April 28


Around two years ago, I got banned from Twitter. It was over a response to Laura Ingraham, a vile racist Nazi on Twitter. So yeah, I don’t mind being permanently banned on Twitter fighting the Nazis. I used to be a heavy Twitter user. And since I stopped using Twitter, I’m less stressed about the news, etc. I no longer have this useless need for one-upping strangers on the Internet. With Twitter out of my life, I focused more attention on Reddit, which I find more populated with people who are constructive and are actually interested in conversation, instead of Twitter where people seem to be more concerned about burning other people.

Now Elon Musk has bought Twitter. I never liked the man. I find him obnoxious and for lack of a better word, “corny.” He’s trying too hard to be Tony Stark, an obnoxious fictional character that only works via the nebulous deus ex machina of his genius and technology in general. “What seems like magic is actually nanobots. Plot hole filled!” Anyway, for a man who is the richest in the planet, Musk tries too hard to insert himself into our lives. A group of boys are trapped in a cave in Thailand, he sends a useless submarine. He asks the UN for a plan to solve world hunger. They give him said plan, but he doesn’t act on it and pretends he never offered to finance their plans in the first place. He gets into a dick-measuring contest with other obnoxious billionaires in their race for space (when the planet is literally dying). But my favorite is him evangelizing his idea of the Hyperloop in order to solve traffic problems. Years later and many companies involved in the idea, it has eventually materialized into nothing but tunnels, absolutely normal non-special tunnels.

My biggest problem with him is how he panders to the worst people on the Internet. The Joe Rogans, alpha males, conspiracy theorists, crypto bros, etc. His idea of free speech is for everyone to be able to say anything they want, no matter how vile or how dangerous it could be, except if it affects him. Just a couple of days into acquiring Twitter, he’s already unleashed one of the two female executives on Twitter to his horde of trolls. Maybe it’s creative termination or maybe it’s just his nature to be vile. But as one ex-Twitter CEO replied, “Bullying is not leadership.” He is a good salesman and a good hype man. Tesla ran for years without making any profit based on his promises, but it’s also been revealed that the company fosters a very misogynistic, racist, and hostile work environment.

When Peter Thiel, another billionaire, managed to get rid of Gawker, a media company that displeased him using a lawsuit and Hulk Hogan’s sex tape, it didn’t feel right to me. I felt it was the beginning of billionaires using their wealth willy-nilly to acquire or destroy companies and significantly affect people’s lives. Rupert Murdoch has been manipulating the public with his media empire for years, but when Peter Thiel got rid of Gawker, it showed that monumental changes can happen significantly faster via the tyranny of capitalism. And now that Elon Musk bought Twitter, he can use it to attack his enemies, gain more cultish followers, and boost his stock with his tweets, something that he’s done before in the past.

It’s the wild west now. What if Jeff Bezos just suddenly bought NBC and made it shill for Amazon non-stop? He already bought the Washington Post. And while the paper hasn’t really changed much since its acquisition, who knows how many Amazon stories they decided not to run since being bought by Bezos?

What bothers me also is that for the amount that Musk paid for Twitter, he could’ve used that money to help finance world hunger programs that he was previously talking about with the UN. He could’ve used that money to make college education free in the US. There are so much good that could be done by these billionaires’ money. Instead, Musk is using it to flex during his mid-life crisis.

As much as I don’t mind Warren Buffet and find him charming, there really isn’t anything good about being a billionaire. It is basically a person accumulating too much wealth to the detriment of everyone else. Sure, they might not be doing it maliciously, but by the amount of taxes they are not taxed alone, they are by definition taking more than they deserve and contributing less to society than the average person. When an average person pays their taxes, they literally gave away a bigger proportion of their wealth and effort more than any of the billionaires. Maybe they are not creating jobs, but they’re certainly working as the tiny cogs that make every day life work.

Billionaires should be illegal. They shouldn’t be allowed to exist. What is their point other than abusing their wealth?

For the past ten years, Twitter, despite its valuation, has struggled to make a profit. I’m not too optimistic about its future with Musk at the helm. Tesla has also struggled to make a profit for years. And I believe to this day, the company has not made a profit from selling cars. Instead, it’s made a profit by selling its regulatory credits to other companies. So yeah, I can’t wait for Twitter to become the next Myspace. Or be like Facebook, currently pushing a virtual reality world that most people won’t be embracing.

BTW, by Tesla selling regulatory credits and running on electricity that most probably was generated by fossil fuels, doesn’t that make everything a wash? Doesn’t that make going electric ultimately more wasteful than sticking with internal combustion vehicles, especially with electric vehicles needing more rare metals and requiring its batteries, which cannot be recycled, to be replaced every now and then? Internal combustion vehicles have a longer lifespan and require less rare metals. They won’t be subject to rapid technological cycles and be frequently outdated compared to electronic products and thus won’t generate as much physical waste. I believe that the future is electric vehicles, but as they are right now, they are doing worse for the environment than internal combustion vehicles. The cars and their batteries are not as efficient as they could be, and current internal combustion vehicles are running on the most efficient engines at the moment. The internal combustion car you are driving right now isn’t the same gas guzzler from the 60s. It is far cleaner and more reliable. And at the end of the day, you can drive it longer than your rich neighbor’s Tesla or Chevy Bolt. 

