Life in the End Times

Shin's gift to Annie on their One Year Anniversary

Ashes and Snow

Filed under: Creative Reflection — Annie at 12:28 am on Tuesday, April 25, 2006

As I stepped across the bridge over PCH, I was unprepared for the architecture of the Gregory Colbert’s “Ashes and Snow” exhibit at the Santa Monica Pier. The bold, external appearance gave me presumptions about how the inside would be, but it turned out to be surprising and ironic, in light of the message it carried on the inside.

The experience was the opposite of industrial. Instead, it was natural and meditative. The music was relaxing, with elements of soothing voices, water sounds, and rhythms. All the portraits were of people in a meditative state, with eyes and face emanating peace. The architecture and lighting was uncomplicated. It was a Japanese rock-garden inspired zen place with wooden floorboards and rocks lining the sides. Rather than being a single, large room, the viewers were directed in a flow from the start to the end. The lighting in the space was soft and dim to accentuate the lights and darks of the hanging photographs on the handmade papers; it brought out the soft gradations in the images, the way candlelight complements the skin and captures the shine in the eyes.

The compositions of the photos were simple. Colbert emphasized the beauty of the subject by using simple layouts, emphasizing form, and accenting the light-dark contrast. The textures in the photos were generally the natural patterns that emerged, like the patterns on the surface of water, or the wrinkles of elephant skin.

The exhibit was divided into three sets. Each set contained a row of images that corresponded with a film of the same images. The film proved to any skeptics that the images weren’t manipulated. The movie also took the images and explained the context and story.

The exhibit was about the relationships between humans and animals. I thought he expressed that in several ways- the first way I noted was through repetition, for example, he had a portrait of an elderly lady, holding a young girl, who was holding a bobcat wrapped in cloth. It was as though he was saying this was a family line and there was little distinction between the generation of humans and animals. Second, he created a relationship through scale; human besides animals, like a man swimming with the great whales, or a girl lying on the enormous legs of the elephant. Third, through peaceful coexistence; in a film, he shows a cheetah, humans, and small furry animals and they are all coexisting together above and in the water without hierarchy or food chain.

I found that I could only willingly partake of this world if I practiced patience and inner stillness. Everything was slow and calming. But there was a point during a film that I looked around and realized where I actually was. That’s when I had a greater appreciation for the architecture because Shigeru Ban, created a peaceful sanctuary out of recycled, industrial elements. They house an unbelievably natural world. That is a genius relationship.

I can’t see myself exhibiting work there, but I learned how the architecture can largely add to the context of my work.

battery rust

Filed under: Extraordinary Days — Annie at 8:07 pm on Monday, April 24, 2006

lately my engine had been stalling. i’d be stopped at a red light and my engine would die. or my radio would flicker off at the most important part of the news, or the best part of the song. i didn’t do anything about it. i’ve experienced it before, but i forgot what happened after that. there wasn’t much need to ponder. on friday, april 24 i got a stark reminder.

i had gone to westside pavillion, a mall near our house, in search of a graduation dress. i’m graduating in june. it calls for celebration. i was far from feeling celebratory. i was in a sort of empty, wandering state. as i parked the car, i had a distinct memory of when i worked in korea town off of wilshire. the job had closed down and i was offered to take any chair or desk or file cabinet i could carry. but my car had broken down and i had been taking the bus. i remembered walking over to an enterprise next door and discovering that i needed a credit card account, or was it, I wasn’t old enough…or maybe it was a deposit I didn’t have- there was some limitation that prevented me from renting a car. i made a few calls for help, and was met with nothing. i felt, utterly alone. i shuddered remembering that time and told God, in that moment, how awful it felt to feel utterly helpless in the world.

after shopping for a short time, i returned to my car without any purchases. i turned the keys in my car and heard a weak little choke and then… nothing. in vain, i tried several more times and then… PANICK-

I HAVE TO PICK UP THE KOREA TOWN KIDS! I HAVE TO BE THERE BY 5:30! IT’S 5:00! I CAN’T MAKE IT IN TIME? WHOSE GONNA COME GET ME? WHOSE GONNA GET THEM?!

i text messaged shin and told him what happened. i also said i thought it would be difficult to get a jump from someone here. part of me was afraid to bother him because earlier that day he charged me to act for myself. so i decided to ACT. i went to the red security button along the wall of the parking garage, wondering if this constituted an emergency.

