Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Exactly what it says on the tin…

Some websites (and almost all businesses) have focus-grouped names. I mean by rights (are they still going?) ought to be a place to buy and sell elephants and not car insurance. Other websites though are truly focussed and this is the case with Kim Jong-il looking at things. Or indeed Cats that look like Ron Swanson.

This is Kim looking at fruit…

What fascinates me about that image in particular is that whilst the side of the fruit stand facing Kim is laden with produce the side facing us looks a bit sparse. The Russians might have had Potemkin villages but it takes the true Juche lunacy of North Korea to have created the Potemkin fruit stand.

It reminds me of Warsaw just after the Berlin Wall fell. Everyone was selling bananas. They’d just come on the market again. There was a reason you hadn’t been able to get a banana in Poland short of selling your daughter’s virginity to the Cuban embassy for some time but I forget what it was. Collapse of a sweetheart deal with Cuba maybe? Something like that.

Anyway, you know what gets me about these images of Comrade Kim looking at things? They remind me of pictures of Prince Charles looking at things. You’ve got that same gormless, “Why am I here, what the Devil is it?” look about the images. Apparently Comrade Kim’s “Happy Place” is watching DVDs in his private cinema with a large scotch*. I dunno where Prince Charles’ “Happy Place” is but it certainly isn’t anything public is it? But then there is an essential tension here. Two very private individuals are also inveterate sticky-beaks. It must torture them so. Charles clearly would love to be popular but just isn’t. I’m sure he envies the genuine popularity of his son(s). For all her many failings Diana clearly did a number with the kids despite the House of Windsor.

Anyway enjoy Kim looking at things and hope that one day soon whilst looking into a cement mixer he has an unfortunate slip… As to Charles… Wouldn’t he be happier tending an organic small-holding in Gloucestershire with Camilla by his side in a sort of C21st version of the Good Life with Andy and Fergie as the ersatz Jerry and Margot digging them out of the manure every so often?

*For some reason I see him as more the sort who goes for luxury blended rather than a single malt. There is something rather ’70s about him isn’t there? I can really see him with a 25 year old Chivas Regal watching “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.


  1. Sunfish says:

    So now you’re talking smack about people drinking whiskey while watching westerns??

    /s/ a yank, who is so ronery, with a glass of Basil Hayden’s and a DVD of True Grit. (The real one. Jeff who?)

  2. Ian F4 says:

    I recall a documentary on Ceaușescu where farmers displaying produce had to supplement the stands with large numbers of wooden fake fruit, and were terrified of the Great Leader stopping by and sampling one.

  3. NickM says:

    The really weird thing about Ceaușescu was that almost to the end he believed. He actually thought he was loved.

    And yes that is tragic. I would guess that fakery was more effort than genuinely growing the stuff using proper agricultural methods with a proper market and such and all that. It is the same twisted mentality that meant the Soviet Union could supply abortions but not contraception.

    I was talking whisky without the “e”. Not that I don’t like it with the “e” either. Different thing and all the better for it! Well until it’s choice between Victory Gin for me and Hope Whiskey for you.

  4. JuliaM says:

    “What fascinates me about that image in particular is that whilst the side of the fruit stand facing Kim is laden with produce the side facing us looks a bit sparse. The Russians might have had Potemkin villages but it takes the true Juche lunacy of North Korea to have created the Potemkin fruit stand.”


  5. NickM says:

    Thanks Julia. You can refute Juche by going to any Tesco, or Asda, or Siansburys or even (heavens forfend!) a Morrison’s. According to Tom Clancy (no great prose stylist but a hell of a chap for the research) the one thing that made defectors from the Sov block break down in tears was seeing supermarkets in The West. “You mean you can buy an aubergine whenever you want?” “Yes, why not?”

    Should I tell you the most damning thing I ever heard about the Soviet block? Just before the wheel finally came off in East Germany you couldn’t get a shredder for love nor money in West Germany. The STASI were shredding at a rate to keep all Europe in hamster bedding till 2050 and true socialism couldn’t keep up with the demand for shredders so they had to buy them from the West.

