Archive for April, 2013

We’ll Always Have Paris … Hilton

April 26, 2013

When Rick Whatsizname tells Ilsa Whatshername “We’ll always have Paris,” he’s not talking about the actuality of present-day Paris, nor about the imagined Paris of an indefinite future.  Instead, he’s harking back to a hazy, passion-tinged memory of Paris  — a city glimpsed in the peripheral vision of thoroughly besotted lovers, awash in an invisible cloud of pheromones, who have eyes only for each others eyes.  Ahhhhhhh!  Love!  Paris!

But I digress.  This blogpost isn’t about the City of Lights, nor about love (more’s the pity).  It’s just a slapdash, kneejerk reaction to a tiny morsel of infotainment media hype, a tiny ripple in the vast heaving sea of data in which we’re all increasingly immersed.

Earlier this week, a minor news item reported that Paris Hilton has taken the next big step in building her personal brand by opening her first bricks-and-mortar boutique … in Bogota, Colombia.  Lunghu had had no idea, but apparently PH (through distribution channels known only to the cognoscenti) has been selling a line of handbags, shoes, perfume, and whatnot for the past few years.  Once you’ve savored The Simple Life, it seems, moderate complexity has a whole new allure.  Leaving aside –for the moment– discussion about how moderately complicated things might become if this nascent commercial venture becomes enmeshed in La Vuelta, let’s just confine ourselves to taking a look at the Paris Hilton brand logo.  Does something seem sorta familiar?

Paris_Hilton_logo

Morph_B-P

 

Just sayin’ … Who’s gonna be first in line to sue for trademark infringement:  Bellagio or Louis Vuitton?

PH_bag

Om-ni-science

April 20, 2013

The subhead:  Putin pivots East.  And up.

Eighteen months ago, in an effort to shake off the most onerous shackles of Bush-regime foreign policy, U.S. SecState Hillary Clinton published an extensive policy pronouncement in Foreign Policy Magazine under the title “America’s Pacific Century.”  Perhaps significantly, she chose October 11 rather than September 11 as publication date. Based on two relatively minor uses of the word “pivot” in the article, the tagline “Pivot to Asia” immediately became Beltway shorthand for this policy initiative.

“The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. … One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to [make] a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region. … [This is] a pivot to new global realities.”
“This kind of pivot is not easy, but … we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.”
“[The U.S. has developed] a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.  [This strategy includes] a sustained commitment to … “forward-deployed” diplomacy: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.”

Since then, in practice, here’s what the pivot has involved:

  • Intensified (re)engagement, trade development and bilateral cooperation with ASEAN nations — Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia — they’re seeking a counterweight to Chinese influence.
  • Assiduous reassurance to traditional military partners in East Asia  — Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand — that Uncle Sam still loves and cherishes them.
  • Getting all up in China’s business using what by American standards is the most painfully polite and correct manner possible.  That’s not exactly how the Chinese see it, but at least some CPC officials understand we’re making a greater effort than in the past to avoid bruising sensitive feelings.

Who’s feeling left out?  Comrade Bear.  Despite the fact that Russia considers itself (and is) a Pacific (Ocean) nation, none of Obama’s pivot play takes public notice of Asian terrain north of the Amur River.  Is that some kind of unspoken message?

It must certainly seem that way in Moscow and points East.  Perhaps that’s why Comrade Bear last week paid a whirlwind visit to the eastern extremities of his farflung empire.  His choice of whistlestop locations and policy themes was rather interesting.

Note the helo rotors and windsock outside the gate.

Note the helo rotors and windsock outside the gate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday visited the Ivolginsky datsan, a Buddhist monastery, the center of the Buddhist traditional faith in Buryatia. The Ivolga datsan was founded in 1945, the year marking the revival of Buddhism in the Soviet Union. He [met with] Lama Damba Ayusheyev, head of the Buddhist Sangha of Russia.

Putin promised “100-percent support” for Russian Buddhists, whose number is estimated at 700,000 to 1.5 million. The president described Buddhism as a “kind, humanist learning based on love for others and love for one’s country.”  “Buddhism plays a significant role in Russia … It has always been that way.  It is well known that the Buddhists helped during both world wars,” Putin told the lamas.

Jiao_cha_le

Putin twice visited the palace of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama, now buried in Ivolginsky datsan: during his tour of the datsan and prior to his departure.  Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, the hierarch of Russian Buddhism, died at the age of 75 in 1927 while meditating in the Lotus pose.  His body was exhumed in 2002, [but it had not decomposed] after 75 years in the grave. The incorruptible body of Pandito Khambo Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itiglov has become one of the most revered Buddhist holy things.

Truly, the Lenin of Buddhism!

Closer to Heaven

Russian President Vladimir Putin on his Far Eastern trip visited the Vostochny cosmodrome construction site for the Soyuz-2 launch complex … being built in the Amur Region not far from Uglegorsk. The first launch of rockets from the spaceport is scheduled for 2015; the first manned launch for 2018.

