Artist

 

Joseph Reyes

 

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. 

October 4


https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/26/style/andres-valencia-art-paintings.html

Stories like this are garbage. Art Basel Miami, his parents, Alex Hagwood at the New York Times, and anyone else promoting him aren’t doing the arts any favor.

In a nutshell, Andres Valencia, a 10 year old kid, has been selling his work for six figures and is being hailed as an art prodigy and a “Little Picasso.” He’s also blowing up online, even with members of BTS boosting him. What people are missing from the story, or solely from the headline, is just how connected the kid is in the art world, with a mother who’s a jewelery designer with relations with a gallery owner. Raise your hand if you’re an artist who knows a gallery owner pushing your work at 10?

Now, I’m not saying that the kid’s works are not remarkable. I’m also not saying that the whole thing is a fraud. But stories like this is fodder for cliché sayings like, “my kid can do that!” It devalues art and the years of hardwork by many artists when boom, out of nowhere, the New York Times just hails a ten year old the next Picasso. Who needs an art education? Who needs years of perfecting your craft? Why bother painting the hands of peasants? Just skip ahead and be avante garde at 10!

The thing is, young art “prodigies” are not unique. The article mentions this, and some of them are later suspected to be fraudulent. Again, I don’t suspect anything fraudulent here necessarily, but this kid will be forgotten by the art world after a few years just like the many art prodigies people proclaimed as the next greatest thing. “Little Picasso?” People have been studying Picasso and will study his works for years. This kid’s works will be bought by speculative investors and that’s about it. And in a few years, another new kid will be the next greatest thing.

If anything, stories like this read like a big “f**k you” to all other struggling artists, or heck, any artist who spent years getting to where they are now. What’s taking you so long? How come you’re not selling six figure works yet? Why weren’t you represented by a gallery and connected to so many people at 10? I guess you just don’t have it. Look at the kid’s pic on the paper. He looks so bored and disinterested. Art success is soooooo easy. Why aren’t you successful yet?

See, young visual artists, are the simplest to artificially pump into the news as the next big thing. Visual arts is so subjective, much more than singing or playing musical instruments. With musical instruments or singing, what’s good or what’s not good is more universal. One can easily tell if a kid sings or plays a musical instrument well. But they don’t often get in the news or blow up online with recording deals or whatever. Selling paintings for high prices make for great, albeit obnoxious, headlines. And yes, it’s much easier to fake or blow up via galleries and connections compared to other things. Other fields are not as subjective and harder to manipulate. This is why there’s no real-life Doogie Howser M.D.s.

Stories like this hurt artists. It hurts the arts by trivializing it. Don’t study art. If you’re not born with it and not gaining attention at a certain young age, just go to STEM. You’ll earn more money there. 

October 31


I don’t think I need to explain what happened last Saturday in Itaewon. It’s a tragedy and it’s amazing that such a thing could happen in an open area with no obvious catalyst. In any case, let me just quickly go about with my musings.

First off, I appreciate all of the calls of concern I got from people. I live near the area and I could easily have gone to celebrate Halloween that night. Fortunately for me, I had a very busy week, and I wasn’t really in the mood to go out for Halloween night. Also, the tragedy happened on a Saturday. The big Halloween parties usually happen on Friday nights in Itaewon. I’m guessing the crowd was bigger on Friday night than it was on Saturday, so it’s a mystery as to why the tragedy occurred on Saturday while nothing happened on Friday.

And yeah, when the tragedy happened, I was out having a meal and drinking somewhere else close by. I was so tired, I was home by around nine, watching crime shows on Netflix. The gravity of the news didn’t really hit me until the next morning.

Itaewon has a really interesting history. It was first seen as the foreign underbelly of Seoul. While popular, people would rather hang out in other, more hip places. Itaewon was simply just a place for foreigners to hang out. Then the song “Itaewon Freedom” came out and made it a popular place among the locals. Halloween made it particularly popular, with people dressing up and everything. A sexy nurse here, a Harley Quinn there… it was prime fodder for social networking material.

Then covid hit, and many of the bars and restaurants were forced to closed down. Several places I used to frequent are no longer around. Many of the small restaurants and buildings have been demolished, and now a lot of spaces in Itaewon are under construction, bound to be giant buildings or office spaces in the next couple of years. Last year, people started to be more comfortable going out in Itaewon. Business was starting to pick up. People even celebrated Halloween, I remember. But this year, with this thing happening over Halloween, I’m afraid it’s going to once again scare some business away from the area. After all, who wants to party where over 150 people died in one night? It’s such a grim scenario.

There are videos online of people chanting “push, push, push” as the crowd tried to move, regardless of what was happening a few feet from people. People don’t directly see what’s happening a few feet from them, so they could be unwittingly crushing someone as they’re going with the crowd which is chanting “push, push, push.” A smaller version of this happens every day in trains. I experience it regularly. People would push their way in, not considering the people already inside, regardless of whether the train is already packed. These people would ignore the discomfort their causing and pretend everything is normal as they hug the doors of the train. Selfishly, these same people would not move out of the way or just step out of the train for a bit whenever people want to get out, probably in fear that they would not be able to push themselves in a second time around. When a simple “실례합니다 (Shil-leh-ham-nee-dah)/ Excuse me” wouldn’t do, I have to resort to “Get out of my damned way.”

