Wednesday afternoon’s excitement – was on my computer when “my” young coyote ambled across the drive, stopping to check a drip emitter (no doubt needing water).
I ran upstairs to see if he’d come into the yard. He was nosing around what I think is a packrat nest outside my fence (last time he did that I heard horrible yelps, like maybe he stuck his nose in some cholla which the rats use to protect the entrance to their burrow) and all of a sudden a deer started to chase him. He probably didn’t even know the couple with their young fawn were nearby. (Photo when they were crossing the drive the other day.)
The other parent and the fawn bounding (white-tailed deer do not stot, pronk or prong, according to Wikipedia, as you see the African springboks doing on Nature programs) approached the fence until the other parent returned. Deer 1 coyote 0.
This morning as I was getting ready for work I noticed a movement in the yard. A very large bobcat had strolled through the fence. But just as I was grabbing my camera it walked back out, to inspect the supposed packrat nest and smell the area where the deer had been yesterday. I sat my cat down to watch it so that she won’t want to go outside for a few days.
The Orphan Master’s Son
Most of you missed the marvelous talk by Adam Johnson, professor at Stanford, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Orphan Master’s Son, a realistic piece of fiction which takes place in North Korea.
The son of an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents, and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong-Il.
(If you get the book on CD, which you can at the library, it is read by Koreans, so you get the accent.)
Unfortunately there were only two dozen people on the lower level of the U of A bookstore for the talk and reading. I sat with friend D and past prez of U of A, Henry Koffler.
First Johnson talked about a Korean orphan who ended up founding an NGO that has an orphanage in South Korea and planted 14,000 apple trees in North Korea. When I googled it I found this quote from Entertainment; of course Johnson gives canned speeches.
The first person I interviewed for the book was from the North. He was an older gentleman, and he was born before the Korean War. During the war, he was orphaned. He spoke to me about what it was like to lose his family in the war. He was adopted by an American tank crew who let him sleep on the back of the tank in exchange for helping them navigate the countryside. Even as a young boy of 10, he knew some English. When they got to an air force base, they put him on a cargo jet and he landed in Seattle. That was back when I guess you could take a child and just put him on a plane. [Laughs]
All I knew when I was beginning the book was that my character was beginning to have such an origin. I was so moved by his story. Since then he went on to become one of the founders of Holt International. He had his own orphanage in South Korea dedicated to disabled children. In the North, he had an NGO planting apple orchards, and he and his friends had planted 14,000 apple trees in the North. He was friends with a man named Kim Myung-gil, who was the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ambassador to the U.N. So my friend — I don’t want to say his name — was trusted in both the North and the South. He was professor of international relations. He knew that I was working on this book. I actually showed him most of the book before he died a year and a half ago. He just really believed in the project. He said there was nothing quite like this, and he said I think I can get you into North Korea. So he personally took me there.
I hadn’t realized that the north is 85% mountains, so they can grow corn, but not rice. They have timber and minerals. Then he talked about Kim Jong-il cutting down trees in 1994 which contributed to flash flooding and the great famine in which +2 million died. No future, no possibilities, no hope. This from Wikipedia:
The economic decline and failed policies provided the context for the famine in the early 1990s, but the floods and storms of the mid-1990s provided the catalyst. Specifically, the floods in July 1995 were described as being “of biblical proportions” by independent observers. Arable land, harvests, grain reserves, and social and economic infrastructure were destroyed.
The major issues created by the flood were not only the destruction of crop lands and harvests, but also the loss of emergency grain reserves, as much of it was stored underground. Due to the declining economy and devastating natural disasters, the DPRK did not have the resources to import food or resources, and people were faced with death and starvation. Estimates of the death toll vary widely. Out of a total population of approximately 22 million, somewhere between 240,000 and 3,500,000 people died from starvation or hunger-related illnesses.
Lots of miscellaneous details. He pointed out that Bush added North Korea to the Axis of Evil so that it wouldn’t look like a war against Islam. And that spontaneous bark carving appear each morning in Pyongyang with party slogans – the trees carve their own bark. (Similar to what the trees do in the scifi sequel to Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead.)
