Politicians Eating Things.

This might just be because I’m currently in the midst of what can only be described as an atrociously potent hangover, where my sole purpose in life is to consume as many carbohydrates as humanly possible (for those of you playing at home, I’m doing a bloody good job of it thus far. This guacamole is delicious). But this has got to be more than a coincidence. I keep seeing photos of politicians eating things.

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It all started when the Guardian applauded Hillary Clinton’s “flawless” choice of a chicken burrito bowl from Mexican chain Chipotle while out on the campaign trail in Ohio. “It’s a fairly perfect order, when you think about it,” the article quoted. “You’re opting for chicken instead of beef, and don’t want that calorie-loaded flour tortilla, but you’re not so overly zealous as to get a salad.”

Upon Googling the topic further (it was clearly a very busy day for me), I soon discovered that not only had the Guardian considered the significance of Clinton’s burrito choice, but the Wall Street Journal too had commented on the “gastronomical symbolism” of Chipotle (deeming Taco Bell “more electorally savvy”), the New York Times analysed the calorie content of the meal, and CNN Money labelled the incognito lunchtime dash a “hip” symbol of her desire to “shed that outdated 1990s stigma.”

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Somewhat creepy CCTV footage of Hil ordering her burrito bowl.

Do we really need to read that much into what a politician decides to shove down their gob for lunch? No. Unless you’re the next potential leader of the free world, perhaps, but even still, the discussion of Chipotle semiotics is surely about as useful to society as the release of Kris Jenner’s cookbook (aka, not at all. One of the reviewers on Amazon said they’d rather buy a book from ISIS). From that moment forth, photos of politicians smacking their lips seem to be everywhere.

Take, for example, the news that British Prime Minister David Cameron ate a hotdog with a knife and fork while schmoozing with supporters at a voter barbecue. As the Huffington Post observed, the “‘I’m just like you’ campaign trail stunt backfired somewhat predictably, with Twitter exploding in a cacophony of piss-taking after noting the Prime Minister’s choice of dining implements.” Poor ol’ Dave became a posh lamb to the social media slaughter.

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But that was nothing compared to when incredibly unflattering photos of his opposition, Labour leader Ed Miliband, chomping on a bacon sandwich last year went viral. The image was so horrifically off-putting apparently even his advisors had to intervene after a few bites. Yes, Sandwich Gate is now so famous in his home country that the bacon sandwich incident has its own Wikipedia page. Apparently people do care what’s going into their guts (or at least what they look like when it happens).

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There is something to be said for leading by example, which is why another group of people definitely care about what politicians munch on when out in the public eye. In May 2012, the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a petition to stop President Obama, his family, and members of his Cabinet, from eating unhealthy foods while staging official photo ops after seeing him with a burger one too many times. Yes, a quick search uncovered many an image of Obama chowing down on treats, be it a hot dog at the basketball with David Cameron (man, that dude loves his hot dogs), cheeseburgers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, or a cheeky ice cream on the sly. Indeed, it appears Obama is pictured eating burgers so often there’s even a blog dedicated to it. In defence of the petition, posing with a Big Mac does seem to go against everything Michelle Obama has worked for as part of her “Let’s Move!” health and fitness initiative (even if POTUS maintains his favourite food is broccoli). But is it really that enormous an issue for him to eat it in public?

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As much as many of us implore such fluffy stories polluting our media outlets, the reality is that with so many ready to pounce on and scrutinise a politician’s every move, you just can’t please everyone. People are always going to talk, particularly at a photo op. No doubt if Clinton was pictured sipping raw kale and chia seed smoothies everyday while out campaigning she’d be accused of being too healthy, or giving into the Paleo fad. But on the other hand, if Tony Abbott made a deal of ducking into Pizza Hut every couple of weeks (or, as he was recently, skolling beer in a pub), he’d be accused of making bad choices and promoting obesity. Still, it appears our political leaders would be wise to make a safe choice when in the presence of worldwide media, or at least save their junk food binge for the privacy of their own home. Oh, and perhaps steer clear of grotty bacon sandwiches, overly greasy burgers, or phallic-like foods, in the fear of viral internet memes or worse, sexual innuendo.

