January 16


I just saw the 2016 documentary ‘Angry Inuk.’ It’s upsetting, but one of the sins the world always seems to commit (among other things) is ignore the plight of First Nations. Basically, because of “conservation” efforts to save non-threatened seal populations, the seal skin market was destroyed, effectively plunging Inuit communities who relied on the seal skin trade into poverty. The infuriating part is that the people who push for the ban on the seal skin trade are often people who can afford to indulge on such causes and not be affected by the consequences.

It reminds me of people who are into organic foods. People who are into organic foods are those who can afford organic food; and the richer and more into organic food you are, the preachier you tend to be regarding your diet. And often, lectures and the message of change are geared towards those who can’t really afford a different way of eating and living. In the case of Inuit seal hunters, it is people living comfortably and more affluently down in warmer climates that are telling Inuit that what they are doing is wrong. It is simply wrong to kill cute seal pups and sell their skin.

I’ve never had much issue with eating all sorts of animals and people hunting them, unless they’re endangered. I’ve had whale meat before and I really don’t care for it. I really wish commercial whale fishing in Japan would stop already, especially since whales are becoming more and more endangered. Now, you might say this is hypocritical and it is no different from the situation with Inuit hunting seals, but as far as I know, there are no communities in Japan dependent on whale hunting. In fact, the Japanese seem to be pushing whale hunting not for the same cultural and life-altering reasons and with the same small-scale methods used by Aboriginals, but by a highly sophisticated commercial process in order to have whale meat continue to be available in Japanese restaurants and grocery stores simply because some people like to occasionally eat whale. The Japanese can survive without commercial whaling.

I’ve had seal before and I think it’s fine. I’ve had bear as well. I’ve even eaten dogs. Now, some might call that monstrous, but pigs have been proven to be much smarter than dogs, equivalent to the intelligence of two-year-olds on average. Now, I mostly eat strange things out of curiosity (and then for pleasure should I develop a taste for it), but I do feel for people whose livelihoods depend on the sale of what most of society would deem unusual or even unsavory. There’s an old dog meat restaurant near where I work. It’s a family-run place, and I could only imagine the toll on them should there be a huge backlash on eating dogs in the country.

The problem is, outfits like Greenpeace, PETA, the Humane Society, and Sea Shepherd are all business at the end of it all. They will create marketing campaigns and manufacture villains in order to keep their operations afloat. As the documentary showed, seals are no longer endangered, but the campaign against killing cute seal pups is such an effective money generator that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever stop using baby seal imagery. And as businesses cater to their demographics, animal lovers can be the biggest suckers.

Just recently, I saw a popular animal show in Korea do a showcase on dogs raised for their meat. They partnered with an American company and rescued dogs destined for the butcher’s shop. They then flew the dogs to America and had families adopt them.  What an awful, awful, story of animal lovers not knowing where to throw their money! Why can’t they just use the money to rescue dogs in their own respective countries and have them adopted by locals? Wouldn’t that have resulted in more dogs rescued in the long run? It’s a great story to tell, “I rescued this dog from a Korean dog meat farm.” But you could’ve rescued two more dogs from a puppy mill in Idaho. And also, to the Korean producers of the show: great way of perpetuating the stereotype that Koreans eat dog! Some do, but the majority who don’t are I’m sure are quite tired of hearing about it.

I’m an animal lover myself, and I’ve cared for pets for most of my life. I just tend to be really suspicious of animal rights organizations and those pushing for people to eat a certain way. It just reeks of ethnocentrism sometimes.  

December 4


Trying to get away from pop music and in many ways, k-pop…  so I turn to KEXP for some indie rock. Then I spent a couple of hours listening to Japanese Breakfast, and I’m like, yeah, this is alright. And then I remember Michelle Zaulner is Korean-American.

She did an interview where she confessed to considering quitting music and pursuing a career which is more aligned with the Asian stereotype growing up with tiger moms. Perhaps be an engineer or something. And this morning, I just saw Hari Kondabolu’s documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ where he talks about not only the problem with the stereotype the Simpsons character is perpetuating, but also about growing up and pursuing a career which is not up to his parent’s expectations. Again, he didn’t grow up to be an engineer or something.

What I’m saying is, god bless the people who pursue their dreams so we can share a bit of their gifts as their dreams become reality. I wouldn’t be enjoying Zaulner’s songs or Kondabolu’s humor if they both pursued careers in engineering.  At least at this point in my life, for this day, I would’ve been poorer for it. So yeah, here’s to following your dreams and disappointing Asian parents!



Speaking of pursuing the arts, I just saw a video of my niece playing the otamatone. I really wish she doesn’t pursue this and go get a STEM career instead. Be an engineer, Amanda! 

November 15


My good friend, Jordan Miller, just aired her woes regarding running a studio gallery. I want to reply with my two cents.

