Photoshopped Reality

What I am about to tell you may come to you as common knowledge or a shock to you:

Everything you see in magazines, posters, advertisements is all photoshopped.

Yes, every damn magazine, poster, and advertisement has some sort of digital retouching applied to it. There is not one magazine cover which is not altered to make a person look more appealing by smoothing out their skin, cloning out their facial imperfections, and even by altering the structure of their face or body. Remember the last time you opened up a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and wondered how the skin of the models were so silky smooth and their breasts so perfectly round and perfect?

All hail Adobe® Photoshop®.

We all live in a photoshopped reality. We can’t really believe anything in our every-day lives to be “real” anymore. Whenever you see advertisements, they are always full of young, attractive, and beautiful people. When we are constantly bombarded with these images, we can’t help but think that is what the “ideal” person should look like. The reason why the multi-billion dollar diet and exercise industry thrive is because there are millions of people out there striving to look like Brad Pitt or Angelia Jolie, thinking that they are the epitome of “beauty.” People often get depressed when they grow older, as our society worships youth while shunning away anything that deviates from it. Women are starving themselves to death to lose a few inches around the waist, and men are injecting themselves with steroids to add a few inches to their biceps.

Our society is more depressed and self-loathing than ever in their quest to reach “perfection.” Regardless of how hard we might try, we can’t all have those size C-breasts or that 6-pack we all desire. Everybody is born with a different body type, with some people naturally taller, while others smaller. Others are more adept in gaining weight, while others cannot put on a pound even if they tried. In an attempt to make up for these physical inequities, we are even starting to “photoshop” our own bodies through plastic surgery, tummy tucks, botox, lipsuction, and countless other procedures to strive to be young and “beautiful” for as long as we can.

The field of cosmetic surgery is an industry which is exponentially increasing. This is not any more prevalent than in one of the cosmetic-surgery capitals of the world, Korea. Certain procedures that alter the eyes, the nose, the lips, or even the structure of the face are considered commonplace and normal in Korea. In a culture which has a huge sense of celebrity worship, people are always striving to have the same flawless and dainty features of the people they see on television. It may come to some people as a shock that when applying for jobs, you must attach your photo to your resume, to show your potential employers how you look physically. In America, this is unheard of, because employers are not supposed to discriminate their employees based on appearance, sex, or ethnicity. Although the same is supposedly true in Korea, you are much more likely to be hired if attractive and youthful-looking.

Is beauty universal or depends on what time and place you are? If people think that skinny and fit people are “naturally” more attractive than fat people, they are hugely mistaken. In the eighteenth century, having a larger waist-line was a sign of prosperity, as you had the means to feed yourself in order to gain weight, while poor people could barely put enough food on the table to get by. Although it is attractive to have a tan in America, it is much more attractive to be pale in Asia, because it is a sign that you don’t have to work outside doing menial-work where people get the most tan. Although Americans believe the huge-macho guy to be the ideal shape for a man, Koreas find more effeminate looking men to be more attractive.

So how can we come to ends with the disappointment of our physical appearances? How can we ever live with ourselves without being able to fit into those skinny jeans or be buff enough to walk on the beach with our shirts off? Well, we first should realize that everything that we see is indeed photoshopped, and that these people are not a true depiction of what “real” people look like. “Real people” have flaws such as having small eyes, crooked noses, dainty lips, large faces, wide waists, and are short in height. Although there are people out there who are more attractive than us, we cannot truly live life until we are satisfied with how we look.

Like Kanye West said, “The people highest up have the lowest self-esteem.” Even those supermodels that you see on the runway suffer from bulimia, anorexia, and depression by feeling that even they (the “epitome of beauty”) are still not good enough. Even the hugest bodybuilders always have a burning desire to get even bigger and stronger than those around them, often turning into more monsters than humans in the process.

So be happy for who you are. Don’t let magazines or the media tell you otherwise. But damn my arms are looking tiny, time to do some pushups.

