Monday, January 30, 2012

India Looking East to Taiwan

In a great op-ed in the Times of India, Swagato Ganguly makes a great case for India to Look East to Taiwan for strategic partnership, something I have been arguing for a bit.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hiplomacy cont.

A while back, a young conservative wrote in the National Review questioning whether hip hop should be used for cultural diplomacy.  I found his criticism to be shortsighted and culturally relativistic.  Later, Alternet had another piece calling the use of hip hop as cultural diplomacy to be hypocrisy. 

Fast forward a few months, and there are a few articles pushing back and pointing out the positive side of hiplomacy, the use of hip hop as cultural diplomacy.

-The Root offers an eloquent defense of hip hop diplomacy with some context of cultural diplomacy, with a look at the Jazz Ambassadors and concludes that Hip Hop is a logical progression for cultural diplomacy.

-HipHopDX has the first of a four-part series on Hip Hop Diplomacy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Muralismo

On a winter-turned-spring day, I ducked out of my house-turned-office and over to the Mexican Embassy-turned-Mexican Cultural Institute.  An article in the Washington Post reminded me I needed to check out the Jorge Socias exhibit.
I was welcomed into the ornate edifice with a stunning mural that wound up the floors.  I wandered in and out of the floors, through mahogany libraries that smelled of old world dust and a giant azulejo concert hall whose blue and white burned radiant in the afternoon light.  The rooms oozed old Mexican colonial charm, and I was charmed.  I miss Mexico, and its grandeur.  Anway, the Socias exhibit was interesting, but I was taken by the mural that worked up the mahogany staircase.  The mural, by Roberto Cueva Del Rio- a student of Diego Rivera, was a beauty.  It depicted Mexican history, culture and festivals.  I think Mexican muralism is an underutilized area of cultural diplomacy that Mexico could focus more efforts towards.


But the one panel that really caught my eye featured North and South America embracing, with leaders like Washington, Bolivar, San Martin, Marti, Lincoln and Juarez all looking on.  The mural was painted in mid-1930s and is a reminder of FDR's Good Neighbor Policy and public diplomacy efforts to communicate to Latin America that the US wouldn't meddle in their affairs.  

Dock Ellis' No-No

Amazing

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Old pics

I realized I have some old pics I never published. Have at my pics from Washington State, Richmond, Charleston, DC & Baltimore
From Washington State
From Richmond
From Charleston
From DC
From Charm City

Supporting the troops

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Remembering Havel

There is a poignant story on the legacy of Czech President Vaclav Havel in the New York Review of Books, and a reminder of his dances with Truth:

Truth, by itself, is a malleable concept that depends for its truthfulness on who utters it, to whom it is said, and under what circumstances.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Real SOTU

#McDonaldsFail

MickeyD's learned the hard way about trying to promote inorganic social media buzz:
A sponsored Twitter trend ended in one giant #fail for McDonald’s. The fast food chain began a friendly social media campaign meant to share the stories of McDonald’s commitment to fresh produce and meat was met with an onslaught of snark from the Twitterverse. The campaign, which sponsored the trends #meetthefarmers and #McDstories, aimed to share warm and fuzzy stories of where McDonald’s food comes from. Instead, many users hijacked the hashtag to voice their displeasure with the popular fast food chain.

Dated Dean, Married Kerry

I remember this sticker around the 2004 Democratic primary and it seems to me an apt comparison to the current Republic primary.  I was an early Dean supporter, after I saw him give a gravely, fierce speech on CSPAN with his "from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" line (originally from the bow-tied Paul Simon, but no matter).  I loved his pugnacious style and his willingness to go right after Bush.  As the campaign moved on, he caught a wind and seemed to be out in front.  Unfortunately, the candidacy basically ran aground after Kerry's Iowa victory and the famous Dean Scream. There seemed to be an annoying anointment at play then, as if Kerry's two quick wins meant the contest was over.

I, among too many other Democrats, were willing to put aside our passion for Dean and go with the "smart choice" of Kerry.  For years after the election, I still have held a what-if question about if Dean had been the nominee and how he would have gone for Bush's jugular rather than the waifey campaign that Kerry ran.  A loss in fiery glory still seems somehow more appealing than a loss borne out of boringness.

