Saturday, December 29, 2007

Around the World

Now that I have a bit of down time I am applying for summer law internships. As a first year law student with no previous legal experience they tell you to pretty much forget paid work. The name of the game is work experience, you are trying to get experience that will help you get a paid job next summer and hopefully then a job with that firm or organization.

Since I am going to have to shell out for whatever I do this summer I am trying to do something I would really enjoy. There are a few things I am applying for in the US or have already applied for, like the UN, State Department, and a couple of federal agencies dealing with space law and law of the sea, but most of the stuff I am looking at is abroad.

Clearly, that is entirely intentional I like Europe. I have no interest in going to Ireland or the UK because if I do that then I can't use or improve a foreign language (ok, my British is rusty but functional and rarely requested). So I am applying for positions in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan (ok, Kazakhstan isn't in Europe). Basically they all have at least one thing in common: I speak the local language. In any of those places I have a certain level of comfortability that just makes things so much easier.

Still, the whole business is rather disconcerting. Should I try and hone my French and get some legal terminology? Work on my business Russian vocabulary? Start going to second semester Ukrainian? I don't know. That isn't too big of a problem, really I plan on doing at least a little bit of all of that anyway, but not knowing keeps me from being able to dedicate myself 110% to one thing (perhaps a good thing).

The funny thing is that even though I do really like Western/Central Europe, my heart keeps tugging me east. I would love to spend some time in Lyons or in one of the many beautiful Belgian cities, but for some reason the thought of spending the summer in sort of crappy nouveau riche Kiev excited me so much more. I love the former Soviet Union, I suppose because there is just so much energy, you never know what is going to happen from one day to the next in politics or business and then compared to Western Europe the population is quite young and there is an very active youth culture (something I found very lacking in Vienna). So I suppose if the opportunity comes through I will very happily spend my summer there.

Still it has become almost a constant in my life for the past three years or so that I have no idea where I will be six months from now. It is exciting if daunting, and again it is something I do to myself because I do love to be between things, experiencing new things, challenging my understanding, though it has drawbacks as well. Sometimes I worry that I don't really put down roots because of it. Certainly it can be hard because with my diversity of interests it means I have to leave things for a while.

One example of that is improv. I love improv. I have taken a lot of classes, directed a good number of shows, and performed more. I know a good number of people on the better teams at the New York improv teams. But I am not on a team. Now, had I stayed in New York and kept pushing improv I still might not be on one. I am a good improver and I've had great moments. Improv has influenced me tremendously both in terms of how I tell stories and how I think about people (much like in a scene, many people don't bring much to a conversation).

At the moment I am rusty as all hell which is a bit tough for someone who is randomly a perfectionist with certain things. I haven't had the time over the past five months to do anything performance related, and the few times I've had it has been more about expression and getting some frustration out than good clear cut funny improv. I need to work on that.

The funny thing is that although I periodically wish I was better areas that perhaps suffer a bit because I do so much, I wouldn't change it. I really thrive on diversity of interests and passions and different people. I am happiest when I am on the verge of having too much to do (a dangerous place to be) love the stimulation and cross pollination of doing many different things.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This Will Not Be Linear

So I have been home on Long Island for the holidays. It has all been very pleasant. Lots of eating good food, play board games, and seeing old friends. Already seems like ages since exams, which is exactly what I needed.

I got some very nice Christmas presents (gave some good ones too). Since I do not read non-legal texts for law school I am trying to become a more avid reader, both in English and Russian (I can read for pleasure now and not just torture!). For the moment I am working on rereading Faust II, reading the Whispers by Orlando Figes (personal stories about the Stalinist repression from my favorite academic writer), and Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (he's my kind of cynical sceptical American).

Also I am trying to catch up on my movies. Seriously. I feel like I haven't seen anything since I went to Vienna last years. So far I manages to see Super Bad (a great stupid movie) and the Simpsons Movie (good, but I need to rewatch it). Still on the list: Stranger than Fiction, the Departed, Hairspray (the original was descent), and Knocked Up (which I keep calling "a little bit pregnant" since that is what it was titled in Russian).

I managed to see Sweeney Todd before heading home. I liked it a lot. It is sort of amazing how it manages to be a cross between a slasher and a musical, though I suppose that is what it always was. Still, it is much more than opera than in musical with no dance numbers and tremendous intensity. The lyrics are wonderfully cynical.

On Friday I am hoping to make it to see War and Peace at the Met. I don't know the opera, but Prokofiev composed the score and it is War and Piece so it has to be a healthy serving of Russian Nationalism. For whatever reason, I tend to go for the grander more Wagnerian operas (not that I can take Wagner on any sort of regular basis), which so far has kept my mother and I from being able to see an opera together (she likes the lighter Italian ones).

Well, that is it for now. Before New Year's I'll be back with some sort of year in review entry. I'll have to come up with some observation by then.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Barbarossa!

i.e. just me

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hell yes!

Okay this is a horrible graphic for this post, but it was the closest thing I could find to the way I feel right now (think: fuck yes!).

