Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers

A flash from the past:

Whatever happened to Jan Smithers?

Even more old school:

Older Still -- The sort of thing that I'd watch on Thanksgiving:

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Before engorging myself with a couple guys from the house on Thanksgiving, I wandered around lower Manhattan a bit, just to see what is to been of Thanksgiving on the streets of New York. I saw men and women working their jobs, couples in their Sunday best walking or driving to their party, kids playing in the streets and a pregnant woman trying to contain two toddlers while her husband waited for a cab.

Here are some pictures I took along the way. (And as usual, clicking on the photos will generally give you a much better image.)

(The view outside my window)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Look Down!

I finally posted 2 pieces on election night, including one with lots of photos. Through a glitch, they ended up posting below the wine post (have you bought your bottles yet?). But scroll down and you'll see them there -- they're titled "Obamanalysis" and "Times Square, Election Night".

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Have a very nice holiday.

(By the way, the photo is of Turkey.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Perfect for the Christmas Stocking (or Boot)

Since coming to LA, I found out that Loyola Productions, besides making movies, is selling wine made by the Jesuits of Australia. You might remember me blogging about Sevenhill, a vineyard where I did my retreat. It's the mother house of the Australian province, and the vineyard is the last remaining winery run by the Jesuits anywhere in the world. (Travesty!)

Anyway, Sevenhill has just begun to sell some of its wines in the States, under the Ignatius Cellars label. And I have to say, the wine is darn good; trust me, after 7 months of it, including during 30 days of silence, I know from.

A great Christmas gift! Who doesn't like a nice bottle of wine? Come on, Check it out!

PS Cool trivia. The winery is not called Sevenhill because it's surrounded by seven hills. Nope. It's because the terrain reminded the first Jesuits who went there of Rome, which is on seven hills. The terrain really is marvelous -- rolling hills of vineyards. Like Tuscany.

Times Square, Election Night

So, I think I might have mentioned that I went down to Times Square on the night of the Election, just after the election was called for Obama at around 11pm EST. I brought my camera, and thought I'd share a few photos of the occasion.

This is Rockefeller Center. MSNBC and NBC put on an election night extravanganza each presidential cycle. Both shows broadcast on large flatscreen TVs. And they also have a wonderful visual way of displaying where things stand. Each candidate gets a window washing cart of their own color, that hangs from Rockefeller Center.

And as the candidates gains electoral college delegates, their carts slowly move up Rockefeller Center, headed toward a large banner declaring "270" (i.e. the delegates needed to clinch the presidency).

This might seem pretty primitive, but it had a lot of punch. Often the carts would begin moving before either the TV commentators announced any changes. So you wouldn't know how much things were going to change, or what states had come in. At one point Obama gained something like 70 or 80 delegates, before anything was announced on TV. The largely Obama crowd went wild.

I have to say, it was funny being down there watching MSNBC. As I might have mentioned in a previous post, at about 8:03 pm, with Obama down 3 delegates to 10, the pundits were wondering if the election had brought in a new liberal era. An hour later, with Obama up something like 13 to 10, they were indicating the end of Republican leadership. And at 9:30, when Obama still hadn't captured any swing states, they were asking David Axelrod whether the 50 state strategy had been a mistake. The rollercoaster they were on was quite a ride. And the lot of us, looking up at the standings, waiting, waiting, waiting -- I don't know, to me it felt like Christmas Eve. I'm coming home from my Grandmother's house in Chicago, the car is cold and the windows fogged over. My dad has on the 1950s music he likes, which he always played on the way home from Grandma's, and then they change the station and the announcer is talking about where Santa is right now. And my brother and sisters and I rush to the back window trying to see Rudolph's nose.

At Rockefeller Center it was that sort of baited-breath, fantastic, magical, and to some extent fictional excitement.

Times Square, later, had in some ways more of the same. Not the incredibly skewed reporting, but the sense of looking into the sky with wonder.

The people are gated in because Times Square was just jampacked with people yelling, screaming, cheering. We were wandering up and down the streets, as the taxis drove by honking, and the cops herded us onto the sidewalks through gates (and a lot of glowering).

Two things struck me out there. One was the taxi drivers, who drove past over and over again, honking and cheering out their windows. Not a single one was from the United States, and they cheered with a sense of relief that was palpable. Many people out there felt similarly, but there was a difference in quality about the taxi drivers. I've thought about them quite a bit since the election. I wonder if it wasn't that many of them are not citizens, cannot vote. So all they have been able to do these last years is watch and see what those of us who can vote decide, knowing that our decision will have huge impacts for them and for their countries. And when Obama was elected, they could finally show their cards, if you will, express their own opinions with honesty and freedom. It's like the vote gave them their voices back.

The other thing that struck me again and again was the faces. Both in Times Square and at Rockefeller Center, people looking up, their desires and dreams writ large in their expressions. Quite moving.

I like this one most of all. A small woman, unseen by those around her, looking up into a new world.

