Saturday, February 28, 2009

A face for radio

My Marketplace story on Time Banking.


I finished my midterms in reasonable fashion, and bade farewell to Miss Xena. I took her to In & Out Burger, by way of South Central LA. I said "Xena, welcome to South Central LA," to which she started waving. I quickly stopped her and warned her against sudden hand movements.

I spent yesterday morning at Annenberg, stuffing Public Diplomacy Magazines into envelopes. I spent the afternoon biking around town. I stopped at the Grand Central Market for a glorious snack of Mexican bread pudding with raisins, washed down with horchata (sweet rice milk with cinnamon). I hung out last night with my friend Miles, we went out downtown to a pretty cool bar called Seven Grand. The place was a bit throwback, it had deer heads on the walls and bartenders in old-timey suits.

After, we grabbed some kogi, korean tacos that are the buzz these days. It is a korean taco stand that emails out its weekend location by twitter, and is gaining a cult following. When we passed it on the way to the bar, the line was long. On our way out it was much more manageable. I will give it credit, the tacos were quality. Also nice to see the food fusion.

Now Don Pablo Quijote is just sitting in the hammock, reading Cervantes in the warm LA sun.

PS: Rather than write a scathing news article about my treatment at the Mexico City synagogue, I wrote the synagogue to ask for an apology. I received a sincere apology to Harry and me. Case closed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MoDo at the Kotel

In the throes of midterms, always fun. I have been joined in recent days by one Xena Warrior Princess, who is at the end of a two year journey that took her to Australia, Mexico and Guatemala. She arrived no problem on Friday night and has been staying here ever since. My roomie Roberto was out of town, so she got a nice big room, but now is on an aerobed on my floor. I am getting to repay karma, because I can remember once being po', at the end of a long journey and holed up in dear Valentine's apartment in Cairo. I took her on Saturday to Hollywood, where she was wowed by the Oscar biz going on. Sunday we went to Venice Beach to take in the freakshow carnival. I haven't been the best host, as I keep ducking out to work on midterms, but she is a good and independent sport. And it's nice coming home from the library to homemade bulgogi.

I had a first tonight, I missed class. Neither sickness, nor religious holidays nor even car accident had kept me from class, but tonight I had tickets to a lecture of Maureen Dowd, Donna Brazile, Mike Murphy and Ariana Huffington (it was supposed to be Jim Lehrer, but he couldn't make it). My Media and Politics prof understood and gave his blessing. Besides, I managed to finagle USC into paying for the tix, no way I could pass that up. The lecture, down at Universal Studios and put on by American Jewish University, was great. Ariana Huffington played moderator to the respective Democratic and Republican strategists, while MoDo played Freud.

Donna Brazile was definitely not like the persona she shows on CNN, she kept talking about boozing it up and having Mike Murphy touch her, um...microphone. MoDo was great, and Ariana outed her with a cute anecdote. For this Jewish group, MoDo told a story about how she had traveled to the Middle East with Bush, and had left a note at the Western Wall. Her note asked for a Jewish husband. A few months later, and still no Jewish husband, she was back in the Middle East with Obama, and back at the Wall. She was about to write a note to the wall again, asking what was the story with the Jewish husband, when she realized that the Wall might not want a Jewish husband for an Irish-Catholic girl.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bibi, put up or shut up

A provocative piece from the provocative Gideon Levy of Ha'aretz on daring Netanyahu and calling his right-wing bluff. I want to believe that Bibi has gone pragmatic, but I doubt it. Although perhaps like Sharon, Bibi is an opportunist in ideologue's clothes. From a hyperlinked article above:

“I don’t think he [Bibi] has much compunction in sacrificing an ideological position as long as it keeps him in power,” said Yaron Ezrahi, a liberal political scientist at Hebrew University. “We either need a prime minister who is ideologically committed to a two-state solution and has the power to move the country in that direction, or a very flexible opportunist who appears committed to the right but acts according to what is necessary.”

The optimist in me wants to believe that Bibi would negotiate with Syria and pull a Nixon-China/Sharon-Gaza and come down from the heights for peace. He was negotiating it during his last stint in the premier's chair. And as the maxim goes, "the Left to make war, the Right to make peace." Since the center-left didn't do such a hot job in either Lebanon or Gaza, maybe the center-right will engage with Syria. Probably wishful thinking, but gotta hold some hope.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chinatown, State Capitol reporting and Slumdog

Wednesday came and went, with work on midterm papers and a bike ride to Chinatown that brought back the smile to my mug when an old Chinese man pretended to steal my giant spongecake pastry. I wandered through the markets of chinese kitsch and knickknacks, and watched the old Chinese, Vietnamese and Mexican women haggle amongst each other for a deal.

