Archive for July, 2011

Orange Park Backstretch

July 31, 2011

We’re just about halfway through the Year of the Rabbit, so now would be a good time to take a look back at New Year’s predictions for YoR and evaluate the accuracy of various feng shui soothsayers.  These guys make a very comfortable living by reinforcing a soothing belief-structure that helps assuage the anxieties of countless millions, so their track records are —or ought to be— a matter of general public interest.  Lunghu will not exempt himself from this rigorous review: he made a few wildly improbable predictions of his own back in February.

Here we go: the clear quality champion thus far in YoR has been Malaysia’s own Rev Yong.   He has two obvious “wins” in his column already  —

  • A serious earthquake will strike Japan.
  • There will be severe flooding in many parts of the world. 

(In case you haven’t been keeping track, thus far this year severe flooding has afflicted:  Colombia; Venezuela; Thailand; Germany; Denmark; China; Singapore; Korea; Japan; eastern Montana; Vermont, and various portions of  the Mississippi River basin.)

Lao Yong should also get some credit for a partial success: his prediction that  “there will be outbreaks of ‘worrisome new diseases’” could be construed to apply to Korea’s epidemic of hoof-and-mouth disease earlier this year, which created havoc in the livestock industry north and south of the 38th parallel.  Yong’s fourth prediction —that there will be “world conflicts” in YoR— shouldn’t really even count as a prediction: there are “world conflicts” every year.

Peter So of Hong Kong was a bit more specific than Rev Yong when he predicted that “North Korea will experience a serious outbreak of epidemic disease.”  Lao So also said that Hu Jin-tao will succeed in most endeavors, Barack Obama only in a few.  We’ll see …

Most of the other feng shui prognosticators whose predictions Lunghu listed at the beginning of the year aren’t faring quite so well.  Taiwan’s Chan Wei-chung claimed that “Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt will experience relationship problems,” but (at least in public, in Sarajevo) things look fine between them (just for the moment?).  Hong Kong’s Anthony Cheng predicted “violent earthquakes in Russia & Inner Mongolia.” Perhaps not …

Raymond Lo played it safe by forecasting that “There will be many sex scandals and extramarital affairs” and “Youth will demand change & reforms.”  Sure, he gets partial credit for Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Lao Lo might as well have said that the sun will rise tomorrow, tomorrow.

Let’s see … who else?  Tsai Shang-chi predicted that “the West will be prone to more terrorist attacks;” should he get credit for Oslo?

Alion Yeo Tin-ming claimed that natural disasters will afflict Taiwan, US and Canada, and (more specifically)that earthquakes will strike the US.  He also predicted a technical breakdown in the internet (does LulzSec/Anonymous count?).   Even more ambiguously, Alion Yeo forecast that “a money tsunami” would strike Korea and Japan, bringing an influx of hot money that would distort their economies.  As far as Lunghu is concerned, Yeo didn’t have a literal oceanic tsunami in mind when he made this prediction.  He himself might claim otherwise.

And what about Lunghu?  He made a string of extravagantly calamitous predictions for the Year of the Rabbit, and nary a one has occurred.  That’s a tremendous relief, because Lunghu deliberately chose to predict extremely unlikely events precisely because he did not want them to happen.  It’s quite unsettling to frivolously predict an earthquake and have it occur a fortnight later, as happened to Lunghu in the Year of the Tiger.  Much better to be happy and wrong than to be an accurate soothsayer saddened by the endless pain of the human condition.

That Sinking Feeling

July 25, 2011

Back in January, Lunghu reported one of his unusual and inexplicable Russian dreams: a cryptic vignette that featured a blue-and-white motorboat as its central character.  In brief, the main elements were:

  • a blue-and-white double-ended motorboat
  • a large lake or bay
  • an accident and subsequent sinking vessel
  • Vladimir Putin and Dimitri Medvedev

For most of July, Lunghu has been occupied with other matters, so the following news item escaped attention until just recently:

On 10 July 2011, [the river cruise ship] MS Bulgaria was caught in a storm and sank in the Kuybyshev Reservoir of the Volga River near Syukeyevo, Kamsko-Ustyinsky District, Tatarstan, Russia, with 201 passengers and crew aboard. The catastrophe led to 122 confirmed deaths.