First off, for the holidays, I doubt if many people buy art, especially in a city like Winnipeg in this economy. People do love looking at art… they love looking, but not just Winnipeg in particular, but the whole world in general. For someone to actually buy art, they often have to be invested in the piece or the artist already. That or they just have money to throw around at that moment. So yeah, either you have a fan or you’re lucky enough to come across someone truly compelled to buy your work.

And really this holiday, galleries and all other shops are competing against Amazon and Walmart when it comes to shopping for presents. When it comes to compelling imagery, they’re competing against the whole Internet and the world’s ADHD culture. It’s an uphill battle, and it’s a small miracle and badge on the artist every time someone buys art.

This is where I think a studio gallery has to utilize the artists it has. I think many new artists are under the assumption that once they’re in a gallery, it’s the gallery owner or curator’s responsibility to shepherd new audiences to them. To some extent, this is true. Being in a gallery brings about art enthusiasts as well as other gallery owners. But in a generally static market like Winnipeg, artists cannot expect their audience to grow if they keep on showing their stuff at the same studio gallery. To grow an audience, each artist in a collective should be introducing their friends to other artists in the collective, and thus, growing their community and their audiences. So let’s say there’s an open house, each artist in a studio gallery should at least try to invite friends to come over and see their works as well as the other artists’. “Studio artists tell me they want new people in, not just the people they know.” True. So each artist should bring the people they know and maybe they’ll buy their neighbor’s work and vice versa.

Another way to solve the “new people in, not just the people they know” dilemma is for gallery owners and artists to be sharing information regarding calls for submissions. I was once a part of an art collective in South Korea, and one thing I liked about the community is that people were sharing information and leads regarding opportunities. The organizer would encourage members to take part in shows. This encourages artists to be more productive and be part of the community. It also gives them more experience and hopefully leads them to a much better portfolio. Artists don’t have to be limited to their local community. It’s what the Internet is for. And with several eyeballs scouring the Internet for opportunities and sharing them, that should make the world of artists in a studio gallery a little bit bigger. 

My friend mentioned that some artists make deals with buyers and sell work to them privately instead of going through the gallery and losing a commission. Now, there really is no way to work around this unless galleries start forcing artists to sign exclusivity contracts. But really, I think this comes down to the artists themselves. Personally, I feel grateful if a gallery hung my work and happened to find a buyer for me. That’s one person who may have never run into my work and I owe it to the gallery for making the connection. I believe artists should do the right thing and make sales through galleries rather than wait for their work to come down. Buyers wouldn’t normally care if the artist loses on commission or not. And artists, despite finances and all, should really be willing to support galleries who gave them a chance in the first place.

Now, with the two things considered: artists wondering why my gallery owner friend is not shepherding in new audiences for them and artists making private sales, I would assume this comes to either selfishness (and laziness) in the artists’ part or a fundamental opportunity missed by everyone. Perhaps the economy is bad that artists cannot afford to be generous to galleries in return, or perhaps the artists don’t realize how a small studio gallery in a city like Winnipeg could work for them.

So there you have it. If you’re an artist in a studio gallery, take advantage of your community and share resources and opportunities. Be more proactive, if not in your local arts community, then at least over the Internet. Maybe I’m biased because Jordan, the gallery owner, is my best friend, but don’t leave everything to the gallery owner or curator. There’s only so much they can do to help you. 

Artist

 

 

Joseph Reyes

November 24


Late to the party, but I just learned about Justin Payne’s vigilante channel exposing pedophiles in Toronto. As much as I enjoyed Chris Hansen’s work over ten years ago, I have to be honest that a part of the joy is watching someone get totally humiliated. It’s not so much for the pursuit of justice anymore, but getting high off the humiliation of another human being. Maybe that’s just me, but I suspect that’s what most people watching the show are there for. Chris Hansen for one sure likes to take his sweet time and humiliate perps in front of the camera.

Despite this, I’m a fan of what Justin does. But I’m afraid that he might eventually get hurt or that doing this type of work is just going to permanently damage his psyche. It can’t be healthy talking to several sexual predators all the time, subjecting yourself to their attempts at grooming you. Also, as someone who studied the law, I’m afraid that a lot of what Justin and similar vigilantes do wouldn’t result in criminal charges. They’re often focused on proving mental state which is often the most lurid part that attracts most viewers. But the problem is that they’re not really proving actual criminal conduct. Unfortunately, a crime cannot be committed if they prevented a crime from happening; there is no body. There were (thankfully) no real minors involved, and often no one gets hurt. If anything, these vigilante actions would initially expose the vigilantes to criminal charges or civil damages due to unlawfully taping phone calls, broadcasting without permission, incitement to imminent lawless action, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.  I believe this and the fact that some vigilantes entrap their targets are the reasons why most of the people caught by the To Catch a Predator stings were let go.

