Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Growing older

Let me just start by saying that like everyone else, I'm full of flaws.

Although I don't normally like chick flicks, one of my weaknesses is a particular chick flick that I have watched countless times and that becomes more true with each year that passes - Bridget Jones's Diary.

At this point, I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen it. The copy I have is a previewed DVD, bought for me by one of my exes one day when I was sick with the flu. Back then, the movie and book were hilariously funny to me for the comedy they contained. Today, the movie and book are even more hilariously funny because the truth contained within them becomes clearer and clearer with each day that passes.

This concerns me slightly. Is this something so universally true that as I get older and older I will feel more and more like Bridget? Are all women like Bridget? As we get older, do we all have to face visions of weddings, granny undies, and fruitless dieting? I suppose I just have to wait and see...right now, I'm more concerned with learning everything I possibly can about international law, in all its many facets.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Life under my rock, or discovering Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson

I live under a rock. It's a nice rock, but it's a rock nonetheless. I have been living in the United States for over 10 years, and I have never learned US history. In part this may have been a subconscious protest - an unwillingness to admit that for better or for worse, I live in the US and I am an American. What I know about US history comes from books I read in my childhood - things like Little House on the Prairie, the Jungle and Anne of Green Gables. Oh wait - Anne was Canadian...

You see my point. I have spotty knowledge of the US in foreign affairs - I've studied the Monroe Doctrine and US intervention in Latin America. I know about Kissinger and Nixon. I know a little something about WWII. But when it comes to domestic US history, my knowledge of most things begins and ends with Gone With The Wind.

Of course I heard about "separate but equal," segregation, the Civil Rights movement - I saw documentaries, photographs, heard speeches, and read and re-read the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

But somehow the reality of all of that never sank in until I started reading the related cases in Constitutional law. To read the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson is to be confronted with a explosion of judicial activism and illogical thinking designed to undermine every last bit of efficacy of the reconstruction amendments.

Europeans think Americans are weird. In many ways. I'm not surprised. Any country that embraces Plessy v. Ferguson, eugenics, Japanese internment camps and Ann Coulter is weird. We are a schizophrenic nation - made up of extremes in every direction, cloaked in a veil of centrist terminology. But despite those extremes the lesson to be learned from US history seems to be that eventually we move forward. Slowly. Painfully. Amidst great protest. But forward.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Academic passions

Over the past few years I've had a number of academic passions. The first big one was post-Communist Hungarian nationalism. Then came the modern Caucasus. Then Gypsies. That was followed by interwar Estonian politics. Which was succeeded by Russian energy policies. My most recent passion - risk assessment procedures under the SPS Agreement in the WTO.

I stumble across academic passions by chance - a fortuitous encounter and I'm hooked. It's like love. Doing research becomes something exciting. Like any relationship, there are down moments. Sometimes my research doesn't progress well, gets tedious and boring. But always, I know that I'll discover something new that will respark my love. All of the aforementioned topics are still very very close to me.

If I've learned anything in all these years in school, it's that I can't write a good paper if I'm not passionate about the topic. So while the next month will be a hellish frenzy of research, hopefully the results will be worth it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The pony hidden in slavery...

Thanks (or something) to my dad for finding this...


Mrs. Adele Ferguson has some priceless things to say about black people:

The pony hidden in slavery is the fact that it was the ticket to America for black people. I have long urged blacks to consider their presence here as the work of God, who wanted to bring them to this raw, new country and used slavery to achieve it. A harsh life, to be sure, but many immigrants suffered hardships and indignations as indentured servants. Their descendants rose above it. You don’t hear them bemoaning their forebears’ life the way some blacks can’t rise above the fact theirs were slaves."

I like ponies. It's nice to know that there was a pony hidden in slavery.

That is all.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Milosevic - death without justice

The death of Milosevic marks the end of an era - a step away from the Balkan war, and a step towards the history books. Time has lapsed, and the immediacy of that war is diminished by the death of its main architect.

Normally the death of someone such as Milosevic is a time of muted celebration, but here, however, I can't help but feel a little bit gipped. Although his trial dragged on for years, there was always the promise of justice - an opportunity for Serbia and the world to come to terms with what happened. That promise has been taken away, and with Karadzic and Mladic having evaded the international legal apparatus thus far, and Stojiljkovic having committed suicide some years back, the head honchos responsible for the atrocities committed during the war have all managed to avoid being held accountable for their actions in any real punitive sense.

Therefore, I am sorry that Milosevic died. I am sorry that he never had the opportunity to be found guilty. I am sorry that the residents of the former Yugoslavia will not have a chance to use his conviction to formally close that ragged chapter of their history. I am sorry that once again, the truly guilty escaped justice. Milosevic deserved far worse than to die in his sleep, not just for what he did to the Bosnians, Albanians and Croatians, but also for what he did to the Serbs, who emerged from the war stigmatized, war-weary, and impoverished regardless of their culpability.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Furry lobster bisque, anyone?

The Kiwa hirsuta (aka Furry lobster)

The deep ocean has always fascinated me because of its wealth of hidden treasures and unexplored vastness. This new discovery is simply one of the neatest things I've seen. I find it breathtakingly beautiful and like so many other deep-sea creature, completely alien and unlike anything known on or near to dry land. If we ever find intelligent life on other worlds, I expect it to look much like these marvelous creatures we continue to discover on our own planet.

Meanwhile, the gourmand in me cannot help but wonder what furry lobster would taste like...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wagnerian analogies (or being reminded why I love law)

Tonight, my love of law is again renewed. Judge Friendly in IIT v. Vencap, Ltd. (cited in a case I had to read for transnational law) called the Alien Tort Claims Act a "legal Lohengrin," saying that "no one seems to know whence it came."

*dorky giggle*

I love Wagner.

(And yes, I know, the story of Lohengrin is older than Wagner's opera, but this is most likely a Wagnerian reference.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Resort vacations - an exercise in communist utopianism

On Thursday night my friend and I returned from a fabulous week in Punta Cana. Looking back on it, the resort exceeded all of our expectations. For instance, we'd heard horror stories about the quality of the food. The food, however, was decent and varied. In fact, I ate the best goat of my life at the resort. The people at the resort were also a pleasant surprise - not the obnoxious tourists I feared.

The most fascinating aspect of the vacation, however, was the communist nature of the resort experience. And no, I'm not crazy.

See, when you arrive at an all-inclusive resort you're given a bracelet. This allows you to eat and drink as much as you want. The cost of your stay is between you and the hotel - different people pay different amounts based on the sort of deal they get, and once you're at the resort you're on equal footing with everyone else.

Moreoever, you don't have to use money. You go to eat without your wallet. You get drinks without needing your wallet. Everyone, no matter what their socio-economic background, is equal once they get the bracelet. This makes the overall experience much more pleasant. Whoever you are back home, whatever you do - this doesn't matter anymore. Here, you're the equal of everyone else.

Of course, this communist utopia is set in a colonialist milieu, with locals serving, cleaning, and catering to the whims of the bracelet-toting tourists for the paltry sum of $180/month.

Nevertheless, despite the colonialist backdrop, after the unstated but ever-present classism of the law school, this vacation was a much needed breath of fresh air, reminding me that intelligence has absolutely nothing to do with income or type of employment.