Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Fat Lady is still singing

Punk's not dead, and neither is classical music.  While it might seem to be at an advanced stage of aging if you visit the many a symphony hall, as a recent Slate article pointed out, the New Yorker responds that the Fat Lady is still singing.

I think the Muppets agree...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Nietzsche Family Circus

Nica In the Lens

The New York Times In The Lens photoblog has a wonderful story and series on the sugar cane workers of Nicaragua that La Isla Foundation has been trying to help.  I wrote about this issue years ago, and did some photo documentation of my own in my exhibit at USC on public diplomacy and public health.

The State of the Union- Over There

Americans turning on their televisions on Tuesday night hoping to watch the country’s most beloved telenovela—the inexplicably popular tale of a ragtag team of naval detectives—are in for a disappointment. The nation’s leader will be addressing his citizens, and all the country’s major broadcasters, both public and private, are obliged to carry the speech live.

How the State of the Union coverage would sound if it was over there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The French on the basics

“The French were genuinely educated — or had been so once. They had taken a bad beating in this century. However, they had a real feeling for beautiful objects still, for leisure, for reading and conversation; they didn’t despise creaturely needs — the human basics.”
-Saul Bellow, "Ravelstein"

Merci JB

How Hollywood cloaked South Sudan in celebrity and fell for the 'big lie'

Sunday, January 26, 2014


"She joined up with a traveling band, and lady luck she took her hand"
-Della Mae, "Sweet Verona"

Some roads lead the red carpet.

Keeping my fingers (and wings) crossed for Della Mae at the Grammys.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Charm City

I had been in the DC burbs for almost three weeks, and felt the urge to get out.  It hit me like a surge on thursday, and I decided I needed to escape for the weekend.  Needing some place cheap and easy, I decided on Baltimore for the weekend.  I had been curious to see the American Visionary Art Museum- an eccentric museum  of folk art including artwork designed by prisoners.  It is supposed to be fascinating.  

After a lovely lunch of Peruvian cuisine with the PD div of the Peruvian Embassy, and a great chat about Peru's public diplomacy and gastrodiplomacy, I headed over to Union Station and caught the afternoon MARC train up to Baltimore's Penn Station.  Only $7, not like the $68 stupidity tax I had to pay the last time I caught the Acela instead.

I arrived to the city and hoofed over to Mulberry Street to the hostel.  I was already in the system, and I chatted with the check-in lady.  As I was leaving, I told her I had written a nice piece about Baltimore, and gave kudos to the hostel.  When I told her the title of the piece, "Charmed by Charm City," she recognized it. She said the management had printed it out and distributed it to the staff.  All I could do was smile.   

Verily, a great woman hath passed

The courageous Shulamit Aloni- the Mother of the Israeli Left and voice of political conscience in Israel, passed away. She won't get all the ink that was spilled over Sharon, but I consider her someone just as important in the Israeli political and social landscape.  She is someone worth remembering.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The key to virality

Ethos, pathos, and logos. And why Aristotle was considering how to go viral way back when.


"I'll have you know we have plenty of Americans here that use the metric system...we call them drug dealers."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Aloha Diplomacy: Hawaiian Public Diplomacy

I have a new piece up in the Huffington Post on Hawaiian Public Diplomacy
I first got a glimpse of Hawaiian public diplomacy a few years ago at the Taipei Flora Expoin 2011. Following a stint in Taiwan as a Visiting Fellow at a thinktank researching Taiwanese public diplomacy, I stopped in the Expo, which featured different countries exhibiting and showcasing their unique flora.
There were different large-scale pavilions from countries all over the world, with one exception: there was a pavilion of the unique flora from Hawaii, separate from the pavilion for mainland United States.
There is an international relations concept called "paradiplomacy." Paradiplomacy is the action of sub-national actors such as states or regions conducting diplomacy and public diplomacy.
Diplomacy is different than public diplomacy. Diplomacy involves high-level interactions between governments; public diplomacy is how nations, and nongovernmental organizations, communicate policy, culture or values to foreign publics.
Diplomacy and public diplomacy are often the antithesis of each other in scope and direction. Unlike diplomacy's narrower high-level connections, public diplomacy seeks to reach wider foreign audiences--often through cultural diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy offers a tangible form of conducting this public diplomacy via the communication of culture through music and food.
I am proud to have helped communicate Hawaiian cultural diplomacy in my role managing the U.S. State Department tour of Hawaiian slack key guitar greats Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson, with hula master Moanalani Beamer. The ensemble participated in the American Music Abroad 2012-2013 season. The American Music Abroad program is the State Department's flagship musical diplomacy program, and traces its roots back to the legendary Jazz Ambassadors program.

