Monday, March 31, 2008

Take me out to the ball game...

I went last night to opening day at the new Nationals stadium. The park had progressed mightily since I last visited it for a preview tour with my mom (who does work for Lerner, the family/corporation that owns the team). My parents and I drove down to the house of our family friends, the Umanskys, who lived walking distance from the stadium and were also going. Adrienne Umansky is a big fan of my blog, and after I returned from South Africa, invited me to address her organization the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) on the AIDS situation in South Africa. I split our extra ticket with her daughter Jenna, who I have known since I was a wee tyke. She also likes the blog, and joked about making a counter blog, "what I was doing while Paul was traveling."

After fighting through the quilombo that was the line to get in through security- due to POTUS throwing out the first pitch, we waited in line forever to get a kosher dog and a beer. We took our seats just in time for the operatic national anthem, and just in time to boo Bush as he threw out the first pitch. There were a fair amount of boos (which Dan Froomkin of the Wash Post notes today), to which a few people near by glared at me and others booing. The fan next to me, Mr. G, said it was disrespectful, to which I replied I was booing the man not the office. I also said I wouldn't be booing his father, Reagan or the possible President McCain.

Anyway, the Nats struck early, getting two runs in the bottom of the first. The Braves later cut the lead in half with a solo homer by Chipper Jones. Around the 7th inning, we realized that the Nats hadn't gotten a hit since the first inning. The game went quickly, as we chatted with Mr. G the history teacher (Rome to Revolution) at Bannockburn HS, DC's best public HS. In the top of the 9th, the second batter just missed a homer and ended up at 2nd with one away. He advanced to third on an out. When he came home on a wildpitch/passed ball, we groaned and headed out. A major mistake, because as we left the stadium, we saw fireworks. In the bottom half of the inning, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nats hit a walk-off game winning homer. Jenna and I justified our leaving by noting that if we stuck around they would have lost, and that we were "taking one for the team."

The new stadium was nice, and I have no specific complaints to speak of, other than it seemed somewhat bland. The amenities were pleasing, the food was good and everything worked well, but it justed seemed to lack attitude or atmosphere. At Camden Yards, the stadium just seems much more aesthetically pleasing. Camden Yards plays the whole experience, with the old time setting, warehouse and Baltimore skyline. At Camden Yards, I could daze off into the horizon and enjoy the sites. Nats park seemed to be lacking something, call it flavor or onda. Maybe that will come with time and aging, we shall see.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

For Julep :P

Have you heard the good news about Obama?

Knock, knock....

Not as friendly as the Jehovah's Witnesses, but still with a big smile on my face, I went door to door yesterday. Canvassing for Obama. I went around Northeast Philly, not exactly an Obama stronghold. Of the Democrats there, if they were, they were what you would call "Reagan Democrats." These were mostly white, blue collar Irish Catholic Dems who would be in Hillary's demographic range- if they were dems at all. Not the friendliest place to go knocking. The first house I stopped in said it all. I asked for the father and son, of the same name, on my list. The wife said they were work nights, so they were sleeping, and it wouldn't be wise to wake them for me because they wouldn't be pleased to see me. Lots of people weren't home, and the ones who were gave me a quick "not interested."

But my tale has some bright spots. There were a few people I met who were still wrestling with their decision. People who couldn't decide, and I tried to help inspire them to "Barack the Vote." Some people were warm and friendly, and I enjoyed the gentle banter with them. One woman who wanted to know if he was a fair and honest man. A nice old Jewish lady, who I wrote "Shabbat Shalom from the Obama campaign," who chatted with me about her disillusionment the way things were going. I seemed to hear a lot of that.

My canvassing ended on a high note, as the last place I stopped I found a staunch Obama voter. Retail politics at its finest. Knock, knock...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Live from Obama PA

I'm up in Philly, working on the Obama campaign. My services come as cheap as fresh Philly pretzels and dunkin donuts coffee. PA Senator Bob Casey just endorsed Sen Obama, and it was announced in the office and greeted with some loud cheer.

