Tag Archives: Seoul

Space Death


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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Forgetting Me

Rabbit Headlights

After the last couple of days, I now believe that the animated movie ‘Coco’ was teaching a bad lesson. It had great things to say about family, but the part about remembering dead relatives is a tad misguided.  The lesson needed tempering. Sure, it is only natural to remember our loved ones long before they’re gone, maybe even learn some lessons about their lives especially if they’ve made a significant impact to their families or the larger community while they were alive. But outside of that, I’m not sure if it really benefits the dead in the most pragmatic sense.

It has been a very rough recently around me. People have been dealing with health issues, with some having the possibility of passing in a few days or so. With this rather depressing mood, I’ve been thinking how things truly are for the dead once they have passed. Life does not stop. And I believe we sometimes overvalue our impact in other people’s lives, which is part of the reason why we fear death. What about my wife? What about my family?

They will all eventually move on.

If there’s one valuable thing that Facebook has taught people is that people do eventually get over you. People move one after a person’s metaphorical “death” in their lives. Our old classmates, co-workers, and exes have fulfilling lives without us. They move on and we become strangers to them, as much as they probably become strangers to us. “Boy, he’s gained weight since I last saw him.” “Oh wow, she’s got kids now.” Life does not stop. We might not have died, but we might as well have because they wouldn’t really know at this point if we did. And I’m not really sure if it benefits me if any of these people from an earlier part of my life, as wonderful as they are, remembers me. A part of me thinks wanting people to remember you is a tad arrogant.

If my church teachings are to be believed, the secrets of the universe will be unveiled to you right after you die. Your plate is full right after you die. You’ve got the whole world and beyond to know and experience. Do you really want others to suffer long after you’re gone? Do their remembrances and broken hearts make the secrets of the universe that more appealing? Wouldn’t time at that point be meaningless and we’ll eventually see all of our living relatives in what is equivalent to a millisecond?

One of the reasons why I don’t have children is that I don’t want to burden others with my death. It’s one of my regrets with marriage. Should something happen to me, I don’t want my wife suffering long after I’m gone. It would be far better for me to die single in a lightly attended funeral than to leave behind a widow who will struggle her life back together after I’m gone. But then again, maybe that’s the “remember me” arrogance talking. I married a strong woman. I’m sure she’ll move on just fine without me.

So yeah, I think there’s comfort remembering our loved ones. Memories of my mother still warm my heart, followed by bouts of longing and depression. I can’t help it. But yeah, in my case, it’s arrogant to ask people to remember me after I’m gone. Perhaps the kinder and better message would be “Forget me. Live a good life without me.”

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Black Man in a Bank

Comic Sans

As much as I complain about my wife sometimes, I really do appreciate her for her patience with me, not just for my many issues and personal failings, but just for the mere fact that I’m a foreigner, and sometimes being a foreigner can suck in South Korea. I can only imagine how it is being married to one.

I’ve been living in South Korea for over ten years now. I’ve been a customer of the same Korean bank for over ten years as well. It can be a bit difficult for foreigners to get credit cards in Korean banks, especially since many foreigners don’t stay in Korea for long, but with my long record and my stable job, the bank at the time didn’t think twice to sign me up. This was a few years ago. I thought I had a great relationship with them.

My wife and I went to the bank to apply for a small loan. This was not unreasonable since most married couples do have loans and like most metropolitan cities, the whole thing runs on debt. We intended to borrow money under both of our names, with me being the breadwinner and my wife as a Korean national, being a sort of guarantor that we won’t take off on our debts. I didn’t have too much hope since I expect most banking institutions in the country would probably still be a bit cautious regarding lending to foreigners, even if they intend to stay in the country. I earn more than the average Korean, but I’m not rich by any metric. Being a foreigner might still be a bit too big a hurdle to pass for them to give me a loan.

What my wife and I got instead was the proverbial black-man-getting-denied-a-loan treatment. (No, I’m not black.) Despite being a loyal customer for years, the clerk, who was a senior consultant at the Euljiro, Seoul branch of KB Bank, didn’t even bother to look at my records. He didn’t even ask for my ID, which I figured was the least they could do to make sure that I was indeed a foreigner staying in the country legally. I was a loyal customer and the clerk simply assumed that I was “just a teacher” who probably couldn’t pay back my loans. (He did suggest this. He didn’t even ask me for my job!)What upset me more is that they did this to my wife, it’s almost like she was the foreigner. I could take the slings of racisms just fine, but I get more upset if my wife gets it by proxy. Maybe it would’ve been better if I wasn’t there. It definitely would’ve been better if she was married to a Korean. They would have at least looked at his taxes and banking records.

