Friday, October 17, 2003

WEIRD BUT ADDICTING SITE OF THE DAY: a site that displays anonymous confessions about anything and everything (thanks to Dean's World for the link). I wonder if the people who post on this site feel better after having done so.

WIDESPREAD AGREEMENT. It appears that an across-the-spectrum consensus supports the contention that the "Senate's decision to turn Iraqi aid into loans is an asinine -- and near-treasonously stupid and destructive -- idea." I wholeheartedly agree.

IS EVERYONE NUTS? Cal-Pundit is afraid they might be.

MASCOTS FOR RIOT POLICE? South Korea's got 'em. The Marmot doesn't like 'em. I've noticed a tendency in Korea to not only have cute little mascots for anything and everything (which in and of itself is hardly unique. Remember those annoying mascots from the Salt Lake City winter games?) but to anthropomorphize everything. Money bags, brick walls, hot dog vending machines in the subway, you name it, if it is a symbol for a Korean business, government, or cultural venture, it must have arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc. I remember seeing a poster that depicted a cartoon starfish standing on two extra limbs, waving another extra limb and giving the thumbs up with yet another. I guess the five limbs it already had weren't enough. I'm not even sure what this is supposed to be, but, true to form, it has hands and feet.

It is quite natural for the army and people of the DPRK to call for strongly reacting against the reckless suppression and terrorism of the Japanese right-wing gangsters against Chongryon and Koreans in Japan, considering them as deliberate political and military provocations of the Japanese government to the DPRK.

There exists long-standing confrontational sentiment between the two countries. The Japanese government's hostile policy toward the DPRK and Chongryon is little short of adding to the crimes committed by the Japanese imperialists against the Korean people in the past. It only stirs up the bitterness of the army and people of the DPRK towards Japan.

The DPRK can never allow any slightest compromise and concession on the encroachment upon the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country. It will take only a powerful self-defensive step against the violation.

The Korean people will certainly force Japan to pay dearly for its double and treble crimes.

What is one to do in the face of this rhetoric? Beg North Korea to come to the table in order to "test its intentions" of course!

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE: Not everyone, it seems, dislikes North Korea. Note the following:
Pyongyang, October 17 (KCNA) -- Chikez Diemu, general secretary of the National Executive Committee of the People's Party for Rehabilitation of Democratic Congo and Democracy, visited the DPRK embassy in the country, placed a floral basket before the portraits of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il and paid tribute to them on October 10 on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and the 58th anniversary of the WPK. Meanwhile, the Movement of the Libyan Revolution Committee sent a large bouquet in the name of the movement together with a congratulatory message to the DPRK embassy on Oct. 9.
All praise, it seems, flows to the Kims.

HOW THINGS CHANGE. I borrowed a copy of Stephen Brill's After: How America Confronted the September 12 Era. (interestingly enough, the sub-title of the paperback version is: "The Rebuilding and Defending of America in the September 12 Era"). It was one of those impulse borrowings of books that I may browse but never actually read. One interesting tidbit emerged from the first few pages. As most of us probably remember, George W. Bush was in Florida reading to a group of children in an effort to tout his child literacy program when he heard the news about 9/11. At the same time, John Ashcroft was on his way to Milwaukee where he was scheduled to read to another group of kids in an effort to tout the same program.

Say what you will about the efficacy of senior statesmen reading to schoolkids; say what you will about Bush's literacy program; say what you will about Bush and Ashcroft themselves. Whatever you might say, it is a telling and saddening fact that on the morning of September 11, both apparently felt that promoting child literacy was at or near the top of their agendas. How things have changed! How I wish we could go back to arguing over the merits of educational reform rather than reconstruction of Iraq.

A YEAR LATER, JAPANESE ABDUCTEES STILL MAKE THE DAILY NEWS IN JAPAN. I had an interesting discussion with a Japanese technocrat last week during which he made the same point. The Japanese media can't get enough of these poor people. And as long as they make the headlines, the Japanese government will continue to push North Korea to release the abudctee's family members still in North Korea.

