Author: theluckguide

Million Dollar Luck

Okay, it’s time for a confession: I’ve become a huge fan of the Bravo reality show “Million Dollar Listing.” I’m not quite sure what it is exactly about the show that so fascinates me—perhaps it’s the weekly dose of seeing some of the most garishly hideous properties in Los Angeles being sold for absolutely insane prices (remember, folks, this is all earthquake and brushfire country), or perhaps it’s just to witness the over-the-top behavior of the brash young realtors Madison Hildebrand, Josh Flagg, and the one whose name I can’t remember but whose head resembles a mushroom. Whatever it is, the show continues to mesmerize me week after week.

Last week’s episode featured an Israeli couple who were desperate to buy a Beverly Hills McMansion, and every time they made an offer on the property, the figure would end with the numerals “126.” For instance, they would initially bid $6,300,126 for the property.  “Don’t forget the 126,” the buyer reminded the eager young broker Josh Flagg, who was about to submit the offer at an even $6.3 million. “Always use the 126.”

This of course had me wondering what the significance of 126 was. Was this purely the couple’s personal lucky number, or was there more to it? A bit of research led to the discovery that 126 is indeed a lucky number for the Jewish people because of chai.  Chai is a Hebrew word which means “living,” and is related to chaim, the term for “life.”  In Hebrew, each letter is assigned a numerical value, and the numerical value of chai is 18. Hence, 18 is a lucky number in Judaism, and many Jews give gifts of money, or, in this case, the purchase price of a house, in multiples of 18 for good luck. 7 x 18 = 126. Which brings us back to the property featured on “Million Dollar Listing.” After yet another round of negotiations, the couple finally won the house for $5.8 million.  $5,800,126, to be fortuitously precise.

–Kevin

Lucky 8 for Michael Phelps

8 has turned out to be the luckiest number of all for Michael Phelps. The Beijing Olympic Games began fortuitously on 08.08.08, and last Saturday  (the eighth day of competition, by the way), the swimming champion accomplished what no other athlete has done before in Olympic history—win 8 gold medals during a single Olympics.

To commemorate this historic event, Sports Illustrated is putting Phelps on its cover in what will surely become an iconic image of the athlete. Phelps poses bare-chested and wearing all eight medals in homage to the 1972 photograph of the previous Olympic medal record holder Mark Spitz with his seven medals draped around his neck. The cover could also turn out to be the magazine’s luckiest yet, since’s chockfull of so many lucky symbols—8 gold coins, against an auspicious vibrant Chinese red background and framed in blue–yet another lucky color.

The issue hits newsstands tomorrow. Let’s see how well it sells!

–Kevin

How Lucky is 08.08.08?

For many people around the world, today marks a day of special significance. At precisely 8:08pm in Beijing, the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics will officially begin. A record throng of over 9,000 Chinese couples plan to get married at that very moment. The fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, incidentally, is also planning to wed his girlfriend Dee Ocleppo today, but hopefully for them it will be someplace less crowded. And in Las Vegas, Macau, and other gambling meccas, casinos are bracing for the onslaught of people who believe in the luck of eights.

Why so much fuss over the number eight?

Simply put, it’s the luckiest number for the Chinese. The number is pronounced “ba,” which sounds similar to “fa,” the word for prosperity. For a culture deeply rooted in symbology and superstition, the number is believed to boost good fortune. The Bank of China always assigns it trading rooms to the eighth floor of its buildings, and the Jin Mao Tower, China’s tallest skyscraper, is 88 stories high. It goes without saying that houses with the number 8 in their address attract higher prices, and license plates and phone numbers with as many eights as possible are the most sought after in Hong Kong. (Also popular all over the island are $88 prix fixe menus.)

Visually, the number eight is also auspicious in its symmetry–it’s the only number that can be sliced in half, either vertically or horizontally, and still mirror the other half. Turned to the side, the Roman numeral “8” forms the symbol for infinity, so that makes yet another reason why the number is so favored by superstitious brides.

So the arrival of a date like August 8, 2008, should mark a special opportunity for triple good fortune. Yet, there have been recent rumblings of controversy over how lucky the number 8 really is this year. Chinese numerologists have pointed out that three catastrophic events have taken place this year, and all have borne the imprint of 8. On January 25th the biggest snowstorm to hit China in over fifty years struck the Hunan province. The numbers of that date add up to eight (1 + 2 + 5 = 8). Then, on March 14th (3 + 1 + 4 = 8), violent attacks took place in Tibet. Worse of all was the massive earthquake in the Sichuan province that killed hundreds of thousands. It took place on May 12th (5 + 1 + 2 = 8), precisely 88 days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Some naysayers are predicting that this time, the number 8 is a harbinger of bad fortune, and that these Olympic games are headed for disaster.

Will the good fortune of the number 8 be vindicated during these times? We’ll be watching the games closely, so stay tuned.

–Kevin

(Photo by °Florian.)

Let The Games Begin!

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games had a fortuitous beginning at precisely 8:08pm Beijing time.

(Top photo by Tim Wimborne, Reuters. Bottom photo by Doug Mills, New York Times.)

