Tag Archives: Joseph Reyes

Space Death


Jumping from a building to your death is probably the most basic ways people can kill themselves. With enough height, forget the cracking of bones, the exploding of skulls, and the damage done to tissue upon impact. Forget all of that. Those are minor things compared to the grandeur at play. It is the collision of a human body with planetary forces. This is a person being killed by physics. Just as we are all ultimately born from the remnants of ancient dead stars, this is a planet ultimately killing a person. Just as a little bit of sunlight doesn’t usually hurt people but it will kill a person if they manage to fly out into space and come close enough to the sun, so too would the Earth’s gravity kill a person should they decide to embrace it freely from a distance of over ten floors. It is space death without the spaceship. Imagine floating in space and colliding with a wayward asteroid. But with jumping off a building, you are colliding with a planet populated by people you couldn’t care less about anymore. Your horizon is now shifted by 90 degrees, and it is the weight of the Earth slamming on you, with all its continents, mountains, forests and seas. All of the Earth’s trees, creatures, and secrets crush you as the planet’s gravitational pull over you infinitely overwhelm your own gravitational pull towards the planet. It’s like a heroic death envisioned by Ray Bradbury. When people get hit by vehicles, people would describe it as such. Greg got hit by a bus. Susan was crushed by a train. But with jumping off buildings, “Joe slammed into the planet Earth.” It just sounds more epic. Should I jump to my death, I think it would only be fitting to wear a spacesuit. Maybe wear a blindfold to emulate the darkness of space, drink tons of alcohol to get courage and emulate space sickness, and wear earphones to listen to some music and drown out the outside noise. Astronauts listen to music, don’t they?

The only thing I could think of that would be more primordial would be breathing in helium, one of the early gases in the universe. The problem with this however is that setting up a helium bubble takes a lot of human aspect and design to make it happen. It’s not very primordial, is it? Also, most helium distributors now sell canisters with enough oxygen in them to make sure they cannot be used for probably one of the most comfortable ways to commit suicide. I’d call these companies killjoys, but that term doesn’t really make much sense in this scenario.

Despite the rather grim entries these past few days though, I am not seriously thinking of killing myself. I feel like that is something that has to be said. It is weird how talking about suicide always has to be prefaced by saying, “I’m not thinking of killing myself, but…” And even if you mentioned that, regardless of how explicit your warning is or how happy you appear to be, people will always be thinking that you’re suicidal or depressed to some degree. It’s like saying, “I’m not racist, but…” You will always sound racist no matter what you say to finish that sentence. Some bigoted commentary and suicidal musings cannot be uttered without being thought of as being a bigot or suicidal. Anyway, I’m not suicidal, but I’ve been thinking a lot about jumping off tall buildings lately, that and dying in space.

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Forgetting Me

Rabbit Headlights

After the last couple of days, I now believe that the animated movie ‘Coco’ was teaching a bad lesson. It had great things to say about family, but the part about remembering dead relatives is a tad misguided.  The lesson needed tempering. Sure, it is only natural to remember our loved ones long before they’re gone, maybe even learn some lessons about their lives especially if they’ve made a significant impact to their families or the larger community while they were alive. But outside of that, I’m not sure if it really benefits the dead in the most pragmatic sense.

It has been a very rough recently around me. People have been dealing with health issues, with some having the possibility of passing in a few days or so. With this rather depressing mood, I’ve been thinking how things truly are for the dead once they have passed. Life does not stop. And I believe we sometimes overvalue our impact in other people’s lives, which is part of the reason why we fear death. What about my wife? What about my family?

They will all eventually move on.

If there’s one valuable thing that Facebook has taught people is that people do eventually get over you. People move one after a person’s metaphorical “death” in their lives. Our old classmates, co-workers, and exes have fulfilling lives without us. They move on and we become strangers to them, as much as they probably become strangers to us. “Boy, he’s gained weight since I last saw him.” “Oh wow, she’s got kids now.” Life does not stop. We might not have died, but we might as well have because they wouldn’t really know at this point if we did. And I’m not really sure if it benefits me if any of these people from an earlier part of my life, as wonderful as they are, remembers me. A part of me thinks wanting people to remember you is a tad arrogant.

