Archive for January, 2014


January 30, 2014

This year, Lunghu won’t be devoting much time and column-inches to a compendium of 2014 feng shui predictions.  Another blogger has already taken care of the grunt work by providing an index of feng shui forecasts and the accompanying internet links.  If inquiring minds really want to read about flying stars and elemental conflicts until their heads swim, there are many other website destinations to choose among.

In any case, Lunghu has been dismayed, saddened and disappointed to see the slipshod, low-quality plagiarism which appears to be rampant among self-styled feng shui soothsayers in the Sinosphere.  The guilty parties know who they are:  they should feel the sting of shame burning their cheeks and reflect deeply on their errors.  So instead of citing the names and prognostications of certain personages of undoubted celebrity but dubious integrity, Lunghu is going to provide some predictions of his own.  These modest predictions are derived from two fundamental aspects that allegedly characterize the Year of the Horse:

  • The Rat is in conflict with the Horse
  • Although Fire and Wood are the predominant elements of this Horse year, the hidden presence of Metal within Earth (described as ‘Gold in Sands‘) will interact with Fire and Wood to produce dramatic events.

According to Lunghu’s far-seeing analysis, here is what this could (potentially) mean:

  • Business enterprises whose names, brands or logos include a rat or rat-like creature may experience difficulty in the Year of the Horse.  Therefore, 2014 will not be a good year for …
Disney Coropration

Disney Corporation

DJ DangerMouse

DJ DangerMouse


DJ deadmau5


the 150th anniversary may not go as planned

the 150th anniversary may not go as planned


Wuhan Squirrel Construction Machinery Ltd.

Wuhan Squirrel Construction Machinery Ltd.


rodents in the kitchen?

rodents in the kitchen?


Town, not Gown

Town, not Gown



beaver logo

  • One particular corporate brand whose logo does NOT include a Rat may still be in trouble –because of its past association (in the 1960’s) with the 20th century’s most-storied assemblage of high-priced rodents:  Hollywood’s famed Rat Pack.  Lunghu is referring to the Sands Casino empire (‘Gold in Sands‘ … remember?).  The Sands Casino itself is no longer present in Las Vegas under that name, but the empire continues to thrive on The Strip and throughout the world under the banner of Las Vegas Sands Corp.


Las Vegas Sands Corp. is an American casino and resort operating company based in Paradise, Nevada, USA.  Its properties in the United States include The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip, and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. In Asia, Las Vegas Sands operates the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Through its subsidiary Sands China Ltd, the company owns The Venetian Macao, The Plaza Macao, and the Sands Macao.

This is a company that fits the description ‘Gold-in-Sands’ to a T, and has an indelible association with The Rat Pack in American popular culture. Time to be very, very worried.  Here’s the formulaic feng shui chain of causality that portends trouble somewhere in the Sands Casino resort empire:

{Rat in conflict with Horse} + {June = Horse month} + powerful yin fire element + {South = Horse direction} + {wood –> feeds fire –> destroys metal} + {‘Gold in Sand’} ==>> fire/explosion damage at … ?

This combination of ‘threat characteristics’ implies that somewhere in the South, possibly in the month of June, conflicting cosmic forces may combine to cause a damaging fire or explosion at a Gold-in-Sands site because of its association with The Rat.   Sheldon Adelson has plenty to be worried about.  Las Vegas is in the southern portion of the United States, Macau is in southern mainland China, and Singapore is at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula.

Late last year, Las Vegas Sands bailed out of plans to build a casino resort in central Spain.  Perhaps the climate on the Iberian peninsula offered too much southern exposure for the company:

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Las Vegas Sands had made last minute demands for legal and financial guarantees that “did not comply with Spanish law or that of the European Union.” The demands included tax benefits, financial compensation in the event of any future law change that could affect the project, and an assurance that new operators would be not be allowed in the casino sector. [LVSC] said in a statement that the project was not in line with its immediate development plans, which will be focused on its Asian business.

