Sunday, May 6, 2018

A story of escape

"...our house didn't have a bathtub. Nobody's house did. In 1960. In paradise on earth." 

To celebrate World Book Day on April 23, Amazon was making available some free Kindle books from international authors. I downloaded a selection of them and read the first one earlier this week. It's called A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa. This book is an autobiography.

There has been more attention to North Korea in the news recently. Honestly, I did not know many details about the Korean War even though I live in a post-Soviet country and my home country was involved as well. I guess I have been focused more on Russian history.

Even though I'd heard rumors of starvation in North Korea, this book, written by a survivor, erases any doubts. As I was reading it, I kept thinking about periods of starvation in Russian history, such as Collectivization under Stalin (with estimates of anywhere from 7-20 million casualties), or the Siege of Leningrad (over 1 million dead in one city, from starvation and other related causes). It is hard enough to believe that such mass starvation happened within the last century, in countries that were not undeveloped/Third World at that time.

But the shocking thing about reading this story was that it happened in my lifetime and is still happening now. Ishikawa was born in 1947 and his kids are (were) my age. His kids grew up at the same time as me and never had enough to eat in their lives. Ishikawa's experience was complicated by the fact that he was a so-called "returnee" who was actually born in Japan and brought over to Korea by his Korean father. He was one of those who had perhaps the worst treatment possible, going from a simple (if challenging at times) life in rural Japan to famine/prison-like conditions in Korea with no way to make a case for better living conditions. In addition to having the lowest social status possible, I would think that the shock of the transition would make it even more challenging. As a discussion point, I wonder who would have more of a will to live: someone who has never known anything but poverty, or someone who has already tasted a glimpse of the "outside." On another level, we observe how Ishikawa's own father's character changes, as he escapes from racial discrimination as a Korean in Japan, only to plunge his Japanese wife into isolation and culture-shock as they relocate.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What's wrong with staring at your cell phone?


Something has been bugging me and it's hard to put into words. I'm a millennial, also sometimes known as the "xennial" generation, characterized by having an "analog childhood and digital adulthood." I was 17 when I got a computer and started using email, instant messenger, Google, etc.

Wi-Fi childhood...


Meanwhile, Facebook wasn't really around until after my college years, nor did I have a cell phone until after college.

How about you?

I've been wondering lately what factors combine to form someone's attitude towards the internet and social media. Is it an age thing? Socio-economic? Personality?

Aside from that, there's a meme (image being passed around) with a few variations that shows a large number of people staring down at their cellphones. This is clearly presented as a bad thing, but no one comes out and says why it's bad. So I'm asking here, what do you think?

For example, one variation compares cell phone users to zombies, walking around without noticing the world around them. Again, let's define the actual problem...

A few things that come to mind:

-craning your neck
-not noticing oncoming traffic (hopefully not as pedestrian OR driver)
-harmful to your brain? Not sure what current research says...

Those are kind of the practical issues, but I have also seen people allude to the "decline" of society. This is where I get a bit confused.

The week that felt like a thousand years

Last Sunday, we went to church. I kind of figured it would be our last for awhile. By the way, we usually get around 15 people...but we do...