Archive for July, 2014

Now Kundo

July 25, 2014

Lunghu has been wondering why his blog is suddenly receiving dozens of visits from (South) Korean netizens, many of whom have been reading a three-and-one-half-year-old blogpost about the thwarted Korean romance of Vladimir Putin’s youngest daughter.  Now, he believes that the mystery can perhaps be explained, even if it’s not exactly solved.

It seems that –in Korea– there’s a wildly popular new addition to one of Lunghu’s favorite cinematic genres: the Korean historical drama.  Although the film premiered on a Wednesday night, it has already been a runaway success.

Kundo: Age of the Rampant” [ Kundo: min-ran-eui si-dae ] directed by Yoon Jong-bin and starring Ha Jung-woo and Gang Dong-won, drew a record-high 1 million viewers in its first 48 hours, dwarfing its competitors at the box office.

 “Kundo” is set in the 13th year of King Cheoljong’s reign in mid-19th century Joseon, when rampant corruption in the ruling class and its exploitation of the populace pushed the common people over the edge [into open rebellion].  Dol Mu-chi (Ha Jung-woo) is a not-so-bright but kind-hearted butcher, who one day makes a dangerous deal with Jo Yoon (Gang Dong-won), the illegitmate son of a ruthless nobleman and oppressor of the peasantry. This leads to the death of Dol Mu-chi’s mother and sister.  Deep grief and anger leads Dol Mu-chi to organize a righteous band of thieves/resistance group of serfs and bandits called “Kundo.”  Kundo steals from corrupt public officials and gives to the poor.

cut to the chase

Sure, it’s a classic plotline –told many times before in many different lands– but what does any of this have to do with a scattershot American blog called “Waking the Dragon“?!!?  Here’s what:  Kundo is directed by Yoon Jong-bin.  Lunghu’s 2010 blogpost about Yekaterina Vladimirova mentioned the father of her Korean boyfriend, a retired ROK admiral named Yoon Jong-gu.  The theory here is that Naver search engine queries on the phrase “Yoon Jong-bin” may also have returned links to webpages with the term “Yoon Jong-gu.”

Lunghu isn’t complaining, though.  For two (somewhat related) reasons.  First, because this weird algorithmic cross-linkage has reminded Lunghu of something he’d just dimly realized until now: that Yoon Jong-bin is also the director of another Korean film that Lunghu admires –2012’s “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time.”  Second, Lunghu is encouraged to see that Korean filmmakers are using the power of cinematic storytelling to expose and criticize the corrosive corruption that pervades Korean society today (just as it did in the 19th century, and the 18th, and the 17th…).

In Nameless Gangster, Yoon used the story of a minor customs-official-turned-gangster to depict systematic corruption in his hometown Busan during the Park Chung-hee era. The film was released just as Park’s daughter Geun-hye was running for the office of Korean President.  Get the picture?

In Kundo, Yoon takes a step back a bit further in history to the 1800s, to show us that the more things change the more they stay the same. “Rampant corruption in the ruling class and its exploitation of the populace?” It’s been around for a while, and throughout the centuries the response of the gukmin has often been armed rebellion.

In between Kundo and Nameless Gangster, there’s a clearly visible gap in cinematic treatment of Korea’s 20th century history.  What Lunghu would like to see, but doesn’t expect any time soon, is a Korean historical drama that addresses corruption, collaboration and complicity in the Japanese occupation era (circa 1910 to 1945).  This is a huge taboo topic in South Korean culture because of its political and ideological implications, but an honest and heated discussion of the issues may be what’s necessary to loosen the grip of corrupt power brokers in 21st century Korea. Will Yoon Jong-bin have the guts and financial backing to tackle the ghostly demon that torments modern Korea?  Maybe not.  But maybe somebody else will.  Let’s hope.



Hall of Mirrors

July 23, 2014


A recent online image … of photographers … taking pictures … of a painting … from 100+ years ago … that features the bare breasts (and torso) of a Parisian “artist’s model” who was (with conscious irony?) … portraying the inmate of a 19c Turkish seraglio.

Where to even begin with something like this?  Where will it all end? Après toi, le déluge.


Now You ‘C’ It

July 18, 2014

Quick quiz for actual –or wannabe– nuyoricans:  which is worse, chupacabra or chikungunya?  We know what characteristics they have in common: neither is visible to the naked eye, both stalk the humid nights of La Isla Boricua, and encountering either would be hazardous to your health.  So when it comes to an unpalatable binary choice, which would you choose?

La_Isla_venn_diaAnd if you don’t know what either of these ‘C’ words mean, stay away from the Greater Antilles.  For your own good.



Going Postol

July 16, 2014

Never let the data get in the way of a good story.  Especially when there’s tax money just itchin’ to be spent and military contractors whining to be fed.

The [United States] Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approved a defense spending bill on Tuesday that would provide $621.6 million for Israeli missile defense, including $351 million for the Iron Dome system that intercepts short-range rockets and mortars. In the latest hostilities between Israel and Hamas, Iron Dome has been successful in shooting down rockets and preventing Israeli deaths.
“It works,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee.