MS Bulgaria (fka Ukrainia)

As you can note from the photograph, the MS Bulgaria technically has a fantail stern rather than being designed as a double-ended hull.  Otherwise, though …

Six months later, to the day.  Does this mean that the Russian submarine fleet is safe  –for now?

Be Happy. Don’t Worry.

July 24, 2011

Look around you at the faces of people on the other side of the street, the other side of the room … or anywhere outside the immediate radius of your own radiant presence.  Do they look happy?   If you’re in the United States, they probably don’t.  If you  happen to be in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, it might be a different story.  Although Bhutan is definitely considered a Third World nation according to United Nations metrics of economic development, by Bhutanese standards it is the US that would probably rank as a ‘poster child’ underdeveloped country.  That’s because …

Bhutan’s model of GNH, or Gross National Happiness … measures quality of life by trying to strike a balance between the material and the spiritual.  This week the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution [proposed by Bhutan] that aims to make happiness a “development indicator.”  The resolution invites member states to draw up their own measures of happiness and contribute them to the UN’s development agenda.

“It’s basically an approach,” said Bhutan’s ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk. “Our initial idea was to bring the concept of happiness to the consciousness of the UN membership… because we know that GDP indicators [alone] are inadequate to address human needs.”

looks pleased ... not quite happy.

In Bhutan, where the Buddha is an ever-present life force that pervades every aspect of existence, there will be no shortage of people who can tell you that unhappiness arises from thwarted material desires.  The greater the material desires, the greater the unhappiness —because (for most people) many desires will never be fulfilled.  Happiness will almost always be found somewhere else than in the other.

But what if your worldly desire is to help other people experience happiness?  Should you feel thwarted if –despite your meager efforts– they still don’t feel happy?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.  It may not be realistic to expect instant results, although lightning sometimes does strike.  Instead of focusing on a binary outcome (happy?/not happy?) it might be more satisfying to find your own reward in the approach, the process, the “narrow road to the interior.”  Random acts of kindness can be more than a bumper sticker slogan:  share a smile and make two people (briefly?) happy.  Reflect upon this deeply.

Now, of course Ambassador Wangchuk can afford to be happy: he’s a member of the royal family of Bhutan.  But Lunghu won’t hold that against him, because any nation governed by a Dragon King has a decent shot at happiness in both the material and spiritual worlds.

World of the News

July 23, 2011

Lunghu hasn’t had much to say about Rupert Murdoch thus far, perhaps because the best is yet to come.  So let this suffice for now.

Re. the ever-developing News Corp. hacking/influence-buying affair:  in the reams and reams of media coverage thus far and yet to come, of all the text phrases that have been or will be tagged as named-person-entities, which are NOT freemasons?  Don’t worry, it will be a short list…

So, reader: what should that tell you about Britain, media industry and the hometown political theater near you?

Vee-Zee-Ay! Vee-Zee-Ay!

July 19, 2011

Lunghu’s not really much of a futbol fan, but in the interests of cultural awareness, international relations and world peace he does occasionally follow noteworthy developments in the most popular sport on the globe.  So, in case you haven’t noticed (and you haven’t) the BIG news these days is that perennial also-ran Venezuela has reached the semi-finals of the Copa America by defeating ideological adversary Chile in a 2-1 quarter-final match played in Argentina over the weekend.  That’s certainly cause for clamor and commotion in Caracas!

The red embroidery reads "Hugo Chavez Frias / Presidente"

Close observers might conclude from the photo above that El Presidente’s recent oncological brush with mortality has left him a bit chastened, but he’s still a fan of sport.

