Thursday, July 30, 2009

Land of a million vending machines

If I could use words
Like falling leaves
what a bonfire
my poems would make.

James Clavell, Shogun

It has been an interesting arrival to Japan. Unfortunately, it hasn`t been smooth as silk because Mickey Mouse is anal retentive and has been roaring at me. I don`t mean to cause trouble, but the kiddies and I aren`t always seeing eye-to-eye. We had an opening ceremony yesterday, followed by a speaker who was the Lt. Gov of Tokyo. The fellow was also a historian about Japan in WWII, so I asked him about the Fugu Plan. He sashimied it, saying it was just conspiracy theory and didn`t want to talk about it. Not especially satisfactory.

I went to bed early but woke up at 3am on account ofjetlag. I went wandering around, and found 7/11 and the joys of sake in a box. For 100 yen ($1) you can buy sake in a juice box including a lil straw. Sake settled the jet lag in a decent fashion.

Today we went to the US Embassy. We hopped the metro down to the embassy in the absolutely sweltering heat. In the best public diplomacy move, the embassy had a box of give-away fans done up with American flags. Public diplomacy of the deed in full force. In full irony, the flag fans were made in China. We received a lecture from the Embassy staff on the various positions at the embassy, and a little about about what brought the staff to their respective positions. I asked the public diplomacy chief about the embassy`s pub d outreach using new media technology and social networking.

After the embassy visit, my food security round table group went to the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss Japan`s various agricultural policies. We grilled the officials a bit about Japan`s protectionist policies related to rice.

After the meeting, we went by way of the bustling shinjuku metro station and waves of commuters to a reception for the JASC group held by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The reception was held on the 43 floor of a downtown building, the view of the city was stunning. We heard from the director of public diplomacy, who mentioned Japan`s anime/manga diplomacy. He declared himself a sake samurai and mentioned Japan`s sake diplomacy. We also heard from the US Embassy`s head of public diplomacy. I taught the Japanese delegation the word "shmooze," and we sipped sake and had a terrific spread.

Japan has been fascinating so far, my trick will be making peace with the program that is uptight and rigid. I am working on it, but it wont be easy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating Jello with Chopsticks

My moment of zen came early this morning, over breakfast in a cafeteria full of Japanese students. I went with my program mate Yudai for some morning grub. We waited in line with all the adorable Japanese camp children and school girls dressed in their uniforms. Breakfast consisted of miso soup, rice with fermented beans, pickled fish, pickles and some form of sliced carrot-like vegetable. All washed down with the best instant coffee I have ever tasted, and some barley tea and blueberry juice. I was chock full of smiles, taking in the cultural exchange cafeteria scene, benign stares and smiles included.

The aforementioned moment of zen came as I had desert, a bowl of jello squares that I ate with chopsticks. Yes, it is as hard as it sounds. Eating jello with chopsticks requires concentration and patience- necessary skills for all public diplomacy samurai.

Commodore Perry has arrived

The sky
Scorched by the sun
Fecund tears.
But the forest
Wounded by the wind
Dead leaves.

-James Clavell, Shogun

Ah, the joys of jetlag. Poor Commodore Perry has entered Nipon and he has been up since 2:45am and unable to get back to bed. I showered sitting on a bucket in a shower room that had a shower head no taller than my chest. Meanwhile, the toilets play the sound of rushing water so no one can hear you. Ah, the joys of cultural differences. I wandered around the campus complex in the misty, humid morning as cicadas cried and huge black ravens called out. The muggy air was perfumed by the sweet fragrance of honeysuckles, and I thought about other morning jetlag affairs like when I was wide awake in the Temple Hostel in Beijing and the moon hung heavily in the morning sky.

My Battle of Seattle ended with nary a peep. The flight to Japan was long but not too much so. 10 hour flights are cake these days. I watched the thoroughly post-modern comic tale of The Watchmen, with superheros fighting their own psychological demons and insecurities. We arrived in the evening, under pink skies with hues of peach and sporadic clouds- over perfectly cut green agricultural plots. The Japanese delegation (Japadeles) gave us all a rousing surprise, and then we had a late dinner of pizza covered with ham, corn and mayo- as gross as it sounds but better once everything was picked off. Now the JASC delegation is fully together, so a little about what the program is and why I am here.