I grabbed some Persian Jewish food at a program I was underdressed for, and had to leave as the speaker was being introduced as a "Rockower award winner." On to my Leadership and Reporting class, which included a call-in from Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters about the death of State Capitol reporting, and such things like shared capital bureaus. We also heard from Hannah-Beth Jackson, a California Assemblywoman from Santa Barbara who barely lost out on a State Senate seat by some 800 votes in 400k cast. She would have been a deciding vote in the recent California budget battle. I'm sorry, but perhaps it's due to my nomadic lifestyle but I can't seem to follow or get nerdy for State politics. After class, a group member Nikki and I interviewed Prof. Cowan on Human Rights Watch, as he sits on their board. We discussed the premise of NGOs as news orgs, since HRW does have more bureaus than most newspapers these days.

Thursday involved cutting some tracks for my Marketplace story. Unfortunately, I was more BBC than NPR, and it appears I will need a second round of tracks. More midterm research, and a night program with Dan Glickman of the MPAA. Shmoozing with Hollywood machers, not so much my style and again totally underdressed. Prof. Cowan was MCing the event pulled us Pub D students over to meet the big cheese folks. His point of advice was, when at events like this, speak with the oldest folks in the room. The event was good, but completely unrelated to the topic that brought us (Hollywood's Influence on US Policy and Image Abroad). I think someone comes up with an interesting title that ends up not being conveyed to the speaker or related to the program (actually I know this to be true from my Consulate experience).

Friday was another day at the library that was both productive and not. I rewarded myself with an afternoon feature with my friend Prof. Kenya. We went to see Slumdog Millionaire, which was phenomenal. I can understand the Indian sense of anger at the film, which portrays the Indian hustle and poverty in a fashion both real and over-the-top. For those who don't know the subcontinent, it can reinforce or skew images of that enigmatic land. But as I loved India, I loved the movie. I thought it was powerful and provocative, and is my uninformed choice for an Oscar. After the movie, we reconvened for samosas and muteer paneer at the Indian-Mexican deli on my corner, and I waited for the arrival of Xena the Warrior Princess- a platinum blond Korean friend who I met in Mexico. She is staying in my hostel for the next week, and I will be the proper tour guide of the angels.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eat More Rice, Bitch

A t-shirt I once bought for my little brother while I was in Chang Mai, Thailand. It featured a child in a conical hat with a gun to his head, and the above title in graffiti writing. Rather, I am blogging about a website of a different variety, FreeRice. FreeRice is a website that donates 10 grains of rice through the UN World Food program for every question you answer correctly. It's addictive and fun, and a simple way to do a little charity while improving your vocabulary.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Luv Non Sequitur


I spent the weekend working on midterms, and drove myself a little stir crazy. Yesterday I went down to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) to meet with G.I. Joe Wang, the Senior Consul at the Press Division. I went to discuss some fellowships I had applied for in Taiwan for the summer. The office was over on Wilshire, not far from the LACMA. The office was up on the 17th floor, and had a sweeping view of the Angels. The vista was truly captivating. It had been raining, and there were dark clouds still rolling over the San Gabriel mountains and over the Hollywood hills. The meeting was interesting, spent discussing Taiwan's various public diplomacy outlets.

I had cultural diplomacy, on Sports Diplomacy. It was an interesting class, and we discussed baseball exchanges to Cuba such as the Orioles' home-and-home with Castro's squad, India-Pakistan cricket diplomacy and other forms of sport diplomacy like the Olympics. Also failures like the 1969 Soccer War between Honduras and El Salvador.

After class, we had a launch party for Public Diplomacy Magazine, of which I am on staff. It was nice to see the magazine finally come to fruition, as it had been a long labored project. I had an article in the mag, reviewing Ambassador Djerejian's book and also taking part in his interview. We shmoozed with diplomats, drinking persian tea and eating yummy Armenian pastries, cookies and baklava- bought by John for a steal. There were some exploding creampuffs and incredible fluffy macaroons that were a real hit.

