Tag Archives: Korea

A Netflix Moment

Rain

Here’s a moment. My wife and I were looking around Netflix, trying to decide what to watch over dinner. Koreans are well known for being very reticent and not being direct in their statements. They wouldn’t say “no” or deliver negative news directly, thinking it rude. Instead they would often do the courtesy of finding a workaround to finesse the situation. My wife no longer has patience with me. She is rather blunt in her statements, which can be a tad hurtful at times, but if you think about it, saves me a lot of time.

And honestly, when she says, “I’m not interested in that,” it is actually a microcosm of the many things that we are. Take Netflix for example. Most of the things I watch on that channel, she will never watch. She is not interested in my documentaries, crime series, or “not-so-popular” movies. Likewise, I’m not interested in her Korean reality shows and foreigners reacting to Korean food.

So when she curtly says, “I’m not interested,” to watching Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani’s film, ‘The Lovebirds,’ it really is fine. I’ll just have to turn off my brain and deal with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in ‘Murder Mystery’ instead. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for other people having a bad time due to my movie choice. Back in 98, I remember being harassed for an hour after watching ‘Rushmore’ with friends who didn’t quite appreciate the charm of Wes Anderson films.

Fast forward to this morning on the subway, already forgotten about Adam Sandler’s vacation disguised as a movie, I decided to check out ‘The Lovebirds’ on my phone. A few minutes in, the two main characters start having a couple’s argument/break up that is all too real. It’s like the writers poked a hole into my psyche and saw the sad husk of a relationship I’ve been living for the past couple of years and encapsulated it in an argument during a car ride.

I’m so glad my wife opted not to watch that film. It would’ve been super awkward watching a reflection of my current stagnant existence. Whew! Elephant in the room avoided! This way, I could continue being quietly depressed.

Ever have that happen to you?

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Online Musings

Shrimp

A few things about new life online:

I used to look down at the University of Phoenix and all of these diploma mills which have completely online education programs. It would appear that I was being dumb, especially now that most educational institutions have moved all of their curriculum online. What’s going to be challenging, and one that I’m trying to figure out myself, is how these programs will be dealing with testing and evaluation. Of course, some fields by their nature can be very easily adapted to distance testing be it through a timed online test or via long-form mail-in essays, but how about others? In any case, more people are going to have to be creative trying to come up with ways to educate and test outside of the classroom, and I’m trying to figure out how to basically make testing some skills cheat-proof despite the distance (part of my real job). It’ll be interesting to see how other people approach this problem.

Speaking of prematurely looking down on things. I remember Howard Stern looking down on podcasts and Youtube broadcasts. But now it seems everyone has no choice bu to adapt to Youtube broadcasting now that it’s not advisable to be in television or radio studios. Big names like Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers are working out the kinks to broadcasting at home and they have this sort of guerrilla amateurish vibe to them compared to longtime Youtube broadcasters. I’m not saying that Youtubers are looking to be the more superior form of broadcasters in these coronavirus times. Howard Stern, despite being at home, still managed to replicate the vibe he got from broadcasting in his old studio, complete with all of his staff working from their homes. The late night shows still come out pretty clever and entertaining. So how do these shows manage to do better in my opinion? It’s the writing. They actually have talented writers working hard on them. I don’t want to generalize, but many Youtube shows rely on one gimmick or simply run on the personality of the Youtuber. The ones that are actually good would have proper editors, writers, and producers.

And so now that most education and entertainment is now online. Doesn’t that make Internet connection a basic necessity?

I wonder how apps like Tinder and Grindr are doing these days. Early last year, Tinder began marketing heavily in South Korea. They’ve been in the country for a while but since last year, they began pushing it as a means to find friends of similar interests, not as a hook-up app. But now that everyone is social distancing even in South Korea where the coronavirus is starting to be under control, I can’t imagine people using it too much. And speaking of hooking up, what about people who normally hook up with people? I wonder how they are doing these days. Thinking of all the polygamists, open-relationship havers, and lotharios out there.