Knock On This

For as long as she can remember, Loren Waldron has used the phrase “knock on wood” whenever she’s wished for an extra bit of luck. Then, one fateful day, as she was about to leave on a road trip and uttered those words in the hopes of good traffic, there was no wood to be found anywhere in sight. “I was surrounded by a sea of plastic, so I just knocked on my head,” she recalls.

Well, here’s what happens when you call on the luck gods but don’t follow through: Loren found herself sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for six hours, in what should have been an easy three hour drive. From that day on, Loren talked about creating a piece of “knock on wood” wood for herself—something that she would always have in a pinch. At first, she would mention it almost as a joke, but as more and more friends told her what a great idea it was, she finally decided last May to make it a reality by creating the perfect little wooden accessory and launching www.knockonwoodwood.com.

Knock on Wood wood is comprised of a circular piece of wood that’s two inches in diameter and attached to a metal key ring. It’s small enough to carry in your pocket, clip to a belt, or carry on your keychain. But what makes it special is the fact that each one is individually crafted by Loren. “No two are alike, because I brand the wood myself, so every piece always comes out a bit differently,” Loren says, hoping that this personal touch will bring that extra bit of good luck to the new owner.

So has Loren’s luck changed since she began creating these lucky charms? “We’re moving and I can’t tell you how many times I knocked on my own Knock on Wood wood when we got the offer for our place, until now, two weeks before closing that everything would work out and the sale would go through. Now I’m knocking on it with hopes to find the house of our dreams shortly! I find an occasion to knock on wood almost daily and while I’m not sure that it has changed my luck, I haven’t run into any bad luck since I began creating it, so I guess it’s doing its job!”

To buy a piece of Knock on Wood wood, click HERE.

–Kevin

Exam Day Luck

It’s July, and while most students in the U.S. have been working on their summer tan, hundreds of thousands of students in Vietnam are sweating through their university entrance exams. But before this happens, Hanoi’s 938-year-old Temple of Literature (above) is jammed with thousands of stressed out students hoping to pass their exams. The Temple is Vietnam’s oldest university, and students come here to burn incense, pray for luck, and touch the heads of the eighty-two sacred stone turtles that represent past university laureates, hoping that some of their good luck will rub off.

Many students also participate in the exam day ritual of eating a “lucky breakfast” consisting of green beans, since the Vietnamese word for bean is also the same word for pass. With 1.8 million candidates taking the test every year and only three hundred thousand places available in Vietnam’s universities, hopefuls need every bit of luck they can get. In a country where two thirds of the people are under the age of 30, Vietnam is struggling to cope with the growing pains of a population that demands to be educated. To read more about this issue, click HERE.

–Kevin

(Top photo by Sean Madden, bottom photo by AFP.)

Happy Birthday to a Lucky Bridge

On this day in 1357, the construction of the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, was kicked off. What makes this a significant date in the world of luck is the fact that this bridge was designed, from the beginning, to be lucky. The original Charles Bridge had been destroyed in the devastating flood of 1342, so much care was taken by King Charles IV to ensure that the new, replacement bridge could withstand future floodwaters. He consulted his astrologers, who deemed that it would be most auspicious for the foundation stone of the new bridge to be laid in 1357 on the 9th of July at exactly 5:31 a.m., a date that forms a palindrome (135797531).

A number of lucky legends concerning the bridge have emerged over the centuries. It is said that special lucky ingredients of eggs, milk, and flour were added to the mortar to give it extra strength, and that every statue added to the bridge subsequently was also fortified with these ingredients. Another legend relates to the statue of St John of Nepomunk, the oldest statue on the bridge. Supposedly, St John was murdered on the orders of King Wenceslaus after he refused to tell the king about the content of the queen’s weekly confession. His body was thrown into the Vltava River, and at the precise moment his body hit the water, five stars appeared in the night sky and could be seen for miles around. (This is why the statue of St John is depicted with a halo of five stars around his head.) There is a brass plaque that depicts this moment underneath the statue, and since the ancient bridge has become Prague’s most popular tourist destination, it has become customary for the thousands of tourists visit the bridge every day to rub the plaque for good luck.

There seems, however, to be a little disagreement as to where precisely one should rub. Some advise rubbing St John’s carved body on the plaque, while others say that one should rub the carving of a dog next to it. Later this month, I will be traveling to Prague and will visit the bridge to conduct a few rubbing experiments and separate fact from fiction. Stay tuned for the full report.

–Kevin

(Photo by Bruno Girin)

Ganeshagate

If you were paying close attention to Kevin’s blog entry of June 23rd (and I know you were), you would have noticed among Barack Obama’s lucky charms a “tiny monkey,” which, it turns out, is a miniature representation of the Hindu god Hanuman. It ended up in Obama’s pocket the same way many other items have landed there: “I have all these things that people give me—all these different little good luck charms.” The other day the Washington Post blog reported that Bhavna Pandit, a political fundraising consultant, believes that the quickly spreading news that Obama is toting around this little Hindu monkey will go a long way with the Indian American community. The blog entry says that “women and men of [Pandit’s] parents’ generation” are “suddenly taking note of Obama in a way they had not done before.” The article suggests that if Pandit is right, Hanuman may help Obama carry the Indian American vote, which had previously been largely aligned with the Clinton campaign. See the story HERE and HERE.