I tried to have an afterparty, more of a get-together than a party afterwards, but it failed miserably. I had invited my pub d class over for "Apples to Apples to Apples," a round of the fantastic game and apple hookah. Unfortunately, everyone was too busy with midterms to be gallivanting about. Lamentably, I realized no one was coming after I shelled out $30 bucks for provisions. Oh well, lots of Tecate in the fridge. A few loyal companions showed up, and we ate superior chips (from the grocery store Superior, oozing oil and deliciousness) and salsa and smoked hookah with my roomies.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The tangled trio

Good piece in the LA Times of the complex relationship between Lieberman, Bibi and Tzipi and how it affects the next Israeli government. The conventional wisdom that Lieberman prefers Bibi might not actually square with reality.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cool bars, stolen cars and I.O.U.S.A

I spent yesterday studying, as mid-terms are basically upon me. I can hardly believe that, time is flying by. I feel like I just got back here. It's cold here too, and I am ill-prepared to deal with the chill. I played cricket last night, but didn't get to do much. I went to a chic LA club for a friend's birthday. John from my program, he is a Lebanese Christian who is a good friend. We have a good laugh at the ridiculousness of the Middle East. Anyway, it was his birthday and we did it up in proper high LA glamour at a ritzy nightclub in Hollywood. All the beautiful people, who don't always do the most beautiful things. I had a good laugh with the beautiful bartender, who yawned and passed it to me. When I said it was contagious, she deadpanned, "so is herpes," and then cracked up. A fun night with some favorite Pub D people and a guilty pleasure of a clove.

Meanwhile, my roomie Danny had his car stolen last night. It happened literally in front of our house. Just woke up in the morning and it was gone. I had seen it in front the night before too. Hondas go quick. He had a good attitude about it, and saw it as an opportunity for a new car.

I spent some more time today in the library, researching Mozambique and the role of Sant'Egidio ending their civil war. The Mozambique civil war raged for a decade and a half, and was a brutal affair. The Sant'Egidio, a Catholic ngo and semi-Vatican linked charity that helps address poverty, stepped in and brokered an accord to end the civil strife. Interesting as it is the only nongovernmental organization brook an end to a state conflict.

Some wii tennis with the Brazilians, and a ride down to Redondo on the metro. Blue line to Imperial, where I waited for the green line. The station is in the middle of the highway and cars roar by on either side. The open air station smelled of chronic. While I waited for the train, I closed my eyes and listened to the roaring engines fly by. It sounded as if I was in a pit crew in the Daytona 500.

The green line car to Redondo was full of reflections on the glass, which had some stoned kids giggling with delight. I met up with my Aunt Phyllis for some Japanese food for dinner, and we watched I.O.U.S.A. The documentary is very good, and very disturbing in relation to our debt problems. Worth a watch, in that gloom and doom sorta fashion.

PS: My classmate Erin's play Divorce! The Musical was featured on NPR's All Things Considered on Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bumping and Boarding

My big day of classes went well, as I had a short, tough test in Transnational Diplomacy, then we discussed the role of foundations in international affairs. An interesting point in one of the article about its pure sentimentalism and moral relativity to think that Rockefeller and Carnegie set up their foundations as a way to expiate their guilt for dirty business dealings. We often think that they did their philanthropic work to clear their record, but the record shows that they probably didn't care or think their history to be tarnished.

The Leadership and New Media class was interesting, as a continual wake for the newspaper industry. I served as bullshitter/spokesman for my group on our progress on the group project.

After a short week of classes, I spent the evening watching The Incredible Hulk. It was actually not bad, including a cute scene with Edward Norton fumbling to say in Portuguese his tag line, but says "You wouldn't like me when I am hungry."

Today I went down to Marketplace to finish my story. I was on the verge of being done, when I got bumped. I was all set to do my taping, but the week's financial news bumped me from the broadcast. There weren't enough engineers to do a taping session, and perhaps not enough time in the show either. I got a two-week bump since next week is a special on the military. A little frustrating, but that's the way it goes.

Later, I went to the first USC Surf Club meeting. My New Year's resolution is to learn to surf. To that end, I have joined the surf club. I almost didn't, as I arrived to the meeting and waited for it to start. We all sat in silence for 20 minutes, waiting for a surf club person to appear. It was very much a surf club affair, the head dude (since there is no better description) was late from getting caught in traffic and came in with a few pizzas. He dispensed with some welcomes, then proceeded to show us a terrifying surf video. It was about surfers taking on giant, killer waves, and discussing their own fears of death. This was not the best video to show to a bunch of amateurs. Ummm...I wish he had shown the movie before I paid my dues.

PS: A great piece by Shmuel Rosner of The New Republic on the real meaning of the Israeli elections.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tilting at Windmills

I caught up with the eco Tu'bishvat on Sunday night, it was as crunchy as expected. Monday came, and I made my way back to LA. My pursuit of windmills in San Fran was fruitless, as I was on a Quijote-eque pursuit for a dark horse that ran on a different track.

