Archive for January, 2015

#DeflateKate

January 29, 2015

OK, I get it: it’s Super Bowl Ex-Licks Hype Week. But I’m struggling to understand how Katy Perry‘s press conference outfit exemplifies “female empowerment.”  And are those footballs inflated to the league-standard 12 psi?  Any helpful guidance would be appreciated.

Deflate_Kate_20150129

“I told y’all.  I’m not about to say nothin’.  All of my requirements are fulfilled.”

Beast_Mode

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Boyz In The Boat

January 25, 2015

PF_Zambia

Congratulations to Edgar Chagwa Lungu (no relation to your humble correspondent) on his election as 6th President of Zambia.  To win the election with 48% of the vote, Lungu overcame factional infighting within his own political party (the Patriotic Front), the hostility of certain media magnates in Zambia, and torrential rains which delayed voting in some parts of the country.

E_Lunghu_2014

His principal opponent was Hakainde Hichilema, one of Zambia’s 0.1%:

Hakainde Hichilema is a millionaire and the second-largest cattle rancher in Zambia.  An economist and businessman, he served as the CEO of both Coopers and Lybrand Zambia (1994-1998) and Grant Thornton Zambia (1998-2006).  He is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  In December 2014, Hichilema denied being a freemason, saying that those accusing him were malicious. He also sued Bishop Edward Chomba of the Orthodox Church for defamation after the Bishop called him a satanist and a freemason.

It’s not clear which was considered more defamatory: being a satanist or a freemason.

Despite all the heat and harsh words, the election was conducted in a generally peaceable fashion. Lungu won clear majorities in six of Zambia’s ten provinces: Eastern; Northern; Copperbelt; Luapala; Lusaka, and Muchinga.  Hichilema swept the western provinces: Southern, Western, and Northwestern.  He also won in Central Province. Vote suppression tactics were rather subtle by African standards:

Lions in Siavonga‘s Namomba district have scared away many voters in the area, Snike Mzulah reported.  Residents in the area have chosen to stay indoors for fears of the lions.  Senior village headman Mulopa of Namomba area confirmed the news.

Siavonga_snacktime

Of course, this being Africa, the question in everyone’s mind is: “who sent the lions?”  Since Siavonga is a Hichilema stronghold, perhaps it was Robert Mugabe.

Au Bord de la Merde

January 22, 2015

Avalon_20150121-2

Deja vu all over again.  OK, so maybe Tona didn’t do it this time. But the Egyptian guy had better be the one who rebuilds it.  Word to the wise, guys.

Avalon_20150121-1

Late Breaking Update:

The blaze at 102 Russell Ave. began around 4:30 pm Wednesday. Police Chief William Skidmore said that Avalon maintenance workers were using a blowtorch while fixing a leak and doing plumbing repairs. The lightweight, wooden structure fueled the flames and made fighting the fire difficult, Edgewater Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said. The building’s fire sprinklers were on and the building was up to code, but he added: “If it was made out of cinder block and concrete, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

Tariq_Zehawi_20150122

“A plumbing repair ignited a fire in the wall which then spread through the building,” Chief Skidmore said. “It was accidental, there was nothing suspicious about it, and we have complete verification and there’s no doubt about it.”

Maybe so. However, this type of statement also demonstrates the redundant repetition and emphasis that officials might deploy when arson occurs and the building’s owner is one of the victims rather than a suspect. That’s because even the hint of the “A” word will dramatically delay the insurance claims process, and there are now many, many former residents of the apartment complex who are completely adrift.  And if there’s one thing that Chris Christie doesn’t need right now, it’s another long, drawn-out disaster recovery drama (especially in Bergen County).

Governor Christie, who visited the site in the evening, said state officials would investigate whether building codes were followed. “The fact that there was no loss of life here is really a blessing,” Christie said, likening the fire to the one that destroyed the Seaside Heights boardwalk in 2013. He said he visited to reassure displaced residents that they won’t be forgotten and that there are state resources available to help them. “That’s why I’m here, to make sure that people do not forget,” he said.

