Tag Archives: octopus

Mohammed Bin Salman is a Fraud

Squidy

If an insect bit you, it committed what could be considered a crime against your person. It attacked you. Aside from being an irritant and bringing a general feeling of disgust, knowing that a six-legged creature that normally dwells in moist, dark, quarters brought its fangs to pierce skin, who knows what sort of diseases the creature has wrought with its violence. So what does a person do? Most people would quickly kill the insect with a strike of a palm or with a rolled-up newspaper. Others would swat the creature away, blame the act on its instinct or other innocuous causes and just move on. Afterwards, perhaps do something to prevent being bitten again.

A child however would sometimes be cruel. They would mete out punishment by slowly torturing the poor creature. Perhaps they would tear its limbs out one by one, or maybe slowly burn it with a magnifying glass.

This is how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does justice. It crucified a person in public in the holy city of Mecca. Though rare, it often uses capital punishment for crimes such as anti-government activism and homosexuality. It is abhorrent. As much as the west hates on ISIS and how violent they can be on what they perceive as transgressors, Saudi Arabia sees them eye to eye on many of these issues.

Canada recently sent out a couple of tweets calling out Saudi Arabia to release the activist Samar Badawi and her brother who were both arrested for speaking out against the government. Samar Badawi is famous for leading the fight for women’s rights in the country. She spoke out against Saudi’s guardianship system as well as advocated for women’s right to drive. Now, I’m not a big advocate for diplomacy via Twitter. It is a clumsy tool, and diplomacy is anything but clumsy. When Canada sent out those tweets, it publicly shamed Saudi Arabia for what it’s currently doing in terms of human rights.  And while they do deserve public shaming, I don’t think public shaming is something that diplomats should do.

But if Canada committed an error in publicly shaming Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia acts exaggeratedly by calling it an “attack on the kingdom,” what do you call their tweet in response? Didn’t their message with an Air Canada plane headed towards the CN Tower explicitly threaten a terrorist retaliation against Canada? Did it also not implicitly admit to being responsible for the attack on 9/11? And again, this was just a response over a call to release activists fighting for human rights. Don’t speak up for human rights or else we’ll send terrorist planes your way? Canada is dealing with a child.

And this child is aiming to hurt Canada through education and future investments. Cutting off current trade doesn’t necessarily impact Canada tremendously, but removing Saudi students from Canadian universities and cutting off future investments could hurt Canada in the long run. I’m glad that Canada doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of backing down from its stance, but I really hope other countries join us in standing up against this evil government.

Mohammed Bin Salman is not a reformer. People need to stop saying this. He is a young leader who inherited his position. Much like North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, he got infinitely lucky in the birth lottery. And while he tries to create a progressive Saudi image by having more foreign investments and recently allowing women in the country to drive, he fights Qatar, kidnaps the Lebanese Prime Minister, and arrests and holds hostage the country’s rich and political elites in an attempt to consolidate power. The country continues to crack down and arrest its own people for simply erring grievances against the government. It continues to punch down on Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the region, creating its own humanitarian crisis (I don’t know if Saudi Arabia has ever had to punch up in a military conflict). Mohammad Bin Salman is not a true friend of the west. He is Kim Jung Un with oil money. Saudi Arabia is attacking Canada as a warning to all other western countries who would choose to criticize the kingdom for its domestic and international abuses. Instead of military threats, their government will use their purse strings to punish other countries. They save physical violence on their own people as well as weaker countries.

As for the criticism that Canada should stick its nose to where it belongs, Samar Badawi’s brother is Raif Badawi, an author and an activist himself. Like his sister, he was arrested for his anti-government activities and sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, fifty of which he has already received. His wife is a Canadian. The Canadian government is looking after its own. But even if this wasn’t the case, it should be the responsibility of every rational government to speak out when one of its allies or partners is violating human rights. A true friend and ally would want its allies and friends to be better. If you see your brother pulling out an insect’s legs one by one, you’ll put a stop to it and teach him a lesson about cruelty and kindness. This is what Canada did. And for that, we just got threatened with a 9/11 attack.

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Park Geun Hye Got Her

monster

The whole Korean impeachment thing has swallowed my wife whole. It’s everything she watches on TV outside of the occasional Korean drama. She follows it all the time on the Web and has even talked to me about the most unsteady conspiracy theories. There are even whispers about the President having AIDS, to which I say it should not be an issue because having AIDS does not affect one’s ability at their profession unless they are a sex worker. Concerns about this not only expose people’s ignorance but also their prejudice against people with the disease. It has made normally rational people irrational. Park Geun Hye has become the reason for all of the ills in the country. My wife even tried to drag me into an anti-government rally over the weekend. It consumed my weekend! And it will probably consume my wife for months to come long after the president is driven out of office.

The thing is, I used to be like her until I got tired of it. I still enjoy watching people yell at each other over politics. I still argue with people occasionally on Twitter about it. But I no longer see the point of the endless back and forth of talking points on the likes of Bill Maher’s show, MSNBC, and worst of all, CNN. You learn something about politics, but after a while, it’s just the same talking points against another talking point. It’s just the thrill of getting the last word in, saying it better than your political opponent. It gets very tiring. And as much as the Park Geun-Hye thing is a concern for my wife since she is Korean, following it religiously for every bit of development, even the scraps of conspiracy theories, does not make the process of impeaching her any faster. It doesn’t fix things that are broken. It just aggravates her to no end.

