Sunday, August 31, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
All in all an amazing trip though ironically the highlights for me where the 2 short-ish stops in Tokyo.. which I guess is simply a reflection of the fact that I am such a city person and that I am obsessed with Japan (something I didn't quite realize beforehand) even if Japan isn't particularly fond of me (here I am referring to the fact that it is not particularly foreigner-friendly - let alone vegan-friendly - both of which I actually respected in a weird way). There were obviously many nice and impressive things in Bali but much of it is either (1) the downunder take on Cancun, with American frat boys replaced by Australian surfers (2) dirty and neglected, including the historical sites and buildings.. but that could be the ignorant Western snob in me speaking, who knows.
Anyhow, enough of my rambling. I am back in the city, it's 3am and I am exhausted after 18 hours of travelling but I am technically on 3pm in the afternoon so I am far from sleepy. Here's the final preview set..
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
On a different note, I have been reading the book Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali - and the woman is seriously amazing. She was raised in a strict Muslim family only to escape to the Netherlands, denounce Islam, become an MP, and then had have her citizenship taken away when she became too controversial even for the Dutch after she wrote the script that was made into a movie Submission by Theo van Gogh who was assassinated for making it. Not exactly a fluffy beach read, but so interesting.
Lastly, speaking of the Convention, what a joke. Reading today's columns from Dowd and Friedman side by side, I can't help but feel like the Democrats are so unduly obsessed with themselves and - to use a severly overused term - "out of touch" in a world where there are so many much more pressing problems.. Anyway, at least they finally nominated Obama, Hillary did her long awaited speech (which I have yet to see), Bill wraps it up tonight, hopefully not producing any juicy material for the networks to obsess about, and we can move on from the silly theatrics.
Monday, August 25, 2008
2 notables so far along with this first greeting:
1. Japan is amazing and definitely worth a longer trip. Just getting on to the Japan Airlines flight at JFK I felt like I was transported into another universe, one characterized by incredible politeness, insane precision, over the top service and unending obsession with fashion. It was almost challenging for me to play along with all the acts of kindness but in a sense it was a good way to break my mindset away from New York for the week. Of course, the real downside of it all is the omnipresent lost-in-translation feeling.. or actually lack of translation, since almost no one speaks English and relying on figuring things out on your own is difficult when most things are written in Japanese - like ATM instructions.. imagine trying to take the subway with no Yen, no idea which line to take, how much the ticket is.. long story short - I didn't - instead I browsed the nearby mall (there always seems to be one nearby! - it was packed at 10:30pm on a Sunday - hence the unending obsession with fashion) and then walked back to the hotel in pouring rain with no umbrella (which I can't buy because - remember - I have no Yen or no idea how to withdraw money and the convenience store lady doesn't seem to like the idea of accepting amex.. or the $20 I offered her)! Even funnier were the communication adventures in the hair salon.. but the cut turned out sort of OK (with one hour left in Tokyo I decided that rather than getting even more lost and risking missing the bus to the airport I may as well get a haircut.. a souvenir of sorts).
2. After settling in to the hotel here, I decided I need to go out and explore and maybe get a drink and some food.. Imagine my surprise when the only thing going at 2am was a gay bar. No, I didn't go in.. something about me set off a strange response from the crowd - I can't tell what they were shouting and whether it was good but I definitely attracted attention. Then as I walked back to the hotel, a guy, could have been 20 years old maybe, drove by on a motorcycle and first asked me if I needed a lift and then delivered an indecent proposal.. It took me all of an hour to be at this place before getting harassed. The good news is it was all very harmless and he retreated almost immediately when I said "no, thanks!". OK fine, I had to say it twice. But I suppose it wasn't threatening.
Anyway, so much for now.. check out a mini preview of my trip so far here. I am going in because the damn mosquitoes are eating me alive..
Friday, August 22, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The whole photoset is here.
I am very conflicted, however, if identifying the cause tell us anything about the potential cure. Can we reverse engineer ourselves out of this? I am entirely confused by what he suggests: "we would be wise to reconsider where our NATO/Russia policy is taking us — and whether we really want to spend the 21st century containing Russia the same way we spent much of the 20th containing the Soviet Union." Reconsider, sure.. I just don't how helpful recognizing the mistakes made since 1989 can be in solving the problems in Russia of 2008.
On an entirely different note, close to home, after seeing enough footage from the Saturday night interviews at the Saddleback forum I was able to fully appreciate Hendrik Hertzberg's blog entry about the convos. I agree with his assessment that McCain came out on top. Watching snippets of the 2 side by side it was obvious which one the average citizen can connect more with. But ultimately I don't think it changed much for either candidate, which I perceive as a greater loss for Obama. He had more to gain and he didn't.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
What has been filling my ears this summer when I can't take another true but depressing podcast from Democracy Now! or I have gone through all the other spoken word material that I periodically download (This American Life, Slate's Political Gabfest, Vegan Freak Radio, Food for Thought.. I couldn't help but give all those a shout out!)?
