Tag Archives: depression

My Obsession With One Photo

Ever since I saw it back when I was studying art in university, I’ve always been haunted by Duane Michal’s work, This Photograph is My Proof. It is one of my favorite images. It talks about longing and holding on to things which may or may not be true anymore. It is both sad and happy. It is mourning for love that is no longer there, but it is also celebrating love that used to exist.

대학에서 미술을 공부할 때 그것을 본 이후로 저는 항상 Duane Michals의 사진이 This Photograph is My Proof에 매료되었습니다. 제가 가장 좋아하는 이미지 중 하나이에요. 그것은 더 이상 사실 일 수도 있고 아닐 수도있는 것들을 갈망하고 붙잡는 것에 대해 이야기해요. 슬프고 행복해요. 더 이상 존재하지 않는 사랑에 대한 애도이고, 존재했던 사랑을 축하하는 것이기도해요.

Back when I first saw it, I was in a sad pathetic time in my life. And I guess every time I’m in that space, the picture always comes back to me. “Look, there was a time I was happy!”

처음 보았을 때 제 인생이 슬픈 한심한 시간을 보냈어요. 그리고 그 상황에 있을 때마다 그 사진이 항상 제게 돌아 오는 것 같아요. “이봐, 내가 행복했던 때가 있었어!”

It really applies to any picture and any situation. Here, I can put it on my image and it can equally apply even though my photography does not compare to Duane Michals’.

모든 그림과 상황에 실제로 사용할수 있어요. 여기에서 내 이미지에 붙일 수 있어요. 내 사진이 Duane Michals와 비교하지 않아도 똑같이 사용할수 있어요.

The picture also talk about how pictures communicate moments in the past, and because of that, they might not be true anymore. Pictures lie. In This Photograph is My Proof, the image says something, but the words elaborate things more and perhaps contradicts what is going on. But really, the writer could have written anything else as well. The writer could’ve lied if he wanted to. “Things are still great between us. She loves me. I love her.”

이 사진은 또한 사진을 과거의 순간을 어떻게 전달하는지에 대해 이야기하며, 그로 인해 더 이상 사실이 아닐 수도 있어요. 사진은 자주 거짓말이에요. This Photograph is My Proof에 이미지는 무언가를 말하지만, 단어는 상황을 더 정교하게 만들고 무슨 일이 일어나고 있는지 모순되요.

A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend and purged all of her images on his Instagram. You know why? Because, “those photographs are proofs” that love existed between them once. And now, he would rather pretend that it didn’t exist in the first place. Online, people controlling the message on their images is more pervasive than Duane Michal’s pen. But still, he saw that people control their images, people are sad, and the past is often never as good as the present.

내 친구가 최근 여자 친구와 헤어지고 Instagram에서 모든 사진을 삭제했어요. 왜 그런지 알아? 왜냐하면 “그 사진들은 그들 사이에 한때 사랑이 존재했다는 증거”이기 때문에. 그리고 이제 그는 애초에 그 상황이 존재하지 않는 척하고 있어요. 온라인에서 사진의 메시지를 제어하는 사람들이 Duane Michals의 펜보다 더 널리 퍼져 있어요. 그러나, 여전히 그는 사람들이 자신의 사진을 통제하고, 사람들이 슬프고, 과거가 현재만큼 좋지 않다는 것을 알았어요.

Notice how I’m trying to write some of this in Korean? I’m trying to be more serious with my Korean studies, bad grammar and all.

제가 이걸 한국어로 왜 쓰려고하는지 알 겠어요? 저는 한국어 공부하는것은 진지하게 노력하고 있지라도 잘못된 문법이 보통 사영해요 .

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Bah Humburgers

I started not liking Christmas back in 2018, what a horrible Christmas that was. Looking back, I’ve had different kinds of Christmases in my long existence: warm family-oriented celebrations with gifts and all sorts of food, depressing Christmases spent all by myself, saucy Christmases similar to those found on Internet videos, but Christmas 2018 truly ruined Christmas for me. It was the worst. I don’t want to dwell too much on the details, but it started a miserable trend to which I’m not sure I could recover from. And now every Christmas, I get reminded of that horrible night. Ever had that happen to you? A holiday you’ve cherished since childhood has been turned into a depressing reminder? Well, that’s me. So yeah, I’m really in no mood for trees, decorations, and presents.

And now it’s 2020, and it seems like the rest of the world is catching up with my feelings towards Christmas. Everyone’s sentiment towards the holidays is just a little bit closer to how I feel about it. It’s a day where you’re supposed to find joy despite everything in your life being miserable and hopeless.

