Tag Archives: This American Life

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Time Traveling Via NPR

paratrooper

I’ve been listening to old ‘This American Life’ episodes. Over the weekend, I listened to ones that were broadcast right after the attack on the World Trade Center. Like a time traveler, it’s interesting to hear what people feel at the time especially their attitudes towards the US heading to war. As expected, I was annoyed at experts at the time, people like Rumsfeld, who are selling the war with a calamitous need for justice and assurance that America is going to battle in most well thought-out manner. He couldn’t have been more wrong about everything. It’s amazing that they still allow him on television as an ‘expert’ on anything these days.

What’s most interesting was episode 196, when the events of September 11 are examined through different perspectives. Much like the movie ‘Rashomon,’ stories change drastically depending on whose eyes you’re experiencing them through. Of course, people in the west were scared. They we scared of this nebulous terrorist threat. As a westerner, this was probably my default point of view. The west needed a target. It needed to get back at someone. Saddam Hussein has always been a “bad guy” through most of the 90s. Perhaps getting him would turn the scales back into a place of normalcy.

But then there’s also the Muslim point of view. In the episode, a Palestinian teenager explains about why the September 11 attacks doesn’t benefit the Muslims, but instead benefits the Jews in Israel since it puts the Americans into conflict in the Middle East, much like Pearl Harbor brought America out of isolationism in WWII. This of course is seen as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from western point of views, and in my opinion, rightfully so. But to some Muslims, especially Palestinians and with the different biases between western and Muslim media skewering regional opinion, this could very well be a plausible explanation for the attacks. Another Muslim point of view is that of a former soldier from Iraq who had to reluctantly fight for Saddam’s army. Not a rabid supporter of Saddam, the man had to explain to his son why the normally pleasant and well-meaning Americans had to violently terrorize their city. Looking back on this now, if he had stayed in the Iraqi army, this man would’ve been out of job and perhaps forced to join ISIS by now.

Lastly, the show also looked at war from the point of view of some soldiers. Despite best preparations, war is hell, and things could turn bloody in any minute. It is always best to approach war with reasoned reluctance than with the zeal and optimism the world had back in 2003, when we were confident at shocking and awing the enemy into submission.

Episode 200 looked at the radio station set up by the CIA to help overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954, Jacobo Arbenz. It was an interesting examination of the power of radio back in the day and the way propaganda is used both during a conflict and long after, when myths cultivated. What I find most poignant however, is the comment by Prof. Nick Cullather, who says that while the US does have a responsibility to sometimes intervene in foreign countries’ affairs, it is far more difficult to face the magnitude of the task afterwards. It is quite easy to depose a leader compared to the difficulty of finding a suitable replacement. Just look at Guatemala after Arbenz, Syria in 1949, Iran in the 50s, Chile and the junta in the 70s. And now Iraq with the fall of Saddam has the whole Middle East in a quagmire.

Listening to old radio shows and “time travelling” is a nice distraction during my commute. However, I would’ve hoped our leaders had more insight to predict the future. Looking back now, we were all such fools back then. It is amazing that NPR had the courage and prudence to examine issues from different perspectives, especially with the national climate in 2001-2003. Unfortunately, being seen as an organization with liberal biases, I doubt that it or any other organizations like it would have their ideas taken seriously in the mainstream media.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Resets and Monogamy

death

I had this dream last night where a naked woman was lying next to me, she touched a spot on my back and it triggered a heart attack. She said this way, I’ll die and we’ll end up together for eternity.

Wouldn’t that be great? A quick and easy way to end it all? A great off switch (or reset button, depending on what you believe). I mean sure, a person can just take pills. But taking pills alone isn’t really that quick, painless, or effective. I believe only a small percentage of people actually succeed in committing suicide using pills. Some people advice using a plastic bag over one’s head in combination with the taking pills, but that just sounds too grim.  Of course there’s also Nembutal, but it’s far too difficult to obtain.

I don’t really believe in fate or destiny, but if such a thing does exist, then it doesn’t look too good for my marriage. First off, I just read Chester Brown’s brilliant comic strip memoir Paying for It. In it, he talks about giving up on having relationships and instead just paying for sex. It’s not so much about the adventures of being a john but an analysis of what relationships truly are and what we’ve been conditioned to believe are the meanings of love, sex, and adult relationships.

Around the same time I was reading Chester Brown’s book, I was listening to ‘This American Life’ ep. 95 on Monogamy. Act One, despite being the longest part, was definitely the weakest, and if anything, it reeks of a bored rich couple coping with their failing marriage in ways that doesn’t really connect with most people. “Oh I’ll just spend the weekend decompressing over at the Hamptons!” Nothing against the French, but the husband being French doesn’t help either. The rest of the show was really interesting. Roy Romer talks about how having an affair saved his relationship, and how he was able to separate his sexual needs from his intimacy with his wife. Dan savage examines how successful and how “happy” monogamous and non-monogamous couples really are. And Ian Brown discusses the struggles of being monogamous. In many ways, the show paints monogamy as a romantic fantasy much like a Rockwell painting. If you can be happy with it, then good for you… but then again, it’s not for everyone.

