May 21


NFTs are frauds. They’re objects of value just as much as tamagotchis are pets. One of the red flags that caught my attention weeks ago when NFTs were hyped up in the media was that anyone can make an NFT about anything, but blockchain technology will make that assignation to that “thing” unique and that rarity will create value. But what is rarity if it doesn’t really have any practical consequences the way rarity actually works in real life? There were only 69 Faberge eggs created by the House of Faberge. Only 57 of those meticulously jeweled eggs survive today. Perhaps they can be reproduced and mass manufactured, but there is inherent value in the originals.

Acquiring a replica of the originals would also require some effort. A person does not just search for Faberge eggs on Google and immediately have a copy of it. NFTs however, their rarity only exists among NFTs. Being mostly blockchain representation of digital art, their digital art counterpart can still be downloaded from the Internet. There is often no real rarity. This is why NFT speculators burned a Banksy after assigning an NFT to it, to create actual rarity. Stupidly however, I think they just destroyed an actual valuable work of art whose image is available freely online. Maybe I’ll download an image of it and create an NFT of it as well. It won’t be tied to original that was destroyed, but it would also be an NFT that didn’t destroy a Banksy.

Then I see this piece of news from the Art Newspaper: Basquiat NFT withdrawn from auction after artist’s estate intervenes. It read, “no license or rights were convened to the seller.” Now, the seller of the NFT claims that they have proof of purchase and payment to substantiate the authenticity of the ownership, and that the buyer would be free to destroy the original. However, the estate of the artist disputed the claim and the auction was halted. The seller explained, “while blockchain transactions are widely considered a trusted source of authentification and provenance, best copyright practices have yet to evolve for the digital economy.” I don’t know. To me, it sounds like two copyright schemes are at work, and the ultimate real world copyright holders seems to have won in this case. Now, proponents of NFTs claim that the technology will help authenticate works, but I think it just creates just as many problems as it claims to solve. There may be poorly reproduced versions of Basquiat’s work produced and sold from China, but what’s stopping anyone from making equally fraudulent NFTs of Basquiat’s work? In fact, one of the things that was frequently mentioned when NFTs were being hyped is that the author of the original work doesn’t have to be the author of the NFTs. The NFTs are their own thing. The assignation to its physical counterpart is a legal fiction that all parties must agree to in order to create value for the intangible ones and zeroes.

An NFT of the Mona Lisa will never be as valuable as the real one. It certainly won’t be as satisfying staring at it on a wall than studying it on a monitor. When they destroyed a Banksy and said that they “transformed it” to an NFT. They destroyed something of value and now collectively decided that the destroyed value is now transferred to the NFT. Now, some might be willing to join in on that delusion, but I believe many more would see it as foolishness. Going back to my initial comparison, this would be like me killing a dog and claiming that it has now transformed into my tamagotchi.

And just look at the trouble the sellers of Basquiat have regarding the work’s provenance. This is just based on two competing claims which I imagine would appear equally credible to most people if not one of the sides weren’t the artist’s estate. Imagine the headache of having two or more competing NFTs claiming to be the real representation of an art piece. Now, of course, people would say that blockchain technology would prevent this confusion from happening, along with a long-winded explanation. But there’s also a long-winded explanation as to how copyright laws would prevent problems like the Basquiat NFT confusion from happening, and yet here we are.

This all concerns works with real world counterparts, where actual physical ownership and copyrights seem to trump NFT logic. I think it would be even more challenging to convince people of the long lasting value of purely digital works as NFTs. You have a copy of a normally replicable file, only that it cannot be truly replicated, with no other discernible difference from other copies except for the fact that there is some value assigned to it by crypto speculators. This, in a world were people download, copy, and pirate media and computer programs all of the time. I don’t think this will catch on. Looking at several think pieces, I’m not alone on this. The craze seems to be powered more by speculators rather than enthusiasts, and now, things appears to be winding down, with the average price of NFTs going down to a quarter of its peak in February. This could be an effect of the flood on the market, but one can also not ignore the current drop in NFT sales.