I took the BART out to the airport, and hopped a quick flight back. It's amazing how the distance that took 8 hours can be covered in under one hour returning. The flight was beautiful, over the bay and over California's snow covered mountains, finally arriving into LA's sprawl. The view was especially striking as the San Gabriel Mountains that circle the angels where covered in a glistening layer of snow from the grey rain clouds that had now descended on the city. I waited for the Fly-away shuttle, but decided to be adventurous and cheap and take the free shuttle to the green line metro. I got a free ride back on the metro, as the machine wasn't working. i managed to save $7.25, a considerable some for this old, poor knight.

I returned in time for my Media and Politics class, and we watched videos on Obama and McCain to discuss the imagery and narrative present. I also showed off my Spiderman comic that featured Obama, which I found in San Fran. Today, I finished up my script for my marketplace story, then returned for my cultural diplomacy class, where we discussed educational exchange.

Now, I am sitting on the floor of the Doheny library exhibit called "Windmills are Giants." Indeed, I am followed by the specter of the man of La Mancha, as the USC library is hosting a manuscript exhibit of Don Quijote. Books from all corners of the globe, with images of our fair knight. I saw it and was floored. There are so many more images and styles, and none like the ones I saw in Guanajuato. Images done by dear Dali, ones in Russian folk style and other Cervantino dreams that etch in my imagination. How utterly quixotic.

A sigh of relief

Ah, the balagan of Israeli politics. It appears that I can breathe a sigh of relief that Netanyahu seems to have lost a squeaker to Livni, and Israel Beitenu is not as strong as predicted. While not exactly a Livni fan, I like her far more than the alternative. I lived in Israel during the dark times of Bibi, and I am not at all a fan.

Meanwhile, Agivdor Leiberman terrifies me. He is a fascist who wants to strip Israeli Arabs of citizenship. His ploy seemed to have backfired, as they came out to exercise their citizenship and vote. I am a little bummed that Labor got creamed, as I would most likely support them. However, it stands that a lot of Labor and Meretz supporters held their nose and voted for Kadima so not to let Likud win (See under: French Left Voters casting for Chirac).

Still this was a crazy election, that no one expected to finish as it did. Bibi seemed to have had the election locked up for so long, only to fade at the end (See under: Dewey defeats Truman). I don't know how Kadima will form a coalition, the prospects look bleak. That's what got us to this election in the first place, and nothing seems to have changed. Perhaps a national unity government, with Livni as PM, Bibi as foreign minister and Barak as defense minister. Although that is probably a recipe for stagnation. Ah, the fun of Israeli politics.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

spanning San Fran

I awoke to a bright beautiful Saturday morning, and followed my nose to an amazing bakery called Tartine. I grabbed a cinnamon orange bun, cup of coffee and SF Chronicle and broke fast at Dolores Park, admiring the view of the San Fran skyline. I then caught up with my friend Jocelyn and we wandered around town. We walked to the Castro, the gay heart of the gay capital, to meet a friend of hers for lunch at Harvey's. A Brandeisian I had never met named Lisa. They ate, and we chatted amid the flamboyance. The spectacle reached a crescendo as some naked SF sadhus strutted about. And there were a group of guys dressed only in jockstraps walking about. I thought they might be rival gangs, and would start a rumble. Thankfully nothing of the sort went down. So queer a scene, I will leave it at that.

After lunch was finished, we hopped a muni streetcar downtown, and Jocelyn and I walked down the Embarcadero, along the waterfront. We stopped at some farmers markets and took in the view of the Bay and Bay Bridge jutting out. We walked along the waterfront in the brilliant sun. I grabbed a sourdough loaf at Boudin's, where they invented the stuff. We looped around to North Beach, then up to Coit Tower to take in the murals of Diego Rivera's disciples. Then we headed up to the top of the tower for the panoramic view of the city. The slowly setting sun lit cast light on the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, as we admired the bird's eye perspective. We walked back down the steps leading down, and on through Chinatown, which was busy in parade for the New (niu) Year. Dancing dragons and popping fireworks filled the packed streets.

I went back to Maya's place, and we had dinner with Elan- an old yearcourse friend and his girlfriend Sarah. Maya made a thoroughly veggie fair of beatnut soup, kale with soy and vinegar, portobellos and guacamole. We finished the evening off with a desert drink of chocolate stout at a nearby pub.

