Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Book Review: Prayers For Oppa

It's time for a Kpopalypse book review, and not just any book review but a christian book review!  Read on and discover all about the disgusting idol-worshipping heathen Kpopalypse's encounter with spiritual k-pop literature!

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 PRAYERS FOR OPPA

From K-pop to J-pop, A devotional for performers and their fans

 

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Westbow Press, 114 pages, softcover, 203mm x 126mm
ISBN: 978-1-4908-0958-8
e-book ISBN: 978-1-4908-0959-5
RRP: US $11.95
I got a nice surprise the other day when this book turned up in my pigeonhole at the radio station, sent to me by some intrepid caonima perhaps intrigued about what I might think about this material.  Or maybe it was sent by the publishing company or even the author herself, although I doubt it.  The package came with no note or any indication of the identity of the sender, but did come with a receipt from amazon.com which revealed that the sender spent nearly as much on shipping and handling as they did on the actual book, so whoever you are, thank you sincerely!  That's one more entertaining review for you and also one less original blog idea I have to think up this year.

There's two types of christian media out there, whether it be in the form of books, films, songs, performance art or whatever.  The first type is the broad, secular type - the type which seeks to keep the christianity mostly under the radar and presents christian morals, ethics and values in a package that doesn't appear overtly christian at least at first glance, with the hope of acquiring as large a non-christian audience as possible.  The aim is to gently introduce christianity and christian values to the non-christian audience in as non-irritating a way as possible and maybe eventually down the track score some conversions out of it, or if not then at least some money.  Nu-metal group P.O.D fit into this category (the band title meaning "Payable On Death", i.e answering to god for your actions when you die), as do rappers Insane Clown Posse, and the last book that I reviewed "Hello I Love You" was also definitely of this type.

The other type of christian media is the type that is overtly christian in every sense, written both by christians and for christians, and isn't really trying to be relevant or useful to anyone outside of this context to any great extent.  Sure, if the media did acquire a wider audience the creators of it certainly wouldn't be upset, but the primary aim is actually just to appeal and cater to the narrower christian market only.  "Prayers For Oppa" is absolutely in this second category, and naturally as a practicing Rainaist (i.e not a christian) this presented to me a challenge upon reading the book.  How can my filthy sinning fornicating satanic Raina-fapping self remain objective and neutral to a book that is entirely aimed at christians and about the subject of effective devotional christian prayer?  I couldn't use my old standby tactics of getting my girlfriend or cat to read the book as neither would be willing to tolerate it, so I read the back of the book for clues:

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Even though I've never been religious as and adult or even as a teenager, religion as a concept always appealed to me very much, and still does.  Having a handy instruction manual for life such as the Bible must be very useful - if you're not sure how to deal with a particular situation in life, the Bible probably has some helpful moral guidance for you.  For instance you might be thinking of stealing one of your friend's Orange Caramel albums, fapping to a picture of Raina inside, cumming all over it, gluing the pages of the photobook together with your jizz, and then replacing the photobook in your friend's bookshelf in the hope that he/she doesn't notice.  If you were not religious, you would have to make up your own mind about whether performing this action was morally good, which may involve stressful brain-cell activity and important decisions that you would then have to take responsibility for.  However if you were to read the Bible first, you might read the bit about how stealing is wrong, and now that you know it's wrong according to the Bible you are free from having to think about it too hard, you can just follow the Bible's guidance and not spunk all over Raina's striped shirt in the "My Copycat" booklet (you're missing out - but to each their own).  Of course the Bible doesn't cover every situation ever, so this is where a conversation with your priest or christian friends might come in handy.  Either way, christianity presents a helpful pathway through life, freeing you from the stress of making your own tricky moral decisions, and that's something I've always been a little envious of.

However the Bible doesn't really have a lot to say about the new wave of k-pop - although it's been a while since I read the Bible cover to cover I do vaguely remember a few references to hell being H.O.T - but being an older book none of the good recent k-pop stuff is referenced in there.  Your priest is also unlikely to know much about the current Hallyu wave, which is a pity for him because I'm sure he would really enjoy groups like April that seem specifically geared for a parish audience.

Enter Teresa Santoski, who seems to be following recent developments in k-pop fairly closely, and isn't afraid to throw down on k-pop-related topics.  For instance she dropped a blog about the recent BTS concert debacle, and is sane enough to know that fans are batshit crazy enough to be a genuine safety threat to k-pop performers, so she's ready and willing to give you the guidance that you crave as a christian about how to deal with that Siwon fanservice that the Bible isn't talking about and that your priest (who only knows "Gangnam Style") is oblivious to.  I'm not even making this up - there is actually a chapter in the book that covers fanservice.  How useful is this advice?

