20180112

Movie Review - Sheba, Baby


12. Jan. 2018



It was well past midnight. Try 2 a.m. early. We don’t have cable so we watch what the rabbit ears bring. Our rabbit ears brought us the Bounce network. The Bounce network brought us Sheba, Baby with actress Pam Grier. We made some sleepy tea and watched a masterpiece.

Superficially we thought this was a blacksploitation film. The “Hey, jive turkey!” was the flag. But the movie was moving so fast we didn’t have time to judge anymore. We were hooked.

There are lot’s a great movie things to enjoy: Pimps, loan sharks, boats, yachts, assault rifles, uzis, explosions, murder, and fight scenes. But that’s the surface. Underneath you can tell everyone who made the movie was having a good time.

Our favorite scene was when Pam Grier goes commando in a wet suit. She reminds us of Sean Connery as James Bond. She is really in the water. She is really swimming.  Of course her makeup is perfect and her hair is intact.  The wet suit is exactly her size so we know that the Pam and the set team chose authenticity over show.

Did we mention boats? Yes there are boats. Nice boats. A yacht with a real engine room. Speed boats with chrome hot-rod engines and lavish interiors. Pam is piloting the speed boat, the jet ski and the uzi! Yep, she is not some man’s victim.  She is the hero.

If you like Bruce Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and ladies who don’t take shit from anyone this movie is for you.  In light of the perception that the US is not a place for African  Americans, women and independent film let’s walk back to 1975 where actors, directors and producers were working together to tell stories that boosted the moral of everyone.

Of course some of the scenes are cheesy. Like guns on a boat are about as useful as guns on an airplane. One shot and everyone is screwed. The fight scenes are not Bruce Lee strong but so what this is a play. On the other hand the stunt scenes are spot on. They are scary. Pam is doing her own stunts too so… right on!

You can check out this movie on Amazon by rental or with Brown Sugar which is $3.99 a month with Amazon Prime. We also recommend watching the Bounce Network.

Pam Grier - Sheba, Baby
Pam Grier - Sheba, Baby

After watching a movie on the Bounce network we felt it was necessary in light of what is happening now in the United States regarding skin color, race, racism, women and people divisions. So OgFOMK ArTS celebrates the kick ass movie, Sheba, Baby! Pam Grier stars in the early 1970s film as a private detective, who is beautiful, smart, sexy, skilled, African American and female. She does what few actors today would be afraid to consider. Sheba, Baby rocks!

Review by Alex Nuttall, title: Movie Review: Sheba, Baby, Original Date: 20180112 – © Alex Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS 2018 – 2018 – Published 20180112.

#OgFOMK #Journal #Prose #AlexNuttall #ShebaBaby #PamGrier #Bounce #Movies #BlackMovies #AfroAmericanCinema

https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/movie-review-sheba-baby.html

20180108

Red Ridding Hood, Reclaimed




6 Jan. 2018




Constant Animals -- 42 eventful flash fictions by Ken Poyner, "Red Riding Hood, Reclaimed
Constant Animals -- 42 eventful flash fictions by Ken Poyner, "Red Riding Hood, Reclaimed


It was a lie, but this could work if everyone sticks to the script.

So I put on my red cape and set out for grandmother’s house: which is no place as idyllic as the vacation cottage referenced in all the books. No. More of a run-down carriage house, spared when the ramshackle carriage barn was razed as a public hazard: a spindle of antiques cluttering the advance of the wilderness. Grandmother had set up a small living space in the back and we were always bringing her supplies, the necessaries of life. These things she could never afford herself, having raised a family and spent her youth pushing out the next shoe-struck generation; and if it weren’t for our regular delivery service, the old lady long ago would have expired simply of yellow-eyed want.

So she was amenable when the wolf and I made our proposal: why wouldn’t she, just two afternoons a week, take a long walk: go see the woodsman, busy herself with a little social conversation, or simply count the clouds that look like grandfather’s infidelities?

Given her situation, what was she going to say?

