Tag Archives: insects

Oh Manitoba!

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Thank you Manitoba Arts Network for having my works for their 2017-2018 touring exhibition. It’s always nice to have people appreciate my work, that the works I make are not just for me personally, that they could mean something else to some people as well.

 

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We’re all John B McLemore Sometimes.

1 Goat

S-Town, from the makers of Serial and This American Life, is a glorious podcast. What started out as a crime mystery in a rural town quickly becomes an examination of tortured existence. It was good podcast to listen to after finishing Missing Richard Simmons. Both podcasts deal with examining people who have grown uncomfortable with the lives they lead. Though Richard Simmons claim he’s living well and is comfortable with how his life is, the podcast certainly explored the idea that he’s currently living a life of torture, either as someone who’s held captive, or someone who has grown tired pushing himself to creating a persona that has gone out of control. In any case, it didn’t get as dark as S-Town got. Both podcasts remind me of the Hammerstein line from ‘Ol’ Man River’ – “I’m tired of living, and scared of dying.” We all get tired of living. I can honestly say that I’ve been having more and more days where I am just tired of it all. Not enough to end everything, of course. I’m too much of a coward for that. But at one point on June 22, 2015, John B. McLemore got so tired of life’s slow, mundane misery, that he was no longer scared of dying.

Now, the podcast explored many reasons for John’s depression: his family life, his sexuality, his grief over his dog, his frustrations with his town, his obsessions with global ills, mercury poisoning, etc. It was evident that John was actually surrounded by people who are his friends, not just in his hometown, but throughout the world via the Internet. He is, after all, one of the world’s foremost experts in restoring antique timepieces. But despite not being alone, he believed he was lonely, to which host Brian Reed asks, “Is there really a difference?”

Despite being in a rather ideal situation, having money, a stable relationship, etc., can a person will themselves to depression and keep their joys to a minimum? It would seem this is exactly what John has done. He hated his town, and yet he stayed. He could’ve been more open with his sexuality, and yet he chose circumstances which kept him in the closet. He lashed at people who were genuinely his friends. He became addicted to information on the Internet that was upsetting him. He was constantly giving himself reasons to feel bad, like writing daily notes of self-denial instead of self-affirmation.

I wonder if that’s how things really are. That it can all be boiled down to simple mental exercise. Keep telling yourself that there is a God, and every little event in life would be God’s little miracle in your eyes. Keep telling yourself that you don’t deserve any happiness, and every little event would be proof that you don’t deserve any earthly joy. You are a fuck up, and the world will prove that you are. Why should you be happy when the world is a miserable place and you are miserable yourself. Keep telling yourself you’re lonely despite having good days. For as Brian Reed said, “Is there really a difference?” Perhaps at some point, you’ll get so tired of living, that you will no longer be scared.

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Osaka Again

Goat 4

Off to Osaka this week. I’ve been going to Osaka quite frequently recently. It’s a great city, people are friendly, and most things to do are pretty accessible. If you’re going to do Japan for the first time, I recommend Osaka. Tokyo is way too busy. Most of the interesting places to visit in Tokyo are separated by several subway rides. Tourists would end up spending a great portion of their time on the train. Go to Osaka instead; all the key Japanese things to do are pretty much in the same area.

Speaking of Osaka, I saw a short virtual reality video off of Littlstar, the VR video network. Here’s a tip, if you’re gonna make a video and call it “Passport Osaka,” don’t spend half of it on the tattooed expat. Most of the people visiting Osaka aren’t there to visit a foreigner’s tattoo parlor. And I really wouldn’t call Dotonbori and Amerikamura “best-kept secrets” either. They’re two of the main places where tourists go. Blergh.

 

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South Korea’s Interesting Weekend

Goat 3

I was in the middle of the rallies on the presidential impeachment last Friday and last Saturday. I couldn’t really avoid it last Friday. The pro-Park Geun Hye supporters were marching in front of my building. There were riot police and everything. It wasn’t very violent when I went out for coffee, but three people ended up dying during the protest after it was announced that the decision to impeach the South Korean president would stand.