In any case, I hope you’re doing better than I am. I hope your holidays, your year, and your life is better than mine. Smile and be happy. Things can only get better, count your blessings, someone else’s situation is always worse, etc. Etc.

….

Let me continue my depressing rant with what I imagine is an unpopular take: photorealism is not art, at least most people’s take on photorealism is not art. It annoys me how people are too focused on the initial shock at the skill of rendering an image with an almost photographic precision when the image itself is not saying anything that the original photograph already said. It doesn’t matter whether I see the works on galleries or on Instagram. They are not art. Simply, they are an exercises in meticulous reproduction. Re-drawing a photorealistic image of a beautiful woman by hand doesn’t change nor add meaning to the original photograph. It’s merely a change in medium. If anything, it just tells me that the artist spent an inordinate amount of time staring at a picture of a woman doing something a colored printer can easily do. Photorealism is akin to having great penmanship and re-writing great literary works. It is re-writing, not writing.

Steve Martin said that the joy of looking at Edward Hopper paintings, or many other paintings for that matter, is figuring out the meaning of the work. Why are elements of the work placed in a particular way? What are characters or objects in the piece meant to tell the viewer? This is why some works can endure being seen once or twice, like a long game of chess. And once you figure it out, the work is dead. It is very easy to lose interest in it. This is why most photorealistic pieces don’t work for me. The one thing that most viewers try to figure out is, “How did the artist do this?” and “How long did it take?” And the answer is already in the questions. With enough time, practice, and even techniques like tracing or drawing grids, I believe anyone can duplicate photographs. And once the viewer comes to that answer or has recovered from the initial awe of realizing that, “it’s not a photograph,” then it’s just a quick stroll around images that don’t say anything beyond the original.

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy photorealism. I do. I actually like the works of Torlakson, Blackwell, and others, as well as the hyperrealist movement as a whole. But most photorealist works that try to pass off as art, in my opinion, is not really art. They are bland exercises. Photorealism is often craft disguised as art. And even that comment is doing a disservice to many people who do crafts because some “crafts” could very well be works of art. I cannot say the same for the many of the photorealistic works I see. I’m sure the artists themselves are very talented and are demonstrably quite resilient and patient, but they are better served doing other types of work. The real tragedy in all of this cuts two ways. Talented people are spending too much time making art that is shallow and not really art, and people are actually taking the time to look at and admire “art” are not getting anything out of it other than, “wow, the artist is really talented. He didn’t say anything, but he is really talented.”

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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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Grandma

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away last night. Due to COVID-19, I won’t be able to make it to the funeral. 2020 really knows how to make an impression.

I never met any of my grandfathers. Both of them passed away before I was born, Less than two years ago, my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away in Hawaii. I officially don’t have any grandparents anymore. And my father, he is technically an orphan. As I’m writing this, he’s trying to catch a flight to the funeral, but with COVID-19, quarantines and all, who knows if he’ll even make it. But yeah, as a son, at the very least, he has to try.

It’s been many years since I last saw my grandmother. At the time, she was proudly showing off the dress she planned to be buried in. Even back then, she had a very comfortable relationship with death, and she planned and paid for everything. It was morbid, pragmatic, and in many ways hopeful. Perhaps death isn’t that scary. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned, I haven’t been the best grandson to her; I barely kept in touch. And though I love her, I was mostly absent from her life.

She was an educator, teaching elementary school students. I have some memories of her teaching me some math when I was younger. I remember starting out being notoriously bad at math, although later, it became one of the more easier subjects for me. Maybe it was thanks to her, or maybe it was thanks to a cosmic triangle I wore on my head to make myself smarter.

My grandmother raised my eldest sister when she was young. She was like a second mother to her. When I and the rest of my siblings were born, we had nannies take care of us, but that doesn’t mean my grandmother wasn’t a part of our lives. I still remember her homemade remedies for minor ills which she administered to us when we were young. I always thought of them as superstitious gypsy magic.

Growing up, she hated me playing video games. She said that it would ruin my eyes. Admittedly, back then, my eyes were a bit dry and itchy, and I did blink quite a bit. But right now, I’m the only one in the family not wearing glasses. So maybe it was the opposite. Maybe it made eyes better. Also back when I was ten years old, she taught me and my sisters how to play mahjong. God bless her.

There are more odd stories about my grandmother, including hypnotists, dancing statues, and dead Japanese soldiers, but I’ll just leave that for another time. For now, I would like to remember her as a selfless woman who cared for everyone, made our lives more colorful, and mourned for my mother as if she was her own daughter.

