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:wave: Hey hey, I'm @michaelsoolee! I'm a dad and maker of digital and software products.

What Parasite's win means to me, a Korean-American

Written on February 12, 2020

Parasite, a Korean movie directed by Korean director, Bong Joon Ho — has won not just one, but four Oscars in 2020. Including the award ceremony’s highest award — best picture. As a Korean-American, it’s been a pretty awesome and pretty weird experience for me.

My wife and I watched Parasite in the theater. We had no idea about the hype around Parasite before we went and saw it. It was a date night and I chose Parasite because I caught a glimpse of the director being on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Reading the synopsis on Fandango about the juxtaposition between two families in different socio-economic classes it piqued our interests and we decided to check it out.

We went in with no expectations and came out blown away at how well the movie unfolded with many twists. In all honesty, it caught me off guard because it was a Korean movie and the story was really well told.

Growing up, as a Korean kid in America, I viewed Korean entertainment as cheesy and not relatable. For a very long time I joked with my wife that the Korean dramas that she watched were predictable and formulaic in nature — stories of forbidden love triangles, conflicts of the rich and poor or family rivalries and betrayal.

And yet, here I was walking away from a Korean made movie, that was all in Korean, blown away at how modern, relatable and original the story was. It was refreshing because it made me take pause at my preconceived ideas about Korean storytelling and entertainment. I had walked away from Parasite completely entertained and satisfied.

Then a few days ago, something extraordinary happened. The Oscars and what felt like the world, acknowledged that Parasite was indeed not just a very good Korean movie, but a very good movie.

The night of the Oscars, I went on Twitter and saw many of my Korean-American friends celebrating in this historic event. While it did feel pretty amazing that a Korean made movie had received that sort of acknowledgement, I found myself having a bit of an identity crisis.

Over the past couple of days since Parasite’s limelight at the Oscars, I’ve been trying to process my feelings and understanding my torn excitement towards the movie. On one hand, I am proud that it was a Korean made movie and because I am Korean excited that a movie could have such an international impact. On the other hand the movie was made by a Korean cast, by a Korean director, in Korea. While we look the same in appearance, I still feel distant in ways.

I think the experience is similar to watching the Olympics for me. While I could root for the Korean Olympic team, their success doesn’t feel that personal to me. But take for example the 2018 Winter Olympics which took place in Korea, when Chloe Kim — a Korean-American athlete — won a gold medal, I felt proud and ecstatic for her win.

Perhaps it was because I could relate to Chloe’s story more than I could with the native Korean athletes. While I’m sure there are many stark differences in Chloe Kim’s and my life’s story, the fact that we share the same Korean-American story of coming from immigrant families, makes the victory more relatable.

I write this post, not to discount the immense amount of talent and energy it took from those involved in the creation of Parasite or even native Korean Olympians. Their dedication to their craft is beyond what I could achieve and I celebrate in what they have done on such a global stage. I write this post, reflecting on how Parasite’s international acclaim and what it means for myself, a Korean-American.

I’ve wondered in the past what remnants of the Korean heritage that I grew up knowing would get passed onto my children. I’ve written a post about it and concluded that food and watered-down traditions was all that would remain for future Korean-American generations. Today, what Parasite did for me was open my eyes to a part of my heritage that has been foreign to me and now has caused excitement for what it could mean for my kids and their generation.

I’ll admit that I don’t quite understand the appeal of the Korean culture for those that aren’t Korean-Americans. Take for example BTS. I don’t understand their appeal. I don’t listen to their songs relating to their lyrics, but listen to their songs because it’s catchy. I can’t relate to the way they dress or the way they act in interviews. But growing up with K-pop in my youth, there is something familiar. I think that familiarity is similar to when you buy a car. All of a sudden you start noticing that same make and model everywhere you look.

All this to say, I’m excited to see what international impact of Korean entertainment will have on shaping my kids’ generation. Would they feel split in their identity as I did growing up? Would they be able to take part in the pride from the success of talent coming from their mother country? How will their peers view them now that there are cultural impact by talents from Korea?

What Parasite made me feel as a Korean-American is confused, excited and hopeful. Confused about my identity, excited for its success, hopeful for what it could do positively for my children’s generation.

If you haven’t seen Parasite I hope you’ll go see it. I hope you’ll walk away from the experience entertained by a well made movie. I hope you’ll walk away challenged by the struggles it highlights of a capitalist society. If you’re Korean-American or a kyopo — I hope the movie will make you feel and stir conversations amongst you and your peers.

