Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On goals and indirection

"When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps."

India-Taiwan cont

I have been bouncing around the idea of closer India-Taiwan ties on a few ning sites. One great PD idea is for both to work together on a joint niche diplomacy project that they have each been working on separately, respectively. Both India and Taiwan are doing major work to decrease the digital divide. Taiwan is doing work through APEC in the ADOC Initiative, while India's Pan-African network is doing similar work in Africa. Anyway, I found this article that looks like India is already considering closer ties with Taiwan.

East vs. West Pakistan Cont.

A good article on Bengal's successes. Notice how I have already started independently rebranding it ;).

The Revolution will not be tweeted

Malcolm Gladwell has a brilliant piece on social media and social activism, networks vs. hierarchies.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Time; Dialogue of the Deaf

I haven't been blogging much because I was playing host to my family in Taipei. We had a grand time, and I was reminded that Taipei is a great tourist destination for a week. A quick run through:

Ellen and Sam arrived first, and to shake off the vlugvoos (Afrikaans word to be left spongy or rotten from jetlag) I took them to go sit in the hot springs in Beitou. After, we headed up to Danshui and I took them through the night market. Poor Ellen was falling asleep on her feet as we waited to surprise my parents, only to find out their flight was delayed.

We came by the next morning, and surprised my Mom. After my mom recovered from the shock, I took them up the Taipei 101 to see the city from above. We stared out over the three river cross and admired the damper babies, then hopped cabs for some beef noodle soup and sesame noodles with carrots and cucumbers. Since it was the mid-Autumn festival, I took everyone on a temple tour, and we visited the Confucius Temple, Taoist Baoan Temple and Buddhist Longshan temple. That makes for a lot of incense. That night, we went out for dumplings at the famous and delicious Din Tai Fung for some light and subtle Shanghai-style dumplings.

Day two we headed on to the National Palace Museum. My dad and I had a great time walking through the ceramics, and admiring the progression of style. I was sick and sneezing the whole time, it wasn't pretty.

Day three was filled with rain, but cleared up in the afternoon so we headed on to see Chiang Kai-Shek's memorial ("Nothing to see here"). I sent my family to RaoHe Night Market while I tried to do my BBC interview, but it was a fail all around. The interview was plagued with technical difficulties, while the family had a hard time appreciating the strangeness of the market without me around. My parents departed the following day for Hong Kong, and I took Ellen and Sam to the Jade, Flower and Artists market under the highway. Ellen the jeweler had to restrain herself in the jade market, but the girls got some nice stuff. We had the most amazing duck ever for lunch, it oozed star anise juice when you bit into the succulent meat. We finished the afternoon having tea at the National Museum of Taiwan, in the wonderful tea house overlooking the lotus pond of the Taipei Botanical Gardens, with clouds hanging on the mountain range in the distance. We sipped sweet chrysanthemum and bitter pu'er teas, and nibbled on pistachios and pineapple cake before retiring for naps in the verdant gardens surrounding the lotus-filled pond.

Yom Rishon was in Ximen the Taipei hipster mart. We spent the evening in Shida at the night market, slurping noodles and sipping beers. On our way to the metro, Ellen had to pee and the line in the girls bathroom was long so she popped into the guys bathroom. As she was walking out, she bumped into a kid from SanFran and we got to talking. He was off to meet a girl, so we joined him for a drink on the corner OK Mart. As we were walking up, we noticed two Taiwanese guys talking in sign language. Ellen, who speaks ASL, ran over to see if she could communicate. They were floored, and we sat on the concrete, drinking tall boys and watching Ellen try to communicate with her hands. Although ASL and Taiwanese signing is different, they were able to connect enough with international signing that they could communicate. The deaf guys were overjoyed at this American girl speaking their language and conversing with them. As was Ellen, who was bursting with joy at this unexpected but poignant moment of public diplomacy and cultural exchange. I bought the motley crew a round of tall boys to celebrate our dialogue of the deaf and marveled at how we can overcome linguistic and cultural barriers to connect. It was a pd moment that none will soon forget.

On the future of Zionism

An absolutely brilliant piece by Donniel Hartman, the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel:

One of the crucial challenges facing Israel in its current negotiations with the Palestinians is remembering that we are not merely negotiating with them but also with ourselves.

The question is not what they and the international community will allow, but what we as a Jewish people want to put forth as a core aspect of our policy. The failure to understand this has led to undermining the strength of Zionism within Israeli society and to the kindling of Israel’s delegitimization also within the Jewish community around the world.

To state it more clearly, if Zionism means a willingness to occupy another people, and where the holiness of the land takes precedence over the moral principles of our people, then many will want to shed the Zionist ideal, leading to a post- Zionist identification. In the world, even among our most loyal friends, the occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank is viewed as contrary to international law, antithetical to Israel as a democratic state and in opposition to Jewish values, which are rooted in the equal treatment of all human beings created in the image of God.

Ending the occupation and maintaining a morally defensible position until which time that we are able to bring it to a close while preserving our legitimate security needs are thus of critical significance to Israelis who care about Zionism and Jews around the world who want to maintain a strong and viable relationship with the state. Zionism will not be strengthened through educating Israelis and Jews about its history, but by ensuring that it is the expression of moral excellence.

THE MORAL requirements vis a vis the occupation are clear: An occupation is legitimate only if it is the result of a just war, if temporary, constant efforts are made to bring it to an end without compromising legitimate national security interests and if one refrains from non-security motivated actions which complicate efforts to bring the occupation to an end.

The occupation of the West Bank, which emanated out of the 1967 war of self-defense, clearly meets these standards, so long as we make a constant and genuine effort to bring it to an end under the conditions outlined above.

The fact that the prime minister and the vast majority of Israelis – Likud, Kadima, and Labor supporters alike – support a two-state solution if the outcome is peace, is an important step in fulfilling these criteria. Israelis have accepted that the occupation must come to an end, and while peace requires two sides, it is our policy to do everything in our power to fulfill our responsibility.

This is the context within which we must assess the issue of the settlement building freeze. Any settlement expansion with the exception of those in the areas of Jerusalem, the Etzion bloc, Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel, undermines the authenticity of our commitment to bring the occupation to an end and is thus simply immoral. Why continue to expand in areas from which one is committed to withdraw? Continued expansion there is legitimately interpreted as giving lie to one’s commitment to bringing the occupation to an end.

It is important that we recognize that the issue is not whether the Palestinians will accept a temporary suspension in the settlement freeze and will remain at the negotiating table. At issue is what we Israelis and we Jews want as the policy of our country. The US and the international community may succeed in keeping the Palestinians in the discussion.

However, if we continue to make settlement expansion outside of the settlement blocs an Israeli issue, we will be undermining within our own community the strength of Zionism and the relationship of world Jewry to the State of Israel.

