Wednesday, January 30, 2008


We meet again Sandman!

We both knew this night would come drool-on-pillow-man!

Monday, January 21, 2008

British Council

This is getting closed down

because this guy

killed this guy
and this is how Russians feel about it


British Councils is an organization sponsored by the British government that promotes English-language learning through courses and access to books in its libraries. It has branches abroad (would be funny if there was one in the US) and much like the Goethe Institute which is subsidized by the German government and the Alliance Francaise which is subsidized by the French government, the British Council is subsidized by the British government.

The Russian government is forcing the all British Councils offices outside of Moscow to shutdown. Russian authorities have been giving various reasons for this, the most amusing and simultaneously most ridiculous is that they are centers for British spies in Russia. That is a laugh, something the British papers are quick to point out. I have seen these places. They have some books and really just try and help people to learn a but of English at a subsidized rate. To be sure there are British spies in Russian, and rightly so, but they sure as hell aren't wasting their time in the British Council branches, just as I am sure the Russian spies in the UK don't go to too many Russian cultural events.

Basically, what is going on is part of an ongoing British-Russian feud centered around Litvinenko poisoning (pictured in his hospital gown above). To make a very long story short, Litvinenko was a former KGB agent who was poisoned with radioactive polonium. He died in the UK and had been living there before being poisoned. The Brits sent a team over to Moscow to investigate and came up with the fellow they believed to be responsible, Andrei Lugovoi (blond guy above). The Russian refused to extradite him and he was later voted into the Russian parliament , giving him immunity from prosecution.

In a tit-for-tat response, some more minor Russian diplomats were expelled from the UK last summer and things have been simmering since then. The latest element of that was the forced closure of the British Council offices outside of Moscow (most likely so the foreign ministers kids can keep going to language class), on preposterous grounds. The British government has been quite resilient, lambasting the Russian authorities and so far refusing to shut those offices claiming the claims against them are baseless and any attempt by the Russian to close those offices would violate international law (not so sure about that one, but sounds good).

Anyway, essentially banning the British Council puts Russia in the fine company of Burma and Iran, the only other two countries to do so. Hence the ironic kidney punch of the Russian political cartoon above.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Cashier: There are fifty in the box. Either you buy all of them or none of them.
Polly: Polly wants a cracker
Cashier: I'm calling the manager

* yes Oliver, I am well aware you will not find this one funny. But at least there was a glimmer of hope for a little while.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Lies Beneath

One of my new classes this term is property. I have to admit I was not looking forward to that one. I just pictured it being a lot of old crotchedy people trying to sue their upstart neighbors for building a fence that accidentally extends a millimeter on to their property (that's the sort of thing that happens in my home town).

There is that, but so far it has been much cooler. I mean it is funny because there are a lot of very British cases (whether we are actually talking their side of the Atlantice or ours), and the personalities are amazing! The duck catcher who is mad at his neighbor for building his new duck net too close to his, so he unloads round after round in the guys yard to scare them away. Then there was a the grumpy old man who didn't like the young nouveau riche upstart who would go on crazy fox hunts, so just as he was about to close in on the fox Mr. Crotchedy jumps out and kills the fox first. Oh and we talked about the whale mafia of Cape Cod.

I think the prof though the whale mafia was a weird idea for most people so he was explaining how rough the lobster crowd up in Maine is. There the coast is technically open to anyone so anyone can leave their lobster traps, but if you step into one of the lobster gangs turf they will cut the rope connecting your trap and your buoy. For me that was funny, they do the same in Long Island. I could relate, oh Long Island, so full of surprises.

We also had a cool case where man was suing an airline for flying over his house. This was a while ago so it didn't have to do with federal aviation regulations, but with him trying to claim all the air above his land belonged to him. And it is funny because it doesn't. We are more eager to give people what is under their land, but even then underground rivers don't belong to the people whose land they run through, but oil does (well, in this country if not in glorious Canada).

The resource stuff I found really interesting and certainly is relevant with all the underground minerals and energy sources countries and firms are fighting for -cough-Russia-cough. Anyway I thought it was really cool and will now definitely apply to the Total (the French oil/gas giant) legal internship in Paris I found. So many disputes over underground stuff! All the gas in the Caspian Sea, the legal disputes over the north sea not so far back, and over the North Pole: the new frontier! Also, Russia tends not to play nicely with others, which could work in my favor with that career wise. Though I suppose I do run the risk of become a huge douche/evil oil lawyer. I'll deal with that one as it present itself.

Oh, and I know I steal a lot of images off the internet, but I was amused to find this one:

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I love Kamini. I think it is because in our hear of hearts we are both suburban/rural white boys. Granted, he is Congolese (grew up in France) and I am about as a white as they come (though I like to think I could pass as Russian mafia at times, ok I'd need to wear more black, gold, and pointed shoes), but he just mocks everythings so well. He takes the piss out of the the snobby French, American rap stars, and pretty much everyone else and with a smile.

