27 March 2006

Breaking Out The Backpack

So after 10 days kickin' it with Kris and Grant which was tremendous - Andrew Davis and I are off to the Eastern Bloc! Our itinerary includes Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Berlin - I'm pumped...

So obviously I will be MIA and unfortunately my mobile won't work abroad - so email me if you need me and otherwise I will try and update y'all from the bloc!

And we're off!

22 March 2006

BreakFree... for all you fashionistas out there

This is the project of my friends Scott and Richie from university - they are awesome and so is their new line of clothing for the fashion-conscious!

Check them out because Scott does all of the artwork by hand and Richie does the business/marketing side of things... Scott has been doing art since even before I met him welcome week freshman year and he asked me to his fraternity formal... and he's from near my hometown! Richie and I became super close in our last few years in San Diego and is more business-savvy than most corporate America CEOs... and the fact that they are NOT corporate America just makes it that much better.

In short - they kick ass... now I just have to work on them to ship internationally :)


Do it - do it...

Resurrection Blues

Was good - Neve Campbell is a super hottie even when she is just wearing a hospital gown and granny pants! Setiously though - it was fun. We went to the Anchor & Hope gastropub beforehand for Crest and crab on toast and then tirely wondered back here after the show. Kris and Grant stocked us up with groceries which was awesome and now they are in Praque for a few days...

Meanwhile I have started my essay on evaluating Clinton's 'Third Way' and am doing laundry and trying to catch up on life/still. Andrew gets here this weekend and then we are off on our Eastern Bloc tour - crazy that it is happening so soon - but I am excited!

Anyway - off to our Student Rep. meeting and then to the doctor's... oh - anad to buy Fukayama's new book :) He is speaking in London tomorrow night but is all sold out - do'h!

20 March 2006


Just bought tickets for Kris, Grant and I to go see Resurrection Blues tonight at the Old Vic Theatre where Kevin Spacey is the Artistic Director - I'm excited. It stars Neve Campbell and is directed by Robert Altman - so hopefully it should be good.

Kris and Grant got in on Friday - tired and sleepy - but we've had a great time so far. We went out on Friday evening for St. Patrick's Day to the local Irish pubs in Camden after a Guinness pre-party at our place and a walk up to Primrose Hill.

Saturday was Kristin's birthday so we got up, made breakfast, had coffee and set out to hang out by the river. We walked along the Thames, got banana and nutella crepes - so yummy - walked by Parliament, across the river and down to the South Bank. We spent the afternoon at the Tate Modern and then headed to Soho for the best Thai food I've had here. The restaurant was beautiful with red walls, lots of candles and classy decor and the food was excellent. Eventually we made our way to Kristin's birthday party at Digress where 15 friends awaited a night full of dancing... good times, good times.

Yesterday we went to Spitfields Market and spent the day walking around the East End - feasting on fresh olives, cheese, bread as we went and then headed to Jack's favorite pub - Indo - and then to Tayyabb's for the best Indian food outside of India - and it's so affordable it's tremendous...

I just sent Kris and Grant off to the Tower of London and the Imperial War Museum while I try and get some school work done and decide on my final dissertation title and finish my proposal - yikes! Good news is that I got funding to go to DC this summer to interview Republicans - riiiggghhhttt.

16 March 2006

Busy, Busy Week

What a crazy week - I'm not sure quite why but it has just seemed really hectic! Came back from the country on Sunday - which was awesome - it was snowing on the beach! And I faced a fear of mine and learned how to drive in England - on the left-side of the road. What threw me (besides learning to drive in the dark and on country roads) was that the stick-shift was on the left so you had to shift with your left-hand - I mean really! It was crazy and I think my co-pilot/navigator was fearful of his life... but come Saturday as we hopped from fishing village to beach-town I felt like a natural in my smart-car :)

Then Monday I went to the gym, read for my classes and tried to get my life back in order. Tuesday classes and a debate with Tim Lynch and Toby Dodge about the nature of regime change in Iraq at Queen Mary's which was great followed by Tayyab's, one of the best Indian restaurants in London with Mark and Isabella. Wednesday after getting over a massive head-ache I finally made it to the gym, the store, the bank and other errands and then made dinner for Mark, Joanna, Matt and Jill. Joanna just got back from Costa Rica and I was super jealous of her tan - but she was also kind enough to bring us some Cafe Rica... Thursday more class and tonight a lecture with Barbara Einechreich, author of Nickle and Dimed and then out to dinner with Jack to DonZoka...

