Alexis Ann Willsborough Poirier is one of my oldest friends. We met back in high school and she is one of the few people in high school I’m still interested in keeping in touch with. I like to think she is one of my best friends.
We went to several hiking and camping trips together. I remember despite her being quite fond of being outdoors and camping, she had trouble starting a fire. I sometimes suspected that my only purpose on those camping trips was to start a fire. But even if that was the case, I didn’t mind. Those early camping trips made me see how beautiful the province was. It also showed me that if worse comes to worse, I could live my life in the great outdoors. I learned that moose without their antlers look like weird aliens from behind. And that bears wouldn’t really bother your camp unless you have a bag of marshmallows sitting outside.
She was the first person to get me into working out regularly. I remember meeting up with her early in the morning and working out in the gym before going to school. She and her sister, Alicia, were quite big with sports and working out, and I just tried to keep up with it. Those gym sessions were also a good way of keeping in touch since at that time I was starting in university and she was still in high school. It was a great excuse to meet, workout, and eat a heavy breakfast which would make all of the workout pointless.
We went to grad/prom twice. This was not for any romantic reason at all. I believe it was more for us and our friends spending key moments of our lives together. One thing I appreciated about Alexis is how much she valued her friends. And she tried to keep our core group together especially for key holidays. Even after I started spending my Christmas holidays overseas while I was in university, we always made it a point to celebrate Christmas dinner together at a later date. Outside of childhood Christmases, those were the best Christmas celebrations I’ve had.
The first time I left Canada for South Korea, she was there with my family to say goodbye to me at the airport. None of my other friends were there. She was. And the times I would come back home, she would try to be there to pick me up. After a while, this became impossible since she moved to another province, but she always made an attempt to see me whenever I’m in the country. And when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, she drove hundreds of miles to see me, even accidentally running over a poor cow in the process.
One of my biggest regrets was not really being there for her when her father passed away. Though it was not sudden and she had some time to slowly process it, I wish I was more present at the time. I remember her and I talking whenever there’s some serious problems in her life, but with her father passing, I really didn’t know where to place myself. What was the right thing to do? Do I simply fly back home? Fly back home to what? To where? Am I intruding? All I could do was just be there on the phone.
Although she wasn’t there for my wedding, she visited Korea once, and we even traveled for a short time in Japan. In Seoul, we went hiking with her fiance, just like old times. The man she would eventually marry is a great guy. I really enjoyed meeting him when they visited. I remember when we were younger, she would say that if her close friends thought that if there was something wrong about the person she was dating, she would end it with him. I’m not sure if I totally believed this, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any disqualifying traits with her future husband. They seem perfect for each other.
She had a small ceremony in her house last year.
She visited Japan again this year and just got back to Canada today. I was invited to come and see them while they were in Japan, but I felt that since it was their honeymoon as well as a trip to introduce the couple to their Japanese relatives, I felt that it was too much of a family affair. I would be intruding. This was the biggest reason I couldn’t see them aside from a myriad other reasons why visiting Japan was not best at the moment. I tried to message her as much as I can, especially since we were on the same time zone, but a part of me wished that I could’ve spent a day or two with my old friend. And now that she’s in Canada again, I could feel that distance again. I’m sure we’ll still bond over hockey long distance, but yeah, the distance is palpable and the Winnipeg Jets last season was not very inspiring.
So why am I writing all of this? For no particular reason. I just miss my buddy.
Despite #Inktober, I’m still working on art everyday. I’m slowly making new pieces whenever I find the time and applying to galleries if I find something that matches my work. My Instagram has been a bit sad since I post the same piece everyday with just a different part of it highlighted, but one thing it showed me is whether some of my regular Instagram visitors or actual people who know me are actually paying attention to my work or just throwing mindless compliments and pushing heart. To understand what I’m saying, here’s what I have on my Instagram.
As one can clearly see from above, a number of colored circles are there to highlight the part of the work which was zoomed in for that day. The colored circles are simply a tool, a sign, a visual to signify to the viewer to look at that spot. It was never meant to be a design element.
And yet one person who I happen to believe I was close to remarked, “Wonderful work Jospeh loving the colour.”
Now, it’s one thing to misspell my name. I can take it. But to say “wonderful colour,” why bother? The person cares enough to leave a comment and make their presence known, and yet doesn’t care enough to actually look at the work they are commenting on. This person is an artist, too! How can I take any artistic comment or criticism from this person seriously again, be it regarding my work or anyone else’? Ugh!
It’s like being in a gallery and hearing someone say the most general thing about your work. You know that they are trying to pay you a compliment. They are being kind. Patronizing, but kind. Neither of you want to be in that moment, and both of you would rather be back at the food table grabbing another glass of free wine.
Anyway, the lesson I guess is don’t take social media too seriously. And if you’re gonna half-ass saying hello to anyone on your social media for any obligation whatsoever, don’t even bother.
