Plus Puissant Que Jamais

January 17, 2018

Back in 2016 I never would have imagined that “the most powerful man in China” would end up demonstrating feng shui savvy (savoir-faire) in governing his own homeland, but at the moment it looks as though Manny Macron is doing just that.  What does Lunghu mean by this?  First let’s briefly review the feng shui flying star forecast for the Year of the Dog.  Then we can note the ways in which Macron’s recent policies may be construed as preemptive responses to the possibility of negative qi associated with specific malign or beneficial flying stars.

As you all surely remember from your grammar school lessons in feng shui fundamentals, the events of each year are influenced by nine invisible “flying stars.”  They’re called flying stars because –unlike ordinary stars– every year their positions rotate through the cardinal and semi-cardinal points of the celestial compass.  Each year one flying star is in the center position and the remaining eight are arrayed in their appointed peripheral locations (it’s a 3×3 matrix). Each star performs a specific role in affecting/interfering with/governing/influencing a particular aspect of human existence.  Taoism requires yin-yang balance and interaction, so some of the flying stars have negative influence on events, some have positive influence, and some are a mixed bag.  The “power” of each flying star is most evident along a directional vector relative to the position of the observer (i.e., a star residing in the northeast octant affects both Bob and Alice regardless of their own mutual proximity, distance or directional orientation).

In YoDg the flying stars are arranged as follows:

Traditional seers in the Sinosphere are oriented (intentional pun) to the South, and that’s where they ordinarily begin their analysis of flying star influences, rotating clockwise around the points of the compass to describe what each star portends. As a Euro-American navigator who has been indoctrinated to use the fixed star Polaris as a celestial point of reference, Lunghu will instead begin with the North to recount the catalog of this year’s flying stars.  First, the bad news:

  • North — The #5 Yellow Misfortune Star is in the north during 2018.  This brings chaos, tumult, bad luck and potential danger.  The San Sha (3 Killings) accompany the #5 Yellow Star to the North: death in the family, loss of wealth, and loss of personal reputation.
  • Northeast — The #3 Conflict Star brings hostility, arguments, litigation and misunderstanding.  This star can lead to violence, with tragic consequences.
  • East — The #7 Robbery Star is in the East this year.  In addition to monetary losses, the Robbery Star increases violence, aggressive behavior and political confrontation.

Now the good news:

  • Southeast — The #8 Wealth Star brings auspicious financial success, prosperity, happiness and joy.
  • Center — The #9 Future Prosperity Star arrives in the center.  Its effect won’t be immediate, but benefits will accrue down the road.
  • South — The #4 Peach Blossom Star increases knowledge, creativity and amorous interaction.  Spring Break on the Gulf Coast during the Rabbit Month will be sexier than usual.  Cote d’Azure?  More like Cote d’Amour!
  • Southwest — The #6 Heaven Star brings good luck, personal power, helpful mentors and lucky assistance when you need it most.

It’s not all good:

  • West — The #2 Illness Star increases risk of health problems and overall danger. This can be manifest as disorder in the body politic as well.

But it’s not all bad either:

  • Northwest — The #1 Victory Star brings personal success and triumph over the competition. You may need the help, because Tai Sui is also seated in the Northwest during YoDg.  If you don’t confront him by facing directly toward the Northwest, Tai Sui may support you with the #1 Victory Star –he’s got your back, so to speak.  Otherwise, unexpected obstacles may arise, friends can suddenly become adversaries, and good luck can turn into calamity.

Ca Veut Dire … Quoi?

OK, it’s now the Ox Month in the waning year of Yin Fire Fowl and almost the Year of the Double Yang Earth Dog, but (as Walter Mondale once said) “ou est le boeuf?” Where is Lunghu’s feng shui analysis of Emmanuel Macron’s gouvernance? Yeaux, we got dat right heah.  I’ll admit that I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to developments in France for the past several months, but that’s at least partly because I predicted a tough time for le pays gall during a period in which they would be “offending the year.”  Sometimes it’s best to avert your gaze while the really ugly stuff is underway.  Lactalis was only a mere droplet in the milk bucket of woe.  Did you notice that singer France Gall has died?  Unfortunately, things may only improve a tiny bit in 2018, because the Dog considers the Fowl to be among his foes (along with the Dragon and Sheep).

Hence the remedial measures which M. Macron has set en marche. Thus far I have only three examples of policy decisions which appear to indicate feng shui situation awareness, but I’ll be looking for more as YoDg progresses.

