Good morning. Today we’ll look at what 2024 may bring, according to the sizable predictions in the “Pocket Chinese Almanac.” We’ll also look at new state laws that will affect nearly every aspect of life in New York.
Joanna Lee, who publishes the “Pocket Chinese Almanac” with her husband, Ken Smith, said 2024 is going to be “a tumultuous year.”Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times
It’s the first workday of the new year, but I took last week off, so let’s do some catching up. I ended 2023 the way I had ended 2022, with a call to the publishers of the “Pocket Chinese Almanac.”
A year ago, they saw hope. Not this time.
“We looked at this year’s predictions, and we got alarmed,” said Joanna Lee, who with her husband, Ken Smith, has published the little book annually since 2010. “This is going to be a tumultuous year.”
Smith and Lee call themselves publishers, translators and annotators — not authors — because the predictions in the “Pocket Chinese Almanac” are from Warwick Wong, a geomancer in Hong Kong. In late 2019, months before the first coronavirus case was recorded in New York, Wong told the couple, “Find a safe place to hide — there’ll be a disaster.” He did not specify what the disaster would be. He himself disappeared to a monastery, Lee said.
Smith and Lee, who live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, were introduced to Wong by the publisher of a Chinese-language almanac that they wanted to adapt. For Smith and Lee, the project involved abbreviating a lot of material: Each page of the “Pocket Chinese Almanac” measures only 4⅛ inches by 2½ inches, less than a quarter of the size of a page in the original version.
Like any Chinese almanac, theirs is based on astrological data that someone like Wong has run through a series of mathematical and interpersonal calculations to arrive at the relative chances for different activities on any given day.
Today, for example, will be good for beginnings: The entry for Jan. 2 mentions starting studies and opening a business. Also good today: renovating — “fixing holes,” “raising pillars and beams” and “repairing walls.” But don’t do any planting. It’s also a bad day for funerals.
Good luck ‘in decline’
Smith and Lee told me they had checked with Wong for additional guidance about 2024 after this year’s almanacs arrived from the printer. They said Wong told them that “good luck” would be “in decline.”
This was because Wong’s calculations — which leads to a set of Chinese characters that amount to a horoscope — had revealed a lopsidedness to this year of the dragon: “All of the characters are yang,” Lee said. “There’s no yin.” Smith added, “This is not in balance, shall we say.”
Smith said yang is “the predominant male trait.”
“People will be inflexible,” he said.
Lee added: “Nobody’s going to listen. Everybody’s going to be stubborn.”
This is the year of the wood dragon, and Smith noted that the wood dragon is vulnerable to fire. I asked if that meant we would see wildfires like the ones that clouded New York in orange-yellow haze last June.
“That is part of it,” Smith said, adding that “natural and man-made disasters will be more intense.” Wong sent a text message while I was talking with Lee and Smith that specifically mentioned earthquakes, fires and car accidents. Fire represents all forms of energy.
Still, Lee said, there would be “an appearance of peace” this year. But she added that the year would still bring “a lot of global conflict” as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza continue.
‘The wealth star is weak’
I asked about New York. Smith said Wong had talked about how “the wealth star is weak, which means that business operations are going to be difficult, not only in terms of getting new money but also in cutting expenses.”
That seemed to point to Mayor Eric Adams’s efforts to close financial gaps by cutting funds for schools and libraries. Wall Street is divided about what to expect in 2024. Analysts who were bullish a year ago remain so, while bears remain doubtful about how the Federal Reserve’s moves on interest rates will play out.
Adams began 2024 with the lowest approval rating since Quinnipiac University started surveying the popularity of mayors 28 years ago, when Rudolph Giuliani was where Adams is now — two years into his first term. He is also struggling to slow the surge of migrants sent from Texas as he tries to manage a crisis that officials say has overwhelmed the city’s homeless shelter system. A federal investigation into his campaign’s fund-raising is continuing, weeks after his own phones and iPad were seized as part of the inquiry and his chief fund-raiser’s home in Brooklyn was raided.
As my colleagues Jeffery C. Mays and Emma G. Fitzsimmons noted, Adams’s choice of words often muddies his efforts to explain things, as was the case during a news conference when he was asked what he would say to New Yorkers irritated by the budget cuts.
“I wake up in the morning,” he said, “and sometimes I look at myself, and I give myself the finger.”
It will be a sunny day in the low 40s. At night temperatures will drop to the low 30s.
The latest metro news
Exonerated Central Park Five member takes office: Yusef Salaam will be a councilman 34 years after a wrongful prosecution for rape led to his spending nearly seven years in prison.
New Haven’s pizza abundance: The city has long been known as a pizza town. Now other places seem to be trying to cash in on the hype.
Protests and celebrations: New Year’s celebrations took place as protesters against the Israel-Hamas war demonstrated in Midtown Manhattan.
New York City crash: Several people were injured in Midtown Manhattan when a black sedan crashed into the sidewalk, striking police cars and a food truck, according to the New York City Police Department.
Master carver dies at 90: He conceived and worked for 20 years on the Empire State Carousel, featuring more than 20 handmade wooden riding animals native to New York.
New laws to know about
At the start of 2024, a large number of the roughly 900 bills that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law in 2023 took effect. Some recognize additional school holidays (for the Lunar New Year and Diwali) and others lay out broader protections for freelance workers. Here are two other changes:
A new minimum wage — $16 an hour in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County and to $15 an hour everywhere else in the state. Both rates will raise by 50 cents in 2025 and 2026, with future increases statewide tied to inflation.
Voter registration forms in schools. They will have to make them available this year as part of a law intended to teach young people “that their voice matters in the political process.” Another new measure affects the voting rights of inmates: Before they are released from a state correctional facility, those convicted of a felony must be told that their voting rights will be restored once they are out. They must also be given a voter registration application, and the prison must offer assistance in filling it out.
I often try to craft something special for a close friend for her birthday. One year, I thought I would incorporate a patch of a painting that I had seen at the Metropolitan Museum store.
So on a hot summer day, I took the bus downtown from Harlem Hospital, where I work as a pediatric hospital clown.
When I got to the museum, the guards wouldn’t let me enter because I was carrying my ukulele.
Well, I said, do you have an idea of what I can do so that I can run into the shop to buy one item?
After thinking for a moment, one of the guards suggested I ask Mary, the hot dog vendor whose cart was out front, if she would hold the ukulele for me.
She said yes, and I handed my 100-year-old Martin soprano over the top of her steamy cart. It was not a great environment for a vintage instrument, but a few minutes later, I had the patch and Mary handed me back my instrument with a smile.
The pillow I made turned out great.
— Phyllis Capello
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Hannah Fidelman and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].