Anyway, I finally managed to get his album and I am loving it. It is pretty fun as every time I listen to it I get a bit more. Anyway, here are some of his best videos (I know I posted the first one before). Perhaps it is my own stylized one-dance-fits-all approach to dancing, but I love his dances. I am sure you cannot tell at all that I really do not want to do law school work today.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And They're Off!

So after a glorious one day delay for me, the second semester of law school got off to a roaring start. The classes are earlier, there are more of them, but I have a much better idea of what I need to do on my end so it really isn't too worrying. Grades are starting to come out so most people are in a situation akin to a demonic version of slots where the stakes are high and it takes forever to get the results. I really do wish everyone the best.

I'll look when they are all in. I am willing to be frustrated, depressed, elated once over all of this and that's it.

I had a really good talk today with a woman in my new international legal writing class. I was explaining my philosophy about law school, the jist of which I am neither living for law school nor willing to stop living for it. If I were a coked up rocker type that might be a problem, but for me it seems to work. Still, the woman had really good insight as an older student with a husband and some experience under her belt. Her meaning: I like my life, gonna keep it, I just want a career and I am doing this for me. Couldn't agree more.

I have a lot of young professors this term which is a big change from last year. One had what seemed to be a Russian last name and a very funky accent. Turns out he is Australian, though after consultation with my Russians we think he is probably Croatian (which would make sense considering a huge chunk of the Australian world cup team is/was Croatian). So yes, an Australian accent with Croatian overtones.

I think that is pretty much it. I am trying not to over commit myself as I am always tempted to do at the start of the semester. I seem a bit ahead of the game when it comes to applying for summer internships which is nice, especially since even if I don't get my first choice I will be doing something cool this summer. Pretty much just more of the boring same. Pretty happy and feel relatively on top of things. I'll ride that wave for as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008



According to some artist, this is what joy looks like. Her joy sort of scares the crap out of me, but really who am I to judge?

I am really doing smashingly for some reason. I had an absolutely great break. I was able to do a lot fo fun things and just felt like I was able to make the most of living in New York.

I just feel really in control of my life for some reason. Not that I don't think there will be any surprises or that nothing bad will happen, just that I am pretty content with my lot and life and happy to play even the weaker hands life sometimes deals me.

I am reading some great books. I started up with French again tonight, discovering I could still speak it, and it looks like I will be able to continue with Russian as well.

I am applying for loads of stuff for the summer. Trying to do about an application a day. I don;t expect to get the vast majority of the stuff, but it seems likely that I will be able to get something I think is pretty cool and abroad which would make for a great summer.

So the semester is staring up again, but I am feeling pretty good about it. I feel like I have a plan and with good friends, fun, and intellectual stimulation I am feeling pretty contented.

Pretty good start for the new year.

Friday, January 04, 2008

War and Peace

Went to see War and Peace at the Met with Alexia last night. We got rush orchestra tickets, which are a good deal except you have to wait in line for about six hours to get them. I was the first one there and two crotchedy old people cut me (I know I should respect my elders, but I really really don't like them). That bothered me more than it should have. Still, it was a wait of epic proportions, and though we were inside it was really cold and there was major construction going on one room away. Still, we played Risk which was quite appropriate and made a few very bored people jealous.

Anyway, on to the opera. First half was really boring. To be fair, that isn't really the opera's fault. The first half of the book is also rather dull. It is a lot of noble people loafing about the capital being melancholic (very Pride and Prejudice like, I hate Pride and Prejudice). Yes it all looks very pretty, but it is dull. But let's be honest, war is a lot more interesting than peace. So yes it all looked very pretty, bu there wasn't much meat to grab on to.

The second half was really good. The sets and props were amazing. They had over a hundred soldiers marching in different scenes and Napoleon rode in on a massive white horse in a few scenes. Moscow burning was spectacularly done (especially a phoenix from the ashed effect they did). There was some very good commentary on war, particularly when Napoleon's manservant is trying to entreat him to eat a rather luxurious breakfast while a dead body is being carried in front of them. there is also a great bit where they use the hydrolic stage to raise Napoleon and show him to be standing on the corpses of hundreds of soldiers.

I liked an opera quite a bit. I am a sucker for romantic nationalism. The music isn't especially memorable, lacking the same dissonance of Prokofiev's more memorable pieces from Romeo and Juliette. Still, what amazed me the most was that this opera was put on in the Stalinist Soviet Union in the middle of World War II.