HUBRIS, THY NAME IS PEDRO. Who can blame him? Pedro Martinez is widely regarded as one of the best pitchers in baseball today. While Roger Clemens was pulled early and left the field in disgrace, Martinez had pitched a near-perfect game into the bottom of the 8th inning. But when Grady Little strolled to the mound with Boston ahead 5-2, one out in the bottom of the eighth, and no Yankees on base, the proper response is: "I'll let the bullpen (which had done surprisingly well in the postseason (especially once BK Kim disappeared) take it from here." Instead, Pedro wanted to be the hero and end the 8th on his own. The result: disaster and ultimately a Yankees 6-5 win in extra innings. So instead of a series for the ages, in which one storied but cursed team would finally see their long drought ended, we have the evil empire (again) squaring off against the Florida Marlins, a team that actually won it all not all that long ago but probably has few if any of the World Series champions left on their roster. Yawn.

UPDATE: Now here's an idea I can heartily support.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

SOUTH KOREAN FILM AND ANTI-AMERICANISM. James Brooke's New York Times piece about recent changes in South Korean cinema has generated a variety of opinions in the Korea-watching blogosphere (see here and here for examples). Seeing Eye Blog hosts a "guest fisking" of the Brooke's piece. The anonymous guest appears to be rather knowledgeable about Korean film and makes a strong case for this conclusion:
So, in short, a flawed premise, and pretty specious examples. Especially when you think about the post-war literature in Korea, which was also heavily ambivalent about North Korea and the American presence in the South. I think Mr. Brooke came up with his idea for a story, maybe after an assistant mentioned something about one of those films, then shoved the square facts into the round hole that was his thesis.
Read the whole thing.

But since a series of natural disasters devastated North Korea's economy in the 1990s, its state firms have also started signing contracts to provide Russian construction companies with cheap labor in exchange for hard cash.

"Nowadays, they prefer money," says Alexei Starichkov, a Korea expert at the Far Eastern National University in Vladivostok. "Russians use them for the hard and dirty work. The quality of the work is not so high, but people prefer them because they are cheap."

The North Koreans usually stay in dormitories, supervised by their own plainclothes security agents, experts say.

Some work in teams on big construction projects, but others are sent out to find smaller jobs, such as decorating apartments, for themselves.

Once a week, they have to attend a meeting to report on their activities and hand over the bulk of their earnings.

Conditions in the dormitories are poor. Many workers, like Kim, prefer to stay in the apartments they are working on. But back home in North Korea, which depends on international aid to feed its people, competition is fierce to join the Russian work teams, experts say. Some workers even bribe government officials to get a place on a team.

U.S. President George Bush on Wednesday praised Japan as an example to other nations after Tokyo pledged $1.5 billion to Iraq reconstruction ahead of a donors' conference next week.
Again, I am surprised at how little coverage one of the world's largest economies' relatively steadfast support for the United States in Iraq has received.

CUBS OUT, MARLINS IN. Of course this means no Cubs-Red Sox series for the ages. Jayson Stark doesn't care:
So the Florida Marlins are going to the World Series. They understand they've screwed up about a zillion romantic plot lines. They understand they're about the last team on earth that the poets, the historians and the ratings counters wanted to see show up at that World Series. But that's a problem only for the poets, the historians and the ratings counters.

Sometimes it's about baseball. And the best baseball team is the one still playing.

UPDATE: Stephen Green to Cubs fans: It is all for the best.

UPDATE: More advice for Cubs fans from Adam Smith (who, as I noted in one of my graduate courses a week or two ago, probably held his Theory of Moral Sentiments in higher esteem than the much more widely read The Wealth of Nations).

LONG TIME, NO BLOG. My system has been down (and I've been exceptionally busy).

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