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I think that image probably speaks for itself. *Drops mic*

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The Love List: April.

When I was in high school, my best friend and I would sporadically message each other to demand an exchange of our latest newfound music obsessions. Both being colossal Francophone nerds, this usually entailed YouTube links to soppy Carla Bruni confections, peppered with the occasional Kelly Clarkson hit, Eskimo Joe power ballad, or obscure movie soundtrack. Despite our clear lack of music-hunting prowess (whatever happened to Eskimo Joe?), there was something so inexplicably comforting about listening to my friend’s suggestions. Because music is so flippin’ personal, corny as it sounds, getting a glimpse into what my galpal had on repeat  while cramming international studies homework seemed so intimate and lovely, like finally understanding the inner workings of her brain. What did she listen to in the dead of night? What made her want to dance? What made her run that much further? What wrestled into her veins, knifed her soul, and made her cry?

Currently studying postgraduate law, waist-deep in stiflingly horrendous administrative law cases; I’ve swiftly learnt that the world is a much brighter place when you have things to be inspired by. Life is so much better when you’re excited, whether that’s about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, a fancy ramen joint opening up around the corner, a new pair of tailored navy Topshop trousers (just me?) or the fact Tony Abbott ate an entire raw onion. With ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ being my little sparkly corner of the internet, I’d like to propose my new monthly venture, The Love List: a bite-size insight of what’s filling my belly, what’s pumping through my earphones, what’s filling up my ASOS shopping cart, and what’s keeping me sane. I miss sharing those songs with my friend, so it’s time to get the blogosphere involved. Surely if these things have jazzed up my month, they could pep up yours too. And if not, well, you might just get a decent New Yorker article out of it, or at least a half-arsed excuse to fangirl over Taylor Swift (actually, I retract that. Do you need a reason?).

Anyway, enough yacking. Herewith lies my list for March/April, a month of mid-term university assignments, theatre visits, and approximately 36873 Cadbury Easter eggs.

Song of the month:

Fronted by full-on musical legend Alexander Gow, Melburnian indie rock band Oh Mercy is way up there as one of my favourite groups of all time. I’ve been forever enamoured by their 2009 album ‘Privileged Woes’ (and follow-ups ‘Great Barrier Grief’ and ‘Deep Heat’ go down damn well on a Sunday afternoon) but something about their latest track release, Sandy, just makes me feel invincible (and okay, kind of sexy. Can I say that on here? Hi Mum!). I’d love to say Sandy makes me want to slap on red lippy and go flirt with a thousand Calvin Klein models in a darkly lit bar, but it really doesn’t. I just want to blare this track full blast while jumping up and down on my bed, screaming the lyrics in my underwear… 10/10 obsessed with this song, which is probably no surprise considering my crush on Alexander is currently reaching obscene heights, rivalled only by mid-2000’s Jake Gyllenhaal.

Media-gasm of the month:

A self-confessed media nerd, there is nothing like a stellar article, podcast or documentary to really get the inspiration flowing. This month it’s Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Here’s the Thing, hosted by WNYC and in association with Killer Content. Basically, Alec Baldwin’s voice is caramelised crack. It’s orgasmic. I could listen to him read the back pages of the Financial Review or the instruction manual of a hairdryer and still be head-over-heels. Surprisingly, Baldwin is a killer interviewer, and I really respect the idea behind the podcast- a focus on “intimate and honest conversations” with people that delve into how they got their careers started and what inspires them. For someone incredibly disillusioned with her degree at the moment, this is heavenly. I haven’t worked my way through all of them yet, but so far Lorne Michaels, Lena Dunham, Chris Rock and Kris Jenner (Bow down to the queen of momagers!) are standouts. Still, the best one to date has definitely been Kristen Wiig’s. Somehow, discovering that she spent a good part of her twenties working at Anthropologie makes me feel infinitely more okay with my life choices. I’ve linked it below in case you need a further excuse to procrastinate (you know you do).