I love you, Grandma. May your soul rest in peace.

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Triumph Over Depression, Please

I’m halfway to my collection of ten. This is a re-interpretation of an old idea and a piece I did a couple of years ago, ‘Injektilo.’ It means syringe. It is one of my favorite words in Esperanto. The piece is based on the triumph of reason over superstition.

I can feel it again, this depression, this crippling depression. There is no hope for the future, this weekend is going to be miserable, and there is really no good reason to get up in the morning. I can feel the weight of everyone’s judgmental eyes on me, and I reek of disappointment. I’m constantly hurting and disappointing people. But despite all of this, I wake up early in the morning to start my day. The world is so cruel that it doesn’t even let me sleep long enough to enjoy a longer escape. Instead, the hours and the minutes drag like molasses, each second slowly passes with the threat of some phantom axe about to drop on me. God bless the people around me who try to be cheerful and make the day better, and I try to reciprocate and smile back with a clever quip or two, but God help me, it’s been very difficult lately. Talking to myself hasn’t been good for months now. I can be quite jovial, but I’m very mean-spirited, especially to myself. It’s not good. It’s not good. It’s not good. Things will never be okay again.

Yesterday I tasted a lone cherry seed. It was bittersweet and tasted like almonds and cherries as it lingered and I crushed it in my mouth. I was too much of a coward to try another one. I’m curious but cowardly. I’m not there, yet. Besides, I still have work to finish.

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I’m so tired.

Long weekends are horrible nightmares. They are catalysts for depression. I had half a mind to just jump off a building and kill myself already, but then I figured, I should at least finish the book I’m making before I totally commit. I realize I won’t be missed at all. I’m an incredibly shitty human being. But I like to think that my work would be missed or at least appreciated after I’m gone. At least there’s that. So maybe leave off failed nighttime parkour accidents for a while until I’ve printed a copy of the book I’m working on.

Speaking of works. This latest one was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and the covers of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels. I know, the references are ancient and outdated, but I don’t care. In this piece, I tried to draw things which intimidate me to draw, specifically, wheelchairs or anything with spokes, the mirror on mirror effect, pool reflections, and directly referencing another famous work of art. This one references Juan Luna’s ‘Spoliarium.’ Juan Luna, just like me, is also a shitty human being. He shot his Spanish wife and his mother-in-law. I can’t stand him, and I can’t stand how his boring works are venerated. What a piece of shit! But really, almost all good artists are pieces of shit. Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Paul Gaugin… the list is long. Of course, I’m not saying I’m a great artist like the people I listed. I’m pretty certain I will be easily forgotten when I’m gone. But I believe I’m equally a piece of shit like the rest of them.

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Wasted Year

This coming weekend is the long Korean Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a short work week, but outside of seeing relatives, there’s really not much to look forward to outside of just staying indoors. The Korean government is asking people to stay at home and don’t visit their hometowns during the holiday in order to keep the coronavirus infection rate low. Ever since the resurgence of the virus a few weeks ago caused by a right wing religious group, Korea’s been bouncing back and forth between over 100 to lower than 100 infections per day and people are worried that the long holiday will make the infection rate skyrocket. It’s been even more dangerous lately because most of the cases have been untraceable. So yeah, this means more staying at home, more Netflix, and more getting frustrated/bored. A long weekend sound horrible right now. It is literally making me anxious.

And really, what is there to be thankful for? 2020 has been a depressing slog. I can’t think of any way that I have progressed this year outside of getting a small raise at work. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m still employed, and I am, but that’s been a really low bar in this horrible, horrible year. I mean for crying out loud, Burger King and McDonalds just announced that they won’t be able to have tomatoes in their burgers due to floodings and the tremendously high price of vegetables this year. Tomatoes… we don’t even get tomatoes this year. What a joyless, depressing year!

I’ve noticed it recently, and I’ve heard from a couple of my friends about it, but Instagram isn’t really letting people grow in their platform these days. I had a bit of a growth spurt two years ago, but lately I’ve been seeing myself plateau to maybe just a handful of followers a week. I’ll even get bots following me and unfollowing me after a while which really makes my weekly analytics totally unreliable. I think Instagram has been infected by the awful that made Facebook an awful platform. It is now openly discouraging people to grow their followers outside of paying to promote their posts for more visibility. It’s always there, that “promote” button waiting for people to push their content to more people. As for it actually working, a couple of Youtube videos tell me the investment isn’t really worth it. It doesn’t really add up to more views or followers.

