Friday, April 30, 2010

il responsa de Don Q

"So rising to his feet, trembling all over, like a man half poisoned with mercury, his speech hasty and ill-controlled, Don Quijote said:

'The place in which I find myself, and in the presence of those who sit here, and the respect I have always had, and have, for the holy order to which your grace belongs, all restrain and tie up the hands of my right and proper anger, and knowing also, as everyone knows, that those who wear an ecclesiastical gown employ the same weapon as wielded by women, which is of course the tongue, I will engage mine in equal battle with your grace’s black-tongued abuse.

Saintly, and well-intentioned censure requires and deserves a different sort of response but, to have censured me in public, and in such harsh terms, exceeds the limits of any decent reprimand, for properly framed counsel better accords gentleness than with severity, nor is it sensible, without full knowledge of the sin being censured, to simply label the sinner an out and out dolt and a fool.  Please tell me, your grace, what foolishness you have actually seen and can condemn in me, and on account of which you command me to go home and take care of my property, and my wife, and my children, though you have no idea what property I own or whether I have a wife and children?  Is it so easy, then, to come rushing into other people’s houses and take charge of their owners, having yourself been raised within the confines of boarding schools and university dormitories, without having seen any more of the world than is contained in the forty or fifty miles of your parish, and then to proclaim yourself law-giver for all of knighthood, and judge of the ancient order of knight errantry?

Is it, by any chance, entirely useless and a mere waste of time to roam through the world, not in search of pleasures, but hunting only for those experiences through which the good attain immortality?  If knights considered me a fool, and the great and the liberal, and the highly born, I would be fatally insulted, but if someone whose nose has always been buried in books thinks me a fool, someone who has never so much as set foot on the pathway of knighthood, I couldn’t care less, for I am a knight, and I shall die a knight, if it so pleases God.

There are those who travel down the broad highway of arrogant ambition; others who employ hypocritical deceit; and there are some who take the way of true religion; but I, drawn by my star, travel down the narrow path of knight errantry, which profession leads me to scorn wealth, but not honor.  I have set injuries and insults straight, righted wrongs, punished arrogance, conquered giants, and trampled on monsters; simply because knights errant are required to be lovers, I am a lover, yet not a depraved, but only a chaste and platonic one.  In everything I do I strive toward the good, which means that I try to do good to everyone and evil to no one – and the man who follows this path, and takes on these tasks, and so conducts himself, if he deserves to be called a fool, then call him so.'"

Tien Hau

Yesterday I wandered my way to Chinatown and up to the Narra and Tien Hau temples. I had tried to visit the day before but their hidden locations caused me to arrive too late and after they had closed. A doorman recommended I come back early.

So I did this morning, first to the Buddhist Narra Temple then to the Taoist Tien Hau temple. I arrived just in time for the morning prayers, and was met with the followers. Their red silk robes were lined in black with black lines on their backs and arms. The smell of incense filled the morning air and wafted into my nose and lungs. They began their prayers, with chants echoing to rhythmic beats gently pounded out on taut drums, punctuated with soft timble bells that seemed to echo into infinity. I closed my eyes, kept my hands in watt position and murmured the shema with their chants. The sounds of their chants bounced around the low-hanging ceiling of gilded design. They prayed and prostrated as the sounds of their chants rose like the slow-burning incense. I wish I was at peace, but my mind clung to more earthly matters. Sometimes it is hard to clear your head. Regardless, it was a beautifully wonderful scene and a nice conclusion to my trip.

Ghost Riders on the BART

Just caught a tatted, pierced and punked Johnny Cash on the 24th & Mission.  I hear the train a-comin:
As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil's herd, across these endless skies
-JC, Ghost Riders in the Sky

Angels & Media

"Media is the right arm of anarchy"
-Dan Brown, Angels and Demons

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leland; Rodin; Bachrach

I arose at 7:15am, blessedly late for me.  My morning commute took me south south to the end of the line to Milibrae, then further south down the bay.  From Milibrae, I switched to the Caltrain, and its double decker cars.  Riddle me this, how does a train passing through the heart of Silicon Valley not have wi-fi?

The train left me in Palo Alto, and I walked in the morning's heavy clouds to College of Cardinal.  I was greeted with a group of friends, the Burghers of Calais.
(Not Mine)
I walked through the almost-Moorish style campus, through the beige stone archways that reminded me of both Rice University and Cairo.  I popped into the beautiful Memorial Church.

I continued through the campus and into the Hoover Library.  The Hoover gallery gave me some great fodder for a blog post on diplomacy of the deed, the efforts of ol' Herbert and the CRB.  More to come soon.

Anywho, I wandered in and out of the gallery and presidential effects of Mr. Hoover.  I ascended the Hoover tower for a rainy view of Palo Alto.  

I made my way in the drizzle over to the Cantor Museum of Visual Arts.  I wandered through the immaculate collection, through the portraits of the engine baron's largess.  He had a pocket watch that made me rather envious.    I passed through gorgeous chinese calligraphies and into the stunning Rodin collection.  The Kiss and all the other beautiful bronze pieces, as Amelie played her timbles in my ear.  I walked outside into the Gates of Hell and took in Rodin's brilliance.  The outside sculptures were even more beautiful with raindrops dripping off the bronze.  It made me miss my grandmother and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia that I can see in the fall leaves as we walked through the bronze.

As I was walking through the gallery, I stopped at some priceless Chinese snuff bottles.   These meticulous bottles were collected meticulously by my grandmother.  It never dawned on me the symbolism of these beautiful little porcelain, jade and quartz vials.  These diminutive beauties are a reaction to foreign influence.  The adoption of a foreign custom by the Chinese and overtime it took a place to the point that it is no longer considered foreign but rather emblematic.

I had the same feeling when I was in the Hoover Institution office and saw a Remington statue of an Indian  chief with long braids and arms outstretched sitting on his horse. Perhaps one of the most emblematic images we have of Native American life and also a re-socialized norm and adaptation as horses were not indigenous to the Americas, but rather brought over with the Conquest.

I discussed this with Scott the security guard, who informed me about Elvis and possibilities I hope are true.  I await the promised picture.

The sun came out and dried up the landy-landy, and I made my way through Palo Alto.  I will not attend Stanford for a PhD.  I know they are crushed.  It's just that Palo Alto makes Westwood look like Watts.

I continued my journey down the southerly route to San Jose.  Nothing to speak of in the former Cali capital-cum-capital of Silicon Valley. I found the way...and quickly found the way back north.  