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http://www.wnyc.org/story/197391-kristen-wiig/

Food of the month:

Hands down, the apple pie waffles at Mixed Business cafe (Clifton Hill, Melbourne). Ginormous, piping-hot buttermilk waffles with blistered, maple baked apples, crumbling pecan biscuit, covered in melting vanilla icecream. Who knew something could be better than Ryan Gosling naked, a binge-watch of ‘Girls’, and Solange Knowles’ wardrobe combined? Being a) lactose/fructose intolerant and b) possessor of a metabolism that operates at the speed of a snail on a peak-hour tram, I reluctantly resisted these babies, but my boyfriend devoured them in a matter of seconds.

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Oh, and with it being April, shout out to the literal hundreds of easter eggs I consumed in the space of 72 hours. Why can’t it be Easter all the time? Or at the very least, mini eggs should be available year round. I’m surprised there hasn’t already been a nation-wide rally, to be honest.

Fashion item of the month:

Despite now being unemployed and thus having a severe lack of fat stacks to burn, I stumbled across these Martha Jean earrings whilst perusing High St, Northcote last Saturday afternoon. How could a gal resist? A nifty price point, and a local designer? I mean, really, it would only be polite to buy one in both gold and black. Just doing my part to stimulate the economy. Thank me later, Joe Hockey.

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Cultural activity of the month: 

‘Cultural activity’ seems like such a wanky way to phrase it, but how else do you encapsulate plays/ gigs/ comedy shows/ concerts into the one category? Stay with me (or suggest a better name in the comments! Culture Club nearly won, but to be honest, I feel like this blog is jazzy enough without continuous Boy George references).

Anyway, being a Melburnite, I went along to see two comedians at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this month, Adam Hills’ ‘Clown Heart’ and Rich Hall’s ‘3:10 to Humour’. Rich Hall NAILED it. Man, when you get two hundred politics nerds in the room and then a comedian starts talking about gun control, you just know shit’s going to get real very fast. I also saw the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’ on Monday night, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that, unless you like absurdist drama, an impending apocalypse, and not understanding anything you’re seeing.

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Inspiring person of the month:

Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and NYU law professor. If you’re a law student (and okay, even if you’re not), just watch his TedX Talk. The man is a walking legend. He needs no other introduction. I ordered his book ‘Just Mercy’ online, and plan to read it in approximately ten thousand years, when my trusts law professor will eventually stop giving me fifty-page cases to read every night.

Most Googled topic of the month:

Following on from my recent obsession with Bryan Stevenson, and in light of recent events concerning the Boston Bomber, my boyfriend and I have been completely fascinated with the death penalty in the United States. In particular, I was shocked to discover more about the botched execution of death row prisoner Joseph Wood in Arizona last year, and, following a bit of a gallop into the Internet hole, found myself on the Death Penalty Information Center’s website, accessible here. Being incredibly fortunate to live in a country where the possibility of state execution doesn’t hang over my head, I found the statistics regarding death penalty in the U.S. equal parts intriguing and horrifying, and was shocked to learn that California has the largest death row in the country (currently at a whopping 751 inmates, despite not having executed a single prisoner since 2006). Regardless of your beliefs (and heck, mine definitely reside in the anti-capital punishment territory), this topic is only becoming increasingly important, and, yes, one hundred percent Google-able.

(Coming close second: is Taylor Swift dating Calvin Harris? GUYS, serious question. They did look matey at Whole Foods. Okay, enough about that.)

Website of the month:

This month, what with a plethora of incredibly uninspiring uni lectures, I’ve been obsessed with the fashion blog of Ms Pandora Sykes: fashion writer, stylist and blogger. When I should have been giving my undivided attention to a case about mortgages, I’ve instead regularly perused the many inspired posts of this glorious English fashion maven. I could not be more in love with her chunky, fab coats layered with shirts, brogues, tights, and everything else under the sun- glitter, pom poms, piercings… And shout out to her use of the word ‘home slice’, which has now become an awesomely unexpected addition to my vocab (what’s up, home slice?)