At the end of Obama's speech I went back home to my community. The cheers continued to echo in the distance all around lower Manhattan for quite some time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


So, in case you aren't totally oversaturated with all things Obama, here's a couple little things from around the time of the election that I've been wanting to share.

Shortly after the election, the New York Times printed a piece about Middle Eastern reactions.

Some striking quotes from it:
Dare we hope that the eight-year nightmare is over? (, Syria)

A new day dawned in Cairo today. As it does every day.

And it started as it always does: with birds, schoolchildren and car horns. No national holiday here.

I’m looking forward to going out in the streets to hear the reaction. The best reaction I’ve heard so far: “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.”

Bah humbug. I confess I’m moved. (The Skeptic,, Cairo)

There was an awful lot of money in Obama’s campaign ... A great chunk must have come from carefully planned investments by C.E.O.’s and multinationals. Will Obama be able to confront the mega-corporations? Does he want to? The poor and the colored population of the world, including that of the U.S., is the one that suffers most from malnutrition and hunger and food insecurity. We know now that mega-corporations, pushing for more profit at any cost, are responsible for most of the damage. Will Obama do something about that? Does he want to? Can he? (, Lebanon)

So Obama, the booma, won the elections. I had already predicted that in my post “A long American-Iranian Film.”

I said the following, “My hunch is — and my hunches are rarely wrong — if Obama the booma wins, and he will, by a small margin, Iraq will be handed over to Iran ...”

I also said that Obama will strike a deal with Ahmadinejad on Iraq and in particular southern Iraq.

And lo and behold, the vice president for the booma Obama is none other than J. Biden. J. Biden. ... is an ardent supporter of the partition of Iraq into three statelets. No wonder Maliki & Co. were also backing the booma along with Iran. I also know that Iran had generously contributed to the Obama campaign.

... I shall not congratulate you on your 44th president. He will simply finish off what the other Zionists had started — the final partition of my country.

To hell with all of you and all of your presidents. (, Iraq)

For me, this is not just about history, this is about someone who was able to bring down the very people that broke my country. It’s a great punch to the very people that destroyed the individual Iraqi. And that to me is an enough victory.

I will only have to say to Mr. Obama, don’t let us down. (, Iraq)

And, if you haven't seen these already, here's some reactions from around the world: A 5 minute Radio Piece

Photos of Reactions around the World

It is really an amazing time.


I'm in Los Angeles this week doing some work with Loyola Productions, which is a Jesuit-run film and TV production company. They do a lot of work for Jesuit institutions, creating short documentaries or marketing pieces. They've also got this great series on hidden treasures of the Jesuits, sort of a documentary meets mystery kind of show, that they're pitching at various places. Check out the trailer -- click here, and then look under "Promos" for Hidden Treasures of the Jesuits. It's very cool.

The weather here is outstanding; 85 degrees and clear skies. The nearby area is in the midst of a horrible fire, I hear the worst in the history of the state. Some days it's been very hazy, and you come out to find little bits of ash covering the cars. But it's strange -- in most ways the city seems to move and flow as it normally does. It's the way of things, I guess. Mysterious.

I've been meaning to follow up with some more interesting post-election stuff. Have you seen the Obama family slide show from election night? It's quite striking. Lots of wonderful shots of the whole family; you can tell something important is happening on TV, but in another way, you'd hardly know it was a presidential election. And there is that now characteristic sobriety. My one hope for Barack Obama is that at some point in his four years he has the opportunity to engage in a massive pillow fight with his daughters and their friends.

I'm not sure I told anyone, but I had the chance to meet Obama when I arrived here in L.A. It was a really amazing moment; and his staffers actually took a photo for me, which was amazing.

The thing that really hit me that I hadn't noticed before is the length of his right earlobe. Somehow they fix it on TV, but he really has an unusually extended lobe.

I've got other photos to share from Election night -- I know, I'm way behind. (On the other hand, I still haven't told you about spitting the dummy or fair dinkum, and that's from 7 months ago. So, it's all relative.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Editorial Cartoons

Michael Leunig and others have had some great editorial cartoons lately in the Australian papers. Enjoy.

Monday, November 10, 2008


So, it's been some week, hasn't it? I have lots of stories and photos I want to share from Election Day, but I haven't been able to get them up online yet. So, for now, I'm going to post a couple links and videos people might be interested in.

And I also have an invitation: It seems like for a lot of people there were stories from Election Day. Like, waiting in line to vote -- LL Cool J was in line ahead of me. And P Diddy (whom a Jesuit I know accidentally calls P Diddly) was there earlier. Or, if there were any big celebrations in your area after the results -- Times Square was a madhouse -- maybe a description of that. Or, how the whole thing made you feel (for better or worse). Or whatever -- anything surrounding those days; if you have something, post it as a comment. I think this is one of those moments we all want to share.

So, just to lead by example, I'll post just one for now: I was working at a call center encouraging people in Florida to come out and vote on Election Day. I spent two and a half hours talking mostly to answering machines, and occasionally to a real person. A number of whom told me, I'm not voting. One lady, I think from the Caribbean, just kept repeating it -- I'm not voting! I'm not voting! I'm not voting! Like it was crazy.