All of this reminds me of the present Republican race because the GOP is equally bent on forcing out the president and is looking for the right person to do it.  This is a question of head vs. heart.  In their heads, Republicans know Romney is a better candidate, but he is sooo Kerry-esque.  A rich guy who is square, out-of-touch and inspires no one.  In their hearts, Republicans love the snarling Gingrich who they think will bring it full force at Obama, even if they run the risk of pulling down the entire edifice.  While Gingrich scares me, because I ultimately think he is a dangerous demagogue, I can at least appreciate why the Republicans might be considering him.  His fiery appeal is at least interesting and as a political junkie I would probably prefer an election battle between him and Obama for the sheer force of it.  Choose a side, and let's turn it into a political street fight.  I think Gingrich would probably bring out Obama's A-game more than a battle against the technocratic Romney.  

Nation-whitewashing

The shady side of nation-branding courtesy of Kazakhstan.  Shoulda just let Borat run your campaign.  It reminds me of an article in Harper's on the shady side of lobbying.

While I am on this tangent, there was a story done years ago on This American Life on "Hearts and Minds" that is still relevant and worth a listen.

Beard-2-Beard connections

Great story in Tablet about an Orthodox shul in the Bronx ending up without a space, and receiving a place to worship from a local mosque.  Only in America? Perhaps.  Only in New York? Perhaps.

Monday, January 23, 2012

That which disgusts...

Attracts moi.  Strangely enough, I found myself craving stinky tofu over the weekend.  On that note: an interesting book on all that disgusts and how it figures into the human existence.  Thanks JB.

Spellling Bee

A cute little list of the 11 funniest flubs in the Spelling Bee.  Thanks Emma for sending it my way.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A modest proposal

A great article about modesty and immodesty with regard to the Ultra-Orthodox.  Thanks Abba:

Is it possible for a religious demand for modesty to be about anything other than men controlling women’s bodies? From recent events in Israel, it would certainly seem that it is not.
Last month, an innocent, modestly dressed 8-year-old girl, Naama Margolese, living in Beit Shemesh, described being spat on and vilified by religious extremists — all men — who believed that she did not dress modestly enough while walking past them to the religious school she attends. And more and more, public buses in Israel are enforcing gender segregation imposed by ultra-Orthodox riders in and near their neighborhoods. Woe to the girl or woman who refuses to move to the back of the bus.
This is part of a larger battle being waged in Israel between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society over women’s place in society, over their very right to have a visible presence and to participate in the public sphere.
What is behind these deeply disturbing events? We are told that they arise from a religious concern about modesty, that women must be covered and sequestered so that men do not have improper sexual thoughts. It seems, then, that a religious tenet that begins with men’s sexual thoughts ends with men controlling women’s bodies.
This is not a problem unique to Judaism. But the Talmud, the basis for Jewish law, offers a perhaps surprising answer: It places the responsibility for controlling men’s licentious thoughts about women squarely on the men.
Put more plainly, the Talmud says: It’s your problem, sir; not hers.
The ultra-Orthodox men in Israel who are exerting control over women claim that they are honoring women. In effect they are saying: We do not treat women as sex objects as you in Western society do. Our women are about more than their bodies, and that is why their bodies must be fully covered.
In fact, though, their actions objectify and hyper-sexualize women. Think about it: By saying that all women must hide their bodies, they are saying that every woman is an object who can stir a man’s sexual thoughts. Thus, every woman who passes their field of vision is sized up on the basis of how much of her body is covered. She is not seen as a complete person, only as a potential inducement to sin.
Of course, once you judge a female human being only through a man’s sexualized imagination, you can turn even a modest 8-year-old girl into a seductress and a prostitute.
At heart, we are talking about a blame-the-victim mentality. It shifts the responsibility of managing a man’s sexual urges from himself to every woman he may or may not encounter. It is a cousin to the mentality behind the claim, “She was asking for it.”
So the responsibility is now on the women. To protect men from their sexual thoughts, women must remove their femininity from their public presence, ridding themselves of even the smallest evidence of their own sexuality.
All of this is done in the name of the Torah and Jewish law.
But it’s actually a complete perversion. The Talmud, the foundation of Jewish law, acknowledges that men can be sexually aroused by women and is indeed concerned with sexual thoughts and activity outside of marriage. But it does not tell women that men’s sexual urges are their responsibility. Rather, both the Talmud and the later codes of Jewish law make that demand of men.
It is forbidden for a man to gaze sexually at a woman, whether beautiful or ugly, married or unmarried, says the Talmud. Later Talmudic rabbis extended this ban even to “her smallest finger” and “her brightly colored clothing — even if they are drying on the wall.”
To make these the woman’s responsibility is to demand that Jewish women cover their hands, and that they not dry their clothes in public. No one has ever said this. At least not yet.
The Talmud tells the religious man, in effect: If you have a problem, you deal with it. It is the male gaze — the way men look at women — that needs to be desexualized, not women in public. The power to make sure men don’t see women as objects of sexual gratification lies within men’s — and only men’s — control.
Jewish tradition teaches men and women alike that they should be modest in their dress. But modesty is not defined by, or even primarily about, how much of one’s body is covered. It is about comportment and behavior. It is about recognizing that one need not be the center of attention. It is about embodying the prophet Micah’s call for modesty: learning “to walk humbly with your God.”
Eight-year-old Naama could teach her attackers a thing or two about modesty.
-Dov Linzer, an Orthodox rabbi, is the dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Walters Charm in Charm City