The Japan-America Student Conference is a peer-led conference between Japanese and American students that has been going on since 1934. It is the oldest of its kind, and there was even a conference in 1941 (prior to Pearl- the conference was a little tense). The half-Japanese-half American delegation alternates the sites of the conference between the two respective countries. Probably the most famous alumni is Dr. Henry Kissinger. Good ol' Dr. K participated when he was a young student. I am participating because I am examining how Japan carries out its public diplomacy through cultural exchange. In Japanese, the word for "public diplomacy" is "cultural exchange." In terms of cultural exchange opportunities, Japan is one of the best. The conduct a tremendous variety of cultural exchange programs, some of which like JET I mentioned in a previous blog- others I will discuss later.

The JASC conference is sponsored by an organization called International Student Conferences. ISC is a non-profit organization that supports the student-run educational and cultural exchange conferences. The organization used to just be known as, but it added a Korean-American Student Conference component a couple years prior and had to expand the name. The KASC component is in its second year.

Here is a little video from last year's conference:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Land o' Rising Sun, here I come

How beautiful life is and how sad! How fleeting, with no past and no future, only a limitless now

James Clavell, Shogun.

The conference has been progressing nicely. Yesterday we had some roundtable meetings about food security (my rt group) then later a "special topics" session. My session was about sex and culture, which was a raucous discussion. One of the funnier points was about "food porn," hi-gloss photos of food. 2 girls, one cupcake? After the session, we got dressed up for a lovely reception at the Japanese Consul General's residence. We toasted over sake and ate delicious Japanese fare, while we chatted with former JASC (my program) and JET participants- as well as the Japanese consular staff.

Last night, I finished the magnum opus that is Shogun. I started the book probably some 12 years ago- I read 40 pages, loved it, put it down and never came back. Now I have finally completed the 1,200 page sumo of a book. It was a fantastic story about a shipwrecked English sea captain's life in Japan, and all the adventures therein. As I wrote earlier, it was "As a driven samurai," for its discussion on balancing two starkly different worlds.

Love is a Christian word, Anjin-san. Love is a Christian thought, a Christian ideal. We have no word for 'love' as I understand you mean it. Duty, loyalty, honor, respect, desire, those words and thoughts are what we have, all that we need.

Now, off to Japan. Land o' Rising Sun, here I come.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Orientation Day One

Just as I was going to bed last night, I received a surprise. Daysha was in Seattle. Surprise. She was on her way to surprise her grandmother for her 80th birthday, but surprised me first. Surprise she did, and caused just a bit of commotion considering it was the first day of the conference and she needed a place to crash. Poor conference kiddies running the show didn't know what to do with the situation, so they let her stay so long as she was out the next morn.

Today we had an interesting lecture on Japanese architecture and its influence abroad. While I knew that Japanese art and wood cuts influenced the impressionist movement, I had no idea what role Japanese architecture played on 20th century architecture. The daiymo of American architecture Frank Lloyd Wright spent a good portion of time in Japan, and was very heavily influenced by its architecture in his own work. The horizontal vistas and interplay with nature mimicked Japanese styles. Things like Falling Water were very similar to Japanese pavilions with rushing water through the center. As Picasso said, "Lesser artists borrow, greater artists steal."

The rest of the day was spent on a scavenger hunt in Seattle. Mickey Mouse can be fun, so long as you are willing to play along.

Frye, the Fugu Plan, U-Dub & Day One

I've been resting ahead of the conference and taking it easy. Last night at the hostel, there was a free meal. I complained about the price of the hostel, but free dinner on various nights and free pancakes and eggs for breakfast (provided you cook it) is a nice touch. I almost got booted from the hostel however, for my ascension of the fire escape. This morning I trudged up to Capitol Hill and over to the Frye Museum. It was a lovely little museum with some beautiful Munich Impressionism and a fascinating exhibit on puppets. The puppet exhibit was a little weird and disturbing but there was a great video of a puppet conference. It was a video of a panel including Fozzie (the Muppets), Lambchop and Elmo via satellite connection. It was cute.

On my way back down, I stopped at the incredible Seattle Library.

The place is fascinating, very open and filled with light. The building is constructed in a very futuristic fashion, and is also very eco-friendly.

