Stan politics

I've followed K-pop long enough - six years in full immersion, nine years in total - to be able to say that I've seen the best, and worst, of fan behavior.

Yes, it doesn't just happen in K-pop, but for some reason it's more intense when it comes to those acts. I mean, have you seen, say, One Direction fans rent billboards to celebrate, say, Liam Payne's birthday? (And maybe beg that he return to the group and fulfill that reunion pipe dream?) Well, maybe they have, and I just don't know.

But you get the idea. K-pop fans can be really intense. The moment you step into the fray you're asked - demanded? - to choose your side, and defend it to the hilt. Sure, you can choose not to do so - I find that following everyone helps, and even then it doesn't always work - but the noise will be so loud, and the need to belong be so overwhelming, that you end up doing so anyway.

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It's your fault you don't have any friends

I would say that, generally, I don't have many friends.

Yes, this depends on where my head's at in a given moment. Sometimes I'll feel good and be amazed at how many friends I actually have. More often, though, I'd say I have absolutely no friends. Colleagues, classmates, yes. Friends, well, that's harder to say.

Yes, I'm almost 33, and at this point I should not really be whining about being where I am at this point. But almost all of the time, the feeling of being isolated and alone is crushing, more so these days when we're not really supposed to be out for "non-essential" reasons. When you're alone with your thoughts and you can't really do anything about it, well, that's difficult. Knowing you can't really just speak up even to those you feel really comfortable with, more so.

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Moving day

My birthday is in a little over a week, and this particular birthday is special, because it's when my driver's license expires.

All right, notable, not special. But you get the idea. That meant I had to go get it renewed. It's a bit of a faff considering all of the pandemic-related restrictions still in place, and I don't mean the whole "do everything online" thing. That should be easy enough, but the government still believes in doing things in person, at the expense of the whole "do everything online" thing they rushed into place.

Did you know that, in theory, you're supposed to be able to set an appointment for your license renewal online? That, once you've passed the (online) continuing driver's education test, you can apply for an appointment the same way you do with your passport? But the LTO website will ask for a medical certificate. Insist on one, actually, to the point that you can't progress past the first step without handing one over. But you can't just get that certificate anywhere. It has to be at an LTO-accredited clinic, meaning it has to be at one of those clinics near the license renewal centers whose sole purpose seem to be handing out slips of paper that say you're medically fit.

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End of cycle

My adventures as a K-pop listener are well-documented, sparingly here, but more often on the old music blog.

It's been six years, come to think of it. It was six years ago when we flew to Seoul for the final week of 2015. Between our first snow (which wasn't much, considering how it was a warmer-than-usual winter, supposedly) and our many adventures with street food, I asked Shalla to compile me a playlist of Korean songs to accompany the trip. She ended with roughly 900 songs, a good mix of idols and indie obscurities.

Come to think of it, my adventures have gone longer than six years. Nine years? Shalla introduced me to K-pop before we officially started dating. I have said I listened in part to generate content for the music blog - that first entry was about Lee Hi - and, arguably, that openness led to us being together all these years later. But maybe it's too cheesy for the vibe I'm going for with this entry. Also, I digress wildly.

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Choose your parallel universe

It's always weird, how we get images of a snowy, chilly Christmas despite being in a tropical country.

Take today. Anyone who (still) plays Animal Crossing would know that today is Toy Day, which boils down to a reindeer character enlisting you to distribute gifts to the folks you have so meticulously curated on the island you have so meticulously curated. Now, sure, toys are universal, but today is also a really snowy day on the island, which makes sense until you look out of your real-life window and realize it's, like, really sunny. Like, blindingly sunny.

Sure, we could perhaps rip a page off the folks in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas happens in the summer and - at least judging from the Australian and Antipodean examples - the day itself is punctuated by barbeques and beer by the beach. But it doesn't quite work either. The beaches are far away (I say this as a city dweller) and we pride ourselves on being a family-oriented culture, so we all instead gather in a big house and deal with distant relatives and their inappropriate remarks.

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