The Year of Wu Xu

My Asian zodiac sign is the Monkey

Monkey natives like you are used to getting their own way in life. But during the year of the earth Dog, some of your challenges may revolve around having to form alliances with people you’d prefer to avoid.

At work, you shine when you become a true team player, while in love, dropping your guard ever so slightly elevates you both. Your natural creativity shines during the winter months, when you could find that someone wants to pay you for your talents.

The adventures you have may be somewhat calmer than in other years, but ultimately much more rewarding. Friends and relatives are more important than ever.

2018 is the year of the earth Dog, who works in surprising ways across the Chinese Zodiac.

Here is the story presented by Will in his blog

 

With the appearance of the new moon last evening a goodly portion of the world’s population welcomed in a New Year: the year of the Earth Dog – Wu-Xu, the 35th year in the 60 year cycle of the Chinese Calendar. And though we tend to think of it as Chinese Festival it is celebrated […]

via Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai — Willy Or Won’t He

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Campaign trail

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For several months now I have been preparing for my candidacy as City Councillor in Ward 1 in Charlottetown. Ward 1 as the name indicates is the old original footprint of Charlottetown of 1765 when the city grid was designed on paper by Captain Samuel Holland and others. The story goes that the grid pattern is copied from a Roman Military Camp, the centre occupied by the Commander’s tent and his entourage, here we call it Queen’s Square with the Legislature building and other government buildings in a park setting. The other city streets all lead to this rectangular park, the main ceremonial avenue Great George starts at the river bank and is cut in two by Queen’s Park. Other green squares in the city are distributed in this plan. It is not a large ward physically speaking and can be walked easily from one end to the other, about 2100 people live in Ward 1.

Because of the many challenges facing our Ward in the coming years and the lack of effective representation at City Council, our present councillor has been missing in action for the last 7 months, I, like many others worry that we are not well represented and are forgotten at decision making time.

Ward 1 is a hub as the business downtown core, tourist central, cruise ship terminal, cultural and artistic centre and a residential neighbourhood of beautiful and well preserved mansions on average 180 years old. It is very difficult to imagine Charlottetown without Ward 1.

Given my decades long work experience in government, national and municipal, on the international scene and in Canada, I know the processes and I am interested in applying myself to modernizing the municipal government in Charlottetown, to make it more responsive to what the residents want. I propose to do that during this election campaign by visiting each resident of the ward and also businesses and service groups.

The actual voting day is November 5 but there is a lot of work to do and people to meet. I do not want to leave anything to chance and do not take victory for granted. This is a great opportunity to learn.

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One of my favourite stores

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There is always a store or stores which are favourites for their wares on offer and the service they give customers. In Italy I had several such stores, elegant, beautiful and with a certain flair. In London I like Liberty with its Tudor revival architecture on Regent street or Selfridges on Oxford street.

In Berlin I like KaDeWe as it is called by the locals but whose name is Kaufhaus des Westens on Tauentzienstrasse the closest U-Bahn station is Wittenbergplatz. Kadewe.de

With over 60,000 square metres of selling space and more than 380,000 articles available on 7 floors and with a beautiful restaurant on the roof. The store was founded in 1907 their motto is Live the Lifestyle you love.

The so-called “Luxury Boulevard” is also situated here, with Bulgari, Burberry, Cartier, Céline, Chanel, Chopard, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hermès, Miu Miu, Montblanc, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Rolex, Tiffany & Co., Tod’s, Vertu, Wellendorff and Yves Saint Laurent . So many beautiful things to look at and possibly buy.

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The story of KaDeWe goes like this, when the store opened Berlin was the capital of the German Empire, a cosmopolitan and crowded city with 800.000 inhabitants, full of museums, theatres and auditoriums, provided with a notable infrastructure it was a rich, proud and happy city.

KaDeWe located in Tauentzienstrasse, near to the fashionable Ku´damm was a symbol of  that spirit, the golden times: an elegant place to spend time in the beauty salon or the tearoom and to buy tailored dresses or delicatessen and caviar in the famous food court.