It is time for a conceptual shift in focus. The future of Israel and Zionism requires that we understand that, very often, our greatest enemy lies within, and that the future vitality and legitimacy of Israel and Zionism will depend on the moral strength of the policies that we adopt. The issue is not effective public relations but morally defensible policies. When Israelis and Jews around the world can unite around the shared commitment to a Jewish state which embodies the most noble of aspirations, Israel will be truly strong.

Peace requires two sides to agree. However, the transforming of Israel into a Jewish aspirational society inspiring Jews worldwide to a higher sense of purpose and moral voice is dependent on us alone.

Mapping Stereotypes

Maps from a site that examines geographic prejudices (kippis Taru!)

                                                           From EU perspective

                                                                     From US perspective

Europe According to France

Europe according to Germany

Europe according to Italians

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Silver Scorpion

In a bit of comic book diplomacy, check out the Silver Scorpion, a new Muslim comic hero.  As you can see, he is also disabled.
The whole venture is great pd, here is the story behind it:

Comic book fans will soon be getting their first glimpse at an unlikely new superhero - a Muslim boy in a wheelchair with superpowers.
The new superhero is the brainchild of a group of disabled young Americans and Syrians who were brought together last month in Damascus by the Open Hands Intiative, a non-profit organization founded by U.S. philanthropist and businessman Jay T. Snyder.
The superhero's appearance hasn't been finalized, but an early sketch shows a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident and later becomes the Silver Scorpion after discovering he has the power to control metal with his mind.
Sharad Devarajan, co-founder and CEO of Liquid Comics whose company is now turning the young people's ideas into pictures and a story line, said the goal is to release the first comic book - launching the disabled Muslim superhero - in early November in both Arabic and English.
Snyder says he was inspired by President Barack Obama's effort to reach out to the Muslim world in his January 2009 inaugural address. Last month, Snyder flew 12 disabled Americans to Damascus to meet their Syrian peers, and one of their main goals was to come up with ideas and story lines for the new superhero.
I'm sure Ambassador Stan Lee approves.


An interesting piece comparing Nigeria and Indonesia as Nigeria celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence.


Ever Ginsberg's finest:

For Carl Solomon


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
cohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's
floated out and sat through the stale beer after
noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack
of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brook-
lyn Bridge,
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-
ings and migraines of China under junk-with-
drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-
father night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telep-
athy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos in-
stinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking vis-
ionary indian angels who were visionary indian
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Okla-
homa on the impulse of winter midnight street
light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the
brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship
to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving
behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees
and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fire
place Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the
F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist
eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incom-
prehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting
the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union
Square weeping and undressing while the sirens
of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed
down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked
and trembling before the machinery of other
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
in policecars for committing no crime but their
own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
dragged off the roof waving genitals and manu-
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly
motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
gardens and the grass of public parks and
cemeteries scattering their semen freely to
whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up
with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath
when the blond & naked angel came to pierce
them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate
the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar
the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb
and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but
sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden
threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of
beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a can-
dle and fell off the bed, and continued along
the floor and down the hall and ended fainting
on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and
come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling
in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning
but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun
rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked
in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad
stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy
to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses'
rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely pet-
ticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in
dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and
picked themselves up out of basements hung
over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third
Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemploy-
ment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on
the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the
East River to open to a room full of steamheat
and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment
cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime
blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested
the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of
who wept at the romance of the streets with their
pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the
bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in
their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned
with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded
by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
incantations which in the yellow morning were
stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht
& tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for
an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot
for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks
fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccess-
fully, gave up and were forced to open antique
stores where they thought they were growing
old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
& the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinis-
ter intelligent editors, or were run down by the
drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually hap-
pened and walked away unknown and forgotten
into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of
the subway window, jumped in the filthy Pas-
saic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street,
danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed
phonograph records of nostalgic European
1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and
threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans
in their ears and the blast of colossal steam
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying
to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude
watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had
a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who
came back to Denver & waited in vain, who
watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
Denver and finally went away to find out the
Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying
for each other's salvation and light and breasts,
until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for
impossible criminals with golden heads and the
charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet
blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky
Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys
or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or
Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the
daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hyp
notism & were left with their insanity & their
hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism
and subsequently presented themselves on the
granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads
and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding in-
stantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin
Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psycho-
therapy occupational therapy pingpong &
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic
pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of
blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible mad
man doom of the wards of the madtowns of the
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid
halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rock-
ing and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a night-
mare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book
flung out of the tenement window, and the last
door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone
slammed at the wall in reply and the last fur-
nished room emptied down to the last piece of
mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted
on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that
imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and
now you're really in the total animal soup of
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed
with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use
of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrat-
ing plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space
through images juxtaposed, and trapped the
archangel of the soul between 2 visual images
and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun
and dash of consciousness together jumping
with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
prose and stand before you speechless and intel-
ligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet con-
fessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown,
yet putting down here what might be left to say
in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America's naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered
out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand


What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi-
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob
tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stun-
ned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a canni-
bal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose fac-
tories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in
Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave-
ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to
Heaven which exists and is everywhere about
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole
boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions!
gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! De-
spairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides!
Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on
the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the
wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving!
carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the


Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland
where you're madder than I am
I'm with you in Rockland
where you must feel very strange
I'm with you in Rockland
where you imitate the shade of my mother
I'm with you in Rockland
where you've murdered your twelve secretaries
I'm with you in Rockland
where you laugh at this invisible humor
I'm with you in Rockland
where we are great writers on the same dreadful
I'm with you in Rockland
where your condition has become serious and
is reported on the radio
I'm with you in Rockland
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit
the worms of the senses
I'm with you in Rockland
where you drink the tea of the breasts of the
spinsters of Utica
I'm with you in Rockland
where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the
harpies of the Bronx
I'm with you in Rockland
where you scream in a straightjacket that you're
losing the game of the actual pingpong of the
I'm with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul
is innocent and immortal it should never die
ungodly in an armed madhouse
I'm with you in Rockland
where fifty more shocks will never return your
soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a
cross in the void
I'm with you in Rockland
where you accuse your doctors of insanity and
plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the
fascist national Golgotha
I'm with you in Rockland
where you will split the heavens of Long Island
and resurrect your living human Jesus from the
superhuman tomb
I'm with you in Rockland
where there are twenty-five-thousand mad com-
rades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I'm with you in Rockland
where we hug and kiss the United States under
our bedsheets the United States that coughs all
night and won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma
by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the
roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the
hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls col-
lapse O skinny legions run outside O starry
spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is
here O victory forget your underwear we're
I'm with you in Rockland
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-
journey on the highway across America in tears
to the door of my cottage in the Western night

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

The downside of being an adventurous foodie

There are these hard, black preserved quail or duck eggs called "Iron Eggs" that are sold in Danshui. I have tried them on a few occasions, most recently with my sis and her friend Sam as I took them around the night market. My roomie just informed me that they are preserved in horse pee. GROSS.