As part of the tour, the Hawaiian ensemble shared their Aloha as they shared Hawaii's rich music and culture in Brazil for a 5-week tour. Keola, Moanalani and Jeff toured Brazil from north to south, sharing Hawaii's unique slack key guitar music and hula dance, as well as educating Brazilians on the ephemeral spirit of Aloha.
These Ambassadors of Aloha performed concerts at theaters, gave masterclasses at music schools, collaborated with local musicians and taught Brazilian students about Hawaiian music and culture. There are few things more beautiful on this planet than the Samba Nation of Brazil learning to hula.
In touring with Keola, Moanalani and Jeff, I learned so much about Hawaii's history and culture, as I watched them share the spirit of Aloha abroad. More recently, I got to finally visit Hawaii and experience its rich culture firsthand in a trip to Maui.
As states are competing to highlight their own unique state brand, Hawaii has perhaps the most distinctive brand in the United States of America. It has its own distinct style of music, with which much more could be done to promote Hawaiian music abroad.
Hawaii also has its own unique cuisine, which undergirds any good gastrodiplomacy campaign. Gastrodiplomacy is how nations, or states, communicate their distinct culture through their food. Gastrodiplomacy ties fork to flag, and uses restaurants as forward cultural outposts to enhance the edible brand.
While visiting Hawaii, I loved the distinct culinary delights it had to offer, like poke--the raw cubed ahi tuna, octopus and other raw fish delights marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, kakui nut, sea salt and green onions.
The unique Hawaiian treat that is poke would be a wonderful gastrodiplomacy dish to promote in sushi's birthplace, Japan. Or in places with sushi culture like Brazil, which has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, and loves sushi. I could easily picture places like Chile, Mexico or Israel, which love sushi and have recently developed sushi culture, to love the Hawaiian raw fish treat.
Moreover, Hawaii's fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Korean elements into Hawaiian cuisine could tempt tastes in all such places.
Japan has a deep love of Hawaiian music and culture, especially hula; more pronounced Hawaiian gastrodiplomacy outreach could help further Japan's love for Hawaiian culture and attract even more Japanese tourist to the islands.
Meanwhile, affluent Chinese are becoming more interested and invested in Hawaii, so it heightens Hawaii's brand to introduce China more fully to its distinctive cuisine.
This cultural diplomat would like to see more Hawaiian cultural diplomacy outreach to South Korea. Hawaii would do well to share hula with the K-pop world, and feed South Korea's foodie classes the full flavor of Hawaiian cuisine.
I can easily imagine the Chinese or Koreans loving a plate of the subterranean slow-cookedkalua pork, seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, shredded and sauted with cabbage.
Also, fried chicken of all varieties is hugely popular in Japan, China and South Korea; all three countries would love the island-style mochiko chicken-- a dish of boneless chicken thighs, dipped in sweet rice flour batter and deep fried golden.
Hawaii is also in a unique position to conduct gastrodiplomacy domestically. While Hawaiian cuisine might be somewhat known on the West Coast, in America's Southwest, Mid-West or East Coast, it is still somewhat foreign and exotic.
Hawaiian gastrodiplomacy in the form of introducing poke in sushi hubs like Los Angeles, New York and other American cities could be gastrodiplomacy gold for Hawaii. Meanwhile,lomilomi--salted salmon tossed with chopped tomatoes and green and white onions, could be the best accoutrement for a tasty version of a Hawaiian bagel.
Hawaii has already shown itself to be conducting instances of paradiplomacy at international expositions, as well as possessing Hawaiian tourism offices abroad. I have seen firsthand how successful Hawaiian music and culture can be in cultural diplomacy outreach.
The State of Hawaii could be a real pioneer in paradiplomacy by taking on a more active public diplomacy role in promoting Hawaii's music, food and culture abroad--as well as domestically.
Blessed already with a positive--if not fully known--brand, Hawaii is a case of a sub-national actor that could really increase its international and domestic brand status with Aloha Diplomacy--a more robust public diplomacy outreach through cultural and culinary diplomacy.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mon Paris

A nice article on spending time in fair Paris.  I miss that magical city.  Merci, NL.