Now imagine about a hundred of these train jerks in the Halloween crowd just starting to push themselves through in one direction. One pusher multiplies his/her force via domino effect. Now imagine a hundred more pushers going on the opposite direction, unwilling to compromise, pretending that each push is not inconveniencing or hurting other people, the same mentality of the person squeezing himself in at the crowded train door. Then add in a chant of “push, push, push.” Push, push, push. Then you can stop wondering why such an incident could happen.

On April 16, 2014, a ferry, the MV Sewol, full of high school students sank in Korea, killing 360 people. In memory of the tragedy, people wore yellow ribbons. People are already comparing the Halloween incident to the Sewol incident, and now I see black ribbons online for the tragedy. It is certainly something that has shocked the nation and made them aware of life’s fragility. I think this will be seen in the same light in the future, the same collective PTSD. Right now, the small alleyway and the are around it is still closed off to the public. Who knows what will happen to the area in the future once things have settled down. Will businesses be affected? Will people still go to Itaewon to have a good time?

Some people in the government are blaming the tragedy on the lack of police presence to prevent such tragedy. I’m not sure if more police would have prevented the tragedy. I don’t think young people and definitely inebriated foreigners wouldn’t pay much attention to Korean police. They have such a weak presence in the country and don’t really command that much authority.

The lack of police presence could be attributed to political rallies happening close by. The president moved his political headquarters close to Itaewon, and it made the area a hotbed of protests and counter protesters during the weekend. Who knows, maybe if the president was more popular, there wouldn’t be too many protests. And there would’ve been more police available for the Itaewon Halloween celebration. It’s an interesting “what if,” but as I mentioned, I’m not sure more police presence would’ve prevented the tragedy.

Will this prevent future Halloween celebrations in Itaewon? Probably not. There would probably be a memorial set at the alleyway where the tragedy happened, but as for young people partying, I don’t think there’s no stopping it. If not Itaewon, there’s always Hongdae and other places. You don’t have to look far really. Hebangcheon is just a few minutes walk from Itaewon, and it’s filled with bars and foreigners (though not clubs).

November 17


I used to love Twitter. I used my account mainly to rant about politics and react to political comments. It was fun, but boy it was infuriating. It was an endless Internet debate. I was constantly trying to one-up or outsmart one commenter or another, constantly reacting to the news, constantly correcting other people’s bad takes. But then I got banned. I tried to get my account reinstated, but then I noticed how stress-free I was. It was like a weight has been lifted. I don’t have to fight anyone online nor do I have to constantly broadcast my point of view about everything. And for the record, I was banned for overstepping my bounds arguing with Laura Ingraham over the death of George Floyd.

Anyway, I didn’t feel like I was missing out the minute I stopped looking at Twitter every hour. I figure I am busy enough dealing with my Instagram account and Reddit, that I don’t need the negativity that is Twitter. And really, the vibe on those other platforms are very different compared to Twitter. On Instagram, everyone is being positive and supportive of my art. On Reddit, I get to read and give constructive advice on many things, or go on a wormhole and educate myself about a subject. On Twitter, it’s like being in the middle of a playground fight all of the time.

So when Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter, I really didn’t care that much. I already wasn’t a big fan of Elon Musk. For someone so rich, he seemed to be so thirsty for approval, so needy in proving his macho, edgelodrd Tony Stark vision of himself. The man is not Tony Stark. Also, Tony Stark is an awful superhero, a lazily-written deus ex machina of a character. “Oh I know how to save the universe, I’ll just use uhm… nanobots! Yes, that’s it!” But back to Elon Musk. He’s not a genius. He was born rich, and turned that privilege into even more wealth. He didn’t invent the electric cars Tesla is pumping out. His engineers did. If anything, all of the ideas that come out of his head, and not from his engineers or any expert, seem to be totally dumb. Self-driving cars by 2023? Highly unlikely. Travelling in a hyperloop? More like a long, single-lane tunnel that’s heavily backed up. Buying twitter to make it more free for free-speech warriors. Well, that just sounds like a disaster.

And what do you know? The minute he buys it, more n-words start popping up, hate speech increases, and advertisers started fleeing. There are many other ways he’s messing up Twitter, but I’m sure you can find that in other places in the Internet, and by the time you’re reading this, I’m sure he’s already done much more than I could list. That is, if Twitter still exists.

Now I feel bad for many of the people he’s fired in the company, but not all of them. To save money, he’s fired about half of the company’s workforce and has let go of anyone questioning his intelligence or expertise in technology or running the company. I feel bad for those people, but hey, if you’re in Silicon Valley and have coding skills, you’re already more employable than I am. You’ll be fine. Or at least, I hope you’ll be fine. It’s really callous of Musk to fire people right before the holidays. But I suppose that’s him being edgy. Who I don’t feel bad for is the CEO and the other executives he fired the minute he bought Twitter. They were the same people who forced him to buy the company in the first place. I’m sure they expected to be fired. And being executives, I’m sure they all had golden parachutes and was more than happy to be fired rather than stick around and see first hand how Musk sinks Twitter.

I really wish the old Twitter would come back but I think it’s all far gone now. Everyone is gleefully watching Musk fail to run the company. He wanted to be the king of free speech and an edgelord, but now it seems like he’s the one in the middle of the school playground being egged on and teased by everybody. Within two weeks of buying the company, Musk is already hinting at bankruptcy. It’s even affecting the stock price of his other company, Tesla. Unless something dramatically miraculous happens, Twitter will soon be dead.

Goodbye, Twitter, my old friend. It was fun while it lasted. Sometime, I’ll sign up and try to learn Mastodon. Maybe that’s where I can get my old Twitter fix back.