“Yes?” someone answered
“Hi. My car battery died. Is there someone who could help me?”
“Yes. Stay right there. I’ll send someone”

Eventually, a security guy on a bicycle came by. He asked me to point where my car was and he said to wait by my car and he’d be back. I waited, and waited, talking to shin, who called me on his way out of work, and feeling the lightheadedness from the strong smell of gasoline and, i suspect, carbon monoxide in the air. he almost came all the way to where I was. but i told him someone would help me. but then a second fear came over me-

it was possible my battery might not be the problem. what if it didn’t work? then what?

finally, the man returned on foot, carrying the portable battery jumper. it was so easy and quick that it was difficult to show him my gratitude.
from there I headed to korea town as planned. therein i met a second fate.

heading north on western, i just crossed 8th street when, in the middle of that two lane, high traffic area, my car SPUTTERED like it swallowed food down the wrong pipe and then died. I PANICKED! turning the keys didn’t even make a sound. the gas and brake pedals and steering wheel froze up. i looked in the rear view mirror and knew i would hear an angry honk any minute. so i pressed the emergency lights but they wouldn’t come on because the battery was completely gone. i immediately got out of my car and began waving people to pass me. in the meanwhile i called shin. he was still on his way to church. it would take him another half hour to reach me. he said, “You have to get yourself off the road. try to put the car in neutral and push the car”. i jumped back in and tried to move the gear into neutral but it was locked down. AND, i realized, i was on a hill. rolling back would have been the next worst thing that could happen.

HUMILIATION. two lanes of cars within my view from the hill, down the valley, back up to where i was, could see me in my desperate state, trying to give people enough foreknowledge to pass graciously.

i felt free to be a DRAMA QUEEN.

SHIN?! THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING! EVERYONE CAN SEE ME! WHOSE GONNA HELP ME? THIS IS KOREA TOWN!

but while i was still on the phone with him, a Latina woman in a huge red SUV pulled up next to me and said, in perfect english, “DO YOU NEED A JUMP?” before i could answer her, an older black man with dreds pulled his car up in front of her and said, “Hi. Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna put on your emergency brake lights-”

“I can’t! my battery is too dead!”

“Ok. lets jump your battery and get you off the road. I was gonna go my way but something made me stop”

with both their help, my battery jumped into action and i thanked them both profusely. i wanted to hug them, cry, something! but i realized people were still waiting to pass so i said, “GOD BLESS YOU BOTH!”. before he left, that man said, “Have you guys seen that movie ‘CRASH’? Well this is the opposite of it! Look at us!” and he was off. And it was the opposite. an Asian, a Latina, a Black. Two strangers who I would never see again who had compassion for me.

i decided it was unsafe to drive, but i had to charge my battery, so i pulled into the parking lot, into the stall, and then, PUTT PUTTPUTT. the battery died again. except now, shin was on his way. so i finally did what i had been meaning to do all that day. i took out my music, papers, and pencil and started to draw. its as if destiny finally forced me to do this thing, which i had needed to do and had avoided.

then a third miraculous thing happened. a man pulled up in a van in front of me and came out to the passenger side of my car. he said in korean, “weren’t you the person whose engine stalled earlier?”
“yes!”
“do you need a battery jump?”
“oh no! my husband is coming to help me! thank you so much!!”
and then he left.

Three is a magical number in the Bible. It has often been used to emphasize Jesus’ words, or, perhaps to confirm a prediction. I felt I had gotten a live message from God in the form of this event. That day, I had brought up the question of loneliness and helplessness to Him, and he had responded 3 times with assurance. He doesn’t always operate the way we might like… I had to get car problems in order to receive a blessing, I had to have experienced true loneliness to know what it is like to have God as my protector and friend, to be given a husband, and family who love me.

In my life, God’s prints have often been a pattern of hardship followed by blessing. Is this because of my own stubbornness? Or is God an extreme Being? Or is it because I feel deeply- deep joy and deep sadness. I don’t know. All I know is that when God makes Himself present in my life I realize over and over how much I am loved by Him.

Sickness

Filed under: Extraordinary Days — Annie at 10:37 pm on Sunday, April 16, 2006

I feel unwell today. It’s Easter Sunday and the kids at church participated in orchestra. They did such a great job. Myself.. I can’t say. I got sick after the first song and had to excuse myself. I felt a mix of nausea and stomach grinding pain in my lower abdomen. I went downstairs to the first aid kit and took an ibuprofen with a few bites of granola bar. I waited and waited for pain relief but it didn’t kick in until hours later. In the meanwhile I was suffering in the pews, with Shin massaging my back and lightly drumming it with his fists. It was relieving but I still felt awful. Later, I moved to Shin’s cozy car and slept for a few not knowing he was looking for me. He had checked every place but his own car.