Will do.  Here’s one of the things that Lunghu doesn’t forget: experienced folks in the construction trades explained that when you want to make a fire at a building site look accidental, you wait until quitting time, spark your propane torch, turn the flame to low, point the nozzle at the drywall, and walk away.  Many hours later, even with 5/8″ drywall, the fire will be burning out of control.  In this case, it’s a good thing that inexperienced workers were on the job.

“The occupants of this building probably didn’t realize they were basically living in the middle of a lumberyard,” said Jack J. Murphy, who teaches fire safety at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The only saving grace was that this didn’t happen at 2 am.

Avalon_lumberyard_20150122

After the rescue phase concludes, the recovery phase kicks in:

Most of the building was in broken, battered pieces as a crane began to pull the wreckage apart bit by splintered bit around 8:45 am Friday morning.

Edgewater-rubble_20150122

So who gets the emergency, no-bid demolition and hauling contract?  Stevie Hot Dogs?

Dawn’s Early Light

January 18, 2015

Back at the turn of the (solar) year, Lunghu provided his customary analysis of Kim Jong-un‘s New Year’s message and its attendant media coverage.  To offer a bit of graphical balance in the composition of that post, he included an image from ROK President Park Geun-hye‘s attempt at a preemptive media strike: her own New Year’s message, televised in (South) Korea on New Year’s Eve.  No analysis of her text seemed fruitful, and no commentary seemed necessary. Generally speaking, Western media didn’t even bother to report her remarks.

In the past, during the Lee Myung-bak dynasty, Lunghu found it more useful to examine the subtext than the text, the hidden message displayed or enacted during South Korean media events, often to be found hidden-in-plain-sight in the background scenery.  This practice is one that he has (regrettably) neglected during the Park II regime.  Well, it’s time to remedy that oversight with a brief and belated discourse on President Park’s stage set backdrop.

PGH_20150101

Reading from right to left in traditional Chinese style, we see a trio of spotted deer cavorting beneath a tall pine tree in a forest glade next to a plunging mountain cataract. A bit further to the left –above Park’s left shoulder and beneath her left ear– we can spot a cluster of large round pinkish-tinged fruits, probably peaches.  To her right (our left), at approximately the level of her right tricep, we can see half of a turtle swimming in the swiftly-flowing stream fed by the waterfall.  Finally, at the left-most side of the frame, we see the flag of South Korea draped on its flagstaff.

What can we infer from these symbols?

  • Pine: Emblem of longevity and resistance to the elements –the pine is evergreen and long-lived.  The pine is often depicted in Chinese art with other symbols of longevity such as the peach and deer.
  • Deer: Pronounced “lu” in Chinese, it is a homophone with a character meaning “wealth” and “official promotion.” When depicted with court officials, the deer signifies a wish for fame, recognition and a long, successful career.
  • Waterfall: Water symbolizes wealth, and the waterfall represents profits pouring in.  A lake or plunge pool next to the waterfall has the very auspicious name of “treasure bowl.”  Trees painted on the right-hand side of the waterfall are for keeping off misfortune.
  • Peach: Associated with Shoulao, the God of Longevity, the peach is a symbol of long life.  Even better, it can confer immortality: peaches grown in the orchard of the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu 西王母) instantly give the peach-eater permanent, godlike immortality and mystic powers. The wood of the peach tree is said to ward off evil.
  • Tortoise: Another symbol of longevity … and more. The tortoise also represents the cosmic order: its shell symbolizes the heavens, its body the earth, and its undershell represents the underworld. The Black Tortoise (玄武 – xuán wǔ) is the “Mysterious Warrior” guardian spirit of the north and represents the winter season.
  • Water, Mountains and Rocks:  This combination suggests peace and harmony in the country presided over by the emperor.

Adding It All Up

Longevity, longevity, longevity, longevity.  Four symbolic assertions (pine, deer, peaches, tortoise) that Park Geun-hye intends to be around for quite a while.  Probably not as long as her father (let’s hope!), but she’s announcing her intention to continue “a long, successful career.”  She may also be attempting to subliminally identify herself with Xiwangmu.

