Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last week of the First Year

The last week of school has passed, and I am now on to Finals. Amazing that it I look forward to Finals for it to slow down a little, as things have been frantic. Frustrations with group projects had me wondering if I was in grade school, not grad school. Tuesday I was working on projects, had a brief lunch of tikka tacos then went off to Cultural Diplomacy for our last class and discussed my final project proposal based on my lunch. Our final project is to devise a cultural diplomacy event in LA, working with a Consulate. We have a hypothetical budget of $10k. My idea is "FusionFest," a food fair/contest that involves pairing consulates and foodfare from their respective countries in an Iron Chef meets Kogi.

We had an interesting last discussion about "noopolitik" and theories of interconnection. Prof. Cull discussed the Manchester School, Vladamir Vernadsky and Sir Norman Angell and his book "The Great Illusion." This book basically predicted that because of interconnection, war was obsolete. It was released in 1913 or so. Also about the eminent Marshall McLuhan and his tetrad of mediums, which relates new technology, what becomes obsolete and what is revived.

After class, I had my first Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars (APDS) meeting, of which I am now Communications Chair. We had the transfer of power, including the handover of all the nuclear codes and the access to the slush funds in the Grand Cayman accounts.

I then spent the night working on slides for my International Reporting Project's group presentation. I had been going a little furious with my group, and their inability to meet deadlines, or put simple things together like powerpoint slides.

Yesterday, I went from one meeting to the next, from a sit down with my predecessor Jana at the Communications Chair, to a training on the PDiN work to an election for newly-formed chairs for APDS. Thankfully the day slowed as we had a last class for Prof. Wiseman. We shared on our presentations, then he was kind enough to take us out for happy hour at the local pub. As my classmate Rima tweeted, "Fitting that Dr. Wiseman, who taught the most intellectual of all my classes took us out to drink."

I left to finish reformatting our presentation to turn it into something workable. I was wondering if it would be okay, but all ended well. Almost, as the presentation got corrupted and I couldn't simply put it on the class computer. I had to hook my laptop up to a screen and do some technical maneuvering, but it was okay.

The presentation went well, as we shared on our respective case studies in our survey of the reporting landscape. We discussed our Case Studies: Old-traditional legacy media like the LA Times; In Flux-transitioning sites like the Christian Science Monitor, which no longer puts out print; New- GlobalPost, and other foreign reporting sites that never lived in ink; Alternative- NGOs and Gov-backed like VOA. We interspersed the project with film clips of foreign reporting like the Hitchcock move Foreign Correspondent, Salvador and the Killing Fields to show the changes in the image of the foreign reporter.

I discussed my Case Study on "Sam," an international editor who had agreed to be interviewed but was let go in the course of the class. I also discussed my Case Study section New, ripping into the tears being shed over the "death of journalism."

My remarks were along these lines: "This is the part where I start misbehaving at the weekly pity party we've been throwing." I gave my 95 E-ses and read some quotes from a fellow named Hampton Stephens of World Politics Review about the speciousness of the weeping going on. A short bit included: “counting newspapers’ foreign correspondents and bureaus in 2007 reveals as much about the future of foreign reporting as counting buggy-whip manufacturers in 1907 would have revealed about the future of transportation.

Those that see a crisis in such statistics tend to portray the print newspaper as the only possible oasis of journalistic quality and virtue. But there’s nothing about newsprint that makes it uniquely suited to distributing quality journalism. Familiar criticisms about the Internet’s penchant for the shrill and the shallow show little imagination about the effects the Internet revolution is bound to have on foreign reporting."


Nice to be basically done with that project, save a last editing of the group paper. I will post our foreign reporting website once it is live.

PS: I received an honorable mention for my Qatar Public Diplomacy paper in an essay contest at the Center for International Studies at USC. Not sure yet what that entails, but still nice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why we do what we do

This came from Alicia, a law student from the Birthright group I led last year. I was pretty moved by the fact that the trip helped spur her conversion, see below:

Hey guys - in light of our one year Hebrew anniversary of going to Israel, I thought I'd say a quick hello and also pass along this article from my Rabbi about Israel Independence Day which I thought was really interesting.

"Also, to bring back old times here's a kickback for ya: Alicia's Dirty Hebrew Word of the Day: Tshiki, kalba! --> Shut up, Bitch!

As for the t-shirts, I say we sue - how many lawyers/law students were on our trip?