The last of an era

I'm reposting this in honor of my friend Jocelyn, who sent it to me a while ago.  I have been staying with her in SF, and in honor of her gracious hosting I am reposting.  A girl named Jes in the cafe just convinced me to get a typewriter, I have a new purchase to make.
This came to me from a friend Jocelyn, who spent time in Bombay.  We caught up there during my travels. It came to her from a fellow named Scott Steinberg.  I don't know him or his story.  All I know is that there are things that are disappearing that I care far more about than the newspaper industry.  I spent time in Calcutta, and saw the letter writers, the picture is mine, but the memory is from Scott:

From Calcutta



Hardly anyone anymore comes to see Saresh Mahato, one of the last letter writers of Calcutta.

"No more letters," he said after I asked him to write me one. "Stamps ... and insurance."

Then he pretended to ignore me, staring at items on his makeshift table set up in front of the General Post Office, a chalk-white architectural curiosity on the western side of Dalhousie Square.

About a year and a half ago, I had read an article in the New York Times about the professional scribes outside the main Mumbai post office who pen letters for illiterates: prostitutes, migrants, coolies, and other hardscrabble types in need of a skilled hand to send a dispatch home -- or worse, official correspondence to civil servants or bill collectors.

It's just one of several business being swept aside in the name of progress and convenience. In India, there are almost 400 million cell phone users. If you don't have a phone, your friend does. No need to take the time to dictate your worldly problems to a letter writer, and then shell out 20 rupees for the service. If an official letter is required, the whiz kids at the Internet cafes will whip one up for a good price.

I didn't have the chance to look for the letter writers in Mumbai four and a half months ago. When Jennifer and I arrived in Calcutta, I made a point to attend to unfinished business.

"You write better," said Saresh, a handsome man in his late 40s who grew up in the much-maligned state of Bihar.

"But I can't write this letter," I said.

Saresh and I went back and forth. Please. No. Please. No. And then something broke, the way it can only India -- the feeling of a billion people against, suddenly for.

"One page?" he asked, reluctantly offering up a blank sheet.

"One page."

"To?"

"My step-father, Fred."

"What is step? Father is father."

We were getting somewhere.

I told Saresh what I wanted: a letter to Fred explaining that I think about him often as slips deeper into Parkinson's Disease. I wanted more than a postcard -- something with rough edges, gleaming with truth.

"From the heart," he said. "You should have done one thing -- come in the evening when there's no traffic. Then I can think."

There is always traffic in Calcutta.

But he started. In the first paragraph his cursive loops were tight and the line slants were sharp, belying his nervousness. He was out of practice. He took long pauses between sentences; when he wrote, he didn't stray from my dictation.

We pushed on. Customers came up wanting to buy and sell stamps. Saresh ignored them. A naked man, with the skeleton of a small dinosaur, was fifty feet behind us dying a slow death -- his penis hanging in his beggar's cup. The heat pressed on the pollution, which pressed on our lungs.

In the letter, Saresh introduced himself to Fred, explaining that his industry was at least as old as the post office itself -- 140 years and counting. He said he was writing the letter, probably one of the last he would ever draft, for fifty rupees, or one dollar.

Half-way through the letter we crossed the street for a break. Three rupees each got us milky, smoky masala tea served in clay cups. He paid. When we finished the tea, we smashed the cups on the ground, as we should.

"You are my most interesting customer in twenty years," he said.

I took the hyperbolic compliment as his way of saying, "I like you." He already knew I liked him.

My letter was now our letter. Saresh picked up his pen and told the story of the journey that Jennifer and I were completing. He spoke of India -- the speed of some things, the inertia of others. He described the fine line between good health and bad. He wrote with more confidence, taking the liberty to stray from what I told him, as he should.

We came to the end of the page.

"Do you want me to write more?" he asked.

Of course I did. All day, through the night, into the summer. I hated to leave, to let go of this, to have to cap four and a half months. But it was time, the moment for the sincerest of sincerelys.

Despite some poor grammar, his last letter -- unlike this one -- was perfect. But it contained one lie: I didn't pay him 50 rupees. Though he has three kids at home and an ailing mother in Bihar, Saresh refused to take my money. I pushed, but not too hard.

When a man hangs up his pen, he should be able to do so with dignity.

DQ and the priest

"And the priest turned to Don Quijote, and declared:

'And you, you brainless wonder, how did you ever get into your head that you were a knight errant, and a conqueror of giants and captor of criminals?  Oh, you're a fine one, let me tell you: go home! Bring up your children, if you have any, and take care of your own property, and stop wandering around this world, acting like an idiot and making everyone laugh at you, whether they know you or not.  In the name of all that's holy, what makes you think there ever were or now are real knights errant?  Where can you find giants here in Spain? - or criminals in La Mancha? - or enchanted Dulcineas? - or any of this pile of stupidities they've been writing about you?'

Don Quijote had listened carefully to everything the man of the cloth said, and when he saw the priest had finished he stood up - in spite of the fact that he was in the presence of the duke and duchess - and, clearly upset and angry, said....
But his reply deserves a chapter of its own."
-So it does, you will get it tomorrow.

Redrawing the Map

The Economist has a hysterical Concert of Europe session to redraw the map.  Dankon Jocelyn.

When you're strange

"People are strange when you're a stranger
Faces look ugly when you're alone
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted
Streets are uneven when you're down

When you're strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you're strange
No one remembers your name
When you're strange
When you're strange
When you're strange"
-The Doors

San Francisco is queer. A little too queer for me, and I don't mean that in the gay sense.

"Going where the wind don't blow so strange."

The prophetic words written by the poet in the sands. He carried a bag of cans and said the words were from the Grateful Dead. The sun burnt bright on the golden-lined dome. And I was done.

Vapid, trashy and inconsiderate. Those words ring through my head when I think of the golden state, and never any louder than when I watched the stranger purposefully plow through those meticulously crafted words. I'm out.

As is another friend. Lady Texas welcome to the esteemed ex-con club. Like water off a retired duck's back. She left with a shotgun bang as only a Texas cowgirl can. Don't mess with....

35 Years After the Fall

HDS Greenway has a great piece on what has and hasn't been learned 35 years after the fall of Saigon:
Imperialist ventures, whether by us or the Europeans, were always dressed in idealistic clothes. Spain took South America’s gold in the guise of saving souls for Christianity. The French spoke of spreading civilization. The British spoke of the “White Man’s Burden.” And the Americans always talked about spreading democracy. But in the end it was always about forcing on other countries and societies what we wanted. Yes, we could find some locals whose interests coincided with ours, but that was always secondary.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Land of Confusion

"There's too many men, too many people
Making too many problems
And there's not much love to go around
Can't you see this is a land of confusion?"
-Genesis, Land of Confusion

I must have dreamed a thousand dreams as I was lost in a morning lost in the fog.  The kryptonite that is grey weather had me dithering and confused.  I tried to go to Palo Alto, but at the end of the line I realized that the museum I wanted to visit was closed on tues.  I decided to go to Sacramento instead, so I hopped the train back up the other way.  Various confusions ensued over the fact that I got off at the same stop I got on.  The periwinkle blue sky began punching holes in the grey-white sheet of paper that covered the bay sky.  I repacked and headed the complete opposite direction to Richmond to catch an Amtrak to Sacramento.  I had now basically run the metro from very bottom south to very top north.  During the ride, I wrote a short story on a modern take on Charon's ferry inspired by the lost souls on the BART.  Will post soon.

