Archive for September, 2010

This article was first published on Technorati.

Little Hope for ChangeHe was portrayed as a cockroach in the movie Team America. He was portrayed as a drunken lecher by his former sushi chef. And much less convincingly, Kim Jong-il has been portrayed as a brilliant and benevolent leader whose travels are often accompanied by miracles in the natural world. This week, as expected, his son Kim Jong-un was awarded various official titles by the Workers’ Party of Korea and seems destined to become third and final dictator of the world’s last remaining Stalinist regime. Will we miss the Kims?

It is difficult to imagine the world without its parallel universe–a version of reality that has fascinated me ever since I heard my first North Korean propaganda while living in China in the early 1990s. Every day I tuned my shortwave radio to pick up the afternoon broadcast with its excoriations of fascist cliques and puppet regimes, all delivered in clipped, colorful English. A song called “Women are Flowers” would be followed by a report that black Americans live in concentration camps where they are shot at random. A report on the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea would be followed by a brass band playing “Death to the Aggressors!”  It was irresistible.

But if the regime’s depiction of the world was a bit hard to believe, its actions were even more improbable. Submarines abducted children from the coasts of Japan and spirited them off to North Korea to help train spies. Tree pruners in the Demilitarized Zone were murdered with their own gardening tools, while below the surface workers dug at least four giant tunnels, each capable of passing an entire emaciated infantry battalion per hour under the border to South Korea.

Farther from home, North Korean bombs killed South Korean officials in Burma and blew a Boeing 707 filled with civilians into the Andaman Sea.

With Kim Jong-il’s ascension to power in the mid 1990s, the regime turned its efforts to destroying the economy, starving its citizens to death, and shooting them in the back when they tried to cross the Yalu River in search of a better life. Military achievements included rockets that failed to reach orbit, a nuclear explosion that misfired, and most recently the successful torpedoing of a South Korean ship patrolling its own waters. Not keen to take credit for this one success, North Korea decried international investigations  “into the sinking of a warship of the south Korean puppet navy in a bid to hurl mud at the north.”

So after more than 50 years of Kim family rule, let’s not get nostalgic. Yes, Kim Jong-il put pomp in the pompadour.  And maybe he and his father really were attended by miraculous blossoms, magical fogs, and glorious double rainbows. But surely we’ve had enough of the family.


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Fart Egg

SylviaSylvia’s dysfunctions are many. She tries to sleep on top of her house instead of inside it. She pecks at the other chickens and has trouble keeping friends. And worst of all, she is always finding new ways to fail at laying a proper egg.

She has laid small eggs with translucent membranes instead of hard shells. She has laid normal looking eggs with soft shells, and eggs with hard but misshapen shells. She has even laid eggs with no shell at all. Yuck.

And then there are the wind eggs. A wind egg is normal in appearance but has no yolk inside. I call them wind eggs because it is a widely accepted term for the phenomenon, and also because it carries a certain sense of mystery with it. But there is another common term for a no-yolker. The fart egg. I cannot quite bring myself to use this term. For one thing, it does not have any sense of mystery at all. Just the opposite. And of course I am a mature adult. “Sylvia has given us another wind egg,” I’ll say. Then one of the boys will correct me. “You mean she laid a fart egg, Dad!” The others giggle. My wife laughs. I am surrounded by immaturity.

Fine. Laugh at me. I tell them that there are also many terms for a chicken that cannot lay proper eggs. Casserole. Cacciatore. Cordon Bleu. The boys pretend I’m joking.

Now, to her credit, Sylvia is getting better at laying proper eggs. The kind you would not be afraid to give to a nice neighbor. Her other eggs we can give to neighbors we don’t like.

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