Lastly, I wanted to inform you all that as of Sunday I had my final conversion lesson and will officially be deemed a full Jew (and not just the halfie on my dad's side that I was before) in May when I go to the mikvah. Our trip to Israel was kind of the kick in the butt I needed to go through with the whole process, so I just wanted to thank everyone for being the inspiration for my conversion as it had been something I was considering for quite awhile."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The indelible marks that fade

It's amazing how things that were once so indelible in your life slips away from consciousness. Once upon a time, my life ebbed and flowed with the baseball season. I tracked every game of the Baltimore Orioles as the went from worst to almost-first in 1989. I started reading the newspaper then.

Years later, it was Israeli Independence Day that took so much of my focus. For years, it was the pinnacle event of the year. We discussed it months out at the Consulate, and we planned and planned. And I wrote and wrote, trying to pen the perfect Israel Independence Day op-ed.

I found out in a group meeting today that it is Yom Ha'atzmaut, I didn't even know. Once upon a time, it consumed my world and focus. It would have passed this year without a second glance amid my finals and projects. As I sit alone in my kitchen, enjoying a brief respite from the finals chaos, I pause to think of things once important that have faded.

Happy Birthday Israel, I'm sorry I forgot.

Election Day-Off: Celebrating Democracy

The end of the semester, with all its glory and agony, is now upon me. All sorts of loose ends to be tied up.

I spent the day finishing up a presentation for my Media and Politics class. We had to come up with a project to revitalize politics. My group chose the issue of making the presidential election a national holiday. We gave a 15 minute presentation about the issue, pointing out the benefits to the change.

My part was to outline our communications strategy, which was to create a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) to educate about the need for change. I mentioned that we would do a public diplomacy-style campaign to educate on the correlation between the fact that the 21 advanced democracies (among many, many others) had voter rates nearly 25% higher than the US; concurrently 25% of eligible voters who didn't cast ballots cited conflicting schedules and inability to get out of work as reason for not casting a ballot. We would produce viral videos of people of varying age groups talking about why they couldn't vote because of work conflicts, and also more intimate minute clips of people talking about how they spent their election day holiday, voting and otherwise. The campaign was called "Election Day-Off: Celebrating Democracy," and went over pretty well. We had some good discussions afterwards about "why Tuesday?"and not a weekend and other assorted questions. Also about the possible business gains to be made, ability to use more public space and dynamics shift of poll hours since it is a holiday not work day.

Another group gave a phenomenal presentation, where they didn't say a word. The point was about verbal and written communications. The presenter Declan just had slides running about the power of written communications and what it means versus verbal communications. The novelty of silence made for an amazing presentation, I was really impressed.

"Fools said i,you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence"
-Simon and Garfunkel, "Sound of Silence"

Meanwhile, I got my Election of 1896 paper back, emblazoned with an "A". I worked hard on it, it's gratifying to receive high marks in return. A bit of a reminder of why I work so hard. I will post it to the "Fridge."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

UCB & Don G

Between working at the library, I have had a bit of a busy weekend. First it was a softball game Friday, and later a b-day party for an old Brandeis friend Joe down in Venice. Yesterday I went to the Upright Citizens Brigade improv show, organized by my classmate Mike. We all went first to Burbank to hang out at his apartment, then back down to see the comedy show. It was rather funny, as improv shtick usually is. Then back up to Burbank to burn the midnight oil. On the way back, Kim and I hit up Under the Banner of In-and-Out for a midnight snack (or as Harry termed, "a double-double, Moroni style").

I went for the Sunday afternoon opera show to see the thoroughly modern version of Don Giovanni, Mozart's stellar opera put on at USC by the Thornton School of Music. Mozart gives us a clear reminder that "pimpin' ain't easy," no matter what the century. The show involved the rock star Don Giovanni, doing lines of blow and singing operatic nothings to his conquests. Really Fantastic. Prof Kenya remarked afterwards, and I am translating into laymen's terms, "I wonder what this says about Mozart's view on 'bitches.'" The soap opera was a terrific reminder of the dirty side that these seemingly high-brow performances hold.

Back to work.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I picked up a research internship with the Center on Public Diplomacy for the summer and following year. I will be helping to research and aggregate news on Public Diplomacy for the PDiN service. Also write some analysis of PD trends for a media monitor post. Sounds like a pretty apt position for me, no? The interview was actually a little funny, as Sherine the deputy director at CPD started by saying that she had read my blog, and knew I didn't know HTML, and to always be careful what you post in the public domain. So true.

I saw a similar but far, far worse story about Twitter and being careful what you post.

Anyway, I am excited for the position, as it lets me get paid for something I love to do already: news exploration and sharing what I find.