Now, I am just as guilty as writing on a platform that no one reads, but I’m just amazed at how incomprehensible the words of Donald Trump are on his blog. He either writes long “tweets” or creates an unreadable wall of text. Seriously, the man cannot write paragraphs! Somebody help him; I understand why many of his supporters don’t visit his blog. 

 

Artist

Joseph Reyes

 

May 13


Korea has the highest suicide rate in Asia, and depending on the year, has the highest suicide rate among the OECD countries. I didn’t really feel how significant this is until after some sad news last night and much reflection.

Last night, my friend’s mother-in-law passed away. They believe it was suicide. It’s especially tragic since my friend just got married last year, and I do remember meeting her mother-in-law in the ceremony. I noted how she doesn’t smile much even during such a happy occasion. I suspected she might not be too thrilled with the marriage at the time, but looking back now, she might just be dealing with depression. The tragic thing is, the death was days after the Korean holiday Parents’ Day. She was visited and presumably showered with love and attention by her children, and yet days later, she takes her own life.

Two years ago, someone committed suicide in my parents-in-laws’ apartment building by jumping from the 14th floor. Last year, the mayor of Seoul committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. This is the same way the former president Roh Mu-Hyun committed suicide. It’s also quite common to hear about suicide attempts among celebrities in the media. I myself have been thinking and writing about suicide more often lately, I admit, to an unhealthy amount.

Looking back to my life in Canada, it’s very hard to think of anyone who has committed or has flirted with suicidal thoughts. Honestly, as of this time, I can only think of one person. But here in Korea, it’s scary how commonplace it is, not just cases of suicide, but reminders of it. Bridges have messages of encouragement and affirmations in order to prevent people from jumping. There’s a law that makes the victim’s family responsible for paying for the recovery of their body in the Han River, making it seem like the family is at fault for the victim’s actions and perhaps adding a burden of guilt to people in order to dissuade them. Train platforms in the country have full suicide prevention barriers, not like other countries where there are sometimes none or only a waist high fence prevents accidental jumpers. Despite all of these preventative measures however, the rate is still high, and even higher in the past year due to the pandemic.

According to a report by the OECD, Koreans complain more often about “relative deprivation” than other countries. This means people compare their lives more with other people and end up being dissatisfied with their current situation. This is not unique among South Koreans, but I can honestly attest that I’ve seen this several times, and instead of viewing this as petty or just thinking “be happy with what you have,” people view this as legitimate reactions or good conversation. “Did you know he drives a BMW?” “Did you hear that his house is all paid for?” “I think he earns more money than his friends.” It all sounds extremely shallow. And of course it’s a neverending struggle. Someone will always be more successful than you.

This, compounded with financial stresses, societal expectations, relationship problems, and a negative attitude towards seeking mental help, no wonder the suicide rate is so high in the country.

Suicide is like a constant grim specter that haunts the country. It was shocking last night, and I feel like it won’t be the first time I’ll be hearing about similar deaths or attempts in the future. Get some help, everyone. Talk to someone. And be happy with what you have. There’s a heaven and a star for you.

June 18


Residents in a Vancouver town have filed a petition to not allow a sculpture to be installed on the South False Creek Seawall in Vancouver. The sculpture is part of the annual Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale and was created by Chinese artist Chen Wenling. He is a world-renowned neorealist whose often grotesque but otherwise very visually arresting works have been exhibited all and one is even installed in Vancouver. ‘Proud Youth’ has become somewhat of a popular landmark near where the proposed ‘Boy Holding a Shark’ is to be installed. Actually, both pieces remind me of another installation, ‘A-maze-ing Laughter’ which I initially thought was a work of the same artist. ‘A-maze-ing Laughter,’ prior to being installed was also subjected to protests, but later became a popular feature in Vancouver’s artistic landscape.