May 6


Abortion has been decriminalized in South Korea last year, January 2021. Prior to that, women still got around to getting rid of unwanted pregnancies through other means. I can’t remember any case of women going into prison for abortion. Perhaps it’s this Korean habit of ignoring laws for the sake of pragmatism. Smoking in the streets is illegal, but the police don’t regularly enforce it in order to not harass people. Prostitution was tolerated for the longest time until the red light districts became a target for real estate developers. Now it’s kept more hidden but is still tolerated. Men will never stop seeing prostitutes and I imagine cops are getting kickbacks from pimps, etc. And as for abortion. There are different ways to stop a pregnancy, and Koreans don’t have a good record of adopting other people’s children. Abortion happens, even when it’s not legal.

What’s happening in the United States is not abortion being made illegal. It’s the criminalization of safe abortion. When abortion becomes illegal, I’m not sure people and doctors will skirt around it the way they did here in Korea. Women will be risking their health and their lives getting rid of unwanted pregnancies. And as much railing conservatives do against activist judges, I can’t think of anything more activist than taking away women’s rights, getting rid of a decades old precedent, and opening the doors to action against other cases which hinge on privacy laws.

There was a girl I once loved dearly. This was back when I was young, too young to know much about anything. Anyway, things didn’t work out between us mostly because of circumstances and our paths separated. She was in a bad place and mixed in with a questionable group of people. She got herself pregnant and was desperate for drugs to terminate the pregnancy. Someone offered her the drug Cytotec (or misoprostol). She was young at the time and I’m not sure how this person got access to this drug. Either he was old enough to be a pharmacist or just simply old enough to have access to it. I’m guessing she was sixteen or seventeen at the time. To get the drug, he asked her for sexual favors. I don’t remember how she ended up getting the drugs in the end. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, but that memory is long gone from my head.

It’s interesting. I remember the pain of hearing the story, I remember the drug, but I don’t remember how it ended. I guess that’s what trauma does. Not to forget this girl’s own trauma, but my heart broke when I learned about what happened. And now I don’t know how that episode ended.

But this sadness… this desperation… this exploitation, this is what the conservatives in the United States have planned for the country.

I mentioned privacy laws because this is the government getting inside a woman’s body. This could potentially threaten other aspects of life in America including gay rights, gay marriage, inter-racial marriage, heck even old school laws regarding sodomy.

Unless Biden makes abortion the law of the land now, the Democrats are just going to let this happen. The president can either unilaterally make Roe v Wade law, or simply expand the court and save the United States from decades of judicial devolution by radically conservative judges.

But I don’t have high hopes. Establishment Democrats are really just Republican-lite, and they are so feckless that they have failed to make a resounding political defeat of the Republicans after Trump and his failed coup attempt. I mean, after a failed coup and a win last year, If I was Biden and the Democrats, I would be making so many changes so fast to undo what Trump did before the Republicans could regroup. But now from the looks of things, the Republicans are set to gain more power again come next election. Just like the Winnipeg Jet’s this year, this is depressing to watch.

As the art shows, I was raised Roman Catholic. But I don’t push my religion to other people. You do you. You let women do whatever they want with their body. Let everyone do what they want with their body. God loves me. God loves you. God loves everyone. Leave women alone. 

 

Joseph Reyes

Artist

 

May 25


My wife and I were watching Terrace House last night as I was folding clothes. The screen was just on my periphery and I could just barely read the subtitles. Despite my attention being distracted by my chores, I try to keep up with the conversation and read what I can. I do this, so I can remain engaged with my wife who is invested in the show. I commented, “That’s sad that Hana just sees Kai as a friend.” This surprised my wife. From her angle, she thought there was no way I could’ve read that, and also, my eyes were on the clothes I was folding, not on the side of the television, which she tried going to and reading the subtitles, and she had trouble doing. She suspected I actually understood Japanese.

She spent about twenty minutes insisting that I understood Japanese and that all of these years I was just feigning ignorance. I must’ve been interested in Japanese culture and learned some of the language.

This is not the first time she accused me of knowing Japanese. And for the record, I don’t speak nor understand any Japanese. I have good eyesight and a decent intuition which I use to read subtitles and follow conversation, that’s about it.

But then she accused me of pretending not to speak Tagalog either. She said that I sometimes feign ignorance when a Filipino speaker was on television. Now, I’ve never done this ever. And I’ve explained it to her many times: I can speak Tagalog. This is the reason why so many Spanish words are familiar to me. What I cannot understand and what I’m truly ignorant in are the many other languages that Filipinos have. So when a Korean documentary goes to Palawan and they start interviewing the locals, I don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying all of the time. And this is the same with Filipinos we encounter in the country. I don’t necessarily understand the depth of their conversations when they’re speaking Ilocano or whatever dialect.

The thing is, she think I should be prouder of my Filipino heritage and not be too proud of being Canadian. After all, I’m ethnically Filipino and have spent most of my living life in Korea much more than I have in Canada. Let’s explore that.

