September 21, 2018 § Leave a comment
Watching the words off the screen–the speeches of two leaders North and South meeting at Pyongyang, broadcasted–is beyond surreal. They’re saying shit I don’t know if my grandpa were alive would acknowledge as sane: We lived together as one people for 5,000 years and then apart for 70. We love peace, we must now move forward as one. We’re going to abolish nuclear weapons and all fears of war. With mere words 조선 한반도, Joseon (technically tis the historically more recent name for the Korean nation) peninsula, my mind is blown. Is one country really actually gonna happen? What, Kim Jong-un coming to visit Seoul? Can anything be possible?
September 16, 2018 § Leave a comment
First off, I cannot/do not claim by any stretch of the imagination the breadth & the depth of Korean pop culture, the intersection of hip hop and postmodern Korean malehood. But as I’m trying to listen to as many Korean hip hop artists as possible on Apple Music—which is already an elitist selection filtered by whiteness, for real underground hip hop in Korea would not make it on this streaming service much like the counterpart, or any other indie artists for that matter, in the Stateside—I notice the similarities in all the up and coming rappers. Whether they write their own lyrics or not is not the focus here though that’s an important artistry to consider when you wanna talk about authenticity, especially in an art form born out of countercultural and revolutionary pathos as hip hop. I find some Korean tracks flirting with the idea of social commentary, yet nothing substantial emerges except the typical bragging rights of the I’m-young-and-wild-and-the-best attitude sans the gang and gun violence culture. They all sound like Drake in a sense. A lot of the content speaks to the hookup culture, wanting one night stands with beautiful women to fill the void in the ever lonely genius male hearts, saying nonchalantly terrible things about sentimentality or affection or real relationships because the less emotional about anything you are, the better you prove your place in the hip hop game. I’m not sure what these youngsters are trying to prove (I say young because… 안 봐도 뻔해. They all in their 20s. The restlessness of Friday nights? Tis what we’ve all experienced in college and maybe immediately after; no one in their real adulthood considers this a serious conversation anymore. Please, we have better things to spend our energy on). But perhaps tis too early to judge since hip hop is still a relatively recent culture in Korea. They have to learn how to adapt not just the sound but the philosophy underneath that actually speaks to the history of masculinity and Korean land and relationships without appropriating. Imitation is the highest form of flattery? All genuine creative endeavors start with copying the form? I am strangely hopeful but at the same time find problematic symptoms of thee same misogyny and toxic masculinity in these “hip hop bangers.” And it still bothers me there aren’t many 30+ songwriters and artists who emote experiences beyond the infatuation and the crush and the sex drives and the heartaches. Gimme divorce, death of family members, mental illnesses, political corruption and repression, materialism and poverty, raising children and marriage struggles. Gimme something grown up. Till then, Jay Park, ZICO, Sik-K rotate 😦
Family portrait part five: Sitting in Helen’s living room because I got here earlier for the 7pm dinner with cousins
September 10, 2018 § Leave a comment
They live on a hill, in northeast Los Angeles, bordering Pasadena, a flat condominium whose open window faces the west slope from which you can admire the end of summer sunset—like right now in almost complete quiet. The lighting is lovely in the living room. I can see the open kitchen from the small couch where I’m sitting. I survey the counter as Helen & I make small talks. A row of nice homemaking appliances: KitchenAid, a coffee machine, a rice cooker, a water pitcher, all new and shiny and clean, like the rest of the house. I remember that she is about my age–these things matter a lot to us Koreans, subtly dictating the kind of interactions we’ll have–and that we know very little of each other and that I’ve barely talked to her despite her being married to my cousin for about three years. I did miss their wedding. Quite unacceptable in hindsight.
She asks me about how I been spending the last month or so since I’ve moved down. I’m wondering what it’s like for her to make a home here, a life with her husband, someone she’s grown to love—as far as I know she didn’t initially find him attractive or fall in love, in the conventional sense—and didn’t spend much time with getting to know. I wonder how she’s filled this house with things that can help them making a life as a couple. I try to picture how they spend their weekends together: cooking, cleaning, watching TV, hosting friends, drinking wine, calling plumbers (like today), etc. etc. I wonder if she’s happy, if she’s expected this happiness, if she’s working hard toward cultivating happiness. I wonder if I could do that, make a home from scratch and continue living and growing into affection with someone I know a bit about based on a reasonable set of conditions that tell me I can possibly trust. I wonder if she’s lonely sometimes, if she can detect a trace of it, if she believes that kind of sentiment is to be expected in life or should be a taboo altogether. I wonder if I will ever not be.