So why do people oppose ‘Boy Holding a Shark?’ Apparently, the grotesque look of the sculpture, which is a call to environmental protection, would harm the natural beauty of the local scenery. More importantly, it could potentially hurt the value of the property around the areas. Personally, I don’t find the look of the sculpture particularly offensive. Looking at art is subjective and this is entirely my speculation, but I believe people who oppose the installation are not the gallery-viewing crowd to begin with. Also, a sculpture belongs in the natural Canadian landscape as much as rows of condos and boats. The opposition due to the look of the piece or how it harms the beauty of the environment just rings a little hollow to me. As for the argument that it would hurt property values, as a millennial living in Seoul who has given up owning a home and can’t even dream of being able to afford a waterfront property in Vancouver, I couldn’t care less about that concern. It seems like rich, white people problems.

Some argue that Canadians should be spending more tax dollars promoting and uplifting Canadian artists. However, the Biennale is a non-profit organization and does not involve the government at all. Canadian taxpayers are not on the hook for the piece. If anything, I tend to be critical of how the Canadian government be it, federal or provincial, chooses public art. I find a lot of public art, especially in my hometown Winnipeg, very uninspired. Just look up ‘Agassiz Ice.’ I’ve written about if before, but it’s a sculpture of glaciers. Glaciers! In a town that has tons of snow and ice for half the year and even has ice and snow sculpture events annually. Described as “monumental,” there is nothing monumental about the three pieces of aluminum. One of the three glaciers is literally three feet tall.

Granted, the tendency for governments and other organizations to choose uninspired corporate art to dot the landscape is not unique to Canada. Seoul has a law which mandates the installation of sculptures to be installed near large buildings. Unfortunately, the choice of works and the fear of offending people and hurting property value has resulted in Seoul being filled with what some has described as “stupid statues.” I’m not saying many of the works in Canada or Seoul are awful, many are in fact brilliant and I applaud them being in the public space, but more often than not, they are meaningless metal features that people simply ignore.

So yeah, God bless organizations like the Biennale for being more adventurous in their selection. Hopefully the city goes ahead with erecting that statue. 

June 2


It’s really time for the Olympics to get cancelled. It’s time. We all can see the Olympics for what they are. They are a company interested in their own profits. They’re not about sports, camaraderie, or triumph over adversity. The sports and the athletes are just a secondary concern. What the IOC values more is licensing, advertising, and broadcasting the games.

The games have been slowly showing its hand in the past few Olympic games. A couple of years after the games were held in Beijing, people noted the abandoned structures that were hastily built for the games. Then people started questioning whether it truly is worth it to host the Olympics, especially when the money used for infrastructure could be used for so many other things. This was especially true when the Olympics were held in Rio. Last year, the Olympic park was closed due to safety concerns. Hosting the Olympics means spending money on infrastructure that would never be recovered, infrastructure that has a high probability of not being maintained after the games. But yeah, the countries/cities are losing money, but someone is getting rich out of all of the construction and other Olympics-related logistics.


As for the sport, Sochi Olympics has demonstrated that widespread cheating can occur with very little consequences to the athletes. After Russia was caught having a national doping program, they barely suffered any consequences for it, and many of their athletes were later allowed to compete under no flags. Pointless.

And now Tokyo, despite rising coronavirus cases, insists that the city will continue to host the games as scheduled. There will be no spectators, and athletes will not be required to get the vaccine, but will however be required to sign a waiver that they risk illness and death by competing in the city. Why is the UN allowing this? This is akin to South Korea’s old law of revoking foreigner’s visas should they learn they are HIV positive. What if they caught the virus in South Korea? (Instead of having brought the virus into the country) Isn’t that not their fault fully but also the fault of the environment they are in? The UN saw it as discrimination as well as a backwards policy that unfairly treats visitors to the country. In Japan, what if the athletes catch covid in the country and dies? Doesn’t the country or the IOC have any responsibility for it? Doesn’t this shift the blame for catching diseases fully on the visitors and not the country the same way South Korea did before with HIV?