I myself have been more active online recently than usual. I don’t normally go out and meet people to socialize prior to the coronavirus pandemic, so I guess I’ve adjust better than most people. I’ve trained myself to be a curmudgeon at a young age and it’s paying off in spades. In any case, Instagram and Twitter are getting quite a workout. There’s family on Facebook, but it’s weird cause I imagine everyone would be just like me now, living like an expat separated from others, whose only connection to friends and family is online. Ignoring people on Facebook or any platform online would be truly, TRULY ignoring them.

Netflix was just introduced to South Korea last November. Whoever brokered that deal must feel like a prophetic genius. I worry about TV shows, movies, and media in general though. We already don’t have sports. At some point, if this keeps up, we’ll be running out of new movies and shows in the hopper. I’m already watching shows I normally would’ve skipped. Even the production of big studio pornography would be in danger. Most would probably be home cams and independent productions.

Online forums can be the most depressing place one can visit. There’s Twitter and its cynicism, but online forums, especially with expats in the country can be especially depressing. I don’t recommend it. If you’re thinking of going online to find people in similar circumstances, don’t do it. It’s just going to get you more depressed. Find stuff to be outraged with online. That’s more helpful than being depressed.

Trump and many conservatives recently predicted that the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic would cause people to want to commit suicide. Just last week, many conservative pundits online have been somewhat suggesting that the death of senior citizens would be preferable than a recession. Ghoulish. Well, since South Korea is basically a month into the future in terms of the virus and suicide rates have been traditionally high in the country, I decided to look at the numbers. In 2019, Koreans have been lamenting that the lackluster economy has been driving people to commit suicide, with the rate being 24.6 per 100,000 in 2016 and expected to grow further. Well, it’s now 2020. The economy hasn’t gotten much better and the coronavirus has made things much worse. The suicide rate in South Korea is somewhere around 26.9 per 100,000. It’s not really that high an increase, in my opinion. I still feel incredibly depressed and each day is a repetitive nightmare of meaningless routines, but I don’t feel any worse than usual.

Thank God for some good long video games coming this month. Unfortunately, while many of them are online, I notice that not many video games being released recently (or these days) are designed to be played couch co-op. They’re either one player games or games to be played with several people online, just not the person you happen to be in the house with. How is a person supposed to bond with people they are quarantined with? Tsk tsk. Seems like a missed opportunity in the apocalypse.

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Coronavirus Prejudice Zits

Ceiling Monster

So I wanted to book an appointment with my dermatologist, and BOOM, right there, instant racism!

Sorry, sir, but it’s difficult to make appointments with foreigners right now. I know you’ve visited us before but because of the coronavirus, we are not allowing foreigners in the clinic.”

Now, the clinic I go to is often filled with children and it appears that they are dealing with various forms of eczema, which is quite common in the country. I imagine the clinic’s hesitation with having foreigners in the clinic is to alleviate parents’ worries who might be harboring some prejudice regarding foreigners, thinking that they are infected with the coronavirus. They don’t want to risk being in a room with a foreigner because, “you never know.” Or maybe that’s just the clinic being xenophobic on their behalf.

I am a Canadian in South Korea. The clinic knows this. I also spoke with a clear North American accent. It is very ironic that the country which is currently being shunned by most of the world due to fears of the coronavirus somehow finds a way to shun foreigners who found a way to stay and live in country despite the widespread fear and paranoia. Now, I understand the sentiment and the situation. This is not my first experience being subject to institutionalized xenophobia in the country, so I’m not about to raise Cain. It’s just that it’s always amusing whenever I encounter it. It’s like seeing a strange but somewhat familiar-looking animal… an animal which happens to stink.

See with this virus, there’s enough xenophobia for everyone to go around. First there’s the prejudice against the Chinese. “Oh they eat bats and other strange animals.” Then there’s the prejudice against Koreans. The Japanese government are now trying to paint Koreans as particularly risky potential carriers of the disease. They’ve canceled Korean visas and are now forcing visitors to go on 2-week quarantines. But while Koreans can complain about being victims, they are also trafficking with their own prejudices, prejudices which kept me from getting a prescription of pimple cream a few minutes ago.

I can only imagine how it is right now with Iranians in the US or with Italians in Europe. Actually, I don’t think think Italians would be subjected to much prejudice anywhere despite them now being the second country worst hit by the disease (That is officially with testing. Compared with countries who don’t test, who knows?!). Let’s be honest, Italians are white. This day and age, the image of disease vectors is a prejudice exclusive only to visible minorities.