*Some links to check out:

http://www.glennferon.com/portfolio1/portfolio09.html

*Update: Link sent to me by my friend Phill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knEIM16NuPg

The Joy of Being a Regular

So everyday I have pretty much the same schedule. Wake up at 6:30am, get in my morning workout, eat breakfast, catch up with emails, work on my photos and any other miscellaneous tasks and leave to catch the bus to go tutoring. After my first tutoring session, I take another bus and have around 2 hours of a break. I always go to Paris Baguette and order an Americano and chill there and do some writing and then go to this little Korean restaurant across the street and get a tonkatsu.

Doing this everyday has caused the people at Paris Baguette and that restaurant to know my face. It is really nice because I know all the people who work at both places and I always feel at home being here, rather than just being a mere customer.

For example when I kept on coming to Paris Baguette at around the same time, ordering an Americano and chilling here and using my laptop, the people noticed me. One of the cashiers asked me if I worked around here, and I told her how I was from America and I tutored English nearby. They remember what I want and when I go near the front they ask me, “Americano, right?” and I nod and go to the same spot I go to everyday near the entrance.

When it comes to the restaurant, I always order either a beef tonkatsu, a fish tonkatsu, or soondubu (spicy tofu soup). I don’t eat a lot of white rice in my diet so I would always eat only a tiny bit of the rice. Once they started to recognize me, one of the ladies who worked there asked me why I didn’t eat much rice. When I told them that I didn’t want to get fat from the rice they laughed and told one another. The next time I came I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the ladies recognized me and heard her yell to the chef to just give me a little bit of rice because I didn’t eat that much.

I then realized at that point that I was a “regular.”

The idea of being a “regular” and having all the employees know you by a first-name basis is something very romanticized in popular media on tv and the movies. Who doesn’t want to go to their favorite café and tell the cashier “give me the usual.” The cashier than proceeds to say, “An espresso with extra cream and hold the sugar, right?” I think I have finally achieved that for the first time in my life, and it is a very humbling feeling. Usually when we think about our experiences at stores, restaurants, or even cafes we can think about snotty people working there who doesn’t give a damn about us. But having people know your preferences and stuff like that makes the experience so much more personal.

I wonder what life was like when everyone just lived in little towns where everybody knew another. You would go to the same grocer for your fruits and vegetables and chat a little and then head to the deli to get some meat. While you are there, you might tell the butcher your day and how things are with your family and stuff. And when going to buy new clothes, the store manager would know what style that you like and would proceed to fit you with clothes that mirror your character.

Nowadays the world has become a pretty impersonal place. One of the largest complaints that customers have is when it comes to customer-support. In attempting to cut costs, companies hire the least skilled laborers at minimum wage who provide mediocre service. Take Walmart for example. Sure it may have some of the lowest prices, but at what price? All of their scandals aside, they have a workforce that are much less trained and knowledgeable than smaller mom-and-pop stores. I used to believe that low prices were the most important thing, but nowadays I much prefer service over price.

Companies should realize this as well. Customers are more likely to purchase more things if they feel comfortable and welcomed by employees who know what they are talking about. I would gladly spend more money for better service, and leave a store feeling satisfied knowing that I got my money’s worth.

But the sad reality is that mom-and-pops stores are going bankrupt all over America, being overtaken by huge retail stores such as Walmart. Regardless of how great their service, they simply can’t complete with lower prices. And with the shopping experience going online, we no longer need to even interact with salesmen or people when purchasing what we want.

But human interaction is what makes life worth living. Can you imagine one day where you don’t even need to leave your house? It’s probably going to be here before you know it. Everything will go online. Everyone will start to buy everything they need online and even go to work online from home. There will no longer be any “need” to even take a step away from your computer. Kind of imagine that world pictured in Walle where humanity just lives on huge levitating chairs and does everything they need from there. As ridiculous as it may sound, it is where humanity is heading towards.

