July 13


When do people stop seeing their therapists? When do you go, “this is as far as we can go. Please wean me out of my meds and let’s have an amicable end to our relationship?” I’ve been with my therapist for more than a year now. My life has improved dramatically under his care, but I’m sitting here thinking, how long can I do this? How long can I be on meds? When does life become normal?

I do enjoy being able to talk my heart out to someone. And I find both his advice and the medicine very helpful. I was in a very dark place last year around February. Once in a while, I go back to that dark place, too. But our sessions have helped me cope with things and make it through just one more day. But a part of me hopes that one day I could be able to do without him be the well-adjusted individual I imagine most people my age are.

That, plus lately I’ve been hearing about the dangers of benzodiazepines. I know it’s probably not the benzos that made Jordan Peterson a lunatic, but looking at his latest rant, I wouldn’t want to be like him and would like to stray away from anything that might’ve contributed to his current state. He admitted to being addicted to benzodiazepines and struggled getting out of it. I missed a couple of days of my drugs one time, and I ended up with the worst headache ever and vivid nightmares. I take Xanax when needed and I don’t consider myself addicted to it, but I’m afraid that I’ll end up addicted to the other benzodiazepines I take regularly.

I actually keep a list of the changes in medication I’ve been taking just in case, which could be a sign of paranoia or obsession. Maybe I need more anxiety pills.

My wife wonders about my progress, but I think right now I’m in stasis. I’m in a place where I’m generally more okay than not okay. I get bad days where I really despise the person I see on the mirror, but there are more days which are more routine, peaceful, and I just go about with work and life. I’ll be going on a bit of vacation soon, and I’m hoping that it would help. But a part of me is a little anxious about it, too.

I used to see another therapist in Korea years ago, and she didn’t really care much about what I was talking about. She just prescribed me with meds and tried to drug the depression and anxiety away. I believe she over prescribed me because I found myself walking around like a zombie and needed drugs to both sleep and to function in the morning once I wake up. My doctor right now is much better, but I still wonder if I’ve been around for too long.

Or maybe being in therapy too long is more of a Korean thing. That’s still seeing depression and anxiety as a disease that can be healed completely, not a life-long condition that should be treated long-term. I’m grateful for all of the help I’ve received, but when my wife asks about my progress, I can’t help but ask myself, “why am I still not normal after all of this time? Why do I still need to see my therapist?”

I feel kinda guilty about it as well, because I mentioned to her that last week, I had a couple of depressed episodes as well as anxiety. I had to take Xanax a few times. This was a week when she did something incredibly generous, buying me a PlayStation 5, and thinking that would fuel at least a week of excitement and elation. And yet, the depression and anxiety still found a way to squeak themselves in to my life. She tried to make me happy, and yet I’m still in need of meds.

I just wish I was happier and things were better. I try, oh God, I try, but I still need help. But many things around me tell me that if I was happier and if I was content, then I would be crazy.

I guess the weather isn’t helping as well. I wish it would stop raining. 

 

Joseph Reyes

Artist

 

July 27


Been reading about DALL-E 2 recently. For the uninitiated, it’s an AI tool that generates images based on text prompts. So for example, someone can type in, “Woman buys blue toilet paper in Walmart seen from behind” and the AI will generate an image that matches that description. The technology is still in its early stages, and many of the results look funny during experimentation that some news outlets have tried to sell it as a fun tool to create memes. But some results look quite good and it’s scary how accurate the AI can recreate text prompts into images.

The AI tool is being sold as a possible tool to help people quickly visualize images. This can be anything from helping people with physical disadvantages express themselves to production companies quickly storyboard ideas. That second scenario sounds like it’s bound to make some artists redundant.

What surprised me about the tool is how good some of the pieces it generates can be. They look like someone actually labored and made art. AI can already generate written words to simulate real people. They do this well enough with millions of bots posting messages on Twitter and writing spam e-mail that they convince thousands of people with their authenticity. But now this DALL-E 2 could be doing the same thing, only with digital art and photography. It can make images that can move the hearts and minds of some people.

There’s already a debate whether some conceptual artists are actual artists (*cough* Damien Hirst *cough*), but with AI, anyone can type out any of their wild ideas and it’s up to the AI to make art out of it. Forget talent, skill, or training… all you need is a good idea and a bit of wit. How long before we see a group of artists calling themselves AI artists who never lifted a brush or a pencil all of their life?

I believe it was Picasso who said, “good artists copy; great artists steal.” TS Elliott similarly said, “the immature poet imitates; the mature poet plagiarizes.” The DALL-E 2 and what it will eventually become is the ultimate thief. It will copy style and technique and appropriate it to whatever the user whims it to. I know someone who currently creates abstract digital paintings. He sells prints of his works. Now how similar would the works be if I used DALL-E 2 and entered “Swishy digital painting with soft pastel tones”? How safe are my works? “Busy ink drawing filling the page with an octopus hidden somewhere”?

Now, the makers of the program claim that there are safeguards which prevent people from making counterfeit images, using political figures, generating pornography, etc. But really, at some point this is all going to get duplicated or someone is going to find some sort of workaround. Next thing you know, we’ll have a convincing picture of “President Biden at a nude resort” floating around the Internet.

It’s simply too rife for potential abuse. 