Oh and about the disease, people are still on high alert despite the rate of infection going down in the past couple of days. Some politicians are cautiously optimistic that the worst is over, as long as there’s no resurgence in other parts of the country. I hope so, too. This heightened paranoia is not doing my skin any good. Add to that the economic anxiety brought about by the stock market crashing this morning and I’m about to break out like a fourteen year-old kid.

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The Log Jammed in your Democracy

Rat King

Matthew 7:3, And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

The US has always prided itself as a champion of democracy. Americans are not shy with hyperbole. “The US is the greatest country in the world.” President Ronald Reagan called the country “the shining city on a hill.” Just last week, I kept hearing that the US Senate was “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” There are several reasons for Americans to get involved in the internal affairs of other countries outside of their own global interests, with the most noble being to spread democracy and uphold the rights of the locals being abused by a tyrannical rule. Sure, the Bush administration lied about the existence of WMDs, but the invasion of Iraq was also sold as liberating its people. This is why the toppling of the Saddam’s statue was such a monumental image at the time. The Americans were being “greeted as liberators.”

This same promotion of democracy was the reason for getting involved in Iran, the Philippines, South Korea, El Salvador, Vietnam, Libya, etc. Of course there are different geopolitical self-interests in each theater, but the most prevalent way of selling intervention is the promotion of democracy and that the Americans are doing it for the good of the locals in the long run.

Spread democracy, sure. Ironically, the same senate that calls itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body” has stalled hundreds of bills passed by the House and simply gave Donald Trump a free pass after an absolute sham trial with no witnesses. It has given Donald Trump, a failed casino owner and an admitted sexual predator, freedom to commit crimes and be an unchecked dictator. When Robert Mueller decided not to definitive state whether Donald Trump committed a crime, Donald Trump immediately started to extort Ukraine to cheat on the 2020 elections. And now when the US Senate decided no to indict Trump for extorting Ukraine and trying to cheat on the 2020 elections, Trump immediately begins exacting revenge on witnesses who decided not to participate in his cover-up. He also orders the Attorney General to pressure the justice department to be lenient to his conspirators.

The US president holds full control over the Senate, a body made conservative due to a heavily gerrymandered process. He control the justice system with an Attorney General who will nakedly do his bidding for him and a stacked Supreme Court with two conservative judges brought in under very questionable circumstances. And right now, the Democrats on the House are too slow to act and to weak to boldly counter the President’s criminal actions. They’re also too busy attacking their own and propping up Pete Buttigieg, an ex-mayor with very little experience but comes with heavy corporate backing. It’s almost like they want Trump to win in 2020.

Donald Trump attacking witnesses and nakedly trying to help his lackeys a few days after not being indicted is a sign of unaccountable abuse of power. And who could blame him? He has never once shown any sign of restraint, ethics, or grace. He has never shown any sign of learning any lesson or demonstrated contrition. His behavior will only get worse until he finally makes true on his previous boast of being able to shoot someone on broad daylight in the middle on Fifth Avenue. Cowardly and corrupt Republicans as well as the weak and feckless Democrats allowed this to happen. This past week, we witnessed the full realization of a dictator ruling over the shining city on a hill. Even Jesse Watters, a conservative talking head, could plainly see it, “It’s fun living in a banana republic, isn’t it guys?”

A political commentator asked, “We saw what happened when South Korea’s Democratic Republic was threatened. We saw what happened when Hong Kong’s Democracy was threatened. What will we do?

The Americans will do nothing. Americans don’t have the patience or the attention span to do what the Koreans did or what the courageous students in Hong Kong are continuing to do. Koreans were able to oust their corrupt leader in less than a year. It took a long time to get through the Ukraine scandal and even longer for the Mueller investigation… and yet Trump is unscathed and currently enjoying a surge in popularity. The march towards November is long and sad, and if things continue the way they do, we will see four more years or more of Trump being the first American dictator. I love the law. I love the study of law. It hurts to see the rule of law being ignored completely and have a country which models itself a champion of democracy devolve into a cheap criminal enterprise.

Maybe before the US gets more involved in conflicts overseas in order to spread democracy, it should try to fix its own democracy first.