Throughout the opera there is a lot of talk about God, the tsar, and faith. None of those things were encouraged at the time, in fact they were pretty harshly punished. Also, though the critique of Napoleon would apply to Hitler, it easily works well as a critique of Stalin as well, who led alone and with no care for the lives he sacrificed, which is how Napoleon is characterized. There are some very Soviet things opera: the peasants are depicted as the heroes and there is a lot of talk about their strength being the greatest and of their "revolting." Without a proletariat to work with, the peasantry was used as a substitute (even though the Soviet leadership wasn't too fond of them). The use of the peasant chorus reminded me a lot of how Brecht uses Choruses in his plays (i.e. to present a collective willing to sacrifice the interests and lives of individuals to achieve a "common good").

Still, despite all of that I found it very hard to believe the opera was produced when it was. It really doesn't conform with the censorship of the time. I wondered about that until I looked at the Wikipedia discovered that the opera was never allowed to have an opening and was only allowed one very small performance equivalent to a theatrical reading. Suddenly it made a lot more sense to me. Produced in the Soviet Union, but not shown.

In closing, the opera is very interesting both because of the strength or the original text, the modern style of the music, and viewing how the whole opera was put together to at least try and conform with Soviet censors.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Balancing Act

Had an absolutely wonderful New Year's party at my place last night. It was so good that I am still happy from it all. Just reminded me how important the people around you are. I was not drink, but still ha what was quite possibly the best night of the year. Good god I love having creative passionate friends! I would describe it all, but others seems to have documented most of it in video and pictures more than adequately.

So yes, the New Year has rung and it is time for me to reminisce about the past a bit and look to the future (that is a New Year's blog obligation right?).

This time last year I was (where): not entirely sure. I was probably still in Vienna with my family or on the train with them to Prague. New Year's in Vienna was quite spectacular (the whole city was taken over by Italian tourists) and there were concerts and fireworks everywhere (well the center of town seemed a bit like a war zone with all the people setting off illegal fireworks and fire crackers).

I was worried about: Admittedly I don't entirely remember, but most likely law school, I had applied to my first choice school and been deferred and had a quite a few more applications to get together. Well I have to say compared to last year this certainly is an improvement. I mean, I am in law school now. I was also having a tough time finding my scene in Vienna. I am not sure I ever did, though in the end I liked the people who I met through fringe theater and the Slavic languages department.

This year I feel very excellently socially adjusted (does a world of good for my view on life). I have law school friends, Austria friends, college friends, and high school friends. For me though it really isn't the quality it is the caliber. That is where my friends come through for me. People who are pursuing their passions, struggling with what life gives them instead of ignoring it or just accepting it, and with an energy for life. Passion is passed like light from a candle.

I was excited about: Travel mainly. Both the short term trip to Prague and hoping to get to Ukraine and Moscow. I did a lot of travel last year (quick list: Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Turkey, Ukraine {3 times}, Luxembourg, France, Russia, and Belarus). Huh, that really is a lot. It was great especially making it to Kazan when I was in Russia. I do like traveling, but for me I am most excited when I am going to make use of a specific skill, usually a language. It is sort of like the testing phase when you go and try and apply it all. Quite exhilarating.

At the moment I don't really feel the need to travel. Oh sure, I'd like to go to Morocco, but I am really very happy to be in New York and with everything that has been coming my way. I do very much hope I make it to Ukraine or somewhere Russian speaking for the summer though. It is nice to use my languages on a more regular basis now and again and feel less like a a parlor magician with them (i.e. pulling them out to do cheap tricks at parties.

Some things I have learned: Most people aren't that bright or intellectually engaged. In college it was quite normal for my friends to have intense academic passions along with extracurricular ones (i.e. improv, arts, building mode airplanes for competitions, photography, and who knows what). There were plenty of pretentious asses, but once you found a good person they had something going on upstairs.

Generally not the case in the world.

I like making fun of pop culture, I like a good party, but if that is all you are interested in and are living for then I am out. Most people's goals are to find a better apartment, get a better job, have a hot(ter) boyfriend or girlfriend. That isn't enough for me either concerning my own goals or the people I am going to spend my time with.

I first realized this last year when I was studying in Vienna. I thought it was an American/European thing, but apparently it is really just a people thing. Generally just makes me realize how important it is I keep reading non-law text on my own and continue to seek out interesting people.

Some goals: I'd like to be a bit more secure in myself in general, and specifically in myself as a lawyer. I have made a lot strides with all of that and just want to keep on that path. The law element is new and I am quite inexperienced with it all, but I suppose the goal I am trying to verbalize (textualize?) is to have carved out a bit of a legal specialty by this time next year. To have a bit more direction with my legal studies.

Things to have done by this time next year:
1.) Started to learn Ukrainian
2.) have gone to the French conversation group and be actively improving my French in some way
3.) Pretty much the same with Russian.
4.) Have expanded my circle of friends by actively having sought out new and interesting people (sounds a bit like Star Trek that one doesn't it).
5.) Have a regular occurring artistic outlet (probably improv, but I'm open).

That's all folks.