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A Letter from the Beach

From the Scrapbook

Jul 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 43 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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It’s getting windy now, folks are packing up ready to return to their other world. I call my wife, who has been spending time with friends a couple of towns up the beach, affording me the time to pursue (supposedly) those long-talked-about literary and aesthetic refinements. The subject now is dinner. I think I hear her say something about Dirty Dick’s Crab House. “Ready to go?” she asks. “Funny thing,” I said, “I had my heart set on that little steakhouse around the corner.” 

***

In appreciation of so thoughtful a correspondence, we hereby dub Ceaser The Scrapbook’s Carcinologist in Chief (Google it yourself). ♦

Marshal Kim

The Scrapbook felt a certain satisfaction last week when we learned that Kim Jong Eun had been named a marshal of the Korean People’s Army. 

This promotion to the highest rank in the North Korean armed forces seemed, to The Scrapbook, only fitting: At 29, Kim is the world’s youngest head of state, and his sloping shoulders bear an awesome burden of responsibility. The Great Successor, as he is popularly called, has been first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the Central Military Commission, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, and a member of the presidium of the Central Politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea. At his father’s funeral last year, he was described as “our party, military, and country’s supreme leader who inherits Great Comrade Kim Jong Il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit, and courage.” 

For “grit” alone, in The Scrapbook’s view, Kim deserves this boost to marshal. 

Which reminds us of the reliable rule that the more preposterous the tyrant, the more likely he is to indulge himself with titles, nifty uniforms, and (self-awarded) honors. Take the late Idi Amin, for example, the Ugandan dictator of the 1970s who is estimated to have murdered as many as a half-million of his countrymen. By the time this onetime private in the British colonial army was finally toppled from power, he had risen to the status of His Excellency President for Life Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

Or Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic. This former enlisted man in the French colonial forces was not content just to be president of the newly independent republic west of Sudan; in 1976 he transformed his landlocked homeland into the Central African Empire, and was thereafter addressed by members of his court as Sa Majesté Impériale Bokassa 1er. 

By way of contrast, The Scrapbook offers up the late Muammar Qaddafi in evidence. True to his ascetic Bedouin origins, Qaddafi​—​who was a lieutenant and just three years out of the Libyan military academy when he overthrew King Idris in 1969​—​never promoted himself beyond the modest rank of colonel. He also tended to avoid superfluous titles and honors, and as early as 1977 resigned his post as chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council of Libya, opting instead to be described as a “symbolic figurehead” in the government.

But while Qaddafi showed a certain bureaucratic restraint, he clearly let loose on the sartorial front, decking himself out in sumptuous desert robes or a variety of Ruritanian-style military uniforms. The Scrapbook’s favorite is the quasi-naval costume he tended to wear on ceremonial occasions, complete with War of 1812-style epaulettes and a mop of greasy, voluminous hair under an elaborate hat.

The Great Successor is clearly in touch with his inner North Koreanness: He is usually seen in public in the standard Mao-style tunic with a modest flag pin attached to his breast. But “Marshal Kim” has a certain ring to it, and The Scrapbook expects to see him sometime soon in more martial attire, watching his starving subjects march past.

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Low Voltage

I

t turns out that not many people are inclined to purchase a Chevy Volt. Only 7,671 of them were sold last year, and GM has suspended production multiple times despite plans to expand production to 60,000. But suddenly The Scrapbook has a powerful urge to buy one​—​and you may too once you learn what we found out last week.

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