Mercy - Duffy
Lay All Your Love on Me - Dominic Cooper & Amanda Seyfried
Calabria 2007 - Enur
Rise Up - Yves Larock
Crimewave - Crystal Castles vs. Health
Radar - Britney Spears
Valeria - Mark Ronson Feat. Amy Winehouse
Enjoy - Janet
Keep on Rising - Ian Carey Feat. Michelle Shellers
No Stress - Laurent Wolf
Relax, Take It Easy - MIKA
Love Today - MIKA
Kids - MGMT
Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings
Whine Up - Kat DeLuna Feat. Elephant Man
And the following albums:
Dying to Say This to You - The Sounds
Life in Cartoon Motion - MIKA
We Started Nothing - The Ting Tings
Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
Mamma Mia! Soundtrack
We The Vehicles - Maritime
Thanks to everyone who has responded to my request for summer songs for to my friend Brian who knows just what to do when given free reign over my iTunes account!
Friday, August 15, 2008
As an aside, the significance of the columnist to me is best exemplified by a piece he published a little over a year ago in which he predicted that the financial mess we're in now will be profound and long-lasting. That prediction turned out to be spot on. Similarly, before anyone was talking about the food crisis and its root causes, he put out this op-ed.
So it was quite unnerving to read his column today about the world before WW1 and the omen that the conflict in Georgia could be. Then I searched through my aging brain - and Google - to remember that WW1 also started quite randomly - a bunch of terrorists assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Suddenly, South Ossetia gained a whole new dimension. Of course the assassination was just a spark and what mattered was the backdrop of wide spread tensions.. which, wait!, sounds vaguely familiar. I close my eyes and repeat: "Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts!"
PS1: In response to the previous entry, a friend sent me a link to this article in The Moscow Times. Interesting perspective, given what we have heard from the media in the US (The situation looks even more complex when viewed from a global context. It would seem that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili won the first days of the war thanks to some heavy doses of propaganda. The West surely helped Saakashvili out when it did not condemn his ruthless attack and civilian casualties. Instead, almost all of the Western news agencies began their reports from South Ossetia with the words, "Russian tanks invade Georgia.").
PS2: To take the edge off from Krugman, at least temporarily, I appease myself by reading this. That is, until I realize that most stuff he's being criticized for in the 2003 article was actually proven right by now. Crap.
PS3: The next entry will be EAT or PLAY, if I have to fabricate a fabulous restaurant opening or some unexpected way to make hummus. Promise!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Which is why it is refreshing to have the elections as a reason (or an excuse) to once again think, discuss and opine - to believe that how we vote can actually change how we live (not that I can vote, but I can certainly discuss and opine enough to more than compensate!). It is all the more frustrating when, given all the great pressing issues of the world we live in, gas prices are the only one that seems to be getting significant attention from the news media and the presidential candidates. Sure, it is an important issue that affects this country in more than one way, and naturally, it gets acute attention from everyone who doesn't live in Manhattan, because it is so present in people's everyday life and the choices they make. However, the attention it draws in the context of the election seems undue for two reasons: (1) Neither candidate can do much about it and it is questionable whether one would do anything dramatically different from the other especially as the grinding machine of the campaigning process is slowly blending their "solutions" via multiple double-sided flip-flops into one big gassy mess. (2) Every other issue seems to be pushed to the side, in particular issues where the candidates could actually take positions that differentiate them from one another. And they are different - and not just in age, race and height; they just don't talk about it a whole lot.
Which brings me to Krugman, the man who made my day by once again highlighting an issue that I think does not hit the radar often enough given how important it is. In his op-ed in NY Times today he talks about the likelihood of healthcare reform. It is, in my opinion, one of the most fundamental questions that this country has to face, for a variety of reasons which I do not want to get into right now. The point is it's not an issue that is sexy, it doesn't affect everyone every day and therefore it needs disciples who will keep it alive and somewhere close to the forefront. And I think the challenge for us, readers, citizens, voters (however pompous that may sound!) is to adopt an orphan issue, one that is important yet neglected and to try to understand it inside out, because when the candidates talk, the only way to know a difference between them and to see who gets it is to get it on your own.
PS: Incidentally, with regards to healthcare, Obama may mean well but Clinton had him dominated on the issue - a point that probably escaped those who do not pay much attention to it or do not care. Ironically, now that the contrast on real issues between the candidates should be ever more vivid, people are seemingly falling back on abstract proxies for success like "experience" and "comfort", or at least that is the conclusion that some draw from the closing gap between the two candidates. Now, if ever, is the time to read the blue print.
Friday, August 8, 2008
NY Mag "Umbrella" Watch
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
One of my favouritest photos from the wedding in Beirut. These 2 ladies were making bread on the spot - or really little breads with 3 different toppings - cheese, minced meat or za'atar. It was such an incredible little snack to have during the cocktail hour. Fresh, warm, fluffy.. YUM!
I asked about the shape of the bread making grill apparatus and no one could explain. I have to investigate, of course :)
Update: Of course I couldn't help myself and had to find out immediately. The dome or upside-down-wok-looking aperture is called "saj" and the bread they were making "manakeesh" or "markook". Not entirely sure how those are different but I will most probably need to find out. Fantastic. PS: this website has a lot of cool Lebanese food photos.