August 14

If you have never been seen as an outsider, assumed to not belong in your own country, second-guessed for your intelligence, looked at as a criminal for no reason, given less opportunities because of your color, or suffered through other indignities that minorities and women suffer through, then you don’t get to complain about oppression. I miss Canada. I love Canada. But it is not immune to the racial animus that is plaguing the United States. Occasionally, I will be reminded of what exactly I am and how little some people think of me. It sucks. It hurts.

I even get that occasionally even living overseas. Being brown, I’m the less-desirable foreigner. I sometimes even blend in the background and ignored in a country that is homogeneous. Forget the brown guy; there are other people that need attention. Being white is still the gold standard for some people even when overseas. If you’re white, people assume you’re educated, you have money, you speak good English, you’re worldly, and you’ll make cute little children. Doors open just by the virtue of skin color. How do I know? Look at job ads overseas. Look at the foreigners they choose to have on television. Look at the faces of the people as they sometimes struggle with the concept that a brown person is a Canadian.

 So it really amazes me that despite all of the advantages given to them by virtue of their birth, some white men in the United States are crying victimhood. They say they’re being oppressed, replaced, wiped out by ethnic and religious minorities. These people have never faced true oppression in their lives. Never. And yet they cry foul at immigrants taking jobs that they have no interest in taking. They protest against people of different races and religions being welcomed in their neighborhoods. They cringe at colored faces on television populating their media and politics. This is their oppression. This is the crime that they are standing up for: being in the presence of someone different, being not sole voice that matters, sharing the rights that they’ve had for so long with others. This is the cringe-worthy delicate ego of these neo-Nazis. The ones that label themselves “alpha male” and yet can’t stand the threat of other people getting the same opportunities they have.

There’s nothing alpha about not being able to compete against more competent workers. There’s nothing alpha about lying to twist facts in order to suit you narrative. I would imagine an alpha would face the truth, change, then come out on top. There’s nothing alpha about following a lying leader. It’s called being a sucker. There’s nothing alpha about complaining about other races and religions mixing with others. It’s called minding your own business. Go find a white woman who will love you. There’s nothing alpha about bitching that your culture is being wiped out when it isn’t. Go watch a Hollywood film. There’s nothing alpha about complaining that white men are losing influence. Go look at the US Senate and the Congress. There’s nothing alpha about listening to conspiracy theorists, thinking about all of these forces coming to get you, and worrying about Armageddon or whatever. Be a person. Don’t be a paranoid squirrel looking at every corner and seeing danger everywhere before foraging for food. There are more real problems in the world.This is why I love the current effort to expose the people who participated in the Nazi rally in Charlottesville. Not so much for the consequences they suffer after being exposed as the racists that they are, but for the realization that these people never really faced a day of true oppression in their life. Peter Cvjetanovic never faced true oppression. Neither did one of their alt-right heroes, White House staffer Stephen Miller, who famously complained about having to pick up his own garbage. Oh the horrible suffering of the fragile alpha male ego!

July 17

I’m off to Vietnam this week. I don’t know much about the country and its beautiful people, so I’ll talk about The Handmaid’s Tale instead. What a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s work (a Canadian treasure)! Good job, Hulu! What’s really interesting about the book and the show itself is that if there’s ever a more apt book to adapt for the times, it’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Being a work of “speculative fiction,” much like books like The Road or Blindness, it doesn’t need much fantasy in order for something to become our reality. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, religion and military dictatorship just needs to marry together, something which humanity has experimented with several times before.

And it’s not like we’re that far off from Ms. Atwood’s fiction. The world is becoming more and more militaristic. Many countries’ police officers are starting to look more like military forces. There’s a loud growing movement of conservatism with their adherence to religious dogma and a distrust of science and news media. And more and more, dictatorial rule seems to be coming back into fashion with many people blindly supporting strong men. Even my father pines for the days of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and praises the likes of Duterte. The show did a great job of incorporating current trends and technology and making it part of the narrative. It almost screams at the viewers, “this could be you! You’d better do something about it” It’s not enough that we trust our collective goodness as a society. Our hubris, our confidence that several others will do good despite of our inaction, will lead to our eventual downfall. I’d like to believe more Americans are sensible, and yet Donald Trump and his ilk run the country. I was impressed at how friendly, welcoming, and seemingly sensible everyone was the last time I visited the Philippines, but they’re the same people who would deny their neighbors are being killed for their vices, even if it happens almost every day. My workplace is surrounded by people who yearn for the days of dictatorial rule in Korea.

It is scary. It really wouldn’t take much.

July 3

Thank you Manitoba Arts Network for having my works for their 2017-2018 touring exhibition. It’s always nice to have people appreciate my work, that the works I make are not just for me personally, that they could mean something else to some people as well.

June 30


Happy Canada Day. I love you, Canada. If I could hug you, I would.

 

August 1


Vietnam is a great place. The people are friendly, the architecture is charming, it’s amazingly safe, and the beaches are wonderful. It rained half the time I was there, but it was not so bad that I couldn’t explore the city. What surprised me about the trip was how cheap everything was. Food and drinks were cheap, especially compared to Seoul and other places I vacationed before. It was just insanity. I could see myself retiring there if my measly pension would not allow me to live in Seoul or Canada.

