Tag Archives: life

Oh Canada

Icarus

How do you measure love of country? You really can’t, but it’s all relative. There’s a personal rubric to everyone’s life to where you can measure love of country to. I think one of the ultimate sacrifices one can make for the country is to enlist in the military. As much as I would love to kiss Canada in the mouth, I don’t think I’m ready to take the risk of dying for the country as part of my occupation. I don’t want that to be an element of my 9 to 5. Of course, as Louis CK once mentioned, these soldiers only “think” that they’re dying for the country, because really what are wars about these days anyway? Unless you belong in a small country fighting an invading force, you’re most likely part of a large military machine fighting for unsexy geopolitical reasons engineered by politicians at the behest of the one-percenters. But hey, at the very least, in the soldiers mind, they would gladly lay their life for the country. That’s what really counts.

So me being an ordinary civilian, how much do I love Canada? Well, it would be easy to say I could die for the country more than I would die for South Korea or the Philippines, but there was actually one point in my life when I could measure my love for the country in another comparative fashion. It’s ugly, but it’s the truth: I love sleeping in my own bed more than I love Canada.

After graduating from university the first time, I was at a loss as to what to do with my life. Looking for some life experiences, I decided to apply for the navy. I figured it would be good to be part of the navy since I could be in the military without having to be in the ground and stabbing someone in the neck. My uncle is in the US Navy, and he seemed to be living quite the good life with his family in Hawaii. I was all ready to go and sign away my existence when I learned that the first eight months would involve me being in a submarine hot bedding. Hot bedding is the practice of sharing a bed with people and taking turns sleeping in shifts. That’s why the bed is “hot,” it’s always warm from the person who slept on it a couple of minutes ago. So that would’ve been my life, hot bedding in a steel canister, floating or sinking in a dark abyss. I decided no. It was too high a price for me to pay.

Living overseas, I’ve met many soldiers. A lot of them have suffered tremendous trauma from their times in conflict zones. I remember one soldier in particular who started drinking with me heavily a week after he came back from Afghanistan. I tried to keep up with him, but there was an odd glint in his eyes that just tells me he’s seen and experienced things most people shouldn’t. But my decision to not join the military was long before I’ve met firsthand people who’ve suffered from conflicts, conflicts which continue to this day. The bed situation was enough for me to say no. I don’t even remember if I was thinking about Afghanistan at the time. In fact, I remember considering and being seriously tempted to go to Afghanistan a few years ago for a non-military job. So it wasn’t even being in a conflict that deterred me, it truly was the beds.

It wasn’t until many years later, long after I’ve been living overseas that I’ve truly grown to love Canada. I’d like to think it was more with me growing older as opposed to me missing what was no longer there. I often trumpet my love for the country and evangelize the goodness that is Canada, but during the time when I could prove my love for country, I failed due to sleeping comforts.

These days, it is very difficult to join the military because you never really know which conflict you’ll be sent to and for what reason. Which place will they send you to, and will your death really matter or will it just be a statistic in the games people play for oil or whatever resources countries are now fighting for?  Conflicts are not as clear cut as fighting the Nazis. This is why I admire people who willingly join now. Knowing all of these detractors, despite cynics like, they still sign up for love of country.

I’m sorry, Canada. I love you. But I love you with my cowardly heart. It is a heart that needs a warm bed heated by my body heat alone.

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Korean Evenings

Horseman

Learning Korean has been a struggle for me. First off, it’s very difficult to find time to go to class with my job. On a busy day, I work two jobs which start at 7:00 am and end at 6:00 pm. On a really busy day, my day won’t end until 8:00 pm. Squeeze making art and perhaps more side work between that, and it’s very difficult to find time to do anything at all. A lot of Korean learners find listening to K-pop or watching dramas or TV shows help, but I’m not interested in any of those. Korean television is simply not that interesting. I’m mostly isolated at work, so there’s very little interaction with Koreans during my day, so it’s very difficult to learn Korean via osmosis. So what am I to do to increase my Korean fluency beyond intermediate? Sacrifice my evenings and take Korean classes.

I decided to take classes again to force me to take learning Korean more seriously. I took Korean lessons years ago but had to quit because I got busier with work and there was a huge jump in the difficulty level in the classes. It was very discouraging. After that, I didn’t really try that hard to learn Korean. In fact, I focused my attention to studying law instead.

I figure my problem has been a lot of my attempts to learn the language has been based on my own pace. Thus, it was very easy for me to quit or decide that I have learned enough for the day. I think that’s the problem with the Duolingo and Rosetta Stone solutions. They give you too much freedom. They also don’t force you to be in a situation where you actually have to speak Korean to another person. Even basic sentences can be very intimidating when speaking to another person. That’s one of my biggest hurdles. I simply don’t spend enough time interacting with Koreans in Korean.

The classes would result in less time spent at home, but I guess it will be time well spent. In any case, I need to be out more anyway without drinking or spending too much money. This also means I won’t be working as much during the evenings. But again, if I’m not out spending money, it should theoretically cancel out not making money. Korean classes, plus listening to Korean audio lessons (less time spent on podcasts), and reviewing with apps like Duolingo and Quizlet. Here’s hoping I keep this up.