I had a bit of a check-out day on thursday, I was given a day away for all my hard work for the AMA process, so I headed up to Baltimore to take in some art.  The day got off to an auspicious start as I ran to catch the metro, only to notice a few stops later that I had gone in the wrong direction to Ft. Totten.  I counted the stops and realized it was closer to go back down the red line some four stops to Union Station than go back the way I came, so I switched lines and rode back down.

I arrived to Union Station and began to bask.  I snapped pictures of the capital and archways.  I wandered into a cigar store, and a woman was buying a pack of djarum cloves.  I stalked her.  I waited outside the store and pounced.  I explained to her that it was dangerous for me to buy a pack, but I was wondering if she could give me just one.  She laughed and handed one over.  Harry termed me a "vulture" but I prefer "assassin."  I got myself a Punch Champion, a short maduro cigar to save for later.

I walked my way down to the train, past the Pullman Marco Polo and groups of kiddies on a field trip.  As I boarded the train, I thought back about previous rush hour commutes, like in Chennai- surrounded by black-dark hued commuters in colorful dhoti-sheets wrapped like Indian sarongs (in my mind, a South Indian kilt).  It is when I am in motion that I am best able to tap in the the reservoir of memories.  It is like something is jarred loose, and I begin to recall.

The train wire lines above on the way out of Union station looked like metal cobwebs as we pulled away.

And I stretched and shook off the dusty malaise.  The yogi on the train.  I reached up and grasped onto the coat rack and hung like a stretching monkey.  I laughed at memories of my friend Seth hanging dangling in the Shanghai metro.  He would hang from the bars, with the Shanghainese staring in a circle around him at this bizarre foreign spectacle.

We passed a blue water tower that hovered like a giant killer octopus, ready to destroy Hakodate.

We arrived into Penn Station, and I walked down Charles through Mt. Vernon.  I stopped by the Washington Monument to enjoyed my perfumed clove.  The tree opened its palm and dead branches cast nets over the park.

I made my way to Charm City's most charming collection at the sublime Walters Museum.  I had read the the Walters Museum has one of the best art collections in the U.S., and I am happy to report on the veracity of such statements: the Walters collection is one of the finest I have seen anywhere.

I wandered my way past gilded clocks showing the gilded glory of the Sun King, with a dour bust of Voltaire peering down.  There were wonderful delicate porcelains from a glorious age.  Marco Polo compared the white porcelain to the interior of the marine snail "porcella" and that is where we get the term.  There were cases of vestal vases with gilded trim, and vases with elephant faces with gilded trunks.  And the nephrite green koush for the imperial czar's ladled drink.

