Thursday, January 29, 2009

How Banks are Magic

Doug Henning Greets You.

Ok, finally, how banks are magic.

If you remember, I said that a bank has to have on hand 10% of the money that it's been given. The other 90%, it can play with.

So, let's follow the money for a second. I deposit $100. The bank then takes $90 of that and gives to someone else -- Jorge -- as a loan. Jorge's trying to do some work on his house. So he takes that $90 and spends it at Home Depot.

Now -- and it'll get fuzzy here, so stay with me -- that $90 ends up going to help pay the payroll of the people who work at Home Depot. Or it goes in the boss' pocket. Or it's reinvested in the Home Depot, which means it's given to still other people as Home Depot spends the money. The point is -- that $90 ends up in the hands of other people.

And eventually, they -- whoever they are -- put that money in their bank. So the $90 that the bank could be spend is now back in the banking system's hands.

Following the rule we set up at the start -- the system has to hold onto 10%, i.e. $9 of that deposited cash. But the other $81, it can loan out.

So we started with $100. And off of that $100, the banking system gets to make loans of not just $90, but $81, and then 90% of that, $73, 90% of that, $65, etc. -- $58, $52, $47, $42, $38, $34, $31, $28, $25, $22, $20, $18, $16, $14, $13, $12, $11, $10 and even smaller amounts -- altogether, more than $800.

POOF! Instant money!

How Does a Bank Work? (Pt 2)

George Bailey is about to have a very bad day.

When was the last time you watched "It's a Wonderful Life"? If it was recently maybe you remember that while the main story is all about George Bailey discovering how much the world would change without him, the underlying conflict is all about banks. George runs a bank, the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan; it was his father and Uncle Billy's business. And it's always just barely scraping by. Meantime, Old Man Potter's got a bank, too, it's the big bank in town, and it has long had its eye set on Bailey Building and Loan.

And early on, before Uncle Billy loses $8000 and drives George to the point of wanting to kill himself -- what the heck was with Uncle Billy, anyway? -- Bailey Brothers' experiences a run on the bank. That is, everyone comes at the same time to get their money out.

Now, if a bank were like a piggy bank, or like a set of safety deposit boxes, this wouldn't be a problem, would it? Because all the money would always be there. But again, banks don't work that way. In fact, by law (set by the Federal Reserve) a bank only has to have 10% of its deposited funds on hand at any time. The rest, it's free to invest, loan out, etc.

Now, I'm guessing -- but I don't know -- if I'm a small bank, PROBABLY I'm going to have more of that money on hand, because it would take a lot less to cause "a situation". Not a run, necessarily, but some uncomfortable moments.

Of course, if and when that were to happen, a bank could call another bank, get a very short term loan to get it through the day, the week, etc.

Many businesses in fact traffic every day in these sorts of loans, called commercial paper, with an exchange of billions of dollars happening. A major part of the problem post-Lehman Brothers has been that this market has dried up. That is, banks have become very unwilling to shell out these sorts of loans to one another and to other businesses, because no one has been confident that these loans -- which like I said are usually standard, no risk loans -- will be paid off. For this reason, some people talk about a liquidity crisis -- that is to say, business don't have the cash (that's the "liquid") which they need just to pay the staff and keep the doors open.

But that's a story for another day... Back to runs: during the Great Depression, there were runs on banks. People literally could not get their money out of their bank. Talk about blowing a hole in your vision of reality. In the wake of that event, in the Banking Act of 1933, the U.S. goverment created the FDIC -- the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which guarantees any money put into any bank, up to $100,000. Which covers a lot of us. (The federal government wasn't the first to experiment with insuring bank deposits; in fact, New York state had been insuring certain deposits as early as 1829. They've always been precocious.)

Now... runs on banks and "It's a Wonderful Life" both lead into the flip side of all this banking material. I don't know about you, but when I put money in the bank I don't think of it as having a social function. But it does. My money isn't just used to make the bank money; it enables other people to buy their first house (or their second or their third), to send their kids to school, to make it through a rough patch. Without knowing it, we're all wonderfully interdependent and supporting one another.

Jimmy Stewart puts it a lot better than I can. Someone says, I'll take mine now. And he says, "Aw, no," (can't you hear him?):
Aw, no, you're thinking of this place all wrong. It's not as if I had the money back in a safe. The money's not here. Well, your money's in Joe's house, that's right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house and Miss Macklin's house. And a hundred others. You're lending them the money to build, and then they're going to pay that back to you as best they can. What are you going to do, foreclose on them?
Here's that scene in full:

Clearly our banks today could use a lot more George Baileys at the helm.