First off, I say I’m Canadian because I chose to be Canadian. It is something that my mother dreamed for her family and one that we worked on being. Why should I not say I’m Canadian. I may not be a Canadian by birth, but I am by will. And as for loving Canada more than let’s say the Philippines or Korea. I spent my teens in Canada, my most crucial formative years. You know how the songs you listen to in your teens will be the songs you will listen to for the rest of your life. The same goes for culture. The shows I watched, the friends I made, the way I talked, not just the songs I listened to… these are all that I will carry with me because it happened in that crucial time in my life.

And no, I don’t actively despise nor feel shame for being Filipino. Heck, I just wrote several essays on the Philippines a few weeks ago. It’s just that the memory of being in the Philippines are much farther removed from me. I have like one friend from my childhood that I still keep contact with. I lost touch with many of my cousins from the Philippines. The last time I was there, I felt alien. I was practically foreign. Add the fact that whenever the Philippines is in the news lately, it’s often bad news or something about the country being backwards (like electing the son of the former dictator). Who wants to talk about that?

And so when my wife complains that I always point out that something is Canadian, it’s because I find it interesting that something or someone Canadian is out in the mainstream or out here in Korea despite the greater influence of America. It is part bemusement and part love of Canada. When I hear Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me” in a Korean bus, how can I not point out such an obscure song making it in Korean airwaves. And of course I don’t do the same with Filipino things because they’re not as ubiquitous as Canadian things. And as for pointing out something or someone is Korean… I am in Korea! That’s kinda redundant. And of course when I mention that the lawyer that justified torture for George Bush is actually a Korean, my wife is barely interested. Nor does she care if I mention that Sandra Oh is in a movie.

This is in contrast with an experience I had with my best friend growing up. I wrote about it once, but it bears repeating. I was still a permanent resident and not a citizen. We were in English class. Somehow, I mentioned that unlike her, I was not Canadian, that I was still Filipino. She said, “bullshit.” “You will be Canadian soon enough, and in many ways, you already are.” That was such a welcoming feeling into a society that I still remember it to this day. I don’t think my friend realizes how much Canadian patriotism she planted deep inside of me.

Now as welcome as I have been in Korean society, I don’t think people ever truly considered me Korean. I am forever grateful to be in this country, but I doubt if I would ever get past the label of being a foreigner.

So what does this whole rant amount to? Well, from last night, I am reminded that my wife thinks I’m extremely duplicitous and that I could maintain a lie for years, hiding my knowledge of Japanese and Philippines language, despite being an intermediate Korean speaker for the longest time. Also, she believes I am not proud of being from the Philippines. Don’t I sound awful? 

May 11


Korea had a series of dictators and strong men. Park Chung-hee, while credited with helping improve Korea’s economy, he abused his office, declared martial law, and persecuted his opposition, and was eventually assassinated in 1979. He was never elected, but grabbed power after leading a military coup. Many conservatives still worship him, crediting him for Korea’s current economic standing, ignoring the abuse during his reign. This led to the election of his daughter Park Geun-hye as president. She was president from 2013 until 2017 until she was impeached and convicted due to corruption.

I though it was incredible that Koreans allowed her to seize power back in 2013, especially after her father served for five consecutive terms, aggressively controlling any opposition and free speech. I’m sure every country has their political family dynasties, but didn’t Koreans learn their lesson with the father of Park Geun-hye?

Eventually, after the Sewol tragedy, when around two hundred students died in a ferry accident and the government showed an incredible display of incompetence, the dominoes started falling for Park Geun-Hye. Stories of corruption, unusually vain behavior, being controlled as a puppet by her advisor, etc. ignited protests around the country, resulting in her impeachment and eventual arrest. She was just recently pardoned by the outgoing president due to her ailing health.

Marcos Jr. Is the new president of the Philippines. People never learn.

His family’s corruption was the stuff of both legends and parody. He put the country under martial law for a decade and had political enemies assassinated or disappeared. Free speech was muffled and many people lost many family members when he was presidency. All the while, his family was stealing billions of pesos and hiding them in accounts overseas. During his reign, Marcos had the gal to put his giant face on a mountain while he was still alive. A proper dictator move. And still Ferdinand Marcos’ son got elected. This happened following the tenure of another strong man with plenty of blood in his hands, President Duterte.

I have seen this movie before. Filipinos never learn. This is why the felon ex-president Erap Estrada eventually got elected as mayor of the country’s capital soon after his release. I don’t have high hopes for the Marcos presidency. Populism is king in the Philippines, and Filipinos will never be able to vote themselves out of poverty. At 92, I’m not sure if Imelda Marcos would resume he insane shoe-buying habit, but I’m sure one way or another, we’ll hear stories of corruption sooner other than later.

This is a redundant and sad movie.

Korea’s kinda similar, recently electing a conservative populist who seems to have no idea how government works. But his election was more of the population’s rejection of the last president’s bungling of the housing prices. With Yoon beginning his presidency yesterday, it’s going to be a long five years.

Seems like it’s a good time for conservatives and would-be strong men.