So John Brown, beware, I am throwing down the gauntlet for a PD review duel.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Khamseen, 21C and "my opponent is a moron"

The week has been a busy one. It started off as a scorcher, a real khamseen. Literally 95 degrees, with no air conditioning in my house as I sweated my way to finish my Election of 1896 paper. Given the construction of my house, it was even warmer in my room than outside. Trapping heat in the summer, cold in the winter- fun, fun.

Yesterday I went to the Celebrity Diplomacy workshop. A fellow named Chris Smith gave an interesting intro about celeb diplomacy, offering a timeline of celeb diplomacy. The timeline began with Joe Lewis in the 1930s; Paul Robeson in the 1940s, and the question of public vs. private life; the demonization of celebrities in the 1950s; the celebrity and social protest in the 1960s; Reagan and the new celeb era in the 1980s; Bono, Sheryl Crow and Clinton in the 1990s; and the new Jolie paradigm in C21.

Then Prof. Andrew Cooper spoke more about Celeb Diplomacy and its discontents. He mention the criticism- that it is dumbing down diplomacy, the cynicism- that it is either a bunch of has-beens or wannabes, and the elitism- top down model of it. Also the juxtaposition of good diplomats working behind closed doors versus celeb diplomats looking for open space. However, he noted that celeb diplomacy involves human faces and is a layered process that challenges classical and NGO diplomacy. He also offered Bono as exemplar, with the calculated yet charming and hardworking style he brings. Cooper mentioned that these "provocateurs" stretch the notion of diplomacy. Also noted was that the Gates Foundation spends more on health than the WHO. Meanwhile, there was a slideshow in the background of such notables as Audrey Hepburn, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, etc doing celeb diplo work.

Another prof from UCLA, Douglas Kellner was also on the panel. he spoke about the media spectacle of celeb diplomacy. He mentioned that Obama is the superglobal celeb these days, and is using his superglobal celeb status to carry our public diplomacy and is an antidote for anti-Americanism. The trick remains leveraging his status to carry out global actions.

I asked a question of Prof Cooper, who had mentioned that there was beginning to be an emergence of celeb diplomats from Bollywood. I noted that we had Shashi Tharoor speak recently at CPD, and he noted the global reach of Bollywood. With the burgeoning role of Bollywood celeb diplomats, were they mimicking Hollywood celeb diplomats, or were they getting involved in a different manner with different causes?

I had to leave halfway through because I was hosting Larry Weinberg of Israel21C. I had set him up with speaking engagements, first at Hillel for SC Students for Israel, then at my Cultural Diplo class to address Israel21C's cultural diplomacy and use of new media technology. Larry also met with the Center on Public Diplomacy, Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars (APDS) and Pub D Magazine, to introduce the respective organizations and see where cooperation was possible.

I ended the long day studying with Lindsay of the Global Comm program at the Cinema center. Lindsay was doing some work on ripping apart the UNDP empowerment goals for women as not really being empowering. We finished studying, and had some micheladas and jasmine hookah on the veranda.

Today was a tired affair. A morning session that didn't exactly happen with a State Dept rep for Pub D in Africa, who got stuck in traffic and was 45 minutes late. Studying for the rest of the morning, then an APDS meeting where we held elections for APDS board positions for the following year. My friend Jon was running for prez, Alexis for treasurer and I was nominated for communications chair. Most of us were running unopposed, myself included- meaning that I had an idiot for an opponent. While others spoke on their unopposed candidacy's behalf, I said I was skipping it and made some sarcastic remarks. Needless to say, I was elected, so now I am comm chair for the org for next year. If I can handle the Israelis, I'm imagine i can handle this. Maybe not, because they asked if I knew HTML code, and I just nodded and said "sure," which is not even remotely true.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday News Roundup

A few good articles as the world turns.

Two from the NY Times on Israel, both directly and indirectly on Israeli culture. First by David Brooks on Israeli psychology, second by Roger Cohen on Israeli fears.

On a different side of the Jewish world, an interesting LA Times article about Jewish genetics and intelligence.

South Africa is going to the polls, and Zuma seems to offer the death of idealism.

Meanwhile, two good pieces about journalism and twitter from the LA Times. One on Charles Ponzi and the journalists who stopped him. The other by Megan Daum on the inanity of twitter. Full disclosure, I have been slowly getting more addicted to twitter.

Meanwhile a little cross bloggerization. Check out my levantine599 media blog to read the insights of my cousin Elsa Black, an old newspaper pro, on the current state of affairs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

sun and academia

I made the mistake of leaving the library for a lunch break. In the warm spring sun, scantily clad girls lay out on the quad sunning themselves. I had to make a break back to the library before I went AWOL.