Um … maybe not so much. Or at least so says the newly-controversial Dr. Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at MIT.  In fact, in an inpromptu study that has enraged the usual suspects and their running dog lackeys, Professor Postol asserts that claims of Iron Dome’s success are wrong on both counts:

  • The last time large-scale rocket attacks occurred between Hamas and Israel was in November 2012.  During the November 2012 conflict a large number of Iron Dome interceptor contrails in the sky [were photographed].  These contrails revealed that the Iron Dome interceptor rate was very low —perhaps as low as 5 percent or below.  Collection of the data for July 2014 is still in progress. However, data so far collected indicates that the performance of Iron Dome has not improved.
  • The only meaningful definition of a successful rocket intercept is the destruction of the rocket warhead … [which] is considerably more [difficult] than doing damage to other parts of the rocket —or successfully damaging an aircraft, causing the failure of its mission.  In this particular case of rocket attacks against Israel, the overwhelming number of [Hamas] rocket warheads are in the 10- to 20-pound range.


  • The Iron Dome interceptor has, for all practical purposes, no chance of destroying the warhead on incoming artillery rockets if the interceptor engages the rocket from the side or from the back.  [However,] photographic evidence of aerial contrails indicates that Iron Dome interceptors were mostly chasing or engaging artillery rockets in side-on geometries.
  • Photographs of contrails … from July 2014 indicate that the Iron Domes are behaving erratically —-resulting in continued very low intercept rates. It is clear that the Iron Dome radar tracking and guidance system is not working [correctly], as it is sending Iron Dome interceptors to intercept points that result in the interceptor not being able to achieve the proper geometry for a successful engagement against the artillery rockets.
  • Because of the uncertainties in the exact crossing speed and crossing geometry, even a perfect fuse may fail to put lethal fragments onto the artillery rocket’s warhead.  In addition, unless the distance between the Iron Dome warhead and the warhead of the artillery rocket is small (roughly a meter or so), there will be a greatly diminished chance that a fragment from the Iron Dome warhead will hit, penetrate, and cause the detonation of the artillery rocket warhead.  Thus, [even] a front-on engagement does not guarantee that the Iron Dome interceptor will destroy the warhead on the artillery rocket.
  • Israel does in fact have an extremely effective missile defense: the early warning system that tells people on the ground a rocket is traveling in their direction, and the shelters that are arranged so that individuals can easily get to protection within tens of seconds of warning.  As can be seen by inspecting photographs [of damage from Hamas rockets], even when the rockets happen to hit buildings, the damage tends to be quite localized. This does not mean that individuals in the area of the rocket attack would not be injured or killed if they were close enough to the impact site, but it is very clear that the warheads are not of sufficient size to cause casualties or deaths to those who are properly sheltered.


  • The small size of the Hamas rocket warheads and Israel’s ability to quickly warn populations of these arriving small warheads is an extremely capable defense that works far more effectively than Iron Dome.

There you have it:  Iron Dome may knock the rockets out of the sky (often when they’re already on their way down anyway), but usually doesn’t destroy the (small) explosive warhead.  And those Israeli lives that are being saved?  They’re preserved thanks to an extensive and well-developed civil defense system that emphasizes early warning and nearby bomb shelters for the civilian populace.


Worst of all (from the AIPAC point of view), Prof. Postol obliquely raises the issue of proportionate response to Hamas provocation:

  • In contrast, [Israeli retaliatory] bomb attacks against Gaza in July 2014 use much larger warheads. The exact yields of the bombs are uncertain, but it appears [from photographs of bomb damage that] they are probably in the 1,000- to 2,000-pound category. In these cases, attempts at sheltering the population might well fail, since few shelters can sustain the level of damage that could be inflicted by such large bombs.


Sadly, nobody in Washington seems too interested in preventing Palestinian deaths.  Au contraire.


Now it’s time for AIPAC spammers to “go postol” commenting on this blog.


Treat of Breast-Litovsk

July 9, 2014

Really, I’m curious: why is it that the Associated Press news agency suddenly considers the image of a silkscreened representation of human breasts to be acceptable/suitable for publication, distribution and dissemination to its customers and the general public … but hasn’t distributed prior news-event photographs of the actual breasts themselves?  What’s the doctrinal basis for this hair-splitting editorial policy?  Please enlighten me.

credit? Associated Press

credit? Associated Press

Is the image acceptable because the breasts and their bearers are shown being punished by a government institution, rather than being depicted asserting political opinions as individuals (and as insubordinate representatives of a subordinated social group)?



July 3, 2014

July Fourth:  twelve-score years ago or so, Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley was at the center of attention in the English-speaking world.  This year, not so much. Instead, American eyes turn to the Deep South –the very Deep South– to Fortaleza (Brazil) and points far beyond.

That’s right, it’s time for the 2014 World Cup quarter finals.  Only half of the eight teams predicted by Goldman Sachs analysts have actually made it to this stage of the tournament: Argentina, Brazil, France and Germany.  The investment bankers pick Argentina, Brazil, and Germany to advance to the semis –so do many other “experts.”  Lunghu ain’t quite so sure the script won’t be subject to some last minute revisions.

Here’s one pundit’s picks:

  • Germany 1-0 over France
  • Colombia 3-2 over Brazil
  • Argentina 2-1 over Belgium
  • Netherlands 2-0 over Costa Rica

Paddy Power punters prefer:

Lunghu doesn’t know enough about the teams, referees, and climate to predict final scores, but he’s going to stick his neck out and predict some (unlikely?) winners:

les Bleus

New Granada

no default of their own



July 4th Update:

PaddyPower gamblers: 1, Lunghu: 0


July 5th Update:

PaddyPower gamblers: 1, Lunghu: 1      Lunghu is out of the tournament, having lost the penalty-kick shootout.