Exhibit A: France ditches plans for divisive Nantes airport

Macron’s deuxieme Edict of Nantes: plans to build a new airport at Notre Dame des Landes are summarily cancelled.  A Republicain apostate, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, delivered the news: “The project cannot go forward in an atmosphere of bitter opposition between two sides of the population that are nearly equal in size. The project is therefore abandoned.

First envisioned in the 1960s, plans for the airport were relaunched in 2000. A regional (Pays de Loire-Atlantique) referendum in 2016 found that 55 percent of local residents were in favor of the project. Environmentalists countered that the area had unique flora and fauna and that the new airport was unnecessary in light of the relatively low traffic at the existing terminal 30 kilometers away. The project’s cost, estimated at 730 million euros ($890 million), would have been about twice the cost of expanding the existing airport.

Where’s the feng shui? Nantes is the largest city in Western France.  The airport project has been a divisive political issue there for the entirety of the current century, not least because it was correctly viewed as a gigantic pork-barrel project primarily intended to enrich politically-connected construction companies and real estate developers.  Cancellation of the NDL airport project is intended to “cure” the maladie civil that has beset Loire-Atlantique for almost twenty years. This measure attempts to avert damage to the health of a fragile estuarian ecosystem in the West… and at the same time remove a focal point for dissent and hostility toward the state. Don’t ignore the #2 Illness Star in the West: address it.

Of course, there’s also a dimension of hardball realpolitik to this policy decision. The airport principals were part of an entrenched Nantes Republicain-PS coalition that couldn’t/didn’t jump ship to the Macron En Marche team when they had the chance in early 2017.  They remained loyal to party and patron, lost, and now pay the price.  Their more nimble confreres in Bretagne took the leap to the winning side and will be rewarded with funding for airport expansion and renovations at Rennes-Saint Jacques.

Exhibit B: France to lend Bayeux Tapestry to Britain

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce the proposed loan of the Bayeux Tapestry during a Britain-France summit meeting at Sandhurst with British Prime Minister Theresa May.  The tapestry depicts the invasion of England by Duke William of Normandy, better known as William the Conqueror, and his victory over the Anglo-Saxon King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The loan of the tapestry is contingent on tests showing whether the 11th-century embroidery can be moved safely.

#1 Victory Star in the Northwest!  Personal success and triumph over the competition.  Bayeaux (Normandy) is itself in northwest France, and of course England is located to the northwest of France.  As a former investment banker, Macron knows that all those London finance jobs –and the multi-billion euro deals that go with ’em– will be moving to Paris before and (especially) after Brexit.  Macron will also be handing T-May a tidy invoice for all those security improvements at the Calais end of the Eurostar Chunnel and ferry terminals.  And he’ll be completely charming throughout.

[ ]

Exhibit C: Macron plays the ponies in Xian

French President Emmanuel Macron bet on equine diplomacy during his first state visit to China — [by] presenting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping with a horse as a gift. The eight-year-old dark brown horse, a retired Republican Guard mount named Vesuve de Brekka, arrived in China on a special plane accompanied by the Republican Guard’s chief veterinarian and a member of the unit on January 4.  Vesuve de Brekka will remain in quarantine before joining Xi’s presidential stable.

This particular coup d’eclat is a two-fer: not only is the #9 Future Prosperity Star located at the Center this year (Zhong-guo = “central nation”), but –even better– the Horse is an ally of the Dog, so this diplomatic gesture is doubly auspicious.  Of course it’s also a triply appropriate gift because Xi Jinping loves horses … and will someday appear on equestrian statues throughout the nation (or at least in his hometown).

c’est pour la patrie, mon cher.

And speaking of hometowns, some folks here and there took note of the fact that Macron began his China visit in the city of Xian rather than in Beijing as is customary for yang guizi dignitaries.  Those who sought meaning in this choice of itinerary were inclined to accept at face value Macron’s own explanation of the choice: that Xian was the eastern terminus of China’s historic Silk Road, which Comrade Eleven is now seeking to revive with his global trade Belt and Road Initiative.  Not exactly.  There’s quite a bit more to the story, as Chinese well know.

Xi Zhongxun was born on October 15, 1913 to a land-owning family in rural Fuping, Shaanxi Province. He joined the Chinese Communist Youth League in May 1926 and took part in student demonstrations in the spring of 1928, for which he was imprisoned by the ruling Nationalist authorities. In prison, he joined the Communist Party of China in 1928.

Subsequently, he joined Communist guerillas north of the Wei River. In March 1933, he joined Liu Zhidan and others in founding the Shaanxi-Gansu Border Region Soviet Area, and became the chairman of the Soviet area government while leading guerillas in resisting Nationalist incursions. Eventually, in 1935, Xi’s guerilla base in the Northwest gave refuge to Mao Zedong’s Third Route Army and the Chinese Communist Party, allowing them to end the Long March. The base area eventually became the Yanan Soviet, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist movement until 1947.

