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Some Things I Wrote in 2017

I never really know what my “best” work is, or if any of it is good to anyone other than me. (People keep letting me write things, so I suppose that’s a good sign.) I do, however, tend to like certain things I write more than others. Here’s a list of 10 pieces I wrote in 2017 that I liked the most.

 

January, Eastlit
Stranger in a Familiar Land

This is the only piece of fiction I published this year, about the delirious, exhilarating newness of living in a foreign country, and how quickly that feeling can erode. It’s, uh, totally not about my experience living in Korea or anything.

 

February, Sherdog
A Meditation on Ethics in MMA

I waxed philosophical on MMA, talking about sportsmanship, the unspoken ethics of trash talking, and how we’re supposed to process it all as fans. Plus, the opening sentence of this piece is probably the best sentence I’ve ever written.

 

March, Sherdog
The Other Side of Anything Can Happen

The UFC hit on something deep with their advertising angle that “anything can happen” in a fight; people want to be surprised. But “anything” can mean shitty things, too.

 

May, Sherdog
Nostalgia is a Hell of a Drug

There is a vocal, ever-present group of MMA fans bemoaning the state of the sport and how it has fallen from its previous peaks. That’s true in some ways, but the complete opposite is true – MMA is better than it’s ever been – in more significant ways.

 

June, Sherdog
The Cost of Combat

The death of Tim Hague brought to surface a number of important questions that we must ask ourselves as fans and patrons of violent entertainment. This was my attempt to reconcile the ethical dilemma of combat sports with their undeniable allure.

 

June, Sherdog
Something in the Water: The Past and Present of Hawaii’s Warrior Spirit

Since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament, fighters from Hawaiʻi have been visible on the biggest stages of the sport. Hawaiʻi has been the most represented state in the history of the UFC, with 15 professional fighters for every one million residents. The next closest state — Iowa — registered about nine and a half per million people.

Why Hawaiʻi? What is it about the “Aloha State” — this small, unassuming archipelago nicknamed after the Hawaiian word for love, compassion and kindness — that lends itself so seamlessly to the most unabashedly violent sport in the world?

 

August, Medium
Man’s Best Reflection

A personal essay attempting to answer one of the oldest, most important questions known to man: why are dogs so good?

 

August, Summit Magazine
Seoul, From the Ground Up

It can feel helpless to be a citizen of Seoul. The shadow of international war looms menacingly overhead, yet the everyday stresses of living in a fast-paced, high-tech megacity tend to take precedent. Political tensions rise and fall, but life keeps marching on.

 

October, Sherdog
Violent Meditations

Almost yearly the conflicted nature of the word “violence” becomes a discussion in MMA circles. This year, the sport’s most visible media member, Ariel Helwani, took umbrage with the idea that the UFC promotes itself as violent. Personally, I think they should market the sport for what it is, and it is nakedly violent. It’s honest advertising, but more importantly I think people should be more aware of the violent intersections in all facets of life, and watching MMA might be a good way to do that.

 

October, Medium
Spooky Spooky: A Definitive Timeline

If you haven’t heard of or watched the Spooky Spooky videos, there’s something wrong with you. If you have watched them and you haven’t read my exhaustive, in-depth analyses of them, you’re missing out on worlds. There’s levels to infectiously catchy, seasonally-themed kids songs.

 

 

Much appreciation to everyone who took time to read my work this year. It means everything. Special shoutout to those who contacted me through the site; I’ve enjoyed the correspondences, even the ones heavily laden with curses. Bigger and better things are in store for 2018.

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By In Social Media

Best of 2016

2016 was a strange year to say the least. Headlines abounded of political shocks and scandals or celebrity deaths, and nobody could say for sure how true any of those headlines were since we all got our news from Facebook.

Still, it was a productive year for yours truly. I wrote a lot, and I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read my work. Here are the 10 pieces I feel most proud to have written in 2016, with a few thoughts looking back on them. I assure you none of it is fake news.

 

March 7, Sherdog
Conor McGregor and the Death of Imagination

Conor McGregor had built an aura around him. He captured the UFC’s featherweight championship via spectacular dominance, and became one of the sport’s two biggest stars ever along the way. Then he was unceremoniously and, frankly, embarrassingly defeated in his first fight of 2016.

 

March 9, The Classical
Away Games: A Dispatch from the Korean Basketball League

I had already been living in Korea for over a year when I first went to a professional basketball game. The sense of newness and excitement of living in a foreign country had mostly subsided, and the shitty parts – like cold weather – were still shitty. Then I went to a Korean Basketball League game.

 

April, Eastlit
Jong Il from Yang Pyeong

Jong Il had recently moved from his home in the countryside to Seoul. A day spent catching butterflies and dragonflies in the park causes him to reflect on what he kept with him, and what he didn’t.

 

May 2, Sherdog
The Costs of Control

Dana White claimed the secret to the UFC’s success has been to incentivize fighters with performance bonuses while keeping guaranteed pay low. “If you were guaranteed to earn $37 million, guess what you’re gonna do? Not much.” Can’t argue with that logic, right?

 

August 22, Sherdog
Mixed Martial Artistry

The rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz was a truly great fight. But its greatness was not just that of an exciting fight; it connected in a more essential way.

 

October 10, Sherdog
A Beautifully Weird Twisted Reality

Mixed martial arts is strangely alluring. Its youth as a sport means there’s an absence of the polished professionalism in other major sports leagues. The type of people who makes a living inflicting violence on others is inherently a different set of psychologies than other professional athletes. And yet for all the ridiculous, absurd and downright bizarre aspects of the sport, it can also simultaneously be beautiful. Enter Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping.

 

November 4, Harvard Review Online
Book Review of Annie Dillard’s “The Abundance”

Pulitzer winner Annie Dillard is inimitable. Her writing is beautiful, hilarious, bizarre and familiar all at once. “The Abundance” is a collection of essays spanning across decades, and it shows how her voice is as unique and vital now as it ever was.

 

November 14, Sherdog
Politics, UFC 205, and What It Means to Fight

The first two weeks of November were quite possibly the most 2016 moments of 2016. Donald Trump won the presidential election, Conor McGregor headlined one of the biggest UFC cards in history – at Madison Square Garden, no less – and my parents came to Korea to visit for a few days. It was a time of complex ideas and emotions pulsing within and around me, and ironically it was the dumbest and simplest of them all that helped me recalibrate.

 

December 12, Sherdog
A Fighter Forged from Conflict

Where we’re from can powerfully inform who we become. To understand interim featherweight champion Max Holloway, who has become one of the toughest and most technical mixed martial artists on the planet, you have to understand what life is like in his hometown of Waianae.

 

December 15, The Classical
John John Florence and Surfing’s Hawaiian Homecoming

When John John Florence became the World Surf League champion, it was the first time a surfer from Hawaii had done so in over a decade. It’s strange to think that the place that invented surfing has gone through such a long drought on the competitive circuit, but a closer inspection explains why – and why John John’s win is so important.

 

*****

 

I can’t say enough how much it means to me that anyone at all reads what I write. So many editors, publishers and writers have motivated me, guided me, and inspired me to continue chasing this silly dream of mine, and every single person who has read my work has helped me get closer to achieving it. I appreciate all of it, more than I can adequately express. 2016 was a good year, and I’m proud of everything I wrote, but I know there is much work to be done in 2017. I’ll keep working.

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