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, edgelord 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. 

 

 

Joseph Reyes

Artist

December 29


I’m taking it a bit slow with the art. I’ve been burnt out after the last triptych, and I’ve been really struggling coming up with a new concepts/themes. I have enough work to print my last book in the series of books I started in the beginning of the pandemic almost three years ago, so that’s a good thing, at least. I should have it ready by February.

2022 has been a good year. I got back to taking Korean classes with mixed results. I wish my progress was a bit more evident, but I really am lagging when it comes to practicing. I’ve made peace with not ever fully understanding the news in Korean, but I would at least like to keep up with Korean conversations or maybe understand most of what’s being discussed.

Work has been a bit surreal. Compared to last year around this season, I’ve been incredibly busy. Busy is good. Busy means money. Busy means job security. Along with being busy, there’s been a couple of reshuffling around the office, and my bosses have been re-assigned to different departments. What does that mean for me? I don’t know. I’ve been effectively working as my own department with no direct supervisor for years now, so yeah, I continue to be grateful for the privilege of not only being employed, but comfortably employed for now.

Therapy has been good. It’s really a blessing to have a doctor to listen to all of my problems and prescribe me meds that help me get through the day. I haven’t had much panic attacks this year, but when depression hits, it’s good to have an outlet and a “friend” that could help. If you are reading this and could afford it, get yourself a psychiatrist. You probably need one. Most of us do.

My relationship with father has been tepid this year. Once again, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t made any decisions regarding his long term plans as he ages. I’m also not interested in hearing or reading generic responses from him whenever I call him or on group chat settings. It’s almost like he’s an AI delivering the blandest of happy birthdays and get well soons. I think I’ve been good with the rest of my family though. It was great that my youngest sister and my nephew were able to visit me this year. I think this has brought her closer to my wife as well.

This year was the year I was able to go back to the gym. Thank goodness. It’s been two years since I hit the gym and it’s good to finally go to the gym regularly. I wouldn’t consider myself a healthnut or a gym rat, I certainly don’t look like it, but just being able to exercise does wonders for my mental health.

The most significant thing this year is understandably Elden Ring. God, what a great timesink masterpiece of a game! Both my wife and I finished it and it occupied most of our year’s gaming life. What did I play this year? Yakuza Legends dragged and made me sleepy. Wordle was great but I’ve lost my motivation. Duolingo revamped their whole interface and demotivated me, making me care less about keeping up with the app even though I still maintain my streak. Bayonetta 3 was decent, but it was a very forgettable experience, to be honest. Cult of the Lamb was a novel experience and the battles and micromanaging mixed together makes for both an interesting and patience-testing game. I finally played Cyberpunk 2077, which was good, but the side missions were far more engaging and interesting than the short main story. Now, I’m playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which so far has been good, but I kinda wish I played it before Christmas. Overall, Elden Ring is the best game I played this year. After finishing Spide-Man, if they haven’t come up with any DLC for Elden Ring, maybe I’ll get Demon’s Souls. I already platinumed it on the PS3, but I’m thinkng it will help me get my From Software Soulsbourne fix.

Didn’t think this was going to be a game review entry, did you? 

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).