I remember writing a few months back that politics is my professional wrestling. It’s the endless drama I watch. I follow Canadian politics, but it’s not as absurd as American and now Korean politics. The thing is, just like professional wrestling back then, I try not to get too worked up when The Rock gets his title stolen by Triple H. I can simply walk away from it. Some people need to learn to walk away from politics now and then and not get worked into a frenzy. Listen to yourself before you start sounding like a talking point, or worse, a conspiracy theorist.

As corny as it may sound, instead of following things religiously, people should act. You want Park Geun Hye out? Then protest, support opposing parties, donate to groups, etc. Don’t just follow every bit of news, fake news, and non-news on the Internet as if that will help change anything. You don’t like Trump? Support the cause he’s bound to hurt. Same thing with Trudeau. Mostly a decent Prime Minister but his pipeline stance is not really to my liking. Support anything green.

I say these things now, but tonight, I’m meeting my wife and her friends for dinner. I’m sure politics will be talked about endlessly. And to preserve my sanity, I will reflexively reach out to my phone and look at my Twitter… where I will definitely find more politics.

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Leave Pirate Grandma Alone

Octopus.jpg

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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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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I don’t Seoul.U

Bear

One thing that irritates me about Seoul, are people’s desire to make the city a major international tourist attraction without A) examining what makes the city unique and B) examining what foreigners are actually interested in. It seems that decisions on creating tourist attractions and campaigns are based more on a committee which have very little to do with the place and the audience.

The city will be repurposing an old overpass near Seoul Station and turning it into the Seoul Skygarden, an elevated park in the middle of a busy city center. They hired international designers to create the park, thus hoping to add some international design accolades on paper. Great, just great. I work near that area. It has extremely heavy traffic and the station itself is popular among homeless people. An elevated park with cafes and restaurants will not only worsen traffic conditions, it will further displace the homeless population. That or they would just gladly hangout at the internationally, designed structure.

It’s like the designers and city planners just thought about modernity and ignored everything else. It’s already been done with the station itself. Seoul Station used to be this old building built during the Japanese occupation. Ugly history aside, it’s still a beautiful and historic building. But the city decided to build a new Seoul Station right next to it, a modern structure that says absolutely nothing. Passersby wouldn’t even be able to make out the shape of the whole structure amongst the menagerie of glass and neighboring shops.

They do this again and again. City Hall is shaped like a wave that is trying to hide behind other more interesting buildings. Dongdaemun Design Plaza replaced the old stadium which displaced many of the people who used to do business in the old structure. Now it’s a pretentious glob right in the middle of a shopping area. It houses high-end fashion shops, replacing old merchants struggling to make ends meet by hawking their wares. Noryangjin Fish Market is being modernized into a soulless department store-looking bland attraction. Fish mongers who’ve done business there for years are being pressured by the city as well as gangsters to move to the newer, modern-looking area. City planners, instead of seeing what works and embracing it, they try to modernize things into attractions that would ultimately look old and dated given five or ten years. Seoul City Hall is not iconic, neither is Dongdaemun Design Plaza. They look like poor stabs at looking modern.

It’s really is a shame, but Koreans are often misguided when it comes to capitalizing on their environment and cultural appeal outside of K-pop. Even their attempts to coming up slogans for the city and the country have been disastrous. “I.Seoul.U” is a confusing mess that would attract no one. If anything, it reflects on the need to sound modern and hip to the detriment of language and communication. As for “Creative Korea,” ironically, it looks like it was plagiarized from “Creative France.” Appropriately, it speaks to the lack of creativity and poor attempts by the Korean tourism authorities. And in both cases, I believe no English-speaking expats, people who have learned to appreciate the country from an outsider’s point of view, have been consulted for the slogans.

Mind you, other cities are not immune to this. As much as I love Winnipeg, I’ve never liked its much-beloved Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I feel for the sentiment and the purpose of the place, but it looks like structure straight out of Mad Max. Also, who would travel to Winnipeg to see a museum on human rights? At least Edmonton had the wisdom to build the West Edmonton Mall. Americans and Canadians alike would drive for hours to visit Edmonton, a city of less than a million people, just to visit the giant mall. This would never be the case with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It’s like city planners are actively targeting the mandatory school field trip crowd. And despite being a structure dedicated to human rights, I remember planners were quick to ignore Aboriginal concerns regarding artifacts and Aboriginal graveyards. Just like Seoul, it’s a modern ugly structure that ignores many of the locals’ concerns and would likely not increase local tourism.

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Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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Mommet Dearest

Octopus

My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.

I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.

Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!

My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.

The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.

Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.

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Octopus Love

Hentai

Back in Seoul. Kinda busy catching up, so here’s a quick image.  It’s a tad small here so go to the larger image. Here!

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Canada, I love you.

octo_mouth

I will be visiting Canada this week. I haven’t been home for two years, so I’m quite excited about it. I say “quite” because I’ve kinda been struggling with bouts of depression lately. It’s been like this for over two weeks now and my recent birthday didn’t really help to cheer me up. Birthdays at a certain point become no longer a celebration for surviving a year on the planet, but a marker on how closer we are to death. In any case, here’s hoping that Canada puts me in a better mood.

Being in Canada means being on the move, which means being unable to update the site for a while. It’s not like anybody would miss it, but yeah, my journey back home would explain the lack of updates at the Weekly.

television_art_joseph_reyes

My sister’s best friend caught this on her TV a few weeks ago. It looks like my art is now gracing television sets all over my home province of Manitoba. Thank you, Shaw. As artists, we all aim to somehow contribute, no matter how small, to the zeitgeist. As an artist with no plans to have kids, my very small contributions are everything I have in terms of a legacy. Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere, will perhaps be inspired to draw and make art.

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