I have realized as of late that the academic angst I once attributed to Brandeis is really just my own. I have been thinking that you can take the boy out of the East coast and transplant him to California, but you can't make him a laid back Californian.

I think I am still bitter that I busted my academic ass at Brandeis to graduate cum laude, really forgoing the pleasures of senior year, and still didn't get any scholarship money for grad school. I then busted my academic ass in the Fall term of grad school and pulled a 4.0, only to lose out on nearly every scholarship and fellowship I applied for. Okay, enough whining and bitching, back to work.

The Susan Boyle sensation

If you haven't yet seen this, check out the internet sensation Susan Boyle. She has become an internet sensation. Gives you chills and possibly a few tears for the weepy.

Also the NY Times has an article of the nightmarishness stardom can hold.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The days

The last two days have been characterized by large amounts of library time, filled with class. Yesterday, it was Prof. Wiseman's class on Virtual states and if California should have its own foreign policy and public diplomacy. We read a chapter of Prof. Abraham Lownenthal's book Global California, and discussed if there was a distinct "California" identity. I argued that there was more of a distinct Texas identity than California. There was also the discussion of NorCal vs. SoCal identity. As a German diplomat once remarked at a lecture I attended at Brandeis: I'm from Munich, so in Berlin I am a Bavarian; in Paris, I am a German; in the US, I am a European. I added the Cali version: An Angeleno in San Fran; a Californian in New York; an American in Europe.

Strange though that I have been in California 10 months and don't feel at all as a Californian. California is considered more welcoming for transplants to assume new identities than Texas, yet my time in Texas made me feel much more a Texan. Granted, I had more of an opportunity to travel about Texas, had a Texas license, TX plates on my car and was more enmeshed in the local culture. Here I feel transient, and even though I like it, I don't feel connected. Texas also has a more distinct culture, one that I could appreciate. In Texas, I called it my "study abroad" in the Republic of Texas. I can't say the same for the Bear Republic. Maybe not yet, but on the flipside I left Texas, whereas I could maybe-maybe see myself stay here.

Ah, but I digress. So class we also discussed a bit of Utopianism and Utopian Socialism. Oh, Fourier, Owen and Bellamy. I discussed Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. It all came from a writer Rischard's oversimple plans to solve the world.

A brief group meeting and a brief Annenberg alumni soiree, then it was Reporting in the Digital Age. We had to regroup because of the alumni soiree and reconvened in a Journalism and Ethics class taught by Bob Scheer, who is also an editor of Truthdig. We had a fascinating discussion on the state of journalism and the possibilities this Brave New World holds. Scheer was a bit more optimistic than my profs, but perhaps that is because his site is up for webby awards.

Today was library time, then off to a soiree in Beverly Hills with Dr. Kenya. I was the gentleman on the arm for an event for PRI. The event was led by Kurt Anderson of Studio 360. The house where the event was held was a masterpiece, overlooking the angels as the fading sun shone off the Beverly Hills heights. We had a discussion about "aha" moments in art. I chimed in with a story about being at the MALBA in Buenos Aires, and feeling vulgarity at the in-and-out motion of finger in a hand from a video by Douglas Gordon. Given my more classical art tastes, my "aha" moment was the feeling that modern art can give you, this sense of vulgarity that impressionism will never deliver.

Meanwhile, 3 stars came up and I got to break pessach. Luv bread!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good for the goose

I was critical when Venezuela's Chavez amended his constitution to run again, I must be equally critical as Columbia's Uribe does the same. Uribe has no business amending the constitution to run a second time, let alone the third time he is now pushing for. Sad, as I had respected Uribe. Unfortunate for Columbia, the region and democracy in South America.

Jon Stewart for USIA chief

Assuming anyone in gov gets enough sense and cents to revive USIA, or create another version of the vaunted organization, I'm actually serious in throwing Jon Stewart out as its head. He is a brilliant, brainy and witty person who could really think outside the box for new American PD ventures. He is damn close to the most trusted name for my gen in tv news. Despite his sarcastic side, I think he gets it. Maybe we could get him and Anderson Cooper to spar for the position in some sort of rock-em, sock-em robots battle.

Meanwhile, cheers to State for sending Cajun music to Saudi Arabia. Music makes great PD because of the nonverbal communication involved that everyone can understand. Congress just made April Jazz month, and April 25 as Willis Connover day. Check out my side bar page (the Kitchen fridge) for my Pub D case study on dear Willis and the role of Jazz in winning the Cold War.