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Movie of the month:

Now that I think about it, I’m fairly sure this is the only movie I’ve seen this month (does a Say Yes To The Dress marathon count?). Very late to the party, but I watched Interstellar on the weekend, while lying in front of a fireplace eating taramasalata and pita in my pyjamas on a Saturday night (yo don’t hate the playa, hate the game, baby). I’m equal parts amazed and totally freaked out by space, and this movie only intensifies both those emotions. Moreover, it’s the first movie I’ve seen that’s officially part of the “McConnaissance“, and dang, the dude’s got downright talent. I’m not a sci-fi/fantasy chick by any realm of the universe (ha! See what I did there?) but I didn’t snooze off or even check my Instagram during the entire film, which is basically like climbing Everest: it’s BIG. But what I love more than anything else about the movie? It reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re all here on this tiny little unique planet, spinning around a slowly dying sun in an infinite universe, a tiny speck within the concept of time. And suddenly… whether Taylor Swift is dating Calvin Harris doesn’t matter anymore. You feel insignificant, but in a way that is oddly comforting, not isolating- like you’re part of a wider narrative.

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(Okay, just kidding. Whether they’re dating TOTALLY matters).

Well, that’s clearly enough ranting for one day. I’ve got all that #inspo off my chest and now I’m as happy as a clam, ready to perve on what you’ve been loving this month too. Share below if you please! There’s always time to procrastinate. And hey, if you’re Alec Baldwin… call me.

Eurovision 2014: Holograms, Wind Machines and Rising Like a Phoenix.

Grab the Kleenex, dear friends. Find a strong shoulder to cry on. Hold my hand. Yes, it’s true. The 59th Eurovision Song Contest is officially over for 2014. I know, I know. It’s tragic. I’m already having hairspray withdrawal symptoms.

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This year held in Copenhagen, Denmark, the only way to describe Eurovision for those who have not yet seen it is that it’s basically European Idol on steroids. What contest is complete without pyrotechnics, human hamster wheels, fire, and costumes that look like the entire cast of Wicked threw up on them? Think wind machines, glitter, and hairstyles that well and truly belong behind the Iron Curtain. With competitors from 37 countries (and viewers from countless more- hellooo Australia), Eurovision is entwined with the underlying complexities of EU tensions, all culminating in one lucky country being awarded the coveted Eurovision trophy. It is hilarious, daggy, and unashamedly fabulous.

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Last year, more than 180 million people worldwide tuned into the extravaganza, then held in Malmo, Sweden. With this weekend’s spectacular arguably the most talked about in its nearly 60-year history, and some cracking best moments, viewing audience records are expected to be smashed like the Berlin Wall. More than ever, Aussies have claimed the contest as our own, with our debut performance at intermission care of the gorgeous Jessica Mauboy.

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Although touted as a non-political musical contest that unites all of Europe through power ballads and fake eyelashes, this year it seems current events just couldn’t be left in the wings. Indeed, the tension between Ukraine and Russia remained the enormous, bumbling elephant in the stadium. It rose to a ferocious climax when the Russian entrants, the Tomalchevy Sisters, were audibly booed during both the semis and the grand final voting. The 17-year-old twins began their song “Shine” with interconnected ponytails that resembled a faux umbilical cord, and spent most of their time on stage on a giant seesaw. Crooning “living on the edge, closer to the crime, cross the line, one step at a time… maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine,” you don’t have to be Henry Kissinger to interpret their lyrics as mirroring the invasion of Crimea and Russia’s territorial ambitions in the former Soviet Bloc.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian songstress Mariya Yaremchuk and her somewhat ironically titled song “Tick Tock” was accompanied by a guy in a human hamster wheel and some pretty impressive hair extensions blowing in the wind machine breeze. Maria stressed the song was free from political intentions. Well, with lines such as “my heart is like a clock, you wind it with your love”, it probably was. Still, controversy arose when organisers revealed that Crimea’s Eurovision votes were counted as Ukrainian because their tallies were based on existing national telephone codes. And, for those playing at home, Ukraine beat Russia by one spot- the feuding nations coming sixth and seventh respectively.

