more, or in this particular young lady’s case, be kinder to others. It is like the one last good the departed could do, to inspire and teach.

Speaking of death and remembrances, I watched the documentary about Vivian Maier over the weekend.  (http://www.vivianmaier.com/) What a fascinating life! Her works are amazing. It’s such a shame that she didn’t push harder for them to be shown while she was still alive. Of course, the woman was suffering from some mental illness, the film made sure to explore that aspect of her life, but it doesn’t remove the fact that she was an utter genius who had an eye, not just for light and composition, but for human drama.

Again, the documentary, even the current interest in her life and work, serve as form of obituary, a tribute to an artist that was almost forgotten. And while the first obituary I was talking about was about a life of charity and giving, Vivian’s was a life that appears she never wanted to be shared.  She was never particularly kind. In fact, some of the children she cared for described her to be cruel. But she was relentless in her art, and in it, her humanity blossomed. It’s as if what she lacked as a participant, she made up for as keen observer. And what she saw was beautiful.

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So Far So Good

Year_of_the_Sheep

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone. It’s the year of the sheep.

I just got back from a long holiday. I also bought tickets to visit Canada this summer. It’ll be good to be back home again, just for a little bit. I have to say, getting negative results on my biopsy, working a little extra, and finally booking tickets for Canada… so far, things are going fine this year.

Now let’s hope that this all continues and things get better with other aspects of my life.

And yes, feel free to steal the image and put anything on the banner.

 

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Perils of French Realism

nude

After years of holding on to my old iPhone 4, I finally upgraded to an iPhone 6. I had the option to get the iPhone 6S but found it a little too big to be called a phone. It seemed more like a tablet and I feel like the bigger a phone gets, the more unwieldy it is, and the likelier I am to drop it.

I’m quite happy with the upgrade. It’s big enough to be able to read pdfs of magazines and comic books. I was quite an avid comic reader when I was younger, and this might get me back to reading graphic novels again. The screen is gorgeous, and pictures and artwork look great on it.

Unfortunately, last Friday, I was admiring the phone and testing it out on the bus. I happen to be looking at some historic paintings to set as my wallpaper, browsing through masterpieces with heavy contrasts, works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, then BOOM!… Gustave Courbet. For the uninitiated, Courbet was a French realist, most known for a particularly unorthodox and intimate portrait of Joanna Hifferman entitled, L’Origine du Monde. I will let you find that painting yourself.

Now stumbling on the masterpiece wouldn’t be so bad in itself. Unfortunately, a lady standing next to me saw the image as quickly as it appeared on my phone. Our eyes met for a moment by the reflection on the window. And as innocent an accident as it was, I felt as if I was caught committing a crime. She looked away, and I quickly put the phone in my coat pocket. That’s enough art browsing for now. What am I to do? I can’t explain myself to a stranger. That would make me appear more guilty. Of course, quickly hiding my phone makes me look guilty as well.

Two stops later, she gets off. I just gave that woman a story to tell her friends.

 

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Drawing Alone

Trees

 

The problem with art compared to music is that artists usually work alone. Its very nature lends to being lonely. Art is for the loner. Just look at movies with artists. They’re often portrayed as misunderstood, loner geniuses.

Despite music having its fair share of loner-type musicians, music by its nature is more social, musicians get in a group, they get to form bands. Artists get to spend time by themselves. Despite artist groups and shared studios, the process of creating great art is often solitary. Even if a person is making art in the same room, what’s hung on the wall is often from one person alone. This is not the same as music. Great music is often the product of a collaboration; the combination of people’s talent in a band.

I regret not having that form of camaraderie. I regret not taking guitar-playing more seriously.

 

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Hidden Artists

flowers_tentacles_again

A co-worker quit last week. I believe she was with us for three to four years. We never really had much conversation since I don’t really talk much to the women at work. I think the women here at work are scared of me. (Well, at least one of them was. She left me a note saying she was scared of me right before she left. ) Anyway, this co-worker who left, I really didn’t know much about her other than her being a strict vegetarian. So it was a bit of a surprise that on her last day I find out that she’s also an artist (http://bbkjy.blog.me ). She even has a show on the night of her last day.

Instead of worrying about the wave of downsizing going on in our company, I kept on wondering how I could’ve missed this. How did I not know this person was not an artist as well? Shouldn’t we all sense each other’s presence like the immortals in Highlander? She sure dressed like one.