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Night Club Diary

Thyroid

I have always enjoyed David Sedaris’ work, be it on his occasional contributions to This American Life or his books. I’m not sure if I said it before, but I always wished that I was born a Sedaris. How fun it must be to have Amy Sedaris as a sister. Anyway, his book Me Talk Pretty One Day really connected with me because I am also trying to study Korean, and just like him at the time, my relationship with the language moved from utter despair and confusion, to learning to live with and be amused at how dumb I must sound.

The dumb fish out of water experience added with the awkwardness of the language. Let me present a semi-fictional minute-by-minute autobiographical chronicle of a club-going experience in Suwon, a satellite city of Seoul. This was written in Korean, Google-translated to English.

6:34 pm I met my boss’s son. He came with two friends. His English name is “Yun”. I said it’s not an English name. “English, no! English, no!” He was a bit angry about it. “English, yes!” he insisted.

7:50 pm After dinner, I went to the club in Suwon. I thought it was too early. In the club there was no one.

8:00 pm In the club there was no one yet. The club gave us watermelon and bananas. Because loud music my head hurt.

8:32 pm The waiter brought two women outside. They didn’t seem happy. Yun how to drink taught us. I called it Titanic.

8:47 pm Two women left. In the club there was no one else.

9:03 pm Yun said he needs patience to succeed. He started studying English with me.

9:16 pm The waiter picked up three women from outside. It was like they came from a birthday party. I brought a half-eaten cake.

9:20 pm Yun wanted me to shake the “gangsta” handshake on the girls. I don’t know that. I’m really angry.

9:28 pm Three women left. They forgot the cake.

9:30 pm I learned the price of drink. A bottle of shochu was 7,000 won. A bottle of Cass was 10,000 won.

9:41 pm I finished the cake. Yun said he needs confidence to succeed.

9:49 pm The waiter brought two women outside. They seemed really drunk. Yun talked about the military experience. Although his story was passionate, they seemed boring.

10:02 pm Two women left. In the club there was still no one else as there was a ghost.

10:03 pm I realized that Korean club is so different than Canadian club.

10:32 pm In the club there was still no one else yet. Yun’s friend we go to the Salsa Club suggested. Yun forced me to go with them.

10:45 pm We left. The fruit bowl was 50,000 won. The fruit is very expensive! Yun said he paid. He is my brother.

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Gallery Game

Balloon

I try to show my work in a gallery at least once a year. I’ve been doing well, and I already showed my work in a couple of places this year, but doing all of this by myself, shopping around, applying for shows, coordinating with galleries, framing and shipping work, all of it can be very tiring. Then I stumbled on an article which examined whether brick-and-mortar art galleries are still needed when the Internet allows artists to directly reach out to their audience.

It’s a rather long article which ends with the writer promoting his services, but the biggest takeaway for me is that for the longest time, galleries have enjoyed the myth that they are the gatekeepers to “making it.” That once my art gets into a particular gallery, I will reach an audience that would buy my art and love me. This might have been true back then, but now reaching out to audiences has been democratized by the Internet. Instagram artists can be more popular and possibly sell more works than professional artists who shows work mostly in galleries. And art-lovers no longer have to visit gallery to discover new art. Of course some art have to be seen and experienced first-hand, but many works are now made available to be enjoyed online.

Two things however, one is being accepted by a gallery is always a good acknowledgment of one’s talent. This is why I try to apply for gallery shows and not rent galleries. That, plus the returns for renting a gallery and hoping for sales simply doesn’t make economic sense. I also believe in Marcel Duchamp’s message when he made Fountain. If all works are accepted by a gallery as long as the “artist” pays a fee, then that makes every object art. It makes beauty, talent, effort, and meaning all null. And as Stephen Hicks argued, “Art is something you piss on.” Not to sound too conservative, but you need unbiased gatekeepers to tell you that yes, what you have on the canvas is indeed art. Of course, many galleries will reject your works, but when you do get accepted by a gallery, it makes the moment and the work even more meaningful.

Another thing is that because of the proliferation of art on the Internet, it is very difficult to grow an audience and stand out in a sea of artists. It has given rise to businesses ranging from online galleries that promise artists to introduce them to buyers, to companies which boost online presence and add more clicks to artists’ Web pages. The brick-and-mortar gallery model has moved online. It is still the same game.