I've got one last point -- "How Banks are Magic" -- but I'll save it for next week.

In the meantime, here's a very funny bank commercial:

How Does a Bank Work? (Pt 1)

I never took an economics class in high school or college. I was an English major; I know more about haikus than balance sheets. And these days it really shows. Since the financial crisis hit, I feel like I've been listening to stories in a language I don't understand at all.

Eventually, and in very small chunks, I've been trying to learn something about this foreign country of finance and interest rates and hedge funds. So from time to time I thought I’d do some posts on what I’ve been thinking about and learning, even if my understanding is a wee bit child-like.

Today, the first of two parts on banks. My question: How does a bank work?

I have tended to think of banks as like piggy banks. I put my money there, it sits there until I come for it.

Of course, somehow, magically, it gains money just by being there. Apparently dollars are like bunny rabbits.

Except they’re not. And if banks were just giving us this extra money, they’d be losing money. A bank is not a charity, it’s a business. Even if it’s community organized and focused, it still has an aim at making money.

So how does that happen? It turns out, by moving money around. The truth of the matter is when we go to the bank, we are not making a deposit. We are making a loan. We loan the bank our money, giving them the right to play with it for a little while, with the guarantee that we’ll get it back. And they promise to pay us back interest, on top of that. It's just like any other loan, except really, really flexible. I can go and get my money back anytime I want.

And the bank takes that money we loan them, and they add it to what they’re getting from lots of other people, and then they invest it in something like Treasury bonds, which is guaranteed to pay out, and normally with a rate of interest higher than they said they’d give us.

And they also loan our money out to people, and demand from them a rate of interest higher than what they said they’d pay us. And the rate of interest depends on the risk involved. The higher the risk, the more the bank makes you pay up front each month. (Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. One of the crazy parts of the subprime mortgage crisis is that banks were loaning money even when the risk was too great, or without even assessing what the risk was. You could get a loan without proving you could pay it back, or without even proving you had a job.)

In any case, multiply the loans, and the length of time they take to pay back, and boing, a bank can make lots of money.

And on top of that they charge us fees for activities that don’t cost them much of anything and aren’t really that inconvenient but which we’re willing to pay. It might be nickels and dimes, but it adds up.

Can you remember a time before ATM fees?

Tomorrow -- trust, Jimmy Stewart, magically multiplying money and banks as a means by which we help each other.

But in the meantime, this thought: I don't know about you, but I find it somehow empowering to realize the relationship between me and a bank is not one-way. They may give me a place to put my money, a variety of ways of making money on that money, and a variety of means to access it; they may be able to offer me additional help if and when I need it.

But when I work with them, not only to make a deposit but even to seek a loan, I'm doing them a favor, too.

Probably that's obvious to most of you. But it's pretty exciting for this English major.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Hear You've Been Robbed. Can I Bring You a Pie?"

New York Times columnist Dan Barry had a great column yesterday about a recent bank robbery in the small town of Carleton, Nebraska (above).

Here in Carleton, the standard greeting — “Keeping out of trouble?” — gleans a “Yep” or a “Nope,” both equally reassuring to its population of about 136. But this man stepped up to the counter, with its rack of candy canes and clear view of the silvery vault open in trust, and greeted the teller with: Give me your money.

The salutation received a classic Carleton response, something along the lines of: Are you serious?

The typical East Coast media take on ...well, on most of everywhere else, but certainly rural America.. plays on the "simplicity" (read: stupidity) of the people. So you might imagine an article like this ends up reading like some Midwestern version of "Northern Exposure".

Hey. Welcome to Middle America. Cool.

But this piece, about life in this small town and the "chubby-fingered" stranger who robbed the bank, is a great little gem. Barry is on a three-year stint writing stories about different places in the U.S. If you're interested in his overall project, you can see where he's been and access those stories here.


A Challenging Critique of American society...

When the Star in the Sky is Gone...

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman

Monday, January 26, 2009

Aussie Aussie Aussie! OY OY OY!

Hi I'm Kevin Rudd, and I'd like to be your prime minister.

Today, January 26th, is Australia Day, one of the two really major holidays that Australia celebrates. 221 years ago today, the "First Fleet" of British ships carrying convicts and soldiers arrived in Sydney Harbor to begin the British penal colony there. They arrived from halfway around the globe without having lost a single ship, an astonishing accomplishment.