What’s interesting about this is not just that I’m a big Obama supporter, but the shared understanding on the part of both Obama, the consultant interviewed, and, presumably, the person who gave Obama the monkey in the first place, that Hanuman inhabits a space that is at the intersection of faith and superstition, religion and luck. And I had an experience recently about just this topic that ended on a somewhat less positive note.

I was at CW 11 (a local network) to be interviewed for a short piece they were doing about lucky charms for Friday the 13th. They had asked me to bring some charms to discuss so I had a bag full of things I have collected or been given since I started working on the luck book. They include pennies, a four-leaf clover, a wishbone, a daruma, a maneki neko, a pair of red underwear, an evil eye amulet, and a Ganesha. One of the production guys had taken away the charms to create the table display for the spot and I was sitting in the “green room” waiting to go on. A woman came into the room to inform me, angrily, that she had taken the Ganesha off of the table. She began to explain that Ganesha was a god, not a good luck charm, and that people worship him. I began to say that I know that he is a Hindu god and she cut me off, stating that she was Hindu and that he is “the mover of obstacles.” I tried to say that, as I understood it, he is thought to bring good luck to difficult endeavors but again she interrupted, snapping that I wouldn’t have put a baby Jesus on a crucifix on the table along with red underwear, would I have? I considered this for a moment, thinking to myself “Well, actually I would have but the baby Jesus on a crucifix isn’t considered lucky,” but I (wisely, I think) kept my mouth shut and she stormed off.

The thing that is complicated about writing about luck, or talking about luck, is that it really comes down to belief, and that’s a pretty serious subject, whether it’s shared by an organized religion or an individual. We here at the Luck Guide try to be sensitive when we’re talking about these things, but we don’t always get it right.

I’m not sure if it was a mistake or not to include the Ganesha on that table along with the red underwear. I just know that when I had hit a really rough patch writing the book, I happened to walk by a store where there was a display of Ganeshas in the window. I went in, bought one, and when I got home I put him on the mantelpiece in the room where I was doing my writing. The next morning I woke up and started writing again. I’m not sure what the turnaround was about—religion, faith, luck, the power of positive thinking, or a good night’s sleep—but I suppose I reserve the right to believe he brought me luck, regardless of what anyone else says.

–Deb

Lucky Q&A: The Elephant in the Room

Every so often, we receive questions from readers regarding different aspects of luck.  We welcome these questions and make every effort to answer all the queries that come our way.

Q: I read through your very enjoyable LUCK guide last Thursday and was inspired to purchase an elephant statuette for the home. Question: Where to place the elephant for optimal luck? Okay to put it on the porch facing away from the front door? If you could supply any guidance I’d appreciate it. –D. Simon

 A: There are several different schools of thought regarding lucky elephant placement:

 –It can be placed outside the entrance of a home (facing the doorway) to protect the home.

 –Some believe that the elephant should be placed inside the house, preferably in the front hall with the trunk facing inward to direct good luck into the home.

 –Others believe that the elephant should be placed in the front hall with its trunk toward the front door to “welcome in” good luck.

 Our advice is to try out all the options over several weeks and pay attention to which orientation works best for you.

–Kevin

(Photo by Echoforsberg)

Gnome, Gnome on the Range

It appears someone in France has taken that movie Amélie a little bit too seriously Remember how, in that movie, the impish Audrey Tautou kidnaps her father’s garden gnome and has an airline hostess friend bring it along on her trips and photograph it at tourist sights around the world in order to inspire her father to get off his butt and travel? Cute, right?

Well, it’s not so cute when the garden gnome is instead kidnapped, forcibly repainted, and made to live in a garden measuring a modest 215 square feet along with 169 other gnomes (think 6 train heading to Grand Central at 5:30 on a Thursday night). And that’s exactly what happened in France this spring.

When the gnomes first started disappearing, accusing eyes turned to the Garden Gnome Liberation Front (FLNJ), an organization devoted to the emancipation of “nains de jardin.” But is appears they weren’t responsible. Rather, 53-year-old man has now been arrested in the town of Mauron in connection to the crime after 170 gnomes were discovered on his lawn. Although police believe they have the right perpetrator in custody and are prepared to repatriate the stolen gnomes, returning them to their rightful owners (given the repainting) has proven tricky.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, why on earth would anyone kidnap 170 gnomes? Our hypothesis: luck.

The name “gnome” is derived from the Ancient Germanic word Kuba-Walda, which means “home administrator” or “home spirit.” So not only are gnomes kitschy and fun, they’ll bring good luck to any outdoor endeavors. So, this guy must have been thinking, “If one gnome will bring good luck, 170 will bring REALLY good luck” (but in French).

If you have other theories, we’d be glad to entertain them.

Read the full story HERE.

–Deb

(Photo by DPA)