I’d like to also share other forms of Korean entertainment that I’ve enjoyed and has made an impact:

  • Kim’s Convenience: Is a comedy show about an immigrant family in Canada. While the time frame is modern, there’s a lot of things I relate with growing up in an immigrant family in the United States. Topics covered: cultural misunderstandings between children and parents, first-generation Koreans and their peers (the poop needle episode) and the significance religion has on immigrant families.

    While I think the first two seasons was more in-tune with telling the immigrant story, season three felt like a departure and felt like it was going for more broad appeal.

  • Crash Landing on You: Is a drama about a couple between a super rich South Korean business woman and a North Korean soldier. While I can’t speak to how accurate some of the depictions are of North Korea and the characters. It’s been an endearing show to watch. I think the character development is really well done and the story twists has been palpable.

    It even includes a couple actors from Parasite.

  • Seoul Searching: Is about Korean teenagers from around the world and their time in Korea at a camp created by the Korean government to raise awareness of the Korean heritage. I went to this camp back in the late 90s as I hit puberty. While I didn’t enjoy my time at the camp, I thought the movie did a good job highlighting the struggles of kyopos, adoption of Korean children by non-Korean families and even the affects of the tensions between Korean and Japanese folks. What’s refreshing is that the movie was created by a Korean-American, director, Benson Lee.

  • The Good, the Bad, the Weird: This movie is a bit old, but it was very enjoyable. It’s about three characters as they duke it out over a treasure map. The story feels like an old western movie with cowboys but with Korean folks. It stars Lee Byung-hun (known for his roles as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe series of movies) as the bad and Song Kang-ho (the father of the poor family in Parasite) as the weird.


Written on January 6, 2020

Tonight I deactivated my Meetup account. I wasn’t the most active Meetup user. I did use it a few times to meet up with developers in Germany which was pleasant. But overall it wasn’t something I actively used and all it was doing was filling up my inbox.

So tonight, I deactivated my account. It isn’t the first time I’ve deactivated my account on some platform and I don’t think it’ll be the last. It’s funny how in the past decade it was about freely giving out emails to try or gain access to things. But now, I feel the need to reduce and be selective of where I give my attention.

RSS rediscovered

Written on January 2, 2020

I was never much of a heavy RSS user when Google Reader was around. I had an account, bought Reeder for iOS and occasionally used it but didn’t really appreciate the web standard. I always knew RSS existed and it was something you want to have available if you ran a website. But it never really stuck with me.

Then I discovered podcasts. But the technology to consume podcasts kind of made the fact that it runs off of RSS invisible. The main source of where I consumed and discovered podcasts were through Apple iTunes. You didn’t have to individually subscribe to someone’s RSS feed to get access to their podcast, you went to the iTunes store and you searched for their show and then subscribed.

Even now, I use Overcast and have never manually added a podcast show. The option to manually add shows is definitely there, but I can usually find shows using their search feature.

Over the last few years I’ve been using Twitter to be my main source of how I kept up with news in my industry, industries I was interested and current affairs. But be it a side-affect of getting older or friends who have become quieter on the social media platform, I’ve been drawn to following folks and their personal blogs lately.

I don’t think I’m alone in this shift. This past year, NetNewsWire, a macOS RSS reader—and my RSS reader of choice—released version 5.0. Since downloading the beta, I’ve started to read more RSS feeds and I admit, I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

I’m still curating which blogs to follow. But it’s been nice to read things in longer form. I also like that the conversation is one-sided. I can read someone’s thoughts and opinions, without the noise of other people’s opinions about that original opinion.

I can also follow and unfollow an RSS feed as I please without worrying about if the author will ever discover that I stopped following them like I sometimes do on Twitter.

I truly hope more folks will embrace their own personal sites and start to share their ideas there. As I think RSS is making a come back and I’m happy to be rediscovering this standard that’s been around for more than two decades.

While I haven’t set myself any goals with this new year. I do want to write more on this site. First for myself as writing is an exercise that I enjoy. Second I enjoy preserving my current thoughts and I don’t think I do it enough. And finally, if you’re reading this as a subscriber to my RSS, you’re a reason I want to write more. I want to provide something of worth to be subscribed to and taking the time to read.

Git cheat sheets

Written on December 9, 2019

Git is a tool that I use almost every day as a developer. It allows me to confidently make changes to my code and not worry about remembering what changes I made and when. On a team it also allows me to work concurrently with other developers and sanely pull our work together into a single code stream without going crazy.

While I’ve used Git for quite some time now, I admit that I often find myself Googling for that one command that I can’t seem to care enough to remember but always find myself needing to use. If you’re familiar with the Google workflow, you might not think it takes up that much time. After all being able to Google well is like a necessity as a developer.