And so the wolf and I had our two wondrous afternoons each week. His fur was the ground-water wet landscape of my emergence; I was the humbling prey that held him away from his pack. Our union was the grand gnashing of gears and pinions that only a contentious mix of species can call out of simple flesh. Grandmother’s spindly bed could barely contain us. It rocked and it heaved and it prepared to give way: it stammered and stuttered and skidded on its stick legs around the room, as seemingly alive as if it had its own wants and its own surrendered barrenness. The early half of each evening after our visits, grandmother would be shoring up the bed’s battered frame, sorting feather from straw, restacking her preciously gifted personal goods on the numb and rattled shelves. Fur shed in wolf-passion, in shine tasting new woman passion, would bedevil her sheets and nothing would get the surpassingly erotic hair out.

I was drawn into the passion of fur: into the matte and bristle, the crystalline smell of its precision. The moment when compassion and cooperation turn into the single fearing purpose, the tunnel vision of personal passion: that moment I fell in love with. The blinding animal need without geometry or object. Without prelude or outcome. These for the wolf were hallowed dance steps and I was enraptured by the performance.

But there is outcome. The human half of this pair must push back the allure of the feral and look instead self-consciously into a workday future. Wolves have no future. They dance and kill and love in the present day and tomorrow is another bucket of needs and wants that hasn’t yet been dreamt of.

In the practical time of women, these arrangements never last. No matter how deep in the woods, someone discovers the outlawed ecstasy; or the natural course of events conspires to break the back of a short-lived workable solution. Sometimes the unharnessed passion runs its full wicked course and the animal turbulence calms into plans for a mortgage, savings for college, the thought of a retirement to the shore. A woman begins to imagine the life she will have when the life she is having - of unmeasured actions and irregular wants and random satisfaction - loses its energy and she pristinely wonders how much love there is in sitting quietly over what is left of the morning’s orange juice.

As the body cools, the omnipresence of needs becomes the tickling hint of plans. The present looks over the fence at the future.

So I am trudging suspiciously now along the path I used to fly with pleasures of rage along in days past, at the speed of bestial love and pure minded lust. Under my red cape in better times I brightly surged this way bone naked, electric at the idea of union; yet today I am dressed in deceptive layers, my thoughts as mathematical as the single purpose machine my body has become. Self-centered and demanding, my ample belly pries at the cloth and I can barely keep one foot in front of the other, my condition more comfortable with a waddle than with any other gait: one leg out to the side and the other flung inelegantly around. Gravity does not love a woman in my situation, and I feel its hands against me like a drunk fondling another drunk at the church social.

By now the wolf will have eaten the last unappetizing ribbon of my tough, leathery grandmother. I can imagine how impressed she would be that I could go back on our deal, develop all on my own a more profitable long-term perspective, and scheme to use my wolf lover as my ready and unthinking tool. She would be proud at the end of her life to be worth silencing. My wolf will have dressed himself poorly enough in her nightclothes, looking nothing like a grandmother, fooling not even himself. The need for an exit of grandmother he can understand; but the nightclothes he thinks is just one more slip of a pregnant woman’s roaming mind, a craving like milk thistle or dandelion root. He will pull on the thin, cheap sleeping garments as best he can and try like a man in quicksand to look the interested lover. What wolves and people do not know ensures their world stays a place of simple decisions.

The woodsman is the core to my disentanglement. His actions need to be as precise and convincing as those of a clockmaker, as true as God flinging down His alabaster retribution: His unjacketed spare lightning bolts, well timed if poorly aimed. Only in the shadow of single purpose does this woodsman know that it is his part to kill the wolf, to restore my overly complicated life to its former little girl’s equation. Only he knows he is my dolorous note of revenge and salvation.

The wolf will be gone, along with his songs of completion and his eyes of a lust left lingering across species; and grandmother, with her needs thumbing the moral, will be an ironic bloat in the wolf’s self-important belly. I am sick of being the expedient. I am sick of being the example that proves a tale that makes no sense. 

For the woodsman’s part, I have promised him his pick of my pups.


*******


From “Constant Animals”

Copyright 2013 by Ken Poyner

Originally published in “Rose Red Review”.



