Reflections: iKON, streaming, twitter and online interactions, and life

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following and watching the second(?) season of MNet’s Kingdom TV franchise (aired a day late in my country via tvN on cable). Initially, we decided to watch this again this year because we were able to watch the previous season—Road to Kingdom, where the idol group The Boyz took home the crown.

At that time, the participating groups were Pentagon, ONF, Golden Child, The Boyz, Verivery, Oneus, and To1 (formerly known as TOO). We didn’t really root for any particular group and just enjoyed the performances, which were quite enjoyable, however, were very much alike in terms of how grand and fierce their production was during each performance—dark make up, abs, fierce dance moves—and undoubtedly, The Boyz’s consistent concept throughout the show’s run propelled them to become the winners.

This year, there were six idol groups—iKON, Stray Kids, ATEEZ, BTOB, SF9, and last season’s winner, The Boyz. Among these groups, I’d already heard of Stray Kids, and was already familiar with The Boyz, however, I was unfamiliar with the rest of the groups. Episode 1 was the intro stage and they had to perform one of their hit songs that had won 1st place in a music show and would last for 100 seconds. Among the performances, iKON’s Rhythm Ta stood out for me because of how simple it was—six guys wearing white, dancing and singing, and just enjoying themselves, no drama, no fuss, no big production, just six guys having such a great time performing. It was refreshing, especially after seeing Bobby smiling in a very carefree manner—this was probably the turning point for me, from a life of indifference towards idol groups to jumping into the fan psychology pit by scouring youtube for their old videos, their discography, and basically any information about these guys.

And what a treasure trove I’ve found. It’s a known fact just how fierce the Korean idol industry is; thousands of idol trainees (if not more) go through a lot and it’s not even guaranteed if they’ll be able to debut, and even those groups that are fortunate enough to debut, their time in the limelight can be as short as one performance and never see the light of day again. iKON was one of the few who was fortunate enough to debut—albeit after going through a lot of physically and mentally taxing challenges pre-debut. They went on tour in several Asian countries, and once in Australia and the US, and also won a lot of domestic awards. They were on their road to fame, until some controversy/scandal that led to B.I departing from the group and the music scene (he is now making a come back as a solo artist and is launching his album in a couple of hours as of this writing).

It doesn’t take a genius to see that this departure had a great impact on the group. However, despite this unfortunate event, the group went on to release their EP—this time, one man short. In my opinion, the period between losing one of their group member and the release of their EP, and their participation was honestly quite short. I can compare this to a breakup, they’d been together for six years—going through hardships, performing, sharing all the highs and lows, probably dreaming of their future as a group, and everything that goes into a serious relationship—only to part ways just when they were at the height of their career. It must have been devastating. Add to that the various articles online describing just how underappreciated these guys are within their agency, and not being promoted and treated properly despite their overflowing talents and value in the K-music industry. But seeing them perform on Kingdom clearly shows their resilience as a group and the strong bond between each member.

As a noob fan of this group, I think the only good thing that came out of their decision to join Kingdom—despite the obviously rigged evaluations by so-called experts (10 actual industry experts and 23 rookie idols) and biased rankings—was that iKON gained new fans both domestic and abroad, and their existing fans were once again invigorated by their fantastic performances in the show—simple, no fuss, no overly dramatic production, no intensely fierce make up and just 100% engaging, refreshing and fun performance. Part of Kingdom’s criteria to determine the “winner” of Legendary War is the streaming stats for their original song from Apple Music (for international fans) and their GAON chart standing which is determined by domestic streams from various streaming platforms.

So after jumping into the fan psychology pit, I suddenly became active on twitter, as if injected with chicken blood (referencing the various danmeis that I’ve consumed thus far). I followed several iKON fanbase accounts, learned slang terms like stan, moots, and bias, etc., liked—I was already a serial liker to begin with, that was basically the extent of my activity in twitter before all this—replied and retweeted countless tweets, and interacted with people online. As a self-confessed introvert this was clearly OOC (or maybe not?), but it was such a novel experience—thus, I buried myself in the pit even further. In just ten days, I’ve spent close to $300, installed 33 apps in my phone, spent 15 hours on social media daily, and streamed 40 hours since—equivalent to one week in my 8 to 5 job—and I am still going. I’ve practically neglected work because of this—not that I’m complaining (I am taking responsibility for these choices and not blaming anyone, don’t get me wrong). I’m even afraid of claiming that I’m a fan at this point because I might not be able to follow through on any of the responsibilities of a fan. Of course, compared to seasoned fans, the actions that I’ve taken so far, collectively, is only a drop in the ocean. Quite honestly, I am feeling overwhelmed, and am thinking whether I can sustain this enthusiasm—clearly I am too old for the current fan culture.

While streaming and interacting on social media with other fans creates an almost inclusive community, at the end of the day, these are all virtual connections. I guess there are some who really foster a genuine friendship, but it doesn’t apply to everyone who engages in all these online interaction.