At Richmond, I had more dithering over the cost-benefit analysis of taking a $23 train 1.5 hours each way to Sacramento to spend roughly the same amount of time in the California capital.  After weighing options and soliciting advice, I decided to keep moving in the direction I was heading and got a ticket to ride.  Good idea, as it unleashed the tidal of ideas and I have all sorts of plans for Amtrak PD and other various projects.  Will keep y'all posted.

The ride out of Richmond was spectacular as the rail hugged the bay.  The grey clouds hung long and heavy across the sky, with a blue focal point in the distance.  The bay looked murky and troubled, but with pockets of orange from dredged silt.  It reminded me of the Orange River in South Africa- of what the Orange Free State took its name (among other reasons such as the House of Orange).  Alternatively, it reminded me of the majestic Lago de Managua in the Nicaraguan capital.

From orange

From Managua


The sterling sky offered brilliant backdrop for grey-spouting refineries and spouting smokestacks.  Trussled gun metal grey bridges stood as sentinels in the sterling sky.  The grey passed and opened up into blue with fields of mustard yellow abutting the train.  The sun came out and with it, clarity. Color reflects emotion.

I arrived to Sacramento and was starving.  I walked past the capitol to find some food in midtown.  I went to a place called Jack's Urban Eats, which was fantastic.  They have your choice of large roasted turkey or tri-tip steak, which they carve for you on the spot.  Unable to decide, I asked for a sample and got to taste the wares of the large bird and beef.  I settled for the juicy tri-tip, which came smothered in carmelized onions.  The sandwich oozed yum.  I am renaming my blog "Tales of a Hunger-Blatherer".

I headed back to the rotund rotunda of the California capitol and got a little tour around the place.
                                         (not mine)

 I heard all about its construction, refortification and various tidbits of bear republic history.  I learned about the various locations of California's capital (Vallejo, Bernicia) and toured the gilded dome and legislature halls.  I also heard stories about the various persons to occupy the governor's office.  How Gov. Moonbeam almost got arrested for entering the legislature, something forbidden unless on invitation.  Gov. Moonbeam also had a funny pic as his portrait in the gov portrait hall.  Everyone else had the classic portrait, he had this:

I finished up my tour and wandered down to Old Sacramento and the water.  Unfortunately my dithering cost me the opportunity to see more of the city, as there were some interesting museums I wanted to see.  I didn't think it was worth it to stay over simply for the sights, so I headed back to SF.  Enough blathering for the morning, I don't want to repeat my dawdling and so I am off to San Jose (insert expected question).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NorCal

"You sure take alot of vacations"
-Mama Rockower

I set out on the sunday bus north through the golden state.  The ride was a little long, but enjoyable for its peace and opportunity to read and think.


From Up the Golden State
(last time I did the trek)

I took in the scenes of central California's fertile farm lands and the rolling expanse of hills with perfect azure lakes below.  My ride was punctuated by windmills large and small always a good sign for adventure.  I laughed at how I do an 8 hour bus ride with the acceptance of one who does a morning commute.

I arrived to the city by the bay and hopped the BART to the Mission to stay with an old friend from Brandeis, Jocelyn .  We grabbed some rich salted caramel ice cream at Bi-rite creamery.  The salted caramel is the top choice.  It is an incredibly rich flavor that has the uncanny ability to hit your taste buds in two points.  We wandered around the hipster quarter and caught up over drinks before retiring.

Monday I woke up early, craving the luscious Tartine bakery.  I left her apartment and followed my nose to the bakery, but alas it wasn't open yet.  I was amazed that the video store across the street was a full espresso bar.  As I have come to find, here in SF, every locale doubles as an espresso bar.  I did eventually return to an open Tartine and was rewarded with a decadent brioche breadpudding covered in strawberries and blueberries.  I sat in the store, letting the ethereal smells of the orange-cinnamon morning buns waft about.    I headed off towards Oakland, enjoying a two-block walk with a fellow gastronomist, who I overheard extolling the praise of salted caramel.  She said that if I was in Oakland, I had to try the french caramels from Brittney at a store called Ratto's.

I walked through San Fran's zombies, noticing that while in LA they are crazy and skitzophrenic, here they are simply crazy and lost.  The homeless just seem to have a more sombre lost look, while the LA homeless are busy chatting themselves up.

Anyway, I hopped the BART out to Oak-town, home of MC Hammer and Jack London.  I walked about the city center, taking in the views of the Tribune building and city hall:
                                                       (not mine)
I walked though Chinatown, stopping for some delicious roast duck at a little chinese restaurant.  The duck was delicious, with a carmelized skin that was crispy and sweet.  The duck meat was juicy and had that added greasy yum to it.  I walked on through to Jack London Square, which wasn't much so I headed to do a pilgrimage to the Black Panther Party.

I made my way up to the Black Panther Party headquarters in northern Oakland.  The once-stronghold for the group was now a bakery.  I grabbed some sweet potato pie and tried to figure out other destinations for my tour.  With no real map or plan, I asked about some other sights that I had heard of.  A nice old gentleman gave me a ride across town to DeFremery park, where the Black Panthers held rallies and put together social initiatives.

I walked past an interesting park called 15 seconds, dedicated to the 1989 earthquake:
"For a second the earth had turned to jello.  Then it was very quiet. When the earthquake stopped a rain of concrete dust obscured everything.  The smell of lime from the crushed concrete was overpowering."  The park had little undulating grass hills to represent the faults that pushed the ground up.

I then walked on to find the house where Huey Newtown was killed.  I was walking about,spouting indignation about the death of Huey, only to realize it was Fred Hampton I meant.  Oops.  On my mistake, I realized I was walking around a neighborhood I had no business in, and quickly got out.

I made my way back to SF to take in a giants game.  I got the cheapest, best seat in the house. $9 for an all access pass.  I sat in the left field bleachers, dining on Gilroy garlic fries and chicken tenders- Gilroy is the garlic capital and I had fries covered in its stinkingrose bounty.  No worries of vampires for a while.  I also met a fellow who has the best job in major league baseball, the bullpen catcher. I made my way directly behind home plate and sat about 10 rows behind the net.  I watched the Giants beat the Phils on a well-played 5-1 game.

Today off to Sacramento.