Time will tell whether this Spanish de-Conquista is a sufficient risk-mitigation strategy for LVSC.  The feng shui omens point to greater perils near the Straits of Malacca, where the company’s southern-most casino is located.  Will business at the Marina Bay Sands Resort be lighter than usual in June of 2014?  Perhaps it depends on how much Wood feeds the flames of this year’s Fire Horse.

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands Resort    {gold-in-sands}
10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956    {south direction}

All in favor, say ‘Aye.’   All opposed, neigh.

Just Say No-maha

January 21, 2014

Maybe NOW –once it’s too late– Peyton Manning will finally cease-and-desist his annoying interjection of “Omaha at the line of scrimmage during the NFL post-season.


Lunghu isn’t going to credit Mr. Manning with actually causing Monday’s double-fatal explosion at Omaha’s International Nutrition manufacturing plant, because airborne dust + spark is a far more likely source of the blast.  And Lunghu doesn’t think mere prescience or premonition was involved, either.  Nor will he claim that the Denver Broncos’ quarterback has made some kind of Faustian bargain with the Prince of Darkness that might explain his team’s relentless march to Super Bowl Forty-Eight.  But devout sports fans and superstitious gamblers may not be so generously forgiving.  After all, the Year of the Horse begins on January 31st.  Can we really believe this is all just a coincidence?

At the very least, Peyton ibn Archie can begin to make amends with a significant charitable donation to the families of the victims.  Maybe his sponsors can, too.  A different kind of payback.

Eight Omaha companies — ConAgra Foods, First National Bank of Omaha, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha Steaks, Cox Communications, CenturyLink, Union Pacific railroad and DJ’s Dugout Sports Bar & Grill– combined to donate $800 to Manning’s “Peyback Foundation” for every time he yelled the city’s name during the Broncos’ AFC championship victory over the New England Patriots.  The foundation for at-risk youth will receive a $24,800 donation.


Lunghu likes the Seahawks.  Getting two-and-a-half.  For whatever that’s worth.  Singapore bookmakers know how many zeros might be involved.


Assassino Fuggiasco

January 19, 2014

Yesterday I bumped into a fugitive murderer at the grocery store. Literally. Not kidding. I didn’t recognize him for what he was until after accidental contact (my grocery cart, his heel) had occurred.  But his reaction convinced me that here was a dangerous guy who should be avoided.

First, a bit of context. At around midday on a weekend, the store was quite busy.  As one might expect. A lot of traffic, a lot of congestion.  Standalone supermarket displays jutting into the aisles didn’t make maneuvering any easier.  I was wheeling a lightly-loaded cart with a few odds and ends to round out the larder.  My counterpart, directly ahead, was piloting one of those oversized, child-friendly shopping wagons that have a plastic two-seater automobile hanging off the prow.  He had no current passengers, but his vessel was fully-laden with a week’s worth of groceries mounded high within the wire basketry. He was also conducting a long-distance conversation (in some obscure, guttural, Mezzogiorno dialect of Italian) with one of his children, who was half-way down a nearby aisle.  White male, 40s(?), greyish hair, dark complexion, short stature (5′ 4” at the most), thin build, wearing a windbreaker, jeans and sneakers.

Unfortunately, ‘Signor Pizzo‘ chose that particular moment to abruptly halt his forward progress in the narrowest possible space in the entire store –a veritable Strait of Messina, if you will– where the front aisle turned a corner to lead toward the checkout lanes.  Following too closely, I was unable to stop in time. A shopper coming in the other direction prevented me from swerving aside.  I hit his heel with my cart.