Last note, enough with the sanctimonious teabag d-bags. If you had been more worried about government spending over the last 8 years, we wouldn't be in this position.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A lonely Jew on Passover

This next tale is probably some kind of divine gastronomical retribution to all who complain that my blog makes them hungry. It was a blustery day in paradise as my stomach growled for lunch. With nary a matzah crumb left in my house, I headed to campus to grab some sustenance. I went to the Zao chinese place at the Lot, the home of various fast food restaurants on campus. I ordered some orange chicken with rice, and was munching down when I realized the chicken was BREADED. Still hungry and not wanting to forgo lunch, I headed back to the counter to try to exchange my grub.

Rather than explain my dietary restrictions, I simply told them I didn't like it. The woman replied that if it was a matter of taste, there was nothing they could do, as no one else had complained. I retorted that I found a bug in it too. She scoffed, so I turned to diplomacy. I pleaded that it wouldn't be a big deal for them to exchange the food, and they could easily handle exchanging my order. The woman was nice enough to agree, and let me order an alternate. I went for kungpao chicken, and was off to eat with my roomie Roberto. No sooner did I open the container, did I realize I was still in the same fix. Roberto asked why I didn't just explain my predicament in the first place, then I could have received something I could eat. Lesson learned: always tell the full truth in explanations. End of the story, I didn't fully go hungry as Roberto was kind enough to share, and I picked at the rice. Passover almost over, Baruch haSh-m.

PS: A good column from Larry Derfner from the Jpost on why it is a little off to hope Hamas will come in from the cold.

Matzah Diplomacy & Thaliwood

As opposed to my brother Harry, who has taken on the name "Matzamoros" ("the Matzah Killer") for his matzah ball soup contest. On the other hand, I brought dark and milk-chocolate dipped matzah to my cultural diplomacy class to share. Homemade by my mom, shipped all the way across the country. It was a hit, as we discussed the "Clash of Civilizations" and what cultural diplomacy can do to mitigate the notion.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to talk Gopal, the Indian-Mexican-American Deli restaurant owner on my corner to change his restaurant's name to "Thaliwood." I had a fantastic Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) burrito last week, before pessah. I can't wait for the end of the holiday so I can have some paneer quesadillas.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter sunday

After mucho time in the library, I broke free Saturday night for some wine and jasmine hookah with my pubd friend Lara. We chuckled it up over matzah with cream cheese, avocado and garlic salt. yum.

Sunday morning, I was off to the LBC for Easter brunch with Dr. Kenya, her friend Lindsey and her parents. On the ride down to Long Beach, Lindsey regaled us with stories of her work in a maximum security juvenile detention center in Indiana. What on earth a nice Jewish girl is doing there befuddles even moi. She is joining the SWAT team, and told us bizarre stories of getting certified for shotgun handling, which involved questions such as "do you have any aversion to shooting a pregnant woman?," frozen loading of shotgun and after successful certification, a march formation of firing wildly and grunting ala Mad Max.

Next up, Lindsey is getting certified to carry weaponized pepper spray, which is like pepper spray on steroids. For this honor, she first must be sprayed in the face to understand the full potential of the weapon she is carrying. Yes, she must close her eyes and have the mace sprayed directly at her, then open her eyes! This usually involves tremendous, tremendous amounts of pain and often the recipients throw up amid their agony. My comment was that its not like we shoot people in the thigh so that they are fully apprised of the handguns they are carrying- maybe we should.

We met Kenya's parent for a lovely brunch down in LBC at a restaurant overlooking the water. Kenya's parents gave us gifts of easter chocolates, rabbits and other varieties. After a delicious fare of omelettes, purple mashed potatoes (no, I didn't know the color, but I knew it was off) and strawberries I stole from the giant Bunny ice scuplture, we took a constitutional then headed back to the angels. I have since been studying at the library, or working there today.

Grand Daily Imperative: "Flushed with Pride: the story of Thomas Crapper" by Wallace Rayburn

In other news

The Sri Lankan army has halted its offensive against the Tamil Tigerss. This action began roughly the same time Israel was fighting in Gaza, and has had none of the frontpage fanfare or public consternation. A reminder about what constitutes news and things worthy of global perspective.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cross of Gold

"We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded; we have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; we petition no more. We defy them."
-William Jennings Bryan, "Cross of Gold" speech at the 1896 Democratic National Convention

Not related to Easter Sunday, I am writing my final paper for my Media and Politics class on the Election of 1896 in relation to political communication theory. It was the fascinating contest that pitted Republican William McKinley against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. McKinley was the establishment favorite, run by the Rove-ian Mark Hanna. The silver firebrand Bryan swept up the nomination on the heels of his famous "Cross of Gold" speech. Imagine that Obama had secured the 2004 nomination on the back of his convention speech, that would be the closest parallel.