But the cheer in my stomach was even louder when they brought the volunteers some amazing soul food. Bbq chicken, green beens and corn bread. Yum. Somehow I imagine they don't have the same menu at Camp Clinton. More like white bread and mayo.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Quiet American

"God save us always...from the innocent and the good."
Graham Greene, "The Quiet American"

I just finished the terrific book by Graham Greene, "The Quiet American." The book has a prescient sense of what would befall America in the Vietnam War. Published in 1955, it was written about an idealistic, naive American fixer/spy and a grizzled, cynic British journalist in the throws of the French war in Vietnam. Greene's premonitions were as apt a decade later as they are today.

I can't help but think of the Bush administration and Iraq when I read the line: "He comes blundering in, and people have to die for his mistakes." Sad to see as the 5th year of the Iraq war passes, we have learned little from our past lessons. One last passage to share from this timeless book:

"I don't blame them. They don't believe in anything either. You and your like are trying to make war with the help of people who aren't interested."

"They don't want communism."

"They want enough rice," I said. "They don't want to be shot at. They want one day to be much the same as another. They don't want our white skins around telling them what they want."

"If Indochina goes-"

"I know that record. Siam goes. Malaya goes. Indonesia goes. What does 'go' mean? If I believed in your God and another life, I'd bet my future harp against your golden crown that in five hundred years there may be no more New York or London, but they'll be growing paddy in these fields, they'll be carrying their produce to markets on long poles, wearing their pointed hats."

"They'll be forced to believe what they are told; they won't be allowed to think for themselves."

"Thought's a luxury. Do you think the peasant sits and thinks of God and democracy when he gets in his mud hut at night?"

"You talk as if the whole country were peasant. What about the educated? Are they going to be happy?"

"Oh, no" I said, "we've brought them up in our ideas. We've taught them dangerous games, and that's why we are waiting here, hoping we don't get out throats cut. We deserve to have them cut."

No Country for BS movies

I just watched "No Country For Old Men" and I'm shocked that it got such rave reviews. I normally love the Coen brothers, and I have seen all of their movies. I would consider this probably the worst movie of theirs I have ever seen. There was no real plot, no real character development, and none of the usual Coen brothers style that I love. And the ending sucked. I am normally a huge Coen brother fan, so I am shocked that I am teeing off on a movie of theirs that did so well. I was just perusing the Rotten Tomatoes site, and everyone seems to love it except for the few who give it rotten reviews like me, and are scratching our heads wondering wtf. And I am shocked that it won best film. Michael Clayton was better than that. No country for old curmudgeons like me who like movies with plots.

Also, my father remarked with a chuckle about my university applications. I essentially only applied for one school for undergrad, Brandeis, and got it. I said for grad school, I would look at more schools and choices. Yet in the end, I only applied to one school, and again got it. I don't know if I am lucky, stupid, or just good at knowing what I want.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Trojan man!



That joke is never going to get old. Yup, I was accepted to grad school at University of Southern California. I am a Trojan (man). I will be studying for a Masters in Public Diplomacy (MPD). It is a 2-year joint program at the Annenberg School of Communications and the School of International Relations.

So what exactly is Public Diplomacy, besides a new buzz word in global civ slang? According to the program's blurb, it "examines how government, corporate and non-state actors engage foreign audiences to facilitate intercultural dialogue and understanding worldwide." The program focuses on "soft power" as a means to influence global affairs though values, symbols and culture, not force. Gandhi and MLK practiced soft power politics, and Obama is a means to influence through soft power.

So I am going back to school in the fall. This is the first time I am ever attending a school with a football team, let alone a Div I powerhouse. Also I think the girls will be a little prettier than Brandeis (see under: Dazed and Confused on Freshman). And LA has a little more to offer than Boston (er, Waltham). Beach and Hollywood glitz beat scrod and New England subartic. In & Out Burger all the time!