And I don't know what I treasured more, the contents of the exquisite cases or the delicate silence that engulfed me.

The Walters collection had one of the finest collection of pocket watches I have ever seen. Pearled; gilded filligree; enameled watches of the Judgment of Paris.  For once, I was envious.

A passage that caught my eye from the Collector's Study, a cavernous room of delights:
"Two aspects of these objects are celebrated: the artist's God-like creative 'genius' (or its less exalted ingenuity) that generate the idea, and also the 'art' that it took to complete it." 
The Chamber of Wonders bore the words: "To Virtue, Add Knowledge"

This was a collection that ran the whole spectrum of collected artistic wealth and splendor. From langobard golden crosses from Pannonia to treasures of Byzantium; from Iznik Turkish hanging lamps to rock crystal Mughal daggers.  I was stunned by one of the best collections I have encountered in this world, a notion I don't throw around lightly, but a phrase borne out of experience.

And I saw my own likeness in two pieces (craven images, perhaps).  One in a portrait of a brother from another Egyptian Roman mother; the other in a statue of a Mediterranean-influneced buddha.

And of course, I found a PD side.  William and Henry Walters were initiated to Oriental Art at various Expos, where they bought scores of objects.  William Walters served as the Honorary Commission at the Vienna Universal Exhibition, and while there he bought up scores of Chinese porcelain from from the uncle of the Shah of Persia.

The exhibit offered a nice reminder of what the expos meant to a smaller world.  Like introducing Japan to the world at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Expo.  From Tokyo, some 7,000 crates were shipped to the American west coast, and then the crates traveled across the country by rail to Philly.  Japan built two temple structures from lumber sent directly from Japan.

I actually found it hard to come up with enough superlatives for the museum, when each layer of the collection draws you deeper into a magnificent world and leaves you in front of supreme quality.  The collection was a tad overwhelming but not overly so.  In short, the Walters makes for a grand day of delights.

I left the museum late in the afternoon and had a nice lunch at a charming cafe down the street called David and Dad's Cafe.  A held-over egg salad sandwich with a side of red potato salad, and a waitress that called
me "hon" with a smile.

From lunch, I made my way past a "6 degrees of Francis Bacon (From Aesop to Virginia Woolf) and over to a subaltern used book store, and picked up copies of Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Mario Vargas Llosa's Time of the Hero.  I am always a sucker for used book stores.

I went in to the Peabody Institute, where I listened from behind closed doors to a symphony practicing, and sat in the atrium of the grandiose library, thinking of the genius on the wall outside:

"The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment." -Keppler

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them." -Galileo

My own thoughts while sitting in the beautiful library related back to public diplomacy:
What is public diplomacy if not the diplomacy of the people.  Who we are, and how we communicate.  Diplomacy of the public in the public sphere.  Diplomacy of the public, for the public and by the public.  
I made my way back to the Washington Monument park to enjoy my Punch, until incessant beggars drove me away from the park.  I regrouped to meet my old friend Andy at the Brewer's Art, a cavernous bar with its own wonderful beer and a catacomb to enjoy it.  We caught up as I heard about his recent trip to Hong Kong and his recent engagement.  As we were heading out, we bumped into a Goucher alumni gathering.  With free drinks for alumni, I quickly became part of the Goucher Class of '03.  We ended up hanging out with some of Andy's old friends and having dinner at the Owl Bar, an old speakeasy at a nearby hotel.  Apparently, if the stained-glass Owl's eyes were lit, libations could be found; if the eyes were off, the fuzz was about.  I liked the stained-glass words:

"A wise old owl sat on a rock
The more he saw, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard"


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Case for Obama 2012

Andrew Sullivan has the best case I have read for Obama's 1st term.  Not one idealism, but hard practical facts of moderate accomplishment.  Frustrations and false starts included, he makes a solid case for Obama 2012.

Martha and Me

"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." -Winston Churchill

 An oft-quoted aphorism on this fair spot, but one that I love. Now that I am filling out my life again with work, yoga classes and other assorted things, I am returning to an activity I like to do: volunteering. I have found various ways to spend my time in the pursuit volunteer work.