"You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold."

Then Bryan took off on the campaign stump, wowing the masses with his oratorical gifts as he trekked around large swathes of the country as no candidate had done before; McKinley played the folksy politician who never left his front porch, while his hulking campaign machine brought the masses to his doorstep and pumped out campaign literature and materials as never before seen.

Great stuff for a history buff like me.

Mighty Vishnu at the bat

"Let's play two"
-Ernie Banks

Amid my studying in the library today, I got in a doubleheader. First, a game of softball. I'm in a coed softball league, apparently the team captain. I went to the free agent meeting, and became the captain of the free agent team. In honor of our free agency, I named our team Curt Flood. Had I known the wacky rules that the coed softball league makes you play with, I would have never bothered. Guys have to bat switch hit. Everyone gets two pitches, nothing more. Not even more than two fouls or two balls. I tried to talk to the other captain to play normal rules, but he was too anal-retentive. It didn't matter because not enough of my team came, and we had to forfeit. We split up and played a game anyway. It was fun, if a little strange.

After more library time, I headed back to Cromwell for a vengeance match with my cricket team, the Hurricanes. We were playing an exhibition game against the team that beat us, the eventual champs of the league.

The full moon creeped slowly over Cromwell, as we played the wicket pastime. I did some "sexy fielding" and played okay on the pitch.

"Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy at Cromwell -- mighty Vishnu has struck out."

Yes, three bowls, I was out. Something about the motion of the bowler is distracting, and I never got used to the ball bouncing. It didn't matter, as we got our vengeance and beat our nemesis. Ven ganza, dear Tita.

I have two stories bouncing around in my head. One is of a Ricky Williams-style baseball player with tremendous potential and with tremendous substance problems. He gets bounced from the big leagues for his drug proclivities and ends up washed out. In his drug-induced spiritual quest, he ends up in an ashram in India as a hare krishna. After getting tired of too much chai and charas, he ends up on the cricket field and finds that he is really, really good. He gives up his quest for nirvana and hooks up with the IPL cricket league, and ends up star of the series. Think Mr. Baseball meets Bollywood.

The other version is of a baseball scout on vacation in India and finds the perfect cricket prospect who he must convert to a baseball player. Think The Scout, hindi-style. Both would involve the wacky world that is the subcontinent, in all its confusing regalia.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ooops & Peeps

The BYU student newspaper had a bit of a typo, and called their church leadership the "12 apostates" not "apostles."

Also, time for my favorite annual event, the Peep Show.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Pirates, GlobalPost and Pessach

We had a very interesting class for Prof. Wiseman's "Transnational Diplomacy and Global Security" course, on the seedy underside of global civil society. The readings were on transnational criminal organizations and the role of the underworld in global civil society, corruption and Transparency International, and Capt. Jack Sparrow's brethren and modern piracy. One interesting notion is that with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the academic notion took rise that nonstate actors were all liberal, progressive and good. Yet in reality, the most effective transnational actors happen to be from the underworld.

Later, for my Reporting in the Digital Age class, we had Phil Balboni on the phone. He is the CEO of GlobalPost, a fascinating new international reporting project that stands as a beacon of light in an ever-darkening landscape. I got to play moderator as I was interviewing him for my group's international reporting project. We discussed successes and challenges for his dynamic project.

After the interview, I ducked out of class and headed cross town to my friend Tabby's seder. She is a fellow ex-Con, she worked as the Academic Affairs Officer for the LA consulate. I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a Persian Jewish seder, where traditions include beating each other with green onions. The custom is supposed to replicate Pharaoh's whips upon the Hebrews. Lotsa fun, as we chose our weapons and whacked at each other in a full brawl, while saying "dayenu."

I love the holiday because it allows me context to reflect. Memories of seders in Jerusalem and hiking from Sea to Sea (Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean) with friends from Year Course; in Rabat, and hiking the Atlas Mountains with kilos of matzah in my daypack; in South Africa, with thoughts turning to that nation's journey from bondage- and matzah and biltong sandwiches with pickled onions in Kruger park; in the Galilee, having a seder with my namesake and the Israeli Rakowers before carrying out a reverse Exodus through Egypt; of seders with the Rockower clan that never stick to the haggadah text but are always a pleasure.

The seder was lovely, save for an unfortunate foray into politics. There is a sad irony of celebrating our freedom while others remain under our bondage; there is an amazing disconnect that we live with. Dealing with people's myopia leaves me melancholy.