Money finds money.  Two symbolic assertions (deer, waterfall) of wealth and prosperity.  On the surface, this is a boast of South Korea’s prosperity.  But the anonymous artist who painted this backdrop may also be making a deeper statement.  In Seoul, money has traditionally had a way of pouring into the Presidential office from all sides. Its flow tends to intensify in the final years of a President’s administration, as s/he prepares for “retirement.”  Since it’s always impossible to completely fill the President’s “treasure bowl,” eventually one or two close aides must be sacrificed on the altar of public opinion when the corruption becomes too obvious.  Perhaps there are three deer in the Park Blue House who need to ward off misfortune with trees to the right of the waterfall.

Alles ist in ordnung.  Two symbolic assertions (tortoise, water/mountain/rocks) of order and harmony within the kingdom.  This claim isn’t entirely plausible, because Korean order is being enforced in an increasingly authoritarian manner and Korean “harmony” is largely a facade.  But in a Confucian society it’s a claim that rulers have to make so that they can justify their mandate for governance.

 

But Wait –There’s More!

In addition to all that Sinocultural symbolic allusion in the landscape backdrop, there’s also the symbolism of the South Korean flag –the Taegukgi. It has a rather interesting history as a national emblem that has evolved from a royal banner bestowed upon Korea’s Joseon Dynasty by the Qing Emperor of China. Long story short, the current ROK flag features four of the eight I-Ching trigrams (gua) arranged around a red/blue Taegeuk “yin-yang” symbol.

The four chosen trigrams are:

  • Geon (in the upper left, 3 parallel solid lines) symbolizing heaven
  • Ri (in the upper right) symbolizing fire
  • Gam (in the lower left) symbolizing water
  • Gon (in the lower right, 3 parallel broken lines) symbolizing earth

Flag_of_South_Korea.svg

Worth noting:

  • Geon is solid Yang
  • Gon is solid Yin
  • Ri is Yin-within-Yang
  • Gam is Yang-within-Yin

As displayed upon its staff (rather than when rippling in the breeze), the Taegukgi reveals only two of its four trigrams: Geon and Gon (Qian and Kun in Chinese).  Geon shows above the Taegeuk, and Gon below.  In a superficial reading of the symbolism, this arrangement places heaven above and earth below –just as one would expect in the natural order of things.  Or so you’d think.

However.  In Taoism and the I-Ching, things are not always what they seem.  Perhaps they’re almost never what they merely seem.  When Qian and Kun (Geon and Gon) are arranged one above the other in an I-Ching hexagram, the results aren’t exactly positive.  In fact, Qian / Kun = Pi; Hexagram 12 of the I-Ching, symbolizing obstruction or blockage.  Pi is denoted with the modern Chinese character foǔ  –meaning “not!”  The Pi hexagram describes a state of affairs in which Heaven (above) recedes up and away from the earth (below), blocking the cosmic interaction that permits dynamic development of the true Tao. “The Tao of the inferior man prevails and the Tao of the superior man wanes.”  The negative Yin energy of the earth dominates, Yang energy retreats.  The inferior man will not preserve justice and truth.

So this is not at all an auspicious symbol to display on New Year’s Eve, and not at all an encouraging portent for inter-Korean relations in the coming year.  It’s possible that Saenuri Party members are so thoroughly Christianized that the ancient I-Ching symbolism of the Taeguk trigrams isn’t fully understood or appreciated, and they’re unaware of the hidden message being proclaimed every time they stand beside the flagstaff.  The good news is that the Tao is all about constant, inevitable change. Obstruction will run its course and give way, the superior man will ascend to his proper place, and the Pi hexagram will be transformed into another configuration of Yang and Yin energy. Eventually. Inexorably.

Flag_of_the_king_of_Joseon.svg

 

Limited Time Offer

January 15, 2015

Hey Barack, gracias por todosRaul Castro has a proposition for ya: he’ll trade you Joanne Chesimard even-up for Luis Posada Carriles.

