Culture

Your Greatest Piece Of Art

Emily and I went to the LA Art Show this past weekend. The show was 200,000 square feet of eclectic paintings, sculptures, mixed media pieces, and live performance pieces, both foreign and local, traditional and contemporary.

In general, I was pretty impressed with the art. Of course, there were a number of how the fuck did this get here pieces, but overall it seemed like the caliber of art was high.

Art. What is art? It’s one of those super-vague, overly subjective questions that can bring forth answers akin to nails on a chalkboard.

Perhaps What is art? is not the right question. Perhaps the real question is, What is the purpose of art?

Art, if I may pontificate, is meant to elicit a response. The viewer should, in some form, connect with the art, and as a result, a feeling or a thought should come forth. If I look at a painting and think, I have no idea what this is, then the painting isn’t for me.

I bring all this up because there was one piece that elicited such a response, so much so that I’m still thinking about it now and, in fact, am writing about it in this very blog post.

Here it is:

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat. What can I say about this man that hasn’t been said already. His art transcended. He brought a new perspective and unique style to the world in a time where the New York scene was bubbling with the fullness of punk rock and the infant stages of Hip-hop. He dated Madonna before she became Madonna. He left this world too soon.

Basquiat. Yeah, his art was great, but look at his life. He was a slave to his addiction. As singular and one-of-a-kind as he was as an artist, he was also yet another heroin addict.

I have to say, that’s pretty weak.

When we think about art, hardly do we ever solely focus on the art, but instead we also view the artist with a watchful eye. It’s as if the artist is just as much a part of the art as the canvas and oil. There should be some congruence between the art and the artist’s lifestyle, shouldn’t there?

So what do I make of Basquiat? Yes, his art was awesome, but his life kind of sucked. Being addicted to heroin sounds pretty god-awful to me. Reading a bit on his personal history, his childhood and adolescence was full of turmoil and strife.

Should I be inspired by Basquiat, for all the timeless pieces he created, or should I look upon him with sorrow, wondering what could have been had he been able to conquer his demons?

And this leads me to my actual thought: For any creative person out there, the greatest piece of art should be life itself. If the art is badass, then the life should be badass as well. What’s the point of creating the next Mona Lisa or composing the next Bohemian Rhapsody if life sucks? At the end of the day, where did all the great art lead to for Basquiat, or Kurt Cobain, or Amy Winehouse?

Don’t get me wrong, I still find Basquiat’s art to be invaluable, but he’ll never be someone that truly inspires me, because he couldn’t figure out how to compose the most important piece: life.

It’s just a thought. Fucking art.

 

Chris.

We’re All Sensitive People

Well, nobody’s perfect. As much as every guy tries to be James Bond or Don Draper, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of us fall woefully short.

What am I talking about? Of course, I’m talking about microaggressions. If you don’t know, here’s the definition:

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

The classic microaggression that I’ve encountered in my life is the classic Where are you from? question. People have asked me that and I’ve responded with Los Angeles only to see utter disappointment in their faces when I don’t tell them that I’m from the Ching-Chong Orient. Sorry, fellas.

But what I really want to comment on is how everything is a microaggression nowadays. You really can’t say anything in the workplace anymore without fear of someone being offended by what you say.

This year, our company holiday party is being held at a Mexican restaurant. The holiday committee decided to make flyers for the party, which included silhouettes of people wearing sombreros, to which some people said, Nope, can’t do that. Microaggression.

I guess if you really think about it, I can see someone being offended by it. But that’s the thing; since when did it become necessary to really sit down and decide if anyone can be offended by the slightest detail of a party flyer?

A few months ago, our team in the office went out to lunch. We chose a nearby Korean restaurant. One female coworker ordered the oxtail soup. When her soup was placed on the table, she started laughing at her entree because it smelled funny. For a moment, I took her amusement as a mockery of my ethnic background and culture. I don’t hit women (I don’t hit anyone, for that matter) but I knocked her out, in my mind.

What I wonder is, would I have even flinched at all if we didn’t live in a world that catered to every sensitive soul? Have we as a society been conditioned to interpret anything and everything as a slight? Are we teaching future generations to take every comment as throwing shade at someone? Are we soft?

In reality, that hostility I felt towards my coworker lasted about 30 seconds. Why? Because I didn’t dwell on it, and that’s what may the problem with everything. If the ignoramous that asks me Where I’m from from is too lazy and dumb to know the difference between Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, or American-born Asians, then why trip over anything he/she says?

