Tag Archives: life

My Obsession With One Photo

Ever since I saw it back when I was studying art in university, I’ve always been haunted by Duane Michal’s work, This Photograph is My Proof. It is one of my favorite images. It talks about longing and holding on to things which may or may not be true anymore. It is both sad and happy. It is mourning for love that is no longer there, but it is also celebrating love that used to exist.

대학에서 미술을 공부할 때 그것을 본 이후로 저는 항상 Duane Michals의 사진이 This Photograph is My Proof에 매료되었습니다. 제가 가장 좋아하는 이미지 중 하나이에요. 그것은 더 이상 사실 일 수도 있고 아닐 수도있는 것들을 갈망하고 붙잡는 것에 대해 이야기해요. 슬프고 행복해요. 더 이상 존재하지 않는 사랑에 대한 애도이고, 존재했던 사랑을 축하하는 것이기도해요.

Back when I first saw it, I was in a sad pathetic time in my life. And I guess every time I’m in that space, the picture always comes back to me. “Look, there was a time I was happy!”

처음 보았을 때 제 인생이 슬픈 한심한 시간을 보냈어요. 그리고 그 상황에 있을 때마다 그 사진이 항상 제게 돌아 오는 것 같아요. “이봐, 내가 행복했던 때가 있었어!”

It really applies to any picture and any situation. Here, I can put it on my image and it can equally apply even though my photography does not compare to Duane Michals’.

모든 그림과 상황에 실제로 사용할수 있어요. 여기에서 내 이미지에 붙일 수 있어요. 내 사진이 Duane Michals와 비교하지 않아도 똑같이 사용할수 있어요.

The picture also talk about how pictures communicate moments in the past, and because of that, they might not be true anymore. Pictures lie. In This Photograph is My Proof, the image says something, but the words elaborate things more and perhaps contradicts what is going on. But really, the writer could have written anything else as well. The writer could’ve lied if he wanted to. “Things are still great between us. She loves me. I love her.”

이 사진은 또한 사진을 과거의 순간을 어떻게 전달하는지에 대해 이야기하며, 그로 인해 더 이상 사실이 아닐 수도 있어요. 사진은 자주 거짓말이에요. This Photograph is My Proof에 이미지는 무언가를 말하지만, 단어는 상황을 더 정교하게 만들고 무슨 일이 일어나고 있는지 모순되요.

A friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend and purged all of her images on his Instagram. You know why? Because, “those photographs are proofs” that love existed between them once. And now, he would rather pretend that it didn’t exist in the first place. Online, people controlling the message on their images is more pervasive than Duane Michal’s pen. But still, he saw that people control their images, people are sad, and the past is often never as good as the present.

내 친구가 최근 여자 친구와 헤어지고 Instagram에서 모든 사진을 삭제했어요. 왜 그런지 알아? 왜냐하면 “그 사진들은 그들 사이에 한때 사랑이 존재했다는 증거”이기 때문에. 그리고 이제 그는 애초에 그 상황이 존재하지 않는 척하고 있어요. 온라인에서 사진의 메시지를 제어하는 사람들이 Duane Michals의 펜보다 더 널리 퍼져 있어요. 그러나, 여전히 그는 사람들이 자신의 사진을 통제하고, 사람들이 슬프고, 과거가 현재만큼 좋지 않다는 것을 알았어요.

Notice how I’m trying to write some of this in Korean? I’m trying to be more serious with my Korean studies, bad grammar and all.

제가 이걸 한국어로 왜 쓰려고하는지 알 겠어요? 저는 한국어 공부하는것은 진지하게 노력하고 있지라도 잘못된 문법이 보통 사영해요 .

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Grandma

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away last night. Due to COVID-19, I won’t be able to make it to the funeral. 2020 really knows how to make an impression.

I never met any of my grandfathers. Both of them passed away before I was born, Less than two years ago, my grandmother on my mother’s side passed away in Hawaii. I officially don’t have any grandparents anymore. And my father, he is technically an orphan. As I’m writing this, he’s trying to catch a flight to the funeral, but with COVID-19, quarantines and all, who knows if he’ll even make it. But yeah, as a son, at the very least, he has to try.

