Pete Kendall's Socio Times: A Socionomic Commentary

May 2, 2007
Moviegoers Warned of `Babel' Sickness
TOKYO - The Japanese distributor of "Babel" is warning audiences the movie may cause nausea or headaches.

Gaga Communications has received 15 complaints since the film, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, opened Saturday in theaters throughout the country, company spokeswoman Aimi Ichikawa said Wednesday.

Ichikawa said the company was investigating which scenes caused the illnesses, and hasn't ordered theaters to adjust sound or lighting. The problem of nausea or headaches has only been reported in Japan, she said.

Some 300 theaters nationwide posted a note Tuesday saying "Babel" contains scenes with strong effects and that some viewers felt sick after seeing them, according to a company news release. Gaga Communications also ran ads with a warning in major newspapers Wednesday.

"Babel," directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, depicts a saga of families on three continents linked by tragic events in the African desert. "Babel" received seven Oscar nominations. It won the Oscar for best original score.
Associated Press

May 2007
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The Sky Is the Limit and All The World Is Up To It
Category: NEWS
By: Pete Kendall, May 4, 2007
A new world’s tallest building is invariably occupied only in the aftermath of the bull market that gave rise to its creation.
The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, April 2006
chicago towerThe Tower of Babel written about in the Old Testament may be one of the earliest examples of the skyscraper indicator, in which construction of one or more really significant skyscrapers precedes the topping out of a boom into a bust cycle.  The spiritual punch line is that pride goes before a fall, and who knows, there may be much truth to it. A movie sporting the title Babel has been released to great critical acclaim in the early part of this year, 2007.  Interestingly, it is also a time when many countries have announced plans for new record peaks - literally - in skyscraper buildings, as documented in previous issues of Socio Times and The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast (see Additional References below). For anyone who believes that more than one data point should be added for determining whether something entitled Babel may signify a peak, consider that noted artist M.C. Escher produced a work invoking that name - in 1928! You can find a copy of M.C. Escher's artwork, "Tower of Babel" at http://www.mcescher.com.

I'm not so sure the analogy holds as the film, as far as I know, isn't about a tower. It is interesting that Japan, the only country in which deflation and a sustained bear market have been in place since 1990, is the only country where people responded in this way.

The May 3 Business Week delivers an update on what has unquestionably become history’s greatest charge into the sky:
The Race for the Tallest Skyscraper
The race among the world's cities to build the ultimate record-busting, flat-out tallest skyscraper on the planet is fast and furious. And the obsession to build mega-structures in nosebleed territory is particularly acute in much of economically dynamic Asia and the oil-rich Middle East.

The frenzy of high-powered construction projects promises to transform 21st century skyscraper architecture in a big way. Currently, eight of the world's tallest 10 skyscrapers are in the region. And the present reigning champ among skyscrapers globally is Taiwan's Taipei 101, a structure that climbs up 509 meters or 1,671 feet.

Even lesser-known regional cities with a burning ambition to make their mark, view big, gutsy, and distinctively designed skyscrapers as potential game-changers -- and are willing to offer serious incentives to get them. That's pretty much what city leaders in the South Korean port city of Busan (formerly known as Pusan) hope to accomplish with the planned 560-m. (1,837-ft.) Millennium Tower World Business Center.

These super-structures are about more than just civic pride. Well-executed skyscrapers can be a real economic-development driver. As long as city planners in Asia and the Middle East have the financial wherewithal and vision to keep pushing the limits of construction engineering, the global "edifice complex" seems sure to continue.

History has its own warning label for these episodes. It says their completion is invariably marked by a loss of financial wherewithal and ultimately some of the same nausea and headaches people are experiencing in Japan.

Additional References

EWFF, April 2006
How big is this peak? The next chart (click here to view) captures the remarkable heights that human ambition is scaling at the greatest top of all time. The closest precedent is what happened in the late 1920s. Here’s a description from a review of the book, Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky by Neal Bascomb:
At the tail end of the 1920s, the Jazz Age was in full swing, and Americans experienced an unprecedented level of prosperity with no apparent end in sight. Though the Great Depression would soon wipe out many of those gains, three landmark buildings on the New York City skyline—the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the Manhattan Company Building [40 Wall Street]—remain as tangible reminders of the enormous ambition and exuberance that characterized the era.