Thinking further, I had this wild thought that perhaps one day, the world will become all virtual. In my imagination (although probably not that original), the world will eventually be run by robots and AI, with a number of human beings developing all the advanced tech and software that would run the world. All interactions will be in a virtual space, our consciousness projected into that space and a virtual version of ourselves live in that space—we work, sleep, eat, drink, interact, etc.,—and our physical bodies just lie inside a pod, hooked up to nutrient solutions and regulated by various machines to sustain brain activity and basic functions, like blood circulation and waste management. Much like the matrix I guess, and that’s not really entirely impossible with how studies on virtual tech are advancing.

So I guess, what I’m trying to say based on these recent experiences is that, before jumping into pits that could potentially become addictive behavior, make sure you’re a whole person on your own, and that you do not go into these activities seeking company, or someone to alleviate your current boredom or loneliness, or to seek validation from the number of likes, retweets and replies you get for the thoughts and eureka moments that you’ve posted online. Social media interaction is like an addictive drug in my opinion. So be discerning, know your boundaries, and clearly identify your purpose for going there. And always remember that these are two separate worlds, the virtual and your real life world. After you go offline, you still have life to deal with. If you’re fortunate enough to foster a genuine relationship from these online interactions, well and good, but always be discerning.

Also, for the past couple of days, I’ve also been reflecting on my priorities in life, especially in terms of the money that I’ve spent so far after jumping into the pit (and I’m not even rich!!). There are clearly more pressing issues happening all over the world that call for donations—the need for oxygen tanks in India, the ongoing bombing by Israel of the Palestinians, climate change, ocean cleanup, poverty and hunger issues, animal conservation, and several others, and yet I’ve continuously hesitated spending money on these. Now I ask myself why I did not hesitate clicking on PayPal and entering my passcode when it came to the fanbase’s call for contribution—even sending tips during the stationhead streaming. Was it because of a lapse in judgement? But then if I say that it was because of that then I’d be saying that every other fan who does this has had a lapse in judgement, right? Was it because, in reality I’m not such a good citizen of the world? Perhaps unconsciously I was thinking that the more pressing issues should be taken care of by the government? I can’t quite explain my actions and decisions. There is no regret, only a feeling of guilt, and a bit of shame as if I’ve done something foolish and there is no way to redeem myself for my sins of omission. But what is right? Acting on your thoughts as a fan clearly isn’t wrong. I’m not looking for comfort or for someone to tell me that I didn’t do anything wrong by choosing one action over the other, but merely taking note of my behavior.

I have no resolution at this point. I am still reflecting…consider these as ramblings…and if anyone ever reads this, and you’re ever curios about iKON and would like to see just how good their group is, maybe you’d like to watch the following video on youtube, and perhaps decide to join me in the pit?

This is iKON: The Seven Pride of iKONICS

A note on the roles we play.

Let me borrow from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and quote Jacques’ famous phrase in Act-II, Scene-VII:

“All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players.”

The past two years has allowed me to rekindle my love and passion for reading. I’d say I’ve devoured more novels, including graphic novels, in the past two years than I ever did eight years prior. This is largely because of some commitments and baggage I decided to let go of since two years ago, which freed up a lot of my time.

As with all novels, they all had a number of characters that play specific roles to drive the story to its predetermined ending. Among the contents that I’ve been reading are translated Chinese novels, where I encountered the term “cannon fodder”. The term by definition is associated with soldiers or combatants that are expendable. The term isn’t entirely new, but when used in a story where there aren’t any soldiers fighting a war was something new to me.

It somehow resonated with me, and made me realize that we are all cannon fodder in someone else’s story. All the world’s a stage and we’re all acting a specific role. But unlike the usual play or film or novel, we’re in a story within a story within another story that’s inside another story and it goes on infinitely.

The director, author, screenwriter, production staff, editor are all one entity, a higher being somewhere in the universe. Who’s probably watching the entire story unfold through an infinite number of stages and screens – omnipresent. Just imagine…we think that we’re acting out of our own free will but perhaps we’re all just following a script written and interwoven with so many others, entering and exiting the frame on cue.

Each of us acts as the lead, we are the protagonist, the title role in our own story and at the same time we are a piece, a bit, a walk-on, a side character, a cameo in someone else’s. Sometimes, we’re also given a role for one of the more commonly known archetypes – the nemesis, the BFF/sidekick, the mentor, the love interest, the other party, and the fool, just to name a few. We’ve all acted as cannon fodders, villager a, villager b to z, extra 1 to n. We’re all so versatile and we weren’t even aware of it.

I guess we can all take pride in the fact that we are all natural born actors. We drive our own stories and we also drive other people’s stories especially those closest to us. We exit the stage or leave the film set when we’ve acted out all our scenes and read all our lines. The curtain call is special though – it’s a single person curtain call. And depending on the number of times we played a side character, as well as the number of side characters who appeared in our story, the closing credits could go on for a while.