Then tomorrow Kristin and Grant come - so excited! Oh - and great news! Kathy got into colleges including my parents' alma matter - UCLA - congrats lady - you are a rockstar!

Ciao - will write more soon - I promise!

10 March 2006

Going To The Country....

Gonna Eat Me A Lot of Peaches...

Probably not actually (wrong season) - but props to anyone who caught the reference! Off to the country for a romantic weekend - and so excited to see the ocean AND the English country-side!

In the meantime... check out the article in today's Independent as follows, the cover reads:

NeoCon allies desert Bush over Iraq

These are the right-wing intellectuals who demanded George Bush invade Iraq. Now they admit they got it wrong. Are you listening, Mr President?

William Buckley Jnr
'One can't doubt the objective in Iraq has failed ... Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an army of 130,000 Americans. Different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat.'

Francis Fukuyama
'By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at.'

Richard Perle
'The military campaign and its political aftermath were both passionately debated within the Bush administration. It got the war right and the aftermath wrong We should have understood that we needed Iraqi partners.'

Andrew Sullivan
'The world has learnt a tough lesson, and it has been a lot tougher for those tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis ... than for a few humiliated pundits. The correct response is not more spin but a sense of shame and sorrow.'

George Will
'Almost three years after the invasion, it is still not certain whether, or in what sense, Iraq is a nation. And after two elections and a referendum on the constitution, Iraq barely has a government.'

For the analysis look at: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article350104.ece

07 March 2006

This Is Good Stuff....

My friend Matt's response after hearing a talk by the Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes on the future challenges of U.S. foreign policy.... check out the full text at: http://woodshavingsdaily.blogspot.com/2006/03/when-i-was-in-high-school.html - it is well worth it...

"...This is where Brookes' argument starts to lose coherence if morality, responsibility and accountability mean anything in the sordid affair we call international relations. If he was for the Iraq war on the grounds the president ventured -- i.e. human rights as well as national security -- then he should be able to say that prior U.S. policy towards Iraq was misguided because, in a sense, we are making amends for the wrongs we perpetuated on the Iraqi people more than a decade and a half ago and that it made the U.S. less safe in the process (a Hitchensesque argument). Simply, without the knowledge of chemical weapons the West gave him and our shut mouth policy toward his deployment of them, Hussein would have had a harder time killing innocents and violating the laws of war.

Of course Brookes can always fall back on realpolitik as a bulwark against this line of moralist reasoning, but then, all I have to ask of him is this: Could the Bush Administration have persuaded the American people initially into supporting the war in Iraq once they discovered WMDs didn't exist or at least weren't there in the volume the President maintained?"

My response?

"Matt - you are right on on this... I watched two documentaries today as part of PBS's "Frontline" series 'Truth, War and Consequences' and 'The War Behind Closed Doors' that posed similar questions.Regardless of the administration's current line of 'staying the course', shouldn't there be a rejection of past mistakes? Or is the U.S., as Richard Perle seems to prove, incapable of doing so?"

Trans-Atlantacism Takes On A New Meaning

My goodness... I think I need a Guinness....

"Seeking a Willing Heir, an Aristocrat Turns to America"

WANTED: Heir for $13 million estate, including 13th-century manor house, in bucolic Somerset. Must be able to pay $140,000 annual upkeep and meet incidental costs of, for example, repairing the driveway ($70,000) and fixing the stables ($1 million).

Sir Benjamin Slade outside Maunsel House in Somerset last week, with Jasper, right, and Britwold the Saxon, who is named after the original resident. No one is in line to take over the $13 million estate.

Also, "He can't be a drug addict," said Sir Benjamin Slade, the current owner of the estate and its manor, Maunsel House, which has been in the family since 1772. "He can't be a Communist. It's politically incorrect to say so, but he can't be gay, because he may not produce any children."

The problem, said Sir Benjamin, who is 59 and childless himself, is that none of his army of relatives is willing to take on the property when he dies. So he is searching for an heir in America, where some Slades settled in the 18th century.

"Americans have more energy and a better work ethic," he said, sipping tea in his sumptuous library.