I regret to say that I did not apologize.  Instead, annoyed with his sudden stop and lack of situation awareness, I said, “Don’t stop. Keep moving.”  Which is what I promptly did, as soon as the oncoming lane was clear. I steered around Signor Pizzo and his cart –they were still stopped dead in the aisle– and proceeded to the checkout line fifteen feet away.  As I passed, I caught a glimpse of fury and hatred blazing from his eyes.  I saw him lift his right foot to look at the heel of his sneaker (for scuffs?), heard him mutter something in Italian (probably not a compliment), and saw him reach for his back pocket before turning toward the aisles where his family presumably was.   Three words flashed through my mind: “Murderer. Fugitive. ‘Ndrangheta.” Not necessarily in that order.  The look in his eyes clearly showed that he wanted to kill me.  But we were in a public place. His family was close. The video cameras were rolling.  He’d left his knife at home.  Now was not the time.

In some cultures, treading on a man’s shoes is a mortal insult to dignity, and dignity is all that matters in life.  In the Mezzogiorno, vengeance can wait –for generations, if need be.  I don’t think Signor Pizzo is willing to wait that long.  As I stood in the checkout line, watching for sudden movements from the corner of my eye, I heard further muttering and I could see him staring at me, committing my features to memory … for another day.  But I know what he looks like, too.  I’m going to be keeping a sharp lookout for scrawny Calabresi on construction sites, in pizzerias, and in grocery stores.  Just not in that particular one, because I don’t think I’ll be going back there. Not on Saturdays, around noon.

In the interest of world peace and social harmony, I didn’t show him my own eyes.  The ones that can convey the message: I’ll kill you first, if necessary.  Those eyes have been retired.  For now.

Here’s Lookin’ At Yu, Kid

January 13, 2014

I did something truly reckless right before New Years:  I bought a paperback collection of recent short stories by Charles Yu –‘Sorry Please Thank You‘.  A few years ago, I spotted Yu’s antichronistic novel ‘How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe‘ on a bookstore shelf, read the backjacket blurb, and put it on my Christmas list so that someone else could pay the steep retail price.  No regrets:  as I read ‘SFU’ that holiday season years ago/hence, I repeatedly found myself forced to set the book down, take a deep breath, and say to myself “Holy.  Fuckin’.  Shit.  This guy is fuckin’ hilarious!”  In a mind-bending, all-is-illusion, alternate-reality, deep-truth kind of way.

At the same time, I was seriously concerned for the author’s well-being, because I got the impression that here was someone who was teetering on the brink of his own existence, and it was by no means clear that he would be able –or inclined– to step back from the edge.  Well, based on this most recent evidence I gotta say Yu hasn’t stepped back, but he hasn’t quite stepped over the edge either.  Instead, using the short story form, Yu creates one opportunity after another to march right up to the brink, wander along the rim of the abyss, and stamp his heel at the place of his own choosing.  More like Roadrunner than Wile E. Coyote.  Let’s hope.


Sorry Please Thank You‘  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  It’s something Yu have to read for Yu-self.

sorry_please_thank you

That said, it’s a rotten shame that Yu is not among the three finalists for the Story Prize, an annual $20,000 award for short fiction.  Instead, Rebecca Lee’s “Bobcat,” Andrea Barrett’s “Archangel” and George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” are the 2013 nominees.  The winner will be announced March 5.

Just one more thing …

Oh, and what the fuck should we infer from the fact that the only fully-named (forename plus surname) character appearing in Yu’s entire collection of stories –other than ‘Charles Yu’ himself– is “Hero of History” Chang Hsueh-Liang?  Author Yu is being just a bit disingenuous when he refers to Chang (aka Zhang Xueliang) as “a general in the Chinese army about whom little is known.”  Certainly, the role Chang has been assigned in ‘The Book of Categories‘ is murkily cryptic, but so was Marshal Chang’s alternate existence in 20th century history:


Zhang Xueliang (1901-2001), nicknamed the “Young Marshal”, was the effective ruler of Manchuria and much of northern China after the assassination of his father, Zhang Zuolin, by the Japanese military in 1928.  After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Zhang traveled extensively in Europe before returning to China to take command of Communist Suppression Campaigns first in Hebei-Henan-Anhui (circa 1934) and later in Shaanxi (1936).

