Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Da Fix Wuz In

June 13, 2018

Lunghu has recently been maintaining a dignified silence on a certain topic, mostly because there’s just too much to say about it, not much of it good.  However, because athletic spectacle is always and forever an effective distraction from the sordid reality of bestial human existence, a readymade alternative is conveniently at hand: FIFA futbol.  Russia 2018.  Qatar 2022.  And now that CONCACAF has been remade in the image of its master … America del Norte, 2026.

The eyelines in this photo are worth 10,000 words.

 

On the bright side, the Royaume du Maroc can now spend a decade’s worth of ten-cent dirhams on improving the lot of its impoverished rural populace.  Transportation infrastructure.  Potable water supply and irrigation.  Microcredit that sidesteps the local landlord class.  Etc.  It would be nice to see some of that happen, but Lunghu won’t be holding his breath.

 

Advertisements

What Freedom?

May 26, 2018

“Now it is the peasant who is the judge and so it is necessary to represent his interests.  That is just the thing for me, since I am myself, as you know, a peasant, the son of a retired soldier who served twenty-seven hard years in Nicholas I’s army.”

Ilya Repin was born into a family of “military settlers” in Chuguyev, in Kharkov Governorate, Ukraine.  His father traded horses and his grandmother ran an inn.  He entered military school to study surveying.  When the surveying course was cancelled, his father helped Repin to become an apprentice with Ivan Bunakov, a local icon painter, where he restored old icons and painted portraits of local notables through commissions.

Re-Zoning

May 14, 2018

Just re-read a post that I wrote exactly four years ago today.  I always reserve the right to change my mind when new information becomes available,  but in this particular case I couldn’t agree with my former self more thoroughly.

Putin_Lebanon_billboard

Up The Wrong Tree

April 23, 2018

The most powerful man in China is in les Etats Unis this week, and he has come bearing a gift … of sorts.  But while traditional media ‘analysts’ are focusing their attention on weighty policy matters such as global commerce and the AIPAC vendetta against Iran, the material meaning of Macron’s visit has been mostly overlooked.  Perhaps that’s because M. le President‘s real message has flown from Paris in an Airbus cargo hold, disguised by festive trappings of tricolor ribbons.

French President Emmanuel Macron will give his American counterpart an oak sapling to be planted at the White House as a symbol of lasting friendship.  [In an interview with le Reynard], Macron said “During the First World War, during the Second World War, when we were attacked, when our liberty was attacked, thousands of your people came here and died here for my country.  That’s a story of our relationship. That’s why my gift to your president will be an oak taken in a very symbolic place, especially for your Marines in north of France –that together, I mean, we will put in his garden because that for me is a great symbol of this long term relationship.”

The face-value meaning of this statement suggests that Macron is evoking the 1918 WWI battles of Belleau Wood and Château Thierry, in which U.S. Marines of the American Expeditionary Forces assisted French troops in stopping a massive German offensive at the Marne River.  United States forces suffered 9,777 casualties, included 1,811 killed.  Belleau Wood (and nearby Château Thierry) subsequently became known among (some) military historians as the turning point of the war, and American propagandists did nothing to discourage circulation of this view.  Belleau Wood has become a key episode in the lore of the United States Marine Corps (“Retreat?  Hell, we just got here”).

But That Ain’t All

However, peeping through the oak tree’s branches, Lunghu also sees further aspects of this gift:

  • In Greek mythology, the oak is the tree sacred to Zeus, king of the gods.
  • In November 2004, the United States Congress designated the oak as America’s National Tree, and it is also the national tree of England, France, and Germany.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the oak is a nut tree: it produces thousands and thousands of nuts.  Unfortunately, the leaves and acorns of the oak tree are poisonous due to the presence of tannic acid

Furthermore, as every American schoolboy (and girl) knows, when we think of Washington and trees, the oak isn’t what comes to mind.  Especially at this time of year, when the National Cherry Blossom Festival has just concluded its seasonal run in our nation’s capital.  Instead, Americans think of the cherry tree … and the young George Washington … and his shiny new hatchet.  We then contrast the mythic past with the mendacious present.

Thus, Emmanuel Macron has presented us with two trees, both rooted in a distant historical past: a hundred-year oak and a two-hundred-seventy-five-year cherry.  Tied together by a glossy ribbon of bleu-blanc-rouge.

On April 23, Macron will be given a tour of Mount Vernon, the Virginia plantation home of U.S. first President George Washington, where he [and his wife Brigitte] will have a private couples’ dinner [with the Trumps].