PS: A NYTimes piece on gastrocolonization by an Aussie Chef in Thailand. Thanks Mel, I was having trouble tracking down the article. Also from Mel and related to a previous post about the need for Mexican gastrodiplo in Asia, it better get involved soon, or Taco Bell will poison notions of tacos.

Kitchen Kerouac

Some magnetic poetry on the fridge:

Why is it when I give you every empty metaphor I only think of drunk sex and fiery death if to open our senses about how we like that purple red drug.

My form always dazzles as by absurdly composed mad blue latex paint shimmering electric surreal silhouettes on a sculpted monument of aesthetic grace.
That or a spam message.


The second interview didn't work either. How unfortunate. Prob Chinese censors blocking my computer tech and phone lines. So close to my gastrodiplo 15 minutes, I could taste it.

You can hear a the BBC piece on Malaysian gastrodiplomacy here, including my cameo.


Well, round one of the BBC interview was ok, except that had to drop me for technical difficulties. Apparently there was a poor connection and it sounded like there were waves. They had to cut me short. Oh well, there is still a second round.

BBC World Service

The BBC needed some expert gastrodiplo analysis, so they are interviewing this gastronomist!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Family time in Taipei

My family is here sans my little brother. My sister came to surprise my mom, who had tried but failed to surprise my dad with the trip. We have been doing the touristy stuff. Yesterday to Taipei 101, then to 3 different kinds of temples (Confucius, Taoist and Buddhist) for the mid-Autumn festival where people where pomelo skins on their heads.

Today we went to the National Palace Museum. While it was all exquisite, the artifact that I found the most moving was a simple shell necklace from the late-Neolithic period (circa 9,500BCE). I thumbed my own similar necklace- made of shark, snail and shell that I bought on my birthday on the Salvadoran beach of El Trunco as I passed my 30th staring at the Pacific. Peering past millennia, I marveled at how little changes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Haunted Hyatt

Apparently my parents are staying at a haunted hotel. The Hyatt in Taipei is reportedly built on an old Japanese prison camp. There have been alleged ghost sitings at the place, and supposedly the calligraphy on the walls is supposed to ward off ghosts.

Monday, September 20, 2010


mmm...frenchfries covered in chopped garlic cloves and chili cumin. Taiwain, ever the gastronomist's delight.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fanapi's symphony

And the typhoon's torrent pounded percussion on the tin roofs of Taipei.

1 jour et 1 nuit à Taipei

1 jour et 1 nuit à Taipei from mr dale on Vimeo.

Yom K at Sea

At great piece by a Jewish lobsterman about Yom K in Maine and at sea.

And a cute story about mezuzas inherited by the goyim.

Rally to restore sanity

Amazing how the only one who speaks with any sanity is a comedian. Only in America...
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
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Yom Kippur, Materialism and Envy

The other thing from this Yom Kippur I found interesting was an article read by Rabbi Einhorn. The article, by Rabbi Benjamin Blech is called Yom Kippur and the 10th commandment:

Do you want to know the secret for having a happy life?

Strangely enough, it's Yom Kippur, the day that seems to be dedicated almost totally to depriving ourselves of pleasure, that gives us the answer. But to really understand it we have to grasp the deeper purpose of this last of the 10 days of repentance.

It's no coincidence that the number of days set aside by Jewish tradition for introspection and self improvement correspond to the 10 Commandments. The 10 days from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur present us with an opportunity to set aside one day for each one of the categories alluded to in the Decalogue.

We begin our spiritual journey on the first two days of Rosh Hashana by stressing our commitment to the first two commandments. We emphasize our dedication to the existence of God as well as to His Oneness – “I am the Lord your God” and “you shall have no other gods before Me” – as we blow the shofar and acknowledge His Divine rulership and judgment.

With every passing day we follow the progression of the 10 Commandments to ever greater levels of difficulty. Just as physical training proceeds by way of learning to master ever more strenuous and difficult tasks, so too does our moral code move forward with greater and more demanding challenges.

The 10th and last commandment – "Thou shalt not covet" – requires of us to control not only our actions and words but even our thoughts. It's the most daunting one of all, and one of the most relevant commandments for contemporary times. Only by mastering its message can we hope to achieve self-fulfillment and happiness.

What is it, after all, that makes so many people feel like failures? On a superficial level the simple assumption is that we are depressed because we are deprived. The truth is that it is not so. Our obsession for acquiring wealth has far less to do with our personal wants than with our refusal to have less than others. We have to face up to the fact that, as Frank Ross put it, “It is not so much what we haven’t, but what others have that makes for unhappiness.”

A fascinating psychological study recently done by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University proves the point. The following question was posed to a representative sampling of people: Would you rather earn 100,000 dollars when everyone around you is making $50,000 or would you rather make $200,000 when everyone around you makes $400 000? The study made clear that the question assumed that the cost of living and goods stays the same. Which option did almost all people choose? A rational person would choose the second option, where he makes more money but less than people around him. That way he will have twice as much to spend. In reality most people picked the first option. The most important consideration was simply being richer than other people!

That’s why there is a multibillion-dollar industry whose purpose is the systematic propagation of envy: advertising. Its goal, as admitted by advertising guru B. Earl Puckett, is this: “It is our job to make men and women unhappy with what they have.”

Every few months, fashions change. What is “in” one month is “out” the next. One week you’re an outcast if you’re not wearing a certain kind of sneakers. The next week, you’re a geek if you haven’t switched to another brand. Why must you constantly have something else? Because big business needs consumers. So consumers have to be taught what they need rather than to have their real needs met.

How many times a day are we told not to be happy with what we have because others have more? Thomas Clapp Patton, in his book Envy Politics, gives us the staggering figure that Americans are exposed to about 3,000 ads a day. Big-city newspapers consist of 70 to 90 percent ads rather than news. The subliminal message is always the same: Whether you really need it or not, don’t be without what other people have.

There’s always somebody who has a little bit more than you.If the desire for something is based on need, then fulfillment brings contentment. But if the goal is to covet the acquisitions of others, then we are doomed to disappointment and to ever-greater dissatisfaction. There’s always somebody who has a little bit more — enough at least to stir up within us sufficient envy to prevent us from being content with what is ours.

A study published this past June in Psychological Science confirmed what we should have intuitively recognized. “The things we are trained to think make us happy, like having a new car every couple of years and buying the latest fashions, don't make us happy. Buying luxury goods, conversely, tends to be an endless cycle of one-upsmanship, in which the neighbors have a fancy new car and – bingo!– now you want one, too.”