Then on Sunday, I had a rather public fight with my wife in our neighborhood. She ends up yelling at me while I kept my volume to a minimum (I always do). I thought it was rather unnecessary, if not cruel, for her to make such a spectacle. People in South Korea already automatically assume I’m the bad guy whenever we’re in a fight (we’re a mixed couple, she’s Korean). She doesn’t have to yell at me to shame me even further. Of course, one can argue that me posting this online is my equivalent of shaming her. But no one really reads my weekly entries, certainly no one where I live.

Trying times. We’re okay now, but boy that was bad timing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gah! School Girls!

homeless

I don’t normally give money to panhandlers and charities, but I decided to start doing so, actively pushing myself to giving. This is not humblebragging or anything, but me trying to do something while I can still afford to be generous. It came to me the other day: there might come a time that I won’t be able to afford to give to others. Might as well do my bit now.

I usually take the bus home. During traffic, I sometimes walk a few blocks and take the bus much closer to my place.  I tell myself this gives me a bit of exercise while skipping all the traffic. That’s what I did last week. I decided to walk a few blocks after work.
As I was walking past the shopping district (Myeong-dong) near where I work, I passed by this foreign couple as I turned a corner. They were being followed by a mob of teenagers. This annoyed me since not only were the teenagers blocking my way and drowning out ‘This American Life’ on my earphones, but I can’t stand gawkers. I didn’t bother paying too much attention at the couple I just passed. I just assumed that the man was some minor, white, foreign celebrity that the school girls were gushing over.

Fast forward to Sunday and my wife was watching some fashion talk show and they were interviewing some female celebrity. Apparently, she’s visiting Korea to promote a couple of brands and there are always lines of people on all the events she went to. She then brings out her brother who she says always accompanies her on her trips. I didn’t pay too much attention until I recognized the couple.

chloe_moretz

Hello Chloe Moretz.

My wife was like, “What?! You should’ve stopped her and asked for her autograph!”

And what? Creep a child out?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Like Ghosts

Winnipeg_Jets_strip

So the Winnipeg Jets are out. We barely made it in the playoffs. I was hoping one win would at least legitimize our team being included the playoffs, but being swept by the Ducks kinda says it all. We weren’t ready for the playoffs at all. I’m a little bit disappointed, but following the Jets, I kinda expected something like this going in.

Looks like Keith Olbermann is also in the camp against Mayweather. I hear ya, Keith. But before you generously label Pacquiao as the better man, let me remind you that he is part of what keeps his home country poor, a “governor” who doesn’t know a thing about politics, someone who was used by former president Arroyo, another president whose years were plagued with corruption and fraud.  He’s one of the most absent congressman in the country. But when he’s not training or promoting fights, he’s voting against women’s rights and contraception. There’s no good man in that ring on Sunday.

An old episode of This American Life introduced me to the wonderful musical stylings of Jo Carol Pierce. In an episode titled “Teenaged Girls,” she talks about suicide and her relationships with men and Jesus. Rennie Sparks also tells the story about a girl growing up and dealing with peer pressure. She’s one half of The Handsome Family band which many people would know from the opening theme of True Detective. It’s great radio if you could find it, an enlightening look at the fairer sex, some awkward tales of growing up, all without getting too unsophisticatedly feminist about it.

Now I’m off to get my period.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Little Less Conversation

Irony

I have come to realize that there are some people I could only speak to in short bursts. Anything more, and they start to annoy me, I annoy them, or we get into a dumb argument. The chances of conversations going sour get even higher during drinks. I’ve learned to be really careful with these people. I don’t speak much and I avoid drinking with them as much as possible, all to preserve our relationship. It’s like an amalgamation of two clichés: cruel to be kind and absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s absence to be kind.

I always thought of myself as a bit of a raconteur. I deal with language, and a part of my job is talking to people and getting them to open up about things. So being impatient with people could only mean two things. Either I don’t have much patience for what the other person has to say, or I really don’t care much about being around that person.

I have fallen in love with This American Life. I find myself listening to old shows. And despite being dated, I still learn a few things on many topics.

I listen to Howard Stern quite a bit. He is a great entertainer and interviewer. I’ve been a fan for years and I’ve mourned the passing of Eric the Midget and miss the colorful commentary of Artie Lange. When Howard retires, I know there will be great big hole in my life. But lately, I’ve been listening more to This American Life. While the Howard Stern Show is great entertainment, I feel like I’m not learning much. Of course, if I really wanted to learn a lot via audio, I could be listening to Korean language tapes in order to learn how to speak Korean. I just feel that This American Life is a good middle-ground between the pure entertainment that is the Stern show and the strictly bitter pill that are the language tapes.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements