Tag Archives: Korea

Korean Elections, Ugh.

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I’m trying really hard not to write about depression, so instead about my own personal depression, let’s talk about how depressing the election is in South Korea right now. How depressing is it, let me list the ways!

The election, instead of being divided by regional ties is a divided between generations, the older conservative generation versus the younger conservative generation. Now, this wouldn’t be very depressing. It’s actually quite promising since it’s the younger generation breaking free from old-fashioned thinking, but I really think this push for progressivism would only be short-lived. I predict it’ll die once the political players are safely in their place. One of the candidates (Ahn) used to be popular among young people, that is, until he got wise and learned how to be a politician. In the end, these are all politicians, and the people still high with their victory over getting the president impeached might be disappointed with the un-sexy reality of politics once seats are no longer at stake.

The leading conservative party candidate demonized gay people as harbinger of AIDS. He also had an anecdote on his book about not stopping his friend drug a woman and rape her. Why include it in the book, who knows? He also recently talked bragged about not talking to his father in-law for years until his death. Sounds like an awesome guy. This guy might be president tomorrow.

Despite who wins or who loses, the THAAD missiles pointing at North Korea with a radar system looking into China will probably still be in place. It’s going to be a while before those useless missiles are removed from the peninsula, if they’re ever to be removed. Meanwhile, South Korea will still continue to suffer strained relations with China as long as those missiles exist.

Older Korean conservatives are looking into the US and Donald Trump as if he’s a role model. These are the same people who made the daughter of a former dictator president (she later got impeached). These people are waving the American flag around.

One of the candidate’s (Yoo) daughter got attacked/molested during a campaign stop. The man was arrested and is being charged, but apparently his defense is that he suffers from some sort of mental handicap. Mental handicap. He is a member of a homophobic and misogynistic rightwing group who posted pictures of the incident online.

Speaking of homophobic, the leading progressive candidate doesn’t seem to care much about gay people either. Although he said he wouldn’t do anything legislatively to oppress them or give them additional rights, he said he personally doesn’t have any stance regarding gay issues. Yay, progressives!

In any case, the leading progressive candidate (Moon) will probably be the next president of Korea. He promises to overhaul the country and undo many of the evils that happened during the last two conservative presidential terms. This is all good. He’s quite the experienced politician himself, serving under the late President Roh, who, compared to recent Korean presidents, was reasonably good if not for the allegations of influence peddling later in his term. Oh…

 

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Marriage Advice

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Today is my wedding anniversary. Today is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. As content as I am with my marriage, I can’t really recommend marriage for everyone.

I’m not saying that my marriage is better than most. I can’t even say that I’m particularly good or content at being a husband. I’m just more realistic about it. It’s challenging, and the good days are coupled with the bad. The problem is, instead of being objective at viewing the bad days, you either blame your spouse and drive a wedge between the two of you, or blame yourself which drives you to depression. And as hard as it is not to do either, sometimes the thoughts just linger there at the back of my head, like a tiny cancerous cell.

So why the negative? Well, as content as I am with my marriage. It is the marriage I think that I deserve. It is the relationship that a person like me, with all of my talents and failings, am worthy of, or perhaps even extremely lucky to have (depending on how much of a scumbag low life I think I am at the moment). I think people come in to marriage with visions of roses and a path paved with rainbows. And that’s when it starts falling apart. Nothing in life is that sweet. No prince charming will sweep you off your feet and take care of everything and make you happy. You can’t marry a sex doll who will also appreciate your personality, feed your intellect, and help support you financially. You get married if you finally find someone who can put up with you, someone that’ll make you happy now and then, someone that will put up with your inadequacies, a roommate that you won’t totally hate. That sounds like a low standard for marriage, but it’s actually quite a tall order if you look at it realistically. Just looking at the roommate standard, I’ve had roommates before, and many of them I liked, but there’s a tipping point to some of the things I won’t put up with and vice versa.

So what’s my advice regarding marriage? Don’t do it to make yourself happy. This applies especially to Korean women my age. Marriage won’t make you happy. You get married, because deep in your soul, for whatever reason, you have to wake up with that person next to you every day, until one of you dies and leaves the other person broken hearted until they pass away as well. It has nothing to do with happiness. It’s about filling a place in your life that is both joyous and miserable. You do it, because you have to do it. I guess that’s my roundabout way of describing a soulmate. A soulmate fills a void in your life; they don’t necessarily make you happy. Find happiness somewhere else. Then let marriage complement or complicate that happiness. Don’t confuse marriage and happiness for the same thing. Otherwise, the minute you start being unhappy, you start blaming your spouse. Going back to the roommate analogy, I never blamed my roommate for my unhappiness. My unhappiness was all because of me.

Of course this is just me talking about marriage without taking children into consideration. I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know how that factors in. I love children, but I couldn’t imagine having them myself. I think I’d make a good uncle but a terrible parent. Perhaps having children would make marriage more fulfilling, but I’ve seen marriages not survive despite couple having several children. Perhaps children help marriages, perhaps they don’t. But I wouldn’t want to risk having children in an unhappy household. And if the statistics are accurate, despite what your Facebook feed might tell you, more than fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce. Out of the other half that survives, how many of that are unhappy? How many of that has children. The stakes are just too damned high.

And before there’s any confusion regarding my own happiness with my marriage, let me answer that question. Today, I am happy with my marriage.

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South Korea’s Interesting Weekend

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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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Christmas was an asshole this year.

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This year is the worst. I’m not just saying that because of politics and celebrities dying, but personally, the years have been getting worse and worse. Outside of my mother dying in 2008, this year has me most beat.

I feel like Paul Robeson on Showboat, “tired of living and scared of dying.” 

 

 

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Leave Pirate Grandma Alone

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I’ve been reading about this 86 year-old woman from Ontario who was warned for illegally downloading a game and is basically being extorted to pay $5000. Problem is she’s never heard of the game Metro 2033. The company contacting her is a collection company calling in behalf of intellectual property holders. They’ve identified her only through her IP address, which doesn’t take much to realize, could’ve been used by other people beside herself, whether it be secured with a password or not. All the activities done on one specific IP address does not translate to activities done by the IP address holder. It’s just that simple.

Going after people this way is a rather simplistic way of dealing with a more complicated problem, if it is a problem at all. Looking at the specific Ontario case, if the woman pays the collection company $5000 as punishment for her “crimes,” what exactly gets accomplished? The real culprit still gets away with their copy of the illegally downloaded software. It is unclear whether they will stop their illegal activity. The woman who paid the fine learns absolutely nothing. There will be a brief period of people not downloading software illegally, while some will still continue stealing software regardless. And the software and the company who produced it will get bad PR for their actions. I tend to agree with the expert on the CBC story (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/notice-and-notice-system-internet-copyright-enforcement-settlement-1.3823986) the whole thing is basically a cash grab for the software company and the collection agents. Many people are unaware of their rights, and they can basically be intimidated by these companies to pay up for crimes which they may or may not have committed.

But again, this is a complex issue and the dragnet collecting tactic is simply outdated with the current technology at hand. Many people get away with stealing content using VPNs or with borrowed Internet access. That makes the theory of IP addresses being linked to only the subscribers’ identities very flimsy.

Does Internet piracy truly hurt companies however? An article from Lifehacker (http://lifehacker.com/how-piracy-benefits-companies-even-if-they-dont-admit-1649353452) argues that piracy actual does benefit companies. Looking at ‘Game of Thrones’ for example, the show being the most pirated show on the Internet has helped boost its own popularity and the head of Time Warner even admits that it leads to more people eventually subscribing to their service. Of course, piracy is still stealing, and it must do a certain amount of damage. However, that amount of damage is very hard to quantify. And because hard numbers are hard to come by, it is very difficult to gauge whether the benefits of piracy outweighs the damage it does to a company, or does going after people like the poor woman in Ontario actually encourage more customers to buy their products instead of just lining up the company’s and the collector’s pockets in the short term. Looking at the game the poor lady was accused of stealing, Metro 2033 was critically acclaimed but sold poorly when it was released. However, it did receive a cult status. This cult status translated to much bigger sales for its sequel. Now, did piracy help it reach a bigger audience and attain this cult status? Perhaps.