I get being sensitive to others, but what we really can control is our emotions and reactions. If we all became a little less reactionary to every little word spoken about us, then perhaps society wouldn’t be caught in this web of microaggressions.

But we all know that’s not happening. So tread lightly people, because we’re all sensitive nowadays.

 

Chris.

Football, I Just Can’t Quit You

It’s been two weeks since my last blog post.

I’d love to say that I’ve been busy feeding the poor, saving the manatees, or doing 10,000 push-ups – pretty much anything productive.

The truth is, I haven’t done a damn thing besides watch football.

Hey, I can look at things objectively – spending an entire weekend watching football is about as ridiculous as waiting in line for the premiere of a Harry Potter movie in full-on Ron Weasley cosplay as an adult (and no, I have not done that). I know Emily loves my obsession with football. When she’s saying something to me during a game and I don’t even turn my face away from the TV to look into her eyes, she thinks I’m the biggest loser ever. And I am.

Let’s think about it – football is a sport marketed as being masculine and full of bravado yet straight males all over the country completely ignore their beautiful girlfriends and wives to watch grown men, in essence, wrestle each other over a ball.

In a weird twist, comic book nerds think I’m such a loser for watching gratuitous amounts of football, because surely collecting mint condition action figures and obscure limited edition issues only released in Japan is a way better use of time.

I get absolutely nothing done when football’s on TV. I’ll move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer and let it dry only to have it sit in my dryer for the whole weekend. I’ll hold in my piss until I can’t anymore because I don’t want to miss a play. My exercise for the day is getting into my car and driving to get carne asada burritos. I won’t shave at all so by Sunday night I’ll have the classic ironicly-thin Asian man mustache. I know, I know, I’ll stop – the ladies are getting too hot and bothered. Don’t want to get y’all too aroused – I am taken, after all.

Look, I know it’s dumb, but like Jake Gyllenhall famously said, I wish I knew how to quit you, football.

Hell, I’m watching a show about football right now as I write this blog post. This is sick. I’m a sick person. Then again, I’ve probably already established that by now, haven’t I.

This kind of symbolizes what’s going on in society today. As individuals, we have the potential to accomplish quite a bit, but what do we do instead? Watch someone else accomplish things on TV.

I’ve made up my mind – I’m going to turn this damn TV off.

After these highlights.

Chris.

The Art Of Contrast

For better or worse, I’m an LA guy. I was born and raised here, having never lived anywhere else. When I hear people say disparaging things about Los Angeles, I get defensive. “People are so fake here,” or “The transportation is horrible,” they might say.

The thing is, I know these things, but you are not allowed to say them since you’re on the outside. It’s like when a man fights with his girlfriend and busts out the line, “Jesus, are you on your period?” He very well may be right, but still, what the hell does he know about the menstrual cycle? On a side note, living with Emily, I’ve learned a thing or two about that, and trust me, you’d rather not know.

Another opinion that’s thrown out about Los Angeles is that it’s a haven for artists, and more specifically, the struggling artist. This is definitely true, as Emily and I spent our weekend around the art of LA.

My brother, an artist himself, had a private show over the weekend. Again, another LA stereotype coming to fruition: you have to know someone in the know to hang out at the cool spots. But this show was as LA as it gets: an art show, famous people, a DJ booth, live music, and drinks on the rooftop. Even I felt like a tourist, observing the cultured in their native habitat. I’m glad that I like my brother’s art; it would suck if I had to force myself to support something I didn’t enjoy. But I really believe in his talent so I can give my full support with a clear conscience.

My brother's private art show

My brother’s private art show

Emily and I also spent a day at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA. Thank god we went – it was the last weekend that they were showing Kahlil Joseph’s exhibition, Double Conscience. If you’re a fan of Kendrick Lamar, this was a must see: a 14-minute film titled m.A.A.d that provided visuals to Kendrick’s 2012 album, good kid, m.A.A.d City, projected on a dual screen. The film showed video images of the hood, the ghetto, the neighborhoods between the 10 and the 91, between the 405 and the 710, if you know what I mean. But the images served to beautify an area that’s otherwise looked upon as dark and tragic, with Kendrick’s verses being played throughout. Being that good kid, m.A.A.d city is a social commentary of Kendrick’s upbringing and culture, Kahlil Joseph’s film blended perfectly with the music. Hopefully, they’ll show this exhibit again for more people to see.

Kahlil Joseph's Double Conscience at LA MOCA

Kahlil Joseph’s Double Conscience at LA MOCA

Kahlil Joseph's m.A.A.d. on dual projectors

Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d. on dual projectors

Apart from Double Conscience, there was plenty of cool art on display at MOCA.