    Germany has kept those shredded files and now has the tech to piece the scanned bits back together. I sincerely hope (though doubt, alas) some folks have to face the music.

  6. dfwmtx says:

    Really? I heard Kim Jong’s Ill was at one point the largest consumer of Hennesy cognac in the world.

    And the first photo I ever saw of the man, he was wearing those same sunglasses. I thought then he was a producer of Asian porn. Well, knowing the DPRK military has special Joy Divisions I wouldn’t be surprised he’s made some films to add to his collection.

    But looking at Potemkim fruits stands is not an area in which we shall be passed, the Democratik Partei of Amerika has resolved. Once Comrade Barack has won his second and third and fourth and fifth term, we’ll make sure that he’ll visit his Potemkim green energy projects, the Potemkin GM plants, and that paper mache wall on the northern border which the DHS has promised us will keep the Mexicans from illegally crossing over via Canada.

  7. RAB says:

    The wife went on a school trip to Russia circa 1969, Red Square, the Kremlin etc etc.

    Well they had KGB minders with them most of the time, and the stores they were shown around had loads of things on the shelves, all the stuff you would expect in the west, but suspiciously practically no customers. The car park would have a couple of Zils in them.

    What they were being shown were the Party member stores of course, none of the “Real” people were allowed through the door.

    So she and a couple of mates managed to slip the minder one afternoon, and went for a walkabout. When they got into the ordinary shops and stores they found that there was the ONE packet of washing powder, two beetroot etc and perminent queues round the block of people just hoping something useful would be delivered so they could buy it.

  8. EndivioR says:

    I’m hoping that what with you being a scientist an’ all, you’ll be able to tell me what it is that the scientist in the picture on page 2 of the site (dated 18.03.11 – “looking at a scientist”) is holding in his hands. To me it looks like three ears of corn, and a piece of curtain rod. I’m guessing the science required to explain the relationship between these items is way over my head. However, it gets a rare smile from his Kimship, so that’s definitely something.

  9. NickM says:

    It’s way over my head too… I am an astrophysicist and I have no fucking idea. Three ears of corn and a curtain rod… Probs, all I know is I watch TV via Sky, via the Astra “Constellation”, on a 32″ Samsung LCD and that is the sort of thing the DPRK would not like because it works. Hell’s teeth! My camera (Sony Alpha-55 DSLT) has built in GPS so I couldn’t take that to see Comrade Kim either.

  10. David Gillies says:

    Nowt wrong with a good blend, lad. A top-shelf blend like Chivas or Famous Grouse knocks low-end single malt like Glenfiddich into a cocked hat.

  11. Leslie Bates says:

    As a taxi driver working in Minneapolis (unlike a lot of other people) I look forward to not buying gas for my taxicab at the Potemkin gas stations that will appear under the great guidance (bad film reference) of our glorious leader Barack Obama.

    Did I just lay it on a bit too thickly?

  12. berenike says:

    Rumour has spread of a delivery of sausages, and the queue outside the butcher’s had been growing since before dawn. At around ten, the manager of the shop comes out and says “Comrades! The capitalist rumour mill has once more been at work! There will indeed be sausages, but not in the amounts you seem to imagine. Our Jewish comrades need not wait any longer.” Some tension in the air, but a number of queuers leave quietly.

    A couple of hours later, the manager re-appears. “Comrades, unfortunately, due to sabotage, only one vehicle will be arriving today. There will be enough only for party members.” Muttering and some protests. About half of the queue slopes off.

    Again, the manager comes out, and says “Comrades, companions. The vehicle that was sabotaged was enormous, and the one that is coming is only very small. There will be enough only for those with at least ten years of party membership.” Considerable unhappiness, but knowing from past experience that there’s no point in arguing, most of those who were still waiting leave.

    Some minutes later the manager takes a look out the door. Satisfied, he comes out and addresses the remainder. “Comrades, friends, you have at heart the welfare and glory of the socialist state. You will understand when I tell you there was never going to be any delivery of sausages. I thank you for your support, and ask you to go about your business.”

    A shout comes from the back of the crowd “The bloody Joooos always come off best!”

    [dunno, it lacks something in English, but it’s my joke of the moment.]

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