I think I found a way to go to Kiev this summer, do a law internship, receive one on one Ukrainian language instruction, stay with a host family, and not have to pay anything.

It would be amazing if I could do that. Being in Kiev would mean I would get to use both Russian and Ukrainian, living with a host family would solve my housing problem and introduce me to more people, and I would get work experience for the field I want to go into.

I'll go more into the details later (need to get back to studying), but I am so excited this is even a possibility! It would make for an absolutely amazing summer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I'm too lazy to explain why right now, but this is a really brilliant cartoon (by Бандура) about the announcement that Medvedev would be president and Putin would be his PM. It's brilliant. No really. Eh, at least enjoy the bunny.

Actually this one is too brilliant for me not to include:

"What's not European about us?"

Remember Medvedev means bear. The style of the script is great too because it is in old peasant/fairytale style.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Greatest Show on Earth

Amazing video on P.T. Barnum's New York (yes the circus guy) and all the crazy stuff he did in it. Wow. Sounds more exciting than today's New York. Things seemed to burn down a lot though. Guess the mafia was still gainfully employed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I have wanted to write about this for a while now.

A few weeks back Ian Smith (voting above) died. He was a huge racist. Smith was the prime minister of Rhodesia from 1964-1979 (when Rhodesia ceased to exist in and Zimbabwe took its place). Smith spearheaded Rhodesia's unilateral declaration of independence from Britain, which was done in order to keep Britain from establishing a government including the other non-white 95% of the population. Pretty much from there on out Rhodesia struggled with the resistance movement and once Mozambique became independent and supported the resistance the jig was up. Ironically, even the Afrikaners couldn't stand the Rhodesians, they reminded them too much of Rhodes himself (for the Afrikaners Rhodes' coup attempt in the Transvaal, best/most horrible example Rhodes choice of burial spot for himself on a sacred mountain in Zimbabwe in an attempt to develop a religious following for himself; who wants a Rhodes Scholarship now?)

For a really description of life in Rhodesia for a man who has experienced both Smith and Mugabe click here.

What really interests me about Smith's life though is what he did after he lost power. For one he stayed in Zimbabwe, but he received remarkably good treatment from the man he had fought to keep white rule in Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe. I say this because unlike South Africa, Zimbabwe did not follow the line of forgive and forget as much. They don't teach 20th century history in school in Zimbabwe because it would be to damaging to the current regeme, the press is strictly controlled, and pretty much all of the white farmers were driven out over the past decade or so. Criticism of president Mugabe is certainly not permitted.

And yet until he left the country, Smith was allowed to keeping living on his farm and call Mugabe "mentally deranged." At one point when Smith was in South Africa for medical treatment, Mugabe threatened to have him arrested and prosecuted for genocide if he returned to Zimbabwe. He did, and was greeted warmly by immigration officers. I don't think Mugabe really meant it, he just wanted to make some noise.

What fascinates me is that Mugabe seemed to respect Smith. They had nothing in common, and though Smith was once an important political figure for Zimbabwe's white community there isn't much of one left and they certainly weren't a threat to Mugabe's power. Instead, Mugabe seemed to respect Smith as another dictator, perhaps treating him as he would want to be treated (would Mugabe really want to set a precedent for a undemocratic Zimbabwean leader to be held liable for all the death he caused? I don't think so). The dictator to dictator bond seems almost literary.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The New Guy

And law school exams continue to take up most of my time and sanity, but in other news....

Putin named who he will back to be Russia's next president: Dmitry Medvedev (guy on the left).

The picture is old, but I like it because it captures some of the dynamic.

The whole situation is a bit odd. Firs there is the fact that considering democracy's recent passing (she was suffering, it was her time) people the world over (who care about Russia) have realized that it really isn't the election campaign that matters, it is everything before. So in that light, Putin's backing of Medvedev has been treated as the election of the next Russian president. Okay, fair enough, nothing more wrong with that than with anything else that has been going on. So you would think with Russia's recent side stepping towards authoritarianism, they would try and set Medvedev up as a serious intimidating leader right? Not so much.

At least to me the whole thing had been a bit more like Putin introducing his long time girlfriend to mother Russia. In most of the press conferences Medvedev has sat there next to Putin nodding along, as Putin basically said "oh you are going to like him so much, he's such a nice boy."
The most significant quote I have seen from Medvedev was that he would appoint Putin prime minister, which just seemed a bit like "oh, I don't have opinions, I'll just do whatever he tells me to."
But who knows what will happen. My Russian politics teacher from last year in Austria thinks it is all a red haring so Putin can deal with all the wannabe presidents and people pressuring him to stay in office now so he can pull a switcheroo later with another guy. He hasn't stated his reasons yet though. I don't know, sounds crazy enough for Russian politics.