So what really gives us true happiness? Faith in a higher power is high up on the list. Optimism based on belief in God is worth more than $1 million in the bank. A feeling of self-worth rooted in a commitment to a life lived with values provides far more satisfaction than unlimited amounts of stuff and more stuff to fill our closets.

The bottom line? The spiritual rewards reaped from a spiritual perspective far outweigh the benefits seductively paraded before us in the advertisements that daily bombard us with their false and alluring promises.

That is why we so desperately need Yom Kippur to help us rearrange our priorities. It is a day when we demonstrate that we can master our physical needs. We choose prayer over food. We choose communion with God over making more money. We do not wear our jewelry and our adornments so that no one need envy the possessions of others. We concentrate not on the things we covet that don't belong to us but on the blessings God has already granted to us that could give us so much joy if we only fully appreciated them.

And that's why Yom Kippur, with all of its deprivations, helps to teach us the real meaning of happiness and contentment.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shema Diplomacy; Answer us

A reminder that Public Diplomacy is truly a blessed endeavor. As we were going into the introductions of the Yom Kippur crowd, I got in to some friendly banter with the Rabbi. At a point, I couldn't hear him, so I cupped my hand to my ear. He said that was very good. We are taught that the most important thing in Judaism is to listen, hence why our most holy prayer begins "Shema", the command to listen. We are also taught on day one of the public diplomacy program that the most vital component of PD is to listen.

From erev Yom Kippur, this was the prayer that stood out:
Answer us, O Lord, answer us;
Answer us, our God, answer us.
Answer us, our Father, our creator, our Redeemer, answer us.
Answer us, our Guardian, O faithful God, answer us.

Answer us, thou who art ever kind, pure and just, answer us.
Answer us, thou who art eternal and beneficent, answer us.

Answer us, thou who dost suppress anger, answer us.
Answer us, thou who art robed in righteousness, answer us.

Answer us, supreme King of kings, revered and exalted, answer us.
Answer us, thou who dost pardon at a time of grace, answer us.

Answer us, thou who dost deliver and save, answer us.
Answer us, thou who art upright and just, answer us.

Answer us, thou who art near all who call to thee, answer us.
Answer us, thou who art merciful and gracious, answer us.

Answer us, thou who hearest the needy, answer us.
Answer us, thou who sustainest the faithful, answer us.

Answer us, God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, answer us.
Answer us, thou Refuge of our mothers, answer us.

Answer us, thou who didst help the tribes, answer us.
Answer us, thou who art slow to anger, answer us.

Answer us, thou who art easy to reconcile, answer us.
Answer us at a time of distress, answer us.

Answer us, Father of orphans, answer us.
Answer us, Champion of widows, answer us.

May he who answered Abraham our Father on Mount Moriah,
His son Isaac bound on the altar
Jacob in Bethel and Joseph in prison,
Answer us.

May he who answered our forefathers at the Red Sea,
Moses at Horeb, Aaron with censer,
And Phinehas when he rose from the people,
Answer us.

May he who answered Joshua in Gilhal, Samuel in Mizpah,
David and his son Solomon in Jerusalem,
Elijah on Carmel, and Elisha in Jericho,
Answer us.

May he who answered Jonah in the fish, Hezekiah in his illness,
Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah in the furnace,
And Daniel in the lions' den,
Answer us.

May he who answered Mordecai and Esther in Shushan the castle,
Ezra in the captivity, and all saintly men,
The faithful and the upright,
Answer us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brother Elephants; Yakiniku

Backtracking to sunday, I went sunday night to Tienmu to watch a Brother Elephants baseball game with my roomies Ken and Emi. They were playing the Sinon Bulls for a sunday evening game. We got there and sat over in the yellow cheering section. It is amazing how well coordinated the cheering sections are. The stadium in Tienmu is one of my favorite baseball stadiums. It has a mountainous backdrop that is covered in lush green, with a temple towering above. Down the third base line, then sun set rosy pink as we enjoyed the game. I ate meat grilled on a stick that I was sure would give me salmonella, and popped little airy fried sweet potato balls. The Elephants were down 2-1 most of the game, but stormed back after the 6th inning stretch (yes, really) and took a 5-2 lead in the 8th. Their rather rotund, slow-throwing sidearmer got the win. Go yellow!

Tuesday was my roomie Ken's bday, and we had Japanese yakaniku- all-you-can-eat bite-sized meat grilled over coals in a round shichirin dish with a little metal screen on top. We ate slices of meat, mushrooms and peppers grilled over the flame, and then dipped into sauces including one that was a raw egg mixed with some kind of curry and chili. Actually pretty tasty. The best part was the grilled mochi- glutinous ricecake seared on the grill then dipped into honey. Yum.

Feliz Cumple Mexico!

Happy 200th Mexico! Your friend and neighbor wishes you well for your bicentennial.

Pattaya rebranding

Apparently Pattaya is trying to clean up its act. What I like more than the content is the great opening to this story:

Somewhere in the world there may be a city with a more seedy reputation, a place more devoted to the sex industry and more notorious as a haven for criminals on the lam. But probably not.

When dusk comes to this beach resort, a sea of pink neon bulbs casts a pale glow onto the thickly made-up faces of thousands of women (and some men) who sit on bar stools waiting for their patrons.

If Las Vegas is Sin City, Pattaya is a bear hug from Lucifer himself.

A fellow wordsmith respects a good opening when he sees it. I think the best opening I wrote for an article was my piece on the Jews of Mumbai: "In the days when the sun never set on the British Empire and Pax Britannia ruled the waves, the great port city of Bombay rose like a light in the East."

Silence is not an option

Rabbi Eric Yoffie makes a wonderful speech on the Park51 mosque, religious tolerance and the need for Jewish support (ty nomi):
"After World War II, when Jews moved out of urban areas, suburb after suburb attempted to prevent Jews from building synagogues within their borders. Appeals were made to zoning laws and land use laws as a means of keeping Jews out. But invoking constitutional guarantees, we fought these restrictions, and virtually everywhere, we won.

So of course we care deeply about religious freedom and the right of religious groups to build congregations in the places of their choosing. We know what religious freedom is about, and we do not deny others the rights that we have demanded for ourselves."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Onion on Law School

Ever hysterical, always true: Law Schools Now Require Applicants To Honestly State Whether They Want To Go To Law School:
A growing number of law schools have begun requiring applicants to specify in writing whether they do, in fact, have some desire to attend law school, or are just using it as a predictable last resort. "We want to separate those who actually see themselves becoming attorneys from those who just want to put off joining the adult world for another three years," Fordham Law School director Bruce Green said Thursday, showing reporters an application that asks students to check boxes marked "Really?" and "Seriously? You're really that into this?" "We want prospective students to know that they will actually have to study the U.S. legal system. As in, the whole thing." Word of the new requirement has already reportedly caused a 450 percent spike nationwide in applications to graphic design schools.