Powerpoint Failure

An interesting piece sent around by my friend Mel on the evils of the powerpoint in Afghanistan.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Joshua Tree


“When you try to pick out anything by itself, you find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
-John Muir



I went off for a little day trip with Naomi to Joshua Tree.  I wanted to check out the desiccated treasure of spiky-palmed trees in my conclusionary California romp, so we left after the conference to the national park just a few hours away.  Just our luck, as part of National Park Week, the entrance was free for just this last day.   We grabbed some provisions at the farmers market in town, grabbing a mezze of greek assortments for an orientalist bargain. 

We wandered about the lorax-like structures as blue-bellied black loungelizards in mating season made thrusting passes at black-clad Naomi.  We had meant to hike, really we did.  But we got through a mile loop, and stopped for lunch under the auspicious tree of life.  
                                         (not mine)

We sat under the lorax limb of a double rooted Joshua Tree with dual tall, sturdy tree and a split shade dying carcass.  The penitent branches offered us picnic shade as we ate garlicky baba ganoush, roasted red pepper humus, dolmades and fava beans in a  piquant tomato sauce.  The desert picnic was garnished with a syrah courtesy of my friends Daniela and Ben, who gave the bottle as a gift for my birthday.  The gift kept giving as the bottle had no cork, but rather a user-friendly top.  A wondrously refreshing yet bitter grapefruit for desert that left its tartness as a refreshing reminder.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but there is a reason people don’t drink red wine in the dessert: it makes you dehydrated.   We napped under the shade of a rock formation for an afternoon siesta.  We continued our meander through the park, stopping at the Cholla cactus garden.  The setting sun lit up the greenish-white cacti and they appeared almost glowing white in the afternoon sun. 
                                       (not mine)
We continued our dehydrated drive through a drastic jurassic change in landscape and on out.

We stopped in Palm Springs for dinner, at a place called Native Foods Café for some incredible vegan fare (see earlier mentioned piece on fastfood) and then made the exhausted drive back to LA.

TANS & PD




We had our annual APDS conference on Friday, on Transnational Advocacy Networks (TANS) and Public Diplomacy.  The final product was success, the born out of lots of hard work and effort. 

I had a bit of laugh as I introduced Babeeta to Yael’s friend Ilana.  Ms. Asia USA meet Ms. Israel.  That led to an idea spark of pageant diplomacy. It works on a few levels, but I will save that for another blog.

The conference kicked off in silence as Daniela went through a brilliant presentation originally created by Deaglan McFarland.  I was witness to the presentation last year in  Prof. H Media and Politics class and recommended it to be her opener.  It is basically a presentation in silence, communicating with the audience via the written word on the platform of powerpoint.  It focuses on our co-presence, the medium of the written word and its role as a meditation.  It questions why presenters present and if their presence matters to create meaning and understanding.  It is in this silence and through such mediums and meditations that transnational advocacy networks are formed.  Through the medium of various social media platforms, whole communities come to life.  That was, I believe, the apparent message found in Daniela’s profound silence.

I didn’t get to fully enjoy the conference as I was playing flak and focusing still on the details.  Our keynote was Colin Robertson, the former Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles- now a Senior Fellow at the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute.  I didn’t to catch his whole presentation but I did catch a brief bit about Canadian PD post-Iraq invasion to show the US that while Canada didn’t support the invasion in Iraq, it supported America- especially in the other vital battleground of Afghanistan.  The campaign had pictures of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan with a headline “Boots on the ground” 

(or translated into Paulese, pictures of Mounties with the headline “Aboots on the ground”).  They put these pictures up around the Pentagon and on the Pentagon station metro.

I caught the end of the panel and a question related to baby seal hunting.  Robertson was gracious and diplomatic enough to defer the question to the Canadian consular folks.  The diplomatic answer of “traditional culture and values of the inhabitants” rankled me, so I challenged the diplo later saying that such language was used to justify objectionable behavior ranging from FGM to footbinding to slavery.  Respecting traditional culture doesn’t mean we can’t apply some judgments that are morally relative.  Hiding  behing the notions that because something has been traditionally done or is ingrained in a particular society does not make the act right or acceptable. 


                                                    (tybff)

The first panel discussion dealt with Hollywood, Human Rights and TANS.  On the panel, we had Ted Braun of Darfur Now

Sarah Feinbloom of Sarafina Productions and Alex Franklin of Storm Lion.  Professor Cull, literally off from a jet from a PD jaunt to Aruba, arrived just in time to deftly moderate the panel, tying the three panelists as examples of advocacy, documentary and commercial filmmaking and how it connects with the issue

The last panel of the conference was fascinating session on how to connect disparate voices into real pd power vis social media and TANS.  We had Oscar Morales of One Million Voices Against FARC, Brian Center of A Better LA and Aashka Damodor of Survivors Connect.  They discussed how social media can be used to fuel causes and how to increase virality ;).  Morales showed a great video on the genesis of the Million voices campaign (start at 13:50).  Center discussed how his org (sponsored by Pete Carroll) fosters social change on a local level.   Damador discussed what various platforms organization uses to do advocacy and how to connect the platforms to local audiences. 

We were also joined at the conference by one Che Miles Knowles, back from South America.  KK remarked that it was like a ghost walked in the conference hall.  A tall, white rockstar ghost- welcome back Che. 

After the panel, Prof. Cull laughed about creating alternative yet no less important campaigns like “A Million Voices Against Rockower.”  I am a fan.

THIS IS A PRINTING OFFICE

THIS IS A PRINTING OFFICE
    CROSS-ROADS OF ALL CIVILIZATION
  REFUGE OF ALL ARTS
         AGAINST THE RAVAGES OF TIME
ARMOURY OF FEARLESS TRUTH
         AGAINST THE WHISPERING RUMOUR
    INCESSANT TRUMPET OF TRADE
FROM THIS PLACE WORDS MAY FLY ABROAD
  NOT TO PERISH AS WAVES OF SOUND
                  BUT FIXED IN TIME
NOT CORRUPTED BY THE HURRYING HAND
          BUT VERRIFIED IN PROOF
FRIEND, YOU STAND ON SACRED GROUND
   THIS IS A PRINTING OFFICE
-University of California Press, found in the house of one Jocelyn Berger in San Francisco.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Random on fastfood; bluefooted

On the road to San Francisco, stopping at the midpoint of my voyage. We pulled into a triangle tri-fecta of American overconsumption: MickeyD's, BK and Carl's Jr. I opted for the last option of our greasy apex, figuring it would give me the most chance at something untried. My reward was found in fried zucchini. Good on the first few bites, just a little greasy and gross by the end. I sat out as the smell of manure wafted on the farm wind breeze and I contemplated the crap we put in our bodies, thinking about the far more healthy and delicious portobello and vegan sausage burger I had the evening before in the palm desert.

On other non sequitur notes, my friend Naomi started a blog, Fire and Leight. She got off to an auspicious start, blogging about Boobquake- the response to the Iranian cleric's claim that loose women are causing earthly tremors.

