site index [Picture of
                          the Day logo]

Picture of the Day
yesterday | today | tomorrow

March 11, 2018

Great Leader and the Fighter
                                  Pilot i'm lucky to have friends. well, it's partly luck, partly prioritizing. who, as a child, does not want friends? it seems fairly basic, and is probably far more intrinsic to the flourishing of humanity than family. after all, too much focus on the family leads to inbreeding. friendship, at its root, might be seen as an evolutionary strategy to diversify the gene pool. our weekly 4Shadows meeting in a concrete bunker on south lake union, though free of procreation, is more than just an off-the-rails improv rock jam--it's part coffee klatch, book club, gift exchange, sporting event, and method acting seminar. we pack a lot of fun and creativity into the confines of a lopsided asphalt parking lot lined with brutally pruned trees. it's better to have friends in a slum than be alone in a palace. look at poor Kim Il Sung, North Korea's original dear leader, who erected 34,000 monuments to himself. he was so sad and lonely he ate himself rotund, subliminal compensation for the millions of peasants he starved. i read about him in a book matt lent me--The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot. it's a gripping and quick read, but rings hollow in the end because it only skates along the surface of tragedies large and small. (you know what stalin said. no wonder it was heartily endorsed by the wall street journal, bible of statistical success!) it's a thumbnail view of Korean history told through parallel stories of the ruthless dictator and a talented young man, No Kum Sok, who fakes Communist party loyalty to save his own skin, eventually rising up the ranks to become a "Top Gun" fighter pilot in a bottom of the barrel airforce, all the while dreaming of defecting to the USA. spoiler: he does it! he flies his MiG 15 to freedom in South Korea, though he knows it means his best friend will be executed for "guilt by association." that betrayal is related in a single sentence in the body of the book. in the epilogue, it's revealed that at least 5 people close to No were executed for his action, for which he allows no sign of grief because too much time--17 years--had passed for him to be "overwhelmed by guilt." that's pretty cold. that initial betrayal should be the meat of the story. but it's understandable that it's not--the author befriended No Kum Sok and probably didn't want to offend by probing or exposing too much. loyalty is complicated and facts are simpler than ethics. i don't know about No, but my grandmother was tormented by guilt 50 years after she inadvertently caused the death of someone who died for helping provide falsified documents in a failed attempt to sneak her out of Czechoslovakia shortly after the Stalinist coup of 1948. it makes me wonder if dementia isn't a subconscious release for festering guilt--her secret broke through in moments of urgent lucidity. and what price does one pay for hiding the truth from oneself? when we're not honest with ourselves, it prevents us from seeing the truth about others. No, who disapproved of his son's second wife and refused to attend the wedding, is later surprised when that son shoots himself four months later. if the price of survival is killing something in yourself, what's left? The
                                  Artists Formerly Known as Screaming
Postcard from Hell (C.O.D. fro'