42 eventful flash fictions

 Constant Animals -- 42 eventful flash fictions by Ken Poyner
 Constant Animals -- 42 eventful flash fictions by Ken Poyner

"Red Riding Hood, Reclaimed" From Constant Animals -- 42 eventful flash fictions, Copyright 2013 by Ken Poyner. Originally published in “Rose Red Review”.


A man who falls in love with a giant mouth.  A working prostitute composed entirely of glass.  A woman’s breasts, feeling unappreciated, leave.  A lower class of birds justifies their relationship with their overlord birds.  How one is supposed to carry a monkey in public.  Chickens compete in their design of cell phone cases.

Ken Poyner:  multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, work in “The Watershed Review”, “Analog Science Fiction and Fact”, “Menacing Hedge”, “Asimov’s Science Fiction”, “The Alaska Quarterly Review”, “Fear of Monkeys”, more than 100 other journals and sites.  He has given readings and/or taught workshops at Bucknell University, George Washington University, The Bethesda Writers Center, and elsewhere.

Barking Moose Press, LLC, 2013:  www.barkingmoosepress.com

ISBN:  9781301096602

$13.00 paperback, $2.99 Kindle and epub.

Available from Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Sundial Books in Chincoteague, The Book Bin in Onley, Smashwords.com, any on-line bookseller.

Bookstore distribution through Ingram or Baker and Taylor.© Ken Poyner / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved. - Constant Animals:  "Red Riding Hood, Reclaimed"

#OgFOMK #KenPoyner #ConstantAnimals #FlashFiction #Books #Kindle #KoboReader

https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/red-riding-hood-reclaimed.html

20180107

While You Aren't Here




7 Jan. 2018

While You Aren't Here -- Tom Deans

Very Real and Very Far From My Banal Middle-Aged Life

I pretty much hate my successful friends. Ok, so maybe hate is a strong word. 

Social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram for me, is the devil. That's where my marginally acquainted human beings display their extravagant vacations, new cars and perfect families. I will review these items with loathsome regularity and ceremoniously feel horrible about myself. Now I know not everything is as it may seem, but enough I suspect is very real and very far from my banal middle-aged life. Hmmm... how's that for the name of an unwatched soon- to- be canceled television show?

Should I be posting pics of me eating my cheese toast with a tall glass of chocolate milk? Or driving in my shitty car to my underpaying and underappreciating job? That's one of 4 jobs I might add.

No, that's not gonna happen. I will continue to read the statuses of people who pass through my life with varying degrees of time spent with and contemplate the meaning of my own existence. The ones that have recently set me off are the "I'm about to go back to work after my holiday vacation, pray for me". Prayers are needed indeed. Prayers that I don't find them and strangle them.

Just read one that said "hubby and I aren't even finished with this week's vacation and we're already planning our next... to Punta Cana!!" 

What's a vacation? Haven't had one in 8 years!

Enough of this old man's bitter ramblings. I think I'll watch a movie where I can despise people I don't know at all. 


While You Aren't Here -- Tom Deans
While You Aren't Here -- Tom Deans


Tom Deans shows up to the card game with a loaded deck. All the cards are stuck together. The beer is flat. We all have days like this. It is no joke though. Tom works very hard. He also has a great sense of humor and he will laugh at himself and you too! Your social media prowess is limiting the connections to sincere friendship. It's more like, "I'm here and you ain't."

© Tom Deans / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved. - Prose - While You Aren't Here

#OgFOMK #TomDeans #Vacation #Facebook #Instagram #Better #MoreBetterest #Envy #HardTimes

https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/while-you-arent-here.html

20180106

Velvet Reverend Al -- The State of Meditation Address




6. Jan 2018




Preface to the Address:


In 1988 I was given a book on Buddhism. My friend and young Republican, Raul said: “Alex, I think you will benefit from this practice.” I was 18 and already I had ideas of yoga, meditation and the lot of spiritual practices. The easy key was to do it and not talk about it. I did the opposite.

Sure I practiced some. Sure I took the occasional yoga class or meditation sit in. Mostly I just talked about it.