I grabbed my stuff on the hostel, and headed to the underground bus station to catch a bus to University of Washington. I was chatting with a student from Oberlin- on exchange at Evergreen, named McKenzie. We were on the bus chatting about sustainable agriculture, which she is studying and I had been researching for the conference. We were joined by Jonathan, a UW student who overheard us and joined in. He was also very interesting, working on coming up with a mathematical theory on community organization and development. It was one of those reminders of why I love to travel and interact with the world around me.

I got off at UW, and tried to find the Chabad House. I wanted to do T'fillin before my journey. I trudged down to one of the addresses, but found the location abandoned to an AEP frat house. I made a call to the Seattle Chabad and found out that there was another place a few blocks away. I called the rabbi and he gave me directions to his house. I trudged with all my stuff to find Rabbi Estrin's house. He was a young Rabbi with a young family. Some Chabadniks were also there, preparing for an outdoor camping adventure. I got to do t'fillin and we chatted about Jews all over the world and especially in Japan. He informed me of something an amazing story that I will look into: the Fugu Plan.

Apparently, the Fugu Plan, named for the pufferfish- a delicacy that is poisonous if prepared incorrectly, was a Japanese plan around WWII to settle the Jews in Japan so that they could help the Japanese control the world. The Japanese got their info on the Jews from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, so if the Jews were so powerful then the Japanese would settle them in small colonies in Japan and use their power to take over the world. There was a book about it, which the Rabbi showed me. The wiki entry scoffs on the veracity of it, but it sounds interesting to me.

Anywho, I made my way on to UW and began the program. Not too much, just orientation biz. The UW campus is beautiful. It's in Seattle, but far enough away from the city center to have pure, clean air. The buildings are somewhat gothic-looking, and the sun set beautifully- casting shadows on the shadows carved into the spires of various halls.

As for the conference, it will be fun and interesting. A diverse group from many different schools. My worry was that it would be a little Mickey Mouse; it probably will be, but I'm Peter Pan- so I will roll with it.

Friday, July 24, 2009


It takes a lot to really make me angry, but there was an incident yesterday that truly drew my ire. Seattle has a lot of panhandlers about. I have a policy that I rarely give beggars money, but will often buy food so I know where my money goes. I often spend more than if I just gave a buck, but I think it is better

As I was walking to the ferry to meet Kay, there was a young white girl holding a sign that said "Homeless, Pregnant and Hungry." She looked to be in her early 20's and was showing quite a bit. As I passed by, I asked her what she wanted for breakfast since there was a McDonalds next door. She said a McGriddle Sandwich. I went into McDonalds and picked her up a breakfast meal, which cost me nearly $5. I went out and gave her the meal, although truth be told I kept the coffee because of the grey weather and the feeling that pregnant women probably shouldn't be drinking coffee (or eating McDonalds, but that is a different story).

After I met Kay, we were walking out of the ferry terminal above where I met the girl. I looked down and saw her good-for-nothing boyfriend sitting next to her, chowing down on the McGriddle sandwich I bought for her. I was furious. I made sure Kay and I walked the other direction because nothing good could come out of me saying anything. Still I am fuming that someone would abuse my kindness and leave me feeling like a sucker.

The Kid, Kay and me

Ken Griffey, Jr. burst onto the baseball scene in 1989. His father Ken Griffey had been a talented major leaguer, and "the Kid" was an ubertalented 19 year old phenom coming up in the Seattle Mariners organization. His Upperdeck baseball card was number 1, literally- it was the card every one had to have. Griffey went on to have a long, storied career with the Mariners, then later playing for the Cincinnati Reds. While playing for the Reds, injuries caught up with his adonis frame and slowed him down. He languished on a mediocre team, and bounced around a few more clubs. Always an example of class, he is assured to be a Hall of Famer. He even aided American Public Diplomacy efforts, serving as a Public Diplomacy envoy to teach baseball to Central America. He recently returned to Seattle to end his career in the place where the legend began.

As I walked around town, I was struck by the t-shirts with his picture on it. Gone was "the Kid." He had aged, his face and frame grown heavier- although his smile still shone through. Time had passed over Griffey and me. Two decades ago, I was an avid fan and I followed Griffey. Nineteen years ago, Kay joined our family to be a nanny while my Mom dealt with maladies. She became a big sister to me and my siblings, and helped raise us. When she arrived, she brought me a baseball with Grffey's countenance on it. I still have it somewhere packed away. Eighteen years ago I visited Seattle for the first time, when it was still a tiny gem on the Puget Sound.