Outside of my office, there are street preachers which I usually tune out. The other day however, one of the speakers came out with a particularly interesting rant:
“Don’t treat Jesus like garbage. He’s not garbage. YOU’RE GARBAGE!”
Now, I don’t really know who the speaker was referring to, but as I know, Jesus (despite not being garbage) preached humility and lowered himself to wash the feet of his disciples. I also remember Jesus saying blessed be the poor and the meek. Jesus was never proud. In fact, pride is one of the seven capital vices. So while I’m not saying that it’s right to say that we should treat Jesus like garbage, it’s probably safe to say that Jesus would be the last to accuse anyone of being garbage.
But then again, looking at the signs surrounding the preachers I see in the country. They’re very heavy on the condemnation.
“Believe or you’ll go to hell!”
These are people who are heavy on the condemnation. They spend more time preaching and condemning people on the street than actually doing good works. I sometimes wonder if anyone is ever converted by the regular blaring sermons on the street. I seriously doubt it. This is like the religious equivalent of negging… undermine someone’s self esteem in order to make them seek out your approval. That, couple with threats of eternal damnation.
But why do it then? Why do it if it’s not working? Simple. Because it’s easy.
Or rather it’s easier than actually following Jesus’ example. If you’re religious there are two common arguments to reaching heaven: believing in God or doing good works regardless of believing in God. There’s injustice in reaching heaven simply for believing in a deity. A Buddhist could be a much kinder and generous person than me, but just by virtue of me believing in God, I would go to heaven and they would rot in hell. The problem with reaching heaven simply for doing good works however, is that it makes religion irrelevant. Why study the Gospels and listen to a preacher? I don’t need to do all of that in order to do good deeds. I’d just spend my time volunteering or something.
And that right there is the key. It is easier to claim rights to the kingdom of heaven simply by believing in God and making everyone else feel like sinners. It is much harder to follow Jesus’ teachings and simply be good to others.
Another thing that’s key in ignoring Jesus’ teachings is simply devoting one’s self to the Old Testament, the old God. See there are two main Gods in the Christian bible. There is the vengeful God in the Old Testament. And then there’s Jesus, the God of the New Testament. The thing about following the Old Testament is that he is more exciting. There’s more condemnation. There’s more us against them. There are more sinners being wiped away by flood and fire. Compare that to the New Testament where all sinners are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice. Outside of the crucifixion, it doesn’t get extremely violent and judgmental until Revelations. The excitement brought by the jealous, judgmental, and sometimes incomprehensible God of the Old Testament brings a tribal sentiment much like sports. “We are going to heaven. You suck! You’re going to hell!” It must feel very good. And it’s definitely much easier than giving out soup to homeless people.
This reminds me of the newly appointed religious advisor in the Trump administration, the grifter Paula White. She was recently “praying against President Trump’s enemies.” Praying against… like she’s sending a vengeful spirit to curse people, like voodoo magic or something. I ask why aren’t people, religious scholars in particular, not speaking out against this. But then again, I realize that the God of the Old Testament seems to be more popular than Jesus these days. I mean, it’s easy to invoke Jesus by name. But in everything else, condemnation, tribalism, curses… everything is Old Testament.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the leader of ISIL. He was surrounded by special forces yesterday and detonated himself using an explosive vest. When he was alive, he orchestrated the genocide of the Yazidis, pushed for sex slavery, and organized brutal displays of mass crucifixions and executions, often putting them on video to be used for propaganda and recruitment.
I have no sympathy for people like Baghdadi, especially after they perverted the image of Islam. The world is better without him. His death is not the same as the death of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. There are no gray areas or utilitarian purpose to his rule. He is simply, a bad guy. However, the whole circus with the Trump administration’s announcement regarding his death leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
First off, the Pentagon stating that he ran to a tunnel with three kids to be used as human shields sounds like unnecessary propaganda. It’s very similar to when they described Osama Bin Laden using his wives as shields, which was later denied as a false statement. They are painting a very dramatic scene in order to make Baghdadi sound evil when he is evil enough as it is. I’m already on the US’ side on this. They don’t have to lie in order to sell it to me. In fact, the lie is off-putting. Why would Baghdadi bring children along when he planned to detonate himself? Wouldn’t he know those kids he was bringing with him? Isn’t it more plausible that he was trying to escape with them and not use them as shields?
Now, maybe the Pentagon wasn’t lying, but Trump lying and saying that he saw the whole thing live, much like a movie is a childishly blatant lie. First off, there was no audio. Second, the photo of him and his generals perfectly posed to try and simulate a situation room is comically set up. Cables are disconnected, people are staring at different directions, the photographer was blocking where the screen would be, and Trump perfectly centered like it was Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper.’ Third, his description of Baghdadi crying and begging for his life was totally fictitious. Even Pentagon officials immediately denied it. There was no audio. No witnesses could attest to this. And the whole thing happened in a dark tunnel. Either Trump was describing what happened to Muammar Gaddafi years ago or he’s just going off of his sadistic imagination. “His body was mutilated by the blast… there wasn’t much left?” Really? Can the US president not hide his childish glee over this?