Things were getting serious all of the time. Overwhelmingly serious. I was vibrating at a frantic pace and I was headed for destruction. Always there was destruction.

In 1995 I joined the Army National Guard. My religion was Hindu. That’s what my dog tags said. That’s what I decided I was. I was a Kshatriya! I figured that I needed to submit to some training and respectfully I chose the Army.

In my 4th year of my National Guard position I requested that my religion be known as Buddhist. I submitted my paperwork and I received my new dog tags. I was proud to at least have an honest idea as to what I believed. I believed in mindfulness. I talked about it very much.

After September 11, 2001 I was already out of the Army National guard a year. I was also back in the questioning position of what should I practice because I was meandering from state of talking to state of drunkenness. I had no practice. I was in shambles. A month later I was in jail for three months!

If you don’t pay child support in the state of Virginia you will eventually end up in jail. Especially if your life is a mess. My life was a mess and thus I began my actual practice of meditation.

As I sat in the initial lock-up of Newport News’s fine downtown establishment. I surrendered to the fact that I was going nowhere. So I began meditating. I did this every day for three months. Upon my release I was confident, strong, and ready to change my life.

All it took for me to get lost was a little reality and I was back where I was 4 months before. I was broke. I was all over the place. I was miserable. My identity was summed up in the song: Who We Be by DMX.


About 2003 I had a serious meltdown and I sought the services of a counselor. She was a very smart PHD who graduated from William and Mary. We discussed my life, goal, meditation and various strategic plans. She helped me to understand that I was responsible for everything.

So I changed a lot of things and talked about meditation a lot and practiced very little. I was still a drunkard. I loved alcohol. Alcohol was easy and cheap. It was also expensive.

Each year since my counseling I’ve managed to slightly improve but I always remained out of control until I bought a Kayak in the summer of 2016. It was this purchase that helped me to see in a kinesthetic way to appreciate that my actions 100% affect my outcome.

I bought a Kayak in the summer of 2016
I bought a Kayak in the summer of 2016


The Kayak lesson was very real. No matter what mood I was in I would get on that kayak. I pushed off from the shore and I was in the stream of life. I learned to paddle. I learned that I had to set a goal for my destination and I had to paddle my ass back to the point of departure no matter how I felt. I could not give up.

I quickly incorporated meditation and stretching into this. I started to track my progress. About October of 2016 I was meditating an hour a day. 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night. Even if I did not kayak I meditated because I knew that the journey was in meditation. My body was the vehicle. I talked less about meditation and I did it more.

Toward the end of November I continued my practice and I also began a daily journal that was based on a podcast by James Altucher and Brian Koppelman: (https://jamesaltucher.com/2016/11/brian-koppelman-2/) This time also helped me to advance my creative branch and create the Apriori Flower comic. My journal was worked into a creative piece. I also had to have accountability and continuity.

By 2017 I had bought a special calendar for my meditation practice. The calendar was designated for the sole purpose of tracking my practice. Other than it’s specific purpose it was an ordinary calendar.

I had an alter and all the superficial trappings of a new age douche-bag. Under that alter I had a calendar that I would physically write down the time and amount of practice on the date. It was hard to argue with this. This ideal practice is related to the Jerry Seinfeld chain calendar where he had to write every day and make an X. This was his chain. He did not want to break the chain. I did not want to break the chain.

Some of my success is owed to a very simple meditation app that I was using for 5 years: Meditation Helper Pro by Neil Alexander. This app is very simple. It just times and tracks your meditation sessions. It also encourages you to practice if you are not in the mood. There is a free version also. I bought the pro because I wanted to support the author.

So the State of Mediation for 2017 Address

For 2017 we can see that I started with a bang from 2016 and then I went up and down and up and down. If this was a generic stock I would not be temped to buy it. It is a stock in my own very interest so instead of letting it go I must seed and invest. I look at the reality and sort through facts.


State of Meditation Data - 2017
State of Meditation Data - 2017

State of Meditation Chart - 2017
State of Meditation Chart - 2017

For the year 2017 I meditated 145 hours. Broken down average is 12 hours a month and 24 minutes a day. My goal was to do 1 hour a day. My required goal of sanity was 30 minutes a day. So as far as we (me, myself, and I) are concerned we made a progressive push for the year 2017 because we tracked every month.