Today, I caught up with my big sis. Like people who leave indelible marks on your ife, it was like no time had passed. She was the same, and so was I. Yet we had all changed greatly over the years- Griffey, Seattle, Kay and me. I mentioned the Griffey example to her, and we both pondered over the symbolic nature he held.

We spent the day walking through the Emerald City. We walked through the lovely Pioneer Square, with its Bohemian and European charm, then over through the International District and down by the water- stopping at Ivar's famous fish & chips, while seagulls clucked away for french fry scraps. We wandered through the Olympic Sculpture Park, and over to the Space Needle, which seems to have lost its grandeur in the expansion of the city. The grey Seattle weather attacked me, but later faded and I returned. None of those details really matter, all that's important is holding onto the relationships in life that follow you through various stages and can remind you of the precious memories that you might have long forgotten.

Yoga Diplomacy & new APDS Flier

Daysha talked me into going with her to yoga the other day. She goes religiously and had been trying to get me to come to her temple of twists. I had done yoga a few times before and had enjoyed the tranquility it offered by simply tying myself in knots. I came for the class and enjoyed twisting and turning myself into a pretzel. I couldn't do it all, but I hung in well during an advanced class.

As the class was finishing, we took a brief moment of meditation to finish. What filled my thoughts during my moments of peaceful zen? Yoga diplomacy as Indian public diplomacy. A yoga studio full of goras fully steeped in traditional Indian art, thought and practices. Yoga studios are becoming so ubiquitous, it makes a perfect entry point for India to conduct public diplomacy. It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Thailand has engaged in gastro diplomacy, using the popularity of Thai restaurants as a cultural entry point into foreign lands. India could promote itself by partnering with yoga studios, or setting up its own yoga studios like other countries set up cultural institutes like the Goethe Institutes for Germany, or the Confucius Insitutes for China.

Once my moment of zen passed, I chuckled to myself of what a pd nerd I was (grad school as "nerd force multiplier") given how I chose to spend my moment of clarity, but also a continuing realization of something I saw during the PD Corps meeting last weekend. Roughly a year ago, I began the Public Diplomacy program; a year on, I think differently, attack problems differently and have new skills and ideas that have me sizing up problems in a pd lens. My classmates are the same. We have a language and set of skills that we didn't have a year ago. That is why I returned to school, and a year on, I am so glad I chose the right program. I look forward to the year to come, but first, a little cultural diplomacy and cultural exchange in the Land of the Rising Sun. Time to become a public diplomacy samurai.

In the meantime, peep this new Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars (APDS) flier.

I am communications chair for the student group (like student council for Public Diplomacy nerds). The redesigned newsletter will make its appearance later this summer. Big thanks to Matt Schrader, the CPD intern-extraordinaire was the design genius behind the curtain of this PD wizard of Oz. He has been honored with honorary membership status in the org, and we are going to pimp him out to grad school girls.

The tortoise's shell

I found the best spot in all of the Emerald City, on the green tortoise's shell. I found a fire escape to the roof and have been enjoying it for quiet contemplation away from the hostel din. The spot overlooks the Pike Market, and the sun sets in brilliant orange-golden radiance over the Puget Sound. Grand.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Devil in the Emerald City

Touching down in the shadow of the majestic Mount Ranier, I arrived to Seattle. I caught the bus downtown, and was surprised how the bus entered a subterranean bus path with light rails as it rode on paths under the city. I trudged to the Green Tortoise hostel, next to the Pike Market. Seattle has really changed since I was last here, I will get into that later. It reminds me of a not-so-poor man's San Francisco, with the panhandlers and punks therein. I wandered around in the cool evening, past a cellist playing a medly of Michael Jackson tunes and the myriad of panhandlers. I climbed up on the roof of the hostel for a lovely sunset over the market and Puget Sound.

I woke up early this morning to a steel grey sky. I wandered around the famous Pike's Market, as fellows tossed silver fish and ladies pulled together vibrant bouquets. The smell of cinnamon bread baking hung on the morning air as I strode down the market's long hallways. For now, off for some hostel breakfast that is included in the price of the MOST expensive hostel I have ever stayed in ($31) then to meet Kay, my big sister of years gone by.

Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

Finally escaped the jungle that is LA, the "Failed State" that is California. The city was overheating and tempers were flaring about. Sadly, the summer soured me to the city, as I was frustrated with the flakiness, flashiness and overall chaos of the choking, snarled city. Too many crazy homeless people pissing on street corners, too many vapid glitzies; too many awful drivers. Perhaps the end of the fairytale honeymoon in Lalaland is a good thing. USCworld and the Ivory tower is not LA. I caught a glimpse of the real deal and found out how dirty the Angels wings really are.

But as I found myself flying north over the pacific pacific, the frustrations that were weighing on me melted away. Off to Seattle and regaining my peace while reading
James Clavell's Shogun masterpiece, or "As a Driven Samurai."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fill 'er up

Check out this article on a car that runs on pee. Maybe I can drop a deuce under the hood for added power....

My Dad had some funny comments to the article: "So is the new model the "Golden Shower"????? The "Bladder Express"? The motto: "Pass a Stone to Get Home"?? "The Power is in YOUR Hands"???"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Round up

Haven't been blogging much recently, I have been really busy of late. Trying to tie up loose ends at home before I go abroad. All sorts of angst and stress abound. The photo project has not been without its share of frustrations, but I am getting through it.

I caught up with the pub d peeps on tuesday night for some happy hour and kobe beef tacos at Origami. The kobe beef tacos were just a buck for happy hour, how grand. Nice to catch up with the program folks, should have been done more often but that's the way it goes.

Wednesday I went to the amazing Anneberg Space for Photography. This was my second attempt, it was closed on the last venture. Daysha and I met up with her old roomies Tiana and Chris, and we checked out the exhibit displaying photos of the year. There were some incredible shots of the riots in Kenya, of life in Pakistan and of the Olympics. There was also a cool gizmo that let you drag the images around on a table computer. When you weren't playing with the photos, it had a water display that really looked like you were splashing.

Friday I ran into Prof. Gilboa, who is back at USC to teach the CPD summer institute. We caught up and he is interested in working on paper focused on Qatar's public diplomacy. Friday night was a global comm going-away taco party for my friend Sophie.

Saturday was a good meeting with pub d friends about how our pub d organization is going to save the world and win a Nobel Peace Prize. Simple stuff, I assure you. Off to the beach for what is amazingly my first time all summer. A far busier summer than expected.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On the edge of Pleasant Lake

From Pleasant Lake

"The drums cease, for the Red and the Gray tribes have ended combat. Brother is again at peace with brother. They bury the hatchets and smoke the pipe of peace. Victor and Defeated again unite in a symbol of Great Chief Powhatan. They stand firm as a rock.

Many moons will pass before Red and Gray again dig up the hatchets and don the war paint.

It is late, and I can do without sleep no more."

Sadly, a good man has passed. Dr. Joel Bloom passed away recently, he was 93. He had been the owner and director of Camp Powhatan, a camp where my father and I spent many moons (among many of my family). He was a wise and honorable man, whose camp helped shape me to be the man I am today. For years, Camp Powhatan stood peacefully on the edge of Pleasant Lake in Maine. A visionary for equality, in the days when racial injustice was more pronounced, he was brave enough to have a Black man run his camp. The camp would later became the site for Seeds of Peace, as Joel hosted the first camp for Israelis and Palestinians to play together as boys should. In his honor, I am posting the morning prayer we said every morning at Camp Powhatan- to this day, the same prayer I still say every morning.

"Oh God and Father, source of all life and blessing. We lift up our hearts in thanksgiving, for thy loving kindness towards us. Thy goodness, which is without end, has given us the refreshing quiet of sleep, and permitted us to awake to the joy and beauty of a new day- gladden with the blessing of health. Grant we pray thee, that this day will pass with no evil thoughts in our hearts, and no wrong deeds to stain our hands. Help us to be good and obedient children, deserving the love of our parents, teachers and guardians. Aid us to join all together in kindness to each other, and teach us to do all that thou would have us do."
–Morning Prayer

The Dog Days of Summer

Summer is in full tilt, and it has gotten warm. Thursday I let myself be experimented on, I turned Guinea Pig (delicious) for the sake of science and funding. They were looking for right-handed Jewish males over the age of 18 for scientific study. I was the perfect specimen. Via Craig's List. While I had my Mengle doubts of what they wanted, it was fine. I listened to the stories of eight people and had to answer if they would have empathy for me. Most of the stories were of neo-nazis- some reformed, some otherwise. Then I had an MRI, where they scanned my cabeza for reactions to them in various situations ranging from pain to pleasure. Rewarded for my time, and I got to see imagery of my grey matter when I was done.