On Saturday, my wife and I decided to check out the celebration for the ousting of the president. It was in Gwanghwamun, the place where Koreans have been holding their weekly rallies to protest against the president. Like every week, there was going to be a concert, and my favorite Korean singer Jun In Kwon would be performing. I felt more comfortable going to the event, because it wasn’t so much a protest or anything but a celebration for what is a historic event for the peninsula.

What was a little scary however was that we had to pass by the pro-Park Geun Hye supporters on the way to the rally. They were all waving the South Korean flag and old-fashioned patriotic songs were blaring on speakers. The mood was dark, and my wife and I didn’t feel too comfortable walking past them, especially since we’re a biracial couple (despite the fact that many of the protesters were also waving the American flag). It was weird, the site of the Korean flag brought about an almost nefarious aura. The site of riot police and police barricades separating the two factions didn’t help ease the mood either.

The mood on the anti-Park Geun Hye side was celebratory. People were smiling. It felt like being surrounded by people whose collective burden was just recently been released. Of course, there were still angry calls for the former president to move out of the presidential residence and for her to be prosecuted.

On Sunday, most major Korean channels showed the president moving to her private residence. She was welcomed by her supporters, all waving the Korean flag. It was a strange affair. She was greeted by her party members, and she shook hands with them, all smiling, waving at her supporters. If I didn’t know the context or didn’t know Korean, I would’ve assumed she just got elected as president instead of being ousted. What’s more remarkable is that instead of addressing her supporters and the recent decision by the Supreme Court, she had a representative read a prepared statement saying the “the truth will come out.” I don’t know what this is possibly referring to. The highest court in the land already made a decision. If it’s referring to her impending criminal prosecution, she’d best not acknowledge it just yet.

I try to be impartial when it comes to the country’s politics, but the fact that the former president didn’t make a public statement immediately after the decision on Friday was very disappointing. She could’ve at least tried to unite the country and try to calm her protesters down. Perhaps people wouldn’t have died if she did. And the fact that she still hasn’t made a public statement is thumbing her nose at the justice system and not showing her supporters any respect. At least Nixon had the decency to make resignation speech. There have been talks about the country being divided, but truly, South Korea is not divided. Park Geun Hye enjoyed a 5% approval rating, and most of the country wanted her out. If there’s any division, I believe it’s just a division in the type of media people consume, with each side embracing their own set of facts and claiming the other side is fake news. It’s no different than other countries. But what would have helped make the country less divided, is if the former president called for unity after being impeached. At least recognize that the zeal partisan politics and distrust is at least part of what got her ousted.

I believe it’s going to be a long process, prosecuting the former president. There has been months of weekly protests, and I think it won’t take much for people to take to the streets again. It’s almost like a slow but magical form of direct democracy. It could get addictive.

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On Child-like Leaders

Goat 2

The thing with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un’s unpredictability is that he’s been given, GIVEN, the job of running the country as his first job. Not only was he just some rich kid living in Switzerland given the job of running a throwback country, but as the role of supreme dictator, he’s under the constant threat of usurpation from his handlers, his people, and even his family. He constantly needs to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course) and threaten his neighbors as well as his inner circle, lest he becomes another Muamar Gaddafi. This explains the occasional super villainesque murders of his associates and family members. It also explains the rather extreme reactions to slights against the regime.

There’s been a political rift lately between South Korea and China, with South Korea building a missile defense system (THAAD) against North Korea which is equipped with radar technology capable of penetrating deep into Chinese territory. South Korea defends the missile system as a defense against the North. I imagine in normal circumstances this would’ve been fine with China, since they appear to be losing their patience with North Korea. They recently cut off coal exports from North Korea because of their recent missile tests. But the South Korean government is partnered with the United States, and there is deep distrust between the two rivaling military powers. Also, the South Korean government seems oddly determined to install the missile defense system despite its unpopularity among the locals. After all, the North doesn’t need missiles to attack the South. Traditional artillery fire could reach Seoul just fine (But whether it could take the South is another matter). I suspect the installation of the missile system is either the US military slyly using South Korea to contain China, or perhaps some people are getting enriched with military contracts and the sale Lockheed Martin’s systems. In any case, without the North Korean threat, the whole missile defense system argument would be moot, and China wouldn’t be imposing travel bans to South Korea and threatening a ban on South Korean products.