That Second Star to the Right

like so many others that came before me
and like all the others of my generation
we believed in Peter Pan and Tinker Bell
and Neverland… and we were all
lost boys and girls…believing in pixie dust
and mermaid lagoons…a magic moon
and Captain Hook and tiger Lily…
believing in eternal childhood…
in never growing old or growing up…
if only pixie dust could be purchased
over the counter – so we could fly
towards that second star to the right
and straight on ’til morning…

but unlike the others –
i was compelled to stay behind…
so much for the abundance
of happy thoughts  that crowd my mind
and compete for attention to be recalled…
unlike the others –
i never found that source of pixie dust
to power those happy thoughts to aid in my flight…
unlike the others i had to stop dreaming
of Peter Pan…and Tinker Bell
and Neverland…and mermaid lagoons…
and a magic moon and Captain Hook
and tiger Lily…of never growing up…
and unlike the others –
i had to resign from my post as a lost girl
and had to find myself…
but i kept fighting not to forget –
Peter Pan…and Tinker Bell
and Neverland…and mermaid lagoons…
and a magic moon and Captain Hook and tiger Lily…

and now unlike the others
i’ve found myself all grown up…
no longer lost…but still young at heart
and i’ve managed to fashion for myself
a pair of white feathered wings…

so i bid you farewell…look for me in the sky
heading towards that second star to the right
and flying straight on ’til morning…

The Extremes of Society

some are born with a
silver spoon in their mouth…
born to a life of riches…
of silken robes and pleasure…
with time infinite for their
slow leisurely paces…without
the need to bustle in their days…
and fragrant gardens to greet
them in the morning when
they wake…and yet in spite of
these they still find reasons to
rant and whine and want more…

and some are born without
privilege nor wealth to their
name…with only the coarse
cloth of poverty to wrap themselves in
during cold rainy days and nights…
with only the rancid breath and
the froth of an unjust society
to fill their empty coffers…
and the women – in their struggle,
fling themselves – blindly…
unwillingly…to life’s oldest trade…
they close their eyes for courage…
as they cast off their garb and self respect
for the meager price from salacious men…
and while their bodies are despoiled,
they try to escape..they hitch a train – homeward –
via an endless 8-track in their minds…

the extremes of society…and I,
I was neither born with
a silver spoon nor
a life without privilege
or wealth…my struggles
and my pains are different…
and I wonder
if the elocution of those in power
will bring balance and equality
between these extremes and not
coagulate the divide…as in a diode
where everything would flow
towards one extreme…

08.09.12

i’ve ran out of words to say…
my pen has ran out
of ink for writing…
and the paper before me
is as immaculate
as when i first tore it
from the pages of my notebook…
“you’ve made the choice for me”
is all that seem to run in my mind…
with the occassional line from you
“i guess im just helping you decide by being like this”…
and so you’ve made the choice for me…
and as such,
i have stopped weighing things in my mind…

 

Life.Love.Death

life…it happens without prodding
or perturbation…like time
it moves forward…
leaving scars and marks
us without regard to one’s consent…

love…it comes without warning…
and leaves when you want
it most…as if being played
by Cupid…

death…it is inevitable…
a painful reality we each must face
at the end of our journey…

and when my time comes
i wonder how it would be like
to walk side by side with death –
black cloak…his scythe
gleaming in the moonlight…

Chapter 3. Falling

so i fell…

like leaves during autumn…
swaying slowly with
the constant pull of gravity…

like snowflakes from clouds
on the first day of winter…
landing gently against
the soft earth…

like sunbeams shedding
light as they peek
from the clouds after
a storm…

like delicate feathers…
as if cascading
with the cadence of
a summer breeze…

The Tumbleweed (for FWF)

The Prompt:

Once upon a time
there was a tumbleweed
who tumbled along with
the desert wind…
hitchhiking with his suitcase…
uncaring where the wind’s direction blew…

Everyday it simply rolled
and tumbled
along desert sands
and arid landscapes…
passing  cacti and lizards,
rattlesnakes and spiders
barely pausing…
only time enough to say “hi”
and “goodbye”…then

One day, while the sun
was at its peak…casting
the shortest shadow
mr. tumbleweed came upon
an oasis…with lush desert
trees and a spring…
the wind said “goodbye”
and blew itself away thinking
that the tumbleweed had
finally reached its destination…
but sadly what mr. tumbleweed
thought an oasis
was simply a mirage…

Because of that
mr. tumbleweed grew sad…
and dreary…feeling alone
in the vast ocean of a desert
where the wind dropped him off…
his old friend mr. hawk
saw him brooding…imobile…
swooped down and scooped him
on his beak…
mr. tumbleweed
no longer tumbled along
but soared in the air…

Because of that,
mr. tumbleweed saw
the vastness of the desert
he once tumbled along…
it was a high in his otherwise
dull tumbling along…
mr. tumbleweed gained
a new perspective…

Until finally, mr. Hawk
eyed the right spot for his friend…
he aimed and let go of
mr. tumbleweed…
landing softly
near a desert stream…
where he rested
and fulfilled his purpose…