This world oft can be ... a wild and wonderful place to be.

Jenni Lyn let out a scream. "Shut up!" she yelled from the backseat of the van, "I just got an email that says, 'Congratulations on your GRAMMY nomination.'"

And other thoughts from the Dellas on being Grammy nominees....

Thursday, January 16, 2014


"Sucka MCs should call me sire"
-Run DMC

Looks like this PD MC has a new gig running hip hop diplomacy in a whole swathe of places. DJ Rockower is going to be spinning some new cultural diplomacy beats.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Unify the Tribes

Audiopharmacy drops some phenomenal beats while on their American Music Abroad tour through Indonesia, Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Samoa.

They were the only ensemble chosen for back-to-back seasons of the State Dept music program. This year, they are headed to the Middle East and North Africa.

 The video has a cameo from Mahogany Jones, who was also on the American Music Abroad program, and went through South and East Africa.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Mad Dog

"Hitting is timing; pitching is upsetting timing."
-Warren Spahn

Tom Boswell has a wonderful piece on the art of Greg Maddux, and why he was just elected to the Hall of Fame: because he was the greatest bluffer on the mound.  Maddux made an art of making all his pitches look exactly the same until they broke at the last second.  His stuff was not overpowering, but he deceived the eye and the mind by upsetting timing through regularity that deceived.  

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Syria and its exodus draw efforts from Baylor and resettlement agencies

A nice second piece in the Dallas Morning News that stems from an earlier piece I got placed on the Syrian refugee students at Baylor.

Levantine Photo: The Daily

My New Year's resolution last year was to post a pic every day.  I did it at Levantine Photo: The Daily on Facebook.  I wish I could have concurrently posted it on my blog but that was a lil more work than I could manage.  Anyway, I have been having fun this week posting cities and poems.  This is one from today on Istanbul.  Follow the posting if you would like to read/see the rest.

I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
First, a light wind blowing
A soft wind swaying
The leaves in the trees,
And far off in the distance
The tinkling cups of the water-seller;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
Now the birds are passing
In high clamoring flocks,
Nets are pulled in at the fisheries,
A woman's feet graze the water;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
The cool covered bazaar,
Mahmutpasha, the courtyards
Filled with warbling pigeons,
Hammer sounds from the docks,
Smells of sweat in my lovely Spring wind;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
An old world drunk in its head,
A waterfront palace with a dark boat shed,
The humming of the lodos ceases inside;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
A pretty young girl walks by
Chased by taunts, come-ons and curses,
Something falls from my hand—
Surely a rose;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
A bird is fluttering in your skirts,
Your brow is hot, I know,
Your lips are wet, I know, I know,
A white moon rises behind the pistachio trees—
I understand the pounding of your heart;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
-Orhan Veli Kanik, "I listen to Istanbul"

What color is security?

I want a TSA coloringbook!

And other fun for kids.


Gov. Chris Christie is in trouble.  His staff apparently was making traffic in political retribution.  As my father quoted Christie, "Won't someone rid me of this meddlesome mayor?"

Don't Stalin it, comrade!

Soviet weed and its production:

"However, the most concentrated and popular form of marijuana is so-called "plastilin" (plasticine), and the way it is harvested and produced has not changed for centuries.

It begins with a freshly showered person riding naked for hours on a clean, washed horse inside a two-meter-high "forest" of marijuana.

Afterwards, the human body and that of the horse are covered with a thick layer of resin mixed with sweat.

This produces a substance that is usually dark brown in color, which is then thoroughly scraped off the human and horse's bodies.

The mixture is subsequently pressed, molded into bars, and dried."

364 days...

A very merry unbirthday to me, to me.