 

Where In The World

April 19, 2018

If and when Kim Jong-un actually does sit down for talks with The Great Satan in the merrie, merrie month of May, where-oh-where will those talks take place?  This is the question that has occupied the minds and mouths of media mavens for several past weeks, but their proffered suggestions thus far lack both credibility and imagination.  Here’s what little they’ve been able to muster thus far:

  • Bangkok [Bloomberg]
  • Beijing [AFP]
  • Singapore [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Ulan Bator [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Vietnam [AFP]
  • Panmunjom [Reuters/AFP]
  • Pyongyang [AFP]
  • Seoul [AFP]
  • Jeju Island [Hankyoreh]
  • Geneva [Bloomberg/Reuters/AFP]
  • Stockholm [Bloomberg/Reuters/AFP]
  • Oslo [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Helsinki [Bloomberg/AFP]
  • Prague [Bloomberg]
  • Warsaw [Bloomberg]
  • None of the above.  [Lunghu]

Lunghu is gonna do everybody a favor and name two other places with an actual shot at ending up as host venue.  One might be Kim’s choice, the other would be Melania’s.  Both locations feature beautiful natural landscapes and crisp, clean mountain air.  In May, the stark grandeur of vertiginous granite and limestone slopes will be softly accented by the delicate colors of alpine flowers in full bloom.  Book your airline tickets now to take advantage of the cheap fares. You can thank me later.

Kŭmgangsan Resort Area  [Kangwon Province, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]

home of nine dragons in Kuryong Falls

 

Lake Bled  [Julian Alps, Slovenia]

The World Rowing Championships were held at Lake Bled in 1966, 1979, 1989, and 2011.  So it’s Lunghu’s sentimental choice.

 

However, it’s always possible that outsize egos and diplomatic protocol won’t permit a meeting at any site perceived to be either man’s home turf.  Sadly, that probably also rules out Doonbeg [Co. Clare, Eire].  A loovely spot it is, to be sure.  Instead, let’s consider a darkhorse candidate:

Sapporo  [Hokkaido, Japan]

  • Sapporo was host city for the 11th Winter Olympics (in 1972), the first ever held in Asia.  This history provides a neat cultural/thematic link to the recent role of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in jumpstarting inter-Korean dialog. Furthermore, the city is considering a bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympics.
  • Sapporo might sometimes be a little chilly in May, but it’s the sunniest month of the year, and it has the topography and infrastructure to handle a sudden influx of dignitaries, security personnel and media masses.  Better still, the island of Hokkaido is replete with beautiful landscapes, mountain vistas, flora and fauna: truly a fairy-tale wonderland for a nature-lover like Kim Jong-un.  There are golf courses too.
  • Shinzo Abe is the odd man out in YoDg’s improbable Kim-Moon-Trump schmooze-fest, and his newly-marginal position in the geopolitics of northeast Asia is compounded by domestic corruption scandals that have undermined his party base at home.  For Trump, this weakness is a vulnerability that can (and will) be exploited for economic gain.  In exchange, he can offer Abe the illusory prestige of summit host and the appearance of ‘inclusion’ at the negotiation table.  Kim might be willing to go along with the program because he understands that this would actually be a humiliating role for Abe and running-dog imperialist lackey Japan.
  • Recent fire-over-earth volcanic eruptions are in southern Japan.

But really, how likely are any of Lunghu’s suggestions to be chosen as a summit site?  It all depends on whether desperate men will continue to accept his sage counsel as the best path to a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.

 

Dog v. Dragon

March 28, 2018

Now is not the time for a nostalgic look back at how much better things used to be: it’s the Year of the Dog (YoDg for short), and the Dragon Month is just a few weeks away.  Why does that matter?  Mere mortals may soon learn.  As any friendly neighborhood feng shui soothsayer can tell you, the Dragon and Dog are fierce enemies.  They directly confront each other across the boundless sky from their respective positions in the celestial zodiac, and since each is a Yang Earth animal, they’re scrapping for possession of the same contested turf (so to speak).  When the Dog is the ruler of the year and the Dragon Month rolls around, their conflict is inevitable and immediate.  We humans must strive to minimize the collateral damage by exerting our feeble powers to protect what little we can.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes: here are a few salient features of this year’s Dragon Month which may provide some guidelines for what to expect.  The first thing to know is that Lunghu calibrates the beginning of lunar months with the new moon phase, which means that the Dragon Month will “officially” start on April 15th.  In the United States that’s also the day your federal income taxes are due, but that’s undoubtedly(?) just a coincidence this year.  Secondly, in 2018’s YoDg the Dragon Month is governed by the Yang Fire celestial stem, which means that the Yang Earth Dragon will writhe beneath (strong) Yang Fire.  Furthermore, the Dragon is associated with the East-Southeast direction, while the Dog is located in the West-Northwest.  So there you have it: a convergence of time, vector and what we might call “cosmic meterological conditions.”  In the Lorenzian brane-space of our puny little bubble adrift in the infinite multiverse, these things may actually “matter.”