Alot

Check out this hysterical post on the woes of a grammarian on the internet and the travails of the creature "alot."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Might and Angst

Good piece by Roger Cohen on the duality of Israel's existence as both juggernaut and insecure victim:


I think what is really bothering Israelis, the root of the troubles, is that Obama is not buying the discourse, the narrative.

Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with little Israel against the jihadists, he’s talking of how a festering Middle East conflict ends up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.” Instead of Iran, Iran, Iran — the refrain here — he’s saying Iran, yes, but not at the expense of Palestine. Instead of Israeli security alone, he’s talking of “the vital national security interests of the United States” and their link to Israeli actions.

This amounts to a sea change. I don’t know if it will box Israel into a defensive corner or open new avenues, but I do know an uncritical U.S. embrace of Israel has led nowhere. For now, Israeli irritation is clear.


As I have said before, it is a mark of failure for Zionist enterprise if Israel is treated as "the Jew" of the international community. If the Jewish people are cloistered in fear in a ghetto, even if that ghetto is a state, then we have not progressed.

On Money

"Money is institutionalized mistrust."
-Michael Hussey

Obama and US allies

Daniel Drezner has a great piece on Foreign Policy about the reality behind the specious notion that Obama is roughing up allies while coddling enemies.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Israel

BFF Yael was kind enough to take me to the Israel independence day celebration put on by the LA Consulate.  I have to admit it was a little terrifying.   Pomp, circumstance and a whole string of buzzwords.  Round up the usual platitudes.  Promised Wonderland, what exactly does that mean? The perfume of the woman next to me nearly gave me a migraine.  A whole lot of kitsch on display that kinda overwhelmed but was somewhat balance by the better parts of the performance.  I liked the gospel choir doing hatikvah but Yael and I debated its appropriateness.  The reality is that the consulate had to play to its audience, and in LA, the audience is steeped in kitsch.  Having attended numerous Yom H celebrations, I realize that not all celebrations are like the LA affair and the program reflected its audience more than its host.

I was able to appreciate Israel's birthday in a more subtle fashion over malawach pizza with Naomi at Brami's in the valley.  Why would a kosher pizza made of fried bread and stuffed with feta, olives and tomatoes make me appreciate Israel?  Simply because the subtle combining of the vast sea of Jewish cultures is something that is only possible when we have a place to bring that mosaic together.  Even if  found in the diaspora, the traces to Israel are apparent in the combination of such mizrahi and western staples.  So I raise a slice to Israel with a reminder that not every birthday needs to be celebrated ostentatiously but rather with a quiet charm that befits one aging gracefully.

On the go from SLO

Monday was a more auspicious day to depart SLO.  I rolled out into the grey morning with opaque fog hanging over the fertile fields.  I have always loved trains, ever since I was a little boy riding the rails to Philadelphia to see my grandparents or New York to see my aunt and uncle.  I have always loved the subtle grace of the train- the powerful lumbering down the track as the countryside passes by, coupled with the freedom to horizontal movement down the various cars.

On sunday afternoon, I received a text message from a wrong number that said "Are you off work....Love You."  Not knowing the number and doubting that anyone was intending to send me such sentiments, I wrote back, "I am off work but I think you have the wrong number.  I love you too."  Sure enough, I got an embarrassed text back noting the wrong number.  I recount this story only because while I was on the train the next day, I sent a message to my co-APDS board member Alexis only to receive back a text from my old girlfriend from Prague Alexis saying "Pavlichko, I keep getting weird texts and messages from you.  I think you need a different Alexis."  Sure enough, I was guilty of the same wrong number mistake.

We continued south, rolling past the morning surf.  San Luis Obispo was like Tandil in its refreshing reminder that   California is not LA, Argentina is not Buenos Aires.  Dominant but not reflective.  I prefer the quiet, small tons fills with hospitality and unique local charm.  Clean air and an escape from the din.  I have begun my rapprochement with California, and when the week is done, I am off to tour NorCal.  California will never be me, but it doesn't have to be.  All that is left is to put peaceful punctuation on my time in the Golden State.

PS: My train was an hour late coming and 45 minutes late returning.  At least the trains ran on time in Mussolini's Italy, never as such in this failed state.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Slovakia

Reveling in my decision to stay, I sipped sake by the creek and read Harper's.  None is online to share my enjoyed reading.  I will post a few choice numbers from the index and anecdotes from the findings when I am not squating at apple store.  I have plans to do what it is that I do here in America.  The Tocqueville project, en route from coast to coast, sea to shining sea.  That plan will have to wait, but I will do it.  For now, just enjoying the rest of a slo sunday.

Slodown

I am a peculiar sort.  I'm sure none of this comes as new to any of you reading it.

I was all set to leave SLO.  There was a 3:15 train back to LA and that seemed like a logical selection.  I went to buy it but it was $49, the price I paid the day prior.  The other option was a 2pm for $32.  I took that and made plans to leaver early.  And then I got on the train and felt a hot sweat at the prospect of going back to the monstrocity.  I quickly hopped off to see if I could use the ticket for the morning train back at 6:45am.  I could.  I changed my plans, and headed back into the world of SLO.

I couldn't leave after less than 24 hours.  On the cost/benefit chart, that didn't work right.  So I am back in SLO, taking pictures of bluebells and cherryblossom pagodas.

SLO Sunday

I wandered around the SLO strip, hanging out at the local coffee shop called Linnaea's and listening to a band strum and tap.  I was going to head to campus, but I got message that there was a fellow named Pete who took the overflow from the hostel.  The stipulation was that I needed to be mindful of my water usage.  I could do that.  I headed over to Pete's on the other side of the SLO tracks and brought some saki as thanks for hospitality.  Pete's place was as eclectic as you would imagine.  We chatted late into the night over lefty politics and I hit the hay on his couch.

I slept well and late (7:25am!) and was awoken to Pete cooking hashbrowns.  I spoke to him of migas, and he liked the idea and made his own version.  After breakfast, we wandered around town with his dog Lucy.  He told me about life in SLO and all its intricacies.  We wandered through the quiet SLO morning, past yard sales and in the sweet country air.  Nice to be out of the monstro-city.  We headed to the coffee joint and hung out chatting with his local friends about the ways of the world.  We meandered back, past an old Frank Lloyd Wright building and  towards the hostel and sat out front with the owner Elaine and her family.  We ate poppyseed cake in the courtyard of hanging blue flowers.  The sweet Sunday breeze had hints of peach, honey and rose.

I headed off, for a little jaunt through the mission and creek that sits like a baby Riverwalk.  From the Natural Cafe, I grabbed a portobello sandwich with melted jack cheese and sprouts and picnicked by the creek.   Off now to catch the train back to the chaos.  It was a nice and much-needed respite from Lalaland.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

SLO

My escape from LA was delayed as we sat on the track for an hour.  Dagney Taggert would have heads rolling for such transgressions.  I tried to convince the parlor car attendant that it was customary to offer a free bloodymary.