I think the solution to piracy is actually developing content that is worth supporting. Taking software for example, I would gladly pay for software that is easy to install and use and would later be supported by the developers. This is something that normally wouldn’t be available with pirated software. I am paying for ease of use and continued support. Make buying software cheaper and easier compared to pirating them and you’ll reduce software piracy.

For movies, the ease of downloading or streaming content, the quality of the content itself, and the price of the content could affect piracy. People would pay for quality and for things that they genuinely care about. Many people would prefer to watch a ‘Star Wars’ sequel in the theaters as opposed to their smart devices. However, their love for the content could only bring them so far. If the price of watching movie theaters is too high, many people would rather watch movies at home… and if they’re not too invested in the movie and are merely curious, they would more likely pirate it. The same ‘Star Wars’ fan who paid top dollar in the theater would not be so keen to do the same for ‘Suicide Squad’ which got raked in the reviews by critics. Makers of the film could blame piracy for the movie’s poor performance in the theaters, but it could also blame its own quality as to why people would rather pirate it and watch it at home. Now, I’m not saying that I pirated ‘Suicide Squad,’ but nobody should be paying to see Jared Leto parade around in that ridiculous version of the Joker. It would only encourage him.

As for music, I think piracy has allowed people to download only the songs they like and not the entire album like people were once forced to. The trend was embraced by iTunes, and now people either bought only the songs they like or they would subscribe to a music streaming service. I believe both are cheaper compared to how we used to get our music. Unfortunately, this makes it harder for artists to make money from their craft. But then again, isn’t making music and marketing them cheaper these days than it once was? Also, piracy and free music could help smaller artists reach a wider audience. Once they gain that audience, it’s up to the quality of their material and the love of their audience to translate that into cash.

In any case, I hope companies stop going after old people for downloading games they have no idea they downloaded. It’s wrong and it feels really “scammy.” I actually played Metro Last Light, the sequel to the game that the old woman was accused of stealing. I remember enjoying it. Reading news like this however, it just puts a bad taste in what I once considered only as a pretty decent game.

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On Park Geun-Hye and BFFs

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So there have been a lot of revelations regarding the current Korean president, Park Geun-Hye and her crony who people suspect has been involved in many of her actions as president of the country. To quickly summarize, it has been proven that a close confidante who has never been elected into any public position has been advising the president on several issues. This person has also been linked to allegations of influence peddling and corruption. This cause quite the concern, since it’s very unclear how much of the president’s actions and inaction have been due to this person, and what’s even more concerning is the president’s attempted proposal to change the country’s constitution and abolish presidential term limits.

Several Korean news sites and blogs have more detailed explanations of the scandal, but depending on how conspiratorial one is, it can range from people dismissing the whole thing to a politician confiding to a friend to a puppet leader sharing national secrets to a charismatic cult leader-like master manipulator. I’ve talked to several people who lean more towards the manipulative angle because the president has isolated herself from her siblings at a young age since her father’s assassination, and that her confidante’s father is a bit of an odd character himself, a pastor of sorts who’s been married several times. I tend to think that Koreans seem to be particularly vulnerable to falling for charismatic manipulation like religious leaders, etc. It’s anecdotal, but I’ve seen it happen too often.

Protests are scheduled to happen this weekend, and there has been a bipartisan effort to look into the scandal. There have been calls for impeachment, but I personally think it would be hard to prove that the president abused her power to the extent that allows for impeachment. I’m hoping that the scandal would finally remove her party from power. The Saenuri Party, always promising economic gains, has done nothing but enriched Korean conglomerates and has failed to improve the lives of most of the Korean people. The middle class has not expanded, salaries have stagnated, and life in the country, especially in Seoul, is still as expensive as ever.

However, I believe people loyal to the party due to regional ties will continue to keep the party in power next elections. Right now, members of the party are cunningly turning against their leader in hopes of isolating the damage to her, justifiably or unjustifiably so. What worries me is that the forces in all of these are not new. Just like what I believe drew the current president to her friend is something common to many Koreans, vulnerability to charismatic manipulation. What got her into power is something all too common as well: regionalism and a longing for a leader like her father, the late dictator and strong man Park Chung-hee. People are quick to forgive and forget strong men for their authoritarian abuses in favor of economic and military gain. I see it happen in the Philippines with Duterte and Filipinos looking for a leader like the late president Ferdinand Marcos. I see it in the United States as well, with Americans trying to make a Putin-like leader out of Donald Trump. For states that are so modern, much to what I fear is our detriment, we are all still vulnerable to these primitive political trends.