But this doesn’t take away the fact that people like Justin Payne and these vigilantes are quite courageous for exposing themselves to a number of dangers. They are doing a great service in discouraging pedophiles from preying on minors. I really don’t blame them for taking action, especially if it’s happening in their neighborhoods. It’s sad that some of these potential predator’s lives might end up getting ruined in the process, but it’s even sadder to think what might have happened should they end up meeting real minors instead. It reminds me of Bill Zeller’s suicide note. In any case, I just wish these vigilantes’ approach we geared more toward rehabilitation. After all, the perpetrators’ urges could be considered a mental condition. But on how that could be accomplished, I have no idea.

January 5

So California finally legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Unfortunately, the US Attorney General removed Obama-era protections for marijuana sales in the state, allowing the federal government to stop and arrest people who are in possession of what is still considers as a controlled Schedule I drug. And as much as the right wing in the United States yell about states’ rights when it comes to things like gun, contraception, and marriage laws, I doubt if they would be as loud when it comes to California allowing its citizens to enjoy cannabis.

The fact that marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal benefits basically ignores all of the people using the drug to help them deal with pain, especially in cancer treatments. It’s people ignoring evidence over fear and rumors. The same way there is evidence and history of prohibitions creating illegal activity (the prohibition gave birth to an era or organized crime in the US after all), some people, most importantly people in the US Justice Department, believe that drugs gave way to the existence of Mexican drug cartels, not the drug war creating a demand that only illegal actors could fill. Once again, people are ignoring evidence over fear.

In Korea, marijuana possession could land you in jail. The country is very strict when it comes to cannabis and opioids, but alcohol in the country is extremely cheap, and it’s not that hard to find either people getting belligerently drunk at night or simple unconscious.  I understand the protectionist attitude when it comes to opioids, especially since the country has an extremely high suicide rate. But when it comes to marijuana, a part of me thinks that a bit of cannabis would help a very stressed out populace. Instead of drinking with friends and getting angry or mopey, people could just get high, relax, and take a nap. Unfortunately, Korea borrowed America’s drug war and using drugs still carry a significantly negative stigma (but go ahead, drink soju with your coworkers until you black out!).

I’m just hoping that people get over it already. Marijuana is not the Devil’s lettuce. The fear and mystique regarding drugs, much like anything unknown, is only there because gossip and hearsay takes the place of actually knowing. Smoking a little pot will let you know that it won’t turn your brain into mush, it won’t make you any more evil, and it won’t make you look any cooler. I remember a coworker once asked me if I’ve ever tried cocaine, eager to hear exciting cocaine stories from Canada. Much to her dismay, I told her no. If people were actually told the truth about drugs, there wouldn’t be this haze of intrigue and fear around them. They would be as plain as Tylenol. Tylenol helps you deal with pain and fever. It could get you constipated too. Marijuana gets you high and mellows your mood. It helps you deal with pain as well. Cocaine gets you really high.



Speaking of demystifying and truths, I can’t stand how pole dancing is being mainstreamed, even in South Korea. This might be a bit of a reversal of my liberal attitudes with drugs, but I’m just annoyed at how it’s being whitewashed and sold as some sort of exercise, when it’s basically erotic dancing. There are far better and safer exercises out there. And no matter how far removed a person might be to its original intent, in my mind, as well as many other men’s, it’s still erotic dancing. Its original intent, back in the burlesque days, was to keep the women upright after being inebriated with either drugs or alcohol or both. And I suspect that the a lot of the women who are trying out pole dancing as an exercise has never spent one night in a disgusting strip club. Much like Chris Rock, if I had a daughter, I would work twenty hour days just to keep her from dancing on a pole. 

December 29


I used to think Canada was better when it comes to mental health, but this report on CBC regarding Lionel Desmond  has got me thinking twice. Back in Canada, it was not unusual to talk to a therapist about mental and psychological issues. People wouldn’t bat an eye if they heard that you used to go to a therapist for anxiety or depression, probably because they have firsthand or secondhand experience themselves. But now it seems we’re failing those who have sacrificed so much for what in my opinion are needless conflicts abroad.

I’ve seen people with PTSD before. I talked to soldiers here in South Korea who were suffering from it. I remember being particularly disturbed (and threatened) by one soldier’s behavior in a bar even after he was buying me shots of tequila. Then he tells me that two weeks prior, he was fighting in Afghanistan.  There was just an odd look in his eye. And I just have to let him tell his story, and take it to where it needs to be. (And me not come back to that bar for a while.)

We just have to start taking care of everyone more. We have to start listening to people when they tell us there’s something wrong, even when they’re soldiers who are supposed to be strong and tough. Boys do cry, and some damages you can’t just walk off.

Speaking of not paying attention to mental health issues, a few days ago, a celebrity in Korea committed suicide, and on his note, he mentioned the lack of care he received from mental health professionals in the country. I can relate to the experience. Twice, I found doctors who would just throw medication at me and not give me proper strategies to deal with my issues. I can imagine the same was true to him. It’s quite upsetting that there’s not much care in terms of mental issues in the country, especially with the country having the highest suicide rate in Asia.