So what is my point? My point is, if you want to sell work. Don’t rely solely on brick-and-mortar galleries. In fact, unless your work already sells wells and is ideal for hanging, then yes, galleries are the way to go. I think however for most people, a mixture of galleries, online hustling, and participating in art fairs and other events is the way to sell art. Most non-famous artists would be spending just as much time selling their art as making them.

If you’re interested in growing your audience, go online. Galleries will promote your name on their newsletter if you have a show, but more often, they’re relying on you to bring your audience to them, not the other way around. Don’t think that a gallery show will suddenly make you popular. If you are interested in growing a local audience, go with the brick-and-mortar gallery route. Show your work to several galleries regularly. I’ve been making art forever, but since I rarely do shows in my hometown these days, I’m quite unknown. Local galleries don’t know me although I’ve toured my works all over Canada.

If you want validation, apply for shows. Submit your work to calls for submissions. Chances are, you will get rejected repeatedly, but you’ll learn to deal with it. Don’t splurge on applications and definitely don’t spend money in vanity galleries in New York. Also remember that galleries are a business, and they often want art that they could sell. Don’t feel too bad if galleries don’t want your work especially if you’re not interested in making to sell anyway. Growing a big following on social media could be a sign of a good artist as well, but I’ve seen far too many artists on Instagram with thousands of followers who I know will never make it in a professional gallery.

So yes, for artists, there is still a need for brick-and-mortar galleries. It all just depends on what exactly the particular artist needs. Having work in hung in a gallery is no longer the standard of “making it” as an artist, it just simply means that it’s good enough that a business is willing to have it on a wall for a few days.

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Bad Vacation Timing

Pain Bird

Off to Japan next week. It’s the worst time to go to Japan. We will miss most of the major traditional festivals except for one which I plan to attend. We also won’t be able to see any baseball game while we’re there. I’ve always wanted to watch a Japanese baseball game live at a stadium. There’s just a weirdly, exciting energy emanating from them, especially with the drumming and the horns.

The weather also doesn’t look too good in Japan right now. I’m off to a rather secluded resort. But if it rains throughout all the days I’m there, I’m basically stuck in a small Japanese beach town with not much to do. Weather forecasts past seven days basically have a fifty-fifty chance of being accurate, so I’m just hoping that all of it will change and I will at least get to see a bit of sun.

The worst part of going to Japan right now is that Abe decided to make fighting against Korea a key political platform. After the G20 summit, he remembered that there is an election coming up, and he decided to woo hard right nationalists and claim that since Korea is still fighting for the claims of their comfort women during the war, then they will punish the Korean economy by not selling key components to manufacturing giants like Samsung and LG. This started a backlash in Korea with anti-Japanese sentiment growing and boycott against Japanese products. This of course is fueling anti-Korean sentiment in Japan despite many Japanese questioning Abe’s turn on the country’s neighbor.

Abe has been spending too much looking at how Trump does politics. He’s had a history of courting nationalists long before Trump became president, but this sudden turn reeks of Trump’s tariff playbook. Japan seems to be thumbing its nose to its neighbors. Even the recent open hunt for whales, despite the lack of domestic demand for whale meat, suggests that they couldn’t care less about international opinion. They are Japanese first, citizens of the world second.

And now I’m faced with a Korean currency that is slowly deflating due to the current economic situation and a Japanese population that might not be too kind should they hear me or any other foreigner speaking in Korean. It’s been a rough many days. The last time I was out of the country was basically for a funeral. Can I not get a normal vacation?

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What Use is 5G?

Piles of Smiles

I’m old enough to remember when work doesn’t have to involve the Internet. The Internet connection in my office is currently inconsistent, and work grinds to a halt.

I remember a few months ago when a fire damaged the phone tower near my place; and the Internet and phone lines were down for 24 hours. Initially, I was wandering the street, trying to find answers to why I can’t contact the outside world. I was asking strangers what was happening. Many of them didn’t have answers. It was a weird feeling, not being able to contact anyone by phone, not even the police. The CCTV cameras were all useless as well. It was like a great time for a purge-type of scenario.

