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Monthly Archives: December 2012

When I worked for Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primaries, our camp truly thought she would clinch the Democratic nomination, and go on to win the presidency to become our first female president. That didn’t work out, but we did elect our first black president. Great ordeal and I’m mighty proud of it.

South Korea just elected its first female president, surprisingly before we did. This feat is to be congratulated on its face. Park Geun-hye – whether or not people actually think of her as a woman – is indeed a woman. Many take issue with the fact that she is the daughter of former dictator (yes, not president, not strongman, but dictator, say it loud and clear) Park Jung-hee. I, too, take some issue with that fact, although not as extremely as others. Although the former dictator did arguably lay the groundwork for Korea’s exponential economic growth, he did so by maintaining his power using undemocratic and illegal means, to say the least. I hardheartedly disagree with the notion of focusing on the past and on a candidate’s lineage (which she had minimal control over) instead of focusing strictly on policy issues moving forward. However, this point, in my view, was overlooked to a great extent.

What I do take serious issue with is the way in which this election cycle was conducted. I will not (yet) use the term “rigged”. I will, however, discuss one of many fishy incidents that has already thrown this election into murky waters.

Let’s coin this incident as “The Online Crusaders”. The Cliffnotes version of the story is this. Saenuri, the ruling party of president-elect Park, allegedly hired a protestant pastor and a number of part-time workers, with the sole mission of “rigging” the social media arena. The pastor and his minions allegedly posted tweets and replies under fake aliases, intentionally (and allegedly falsely) accusing candidate Moon Jae-in of various wrongdoings. In addition, Korea’s National Intelligence Service (counterpart to our FBI) allegedly had an entire office dedicated to fabricating social media messages in favor of Park and against Moon. And what the hell was that about the NIS employee locking herself in her Gangnam condominium for days while she was suspected of participating in these acts? NIS agents, supposedly the cream of the crop of Korea’s intelligence community, allegedly hired to sit in front of computer monitors to tweet. Simply embarrassing.

I use the term “allegedly” for all of this, as none of it have been proven in a court of law. But as a lawyer who has looked over Korean election laws, the work of the Online Crusaders – both the pastor and his minions, and the NIS – is a clear violation of the law, if proven to be true.

I take issue with this because these alleged illegal acts were discovered and reported just days before the election, leaving no time to dive into the facts and fully inform the voting public. Whether or not that would have affected the outcome is another question, to which I would personally answer in the negative. Now it seems that the NIS, the police, and even the federal prosecutor’s office is on merry terms with the Saenuri party, forcing an even darker cloud over the prospects of a clean investigation into the cold, hard facts.

In all honesty, I could care less about who is elected as Korea’s next president. None of this affects me personally. And I must say that I am not, and never was, impressed with either candidate, and that I am not Park-bashing in any sense.

But I am pissed that the rule of law has, once again, fallen flat on its face in my home country. I am pissed that the majority of Koreans don’t seem to give a shit about the rule of law. I am pissed that we may never know what really happened during and after the election. I am pissed that regional feelings still dominate the political dialogue of my home country. I am pissed that, throughout the election cycle, the focus has been on finger-pointing and on the past, not educated debates on policy issues to bring about genuine change (don’t get me started on the presidential debates).

The election is over and Korea has a new president-elect. Whining and pissing about the outcome does no good, so I hope Korea finds a way to mend broken bonds and move forward, for God knows the country has a mountain of problems. It may take years, decades for true democratic values (like clean elections) to take root in Korea. It takes more than a system, more than oversight committees and government bureaucrats. It takes a democratic “mindset” that values fair dealing and ethical procedures. It takes a democratic “mindset” that values the well-being of others as much as one’s own. It takes a democratic “mindset” that values the courage to do what’s right.

Democracy is still young in Korea.

12:12 12/12/12

It doesn’t mean anything. Just another tick on the second hand on a watch, another minute in a day full of minutes, another Wednesday like the ones before. Just another speck in an endless spectrum we call time.

But it does mean something, for this tick, this minute, this Wednesday, shall not return. That tick of the hand is forever engrained, immortalized somewhere in our distant memories as a speck in a finite spectrum we call time.

