Monumental thoughts

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Monumental thoughts

Last week was a bad one for statues. A colossal one of former President Saddam Hussein was toppled in Iraq. The topplers seemed very happy about this, but the real smart people of the world ― journalists ― reminded us how foolish, shortsighted and unready for freedom they actually are. How they may have been tortured and killed by their government before, but now they’re really in trouble.
One statue-loving daily, the Hankyoreh, even ran a cartoon suggesting that a new statue, of U.S. President George W. Bush, replace the destroyed one. We don’t quite understand the meaning; but that’s not surprising, as it was no doubt conceived by exceptionally intelligent journalist-types.
Thousands of statue-lovers rallied in downtown Seoul last Saturday in an event organized by the civic group Stop the War. Unfortunate name that, since the war had already stopped before the Stop the War people could really get their peace on. And the stingy U.S. military failed to deliver for them the atrocities they need to promote their cause.
Our like-minded civic group, the Itaewon Wanderings Peace at any Cost Brigade, planned to go to the rally ― we even changed our signs, from “Stop the War!” to “Save the Statues!” But because the rally was held in the afternoon, we missed it; the Itaewon Wanderings Liver Abusing League, with the same membership as the peace guys, refuses to get out of bed on Saturdays before 5 p.m.
Nonetheless, later we were able to visit Itaewon’s favorite statues, the stone Buddhas and harubang that guard the antique shops at the east end of the main drag. Thankfully, the brutal U.S. soldiers and temporarily-happy Arabs hadn’t gotten to them yet. The tall Buddhas and squatty harubang were still standing sentry outside, with the squatting Buddhas and reclining Buddhas counting out eternity inside.
A sudden thought -- maybe the Iraqis still love statues, but yanked that big Saddam down because they were tired of that silly taxi-hailing Saddam, and wanted a reclining Saddam. But the statue fell face first, so that would make it a prostrate Saddam. Or a prone Saddam. And later, a head-removed-from-his-body-and-getting-dragged-down-the-street Saddam.
Back to the antique shops ― if you want a stone Buddha, start at the Asian Deco shop, steps east from the Thai Orchid restaurant. The manager, who wants you to call him Steve, is not pushy and will tell you all you need to know about the statues, as well as all the store’s enchanting wooden antiques in old Chinese, Tibetan or Korean styles.
Steve says the statues are from China, 100-120 years old and replicas. The sentries will set you back about 1 million won ($800) each, the squatters 500,000 won and the recliners 700,000 won. We were going to buy one, but decided to wait until the statuary raping dies down.
By the way, last week was a bad one for journalists, too. Over in Cuba, quite a few were rounded up and given jail sentences of 20-25 years, on charges of engaging in “treasonous conspiracy with U.S. provocateurs.”
Guess they weren’t that smart.

by Mike Ferrin
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