So yes, because Kim Jung Un is an unpredictable player, it leads people and government outside of North Korea to act out in ways which ultimately hurt them. South Korea and China doesn’t need to be feuding at the moment. They are important partners in various industries. Korea doesn’t need to a build ridiculous missile system when North Korea would be committing economic suicide should they ever decide to full-on attack one of its neighbors. But Kim Jung Un’s child-like capriciousness gives people the excuse to do so.

Kim Jung Un was snatched up from his comfortable life in Switzerland to fill his father’s shoes. I doubt if he ever dreamed of living the rest of his life dressing up and pretending to be his grandfather. He had a carefree life, but now he’s living under a lethal microscope with powers that could affect millions of people in his country and beyond. What does he know about governing? Governments need leaders who have experience in leading and are actually interested in the role.

That brings to mind: I wonder how Donald Trump spent his weekend.

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Fake Paintings

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To this day, I still see news on television regarding Chun Kyung-Ja’s mysterious painting. To those unfamiliar, a quick summary: the late Chun Kyung-ja is one of Korea’s most successful painters. One of her paintings was purchased by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but she declared in 1991 that it was the work of a forger. A forger even admitted to the fact but later retracted his claims. Lawsuits and forensic investigations afterwards, the official story is that the work is indeed authentic. Scientific analysis and some provenance backs up that claim, although Chun Kyung-Ja’s family continue to claim that it is not authentic, and that officials are perhaps protecting the reputation of Korea’s art experts.

Is this not the best problem to have? To be so good and to be so talented that not only are other people trying to copy your work, but reputations are at stake to prove that work you may or may not have done is indeed authentic.

In any case, I could certainly see the motivation to prove that the painting Beautiful Woman is authentic. It would be a big embarrassment should it be proven that the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art purchased and exhibited a forgery (Although some of the pieces I saw them exhibit a few years ago are quite disheartening themselves).  I don’t see the motivation of why an artist would lie and claim that a piece of artwork wasn’t done by them. Perhaps if it was an embarrassing piece of work or its political or social commentary might cause the artist some backlash. But if it’s as cherished as Beautiful Woman seems to be, I don’t see why the artist would claim she did not paint it.

It is true what Ms. Chun Kyung-Ja said. Speaking as a visual artist, I know which artwork was done by me. Even after evolving and considering some of my past works embarrassing or not reflective of the body of work I would like to be most remembered for, I know whether I’ve done something myself or not. Creating art is an intimate process. Visualizing then replicating a mental image into reality is such a unique and memorable experience that it’s very hard to forget. It is much different from putting words on paper. One can easily forget what they said one or two years ago. Some of the things I’ve blogged about on the Internet I’ll probably be unfamiliar with and be quite embarrassed to know that I’ve written them. And yet, we often remember childhood drawings we did once we see them again.

As much as I believe in science, I don’t think the science in many areas of forensic analysis has been settled yet. There have been several questions regarding the reliability of bite mark analysis and handwriting analysis. I just don’t find the art analysis evidence to be very convincing. Same materials can be bought. Brush strokes can be imitated. There’s a whole industry of painters creating the same paintings cheaply in many countries right now. Surely, a better forgery can be made at a much higher budget.

While people are speculating that the museum might be protecting its own experts by claiming that Beautiful Woman is authentic, I think it’s quite out of character for the museum, especially as Koreans who are often respectful to their elders to a fault, to be attacking the artist. They claim that perhaps Ms. Chun Kyung-Ja doesn’t remember she created the piece due to dementia. Those are very serious charges in a country that regards being called “crazy” as one of the worst insults a person can say. And as much as the museum trotted out several art experts to bolster their claims, I am curious to see if they presented any evidence to support suggestions of the artist’s failing memory at the time.

But that is the museum’s simple explanation. The artist forgot. So it’s a battle of simple explanations. Did the artist forget or did the museum get duped? I am quite biased, and I do believe that in this case, the artist did not forget. This won’t be the first time an art institution bought and displayed a forgery or misattributed a piece.

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There Goes their Martyr

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Let me get this straight. So flirting with racists and terrorizing black and transgender people is okay, but pederasty is not? Got it.