Today was a grey affair, and an attempt to see slumdog that failed. A picnic in the empty downtown, and a long walk through Russian Hill and the Presidio. We stopped for a decadent sundae at Ghiradelli that was called Midnight reverie, and it was. Then headed to Berkeley to meet an old friend Donna Rosenthal, who I worked with when i was at the Consulate. She wrote the book The Israelis. We chatted at a cafe, then I got caught on the way back in a downpour. Now off to catch the tail end of an eco-Tu'bishvat.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Enforcer and the Venezuelan Pogram

An amazing article about a fundamentalist Christian lawyer's crusade for international justice by Samantha Power in the New Yorker last month.

A disturbing article about a pogrom unleashed by Chavez on the Jews of Venezuela.

Sittin' on the dock of the bay

"Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time"
-Otis Redding, Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay

The downpours continued yesterday as I left my home in LA and headed for the Frisco Bay. I caught a bus, or more precisely, a shuttle bus from downtown LA on north. As I was waiting for the bus, I stopped in a Robeks (like Jamba Juice) to get to fruit concoction to help chase away the remnants of my cold. I threw down $5 for some fruit immunity boosting snake-oil cure-all shake, and told the woman behind the counter that if it didn't work, I would come back and sneeze in her face. Topped it off with a shot of wheatgrass. Nothing like a drinking grass clippings.

I hopped on the bus, chatting with Mireia, a Catalun who was backpacking and also heading north. We left LA and encountered a parking lot of traffic. It took us two hours to go two miles, ugh. The skies were a mix of rolling purple, grey and white clouds as the rain punctuated the afternoon. Finally, we got through the traffic and past the rain. The road and the skies opened up, and I was greeted with an arcoiris , a spectacular rainbow in the distance. Always a good sign. We drove past the hilly green crags and into the farm country. Low flat fields to one side, and hilly mountains with cloudy haze rolling down on the other. Ah the beauty of traversing the Golden State.

I made my way from south to north, and finally arrived in San Fran. I was greeted by a metro musician, crooning Mr. Redding's lullaby. I hopped the BART, which reminds me of the DC Metro, on to 16th and Mission, where I was greeted by a brass band belting out andulucian jazz in hypnotic tones. People where swaying with scarves of colors, and I had truly arrived to the freakshow carnival that is San Francisco.

I met up with an old friend Jocelyn, who I hadn't seen in almost exactly two years. We went to school together at Brandeis, then last caught up in Mumbai. To honor the occasion, we went for phenomenal south Indian at a place called Udupi Palace. I had a wonderful, light Mysore Masala dosa, a giant wafer stuffed with spiced potatoes and served with coconut curry, sambar and masala chai to wash it down.

Later we were joined by my friend Maya, and we chatted till heading back to Maya's place to sojourn. Maya's an old friend from Yearcourse, although I got to know her after. Today off to wander this enigmatic city. Don't think the dark horse will win, but still a fun bet to make.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Divorce! The Musical

I spent the day working on my Time Bank story, which seems to be coming together nicely and should be airing next Saturday. I left into a tremendous downpour, the likes of which I hadn't seen here. I got soaked amid a flooding, first waiting for the bus then walking home. Does wonders for a cold I have been fighting. I got home and changed and was waiting for my friend Naomi to pick me up so we could head on to the show that our classmate Erin is putting on (see title). Unfortunately, she got on the wrong campus bus, and instead of heading to the parking center, she went towards Union Station. Apparently UPC on the front of the bus stands for "University Park Campus" not "University Parking Center." After her hour long travail getting back to where she started, she came and scooped me and we headed to the west side.

People in LA are bad drivers to begin with, but with the added diluvian excitement, things are a balagan. We were supposed to meet friends for dinner, but that didn't work out because of extreme tardiness. Another friend John literally sat in traffic for 4 hours going back-and-forth from campus. Anyway, after some Israeli toast (feta, black olives and tomatoes on the sesame seed bread, yum!), we eventually made it to the show, Divorce! The Musical.

As I mentioned, the show was written by our classmate Erin. She wrote the thing following her second divorce. In the stage bill she quotes, "Tragedy plus time equals comedy." This was the first night of the previews sessions, it opens rather aptly on Valentine's Day. The show was good, very funny in a tragic way. There were such ditties as "Half," "Mediation," and "Rebound Sex."

The show was about two people who love each other, but don't, and can't communicate through the barriers that the divorce process erects. It was also a shot at the institution of marriage and the institution of divorce, and all the irreverences that both entail. It was a witty, funny and sad show. Kudos, Erin- I guess to wish the show well I should say "break a nuptial agreement."