 In Houston, I played big brother to a group of Somali teen refugees. It was always a trip driving into their neighborhood, passing from Black and Latino apartments into Little Mogadishu with women in colorful robes carrying baskets on their heads and babies slung to their sides in H-town. I used to take the teens out to do teen activities like play basketball or go swimming, then we would try out a different fast food so they got a taste of American teenagerhood.

 Back in DC, I used to volunteer to teach the U.S. Citizenship exam. I loved that program, as I used to help immigrants study for the test. We would mix civics and Americana as we would chat about what it means to be an American. I used to love when my newly-minted U.S. citizen-students would come back in after they passed, with their certificates and huge grins, and would share a little hope with the ones still studying.

This time around, I am volunteering at Martha's Table. Martha's Table is an organization that helps at-risk children, families and the homeless with educational programs, services, food and clothing. I am helping deliver meals to the needy.

I arrived in the late afternoon to help stock the vans. I chatted with a fellow named Jimmy, who had been volunteering for a few years. He spoke a lot about what volunteering means, and what the program means to those it serves. He said something that gave me chills: for those who the meals program serves, for most of the day, they are treated like dirt by society around them; in this case, this may be the only part where people treat them with any sort of dignity and respect. We chatted a bit about the value of time, and how much that time matters.

Anyways, we loaded up the vans, and I went off in a van with a few other volunteers near 4th st to hand out hot meals. There was a long line of people waiting when we arrived. Not everyone in the line was homeless, some just were struggling to get by and needed the food. We quickly set up shop and started handing out sandwiches to to the line that while they waited for a big plate of meat and rice. We did so for about 45 minutes, until all had received a meal and a bag of sandwiches to tide them over. People were friendly and appreciative, and we had a bit of banter with the guys. The food was ladled out, and the sandwiches distributed, and then we packed back up and headed back.

We returned, and unloaded the van, and I headed off back up 14th st from Cardozo back into Columbia Heights. At this point, I was hungry so I headed over to Sicky Fingers, a veggie/vegan bakery. I figured I had earned a dinner out, so I got a faux tuna melt with daiya cheese. It had them throw tempeh bacon on it for an extra treat. It was actually pretty good. Kind of gooeyier than a normal tuna melt, but a welcome treat for someone who hasn't had one of those in a while. And the tempeh bacon wasn't bad either. I am finding that when I am eating faux meat products, I tend to gravitate towards faux non-kosher meat like tempeh bacon or tofurky ham, just because I like the novelty of faux unkosher meat.

Muslim America in the public sphere

The project My Fellow American is hosting a town-hall style program at the Newseum where a live audience and online viewers will get to discuss religious liberty, interfaith relations and Muslim-American life.  Nice to see   such dialogue taking place, quite a good use of the public sphere.  Habermas would be pleased.  Festivities begin at 7:30pm tonight.

Declining decline

"The further back you look, the further forward you can see."
-Winston Churchill

Robert Kagan has a great article in TNR on the myth of American decline.  He offer a lot of perspective and context on the notion of decline as compared to previous eras and situations.  Although a bit long, it is worth a read.  

Backpacking bibimbap

Luv the Korean p2p gastrodiplomacy with backpacking bibimbapers

Obama-White 2012

This video sums up exactly why Obama should be re-elected.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Middle East Cyberwar

Just slightly under the radar, there is a fascinating hacker war going back-and-forth between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Annoying anointments

I am trying to figure out why all the news media is circling around Romney as the presumptive Republican nominee.  The media echo seems to be that he is all but crowned as the Republican presidential candidate.  Hello...he barely won Iowa.  8 votes, and even that was in question.  Then he won his backyard New Hampshire.  This is the same media echo that made Kerry the all-but-the-nominee after his Iowa and New Hampshire wins.  Stop shaping the news and just report it; let the race run on and play itself out.   

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cooking up Change

Fascinating story in NPR on the food and the civil right movement.  Thanks Abba.

V-AMA Day

That would be "Victory-American Music Abroad Day."