I looked back on a busy week and recounted the three landmines I dropped on State, on the Africa panel and channel and on the former ambassador to the Court of Saint James.  "I'm really glad you asked that" generally means "go f-ck yourself."  Abba told me to ask good questions, so I did.

I moved to the great glass elevator car as we passed through Joad country, past paradise chevrolet and the more appropriate paradise used cars. The stress passed as I rode the rails out of Lalaland and along the pacific coast.  We rode through fields upon fields of gold in the form of wild mustard yellows.  I was reminded of what Van Gogh knew: that color effects emotion.  I looked out for a woman in a yellow sari, but she was a dream away.  The parlor tour guide said it was a good time to travel; I replied that it is always a good time to travel.

I arrived to San Luis Obispo and unfortunately found myself homeless.  The only hostel in town is full with a girl scout troupe.  I think SLO may be too mayberry for me to sleep out under the stars.  I have a few couchsurfing requests out.  My fallback is to squat at CalPoly.  They are hosting an open house this weekend and have no idea how apropos that is.

Meanwhile, I found a gum wall!  A huge wall of chicle.  A Singaporean nightmare indeed.  I'm on my way back to deposit a chaw.  And of course, what I am eating.  As always, I look for the local locale.  I found a bbq place called Firestone's with a line out the door.  Always a good sign.  The line passed quickly and I got a luscious tri-tip bbq sandwich.  Yum.  Now, off to be a vagrant.  Thanks to the Apple Store for the free internet.

Escape from LA

After many moons tethered to the kraken that is Los Angeles, I am finally slipping out with the wind and hopping a morning coastal starlight to SLO.

The Kimchi Warrior


I sent my kimchi diplomacy on to the Korean Consulate, and I got this in return.  Kimchi Hard Power! 

The Kimchi Warrior
Animation Series Episode I-V


 

May 5th 7:30 PM 

Admission: FREE

Kimchi and Rice Wine Tasting will follow the screening provided by Ha Sun Jung Kimchi

Venue: The Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles Ari Hall Theatre
5505 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036  

 The KIMCHI WARRIOR is a blend of martial arts and comedy and promotes good health. Based on the premise of Popeye, the Kimchi Warrior obtains supernatural strength by consuming the most popular Korean dish to defend mankind from the world’s most deadly diseases (i.e. The Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Malaria, SARS etc.)  Each episode a new “disease character” is summoned by Evil Lord of Disease to wipe out mankind. Under the tutelage of the clairvoyant Kimchi Master, The Kimchi Warrior is sent to fight and ultimately annihilate the disease with a different “ingredient weapon”.  The purpose of this event is to introduce an exciting new Korean super hero to the world and promote the great taste and health benefits of Kimchi.

The Kimchi Warrior is very entertaining and educational for kids. It is also advocates good nutrition to everyone, since Kimchi is deemed one of the healthiest foods in the world. For more information, please visit www.kimchiwarrior.com

Episode I     Kimchi Warrior vs. Swine Flu
Episode II    Revenge of the Mad Cow
Episode III   Kimchi Warrior vs. Malaria
Episode IV    Sons of Swine Flu
Episode V     Sons of Swine Flu – Part 2




 Creator and director Young Man Kang along with Cast and Crew will be present at the screening.

. For press inquires or high resolution images and rsvp please email rphillips@kccla.org, or call (323) 936 -7141 ext. 131


 What is Kimchi? A dish made of vegetables, such as cabbage or radishes, that are salted, seasoned, and stored in sealed containers to undergo lactic acid fermentation. In a tradition dating back thousands of yearsKimchi is loaded with vitamins A, B, C, B1 and B2, red pepper, garlic, carotene, protein, carbohydrates, and calcium! Kimchi contains- an anti-biotic that suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria, lowers cholesterol, manages blood pressure, promotes intestinal health, and protects the body from harmful diseases and is a healthy remedy against the cold and flu. Kimchi is everything the body needs. And not only that...it's delicious too!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Bittersweet Poland

Check out my friend Krysta's excellent piece on CPD on looking past Poland's grief:
As heartache abates and normalcy returns, Poland has the chance to practice another great virtue of successful public diplomacy: listening. This moment in the spotlight is a golden opportunity to digest international public opinion, and to capitalize on the emerging image of Poland as a powerful and stable nation with a vibrant economy and balanced politics. The message being transmitted back to Poland is clear and will endure beyond this moment of international empathy. There is no need to dwell on historical conflicts and repression, nor even Poland’s former grandeur or cutting-edge political leadership of the past —Poland has arrived as a great nation of today, and as a respected contributing member of the European Union, it is expected to stay that way.

Clash of the Tizianos

There was a Remington sunset from the Angelino parking lot. Softly painted pink and peach on the horizon. Off to see Clash of the Tizianos. With sour patch kiddies and snow caps. The most enduring idea was the thought of 3-D opera. Naomi's contribution was to offer fantasia as notes. I saw it as a live show in perfect hd and 3d. But the notes would be a nice added touch. Done up in the Disney Hall.

Clash of the Titians was good. Enjoyable and worthy of a solid B- (C+ on further review). It was a decent retelling of an old story. A nice modern take on an old tale. The 3D was not avatar. It was not even Alice in Wonderland. But it did add something to the show. The story was a classic, not classically told. Not bad but not immortal. Hamlin did it a bit better.

I recounted art deco ornamentations of theaters and things lost and found on calle ocho. Tales of Southwest spices, atomic warheads and bad business but good adventures for a young man.

Just busy creating my comic book life. I live in a few and they are all vibrantly illustrated. Leagues of superheroes and bands of rogues. The PD League. The Portland brood.

Cheshire cat conclusions.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Entrance into Gozer's Temple

Since I first arrived to LA, I have been itching to enter the giant, beautiful temple dedicated to the Sumerian shapeshifter god Gozer the Gozerian at the end of my street. But alas, the gates to Gozer's kingdom of heaven have been shut to me.
From Lala land (Gozer's temple and Shriner mosque)

The church was briefly opened last year by a Korean church. Unfortunately before I had a chance to see it, it had been re-closed after what seemed like only two weeks.

Today, I finally had a chance to enter the kingdom of heaven. The church was bought by the Art of Living Foundation, and subsequently restored and reopened this week with a dramatic flair...a concert of Ravi Shankar. Oops, no not that Ravi Shankar, but rather Sri Sri Ravi Shankar- a spiritual leader of the same moniker who apparently cannot play sitar but gets asked all the time.