So....anyone have $110K they want to lend me to pay for my education? I will give you major kudos in my blog :) Or does anyone know someone looking to buy my semi-vital organs so I can pay for grad school? I am looking to sell naming rights for my blog, that should fetch a few Hamiltons. I am not worrying about paying for it now, rather I am basking in the glow of knowing where my life is heading, at least for the next two years. Thanks to Julep for her premonition and for offering a good suggestion if I hadn't been accepted. Go Trojans!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Earthquake in China

A 7.2 quake hit China, I wonder if China will blame that also on the Dali Lama. Perhaps the Dali Lama is better connected with the man upstairs than anyone thought.

The Chancellor in the Knesset

With Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel recent address at the Knesset, in German, I thought I would post something I helped write on behalf of the Consuls General of Israel and Germany to mark the 40th anniversary of German-Israeli relations. FYI, Germany is one of Israel best friends in Europe and one Israel's biggest investors. Germany also has the world's fastest growing Jewish community.
Occasionally, it seems we make progress.

40 Years of German-Israeli Relations
May 31, 2005
Consuls General Yael Ravia-Zadok of Israel & Heiner Model of Germany

This year, as we marked the 60th anniversary of the liberations of the concentration camps across Europe, we also honor Israel and Germany’s establishment of diplomatic ties that would take place just two decades later. On May 31, 2005, Israeli President Moshe Katsav stood at the podium of the Bundestag (Parliament), and addressed the German people on the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. In his declaration, President Katsav stated, “At the international level, Germany is a true friend of Israel. Our relations are based on the belief of common values, common interests and on the shadows of the past.” In the shadow of the horrific crimes carried out by the Third Reich, Israel and Germany created a diplomatic bond that would serve to build bridges over the abyss that has forever bound our two nations.

The Israeli President’s visit to Berlin marks the culmination of visits by both the German and Israeli Presidents to each of our respective capitals. Our two presidents are continuing the legacy of dialogue and friendship that began with the bold decisions by Germany and Israel’s two indomitable statesmen, Konrad Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion, who fended off intense resistance to lay the foundations for rapprochement.

What German Chancellor Adenauer and Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion began, culminated in the establishment of diplomatic relations in May 1965. The situation was tense in both Germany and Israel, as the two countries agreed to their diplomatic ties. Despite the tense situation, German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard stood firm in his offer of diplomatic relations with Israel, as he sent the first German Ambassador to the Jewish state.

The choice for ambassador was a seemingly unlikely selection: a former Major in the Wehrmacht, Rolf Pauls, who had lost an arm in combat against the Allies during WWII. The decision was met in Israel with resentment, and protesters chanted “Shame, shame” and “6 million times-no!” as they banged at the car of the first German Ambassador Pauls, when he journeyed to his swearing in ceremony. In accepting Pauls’ credentials, the President of Israel, Zalman Shazar, reminded Germany’s representative of the indelibility of the past, “The memory of these horrors and their victims is alive in the thoughts of our generation and will never be forgotten.” Meanwhile, Israel’s first Ambassador to Germany was met with little cordiality on his arrival in Bonn. Ambassador Asher Ben Natan noted on his initially frigid welcome at the West German capital, “The reception was extraordinarily cool.”

Yet by the time German Ambassador Pauls left Israel in 1967, he had endeared himself to his Israeli hosts so much that former Israeli diplomat Avi Primor stated that the German Ambassador was “received with stones and sent off with roses.” Despite the initial bumps on the road to reconciliation, the German-Israel relationship has gone on to thrive over the last four decades.

Today, Germany stands as Israel’s most important ally in Europe and its second most important trading partner after the US. Germany maintains a balanced position in the diplomatic sphere and assists Israel in the realm of security. It has repeatedly stated that Germany’s relations with Israel are among the foundations of its foreign policy.