On 6 April 1936, Zhang Xueliang met with Zhou Enlai to plan an end to the Chinese Civil War.  Their discussions culminated in the (12 December 1936) Xi’an incident, in which Zhang and NRA general Yang Hucheng kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek and imprisoned him until he agreed to form a united front with the Communists against the Japanese invasion of China.

After negotiations, Chiang agreed to form an anti-Japanese united front with the Communists, but Zhang was placed under house arrest for the next 40 years –first in Chungking, then (after 1949) in Taiwan. Zhang emigrated to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1993. He died of there of pneumonia in 2001 at age 100.

[Zhang’s] papers, an extensive oral history and correspondence covering his life from 1937 to 1999 can be found at Peter H. L. Chang (Zhang Xueliang) Oral History Materials in Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

So, all this makes the reader wonder:  does Charles Yu’s own heritage extend back to Yu Xiajing –formerly of Shanghai, Ningpo and points east?

Maxxed Out Credit Line

January 12, 2014

Even before certain neighborhoods in Palestine began lamenting and/or celebrating the long-overdue passing of Ariel Sharon, other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, USA were lamenting and/or celebrating the death of a man who never even had the opportunity to benefit from Israel’s generous extradition policies.

Two masked men grabbed New York City real estate developer Menachem “Max” Stark outside his office late on the snowy night of January 2 and shoved him into a waiting minivan.  His burned body turned up a day later in a smoldering trash bin, 30 miles away in suburban Great Neck, Long Island.

Great Neck Dumpster = message to his sponsors

Great Neck Dumpster = message to his sponsors

Video surveillance footage showed [a suspect] parking the white Dodge Caravan with Ohio license plates … in front of 315 Rutledge St., just down the block from Stark’s real estate office, shortly before 5 pm on January 2.  Witnesses have described the Caravan driver as white, apparently of European descent and between 5-foot-10 and 6 feet tall.

“It’s unlikely that minivan would have made it out to Long Island,” said a law enforcement source.  “The weather was horrible that night. The Long Island Expressway was closed. It would have been a real challenge for [the kidnappers] to get out there.”

Stark and his business partners owned and renovated buildings throughout Brooklyn as the borough became increasingly trendy. Court records show they often borrowed money from banks to finance new ventures.  But they filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Stark and his primary business partner, Israel Perlmutter, were sued in 2011 after defaulting on a $29 million loan, according to federal court records. In 2012, he was ordered to pay more than $4 million for defaulting on a $2.5 million loan for a separate renovation.


In addition to racking up crushing debts, Stark ran rental properties riddled with code violations and sidelined as a loan shark, sources have said.  Police suspect that Stark was targeted for a professional hit ordered by one of the many creditors to whom he was deep in debt.  Stark owed multiple people amounts ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars — and one apparently got fed up with waiting for the money, law-enforcement sources said Tuesday.

Attorney Henry Mazurek did not deny a NY Post report that Perlmutter said Stark owed more than $1 million to loan sharks.

Hmmm.  Doesn’t this sound like the Graham Avenue crew?  That Dodge minivan has probably already been through the crusher at T & T –but without the Ohio registration plates.  Is it reasonable to look for residual interior components in and around Willetts Point?  Probably not.


January 1, 2014


The Year of the Snake has one more moon to go, then we’ll finally be into the Year of the Horse.  One particular snake didn’t quite make it to the end of the year, and Lunghu feels as though he himself has been strengthened one-hundredfold following the long-overdue purge of anti-revolutionary factionalist filth that for far too long oppressed the peace-loving peoples of his personal peninsula.  Yep, it’s that time of year … time for the annual New Year’s message from Luminous Leader Comrade Kim Jong-eun!