So … what kinds of material manifestations should we anticipate for this coming April, “the cruelest month“?

East-Southeast is all relative, depending on who and where you are –>

  • Bermuda seen from New York?
  • Kazakhstan from Moscow?
  • Jeju-do relative to Beijing?
  • As Bern and Basel are to Paris, or Budapest to Bonn?

Bearing all that in mind, it’s worth noting that very soon we’ll be getting a preview of fire-over-earth, when a certain “Celestial Palace” tumbles from high in the sky to the ground far, far below:

“China’s experimental space station Tiangong-1 is now orbiting at an [extremely low] altitude of approximately 126 miles, and is expected to deorbit between March 31 and April 2 2018. The station will re-enter the earth’s atmosphere between 42.7°N and 42.7°S latitude, at an unknown longitude.”

Eighty-five degrees of latitude is a rather large swath of Mother Earth, so this broadly indeterminate splashdown zone will inevitably be ESE of somebody.  It also just so happens to include the Southern Ocean area where MH370 is almost certainly submerged.  Is this some kind of a cosmic April Fool’s joke?  Or is Tai Sui calibrating his version of the lunar calendar according to the full moon rather than the new moon?  Just another mystery of the Dao.

However, once Tiangong-1 has landed, we’ll still have the entire Dragon Month stretched out before us, giving us (at least) a further four weeks of fire-over-earth.  April 1st or April 15th: does it really matter when the Dragon Month begins?  If we’re lucky, the Yang Fire/Yang Earth combination will manifest in relatively harmless forms such as intensified displays of the aurora borealis or a few dramatic volcanic eruptions in sparsely populated regions of the globe.  Dragons in clash with the Dog Year may not escape so lightly.

अवतु वक्तारम्।
तेजस्विनावधीतमस्तु मा
ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

 

“The [text] shifts between voices of satire and prophecy featuring abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location, and time … while conjuring a vast and dissonant range of cultures and literatures.”

 

Code Blue

March 1, 2018

As usual, message-mongers in Moscow are still stuck on the steep up-slope of modern media’s oscillatory learning curve.  Despite pioneering 20th c. work by the Tartu School of Semiotics, United Russia’s party hacks do not yet seem to have fully mastered the techniques of deploying signs and symbols as cultural referents in the service of mass mental manipulation.  F’rinstance, yon scenic backdrop.

Yes, it’s vast, it’s mighty, it’s YUGE.  These are all attributes that customarily denote strength, power and perhaps invulnerability. But … it’s blue.  Light blue.  Perhaps this is the blue of the Russian tricolor flag, but the light blue color also has another significance in modern Russian culture: it is a codeword and signifier for homosexuality.  So what’s the subliminal message here?  Are the average Boris and Natasha supposed to see a Real Man who stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming mass of wimpy, craven light-blue gayboys that swarm across the endless steppes and taiga?  Or does the emperor’s new wardrobe reveal what many people have suspected for years –that Comrade Bear secretly skates on both sides of the hockey rink?  After all, this is the guy who “found his thrill on Blueberry Hill.

What would Ser”gay” Eisenstein say about this particular form of intellectual montage?

 

Full Snow Moon … (or, Kisaeng Cousins)

February 25, 2018

Once upon a time, dutiful daughter Goldilocks paid a visit to the winter cottage of the Three Bears.  She borrowed Cinderella’s golden carriage and traveled for twelve hours through cloudy skies, across trackless wastes, above stormy seas, until the jagged mountain crests of the Three Bears’ homeland at last appeared, shimmering far below in the pale golden light of dawn.  Her carriage glided softly down to earth … and landed at Incheon International Airport. Welcome to Korea.

Thus ends our fable, and so another one begins: The moonarch of New Baekjae sought to renew his nation’s spirit and the mandate of heaven after abrupt dynastic change.  The former kingdom of Old Silla had proven itself grossly unworthy of the people’s trust and had disintegrated in shameful disgrace.  The courtiers of Old Silla had hoped to distract their subjects with an elaborate festival of winter rites, but their greed and crimes had been too brazen to be ignored.  The angry minguk brandished their moral outrage in the faces of their rulers, and sent them scurrying to seek cover in whatever refuge could be found.  A new leader was acclaimed for his righteousness and the new dynasty installed upon the ruins of the old.  The winter festival proceeded almost exactly as scheduled, further adorned by the addition of ritual specialists from the neighboring northern kingdom of New Goguryeo.