Moreover, these diplomatic relations have developed into a thriving bond between the two people. There are personal and cultural relations between the people in both nations that has developed and enhanced the relationship far beyond the political realm. There exists cooperation and numerous exchange programs in areas such as trade and industry, science, culture, twinned cities, youth groups, labor unions and sports.

Commemoration of this important historic event is an opportunity to push forward with our “special relationship,” as there is still more room for increased tolerance. When Germany recently unveiled the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, it took vandals a few short hours to desecrate this edifice with swastikas. In an era of declining numbers of survivors who can provide personal testimony about the dark period of the Holocaust, when Germany and Europe must address the specter of anti-Semitism, there is a need to strengthen even further the special ties between Israel and Germany, and to shape them for the coming decades. As the Foreign Minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer noted, “It is our joint mission to shape the new day, for ourselves and above all for future generations.”

With a firm memory of the past, and an eye towards the future, together Israel and Germany observe this significant milestone. The beauty and promise in the reconciliation of Israel and Germany is that it neither is shaded in “forgive nor forget,” but rather understanding the need to learn from the past to ensure a better tomorrow. Forty years ago, Germany and Israel moved beyond the darkest horrors of the past, and today we now look towards the brighter future of a new day and a new chapter in the history of Israeli-German relations.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A conspiracy take on the Spitzer case

My Dad mentioned an anecdote to me last week about Ralph Nader and General Motors. Back when Nader was exposing GM for its faulty cars, they were desperately trying to find some dirt on him to shut him up. After all their searching, they found nothing- and were shocked that he was really genuinely clean. How, pray tell, does this relate to "Elliot Mess"? I will explain my theory.

Alan Dershowitz had an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal about the "Entrapment of Eliot" One of the points he makes is:

"The New York Times reported that the revelations began with a routine tax inquiry by revenue agents "conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks." This investigation allegedly found "several unusual movements of cash involving the Governor of New York." But the movement of the amounts of cash required to pay prostitutes, even high-priced prostitutes over a long period of time, does not commonly generate a full-scale investigation.

We are talking about thousands, not millions, of dollars. We are also talking about a man who is a multimillionaire with numerous investments and purchases. The idea that federal investigators would focus on a few transactions to corporations -- that were not themselves under investigation -- raises as many questions as answers."

The answer I have to his question is that I think the FBI was tipped off on Mr. Spitzer's escapades. The hard-charging guv made any number of enemies during his rise to the top. A tip-off to the FBI could have come from anyone ranging from another prostitution ring that Spitzer took down to some shady Wall Street biz that he made enemies with. I can't say that I buy the FBI's "smurfing" tip-off, it seems to fit too neatly.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back to class

I returned back to work earlier this week, at Magnificent Publications (For the Knowledgeable Reader). Today I returned to my volunteer job teaching citizenship exams to immigrants. I took the metro up to Silver Spring, but had an hour to kill so I sat in Borders reading Obama's "The Audacity of Hope." It is very moving, and very well-written. I returned to my class, and was quickly reminded why I love it so much.

My class tonight consisted of two Peruvians, two Indians, two Salvadorians, a Cambodian, a Togolese and a Nicaraguan. The class had a great rapport and I worked to test the prospective citizens on their citizenship interview questions. More importantly, I tried to instill confidence in them, so that they wouldn't be scared for the test. We had a special treat in the form of Ethiopian food for our dinner break. So good. A reward far better than payment. I told my class that I was free to give extra tutoring, on payment of homemade food.

