August 30

I just had a long vacation. I didn’t go out of the country but I did go out of town for a bit. I spent most of my vacation working at home. Yes, I have several jobs. So yeah, yay staycations! One good thing is I got back to making art. Yay art!

This work is not really about fidget spinners, but it is there. And while I really don’t have much against fidget spinners (they do serve a purpose for those dealing with ADD), I’m a tad annoyed with their ubiquity. It’s not that I’m railing against trends or shaking my fist on what kids find fascinating these days. After all, my living room looks like an arcade. My wife and I spend a lot of time playing video games together instead of watching movies. It’s just that fidget spinners seem to embody the laziness of current trends.

Take television for example. The most popular shows, at least in South Korea, tend to be reality television. Put a camera crew with some celebrity, have them eat something, call it a show. Forget writing. Look at movies. Take an existing intellectual property and turn it into a movie, forget the hard work of creating something new. And I can go on and on with rehashes and the laziness of all sorts (get off my lawn, you kids!).

And then we have fidget spinners. My wife was surprised at what little it does. Remember when there was skill involved in novelty toys? Things like the yo-yo or a skateboard or even Japanese kendamas. Now you just have things that just spin. No skill whatsoever. Buy it and boom! You’re in the club! Because learning to play something takes too much time. It’s the smartphone + Google combo of toys. Why learn something and retain it in your head, when you have a phone and Internet connection that would make you an instant expert on things? And that is where the fidget spinner fails. You buy it, you play with it for a couple of minutes, then you forget about it. It’s bubble gum. You didn’t get anything out of it other a couple of minutes of distraction. You didn’t even get to challenge your dexterity. It is a forgettable shiny object, just like a lot of things.

Now, I think I’ve wasted way too many words on fidget spinners. 

September 28

I remember being asked to read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence back in high school. It was one of the many wonderful books that our English teacher used to try to infuse some humanity into our young minds. I don’t remember the story much, but I do remember the parallels between the old character in the book and the ultimate fate of Margaret Laurence. It’s like she literally became one of the characters she wrote about. I really should look into the Manawaka series again.

Speaking of Manawaka, my works will be displayed in the town it was based on, Neepawa, Manitoba.  When I used to go camping and hiking with my best friend, I remember visiting there once. Here in Asia, when people think of Canada, the first places that come out of people’s mouths are Toronto and Vancouver. But when they describe Canada, they would often imagine a place much closer to towns like Neepawa.

I love big cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and even smaller ones like Winnipeg, but it is smaller rural towns cradling close to liberated Canadian wilderness that most people here in Asia often imagine. It is in many ways romantic. I guess like me, that image is mostly from the desire to escape from convoluted concrete jungles like Seoul. 

September 22


Take the Bechdel test and apply it to women in real life. You’ll find some women simply do not pass the Bechdel test despite being free from the skewed gender norms in fiction.

Take the test and change men to the person’s significant other, or perhaps their children. Now you have a nice little game waiting for the other person to say, “my wife” or “my kid.”


Keep nodding your head to show you’re paying attention. 

October 18


God bless Pink! I’ve never been a big fan of her music, but it’s really good for her to speak out and be realistic about the challenges and problems with monogamy. There have been many articles and people talking about it before. Dan Savage, someone I’ve been listening to for years now, has said that the fantasy of monogamy which has been perpetuated by culture and media is basically just that, a fantasy. It is not a happily ever after. It is the beginning of a long and challenging path should you ever be foolish enough to commit to it. And that’s why I admire Pink for basically coming out and saying the same thing. It’s not so often that someone fairly attractive is out there with their sexuality basically come out and say, yes, despite how she looks, and despite how glamorous we imagine her life would be, she struggles living with monogamy sometimes, to the point that she’ll find herself sexless for a year.

Romance is not forever. A person’s spouse will eventually become their roommate, and they will no longer be amused with each other. Of course there will still be a bond there, but becoming romantic or being into someone will often become something they’ll need to work at. And so the best one can hope for is that their relationship turns into waves, where sometimes they’re into the other person, and sometimes they can’t stand them. It’s okay to not be into sex. It’s okay not to have sex. As important as it is, it is not the goal of most couples in the real world. Just getting along with each other is sometimes hard enough. And that hard, unsexy truth is quite difficult to admit for fear of being relegated into the Married with Children, Al Bundy archetype.  