Fighting the Tea-had

The Tea-hadists apparently won the primary in Delaware.  Dems, we better shape up and get organized for this election.  Running away from Obama, who is still the most popular politician, does not help.  "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Will Rogers' old quote sometimes seems too apt.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

India Future of Change

My friend Horo is in charge of this PD project for India called: !ndia- Future of Change.  The project's mission is to help better connect India with the world via public and cultural diplomacy.  It is intended to show the multifaceted reality of that inverted pyramid wonderland.

To kick off the campaign, they have been running some wonderful programs like having non-Indian students get photographed in traditional Indian garb.  The campaign is also running a contests in India and abroad to connect Indian students with their counterparts.  The campaign is doing a lot with social media and has a pretty active facebok page. Do check it out, I recommend it.


Yep, I have an article in the Huffington Post on Gastrodiplomacy!  The Gastrodiplomacy Cookbook, on Korean and Taiwanese gastrodiplomacy.

William J.

So I applied for a Fulbright to study in SuidAfrika.  Mama Afrika has been calling me back for a while, and this seems like a good way to get back under the Southern Cross.  The proposal is to study South African public diplomacy during the apartheid era.  Basically, I proposed to look at:
A) how South Africa as a pariah state used public diplomacy to express its utility and circumvent its international isolation; and B) how the ANC as a non-state actor with few resources available was able to orient US public opinion in its favor contrary to the efforts of South Africa- middle power state with more robust resources.
In essence, to look at South Africa's niche diplomacy efforts, and the ANC's soft power. The project would be conducted with the institutional affiliation of University of Cape Town- so I would get to set up shop in the Mother City.  Will keep the readership posted on the status of application.

What I liked better than my proposal was the personal statement.  Beyond the usual explanations of who I am, I ended with a Leo Africanus offering:
I, Paul S. Rockower the son of Stephen the bone-setter, I, Pinchas Eliyahu ben Yesheyahu, born into this world too soon as if too impatient to begin his wanderings. I bear many names in many languages: Pablo, Pavel, Pavlichko, Boulus al-Yehudi, BaoLoa and Marco Paulo. I am called a wandering Jew as I come from no country, no city; I am simply a member of an ancient tribe and the guardian of an ancient faith. I am the son of the road, my life the most unexpected of wanderings.

My wrists and neck hold the charms of a variety of faiths, my hands have caressed the flesh of countless exotic beauties, and my eyes have seen cities rise and empires ascend. From my mouth you will hear English, Hebrew, Castilian, Arabic, Mandarin, Czech and a smattering of words and vulgarities in a variety of tongues, because all tongues and all prayers belong to me. But I belong only to my family, to the muse, to God and to the earth, and with grace and patience, it is to them I will one day return.

But you who will remain, read my words and remember them. And this scene will come back to you: your son, brother and friend, with a smile on his lips, his hands held together at his chest- pointing to the heavens, a child-like curiosity in his eyes and the dream of peace in his heart. Sitting alone, the only foreigner on a lonely night train, which is taking him towards an unknown coast, scribbling to himself trying to rid the plague of ideas off his tired, itinerant shoulders.

But is this not what I am doing: trying to make sense of what have I learned, what I dare not forget, what lessons the supreme Creator has taught me. What has He taught me? That life loves those who love life. To ask good questions. He has bestowed upon me three decades of life, which I have spent wandering His earth. My faith has flourished in Jerusalem, my wisdom where the three seas meet at the tip of the inverted pyramid that is India, my passion in the sultry Saigon nights, my anguish in Auschwitz and in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and my innocence still remains in Africa, which waits for me to continue my studies and my wanderings.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Beijing Foreign Studies University has opened its own Center on Public Diplomacy. Check out my Facebook post to see how I tagged the photo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My mom forwarded this on, from our Rabbi Danny Zemel who sends out little thoughts leading up to Rosh Hashanah:

Shofarot - Day 33 Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman:
Maybe shofar blowers are heaven sent - who knows? They show up from nowhere and discharge me to my chores with their tekiyah-reminder of the task that matters most, in this season of harvest moons and imminently changing leaves: to capture the hope implicit in a light that never dims and in echoes of the age-old ram's horn sound from Sinai. Someone will be blowing tekiyah gedolah long after I am gone. I think: another reminder of eternity.


Thanks to John Brown, who referred to me a "pd luminary"

Ah, but a friend who is a pd luminary herself, one Melanie Ciolek, disagreed with my point.  She buzzed: "But then is PD intended to disguise the source of the ideas? I would argue no."

I accused her of being an agent of the Cobol Corporation. And I pointed out that's was why I specified "when you are awake." Before banishing her to limbo, I conceded that she raised a good point.  So we have our Public Diplomacy vs. Propaganda Inception theory:  PD is Inception when you are awake; propaganda is Inception while you are sleeping. Consciousness is key.

"What's the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules."


On PD and Inception

Public diplomacy is like Inception when you are awake.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The wisdom of Dantes

"My dear," replied Valentine, "has not the Count just told us that all human wisdom is contained in the words 'Wait and hope!'"
-Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

O-Span: the CIA accidentally overthrows Costa Rica

La Cebolla, always the finest news source(Thanks Danny):

O-SPAN Classic: CIA Accidentally Overthrows Costa Rica

Friday, September 10, 2010

Koppel on 9/11 and after

Ted Koppel has a good piece on the trap we walked into:

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could possibly have envisioned. This is not just because they resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths, nor only because they struck at the heart of American financial and military power. Those outcomes were only the bait; it would remain for the United States to spring the trap.

The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response. And over the past nine years, the United States has blundered into the 9/11 snare with one overreaction after another. Bin Laden deserves to be the object of our hostility, national anguish and contempt, and he deserves to be taken seriously as a canny tactician. But much of what he has achieved we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. Bin Laden does not deserve that we, even inadvertently, fulfill so many of his unimagined dreams.

The post-9/11 gestalt, reminds me of Nietzsche's famous quote: "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."

Non Sequitur on Freedom

On pluralism, this Rosh Hashanah

My parents' synagogue Temple Micah is a liberal, Reform synagogue that focuses on pluralism and social justice within the traditional concepts of Judaism.  Hence being named for the prophet Micah: "Do Justice, Love Kindness and Walk humbly with thy God."  That is one of my favorite notions from the Torah, and one that needs more emphasis in our world.

In years passed, I had issues attending High Holiday services though.  Temple Micah is not big enough to hold Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur servics so for the annual events, it procures larger alternative space.  Some years that has been at venues like the University of the District of Columbia.  In recent past, it has been at the large methodist cathedral nearby.  I found it off-putting to be in a church on the holiest of holy days.  It never seemed quite right to be in a church for Judaism days of awe.  My parents usual reply was that it was about community and the building shouldn't matter.  I often retorted that I would prefer to have it at the DC mosque on Mass Ave, which I thought was a sand castle growing up.