Happiness vs. Meaningfulness

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Journey

“Take pride in how far you've come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don't forget to enjoy the journey."
- Michael Josephson

Of Interest

Mississippi: Named for the river, from French variation of Algonquian Ojibwa meshi-ziibi, meaning "big river."

Meanings of state names.

In Venezuela, they aren't happy with the Ministry of Happiness.

In China, they aren't happy with steamed buns.

4 bday qs

Drum roll please for the vaunted 4 birthday questions:

1) Birthday Dinner: Still deciding between Edward Murrow and Edward Snowden.

2) Best bday ever: Given the polar vortex, I am simply going to pick a warm one: 30th on the beach of El Tunco in El Salvador- just off the mangrove swamps.

3) Last year: I was in polar vortex Boston, and i don't think it was much warmer than here. Harry was in town, and we went for falafel at Rami's in Brookline, then over to the top of the Pru to drink arbor gold before heading over to Chinatown for scalp massages. The night finished with a candlepin bowling party with friends from many random places.

4) Next year: in Milan, ahead of the Milan Expo 2015 on gastrodiplomacy, offering gastrodiplo consulting and otherwise. Thanks everyone for the wonderful bday wishes from the four corners of the globe!

When I'm 34.

I am 18. Cigarettes, lottery and army are open to me.  I get a Sony Playstation to remind myself I am just a big kid and Final Fantasy 7 to remind me of adventure. The world will open itself up to me in ways I can't begin to comprehend.

I am 19.  I am dressed in Israeli army fatigues on an air force base in the desert.  I am considering becoming Israeli. I am working in the gunnery, cleaning machine guns and greasing bombs.

I am 20. I am an old freshman in college.  At Brandeis, I meet my green-eyed girlfriend Lauren the first week of school. Our birthdays are 368 days apart, we celebrate them together in Washington, DC.

I am 21. I can finally drink legally, and yet my first legal drink on American soil will have to wait.  I am in Singapore, with my grandparents.  We have been cruising through Southeast Asia, and my eyes are beginning to open to the wide world.  At the fancy white Regent's Hotel, we have chocolate cake and coffee room service in reflecting sterling silver sets.  I consider getting caned, but opt against such rash lashes.

I am 22. I am in Dublin.  I have a pint of Guinness at the factory, and get to be the official whisky tastertester at the Jameson distillery.  I have finished studying in Prague, and my travels around Central Europe.  My eyes are wide open. That fall, the Twin Towers came down.  I am on my way soon to Morocco, and not without a little trepidation at the time.  But that would change my perceptions and beliefs in ways I can't yet know on my birthday.

I am 23. I am in Las Vegas with a girl I had met in Spain the previous summer.  We drove in a Ford Mustang convertible across the desert to the glitzy lights.  I am out visiting Los Angeles, a place I would later come to live in but such thoughts are distant dreams.

I am 24. I am in Houston.  I am working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.  I had never dreamed I would live in Texas, but I enjoyed it so.  At the ripe age of 24, I get to speak on behalf of the State of Israel, and conduct her media and public diplomacy (a term I would yet understand).  The weight of such responsibilities fills me with pride.

I am 25.  I am in San Francisco.  I decided to visit the City by the Bay to celebrate my quarterlife, and celebrate it that weekend- I did.  I shave my head for the first time.

I am 26. I am in Houston for the last birthday.  I spend it with my girlfriend, a lil Texan District Attorney. During the day, I sip rooibos tea at a  meeting for my Rotary Fellowship in South Africa, something that would soon change my life.

I am 27. I am in Bangkok.  I have reached the Thai capital, after setting out from Beijing some months earlier.  I bet baht with my buddy Dan over the Muy Thai fights in front of us.  Ping pong awaits. I am off to India tomorrow, something that will forever widen my eyes to the world.

I am 28. I am in Buenos Aires. I find a real Syrian shwarma stand in the middle of the Argentine capital, it totally makes my day.  As does the caramel-ginger flan that my amiga del verano Martina has made me.

I am 29. I am in New York. I am on break from grad school at the University of Southern California, where I am studying public diplomacy.  I have just returned from an adventure with my little brother to Mexico. I am alone smoking a cigar in Central Park alone, with a scared realization that I will be 30 the next year.

