John Grisham He Ain't: Nowadays, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is primarily known for his reclusive nature, his pursuit of nuclear weapons, and his tyrannical rule of a famine-ridden gulag state. But those who know him well also know him as something of a film buff. In fact, in 2001, he published a book of criticism, On the Art of Cinema, which you can buy at Amazon.com. I haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet, but here's an excerpt from the preface:
The cinema is now one of the main objects on which efforts should be concentrated in order to conduct the revolution in art and literature. The cinema occupies an important place in the overall development of art and literature. As such it is a powerful ideological weapon for the revolution and construction. Therefore, concentrating efforts on the cinema, making breakthroughs and following up success in all areas of art and literature is the basic principle that we must adhere to in revolutionizing art and literature.
Unfortunately, On the Art of Cinema hasn't sold very well thus far, with a disappointing sales rank of #455,145. Kim's other critical work, Kim Jong Il on the Art of Opera: Talk to Creative Workers in the Field of Art and Literature September 4-6, 1974, ranks even lower at #789,855. And his real potboiler, Our Socialism Centered on the Masses Shall Not Perish, reached only a paltry #1,060,827.
What kind of showing is that for the absolute leader of a totalitarian state? Where are the mass purchases, the sycophantic reader reviews? Which faceless apparatchik has fallen asleep at the wheel? (I was tempted to buy a few copies, just to help the poor guy out, but decided that I could find better uses for my money than supporting the concentration camps.)
In a strange twist of fate, Kim's literary success has now been eclipsed by that of UCLA professor Eugene Volokh, whose Academic Legal Writing (which I purchased in the course of revising my thesis) now ranks at a healthy #2,118.
Which should just go to show you: in the fight between the friends and enemies of freedom, the bloggers will always win.
UPDATE: Tim Worstall writes in with his own experiences handling Kim Jong Il's prose...
Feeling Our Pain: For us Americans in Europe, these aren't easy times. From this week's Onion:
Dollar Losing Value Against The Quarter
NEW YORK—After falling 6 percent in the past three weeks, the U.S. dollar hit a 208-year low against the U.S. quarter, which had been valued at exactly 0.25 dollars since its introduction in 1796. "The dollar continues to slide against most major currencies," Morgan Stanley analyst Richard Jemison said. "At the end of the day Tuesday, the quarter was trading at .267 yen, .203 euros, and US$0.28. But what we're really seeing here is not just a dollar weakened by a sluggish economy, but an exceptionally resilient quarter-dollar." Jemison was quick to point out that the dollar remains very strong against the nickel.