It’s moments like these that I’m glad that our Prime Minister is such a pleasant, level-headed guy in comparison. Of course he might come across as goofy, chasing after Internet traffic like a child sometimes, but in a room full of world leaders, there’s no one else I’d rather be led by. I don’t normally write about Canadian politics because Canadian politics tend to be boring. But boring is good. Normal government functions should be scandal-free. Thank goodness Canadian politics is oh so boring!

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Like Movember with Drawings

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Sorry Inktober. I love the spirit, but I just draw way too slow. I do draw regularly though, so does that does that count?

I wish I could be one of those people that draw everywhere, carrying around their drawing pads and doing life studies or doodling on the fly. I’ve always admired Robert Crumb and have enjoyed his series of drawings on paper place mats. They’re genius. He’d come up with funny scenes while waiting for him meal to arrive. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the creative will to do so. Also, I blame my phone. That piece of tech with all of the world’s knowledge right at my fingertips is just way too distracting. I guess that’s why things like Inktober are even more important now than ever. It reminds people to just sit down and draw.

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Hello Clara Grace

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My sister gave birth to a wonderful baby girl yesterday, my niece Clara Grace Bain, who inherited my mom’s name. My sister is such a trooper. She went to work throughout the pregnancy, went on maternity leave, in less than a week had a baby, then is now ready to go back home within a day. I mentioned this to my wife, and such a thing is just unheard of in Korea. My Korean sister-in-law should be having a baby soon as well. She plans to spend a considerable amount of time in a recovery facility after delivery. Of course as a man who doesn’t plan to have children and will never experience the pain and joy of childbirth, I don’t think I’m in any place to make any evaluation, but I can’t help but inexplicably feel a tad proud of how my sister’s delivery went.

My friend’s artwork got stolen the other day. There’s concrete evidence that show that it was an old woman that she’s acquainted with. She plans to file a police report, but I told her not to. I just told her to talk to the art thief, let her know that if she doesn’t return the work and leave my friend and her friends from then on, she would file a police report. My friend however is concerned that the thief would not admit the crime and this would escalate into more abuse or dangerous behavior in the future. I’m guessing my friend is more familiar with this person and the danger this thief poses to herself and to others, but I’m just worried that this will ruin a person at the end of her years. Her children and grandchildren will learn that grandma is a thief. It’s like the origin story of a crazy bag lady.

I’ve met the art thief before. She was very friendly and quite unassuming. But from what little time I spent with her, no alarm bells rang. She didn’t really pique my interest either. I’m not saying that she’s a boring person, but hearing that she’s an “art thief” just made her a tad more interesting. It’s just one of those classier-sounding crimes.

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Opportunity for Artists!!!

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Been getting the occasional offers to submit my works to a show, enter contests, or be included in some magazine. Most of them would ask me to submit my works for a fee. I try to ignore a lot of these things, but one in a while I’ll respond just to see where it goes or if my initial impressions that it’s not worth it is incorrect.

It’s really sad how a lot of these operations prey on artists. With a mass-mailer asking for $50 per submission, a few artists are bound to respond. And for what? For a magazine that many art buyers don’t really read? A show in New York that goes unnoticed? A one-night event where a person’s art is barely seen? Good artists end up wasting their time and money participating in such ventures, while other artists just end up applying for things for no other reason than to basically get scammed.

Now I understand that some contests or call for submissions would require some small fees in order to cover gallery costs, but a lot of times, the gallery or magazines’ history is too dodgy to justify the cost. It’s not just applications, it’s also time wasted and sometimes cost of framing and shipping. And if you do the math, if a contest awards a winner $1000 in a contest that requires $50 per entry, then the gallery just needs 20 entries to start making it worth their while. That is, if a real winner is awarded a prize to begin with. And the thing is outfits like World Art Media and NY Arts magazine would charge artists upwards of $500! It’s like phishing for ambitious, naïve artists.

Can we stop taking advantage or artists who just want to put their work out there? Artists are already paying a heavy price for dreaming. It’s just depressing to see cynical reality teach artists a cruel lesson.

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