It’s been many years since I last saw my grandmother. At the time, she was proudly showing off the dress she planned to be buried in. Even back then, she had a very comfortable relationship with death, and she planned and paid for everything. It was morbid, pragmatic, and in many ways hopeful. Perhaps death isn’t that scary. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned, I haven’t been the best grandson to her; I barely kept in touch. And though I love her, I was mostly absent from her life.

She was an educator, teaching elementary school students. I have some memories of her teaching me some math when I was younger. I remember starting out being notoriously bad at math, although later, it became one of the more easier subjects for me. Maybe it was thanks to her, or maybe it was thanks to a cosmic triangle I wore on my head to make myself smarter.

My grandmother raised my eldest sister when she was young. She was like a second mother to her. When I and the rest of my siblings were born, we had nannies take care of us, but that doesn’t mean my grandmother wasn’t a part of our lives. I still remember her homemade remedies for minor ills which she administered to us when we were young. I always thought of them as superstitious gypsy magic.

Growing up, she hated me playing video games. She said that it would ruin my eyes. Admittedly, back then, my eyes were a bit dry and itchy, and I did blink quite a bit. But right now, I’m the only one in the family not wearing glasses. So maybe it was the opposite. Maybe it made eyes better. Also back when I was ten years old, she taught me and my sisters how to play mahjong. God bless her.

There are more odd stories about my grandmother, including hypnotists, dancing statues, and dead Japanese soldiers, but I’ll just leave that for another time. For now, I would like to remember her as a selfless woman who cared for everyone, made our lives more colorful, and mourned for my mother as if she was her own daughter.

I love you, Grandma. May your soul rest in peace.

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Wasted Year

This coming weekend is the long Korean Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a short work week, but outside of seeing relatives, there’s really not much to look forward to outside of just staying indoors. The Korean government is asking people to stay at home and don’t visit their hometowns during the holiday in order to keep the coronavirus infection rate low. Ever since the resurgence of the virus a few weeks ago caused by a right wing religious group, Korea’s been bouncing back and forth between over 100 to lower than 100 infections per day and people are worried that the long holiday will make the infection rate skyrocket. It’s been even more dangerous lately because most of the cases have been untraceable. So yeah, this means more staying at home, more Netflix, and more getting frustrated/bored. A long weekend sound horrible right now. It is literally making me anxious.

And really, what is there to be thankful for? 2020 has been a depressing slog. I can’t think of any way that I have progressed this year outside of getting a small raise at work. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m still employed, and I am, but that’s been a really low bar in this horrible, horrible year. I mean for crying out loud, Burger King and McDonalds just announced that they won’t be able to have tomatoes in their burgers due to floodings and the tremendously high price of vegetables this year. Tomatoes… we don’t even get tomatoes this year. What a joyless, depressing year!

I’ve noticed it recently, and I’ve heard from a couple of my friends about it, but Instagram isn’t really letting people grow in their platform these days. I had a bit of a growth spurt two years ago, but lately I’ve been seeing myself plateau to maybe just a handful of followers a week. I’ll even get bots following me and unfollowing me after a while which really makes my weekly analytics totally unreliable. I think Instagram has been infected by the awful that made Facebook an awful platform. It is now openly discouraging people to grow their followers outside of paying to promote their posts for more visibility. It’s always there, that “promote” button waiting for people to push their content to more people. As for it actually working, a couple of Youtube videos tell me the investment isn’t really worth it. It doesn’t really add up to more views or followers.

I’m not really trying to grow my followers or anything. I have no grand delusions of making a living out of social networks. I just want people to see my work. But with this new Instagram algorithm making the platform a pay-to-play scheme, it makes it that much harder to get my work out there. And what gets to me is that I’m just an unknown artist who could die unknown and it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference to me. It must really suck for full-time artists who live and die from marketing themselves on social platforms. Seriously, everything Facebook touches turns to absolute shit.

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Of Mice and Men and Dreams

I’ve been helping a friend’s daughter who is now taking classes in Canada via an online portal. She’s preparing to move there come January. I’ve been helping her with her English and Biology. Recently, I insisted that we start looking at classic books and analyzing them the way high school students do in North America. I didn’t want her to go to Canada and not know books like Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, etc. I also wanted her to familiarize herself with the analytical tradition of studying as well. I notice that most Korean students are trained to memorize and regurgitate facts instead of analyzing them and generating new truths. It was a fortunate if not serendipitous move on my part then that we learned that she’ll be studying Of Mice and Men in a few weeks, a book that we already started discussing.