Thursday evening was the Art Walk. I went with the roomies. Daysha, Chelsea, Roberto and I wandered around through the multitudes gathered downtown for some high art. The streets were packed with revelry, it was a great time. In an alley, there was a cool band called Subcollect that was playing a funky Roots groove. We made our way to a fun bar with an eclectic decor and an 80s grove for some Tecate tallboys. The whole thing was a lot of fun. There were some amazing works up, one I saw was a light-box imaged doorway in what looked to be ruins in Southeast Asia and looked to beckon the viewer in. We met Chelsea's boyfriend Ed, and had some dinner in Little Tokyo to end the evening.

Friday things worked out towards my fellowship in Taiwan, and I made some post-grad plans early. Nice to have an interesting project in place already. Takes some of the weight off already, and I get to enjoy my last year.

Saturday involved some library time downtime downtown. Working on wordage for the photo exhibit. Later, I went with Kenya through the Blacklist to the African-American Museum. There was a moving exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen. They were brave and honorable men who had to fight to train; fight to fight; fought with distinction for freedom; had to return to fight for their own freedom.

Saturday night was a party in Venice, on the canals with my friend Anne. It was a PD party of a different sort. Public Defenders. I chatted with Zach- the social worker husband of Sasha the pd about a great article in the New Yorker on fighting crime. I can't seem to find the whole article for posting. I am working on it.

Today is a scorcher, and the heat was cut by running in the hose. Not Chicago '68, but a much more civil variety. More of a sprinkler variety.

PS: I have new pics up of the California Coast

Hearst Castle
From Hearst Castle

LA around town
From La around town

Apparently, I have 34 fans on my pic site. I just found that out. Most welcome, you all are.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Public Enemies

Unfortunately, based on lawyerly and parental advice, the anecdote that had been in place has been, shall we say...redacted. Sorry, hope the faithful readers (the partisans of Paul's blog) enjoyed it while it was there.

Ah, but I digress. Yesterday I worked in the library on signage for my exhibit. As I was leaving, I saw there was a huge bbq going on in the quad. Sensing a free lunch, I snuck past the embankments and got in the bbq line. Later sitting at a table, I found that I had crashed a freshmen orientation bbq. I chatted it up with the freshmen, and waxed out some advice.

Later I went out for a bike ride downtown, past ground zero that is the state funeral for King of Pop. Amid all the hoopla surrounding the death of Michael Jackson, I caught a glimpse of his legacy on display. I saw a little kid doing the moonwalk, and was reminded of the imprint that Jackson made on the fabric of the American cultural landscape and psyche. There were photo tributes to MJ, and his ever changing countenance and complexion. What a presence he had, and what a ghost he became. There was a video playing of him at the Grammy's. He was in full King of Pop regalia, and when he spoke, it was such a such a high squeak, it was bizarre. Also bizarre was the sharply pointed nose that made him look phantom like, something similar to the South Park episode or Scary Movie spoof. And there were tons of fans clad in RIP King of Pop t-shirts, and hawkers circling about trying to pitch MJ t-shirts- a reminder that both Jackson and the profit to be made in selling t-shirt to his legacy are quintessentially American. Thanks to Steve Lopez of the LA Times for the reminder that Jacko's skin wasn't the only thing white-washed.

I made my way to the Grand Central Market, to sip horchata and sit in an open-air general store. Fruits and saw dust floors. Mangoes- two pounds for a dollar. Spices, dried bacalao, chipotle chili powder and cans of goods and wares. As I made my way back, I joined the capitalization of Michael's death, and picked up a t-shirt as a gift for my upcoming Japanese exchange. The store was selling two MJ shirts for $10 or 5 printed kitsch LA shirts for $10. I bargained an MJ shirt and three LA/CA kitsch shirt for $10, after wielding my Arabic to get the deal. I first asked, and they said no, then I heard them speaking Arabic and switched over. They got such a kick out of me bargaining for the "Malik of Pop" shirt that they agreed.