So now what can you do about it, the individual? Even though the world is becoming into a much more impersonal world, it doesn’t mean that you have to grow more impersonal as well. Sure you may feel socially awkward when striking up a conversation with a stranger or even a clerk, but nothing is holding you back. There is no Big Brother looking over your shoulder watching your every action.

We have to remind ourselves that the person at the cashier is a person, just like me and you. They have their own lives, families to worry about, bills to pay, and a life to live. The next time you are getting service from anywhere, don’t feel afraid to strike up a conversation or even say hi to the other person. Who knows, that person may be having a crappy day and they may be shocked to see a random customer inquiring about how their day is going.

So become a “regular” with everyone you interact with. Even if you see the same people at work everyday, take a minute or two out of your day and ask them how they are doing. Bypass the typical “I’m doing fine” response and tell them how you really feel. If you feel like crap tell them “I feel exhausted from sleeping at 3AM last night, but this coffee is keeping me awake” or if you feel great don’t simply say that you feel good. Tell them, “I feel FANTASTIC.” People will marvel at hearing honesty and something genuine.

Now excuse me while I go and order my Americano.

7-24

It’s 9:50. I am on the #16 bus heading home. On the bus, I am currently sitting on the top left seat looking at it lightly rain outside. I am sitting hunched in my seat, with my knees resting in the barrier in front of me. I feel the cool breeze from outside hitting my face. I’m in total comfort and while listening to an audiobook about Sarte, I have an unexplicable sense of peace in my heart.

Damn life is beautiful.

Its definitely htese small moments which make life so valuable. We must learn to cherish the small things in life, because thats what makes life so special and worth living. Things such like the warm and welcoming taste of coffe in the morning, the innocence of a soft peck on the cheeck, or the sweet smell in the air before it rains.

Life doesn’t have to be so damn complicated. We often make it so much more confusing and convoluted than it needs to be. We try to seek all the extravagancies in life rather than enjoying ourselves in the small yet sweet moments. We have an unsatiable desire for wealth, status, and fortune which clouds our mind and judgement makes us ignore everything else.

However we must learn to detach ourselves from these fruitless desires. They never fully satisfy us, regardless if we believe they will or not. Rather, they make us feel even more empty inside.

So don’t live life in terms of everything having to be so big and grand. I rather invite you to live life through a microscope. Think about and cherish all the small things in life that we take for granted.

Next time you are sipping coffee think about it in terms of our time on the earth. Savor life. It’s good to the last drop.

English Class Response

I remember hearing a hilarious response from a Korean student from my friend Mark Sanchez’s English class. Here is a real response from one of my kids that literally made me LOL in class.

1. Who was in the news?

Michael Jackson.

2. What did he/she do?

He sang a song.

3. What will he/she do next?

He died.

Hahahahahaha I’m still LOL’ing to myself.

Affirmation

As humans, we always strive to be recognized. We always need others to affirm our existence and that we “matter” in the world. In today’s society, everyone wants to be an individual and differentiate themselves from other people. We all are taught that it is a good thing to be “different” and “unique” and that it is something we should pride ourselves in. Therefore we always try hard to create a certain image of ourselves and maintain it by the way we walk, talk, and even dress. But in today’s world, we even smaller and less important due to the overwhelming force of the internet. We are more miserable than ever before in human history.

Before we talk about the affect of the internet in our every-day lives, let me briefly go over the idea of humans wanting to be different and unique from one another. When we were born, we were all tossed into this world. We didn’t have a choice of where we are born, what race we are, or even what we look like. We look around and for the most part, we all look the same. We all have feet, legs, torsos, arms, fingers, necks, heads, eyes, ear, and hair. Although we have slight variations such as height, weight, and physical attractiveness; all in all we are pretty much the same.

Being born into this world looking like everyone else, we strive to be different. From a young age we are socialized into thinking that being different and being a star is desired. Our society worships celebrities and rockstars. The idea of being on the stage with a million screaming fans is many of our dreams. To have the spotlight on us, and nobody else. For everyone to listen to our needs, desires, and wants. For us to matter in this huge huge world of ours.

