Tag Archives: tentacles

Inktober

Typhon

There is such a thing as too much vacation, too much spare time that your mind gets bored and frustrated that you start seeing all the negativity and unhappiness that you usually block from your mind with work. The things that you’ve drown out with bits and pieces of your soul start to resurface again. You start creating small dramas to entertain yourself. Maybe you set small fires here and there just to test the waters and see that you’re still alive. It’s not to be mean or anything, but the mind just needs a bit of stimulus for no other reason that it needs it. Unfortunately, you end up going too far and that small fire has burst into a barn fire, then to a raging conflagration. Then you’re no longer bored but exponentially more miserable and unhappy, and you still have a few vacation days left, a few more days to make things worse.

God bless work. God bless keeping busy.

And speaking of keeping busy, God bless Inktober. I recently saw an NHK video on Hayao Miyazaki struggling to make his last film, ‘Boro the Caterpillar.’ He was obsessing with animating a furry caterpillar using traditional hand-drawn techniques. Though people were constantly pushing to him new computerized ways of streamlining the process, even showing him an AI that would make its own animations, he insisted that CGI removes the human element, and many things that the artist and the audience sees in nature in terms of light, motion, and life itself, are lost in the computerized environment, and totally missing the signature look of what makes Ghibli films what they are. Things got so heated at one point, that he almost saw it as an insult to have AIs animate what amounted to monstrous figures.

In many ways, I agree with Miyazaki. There’s just something about hand-drawn work that makes it more compelling than ones generated with the aid of computers. The viewer can feel the hand of the artist, the effort. We can see with the artist’s eyes and there is evidence to where his attention lingered. Now these can also be true with CGI images, but they’re often crisp to the point that it feels cold and alien. It can easily be mistaken that I am seeing an interesting image made by a computer instead of me seeing an interesting image made in an interesting manner by an artist. An artist. The art in the process is more apparent with hand-drawn works.

This is why, despite me not being active with Inktober, I appreciate that it celebrates and encourages hand-drawn works. It is very tempting to do things via the computer, with drawing tablets getting cheaper and more ubiquitous, and web comics and digital paintings being more popular. But in my opinion, the computer filters out the human touch in creating images. Perhaps it’s the ease in the process of cleaning images up, but it could also be the process of making images on the PC itself.

Coincidentally, the 10th item on the Inktober prompt list is gigantic. This is my interpretation of the Greek giant Typhon.

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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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Fidget Spinners and Buddha are Unrelated

Buddha

I just had a long vacation. I didn’t go out of the country but I did go out of town for a bit. I spent most of my vacation working at home. Yes, I have several jobs. So yeah, yay staycations! One good thing is I got back to making art. Yay art!

This work is not really about fidget spinners, but it is there. And while I really don’t have much against fidget spinners (they do serve a purpose for those dealing with ADD), I’m a tad annoyed with their ubiquity. It’s not that I’m railing against trends or shaking my fist on what kids find fascinating these days. After all, my living room looks like an arcade. My wife and I spend a lot of time playing video games together instead of watching movies. It’s just that fidget spinners seem to embody the laziness of current trends.

Take television for example. The most popular shows, at least in South Korea, tend to be reality television. Put a camera crew with some celebrity, have them eat something, call it a show. Forget writing. Look at movies. Take an existing intellectual property and turn it into a movie, forget the hard work of creating something new. And I can go on and on with rehashes and the laziness of all sorts (get off my lawn, you kids!).

And then we have fidget spinners. My wife was surprised at what little it does. Remember when there was skill involved in novelty toys? Things like the yo-yo or a skateboard or even Japanese kendamas. Now you just have things that just spin. No skill whatsoever. Buy it and boom! You’re in the club! Because learning to play something takes too much time. It’s the smartphone + Google combo of toys. Why learn something and retain it in your head, when you have a phone and Internet connection that would make you an instant expert on things? And that is where the fidget spinner fails. You buy it, you play with it for a couple of minutes, then you forget about it. It’s bubble gum. You didn’t get anything out of it other a couple of minutes of distraction. You didn’t even get to challenge your dexterity. It is a forgettable shiny object, just like a lot of things.

Now, I think I’ve wasted way too many words on fidget spinners.

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Oh Manitoba!

Manitoba_Arts_Network

Thank you Manitoba Arts Network for having my works for their 2017-2018 touring exhibition. It’s always nice to have people appreciate my work, that the works I make are not just for me personally, that they could mean something else to some people as well.

