Monday, December 11, 2017

dear diary | axolotl stories

Dear diary,

I feel like Kim Kardashian. The reality show personality. A lot of attention in a short amount of time went to my head. And mom almost turned into a stage mom. What was she thinking, getting an axolotl a blog and an email account.

I had the pressure of being funny, amusing, intelligent and wise. I’m a fucking axolotl. Oh. Sorry. I usually don’t use bad words. 

And I ended up feeling like I hate mommy. AND I told her so. To her face. She was as embarrassed as I was over this weekend’s fiasco. Something about hot-flashes and moments of irrationality. She apologized. I apologized. It’s a little awkward right now, but we will hug it out. When it doubt, hug it out.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ask Axolotl | How Long Do You Live?

Dear Axolotl,

How long do Axolotls usually live? And a follow up - would you rather skip 30 years ahead in your life or start life all over again?

From, your cousin

Dear cousin,

Thank you for writing to me! I am so excited about having email. Do you have email? What does yours look like? 

Anyway, the internet tells me that axolotls are capable of living for over 20 years but more commonly about 10 years. Wait. How old am I? 

Moooooooooooooom! How old am I? What? What do you mean you don’t know. How could you not know? Wait. What? What do you mean I was adopted? Oh, you mean that day where I came to live with you? Oh yeah. I remember now. I like this house. Yes, you are a new mom and it took you a while to figure out that I do indeed need a water filter and that the basement as too cold for me (so much do that my metabolism was starting to shut down,) and I personally love light and not just the dark. But I still love you. 

You know mom, the internet isn’t always right. I know that the internet told you that I wouldn’t like light, or moving currents of water or warm waters, but I think you’ve been told before that you are too literal, right? A bit too much black and white thinking, no? I remember you telling me that black and white thinking (also known as all-or-nothing or the false paradigm) might be a side effect of depression and anxiety. 

It’s okay, mom. I still love you.

Oh, wait. I was talking to my cousin just now. So, I am not sure how old I am, so I am not sure how much longer I have to live. I guess I have something in common with all humans! We don’t know when we are going to die! Yay! I love commonalities! 

As for your second question, “would you rather skip 30 years ahead in your life or start life all over again?”, due to my life cycle, I would DEFINITELY have to chose “start over again.” But I’ve also had a good life so I don’t mind repeating it. My mom, however, definitely would skip 30 years! 

But mom! That would mean that I would be dead and gone! How can you do this to ME! What do you mean, “don’t make this about you?” 

I hate my mom. I feel like she hates me.




Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ask Axolotl | Poop + Food = Ew

Dear Axolotl,

You seem to be an expert on poop. Maybe you can help me with my poop question. 

I have two cats, Butters and Coco. I put their food and water bowls on top of rubber mats in my kitchen, to keep the floor clean. My cat Coco sometimes paws at her mat and moves it a few inches across the floor. Then she paws at the water bowl and spills water all over her mat. After that, she poops on top of the wet mat. Poop on the food mat is a weird thing to see first thing in the morning. But at least she’s stopped pooping in the tub. 

Why does she do this? What does it mean? Was she an otter in a past life? Please help me Axolotl!

Flummoxed in Fort Lauderdale 

πŒ†    π“    π†    π‡    πŒ‡

Dear Flummoxed in Fort Lauderdale,

My mom feels your pain. But I don’t really see your problem. My poop and food are on the same surface every day! And I love it! However, my mom says that poop and food are both kind of great in different ways, but not on the same exact area. Like my mom say, “everyone is different!”

That being said, mom just read a thread about another human whose kitty poops on smooth surfaces!

The community at large suggested having a kitty litter box with no kitty litter in it! Or maybe in your case, a kitty litter box with no litter and a bit of water?

As for tipping over food and water bowls, our Toki does that too. So mom got a REALLY heavy bowl that they cannot tip over.

I hope this helps!

With love,


Friday, December 8, 2017

dear diary | axolotl stories | moss balls and toad poop

Dear diary,

Mom put some moss balls in my aquarium. They are a solid round mass of moss that live in water. They are like green snow balls. They are cute and cuddly. The internet says that the moss balls are the perfect plant for people without a green thumb because you can’t kill them. I didn’t know that some people’s thumbs were green. If their thumbs are green, are their toes green too? 

Anyway, some people think that the moss balls are my poop. Seriously?

My poop is big. For sure. But it’s not bigger than my head. Seriously.

Mom WAS surprised when she first saw my poop. She told me that it reminded her of the time she found out about toad poop. That’s right, toad poop. This is how it happened.