And then I talked to a guy who was a baseball coach, very pleasant, open minded. He was going to vote, but he wasn't sure for who yet. And he said to me, out of the blue, Don't you think it's possible that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ?

Now -- I know. You're thinking, conversation over. I thought the same thing, but what am I going to do, hang up? I said, well... yes, I guess he could be the anti-Christ. (It is of course completely possible, if unlikely.) I don't think he is, I went on, and I guess the same questions could be asked of McCain or Nader.

And for a while, this guy kept musing on that, in what seemed a very reflective way. But then we moved on and had a very interesting conversation about the candidates and what's important in the next 4 years. And eventually the whole anti-Christ thing made sense; he saw how people revered Obama, and worried that they're setting him up as a Messianic figure, and he can't live up to those expectations. He seemed more worried for Obama, really, than anything.

It was a real privilege. I suspect I had very little in common with this guy, and wasn't sure at all where this conversation was going. But to think now, on Election Day I got to talk to someone as they were sorting things out for themselves, an undecided voter. And I got the chance to talk someone who came from a different world, and let him expand my horizons.

How cool is that?

Alright, now got to comments and you try!

In the meantime, some fun links:

All Their Fears Were True
Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Julie, I have the perfect name for your baby

Obama Roasting Rahm Emanuel

A Brilliant Article about the Election, written at 4am

The Scariest Obama Video Ever

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Disenfranchisement

If you're interested in reading complaints about vote disenfranchisement going on today, here's a link.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Yes We Can

About 4 years ago, a skinny black guy with a funny name stood before the Democratic National Convention and said something that connected. Today, it's quite possible that that skinny black guy will become the next president of the United States. And whether he wins or loses, it's been quite a journey, for him and for us.

For those who will spend this Election Day checking the polls and blogs constantly, I offer some highlights of the last four years. When you're looking for a break from the political analysis, or you need a little inspiration, or a laugh, or a reminder of what the American dream is all about, check out a clip.

Prelude: The Democratic National Convention, 2004 (The last 7 minutes -- Wow)

Obama in New Hampshire: Yes We Can

The Yes We Can Video.

No, You Can't.

Interlude: Two Words from Mike Huckabee

Obama On Race

The Democratic Primary: A Summary

Paris Hilton Has a Word
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Tina Fey, You Betcha

The Palin Rap

Talk to Your Parents About John McCain

Obama: "One Week"

One More Day

Reprise: Yes, We Can

Melbourne Cup Finish

It don't get closer than that...

About Tomorrow/Today (Tuesday) -- Frequent Updates

If you're interested, check back here frequently today. I am going to post often as I meet people and watch the TV coverage. Feel free to comment and enjoy it with me.

The Big Day

So ... it's Tuesday, November 3rd. Big day. People all are over are going to stop and watch. No one can wait to hear the results.

That's right. I'm talking about the Melbourne Cup. The biggest horse race, and one of the biggest social events, in the whole of the Australian year. Or so I read: I wasn't yet in Australia myself when it happened last year -- I am always available to go next year, don't hesitate to ask, really, it's no trouble, I'd be happy to attend, we can leave in September to get good seats -- but I heard about it pretty much everywhere I went.

Horse racing... I know. It doesn't exactly compute for me either. But a lot of Australians seem to love it. Gambling, too -- there are betting parlors pretty much everywhere in Australia. One down the street from our tertian program, in a very sleepy, affluent suburb, and it looked sort of like a bigger version of a currency exchange/check cashing service. Not too flash, just some screens and some tables and a teller. Many pubs have sections for gambling, as well; in fact one of the other tertians from the States said it had been explained to him that a hotel in Australia is a bar that has a room or two to rent, but more significantly includes gambling. (I was at an Australian bar in New York not long ago called the Australian Hotel; sure enough, it wasn't our sort of hotel, but a grand pub.)

Anyway, even if you're not into horse racing, apparently this is the granddaddy superfunk soul master flash race. It's over 3200 meters long, to begin with. (In other words, just about 2 miles.) And on top of it, it's handicapped. So, faster horses have to wear additional weights to even out the odds. One horse who won the Cup, Carbine, in 1890, had to wear 66kg -- that's 145 pounds! -- in additional weight.

So, between its length and the handicapping it's crazy unpredictable. It also has a huge purse, over 5 million dollars. And it's been going since Abraham Lincoln was president - 1861.

I could go on. You know how I am. But I'll just leave you this link to a little photo slide show from the parade that preceded this year's ride tonight. And an old drawing (circa 1950) of people listening to the race (below). 3pm, first Tuesday of November, that's what you do.

And I'll try to report in tomorrow. I mean, what else will there be to write about tomorrow, after all?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Made a Movie!

America's next issue is all about Paul (the Pope has declared this the Year of Paul, in fact). So last week a bunch of other editors and I put together a little comedy sketch about the Apostle Paul. The sketch can be found below -- it's called "We are So Much More Christian Than You". I'd love to hear what anyone thinks.