Who is this Xi Zhongxun? The (now-deceased) father of President Xi Jinping, that’s who.  Shaanxi Province is the ancestral homeland of the Xi clan, and Xian is its capital.  Now do you understand why Macron went there first?  It’s what you call showing respect to the ancestors.  Which is why finesse is a French word.  Yeaux.  Even if there’s no immediate payoff, Macron is laying the groundwork for future prosperity with this initiative.

I can’t think of any way to end this blog post other than with a jarring thud. There are nine flying stars in the feng shui firmament, and Macron appears to have preemptively dealt with three of them so far this year.  Much work remains to be done, because there are still three negative flying stars demanding his attention:

  • The #5 Yellow Misfortune Star in the North
  • The #3 Conflict Star in the Northeast
  • The #7 Robbery Star in the East

He also has the opportunity to activate three auspicious flying stars:

  • The #8 Wealth Star in the Southeast
  • The #4 Peach Blossom Star in the South
  • and last but scarcely least, The #6 Heaven Star in the Southwest

That should be enough to keep him busy for a while.  I look forward to further feng shui magic from this most unlikely source.

 

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Chime, Gentlemen

January 15, 2018

Year of the Dog is now merely thirty days away, but its influence is already being felt in all the right places.  Here’s a non-representative sample (n=2) of Dogs and Dragons who have already been adversely affected by the feng shui of our coming year:

For You the Bell Tolls

British construction group Carillion announced its immediate liquidation Monday after the heavily-indebted company failed to secure a financial rescue from the UK government and banks in last-ditch talks.  Carillion is a major UK government contractor involved in a wide range of public sector contracts, including building and maintenance of hospitals and prisons, support services for nearly 900 schools, almost 50,000 homes for military personnel, and construction of the multi-billion-pound High Speed Two (HS2) railway project.

digging their own grave

Bottom Falls Out of Market

Financial industry professionals are usually referring to a sudden loss of investor confidence and price support when they use the expression “the bottom fell out of the market.”  On Monday in Jakarta, they meant it literally.

A mezzanine floor overlooking the main lobby of the Indonesian Stock Exchange building collapsed on Monday, injuring scores of people, many of them students, under slabs of concrete and other debris. Dramatic CCTV footage aired on television showed a floor shearing away in a matter of seconds under the students.

“Slabs of concrete started to fall, there was lots of dust. Water pipes had burst,” said Megha Kapoor, who works in the building and was in the lobby at the time.  Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said she hoped the collapse would not affect investor confidence.  The exchange resumed business in the afternoon according to schedule.

 

Monday’s mantra seems to be “Keep Calm and Carry On Investing.”  Perhaps it’s fortunate that financial exchanges in the United States are closed for the Martin Luther King holiday.

 

Y2K9x2

January 11, 2018

As we approach the end of the Rat Month in the Yin Fire Year of the Fowl, it may be useful to examine what lies ahead in the Year of the Double Yang Earth Dog.  This will be a Double Yang Earth year because both the Celestial Stem [ 戊 ] and the Earthly Branch [ 戌 ] are Yang Earth element signs.  Thus we have strong earth supporting strong earth, firmly centered and (seemingly) providing a stable foundation for all-under-heaven. But in the feng shui universe there’s always a catch, a wrinkle in the play of cosmic forces that can potentially undermine our superficial expectations.  In this case, the fact that both the Stem and Branch are strong/yang elements may cause problems: a balance of yin and yang is almost always preferable. Thus the very strength of Earth element in heaven above and the terrestrial terrain below has a potential to trigger conflict, competition and struggle.

Furthermore, we definitely should take note of the fact that the Chinese characters for and both contain the character (meaning “spear”) as the radical.  This evokes the image of two spears thrusting into the soil … or perhaps arising from the earth itself.  If we’re inveterate optimists who always accentuate the positive aspects of things, this might suggest the idea of “swords bent into plowshares” –a picture of peaceful, productive agriculture resulting from repurposed implements of war.  Bamboo shoots emerging from the forest floor, or asparagus spears thrusting forth into the springtime sunshine.  On the other hand, perennial pessimists might instead envision a gloom-and-doom scenario of ballistic missiles falling from the sky … and launched from underground silos.

The choice of yin or yang outlook is yours: you have the option to live your life governed by fear or by hope.  Dig a fallout shelter deep underground, or plant next year’s harvest in fecund soil.  No matter which you choose, you will be creating the world that you expect to live –and inevitably die– in.  The rest of us will be living in the alternate worlds that we have chosen.