Vostochny cosmodrome

During a video [chat] session with the International Space Station, Putin proposed naming the town that will be built near the cosmodrome after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and [early 20c.] pioneer of astronautic theory.
“A research center and a town will be built here — not just a spaceport, not just a launch site — so I think that it will be proper if after consulting with the local residents we name the future town Tsiolkovsky,” Putin said, noting that not a single locality in Russia currently bears the name of the scientist.

Who’s gonna argue with that?

Tsiolkovsky

Tsiolkovsky (1857 – 1935) spent most of his life in a log house on the outskirts of Kaluga, about 120 miles southwest of Moscow. A recluse by nature, he appeared strange and bizarre to his fellow townsfolk.”

Rockets of Another Kind

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Friday that if an armed conflict breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, there is a risk that North Korean missiles [might accidently strike Russian territory].  “My apprehensions are not linked to the prospect of Pyongyang’s using them against Russia,” he said. “They can be meant against other countries but might suddenly turn towards us.”
“We must prevent a twist of events in this direction, because we can’t put at risk either our territory or our citizens. We have Space and Air Defense Troops for the purpose,” Rogozin added.

 

Meanwhile …

Marshal Shaposhnikov

 “The anti-submarine destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov has made a routine visit at the South Korean port of Busan,” announced Captain First Rank Roman Martov, spokesman for the Russian Pacific Fleet. The Marshal Shaposhnikov, tanker Irkut and rescue tugboat Alatau are en route to their base at Vladivostok following a five-month anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.  On April 16, an official Russian delegation headed by Commander of the Pacific Fleet convoy Rear Admiral Vladimir Vdovenko paid a protocol visit to the Command of the South Korean Navy.

Lunghu would have loved to be a fly on the wall at THAT drinking party!  Russians! Koreans! Sailors! Busan! Female entertainers! Certainly not a night that anyone will admit remembering the next day.

It may be worth noting that:

Marshal of the Soviet Union Boris Shaposhnikov was born in 1882 near Chelyabinsk, and later became the principal strategic thinker in the Red Army.  He was the author of Mozg Armii (The Brain of the Army), a three-volume treatise of military theory published between 1927 and 1929.  According to Shaposhnikov, “pre-mobilization” for war should consist of as many measures as could be taken to prepare for actual war mobilization, but in an atmosphere of the utmost secrecy.

What does all this mean?

It sure looks like a pivot to the East by President Putin and his supporting cast of characters.  Russia hopes to benefit from China’s discomfiture at the Asian “fullcourt press” diplomatic initiative being mounted by the United States, and thus seeks to enhance economic ties with China while improving bilateral relations in other areas as well:

  • Lunghu believes that Comrade Bear intends to use his public support of Ivolginsky datsan as an unmistakable hint to China about Russian expertise in co-opting Buddhists, lamas and religious fervor.  The subtext:  we might be able to help with your Tibet problem.  Maybe your Falun Gong problem too.  Comrade Bear is extending the friendly fraternal paw of socialist nationalism to like-minded neighbors in the southeast.  Just lookin’ to avoid Big Sha.
  • Both Russia and China intend to outflank/offset the United States’ air, sea and land initiative by vaulting into outer space in a big way.  Although ostensibly motivated by a quest for scientific exploration and mineral resources, this is really a race to the strategic high ground from which the entire planet can be commanded.
  • Russia also wants to leverage Korean uneasiness about being caught between China, the U.S., and Kim Jong-un.  Russia-ROK maritime trade is vital to the economy of Russia’s Far East, and South Korea is a prime target market for Gazprom exports.  And then there’s that whole thing with Katya Putin’s Korean boyfriend … Lunghu’s still waiting for the KBS k-drama television series.

Inveterate geopoliticians will see these efforts as the latest manifestations (version 3.0) of The Great Game between Russia and her Anglo-American competitor-adversaries. Unfortunately, that brand of 19c. thinking will doom us all to yet another cyclical repetition of history’s instructive mistakes.  The outcome of zero sum games is always zero for most of those involved.

Golden Silence

April 15, 2013

Media headlines that Lunghu will NOT be blogging about this week:

  • Anne Frank museum defends Bieber after furor [ Seems as though the word ‘controversy’ would have been a better choice … ]
  • ‘Heisman Trophy of opera’ goes to Isabel Leonard  [ Lunghu really wants to see this statuette. ]
  • Judge holds self in contempt for his ringing smartphone   [ He may be the last in line. ]
  • Swedish Holocaust hero made first honorary Australian  [ It was all a tremendously embarrassing error: semi-literate Aussies thought his name was Koala Wallaby. ]
  • Alrosa to Launch Diamond Trade on Shanghai Bourse  [ Selling Russian diamonds in China: a money laundry made in heaven. ]
  • Pre-dawn rehearsal for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral  [ All of England has a stake in it. ]
  • Maine hermit attracts marriage offer  [ This is exactly why he was hiding out in the woods. ]
The alpha 'master' is sometimes bitten ...