On Wednesday evening (July 20), the Venezuelan national team will face Paraguay (Peru v. Uruguay is the other semi-final matchup).  The Paraguayans have a reputation for playing “aggressive” and “physical”  futbol, but –as always– the beautiful game is fully in the hands of the referee.  Let’s keep it clean!

Initiating Incident No. 8

July 18, 2011

"Nice buttress" (as the architect said to the edifice).

Two years later (24 months/104 weeks/730 days), I finally recognize what I should have known at the time.  Amazing!

“I have a pair of eyes, but couldn’t see Tianshan!”

 

Thor-man

July 14, 2011

When you need to make an impression on your military adversary, it’s often useful to invoke the ancient God of War.  Most religious traditions have (at least) one:  even the usually pacifistic Buddhists can call upon some rather militant bodhisattvas when the Dharma needs protection from the forces of evil.

If your adversary is Kim Jong-il, you want to make sure that there’s no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation of any kind.  That’s why the United States has sent no less a warrior than General James “The Hammer” Thurman (Thor-man) to Korea.  Yep, in sending this particular cross-cultural message the USA is harking all the way back to the Norse discovery of America, evoking the mighty lightning god in its choice of military commander.

In an inauguration ceremony held on the U.S. base in Yongsan, central Seoul, U.S. Army Gen. James Thurman succeeded Gen. Walter Sharp as the commander of some 28,500 U.S. troops stationed [at the base in Korea]. Thurman will also be in charge of the United Nations Command (UNC) and the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).

Thurman said both countries are “prepared to honor our commitments, provide stability, deter conflict and, if we must, fight and win.  This alliance stands ready to counter any provocation intended to destabilize the Korean Peninsula.”

And because body language can speak louder than mere words, take a look at the General’s salute:

source: Yonhap

You want to mess with that guy?  Didn’t think so:  that’s one mean-looking, badass MoFO.  Message received?

Update:  July 17

Oh  –one more thing.  Lunghu thinks the guy kinda resembles Tangun in camo.  His facial features and physical build both have some rather ursine qualities…

source: Yonhap

 

Get Sirius, Folks

July 13, 2011

About a year ago, Lunghu allowed his free, limited-time trial subscription to Sirius/XM Radio to expire.  Why?  Because the service is extremely lame: like the cable TV business model, Sirius/XM charges a fixed monthly fee for a menu of radio channels –most of which transmit genres of music already available on commercial radio.  Sure, Sirius/XM is more-or-less commercial-free, and its some of channels are “narrowcast” rather than broadcast (their Grateful Dead or Frank Sinatra channels, for example).  Although Sirius/XM does offer jazz and blues channels in addition to pop, classical, classic rock, metal and news talk, etc., the diversity and variety of  programming is extremely limited.  Only mainstream acts get airtime, the music is played on extended tape loops, and new releases from the major record companies get extensive promotion regardless of the artists’ merits.  In the realm of blues and jazz, it’s the whitebread corporate artists who serve as headliners and the “voice” of Sirius/XM:  Wynton Marsalis and B.B. King.  In another era they’d have been referred to as someone’s uncle.  Even as a free service, Sirius/Xm really wasn’t worth listening to.  Forget about paying for it!

After Lunghu tired of receiving repeated letters from Sirius/XM exhorting subscription renewal, he wrote a serious letter to the Sirius marketing department (or was it the “customer relationship office”?).  The letter explained some of the problems with Sirius’ product line noted above, observed that their principal competition on the East and West Coasts came from college radio stations that provide more novelty and variety, and closed with the prediction that as soon as Pandora’s music streaming service became available in cars, Pandora was gonna eat Sirius’ lunch and hit ‘em on the head with the cafeteria tray.  Because Pandora offers what many –if not most– music listeners want: a more-nearly personalized soundtrack for daily life, not corporate programming and propaganda. (At least Pandora’s not offering that “feature” yet.  They do subject non-subscribers to commercials, however.)