Conclusion:


There are benefits to mediation. The best benefit is practice. A concrete and constructive practice will build momentum. The best external example of this is that the Magazine OgFOMK ArTS went from an obscure self project to a multi-talented push with 18,000 new views for the year!

There are other benefits too! Others have already written them down.

My basic practice is this:


  1. Standing up I am rotating my joints gently.
  2. Then I am stretching my arms and legs.
  3. Sitting Zazen (Full Lotus) for 30 minutes at a time where I count my breath to 10 over and over again until the clock stops.
  4. Write down the session time, date and duration in a calendar that is under my meditation cushion.
That’s it.
My basic practice
My basic practice

We are not cured

I’m still a very mismanaged person. Every day I have to practice my practice. If I don’t practice then I will slowly move the needle from the in control mix track to the arm is broken and the turntable is in the middle of a skipping record. So the state of 2017 meditation is a snapshot. It is another Constructive Technology Aggregate. If you have made it this far. You can make it all the way!


The Velvet Reverend Al, a.k.a. Alex Nuttall, discusses his practice of meditation in 2017. A whole year of practice where there are ups and downs but mostly truths. Averaging about 24 minutes a day he explains what happened, what worked, where he lost his way and finally what good came out of this practice.

His practice is a basic Zazen, Chen, Dhyāna practice of counting the breath, sitting up straight and letting go of what is not mindful. If you would like to follow along he gives very basic but in depth instructions for a meaningful practice. Practice and accountability is what this is about.

Essay by Alex Nuttall, title: The State of Meditation Address -- Alex Nuttall, Original Date: 20180104 – © Alex Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS 2018 – 2018 – Published 20180106.

#OgFOMK #Journal #Prose #AlexNuttall #Meditation #2017 #AnnualMeditationPractice #Zen #Zazen #Dhyāna #Buddhism

https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/velvet-reverend-al-state-of-meditation.html

20180105

Square Peg: Farm Animals Being Trucked in Winter


5. Jan. 2018 
 

Debbie Wall - Square Peg: Farm Animals Being Trucked in Winter
Debbie Wall - Square Peg: Farm Animals Being Trucked in Winter

All this cold weather reporting from every conceivable angle, yet not one drop of ink for the plight of farmed animals being trucked down our highways in trailers that are unheated and often open sided. 

Canada has some of the weakest animal protection laws in the Western world and those pertaining to their transportation are no exception.  Over 750 million land animals are raised for food in this country every year and all must endure being transported to their deaths.  Depending on species, that potentially means 36 to 52 continuous hours with no food, water or rest.  

According to the government's own statistics, hundreds of thousands of them die en route.  At this time of year, hundreds of thousands more will arrive severely frost-bitten or frozen to the sides of trailers.  Imagine the marked increase in coverage . . . and outrage . . . this would get if the story involved one dog freezing to death in the back of a pick-up truck.

Poultry Trailer with No Tarp - Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals | http://cetfa.org/help-farmed-animals-in-winter-part-1-in-transport/ | http://cetfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/poultry-trailer-with-no-tarp-manitoba-2.jpg
Poultry Trailer with No Tarp - Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals



Debbie Wall champions those who can not speak for themselves. She discusses and points out the obvious that rolls down the highways of Canada, The United States and Mexico! No one likes to be cruel to animals. But our plates and our palates demand factory farms for meat.

To learn more about this subject:
Part 1: http://cetfa.org/help-farmed-animals-in-winter-part-1-in-transport/
Part 2: http://cetfa.org/helping-farmed-animals-in-cold-weather-part-ii-in-transport/

© Debbie Wall / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved. - Square Peg - Farm Animals Being Trucked in Winter

#OgFOMK #DebbieWall #SquarePeg #AnimalEthics #Humane #CETFA #Winter #AnimalProtection #AnimalRights

https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/square-peg-farm-animals-being-trucked.html

20180104

Perilous Promenade




4. Jan. 2018


Ken Poyner's "Perilous Promenade"
Ken Poyner's "Perilous Promenade"
We were not ready. All of us have been aware for time unyielding that they were growing more numerous, spreading cloud-like in our midst. Each of us has had to gingerly steer around one as he or she stood perilous unaware of the human foot tracking going parted past. Who has not been jostled as one sped inconsolably towards a locational goal? Who has not been stopped in predicted progress while two of them in the middle of the planned pathway stand gamboling with each other in unlacquered, rambling conversation.