This reminds me of Bojack Horseman’s recent representation of asexual people. Sometimes people are really just not into sex. That doesn’t mean they’re devoid of feeling towards other people. They’re just not interested in being intimate with others in a physical manner. Nico at the Mary Sue does a better job of explaining it more than me, but being asexual, just like being monogamous and sexless, seem to be one of those things that people need to come out of in the midst of the culture of being into happily monogamous and enjoying sex. I mean, just look at most characters on television and movies. They’re all having sex. They’re either married, dating, single and having sex, or struggling to have sex. Same goes for most musicians, political figures, athletes, etc. I don’t even need to know about people’s sex lives and I get needlessly informed about it. Just recently, my wife and I were watching Justin Turner hit a homerun and win the game for the Dodgers. She suddenly goes and says, “you know his wife is a model, check out her Instagram.” Is that supposed to make me like him more? I already assumed most athletes are dating models. How is that little factoid supposed to help me enjoy the sport I’m currently struggling to keep interest in? We can’t seem to divorce ourselves from people’s sex lives so we feel pressure to be enjoying sex more.

So yeah, God bless the people talking about the myth of monogamy and the reality of wanting/having sex. It is quite refreshing to see some honest voices talk about these things in a world where sex and the pressure to have sex are ubiquitous. 

Artist

September 11


When it comes to childhood or child-rearing, some things just don’t translate to North America or just 2017 in general. I remember when I first came to South Korea, I was teaching English to young children. Some of the boys would play around shoving their fingers into each other’s bottoms, occasionally including mine. It was playful and not sexual at all, but in order to avoid any confusion, I discouraged it in class. I have my suspicion that it probably originated in some sort of sexual submission/domination dynamics, but I really don’t think the kids were thinking of that. It was horseplay. It was horseplay that was odd, and is probably less common now than it was even ten years ago.

The thing is this isn’t really a Korean thing, shoving things up bottoms as a form of horseplay. It is an Asian thing as far as I can tell. If I grew up in Japan, I probably would’ve had to deal with kancho. In Taiwan or China, I would probably deal with it under a different name. I remember having to deal with it as a young child. It wasn’t amusing back then. If anything, I always thought it was a throwback to when kids and people in general truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t put much malice in it. I just thought that the other person better wash their hands afterwards.

But it really doesn’t translate to North American countries. Not in Canada. Not at all. Kim’s Convenience tried to explain it to mixed results, and as much as I understand the practice and don’t want to be the straight person in the skit, it really does seem like a throwback. Even when the Korean character equated the practice to a wedgie, it didn’t really help the situation. When was the last time you got a wedgie? Even I am too old to experience the hilarity of giving and/or receiving wedgies when I was young. It was outdated back then, and it would be seen as cruel now. In fact, the only person who was interested in shoving things up my bum as a prank was my father, who I imagine used to play around with his peers that way when he was a child back in the 60s. Different environment, uncomfortable to put up with now, but I move on. It’s the same way I saw my young Korean students when they were keen on putting fingers up bums… different environment. I don’t want to be ethnocentric and tell them that it’s wrong or put malice into it; I just discouraged it like every other horseplay.

But in the same spirit of ethnocentrism, in Canada, we don’t shove fingers up children’s bottoms as a form of horseplay. It’s not that there’s malice in it, but it’s best to avoid doing it to prevent confusion. It’s not really wise trying to shoehorn questionable horseplay or pranks from other countries into North America when it could be interpreted differently, especially in this day and age. If an immigrant parent or grandparent does that to a child, and by some miracle, the child is okay with it, the neighbors, friends, or other relatives might not be. It’s best to avoid that confusion. There other aspects to one’s culture that are much better to pass on to the next generation, things that won’t get one suspected or arrested for abuse.

October 10

There is such a thing as too much vacation, too much spare time that your mind gets bored and frustrated that you start seeing all the negativity and unhappiness that you usually block from your mind with work. The things that you’ve drown out with bits and pieces of your soul start to resurface again. You start creating small dramas to entertain yourself. Maybe you set small fires here and there just to test the waters and see that you’re still alive. It’s not to be mean or anything, but the mind just needs a bit of stimulus for no other reason that it needs it. Unfortunately, you end up going too far and that small fire has burst into a barn fire, then to a raging conflagration. Then you’re no longer bored but exponentially more miserable and unhappy, and you still have a few vacation days left, a few more days to make things worse.