“Died like a dog”? “Die like a coward”? How does a dog die? How does a coward die? How does Trump know how a coward dies? What kind of language is this?!?!?
And then Trump goes on to brag about himself, comparing himself to ISIS in terms of Internet proficiency (what a weirdo!), claiming that he advocated the death of Bin Laden (he didn’t), and that killing Baghdadi was more significant than killing Osama Bin Laden. That last one is something adults simply don’t do. What does that even mean?
As for Trump comparing himself to ISIS in terms of Internet proficiency, let me follow his lead and go a bit further. Bill Maher lost his first show after he described the 9/11 terrorists as being brave, in contrast with US military strategy which is basically just bombing cities from a distance. I’m not a fan of Bill Maher, but there was truth to what he was saying. The 9/11 terrorists were cowards in that they targeted civilians, but they were courageous in personally committing their act of terror and facing death. The west commits terror mostly long distance. As hideous and as ill-advised his sentiment was, it cannot be dismissed as totally wrong. In any case, let me pull a Bill Maher and say that Trump, given the same circumstances, would not be any different from Baghdadi.
They both failed at serving in the military, though Baghdadi might actually be truly nearsighted. Apparently, Baghdadi has a PHD in Islamic studies. But just like with Trump’s education from Wharton, their supposed education doesn’t match reality. Baghdadi is as much a religious scholar as Trump is a business leader.
Trump is an accused sexual predator. In the same position as Baghdadi, is it really a stretch that he advocate for sexual slavery as well? With his macho fantasies and authoritarian tendencies, it is also very easy to imagine that he would be just as violent and as brutal as Baghdadi. Trump was quite callous with the imprisonment of children and the death of the Kurds. He doesn’t care much about the suffering in Puerto Rico and was quite dismissive about the US’ history with lynching. Baghdadi has his followers do most of the work for him. They are zealots who are following both extremist ideologies and twisted religious dogma. According to a recent poll, evangelicals are 90% against Trump getting impeached. These are the same people who believe he is appointed by God. The same people who wouldn’t mind conflict to break out over the Gaza Strip in order for Christ to come a second time.
The way we see leaders and monsters truly depends on the culture and circumstances surrounding them as well as which side we are on. ISIL and Baghdadi rose from the horror that is the fall of Iraq. One could argue that without the conflicts in the Middle East, perhaps the monster that is Baghdadi would’ve never evolved. Trump on the other hand lived a life of excess and was never really held accountable for his many failures and supposed crimes. And despite getting everything most people would want in life, he became this strange villain on the world stage. Now, imagine what worse cartoon monster he would’ve become if he was given the same circumstances as Baghdadi.
I have always enjoyed David Sedaris’ work, be it on his occasional contributions to This American Life or his books. I’m not sure if I said it before, but I always wished that I was born a Sedaris. How fun it must be to have Amy Sedaris as a sister. Anyway, his book Me Talk Pretty One Day really connected with me because I am also trying to study Korean, and just like him at the time, my relationship with the language moved from utter despair and confusion, to learning to live with and be amused at how dumb I must sound.
The dumb fish out of water experience added with the awkwardness of the language. Let me present a semi-fictional minute-by-minute autobiographical chronicle of a club-going experience in Suwon, a satellite city of Seoul. This was written in Korean, Google-translated to English.
6:34 pm I met my boss's son. He came with two friends. His English name is “Yun”. I said it's not an English name. “English, no! English, no!” He was a bit angry about it. “English, yes!” he insisted.
7:50 pm After dinner, I went to the club in Suwon. I thought it was too early. In the club there was no one.
8:00 pm In the club there was no one yet. The club gave us watermelon and bananas. Because loud music my head hurt.
8:32 pm The waiter brought two women outside. They didn't seem happy. Yun how to drink taught us. I called it Titanic.
8:47 pm Two women left. In the club there was no one else.
9:03 pm Yun said he needs patience to succeed. He started studying English with me.
9:16 pm The waiter picked up three women from outside. It was like they came from a birthday party. I brought a half-eaten cake.
9:20 pm Yun wanted me to shake the "gangsta" handshake on the girls. I don't know that. I'm really angry.
9:28 pm Three women left. They forgot the cake.
9:30 pm I learned the price of drink. A bottle of shochu was 7,000 won. A bottle of Cass was 10,000 won.
9:41 pm I finished the cake. Yun said he needs confidence to succeed.
9:49 pm The waiter brought two women outside. They seemed really drunk. Yun talked about the military experience. Although his story was passionate, they seemed boring.
10:02 pm Two women left. In the club there was still no one else as there was a ghost.
10:03 pm I realized that Korean club is so different than Canadian club.
10:32 pm In the club there was still no one else yet. Yun's friend we go to the Salsa Club suggested. Yun forced me to go with them.
10:45 pm We left. The fruit bowl was 50,000 won. The fruit is very expensive! Yun said he paid. He is my brother.