Kadewe, survived the First World War disaster, it was even enlarged in the uncertain times of the Weimar Republic, but like the city it was a victim of the Nazi Dictatorship: the jewish owners the Hermann Tietz group was forced in 1933 to sell the Department Store due to the boycott of the banks that refused to grant any credit after the implementation of the Nuremberg race laws. Within a few days, the Tietz family had sold all of its stock in the company to its creditors, among them Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, and the Dresdner Bank, for somewhere around 10% of their market value. The family eventually left Germany for the USA. The Dresdner Bank promoted the store Manager to CEO and Georg Karg profited from this war opportunity.  In 1949 the Tietz family received some financial compensation and 3 buildings from Georg Karg, they rebuilt part of their commercial holdings in Germany with success. In 2008 the family received more compensation on bank account holdings which had been confiscated in 1934 by the Nazi regime.

After years of Nazi management of Kadewe, in 1943 an American warplane crashed into it, the building burnt to the ground, a ruin until 1950, it became a metaphor of the ruined city.

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The restoration of the KaDeWe building was a symbol of the resurgence of West Berlin, the new beginning, it also became a hated monument to consumption in East Berlin.

After the German reunification in 1989, the Department Store became once again the best-known in Germany and the largest one in the European continent with 60,000 square metres of sales floors. The store was completely renovated between 2004-2007 of the centennial anniversary, nowadays is the third most visited attraction in Berlin after the Bundestag (Reichstag) and the Brandenburg Gate.

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The roof top restaurant and the food hall with a Moet Champagne bar to relax from all the shopping. Today KaDeWe is owned by the Central Group from Thailand. If you visit Berlin go and shop at KaDeWe it is a very nice experience.

A picture of town

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The picture of the waterfront of Charlottetown in mid-1960’s show how industrial the waterfront was with its port facilities, railway yard and vestiges of the 19th century ship building period. If compared to today’s waterfront park, the area is unrecognizable. In 1989 with the demise of the railway in the Province, all rail equipment was removed and instead parks and hiking trails were built, now covering extensive areas not only in the Capital but across the Province.

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At the bottom of the photo is the old potato storage terminal, today it’s the Cruise ship terminal completely rebuilt and renovated. Behind it the rail yards  and a rail car repair shop now transformed into a great hall soon to become a Farmer’s Market. Next to it the old oil tank park of a giant oil company, the tank park disappeared and now the area is totally transformed into a lush green park known as Confederation Landing, a gift of the City of Quebec who shares with Charlottetown in 1864 the honour of hosting the conferences which led to the formation of Canada. Next to that more empty land now occupied by the Conference centre and the Delta Hotel, shops and restaurants. This coming Summer Charlottetown will welcome 94 cruise ships from various companies with over 100,000 passengers landing a few meters away from my house.

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The waterfront today, you cannot recognize it.   

The Cheese shop

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A few days ago our friend in Phoenix the infamous Dr. Spo asked us about what is our favourite cheese and could we let him know. Many of us commented on cheeses we liked. That got me thinking of the famous cheese shop we visited in Dresden, the old Capital of Saxony many years ago. When Dresden was still in full reconstruction mode after being re-united with the rest of Germany.

This shop is dedicated to cheese produced in Saxony and there is quite a variety of fine cheeses. The shop itself is famous for its architecture and decor, known as Molkerei Pfund ,137 years in business. It survived the terrible fire bombing of the City of Dresden in February 1945 by the English Air Force because it was on the other side of the river Elbe.

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You have to love cheese and milk products to go there. The variety but also the aroma of the various cheeses on display makes it a gourmet’s paradise. The interior is all in beautiful painted tile work and is quite impressive. The food was good, we had on our visit a plate of cheese and potato soup. It was a Winter day so few tourists and it was well before Dresden became a tourist hub. With the City now completely rebuilt as it was prior to the war and the bombing, many people come to visit, too many perhaps.

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About that documentary

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I saw some preview of a new documentary on Queen Elizabeth II and the Coronation. I had forgotten that there are actually 2 Crowns, one for the Coronation moment itself when the intended is actually Crown and then a second Crown which is used for all State occasions, including the rest of the Coronation Ceremony and events that follow.

There is also the State Diadem of 1820 made for King George IV to wear on his way to his coronation. He was one of the many sons of King George III and Queen Charlotte.  This diadem was then worn by his wife Queen Adelaide and then by Queen Victoria and now Queen Elizabeth wears it on several occasions like when she travels from Buckingham Palace to Parliament each year.