HILARIOUS! But then gets to the weird - 21st century portions of the story - including freezing sperm, google searches to find long-lost family members and reality tv shows...

He feels it is too late to produce a suitable heir of his own, even though he has some frozen sperm on deposit in a sperm bank ("they said I had nine months' supply, whatever that means"). If he were to have a child right this minute, it would be a good 25 years before the child would be ready to take on the estate — "and then it would be too late," he explained.

He got the idea for the heir hunt when an American television company, researching a program about Britons' American relatives, got in touch.
"So I said, 'While you're in America, could you find me an heir?' " Sir Benjamin recalled. So far, he added, the company has come up with thousands of American Slades ("I don't know where they got them — Google, I suppose") prompting sacks full of letters from people who think they are his relatives.

The idea is to winnow down the field to a handful of viable prospective heirs, with methods including DNA tests...

The television company — which Sir Benjamin said has asked him not to discuss too many details — is now hoping to turn the search into an "Apprentice"-style reality program, in which potential heirs would live at Maunsel House and undergo a series of challenges, with Sir Benjamin eliminating them one by one.

Sir Benjamin is looking forward to ejecting the losers with his own aristocratic catchphrase: "You're disinherited."

Find the full story at : http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/07/international/europe/07heir.html?_r=1&8hpib&oref=slogin

06 March 2006

Gay Cowboys Embraced By Redneck Country

by Andrew Sullivan
The Sunday Times
February 26, 2006

Last December, when the movie Brokeback Mountain nudged nervously onto the cultural radar screen in the US, the consensus was broad and wide. This movie was one step too far. It was yet another example of Hollywood’s liberal bias. It wouldn’t sell in the heartland.

“They’re not going to go see the gay cowboys in Montana. I’m sorry. They’re not going to do it,” opined cable television’s chief windbag Bill O’Reilly on December 20.

The liberal blogger Mickey Kaus wrote around the same time: “I’m highly sceptical that a movie about gay cowhands, however good, will find a large mainstream audience. I’ll go see it, but I don’t want to go see it . . . When the film’s national box office fails to live up to its hype and to the record attendance at a few early screenings, prepare to be subjected to a tedious round of guilt-tripping and chin- scratching.”

The Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer made a new year’s prediction about Oscar night: “Brokeback Mountain will have been seen in the theatres by 18 people — but the right 18 — and will win the Academy Award.”

Something odd happened between the elite’s assessment of the heartland and the heartland’s assessment of Brokeback Mountain. No, it’s no The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. But of all the Oscar nominees it has racked up by far the biggest domestic grosses so far: more than $70m at the last count (compared with, say, $22m for the superb Capote). And that’s before the potential Oscar boost. More interestingly, it’s done remarkably well in the middle of the red states.

O’Reilly’s Montana? In the 85-year-old cinema in Missoula, Montana, the owner told the media: “It’s been super every night since we started showing it.” The movie did even better in Billings, a more conservative city in the state.

According to Variety magazine, some of the strongest audiences have been in Tulsa, Oklahoma, El Paso, Texas, Des Moines, Iowa and Lubbock, Texas.
Lubbock is the place George W Bush calls his spiritual home and may well be the site for his presidential library. Greenwich Village it ain’t.

What happened? There are various theories. Brilliant marketing pitched the movie as a love story and a western, two genres well ingrained in middle American tastes. Women dragged nervous husbands and boyfriends to see a film where the women could enjoy long, languorous views of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and the men could admire the scenery.

Blue state liberals felt it some kind of social duty to see the film. Gays and lesbians flocked. The media hyped the “gay cowboy” movie and it generated more and more publicity, and thereby curiosity and thereby tickets.

The iconic phrase uttered by Gyllenhaal — “I wish I knew how to quit you” — has become part of the popular culture. The cover of last week’s New Yorker had a parody of the now-famous poster, with Bush and Dick Cheney as the cowboys and Cheney blowing some steam off the top of his rifle.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about the film, especially those who haven’t seen it. My own view is that Brokeback has done well primarily because it’s an excellent film. It has a compelling story, two astonishing performances from Ledger and Michelle Williams, and an elegant screenplay from the great western writer Larry McMurtry.

I still don’t think the movie is in the same class as the brilliantly compressed short story by Annie Proulx on which it’s based. But it’s still way better than most films now offered by Hollywood, and it’s a little depressing that we have to ask why a decent number of people would not want to see a rare example of Hollywood excellence.

