Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama

The long and short of this is that I want a president I can respect.

I respect Obama. First of all, I respect Obama intellecually. The intellectual respect is two-fold. On the one hand, I deeply respect Obama's personal struggle for identity. Like many Americans, Obama came from a background that kept him from being able to adopt a pre-packaged identity. Obama is black, but had little contact with his Kenyan father, was raised by his white family predominantly on Hawaii, a place with a very different race dynamic from the rest of the United States. When Obama's mother moved from Hawaii to Indonesia, Obama chose to stay in the United States and later to root himself in and marry into Chicago's African American community. Obama had a long struggle for identity and eventually chose to connect with the African American community, and focused much of his early professional life serving that community. I respect him for seriously struggling with his identity and putting down strong roots.

The section aspect of intellectual respect is academic. As a graduate of Columbia College and Harvard Law, Obama attended some of countries finest academic institutions. He shows intellectual curiosity, a skill and comfortability with complexity, and a preparedness to struggle with questions (such as race) which need to be addressed but for which no answer can be claimed to exist. Obama has a top class mind and has spent the time and energy to refine it.

I also respect Obama for being a self-made man. Though he did not grow up in poverty, no one can claim that Obama belonged to the American elite. He has has not had family connections to fall back on for political success, but rather has had to rely on his own successes and merits. I have to admit I am none to eager to have the Clinton dynasty simply alternate with the Bush dynsaty, and the prospect of someone like Obama who has built his own name and doesn't simply rely on Napolean III - type fame excites me.

Finally, I respect Obama because all of the politicians I have heard speak he is the one I find most truthful. I have no allusions, politicians are not in the business of honesty and transparency, but a personal voice matters to me. With Hillary I usually think to myself that she has excellent staff and speech writers and then wonder what she really believes. Obama's willingness to make impromptu statements and express opinions (contrary to general American political style) impresses me.

Those are the reasons I respect Obama as a person.

For me, Obama also represents the type of America I want to live in. Obama has an internationalist perspective and a willingness to address and try and include all ethnic groups in American political life. I want a more inclusive America. I want an America where a black man can be president and people realize that is no better or worse if a white man were president, but that it depends on the person. Particularly following the Bush administration that seemed to represent an old white America plagued by corruption and nepotism, I want a young president who comes from a diverse background and want to improve the country, rather than the position of a select few in that country.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mini Wall of Shame

Bad, bad boys.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Places in time II

New York

New York is a special place for me. It where I was born, but not raised, and it is home. In many ways New York is the only place I make any sense.

Ethnically I am a weird white mix: Catholic Northern Irish, Western Ukrainian, Swiss Italian, and Italian (Sicilian/Genoan/Roman). As it break down with me, I look and come off most Irish to people, I feel the most Italian (very much raised in the (non-guido) Italian-American subculture, and I am probably most fascinated by my Ukrainian roots.

The only things all those groups have in common is that they all came to New York at the turn of the last century. The Irish, Italians, and Ukrainians continue to have strong communities in New York. I feel at home with all of them, but particularly with the mixture.

Besides going to college in New York, I grew up with stories, stories about the ethnic neighborhoods. My grandfather's story about how Lucky Luciano attended his uncle's funeral, stories about the neighborhoods that used to be Irish and where they all moved once they got money from the GI Bill, how my parents and grandparent were always told to never take anything from mafia types, and how almost all of the Swiss Italians left New York almost immediately upon arriving for the warmer climate of Southern California. There were also the many, many stories about the great depression (prohibition was funnier) because of which I think my parents essentially consider themselves depression children.

Anyway, New York has never been just a city for me. It has been a story intimately tied to my family. I went to the same college my grandfather did, I live not far from where my grandparents did when they were first setting up, and most of the trendier parts of lower Manhattan are where we used to have a number of relatives. Obviously the city has changed so much I certainly don't feel like I am just rehashing the past, but as I walk around I do feel a real connection, not always sentimental, but a sense of belonging. I feel very at home in the Irish, Italian, and Ukrainian areas. Italian-American food is American food for me. Talkative Irish men all remind me of my grandfather and myself. The Ukrainians instantly remind me of my grandmother and the pictures of her family and church (the food also hits a tender note of home).

