Tag Archives: education

Striking Viral Gold

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Lately, there’s this new mascot in Korea has skyrocketed in popularity. Pengsu is a headphones-wearing penguin that does 10-minute man-on-the-street skits produced by EBS, the Korea Educational Broadcasting System. Unlike a lot of Korean comedy, the character is able to attract both young children and adults with his witty ad-lib free of sexual overtones, cursing, or slapstick.

I must admit, I too find him amusing. The whole set-up is reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen skits. Talk to someone for a few minutes, move one, rinse and repeat. He also has recurring things he comes back to, basically building his own world simply by virtue of the story he spins.

Much like PBS, EBS survives through sponsorship and advertisement. Because they’re mainly focused on education, they’re not as attractive to companies compared to other bigger broadcasting companies in the country. The character Peng-su’s surge in popularity not only because of the character itself but also due to the story of an educational character crossing over to the viral mainstream. And that is one of the things that interest me most about the character. A lot of the character’s fans are quite keen on speculating on what products the character would or should endorse in the future. Already, I’ve seen news stories of companies courting the creators of the character to ink a deal to start hawking their merchandise.

Now I know that some characters or some shows are always in danger of not having enough funding to continue. It’s always difficult finding funding for the arts. But to me, the Peng-su phenomenon is akin to having a viral tweet or Instagram post. When an unknown account suddenly goes viral with one tweet, it is often followed by either the original poster advertising something in response to the sudden popularity or just shrugging it all off and linking to something innocuous. That attitude of “BAM! You’ve hit the big time, not milk this for all it’s worth” is so pervasive that it’s a tad off-putting. Now, I know that this has been going on since the very beginning of mass media, but now it’s almost the very first thing one thinks of the minute they get a hint of fame (or infamy even). And now it’s even come to cartoon mascots. It’s a bit weird. I mean, I enjoyed cartoons and different characters and media when I was younger, but not once did I think they should trade their fame for more advertising revenue. G.I. Joe was already selling me action figures. I didn’t think they should advertise McDonalds just so they could eke out more episodes. Sesame Street could easily survive if Big Bird started selling life insurance.

I’ve seen this kind of talk with athletes before in the country. And this I understand. The champion figure skater Kim Yoona was super popular (and still is) in the country and her fame coupled with her good looks made her a magnet for advertisers. And good for her, too. Athletes only have a few years to capitalize on their fame, so she did well with her advertising and she didn’t overdo it either.

I remember Howard Stern once saying, “just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.” Which is him saying just because you can be part of any sort of project just to make a few dollars, doesn’t mean you should say yes to everything. You can afford to not be part of everything. You can afford to say no. Which is more than I can say with some celebrities in Korea. There are times when the media just keeps on pumping the same set of people again, and again, and again. Sure, they might think their current popularity has a very short lifespan, but during that lifespan, I’m already sick of their face on television (Yes, I’m sick of Park Na-rae). This is one reason why I get easily put off by Korean television. It’s the same people again and again until you get sick of them.

Now, I do hope this Peng-su character lasts for a while. If anything, his popularity shows that there is more to Korean television than singing, people eating, or fake reality show BS. It’s also good to see a character be successful fueled mostly by wit. It’s a good departure from the standard brand of stand-up comedy you would see in Korean gag comedy.

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How About Just Stay Home Instead?

The experience of going to university is supposed to be opening one’s eyes, widening our horizons. Just by that virtue in itself, the nature of universities is very liberal. You meet people, you learn about the world, etc. This is why I don’t understand people entertaining the idea of conservatives posing as libertarians in campuses fighting against the liberal bias in academia. It is such a bold-faced farce that it boggles the mind how far it has come.

Turning Point USA has been wildly successful disseminating its poison in campuses. They have a professor’s watch list which aims to drive professors which they deemed as having a leftist bent out of campuses. They also provide platforms for far-right bomb throwers like Milo Yiannopoulos. It is a shame that Canada is not immune to this and now Simon Fraser will have a chapter calling itself Turning Point Canada in its campus. Despite distancing itself from the American group, it doesn’t take much to see how close it is the originators down south.