Such was the splendor of these winter rites that emissaries from around the world came to New Baekjae bask in the reflected radiance of the ritual performance.  However, some such emissaries were less welcome than others.  A century-long tradition had established an implicit protocol (widely understood among most nations) which specified the appropriate political status of the visting dignitaries.  Distant lands, poor countries or tributary states could be represented by mid-level functionaries.  In contrast, close allies and near neighbors of the host nation were expected to send officers of the highest rank to attend the ceremonies: if the king himself could not attend, his chief minister should represent him.  New-found frenemies were a special case, and could pose something of a protocol dilemma.

Take, f’rinstance, the usurper tyrant of Beautyland.  Under their respective previous dynasties, Beautyland and Old Silla had been the closest of allies for more than half a century.  New Baekjae hoped to maintain that traditional friendship, but the new king of Beautyland was more interested in amassing tribute “gifts” than in maintaining harmony among nations.  His demands became increasingly crude, insistent and abusive.  He repeatedly tried to goad New Goguryeo into attacking its southern neighbor, while simultaneously professing warm friendship for New Baekjae.  As a further sign of his contempt and arrogance, he sent his young daughter Goldilocks to act as Beautyland’s representative at the winter festival ceremonies, even though she held no official post within the government.  So once upon a time, dutiful daughter Goldilocks paid a visit to the winter cottage of the Three Bears…

Thus ends our second fable.

Backgrounder

On several previous occasions, Waking the Dragon has taken inordinate delight in pointing out the cultural significance of backdrop scenery that invariably adorns the performance of public political ritual in Korea. During the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye regimes, the traditional Korean screen panels displayed at Cheong Wa Dae were used as a coded reference to mark the social status of foreign visitors being received at Old Silla’s royal palace.  A lavish and ornate gold screen embellished with auspicious symbols denoted a valued friend, while a Jeosun-era scene of kowtowing barbarian emissaries was reserved for lower-status races and classes.  The moonrise kingdom of New Baekjae has continued these practices … with a new twist.

Thus, behind the banquet table at Goldilocks’ state dinner, we can discern a newly-visible panel of that familiar Jeosun screen painting on display. Who are those tiny two-dimensional figures in the background?

They’re kisaeng entertainers, that’s who.  Traditional female singer-dancer-whatever partytime companions … low-status women who perform a function in Korean culture similar to that of geishas in Japan.  They’re renowned for their beauty, manners and feminine talents, but their only job is to serve men.  This is the woman’s role in patriarchal Jeosun society … and in some other places with which you may be familiar.

But what’s the message, and to whom is it directed?  Well, since Koreans know that the barbarians of Beautyland are too ignorant and self-absorbed to understand an implicit rebuke even when it’s staring them in the face, it seems likely that this coded message is intended for another audience –the courtiers of New Goguryeo.  The northern kinfolk need no translation: “Beautyland has sent a kisaeng as its emissary, and we in New Baekjae regard her as of no importance. Whatever she may say will be (politely) ignored.”

Get the picture? Liu Yandong certainly does.

A Plause That Refreshes

February 20, 2018

On its face, which proposition is inherently less credible/plausible:

Not really a tough call.  Not that it really matters.  Not even to Comrade Bear.

Not A Dot

January 29, 2018

Offhand, I can think of three scenarios in which a dot is not a dot:

  1. when it has somehow been elongated into a dash;
  2. when it “exists” in a zero-dimensional universe under a special case of string theory;
  3. when it has not been linked to another node by a visible network edge (i.e., an unconnected dot).

Of these three, it is the last which appears to apply to recent events in the Netherlands.  If I’m not looking at the forest and don’t hear the thudding tree, can it really be said to have fallen?  Probably.

26 Jan 2018

According to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant and the Nieuwsuur TV news program, Dutch intelligence services (AIVD) successfully hacked the Russian cyber attack group known as Cozy Bear beginning in 2014, and for several years monitored the group’s computer network [operations center] in a university building near Moscow’s Red Square.  Dutch agents also gained access to security cameras surveilling the room.  Thus, in 2015 AIVD watched as Russian hackers harassed and penetrated accounts belonging to officials of the [U.S.] Democratic Party, downloading thousands of emails and internal documents.  AIVD alerted its US counterparts.

29 Jan 2018

The national tax office in the Netherlands said its website briefly went offline on Monday due to a DDoS cyberattack, a day after the country’s largest banks were targeted by hackers. ABN Amro and ING said they were both targeted by hackers over the weekend, temporarily disrupting online and mobile banking services. “During the DDoS attack ING’s internet site was blasted with data traffic causing our servers to overload and which put pressure on the availability of online banking,” ING said, adding services had been restored.

Rabobank also experienced a cyberattack on Monday. “We have been targeted by a DDoS attack since 9.10 am (0810 GMT) this morning (Monday) and our clients have little to no access to online banking,” Rabobank spokeswoman Margo van Wijgerden said.

 

Surely these are not dots … because I have been shown no connection.