Without giving it much thought your Google workflow might look like this:

  • Open up a browser
  • Click into the URL bar
  • Type in the Git command description into the bar to search
  • Look over the list of results to decipher which of the results looks promising
  • Click on a link to look at search result
  • Read content of page
  • If unsatisfied, click the back button
  • Search for next viable result
  • Repeat until you find the command you’re looking for
  • Copy command into your clipboard
  • Paste command into your terminal and hit enter to execute

While the entire process might take a few minutes, those minutes could add up over time. Time instead which could be used solving a coding problem.

Frustrated at how much time I was losing on Googling the Git commands, I decided to compile the most commonly used Git commands into a nice, simple and clean Git cheat sheet.

So now my Git workflow looks like this:

  • Double click PDF on desktop
  • Look for header of the type of Git interaction I’m looking to execute
  • Scan list of commands, find the one that I need
  • Copy command into clipboard
  • Paste command into terminal and hit enter to execute

That’s less than half the amount of steps it takes to Google for the same command.

Not only do cheat sheets save you time, they look pretty nice too.

  • Comes in four color variations based off of popular editor syntax themes, Atom’s One light and dark theme, Wes Bos’ Cobolt2 and Sailorhg’s Fairy Floss
  • Uses Fira Mono for commands
  • Copy and pastable from PDF to command line

Git cheat sheets in Atom's One Light and Dark themes

Git cheat sheets in Wes Bos' Cobolt2 and Sailorhg's Fairy Floss themes

The type of commands which are covered in the Git cheat sheets are:

  • Configuration variables
  • Creating repositories
  • File related commands
  • Branch
  • Merge & rebase
  • Logs
  • Clean up
  • Tags
  • Stashes

If you’d like to save time with your Git workflow with these Git cheat sheets, you can buy them here. If you’d like to get a free copy of the One light version of the Git cheat sheet, sign up for my newsletter.

You are a software engineer

Written on October 19, 2019

A friend of mine is currently on the job hunt. He was sharing with me how hard it’s been. I’ve been on the job hunt before as a software engineer and know how hard it could be. It is scary, can be demoralizing and imposter syndrome feels like it is at its peak.

As a way to encourage him, I’ve been thinking about truths that I feel could be said to him to help uplift him. The truths about him as a software engineer.

I wanted to share these truths here for him, for those who might also be in the job hunt and also for me, to serve as encouragement for someone who often battles with imposter syndrome.

You are extremely smart.

You create enormous value.

You can solve hard problems.

You understand complex things.

You are patient.

You deserve what you’re being compensated and more.

You are not a coding monkey.

You make good contributions to your team.

You ask great questions.

You have the ability to do so much good.

You are creative.

You are resourceful.

You know enough.

You aren’t defined by an interview.

You don’t need to understand everything.

Your skills are highly desired.

You’re doing a great job.

You are not an imposter.

You are a software engineer.

After I was done writing this list of truths, it reminded me of the Holstee manifesto. So I fired up Figma and also put together a poster-like version as well.

You are a software engineer poster

Moved site from Netlify to Render

Written on October 18, 2019

This site was built, deployed and hosted on Netlify for almost two years. There’s a lot to like about Netlify, from its easy-to-use interface to the thoughtful features that allows statically generated sites to have dynamic like features like analytics to forms.

But for a few months now there was a part of my publishing process that was causing a little bit of resistance. That was that Netlify doesn’t support the latest versions of Bundler. My site is built using Jekyll. Jekyll being written in Ruby, relies on Bundler to handle package management.

My own machine uses the latest version of Bundler, but Netlify is quite behind. At first, I got around this issue with just manually changing the Bundler version in the Gemfile.lock that is versioned. But that becomes a nuisance because I can’t just “publish” my latest changes.

A few months back I had heard about a new service called Render. I had first heard about it through Lynne Tye of Key Values. Render looks to be creating a sweet set of products for web developers. One of them being, building, deploying and hosting static sites. So last night, I took Render for a spin.

All I had to do was hook up my site’s repo. I made sure the Gemfile.lock file had the latest Bundler version and committed. Render immediately picked up the commit and started working away. I was expecting a build failure warning but to my delight, my site actually was built and deployed to their CDN.

No doubt, Render had won me over. I pointed my DNS over to Render and that was that. My site is now happily hosted on Render. If you’ve got a Jekyll site and have issues deploying on Netlify, definitely give Render a try.

By no means, is this article suggesting I’m not a fan of Netlify anymore. But for building Jekyll sites, Render doesn’t hinder me from publishing.

I’m also looking forward to hosting an application on Render soon with their app hosting and managed PostgreSQL databases.