Now of course I am also and assimilated New Yorker. I can be quite pushy, I complain, and I am not much of one for beating around the bush. But with my friends here and New York being the center of most of the stories of my childhood, New York is my past and present. It is also a place where almost never feel out of place. But again it is very much the mix of it all that makes me feel at home. Here the table are turned. In New York the born Americans are more often than not the foreigners as are the people only emerging from one culture, as opposed to those who emerged from the tangled web of differing, tangled, and sometimes frictional cultures.


First sign: Careful! I bite! (German equivalent of "beware of dog")
Second sign: and apparently I can write.
Third sign: Hey, I can write!
Fourth sign: Then I can read too.


I can't really seem to get over my exhaustion. I was feeling extremely burnt out going into spring break, and despite some really fun relaxing moments with friends I have yet to feel refreshed (all the work I have had to do over break hasn't helped either). I have found myself staying in a couple of nights to literally do nothing (really out of character) and I have even been too tired to exercise, which is really frustrating (the type where even if I could drag myself to the gym my body still wouldn't be able to do much).

I have a good amount of work ahead of me so this worries me. More likely than not at least part of it is psychological. Classes have become monotonous and the only thing to look forward to are the exams, which really isn't much to look forward to at all.

I suppose it is probably part of something larger (I have been feeling a quite profound wanderlust lately as well). Hopefully I will be doing something profoundly exciting and different over the summer, but at the moment with the often gray days and seemingly endless stream of cases and work it is a bit hard to work through.

I do try and figure out what this stuff says about me sometimes. I know for work I will need something challenging, but I also like things that come in cycles: really intense and calm again. I can't really take the long intense burn. I am the type that has always run up mountains rather than walked, or sprinted if I was going to jog. If I am going to get tired I'd rather it happen quickly and get it done.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Mailman: It would have hurt less if he had just bitten me.
Dog: Your mother never really loved you!


I haven't updated for a little while now so this is going to be another catch all post.

I am learning an awful lot these days. Admittedly, that is a very new agey sort of thing to say, but all I can promise you that my inner child has been left well alone and my crystal collection remains, well, nonexistent.

I suppose what I mean is that I am learning what is important to me (versus what I think is important for me). Some things remain constant: languages continue to really capture my intellectual interest, doing improv continues to be when I feel most alive, and I continue to be driven by a desire to connect with my different roots (had a really great moment with Alexia over the weekend in a tiny cafeteria in the east village serving mainly church-going Ukrainians; the pirogies were much better than what I have had in restaurants here and I was very happy to use the Ukrainian I knew). I have reaffirmed some newer things as well, such as the fact that while I value hard work and do always work as hard as I can, I am not a workaholic and do not desire to be one. I just don't think it is healthy, and seeing more and more workaholic lawyers and law students preparing for themselves for that those positions, I can only say I do not think it is healthy and takes its toll on your personal life and breadth as a person. So I continue to try and balance law school and normalcy.

I have also learned that I can't be in a relationship if I don't think it is for the long term. Though I have always been adverse to relationships when I am not in a place for very long, I mainly mean it in the sense that I am unable to stay in a relationship that is comfy when I realize I am not getting the fulfillment I need in the long run. I am a big picture person and for better worse if I know there is hard work to be done I would rather get started on it today. In terms of relationships that means I'd rather get back to searching rather than stay with what I have, but ultimately am unsatisfied by.

Other than that not sure there is much else to tell. Continue to struggle a bit with being dyslexic in a field that is extremely detail oriented and finicky. My own fault really and I don't regret it though it poses frustrating challenges at times.

Generally, I have felt rather burnt out as of later. Been thinking about running away to New Caledonia. If you consider the pile of dirty laundry in the corner a suitcase you could say I have a suitcase packed and I am ready to go at any moment.