But suppose Ceres and Ares aren’t your sole modern-day poles of imaginative reference.  Perhaps Edwin Drake, Thomas Edison and Claude Shannon are the latter-day saints who inhabit your technocratic pantheon of 20th century luminaries.  In that case, the image of spears-thrusting-into-earth might suggest industrial practices such as petroleum drilling, mineral extraction, or highway/railway and tunnel construction.  Maybe even data mining.  Once again, both optimists and pessimists can foresee either positive or negative possibilities implied by the interaction of tools and terrain.  Fabulous motherlode discoveries of valuable natural resources and archaeological treasures … or catastrophically disastrous failures of technological hubris?  Maybe both.

Enough of this idle chatter: let’s move onward to a discussion of the coming year’s Earthly Branch, the Yang Earth Dog, and his implications for the fate of men and nations in 2018.  First, it should be noted that the Dog is associated with both terrestrial heights and depths (mountains, valleys, ditches and caves) because of his Yang Earth element.  You may have noticed that dogs are avid diggers, burrowing into the earth in search of buried bones, rabbits, or a cool place to rest on a sweltering hot day.  Taoist seers noticed this long ago: hence the Earth element link.

This association with the soil –and the fact that canids are carrion-eaters– has meant that the Dog is also considered related to death, the occult, and the spirit world.  In an interesting parallel to ancient Greek and Egyptian beliefs about the role of Cerberus/Anubis as guardian of the afterlife, the ancient Chinese appointed the Dog as keeper of the “Gateway to Hell,” where spirits of the dead are destined to travel.  Because the Earth element follows the Fire element in the feng shui creative cycle (and thus replaces it), the Earth Dog is said to “bury Fire.”  Therefore, although Fire creates Earth (e.g., volcanoes), in doing so its power is extinguished, and Earth benefits as a result.  In this way the strong Earth Dog of 2018 will succeed 2017’s weak fire Fowl.

As always, the animal ruling the year has his duly-appointed friends and foes.  Their respective roles are determined by each animal’s relative position on the circumference of the Chinese zodiac.  Animals 90° and 180° away from the year’s ruler are usually his adversaries, while those at 120° are allies.  This year, the Tiger, Horse and Rabbit are in a favorable position as friends of the Dog.  The Dragon, Sheep and Fowl are his enemies: the Dragon is most disfavored, since he’s 180° away from the Dog on the other side of the zodiac.

These cosmic friendships and animosities have implications for mere mortals here on earth, since we all, both individually and collectively, are affiliated with one or more of the zodiac animals.  How so?  At the moment we enter this world, the year, month, day and hour of our birth link us to the combination of zodiac animals who govern that specific segment of time.  The animal of the year is usually held to be most significant overall, but the month, day and hour animals are also said to affect certain aspects of our fate.  As a rough-and-ready guide, persons born in either the Year of the Dog or Year of the Dragon are expected to be in for a tough time in 2018.  This is because the Dragon is “in clash with the Dog,” and the Dog is “offending the Year.”  Hey, I didn’t invent this stuff: that’s just the way it is … and has been for a few millenia.

In this context, it has not escaped my attention that the Year of the Dog may perhaps portend “challenges” for a blog that bears the Dragon’s name.  A three-fold remedy may be effective in warding off such trouble: first, treat all dogs with warmth and kindness.  Second, deploy the tiger facet of the dragontiger dyad to assuage the Dog’s ire with tigerly friendship.  Third, place the traditional feng shui charm –a skein of six gold coins– in the Southeast (Dragon) sector (in order to attract favorable chi).  Whether or not these preventative measures turn out to be successful in achieving their intended purpose, it’s important to bear in mind that the problems of a single individual are relatively insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

Therefore, rather than now recite an exhaustive catalog of well-known personages in peril because they were born in a Dog Year (Donald Trump) or Dragon Year (Valdimir Putin), instead I’ll focus my macroscale attention on entire nations at risk in 2018 because of their affiliation with either the Dog or the Dragon.  These are countries whose national animal is a dog (or related canid creature) or a dragon –and maybe a few that somehow indirectly fit the bill for cultural or historical reasons. Special caution may be advisable in the Dragon (April), Sheep (July) and Fowl (September) months.

Dog Daze Ahead:

England — John Bulldog

  • Brexit meltdown = Putin’s payoff for his investment in Nigel Farage
  • RIP QE2
  • Premier League scandal: will it be doping, bribes or boys? Perhaps a trifecta.
  • coal mine disaster in the year of Double Yang Earth?