Just this morning, a well-known alt-right troll, let’s call him DayGlo Metropolis, just got a speaking gig at CPAC as well as book deal cancelled because a video of him defending pederasty (and some may argue pedophilia) came to light. While this is one of the few instances where bad behavior doesn’t get rewarded by more media exposure, I’m sure that the alt-right is already hailing DayGlo as a martyr to their cause. It’s quite ironic since these are the same people that rage against people using victimhood as a form of currency, something that DayGlo has accused feminists of doing. In any case, here are a few things regarding the interesting week with DayGlo.

Bill Maher is a show man. He’s not a deep intellectual, nor is he a particularly funny comedian. He’s a show man in the guise of an intellectual. His show is a good platform for people and would frequently feature good dialogue on current issues, but he also uses it to occasionally raise the profiles of people who couldn’t be more transparent about their fraud. Or worse, he normalizes people who should ideally be run out of the room. He’s had Joe the Plumber. He’s had SE Cupp, a supposed atheist who admires those with religious convictions. He’s friends with Ann Coulter. And last Friday, he had DayGlo. He likes to defend booking vile personalities by saying that people should be free to debate and cloaks himself as a freethinker, but in reality, it’s all about the ratings. He was after the DayGlo crowd and those who wanted to see him taken down a notch. He delivered, and DayGlo was shown as a shallow fraud, but that’s not how DayGlo’s supporters see it. And in the end, it just raised his profile, adding another notch to his growing list of media appearances.

I actually share a lot of Bill Maher’s views. His show can be very enlightening and has certainly changed my mind on some issues. But his flirting with noxious personalities as well as Islamophobia is making me skip his show more often in the past couple of years.

There’s great irony in DayGlo spreading hate against transgender people, particularly by raising concern over their bathroom access in fear of them preying on children. Not only is this a dumb concern; people and children will not be attacked by transgender people much more than by cisgender people, but he’s the one who defending relations between teens and much older men. I have yet to see a transgender person defend pederasty. I’ve only seen DayGlo do so.

DayGlo made his bones through #GamerGate which was a bit of a controversy a couple of years ago. A hack feminist, let’s call her Bonita Sarcastaman, made a video series claiming that video games were often sexist. She inflated many of her claims, but I couldn’t really argue with the point that some video games do traffic in a bit of sexism. Sex sells. Shorthand on sexual imagery both on male and female characters is just something that’s par for the course. In any case, Bonita made it a bigger issue than it should be (there ARE other more crucial feminist issues out there), gamers took the bait and made it an even bigger issue, and DayGlo became their champion as he took on Bonita and her supporters. So yeah, hack feminist produces hack “provocateur” intellectual. No one wins.

The funny thing is DayGlo is the tech editor for Breitbart news, which I imagine is why he got involved in #GamerGate in the first place. But when was the last time anyone heard DayGlo talk about tech? Hey gamers, you know how you accuse Bonita of not being a “real gamer” as if being a gamer is a virtue? I doubt if Dayglo wants to do anything with you either.

CPAC and conservatives would embrace anyone as long as they are against their enemies (The enemy of my enemy is my friend?). It is no coincidence that the first homosexual they tried to have as a speaker also happens to hate being homosexual. Many of the black conservatives on television are often there to condemn other black people. These conservative outliers are the immunity idols. They are what allow people to say hateful things because a member of the group they hate happens to agree with their hateful views. “I’m not homophobic. This gay guy says that homosexuals are a danger to children. I just happen to agree with him.”

I’m not a fan of gotcha journalism. Too often, words or actions are taken out of context, and people are brought down by them. This applies even if their sins do not particularly relate to their function in society. Context matters. I particularly was not too concerned about Donald Trump’s Howard Stern appearances because back then, no one really thought he was going to be president. Also, he was in the Howard Stern Show. Things were bound to get outrageous. However, I was concerned about his comments in the bus regarding “grabbing pussy.” At that point, he was no longer entertaining an audience. He was bragging to another guy, trying to impress him with tales of sexual assault. It was demonstrating someone’s privilege and misogyny.