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Not to be overshadowed, the 35 other Eurovision entrants arrived at Copenhagen’s B&W Hallerna stadium armed with plenty of conversation-starters.

21-year-old Danish crooner Basim belted out “Cliché Love Song” to his home crowd, all about falling in love with a lesbian. Slovenia’s entry consisted of a woman dressed like an evil Disney character, armed with a jazz flute, while Romania’s featured a 30 second hologram of their singer Paula, uncannily resembling a fourth Kardashian sister. Greek band Freaky Fortune’s “Rise Up” was said to inspire the disgruntled Greek youth into rebellion and revolution, but really appeared an excuse for men in tight pants to jump up and down on a trampoline. Belarus’ entry “Cheesecake” was not so much an ode to baked goods as it was lead singer Teo berating his ex-girlfriend for calling him her “sweet cheesecake”. Often referred to as the European rip-off of Robin Thicke, his dance moves were a little more Backstreet Boy, and perhaps served best in moderation.

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Poland’s sexed-up, saucy “We Are Slavs” consisted entirely of washerwomen, boobs, butter churning, boobs, traditional dancing and, well, boobs. This might explain why the video has been viewed over 43 million times on YouTube, and why UK voters ranked the Polish performance number one. Apparently, nothing says Europe like a busty milkmaid.

 

Crowd favourite, Swedish singer Sanna Nielsen, warbled beautifully, but may need some English lessons after key chorus line “undo my sad.” But the sad was truly undone for tiny Republic San Marino, who got a little emotional after finally qualifying for the final after four failed attempts and two withdrawals for financial reasons, having only participated in the contest since 2008. It was entrant Valentina Monetta’s third time at Eurovision, and, with a population only three times larger than the actual crowd at the Copenhagen stadium, questions have been raised as to whether there are actually any other singers in San Marino who could enter.

Yes, it appeared that the theme for the night was well and truly one of acceptance. Proudly known as a gay icon, the Eurovision Song Contest stood as a strong statement against Russia’s anti-LGBTI laws, Copenhagen swarming with pride flags and expressions of tolerance.

“No Prejudice”, sung by Icelandic band Pollapönk, saw members looking like the Wiggles on LSD, in suits every colour of the rainbow, and a member of their own parliament on background vocals. “Being middle aged, heterosexual, white men makes us a majority group and we believe that we should use this opportunity to point out the injustice in the world,” the band, who are mostly pre-school teachers by day, told Gay Star News. And what was behind their decision to rock dresses on the Eurovision red carpet? One member replied simply, “it’s very comfortable to wear, and I feel sexy.”

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But the resounding highlight of the night indisputably went to the winner of the Contest for 2014, Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst. With her cascading locks, piercing eyes, enviable figure, and bushy brown beard, Conchita wowed audiences internationally with her rousing rendition of “Rise Like A Phoenix”, widely touted as a genuine candidate for the next Bond theme.

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25-year-old Conchita is no stranger to controversy. Following the announcement of her candidature last year, a 31,000 like-strong “Anti-Wurst” Facebook campaign began, and, in October, Belarus’ Ministry of Information called for her performance be edited out of their Eurovision broadcast, deemed a “hotbed of sodomy.” Russia and Armenia launched similar petitions against her televising. The leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party even asserted that Conchita showed that the Soviet army made a mistake in freeing Austria from occupation fifty years ago. Wow.

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Still, Ms Wurst, born Tom Neuwith, clearly didn’t allow politics to rain on her spangly parade. Her “Phoenix” anthem, an ode to those struggling with identity and discrimination, was heralded a grand success and, last night, secured the first Eurovision victory for Austria since 1966 with a win of 290 points. More importantly, Conchita’s tears of shock and heartfelt thank you’s saw her winning hearts all over the world. “I hope we can change just a few minds,” said René Berto, Wurst’s agent. “It is just a lady with a beard. But it is like we have landed on the moon.”