However, this year, in light of the controversy over the threatening to burn Qurans in Florida, I considered the notion that Temple Micah would be holding its services in the methodist church in a different light.  Perhaps that does bode well for the notions of pluralism and tolerance in America.  As we fight over the disgraceful act of burning Qurans, I will take this other poignant example to lesson and to heart.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Switzerland-Sweden of Asia

There seems to be a reoccurring thing I have heard among Taiwanese who mention that when they are abroad people often confuse Taiwan with Thailand.  As in:
-"I'm from Taiwan"
-"Oh, I hear the shopping in Bangkok is great" or "Gee, my dad was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam war"
Even my aunt got the two confused. So my roomie Harry and I came up with some new nation branding slogans for Taiwan:
"Taiwan- the other Thailand"
"Taiwan- we don't have ladyboys"
This would all be much easier if Thailand went back to Siam, and Taiwan went back to Formosa.  Other suggestions are welcome.

Avak shel haChaim (The Dust of Life)

Today is the birth of the world; today all mankind is judged whether as children or as servants.  If as children, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on his children; if as servants, our eyes beseech thee to be gracious to us and pronounce or sentence clear as light, O thou who art revered and holy.

As I took the metro down to the Shandao Temple station for Rosh Hashanah services, I looked down the long car and thought to myself: nobody on the entire train knows that it is Rosh Hashanah.   We believe this to be the day of inscription into the Book of Life, but what if no one knows it.  If a tree falls in the forest. I wondered what it mattered if such days passes by humanity unnoticed like dust.

All is quiet on New Year's Day.  A world in white gets underway.  I want to be with you night and day.  Nothing changes on new year's day. -U2 New Year's Day

But I entered the Sheraton room-turned-shul, and I was the tenth man to create the ceremonial minyan.  My answer was that it matters if only ten are aware. 

Man comes from dust and in dust he returns; he wins his bread at the risk of life.  He is life the potsherd that breaks, the grass that whithers, the flower that fades, the shadow that passes, the cloud that vanishes, the breeze that blows, the dust that floats, the dream that flies away.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


The old shrug, "This is Africa".  I am not even on the continent, and already I am feeling it.  Like the thinktank that totally dropped the ball on institutional affiliation for my Fulbright proposal (thank G-d for backups).

Or like the fact that Ghana is trying to do a serious nationbranding campaign.  It's been in Ghana's news and on the web.  So do you think they have a website or any way to contact the org? No.  Wait, wait.  How about a website for the Ghanaian Foreign Ministry? Nope.  C'mon, really?  How about for the entire government of Ghana? Umm...that doesn't work either.  Seriously guys, you can't nation brand if you can't launch an f'ing website.

Meanwhile, Brand Kenya has nice site.  But try to send them an email. Ufupisho, that is Swahili for zilch. Hakuna matata, no worries.  I will just have to show up in person.

I recently posted on PD Corps' Ning Africa and Public Diplomacy forum about Africa and nation branding:

There have been a few efforts aimed at nation branding in Africa, starting from the whole continent. And even some on biz levels Brand Africa Project.  I think that it is absolutely necessary to change the overall image of Brand Africa, and have some ideas for TIA videos.

 On to individual nation branding efforts. Simon Anholt has been running masterclasses in Branding Africa.Ghana has been pretty involved of late, setting up a nation branding board. I like their suggestion of rebranding Ghana with its cocoa product. I love the prospect of branding Ghana (the Gold Coast) as "The Cocoa Coast."

My only worry is that nation branding sometimes becomes a cheap (or even expensive) substitute for good public diplomacy. Rather than doing the holistic PD, it becomes a tawdry national PR job. Does it matter in this regard? Is it better to slowly build a better pd effort or go for a quick brand image change?
That led to an interesting discussion on what nation branding is and isn't. But this incomplete nation branding I am finding makes me think half-baked jobs are worse than doing nothing at all. Or these shoddy PR sales jobs sold as nation branding.

Rebranding Bengal

I am going to offer some free advice to Bangladesh. For those who don't know Bangladesh simply means "Country of Bengal" in the Bengali language. Officially, it is known as the People's Republic of Bengal. Bangladesh would have a much easier time doing nation branding if it referred to itself in English as simply as Bengal, or the Republic of Bengal, or the State of Bengal. The word Bengal has a mystical, oriental charm to it. One of tigers and cats, snakecharmers and chai. The Bay of Bengal.  Lovely.  Bangladesh just makes people think of sweatshops, famines and poverty. It isn't a stretch to simply refer to the country in Bengali as Bangladesh and in English as Bengal. The difference is huge. And while it would also be great if you could change your flag to look like:
I think that would help too.  But I won't push on the last suggestion.

PS: My friend Mel commented on buzz: "Eh, I don't think they would benefit from that last bit. The Bengals don't make much of an impression, even on football fans." She is obviously a West Pakistan saboteur. Boomer Esiason will be the US Ambassador to Bengal, and Chad Ochocinco will be made an honorary citizen of Bengal.


As in "What Would Jesus Tweet?" The Dalai Llama's Facebook status:
My true religion, my simple faith is in love and compassion. There is no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are - these are ultimately all we need.
Buddha likes this. I can't decide what I like more, the message or the fact that he has a facebook account. Does he tweet blessings too?

Dog Days of Summer

Obama, if they were treating you like a dog, it's only because you were playing dead.  Here's hoping Obama is really rolling over.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

l'shana tova! - Here's to another year of lunatics focusing their conspiracy theories on the Obama administration instead of on the Jews

Speaking of, apparently I owe Fidel a RH greeting card for him telling Ahmadinejad to chill with the Jew bashing. Manzanas y miel para Fidel.

Another side of gastrodiplo

When Western MNCs cater to Eastern tastes:

In recent years, fast-growing Asia has become a corporate playground for a host of American industries, especially as business has slowed in the U.S. Fast-food companies are no exception. In 2009, fast food — from burgers to tacos to ice cream — generated $139.8 billion in retail sales in Asia Pacific, rising nearly 32% from two years before, says Euromonitor International. By comparison, the larger American fast-food industry grew at a snail's pace, with total sales up 1% to $181.2 billion in that time.

One rule for success in this region? Adhering closely to time-tested recipes while offering the right mix of new products to appeal to Asian palates.
It's a simple, but not easy, formula. Finding this balance "is the biggest problem, challenge and headache for any company," says Martin Roll, a Singapore brand strategist who wrote "There's no fact sheet on how to do it."