Bradley Burston had a passage from Rob Eshman of the LA Jewish Journal that summed up the Middle East conflict in under 30 words:
"There are two sides in the Middle East conflict: Jews and Arabs who want compromise, and Jews and Arabs who want to demonize and eradicate their neighbors."

But I my spirits were lifted with two emails. One from an old Seeds camper Safwan, a Jordanian who was dealing with the same frustrations. The other from Thoufeek, my new friend in Cochin, who is a Muslim Indian calligrapher and is sending me a beautiful "Birkat ha-Beit," blessing of the house. Yes, a Muslim who does Hebrew calligraphy. I wrote about him in my Tales blog, you can see more of his work there. He is sending me this beautiful blessing below, if anyone else is interested in his work, I can put you in-touch with him.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Revolution will be twittered

This response came to my post yesterday. Thanks Deborah, fascinating piece!
"I agree that social networking sites like Facebook can be used to organize non-violent protest, but it's also important to consider to flip-side: these sites enable the movement of information at such a pace -- and to such a widely-dispersed audience -- that they also can inadvertently assemble an angry crowd. See this Times article "Protests in Moldova Explode, With Help of Twitter""

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I gave my walking papers today at Grand Library. I am just too busy with 4 classes (16 credits) and other assorted projects. I'm actually a little sad, as I kind of liked the mindless menial tasks, book shelf perusing and listening to my ipod. But school takes precedence over pittance.

Meanwhile, it was my turn to lecture in Cultural Diplomacy. The week's topic was "Globalization." Prof. Cull gave his lecture on the history of globalization-Pax Romana, China and other cultural hegemons spreading their globalized culture, and globalization's current discontents. Interesting, because it was the lecture last year that I sat in for the preview day. Prof. Cull made a point that was fascinating: the different tone that the lecture took a year later and under financial rain clouds.

After the break, I huddled the class around for a more intimate group discussion. Instead of doing a powerpoint, as is standard operating procedure, I handed out an article about by Mark Strauss in Foreign Policy about anti-Globalization's anti-Semitism problem. Then, in a pedagogical twist, I made them read out loud from directed passages. Passages like "First they came for the WTO" or other such passages like:

"If I told you I thought the world was controlled by a handful of capitalists and corporate bosses, you would say I was a left-winger," an anarchist demonstrator told the online Russian publication Pravda. "But if I told you who I thought the capitalists and corporate bosses were, you'd say I was far right."

We discussed the text and the issue, it went very well. Even though the article was written in 2003, it is still sadly apt. There are reports of increased anti-Semitism amid the global downturn.

My discussion questions were:
1) Why did the undercurrent of anti-Semitism/ant-Zionism get caught up in the culture of the anti-Globalization movement?
2) What role can cultural diplomacy/ public diplomacy play in fighting it?
3) In dealing with anti-Global anti-Sem, what are the best institutions to fight it? (ie, gov, NGO, supranational)
4) How is anti-Globalization anti-Semitism different than other anti-Globalization hatreds? (ie, anti-immigrants, anti-Muslim, assorted xenophobia)

I then handed the floor over to my semitic cousin Jon, who discussed new media in the Arab world and how it creates a new pan-Arab identity. Also about how new media sites are connecting the Arab world in new fashions. The class finished with a final presentation by Oscar, who discussed China and Globalization.

"I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and nonviolence are as old as the hills."

Perhaps, but he sure had many students. I had an epiphany for a possible topic of study: Gandhi 2.0, cyber-satyagraha: how nonviolent direct action is being affected by the cyber age, and how new media outlets like YouTube, Facebook and other social networking can be used for satyagraha.

Grand daily imperative

Today's grand daily imperative: Journal of the History of Sexuality 2006 (Monastic Masturbation in Pali Buddhist Texts)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The passing of a good man

In Argentina, Raul Alfonsin passed away last week. He was the leader that helped transition the country from junta to democracy. The NY Times had an interesting article about how he has been lionized for his integrity as a rebuke to the current kleptocrats in office.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New photos up

All sorts of new photos up, from San Fran, Santa Barbara, TJ, Rosarito, and USC Cricket. Visit:

Also, for a bit of "Lama Diplomacy," the US-China Today magazine from the US-China Institute has a bunch of my Tibet photos on display.
Posted by Picasa

Meanwhile, check out this totally bizarre piece on a book called "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." Apparently, it's a text of Austen's classic, with zombies inserted into story.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Recent Lessons Learned

From the ongoing education of one Paul S. Rockower, for publication in the Daily Paulmanac:
1) People luv esperanto, "homoj amas Esperanton"

2) Don't get mad, get diplomatic. You will be shocked to find what can be achieved with patience and strongly worded yet polite responses to problems.