Inviting a host of people from countries all over the world could potentially turn Tokyo into a hotbed for the pandemic and naturally, many of the people in Tokyo are against it. Around 80% of people in a recent survey wanted to have the games cancelled altogether. So the games aren’t really for the benefit of the city either. They don’t want to risk dying from covid should the worst happen as a result of thousands of athletes visiting. Even a group of Japanese medical professionals want the game cancelled. Japanese cities are not doing well with infections and vaccinations. As much as some people are saying that Tokyo has handled the pandemic well. They truly haven’t. They came into the pandemic with so much hubris, even allowing people to go out cherry blossom viewing in spring 2020. And now Americans are officially warning people not to visit the country for the Olympics.

As much as I love Japan, I can’t stand the conservative Japanese government. The Olympics has a policy of not allowing politics to be part of the games, and yet recently, Tokyo has been using a map that shows Dokdo, a Korean island, as part of Japanese territory. This revisionist claim is just par for the course for the Japanese government in the past couple of years. They have denied wartime atrocities and downplayed claims of sexual exploitation. South Koreans are understandably unhappy about the recent Dokdo fiasco and many are pushing to boycott the Olympics altogether.

I believe this push to have the Olympics in Tokyo this summer no matter what is simply companies trying to make good on their investments. I’m sure contractors and other beneficiaries to the Olympics, be it the Japanese government side, the corporate side, or the IOC, who were disappointed last year are still hoping that they can make money off of the event. And it truly doesn’t matter whether the events have people watching them on the ground. What truly matters is how many people will be watching the games on television and online. As for me, I think I’ll be watching better shows on Netflix instead. I can just read about whoever won whatever event on Twitter or Reddit. 

July 5


It’s weird being emotionally numb. I try to feel more, connect more with the people around me, but it’s weird. As much as I try to be a better person, be a much better person to the people around me, especially the ones I love, I feel like doors are closed right on my face. Either that, or truly no positive feedback is coming my way. Am I reading people wrong, or am I just not feeling any joy recently? It’s really weird. Even my depression lately has not gone through any wild swings, but it’s just become this dull background noise.

I celebrated my birthday last week, and instead of being joyful or excited, I found myself being more anxious than anything. What the heck is going on? My medication and therapy has been working for a while lately, but recently, I’ve been in an odd place. I remember my birthday anxiously waiting for things to go bad. I was waiting for the evening to turn for the worse.

Work has been a good escape. My activities are automatic and I don’t have to think much while I keep busy. It’s when I have time on my hands that I get anxious or depressed. Art has been helping, and I’ve been making more art recently than usual. It’s not a good thing when I’m making more art.

The problem is, outside of my therapist, I don’t really have many people to talk to about these things. Either I feel embarrassed or guilty, or the conversation inevitably turns into the other person making the situation about them, like a suffering Olympics of sorts.

I’m a shit person.
                                                                                                     No, I’m a shittier person.
Can we talk about me being a shit person first?
                                                                                                    Sure, but you have to understand that I’m shittier.
Okay, fine you’re shittier.
                                                                                                    Excellent. And my shitty life is all your fault.
Thanks.


It’s been a weird few days. I am extremely grateful that I don’t have it any worse. I am always grateful for the people around me and the blessings and kindness that I experience. I truly don’t deserve good things. But I’m not sure if I’m getting as much joy out of them, or maybe my joy is just being dampened by me telling myself that I’m an extremely shitty person (because I really am).

I wish my doctor would prescribe me with better medication. Either that or give me better strategies to dealing with anxiety or this state of numb joylessness. I feel like I’m just passing time. And if time passed without any major incidents, without me making things worse, then it’s a good day. How is that for an existence? Maybe I deserve that. But the people around me, especially the people I love most don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve that from me. God, please, help me get better. Help me be better,