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First published in Farrago Magazine Online

North Korea: For Dummies

Newsflash: it seems Kim Jong-un can’t get no satisfaction. Right this moment, national news programs are self-combusting with Pyongyang’s tantalizing threats of nuclear warfare. We all know Kim Jong-Il liked to look at things. But when struggling with the bona fide prospect of getting our pants nuked off, the world is surely in need of factual information a little more, well, explosive. So what, in the name of khaki uniforms, is the deal with North Korea?

Today, U.N. sanctions appear as common as coughs. State propaganda threatens to turn foes “into a sea of fire,” while missiles stay “mounted on launch pads, aimed at the windpipe of our enemies.” This permanent state of war is all the isolated Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has ever known. Once tumultuously ruled by both Japan and the Soviet Union, North Korea has always remained in conflict with its Southern counterpart- even though a hostile armistice ended the Korean War in 1953. As of March 13 this year, the Republic terminated this olive branch of peacekeeping- clearly, a source of much anxiety for nations alike (and not exactly chicken soup for the Seoul).

But there’s a crux within this politically fiery landscape. Even if neighbouring allies China and Russia suggest the contrary, North Korea is no longer communist. Since 1972, the Republic has worshipped Juche, which, according to North Korea’s official webpage, means “that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masse of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction.” Okay… what? Was that an ideological explanation or a power tool instruction manual? Essentially, Juche allows the Republic to be totalitarian to the core by justifying their despotic ways under themes of self-sufficiency and passionate state supremacy. Oh, and by maintaining murderous political prison camps. Lovely.

The fact is, Juche works. North Koreans are crippled by crisis- hunger is rife, poverty prevalent, hospitals disastrous and propaganda spoon-fed from birth. Yet whispered reports of inconsequential rebellions are few and far between, mostly because the population appears genuinely brainwashed into loving their leaders, fighting for their state (with the fourth largest army in the world), and fearing foreign powers like the U.S or South Korea will invade at any time.

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This might explain the defining characteristic of North Korea’s international persona- its kooky choice of leaders; alongside a cult of personality that ensures their militarized population trust the “Kims” to watch over like loving fathers. First up was Kim Il Sung- the Communist creator of the guerrilla Korean People’s Army who reigned the Republic for forty-six years, initiated the current regime and is forever known to North Korea as the “Eternal President”. Next came the seventeen-year wrath of Kim Jong-il, who, according to a 2004 Human Rights Watch report, ran one of the world’s most repressive governments- restricting press, religion, education and political opposition, prolonging famine, and producing nuclear weapons. This was all pretty violent for a guy who was born mountaintop beneath a double rainbow. Nowadays, Kim Jong Un reigns the Republic, the chubby-cheeked, new-generation son with a penchant for NBA, crew cuts, and international fear-mongering. 

Now for the million-won question. Is it time to turn the basement into a bomb shelter? While we have reasons to be alert, experts warn these nuclear threats are magnified by internal politics.  The North Korean government often manipulates the international community’s fear of nuclear war so they can feast upon much-needed aid and donations. For example, the early 1990s saw a nuclear weapons program swapped for $5 billion in fuel and two reactors, with a similar scenario reoccurring in 2006. Christopher Voss, past FBI hostage negotiator, asserted, “From the outside, it makes no sense. From the inside, it makes all the sense in the world…. You keep playing the game as long as it works.”

We are encouraged to downplay these fanatical taunts as a way of thwarting Kim Jong Un’s tactic of using unpredictability as a crippling power-solidification tool. And we should, because in the face of increasing exposure to the outside world, this desperate tyrant has got a lot to lose. So long story short: there’s no need on the horizon to diarise being nuked. Regardless, I’m not sure I’d fancy a holiday to Pyongyang anytime soon. Then again, I’m not Dennis Rodman.

*First published in Farrago Magazine, Edition Four*