There are many ways we can try to differentiate ourselves. Our physical appearances and attributes are unalterable (for the most part) and clothing and fashion is a quick way to “look different” from everywhere else. The clothing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry which profits from individuals trying to create a different self-image. Although people who consider themselves “anti-society” try to push themselves away from “ordinary people” by dressing in all black, with spikes, colored hair, and outrageous fashion, they end up looking like everyone else who tries to do the same. Stores such as Hot Topic thrive in business from young teenagers who try to go “against the grain.” The irony is that Hot Topic is actually owned by Abercrombie and Fitch, which shoppers at Hot Topic are usually trying to combat.

Ever since the introduction of America Online and the Internet, the world as we know it has changed dramatically. Suddenly the internet has suddenly made the huge world a much smaller place, by linking nations from all over the world together in one cyber-domain. And now with the internet, we have the need to please even more people. We try to personalize everything as much on our accounts on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and even our Google homepages. We pride ourselves in being different, but the internet has made it incredibly difficult to be “unique”.  But regardless, we want to be affirmed and recognized as being different and special, so we constantly try our hardest to stand out and shine.

But this has caused a lot of dissatisfaction and a feeling of emptiness in the world. We constantly try to add people on Myspace to feel more important by having the omst friends. On Facebook, we constantly write on each other’s walls, upload photos, and write witty status updates to hope to get a ton of “notifications” in our inboxes. We constantly twitter every thought that crosses our mind in hopes of getting more and more “followers.” We constantly blog in hoping to get more and more page hits. Through the internet, we measure our self-worth by numbers. The more friends, notifications, comments, followers, or hits we have, the better.

Therefore, we must re-focus our attention on quality, rather than quantity. Who cares if you have 1000 friends on Facebook if none of them knows your birthday without looking at your profile? Who cares if you have 1000 comments on your blog if they are only commenting because you give them a comment? Who cares if you have a 1000 followers on Twitter if you aren’t close to any of them?

So what I am trying to say is simplify your lives. Re-focus your attention on intimate relationships, rather than the very impersonal world of the internet. Trying to get the most Myspace friends is as fruitless as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is something that you might try your entire life but will never succeed. Sometimes in life, less is more.

The Freedom of Choice

When former Nazi soldiers were put on the stand during judicial hearings on the horrors of the Holocaust, the most common response after “I was just following orders” was “I had no other choice.” These Nazi soldiers would tell the court how they were threatened to be killed if they did not obey their superiors, which gave them “no other choice.” However this was not recognized as a legitimate plea and many Nazi soldiers were executed for the horrific crimes they committed against humanity in which 6 million innocent Jewish lives were put to death.

Lately I have been listening to a series of lectures about “Existentialism,” which is the most general philosophical idea when it comes to the individual and his or her place in the world. It addresses many different aspects of human consciousness and thought, one of them being on the freedom of choice. According to the philosopher Sarte, we always have choice regardless of our situations. Even given the extreme example of Nazi soldiers during the Holocaust; they literally did have the option of not following orders from their superiors, although it might have ended in severe punishment or death.

Our lives are definitely not as dramatic as soldiers from World War II, but we might often feel suffocated and that we have a severe lack of choice in our lives. Some of us may feel constrained by the will of our parents and feel that we have “no choice” but to follow their wishes, rather than our own. They might end up dictating what majors we are to study in college or even what careers we pursue under familial pressure, the threat of withdrawal of financial support, or even as severe as the idea of disownment. Even under these kinds of circumstances we still have choice.

You still do have the choice of choosing your own major and pursuing your own career. Your parents do not literally have you locked up and tied to a wall which prevents you from making these decisions. Rather, we just choose to comply with their wishes because we are afraid of the repercussions. But think about it. You are the only one who holds the power of making the decision in your hands, legally and physically. When you are over 18, the law gives you the freedom of choice and to be fully independent from your parents and make your own decisions. And as long as you are not locked down in the cellar of a basement, you have the ability to pursue whatever your heart desires.

