Pictures of Despots, Part II

As I noted last week, Vladimir Putin is having his share of troubles these days. Now we hear that Kim Jong-Il has moved beyond earthly troubles. As to whether he’s still got problems wherever he is now, I can’t be sure. But I do suspect that the blog Kim Jong-Il Looking At Things is unlikely to be updated anytime soon. At least not with new material.

Old Kim never tried to pose in the heroic mode of Putin, but he sure looks at a lot of interesting stuff. He comes across as the more honest of the two. I suspect Putin doesn’t actually spend all his time wrestling with tigers. But I can believe that Kim Jong-Il really did spend a lot of time, you know, looking at stuff. Stuff like soft drinks and chickens. Here he’s totally cracking up the umbrella guy. And here’s a great shot of him in a Supervillain Lairmobile. Next stop, secret volcano laser control room! Or hell, whichever comes first.

Vladimir Putin, Action Man

Buckaroo Banzai was a physicist, rock star, neurosurgeon, rogue inventor, and presidential advisor. He was also fictitious. A little bit closer to home, Jesse Ventura was a Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, and 38th governor of Minnesota. He even had a political action figure.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, as we all know, was a governor who played action heroes on the big screen, but when it comes to mixing high-octane politics with super-hero hijinks, it’s hard to beat Vladimir Putin.

Putin may be having his political troubles these days, but no autocrat since Benito Mussolini has been quite so handy with a photo-op. Please take the time to flip through these pictures from The Atlantic of Vladimir Putin, Action Man. Which is the best image? Shooting a crossbow at a whale? Driving a tank? Playing the concert piano? So many to choose from! Which one do you like?

Bookshelf voyeurism, Pilgrim Edition

After a peek in the medicine cabinet, what could be more appealing to a home voyeur than a good judgmental crawl of thy neighbor’s bookshelf? It used to be that the proprietor’s record collection afforded a similar opportunity, but of course music has long since disappeared into the aether. We can no longer admire a battered old Dylan album or turn our noses up at a Flock of Seagulls LP. But for now, books still exist as three-dimensional artifacts.

Recently I came across a tweet that made me realize that bookshelf voyeurism extends across the centuries too:

Decided to put Myles Standish’s library into @LibraryThing this p.m.

LibraryThing is an excellent service that helps you keep track of your books. You can, by extension, keep track of other people’s books too, so they introduced Legacy Libraries. Want to know what Thomas Jefferson had piled next to his bed? Look no farther. That’s how it came about that the library of Mayflower magnate Myles Standish began to appear on LibaryThing. It’s fun to browse through it, and let me tell you, they knew a thing or two about making book titles back then. For instance, consider The historie of the most renowned and victorious Princesse Elizabeth, late queen of England. Contayning all the important and remarkeable passages of state both at home and abroad, during her long and prosperous raigne. Composed by way of annals. Neuer heretofore so faithfully and fully published in English. Neuer? That striketh me as vnlikely. But vvho am I to jvdge?

If you have your own books catalogued on LibraryThing (mine are here), then they’ll compare your libraries. Imagine my surprise to find out that Myles and I had two books in common. One was The eight bookes of Caius Iulius Caesar: conteyning his martiall exployts in the realme of Gallia and the countries bordering vpon the same (I may have read a slightly different edition). And the other wasn’t Ye Bridges of Madison Covnty: being chiefly a Meditation on Unnaturall Loue and the Corn of Iowa.

I’m comforted by the fact that even after books disappear as things you can hold, I’ll still be able to admire your bookshelf virtually on LibraryThing.