If my church teachings are to be believed, the secrets of the universe will be unveiled to you right after you die. Your plate is full right after you die. You’ve got the whole world and beyond to know and experience. Do you really want others to suffer long after you’re gone? Do their remembrances and broken hearts make the secrets of the universe that more appealing? Wouldn’t time at that point be meaningless and we’ll eventually see all of our living relatives in what is equivalent to a millisecond?

One of the reasons why I don’t have children is that I don’t want to burden others with my death. It’s one of my regrets with marriage. Should something happen to me, I don’t want my wife suffering long after I’m gone. It would be far better for me to die single in a lightly attended funeral than to leave behind a widow who will struggle her life back together after I’m gone. But then again, maybe that’s the “remember me” arrogance talking. I married a strong woman. I’m sure she’ll move on just fine without me.

So yeah, I think there’s comfort remembering our loved ones. Memories of my mother still warm my heart, followed by bouts of longing and depression. I can’t help it. But yeah, in my case, it’s arrogant to ask people to remember me after I’m gone. Perhaps the kinder and better message would be “Forget me. Live a good life without me.”

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Black Man in a Bank

Comic Sans

As much as I complain about my wife sometimes, I really do appreciate her for her patience with me, not just for my many issues and personal failings, but just for the mere fact that I’m a foreigner, and sometimes being a foreigner can suck in South Korea. I can only imagine how it is being married to one.

I’ve been living in South Korea for over ten years now. I’ve been a customer of the same Korean bank for over ten years as well. It can be a bit difficult for foreigners to get credit cards in Korean banks, especially since many foreigners don’t stay in Korea for long, but with my long record and my stable job, the bank at the time didn’t think twice to sign me up. This was a few years ago. I thought I had a great relationship with them.

My wife and I went to the bank to apply for a small loan. This was not unreasonable since most married couples do have loans and like most metropolitan cities, the whole thing runs on debt. We intended to borrow money under both of our names, with me being the breadwinner and my wife as a Korean national, being a sort of guarantor that we won’t take off on our debts. I didn’t have too much hope since I expect most banking institutions in the country would probably still be a bit cautious regarding lending to foreigners, even if they intend to stay in the country. I earn more than the average Korean, but I’m not rich by any metric. Being a foreigner might still be a bit too big a hurdle to pass for them to give me a loan.

What my wife and I got instead was the proverbial black-man-getting-denied-a-loan treatment. (No, I’m not black.) Despite being a loyal customer for years, the clerk, who was a senior consultant at the Euljiro, Seoul branch of KB Bank, didn’t even bother to look at my records. He didn’t even ask for my ID, which I figured was the least they could do to make sure that I was indeed a foreigner staying in the country legally. I was a loyal customer and the clerk simply assumed that I was “just a teacher” who probably couldn’t pay back my loans. (He did suggest this. He didn’t even ask me for my job!)What upset me more is that they did this to my wife, it’s almost like she was the foreigner. I could take the slings of racisms just fine, but I get more upset if my wife gets it by proxy. Maybe it would’ve been better if I wasn’t there. It definitely would’ve been better if she was married to a Korean. They would have at least looked at his taxes and banking records.

Yeah, maybe the bank just has a policy against loans with foreigners or couples with foreign spouses contributing the majority to their household income. Who knows? But if they do, I get it. I truly do. But couldn’t they at least hide their biases a bit? At least give me some dignity and pretend they’re looking at my records and consider me as a proper customer. Heck, I spend money, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy just as much as the next guy. And if you ask some of the disgruntled people I work with, I’m spending and contributing way too much compared to them.

And no, it’s not all banks here. We went to another bank and they were much more accommodating to us. It’s just that the person we talked to first at the bank I’ve been a customer with for so many years decided to be an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t intending to be a bigot asshole, but he sure acted like one.

