Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 20th, 2023

Phlox is already phloxing

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Yes, phlox is phloxing now a little south of Austin, as we confirmed with an 80-minute drive down to Gonzales on February 17th—probably the earliest I’ve ever seen these flowers. Fortunately the ice storm almost three weeks earlier seemed not to have had a negative effect there; who knows, maybe the precipitation even helped. Phlox flowers come in various colors; the combination of saturated red and hot pink on a single flower that you see above may be unique (if you’re aware of it in another kind of flower, please let us know).

Below is the densest section of the colony. Of the two yellow flower heads, the one on the left is a Texas dandelion, Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus, and the one on the right is Texas groundsel, Senecio ampullaceus.
(Click to enlarge the panorama.)





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A year and a half ago I linked to an article about Yeonmi Park. Here’s how the Independent Institute describes her:

Born in Hyesan, North Korea, to educated parents, Ms. Park grew up in a society devoted to the worship of “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il and uncompromising hatred for any and all critics of his regime. However, after watching a pirated copy of the 1997 film, Titanic, the veil of tyranny began to fall, as she had caught a glimpse of a free world that one day she would yearn to join. In 2003 when she was ten, Ms. Park’s family suffered a crucial blow. After her father, who had been a critic of the regime despite his privileged position as a member of [the] Workers’ Party, was sentenced to hard labor for smuggling, her family faced starvation. After his release on medical leave, the family decided they had to flee from North Korea, but became separated before they could escape together. On March 31, 2007, and at the age of thirteen, Ms. Park and her mother crossed the frozen Yalu River into China, hiding from Chinese government officials who would return them to North Korea. However, they fell into the hands of human traffickers, and when one of the traffickers threatened to report them to the authorities if she didn’t have sex with him, her mother intervened for her safety by offering herself to be raped by the trafficker. Nevertheless, both were sold into sex slavery and Ms. Park was subsequently repeatedly raped. In October 2007, Ms. Park sent word to her father and arranged to smuggle him into China. There, he was diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer, and in January 2008, while the family was living in secret, Park’s father died aged 45. The family was unable to formally mourn him, fearing that they would be discovered by Chinese authorities, and they secretly buried his remains in the ground of a nearby mountain. In February 2009 at the age of fifteen, with the help of Chinese and Korean Christian missionaries in the port city of Qingdao they were able to evade the attention of authorities and fled through the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and then by plane to South Korea.

From there Yeonmi Park eventually made it to the United States, where she became and continues to be a great advocate for freedom.

The other night we watched a riveting two-hour interview with her. If you have the time, it’s well worth watching, even if parts of it are unsettling. Turning on the closed captioning (CC) may make it easier to understand certain words and phrases, given Yeonmi Park’s Korean accent.

If you don’t have two hours, you can still watch much shorter clips from the full interview:

Growing Up in Harrowing Conditions in the Oppressive Regime of North Korea (10 minutes)

Escaping North Korea as a Teenager, and Encountering More Horrific Incidents (9 minutes)

Adjusting to America and Enjoying Its Freedom and Opportunity (7 minutes)

Yeonmi Park attended my alma mater, Columbia University, which was once a great institution but has devolved into a hotbed of ideological indoctrination and the suppression of dissident opinions. Yeonmi Park was incredulous, in light of her horrible life in North Korea, when she encountered Woke College Students and Professors Who Claim Victimhood (8 minutes). She contrasts that to her own view that “America is a miracle. It is literally the best country in human history.” She reminds me of my grandmother, who escaped the tyranny of the Soviet dictatorship in the 1920s. When she was in her 80s she once said to me, in her heavy Russian accent, “America is still the best country.”

Hypocritical Elites Who Talk Human Rights But Don’t Practice What They Preach (8 minutes)


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2023 at 4:28 AM

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