That of Mongolia, China, Japan, Korea, North Korea had the longest run of independence in a thousand years. The Joseon Dynasty was one of the longest running dynasties in the world, ruling from 1389 until they were annexed in 1910 by the Empire of Japan. The Japanese subjugated North Korea for 35 years. They could not teach Korean in the schools, and had to teach Japanese. (Kinda like us getting Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California after the Mexican–American War and insisting that the former Mexicans now be taught English in the schools, not Spanish.) This ended with WWII and the division by the super powers along the DMZ – where we have 13 million landmines (I couldn’t verify that number on the Web, just 1.2 million, as if that weren’t enough) and why we can’t sign the landmine ban!
Then he got into the Korean War, bad except for our one good TV program (M*A*S*H). It’s been 60 years since but “no one has read the book”. The text on the memorial in DC is Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met. (I’ve been to DC several times and didn’t even know that there was a memorial.) It’s called The Forgotten War. Toni Morrison has just written Home, a novel about the war. A traumatized soldier returns from the Korean War to his segregated hometown in Georgia. (She was one of Johnson’s students.)
Johnson spoke of his fixation, which started in 2003, to read every book he could regarding Kim Jong-Il’s dictatorship, such as the 36 book written about the 36 people who escaped the gulags. He obsessively studied North Korea for six to seven years before he could get security clearance to visit. His wife finally said enough! Recommended – Nothing to Envy: ordinary lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, interviews with women who escaped. North Korean ‘Court Poet‘, Jang Jin-sung, who escaped in 2004, is to publish his memoirs. Look for that this spring.
When Johnson did get to North Korea he saw few old people, but veterans got housing on the first floor of buildings. He saw the goats on the roofs in Pyongyang. In Pyongyang the most desirable thing is to speak with a South Korean accent, which means that you get away with listening to South Korean soap operas. People there have cell phones, ipads, and so on, like us.
Kim’s personal sushi chef, Kenji Fujimoto, defected in 2001 and has written three books about his experiences. (Johnson interviewed him for GQ: http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201306/kim-jong-il-sushi-chef-kenji-fujimoto-adam-johnson-2013?currentPage=8) A couple of details about his life. He grew up with a combative father whose signature move was punching out people’s front teeth, including Fujimoto’s mother’s. When working for Kim Jong-il, Fujimoto spent $650,000 on cognac for the dictator each year. And he never spoke Korean. For eleven years he was nanny to Kim’s three sons, who were presented with whatever Fujimoto said children on the outside liked – a waterpark at each of his seventeen palaces, roller skates, video games (yes, DHL delivers to Pyongyang), and a basketball court at each palace. Unfortunately, Fujimoto and the boys had to pretend that there was an opposing team.
Kim became crazy for basketball. The Chicago Bulls became his favorite team after their 1992 win of the NBA Finals. (Fujimoto’s sister recorded the final game and sent it to him from Japan.) Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended her summit with Kim by presenting him with a basketball signed by NBA legend Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was invited to the DPKR and declined, but Dennis Rodman accepted.
Kim was responsible for every death, every person in his country. He would marry people on the spot, if he thought they should be married, or divorce them on the spot at parties. Kim Jong-il had South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee kidnapped, and become “his pet” because he liked her movies. But just this August his son, Kim Jong-un, had 12 people of a pop band executed by machine guns, including Hyon Song-wol, well-known pop artist and his longtime girlfriend. This is now the third generation of the regime; it is durable.
Eating lunch in one of the Pima College lounges. Over a dozen students sitting in the comfortable upholstered couches and chairs, or at one of the bar-height tables each surrounded by three pale turquoise chairs.
Eight students texting on their phones. (Does anyone talk on a telephone anymore?) Four working on their tablets or laptops. One (with lavender hair) actually reading a book! One doing homework from a book.
I have some students with interesting decorations. Lots of tattoos, and one woman, in addition to tats cascading down both arms, has a flower on the front of her neck. (In Sunday’s NY Times Social Q’s column Philip Galanes said, If the desired tattoo would adorn her face or neck, lock your daughter in her bedroom until further notice. Because nothing says “future C.E.O.” quite like a cobra crawling up from beneath a Peter Pan collar.)
One young women has cotton candy pink hair, another a robin’s egg blue. One young man has a four-inch Mohawk (yes- standing stiffly up – he says he uses paraffin on it) in a pumpkin orange.
Some multiple piercings. One young man with dreadlocks (he’s white) and half-inch holes in his ears (called ear stretching or lobe ‘gauging’) has a ring between his nostrils, rather like Lady Gaga.
But no one as decorated as Dennis Rodman.