Each topic in the book is dealt with briefly, with a short spiel about the topic in general, the author's unfalteringly christian point of view on this topic, two prayers, and two Bible verses.  One prayer and Bible verse is for the performer's use ("how do I cope with x, I need spiritual guidance") and the other prayer and Bible verse is for the fan ("how do I cope with oppa going through x, I need spiritual guidance - and a life of my own").  Each of these topics lasts about four smallish pages on average with fairly large text, and I blew through the entire book in the fairly short train ride home from the radio station.  Individual group or performer names are deliberately not specified, nor are genders (despite the baiting "oppa" title) - the book aims to be a "one size fits all" reference material for if you should find yourself in a troubling spiritual situation concerning any topic presented.  There are tons of Bible quotes for each entry, and the ratio of quoted Bible text vs original text from the author is about 1:1.  I'll now summarise for you each topic, and how the "christian solution" is presented (with some slight paraphrasing for entertainment purposes).

LONELINESS - you are never really lonely because there is god.  Get over it, you whiny bitch.

IMAGE - "performers should manage their professional image in a way that reflects their identity as a child of god".  Does not specifically forbid sexy concepts.

FATIGUE - schedules are demanding, but if you're christian then god gives you all the strength you need, so toughen up, princess.  Exactly how this strength is physically transferred isn't specified, I guess you are supposed to get it by "thinking pure thoughts" or somesuch.

HUMILITY - god is better than you.  Don't get too proud, you're just a piece of dirt you little cunt.

FANS - fans are nuts.  Why don't you freaky drooling fans all go to church instead and think about how awesome god is rather than bothering oppa who is only a sinful human and probably faps to JAV stars getting molested in subway cars.

SUCCESS - god doesn't care about chart position, and he still loves you even if you're nugu - as long as you are doing what god wants, not what you want.  You selfish piece of crap.

SHARING GOD WITH OTHERS - spread the gospel!  We need more people to buy christian books like this one.

GOSSIP AND RUMOURS - if you are the subject of rumours it's probably your own fault for being a filthy cunt-stuffing slattern and not living in a godlike manner, if you're doing the right thing by god there should be no rumours about you.  But if people make some rumours up anyway, don't worry because the truth that you're completely boring and uninteresting will come out in the end.

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE - You shouldn't mess with god's creation by changing your appearance because god made you perfectly, but if you do change things he still loves you anyway, so you might as well go ahead and get that jawshave, fuck it.

LOVE - god is love, and that guy you've been fucking in the backseat of Shinsadong Tiger's SUV with the tinted windows probably is an asshole who talked shit to all his boy-group buddies after about how you like anal even though you didn't even let him put it in there.

DISCOURAGEMENT - don't worry if you're a fucking failure because only god is perfect and you're a fucking useless mortal loser, so set your expectations low.  There, feel better?

DIFFICULTY GETTING WORK - trust god, he will help.  Hopefully this thought brightens your day when you're told to suck off a sponsor's rancid penis to pay back some debt.

FAN SERVICE - know "where to draw the line".  If unsure, seek god for guidance, or failing that I suppose you could ask another christian.

GOOD HEALTH - staying healthy is hard for performers but don't worry because "god is the ultimate source of strength", even better than Tahiti's sweet potato and brown rice diet.

PERFORMANCE SAFETY - god knows everything, including where that funny panel in the floor is that will give out if you put too much pressure on it.  Don't worry too much about the stage manual, consult god for all your OH&S compliance needs.

HEALING - but if you do get fucked up because you fell through the bit where the rotating light is supposed to come out of the floor, god will heal you.  You might miss a few schedules though.

SAFE TRAVEL - "god wants us to reach our destinations safely".  Unless you're EunB and Rise, in which case I guess you're a special case, seeing as how he could have stopped that accident but he didn't bother to.  Those two must have done something really badass to fucking piss god off that much, maybe it was that cool-as-fuck satanic video.

BEFORE AND AFTER WORK - thank god before and after performances, and... something good will happen.  Or maybe it won't.  But at least he won't fuck you over like he did with those Ladies Code girls.  Probably.

TAKING A STAND - career be damned!  Stand up for your faith and don't co-operate with evil music industry forces if you're asked to do things that "don't honour god", like say, grocery shopping, or getting your toenails done, or blowing your nose, etc etc...

SOCIAL MEDIA - use it to talk about Jesus as much as possible.  Don't worry that you're being an annoying cunt, god's got your back, that's all that matters.

Some extra sections of the book:

INTRODUCTION - a neat intro about the book, by far the most interesting section.  She says the book isn't about encouraging performers to work hard, because they work hard enough.  Legit.

ADDITIONAL VERSES - some more verses relating to the above topics.

BECOMING A CHRISTIAN AND NURTURING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD - the attitude here is "it's comforting to be a christian because god will help you deal with life, plus you get "saved" when you die or whatever, so why not become one, nothing to lose, yeah?"  This method of thinking is also known as Pascal's Wager and is fundamentally flawed from a christian perspective because it appeals to selfishness which is not supposed to be a christian value.  John 3:16 is predictably quoted.  No other appeal to logical reasoning ("the Bible/christianity is correct because of x") is attempted.

