Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Wednesday update -- Mon-goal setting: Last night three of us profs, plus the indispensable Monkhuu, went to UB's famous State Department Store. This should be read as "State Department-Store," i.e. a dept. store set up by the state (though now privatized), rather than as "State-Department Store." The latter sounds like a place that sells Condi mugs. At UB's State Department-Store you can get everything from cutting-edge electronics to cashmere to Chinggis Khan hats.

Afterward we went to BD's Mongolian Barbecue. The food is authentically Mongolian, but in other ways this was the most American-tourist oriented place we've been to yet. The waiters (all Mongolian) have slogans on the backs of their t-shirts such as "Go Mongo," "Grillaz in da hood," and "We do it on the grill." I think this is good: making Westerners feel at home, while simultaneously celebrating local nationhood, is a ticket for drawing foreign investment and integrating into the world economy, imo.

So, if this is such a good junket, why am I counting the hours till I start the trip home? Well, Ulaanbaatar -- try to imagine an average Eastern European town, only without all the medieval or baroque architecture that lends it whatever charm it has. The people here who are poor are much more bustling and energetic than the U.S. poor; so that's not the problem. For me, Soviet delapidation just doesn't work as an urban design concept. Plus, I have this thing that public garden spaces should occasionally be mowed and trimmed, loose or missing sidewalk bricks should be replaced, and long stretches where sidewalk gives way to gravel should be filled in. But that's just me. (The hotel is a welcome refuge.)

Also, a lot of my self-concept is bound up in this idea that wherever I go, I can more or less speak the language. (You know: France, Italy, American-Evangelistan....) Thus, being in a place where the language is so alien to any of the ones I know that it might as well be Martian gives me an ego bruise, only partly made up for by the charming Mongolian habit of considering all foreigners to be experts. This dates back at least to Chinggis Khan, who relied on Russian advisors to help him conquer Russia and Chinese advisors to help them conquer China. No, I have no apprehension that I'm helping the Mongols conquer America: they've got their work cut out for them conquering Mongolia.