Yeah, maybe the bank just has a policy against loans with foreigners or couples with foreign spouses contributing the majority to their household income. Who knows? But if they do, I get it. I truly do. But couldn’t they at least hide their biases a bit? At least give me some dignity and pretend they’re looking at my records and consider me as a proper customer. Heck, I spend money, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy just as much as the next guy. And if you ask some of the disgruntled people I work with, I’m spending and contributing way too much compared to them.

And no, it’s not all banks here. We went to another bank and they were much more accommodating to us. It’s just that the person we talked to first at the bank I’ve been a customer with for so many years decided to be an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t intending to be a bigot asshole, but he sure acted like one.

So yeah, despite the Pyeongchang hype, Korea can sometimes still be ugly to foreigners. It’s getting better, and incidents like this happen to me less often. But when it does happen, it still stings like a motherfucker.

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On Making Art


With my work framed, the illusion of a fake movie leaflet for a fake Japanese animation about Canadian residential schools is complete. A friend of mine is not a big fan of these works. I don’t think she really likes it when I stray away from my traditional drawing styles. It’s hard enough to sell my current work as it is. It’s even harder to sell my works especially if I’m making fake movie posters or action figures.

The problem is what sometimes works in my mind doesn’t really translate into the image. Or I have trouble putting myself into the viewers’ shoes, especially since there’s often a lot of context I’m putting into the work which viewers may not particularly know nor care about. Let’s look at this work in particular.

The work is titled “Residential School,” but the idea of a residential school is way too subtle. There’s an obvious reference to religious boarding schools, but it would be rare to find someone who would assume that the girl in the center is an Aboriginal. The work is one from a series of posters inspired by Canadian history. I resent that not much of Canadian history is known outside of Canada, especially when a lot of our neighbors’ histories (particularly our neighbor in the south) is told in books, movies, and are part of the global consciousness. I think the horrors of residential schools and the silent genocide of Aboriginal communities should be told just as much as the plight of the slaves or the persecution of the Jewish people. But then again, borrowing imagery from Ghibli Studios might be a bit too tongue-in-cheek and not many people might see it nor appreciate it when/if they do.

Also, I’m not sure if there are many people who like Japanese animation, are appreciative of Canadian history, and are willing to pay good money for fake leaflets that cater to both.

My Japanese is non-existent. My wife speaks Japanese and she’s confused by Japanese I use in the image. They translate in the most basic Google-translate sort of way, but I don’t really mind. The characters make for an interesting visual. The Japanese names don’t mean much either.

“Himax” and “Colby Digital” are rip-offs of “Imax” and “Dolby Digital.” But I doubt if anyone would notice that. “Blamco” is a fake company name I once used for a line of toys I made. Again, no one would know this.  “Taken” is a reference to the Liam Neeson movie. Children were very much kidnapped by the Canadian government.

In any case, these decisions were made for my own benefit and not with the audience in mind. The use of the name “Taken,” a small part of the credits, is for my own amusement, not to provide more insight to the viewer. This method of making art doesn’t normally produce compelling, saleable artwork, but if the purpose of the work is get over my depression, to just be active, or to just make images to amuse myself, I think it’s a job well done. Make art! Make art because it makes you happy or because you simply need to. Making art in order to sell them fine, but really, it should be the least of your motivations.

With that in mind, it’s great to see my work framed. Framed to ultimately end up hung on my own wall years from now.

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On Living People Your Corpse Will See Again


An interesting thing happened over the weekend. Someone from the company I work for passed away on Friday. Nothing too unexpected; after all, he was getting up there in years. So on Friday afternoon, people either went to the hospital or made plans to attend the wake or the funeral. Amidst of it all, I heard that one of my former co-workers and an old friend of the diseased made plans to go on a flight over the weekend in order to make it on time for the funeral. He lives in the US.

The last time I saw the diseased was over two years ago. He was a big man in the company. Many years before, he was usually driven around and led by helpers, and even accompanied by company lackeys. But the time I saw him, he was not surrounded by helpers and no one was opening any doors for him. Any clout he had within the company, he seems to have relinquished at the time. If I didn’t recognize him, I would’ve confused him for any other old man wandering the streets of Seoul. In any case, I imagine with things being the way they are, with his old friend living in the US for so many years now, I’m guessing there was not much correspondence between the two. I was the one who initiated telling him about his friend passing. I’m not sure if they’ve heard about each other in the years before.

And so what have I learned? I learned about a special type of relationship, a new category of person whom I find it hard to pinpoint exactly which one of my few friends belongs to. Not a friend who you’ll talk to, do favors for, or keep in touch with now and then. This friend does not care how deep a depth you swim to or on what slow hell you are killing yourself with at the moment. None of it matters to this friend. It is most grim, and I’m not passing judgment on whether it is good or not, but ultimately this friend is quite the intimate sort of acquaintance. This friend will be there for you only when you finally die. This is the friend that will only reunite with you when there’s not much left of you to be reunited with.