Anywho, I snuck my way in past the crowds in badges and up into the sanctuary to see the inside of the church. A little dilapidated still but pretty in pastel blue and lovely sea shell style ornamentals. I took it in and then left past the Indians in saris and shawlwar kameezes and gringo mystics. As I crossed the street, I noticed they even sandblasted out the old sign that marble letters stating "Church of Christ, Scientist" and replaced it with "Art of Living."

i-pd

Way to shoot the hi-tech Israel image in the foot by banning ipads

Pizza and Globalization

The LA Times has a delicious piece today about the different varieties of pizza to be found here:
Just as certain city blocks contain the cuisines of a half-dozen different countries, pizza in Los Angeles doesn't conform to one nationality — it practically circumnavigates the globe.

There are South American pizzas shaped by decades of Italian immigration and Croatian pizzas forged along the shores of the Mediterranean. Korean and Japanese corporations have taken to testing their unique interpretations of pizza on L.A.'s international appetite. And some foreign pies defy classification altogether, labeled as pizzas by restaurants and diners searching for a simple descriptor. It's all part of the naturalization process.

I have had and love Georgian pizza kachapouri at Big Mama and Papa's, covered in feta, spinach and onions, with an egg in the middle. Yum. I have also tried Armo-Turkish pizza Lahmjune, which is rather tasty. I miss the El Cuartito pizza from BsAs, my friend Jeremy was just there and had me salivating at the memories. Ms. Nomi and I are off to try the Israeli malwach pizza post-shabbas. Perhaps my friend and Thai-afficianado Erin will be down to try the thai curry pizza.

You may laugh at all my gastronomist babblings, but don't forget that it was food that drove the age of discovery. For the prospect of salt, pepper and spices, explorers were willing to sail past the Cape of Storms (err... Good Hope:) and off the flat world. Napoleon was right when he said an army marches on its stomach. Many more march off on such hunger pangs and premises.

Disgrace

The name of South African author JM Coetzee's powerful novel, whose title I will apply to a recent spat in South Africa in the Jewish community. Judge Richard Goldstone has been barred from attending his grandson's bar mitzvah. Truly a disgrace.

D v. PD

Tom Friedman makes a great point explaining the difference between diplomacy and public diplomacy in geo-strategic affairs in his op-ed today:
In the cold war all that mattered was whether a country was allied with us. What matters in Obama’s war in Afghanistan is whether the Afghan people are allied with their own government and each other. Only then can we get out and leave behind something stable, decent and self-sustaining.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Transnational Advocacy Networks and Public Diplomacy



Join the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars for their annual conference in discussion of transnational advocacy networks, media, and the role of public diplomacy.  Panel topics include Social Media and Transnational Advocacy Networks, and Hollywood, Human Rights & Transnational Advocacy.  Panels will feature Oscar Morales of the One Million Voices Against FARC movement, Aashika Damodar of Survivors Connect, Ted Braun, director of Darfur Now, and Alex Franklin ofStorm Lion, among others.


Keynote address by Colin Robertson, Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute, former Canadian Consul General of Los Angeles. Panels will be moderated by Professor Nicholas J. Cull of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
Lunch is provided.  Please RSVP at apds@usc.edu

The Glory of Polonia

I was chatting with my friend Krysta in Naomi's car. She is of Polish origin and is involved in Polish cultural diplomacy. She works at the Polish Music Center on school, and my thoughts were immediately with her after the tragedy. We discussed the amazing resilience of Poland. It was Poland's experiments with democracy and liberty in its vaunted constitution (Europe's first, the world's second) that made it such a threat to its autocratic neighbors and they carved her up. Yet, as Krysta pointed out, Poland was able to persevere through its often bitter history through focusing on preserving its language and culture. I mentioned the Kurds- the Poles of the Middle East, and how similarly they preserve their language and culture amid a divided homeland. Krysta pointed out that it was Poland's religious tolerance that brought so many Jews to its borders. We discussed the number of times Poland literally saved Europe from various invasionary onslaughts.

Polish history is always so bittersweet. At a time of reconciliation with its long-time adversary, things go awry. There have been many notes of the silver lining in this tragedy as the catalyst to forge new relations between Russia and Poland. I pray so.

Roger Cohen has a phenomenal piece on Poland:

It is this Poland that is now at peace with its neighbors and stable. It is this Poland that has joined Germany in the European Union. It is this Poland that has just seen the very symbols of its tumultuous history (including the Gdansk dock worker Anna Walentynowicz and former president-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski) go down in a Soviet-made jet and responded with dignity, according to the rule of law.

So do not tell me that cruel history cannot be overcome. Do not tell me that Israelis and Palestinians can never make peace. Do not tell me that the people in the streets of Bangkok and Bishkek and Tehran dream in vain of freedom and democracy. Do not tell me that lies can stand forever.

Ask the Poles. They know.

Covering Africa


















I went to a panel yesterday on conflict journalism in Africa.  APDS helped sponsor the event and we had a good showing of Africaphiles at the function.  The event began with some amazing nosh from Urban Green Cuisine, a company that focuses on sustainable agriculture and environmental restoration, while also making some incredible food.  The rosemary chicken kabobs were succulent, the soba noodle-spring rolls were fresh and tasty.  Naomi geeked out over the broccoli that tasted almost sweet.  I had an "oh my god" chocolate cookie that was dark chocolate with raisins inside.  Bite, omg, bite, omg.

At the conference itself, we heard about the Highway Africa media project. I was introduced to the Highway Africa project when I visited Rhodes University in Grahamstown back in my Rotary barnstorming.  We also saw a film about Africa-10:



We also heard from a rep from MyCypher, a website that connects the global hiphop community.  The project, started by Curtis Jewell, allows for recording of rhymes via moble phones.  The artists can spit hot fire into his phone and that links up with a mic for toll free demo recording.  We also saw a video about the connective power of hip hop, especially related to hip hop diplomacy in Brazil.  One especially great moment was when a Brazilian female rapper was noting how that when she first heard Public Enemy, she connected with their music and their struggle- which mirrored her own.

I was also pleased to learn from the video that the US has a Hip-Hop Ambassador named Toni Blackman.  I'm impressed.  We need to bring her out to USC to discuss her work.

On the panel itself, there was Dean Carola Weil, who I had as a prof last semester for PubD and Africa.  Also on the panel was Bob Reid- CEO of the Africa Chanel, Michael Parks- the former international editor of the LA Times and now a prof here, and Chris Mendez of the Tiziano Project.  Chris was the outlier in the group, with his work focusing mostly on Kurdistan, however, some real interesting work that the Tiziano Project is doing there.  Also he made a great point on the difficulties of getting in to Kurdistan when there is no guide book and the need for a Lonely Planet Kurdistan.  Since I prefer Rough Guide (the Qu'ran to the Lonely Planet Bible), I will offer up my services if Rough Guide is so inclined.