I ended the night going to Public Enemies with Daysha. We found a movie theater that has late matinee prices on Tuesday, so we went to see the flick. I didn't especially like it, I thought it was long and overdone. There wasn't any character development. It was entertaining but not good, and fine for a matinee price.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I was offered a fellowship in Taiwan at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy to research and write about Taiwan's Public Diplomacy outreach! I would be in Taipei and it would last for four months. I'm working on the details, the fellowship would either be during my second semester next year, or after I graduate. Hopefully I can swing the latter so that I don't have to drop, dance or juggle all the other commitments I already have in place (APDS, PD Mag, my photo show). We'll see how this plays out, but it is exciting.

Shiva Shiva

On Sunday I went to meet my aunt to return her keys, which I forgot to bring her when I picked her up at the airport. She gave me an admonishing for putting nearly a thousand miles on her car when she is under a lease that limits mileage. Oops, I had no idea. I apologized and bought her a cup of coffee. Not much else I could do. After, I went with Kenya to a memorial service for the godmother of my friend Gopal. The memorial service (shiva) was done in hindu traditions (shiva), and was rather interesting. We sat on the floor, and chants were said. We began with the gayatri mantra, said 108(!) times:

om tat savitur vareNyaM

bhargo devasya dhîmahi

dhiyo yo nah prachodayât

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of all Sin and Ignorance;
May He enlighten our Intellect.

I found the words sufficiently close to any Jewish prayer, so I substituted "adonai" for "om" and joined in. The service continued with some other songs and chants. It was led by some anglo hindus, and I think the Indians there were a little surprised by the guitar and tambourine elements added to their traditional melodies. The service concluded and we reconvened for homemade Indian food out back.

Japan diaspora

Since I am pretty consumed with all things Nipon these days, I thought I would post an interesting article about Japanese communities in South America. Until I arrive in the Land o' Rising Sun, the best sushi I have ever tasted was in Sao Paolo, Brazil- home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

4th wishes

As always, holidays give me time to ponder, remember and think. As we celebrate our liberty, my thoughts turn to those who struggle for their own. This year my thoughts are with those in Iran. It was just a few centuries ago that we rose up against tyranny in the quest for liberty; today, it is Iran's turn.

It's sad, because this is not how things should be. Right now, President Moussavi should be sending his envoys for hotdogs as July 4th bbq diplomacy helps thaw the relations. Cookout public diplomacy at its finest (Reminds me of a story of one of my favorite calls at the Israeli Consulate in Texas for a similar idea, Texan-style between Sharon and Abbas). Alas, things didn't work out as planned. This year, as we celebrate our freedom and liberty, I pray for those in Iran who so bravely rise up for their own.

A little piece by Marjane Satrapi that moved me.
Today I read somewhere that “the velvet revolution” of Iran became the “velvet coup,” with a little note of irony, but let me tell you something: This generation, with its hopes, dreams, anger and revolt, has forever changed the course of history. Nothing is going to be the same.

Happy 4th of July to all. Fight on, Green.

PS: Thanks to Katharine, who posted: "How Michael Jackson answered the Ayatollah's prayers."

PPS: Thanks to MediaMentions for chiming in:

Media Mentions has left a new comment on your post "4th wishes":
The one day a year when all Americans have something in common: pride!
Best regards,

Friday, July 03, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Since the shah of pop passed away, the ADD-starved media has shifted its focus from Persepolis to Never-never Land. I think Ahmednijad had Michael Jackson bumped off to shift global attention away from the Iranian election. Pity that real news gets shunted aside for this spectacle.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Borat indeed; Israeli Public Diplomacy in the age of Yvette

"The Arabs, our adversaries, have succeeded in doing to us what 'Borat' did for Kazakhstan", Ido Aharoni told the Knesset Defense and Security Committee on Tuesday, referring to the 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen film in which Cohen portrayed a Kazakh filmmaker touring the United States.


No, actually having a fascist night club bouncer for a foreign minister in Avigdor Lieberman makes Israel a diplomatic joke. Lieberman is a public diplomacy albatross. That this man sits in the seat once held by Abba Eban is a sad state of affairs for Israeli diplomacy.