July 18


It’s been a while since I’ve done a coronavirus update, so here it is. It’s been over two years now, and I still haven’t caught it. Knowing someone who’s caught it is much more common these days, so is getting over it without much complications. I think taking the vaccine helps, and the treatments have gotten much better. My sister-in-law here and her family caught the virus from a daycare center, and they’re all much better now. I got coworkers and acquaintances here who caught it, too.

My bestfriend in Canada caught the virus, too. She seems to be doing well, but it shows that the virus is still out there causing trouble.

And me, I’m still successfully dodging that bullet.

They’re giving out second booster shots now to people who want it, but only to a certain age. A lot of people didn’t even bother getting the first booster because not long after they made the booster available last year, they made vaccine passes no longer necessary.

For a while, cases in the country were down to around 10,000 a day, which was quite low. People have begun to relax more as open public mask mandates have been lifted, although it is still required in closed public spaces. Even in the office, I see people occasionally taking off their masks when sitting around their desks. It just doesn’t seem to be something people worry too much about anymore.

There are no more limitations to gatherings, nor are there curfews. Once again, drunk people roam the streets and ride the trains of Seoul late at night. That’s one thing I kinda miss about the pandemic. The people and quiet at night. That, and the obligation to finish drinking at 10:00. I know, I know. That’s early. But I’m getting old, and going out for drinks has gotten pretty expensive these days.

I’ve been able to go to the gym these days, too. Finally. I haven’t regularly worked out in two years. Just doing push ups and ab rollers at home. People still have to wear masks however, but I come in super early and I tend to work out without a mask on when no one is around. Shhhhh!

When it comes to traveling though, some people are still wary, while a significant number of Koreans are taking the first opportunity to travel that they can. Some countries don’t require negative tests nor visas to enter, but South Korea still requires negative PCR tests to allow people in. My sister will be visiting on September and she’s got herself a visa. So yeah, tourism is slowly making a comeback in the country.

Relations between Japan and Korea still haven’t been normalized however, and Koreans would still need to apply for a visa when traveling to Japan. Uncertainty regarding Covid and the situation with Japan made me decide to just stay in the country for now and just vacation somewhere I haven’t been to: Busan. I will be on vacation this week, and I’m hoping all goes well.

What scares me though is the current uptick in cases happening around the world due to the new omicron variant. Yesterday, Korea had 40,000 new cases of coronavirus in the country. Japan had over 100,000. I’m hoping this is just a minor blip and not something that would last. God, I remember when Korea was being hailed as a model country with cases less than 1000 a day. Now it seems we’re just as bad (or as good) as other countries. 

September 13


It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I guess if anything, the death of the Queen is something to write about. I’ve kinda been wondering about her death for the past couple of years, how a shift that would be. Many people, including my mother, lived and died with only one monarch in the British throne. Now I get to see one pass, one that’s been there for seven decades. The lady’s been in our money for so long. She’s a staple in ‘Kid’s in the Hall’ and many Canadian sketches. We used to sing “God Save the Queen” right after singing “Oh, Canada” back in school (The national anthem followed by the royal anthem). She’s as ubiquitous to Canada as the moose and the beaver.

I asked a British friend if it’s strange that I’d feel upset over the Queen’s passing. He thought it odd. I think it odd too. Afterall, she doesn’t really affect me much, nor does the monarchy. But I guess I’m mourning not just the death of from what I know is a pretty decent monarch that presided over the whitling away of the British empire’s colonies, but also the passing of a Canadian symbol.

I’m not a fan of the monarchy for its tabloid drama. I don’t watch ‘The Crown’ either. I really find all of the drama behind the royals a bit tacky, and I could only imagine how mortified as a parent and a grandmother the Queen must’ve been throughout each scandal. My wife was never a fan of the Queen due to her perceived coldness during Diana’s death. But people do acknowledge that she did bow over the late princess’ casket, something that was never done. It was always vice versa; subjects bow to the Queen and the Queen never bows to anyone. That bow shows love, respect, and humanity, as much as the tabloids would love to cast the Queen as the villain during the princess’ death.

If there’s anything I’m not happy about, but I really can’t blame her for, was the way Prince Andrew’s scandal was handled. The man clearly had illegal relations with minors and the Queen made it disappear. I realize she’s dealing with her own son, but the whole thing cast such a dark, disgusting shadow over the monarchy. The prince was caught being a pedophile, and the Queen had to fetch money from her purse to bail her son out. It was disappointing. I would’ve let the courts handle the whole thing instead of sorting it out in the shadows. Sure, the prince had to give up privileges and military ranks, but so did Prince Harry. One is a criminal pedophile, while the other is just someone who wants to protect his wife from the paparazzi. What Prince Andrew got was barely a slap on the wrist.

Looking at the monarchy, it would seem like the Queen’s biggest challenges came not from external forces but more from her own family.


Now of course there’s bitterness towards the monarchy over its colonial past, but I really don’t think the Queen is responsible for much of it. As I mentioned, she presided over the shrinking of the British empire, preserving as much diplomatic relations with the country’s former colonies as she could. In Canada, we are fully not divorced from the authority of the monarchy since many of the agreements with the First Nations were with Canada’s colonial powers at the time. But it’s not like Britain lords over Canada, except maybe once in a while when some British idiot would remark to me that, “we used to own you guys.” To which I would reply, “as someone with a Filipino background, technically it’s the Spanish that used to own me. Also, your racism is showing.”

God bless the Queen. It’s like a good distant grandmother has died. The Queen is dead. Long live the King.