September 5, 2018 § Leave a comment
Look how you found me
No one else sees this but you, but you
‘Cause once you told me
If something’s missing in me
To go and find it in you
A piece of me ain’t there
‘Cause nothing can compare
To life when I was young
That girl inside me stays
If I’m not here for me
She will be there
Look how you found me
A broken part enough for two
For me and you
Just reminiscence of the best parts of my youth
I wish I was her for good
Messages from her
Messages to her
Messages from her
Messages to her
Look how you found me
Searching for messages from you
August 31, 2018 § Leave a comment
Tomorrow comes again. It’s not the most comforting thing to hear right now, I know, but what I mean is that when I’m at the end of my ropes thinking, Why are we prolonging this at all? This is torture! That same day I find myself eating dinner and enjoying food. It’s happened to me too, I went through a period like that. What I believe is that there’s a part of me I cannot control; the functional depression doesn’t change maybe, but the Holy Spirit in me continues to give me appetite and sleep and these daily things because maybe God is orchestrating something. And I only see like three things right now. It sounds cliché I guess, but I have to tell myself, Hope is coming.
OK I must have butchered the words. I don’t have the most detailed memories. This is what I remember my brother telling me over the phone. Over KakaoTalk voice call using WiFi because both our homes–one in Los Angeles parents house and the other hundreds of miles away in Atlanta with my nephews going to sleep late–have terrible cell reception. He’s uttered the same simple sincere words I can say and may have said to any of my friends going through tough times. Who hasn’t tried to encourage someone with the likes of ‘you’ll get through it,’ or ‘things are gonna be OK,’ or ‘God is taking care of you?’ Blah blah blah
When did you get so wise, I let the sniffles out. The more I experience people speaking into my life, the same words that come from one mouth ring differently when spoken by another. It has more to do with my relationship with the person speaking to me than what s/he is saying. Hope is a fcking four-letter word I am careful to use sparingly this season, yet when my own flesh and blood tell me so, I’ll believe anything that he say.
And then I remember he did go through this, and I wasn’t there, and there’s no guilt now. But that truth hits me like a ton of bricks as we exchange some pleasantries about visiting nephews and saying hello to so and so and hang up. My little brother, too, was “in a rut.” He too had to learn how to soothe himself. He had fought his way out of that place, all alone. And I wasn’t there.
August 26, 2018 § Leave a comment
Meeting your father for the first time after 68 years, over three days, under the watchful eye of the government, in front of the cameras for millions of others across borders. Leaving a pregnant wife, he left for the North. The son found him. They look the same. Sadly the mother/wife has passed before the news of a possible meetup.
These family reunification events, 이산가족 재상봉, have only happened maybe twice the past three decades of life I can remember of a divided Korea. I can never imagine what in-real-life meetings mean for hundreds who have fled the war, unable to know whether their loved ones are alive or dead.
We’re jungful people. 정 can be described as “an intense longing for somebody or something. People yearn to see their lovers, family members and friends. Many Koreans have suffered separation from their jung-related relationships for a long time” (Andrew Sung Park in Racial Conflict and Healing).
Every night for the past four days my mom and I been watching elderly folks in their traditional Korean garbs from both sides bawl their eyes out holding other old people’s hands. Some have found their long-lost sister, cousin, uncle. Many only have the pictures from before they been born to compare. Some have passed but brought other siblings or family members to come together.
If your grandparents were alive, they’d be able to find some folks too. My mom reminds me. I have family in the North. You think I’ll ever make it there? I ask her. You might, they’ve been talking about tour buses to 금강산, my mom answers. What I’m wondering, though, isn’t whether I will go visit the mountains or the tours. I don’t know what it’s like to miss someone you’ve never met for your entire life just because you’ve been told you’re separated. Or maybe I do.
Crazy Rich Asians was made for wypipo to understand there are rich Asians outside this Asian America, says my mom
August 21, 2018 § Leave a comment
I haven’t read the book. Don’t plan to.
But I adore Constance, and it was important for my usually cheap ass immigrant family to pay $$$ and let Universal Cinema AMC know these all Asian-American/Asian cast films had audience and deserve attention (and financing).
As for the storyline. C’mon it says straight up Korean drama all over: boy meets girl from poor family and rich family, parents disapprove, backstabbing girl friends, minus a rare form of leukemia or amnesia or twins switched at birth. Tis just with more American faces (hello Harry Shum Jr.) and less slapping (a gutted fish is the best you can do for cattiness…? please) and a fantabulously expensive PR for Singapore tourism. I mean I have no qualms about the acting, or script per se. There already are a million essays and counting for the impact on representation for poc and the like. Not here to argue about that either. What I find interesting for further inquiry is the noticeable absence of the father figure, thereby an amazingly powerful presence of female characters.