Another thing that surprised me was how safe I felt despite walking around in dark streets. I didn’t feel like I was gonna get mugged or kidnapped or anything. It’s more dangerous walking around in downtown Winnipeg. I was staying in a rural, touristy area, but compared to the rural areas I stayed at in the Philippines, my wife and I felt so much more secure. We felt fewer eyes looking at us.

What bothered me, however, was the apparent prejudice against Korean tourists. We stayed at Hoi An, the Old City. The place being a UNESCO heritage site, it is protected and needs maintenance. This requires funds from tourists, and some walkways welcome donations or have signs that ask people to present their tickets prior to passing. This policy appears to be enforced lackadaisically, as people just come and go without presenting any tickets or being asked to buy them. That is, unless you’re Korean. My wife and my sister-in-law’s family got asked to present their tickets, but not once was I asked. We also observed other tourists pass by and they don’t seem to be bothered by city officials. My wife and I thought it might be a colonial attitude, where white people are not hassled but other ethnicities are. But I wasn’t hassled, Chinese tourists weren’t hassled, it’s just the Korean tourists who were being asked for tickets. And we’re not crazy. We observed close by while having drinks. It seems like a scam, feels unjust, and was the only thing that really left a bad feeling in me.

That and the countless mosquito bites.

July 10

I used to occasionally go to suicide forums and talk to people… because why not? Like many people who suffer from depression, the thought of suicide has come to my head, but I’m much of a coward to really give it too much serious thought. It was more like, “if I’m going to kill myself, I’d do it this way” or “if this happens, that would be the thing that would make me go ahead and kill myself.” It was a thought experiment more than anything else. But as for the forums, occasionally I would read people’s posts. They were mostly young people, complaining about their lives, or people frustrated by their significant others. It’s rare, but sometimes, I would respond back. Instead of being a community of people seeking help before they do what they shouldn’t, I think it’s really more a community of people just trying to get their voices heard. It’s a place where a person can say their troubles instead of being deconstructed or given solutions to their problems. There was no judgment. It was a place that tells people that they are not insane, nor are they alone. That there’s nothing new under the sun and that they’ll get through whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. I suppose I might be accused of being a tourist for being there, but for a time, it really helped me with my depression. It felt good telling a complete stranger that things we’re going to be alright.

I live in a place where suicide is quite common place. People often regard Japan as one of the suicide capitals of the world, but really, South Korea has it beat. Even the former president committed suicide and in some ways normalized the whole thing. But as horrible as South Korea is when it comes to its suicide statistics and the reasons for why so many people are committing suicide (societal pressures, money troubles, elderly depression, stigma against seeing psychiatric help…) it surprised me to learn that Canada isn’t doing too well when it comes to suicide either.

Canada’s in the thirties when ranked with other countries. But when you look at that ranking, it disguises the fact that some communities are more susceptible to suicide than others. Aboriginal males are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal males. In 2000, out of 100,000 Aboriginal males, 126 committed suicide. For non-Aboriginals, it was 24. If you consider the size disparity between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, the suicide rates affecting small areas in the country is staggering. It’s gigantic compared to the suicide rate in South Korea (27 out of 100,000).

What’s shameful is that with countries like South Korea and Japan are actively doing things to help stop their suicide epidemics in the face of the horrible statistics. The police are patrolling suicide-prone areas, and there are groups which monitor vulnerable people. People are talking about the problem and how to deal with it. And while Canada has been helping some communities deal with depression, addiction, and mental health issues, I’m not sure if we’re doing enough to help prevent the high rates of suicide. I think it’s such a non-issue with the average Canadian that I wouldn’t even be aware of the problem if I didn’t have an interest in it myself. Clearly, present-day efforts are not enough for Aboriginal communities. There are initiatives that help them deal with problems once they are already dealing with them, but I’m not sure if Canada is doing enough to help prevent depression and mental health issues from developing in the first place. Now I’m not saying that South Korea and Japan are doing a lot more than Canada to help their citizens have more fulfilling lives to help prevent suicidal thoughts (I don’t think they are, they’re just doing more to keep people from committing the act), but I think Aboriginal communities are much more susceptible to this problem that it’s something the country should address. After all, much of the First Nations’ woes have been the result of its history with the Canadian government.

 

Joseph Reyes

Artist

August 8

Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

June 26, 2017

My work is featured in a Finnish magazine. They’re a handful of images from my upcoming “Fever Dream” collection which will be making its way around my home province. I didn’t really think that the Finnish site would be interested at first, but it’s good to see some of my images out there. The site’s current theme is the use of text as an object of study and a work of art. I guess my style of work falls into that category. Although instead of focusing on things like fonts or the beauty of text itself, I use it more as building materials, as a means to add texture and to both literally and metaphorically add more emotions to the pieces I’m working on. I’m also more interested in the reason outside of obvious occasions such as books, notes, etc. why people write things down and why people read them. Why deface a wall? Why read graffiti? Is it a reflex or a need? Why write on a blog that no one will read? Why read a blog that no one reads? Is it more for the writer or for the reader? Who is getting their needs met from the exercise?

In any case, I recommend reading through the articles. Not all of it is for everyone, but I’m sure everyone would find something of interest. I particularly found Anders Carlsson’s article quite enlightening.

BTW: That image up there is by Tommy Musturi.