Lunghu’s review and analysis of this year’s DPRK media coverage will compare and contrast the  Wednesday news reports published by Agence France Presse, Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Reuters, and Yonhap News Agency. The format is simple and data-driven:

  • a proportional breakdown of paragraphs in each article devoted to: the message itself; context/background; official reaction, and explanatory analysis.
  • extra bonus this year:  number of paragraphs mentioning “human scum” Jang Song-thaek (by name).
  • a proportional breakdown of paragraphs in each article devoted to each of four themes: the DPRK regime/purge; inter-Korean relations; militarist posturing/tensions, and the DPRK economy.
  • the sequential semantic structure of each article, using a character code to designate the paragraph type.
  • the name(s) of any analyst(s) quoted, and their organizational affiliation(s).
  • noteworthy verbiage contained in the article (if any).


Agence France Presse

headline:  North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un Hails Execution of Uncle

27 total paragraphs

  • 4% summary (lead) paragraph [S]
  • 45% paragraphs quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]
  • 33% context/background paragraphs [B]
  • 11% paragraphs of explanatory analysis [A]
  • 7% paragraphs of official reaction [R]
  •      6 paragraphs mentioning Jang Song-thaek [J]

thematic distribution:

  • 37% DPRK regime/purge
  • 15% inter-Korean relations
  • 33% militarist tensions
  • 7% DPRK economy

the semantic structure:


Analyst(s) quoted:

Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies

Key verbiage:

A DPRK statement [earlier in December] denounced [Jang Song-thaek] as “human scum” and a drug-addicted womanizer who pocketed state money to support his decadent lifestyle.

Analysts said Jang’s… intervention in the lucrative coal trade was resented by Kim Jong-eun.


Associated Press

headline:  N Korea Claims Strength After Removal of “Filth”

16 total paragraphs:

  • 6% summary (lead) paragraph [S]
  • 25% paragraphs quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]
  • 50% context/background paragraphs [B]
  • 19% paragraphs of explanatory analysis [A]
  • 0 paragraphs of official reaction [R]
  •      4 paragraphs mentioning Jang Song-thaek [J]

thematic distribution:

  • 38% DPRK regime/purge
  • 25% inter-Korean relations
  • 25% militarist tensions
  • 3% DPRK economy

the semantic structure:


Analyst(s) quoted:

Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University

Robert Carlin, a North Korea expert and contributor to the 38 North website

Key verbiage:

Jang’s public downfall was seen as an acknowledgment of dissension and loss of control by the ruling Kim dynasty.

Many [observers] believe that the purge shows Kim Jong Un struggling to establish the same absolute power that his father and grandfather enjoyed.


Bloomberg News

headline:  Kim Jong Un Says North Korea More United After Purge of Uncle

8 total paragraphs:

  • 12% summary (lead) paragraph [S]
  • 50% paragraphs quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]
  • 38% context/background paragraphs [B]
  • 0 paragraphs of explanatory analysis [A]
  • 0 paragraphs of official reaction [R]
  •      5 paragraphs mentioning Jang Song-thaek [J]

thematic distribution:

  • 62% DPRK regime/purge
  • 12% inter-Korean relations
  • 38% militarist tensions
  • 12% DPRK economy

the semantic structure:


Analyst(s) quoted: none

Key verbiage:

Kim also called for increased investment in agriculture to put more ‘meat, vegetables and mushrooms’ on the tables of North Koreans, and said more effort is needed to prevent deforestation.”



headline:  North Korean Leader Says Purge Was a Cleansing of ‘Filth’

17 total paragraphs:

  • 6% summary (lead) paragraph [S]
  • 47% paragraphs quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]
  • 29% context/background paragraphs [B]
  • 18% paragraphs of explanatory analysis [A]
  • 0 paragraphs of official reaction [R]
  •      3 paragraphs mentioning Jang Song-thaek [J]

thematic distribution:

  • 29% DPRK regime/purge
  • 35% inter-Korean relations
  • 12% militarist tensions
  • 24% DPRK economy

the semantic structure:


Analyst(s) quoted:

Robert Carlin, a contributor to 38 North, a project of John Hopkins University’s U.S. – Korea Institute

Key verbiage:

“‘Construction is an important frontline to set foundations for the strong nation and people’s happiness,’ [Kim] said. ” (The Reuters story devoted four paragraphs to mention of DPRK construction projects funded by China.)