One of Steinbeck’s themes in the book is the death of a dream and how one becomes part of meaningless cycle of toil and hopelessness. The book was written in 1937, at the height of the Great Depression. In the beginning of the book, it describes itinerant workers toiling during the week and spending all of their money on liquor and women at the local brothels, the cycle continuously repeating, and the men being trapped in the hopeless lifestyle. In contrast, the protagonist of the book, George and Lenny, dream of someday saving up enough money to buy their own farm and raising animals, and most especially, rabbits. By the end of the book, the dream is dashed, and George, not having a dream, presumably becomes just like the other men in the farm, trapped in a cycle of endless labor.

I see where Steinbeck is coming from, but I believe despite his very dour description of life in the 1930s, what he paints is a very idealistic, almost Norman Rockwellian view of how life in America should be, a view that basically hasn’t changed throughout all time. In order to have a successful life, you have to own a home, an idealized home, whatever that means. In George and Lenny’s case, it’s one with animals.

The thing about homes and the dream of homes is that it gives a sense of permanence, literally a shelter that will be there for you and one that will presumably be able to be passed to your children and grandchildren, a legacy that will outlast your very short existence. But how is that dream, or any dream for that matter, any different from the existence of the men in the farm? You work for most of your life, you pay off your mortgage, you spend a few years enjoying retirement, you die. The house and all of your legacy will eventually be whittled away by your descendants until you are but a faded memory. And these descendants will continue on with their own dreams. Maybe all of the work you did made their life a bit better; at least, the house you bought gave them shelter, but you still ended up working everyday and spending most of your life doing something you would rather not do.

Maybe the dream is working in a farm all of your life? Maybe the dream is going to brothels every weekend? That’s not what we have been trained to want all of our lives, but I suspect the dream that Steinbeck envisioned in the book is simply the traditional long-term delayed gratification we’ve all been educated and conditioned to want, as opposed to the short term gratification cycle that the men in the farm enjoy. It’s quite religious almost. Endure the toils and suffering on earth for now; later, you will be rewarded in heaven. Looking back, and since I myself an a recipient of a lifetime of programming and biases, I don’t think I’m qualified to tell which one is better.

….

I’ve touched up on the topic of death many times before. I remember one time talking about the all too common and simple way of dying by colliding with a planet (basically jumping to your death) and another time talking about how easy it is to harvest cherry seed pits. Recently, I’ve been thinking that all death comes down to three categories: death by evolution, death by biology, and death by physics. Death by evolution is basically all death that involves being eaten by another animal, basically taking part in the food pyramid. It’s probably the most exotic of all deaths since not many people die from getting eaten by animals compared to other forms of death. Where am I supposed to get eaten by wolves in Seoul?

Death by biology is death caused by the failings of our own physical bodies, be it aging, cancer, or any sort of disease. Looking at statistics, it’s what most deaths are: cancer, heart disease, and in 2020, coronavirus. Death by biology is the slowest of deaths and probably the most natural, but it is far from being kind. The atheist argument to the non-existence of a benevolent God is the fact that he allows the existence of childhood cancer and all sorts of natural and unavoidable maladies to fall onto children.

The last category is death by physics. This is death caused by our bodies’ inability to survive the powers of physics, be it the kinetic force of a bullet, or the marriage of mass and gravity when we fall to our doom. I suppose most homicides, at least violent ones, are death by physics. Most people dream of a slow death by biology. Death by physics are often the most jarring of deaths.

Lenny from Of Mice and Men died from physics. George will probably suffer a long death by biology.

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Pointlessly Healthy

Waiting for my turn

Apparently, according to my annual medical test, including an endoscopy, I’m actually healthier than I look and feel. My cardiovascular age is nine years younger than me, all of my bodily fluids tell nothing but good things, and my hearing and vision are both perfect. As much as I stare at the computer monitor all day at work, I still don’t need glasses. All of this good health news despite not working out at all since they forbade people from going to the gym last February. I have lost a lot of muscle mass and I honestly look worse naked, but I guess I have been eating a lot healthier since the pandemic started. I’ve been going to Subway sandwiches more often (Thanks, Jared! You disgusting sex predator!).