I am 30. I am at the El Tunco beach in El Salvador.  I am on a hammock looking at where the mangrove swamps meet the Pacific beach.  I am halfway done with my trek from LA to Panama by bus. I have been making a pilgrimage to the shrine of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador the days prior.

I am 31. I am again in Bangkok, this time trying to get my way to India. I receive the birthday gift I have traveled up to the city for: a visa to move on.

I am 32. I am in Washington. I have just moved into my new house in Mt. Pleasant, and already there have been three police raids on the place and one gun at my head.  And I am worried that my birthday and life has gone boring.

I am 33. I am in Boston. Harry and I are sipping arbor gold from the top of the Prudential, and getting Chinese scalp massages.  I have just gone Liam Neeson across Central Asia with Della Mae.  I will spend the year in perpetual motion.  The French consider 33 to be an auspicious birthday year, as it was the same that Jesus received his calling.  At my birthday, I know I will visit Brazil this year.  I don't yet know that I will quit my job and live out my Hemingway days in Paris, nor house-sit in Maui or reside in Mexico City.

I am 34.

My younger brother doesn’t understand my fascination with birthdays. “It is just another day,” he said. But he is a decade younger and he doesn't like olives or presents, so what does he know?

I disagree. Birthdays are vantage points, where you can look back and forward. It is a departure point to mark the time. I have marked my time well on the days I have spent. I hope you do too.

When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Semper Fidelis

An honorable last wish for a Marine who received a 'dishonorable discharge' for being gay in the 1950s.

PD Honorable Mention

Not quite a public diplomacy bronze medal or a Grammy, but my tour with Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson, with Moanalani Beamer on American Music Abroad to Brazil received an honorable mention for the Year in Public Diplomacy by the Public Diplomacy Council.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Being There

Because the world looks at me cross-eyed when I ditch my cell-phone for months on end when I am on The Road....

Being there.

Birth control, in the Biblical sense

Interesting piece on birth control in biblical texts.  Apparently, myrrh was a form of moon tea.


I was really startle to marvel at Canada's ability to be just as ridiculous as us (See: Rob Ford's re-Election bid!).  But I am glad to see that our Great White Neighbors to the North can surpass us in stupidity: by burning their environmental research libraries.  That is a travesty, fellas.  

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Friday, January 03, 2014

Kitty porn cont.

Happiness is a fat black tabby named James Brown curled up on my chest, purring in his sleep, while I read "The Three Musketeers" and sip red wine in a shallow glass.

The Euroblunder on Ukraine

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has a good op-ed on the EU getting manhandled over Ukraine.  If Russia is your adversary, yYou have to play for keeps in the tournament of shadows.


This World Oft Can Be

Since I had so much fun with the recap of 2013, and as I was digging through videos to help the Dellas with project, I put together a video of the tour through Central Asia to my photos from the adventure to the song This World Oft Can Be

Truth even unto its uttermost pay policies

The Brandeis board is looking into the pay practices for former leadership.  It is one university where signing a petition really does something...

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Defending Edward

"I wouldn't defend every last thing Snowden has done. But life is messy, and you don't always get to control events with precision. Realistically, your choice is between (a) approving of what Snowden did, warts and all, or (b) approving of the status quo, with all of us none the wiser about what our government is doing. I'd say the choice is obvious."
-- Kevin Drum, "If You Think the NSA Debate Has Been Valuable, You Have Edward Snowden to Thank"

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Beware the corporate-industrial complex...

Five tips for living in a surveillance state

And here. H/t JB

Asimov on the future

"What will life be like, say, in 2014 A.D., 50 years from now? What will the World's Fair of 2014 be like?

I don't know, but I can guess."
-Isaac Asimov

Nikola Tesla also had some predictions, and perhaps he had a better crystal ball.

Mad World

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very very
mad world mad world
-Donnie Darko

Kitty porn

In bed, I am lying with my back against a yellow pillow with the other one on my knees. I am in sweatpants and a sweat shirt. The fat black cat is sitting on my chest, purring. He is a ball of fur and warmth. His purrs are like a low growl. His soft fur tickles my cheek as his forehead burrows into my jaw and nape of my neck.