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The Crown of Saint Edward a solid gold crown is used at the moment of the Coronation itself and then put away until the next Coronation. Fairly heavy to wear on one’s head according to the Queen.

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St Edward’s Crown is the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels. Named after Edward the Confessor (1003-1066) it has been traditionally used to crown British monarchs at their Coronation since the 13th century.

The original crown was a holy relic kept at Westminster Abbey, Edward’s burial place, until the regalia were either sold or melted down after Parliament abolished the monarchy in 1649, during the English Civil War.

The present version of St Edward’s Crown was made for Charles II in 1661. It is solid gold, 30 centimetres (12 in) tall, weighs 2.23 kilograms (4.9 lb), and is decorated with 444 precious and semi-precious stones. The crown is similar in weight and overall appearance to the original, but its arches are Baroque.

After 1689, it was not used to crown a monarch for over 200 years. In 1911, the tradition was revived by George V and all subsequent monarchs have been crowned using St Edward’s Crown. A stylised image of this crown is used in Coats of Arms, like those of  Canada to symbolise the royal authority of Queen Elizabeth II.

The other Crown we see most often is the Imperial State Crown, it is worn after the Coronation Ceremony and at all State functions.

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Usually, the crown is taken to the Palace of Westminster under armed guard in its own carriage and placed in the Robing Room, where the Queen dons her robes of State and puts on the crown before giving her speech to Parliament.

Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, a new state crown was made for Charles II by Sir Robert Vyner. About 10 versions of the crown have existed since the restoration. The one made for Queen Victoria in 1838 is the basis for today’s crown. Made by Rundell and Bridge in 1838 using old and new jewels, it had a crimson velvet cap with ermine border and a lining of white silk. It weighed 39.25 troy ounces, or just over 1.2 kilograms, and was decorated with 1,363 brilliant-cut, 1,273 rose-cut and 147 table-cut diamonds, 277 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 4 rubies, and the Black Prince’s Ruby

The gems in the crown were remounted for the coronation of George VI in 1937 by Garrard & Co. The crown was adjusted for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, with the head size reduced and the arches lowered by 25 mm (1 inch) to give it a more feminine appearance.

I also did not know that for the documentary, the producers were not allowed to photograph the crown from above, as it is considered disrespectful to God. The Crown is a religious sacred object and it is treated as such by the Sovereign and everyone around.  Only the Queen can actually put on the crown which she does by herself without anyone’s help. There is a lot of protocol surrounding this piece of jewellery,  do’s and don’t’s. Really fascinating when you think of it and how it all came about.

 

Absolutism, the modern disease

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The word is defined as follows: the acceptance of or belief in absolute principles in political, philosophical, ethical, or theological matters.

It appears to me that we live in an age of absolute beliefs or opinions. The is no room for intelligent discourse, for presenting facts, to argue in a debate and present a counter point. It looks like we are either for or against and with someone or group or against said person or group. People want a solution to any problem which has to be final and absolute, solve this thing once and for all. Problem is we live in an imperfect world but no matter it’s got to be fixed now. How did we ever get to this point? The age of miracles is past, as the song goes, no matter we demand miracles from our elected officials, from anyone in authority.  Otherwise we are not happy, it is almost a nihilistic approach to life, a total rejection of Laws and Institutions or beliefs unless they prove they can provide us with the solution to a better world where everyone is treated fairly and without prejudice or preference.

In discussions people are pigeonholed along gender lines, economic or educational lines, religious beliefs though many claim not to have any and political view points. You are with the left or the right, you cannot be with the centre in terms of opinions. Age and generations is also another great divide, one group blaming the other and vice versa, usually the elderly are to blame for all the problems of the world.

If that was not enough, the media is also trying to tell you how to think and what to think under the guise of informing you. On social media you are afraid to leave a comment because the caustic reply you will get is well beyond any intelligent reasoning.

There have been other ages in human history where absolute thinking has prevailed. In Europe with the protestant Reformation an age of extreme intolerance, war and violence, tens of thousand died and this happened in the age of the Renaissance and Baroque period. In the 20th century extreme ideologies surfaced all over Europe and in Asia with the results we know.