Jo_Po_headshot

No deal?  Didn’t think so.  The Grand Lodge of Texas must still outrank the Grand Lodge of New Jersey.  LOL

cc: Bob Menendez

20150115_Havana

Il Est Bibi

January 11, 2015

It has been simultaneously impressive, instructive, disheartening and a bit disgusting to witness the way in which the usual suspects and their logistical auxiliaries have mobilized, deployed and orchestrated their resources and minions to (re)produce “je suis charlie” as a ubiquitous global phenomenon of rather dubious virality. It’s even more repellant to observe the way in which these tragically futile attentats are being recruited into the service of Bibi Netanyahu’s propaganda agenda and his campaign for reelection.  And Cousin Nicky? Trop de trop!

20150111_Bibi-Nicki

Red lines point out the bodyguards in Sunday’s march of solidarity.  Yellow lines point out the guys who need bodyguards the most.  Just sayin’.

Goat Tell It On The Mountain

January 6, 2015

Anyone needing additional indications that Chinese (PRC) foreign policy might be influenced by feng shui principles would want to know about a recent festive event on the Sino-Indian frontier:

Chinese and Indian frontier soldiers exchanged New Year’s greetings in a joint celebration near the western part of the border area, in a move aimed to enhance mutual trust between the guards.  China is confident in maintaining long-term peace along the border, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, noting the two sides have launched a series of cooperation and communication mechanisms in recent years.

Border_Gate

Although this may be good news for Chinese and Indian border guards, it’s not necessarily welcome tidings for would-be Tibetan refugees hoping to trek across the Himalayas to Dharamsala. The Chinese already have a policy of shooting whatever moves along the mountain trails, and the Indians aren’t exactly thrilled about having new residents in the neighborhood. Mutual trust, cooperation and communication mechanisms between China and India won’t make things any easier for the beleaguered Tibetans.

But that’s somebody else’s problem: for Comrade Eleven and the Central Kingdom, the paramount objective is to minimize the potential negative impact of feng shui Big Sha in the Year of the Goat. This means that problems in the South-Southwest must be avoided at all costs:

Each year, one of 60 Heavenly Generals in charge of assisting the Jade Emperor takes a turn at assuming the role of the Grand Duke (Tai Sui), and his appointment commences on the day of the “Lap Chun”.  Tai Sui is believed by Chinese to be a powerful Earth God who oversees matters that take place on Earth.  The goal is to appease Tai Sui at all times, since his mighty power affects various zodiac signs in different ways each year.  The penalty for offending the Tai Sui can come in many forms of misfortune, including ill health, accidents, career setbacks, financial loss, or personal injury involving loss of blood.

It is a common Chinese practice to pray to the Tai Sui at the start of a lunar year, to seek to be spared from harm and avoid ill feng shui winds or obstacles in life endeavors. The Tai Sui this year is in the South-South-West at 210 Degrees. Avoid facing the Grand Duke or disturbing him by “moving earth” in this region.  Keep an area affected by Tai Sui as calm and quiet as possible. This means keeping noise from any source to a minimum.

Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that the western part of the Sino-Indian frontier is located in China’s South-Southwest. Or maybe not.

Yin_Goat_stamp

In this feng shui context, Uighurs in Xinjiang Province should also modify their situational awareness:

In 2015 the Five Yellow Star lies in the West.  This 五黄灾星 & 三煞 is the catastrophe/ disaster star that represents just about any negative development that you could possibly imagine.  It brings with it loss of money and physical danger and a run of bad luck.

Is there a silver lining in the feng shui dark clouds gathering over Xinjiang Province?  Possibly.  The traditional feng shui cure for Medium Sha such as 5 Yellow is to place a string of six coins in the affected area, thus increasing the influence of the counteracting Metal element. Perhaps this means that Comrade Eleven will increase investment in the area in order to improve the lives of masses.  That’s what his father would have done.

 

Sqrt of 225

January 3, 2015

Every New Year’s Day in Pyongyang, the Kim clan patriarch delivers a state-of-the-realm speech that explicitly declares his initial Intent for the coming year. Every  year, the imperialist bourgeois propaganda organs of global capitalism (the so-called media) report on the North Korea New Year message –its an otherwise slow news day.  And every year –in this decade, at least– Lunghu provides a superficial, slapdash analysis of the way that mainstream media on three continents presents the North Korean message. The core of Lunghu’s analytical methodology can be summed up with an acronym that describes the five elements into which each news story can be decomposed … and their relative proportions evaluated. Are these five analytical components analogous to the five natural elements derived from Taoist philosophy that are used in feng shui?  Time will tell.