All three buildings were conceived in the bull market and built through the peak, only to open for business amidst the worst market for office space for decades on either side. That great race to be the world’s tallest is the building frenzy Edward R. Dewey used to identify the skyscraper Indicator back in the 1940s. The latest “race to the sky” also features three contenders, in Malaysia, Taiwan and Dubai. But this time, the first two skyscrapers actually held the title of world’s tallest for only a few years, eventually exceeded by an even taller monument to another regions’ euphoric surge in social mood. Dewey originally observed that the “world’s tallest” sell signal for stocks is given when a tower is conceived because construction takes a while to complete. A new world’s tallest building is invariably occupied only in the aftermath of the bull market that gave rise to its creation. All three of the new ones fit this profile, as the Malaysian market doubled-topped in 1994 and 1997, before the completion of the Petronas Towers; Taiwan peaked in 2000 ahead of the 2004 completion of the Taipei 101 building. As our discussion of the Arab stock markets over the last three months indicates, everything points to a similar fate in Dubai, where the Burj Dubai is now being built through the wreckage of a crashing Dubai Stock Index. As with the contestants for the world’s tallest building in the 1920s, “The Burj Dubai’s height is a closely guarded secret.” The latest projection is 800 meters, which would be a 77% increase from this era’s first record breaker, the Petronas Towers. Billed as “the world’s greatest vertical mega-project,” the Burj Dubai is designed to “beat all records and on a scale that will be a dramatic testament to Dubai’s faith in the future.” The same kind of rhetoric surrounded the move toward the heavens in 1929.

The latest sell signal rates as even more potent than that of 1929 for several reasons. A major one is the sheer audacity of the last and most dramatic tower. At 800 meters, the Burj will be close to half a mile high, more than doubling the Empire State Building’s 381-meter height. Also, in addition to the incredible repitition of the signal, there is its geographic spread and distance from the hub of the mania, New York City. In 1929, the projects were all within a couple miles of the New York Stock Exchange. Dubai is 6,420 miles away. And it is a city of less than 1.5 million people that was virtually nonexistent just 50 years ago. It’s also situated in the midst of an unstable region. The Burj Dubai is just one of a wide range of wildly exotic projects now being constructed in Dubai. Others include: the first luxury underwater hotel; “a man-made archipelago of private, residential islands (yes, the biggest development of its kind) that will resemble a map of the world when seen from above”; a set of man-made resort islands shaped to look like a palm tree when seen from above; the first commercial spacecraft flight center; Dubailand, a sprawling tourist attraction that is geared to be a combination between Disney World and Las Vegas; and Eco-Tourism World, which will present “natural” environments and biosphere structures to create a “place that celebrates the natural beauty of our planet.”

But, the bear market is wasting no time throwing a monkey wrench into the works over in Dubai. Here’s the latest news from the Burj Dubai building site:
Asian workers angered by low salaries and mistreatment smashed cars and offices in a riot that interrupted construction Wednesday on the site of a building meant to be the world’s tallest. The violence, which caused an estimated $1 million damage, illustrated the growing unrest among foreign workers who are the linchpin of Dubai’s breathtaking building boom.
—Associated Press, March 23, 2006

Thanks to extremely low labor costs, the developers will undoubtedly work through this dust up. But the depth of the excess in this once forsaken desert town suggests that the Burj Dubai may not make it to its rumored height of 160 stories. It was a small riot, but it will probably go down as the first important sign that something turned rotten in Shangri La.

A big difference between this peak and those of the last century is that no new heights are being scaled in the United States. Since 1996, a handful of plans to construct the world’s tallest building in the United States have been announced only to be derailed for one reason or another. It takes a high level of social cooperation to pull off a tallest building because they are less efficient than smaller structures (and, as it turns out, excellent terrorist targets in bear markets). In a divergence from the dramatic harmony at the end of Supercycle wave (III) in 1929, developers just cannot pull the pieces together the way they did in the heart of the Grand Supercycle bull market. Through the peak of Supercycle (V) in 2000, the aspirations are just as grand as they were in Supercycle (III), but at this point antagonism between developers, lenders, governments and other parties is making it hard to even replace the towers of the World Trade Center that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. Originally, the Freedom Tower, which is being built on the site of the World Trade Center, was supposed to win the crown of world’s tallest building at 540 meters, but the project has been continually delayed. A NY Post columnist describes the effort to date as a failure that is “Homeric in scale. The paralysis can only be explained by a heart that was never really in the job, or gross incompetence—or both.” As a Daily Show “news” commentator dryly noted, Bin Laden may have brought down the Towers but he did nothing to destroy the bureaucracy that will keep a new tower from ever being rebuilt. All of this is evidence that on a Grand Supercycle scale, the U.S. has begun to lose its world dominance.

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