I’m not really trying to grow my followers or anything. I have no grand delusions of making a living out of social networks. I just want people to see my work. But with this new Instagram algorithm making the platform a pay-to-play scheme, it makes it that much harder to get my work out there. And what gets to me is that I’m just an unknown artist who could die unknown and it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference to me. It must really suck for full-time artists who live and die from marketing themselves on social platforms. Seriously, everything Facebook touches turns to absolute shit.

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I Notice There’s a Lot of Suicide in My Entries.

Fountain

So a neighbor committed suicide on Monday evening. She jumped from the 13th floor of the building and landed on someone’s car. This was after a series of fights she and her husband had been having, at least according to the security personnel in the apartment. Apparently, she didn’t pass away immediately, instead, they lost her on the way to the hospital. I only hope she immediately lost consciousness and was brain dead by the time she hit the ground. What keeps most people from committing suicide is the dread of immeasurable physical pain on the way to dying. The thought of suffering through minutes, seconds of dying horrifies me.

Compounding the tragedy, she leaves behind two children, both no older than 10 years old.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced suicide around me. I still remember a few years ago seeing someone’s leg twitching after falling a mere four floors. What’s always constant through these experiences, and I guess with death in general, is the surreal feeling, the numbness. It takes a while for things to register. For one, it takes me a while to realize that the building will now be haunted, and elevator rides (with the window peeking into every floor hallway) will now be a tad creepier.

Korea is consistently high on the suicide rate list, surpassing its neighbor, Japan. It’s not unusual to hear about high-profile suicides happening. Just recently, I wrote about the mayor of Seoul committing suicide after sexual harassment allegations. I believe these high-profile deaths only fuels more suicides in the country. And as someone who suffers from waves of depression and anxiety, I must admit I occasionally toy with the idea of dying in my lowest state, often approaching dying much like an engineering problem: how does one do it quickly and with the least pain? And I always end up distracting myself or my cowardice overcoming my despair (a win?).

Anyway, there’s been a couple of interesting artsy developments that happened this week (a couple of commissions, being included in a magazine), but a stranger dying close by just kinda overwhelms everything at the moment. 2020 continues to be a shit show.

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Posts from Coward Town

Spacecraft

Back in 2017, a man in BC was eating cherries and he happened upon a couple of cracked seeds. He ended up eating the pits inside He later experienced stomach and chest pains, dizziness, trouble breathing, and disorientation. He was hospitalized and was later found to have symptoms of cyanide poisoning. The two cherry pits, chewed and reacting with digestive juices, essentially produced cyanide in his stomach.

I’ve always heard rumors about apple seeds, almonds, and cherry pits having a bit of cyanide. Later, I learned that so many fruit pits do contain toxins. I guess it wasn’t just me because watching Ozark (Spoilers!), one of the main characters dies after being poisoned with two ground up cherry pits in his coffee. Looking it up online, many people have been curious about cherry pits’ toxicity and “experts” have either been warning that only two pits could kills a person or that one would need to chew around 30 pits in order to get a toxic effect. Fortunately, cherry seeds have a very hard shell and it’s very difficult to crack one inside your mouth. Most people who swallow cherry seeds probably pass them with the toxic pit inside unmolested.

Last Thursday, I bought a pack of cherries. Planting so many cherry seeds, I have experience cracking cherry seeds open. With a vice grip, I got the skill down pat. Looking around online, it seems that 30-40 pits chewed would be toxic to humans. I’ve seen a video of a person eating one cherry pit, so I’m thinking if the body can neutralize one or two pits’ worth of naturally-formed cyanide, 30 to 40 or so would probably overwhelm a person’s liver. Now after an hour of enjoying a bag of cherries, it took me less than thirty minutes to have over forty cherry pits extracted. It’s simply not that difficult. And looking at my harvested pits, they are so small, they look like a handful of pine nuts. I could probably mix them with regular nuts, eat them while mindlessly watching a dumb Youtube video, and I’d be on my merry way.

As written by Hammerstein and Kerr, and famously sang by Paul Robeson, “I’m tired of living, but scared of dying.” The scariest thought is not so much as the quick deterioration from poisoning but the idea of surviving it. Nerve damage, losing organ functions, brain damage, etc. I already wrote a will long time ago, which despite not being the intent, the document reads like a really passive-aggressive suicide note. It would be super awkward to have tried suicide, suffer damages, torture people around, and have them really know what you thought about them. As if life wasn’t unbearable enough.

To a determined person, cracking 30-40 seeds isn’t so much a deterrent. It’s not a hurdle. Chewing the pits might even be pleasant. They might taste good. However, it’s the cowardice. The cowardice is the deterrent.

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