Lunghu uses the acronym SCRAM to describe the analytical dimensions he deploys:

[S] Summary (usually, the story’s lead paragraph)
[C] Context (“backstory”)
[R] Reaction (from official sources)
[A] Analysis (by “experts”)
[M] Message

As in prior years, major wire services are the main source of the news stories subjected to Lunghu’s analysis:

Agence France Presse
Associated Press
Bloomberg
Reuters
Yonhap

For each news article, the following data-presentation structure will be employed:

  • a proportional breakdown of paragraphs in the article devoted to: the DPRK message itself; context/background; official reaction, and explanatory analysis.
  • the sequential semantic structure of the article, using the relevant character code to designate paragraph type.
  • the name(s) of any analyst(s) quoted, and their organizational affiliation(s).
  • a proportional breakdown of paragraphs in the article devoted to each of three principal themes: inter-Korean relations; militarist posturing/tensions, and the DPRK economy.
  • noteworthy verbiage and polemic contained in the article (if any).

KJU_20150101

Agence France Presse: North Korean Leader Proposes Talks with South

23 total paragraphs

46% context/background [C]
4% official reaction [R]
14% explanatory analysis [A]
36% quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]

the semantic structure:

S-C-E-A-
E-E-E-C-
C-C-R-E-E-
C-C-C-C-C-
A-A-E-C-E-C

thematic distribution:

46% inter-Korean relations
23% militarist tensions
9% DPRK economy
18% human rights
4% Sony hacking

Analyst(s) quoted: Yoo Ho-yeol, professor at Korea University

Key verbiage:

“communist supremo”
“pariah state”
“isolated nation”
“mysterious Internet outage”
“chronic food shortages”
“malnourished population”
“dismal human rights record”

 

Associated Press:  North Korean Leader Open to Summit with South

14 total paragraphs

38% context/background [C]
15% official reaction [R]
12% explanatory analysis [A]
35% quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]

the semantic structure:

S-C-C-E-C-
R-A-C-R-
E/C-E-E-E-C/A

thematic distribution:

58% inter-Korean relations
19% militarist tensions
4% DPRK economy
11% Sony hacking
8% Confucian mourning ritual

Analyst(s) quoted: Cheong Seong-chang, researcher at the Sejong Institute

Key verbiage:

“Washington must abandon its ‘hostile policy’ and ‘reckless invasion plots’ against the North.”

 

Bloomberg: Kim Jong Un Open to ‘Highest-Level’ Talks With South Korea

16 total paragraphs

73% context/background [C]
7% official reaction [R]
13% explanatory analysis [A]
7% quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]

the semantic structure:

S-E-C-R-A-C-
C-C-C-
C-A-
C-C-C-C-C

thematic distribution:

40% inter-Korean relations
33% militarist tensions
0% DPRK economy
27% personality cult

Analyst(s) quoted: Ahn Chan Il, World Institute for North Korea Studies
Bruce Bennett, Rand Corporation

Key verbiage:

“saber rattling”
“The United Nations human-rights committee vote in November [against North Korea] amounts to a ‘despicable ruckus,’ Kim said.”

 

ReutersNorth Korea Leader Kim Jong Un Says Open to Summit with South

12 total paragraphs

45% context/background [C]
10% official reaction [R]
0% explanatory analysis [A]
45% quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]

the semantic structure:

S-E-C-E-
C-C-R-
C-E-E-E-C

thematic distribution:

37% inter-Korean relations
27% militarist tensions
9% DPRK economy
27% Kim’s media style

Analyst(s) quoted: none

Key verbiage:

” ‘Annual large-scale (U.S.-South Korean) war exercises are a source of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula and increase the threat of nuclear war,’ Kim said.”