Sarko said as much, and I would agree. Bibi's tepid retort was that "Yvette," aka Avigdor Lieberman, was wonderful once you got to know him. I remember a sign in Huntington, West Virginia that said that if someone if mean to waiters but nice to you, that doesn't make them a good person. Bibi has far too smart an understanding of public diplomacy to not know that Lieberman is a PD nightmare for Israel. Bibi's brief sojourn as Foreign Minister was a reminder of how good he can be in the art of public diplomacy, he has to know that Lieberman is a pub d liability. If you are serious about peace and Israeli PD, fire Lieberman and bring Kadima on board. Tzipi ("Believni") as FM and an Israel engaged in the public diplomacy and peace processes does far more to benefit Israel's security and Israel's standing in the world than an obstinate Lieberman and an isolated Israel.

Julius Uno

Happy Anniversary to my parents, a double chai anniversary to them. Last year for their 35th, my Dad had NPR make an announcement. We all listened in to the radio announcer read off the ode to the love of my father's life...Amy. Mom is Ann. This year, they only semi-boffed her name, mispronouncing her last name. Note to NPR stations, if you want pledges, you need to get the pledgers' messages correct.

I woke up early with a little angst on my photo project starting to stare me in the face. A little maneuvering at the photo shop kinda settled me, but it takes a lot of public diplomacy to put on a public diplomacy photo exhibit. After, I went with Daysha to the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. I had never been to Century City, I utterly hated it. First off, we pulled into the building and there were valets out front. Even self-parking was an astounding $18 an hour. The valet gave us some priceless advice and sent us to park in the mall parking lot that was caddy corner.

We walked through the mall, as I held back disgust at the fashionistas out on their midday strolls. We arrived at the Annenberg space, to a scene that resembled the move The Matrix. It was behind a big glass building that you could see through, and all sorts of yuppie scum were bobbling along in their expensive dross suits and shades. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for renovation- a fact not mentioned on their website. The museum was aware of this, and a lovely hostess had cookies waiting at the front hall for such an occasion as an upset patron coming to visit. In short, I hated Century City with all my being. It was a horrific high-powered hell of glass and crass. It made me nauseous just to be there. If I am sent to Hades, it will probably resemble Century City.

The rest of the day involved tremendous amounts of traffic to get back and forth across the city. I have really been blessed to not have a car, as I think I would hate LA if I spent every day in the quilombo that is traffic snarl. Anywho, I returned my Aunt's car, washed and full o' gas. Unfortunately, the apple o' forgetfulness runs in the family, and I left her set of keys sitting on my desk. I will have to pay a stupidity tax of a metro ride to go return them.

Meanwhile, after ferrying her from the airport, I hopped the last green line metro train back. Alas, I arrived to Imperial/Washington in South Central LA, and the last train had already departed. Some Russian kids who had been sipping beers clandestino on the last train were in the same boat, so we all hopped on a bus headed from SCLA to downtown. Ah, the bus through South Central at midnight. There was a fat black fellow in a Scarface t-shirt that was spouting ghetto aphorisms of love to the Russians. He was either drunk or cracked out, but was jovial at first. Then he got up and one of the Russians took his seat. He returned and went mad. Madness maddened. He start yelling at the Russians, and accusing them of being soft. "This is South Central, N-*%#," he screamed at the poor, confused Russians, "you are soft!" He swayed up and down the bus, and in a final act of defiance, screamed 'thug life' as he got off the bus. A fortysomething blackwoman just started laughing after he left and said, "son, if you are gangster, you aren't on the bus." She then said his momma should take him over his knee. Bus dropped me off right on my doorstep and all's well that ends well. All and all, I still feel far more comfortable roaming South Central at midnight than Century City. I understand the former far better.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What's a Master's Degree worth?

Apparently, not much.

Middle Child Public Diplomacy

Public Diplomacy Magazine launched today! PD Mag take two. Second time is special too...

The second issue deals with Middle Powers, and has an interesting perspective on the travails of the middle children of global civil society. Articles dealing with public diplomacy of Canada, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Korea and many others. There are a lot of great pieces from great scholars, pundits and pub d practitioners. Sen. Dick Lugar chimed in, as did Simon Anholt- the father of Nation Branding.

Kudos to our senior editors Rima, Desa and Lorena for putting it together.