Bob Reid  made some interesting points on the impact of negative imagery of Africa plays on African-American psyche. Also that unbalanced imagery stunts African development because of fears of investing in "the Dark Continent."  Michael Parks made a great point: "A better press will not solve Africa's problems, but it might help in our understanding of Africa, which is thin, stunted, undernourished and needs better representation."  He further stated that a lack of knowledge breeds ignorance and contempt

That is where PD comes in, and cultural diplomacy through international broadcasting ventures like the Africa Channel and Nollywood ventures.  However, organizations like the African Union should step up the international broadcasting and develop a Voice of Africa-like international broadcasting arm.  It would do wonders for filling the informational void.  

At Q&A, I asked about the dearth of inter-African news coverage.  I brought up the point made in Weil's class by journalist Keith Richburg, an African-American who was bureau chief for the WaPo in Africa, that most Africans don't know the news about the rest of the continent.  I asked if the Africa Channel was available in Africa (it isn't) and how a more tuned-in inter-African media landscape would benefit global awareness of African issues.  Since we were at the end, my question didn't really get answered.  So it goes.
I will leave off with a good GlobalPost piece on Uganadan skateboarders


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scuttlebutton

For a 15 second demonstration of the distance of an apple falling, read all the way down to the end this piece.

The JPS Room

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Old Man Retires
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Letter to the DT

In re:

To the editor,
The Students for Justice in Palestine miss one vital message in the wall built through the center of campus: any mention of peace. The inflammatory language used on the walls does not facilitate dialogue. If we can’t have a civil dialogue here on campus about how to reach peace, we simply mirror the Middle East and it ends up shouting match between two sides not listening.

For there to be peace between Israel and Palestine, we need a two-state solution. The two-state solution is the only path to peace between the two sides and it is a message unfortunately absent on the SJP display.
sincerely,
moi

My friend and curly colleague Ms. KK has a piece herself as L2E for the DT. She did her undergrad at UC-Irvine, where the wall originated. Partially in response, she helped co-found the Olive Tree Initiative.

In 2007 a group of UCI students, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Jew and others decided a more productive way to educate UCI students about the conflict -- what is really going on -- was travel there and talk to those who live the conflict. We formed the Olive Tree Initiative and traveled to Israel and Palestine for two weeks talking to people from both territories.
Have at it at her blog: A World Not Our Own.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Under the Sea

On an early sunday morning, my housemate Rick and I set off toward Long Beach to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific. We had been talking about going for nearly 2 years, and we finally got to it. Under the cover of grey clouds, we hopped the silver steed down towards the Long Beach. It was Rick's first time on the metro, he enjoyed it. The rides are always entertaining. I swam in idea of cultural diplomacy and exchange predicated on the Mexican Consulate taking LA graffiti artists down to Guadalajara and Mexico City to study muralism art work, then Mexican Consulate-sponsored mural projects on their return to the angels. True cultural diplomacy and exchange. It would be stunning in its fiery colorful brilliance.

We wandered through the Long Beach 500, as the city had been turned into a Daytona-like environ. We arrived to the giant fish tank and enjoyed our adventure under the deep. In front of a huge tank, I realized with amazement that the giant sea bass were staring back at me. I could see and feel them processing. They literally stopped right in front of me and stayed still staring. Really, it was an amazing realization that some of the fishies were really processing what was in front of them, as I could sense them staring back. Either me or the morsel of food found in the little kids next to me. I found other favorite fishies like a Sarcastic Fringehead and Mexican Lookdowns (a shiny silver fish with a distinctly aztec brow). The seahorses with their regal tails wrapped themselves around branches of the deep. Rock lobsters clung to red camo walls. Purplestriped jelly fish pulsated with white tresses trailing like wedding trains. I got to pet the stingrays and tiny sharks, feeling their smooth, slick leathery skin. We watched the seals preen for the paparazzi. Lotsa fun under the sea.

I am a man
who stands against the aquarium
and thinks of sushi.

-Paul Rockower, found in Long Beach.

But it was not sushi we went for, although there was a hysterically-placed Bubba Gump's seafood restaurant just outside the aquarium. Who thought that was good marketing is sick. Rather, Rick and I went to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. Or almost not, as there was a forty minute wait. He wasn't sure why he should wait nearly an hour for food, so I had to turn on the pd charm and convince Rick to be patient. Well worth the wait for some golden fried chicken and waffles. The table next to us ordered, among many other things, a plate of fried chicken gizzards. Rick and I were curious about the fried delicacy, so we asked the waitress then manager if we could buy a small plate for sample. Rather, the manager said just to ask the table next to us to try, which had been our sheepish intention from the get-go. They offered up and we smiled and took one each. Meanwhile, we chowed down on the immaculate waffles and wings, wrapping up the succulent friend chicken in the buttery sweet waffles and dipping the roll into the syrup. I had to restrain myself from sipping the syrup. A long ride back and a lil saturday nap did me well.

Later that night, I went out for dinner with my friend Naomi to a place in her neighborhood called Farfalla. She had heard the place had good pizza; it was immaculate. Since we are both from the east coast (Jersey & DC) and have found the pizza in LA to be mediocre. The pizza was really, truly excellent, we were impressed and would hold it up as some of the best in all the country. The dough was thin, with the perfect crispness. The eggplant was firm yet soft and the cheese had just the right bite to it. Yum.

Sunday proved trying as the overcast day looked to turn to rain clouds. Twice in two weeks it was poised to rain in LA, something that are roughly lottery numbers. Since the skies looked foreboding, Naomi was kind enough to help me cover my pictures. Alas, the tarps I had purchased the previous week and stashed under the stairs at VKC had been tossed, so we used garbage bags. We grabbed some greek brunch at the legendary Papa Cristos. We saw the mustachioed man himself as we walked in. The diminutive Greek welcomed us. We were welcomed with the best babaganoush on the planet. When I say the best baba, it really is the Gods gift to smashed eggplant. Prometheus himself would offer up his divine liver for the stuff and forgo the fiery gift. That, and some domades that were perfect and a plate of greek salad. Some oozing succulent baklava and greek coffee for desert and I can hear the pounds piling in as I recount my culinary weekend.

Around eleven, the rains began sheeting down, and I regretted not buying more tarps. I convinced Marco to take me to see my babies who were left out to the elements. A father's intuition indeed, as TWO walls had been knocked over by the winds. Some fratkids helped me make the walls right, and thankfully the bags had protected the pics from scratches.

I darted over this morning to find my babies in good order. Some other good news...I found out that I was indeed published for my piece on Pakistani-Israeli relations in the book Muslim Attitudes to Jews and Israelis, edited by Prof. Ma'oz. On another note, I also found out today that I won a student award at USC. I will receive recognition for my contributions on campus, pretty cool.