TALKING POINTS FOR INTERVIEWS - tips for performers in the media spotlight on how to twist typical cliched interview questions ("what's your ideal type" etc) into an excuse to boringly blabber on about god instead of answering the fucking question.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS - she actually thanks the church for letting her borrow the cheap SM58 clone microphone for the book front cover photo, as well as the people who took photos of her for her website.  Why not go over to her website and appreciate these photos right now?

How useful is it?  Well, would any performers in k-pop read this?  Probably not, I mean... it's in English, for a start, plus it's written by an American which is always a minus, because in typical American style the author sees things from her own cultural perspective only, i.e she ignores that christianity is a minority religion in Korea.  Maybe the minority of god-bothering English-speaking American-raised k-pop stars like Tiffany would read it, but that'd probably be about it, so I think we can ignore the performer-focused section of the book as the author's fanciful wishful thinking, genuine k-pop stars would be just as likely to read the bullshit that I wrote as they would be to read this book.  Insane English-speaking fans are much more likely to pick this up however, and from an insane fan's point of view, even if you were a devout christian and did believe in the power of prayer and wanted to help oppa out you'd probably be better off using the money spent on this book to contribute to your favourite group's next food support event.  Furthermore, you're probably not going to listen to someone who looks like your aunt telling you to back off from oppa's sinewy buff man-meat and pray, you've probably heard that one before from just about everyone you know.

The biggest drag about this kind of book though, is that even for someone who is a completely devout christian, surely it would take the fun out of being a christian to have instructions so directly specified - at least the Bible itself is somewhat ambiguous and open to interpretation, but this book sure isn't.  I thought that ultra-christian k-pop fans might actually enjoy thinking about their OWN ways to praise their idols rather than having some killjoy come along and sap all the fun out of it by saying "you must do it this way".  It's a bit like those romantic cards that you buy at the newsagent that have some romantic poem already inside them so you don't have to think up your own, or those stupid fucking "meaningful" pictures with text that people share on Facebook all the time because they're too thick to come up with an original thought about how they feel about something.  How sincere does god really think you must be about your religious convictions towards your idols if all you can show up with at the pearly gates is some prayer copypasta?  I think it's more fun to make your own prayers, so here's mine:
Raina, thank you for all the faps you have given me.  Through you, I have access to the ultimate in fappable k-pop content.  I don't care if After School or Orange Caramel come back or not, or even if you do more guest vocals on shithouse rap ballads, but please stay in the media spotlight somehow so I can continue to receive your gifts.  May your clothing choices always be aesthetically pleasing and boob-enhancing.  Also help me understand how to collect better Raina pictures and fancams, and develop a smoother fapping action.  Amen.
That was way more fun to think up than following some instruction manual, and the sentiment is much more sincere as a result, so it's safe to say that "Prayers For Oppa" is pretty useless for actual serious christians.  However, if you're not a christian, this book is pretty goddamn fucking funny as a minor distraction and a talking point among friends.  It's not a very expensive book and might be worth collecting just for the sheer wishful absurdity of the concept, depending on how dark your sense of humour goes.  As someone who didn't grow up with christianity shoved down my throat relentlessly, I appreciate books like this just from a "see how the supposedly normal people think" perspective and I had at least as much fun reading this as I did reading "Turmoil In The Toy Box" and similar material.  The completely delicious lack of cultural sensitivity/awareness exhibited by the author ("the entertainment industry needs more christians") is fascinating to me and is actually what makes the thing worth reading.  I'm giving this book one awkwardly-posed Sunye wedding photo out of 5:

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But add a second awkwardly-posed Sunye wedding photo if you're not a christian and like me you can see the humour value in reading this kind of joyously unhinged god-bothering.

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13 comments:

  1. It is always amusing to see a female write a book like this, given how fundamentalists would like women to be silent and not teach in church.

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  2. I pray so hard for Jaehyo to go take his shirt off...

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  3. As an agnostic I find the idea of this book pretty hilarious.

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    1. I've been skimming her advice for fans on her website, and she's not wrong in the basics, like, "get a life" and "your bias is only human."

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    2. That's even more hilarious.

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    3. I just find it such a bizarre combination. It's aimed at people who are unhealthily obsessed with God and K-pop equally. Even the hyper-religious idols like Tiffany and Taeyang would find this so out of touch (Siwon may be just devout enough that he could make use of it)

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    4. Siwon wouldn't like the fanservice chapter, he'd feel like the author was taking a dig at him.

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  4. thank you for introducing the word 'slattern' to my vocabulary, i will now go and find opportunities to use it far too often

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  5. ICP is a Christian band??? What?!? There ain't nothin' godly about juggalos. Anyway, "God (or your deity of choice) doesn't care about chart position" sounds like a good response to obsessive fans and nugu-haters on NB.

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    1. They hide it well. 1:15 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqJA0xjD1CM

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  6. I would ask what the flying fuck I just read, but I really have no words.

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  7. I want to incorporate the book's title in my daily vocabulary.

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  8. Woah, I need to not take so many happy pills at once.

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