So yeah, despite the Pyeongchang hype, Korea can sometimes still be ugly to foreigners. It’s getting better, and incidents like this happen to me less often. But when it does happen, it still stings like a motherfucker.

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On Living People Your Corpse Will See Again


An interesting thing happened over the weekend. Someone from the company I work for passed away on Friday. Nothing too unexpected; after all, he was getting up there in years. So on Friday afternoon, people either went to the hospital or made plans to attend the wake or the funeral. Amidst of it all, I heard that one of my former co-workers and an old friend of the diseased made plans to go on a flight over the weekend in order to make it on time for the funeral. He lives in the US.

The last time I saw the diseased was over two years ago. He was a big man in the company. Many years before, he was usually driven around and led by helpers, and even accompanied by company lackeys. But the time I saw him, he was not surrounded by helpers and no one was opening any doors for him. Any clout he had within the company, he seems to have relinquished at the time. If I didn’t recognize him, I would’ve confused him for any other old man wandering the streets of Seoul. In any case, I imagine with things being the way they are, with his old friend living in the US for so many years now, I’m guessing there was not much correspondence between the two. I was the one who initiated telling him about his friend passing. I’m not sure if they’ve heard about each other in the years before.

And so what have I learned? I learned about a special type of relationship, a new category of person whom I find it hard to pinpoint exactly which one of my few friends belongs to. Not a friend who you’ll talk to, do favors for, or keep in touch with now and then. This friend does not care how deep a depth you swim to or on what slow hell you are killing yourself with at the moment. None of it matters to this friend. It is most grim, and I’m not passing judgment on whether it is good or not, but ultimately this friend is quite the intimate sort of acquaintance. This friend will be there for you only when you finally die. This is the friend that will only reunite with you when there’s not much left of you to be reunited with.

Again, I don’t think this is good or bad. I think it is intimate, peculiar, and not necessarily unique, especially when it comes to relatives. How many of us only see our distant relatives only when they finally pass? But I think it really is more special when it comes to non-blood acquaintances, particularly because there’s no familial pressure pushing one to be there for the wake or the funeral. “I haven’t seen him forever, but I have to be there for the funeral.” Who is this for exactly? For the diseased? For the visitor? Or the relationship that’s now expired? What’s funny is, when I start thinking about the people in my life, auditing my relationships and choosing which people I’ll probably never see again but who’ll likely be there at my lightly-attended funeral. It’s a rather sad, interesting, and honest exercise.

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Oh Canada, Yes Canada


O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command.

Our national anthem has always been a love song, about patriots watching over their beloved country; ready to fight should anyone threaten it and its people’s freedom. But in true Canadian fashion, the singer is insecure of his own strengths, and calls out to God and forces beyond for help in their cause.

A few hours ago, Senate just voted to make the song gender neutral. “True patriot love in all of us command.” As a man, I see this as a small gesture. Canada has bigger problems and issues which we continue to ignore; things which affect us more what some would consider just mere words in a very short song. But I’m guessing for women, especially those who have sacrificed so much for our beautiful country, changing the song to make it more gender-neutral is not so much the least we can do, but it is the right thing to do. I really never understood the opposition to the change. Conservative senators opposed the motion by saying there needs to be a longer debate, and that Parliament truly had no business changing lyrics to a song written by a man long dead. It’s a dumb hill to die on, especially since the issue has already been debated for a long time, and I find it highly unlikely that six months or a couple more years would change anyone’s mind. We’ve been trying to make it gender-neutral for a very long time. Also, “honoring” a dead man by not changing a line in his song, and in the process not honoring half the population, is really dumb politics. Robert Stanley Weir’s Canada is not even the same Canada we have now. Women couldn’t vote, Newfoundland wasn’t even a province, and we weren’t even an independent country. Our national anthem should reflect what we are now.

God bless Canada’s improved national anthem. I’m sure this will trend in progressive circles, especially with the #MeToo movement and the strong feminist wave at the moment. Now how about moving on to other less fashionable issues?