“Millennials seems to be increasingly more liberal, so this is just about offering an alternative view. Our professors and so on are increasingly majority liberal and maybe even further left than the Liberal Party of Canada.” How is that any different from Turning Point USA? And as much as the co-founder claim that they are not fans of Milo Yiannopoulos, I’m sure they would be more than happy to host his speeches in Canadian schools of Milo’s stock hasn’t fallen so low that he is now hawking pills for Alex Jones.

See, the reason why there are so many liberals in university is because once you open your mind to learning, to questioning, to empathy, then it is very difficult to subscribe to conservative or what many people would define as libertarian values. Read a couple of books, talk to a couple of people, grow up a little, and you’ll realize that Ayn Rand is a selfish hack. Why come to university to reinforce conservative values when the very act of leaving your small town and living and studying in university is the very definition of being non-conservative? Be conservative? Then live by your old codes, stay in your town, and don’t bother learning new information. Why go to university in order to learn more? Why spin a cocoon when all you want is to remain a caterpillar?

And maybe I’m wrong here, but in terms of academia married to liberal thought, has there even been progress in anything while being fueled by rigid conservative ideals? Has there ever been anything new and wonderful that originated in selfish libertarian values that didn’t end in outright disaster? Laissez-faire is great in expanding the marketplace of ideas and freedom in theory, but caveat emptor will ultimately be too tiring if not deadly. Conservative academia is farce and libertarianism is an unworkable selfish dream.

This really worries me right now because the alt-right’s current darling, Jordan Peterson, is a Canadian, and his pseudo-intellectual arguments, though sometimes difficult to discern, is really quite ridiculous and is nothing but vile racism and misogyny. We also recently had a terrorist incident inspired by incels, a men’s group who gather online and share misogynistic and racist sentiments due to their inability to get attention from the opposite sex. So yeah, Canada now has old hatred cloaking itself open-mindedness, academia, or victimhood right in its own backyard.  The hateful right is coming for our universities and will soon target our teachers.

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On Keeping It Inside

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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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No English For Me

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I’ve been trying to learn Korean on and off for the past few years. I’ve taken Korean classes, listened to tapes, did the whole Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur thing. My problem is there hasn’t really been many opportunities for me to practice speaking Korean, and my level remains pretty low. My wife and I speak English to each other, and I don’t need to use any Korean at work. I suppose it would be easier if I was interested in any Korean media, but there’s really nothing on television that interests me at all. As for K-pop, no. No, just no.

So what’s the plan now? From now on, the rule will be to use Korean exclusively whenever I’m home. It will be a frustrating experiment but it will hopefully force me to learn more Korean and get used to speaking the language, or at least get me used to speaking key phrases that couples use all the time. People on average use 5000 words out of the 50,000 to 250,000 words in their personal vocabulary. I figure most of those words combine to a handful of routine conversational phrases which I really should be practicing more (I guess that’s a bit of a sad state of affairs regarding conversation between married people).

Well, good luck to me, I guess. Hopefully I don’t get too bored, lose my sense of humor and personality, or just stay quiet the rest of the time I’m home.

I actually think my wife has a crush on one or two of the foreigners on Korean talk shows who speak fluent Korean. I suppose that’s natural, and I really can’t fault a person for that. It just boggles my mind however the extent that the foreigners on television who speak Korean fluently also pander and adopt behavior that for lack of a better word, is so alien to their home country (at least in my opinion) They also entertain topics of conversation that would at the very least get my eye rolling and at most, enrage me. Is this what happens when you learn Korean? Or at least when you learn Korean for Korean television?

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Worry Sex Children Japanese Shooter

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Random thoughts:

It’s funny how what was an all-consuming thought last week is now almost a blip. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry about things and how the events from last Monday will affect me, but now I got other things in mind… trivial yet consumes me more. And isn’t that the biggest luxury of all? Being free to think and obsess over the trivial things?

Speaking of all consuming, Norm MacDonald is right. Men don’t think about sex every six seconds. They only do so once in a while. The problem is, the minute men think about sex, it’s all they could ever think about. It takes an orgasm to get them all sleepy and out of that funk. And no, I’m not saying I’m currently thinking about sex.