3) Don't be imperious. Sometimes you'll be amazed how much you enjoy menial tasks because it gives an opportunity for zen-like contemplation.

"Every man is architect of his own fortune."

"You can create opportunities by asking for them."
-Shakti Gawain

On point number 2, I just received some wonderful news. I am fully funded to go to Japan this summer for my conference. A portion from the MPD program, and the lion's share from the Center for International Studies (CIS). That was the office that that was hosting the Taiwan Fellowship that didn't work out. To make a long story short, I went to meet with the director, Prof. James. We discussed the Taiwan issue, and I mentioned that the reputation that preceeded him was that he was a fair and reasonable man. "With reasonable men, I will reason," said William Lloyd Garrison. I brought up the Japan conference as another option I was pursuing for the summer, and asked if CIS might be able to assist. Domo Arigato, CIS! Rising Sun, here I come. Skip being a public diplomacy samurai, I am going to be a public diplomacy sumo!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April Folly + Celeb Diplo

For anyone who didn't pick up on my previous post "April Epiphany," it was an acronym of "April Fools." But I got fooled bad by John Brown on his public diplomacy blog. See the first post about Sec. Clinton rejecting "public diplomacy." Well played, John.

I just barely survived the Ides of March- if Julius Caesar couldn't survive March, what chance did I have? But April is off to a far better start. I like April's spring humour over the wintery discontent left over in March. My quest to find funding for the Rising Sun conference is slowly getting off the ground, and I may end up studying to be a public diplomacy samurai this summer.

Meanwhile, yesterday was a good class in Wiseman's Transnational Security/Diplo class. We first had an empirical knowledge quiz on the previous concepts and readings, things like the difference between traditional peace keeping vs. complex peace keeping, the "ancient hatreds" thesis and other fun IR concepts. Then we got into Celebrity Diplomacy and the role of the individual in International Relations. As from Back to the Future:

Dr. Emmett Brown: Then tell me, "Future Boy", who's President in the United States in 1985?
Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.
Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor?
Brown: Then who's VICE-President? Jerry Lewis?
Brown: I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady!
McFly: Whoa! Wait! Doc!
Brown: And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury.
McFly: Doc, you gotta listen to me.
Dr.Brown: I've had enough practical jokes for one evening. Good night, Future Boy!

Still cracks me up. Although technically Reagan wasn't a celeb diplomat but rather a celebrity who went into politics. We read passages from Prof. Andrew Cooper's book on Celebrity Diplomacy, among other readings. The other stuff included a good piece by Daniel Drezner called "Foreign Policy goes glam." and Byman and Pollock on the role of individuals in IR. We discussed the difference between celebrity diplomacy vs. celebrity activism, and how individuals can matter in IR.

Ok breaks over, back to the grand task of filing. Daily imperative: "The World of Black Singles" 1981 edition

PS: Another great piece by Ari Shavit on Bibi's speech he was supposed to give at his swearing-in. Not sure if it is real, but one can hope.


I haven't written about Israel much, perhaps cause I don't even know where to begin. A few things going on. First, I was dismayed that Ehud Barak joined Bibi's government. But perhaps they are perfect for each other. Egotistical opportunists who are the brightest around. Now I can't figure out where I stand. Ari Shavit of Ha'aretz wrote a good piece about what they offer each other. I'm trying to be patient and keep my optimism, but I have little hope. Meanwhile, I am utterly dismayed that the fascist Lieberman is occupying the position of my former employment. A true besmirchment of the fair office that Eban used to hold.

Perhaps Bibi and Barak can move forward on Syria. I hope so, but I'm not holding my breath. A good piece from Sy Hersh about Israel and Syria.

Also a sad story of state of affairs of Palestinian society. This story comes out of the West Bank about the fallout from a youth orchestra playing for a group of Holocaust survivors. Reminder of how deep the enmity is.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Discover the CIA !?!

I read in the LA Times that USC is helping the CIA do marketing. Today I saw a banner that said "Discover the CIA" with the SC logo inside. Maybe I'm wrong, but I though the CIA was supposed to discover you...

An April Epiphany

An epiphany came to me. Paul has had it with school. Really I'm tired of it. I've decided that I have pursued the wrong path. Look, there is no sense to it.

For what it's worth, I'm tired of falling deeper into debt for nothing on the horizon. Obviously it's time for a change. Only option that remains-I'm going to take what little savings I have left and purchase a patch of land in Mexico and raise goats. Looks like a far better life than being a public diplomat. Sold?