 

Yonhap: N. Korean Leader’s Speech Arouses Cautious Optimism

21 total paragraphs

40% context/background [C]
0% official reaction [R]
30% explanatory analysis [A]
30% quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK message [M]
(35% mention Park Geun-hye)

the semantic structure:

S-E-E-A-
C-C-A-A-
C-A-C-
E-A-C-
E-E-C-C-C-E-A

thematic distribution:

68% inter-Korean relations
12% militarist tensions
10% DPRK economy
10% Park Geun-hye government

Analyst(s) quoted: Chang Yong-seok, researcher at Seoul National University
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor at Korea University
Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies

Key verbiage:

“Kim spent unusual amounts of time stressing the significance of improved Seoul-Pyongyang relations. Kim [mentioned the topic] last year as well, but he spent more time and was more specific in addressing the issue this year.”

Bonus: The analysis of Professor Yang Moo-jin indicates that perhaps he has noted the interplay of hidden feng shui elements in the coming year’s ba zi chart: “Chances are high that the two sides will break the deadlock by showing a flexible attitude.

PGH_20150101

 

Takeaways“:

Although Lake Superior University has banned usage of this glib corpspeak catchphrase in 2015, Lunghu does not consider himself bound by the cultural imperialist edicts of mere backwater academics. Especially when he uses the bourgeoisie’s own opaque terminology –with heavy irony– as an implicit criticism of its obfuscating purpose and nature.

DPRK_semantic_analysis_2015

With that in mind, here’s Lunghu’s bullet point synopsis of this year’s DPRK media coverage:

  • Agence France Presse appears to have made the mistake of hiring Rupert Murdoch’s cashiered Fleet Street hack writers for its English-language operation. Without cellphone hacking to fall back on, these guys rely heavily on Cold War cliches (“communist supremo“) and pejorative stereotypes (“pariah state” & “isolated nation“) to perpetuate their Propaganda Model of journalism.  This doesn’t advance the interests of France  –in Asia or elsewhere. Also, AFP’s DG should remember that the human rights issue applies in Palestine as well as on the Korean peninsula.
  • Three out of five media outlets mentioned the relevance of this year’s 70th anniversary: Bloomberg characterized it as “the end of World War II,” while Yonhap and Associated Press more specifically  identified it as “Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.”  The partition of Korea between US and Russian spheres of influence began in 1945, and these two neo-colonial powers are still pulling many of the strings that imprison their unwilling puppets. Comrade Bear has invited both Kim and Park to visit Moscow in May. He may hope to broker a dramatic deal intended to burnish Russia’s tarnished international credentials. Lunghu predicts that a gas pipeline may be involved.
  • Associated Press closed its story with a tiny nugget of anonymous analytical insight that most people will ignore: “[Kim’s speech is his] first after the end of the traditional three-year mourning period after the death of his father in 2011. Some analysts believe that with the mourning period over, Kim will pursue policies that more closely reflect his own personal priorities.”  Let’s hope that Kim has read the memoirs of Zhang Xueliang, Hero of History.
  • Reuters and Yonhap noted Kim’s mention of reopening the Mount Kumgang tourist resort. Lunghu still believes that the path to dialog with Kim Jung-un will be achieved through mutual engagement on environmental issues.  But that will only become possible once the United States has held the mirror of human rights in front of its own face … and that of its principal strategic liability.  Admitting that “mistakes were made” and trying to change the subject ain’t anywhere near enough –either at home or abroad. The hypocrisy is glaringly obvious.

DPRK_thematic_analysis_2015

So, it doesn’t seem likely that the Year of the Goat will offer much in the way of US-DPRK rapprochement. But from a Korean perspective, there are still centuries upon centuries to come, ready to unspool ahead of the next generation and all the successive ones after that.  That’s far, far beyond the limited short-term horizon imposed by the mystic order’s two-year electoral cycle.  All the Kims, Parks, Lees and Chois in Korea can wait.  They’ll have to.

Comrade Lin Biao  used to recommend the following approach to dealing with class enemies: “Beat them, then comfort them. Comfort them, then beat them. Then, beat while comforting.”  Looks as though Comrade Wolf is trying the same method … but without much comforting.  Remains to be seen who will end up being beaten … in Afghanistan and elsewhere.