Today is our deadline for applications, and they are pouring in.  The very question of whether we would get enough applications has been the bane of my American Voices existence for months now.  The previous administrators, Jazz at Lincoln Center had some 3 months and Burson-Marsteller working on the PR; we had 5 weeks (including Xmas/New Years) and moi.  We have just about matched them, with an over/under bet on the books to see if we trump.  We burned past them, and looks like we doubled the apps.

With time short, we aimed at networks.  Good ol' fashioned PUBD 504: who are your partners, how do you multiply your message.  We advertised in music magazines aimed at particular genres, and tapped into networks by contacting music associations, record labels and talent management, music social networks, State and City Arts Councils, artistic foundations and institutes, and civil society organizations, and got them to help multiply the message.  We reached out the old-fashioned way by making tons and tons of phone calls and sent scores of emails.  And we got the networks to spread the message in e-blasts and social media outlets, tweet by tweet, facebook post by facebook post.  We clawed our way to get the message out.  And it seems to have worked.

Nothing like a victory to rip you from the jaws of malaise.  I now know what I had been missing for some time: the sense of accomplishment.  Not platitudes of praise, but good ol' fashioned Tiger mother accomplishment. Those who read this blog know of my perpetual pondering of Maugham's ephemeral question of the search for fulfillment.  Perhaps I have an answer: achievement borne out of hard work creates accomplishment that is fulfillment.

As I smoked a cognac-sprayed hand-rolled cigar on the top of Meridian Hill, basking in the sun's soft light, I thought of Phadrus' joy for that which is Quality and felt a sense of ebullience that I had been without for a while.  There is still much work to be done on this project, but these are solid first steps.

I will end this particular post by paraphrasing Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill, which was playing on my ipod:
Climbing up on Meridian Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Jeanne D'Arc was primed for fight
She was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
Had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
I just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom boom boom
"Son," she said
"Grab your things, I've come to take you home."

SoCal Paradise

Digging through the flower pot of history, the LA Times seems to have unearthed a wonderful essay on life in Southern California by James Cain.
Nothing changes. Summer follows Winter without a Spring, Winter follows Summer without a Fall. The citrus trees flower and bear all at the same time: you never get a riot of blossoms as you do in Western Maryland when the apple-trees are in bloom, or a catharsis of stinking, primitive accomplishment, as you do in Delaware when the tomatoes go to the cannery. Here the oil wells flow right along, so do the orange trees, so does everything. It is terrifying.
I had been wrestling with nostalgia of SoCal of late.  I miss the endless possibilities of newness that Los Angeles offered; that California offered; that the West Coast offered.  Far away from the well-trod DC.  But I am also reminded of the words of Joseph Conrad: "vanity plays lurid tricks with memory."  And I am also marveling at my first winter in a while and enjoying the crispness of the cold (so long as it is blue-cold, not grey-cold).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Luncheon of the Boating Party


Barnes reportedly offered a blank check for it.  But in the end, Duncan Phillips bought it for an immense sum of $125,000 in 1923.  Phillips wrote in his journal he was afraid that the there would be riots in the streets of Paris- that the Left Bank would be aflame- when Parisians found that he had purchased it away from its original home.  The fascinating thing I heard the docent say was that this painting was essentially a declaration of the modern man.  In a canvas the likes reserved for royalty and religious scenery, Renoir chose to fill his corners with the banal impressions of modern life.

Years ago, when I was probably last at the Phillips Collection, I walked up to a girl and declared that she was more beautiful than anything in the entire museum.  Ever the romantic, Don Pablo Quixote.  Moira was her name, and she was a beauty.  I got to go out with this Dulcinea once for my boldness.

"Every thing looks perfect from far away."
-Iron and Wine, "Such Great Heights."

America is number one

"Kill them, yes, but don't pee on them."
 -Nelson Strasser

I had been thinking the strange irony of the same thought.  

"Cuius testiculos habes, Habes cardia et cerebellum"; If you have their balls, you have their hearts and minds." -Bytes

Perhaps.  Nice find, JB.