So yeah, I’m healthier for the end of the world. I probably should stop showering with a Life Alert around my neck.

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Dadadadadada

Fountain

I’ve been really busy this week, so just a quick posting of a drawing, or as I like to see it, a self portrait. I’m a urinal of a human being.

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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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Old Friend

Make Up.jpg

Alexis Ann Willsborough Poirier is one of my oldest friends. We met back in high school and she is one of the few people in high school I’m still interested in keeping in touch with. I like to think she is one of my best friends.

We went to several hiking and camping trips together. I remember despite her being quite fond of being outdoors and camping, she had trouble starting a fire. I sometimes suspected that my only purpose on those camping trips was to start a fire. But even if that was the case, I didn’t mind. Those early camping trips made me see how beautiful the province was. It also showed me that if worse comes to worse, I could live my life in the great outdoors. I learned that moose without their antlers look like weird aliens from behind. And that bears wouldn’t really bother your camp unless you have a bag of marshmallows sitting outside.

She was the first person to get me into working out regularly. I remember meeting up with her early in the morning and working out in the gym before going to school. She and her sister, Alicia, were quite big with sports and working out, and I just tried to keep up with it. Those gym sessions were also a good way of keeping in touch since at that time I was starting in university and she was still in high school. It was a great excuse to meet, workout, and eat a heavy breakfast which would make all of the workout pointless.

We went to grad/prom twice. This was not for any romantic reason at all. I believe it was more for us and our friends spending key moments of our lives together. One thing I appreciated about Alexis is how much she valued her friends. And she tried to keep our core group together especially for key holidays. Even after I started spending my Christmas holidays overseas while I was in university, we always made it a point to celebrate Christmas dinner together at a later date. Outside of childhood Christmases, those were the best Christmas celebrations I’ve had.

The first time I left Canada for South Korea, she was there with my family to say goodbye to me at the airport. None of my other friends were there. She was. And the times I would come back home, she would try to be there to pick me up. After a while, this became impossible since she moved to another province, but she always made an attempt to see me whenever I’m in the country. And when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, she drove hundreds of miles to see me, even accidentally running over a poor cow in the process.

One of my biggest regrets was not really being there for her when her father passed away. Though it was not sudden and she had some time to slowly process it, I wish I was more present at the time. I remember her and I talking whenever there’s some serious problems in her life, but with her father passing, I really didn’t know where to place myself. What was the right thing to do? Do I simply fly back home? Fly back home to what? To where? Am I intruding? All I could do was just be there on the phone.

Although she wasn’t there for my wedding, she visited Korea once, and we even traveled for a short time in Japan. In Seoul, we went hiking with her fiance, just like old times. The man she would eventually marry is a great guy. I really enjoyed meeting him when they visited. I remember when we were younger, she would say that if her close friends thought that if there was something wrong about the person she was dating, she would end it with him. I’m not sure if I totally believed this, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any disqualifying traits with her future husband. They seem perfect for each other.

She had a small ceremony in her house last year.

She visited Japan again this year and just got back to Canada today. I was invited to come and see them while they were in Japan, but I felt that since it was their honeymoon as well as a trip to introduce the couple to their Japanese relatives, I felt that it was too much of a family affair. I would be intruding. This was the biggest reason I couldn’t see them aside from a myriad other reasons why visiting Japan was not best at the moment. I tried to message her as much as I can, especially since we were on the same time zone, but a part of me wished that I could’ve spent a day or two with my old friend. And now that she’s in Canada again, I could feel that distance again. I’m sure we’ll still bond over hockey long distance, but yeah, the distance is palpable and the Winnipeg Jets last season was not very inspiring.

So why am I writing all of this? For no particular reason. I just miss my buddy.

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Subway Sandwiches and #Inktober

There’s this Subway sandwich restaurant close to the train station I used to regularly go to before. I knew the owner and everything, but since I started experimenting with different types of diets (strictly salads, strictly Burger Kings, etc.), I stopped going there for almost a couple of years.