 

Egypt — home of the world’s first dog-headed god

  • presidential election scheduled for Dragon Month
  • IS spillover from Libya?
  • border conflict with Sudan?

 

Malta — Pharaoh Hound

  • You can’t straighten out the crooked tail of a dog.

 

Algeria — Fennec Fox

 

Finland — Brown Bear

 

Russia — Brown Bear

  • howls of protest at Russia’s program to slaughter stray dogs in World Cup host cities
  • Comrade Bear is actually a Dragon –will the fourth time be a lucky charm?
  • ve vill bury you“:  alcohol and tobacco inexorably take their toll on Russian men –the demographic trends foretell an improbable feminist success story

 

Serbia — Wolf

  • when you look back to Tito’s Yugoslavia as your country’s Golden Age, neither the present nor the future look very good.
  • principal allies are Greece, Bulgaria and Russia.  And they’re embarrassed about it.

 

Turkey — Grey Wolf

  • surrounded by faithless “friends” and historic foes: a lone wolf is always dangerous

 

United States — “Comrade Wolf”

  • Tai Sui is in the Northwest this year. Things may get shaky in Alaska.
  • the Iditarod sled race will be “offending the Year” in 2018.
  • perhaps it’s fortunate that the University of Georgia Bulldogs were defeated by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national collegiate football championship game. But maybe they were actually beaten by the referees.

 

Dragon Their Heels:

Bhutan — everybody Wangchuk tonight

  • mountains, earthquakes, landslides: it’s all downhill from here in a Double Yang Earth Year
  • Big 5 Yellow Misfortune Star in the North (China), #2 Sickness Star to the West (India)

 

China — Giant Panda … and dragons, too

  • will credit crisis bubble up in mid-April Dragon Month?
  • Tai Sui prompts Mongolian disturbances in the Northwest?  Beyond Mongolia, there’s always Russia.
  • #3 Conflict Star in the Northeast: squabbles with Korea and Japan

 

Indonesia — land of the Naga and Komodo dragon

  • Double Yang Earth: earthquakes are always a possibility
  • open-pit mining may disturb earth spirits in Irian Jaya

 

Next time, corporate entities and others facing difficulty because of their Dog affiliations.  And some feng shui “flying star” portents.

Poultry Sum-mation

January 8, 2018

The Year of the Yin Fire Fowl is in its waning weeks, and the Double Yang Earth Dog is already scratching and snuffling at the henhouse door.  I’m currently preparing my eagerly-awaited 2018 feng shui predictions for the Year of the Dog, but before posting them here, I decided to provide a brief “course review” for those of you who may not have been paying close attention to world events during the past year.

According to the ancient Taoist seers, a year influenced by the Yin Fire element in the Celestial Stem has the potential to show destructive characteristics when it is matched with a Metal element in the annual Earthly Branch (because fire melts metal).  Since the weak (yin) metal cannot control fire, the possibility of fire-related misfortune increases. Such was the case in 2017, when the Yin Metal Fowl aligned with the Yin Fire stem.  So here’s a partial list of noteworthy hyperthermal events from the Year of the Fowl, courtesy of folks with the street cred in such matters:

February:

A massive fire in a Manila (Philippines) shantytown left 15,000 people homeless, but no one died.

April:

Twenty-five people were killed by fire during a religious festival in Madina Gounass, Tambacounda, Senegal

May:

A firework depot explosion in San Isidro, Mexico killed 14.

June:

  • Fire ripped through London’s 24-story Grenfell Tower apartment building, killing 80 residents.
  • Thirteen workers died in a coal mine explosion in Cucunuba, Colombia.

July:

Large wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and British Columbia (Canada).

Madeira

August/September:

A series of wildfires burned over 1 million acres of forest and farmland in Montana (USA). Oregon, Idaho and Washington State also experienced serious forest fire incidents.

October:

  • Wind-driven wildfires swept through more than 110,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties (California USA), killing 22 people and destroying more than 5,600 buildings.
  • At least 47 people were killed and dozens more were injured in a fireworks factory explosion near Jakarta, Indonesia.

November:

  • Uncharhar power plant explosion in Uttar Pradesh (India) killed 26 and injured more than 100.
  • Nineteen Chinese migrant workers were killed in a flophouse fire in the Beijing exurb of Daxing.
  • A series of intense eruptions from Mount Agung in Bali, Indonesia, forced thousands to evacuate and closed airports.