 

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Oh Korean Internets!

Assiniboine

As much as I love that Korea has the fastest and most ubiquitous Internet access in the world, it is ironic how so much of Korea is doing the Internet wrong. Let me illustrate that with my past experience with ordering stuff through Amazon to be sent to the country.

First off, for some odd regulation, Amazon cannot send anything to Korea that are not books, DVDs, or CDs. Already, that sours the experience. Then a few years back, it became a new regulation for people to have a Uni-Pass ID to be able to order anything from Amazon. So I went and tried to get a Uni-Pass ID.

First off, in order to get a Uni-Pass ID or certificate, I have to register as a receiver of goods through customs. Now, one would assume that this would be foreigner-friendly and would have English on the custom’s Website. It doesn’t. Everything is in Korean. Not only that, I have to download and install a security software in order to go forward.

Registering my name, address and postal code proved to be a minor challenge. Seoul has recently changed its postal code system as well as its address system. This is something that mystifies even the Korean population as many don’t even know their own address under the current system.

I manage to successfully register at customs, but NO, I still don’t have my Uni-Pass ID. That’s another application I have to go through. One would assume that the only reason a person would register at customs was to get the ID, but I guess that would be too simple and obvious. In any case, I had to download another security program in order apply for my ID. Like the first program, this one didn’t have English, but worse, the Korean text on the menus won’t even show up properly on a machine running English Windows. I had to get help from a coworker who’s familiar with it.

Everything went well, including authenticating my phone and my carrier information, until BAM! It won’t let me get any further. I repeated the process a couple more times and still it won’t let me go further. And then I realized I was using Google Chrome. Korea is still very much wedded to Internet Explorer in 2017, including Active-X, so I had to repeat the process using Internet Explorer and then it finally worked. I got my ID.

Went to Amazon, ordered my books, and hopefully it will arrive soon. Hopefully! Some foreigners report that despite going through the whole process, their packages end up getting stuck at the postal office. When they call and inquire about it, the postal service workers ask them for their alien card number, something which all foreigners have here. Now, if that’s all that they needed, why make people go through the whole Uni-Pass process?! It’s just another system of which they can track my activities which the government already does with my passport and alien card number. What’s the point of all of this?!

The Korean Internet experience is great if you’re not doing any transactions with Korean sites or institutions. If you are, get ready to install a bunch of software you don’t need, do your business using Internet Explorer, and have an hour or two handy. It’s the most ironic situation for a country that’s so hip to the whole Internet.

Oh and if you ever want pornography, use a VPN to access sites. The Korean government has hired Christian watchdog groups to police Internet content, making many sites inaccessible without a VPN. Ironically, this means only members of these Christian watchdog groups ever get to enjoy pornography freely (and an unhealthy amount of it, if that’s what they’ve been tasked to devote their time on).

Update: If you want to modify or distribute modified games, you could face fines of up to $50,000 in South Korea. I guess this is to cut down on massive cheating on online games, which I would argue there are worse problems out there that needs legislators’ attention. If anything, I think this is just to protect the integrity of e-sports and companies profiting off of e-sports, because really, how is anyone supposed to police this? And what kind of legislator sits there and wonders about modifying games? That’s a big leap from stodgy legislators raging over violence in video games.

If I happen to modify an old copy of Super Mario, will that get me fined and how are they supposed to catch me? And what about say those Jamma carts with pre-loaded games? A lot of those have, by definition, unlicensed modified games. Are those technically illegal now? And what about trainer programs that aren’t really designed for online use? Again, pretty dumb Internet in South Korea.

 

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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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Osaka Again

Goat 4

Off to Osaka this week. I’ve been going to Osaka quite frequently recently. It’s a great city, people are friendly, and most things to do are pretty accessible. If you’re going to do Japan for the first time, I recommend Osaka. Tokyo is way too busy. Most of the interesting places to visit in Tokyo are separated by several subway rides. Tourists would end up spending a great portion of their time on the train. Go to Osaka instead; all the key Japanese things to do are pretty much in the same area.

Speaking of Osaka, I saw a short virtual reality video off of Littlstar, the VR video network. Here’s a tip, if you’re gonna make a video and call it “Passport Osaka,” don’t spend half of it on the tattooed expat. Most of the people visiting Osaka aren’t there to visit a foreigner’s tattoo parlor. And I really wouldn’t call Dotonbori and Amerikamura “best-kept secrets” either. They’re two of the main places where tourists go. Blergh.