As for the gay sex, it’s barely in the movie, and the least convincing part of it. Compared with the sex and violence usually served up by Hollywood films, Brokeback is Jackanory. But there is something, perhaps, that explains the interest beyond mere artistic skill.

The past two decades have seen a huge shift in how homosexual people are viewed in the West. Where once they were identified entirely by sex, now more and more recognise that the central homosexual experience is the central heterosexual experience: love — maddening, humiliating, sustaining love.

That’s what the marriage debate has meant and why the marriage movement, even where it has failed to achieve its immediate goals, has already achieved its long-term ambition: to humanise gay people, to tell the full, human truth about them.

And that truth includes the red states. The one thing you can say about the homosexual minority is that, unlike any other, it is not geographically limited and never has been. Red states produce as many gay kids as blue ones; and yet the heartland gay experience has rarely been portrayed and explored.

In America this is particularly odd, since the greatest gay writer in its history, Walt Whitman, was a man of the heartland. And you only have to read about the early years of Abraham Lincoln’s life to see that same-sex love and friendship was integral to the making of America, especially in its wildernesses and frontiers. You see that today even in the American gay vote, a third of which routinely backs Republicans.

Brokeback, in other words, is not just a good movie, but a genuinely new one that tells a genuinely old story. It shows how gay men in America have families and have always had families. It shows them among themselves and among women. It shows them, above all, as men.

For the first time it reveals that homosexuality and masculinity are not necessarily in conflict, and that masculinity, even the suppressed, inarticulate masculinity of the American frontier, is not incompatible with love.

It provides a story to help people better understand the turbulent social change around them and the history they never previously recorded. That is what great art always does: it reveals the truth we are too scared to see and the future we already, beneath all our denial, understand.


So in light of the Oscars last night - many of the awards which I agreed with (for once) - I thought I'd give a quick synopsis of films that I have seen of late, because there have been quite a few good ones...

Cache (Hidden)
*Playing at the Curzon Soho (my favorite theatre in London, just north of Leicester Square); great French film that is at once provacative and almost painfully slow in its drawn-out suspense... very good.

The Constant Gardener
*Saw this at the Curzon Mayfair (also very nice but without the swanky bar and lively atmosphere of it's counterpart), great film in which Rachel Weisz, a Brit, is awesome... very femme fatale.

*Tried to watch it on dvd, fell asleep twice and never got throught it, though becuase it is a Jean-Luc Godard film, I have been promised it's good. Great readings and lists of Godard films are to be found at: http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/godard.html. Extremely enjoyable - but I should not try and watch films in bed when I am that tired!

Good-bye Lenin
*Great film - saw it on dvd with Jack last week and even when he fell asleep I sat up straight and loved it. It's about a woman in East Berlin going into a coma right before the Berlin Wall fell, and when she wakes up her son tries to re-create the world pre-Westernization as not to send her mother back into shock. Sad and funny - great film that makes me stoked to go to Berlin next month...

Brokeback Mountain
*Beautiful scenery, important and sad - I loved it. There is an awesome review of not the film, but the response to it in last Sunday's London Times - you can access it at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2058537,00.html and I'll also re-publish it above

Good Night, and Good Luck
*Good film - and though Clooney didn't get the Oscar for this film and his role in Syriana instead (which I have yet to see) - I am glad to see he is recognized. I was impressed with the film and some of the text of the film you could have mistaken for present-day debates about censorship and the role of the media in American culture. I loved his quote from his acceptance speech... "I want to thank Jack Abramoff, you know, just because ... I don't know why," he said to laughter from the audience.

The General
*Playing at the National Film Theatre (NFT) on the Southbank of the Thames, it's a 1926(?) silent, black-and-white film about the Civil War. I thought it was extremely funny - something has to be said about being able to make people laugh outloud without words.... And yes - I realize watching black-and-white silent films is super pretentious... but that's why it's fun to live this life in London and be able to do these kinds of things!

I've been trying to see Walk the Line for forever now - since it came out when I was state-side in December... hopefully will see it this week and I can find someone brave enough to come with me when I'm singing along to all of the songs (like Mark had to deal with at the Death Cab for Cutie show last week)!

And my favorite new quote about films...