Now in the 21th century a new phenomenon, populist ideology and concepts coming mostly from North America. In Canada with the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, Canadians saw a huge change in how they perceive themselves and how they see their country. Enshrine in the Canadian Constitution, the Charter has taken on a life of its own, with unforeseen results. It rectified many wrongs and demolished pre-conceived ideas of how society functions. Many of us profited from the advances brought about by the Charter.  Politicians also used it to push the concept of equality amongst all people. By 1995 equality was replaced by equity, not the same thing and not the same meaning either in legal terms, however few paid attention to this change, confusing equality with equity.  Equity is a great example of a word that started out with a general sense that developed more specific senses over time. In Canada today it generally means giving all to one group as compensation for centuries of perceived wrong doing by the other privilege group. A general rejection of the past and historical figures, they were wrong and awful people. We judge the dead, in some cases the long dead and accuse them today of crimes, using today’s standards. I wonder what we will be accused of in 60 years.

As the concept of equity took hold of Canadian society, some thought they could export this concept to other continents, in the spirit of look how good I am, I will show you how to correct the mistakes in your society. A rather arrogant idea coming from people who do not think in terms of justice but in terms of social revolution fuelled by self-absorbed thinking.

In the last 3 years in Canada we have seen the rise of a movement which advocates that women who are victims of violence, sexual or domestic must be believed no matter what the evidence of lack thereof may be. The simple fact that an allegation is made is sufficient to have the judicial system kick into gear. This movement with the help of the media has alleged that all police force in Canada is corrupt and or non-responsive, the Judicial system is broken and dominated by white old men with patriarchal tendencies, our politicians are accused of being biased.  Now Margaret Atwood, the famous feminist writer and acclaimed author is accused by the very same group of being anti-women because she believes in due process of the Law and said that mere allegations against anyone in the #MeToo movement are dangerous for us all, if no investigation takes place and the allegations are not proven in a Court of Law if they are ever pursued at that level how is society to progress.  One activist said to Atwood, maybe you should listen to young vulnerable females who are powerless, Atwood shot back that she had been listening for 63 years. Another activist wrote on Twitter that she was not interested in Justice or due process but in burning down the building of society and starting from scratch, in other word complete revolution, cannot see to many followers of that idea, but the media loves to broadcast the idea. As one editor told me, we are always on the look out for that story that gets public attention.

What is interesting in all this, was the comment made by a feminist writer and jurist who being interviewed explained that Society at large is simply not following the issue of equality or equity and public attitudes are not changing as fast as some would like. So despite the activists, media and some politicians who would like to see a re-ordering of society with new pro-feminist attitudes, few in Society, men and women are actually following or paying attention to any of it. Passing laws, social engineering, imposing quotas in hiring base on gender alone, demanding that private corporations have a balance ration of men and women on boards, or that Courts of Law have an equal balance of men and women sitting on the bench, etc all of it may have a more surface impact than a deeper attitude changing impact on Society at large.  I am still appalled by television Sport channels and hockey in Canada to see the same toxic macho attitudes being presented and watch in bar, pubs and at home, no one says a word about this, hey hockey and sports in general are sacred institutions. Change will come eventually but change in peoples attitudes to any social question will come at snail pace. You cannot legislate how people think.

However in this age of absolute beliefs and instant solutions, one has to be very careful to either say nothing on social media or parsing one’s words carefully as to not offend the activists who believe they hold the truth.  As  a lawyer said to me, this is the result of the electronic age and the internet. That is scary.

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The future is History

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A strange title for a book, The Future is History, remember in 1989 we were told that history had ended because the Cold War had ended and Communism was defeated. Rather naive to believe that then, it was merely a re-ordering of politics. In this book, the author attracts our attention to her thesis or her reality that Russian history today is a simple repetition of what happened in the XXth Century Soviet Union with a hiatus between 1989-1999.

This is the latest book I am reading, the author Masha Gessen, a Russian citizen, journalist and author, born in Moscow in 1967 and living now in New York City.

In The Future is History Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own – as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring the unobstructed emergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state under Vladimir Putin.