 

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South Korea’s Interesting Weekend

Goat 3

I was in the middle of the rallies on the presidential impeachment last Friday and last Saturday. I couldn’t really avoid it last Friday. The pro-Park Geun Hye supporters were marching in front of my building. There were riot police and everything. It wasn’t very violent when I went out for coffee, but three people ended up dying during the protest after it was announced that the decision to impeach the South Korean president would stand.

On Saturday, my wife and I decided to check out the celebration for the ousting of the president. It was in Gwanghwamun, the place where Koreans have been holding their weekly rallies to protest against the president. Like every week, there was going to be a concert, and my favorite Korean singer Jun In Kwon would be performing. I felt more comfortable going to the event, because it wasn’t so much a protest or anything but a celebration for what is a historic event for the peninsula.

What was a little scary however was that we had to pass by the pro-Park Geun Hye supporters on the way to the rally. They were all waving the South Korean flag and old-fashioned patriotic songs were blaring on speakers. The mood was dark, and my wife and I didn’t feel too comfortable walking past them, especially since we’re a biracial couple (despite the fact that many of the protesters were also waving the American flag). It was weird, the site of the Korean flag brought about an almost nefarious aura. The site of riot police and police barricades separating the two factions didn’t help ease the mood either.

The mood on the anti-Park Geun Hye side was celebratory. People were smiling. It felt like being surrounded by people whose collective burden was just recently been released. Of course, there were still angry calls for the former president to move out of the presidential residence and for her to be prosecuted.

On Sunday, most major Korean channels showed the president moving to her private residence. She was welcomed by her supporters, all waving the Korean flag. It was a strange affair. She was greeted by her party members, and she shook hands with them, all smiling, waving at her supporters. If I didn’t know the context or didn’t know Korean, I would’ve assumed she just got elected as president instead of being ousted. What’s more remarkable is that instead of addressing her supporters and the recent decision by the Supreme Court, she had a representative read a prepared statement saying the “the truth will come out.” I don’t know what this is possibly referring to. The highest court in the land already made a decision. If it’s referring to her impending criminal prosecution, she’d best not acknowledge it just yet.

I try to be impartial when it comes to the country’s politics, but the fact that the former president didn’t make a public statement immediately after the decision on Friday was very disappointing. She could’ve at least tried to unite the country and try to calm her protesters down. Perhaps people wouldn’t have died if she did. And the fact that she still hasn’t made a public statement is thumbing her nose at the justice system and not showing her supporters any respect. At least Nixon had the decency to make resignation speech. There have been talks about the country being divided, but truly, South Korea is not divided. Park Geun Hye enjoyed a 5% approval rating, and most of the country wanted her out. If there’s any division, I believe it’s just a division in the type of media people consume, with each side embracing their own set of facts and claiming the other side is fake news. It’s no different than other countries. But what would have helped make the country less divided, is if the former president called for unity after being impeached. At least recognize that the zeal partisan politics and distrust is at least part of what got her ousted.

I believe it’s going to be a long process, prosecuting the former president. There has been months of weekly protests, and I think it won’t take much for people to take to the streets again. It’s almost like a slow but magical form of direct democracy. It could get addictive.

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On Child-like Leaders

Goat 2

The thing with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un’s unpredictability is that he’s been given, GIVEN, the job of running the country as his first job. Not only was he just some rich kid living in Switzerland given the job of running a throwback country, but as the role of supreme dictator, he’s under the constant threat of usurpation from his handlers, his people, and even his family. He constantly needs to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course) and threaten his neighbors as well as his inner circle, lest he becomes another Muamar Gaddafi. This explains the occasional super villainesque murders of his associates and family members. It also explains the rather extreme reactions to slights against the regime.

There’s been a political rift lately between South Korea and China, with South Korea building a missile defense system (THAAD) against North Korea which is equipped with radar technology capable of penetrating deep into Chinese territory. South Korea defends the missile system as a defense against the North. I imagine in normal circumstances this would’ve been fine with China, since they appear to be losing their patience with North Korea. They recently cut off coal exports from North Korea because of their recent missile tests. But the South Korean government is partnered with the United States, and there is deep distrust between the two rivaling military powers. Also, the South Korean government seems oddly determined to install the missile defense system despite its unpopularity among the locals. After all, the North doesn’t need missiles to attack the South. Traditional artillery fire could reach Seoul just fine (But whether it could take the South is another matter). I suspect the installation of the missile system is either the US military slyly using South Korea to contain China, or perhaps some people are getting enriched with military contracts and the sale Lockheed Martin’s systems. In any case, without the North Korean threat, the whole missile defense system argument would be moot, and China wouldn’t be imposing travel bans to South Korea and threatening a ban on South Korean products.