Bubble Tea Diplomacy

Ma ma hoo hoo

For long-time readers of this blog, you may remember that "ma ma hoo hoo" 馬馬虎虎 was my favorite Chinese word (it means "so-so").  Anywho, fun transition to noting that Ma Ying-jeo won the Taiwanese election, and I approve.  Any president who makes gastrodiplomacy a centerpiece of the country's public diplomacy gets my vote.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Onion on the BCS

Oh the Onion Hysterical as always. Nice find, Danny:
NEW ORLEANS—During a postgame ceremony Monday in which the Bowl Championship Series controversially awarded the Alabama Crimson Tide the 2012 NCAA championship trophy, the increasingly unpopular selection system proceeded to endorse Rick Santorum for president; spit on Samuel Carson, an 89-year-old World War II veteran holding the American flag for the ceremony; and then kick Carson's wife Rose down the stairs of the trophy-presentation platform.
"As we present Alabama with the national championship—despite the fact that they just defeated a team that beat them in their home stadium earlier this season—we have only one regret: that our great friend, Osama bin Laden, could not be here to see this," the BCS's statement following the Sugar Bowl read in part. "Congratulations to the Crimson Tide football team. Also, the BCS hates blacks, Latinos, and Asians."
"And gays," it continued. "We do, however, love the Taliban."
In an announcement earlier this year that it would award the national championship to whichever team emerged victorious from the BCS Championship Game—blatantly neglecting worthy teams such as one-loss Oklahoma State—the BCS also called for tax increases on the working class, open-pit strip-mining in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the resumption of unrestricted whaling in the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, the BCS said it supports Sharia law, hopes everyone gets cancer, and considered awarding the national championship to Notre Dame just to see the look on everyone's "stupid, fat-fuck face."
"Alabama, in achieving this victory against another SEC team from their own division, even though they did not even qualify for their own conference championship game, has shown they are true BCS champions," the organizer of five bowl matchups announced on its website Tuesday morning. "They deserve it more than anyone! Also, Adolph Hitler had some really good ideas."
With many critics saying this season more than any other has highlighted the problems inherent in the bowl system, BCS officials claimed that kids should always be struck with leather belts if they get even slightly out of line, and that arguments will always be part of the culture of college football. "Debate over who 'deserves' the national championship will never die, unlike these tiny 2-day-old kittens I am crushing in my fists," BCS spokesman Charles Campbell said. "In a way, you can never really determine a national champion in college football any more than you can rape a woman who dresses in a short skirt and high heels. It just isn't realistically possible."
Defenders of the current system point to the fact that the BCS computer has numerically proven Alabama is the undisputed national champion, as can be verified in detailed documents that also reportedly refute global climate change, provide a workable economic plan based on a national policy of child slavery, and outline a solution for global thermonuclear war that would allow what it called an "acceptable" survivability rate of 9 percent for the East Coast of North America.
Still, anger and confusion over the BCS remain. "Naturally people have a right to be upset with what the BCS has done here, between its picking Alabama, declaring the era of Japanese internment to be a shining moment in American history, and saying James Earl Jones should be murdered execution-style," 
ESPN football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "At the very least, it's time to tweak the system again." "You have to admit," Herbstreit added, "any selection system that gives three-loss Wisconsin a top-10 ranking is absolutely detestable."

Sweet Potato Fridays

Using the privileges of a virtual office to do work over sweet potato pie at the Potter's House. Such is friday.

Big things in Burma

Wow, things have been moving at a pace of fevered change in Burma as the government signed a peace deal with the Karen rebels, and released political prisoners.  Now, the US is resuming full diplomatic relations.  If this all holds up, big kudos to the Obama admin including Sec o' State Clinton for their role bringing Burma in from the cold.

The cricketer who would be king

FP has an interesting article on the Imran Khan phenomenon, the rise of the Pakistani cricket champ-turned-politician.  Khan is making waves in the Pakistani political sea.