After class, I caught the bus home. I chatted with a drunk named Malchi, who was so pleased that I was listening to him. I hate being confined in the suburbs, I prefer slobbering drunks spitting corn chips on me while I take the bus than the suburban calm any day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stormin' Mormans

"Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest, saying:

And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong...to set in order the house of God."
-The Doctrine and the Covenants, Section 85

I just finished "Under the Banner of Heaven", a literary tour-de-force into the world of Mormon fundamentalism, its relation to the mainstream Mormon Church and the history of Joseph Smith and Church of Latter-Day Saints. I couldn't put the book down, it was phenomenal. I will readily admit, I never knew Mormon history to be so fascinating. I am already making plans to do a "Tales" piece from the Mormon Kingdom of Deseret. Given my own people's history of persecution, I found it incredible to read of the persecution that the Mormons faced right here in America. The travails that plagued them in Missouri and Illinois, and later their run-ins with the Federal government while out in Utah.

As the author pointed out, Mormonism is the first faith to emerge since Islam (Sorry to the Baha'is). Krakauer also points out that there are more Mormons in America than Presbyterians or Episcopalians, and there are Mormons around the world than Jews. I know the LDS church had a rather negative view of the book, but I would argue that Krakauer does a very good job of presenting Mormon history, and separating the Fundamentalists (FLDS) from mainstream Mormon society. The LDS Church's bigger issue with the book came in-part from the author's unbiased history of the Mormon church that doesn't conform with their orthodoxy or version of events. It is too bad, because the book is riveting. As far as I can tell, Krakauer's book was written to explain, not blaspheme their faith, and was written with respect, not malice.

Now, my own history with the Mormons. As a kid growing up in DC, when my family would drive past the Mormon Temple off 495, I thought it to be the "Tooth Fairy's Castle." To be sure, I though the Mosque on Mass Ave was a sand castle. When I was in high school, my family had a college student from Georgetown named Jeff come live with us. Jeff was a Mormon, and I can only imagine what he thought of me and my illicit ways. But Jeff and I were, and remain friends. He works for the State Department and at one point had the unenviable task of being assigned to Belarus, a country where the people don't exactly take to teetotalers.

Meanwhile, when I was living in the Czech Republic, I often had Mormon missionaries showing up at my apartment, in search of Brother Shane my roommate. Shane was dating Nelda, whose parents were devout, and they didn't like the idea that their little princess was with a gentile (all non-Mormons are considered gentiles). I had to play gatekeeper for poor Brother Shane, who wanted nothing to do with them. Shane and Nelda ended up getting married a few years later (in a Protestant service), and I attended their wedding in sunny California. Alas, the marriage didn't last as she started hearing old Mormon day school songs in her head, and wanted to return to the LDS church and for Shane to join her. Not being what Brother Shane signed up for with the vows, he balked, and they went their separate ways.

Most recently, I saw the Mormon presence in full swing in South America. There is a huge Mormon Temple in Buenos Aires Province, and I often saw missionaries out in the streets. Passing through numerous pueblos near Cusco, the only new buildings in these towns were the Mormon temples. The Mormons are going full-tilt against the Evangelicals to wrestle away converts from Catholic countries. Hence why that lovely family was down in Peru at Machu Picchu visiting their missionary son, and giving me peanut butter sandwiches and swedish fish. If only they knew how close they were at a convert for only the price of peanut butter :P They had an interesting idea of a column similar to mine, "Tales of a Wandering Mormon." Could be interesting for whatever Mormon wants to bear the mantle, I will gladly offer franchise rights to the Tales concept for the right price.

Spitzer or...

Swallowzer. HAHA, I couldn't resist. Sorry guv, hypocrisy is the 8th deadly sin. Or as Il Papa just pointed out, perhaps that's littering.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bienvidos a Peru

A big cuy welcome to my wandering Jew protegè Dan, who is on his way down South. I am suffering from a 60 degree drop in weather, and I am jealous. Dan, have a pisco sour for me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

SpaceShipOne, 9/11 and the Kitchen wars

A few years back, the Muse whispered this to me:
"As I was driving from Dallas to Houston, I listened a program on NPR about the launching of the first private space flight. The shuttle just barely made it into space. It was developed in a contest by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The plane just touched the heavens above and the "astronaut" called it a "holy experience." The name of the craft was "SpaceShipOne." Someone at the event held up a sign that said, "SpaceShipOne, Government zero." The commenter on NPR called it the "democratization of space." Privatization of space travel is officially underway.