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On Don Cherry and Europeans in the CHL


Hockey talk. CHL banned European goalies back in 2013. It was meant to force Canadians to develop their own goalies instead of drafting talent from Europe. CHL still allowed two imports per CHL team, but those were limited only to forwards or defense men. I personally don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the way Canada has been developing goalies, it’s just that we’re not giving them the chance to step up to the next level, and prior to 2013, teams have just been opting (safely but lazily) to draft European talent.

Don Cherry, a Canadian hockey legend, recently came out and said that he’s all out against Europeans playing in the CHL. He says that ultimately, despite the Canadian spirit of embracing foreigners and immigrants, each team has two spots that are leaving out Canadians, with their own dreams of making it big in the sport, in favor of Europeans. Now, I’m trying to understand the protectionist and conservative attitude that he’s taking, but some people’s reaction to his comment is bit overblown, in my opinion.

First off, racism and bigotry are heavy charges. So I would need more egregious evidence of this before I start calling Don Cherry names. I think Don just simply sees the CHL as a development tool for Canadian talent, a means to an end, and that we should be using that tool to develop our own talent, to reward our own. We shouldn’t be giving that opportunity, how little that may be, to players from other countries. Thus, the argument of “it’s just a game, let the best player play” doesn’t hold water when you’re trying to get the Canadian players to be the best. That is exactly the logic behind the CHL goalie ban. Canada wanted to develop its goalies. I believe Don Cherry’s comment was made in that spirit. I also don’t see connections between this protectionist attitude and Canada’s open-arms approach towards immigration. We welcome immigrants from all countries thinking that they’ll prosper and be wonderful Canadians. Everyone CAN be a Canadian. I’m not sure if Radim Salda who hails from Czech Republic and plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs would be applying for a Canadian citizenship anytime soon. That’s not what the Europeans are in the CHL for.

With this in mind however, if every other country started taking Don Cherry’s attitude, we won’t see Canadian players play anywhere else. As a compromise, I think the limit to two players per team is fine enough as it is. It allows Canada to develop talent where it needs to develop and brings in talent overseas without overcrowding the teams with foreigners. The CHL, much like any other sport with free agency, is still fans basically cheering for clothes. Not everyone from the Halifax Mooseheads hail from the province much less the city (I think there’s only one player from Halifax.).  It’s not a ridiculous situation where no one in the team is from the country they’re supposed to be representing as implied by their team name. I read some news yesterday about an eSports team, the London Spitfire, which despite having “London” in the name, is owned by a company in Los Angeles and 100% composed of Korean kids. Now, I don’t blame them for just having Korean kids. ESports is unavoidable here, and Korean kids happen to be the some of the best in the world. But the London Spitfire is obviously aimed solely at winning. It does not share the patriotic notions that Don Cherry has. It couldn’t care less about British kids playing videogames unless they’re better than Koreans.

Back to hockey. North and South Korea recently agreed to compete as one team for the women’s Olympic hockey competition. Now this is a good olive branch for both countries, especially after months of escalating tension stoked by Donald Trump. But a part of me can’t help but feel bad for half of the South Korean team who not only have been working hard to be part of the team, but they were bound to compete in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where South Korea, a country where hockey is not popular, is guaranteed a spot in the competition for being host. The Korean equivalent to Don Cherry must be going nuts.

I share Don Cherry’s sentiment. I feel bad for the Canadian kids left out in favor of foreign talent. Those are kids who will have to work harder, settle for other things, or just simply give up on the sport. But in the end, those are just two spots in big teams in a big league. They’re small sacrifices in the altars of inclusion and good hockey.

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On Hunting Seals and Wearing Their Warm Fur


I just saw the 2016 documentary ‘Angry Inuk.’ It’s upsetting, but one of the sins the world always seems to commit (among other things) is ignore the plight of First Nations. Basically, because of “conservation” efforts to save non-threatened seal populations, the seal skin market was destroyed, effectively plunging Inuit communities who relied on the seal skin trade into poverty. The infuriating part is that the people who push for the ban on the seal skin trade are often people who can afford to indulge on such causes and not be affected by the consequences.