Apparently in the Russian blogosphere they have been making fun of Medvedev a lot. Ironically, for the same sort of petty thing I would: his last name means bear. The word for bear in Russian is pretty to begin with as it is a combination of the words med (honey) and ved (an old verb for to know), i.e. the creature that knows where the honey is (if you were wondering 'ev' is just a standard ending for surnames). Anywho, Mr. Bear being the president of Russian is a amusing tantalizing notion...even for Russians apparently.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Life sucks at the moment as law school kicks into high gear and I lose the ability to relate to humanity, but lets focus on more positive things like:


If only I had know earlier! Apparently Santacon is a global phenomenon involving people dressed up as santa doing a day long pub crawl. The one New York was this past Saturday and involved hundreds of santas moving from bar to bar and going to a park to play reindeer games (drunken relays and such, such as in other activities they are all drunken). I am sorry, but I really don't have words to explain how awesome find this. Oh, there are also reindeer, elves, and various attempts at iconic Hanukkah figures (the link about has a great Hanukkah chicken).

I had really never heard of this before, and even though the timing will probably be equally bad for me next year, but I really want to do this. Anyone else want to be Santa with with me next year?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Life Imitating Art

Piece by anonymous English grafiti artist Bansky. Banksy, besides just being brilliant, is known for his graffiti both parodying society and pop culture, and more specifically criticizing authority (he has done a fantastic seriois on the barrier being built between the West Bank and Israel). Here, besides, just being inredibly funny, I would say it is also a commentary on authority's love of power.
Moving on to this earlier piece of graffiti on the Berlin wall . Soviet leader Brezhnev is shown passionately kissing East German leader (and bastard) Erick Honecker. The caption is both German and Russian reads: God! Help me survive this deadly love! A commentary on the close political relationship between the Soviet Union and East Germany (i.e. we say jump and you say how high or we send the tanks in...again) which made any sort of reform or change impossible. Brezhnev is certainly the driving party (the dominant Soviet partner), but Honecker isn't doing too badly himself.
Fast forward to this year when this piece by a Russian photographer, called "the Era of Mercy" was pulled by the Russian government from an exhibition in Paris ahead of the recent parliamentary election. I really like the piece. Here you have two symbols of post-Soviet Russian authority passionately embracing each other in a birch forest: the symbol of Russian peasant culture and Romantic nationalism. So where is the mercy? It seems to be telling the story of power's love of power. it definitely alludes to the two pieces above, but while making the two figures less distinguishable and without the power relationship so integral to the Berlin wall piece. These aren't high ranking officials, but ordinary young police officers passionately embracing each other. Police in Russia are not known for the mercy or diligence, here though we see mercy: mercy towards itself and others with power.
And now fast forward to this week with a celebratory event for the successful election campaign of a member of Putin's majority in parliament. Little similar, no? Good thing that picture was banned.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I suppose I should say something about the Russian election though I have said most of what I had to say already. It happened, there was intimidation, voting inconsistencies, and a wholly biased media. Putin's party won, the communist party was the only other party to make it into parliament.

Germany said there is no democracy in Russia.

I tend to agree. Once more, this time around Russia's leaders really didn't care what anyone else had to say about that. The propaganda is all about the West having taken advantage of Russia and Russia's need to stand strong on its own (Russians ability to view themselves as victims while continuing to ignore all the people they have victimized continues to amaze me).

Democracy dies and the crowd just cheers louder. Somehow I am glad I am not in Russia without any resonance for my own disquietude while simultaneously having any dissent in the Russian people being blamed on me and the US.

The picture about is from Nashi's post-presidential victory rally. I want to call them a post-Soviet Russian version of the Hitler youth. I say this because of their tendency towards violence, intimidation, dogmatism, while claiming to fight fascism (ah the Soviet bogeyman, so nice he is still around). There is a short but informative video about them here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Quick post-studying, pre-bed fantasy break.

I really want to travel. This is nothing new, but certain places attract me more at certain times that others. So anyway here is a list:

1. Antwerp - I really like Belgium. Amazing chocolate beer, chocolate, mussels (yes I know have gone off about this before). I also really want to work on my French and learn Dutch/Flemish. I have been to Brussels and a few other beautiful places in Belgium, but never to Antwerp and that is the allure. Could visit for a weekend sometime could apply for a scholarship to study there through the embassy.

2. Willemstad, Dutch Antilles - I am a city person. I travel places for the cities. I like the concentration of people, history, and culture. Anyway, rare for North America and the Caribbean in particular, Willemstad has a UNESCO recognized colonial center, which is beatiful. Amazing sounding city, potpourris of languages, amazing weather, and beautiful water. What is not to love?

3. Morocco - Almost all of it. Fes, Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, they all excite me and have amazing and different architecture. Beautiful mosques.

4. Mariupol - Historic Greek cityin Ukraine that still has a fairly large Greek-speaking minority, just sounds cool.

5. Genoa - Part of my family is from there. Ideally I'd like to do some sort of greater Genoa tour: Genoa-Monaco-Nice-St. Tropez.

6. Algiers - Sounds pretty amazing and I am fascinated by the hisotry of the city.

7. Tiblissi - Post-Soviet and the potential to live up to my orientalist expectations, what's not to love?