Listening to this put 9/11 in perspective for me. I was thinking about this event because September 11th came up in my meetings in Dallas. I asked the news directors at different stations how 9/11 changed their news coverage. As I was driving, it dawned on me that 9/11 marked a similar change in warfare. No longer was man bound by state to make war. Osama Bin Laden took his private militia and elected to declare war on America. This was his "holy experience." One of his supporters could have been sitting in their own bleachers in Afghanistan, holding up a sign that said "Al-Qaida 1, Government zero."

From the Peace of Westphalia that ended the 30 Years War until 9/11 (judging history by a wide lens), the paradigm of warfare was that states fought wars against other states. 9/11 changed this insofar as a private organization was declaring war against a state. And while the Bush administration argued that 9/11 changed paradigms, the first thing they did after evicting Al-Qaida from Afghanistan was attack another state. Iraq posed the closest thing to the conventional warfare model that the Bush administration understood; it made far more sense to invade another state than chase after an amorphous organization. They treated an unconventional problem with both a standard response and their own version of private sector solutions.

So the privatization of warfare appeared elsewhere in the Middle East. The project in Iraq has been rife with privatization. Security companies guard leaders and infrastructure. Titan, Blackwell, KBR are just a few of the enormous forces of today's version of "merchant marines." Crews of mercenaries from the South African apartheid army serve as paid recruits to bring security to Iraq. They too are bound to no government. They are merely mercenaries whose contracts are paid out by the Bush administration. They are free of governmental oversight and are not subject to the same conventions that bind governments in warfare (This part was written a few years before the Blackwater scandal, I was a little too prescient).

Both space and warfare are no longer bound to nations, what will be the next convention to fall? I was also just in Ft. Worth, a city built on enterprise. Private interests and enterprises built the city, beautifully. I can see the two enormous marble Angels on the privately funded Bass Theater heralding in a new age from their golden trumpets, as private security firms patrol the public streets alongside the public servants. As we are entering new days in war and space, in which the Final Frontier no longer needs Houston, and apocalyptic armies no longer need capitals to march them off to war, what will be the next bastion to fall?

On the road from Dallas to Houston, it became apparent to me that this new millennium will be marked by the changing conceptions of our most basic institutions. September 11th illustrated part of the new landscape, just as the view from SpaceShipOne illuminated even more of the changing horizons. Still, many of the changing horizons still remain unseen and unknown. As we enter this new age, and as always, all we can do is wait as the changes taking place are slowly unveiled."

Yet in my travels since I have left Houston, I realized things were "same-same, but different." The idea of the private sector bumping uneasily into public life came back into focus for me when I was in India. While I was wandering through the Queen Victoria Memorial, I remarked to my friend Minseon that it was so strange to think of a private company ruling over India. A private business, the British East India Company, controlled the Indian nation. Then I thought to myself about Halliburton and their ilk and realized that perhaps little has changed. Perhaps oil is today, and space will be tomorrow, is what spice was then.

While it seems inconceivable to fight wars today over salt and pepper, five centuries ago table condiments fueled discovery and conquest. While I was in Cape Town, I visited the Cape of Good Hope and the cross of Vasco De Gama. Vasco De Gama planted the cross as he rounded the Cape of Storms (its original name, before spin set it) and headed to India to find an easier route to pepper and spices. Meanwhile, Columbus was willing to sail off the end of the flat Earth to find his route to the spice kingdom.

