I realize that this blog has become “all dichloroacetate (DCA) all the time.” I think I’ve said what needs to be said in my usual long-winded fashion, and now it’s time to move on to less heavy topics for a while. Tomorrow, we will have another installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. For a warmup, however, here’s a tasty little tidbit. Apparently, the Los Angeles Zoo has paid $4,500 to a feng shui expert to help them design the enclosure for golden monkeys from China:

LOS ANGELES Feb 13, 2007 (AP)– The Los Angeles Zoo paid $4,500 to an expert in the ancient Chinese art of feng shui to ensure three endangered golden monkeys on loan from China can have a strong life force.

Consulting the feng shui expert was part of the cost for a $7.4 million enclosure for the golden monkeys debuting at the zoo later his year. Feng shui focuses on balance in design to promote health and happiness.

Feng shui is in demand among high-end architects and interior designers, but Beverly Hills-based feng shui expert Simona Mainini said the Los Angeles Zoo’s effort may be a first in animal enclosure design.

“It’s very experimental,” Mainini said. “We don’t have any books on feng shui for monkeys. We just have to assume that Darwin is correct and that there is a connection and what is good for humans is good for monkeys.”

Great Darwin’s beard! That’s the first time I’ve ever heard evolution used as a justification for trying woo on hapless animals. I’m no evolutionary biologist, but I do know enough to know that the hominid line diverged from Old World monkeys around 30 million years ago and that humans are actually much more closely related to apes than monkeys. Apparently Mainini doesn’t know this. And, of course, she assumes, without justification, that feng shui is something more than the proverbial pile of Dingo’s kidneys.

It isn’t.

No price, however, is too high to assure that the monkeys have a strong life force:

“The viewing building has a Chinese character,” said principal architect Charles Mays, who hire Mainini. “We thought it would be more authentic if we went that extra step and made sure it was done with good feng shui.”

Mainini said she tweaked the plans to maximize the good qi (pronounced chee). For example, she recommended moving a door on the observation tower or adding a fountain or water feature to “soften, with moisture, the harsh energy” in that area of the tower.

Because, man, it’s really, really bad for monkeys to have to deal with “harsh energy,” you know.


  1. #1 Joshua
    February 22, 2007

    The application of feng shui to architecture is silly. They should just call it “interior design” and save everybody trouble.

  2. #2 Amy Alkon
    February 22, 2007

    Engaging the ancient Chinese art of separating fools from their money is far more profitable, Joshua.

  3. #3 Amy Alkon
    February 22, 2007

    Engaging IN…


  4. #4 pough
    February 22, 2007

    Punishment for flinging poo? “Bad monkey! Keep that up and it’s feng shui for the lot of you!”

  5. #5 anonimouse
    February 22, 2007

    Feng shui for monkeys? What’s next – reflexology for pandas? Iridology for garden snakes?

  6. #6 Prup aka Jim Benton
    February 22, 2007

    You know I usually agree with you on things like this, but this time my reaction was “Oh, man, lighten UP!” Is feng shui nonsense? Of course. But in this case it is as harmless as a Chinese restaurant decorating its menus to coincide with whatever “Year of…” it is, astrologically, this year. The only possible harm is the cost, but I’m sure that they could have found a decorator who would have charged the same for non woo-related nonsense.

    Save your fire for the serious stuff. This sounds like some of my hyper-sensitive fellow atheists getting excited over a Christmas display. If a few people hear about this, are curious, and pay admission to see it, it will make up the cost. For me, I think it’s kinda cute, and I’m perfectly sure the monkeys don’t give a crap — er, given monkeys, maybe I should rephrase that.

  7. #7 Orac
    February 22, 2007


    That was originally somewhat my thought, too; that is, until I saw the quote using Darwin to justify using feng shui on monkeys. Now, come on, that‘s definitely worthy of a bit of mockery in my book.

  8. #8 Catpain Balkadder
    February 22, 2007

    “We just have to assume that Darwin is correct and that there is a connection and what is good for humans is good for monkeys.” and “[…]the hominid line diverged from Old World monkeys around 30 million years ago and that humans are actually much more closely related to apes than monkeys.”

    Seems to me that this Mainini might need a lesson regarding the differance of apes and monkeys from the librarian of Unseen University…

    (If you have no clue what that means, may I recommend that you read some of mr. Terry Pratchetts excellent books.)

  9. #9 Faithful Reader
    February 22, 2007

    It’s not harmless when $4500 was spent on it. That should pay for food and medicine and educational stuff at the zoo, not woo.

  10. #10 EoR
    February 22, 2007

    “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!”

  11. #11 Thinker
    February 23, 2007

    They should just call it “interior design”

    Or is that “inferior design”…?

    What’s next – reflexology for pandas? Iridology for garden snakes?

    No, they’ll start with acupunture for porcupines…

  12. #12 PlanetaryGear
    February 23, 2007

    Or perhaps, since they are obviously outfitted for it by nature and natural is good, Acupuncture BY porcupines…

  13. #13 Meg Thornton
    February 23, 2007

    I read this and immediately my “Only in America” sense started to tingle. It’s something you develop as someone outside the USA, and it’s very useful in helping to comprehend the occasional weirdness which appears to go hand in glove (or possibly foot in mouth) with the news from the US of A. It all becomes so much easier to deal with when I remember that at least 50% of the voting population over there is probably certifiably crackers.

    I’m with the good Captain regarding the necessity for this Ms Mainini to have lessons from the Librarian of Unseen University regarding the difference between a monkey and an ape.

  14. #14 CJ Croy
    February 23, 2007

    This isn’t the only woo helpless animals are exposed to. More than one idiot has killed their a pet through malnutrition via an idiotic ideology-guided diet. Think “I’ll put my kitty-cat on a vegan diet, just like me!”

  15. #15 usagi
    February 25, 2007

    Actually, there’s quite a bit of feng shui that doesn’t have a thing to do with interior design. There are rules governing the positioning of entrances and other architectural features of the building.

    It’s all still a load of dingo’s kidneys, but it’s also not the chopped down “put a plant on your desk” that’s been put out in Feng Shui for Dummies the past few years.

  16. #16 mark
    February 25, 2007

    Yeah, all of the same “health care” woo-woo is also available to pet owners who have too much money. There’s even a guy in Bosnia or thereabouts who claims he can diagnose and cure your pet using homeopathic dowsing–you only need send a photo of the ailing pet (and your money).

  17. #17 Orac
    February 25, 2007

    Indeed. In fact, one good skeptical blogger who routinely has some fun with pet and animal woo is EoR over at The Second Sight. He seems to specialize in deconstructing woo designed to be given to horses. For example, check out his deconstruction of Equine Touch.

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