In this issue, life imitates art with some major North Korean intrigue that's straight out of a spy novel. I'll also tell you about a very tragic incident that happened to a close friend of mine that was linked to a N. Korean assassination.
There's also news about some upcoming projects I'm working on.
OPEN CALL FOR IDEAS ON NEW YOUTUBE CHANNEL
I'm preparing to launch a new YouTube channel, tentatively dubbed "Literature for the Manly Man." It's devoted to works that help us understand what masculinity means in the modern world -- the mature kind of masculinity that doesn't reject the feminine but embraces it.
Despite the "Manly Man" name, it's not about being macho, but rather about grasping the full breadth of human experience, so, of course women are invited, too.
If you have any ideas for works of literature -- novels, nonfiction, poetry -- that might fit the bill, please send me your suggestions.
Some ideas in the works: "Ajax" by the ancient Greek general and playwright Sophocles, and "Free Union" by the poet John Casteen.
INTERESTING STUFF GOING ON AROUND THE WORLD
What a whirlwind month it's been with regard to news about N. Korea -- a serious case of life imitating art but with a bizarro twist.
I'm referring to the death of Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of N. Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Authorities believe he was assassinated in a truly strange incident at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia.
Before this, Kim Jong-nam was probably best known for being pushed aside in the succession struggle after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, and for being apprehended at Narita Airport in 2001 after he tried to sneak into Japan on a fake Dominican passport. He later reportedly said he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
One of the suspects in Kim's apparent assassination, a 25-year-old Indonesian woman, told police that she thought she was taking part in some reality TV prank. Surveillance footage at the airport shows the femme fatale wearing a shirt with "LOL" on the front. Yeah, coz assassinations are so LOL.
Assassinations -- both successful and botched -- are nothing new when it comes to N. Korea. But one of the most devastating incidents -- both in terms of S. Korea as a nation and for me personally -- was the October 1983 bombing in Rangoon, Burma.
That bombing, later found to be perpetrated by N. Korea, wiped out half of the S. Korean Cabinet. The S. Korean president was spared because he was reportedly stuck in traffic and was running late.
One of the Cabinet members was Ha Dong-seon, the planning director of the International Cooperation Committee. He was also the father of a very close friend of mine -- a brilliant kid named Ha Jong-ryong. We used to spend hours talking about Einstein and other science topics. Our conversations were one of the reasons I decided to study physics in college.
When his father was killed in the assassination, it precipitated a series of tragic events, including his mother's suicide. Then the family unraveled.
My friend also eventually committed suicide.
If Jong-ryong had lived, I'm pretty sure he would have made some significant contributions to science.
IN THE MEDIA
Many thanks to Suzanne Lang for a very insightful interview on her show A Novel Idea on KRCB in northern California. (Thanks to Linda Hervieux for hooking me up.) It's really one of the best interviews I've had while promoting Half Life. You can listen to the interview or download it by clicking here or on the picture below.
I also have some interviews coming up to talk about Half Life, including the following:
At 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, on the "Steve Hexom Morning Show" on KBUR radio in Des Moines, Iowa. You can listen live by clicking here or on the photo below.
I'll also be doing a taped interview on Wednesday, March 1, with Rodger Nichols of the "Cover to Cover" book show on KLCK in Portland, Oregon. I'll keep an eye on this archive page to see when they upload the interview.