Two summers ago, mom dug a pond in our yard. That’s another long story. Anyway, she dug the pond so that she could have some frogs. She dug the pond, but no frogs came. So being a bit impatient and wanting instant gratification, mom went and bought three tadpoles. They were the size of dimes and nickels. Mom would walk out to the pond everyday to see the progression of the tadpoles turning into frogs. Nothing was happening fast. Instant gratification was taking too long. Mom said a few bad words under her breath.

Then one morning she found a black mass floating in the shallow waters of the pond. It looked like the detached head of the tadpole. Her heart starting beating, beating, beating. She was horrified, sad and confused. She tried poking it with a stick. Nothing. She got close and tried to look for a mouth or eyes. But it was just a mass. A blob. Do tadpoles disintegrate so quickly? Sigh. One lost tadpole. At least she had two more.

Then a few days later she found another blob. Two dead tadpoles. Then another blob. All the tadpoles were dead. Mom started googling for living frogs shipped from Florida through ebay. She was hell bent on getting her instant gratification.

The next day she walked to the pond. And there was another blob. Wait a minute. There were only three tadpoles. Wait, what? Wait. What?

After much googling, mom found out that the big black blobs were not dead tadpoles. They were toad poop. Mom had been mourning over toad poop.

This is when mom found out the size of toad poop. It is the size of a dime. I kid you not.

And here is the kicker: my poop is bigger! Take THAT universe! (But not as big as the moss balls in my tank.) 

I am so proud of my big poop. Happy Friday.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

dear diary | axolotl stories | tanning booth

Dear diary,

Mom got me a tanning booth! It is so beautiful, with pink and blue highlights. The glow is mesmerizing. I feel like a beautiful mermaid getting her tan on. I thought I didn’t like light, but the tanning booth is making me think differently about light and being light.

With the winter coming I’ve been feeling a bit blue and my anxiety is starting to creep up on me. I am thinking dark thoughts and starting to be afraid of the most ordinary things.

Mom tells me that having anxiety is natural in highly intelligent beings. Eli was just telling us the other day about how domesticated animals have smaller brains because the “panic—fight or flight” part of their brain has been bred out of the poor creatures. They know how to eat, sleep, poop and procreate but they can’t detect danger as well as their wild cousins.

Having anxiety is the “panic—fight or flight” button in our brain being over-active. It keeps us alive for sure, but if we let it overwhelm us, we can actually get sick. I don’t want to get sick. So I am practicing breathing, mindfulness and joy. Practice joy. Like tanning.

I love my mommy.

Love, Axolotl

P.S. It turns out mom didn’t get me a tanning booth. It’s called a grow light and it is for the plants. I still love it. Even though it won’t help me with my tan.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

dear diary | axolotl stories | self-sustaining eco-system

Dear diary,

Mom got tired just looking at the to do list for my “self-sustaining eco-system.” 

“Self-sustaining eco-systems” are no joke. Mom thought: load up the tank with plants. Poop will feed the plants. Plants will flourish. Poop will be gone. 

But it turns out plants take in oxygen when it is night time when there is no light. Which competes with my need for oxygen. Which will make me gulp for air all through the night in spite of all the plants that are there for my well-being.

Mom said a few choice bad words. Something about her mother.

So mom now has a new plan. A turkey baster. She is going to use it as a pooper-scooper. She picks up after the dog, cats, and chickens. So she is going to use the direct method of dealing with my poop. Just scoop it up everyday. Or I should say, siphon it up. With the turkey baster. 

She has to look at my poop everyday, but at least she won’t have to touch it. That’s what she is thinking. I hate to tell her that it never works out that way.

Oh, by the way, mom had to chop off the narrow tip of the turkey baster. The opening was too small for my large poop. The opening is now about the diameter of a dime. I’m worried that it still won’t be large enough to handle my poop. Oh well. We’ll see what happens.

I love my mommy. She takes good care of me.

With love,

dear diary | axolotl stories | back in the 10 gallon tank

Dear Diary,

I am back in the ten gallon tank. The fifty five gallon is being cleaned. Mom got really wet with my poop water when she was trying to empty the tank. She used a lot of bad language. Many, many times.

Eli helped. He got wet and cold too, but he didn’t seem to mind as much. Like mom always say, “everyone is different!”

Mom is researching “self-sustaining eco-system”, which is a fancy way of saying that she doesn’t want to touch my poop too often.