We came home and I had eaten very little the whole day. Just the granola bar, a hardboiled egg, and a yogurt. So we went out to Del Taco. I think maybe I shouldn’t have eaten fast food with an upset stomach (although it doesn’t seem to be indigestion exactly). I continue to feel unwell. And poor Shin is wiped out from the long day.

I want him to be awake and to support me in my miserable state but he’s tired and fell asleep. I think he also needed to emotionally detach himself from me because I’m in pain. In any case, I feel alone. I came to the kitchen to look for a glass jar to fill up with boiled water- it makes a nice, nonelectrical heating pad, but I recycled them all…! So I set up the heated floor mat with circular stones sewn into it and I’m lying on it like an elderly asian lady.

I’ve been talking to God, trying to heal myself through prayer, and thinking about things…. its quiet in the livingroom except for the hum of computers and the fridge. I keep thinking about the days I’m not unwell. How lucky those days are. And how piti ful are the people who are ill but have no pain relief at all. The other day Shin saw an ambulance in korea town pick up a street person. I was glad to know they will come to help a homeless person in need.

I dislike pain so much. When I think about a future full of health failures, it terrifies me. Makes me not want to grow older, or not to be alive to endure it. I’m sure when I reach that age I’ll hardly notice that I’ve grown to be the age that I once dreaded. It leads back to the topic of euthanasia. Shin says he doesn’t wish to be artificially kept alive. But I don’t think I could live the rest of this life without him. That may sound needy and dependent. It probably is. I don’t mind saying so. Afterall, we were blessed to be put together. How could it be a bad thing to cherish that gift? Anyhow…

I think I’ll watch a bit of pride & prejudice

Dental Exam

Filed under: Extraordinary Days — Annie at 5:50 pm on Friday, April 14, 2006

This morning I slept in and missed a dental x-ray appointment at the UCLA dental school. My friend asked me to come in for x-rays with the possibility of being her subject for a dental exam.

It turned out I’m not an ideal candidate because I don’t have any cavities! That’s amazing!

And she showed me the proper way to floss and brush, that was enlightening. Contrary to what I thought, you don’t have to repeatedly bounce the floss between your teeth. All you need is one good swipe in both directions all the way up under the gums.

Also, from the x-rays I learned that I have extra bone in my gums. If I ever need dentures later I may have to remove the bone. But it’s quite normal.

The other thing is, I DO have wisdom teeth! But they’re beneath my roots. It turns out my lower left and top right wisdom teeth need to be removed because they’re growing in the wrong direction. My bottom left one is growing horizontally into the roots of my molar. I can’t have a regular extraction. It has to be surgically removed!

So we went down to the surgical office and my friend was able to recommend who I should have the surgery done by. That was awesome. But this is how much it will cost: 45 consultation, 80 panoramic x-ray, 100 anethesia, 120-160 per tooth. WOW. Finding a reliable dental surgeon, priceless.

I had the most horrid time driving back home though. It was raining, all the streets near santa monica were closed and kept leading me one way. Then I got lost in the rich neighborhoods for I don’ t know how long. Simply infuriating.

I’m finally home and feeling restless and stuck. I have to pick people up for church very soon.

3D Class Project from Fall Quarter 2005

Filed under: Studio Art — Annie at 12:22 am on Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The assignment had to do with creating a sculpture out of things we use everday. I looked for an item that I had a lot of in the house and it was plastic bags. At first I was planning to coat them with a stiffening agent and hang them from the ceiling, but then, somehow it developed into a more functional item. I wanted to make it large enough to be a quilt that perhaps a street person could use, since it would be insulating and good for keeping a body off the ground. But the process was so time consuming that it was impossible to meet that deadline.

Each ball I would roll it into itself and sew the tops together like a dumpling. Then I was using a thread, needle and pliers to string them together. But it proved to be difficult- my needles kept breaking because the plastic was dense when compacted. In the end, for the sake of speed, I hot-glued them. It made a nice personal mat, or rug.

Using plastic bags from stores also had a meaning- First off, is that the world runs on plastic. From a consumer perspective, all the purchases we make, and the accumulation of bags are a visual indicator of our want and need for things. I intentionally tried to incorporate the bags from stores that I frequent. Material goods become the “cushion” that makes life comfortable. Ironically though, the same, store-branded plastic bags also litter the streets and become the very container to throw out our trash- sometimes the very products we bought. Most things don’t last very long. But we still tend to amass plastic bags. (I still have a lot to think through about the meaning behind this sculpture. But those were the initial thoughts)

I neglected to put these photos up after I documented them. They’re mostly destroyed now because we put it under our kitchen rug, which adds a nice cushion for the feet when washing dishes, but then Shin’s big feet kept popping them.

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