Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Rest in peace, Choi Jin Ri

Today is a very upsetting day.

I woke up to the immensely sad news that South Korean singer and actress Sulli has passed away in her apartment; an apparent suicide. She was only 25 years old.

Depression is a monster.

Sulli used to be a part of the Kpop group f(x), a group I hugely adore and whose musical influence can be seen and felt in contemporary Kpop. f(x)’s second studio album Pink Tape remains one of my favorites ever. Since Sulli’s departure from the group I haven’t followed up on her happenings that closely, though I know that she’s since become a full-time actress, and even had her own pop-up store.

A beautiful life, cut short by the demons of the world.

I hesitate to play the blame game, but Sulli’s suicide has got to be on the hands of Korean Netizens. These cowards have relentlessly attacked and criticized her since her debut in the entertainment business, and it’s so sad and frustrating it’s turned out like this. No person should have to live with such constant ridicule, and even the strongest can and will wilt under such pressure. These keyboard warriors get to live on; would they feel an ounce of remorse? I wonder.

So I’m quite upset because I feel this could’ve been prevented. Jonghyun’s suicide nearly two years ago was due to his inner turmoil, while Sulli’s death was caused by external forces, of people’s inability to be kind to another person, just because she’s a celebrity. It’s needlessly tragic, and I can only tear up at imagining the sort of pain Sulli was in that led her to such a decision.

진리씨~ 수고 많이 하셨습니다. 잘 가세요.

Parked on the street because it can’t make it up the driveway without scraping.

"Patrick....SAD!"

Yesterday was not so good a day for me and million others who have grown up on the animated show SpongeBob Squarepants: the cartoon’s intrepid creator Stephen Hillenburg died due to complications from ALS. What a truly despicable disease to sap such a creative light from us all, and countless others from their loved ones. We don’t need more ice bucket challenges, please simply keep donating money.

Upon hearing off the news I was hit with profound sadness. 57 years is still way too young of an age to succumb to the grips of death. We will never know what other culturally significant artistic endeavors Hillenburg could still yet have done, he of the genius behind SpongeBob Squarepants.

Indeed SpongeBob is the seminal animated TV series in my childhood, and I’m sure many others as well. Within the pantheon of ‘Doug’ and ‘Hey Arnold’, SpongeBob Squarepants is right there at the top. You’d think a show about a talking sponge and his starfish friend wouldn’t amount to much, but it’s the stories that make it so special. Rather than being the typical children cartoon that panders to a kid’s most base sensibilities, SpongeBob challenged us with big ideas and provoking thoughts. Positive themes of friendship, optimism, and success were juxtaposed on-screen with their polar opposites, letting kids in ever slightly on just how the real world works.

Most importantly it’s all wrapped up in a humorous and hilarious container that made it easy to digest, and in turn, utterly indelible.

Spongebob’s popularity never waned even nearly two decades after the first episode aired, and the generation that grew up on it are fully adults now. To this day I still often reference the show amongst my friends. Social media meme culture would not be nearly as robust and funny without screenshots of SpongeBob screenshots.

So while we deeply mourn the untimely passing of Hillenburg, there’s great satisfaction in seeing the immense legacy he is leaving behind. I have no doubts we’ll still be talking about SpongeBob another two decades after this; and if I ever have kids, they will for sure be introduced to the joy and wonder that Hillenburg have so generously given to the world.

He was number one.

Beware of heights.

Beware of heights.

A permanent cameo in heaven

When news of comic books legend Stan Lee passing away came into my purview, I was not particularly overwhelmed with sadness or grief. The man was 95 years old! That’s a full and intense life indeed. We should all be so lucky to simply live that long, much less produce a body of work that inspired multiple generations and will live on as a testament for ages.

Growing up in China, I did not get the pleasure of being exposed to American comic books at an early age. The ruling party probably considered them counter to communist ideals. After my family moved to America, we were not of sound enough financial situation to afford me frivolous comic books to read. My first exposure to the magic of Stan Lee was via television, namely the beloved X-Men: The Animated Series (cue the music). Even then I merely knew the name Stan Lee, and not what he looked like, and that he revolutionized how comics were created.

Like many non comic book junkies, the legend of Stan Lee materialized in his cameos in Marvel movies, beginning with the very first X-Men and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. Thanks to the Internet I found out those were special Easter eggs and not just some old guy who keeps showing up briefly in films of Marvel characters. Awaiting to be pleasantly surprised by the Stan Lee cameo became a ritual, more so in the recent decade since the proliferation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Sadly that ritual will come to a close after the next slate of movies. A nice way to button it up would be to have his final cameo be in the fourth Avengers movie. Avengers 4 is the endgame to this current iteration of the MCU, so wouldn’t it be fitting to have Stan Lee’s last appearance on the silver screen be that as well; an end to an era.

How people chose to deal with a person’s death is not by business; cry and be sad if you want. For me, when a person passes away after having lived a long and wonderful life, my only emotion is celebratory. I’m happy and glad someone got to experience life to its fullest measure.

An “Excelsior” to you, Stan.

Wait for me.

Wait for me.

Kevin Smith on dying

On the bus ride to work today I listened to the Joe Rogan podcast with guest Kevin Smith, who recently had an heart-attack scare. Towards the end of the three-hour episode Kevin Smith talked about his near-brush with death. He said for a guy who’s been scared of dying his whole life, he was surprisingly calm and okay when he was lying in the hospital not knowing whether he’ll make it out. Life is a journey and when the journey is over it’s nothing to be afraid of or lamented, but rather be glad: people are happy when they accomplish things and life is literally the longest and biggest thing we get to do. 

Kevin Smith talked about the feelings he experienced being okay with dying was surprisingly the same his mother felt that time when she went into cardiac arrest, was clinically dead for a few moments, and came back. She remarked that being on the “other side” for that brief time was the ultimate sense of freedom: this life she’s toiled so hard through is finally over and what's left was absolute peace. 

As someone who’ve battled the fear of death demon for years, I was shocked to hear a guy like Kevin Smith, with his tremendous success, can harbor that same fear. The wisdom I gained from his story is that in life if you accomplish many great things, get after it with gusto, and leave no regrets behind, that life well lived will make death spectacularly easy to face. Kevin Smith felt okay with possibly dying from the heart attack because he was satisfied with all the awesome things he had done.

Leaving this human world is the reward at the end of the marathon of life - even if it’s cut short by disease or other circumstances.

I’m afraid to die because I want to live, because there’s many things I’ve yet to do. Fear of dying is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you try to avoid it by living super passively and avoiding everything difficult, the more that fear lingers and eats within. The way to make death acceptable is to live a life worthy of it: try new things, chase dreams, go after what you desire, be the hero.

To put it another way: is the things you’ve done and accomplish in life worth dying for?  

Up and up we go, less and less we can afford. 

Up and up we go, less and less we can afford.