Salt´s intrinsic value is no different. While waiting for a table with Martina at Piolo, a restaurant in Buenos Aires, I was reading their magazine about the history of salt and pepper. The word "salary" comes from the Roman word for salt, and soldiers were often paid in the commodity. Meanwhile, there is a custom in Argentina to never directly pass salt to another person; it is placed on the table, and the other person must pick it up. The reason is that salt was considered such a precious commodity that fights would break out over blame for spillage if it was spilled while passed, and by placing it on the table it was clear who spilled it. It was a tax on salt in India that was the final straw for Gandhi, and he marched to the sea in defiance of colonial rule.

It was a tax on tea that led a band of colonists to do the same, and the sugar that sweetened it bears hardly a different story. I saw the starkly different landscape that Jamaica bears today from the toil for sugar. People were captured and sold into bondage merely for the chance to sweeten our palate. Or the bondage and sweat from the slave´s brow required to produce the cotton for our clothing.

I would like to say that things have changed over the last five centuries, but as I look back across the void of time, I am not so sure. As I often do when i find my words failing to come to a conclusion, I will borrow the words of someone more learned and wise then myself. To paraphrase Borges and "Mutations," these ancient treasures of mankind, today reduced to innocuous kitchen commodities. Sayeth Borges, "I don´t know why I marvel at them so, when there is nothing on earth that forgetfulness does not fade, memory does not alter, and when no one knows what sort of image the future may alter."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Manifesto for the Happily Unemployed

In honor of my first afternoon back to (gasp) work, I am posting an article after my own heart: the manifesto for the happily unemployed. This comes from the Washington City Paper, from a true kindred soul.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New pics up and a little punditry

Last pics from the trip are up. Enjoy, especially the pic of my cuy dinner. Mmmm...good.

Meanwhile, great article from the Washington Post called "Greed in the Name of Green."

An anecdote that was mentioned to me by my old friend Ellen, who is the Grand Dame of Texas: part of Hillary's victory in Texas came from Rush Limbaugh urging supporters to come out and vote for her in the state's open primary. For that matter, twice noted by the Huffington Post. So Rush hates McCain and loves Hillary for all the wrong reasons. This puts new spin on the old Arab maxim, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

And an entertaining one from Slate on Bugs Bunny vs. Daffy Duck in presidential races.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Don't taze me, bro

The wedding yesterday was lovely. A good ol' Southern Jewish wedding. There was a nice get-together before the wedding for all the guys to offer toasts, cheers and anecdotes for Ben. When we were asked to give anecdotes, all of us scratched our heads trying to come up with stories that we could publicly share. I managed to pull two acceptable stories- one about two under-age kids selling beer to legal adults in a parking lot at a Widespread Panic concert to raise funds, and the other about us sneaking into a concert, and then helping security throw out others who were sneaking in .

As we were beginning to filter into main synagogue hall, I was talking with some of Ben's Tufts friends. A girl was curious if she could now enter the room where all of the men had been. I told her yes, and said come on on. Some short guy in a jacket asked what my authority was, and I replied "Chief Rabbi of Lesotho." He then proceeded to move his jacket back to reveal a gun, and said he was the authority. I was in shock. WTF is this guy doing with a gun in the shul and why did he feel the need to try to scare me with it? He wasn't security, and I am 99% sure he wasn't a cop. I calmly told him I wasn't impressed, and that this was neither the first nor last time I saw a gun. He then proceeded to show me the tazer in his back pocket. WTF, who carries a tazer? Needless to say I was a little shocked by all of this. Welcome to the South, I guess. But no one ever pulled that crap on me in Texas. Just some short dude with a power complex. ASSHOLE! Sorry, I rarely curse on my blog, but when some nutjob tries to show me how tough he is by brandishing weapons in my general direction, I think I can vent a little. Hello! I live for months in the BA ghetto, and then travel across South America, and NOTHING like that ever happens; it's only when I get back to the US of A does this occur. Once again, this reminds me of why I feel safer abroad.