So yes, because Kim Jung Un is an unpredictable player, it leads people and government outside of North Korea to act out in ways which ultimately hurt them. South Korea and China doesn’t need to be feuding at the moment. They are important partners in various industries. Korea doesn’t need to a build ridiculous missile system when North Korea would be committing economic suicide should they ever decide to full-on attack one of its neighbors. But Kim Jung Un’s child-like capriciousness gives people the excuse to do so.

Kim Jung Un was snatched up from his comfortable life in Switzerland to fill his father’s shoes. I doubt if he ever dreamed of living the rest of his life dressing up and pretending to be his grandfather. He had a carefree life, but now he’s living under a lethal microscope with powers that could affect millions of people in his country and beyond. What does he know about governing? Governments need leaders who have experience in leading and are actually interested in the role.

That brings to mind: I wonder how Donald Trump spent his weekend.

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Fake Paintings

goat-1

To this day, I still see news on television regarding Chun Kyung-Ja’s mysterious painting. To those unfamiliar, a quick summary: the late Chun Kyung-ja is one of Korea’s most successful painters. One of her paintings was purchased by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but she declared in 1991 that it was the work of a forger. A forger even admitted to the fact but later retracted his claims. Lawsuits and forensic investigations afterwards, the official story is that the work is indeed authentic. Scientific analysis and some provenance backs up that claim, although Chun Kyung-Ja’s family continue to claim that it is not authentic, and that officials are perhaps protecting the reputation of Korea’s art experts.

Is this not the best problem to have? To be so good and to be so talented that not only are other people trying to copy your work, but reputations are at stake to prove that work you may or may not have done is indeed authentic.

In any case, I could certainly see the motivation to prove that the painting Beautiful Woman is authentic. It would be a big embarrassment should it be proven that the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art purchased and exhibited a forgery (Although some of the pieces I saw them exhibit a few years ago are quite disheartening themselves).  I don’t see the motivation of why an artist would lie and claim that a piece of artwork wasn’t done by them. Perhaps if it was an embarrassing piece of work or its political or social commentary might cause the artist some backlash. But if it’s as cherished as Beautiful Woman seems to be, I don’t see why the artist would claim she did not paint it.

It is true what Ms. Chun Kyung-Ja said. Speaking as a visual artist, I know which artwork was done by me. Even after evolving and considering some of my past works embarrassing or not reflective of the body of work I would like to be most remembered for, I know whether I’ve done something myself or not. Creating art is an intimate process. Visualizing then replicating a mental image into reality is such a unique and memorable experience that it’s very hard to forget. It is much different from putting words on paper. One can easily forget what they said one or two years ago. Some of the things I’ve blogged about on the Internet I’ll probably be unfamiliar with and be quite embarrassed to know that I’ve written them. And yet, we often remember childhood drawings we did once we see them again.

As much as I believe in science, I don’t think the science in many areas of forensic analysis has been settled yet. There have been several questions regarding the reliability of bite mark analysis and handwriting analysis. I just don’t find the art analysis evidence to be very convincing. Same materials can be bought. Brush strokes can be imitated. There’s a whole industry of painters creating the same paintings cheaply in many countries right now. Surely, a better forgery can be made at a much higher budget.

While people are speculating that the museum might be protecting its own experts by claiming that Beautiful Woman is authentic, I think it’s quite out of character for the museum, especially as Koreans who are often respectful to their elders to a fault, to be attacking the artist. They claim that perhaps Ms. Chun Kyung-Ja doesn’t remember she created the piece due to dementia. Those are very serious charges in a country that regards being called “crazy” as one of the worst insults a person can say. And as much as the museum trotted out several art experts to bolster their claims, I am curious to see if they presented any evidence to support suggestions of the artist’s failing memory at the time.

But that is the museum’s simple explanation. The artist forgot. So it’s a battle of simple explanations. Did the artist forget or did the museum get duped? I am quite biased, and I do believe that in this case, the artist did not forget. This won’t be the first time an art institution bought and displayed a forgery or misattributed a piece.

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