Emily admiring the work of Jackson Pollock

Emily admiring the work of Jackson Pollock

Artists are collectively unique, a different breed. It’s a feeling I can definitely relate to. After all, I do consider myself an artist of some sort. There are moments in life when I feel so weird and different from everyone else around me that I want to completely detach myself from society, go off the grid, unplug from the matrix, if you will. In those moments I believe that no one else knows what I’m going through or how I’m feeling, oftentimes including myself. I may not even know what the hell is going on but I know that there is this feeling inside of me that I want to get out.

I see these artists all around me, and yes they are all different and diverse, but really, the struggle is the same. We’re all living this life trying to make sense of it all. I read this quote once on Reddit: The meaning of life is to give life meaning. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do, make our lives meaningful in the end. It’s so easy to separate and contrast individual to individual, and I know LA is the land of struggling artists, but really, no matter where we are or where we’re from, we are all struggling artists, and the art is our lives.

Chris.

Sleepwalking In Traffic

Traffic sucks.

Day after day, I sit in my car, switching between the brake and the gas pedal in a sea of vehicles that move about as slowly as our lives seem to move in that moment. I can feel a glaze falling over my face as I enter a trance-like state, fueled by monotony, mindless.

I’ve sat through traffic so often that all the days coalesce into a singular memory. I can’t distinguish one day from another. It feels like I become a sleepwalker driving a car among other sleepwalkers.

The word sleepwalker reminds me of a song – not necessarily the famed Santo & Johnny tune, “Sleepwalk,” which is such a classic that, whether we know it or not, it’s burned within our collective subconscious – but the song “Sleepwalker” from the movie her, composed by Arcade Fire, one of my personal favorite bands.

Speaking of her, that has to be my favorite movie of this decade. The story is set in the future, but really Spike Jonze is depicting modern relationships – what people are going through today.

I see, hear, and read about it all the time. People are lonely; in a world that “connects” individuals through more mediums than ever before, these mediums are the exact thing that push people away from each other. Our Facebook friends aren’t friends and our Instagram followers are just stats. Whether we know it or not, we are dehumanizing each other via cyberspace.

Dating is confusing. No one knows the rules. Are there even rules? If we text each other day and night, does that count as a relationship? What are we to make of the face to face interactions that are so different from the online exchanges? If we don’t want to meet anyone at a bar or a club and we don’t feel comfortable using these online dating platforms, what do we do?

Which brings me back to traffic. I live in Los Angeles, where everyone drives and usually alone. Everyday I am stuck moving like molasses on a freeway crammed with other solitary drivers. We’re all heading in the same direction, yet we’re going to different places. The people driving next to me are always random people whom I know nothing about, but we share a space for that moment in time.

And that’s life, isn’t it? It’s a bunch of people sharing space. We’re busy with places to go and we hardly take the time to be in the moment. We’re so caught up in our own shit that we don’t empathize or humanize in our minds the people around us. It’s like we’re constantly in the same state we’re in while driving: sleepwalking in traffic.

Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll wake up.

Chris.

Electrick Children

I don’t go to the movies often.

Most of the time, the movies playing at the theaters are all regurgitated versions of the same story. I don’t really like action movies, I hate the horror genre, and is there really going to be a better rom-com than When Harry Met Sally or Sabrina (the Audrey Hepburn version, of course)?

But it’s not like I never go to see a movie. I’m in a relationship, after all, and that’s part of the job description: going to the movies with your significant other. But I am very selective about what movies I choose to see at the theater.

Independent movies – that’s my shit.

I know, it’s a super art-pussy thing to say that I love indie films, but it’s true. I like seeing different. I like seeing creativity. I like seeing movies that take chances and aren’t diluted by the multi-billion dollar Hollywood entertainment industry. Give me something done by a struggling artist; it’s in times of struggle where art really transcends.

Which leads me to Electrick Children (2012). I got to watch this a few days ago when I was home alone. Emily really hates my taste in movies because she has an overall lack of imagination when it comes to the big screen. Yeah, that’s right I said it.

Back to the movie. No spoilers here, but it’s about a young Mormon teenage girl who runs away from home after finding out that she’s pregnant. That’s all I’ll say about the story. Hopefully, you’ll see it for yourself (It’s on Netflix, so even the laziest of you blog-reading slobs can muster up the effort to put it on your TV).