God bless work. God bless keeping busy.



And speaking of keeping busy, God bless Inktober. I recently saw an NHK video on Hayao Miyazaki struggling to make his last film, ‘Boro the Caterpillar.’ He was obsessing with animating a furry caterpillar using traditional hand-drawn techniques. Though people were constantly pushing to him new computerized ways of streamlining the process, even showing him an AI that would make its own animations, he insisted that CGI removes the human element, and many things that the artist and the audience sees in nature in terms of light, motion, and life itself, are lost in the computerized environment, and totally missing the signature look of what makes Ghibli films what they are. Things got so heated at one point, that he almost saw it as an insult to have AIs animate what amounted to monstrous figures.

In many ways, I agree with Miyazaki. There’s just something about hand-drawn work that makes it more compelling than ones generated with the aid of computers. The viewer can feel the hand of the artist, the effort. We can see with the artist’s eyes and there is evidence to where his attention lingered. Now these can also be true with CGI images, but they’re often crisp to the point that it feels cold and alien. It can easily be mistaken that I am seeing an interesting image made by a computer instead of me seeing an interesting image made in an interesting manner by an artist. An artist. The art in the process is more apparent with hand-drawn works.

This is why, despite me not being active with Inktober, I appreciate that it celebrates and encourages hand-drawn works. It is very tempting to do things via the computer, with drawing tablets getting cheaper and more ubiquitous, and web comics and digital paintings being more popular. But in my opinion, the computer filters out the human touch in creating images. Perhaps it’s the ease in the process of cleaning images up, but it could also be the process of making images on the PC itself.  Coincidentally, the 10th item on the Inktober prompt list is gigantic. This is my interpretation of the Greek giant Typhon. 

Joseph Reyes

September 4


The reason you don’t provoke North Korea is because you don’t want to give them any more incentives to build bombs. Everyone knows that the United States has the biggest military power in the history of mankind with a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the whole world multiple times. It is annoying to hear all of this tough talk against North Korea and appeasement, when the US’ mighty sword has not resolved clean victories and lasting peace in most of the conflicts it got involved in since the Vietnam War. Since Donald Trump got elected, he did nothing but casually hurl inflammatory rhetoric at North Korea and annoy US allies in the region. It is difficult not to argue that it has increased the North Korean zeal with its weapons program as well as encourage inflammatory rhetoric from the North as well.

It doesn’t matter if the US has the bigger bombs, or that it could mete out “fire and fury” at North Korea. Fire and fury has not resulted in the defeat of ISIS, despite Trump’s promise to rid of the group within days of his presidency. This is a ragtag guerilla group which the most advanced military might cannot seem to squash. Military victory is not gained purely on might alone. And the reason why South Korea is wise in being cautious with its approach with its neighbor is that not only would a war cause massive casualties and upend the rest of the eastern Asian region, it would also harm innocent North Koreans in the process. It’s not just because some North Koreans might be related to people in the South, but North Koreans are also human beings, people who have the right to live in peace.

And what is victory in a war with North Korea? A destroyed regime which will result in a power vacuum, perhaps resulting in an Asian version of ISIS? A humanitarian crisis with refugees fleeing the country? A ravaged South Korea and perhaps other major cities in Asia as well? A crippled China, one of the few countries with a growing economy that is fueling a significant portion of the world’s industries? It doesn’t sound like victory at all.


Talks of war against North Korea are gross and shortsighted. It would feel good to punch a fat bully in the teeth, but you don’t starve your neighbors and punch everyone else as well in the process. Most South Koreans don’t worry about nuclear war with the North. They’ve learned to live in the standoff. It is only the US’ rhetoric that is making things a whole lot worse and war with the North that much closer. The Koreas have already suffered countless of times due to foreign powers. This was way before the two Koreas were divided because of the US and the Soviet Union, the reason why South Koreans have traditionally looked at foreign influences with trepidation. Again, North and South Korea is being threatened due to the meddling of foreign influences.