Related to this, a colleague Chen from China was so disappointed when he got to the US and all his favs from KFC were not on the menu.  Also as I previously mentioned, if I had kwai to spare, I would invest in Haagen-Daazs in Asia, because it is beyond ubiquitous.  Xiexie JB.

Turning the Lone Star blue

There is a decent shot that we could see an upset in the Texas governor race.  Houston Mayor Bill White is running against Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  White is a smart politician and a savvy official.  He is bland but offers solid functionality as a governing style.  He is so boring, that he is possibly the only Democrat I ever voted against (Orlando Sanchez!).  He has however since earned my respect in offering Houston some solid stewardship.  Salon has a good piece about the race and how it could heat up.

The Sheikh's Batmobile

The Economist has an interesting review of a book on pop culture in the Muslim world.

Phraseturning Cont.

Gastrodiplomacy was recently written about in column "Plainspeaking" for "The Changing Tastes of Diplomacy, in Livemint which seems to have some affiliation with the Wall Street Journal.  The author notes, "One of the words in the news recently is gastrodiplomacy." While I am not mentioned in the piece, I can see some of my parentage of the ideas and phrasing.  It still hasn't become an entry in wikipedia, then I will know it caught on.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Stand Tall

Jacob Weisburg writes a pretty compelling piece in Slate about why Obama's inability to stand up for issues of principle, be they unpopular, ends up harming Dems chances:
Few would argue that defending liberal principles serves Obama's short-term interests. Americans oppose the mosque 61-26 according to one recent poll, and support the Arizona law by an even wider margin. But even if some people don't like Islam, or illegal immigrants, or gay weddings, they may respond to admonitions that our society is built around freedom of conscience and equal treatment under law. If he applied his literary gifts to these principles, it would give Obama's depressed Democratic base something to be excited about. It could remind a grumbling nation what it liked about him in the first place.


I had been stuck in my research at a particular place, and was getting frustrated.  Thankfully, I have discovered my missing link that allows me to put all the pieces together!

"I was looking for the key but the door was always open."
The White Tiger

Soft Power

I was invited back to Radio Taiwan International's Soft Power show to discuss Taiwan's public diplomacy.  You can hear it here.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Dragon's whiskers

I could easily wax deliciously over my evening's fare with my roommate Harry.  On the delicious steamed beef dumplings with tender fillings and chewy exterior dipped in a concoction of soy, chili, vinegar and sesame oil, or the hot and sour soup which balanced ever so flavorfully on the cusp of spicy and soury with chewy mushrooms and bamboo shoots, or the tiny barbecued beef sandwich that had an equally salty and sweet flavor.  I could go on, but I would prefer to discuss the simple veggie side dish appetizer: dragon's whiskers.  Dragon's whiskers are tiny green shoot with both leafy and little twirly-stringy appendages, stir-fried in garlic  and red chilies and then served cold.  A texture incomparable to anything found in the west, but the closest would maybe be a quasi brocoli rabe.  But not close.

On Loneliness

"Though when you are in the grip of it, loneliness was vast, a wide river whose dark and tumbling currents could carry you in any number of directions."
John Dalton, Heaven Lake

I'm not especially (or at least far less than I was), I just liked the passage.

midterms; the Taggert Express

A bit of hope, I don't think misplaced about the Dems chances in the midterms and why 2010 isn't 1994.

A bit of  info on the effort to get some real transportation options in the US, via high-speed rail.

The Earl of Pearl; Sun Myung Moon

My trip to Taichung began with high hopes as I ventured south to the birthplace of boba. Alas, the trip proved a little more lacking. I hopped a cheap bus from Taipei to Taichung, and arrived in the swelter. I walked across town, passing the Japanese-constructed city hall that resembled colonial British architecture. Yes, I said that correctly. Japan built a number of colonial buildings here as seats of their power, such as the Governor General's building in Taipei- which now serves as the presidential palace, that mimic British colonial style because when you act like an imperial, you do it like Union Jack.

I made my way to boba Mecca, the place where it had been invented, but was sadly disappointed to find that the location had been taken over by a Taichung chain.  While that chain had indeed helped spread bubble tea, it was not the authentic locale I had been seeking.  So while unable to truly circle my ka'aba, I merely sipped from the milk tea well of Zamzam.  I ordered and received a giant stein of pearl milk tea, which struck me as slightly ironic considering that the last time I was on a beverage pilgrimage it was to Munich for Oktoberfest.  I sipped down the bubble tea, and shot out one pearl in honor of Sancho Harranza.  Since it was not the original location, I feel no compunction declaring that it was not the best bubble tea I have ever had.  But no matter, to mark my pearlmilk pilgrimage to the birthplace of boba, I have taken on the honorific title "the Earl of Pearl".

Not too much else to report from Taichung, I went to an art museum but there was little to describe.  The hostel I wanted was full, so I wandered back across town to try the Taiwanese military hostel that was open to guests.  Alas, it had been shut down, and the other hostel I called was full so I went to my last option, a place called the Urban Hostel.  It wasn't so much a hostel as a collection of rooms in a building.  There were no dorms so I had to get a private room.  It had a bathroom inside and a tv, such unaccustomed luxuries I scarcely need. The bill was 590NT ($17.88), more than I usually spend for accommodation but not too bad by any stretch.

I spent the night wandering around Taichung, which seemed ominously dead for a friday night.  Bars in my guide book were either closed or empty.  I wandered through the canal district, finding little of interest.  I headed back on the long walk to my room, but managed to find a night market that had some life.  The night market's stalls gave me a few good ideas for Mexican gastrodiplomacy in Asia.  There was a quesadilla stall, of which no one from La Patria would recognize as his native fair.  That gave me an idea for some real Mexican gastrodiplomacy here in Asia.  You can find Mexican food here in Asia, but it is usually run by gringos.  It is also usually expensive, not especially Mexican and somewhat exotic (ie not made accessible).  I think Mexico should do some real gastrodiplomacy (Salsa Diplomacy) here in the Orient on a more local level to expand their market and brand. I will return to this topic at a later date, maybe even revisit as an article.

Anway, deciding there wasn't much more in Taichung, I headed out the next morning to Sun Moon Lake.  Since it was a long way to the bus station, I decided to hop a bus.  Good idea gone wrong as I took the wrong one and ended up hopelessly lost.  I had to pay a stupidity tax of 130 kwai ($4) to catch a cab to the station.  The taxidriver was watching the Texas Rangers play the Minnesota Twins on the tv mounted on his console.  I am still amazed that this is permissible, I feel like it has to be a dangerous distraction.  I got to the bus station just in time to catch the 2 hour bus to Sun Moon Lake.