Met an old friend last week. I haven’t seen him for about eight years or so. He’s now got two kids. This got me looking at my other old friends. Most of them have kids now as well. Heck, one of my old roommates has three. I don’t know how a person could afford three kids in this economy. Anyway, sometimes I feel left out. Like I should be moving on and having kids at some point. Then I remember how unstable my life can be and how demanding children are. Glad none of my orgasms ever became people.

I just learned yesterday that a girl I know in Japan is a bit of a nut… a Japanese right wing nut. It’s one thing to honor the dead and respect a bit of your culture and history, but it’s another to honor the war criminals from World War II. I honestly don’t know how anyone in Japan can take politicians and people like these seriously. Look: there was a war. Japan was one of the bad guys. Maybe some soldiers did it for God and country. Maybe some were forced. But they were the bad guys and they did some pretty horrible things. Sure, the Japanese government has “apologized” many times, but they’ve also turned back on their apologies as well. And people still honor war criminals like they deserve it.

I guess the reason why the Japanese don’t get so villified and that they sometimes get a pass for flying the Rising Sun Flag is because the media hasn’t really made enemies of them as much as they did the Nazis. It’s why Japanese educators think they can just skip the horrors they did on history books because it’s not played on the media much. Look at the last few years. How many games have been made involved shooting Nazis? How many games have been made involved shooting Imperial Japanese?

And speaking of shooting. Korean men are required by law to serve two years in the military. One man went berzerk yesterday and gunned down twelve people. He must’ve really hated the place because he only had two months to go before he could resume civilian life. And to this day, they still cannot find him. There’s a popular reality show here about life in the military. It shows comoraderie and how Korean men are toughened up in the barracks. I never liked the show because it’s all boring machismo bullshit which inadvertently wanders off to the latent homosexual. Plus, it’s a reality show. I guess they glossed over the parts where they sometimes make soldiers go insane.

How’s that for a random thoughts?

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What Have I Done Now?

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Religious Rant Warning!

People have different religions, and even those of the same religion have different versions of the of the god they’re supposed to be worshipping. Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God. I’m a Roman Catholic, and there are two different versions of my personal savior, the Old Testament version and the New Testament. The New Testament is a Trinity as well, so there are three different versions of Him. I hope things get better for me though, cause lately, I feel like my personal savior is the Old Testament God… the vengeful and jealous version who tests his followers, makes dietary requirements, brings plague and pestilence, turns the curious into pillars of salt, banishes people from paradise, and takes away everything he has given.

Or maybe that’s just my Catholic guilt.

I wish I was raised more with the Christian God who loves unconditionally, the one who understands that we are human with human weaknesses, the one who loves the sinner, encourages us to turn the other cheek, and keeps us from hell.

But teaching me about that God was too much to ask for the headmasters in my old Catholic school. How else can you control a classroom with fifty kids? You scare them into obedience, that’s how. And now when things beyond my control go wrong, I usually think, “What have you done, Joe? This is somehow related to your failings. You’re an awful person.” as opposed to, “Don’t worry, Joe. It’ll be alright. You’re only human, and shit happens.”

I end up punishing myself mentally until I get ulcers.

Update: Less than ten minutes after this post, bad news hit me.

 

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Did I Help Start a Dumb Porn Site?

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Started making art again. Yay! It’s been a while, a month perhaps, since the last time I made art. I’ve just been sitting in front of my sketch pad not wanting to draw a thing. Artists would know this… wanting to do something but not knowing just what to do… having the television run on the background, watching time waste away. Luckily, I’m now inspired to work and make something. It’s good to finally want something done on paper.

I also started studying again. I always want to be reading something for a purpose. Fiction has its place, but I already flood myself with so much fiction that it’s good to study and perhaps retain something that might be useful at some point. Last time, I took a law and justice course to get myself reading something productive. I like to think that at the end of my studies, despite me not suddenly working in law, it has made me a better Canadian by knowing a little more about the country’s law and history.

This time, I’m trying my hand at html coding and javascript. It’s always been something that I regretted not knowing how to do. People assume that I’m a bit of a nerd and that I know my way around computers. I actually do know my way around computers and electronics, but I have no idea about programming. It was something that I totally missed back in the 90s. It’s time to change that.