Someone dug up an old video of DayGlo and used it to damage him. I normally don’t approve of this, but in this case, I believe whoever did it was just doing the homework that Simon & Schuster should’ve done. They didn’t realize that DayGlo was a vile character? Why are they in the business of enriching people who terrorize others? Didn’t they hear about what happened to Leslie Jones? Was that not enough? I believe Simon & Schuster is just as guilty as Bill Maher in trying to monetize DayGlo’s hateful notoriety. I also believe that Bill wouldn’t have booked DayGlo if the pederasty video surfaced earlier. But the thing is, just like Simon & Schuster, I don’t think Bill and his producers really cared about DayGlo’s hateful history. They saw it as a plus. Yay, more ratings! I really hope they do get some repercussions for their actions as well. It is one thing to be a bully, but it’s another to sit by and encourage a bully to work his craft.

And no, I don’t think liberals are afraid of DayGlo (as Bill Maher suggested). I don’t think liberals are scared of the likes of Tomi Lahren, Alex Jones, etc. They just don’t want to reward dumb and hateful people with more attention, especially when these bigots are not interested in sincerely and intelligently discussing issues. The reason why I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh is because I already know what he’s going to say. The same thing with Sean Hannity. There’s not one original thought that ever came out of their heads. Why waste time listening to a talking point on a loop?

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Take the Bus

sister

It has happened. Donald Trump is the president of the United States and is the leader of the most powerful military force in the history of mankind. It is unbearable to see that he hasn’t improved or become more “presidential” since he got elected, but it’s not like I wasn’t expecting him to anyway. It is really disappointing that the people around him, his handlers, are letting him continue make statements like suggesting that the US military should take the oil from Iraq, in a speech made to the CIA nonetheless. It is a very simplistic, naïve, and foolish way of looking at the Middle Eastern conflict, one that could potentially endanger the lives of US troops, especially the ones who are currently working in concert with the same people Trump suggests stealing resources from. It is a particularly dumb statement to make, especially in front of the CIA, which deals with complex, nuanced geopolitical matters, not ones that could be solved simply by “taking the oil,” which would not only make matters worse by reinforcing local suspicions and Islamic fundamentalist propaganda, but also constitute a war crime.

With Rex Tillerson, an oil tycoon, becoming the US Secretary of State, who knows what geopolitical and military actions will be taking place in the future all in the name of cheap oil?

And no. While Obama was a more stable, knowledgeable, and polished politician when it comes to geopolitics, he’s no better when it comes to oil and the environment. The US got curbed much of its need for foreign oil by damaging its own environment. Offshore drilling and hydraulic fracking has dramatically increased under the Obama administration. He even famously swam with his daughter in the Gulf of Mexico to calm outrage against the damage done by the BP oil spill and offshore drilling in general. In my opinion, it was one of the lowest points of his presidency.

But Trump isn’t he only one making disappointing moves this week. Trudeau’s cabinet recently welcomed the Trump administration’s approval of the Keystone pipeline. A lot of Canada’s recent wealth has come from the exploitation of the dirtiest of its resources, much to the detriment of the environment, and in many cases, to the communities affected by the leaks, particularly First Nations. It is one of the bigger disappointments in a government that tries to sell itself as more progressive than our southern neighbor.

So yeah, with oil getting cheaper due to a free- for-all oil exploration in North America and with embargoes in Russia bound to be lifted, why would Trump even suggest taking the oil out of Iraq? Because they can’t get rich enough. They won’t stop. The GOP will cut off insurance coverage to millions of Americans just so the richest of the rich can get a tiny bit wealthier. The same is true for oil companies. They can’t get big enough. The US administration will be devoting much of its power making sure it helps the oil companies, and Canada would be more than willing to help them, regardless of increased tensions in the Middle East or ruined communities in North America.

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Save Me, Virtual Reality!

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It’s official. I’m into virtual reality. I decided to splurge a couple of days ago and invested on a PSVR. With stocks limited, they’re still a bit hard to find here in Seoul, with many people re-selling them at ridiculously over-inflated prices (over $1000 from some sellers!). Thankfully, I managed to get lucky and snag one at a reasonable price.

The Oculus Rift is available in department stores, but I’m not really that excited over its design as well as the fact that the experience it offers seems to be more of an isolated one. I think the HTC Vive suffers from the same thing. Also, both units require quite a large amount of space dedicated for your virtual reality experience, space that’s hard to come by in Seoul. That and I haven’t even seen the HTC Vive at all in the country.