Yonhap News Agency

headline:  N. Korea Extends Olive Branch to S. Korea

29 total paragraphs:

  • 3% summary (lead) paragraph [S]
  • 31% paragraphs quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]
  • 55% context/background paragraphs [B]
  • 3% paragraphs of explanatory analysis [A]
  • 7% paragraphs of official reaction [R]
  •      5 paragraphs mentioning Jang Song-thaek [J]

thematic distribution:

  • 38% DPRK regime/purge
  • 21% inter-Korean relations
  • 34% militarist tensions
  • 14% DPRK economy

the semantic structure:


Analyst(s) quoted:

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute

Key verbiage:

[Kim’s] speech was frequently punctuated by monotonous and ritualistic hand-clappings.”  (Here in the United States, we call that ‘applause’ – perfunctory applause.)

Kim also called for efforts to boost agricultural output.


Lunghu’s Perfunctory Analysis



1]  Reuters provided the most balanced blend of the story’s four themes: less purge, more economy and inter-Korean relations. (See graphic above.)  Ignoring its business news heritage, Bloomberg focused a very thin story on the Jang purge and the bellicose bluster of both North and South.

2]  Journalists love a bloody Communist purge.  None of these capitalist propaganda organs devoted much less than one-third of their articles to the topic.  Reuters showed the most restraint (29%), Bloomberg the least (62%).  Most of the articles repeated the bourgeois imperialist line that Jang Song-thaek’s downfall revealed the instability of the Kim regime:

  • “The high-profile purge of Jang …  sparked concerns over potential instability.”
  • “The purge of Jang prompted South Korea to heighten combat readiness along the border with the North [amid] worries of a provocation.”
  • “Kim may have chosen to remove the only man who may have posed any real threat to him.”
  • “Jang’s public downfall was seen as an acknowledgment of dissension and loss of control by the ruling Kim dynasty. Many [observers] believe that the purge shows Kim Jong Un struggling to establish the same absolute power that his father and grandfather enjoyed.”
  • “Analysts said Jang’s growing political power and intervention in the lucrative coal trade was resented by [Kim].”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Anyone who watches Korean historical dramas can tell you that palace purges of the in-laws have been around for centuries, can be triggered by the most obscure of family feuds, and when you get right down to it, are just part of the territory when you’re supreme ruler of the land.  Here’s Lunghu’s take:  Jang Song-thaek was blatantly cheating on his wife, Kim Jong-eun’s aunt – sister of the recently departed Dear Leader.  One mistress or two would not have been a big deal, so probably a whole host of concubines was involved.  Orgies, even.  “A drug-addicted womanizer who pocketed state money to support his decadent lifestyle.” This constituted an egregious loss of kibun for the Kim clan, and could not be tolerated.   Kim Jong-eun is himself a recently married guy, and the gossip was offensive to his wife as well.  In the words of Bobby Manna, “Jang’s gotta go.”

3]  It’s pretty clear that Kim Jong-eun wasn’t just watching NBA on satellite TV at that Swiss boarding school back in the day:  he was also reading Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’.  The purge of Jang Song-thaek is just as much a textbook play as the pick and roll or the low post screen.

4]  Despite all its other shortcomings in reporting the DPRK New Year’s Message story, Bloomberg provided real value-for-money in its final paragraph, where it provided a surprising hint that Kim Jong-eun may have a hidden tree-hugger eco-freak concealed within his pudgy body:  even while thinking about lunch, he’s worried about Mother Nature.

Kim called for increased investment in agriculture to put more ‘meat, vegetables and mushrooms’ on the tables of North Koreans, and said more effort is needed to prevent deforestation.

That’s all for now  — time for Lunghu to establish stringent revolutionary discipline and order in all domains of the revolutionary struggle.  Be seein’ ya!