Well folks, the lunchroom bell has begun tolling for Sirius/XM:

Oakland, California-based Pandora announced expanded partnerships with automobile manufacturers on Tuesday.  Pandora said it was expanding its ties with Ford Motor Co. and will also soon be available in General Motors’ Buick, Chevrolet and GMC, as well as in Hyundai and Toyota models.  Pandora now has 100 million registered users, and presently accounts for 3.6 percent of all radio listening in the United States.
“Our goal is to allow people to personalize their radio experience anytime, anywhere,” Pandora executive vice president of business development Jessica Steel said.

Now the bad news:  Lunghu’s car does not have a Pandora radio, and he’s not about to rush out and buy a new vehicle.  Certainly not a Ford.  Besides, Pandora admits they’re weak in the African and Asian music genres: c’mon guys –get global.  If it’s any help, Lunghu knows a highly-placed official in Nigeria who can assist Pandora in obtaining licenses to broadcast the entire recording catalog of Afrodisia Records, as well as  other West African publishing houses.  Wire transfers to the appropriate Lagos bank can be arranged promptly and discreetly…

Free Buffet(t)

July 9, 2011

Bohemian Grove is so last century.  This year, the place to be seen is the Valley of the Sun.  Idaho, that is.  If you’re anyone with money or just seeking to rub elbows with über-kapital, early July is the time to attend i-banker Allen & Co’s annual Media and Technology Conference.  Warren Buffett‘s there.  (Jimmy Buffett is not.)  Bill Gates is there.  Oprah is there.  Philippe Dauman is there.   Mike Bloomberg is there (not in Paris).   Rupert Murdoch was there, until called elsewhere on business matters.

The Sun Valley Conference is called a “summer camp for moguls,” as the heads of industry ride around the resort on bicycles, go fishing, hiking and white-water rafting.

All that opportunity for strenuous physical activity must be why New Jersey governor Chris Christie chose to take a two-week “vacation” with his family in Sun Valley and points east.  After all, he just barely worked up a sweat when vigorously exercising his executive prerogative by using line-item veto authority to trim $.9 billion in fat from the bloated NJ state budget.  And those daylong, full-on aerobic workouts must be the reason that Christie’s presence in Sun Valley has received so little media attention:  nothing to see here, move along…

All in all, it’s none too surprising that New Jersey media outlets have had absolutely nothing to say about DoubleC as he hobnobs with the usual suspects out west:  Newark Star-Ledger?  Zilch.  Courier-Post “of Cherry Hill”?  Mum.  Bergen Record?   Bubkes.  Asbury Park Press?  You’re jokin’ –right?   It certainly wouldn’t do to perpetuate political sterotypes, particularly when they happen to be accurate.  Wouldn’t be prudent.  Wouldn’t advance the interests of the order.

Just the same, Lunghu is left wondering what Todd Christie might be up to in the shadows of  Sun Valley, and with whom he might be hobnobbing.  It looks as though Mike Bloomberg may have something cooking with his buddy at Activision Blizzard Inc., but time will tell.  Lunghu is convinced it’s all publicly available information.

Allons Enfants de la Patrie

July 2, 2011

Well, DSK probably won’t be parading down the Champs d’Élysée on 14 Juillet this year, but on the other hand he won’t be cooped up in a New York City penthouse either.  This petite tempête/cause célèbre appears to be concluding(?) with a whimper rather than a Happy Ending, but there’s still plenty of conspiracy theorizing left undone.  In the meanwhile, Lunghu will quietly bide his time, waiting for the eventual sealed out-of-court settlement that will finally put to bed DSK’s all-but-inevitable false arrest/wrongful imprisonment lawsuit.

credit: Todd Heisler

Lunghu is well aware that Mike Bloomberg isn’t in the habit of taking advice from anyone, but here’s a well-meaning suggestion:  given your own checkered past, it’s probably a good idea for you to stay away from the City of Lights for the foreseeable future.   Bertrand Delanoë may not exactly be a confrère of DSK, but they’re both Pay-Ess, and zealous underlings might be looking for payback.  After all, undeclared presidential ambitions can be a magnet for trouble, too.

Marchons, marchons, etc.