However for some reason, people internalize the idea that they have “no choice” and are never able to see all the other options that they may have. If you are miserable in your life, you have the option to be happy. It is just a matter if you make the decision to pursue it or not.  There must be a reason why you are unhappy. Missing love in your life? Go out, join clubs, and try to meet people that you are compatible with. Miserable at your job? Quit it and find another job. Tired of being overweight and made fun and judged by others? Clean up your eating habits and start exercising regularly.

Now you might be thinking to yourself “its not that easy.” You might be considering that there are all of these other complications that I am not taking into consideration. This is true to a certain degree. Although we do have the freedom to choice; it might not always be absolute. For example, although we have the freedom of choice, we cannot decide to run if we have no legs. The same goes for the idea of wanting to see if we are blind.

Although we literally do have the choice to make almost any decision in our lives, we must approach this from a practical and pragmatic point of view. If you were a mother of 5 and working full-time to support your family, it would probably be a terrible idea to quit your job to pursue art. Although the action of calling your employer and quitting would be physically possible, it wouldn’t be very logical.

Although we have the freedom to choice, it is most often excuses which get in our way. When is the last time that we told ourselves that we were going to exercise and lose weight but only to make the excuse that we were too tired or that we don’t have enough free time? We constantly make excuses to not to do something rather than make the excuse to do something.

We got to quit being lazy by constantly making excuses to transfer the blame away from ourselves. We are the only ones who control our lives, nobody else. When we are unhappy, we are always quick to blame someone else or something else. We are fat because of McDonalds. We are stupid because of television. We are bored because life is dull. We never take responsibilities for ourselves and for our own actions.

We constantly have the power of choice, regardless of how subtle it may be. If there is a new hobby that we want to pursue, we cannot make the excuse that “we don’t have enough time” or “we’re too busy.” Anybody can make an extra 30 minutes a day in free time. If we learn to cut something out of our schedule such as watching TV or surfing the net, this time can become easily available to us. Or even to people who don’t do that, we can wake up 30 minutes earlier or sleep 30 minutes later. There is never a legitimate excuse for not following our passions. If we want to pursue music, pick up your dusty guitar and start playing. If we want to lose weight, put on your shoes and go outside. If we want to feel loved, pick up the phone and talk to a friend.

We gotta quit making excuse and take responsibility of our lives. Live life to the fullest and with passion. Remember, the world is yours.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks is one of the best things that have ever happened to me. Ever since Cindy introduced me to them by giving me a copy of “Tuesdays with Morrie” I have been HOOKED. I have always been fascinated with books, but never found the time to really sit down and read them because I was always on the go. However with audiobooks, I can take them with me anywhere and soak up all this knowledge whether I’m riding the bus, on the subway, or just walking around. Audiobooks are kinda like a treadmill too because they give you a steady stream of words and you are forced to keep a certain pace, which guarantees you to finishing a book within about 2 hours.

Tutoring in Korea I heavily rely on public transportation to get wherever I need to go. Therefore I spend about 2 hours everyday just waiting for the bus, riding the bus, or just walking around. This gives me a perfect opportunity to gain my knowledge and insight about the world which has been extremely fulfilling. I have been listening to books about communication, philosophy, religion, productivity, and even about interpersonal relationships. I therefore do not dread this time being alone, I rather embrace it. I am really trying to suck the marrow out of life and by making the best out of my time.

Time is not free. We often waste it by doing what we don’t want to do or simply from mere procrastination. Time is also a non-renewable resource; once we use it we cannot get it back.

So turn off your gossip girls, quit stalking people on Facebook, or twittering about what you ate for breakfast. Empower yourself through knowledge. Lets put the “cool” back in school.