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She makes the distinction in her book between Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism, the two words are different in political terms.  The first is about the rule of one person through personal authority (dictatorship) but devoid of ideology, i.e. Chile under Pinochet, Spain under Franco, Greece under the Colonels, Germany under Hitler, the dictator rules using terror and violence on the masses to enforce compliance. In the case of the Nazi dictatorship, Gessen explains that Nazism was not so much an ideology it was terror used to silence anyone opposing the regime, a regime which borrowed its ideas from the writings of the dictator like the one on racial superiority but overall maintained itself in power by terror and nothing else.  Where Totalitarianism is dominated by Ideology, the Bolcheviks and Lenin used terror but justified it with the ideology of class warfare as described by Karl Marx an ideology which proclaimed world revolution by the workers against other classes. The Communist party then constantly tweaked the ideology to maintain itself in power.  Stalin and Mao proclaimed the exclusive authority of the Communist Party as the only correct ideological source for their society. Stalin then tried to impose this model on other countries after 1945 in Eastern Europe and Mao did the same in Asia in Tibet, Cambodia, Mongolia, North Korea etc. it continues today in China.  Gessen tells us in her book that since 1999 under Putin, Russia is returning to the good old ways of the Soviet Union but under a new guise. It would be too crude now to reimpose a Soviet model, so Putin instead has married the nostalgia for the Czarist regime, the Supremacy of the Orthodox Church with the Totalitarian ideal of the Soviet regime which gives stability Russians crave. Giving us a new Czar Putin who unites factions within his authority and glorifies the exceptional nature of Russia in an ideology of nationalism which echoes the old glories of Imperial Russia. What Gessen is also showing us is how Russia never was a democracy and had no democratic institutions, the Russian knew Imperial orthodoxy under an absolute ruler with the Russian Orthodox Church as co-ruler then they simply moved into a new system aping the old with the Bolchevik and then Communism.

It’s a fascinating book, a great read and explains a lot about Russia and Putin today. With the gradual withdrawal of the USA from the World stage, an inept President who is too intellectually lazy to understand how the USA is simply being eclipsed, Russia is stepping into the void like China is doing and they are not losing time.

But Gessen in her book also shows us the danger of a population who is willing to give up on a more inclusive open form of society and government for the security of stability at all cost. In a way she is saying that we in the West are also at risk. Countries like Poland and Hungary are falling back into the old ways. The rise of the Alt-Right and Christian-Conservative movements in the USA with a President who shows openly his contempt for the Constitution puts the USA on a similar path. A good read and one that makes you think about what is going on around us.

 

I came to a realization….

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Last night I suddenly came to a realization, we were at Baba’s Lounge which is upstairs from Cedar’s Lebanese Restaurant on Great George Street. Baba’s is an institution and is known by all musicians on PEI. Several nights a week they have music, on Thursday nights it’s Jazz night and last night Island Jazz was performing. The group is Ben on piano, Marlee on saxophone and Evan on bass guitar and Brandon Roy sang and what a wonderful voice he has. All are either music teachers or musicians and Brandon is a professional singer with that wonderful booming voice appearing in several shows here and in Toronto. The age group last night was between 25 and 35, the new up and coming generation, in this case talented, fun, full of energy, nice people.

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This is not a pity me post but more a sudden realization that I am older now by about 30 years from that generation. I have turned a corner like you do at 20 or 50, life changes and you change. People also react to you differently, I hear references to being older meaning you belong to a different generation. We socialize with people more our age or somewhat older, though I do not necessarily share the same world view. This may have to do with the fact that I travelled around the world and my views are maybe more based on my own life experience in different cultures. If we meet with younger people I am very aware that we may not speak the same language because age can create a distance.

I had pictures taken recently by a professional photographer, the results were quite good, this has to do with a project I will speak of later, looking at them though I thought do I look this old now or is this what people see.

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Maybe it is, by looking at pictures at another time in life I see a familiar face at a different time, this is where I am now. Maybe this is why I find the change so shocking in some ways, but then it happens to all of us.

I do not really see myself at 61, it just does not make sense to me. I do not feel older, just the same. I do think from time to time that I may have another 25 years to go, if I look at my close family relations and my parents, if good health holds then another quarter century is not bad. It’s just that everything looks shorter now in terms of time span. One might think that at 30 or 40 you can still think I got decades in front of me, but the reality is that no one can be certain of what they have left.

Maybe this is what comes with age, you know the past, you have experience and your life is shaped by all the years of living. Is this what is meant by, Life changes us, I think it does, we stay the same but life experience and time changes us. So maybe this set of photos are what I do look like today, just make the best of it and move on.

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