Yes. Mall Zombies. We thought we had more time to design a defense, to craft a response, to dream an insidious offense. But they are everywhere now.

They step out of stores, move three feet into the shuffling pedestrian traffic, stop, and begin looking about as if for victims. Or as if they had never seen this nation and were trying to fix their unfamiliarity. They shuffle in design like a ping-pong ball in a tornado of paddles. Or they stop for no reason, emulating a traffic cone. How many of us have been bedeviled by a mother who has parked her perambulator long-ways across the walkway, push out from her at arm’s length, her smart phone in one hand, its pernicious glow ghosting her face?

I have come to believe that the key to their rapid expansion is, in fact, those smart phones. Chattering we thought at first only gibberish, commonplaces, pass-times and cotton candy for the mind, they seem ubiquitous in the hands of Mall Zombies. Could it be that they are sharing strategy, arranging ever more annoying encounters, bringing the zombie army on-line? How do these Mall Zombies find the choke points in traffic flow? They seem to arrive in twos and threes in places where the traffic plane narrows, where maintenance equipment temporarily closes off alternative egress. They sometimes appear in waves – one wandering aimlessly twelve feet behind where another reels aimlessly, twelve feet behind a smart phone mother with carriage and children spread out along side her, executing a classic picket fence maneuver.

Could it be the smart phones? Behind that glassy veneer of Mall Zombie expressionlessness, perhaps there is a sensitivity to certain codes or sequences, embedded collegiate symbols, hieroglyphics that direct to points of clutter, areas of limited traffic flow, minefields of seemingly random obstacles. Could it be?

Do not judge too quickly. You may look at one of these bumbling Mall Zombies and think, oh no, those smart phones are used just for endless repetition, for achieving that wondrously deep state of utter befuddlement, unconcern, thoughtlessness that so disfigures and defines the Mall Zombie. Do not think that because we are not attuned to the possibly runic, possibly alchemical hidden message in those smart phones it means they are not there. Those tribal messages are not meant for us and when we by accident see them, we do not absorb the direction, we merely shake our heads in disbelief that anyone could devote their time to such blinding background noise. But we are not part of the clan. We are not of the hive.

If we do not take care, all movement at the mall will come to a stop. You will only be able to enter stores if they have an outside ingress – and, even there, you will have to beware of Mall Zombies stopped just inside or outside the doorway, mouth hanging perilously disjointed, eyes a-glaze and each uncommunicating eyeball independently pointed precariously at a small, insensitively glowing screen. 

A screen, I suspect, that more than sucking brains from victims, creating an intellectual doldrum that leads the holder to be a willing impediment to civil locomotion, is actually providing instruction, marshalling the robot army. The Mall Zombies are not ignoring you, not simply foregoing courtesy in public deportment – no, they are being used by some deeper digital purpose, confounding and harassing the rest of us. And this may be only the trial run.

TheDigitalArtist - Creative Commons - https://pixabay.com/en/anonymous-hacktivist-hacker-2755365/
The Hacktivist - The Digital Artist - pixabay.com



Ken Poyner's "Perilous Promenade" is outside looking into the daily lives of smartphone users. The Mall Zombies are not a fictional work. They are real! They are many of us who have something more important at hand instead of the journey that was meant to be taken.

This Mall Zombie is treacherously at the stoplight too! He or she is so confident that they can juggle it all that they will punch the gas peddle when the light turns green. Carelessly entering the intersection where another Mall Zombie runs the red. Collision and control.

And if you're reading this on your smartphone. Put it down now and look around. Then go watch the movie: They Live!