I once had two hamsters. When we bought them, my mom and I were told that one was male and the other was female, and that they would start reproducing mini-hamsters within weeks. Turns out the bastard lied to us; both were male, and instead of making hamster love, they ended up biting the life out of each other. Tragic story, really, but my point rests elsewhere: the hamsters’ plastic turn wheel. Turning turning turning, that constant, annoying squeak and rattle, day and night. Their beady little eyes either darting side to side or staring into infinity, as their twig-like legs peddled with no purpose or methodology to speak of.

Working life, a lawyer’s life, seems no different than two male hamsters trotting away on a plastic turn wheel. We are lost in the constant churn, deprived of all alertness as to what truly ignites our true purpose. Objectivity is lost, and subjective amusements paint our palette, defined as the willing ability to justify whatever the hell we’re doing. The abnormal becomes the new norm. Questions cease to be asked, as justification becomes acceptance, the lame way of comforting oneself from one’s inability to break the mold.

In some respect, this is truly a #firstworldproblem. Monotonous labor, be it physical or mental, pays the bills, and hoards of individuals would be more than ecstatic to have such paying jobs. Hamster wheel or no hamster wheel.

But dammit, let us not give up our given rights to question what we do, that endless stream of consciousness, poking and prying at the very purpose of life, what we are meant to do, what we were born to accomplish. This tick, this 1212121212 tick, has already passed into the past. History it is. 1111111111 ticked away last year, and in no speck of my mind do I recall what the hell I was doing at that moment in time. We assume the next tick will always be there, unfaltering, guaranteed. We live as if each tick is nothing more than the one before. We live as if time regenerates itself; immortality is ordained upon our own time.

I once read an essay comparing writing to a woman spreading her legs at the OB/GYN, or a man getting a prostate exam (I’m sure it was stated much more elegantly by the author). In short, she defined good writing as bare, open, uncloaked. Embarrassing and exposed, yes, but true. Genuine. No hiding, no holding back. Just you, just as you are.

Life should be no different.

As this one special tick approaches, I will remember the moment as the time when I mused about time. That moment my mind perused through fields and dreams of shattering the earthen pot grasping my very existence. There will be no 1313131313.

My toes are tapping.

I can’t get that melody out of my head. Correction. I can’t get that thumping piano out of my head. That rhythmic, steady, constant thumping. In 5/8 time. Now enters the alto sax with the melody. I can’t get either out of my head. Dave Brubeck, this is all your fault.

On the “About” page of this blog, I nonchalantly wrote down that I am a “musician at times”. Nowadays, that means I grab my banged up acoustic and belch a few songs here and there. But back in the day, zero-period jazz band was the real deal (band nerd, yes).

I’d heard “Take Five” before, on NPR’s nightly jazz sessions. It was catchy, addictive, toe-tapping even then. I never thought I’d get a chance to play it, so when I first got the sheet music for the solo sax part, the word “exhilarated” does not serve justice to my ecstatic state of mind. Sure, a self-taught saxophonist (I was a clarinetist by trade) cannot paint this piece with the masterful loftiness it deserves. But I tried mightily. I listened to that track over and over again, first to immerse myself in the breathy tone of the soloist, then to be afloat on the rhythm of 5/8 time. My toes were tapping. Non-stop.

It’s hypnotic, that 5/8. In fashion, the highest compliment on styling is “looking effortless”, or trying without looking like you tried. 5/8 is like that. The underlying rhythm needs to be a constant, steady churn, like an undercurrent, supporting – but not blanketing – whatever that’s going on above. The melody needs to glide, float. Effortlessly, tugging ever so slightly at the end of the phrases. A never-ending push and pull with time. Elastic but not gooey. Elegant but not fluffy like damn cotton candy. Indeed, this is a hard trick. But fear not, that was Brubeck and his crew.

Not witnessing Brubeck, in person, in the midst of doing what he did best, is one regret I will carry for quite some time. No LP, no CD will do justice to the true magic he produced. But he lives on – his rhythms are immortal, his notes are timeless. My toes are still tapping, playing witness to the chunk of life he left behind.

5/8. Wholesome.

RIP Dave Brubeck.

* I do not own the copyright to the incorporated image.

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