Taiwan off to the polls

My former stomping ground Taiwan is off to the polls on saturday in what is going to be a squeaker. President Ma of the KMT is in a closely-contested race with Tsai Ing-Wen of the DPP. The GlobalPost has a nice review of the race, but I am not sure I really buy the analysis that this election is coming down to economic issues.  Anywho, I am more blue (KMT) than green (DPP) in that I like Ma's pragmatic policy to China over the more belligerent DPP stand.  I think Taiwan does better by not causing China to lose face, and then they can go about their business.

The reality in Taiwan is that only the fringes want outright unification or outright independence.  The vast majority in the middle want to preserve Taiwan's status quo.  The DPP essentially argues that the more Taiwan shows it independence in public diplomacy, culture and policy, the more the international community will appreciate that they have a separate identity from mainland.  Meanwhile, the KMT takes a more pragmatic approach of conciliation with China on the premise that the situation is a long-term struggle.  To the KMT, if Taiwan doesn't piss off mainland to the point that it is left to its own devices, and has its economy roaring (at a 10percent clip last year), then ultimately it can outlast the Beijing regime.  My kwai is on the KMT strategy, as I think it recognizes the reality that a healthy relationship with China will offer Taiwan more opportunities on the global stage, and will allow them to continue to carve out their own autonomy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Quixotic Reminder

"Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!" -Don Quixote And a happy, happy birthday wish to Sancho Harranza!

Wages of Fairness

My friend Aimee Ginsburg has an interesting article on the fight to be fair (lightly complected) in India.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A. Pope

"Know then thyself,
Presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man."
-Alexander Pope

Thanks Sancho Harranza, for the best birthday gift in a long time.

A place to lay my head

A great op-ed by Elisabeth Eaves on the peripatetic trying to settle.  I can relate.  She sounds like she is a bit farther down the path than I am.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Saturday, January 07, 2012

tres-deuce

God grant you many and happy years,
  Till, when the last has crowned you,
The dawn of endless days appears,
   And heaven is shining round you.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

It is indeed my birthday, and I am celebrating it in one of the least-exotic locales in recent memory.  If 30 was in El Salvador, then 32 is in the Salvadorean part of DC.  'Tis okay, I could use a birthday of tranquil passing after some more exciting affairs.  I rang in the bday with my little brother Harry and my new roomie Leslie.  We popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate, and washed it down with Cusqueña beer (the Gold of the Incas) which I found just for Harry. This was the first time I got to hang out with her without the long arm of the law about.  Long story, I will explain that one at a later date.

32 is in the midst of process, so it feels pretty even keel.  So...on with the 4 bday questions:

1) If you could have your b-day dinner with anyone (living, dead), who would it be? -Sidney Bosley

2) Best b-day ever? -11. I had a Redskins Super Bowl party, and the Skins won. Decades later, they aren't anywhere close to such glory.

 3) Where were you last year on your bday? -Bangkok, getting a Shivisa for my b-day.

 4) Where will you be next year for your bday? -Colombia, at the Wandering Paisa Hostel

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Santorum is #2!

What a rallying cry!  Santorum is #2! Thanks to RE for pointing out the hysterical reality that Santorum is dropping a deuce on the electoral map.  

Monday, January 02, 2012

Harvest of Shame

My brother Harry sent me this classic documentary "Harvest of Shame" by Edward R. Murrow. Great find, Harry.


The Israelis Control Hollywood

Haha, not really.  But there have been some interesting Israeli crossover hits on American television.  The LA Times has an interesting article about the phenomenon.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

On "Civilization"

"Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has become a good trade and has paid well, on the whole, and there is money in it yet if carefully worked- but not enough in my judgment to make any considerable risk advisable.  The People that Sit in Darkness are getting too scarce- too scarce and too shy...They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization."
-Mark Twain, 1901

Taiwanese gastrodiplomacy cont

I think it is fair to say I had a bit of an influence on Taiwan's continued gastrodiplomacy push.  The Government Information Office even has a new website to promote Taiwan's cuisine as culinary diplomacy.  

Today

"Yesterday's yesterday while to-day's here,
 To-day is to-day till to-morrow appear;
 To-morrow's to-morrow until to-day's past-
 And kisses are kisses as long as they last."
 -Oliver Herford

 Welcome 2012. Come what ye may.