And the vaunted Sun Moon Lake?  Eh, it was just a lake.  Pleasant Lake is more so.   I hopped a ferry across the water, which pulled in just as a shower came down.  I got drenched, but thankfully a security guard gave me a poncho and I got to shelter only semi-soaked.  Eventually the storm passed, and I went to find accommodation at the youth hostel.  Unfortunately, apparently it was a holiday weekend and the place was full.  All they had was single rooms starting at 1,000kwai ($30), which might not sound like much to you readers in the real world, but it was more than I felt like paying or that my meager travel budget could support at the time.  So wandered around the lake a bit more, checking out a huge Confucius temple, then made my way back to Taipei on the last bus out for the evening.  The usual Paul cost/benefit analysis of traveling some 6 hours total for a place I spent maybe 4 hours to see.  And I just wasn't feeling it.

I woke up this morning feeling a little ragged.  I just looked worn out, so I decided to head over to Beitou to the hot springs.  The hot baths did wonders albeit too much time in one left me dizzied and dehydrated.  I sat out reading and snacked on a wonderful gooey bun of taro and red bean paste in some squishy dough.  I caught the MRT up a bit further to Danshui and walked through the market carnival, sampling the Turkish ice cream from an Anatolian vendor who in a Barnum fashion brought the crowds by speaking Mandarin.  He helped give me a wonderful idea that had me beaming. I am keeping that one close to the vest for what will be a newspaper piece here.

So while Taichung didn't quite pan out and ended up being kind of the anti-Tainan, and while Sun Moon Lake became kind of the anti-Taroko, the weekend was at least interesting and the thermal baths helped boil any angst out of me for a good sunday.

Fear and Loathing in America

Nick Kristof has a great piece on fear in America:
All that is part of America’s heritage, and typically as each group has assimilated, it has participated in the torment of newer arrivals — as in Father Charles Coughlin’s ferociously anti-Semitic radio broadcasts in the 1930s. Today’s recrudescence is the lies about President Obama’s faith, and the fear-mongering about the proposed Islamic center.

But we have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history as well, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. Each time, this has ultimately prevailed over the Know Nothing impulse.

Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Invisible Cities

". . . So then, yours is truly a journey through memory!" The Great Khan, his ears always sharp, sat up in his hammock every time he caught the hint of a sigh in Marco's speech. "It was to slough off a burden of nostalgia that you went so far away!" he exclaimed.
-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Hamas and Sinn Fein

Lexington of the Economist has a good piece on Hamas vs. Sinn Fein and George Mitchell's great answer to including Hamas:
“Let me say they’re very different… And while we should learn what we can from other processes, each is unique... But on the central point, the reality is that in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, the political party that is affiliated with the IRA, did not enter the negotiations until after 15 months had elapsed in the negotiations, and only then because they met two central conditions that had been established. The first was a ceasefire, and the second was a publicly stated commitment to what came to be known as the Mitchell Principles because I was the chairman of the commission that established them.”
I have long been an advocate of trying to bring Hamas to the table, what I called the attempts to turn Hamas into Shas. However, in light of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's comments, maybe that isn't such a grand plan.

Pearl necklace

I wrote a post a while back about Indian consternation to China's string of pearl policy and their own options of outreach to the Asia Pacific region.  Thank Shiva, they took my advice and inked a deal with South Korea for better defense cooperation.  The Indian military can kindly pay me in samosas for the military consulting, as the Korean Foreign Ministry already owes me kimchi for my pd consulting.  I hope the outreach goes beyond military, as I think there is a lot of opportunity for enhanced ties, public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy between Hindustan and Hangook.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


"And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds."
-Inscription at the James Farley Post Office, New York

I had the day away from work yesterday because the TFD had some sort of banquet that I was not invited to.  I used the day to work a bit from home, then conduct an interview with TIER on Taiwanese expo and convention diplomacy.  After the interview, I meandered over to the Taiwan Postal Museum.  I realize that sounds really lame, but it was actually really interesting.  I met a girl on a mountaintop who told me about it, and how it was one of her top destinations to visit in Taipei.  The museum was 7 stories of philately fun.

It began with the history of mail in China, as the Middle Kingdom was one of the first to post.  There was a base relief of Confucius' words: "News of good deeds travels faster than the mail."  There were also various scrolls showing how messages were sent via pigeons, bluebirds and dogs.  It also had info on China's modern postal system as set up by Sir Robert Hart, and also old pictures showing the difficulties of delivering mail in rural Taiwan way back when.  Also a floor of old timey mail sorting machines and old mailboxes.  There was a floor of various mail outfits and symbols, some of which for countries that no longer existed like West Germany.

Of course, there were tons and tons of stamps exhibited.  Lots of beautiful reliefs of stamps, and info on the first stamps.  There was a display of the Penny Black, which was the first adhesive postage stamp. That caused a bit of controversy because post had been COD, and people felt it would be an insult to say that the receiver couldn't pay.  There were also displays of China's first stamps, the red dragon.  I geeked out a bit going through the drawers and drawers of stamps. I love looking at things of places that no longer exist, so I spent a lot of time looking at stamps from Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Republic of the Upper Volta (Burkina-Faso), Zaire (Congo), and other assorted places.

I also had an interesting time looking at all the Republic of China stamps, and getting a sense of the projection of ROC as "China".  Such a strange reality to see ROC projected as "China" in its symbols and even more interesting to see the progression from ROC to Taiwan in identity.  Kinda makes me wish I had collected stamps in my journeys, along with the coins and bills i picked up for Harry.

It also made me think about the ease in which we communicate today, and how much it can be taken for granted.  I zip messages off across continents and time zones like its nothing.  It is nothing.  Pretty amazing to think about, given how long it used to take to connect.  It is also sad to think about all the communications that were preserved because they were written in long, drawn out posts.  I readily admit I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter.  If I make it back to Calcutta, I know a one place to craft a missive to post.

I continued my wanderings in an unfamiliar area, stopping at the Taiwan Museum of History.  Lots of interesting Chinese art, Buddhist reliefs and pottery.  Also some nice pictorials from Han bricks, basically pictures of the etchings on the bricks.  Plus some exhibits on shadow puppet theater.  The museum was moderately interesting, but what was wonderful was the views from the museum.  Out one window was a view of a giant pond filled with giant lily pads and the sun setting a sliver of gold in the grey horizon.  The other side was of the cityscape with mountains in the distance covered in rolling clouds.  I found a lovely tea shop where I could sit and read the Razor's Edge while I stared out over the lilies.  I wandered my way down into the botanical gardens and walked through the lush vegetation and around the pad pond until the sun was setting and I was getting hungry.

Nothing much else to report except my new favorite chinese word 馬馬虎虎 "ma-ma hoo-hoo."  It means "so-so."  Kinda reminds me of the old story about when VP Bush asked President Reagan about how his meeting went with TuTu, and he replied "so-so."  Anyway, off to Taichung for a pearl milk pilgrimage.  Taichung is where boba was invented, and I am off to the place it was so deliciously first concocted.