It reminds me of people who are into organic foods. People who are into organic foods are those who can afford organic food; and the richer and more into organic food you are, the preachier you tend to be regarding your diet. And often, lectures and the message of change are geared towards those who can’t really afford a different way of eating and living. In the case of Inuit seal hunters, it is people living comfortably and more affluently down in warmer climates that are telling Inuit that what they are doing is wrong. It is simply wrong to kill cute seal pups and sell their skin.

I’ve never had much issue with eating all sorts of animals and people hunting them, unless they’re endangered. I’ve had whale meat before and I really don’t care for it. I really wish commercial whale fishing in Japan would stop already, especially since whales are becoming more and more endangered. Now, you might say this is hypocritical and it is no different from the situation with Inuit hunting seals, but as far as I know, there are no communities in Japan dependent on whale hunting. In fact, the Japanese seem to be pushing whale hunting not for the same cultural and life-altering reasons and with the same small-scale methods used by Aboriginals, but by a highly sophisticated commercial process in order to have whale meat continue to be available in Japanese restaurants and grocery stores simply because some people like to occasionally eat whale. The Japanese can survive without commercial whaling.

I’ve had seal before and I think it’s fine. I’ve had bear as well. I’ve even eaten dogs. Now, some might call that monstrous, but pigs have been proven to be much smarter than dogs, equivalent to the intelligence of two-year-olds on average. Now, I mostly eat strange things out of curiosity (and then for pleasure should I develop a taste for it), but I do feel for people whose livelihoods depend on the sale of what most of society would deem unusual or even unsavory. There’s an old dog meat restaurant near where I work. It’s a family-run place, and I could only imagine the toll on them should there be a huge backlash on eating dogs in the country.

The problem is, outfits like Greenpeace, PETA, the Humane Society, and Sea Shepherd are all business at the end of it all. They will create marketing campaigns and manufacture villains in order to keep their operations afloat. As the documentary showed, seals are no longer endangered, but the campaign against killing cute seal pups is such an effective money generator that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever stop using baby seal imagery. And as businesses cater to their demographics, animal lovers can be the biggest suckers.

Just recently, I saw a popular animal show in Korea do a showcase on dogs raised for their meat. They partnered with an American company and rescued dogs destined for the butcher’s shop. They then flew the dogs to America and had families adopt them.  What an awful, awful, story of animal lovers not knowing where to throw their money! Why can’t they just use the money to rescue dogs in their own respective countries and have them adopted by locals? Wouldn’t that have resulted in more dogs rescued in the long run? It’s a great story to tell, “I rescued this dog from a Korean dog meat farm.” But you could’ve rescued two more dogs from a puppy mill in Idaho. And also, to the Korean producers of the show: great way of perpetuating the stereotype that Koreans eat dog! Some do, but the majority who don’t are I’m sure are quite tired of hearing about it.

I’m an animal lover myself, and I’ve cared for pets for most of my life. I just tend to be really suspicious of animal rights organizations and those pushing for people to eat a certain way. It just reeks of ethnocentrism sometimes.

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Marijuana and Pole Dancing


So California finally legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Unfortunately, the US Attorney General removed Obama-era protections for marijuana sales in the state, allowing the federal government to stop and arrest people who are in possession of what is still considers as a controlled Schedule I drug. And as much as the right wing in the United States yell about states’ rights when it comes to things like gun, contraception, and marriage laws, I doubt if they would be as loud when it comes to California allowing its citizens to enjoy cannabis.

The fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal benefits basically ignores all of the people using the drug to help them deal with pain, especially in cancer treatments. It’s people ignoring evidence over fear and rumors. The same way there is evidence and history of prohibitions creating illegal activity (the prohibition gave birth to an era or organized crime in the US after all), some people, most importantly people in the US Justice Department, believe that drugs gave way to the existence of Mexican drug cartels, not the drug war creating a demand that only illegal actors could fill. Once again, people are ignoring evidence over fear.