Again, I don’t think this is good or bad. I think it is intimate, peculiar, and not necessarily unique, especially when it comes to relatives. How many of us only see our distant relatives only when they finally pass? But I think it really is more special when it comes to non-blood acquaintances, particularly because there’s no familial pressure pushing one to be there for the wake or the funeral. “I haven’t seen him forever, but I have to be there for the funeral.” Who is this for exactly? For the diseased? For the visitor? Or the relationship that’s now expired? What’s funny is, when I start thinking about the people in my life, auditing my relationships and choosing which people I’ll probably never see again but who’ll likely be there at my lightly-attended funeral. It’s a rather sad, interesting, and honest exercise.

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Marijuana and Pole Dancing


So California finally legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Unfortunately, the US Attorney General removed Obama-era protections for marijuana sales in the state, allowing the federal government to stop and arrest people who are in possession of what is still considers as a controlled Schedule I drug. And as much as the right wing in the United States yell about states’ rights when it comes to things like gun, contraception, and marriage laws, I doubt if they would be as loud when it comes to California allowing its citizens to enjoy cannabis.

The fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal benefits basically ignores all of the people using the drug to help them deal with pain, especially in cancer treatments. It’s people ignoring evidence over fear and rumors. The same way there is evidence and history of prohibitions creating illegal activity (the prohibition gave birth to an era or organized crime in the US after all), some people, most importantly people in the US Justice Department, believe that drugs gave way to the existence of Mexican drug cartels, not the drug war creating a demand that only illegal actors could fill. Once again, people are ignoring evidence over fear.

In Korea, marijuana possession could land you in jail. The country is very strict when it comes to cannabis and opioids, but alcohol in the country is extremely cheap, and it’s not that hard to find either people getting belligerently drunk at night or simple unconscious.  I understand the protectionist attitude when it comes to opioids, especially since the country has an extremely high suicide rate. But when it comes to marijuana, a part of me thinks that a bit of cannabis would help a very stressed out populace. Instead of drinking with friends and getting angry or mopey, people could just get high, relax, and take a nap. Unfortunately, Korea borrowed America’s drug war and using drugs still carry a significantly negative stigma (but go ahead, drink soju with your coworkers until you black out!).

I’m just hoping that people get over it already. Marijuana is not the Devil’s lettuce. The fear and mystique regarding drugs, much like anything unknown, is only there because gossip and hearsay takes the place of actually knowing. Smoking a little pot will let you know that it won’t turn your brain into mush, it won’t make you any more evil, and it won’t make you look any cooler. I remember a coworker once asked me if I’ve ever tried cocaine, eager to hear exciting cocaine stories from Canada. Much to her dismay, I told her no. If people were actually told the truth about drugs, there wouldn’t be this haze of intrigue and fear around them. They would be as plain as Tylenol. Tylenol helps you deal with pain and fever. It could get you constipated too. Marijuana gets you high and mellows your mood. It helps you deal with pain as well. Cocaine gets you really high.

Speaking of demystifying and truths, I can’t stand how pole dancing is being mainstreamed, even in South Korea. This might be a bit of a reversal of my liberal attitudes with drugs, but I’m just annoyed at how it’s being whitewashed and sold as some sort of exercise, when it’s basically erotic dancing. There are far better and safer exercises out there. And no matter how far removed a person might be to its original intent, in my mind, as well as many other men’s, it’s still erotic dancing. Its original intent, back in the burlesque days, was to keep the women upright after being inebriated with either drugs or alcohol or both. And I suspect that the a lot of the women who are trying out pole dancing as an exercise has never spent one night in a disgusting strip club. Much like Chris Rock, if I had a daughter, I would work twenty hour days just to keep her from dancing on a pole.

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I used to think Canada was better when it comes to mental health, but this report on CBC regarding Lionel Desmond has got me thinking twice. Back in Canada, it was not unusual to talk to a therapist about mental and psychological issues. People wouldn’t bat an eye if they heard that you used to go to a therapist for anxiety or depression, probably because they have firsthand or secondhand experience themselves. But now it seems we’re failing those who have sacrificed so much for what in my opinion are needless conflicts abroad.

I’ve seen people with PTSD before. I talked to soldiers here in South Korea who were suffering from it. I remember being particularly disturbed (and threatened) by one soldier’s behavior in a bar even after he was buying me shots of tequila. Then he tells me that two weeks prior, he was fighting in Afghanistan.  There was just an odd look in his eye. And I just have to let him tell his story, and take it to where it needs to be. (And me not come back to that bar for a while.)

We just have to start taking care of everyone more. We have to start listening to people when they tell us there’s something wrong, even when they’re soldiers who are supposed to be strong and tough. Boys do cry, and some damages you can’t just walk off.