The alpha ‘master’ is sometimes bitten …

Next Time …

A recent story that Lunghu WILL be blogging about (soon):

Vladimir Putin Visits Russia’s Main Buddhist Temple

 

 

Father ‘Nos’ Best

April 10, 2013

No one should consider it a stunning surprise that a certain august personage in Moscow has provided a semi-official reaction to Femen’s recent Hanoverian rebuke of Vladimir Putin.  For those of you who haven’t been paying attention …

Topless female demonstrators shouted “fuck the dictator” at Russian President Vladimir Putin as he toured an industrial fair with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.  Merkel and Putin were attending the Hanover Messe in northern Germany, where Russia is this year’s guest country. … It was not clear whether the women in Hanover were Femen members.

Perhaps Comrade Bear considered a direct response to this unseemly challenge to be beneath his dignity –or even that of his official spokesman.  Or maybe he recognizes that gender politics isn’t his forte.  Whatever the reason for the ‘official’ silence, Moscow’s choice of surrogate messenger, message and venue is rather telling:

Patriarch_Kirill

Feminism is very dangerous, [because] feminist organizations proclaim pseudo-freedom for women, supposed to be displayed first of all beyond marriage and family,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said at a meeting with activists of the Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Women’s Union in Moscow.
“The feminist ideology focuses not on the family or bringing up children but on a different function of women that is often set against family values,” he said. “It is probably not by chance that most feminist leaders are unmarried women.”
The patriarch stressed that women should first of all be “the center of family life, the hearth keepers.”  He praised women for not only doing housework but also going out to work.

Kirill_and_Ilya_20130123

Patriarch Kirill said women fare well in many professions today, which, he said, means they can be good wives and mothers and at the same time work “for common good” if “their priorities are set in the right way.”

As long as you bear in mind that ‘family values’ is used as a codeword for patriarchy in Russia as well as the United States, the Patriarch’s discourse can be seen to embody a perfect internal logic.  Apparently there is something that superpower nations can agree upon: feminism is very dangerous to the status quo.

 

April in Paris

April 8, 2013

If you need a venue to stage a protest against the cultural boundaries imposed by strict-constructionist Islam, Paris is the city to do it.  Really, if you want to protest just about anything, go to Paris. And, as always,  April is the time to do just about anything in Paris.

Even in Paris, however, Europe’s most visible protest movement doesn’t make its presence felt with mass marches through city streets. A few vocal activists suffice to ensure that the message is heard.

Femen_Paris_20130404a

Its message is not the most broadly accepted, nor is it particularly representative of European cultural attitudes.

Bruxelles_20130404

Its protests are nominally non-violent, but only in the sense that they provoke unilateral use of force by police as a vehicle for demonstrating the ultimately coercive nature of state power.

Femen_Paris_20130404b

And while it’s one thing to denounce a faceless, amorphous patriarchal oppressor like fundamentalist Islam, protest is much more tangible when you’ve got someone like Comrade Bear conveniently right in front of you as the very personification of 21st Century dictatorship.  Almost makes the sidetrip to Hannover worthwhile.

Hannover_20130408

Lunghu has only one complaint about this recent spate of direct action from Femen:  media editors in Europe have apparently decreed that full-frontal photographs of Femen protests will henceforth be rationed to a limit of one per week.  American editors just ignore the story altogether.  Fuck their morals, too.

 

Guo For It

April 5, 2013

When your name translates as “Boat of the Nation,” no one should be very much surprised if you quit your day job, take to the high seas, and decide to sail around the world single-handedJoshua Slocum did it first, in 1895, but he took his sweet time, stopped at every cheery port along the way, and returned to Newport, Rhode Island three years after his departure.

Guo Chuan (from Qingdao, Shandong Province) was in more of a hurry …

Guo_Chuan_reaching

… On Friday Guo became the first sailor from China to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the globe, [returning to Qingdao] after a grueling 138-day, 21,600-nautical-mile voyage.  Guo jumped into the sea in celebration before his yacht reached the dock, and swam towards the pier to meet his wife and sons. He knelt with tears streaming down his cheeks as soon as he reached land.
“I can’t even believe I made it.  If this is real, I am the happiest man in the world,”  said Guo.  “I am so happy that I can again see so many people, so many people who care about me.”

Guo_Chuan_Qingdao_2o13o4o5

Certainly, if you want to see many, many people after four months alone at sea, China is definitely the place to go.

Guo’s childhood dream was becoming a scientist, and he worked on China’s commercial satellite program before becoming China’s only professional sailor 12 years ago.  After departing from Qingdao last November, Guo piloted his Akilaria 40ft monohull eastward across the Pacific Ocean to Cape Horn in Chile, sailed into the Atlantic Ocean, then went via the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean before transiting the Sunda Strait in Indonesia to return to Qingdao.

Lunghu wonders how much of the ocean recently traversed by Guo Chuan has already been claimed as China’s territorial waters.

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