The best aspect of the PSVR is that it outputs both on the headpiece as well as the television. This way, my wife and I can share the experience. We play a lot of video games together and this just adds a new way for us to experience media either as games or as visual experiences. The resolution is not that great, but the immersion is pretty decent. Once you’re in it, your brain is actually tricked into feeling artificial motion and space. Higher definition would be great, but so far, I don’t think it’s necessary. I guess it’s just a matter for developers to actually make good use of the little processing power they have for the machine instead of relying purely on visual horsepower.

So far, I’ve been enjoying horror games and other scary experiences the most. It is amazing the dark places the mind will go to when playing scary media on virtual reality when you’re alone in the house. My wife has been enjoying the more lighthearted games on virtual reality. Things like Job Simulator or Hatsune Miku. I would compare the novelty of virtual reality to the novelty of motion controllers when they were first popularized a few years ago. It’s quite exciting and I’m hungry for new virtual reality experiences.

The only drawback so far is that I can’t just sit with a virtual reality headset for hours on end. It can get pretty nauseating, so I have to take a break after an hour or so. It’s not like regular video games or movies where you can just park yourself in front of the television for hours. Maybe my body will start coping better the more I use it. Lots of people are complaining that many of the titles developed for virtual reality are short experiences. For now, I’m fine with that.

In any case, here’s hoping that companies continue to develop for the platform. I really don’t want it go out the way motion controls have basically faded out. Keep making things for me to see in virtual reality and escape my real-life problems. PSVR has been my most exciting purchase of the year so far. Who knows, maybe once I upgrade my PC, I’ll invest on beefier headsets. The movie experiences I’ve seen so far have been promising. The games I tried have been very immersive. I haven’t checked out VR pornography though. I’m kinda squeamish about that. I have a feeling that would somehow cross over to an almost medical territory.

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Park Geun Hye Got Her

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The whole Korean impeachment thing has swallowed my wife whole. It’s everything she watches on TV outside of the occasional Korean drama. She follows it all the time on the Web and has even talked to me about the most unsteady conspiracy theories. There are even whispers about the President having AIDS, to which I say it should not be an issue because having AIDS does not affect one’s ability at their profession unless they are a sex worker. Concerns about this not only expose people’s ignorance but also their prejudice against people with the disease. It has made normally rational people irrational. Park Geun Hye has become the reason for all of the ills in the country. My wife even tried to drag me into an anti-government rally over the weekend. It consumed my weekend! And it will probably consume my wife for months to come long after the president is driven out of office.

The thing is, I used to be like her until I got tired of it. I still enjoy watching people yell at each other over politics. I still argue with people occasionally on Twitter about it. But I no longer see the point of the endless back and forth of talking points on the likes of Bill Maher’s show, MSNBC, and worst of all, CNN. You learn something about politics, but after a while, it’s just the same talking points against another talking point. It’s just the thrill of getting the last word in, saying it better than your political opponent. It gets very tiring. And as much as the Park Geun-Hye thing is a concern for my wife since she is Korean, following it religiously for every bit of development, even the scraps of conspiracy theories, does not make the process of impeaching her any faster. It doesn’t fix things that are broken. It just aggravates her to no end.

I remember writing a few months back that politics is my professional wrestling. It’s the endless drama I watch. I follow Canadian politics, but it’s not as absurd as American and now Korean politics. The thing is, just like professional wrestling back then, I try not to get too worked up when The Rock gets his title stolen by Triple H. I can simply walk away from it. Some people need to learn to walk away from politics now and then and not get worked into a frenzy. Listen to yourself before you start sounding like a talking point, or worse, a conspiracy theorist.

As corny as it may sound, instead of following things religiously, people should act. You want Park Geun Hye out? Then protest, support opposing parties, donate to groups, etc. Don’t just follow every bit of news, fake news, and non-news on the Internet as if that will help change anything. You don’t like Trump? Support the cause he’s bound to hurt. Same thing with Trudeau. Mostly a decent Prime Minister but his pipeline stance is not really to my liking. Support anything green.

I say these things now, but tonight, I’m meeting my wife and her friends for dinner. I’m sure politics will be talked about endlessly. And to preserve my sanity, I will reflexively reach out to my phone and look at my Twitter… where I will definitely find more politics.

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