Do people in the office even know I make art? Would they be just as surprised? Anyway, it was a missed opportunity to get to know an artist. I guess the blame is on me. I should’ve been nicer to the people I work with.

Maybe I’m just a bitter person with a dark hole where my heart should be, but looking at her works, they are a tad saccharine for my taste. But I really do admire her tenacity for drawing and her commitment to a style. She knows what she likes, studies it, and keeps at it. Under the right conditions, her works could be extremely marketable. You’re probably not reading this, Jiyoung, but here’s to your success.

 

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That Was Different.

Burlesque

My wife and I saw a burlesque show with a friend over the weekend.  It was my first time seeing a burlesque show. I was never really keen to the idea since I really never understood the attraction. We have modern establishments now. We also have the Internet. What need is this fulfilling other than the curiosity for what burlesque is? I am familiar with the likes of Loie Fuller and how she was a pioneer back then. But we have long moved on, and I’m not sure modern burlesque acts are breaking any new grounds.

Then again, what do I know? I’ve only seen one show. Perhaps I’m only basing things on my caveman biases (though I challenge any caveman on their knowledge of Loie Fuller!).

The women that night were amateurs and had “real” bodies.  It wasn’t anything like Spearmint Rhino; otherwise my wife wouldn’t have been with us. It was quite artsy and not raunchy. I don’t think the acts were meant to be titillating at all. I’m not saying that as an offense to the performers, I just don’t believe that that was the goal.

It was a very interesting experience as a whole, something a little different to watch during drinks; however, I don’t understand what the women performers get out of it. I know people come to see it out of curiosity. Some locals might even think it’s a proper strip show since North American style strip shows are illegal here in South Korea. There was a group of guys out on a bachelor party that night, so maybe they were thinking that way. What an odd and artsy choice for a bachelor party!

But again, what about the women? What do they get out of it? It’s certainly not the money because there weren’t that many people watching. And I don’t imagine these women getting rich off of the act, otherwise they would be playing more regularly or have a better financial scheme. It could just be they’re showcasing their dancing skills because some of the acts were genuinely impressive. But some of the dances weren’t even that technical. Maybe it was some feminist, meta-empowerment thing… a sort of reclaiming of their sexuality of sorts, I don’t know.

Or maybe they’re just true artists. Maybe they’re performing because of the love for it. In a way, that makes them a little better than me because sometimes I hate drawing.

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Gooble Gobble

Thyroid

This is as close as I’ve ever come to a self portrait. It’s not anatomically correct, and no, I don’t have tentacles sticking out of me, but my goodness am I worried about my thyroid.

I’ve never done a self-portrait before, especially in the style of drawing that I do. A part of it is that I’m not really a big fan of my face. I find it narcissistic. And I don’t think so much of myself to the extent that I couldn’t afford narcissism. Another part is that a lot of what I write in my works is more personal and probably says more than a portrait would. A picture does not tell a thousand words. Pictures lie. Diaries however, while they may not be 100% truth, they show that particular person’s truth.

And speaking of my fears.

cancer

What a difference an article makes.

 

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A Year of Health Scare

buds

Last year, around the same time today, I got diagnosed with an enlarged thyroid. The doctors don’t quite know what to make of it and they said they would just put me under observation. “Come back in a year.” It’s been a year. I’ll see what’s going on this afternoon, fingers crossed.

After my diagnosis last year, I learned a couple of things. One is that my family has a history of it. My sister has an enlarged thyroid and she’s managing it with drugs. My mom had issues with her thyroid as well. I forgot all about it, but I do remember worrying about her having goiter when I was younger. In any case, according to test results, my hormone levels are fine so there’s really not much cause for concern for now.

The other thing I learned is that there’s a tendency for some Korean doctors to exaggerate the need for surgery when it comes to thyroid problems. Patients end up getting their thyroids removed, using drugs to manage their hormone levels, and harming themselves more in the long run. I guess it leads to more business for surgeons, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. So yeah, as immoral as it may seem, I have to exercise a bit of caveat emptor when it comes to medical diagnoses in this country.

It will be my mom’s birthday in a couple of days. Last year was horrible for me. It was started by the news regarding my health, and it just went downhill from there, one thing after another. God, I hope this year would be better.

Update: More tests, more bills. Despite the doctor’s reassurances, I feel more grim. Paying hospital bills hurts, but the waiting just adds more to the pain.

 

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