This is her to do list:
  1. Get grow lights for the water plants.
  2. Start some more lotus seeds.
  3. Find some large rocks from the yard.
  4. Get more river rocks.
  5. Bring in some water plants from the pond.
She says the idea is to have enough water plants that will enjoy my poop so that the aquarium will have a nice balance between poop, plants, oxygen and CO2. I don’t know what this means, but I hope the “self-sustaining eco-system” works out so that mommy doesn’t get so mad again.

With love,


Monday, October 9, 2017

got taste?

Tradition. Fuck Tradition.

Aesthetics. Fuck Aesthetics.

Taste. Double Fuck Taste.

And yet I creep towards it like a baby towards its mother's teat.

To be born under pre-existing structures that do not honor who you are—sexism, racism, classism--I wanted to be a light colored male with good taste. The opposite of what I was. Then I could concentrate on what I was actually seeing and be taken seriously for what I was witnessing: the horrors of the world in the name of love and being human.

But if I were a light colored male with good taste, would I be seeing what I was seeing and would I be experiencing what I was experiencing? I've always been told that I had a male brain. And hated my female body for not being able to follow through on it's commitment to being male. But it turns out that I am who I am. I can only be who I am. Even if I struggle to become something else, I cannot. And in the mean time, all the labels that were given to me-female, male, Korean, American, designer, artist, depressive, introvert, stubborn, stupid, clever, loud-these labels confused me and harmed me more than it helped me in understanding who I am. 

I am Yoon Soo Lee. I am a witness to this life and this community. I am a witness to this life and community with curiosity and pragmatic optimism.

Our most dominant sense is our eye sight. What would this world be like if we never had sight? What would that “reality” be like?  Because right now, I think we tend to think what we SEE is true and real. However, what we see is different from our lived experience. A few years ago, the visual offering of a Black U.S. President painted one kind of picture of our country. These days, the existing conditions of living in bubbles has shattered our visual understanding of our own manufactured reality. 

Sight is so wonderful and sight is so limited.

I am interested in these large framing ideas around visual communication. But this is my interest, and it doesn’t have to be any other person’s interest.
 I share with you today what kind of plant I am: I am a conifer with prickly needles that lives on the outskirts of large mountains.

As visual communicators, we convey the human experience through one major point of entry: sight. But I think we need to venture further and not just stay with sight and all of it’s siblings called, beauty, aesthetics, and taste. 

Because sight is so wonderful but it is also limited. 

We are practicing in this field or any other field of study because we want to keep living—hopefully with our core values intact: joy, happiness, health, safety, love. Yes, we live in a capitalistic world. Yes, our country is in turmoil. And yes, we have to earn a paycheck to feed ourselves and put a roof over our family. 

But there are many ways in which we can practice our values through the medium of visual communication. And that is by reminding ourselves that the end goal of design practice is not the just object—be it a website, app, or book—but it is about honoring the human experience. It is about honoring the human standing in front of or behind the object.

When ever you feel lost, when you find yourself in doubt, think of the human being you want to understand. And that, very well may be you.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

I am a tortoise.

I am a tortoise. I am a gorilla living in a tortoise shell. My identity is entombed in fight, rage, fear and protection. I have fought all my life for my identity and I have become a great fighter. Bullies know that I am a fighter and leave me alone. I am five foot one but when I stand up to fight, you would think that I was bringing an army of a thousand.

I am a tortoise. I am a gorilla living in a tortoise shell. And I am tired. The shell is hard and it is heavy. It's hard to live with a heightened sense of war on a daily basis. It is not sustainable. It is not sustainable for me.

My war was this: I was fighting back people who hated me as a women; fighting back people who didn't want me to be smart: fighting back people who wanted me to be quiet and submissive, fighting back people who wanted sameness and not standing out. Fighting was a way of living. Being angry meant that I was alive.

I do not want to fight any more. I do not want to be angry as a default. I chose my partner in life so that I could learn how to live with peace. But it is like a general who has only seen war being asked to go into retirement. A general who has only known battle to live in peace. The general is being asked to put down her gun, her armor, her machete, her weapons of mass destruction. The general is bewildered at this abandonment. The general is worried. The general thinks that I will die. So the general is scheming up a coup. For my benefit. So that I will not die. The general whispers in my ear: you are going to die if you put down your armor. Your armor is already down, so you will die at any minute.

I am in the stages of mutation. Or transformation. Change can be scary and sometimes it can hurt. But I am learning how to live for the rest of my life. I cannot live as a warrior anymore. I cannot keep looking out for possible threats and bombs and hostile forced entries. And even though I want to crawl into a hole and die, I know that that day too will come. All I have is today and this moment. 

I think about what animal I want to be next. Maybe a bird. Light, flight and sky. Not too bad.