Peeling the Onion

If you haven’t been following the #CancelColbert mediastorm, I would recommend getting a good grasp of the situation and the context before watching this HuffPost Live segment here.

I’ve seen this same discussion get derailed too many times, and this HuffPost segment is a textbook case of how it ends. This video is about a lot more than #CancelColbert. It’s a short video, but it’s worth analyzing and understanding exactly what happened. Let the autopsy begin.

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The Problem of Parody: Why I’m Not Laughing

I’m not usually political. I can take a joke. And this isn’t personal, not really.

But I have a problem with this.

I’m talking about CollegeHumor’s “Adventures of Kim Jong Un” series. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the digital shorts parody dictator Kim Jong Un using the very exaggeration and propaganda that has made North Korea so infamous to the rest of the world.

I get it. It’s CollegeHumor. It’s meant to be funny, but I’m telling you that it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. 

Kim Jong Un isn’t the first dictator to be ridiculed or parodied. Many of you may be familiar with Hipster Hitler, the online comic that, as its namesake suggests, casts Hitler as a modern-day hipster. The webcomic’s Facebook page currently has over 118,000 likes and the creators have even released a book. The website states on every page: “HipsterHitler.com is strictly a parody, satire and humor site, all content herein should be treated as such. […] Everything on this site is intended to spoof, parody and satirize.”

I think it’s worth understanding what the comic is really spoofing, though. It’s making fun of hipsterdom more than it is Hitler or the Holocaust, and that is clear in the comics. The setting is controversial and potentially upsetting, but causing a bit of a scandal has always been humor’s M.O. It’s so obvious, but it’s also worth mentioning that Hitler is dead, and the Holocaust is over.

So what is CollegeHumor spoofing? North Korean propaganda? The nation’s history of glorifying the Kim clan? Its leaders’ human rights violations?

Hilarious, right?

This isn’t just CollegeHumor’s problem (though they do seem particularly obsessed with North Korean humor). This is a global problem. North Korea is not a joke. The situation there is not a joke. The people living and dying there as the world treats torture, exploitation, and oppression as comical tropes—are not a joke.

The stories about North Korea are often so crazy that we can’t take them seriously. They’re too ridiculous, too crazy. But none of this is fantasy. After almost two years of videos and over 12 million views, nothing in North Korea has changed.

In over eight videos, Kim Jong Un never says a word. His minister is a diminutive robot. To most, the North Korean people are no different—mechanical, brainwashed, silent. This needs to change. But first, we need to change. We laugh, but we do not listen. We sneer, but we do not see. We condemn, but we are not compassionate.

The call to action is unclear, I know. What can we do? We cannot invade North Korea tomorrow and depose Kim Jong Un. We can pay attention. We can spread the word. We can be brave enough to get angry and get passionate. We can help the people of North Korea by supporting humanitarian and rescue missions through a number of human rights and non-profit organizations. We need to do more than laugh.

Quote

cras es noster

Ten years from now, I’ll be 26—almost 27.

At that age, my mother was already married and I was in her womb.

Whoa, I’m getting shivers. I can’t imagine myself taking care of a child. Maybe I’ll have a dog by then (maybe even a Corgi!). (S)he’ll live with me and my boyfriend/spouse in our apartment in New York. The three of us will take long walks during the fall all bundled up in pea coats and mufflers and mittens, grab a coffee at our favorite place on the corner, buy groceries to bake pumpkin pies and gingerbread men. The love of my life and I will talk over a dinner of pot roast and couscous back at the house. We’ll both complain about the stresses of our jobs, but we both know that in a minute we’ll look up and smile and know that we wouldn’t have things any other way.

It shall be glorious.

– Originally written on January 12, 2011.

We shall see.

asinus ad lyram

How to Be a Better Conversationalist

To be perfectly honest, approaching this article was borderline cringe-inducing. To me it’s almost akin to looking up how to kiss or how to slow dance. It’s awkward — but it’s necessary.

A little backstory. I used to be painfully shy. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. Up until maybe junior high school, I had trouble even asking employees at Walmart where I could find the peanut butter. I remember getting verbally smacked upside the head by my parents so many times for being so shy. I grew out of it, kind of like childhood asthma or an allergy, and to this day, I’m not sure how I did it.

I moved a lot growing up. As ‘the new kid’ in school, starting conversations with strangers wasn’t just an annoying ritual of social etiquette–it was a survival skill. Your bow and arrow in the elementary school’s social Hunger Games. Most of the time, I wasn’t even a contender. Wallflower? More like a clod of turf tossed up underfoot.

Things got better as I got older. I’m nineteen now and have survived high school, even freshman orientation in college. Now networking events are the new challenge. I’m pretty sure I’ll never truly be at ease, but I’m moving along. I still stutter, stumble sometimes, but that’s okay. I know where to find the peanut butter now.

ex mero motu

Tonight, I

visited the Bond NYC store on Bleecker. I had my first whiff of New York Amber and felt my whole body droop heavy with pleasure. I know where my next piggy bank is headed.

savored my first pot of Lapsang Souchong tea. As the barista described it, “It always reminds me of a crackling fireplace in a snow lodge.” Instant vacation in a cup.

wrote a letter to a person from my past. I ended up spilling some of the tea on it–classic me.

wandered slightly lost in the Village with John Coltrane on full blast as the sun set around me.

ended the night with a sleepy ride back uptown as Haruki Murakami’s world of After Dark came alive in the rosy cave behind closed eyes.

I will not forget.

Aside

gutta cavat lapidem

At first, the sound of birds chirping in the night was kind of magical, almost like hearing the soundtrack of an illusion of a beautiful day outside. Five hours later, it’s getting to be unbearably annoying and, to be honest, more than a little creepy. I mean, what are they doing out there in the dark? What are they talking about?

– May 11, 2013