- The subway continues to be the best free show in the entire city with Crazy people saying 'hi' and flipping out remain remarkably similar. I am thinking of a scene in Queens when a woman on the platform saw a guy she knew in a subway car. As the doors were closing she dove through blocking them. She didn't get in the train (she just stayed stuck between the doors), but proceeded to have a weird discussion with the guy she knew on the subway in which both tried to pass the buck of calling the other. It ended with the woman yelling "I'm gonna find you, I'm gonna find you!" See, she wasn't really crazy but seemed like she could break you that's what made it scary.
- I am on an ethnic neighborhoods/locals kick which I am quite enjoying. In addition to my further adventures in Little Ukraine, it has involved the Czech beer garden in Astoria (amazing kielbasa!), a great Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, and a number of rather authentic Belgian and German beer gardens. Next on the list: Little Poland, Irish part of Queens, and the Central Asian part of Queens.
- Cranes. I am supposed to be watching for them now according to my mother.
- Can China please be nice to Tibet? Okay, maybe this is a hippie post. Look it took me a long time to overcome my dislike of Richard Gear and get behind Tibet, but I did, and well I like the Dali Lama and am none too fond of China's attacks on Tibetan language and culture.
- I continue to be impressed by cute female friends ability to smile and get free stuff. Six foot tall (randomly bearded) men can be cute too right? Right? No, it's okay I know people would only give me free stuff if they thought I was about to rob them.
- I really want to see Candide at City Opera next month. Interested?
-Question: guys in your early 20s, do you get called 'sir' a lot? I do. Is it my fake-Britishness or just the scariness factor?
-The computer monitors in the L train almost make me think I am in a European metro/U-Bahn. Almost.
-Oh, Spitzer, I nearly forgot. Wow, right? These are the kinds of people who perfect scores on the LSAT. . .

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Out and About

I am officially post-brief (well I have been for a little while now, but after all that writing the last thing I wanted to do was, well, write). The great things was that the brief was due on a Monday so after conned out of a weekend I then had a full week of normal law school. Still the weekend came around and fist full of pirogies (though for me good ones will forever be "pedeha") and a few German and Belgian beers later my semblance of humanity has returned.

*Note: it does amused me that I basically get to responses to these sort of whiny law school posts. From my fellow las students something along the lines of yeah it sucks, I had forgotten normal people don't do that stuff. Then from my normal friends (Hu-Man-Z) it generally just solicits exclamations of "thank God I am not in law school" and "wow that sucks." I mainly still think law school is funny, a funny repository of neurotic and anal youth and age.

Not much else to tell at the moment really. Tomorrow I am waiting to hear back about a summer internship I would quite like (international law and abroad). Could very well not get it, which is fine since it isn't actually late to not know it is just the time when people start to freak out about that stuff so if not I will enter into my last round of applications.

Also I am pretty much giving up on trying to stay close with a lot of people from college. Coming back from Austria I foolishly thought I could reconnect with my whole college group and after many facebook invites that never received rsvps and other attempts I am done. I am quite happy with the people I see on a regular basis and will be happy to see other friends on the more haphazard basis that they pop up on.

And now some randomness:

1. I saw Nathan Lane on the street last Monday near Time Square. He looked very tired and though no one was paying any attention to him he ran to a taxi so as to avoid human contact as quickly as possible. The cabby seemed to recognize him and be pleased. I can't stand Nathan Lane.

2. So many Russian in New York and really everywhere. One very small example was me not going to a barber where Russian speakers from Central Asia work and ending up at another barber where Russian speakers from Central Asia work.

3. The L train is very spiffy with its computer screen and counters. Most other trains, still pretty ghetto.

4. The Jersey/Long Island overflow into the city is irksome and the cultural and fashion difference is impressively strong.

5. Kosovo, at some point I would like to do a post on this. I really think it has every right to be independent. There is a lot of talk about it being a dangerous precedent in international law for regions breaking away and becoming their own countries, but if the precedent is that if you government tries to ethnically cleanse the majority in your region you get a shot at being a government opposed to ethnic cleansing, I don't think it is that bad. Either way, NATO has been administering Kosovo for some time with a governor whose power and style was compared with the British Raj's. Time a democratically elected government took up the reigns.

6. Russia had its Presidential election. I'd like to do a post on that. It is all too clear who won and there was never any question of that.

7. Lily Allen is really impressing me with her musical talent as of late.