© Ken Poyner / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved. - "Perilous Promenade"

#OgFOMK #KenPoyner #Creative #Nonfiction #Authors #Books #Writing #Zombies #Smartphones #MallZombies

https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/perilous-promenade.html

20180103

Review: Unlikely Hero in The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson


3 Jan. 2018



Ghillian Porter-Smith | Review: Unlikely Hero in The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Review: Unlikely Hero in The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

“The way you dig in a boot for old sticky toes is the way you spring a trapdoor in a DMZ tunnel or pull a stranger off a beach in Japan: you just take that breath and go.”


With North Korea much on my mind and frighteningly much in the news, I turned to The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson to provide some literary clarity. I knew almost nothing about this tiny, militant half-a-peninsula and educating oneself on the truth of a nation by reaching for fiction is arguably not the best solution. But after reading Mr. Johnson’s novel - astounded Korea experts have deemed it strong enough to be confused with a memoir - the curtains guarding North Korean daily life have thinned, allowing a glimmer of what could very well be truth laced through a cracking good tale of spies, love, adventure, and national insanity. It’s a believable fiction set in an unverifiable locale, a country Mr. Johnson has said is too often dismissed as no more than a grab-bag of "buffoonery, madness or evil."

I flinched a bit as I began, expecting horror, deprivation, hunger, despair…and they were there in spades. In Johnson’s dark Wonderland of thought-control and low life expectancies, where the government will sooner harvest blood from a sick citizen than heal them, the North Koreans play out their hand. The book is a shocker, full of jaw-dropping, head-shaking descriptions of the bleakest existence. To a friend, I likened it to a post-apocalyptic fiction that is actually, presently, being endured. Knowledge of other ways to live life is unknown and illegal to discover. Only those balancing within the precarious upper echelons know even the basic tenets of Western culture. Our hero must be briefed during a diplomatic trip to Texas and the quick practical primer on Americans was cuttingly accurate and hilarious.

The protagonist Pak Jun Do (a Korean “John Doe”) has the heart and intelligence that make an ally of any reader. We root for him despite how his talents are employed by Pyongyang, anchoring ourselves to the sanity and humor of his internal narrative. He’s our hero. And his attempts to attain the impossible sweep us up into a page-turner of a plot. But it’s a surface plot; the mass mental torture and terrorization of a country is the unforgettable backdrop and the true reason to read this book. Not for shock value, but to bear witness. Mr. Johnson spins a fictitious story, but he spices it with accounts of defectors and if even half of what he writes is true, we should at the very very least simply know.

But Adam Johnson’s brilliance is that he chooses a love story as his underlying theme. And he proves that for all the cruelty rampant in North Korea, resiliency and love still exist. In one small vignette, I found distilled the essence of what daily life in North Korea most likely encompasses and I held onto it as a touchstone of humanity:

A loving father walking through a park with his son teaches him the narrow path required by survival, loudly denouncing him to a group of uninterested seniors.

“See, my mouth said that, but my hand, my hand was holding yours. If your mother ever must say something like that to me, in order to protect the two of you, know that inside, she and I are holding hands. And if someday you must say something like that to me, I will know it’s not really you. That’s inside. Inside is where son and father will always be holding hands.”

Read this book to discover a dangerous, unknown world. Read this book for its clever flipping of the spy genre. Read this book to protest the atrocities of totalitarianism. Read this book for the unexpected humor of an anthropomorphized loudspeaker. Read this book, take a big, deep breath of freedom, and then go exercise and celebrate those rights that make our country luckier than most.






Ghillian Porter-Smith reviews an Unlikely Hero in The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

She Writes: "With North Korea much on my mind and frighteningly much in the news, I turned to The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson to provide some literary clarity. I knew almost nothing about this tiny, militant half-a-peninsula and educating oneself on the truth of a nation by reaching for fiction is arguably not the best solution."

© Ghillian Porter-Smith / OgFOMK ArTS -- 2018 All Rights Reserved. - Books on Review - The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

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https://ogfomk.blogspot.com/2018/01/review-unlikely-hero-in-orphan-masters.html