December:

  • In Jecheon, Korea, a burning car in a ground-level parking garage set fire to the mixed-use commercial building above, killing 23 occupants trapped on the upper floors.
  • Several huge wildfires burned out of control for almost a week in Southern California (USA). In Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the Thomas Fire burned nearly 282,000 acres and was the largest fire in California’s history.
  • Thirty-seven office workers died of smoke inhalation when a fire broke out at a shopping mall in Davao City, Philippines.

January:

Thirty-two crewmen were missing and presumed dead when an Iranian oil tanker burst into flames after colliding with a Hong Kong freighter in waters east of Shanghai, China.

Remember: correlation ≠ causation.  Coming soon, Lunghu’s unique perspective on the Year of the Dog.

Moon-walkin’

January 1, 2018

While some folks talk their talk, others walk the walk.

President Moon Jae-in on Monday welcomed the new year with a three-hour mountain hike up Bukhan-san, [located north of Seoul], and watched the New Year’s Day sunrise.  Moon made the climb with a group of six young Koreans honored as “righteous persons” for the year 2017 because of their good deeds. Among them was Park Jeong-hyon, who was recognized for saving a woman from sexual assault despite being stabbed in the abdomen by the assailant.

Afterward, the hikers had breakfast with Moon’s chief secretaries at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

As I have pointed out on several prior occasions, political events and photo ops in Korea always have a subtext that is silently staged in the background, either with an artificial scenic backdrop or –as in this case– with a powerful natural landscape. Let’s review the messages and the medium.

First, Moon is acknowledging his political base –Korean youth– by publicly recognizing and rewarding their “righteous” civic behavior.  Moon is implicitly paying tribute to those tens (hundreds?) of thousands whose Yin Fire candlelight lit the way for his landslide election.  The fact that all six of his fellow hikers were male is either an effort to avoid sexist innuendo or a practical concession to the masculine feng shui energies of the current double-Yang-Water Rat month.

Second, President Moon is showcasing his personal physical vigor and active spirit. What other national leaders in the northeast Asian region are getting out of bed at 4AM in mid-winter for a three-hour mountain hike?  Kim Jong-eun? Not hardly.  Shinzo Abe? No chance.  Xi Jin-ping? Probably not.  Donald Trump? Not even for an early tee time.  Vladimir Putin? Sure, he could do it, but only for a covert operation.  Moon’s morning hike is a declaration that he’s healthy, he’s strong, and he’s going to work long hours to accomplish righteous deeds.

Third, the Bukhan-san Moonwalk evokes the awe-inspiring terrain and sweeping vistas that Koreans can expect to experience at the PyeongChang Olympics, just two months away.  Spectator attendance is likely to be a problem: bone-chilling cold and high travel costs will deter many Europeans and North Americans, as will lingering anxieties about potential flareup of geopolitical tensions in the region.  But all those doubts and inconveniences can be set aside when you’re gazing across a beautiful landscape from atop a majestic mountain peak.  At least that’s the hope of the PyeongChang Olympic organizing committee.

need lots more snow…

 

OK, that’s the more-or-less obvious political meaning to be inferred from President Moon’s New Year’s Day excursion. But what about the sub-subtext, the historical/cultural allusions that a cultivated Korean sensibility might be able to discern in this public performance? Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Location: Bukhan-san is a national park of 80 square km situated on the northern fringes of Seoul. Its name means “big north mountain.” It is also called Samgak-san, which means “three-peak mountain.”  In starting off his New Year by getting up early to climb the big mountain in the north, President Moon is yet once again asserting his intention to seek amity with the DPRK despite the fact that it’s uphill all the way.  Perhaps we can think of the three Kims as the three peaks of Samgak-san.
  • Amity is one thing, preparedness is another.  The mountain is also the site of Bukhansanseong fortress, built with a wall about 8.5 km long specifically to stop foreign invasion.  It is one of the representative mountain fortresses of the Joseon Era.  Who was invading Joseon back in the day?  Jurchen tribesmen from the north … or the Chinese.
  • Contemplate this: Sangunsa Temple (built by the monk Won-Hyo), Seungasa Temple on east Bibong Peak, Munsusa Temple halfway up Musubong Peak, and numerous other temples are scattered throughout the mountain area.

One day, King Taejo visited the great monk Muhakdaesa. The King wanted to amuse himself, so he proposed that they freely exchange jokes without concern for social status. “You look like a pig!” said Taejo to the monk.
Muhakdaesa replied, “And you, sir, look like Buddha to me.”
King Taejo was confused, “We agreed to forget our politeness and make fun of each other.  If you say I look like Buddha, how could that be funny?” asked the King.
Muhakdaesa replied, “Pigs can only see other pigs and Buddha can only see Buddha.”
Hearing this, Taejo realized his character was still immature and come to admire Muhakdaesa even more.