Speaking of coding and computers and people assuming that I know how to do things. I remember back in university when I ran into an old high school friend who just disappeared from my life. He ran into some trouble back in high school and became sort of a delinquent. Drugs, break-ins, juvie, etc. Anyway, I was crossing the street on my way home when I suddenly ran into him. He told me he’s trying to do well but he needs some help. I wasn’t about to give him any money, but I told him I’d help him out. He said he wanted to educate himself; that he wanted to learn more about computers, and maybe run a website or something. Maybe I could help him sign up for a course.

Pleased with hearing all of this, we immediately went to a computer college, talked to some advisors, and got him some materials to look through for his courses. I even took him to financial aid, so maybe he could apply for some assistance. All of this in the span of a couple of hours. Pretty efficient.

With my good deed done, I was beat and ready to end the sudden reunion and wish my old friend good luck on his new chapter in life. Before saying goodbye however, I asked him what does he plan to do in the future after learning more about computers.

“You don’t see Native women porn on the Internet. I think I could have the first Website to feature that.”

Disappointed and disgusted, I wished him good luck anyway. I didn’t see him again for seven years.

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Naughty Nudes English Class

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I was talking to someone who teaches English here in South Korea. She teaches adults; late twenties to early fifties. I’m amazed at how she describes these adult ESL classes, with some students being petulant and difficult, and teachers needing to “handle naughty students.”

Naughty? Petulant? How exactly do you “handle” an adult in class? I was really surprised because the behavior being described to me sounds more like something out of an elementary or middle school class, not from a room full of adults who by now I assume have developed a fair bit of empathy (not just for the other students in class but also for the instructor who’s just trying to get it through the hour). I have taught before. I taught children and adults alike and I found that the few times I taught a small class of adults, it was actually enjoyable. It’s never the stressful hell I hear from teachers.

But what cause this behavior among grown adults? In university, I’ve never witnessed a situation where someone in class was being difficult. I imagine if that was the case, other students would police the class because they are there to learn as well. I’ve taken Korean classes in the country before. While the room is filled with western students, if someone was being difficult, it wasn’t to the extent that it would case stress to the instructor. It would often be someone needing more assistance, not someone being disruptive. What I hear from adult ESL teachers is sometimes surprising (and in one case, a student abusing another student).

Is it the whole I’m-older-and-I-get-to-talk-down-to-whomever culture? Is it the feeling of privilege that comes from paying for someone to be in a room? (You’re here to entertain us.) Is it students acting out due to stress? Is it bad teaching?

ESL is big business in the country. And unfortunately, Native English teachers are sometimes given the role of babysitting the nation’s children instead of teaching them English. But who can blame young children? Sometimes the foreign face in the room is the first one they’ve ever seen in their life, and they don’t know how to act, much less treat them as authority figures or instructors. But how do you explain babysitting some adults?

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Oh Basics!

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Part of my job is instructing people on how to fix problems on the books my company publishes. It infuriates me however that sometimes the artists we work with appear to have no formal art training whatsoever. We had such n artist last week. This is an illustrator from South Korea, a country where those with artistic talents are discouraged to pursue careers as artists but instead work on the technical aspect of art and pursue careers in graphic design and advertising where there would always be a need for them.

I’m not claiming I’m a great technical artist, but the artist we were working with yesterday seems to have no idea about proportions and perspective. She also drew objects which made no sense… like people who climbed ladders hands free. We try to explain the problem to her, but she just came back with the laziest of solutions and the most minor of changes. Fortunately, I was just working as a consultant and was not working with her directly, otherwise I would’ve yelled at her myself. Now, I realize that she’s not earning a fortune doing small assignments for us, but that doesn’t give her the right to phone it in. It was just embarrassing/frustrating, and I’m amazed at the patience of my Korean co-workers whose heads didn’t explode working with such an inept illustrator.

Let this be a lesson to all future illustrators out there. Learn perspective and proportions first. Don’t learn from Rob Liefeld. Observe things in real life. Or if you’re going to learn from other artists, make sure they are good ones. And don’t fall in-love with your own work. Learn to change it for the sake of the client. That will get everyone out of the office early on a Friday night.

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