Anywho, back to the lovely wedding, which went off perfectly. My friend Ben married Miriam, and they make a wonderful, adorable couple. The party was great, held at the JCC of Nashville. Now the newlyweds are now off to Costa Rica for their honeymoon. Mazal Tov Ben and Miriam!

As for me, I managed to sneak myself into staying at the hospitality suite. Always scheming. Meanwhile, my return trip has had two strange occurences. First, I lost my marble(s). I had a little marble that I kept in my money belt for good luck, and I have had it with me in my travels for the last 2 years. It managed to disappear on my return home. Second, I have a "security blanket" in the form of a yellow sheet that I stole from Beit Riklis some 10 years ago. It is another thing I always travel with, and it ended up getting lost in the confusion of movement of stuff. I think I will get that one back, but I find it ironic that two lucky objects that are always with me on my travels disappeared at roughly the same time. I guess my trips are really over.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What the World Costs- Peru

20 centimos ($.07): bread
50 centimos ($.17): "tuna" (sabra-cactus fruit); almoliente elixor o'life; cachote (yam) and cheese sandwich
1 sol ($.35): bottle of inka kola or water
2 soles ($.70): mate de coca (tea)
2.5 soles ($.87): two course meal- soup & fish, rice and salad at hidden restaurant in Cusco
3 soles: ($1.04): entrance to San Francisco Monastery and crypt: 20 min Cusco taxi
4 soles ($1.39): entrance to cupola at church in Arequipa
5 soles ($1.74): 20 min taxi 2am taxi in Arequipa
8 soles ($2.78): iced cappuchino at Dunkin Donuts in Lima
10 soles ($3.48): hostels in Lima, Arequipa, Aguas Calientes (sans breakfast)
10.5 soles ($3.65): Norky's lunch special-1/4 polla a la braza w/salad, fries, coke, icecream and cake
12.5 soles ($4.35): half rent for a double in Cusco
13 soles ($4.52): single room w/ tv and bath in Cusco (Shhh...don't tell the neighbors, they paid 20s)
14 soles ($4.86): 3 hour shared van St.Teresa to Hidroelectrico
15 soles ($5.22): 1/2 cuy and potatoes
25 soles ($8.70): 6 hour shared van fr Cusco to St. Maria: 7 bus fr Tacna to Arequipa
30 soles ($10.46): 12 hour bus Arequipa to Cusco; entrance to nunnery
35 soles ($12.20): student tourist ticket Cusco
37 soles ($12.90): double room in Lima
60 soles ($20.92): student ticket to Machu Picchu-couldn't get :(
70 soles ($24.40): reg tourist ticket Cusco
89 soles ($31): 4 hr backpacker class train fr Aguas Calientes to Ollyantatambo
110 soles ($38.19): 18 hr (25 really) bus fr Cusco to Lima with "los professionales" who got stuck in the mud
120 soles ($40.84): reg ticket to Machu Picchu
864 soles ($300): my 1 way flight (Spirit Air) fr Lima to Ft. Lauderdale, FL
1008 soles ($350): Emiko's roundtrip flight (Spirit) Lima to Ft. Lauderdale
1296 soles ($450): Eva's 1 way flight (LAN) fr Lima to BsAs

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Guilliver's travels

I am slowly making the adjustment to America. It is strange. Rolly polly fat people who are really nice and smiley. Land of the free, home of the fat. With such bouncy English. Really nice people. I feel like Gulliver did when he returned to London. So white, so black, so silly. Not everyone is brown. So goofy. But really nice people. Really big portions too.

My aunt thinks I am Mossad, my uncle thinks I am CIA. Neither, simply Her Majesty's secret service. Shaken not stirred.

Meanwhile, I arrived to the wedding and it is nice. Nice to see old friends, nice to slowly adjust around familiar faces. When I return, I immediately like to do things that I missed while away. Last time when I returned I went directly to a baseball game. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack....This time, I am eating bagels and watching episode after episode of the West Wing season IV. Tis good to be back.