  • Taoism precedes Buddhism: The Year of Yin Fire Fowl is almost over, its flickering flame being inexorably quenched by the double-Yang-Water Rat (Dec/Jan) and yin-water/yin-earth Ox (Jan/Feb) months.  In forty-five days or so, the approaching double-Yang-Earth Dog Year will be here.  Double-Yang-Earth (strong earth supporting strong earth) is not merely soil heaped upon soil like a cropland furrow: it is solid rock piled high –a mighty mountain.  Moon Jae-in is already climbing that big north mountain, in company with six righteous citizens.  Does he know that the #5 Yellow Misfortune Star will reside in the North during the Year of the Dog?  I think he does, hence the six righteous citizens in his entourage.  There’s nothing like righteousness to ward off misfortune.

Later in the day, Moon made phone calls to public officials, including quarantine officials combating the outbreak of bird flu, PyeongChang Olympic organizers … and American soldiers stationed in South Korea and thanked them for their dedication to service.

On Tuesday, he is scheduled to invite people from every social sector, including business leaders, to his office to exchange New Year’s greetings.

Compare and contrast.

 

Bit Player

November 19, 2017

“When people who have nothing to do with finance ask that sort of question [about an asset class], normally that market will get into trouble within a few months.  According to knowledge from my experience, it is a very important signal.”

Katsunori Sago, speaking about Bitcoin

SouthSea_House_1754

Over the course of his career, Sago-san has developed the ability to discern this particular type of signal among the deafening white noise of mass-market disinformation because the tumescent bitcoin bubble is deja vu all over again.  Here’s why: the usual suspects have very few actual arrows in their quiver of capital accumulation techniques, so the most efficient method of accelerating the cash conversion cycle is one that gets used over and over and over again.  It’s called pump-and-dump (or ‘asset inflation’ if you’re talking with the white-shoe set), and since there’s a sucker born every minute or so, the key to success is applying this well-honed technique to a financial asset that hasn’t previously existed in the sucker’s (brief) lifetime.  Tulip bulb futures.  South Sea commerce.  Railway construction bonds. Mineral exploration equities.  Internet services.  Collateralized debt obligations.  Blockchain cryptocurrencies.

All of these assets actually exist (or did at one time), but were –or are– incorrectly valued in the market.  Erroneous valuation is based on erroneous, low-quality information.  Therefore, fraudulent (or overly-enthusiastic) ‘information’ about current and future asset value is the core technology of asset inflation operations, just as it is of political discourse.  Reduced to the simplest terms, market bubbles are thus primarily a function of information quality, and the lesson we should have learned long ago is that the global information-production industry has significant quality-control problems.

This should not be surprising.  The Herman-Chomsky propaganda model of (advertiser-supported) journalism asserts that the structure and business plans of information-production enterprises rely on arousing and maintaining the interest of a sizeable audience which will be provided with commercial advertising in addition to the information about social developments that they hope to learn from their news provider.  In this environment, novelty and immediacy become the dominant dimensions of information ‘quality’ while other dimensions such as accuracy, precision, lack of bias, and objectivity are correspondingly de-emphasized.  As you have surely learned in the past twelve months.

So if you don’t want to heed Sago-san’s warning, perhaps you’d prefer to hear the sad truth from Herr Beckert.  He has a refreshing perspective on the role of fictional narratives in shaping ‘rational’ market behavior.

Bradley Tanks

October 11, 2017

“The reality is that it was all there for us and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”
US captain Michael Bradley

Speak for yourself, Cap’n America.  As far as I’m concerned, Team USA’s elimination from 2018 World Cup qualification is cosmic payback for Bradley’s role in sabotaging former coach Jurgen Klinsmann during the 2016 Copa De Oro and last year’s early World Cup qualification stages.  Anyone who watched those matches without rose-colored glasses would have seen that Bradley did his best to give those games away, and succeeded.  Was he –is he– trying to win back the head coach’s job for daddy Bob Bradley?

Can Team USA hope to win when its “leader” is working for the other side to feather his own nest?  In case you’re wondering, that’s a metaphorical question.

Xu Drop

September 12, 2017

“Although it has involved [a series of] disturbing events, the North Korean “crisis” of recent months is largely an invented one.”

“In light of the undeniable reality of mutual [nuclear] deterrence, the North Korean “crisis” of 2017 can most accurately be seen as a media puppet show put on by Chairman Kim and President Trump for their own public relations purposes.”