Speaking of not paying attention to mental health issues, a few days ago, a celebrity in Korea committed suicide, and on his note, he mentioned the lack of care he received from mental health professionals in the country. I can relate to the experience. Twice, I found doctors who would just throw medication at me and not give me proper strategies to deal with my issues. I can imagine the same was true to him. It’s quite upsetting that there’s not much care in terms of mental issues in the country, especially with the country having the highest suicide rate in Asia.

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On Hell


If God was real, I believe that he loves us so much that he would never send us to hell. Hell, if it exists, is a special place for monsters. We are not monsters. I think a person has to work hard to get to hell. People don’t normally stumble their way into hell.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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On Keeping It Inside


On Monday, I suddenly fell terribly ill. I got up early in the morning, worked out, then BOOM, my health just suddenly turned and I couldn’t go to work. My stomach turned upside down, my chest started hurting, I felt terribly nauseous, I got a fever, and my head felt like it was going to explode for the better part of the day.

I had an especially terrible weekend. I’ve been quietly dealing with depression and anxiety for weeks now, but it just came to a boil a couple of days ago. During my mother-in-law’s birthday, my wife ended up embarrassing me during dinner. She started complaining about me and my lack of Korean skills, and much to my surprise, my brother-in-law and my mother-in-law rose up to my defense. I really don’t mind people talking about me, especially since my Korean is indeed quite poor. But my wife talked about me as if I wasn’t even in the room. And by the time I wanted to talk, by the time I was about to do the one thing she wanted me to do (speak  Korean), she stopped me and said that the conversation has moved on to another topic. How terribly, terribly condescending. I felt like I was trapped in a Cat Stevens song. And really, is complaining about spouses just another interesting topic to talk about and later dismiss on a whim? What should we talk about next? BTS?

When I was young, my father picked on me a lot. He picked on all of his children a lot. I was particularly annoyed at the injustice of him picking on my intelligence when I couldn’t recall him achieving any great heights in life due to his mental brilliance. One particular instance I couldn’t forget was when I was having trouble memorizing the multiplication tables at a young age. As my sisters and I were sharing a snack, it was a can of shredded potatoes called Pik-Nik, he stopped me from eating and told me to go upstairs and memorize the multiplication tables. I don’t get to snack unless I memorize from 1 to 12. It was unnecessarily cruel. What bothered me most about the incident was how jarring it was. It was late in the afternoon, we were having a snack, then he comes home and suddenly tells me to go upstairs and that I don’t deserve anything until I learned my multiplication tables. It sounds quite minor, but as a child, I felt like the biggest idiot in the world. I started thinking that there might have been something wrong with me. And to this day, even though I have long been on good terms with my father, past incidents like that will always remind me that he was not the best person to grow up with. He might have been a good husband, a good friend, or a good leader, but he was never good with children.

That feeling of being inadequate, that feeling of maybe there is something wrong with me, I felt that during dinner with my mother-in-law. Worse, it was casually brought up by my wife who was supposed to be on my side. It made me love my in-laws more and love her less.  God bless those good people! But like a good Catholic, I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. Why spoil the whole weekend for everyone when it was just me who was hurt?

We spent the night at my in-laws and I tried to be a good son-in-law. Thank goodness it snowed heavily. As lame as it may sound, the cold snow actually brightens my mood a bit. In any case, I kept everything bottled up inside. Then Monday comes, I get ill and the doctors couldn’t give a cause to my downturn other than stress. Stress. This is the first time keeping my depression bottled up inside has made me physically ill.

Worthington Industries, an American metals manufacturing and distribution company announced two years ago that all of its portable helium tanks will only contain 80% helium. If you’re going to get a helium tank, make sure you get 100% helium.

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Disappointing My Parents


Trying to get away from pop music and in many ways, k-pop…  so I turn to KEXP for some indie rock. Then I spent a couple of hours listening to Japanese Breakfast, and I’m like, yeah, this is alright. And then I remember Michelle Zaulner is Korean-American.

She did an interview where she confessed to considering quitting music and pursuing a career which is more aligned with the Asian stereotype growing up with tiger moms. Perhaps be an engineer or something. And this morning, I just saw Hari Kondabolu’s documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ where he talks about not only the problem with the stereotype the Simpsons character is perpetuating, but also about growing up and pursuing a career which is not up to his parent’s expectations. Again, he didn’t grow up to be an engineer or something.

What I’m saying is, god bless the people who pursue their dreams so we can share a bit of their gifts as their dreams become reality. I wouldn’t be enjoying Zaulner’s songs or Kondabolu’s humor if they both pursued careers in engineering.  At least at this point in my life, for this day, I would’ve been poorer for it. So yeah, here’s to following your dreams and disappointing Asian parents!

Speaking of pursuing the arts, I just saw a video of my niece playing the otamatone. I really wish she doesn’t pursue this and go get a STEM career instead.

Be an engineer, Amanda!

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