In Korea, marijuana possession could land you in jail. The country is very strict when it comes to cannabis and opioids, but alcohol in the country is extremely cheap, and it’s not that hard to find either people getting belligerently drunk at night or simple unconscious.  I understand the protectionist attitude when it comes to opioids, especially since the country has an extremely high suicide rate. But when it comes to marijuana, a part of me thinks that a bit of cannabis would help a very stressed out populace. Instead of drinking with friends and getting angry or mopey, people could just get high, relax, and take a nap. Unfortunately, Korea borrowed America’s drug war and using drugs still carry a significantly negative stigma (but go ahead, drink soju with your coworkers until you black out!).

I’m just hoping that people get over it already. Marijuana is not the Devil’s lettuce. The fear and mystique regarding drugs, much like anything unknown, is only there because gossip and hearsay takes the place of actually knowing. Smoking a little pot will let you know that it won’t turn your brain into mush, it won’t make you any more evil, and it won’t make you look any cooler. I remember a coworker once asked me if I’ve ever tried cocaine, eager to hear exciting cocaine stories from Canada. Much to her dismay, I told her no. If people were actually told the truth about drugs, there wouldn’t be this haze of intrigue and fear around them. They would be as plain as Tylenol. Tylenol helps you deal with pain and fever. It could get you constipated too. Marijuana gets you high and mellows your mood. It helps you deal with pain as well. Cocaine gets you really high.

Speaking of demystifying and truths, I can’t stand how pole dancing is being mainstreamed, even in South Korea. This might be a bit of a reversal of my liberal attitudes with drugs, but I’m just annoyed at how it’s being whitewashed and sold as some sort of exercise, when it’s basically erotic dancing. There are far better and safer exercises out there. And no matter how far removed a person might be to its original intent, in my mind, as well as many other men’s, it’s still erotic dancing. Its original intent, back in the burlesque days, was to keep the women upright after being inebriated with either drugs or alcohol or both. And I suspect that the a lot of the women who are trying out pole dancing as an exercise has never spent one night in a disgusting strip club. Much like Chris Rock, if I had a daughter, I would work twenty hour days just to keep her from dancing on a pole.

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I used to think Canada was better when it comes to mental health, but this report on CBC regarding Lionel Desmond has got me thinking twice. Back in Canada, it was not unusual to talk to a therapist about mental and psychological issues. People wouldn’t bat an eye if they heard that you used to go to a therapist for anxiety or depression, probably because they have firsthand or secondhand experience themselves. But now it seems we’re failing those who have sacrificed so much for what in my opinion are needless conflicts abroad.

I’ve seen people with PTSD before. I talked to soldiers here in South Korea who were suffering from it. I remember being particularly disturbed (and threatened) by one soldier’s behavior in a bar even after he was buying me shots of tequila. Then he tells me that two weeks prior, he was fighting in Afghanistan.  There was just an odd look in his eye. And I just have to let him tell his story, and take it to where it needs to be. (And me not come back to that bar for a while.)

We just have to start taking care of everyone more. We have to start listening to people when they tell us there’s something wrong, even when they’re soldiers who are supposed to be strong and tough. Boys do cry, and some damages you can’t just walk off.

Speaking of not paying attention to mental health issues, a few days ago, a celebrity in Korea committed suicide, and on his note, he mentioned the lack of care he received from mental health professionals in the country. I can relate to the experience. Twice, I found doctors who would just throw medication at me and not give me proper strategies to deal with my issues. I can imagine the same was true to him. It’s quite upsetting that there’s not much care in terms of mental issues in the country, especially with the country having the highest suicide rate in Asia.

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On Hell


If God was real, I believe that he loves us so much that he would never send us to hell. Hell, if it exists, is a special place for monsters. We are not monsters. I think a person has to work hard to get to hell. People don’t normally stumble their way into hell.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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