"There is a moment when every true creator makes such a leap forward that his audience is left behind. For Renoir, La Règle du jeu was the sign of maturity, a film so new that it looks confusingly as if it might be a failure; one of those failures that leaves you, the morning after, counting your friends on the fingers of one hand."

-François Truffaut, Cahiers du cinéma 34, April 1954

Losing Sight of History?

From Matt Harwood, www.woodshavingsdaily.blogspot.com

You knew it was coming. Hitchens has set Fukuyama in his crosshairs after the latter pushed away once and for all from his neo-con brethern in last weekend's NYTs Magazine article (you can read it here.)

The charge that used to be leveled against the neoconservatives was that they had wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein (pause for significant lowering of voice) even before Sept. 11, 2001. And that "accusation," as Fukuyama well knows, was essentially true—and to their credit.

The three questions that anyone developing second thoughts about the Iraq conflict must answer are these: Was the George H.W. Bush administration right to confirm Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Is it right to say that we had acquired a responsibility for Iraq, given past mistaken interventions and given the great moral question raised by the imposition of sanctions? And is it the case that another confrontation with Saddam was inevitable; those answering "yes" thus being implicitly right in saying that we, not he, should choose the timing of it? Fukuyama does not even mention these considerations. Instead, by his slack use of terms like "magnet," he concedes to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses.

That's why last week was a poor one for him to pick. Surely the huge spasm of Islamist hysteria over caricatures published in Copenhagen shows that there is no possible Western insurance against doing something that will inflame jihadists? The sheer audacity and evil of destroying the shrine of the 12th imam is part of an inter-Muslim civil war that had begun long before the forces of al-Qaida decided to exploit that war and also to export it to non-Muslim soil. Yes, we did indeed underestimate the ferocity and ruthlessness of the jihadists in Iraq. Where, one might inquire, have we not underestimated those forces and their virulence?

His concluding paragraph is also worthy of note and should be thought about long and hard about the liberal-left that always value accomodation over conflict -- and remember conflict doesn't have to necessarily be war (ex. the Cold War), although violence isn't that far away (ex. the Cold War's heinous proxy wars).

"I have my own criticisms both of my one-time Trotskyist comrades and of my temporary neocon allies, but it can be said of the former that they saw Hitlerism and Stalinism coming—and also saw that the two foes would one day fuse together—and so did what they could to sound the alarm. And it can be said of the latter (which, alas, it can't be said of the former) that they looked at Milosevic and Saddam and the Taliban and realized that they would have to be confronted sooner rather than later. Fukuyama's essay betrays a secret academic wish to be living in 'normal' times once more, times that will 'restore the authority of foreign policy 'realists' in the tradition of Henry Kissinger.' Fat chance, Francis! Kissinger is moribund, and the memory of his failed dictator's club is too fresh to be dignified with the term 'tradition.' If you can't have a sense of policy, you should at least try to have a sense of history."

I, like both Fukuyama and Hitchens, travel in Marxist dialectic reasoning. We all believe the material and the idea or the thesis and the antithesis clash in a dynamic process that propels history or human events forward. The material grounds for liberal democracies exist in much of the world, therefore the point is to propel the idea forward. If a true democratic socialism cannot be realized, the next best hope for humanity is liberal democracy. Who can deny that? What's stopping this generation or the next from formulating peaceful policies to promote this? (Which is precisely what Fukuyama starts to enunciate in his article, although a military component to this still remains.)

While I have many problems with the neoconservative movement, beginning with Podhoretz through to Wolfowitz and Fukuyama, I do respect, like Hitchens, that they saw the dungeon of Sovietism in the West before anyone else wanted to, except maybe Orwell, and now have been the main opponents of the aforementioned murderous states led by megalomaniacs. I will never be ashamed that I did not support the war in Iraq. We were led there on lies and hidden motives -- which Hitchens denies to his discredit -- mixed up with principled opposition to Saddam Hussein. But now that it's over, I'm glad Hussein's in the docket and that, at least, there's a chance for some semblance of liberal democracy to root itself into the sands and grow ever so slightly. The hope for Iraq lies in its long history of secularism and a proactive civil society led by its unions if the U.S. has the gumption to promote it and keep the peace.

If I maybe so crude: Isn't this end in our best interest - ideationally and materially?