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Space Death

Woman

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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Swallow the Moon

SwallowtheMoon

Too busy for thoughts, but not for art. God bless us all.

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The Bechdel Test

Elephant

Take the Bechdel test and apply it to women in real life. You’ll find some women simply do not pass the Bechdel test despite being free from the skewed gender norms in fiction.

Take the test and change men to the person’s significant other, or perhaps their children. Now you have a nice little game waiting for the other person to say, “my wife” or “my kid.”

Keep nodding your head to show you’re paying attention.

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Marriage Advice

toe_nail

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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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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When People Die Around Me…

Maurice_Riddick

A relative just died a couple of days during another relative’s funeral. See, it’s moments like this that keep me listening to Elliott Smith.

That right there is my problem. Instead of genuinely expressing grief over a loved one dying, I make a joke about Elliott Smith. Someone who wrote the most touching songs about depression, someone whose songs I still listen to to this day, and who he himself died of the most tragic circumstances. Two of my sisters called me about the tragic news, and I did it again, I reacted by making jokes, not about Elliott Smith, but I tried to be lighthearted about the situation nonetheless.

See if I come across a tragedy, I joke about it, don’t talk about it seriously, then I keep it bottled up inside until it gets all black as ink. Then later when it gets too much or when it hits me at a bad part of my day, it comes out through my art. Instead of processing things and talking about it like a normal, functional adult, I keep it inside… that or write entries about it in a site that won’t be seen by people who actually matter in my life. This is why when I asked, “was he sleeping?” after hearing an old relative died, the other person was not sure whether I was being serious or was it another set-up to a bad joke.

If everything is all smiles, no one gets it when you’re being serious.

Anyway, back to what happened. It’s really sad, but both people were a little older and though the first death was kind of expected, the other one, though I kinda expected due to his age, it took everyone by surprise due to circumstances. Death sucks. I realize that one should expect the passing of older people, but knowing this doesn’t make things any easier. I’m still grieving over my mother passing away. I can only imagine how others are feeling right about now. I know this gonna numb me for a while. I haven’t been that close with both people in the past few years, but both have been really there for me and my family back when we really needed their help. We kinda owe them. I owe them. And in the face of such kindness and generosity, the least I could do is feel really bad over their passing and take it a little bit more seriously. Listen to ‘Either/Or’ and just keep to myself.

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Birds, Octopus, Vegas Weddings and Being a Bad Friend

Crow

A friend of mine from high school is getting married in Vegas soon. She’s kinda skirting on the idea and doesn’t even refer to it as a wedding. She calls it more of a “celebration” than a “wedding.” But for all practical purposes, it is a wedding. She plans to go there with a guy she’s been living with for years now. I met him too. They visited us here in Seoul and we travelled to Japan with them. He seems pretty cool and I really think he makes a good match for my buddy. The problem is, for some reason, despite me being one of her oldest and best friends from high school, she seems to be actively avoiding telling me this.

Another friend told me about her plans. She even advised her, “I think you’d better tell Joe soon.” But still, no word. I message her online all the time, telling her inane jokes about the desert, Las Vegas, gambling, married life, buffets, Cher, etc… still nothing. I saw this friend last year in Canada, and we had a great time together. But back then, she told me nothing about her nuptial plans.

When I was getting married, I invited her and my oldest friends over to attend. Of course, only my best friend from university could afford to attend a wedding overseas. But why am I getting shut out? Am I that terrible a person?

I remember one time she confided to me about donating her kidney to one of her friends. It’s a very noble gesture, one that I hope someday I would have the courage to do should I be required to make a similar sacrifice. However, after hearing this, I told her that she was being extremely selfish and shortsighted. She wasn’t thinking about my needs, especially when I might need a kidney in the future. I also said that donating a kidney doesn’t necessarily make her a better person than me. Going to church more often does. Of course this was all told in jest, but it took her months to realize I was kidding. Perhaps this might’ve caused some damage?

The whole marriage thing got me thinking about Vegas weddings however. If you’re gonna get married, presumably committing yourself to the one person you’ll share your life with in a special, sacred ceremony to be remembered as one of the most significant memories of your existence, why do it in one of the few places in the United States with legalized prostitution? How did this idea ever take off? How was this ever marketed? Why aren’t people having quickie weddings in happier places, places like Disneyland or something?

Is it the booze? It’s the booze, isn’t it?

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Japan Again

Flowers

Visited Japan again. Japan is a great place to visit. I would live there if the living expense vs. wages is more reasonable. Anywhere but Tokyo though. Tokyo is a nightmare of trains and buses.

One thing I always liked about the country is the general respect towards others and the overwhelming sense of empathy. People are always mindful of how others are… smiling, not getting in each other’s space, not being too loud on their phones, etc. It’s great. Here in Seoul, despite having a history of Confucian, community-centered value system, people tend to be more self-centered. They are not aware of other’s personal space. I got mine; you go get yours, type of attitude. It’s not a big deal, and I’ve gotten used to it. But it’s often the small things that make one appreciate a place more.

Maybe this is just me being Canadian and missing general politeness.

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