This movie is the directorial debut for Rebecca Thomas, who also wrote the screenplay. She was in her twenties when it came out, and she was raised up as a Mormon herself. What does this mean? Being young, Thomas was just dumb enough to make a movie like this, and it came from a personal perspective.

Think about that last sentence – I could have replaced Thomas with Scorsese to describe Mean Streets or Coppola to describe The Godfather. That’s all I need to know about this movie – I’m in.

The movie itself was, well, odd. But I like odd. Odd is good. Not in the “Oh this guy approaching me at the bar is a super weird creep” way but in the “Oh this guy approaching me at the bar isn’t throwing me the same ‘ol stupid pickup line” way, kapish?

One of the main actors in this movie is Rory Culkin. That’s right – I didn’t say Macaulay Culkin, I didn’t even say Kieran Culkin – it’s the third fucking Culkin brother. I am always team lesser famous sibling – Kevin Dillon, Elizabeth Olsen, and Frank Stallone come to mind.

Music. There’s a song that’s featured prominently throughout the movie. It’s an obscure new wave rock song by The Nerves called “Hanging On The Telephone.” Certain songs can really make a movie, can’t they? When I think of the movie Drive all I hear is the great song by College, “A Real Hero.” “Hanging On The Telephone” has the same effect with this movie. The version that gets played ends up being a cover by Flowers Forever:

An indie film made by a first-time writer/director featuring a C-List actor and a kickass song. I realize this post was a massive advertisement for this movie, but I really did enjoy it.

I mean, c’mon, let’s see some other shit than the typical Hollywood dross.

– Chris

 

Sorry, I’m in a Rush.

I am certain that if I moved to Seattle I would be an excellent writer. There is something about the pitter-patter and cup of black coffee that inspires me to open up a blank page and type.

This morning I woke up to a random email with the subject line: Hi Emily, Long Time No Talk. Curious, I opened it. It was Tom. He apologized for not being in touch lately, but wanted to know how I was doing. It turns out Tom wasn’t doing so well. He lost a lot of his investments while on vacation and didn’t have enough money to return back to the states. He asked if I could wire any funds via Western Union. “If you can’t help out with more, a thousand dollars would be really helpful so I can buy a plane ticket.”

Are you shitting me, Tom? First, I wish I had a thousand dollars so I could repair my damaged car. Second, the only friend I ever had named Tom was on social media. Yes, the one who had 75.9 million friends before they all ditched him for Mark (Zuckerberg).

Tom Anderson Myspace

Tom Anderson from Myspace.com

I was shocked. Someone actually expends their energy in crafting these emails and takes the time to spam strangers with it. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.  Because this email landed in my inbox, it meant that these schemers must be successful. I guarantee you no one does this as a hobby. Then, going through my daily morning routine, I opened up the New York Times and came across this article titled Swindlers Target Older Women on Dating Websites. The article interviews the strangers who threw away their life savings because they were either too kind, too trusting, too naive, too much of a Good Samaritan. I felt sad when picturing these lonely, desperate women deceptively charmed because they were chasing the feeling of love and companionship.


I was once naive, but I will never have testimonies like these women. Even after being held up at gun point two times in my high school days, I still believed that everyone had a good heart. It wasn’t until the third time I was held up at gun point that I realized maybe people have to earn the label good-hearted.

As I grew older, I grew more cynical. I remember the other day I was walking around Little Tokyo and a well-dressed man came up to me and asked if he could borrow my phone to look up the name of the restaurant he was supposed to meet his friends at. His phone battery had died and he didn’t have access to his email, but knew it was in the vicinity. I thought about the many times my phone died and how I could have easily been in his shoes, but the cautious side of me replied, Sorry. I’m in a rush.

Then, another man crossing the intersection next to me told me I was beautiful and I had a nice purse. I could feel myself walking quicker and holding my purse tighter. “Do you want to have a drink with me at a bar?” Sorry. I’m in a rush.

I feel sad that I am so skeptical of people’s characters until they can prove that they are decent human beings. Maybe I fear more because I am a woman who can only lift 10 pound weights in each hand. My mentality has shifted from innocent until proven guilty to guilty until proven innocent. Maybe it’s because all the news reports are the rapists, the kidnappers, the sexual assaulters, the murderers.

Does anyone else feel this jaded about humanity?

Emily

P.S. – Woo! I am definitely moving to Seattle. Chris just asked if we should eat pho for dinner. It must be because it’s a rainy day!

Pho Tai Bo Vien from Pho 45 in Garden Grove - Yummiest!

Pho Tai Bo Vien from Pho 45 in Garden Grove – Yummiest!