Treasure Electorate

While the the campaigns are entering the final phase, one theme prevails throughout the camps: the treasured electorate and its access to the ballot box. The 2008 election outcome was heavily based on a strong mobilisation voters on the Democrats’ side. Convincing those who were undecided was not considered as being most relevant any more. Success was considered to have stemmed to great extent from the efforts of a very high number of campaign workers on the ground who ‘carried’ Mr Obama’s message to the doors of homes in relevant neighbourhoods. An undercurrent of legal-political action has been notable ever since: 62 more restrictive voter identification document bills have been proposed by Republicans throughout 37 states in the US in 2011 and 2012. The Republican Grand Ol’ Party (G.O.P.) is hoping to reap the benefits next Tuesday when votes are being cast. Part of the eleven per cent of potential voters considered not to hold the necessary I.D. cards required according to the strictest legislation today will not be able to vote. Amongst them a considerable number of socially disadvantaged.

One of the most prominent figures behind these ‘Grand Ol’ efforts’ has been one Mr Hans von Spakovsky. No joking, this is the gentleman’s real name – and his barely hidden heritage is half Germanic, half White Russian. His father from Belarus is said to have stood up against the realm of Communism: standing up against Bolshevik’s in Russia and against Tito in former Yugoslavia. What lesson his son learned from him is difficult to gauge: was it the eagerness to oppose something, was it a meticulous righteousness, was it an ambition to impact political processes or the mere spirit ‘to stand up for what I believe in’ as Spakovsky claims? Some uncertainty remains. But he certainly has this strong belief he hinted to: anyone who does not fulfill the last ever so strict condition to vote, should not vote. Maybe there is also a slight underlying motivation of countering the might of an unfavorable electorate as those lacking the relevant documents often are not the typical G.O.P. supporters.

One thing is for certain: after having been a member of various election commissions (including the federal one subsequent to his appointment by President Bush in 2006) and with his proven dedication to the cause, Mr von Spakovsky will continue to stand up for his belief. He did so when being present for the re-count of ballots cast in Florida in 2000, he did so in his continuous lobbying in various capacities behind the scenes and he will do so in the swing state of Virginia on Tuesday, 6 November 2012. Let us see of what avail this will be – and be looking out for the adjacent cultural components in the next post.


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When the current success singer and dancer PSY and his South Korean fellow citizen UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appear in front of an unusal high number of journalists at UN headquarters in NYC this is likely intended to benefit both parties. The UN Secretary-General and his organisation aspiring to attain greater recognition amongst ‘Gangnam Stylish’ youth and dancers around the world (close to 600 million clicks for the video so far). Just like seemingly much impressed PSY in his newly acquired role as a representative of his country and his pursuit of the Billboard throne.

The shared nationality of both Ban and PSY may have been an incentive to arrange for the meeting. Incentives for such decisions are very often straight forward. Ban had also repeatedly stated his strong belief in music as a vehicle for tolerance, reconciliation and change in the world before the encounter. Change maybe from Steve Urkel or the Prince of Belair to PSY as the world’s dancing inspiration. Who could possibly have omitted inviting them to UN back then? Just make sure to be inspired by Ban’s, PSY’s and Ai Weiwei’s dancing attempts. For whatever reason. Too much inspiration from Ban’s next guest that day is not recommended: Felix Baumgartner.

An attempt by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reach an improbable audience with PSY’s help: Gangnam Style.

Mediterranean Fusion

Essential things can sometimes fall through the cracks: we all like to enjoy a good meal. Why not make use of this very universal desire – and the very basic guarantee of it in the human right to ‘adequate’ food – and bring together some improbable nations and regions of the world. In their eastern Mediterranean cook book ‘Jerusalem‘, the two Israeli chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have undertaken exactly this endeavour. Both of them being chefs living in London – with their signature restaurant NOPI and other outlets – grew up in Jerusalem. The fusion they are presenting is a culinary one mainly. But they also ‘decorate’ the presented dishes with political notes, when ingredients from East and West Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Turkey and others are merged into a modern eastern Mediterranean cuisine that transcends borders. Not to forget, and maybe even more importantly, it thereby also transcends religions. Hummus and its universality in use throughout both Arab and Jewish just like Christian communities is one straight forward example of this. And when ‘typically German’ kohlrabi comes in, it certainly does not simplify the equation.

The trace of political relevance which has been added to the menu to spice things up a little is not to distract from the culinary pleasures. But it can possibly serve as an incentive to enjoy the food particularly consciously. There is admittedly quite some conciousness demanded of the regular eating person already. Maybe the products of an hour of kitchen work or so can simply generate a drip of hope. Hope that there may be good acceptance and understanding beyond the menu in the Middle East at some point. In staging a presentation of the book by the authors together with author Jonathan Safran Foer, at least one thing has certainly been achieved: Everything Is Illuminated! Somehow. Maybe you all can illuminate even more and contribute with some additional flavours.

Kohlrabi Potato Fusion from ‘Jerusalem’