Many of the stores I went to would only take cash. The restaurants wouldn’t feed me as well because their card readers couldn’t connect to the Internet. Hard cash was vital again. We were thrown back to the 80s.

Eventually, my wife and I sorted out what happened through word of mouth (you know, like they used to do back when people were curing diseases with leeches), and she spent the night knitting and listening to the radio. It was like we were at a bomb shelter.

I could list all of the things as to why the Internet has become so vital to our everyday existence, but that list would encompass almost everything. Heck, it swung the election in many countries, most significantly the US! But yeah, right now, our dependence on it is making me waste my day as I type this entry on my Website to be posted at a later time when I finally get a consistent connection.

The goddamned country is leading the world in 5G connectivity, and yet the genius IT people in my building can’t get their act together.

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Shake It Off

Creature

The page says “The Weekly” but I haven’t really been writing much nor have I been making much art recently. I’ve been far too busy, and quite frankly, a tad depressed, to be making anything. I sent some works to a couple of magazines and galleries, but I haven’t heard anything yet, so yeah… it’s been a quiet few days for art. But anyway, let’s get this started! Voila, ART!!!

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Danny Zuko is a Bad Boyfriend

Tell Me More

I was having dinner at a restaurant last night, the meal was great, my wife was enjoying the excellent food and it appears that most other customers and families around us were equally pleased. While the restaurant served liquor, it was not so much a drinking place but a place where someone can bring their family, as evidenced by a couple of the customers and their kids. There was one table however, that kinda spoiled the mood for everyone else.

It was a group of six men, drinking not too heavily but enough that they are all loud and can be heard by everyone in the restaurant. They were fairly young, maybe late 20s-30s. And though they were speaking a tad fast and my Korean is not that good, I could catch enough of what they were talking about, namely: the women they slept with, how their girlfriends are in bed, which Japanese adult film star they would like to be with, and how to get a Japanese girl. My wife heard all of this, and she corroborated my guesses. It was quite annoying and uncomfortable hearing all of this, with my wife at the table, children in the restaurant, and the server being a woman. Good thing the food was excellent.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I never really understood the urge of bragging about sexual prowess and conquests. I mean sure, one can brag about having bedded several women as a way to measure themselves among their male peers in a caveman sort of way, but going about the lurid details is something else entirely. It’s almost like a group session of humiliating women… women who happened to trust the men in the group. It’s a tad too distasteful for me, and if I took a recording of the conversation last night and posted it online, I’m sure most of the men on that table would be single and unemployed within the week.

The incident last night was reminiscent of what happened with several famous celebrities in Korea who were caught sharing their sexual exploits including photos in a chatroom. These were men, doing basically the same thing I witnessed last night, being lewd, sharing too much information, and shaming women in the process. I don’t think it had anything to do with bragging or demonstrating one’s machismo since several members of the chat group are young, popular celebrities who could easily be with several young women if they ever want to. This chatroom incident sparked a huge outrage, bringing down several celebrities, starting several investigations, and calling for crackdowns against sharing photos and spy pornography.

This isn’t the first time people got in trouble for sharing intimate details online. I recall a couple of years ago, one of the biggest photo-sharing sites in Korea was shut down due to men sharing intimate photos of unsuspecting women, giving out tips on how to rape women, and even arranging for partner-swapping.  Now, I’m not against partner-swapping should everyone involved be in on it, but I believe the women were basically pimped out on the site without their knowledge and consent.

I don’t know what has prompted this wave of misogyny. Perhaps its men bottling in their feelings after being subservient boyfriends and husbands, perhaps it’s new technology and people just being their worst, perhaps it’s young people basically rebelling against the Confusion culture, perhaps it’s a backlash to the rise of the feminist movement, or perhaps this whole thing has been there all along. Perhaps it’s Danny Zuko and his friends merrily chanting, “tell me more, tell me more.”

So once I become a grizzled old grandfather, what do I tell young men? “If you wanna brag about how many women you slept with, go ahead. Give a number. If you really want to brag about your manliness, go to a sauna together. Leave the women who trusted you alone. Don’t be an ass and betray that trust just so your friends could have a disgusting mental picture. You don’t need to help them with that. They can make disgusting mental pictures on their own. ”

 

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