“[Analysts] say there is no definitive, publicly available proof that North Korea has a missile with the range to strike the continental United States, a miniaturized nuclear warhead to mount on it, and the shielding technology to make sure the warhead survives the heat and pressure of reentry to the atmosphere.”

“The North Korean situation might begin to [move toward] difficult diplomacy [and] an acceptable resolution if journalists downplayed the Chairman Kim-President Trump Puppet Show and focused on reality: North Korea is a tiny, impoverished country that would be instantly vaporized if it ever launched a serious attack on the United States.”

John Mecklin is the editor in chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Reuters News Service thinks him sufficiently credible to give his op-ed piece a relatively prominent place on its September 12 webpage.

 

In contrast, Lunghu is a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist (well, maybe not) considered credible by a relatively small number of people who believe that past performance might be a possible indicator of occasional insight.  The fact that Mr. Mecklin makes several of the same points advanced by Lunghu in an August blogpost should not be used by skeptical readers to disparage either writer.  Lunghu is unconstrained by institutional responsibilities and obligations that discourage venturesome speculation or insolent provocation: Editor Mecklin is not.  Thus there’s a limit to what he can say in public, and there’s a limit to what Reuters will publish.  Will Reuters‘ editors learn to read between the lines as well?

Governors’ Balls

August 30, 2017

It is impossible to say whether or not the feeling which had awakened in our hero’s heart was the feeling of love; for it is indeed doubtful whether men who are neither too fat nor too thin are capable of falling in love.  Nevertheless, something strange, something which he could not altogether explain, had come over him.  It seemed, as he admitted to himself afterward, as though the ball, with all its tumult and conversation, had suddenly faded away to become something quite remote –that the violins and woodwinds had moved behind some distant hill, and everything seemed covered with a mist, like the carelessly sketched-in background of a mediocre painting.  And out of this misty, roughly sketched background only the delicate features of the ravishing fair-haired girl emerged clearly: her rounded oval face, her slender, slender figure, which is so characteristic of young girls during the first months after they have left school, the simple white dress which so lightly and elegantly draped her graceful young limbs, accentuating the soft lines of her enchanting form.  Her exquisite shape was like a beautifully carved ivory toy, glowing white and translucent against the dull blur of the surrounding crowd.

It seems that things like that actually do happen.  It seems that even the Chichikovs of this world are for a few moments transformed into poets … but the word ‘poet’ is perhaps an exaggeration.

But here to our great regret we must observe that gentlemen of substance and high office are somehow a trifle ponderous in conversation with the ladies.  It is young lieutenants who are far more adept at the game –or, in any case, no officers above the rank of captain.  How they manage it only God knows.  They don’t seem to be saying anything particularly clever, but the young lady rocks and wriggles with laughter in her chair.

 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Nikolai Gogol didn’t know the young lieutenants’ secret of success: the strictures of religious orthodoxy weighed upon him with a heavy hand.  But who knows, maybe he originally intended to save the really good stuff for Part II of Dead Souls.  Instead, foolish man, he burned the manuscript and starved himself into an early grave.

Since Gogol can’t tell you, I will: sparkling eyes and a playful tone communicate everything that patriarchal society insists be left unsaid.

 

Lee Shore

August 25, 2017

Elwood Dowd is the only one in town who can actually see Harvey, a Norse-Celtic púca spirit that takes the form of a (usually) invisible rabbit more than six feet tall. The two become inseparable friends … for a while.

Because Ding yin Fire [in the Year of the Fowl] is associated with the South direction, possible misfortunes are said to be more likely to occur in southern regions of the globe, a nation, or a large city.  Houston, do we have a problem?

Yes, yes we do.  Although the Fowl Month has only just begun, it’s already being rudely greeted by this year’s Rabbit foe, whose emblem back in the month of March was yin Water above yin Wood.  Get it?  Water over Wood?  Folks in Galveston certainly know what that means.

Actually, as of 1600 UTC, it currently appears that the region to the south of Houston –Port Aransas and Corpus Christi– will take the brunt of Hurricane Harvey’s feng and shui.  Perhaps Houston itself will be spared because of Governor Sam Houston‘s initial attitude toward secession in 1861:

Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it.  The North is determined to preserve this Union.  They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.  But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and they will overwhelm the South.”

Any Confederate monuments still standing are gonna be awash up to the fetlocks –or maybe the withers– by Saturday.

Future Confederate general Robert E. Lee, then still a colonel in the U.S. Army, was in San Antonio at the time [February 8, 1861] and when he heard the news of the surrender [of military stores being housed in the old Alamo mission] to Texas authorities, responded, “Has it come so soon as this?”