There’s another Subway sandwich restaurant close to my company. It’s newer, but through word of mouth, I learned that it’s also owned by the owner of the other restaurant. I’ve been going there every day for two weeks now. No one really knows who I am when I go there, which is fine since I usually prefer just dining alone undisturbed.

The other day, as I was ordering my usual 30-inch Spicy Italian (on Parmesan oregano with shredded cheese, all vegetables except jalapeno, and plain mustard), the owner walked in. He recognized me and we had a rather loud conversation in Korean. He was shaking my hands and everything… and all that time, the people in the restaurant must be thinking, “who the heck is this guy?!” Why was the owner shaking this foreigner’s hand and so happy to see him? What is going on?!

Then he ordered the sandwich artist (I believe that’s what they prefer to be called) to give me two free cookies of my choice and a Dr. Pepper. I accepted, then sat down to enjoy my meal. The owner of the restaurant walked out and said farewell before he left.

A minute after, another sandwich artist came to me again with more cookies, compliments of the house. Brilliant!

Then it struck me. Next time I go in, I’m gonna start pushing my weight around. “Don’t you know who I am?!?! You’d better give me an extra cookie!” “Hey! Hey! You’d better change your gloves before making MY sandwich! How come you’re not wearing a hair net?! And where’s my cookie?! I want that cookie NOW! Pay attention to me!

I’m a super important person!

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On a different note, it’s October and I’m participating in #Inktober for the first time. My works take forever to do, so it’s impossible for me to finish one drawing a day. So I’m cheating. Taking inspiration from Garth Jenning’s music video for REM’s ‘Imitation of Life’, I created an image that can be scanned at different spots to reveal the day’s image. Creatively lazy, yay!

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I don’t deserve puppies.

Foxes

There is an old article in Scientific American about letting go of self-esteem. The whole thing boils down to people’s quest to build themselves up and their own expectations for the future inevitably leads to unhappiness and disappointment. Now, I don’t really know how one can scientifically measure happiness, but I get it.

Prior to the 60s, most children were raised with great expectations from their parents. But instead of being praised and being taught that they are special, things were rather Spartan. You earn your praise. You follow your parents’ or society’s expectations and make something of yourself. Maybe afterwards, people will say something nice about you.

Then ‘Mr. Rogers; Neighborhood’ came along and Fred Roger’s rather Christian message of every child being special change most of the way children are raised. Every child is now special just by virtue of existing. They have gifts and unique features which should be nurtured, and every child should not be ashamed of what they are, including their personal weaknesses. Detractors however saw this as children being raised to be weak or “everyone getting a participation trophy.”

In any case, both ways of raising children look at increasing one’s self-esteem, be it via earning it through hard work or just as a God-given virtue common to all human beings. In a capitalist society, this self-esteem is mostly reflected by what one owns and has accomplished: the size of your house, your education, the car you drive, the attractiveness of your wife, etc. The Scientific American article argues that by basing our self-esteem in such lofty external and materialistic goals, we often find ourselves frustrated in the pursuit, disappointed in our failures, and surprised at how short-lived the satisfaction we experience after achieving our goals. It’s almost like the article was written by a hippie or a communist, but there is truth to the whole thing. As poor as Nepal is, the country ranks as the highest in the happiness and self-fulfillment index among the world’s nations. Apparently, you don’t have to have all of the nice things to be happy. You don’t have to believe that you’ll amount to something either.

The hitch to this whole thing is that I believe already have low self-esteem and yet I’m not happy. That’s a really weird statement coming from someone who has his own Web site which nobody visits, but I really think it’s true. I don’t see myself very highly. And each morning, I wake up thinking that if I could find something to be truly happy about for an hour, then it’s a good day. Happiness is fleeting. And the problem with being truly happy is that you get so lost in it that you don’t watch yourself when things inevitably turn sideways. Afterwards, you get even more depressed. Happiness is a puppy. Things are good until you’re mourning outside a vet.

According to Scientific American, don’t even bother getting that puppy. You probably don’t deserve it. You are a degenerate, and nobody truly cares about you or loves you. You will amount to nothing and that puppy will end up starving. Learn to live with these truths and be happier with the little things in life.

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