When I first arrived in Australia a year ago, I assumed the holiday also represented Australian independence, but in point of fact to date Australia remains a commonwealth of Great Britain. While the head of government is the elected Prime Minister (currently Kevin Rudd (above), also known as K-Rudd), Australia's head of state is actually the Queen, represented in Australia by an appointed Governor-General. By law, the Governor-General can intervene in government, reject bills passed by Parliament or in certain cases appoint the Prime Minister. In point of fact, the appointment of a Governor-General is done by the government and approved by the Queen, and the Governor-General almost never intervenes in the affairs of the government.

A wild and crazy exception: In 1975 Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed the government of Gough (pronunciation: think "cough") Whitlam and installed Brendan, er... Malcolm Fraser, leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister, after Opposition forces in the upper house of government, the Senate, prevented the Gough government from having access to the revenues from taxation, thus keeping the government from functioning.

Sir John Kerr. Not just anyone can pull off that haircut.

An American analogy: the Clinton-House Republican showdown in early 1995; Clinton wouldn't sign Republican spending bills, so Republicans retaliate by refusing to authorize temporary spending bills for the government, partially shutting it down. Ah yes, those halycon days of our youth.

Now add a higher authority who fires Clinton and installs Newt Gingrich as president. That's about what happened.

Was it constitutional? For the most part, yes; the Governor General seems to have the right in certain circumstances to intervene, and the impasse between the Whitlam government and the Opposition was very significant. But it created quite a mess of its own. In the aftermath, an election was called, the Fraser government won and the Gough government was ousted. But Kerr was not forgiven, either; for many years after he left the job of Governor-General in 1977, he faced demonstrations, harrassment, even threats to his life. Some of his closest friends never spoke to him again. Suffice it to say, no Governor-General has intervened in this way again.

In 1999 the country voted whether or not to become a republic; the referendum failed. But it's suspected that many who voted against the measure did so because they did not approve of the model of government being put forth, namely that the head of state would be appointed by Parliament, rather than directly elected by the people. And 45% in fact voted to become a republic. Anything but a clear-cut decision, though "monarchists" (as they call themselves) have presented it that way since.

At this point Americans pretty much take our form of government for granted (although the Electoral College is hardly anyone's favorite bit since 2000). But in Australia, the question of whether it would be better to have a popularly elected president remains an open one; so, too, does the issue of a Bill of Rights -- the country doesn't currently have one, and many, including Sydney archbishop Cardinal George Pell, oppose it, on the grounds that it's unnecessary given the current protections of law, and that it would be used to enshrine certain ideological/left-leaning values (such as protections for gay men and women). Australian Jesuit lawyer, Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ, is currently heading up a federal committee to consider the question. Even the relative powers and responsibilities of the states and the federal government is a topic reconsidered with some regularity. It's all very interesting.

A year ago today I was on this beach (below), just getting to know my tertian mates. (sigh) A couple photos for today from those days gone by.

Obama's People

If you hadn't seen it already, the New York Times Magazine recently ran this great set of photographs of Obama's staff and support system. There are some really great photos (including the one above). Check it out.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blogging the Inauguration: Images I'll Remember

Just outside Dupont Circle.

I walked behind this couple on Monday. The Bunny People.

Partying at the Washington Monument with 10000 total strangers. (Click for big.)


I don't know why, exactly, but I love this shot of someone trying to take a photo of Obama.

Massive lines. (Click for broader view.)

The back of the U.S. Capitol.

One family's well wishes.

Barack taking the oath, with Michelle right there.

I was really there!

Once again...buh-bye.

Also, this sign I saw in a store window -- "Inauguration Special: Curry & Rice!"

I've posted my inauguration day coverage in 4 posts below (with the farthest from the top being the first). Sorry it took me a couple of days!

Blogging the Inauguration: The Ceremony Wraps Up

As soon as Obama finishes speaking, people begin leaving. Seriously, it looks like the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. I can't even see or hear poet Elizabeth Alexander at times through the dispersing crowds. But the text is a gem.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.


A last prayer, from the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery. He looks old, his voice is weak, and he speaks in rhyme. "God of our weary years, God of our silent tears." Poignant, but what is this, "Horton Hears a Who"?

He quickly becomes the fan favorite, calling the Obama girls "our little angelics" and offering a great rhyming ending that plays on each racial group in the United States. He even had us shouting Amen.

We love him.


The inauguration ends with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. I realize it's the first time in about six years that I have been asked to sing the song without feeling as though it's been coopted by a certain ideology. For the first time in a long time, I sing along.


The event over, people swarm forward to take photographs, and then follow the herd. As we leave the Capitol area, a whisper moves through the crowd, and people began to stop and look back. On the jumbotron, George and Laura Bush are getting into the helicopter.

People stop to look.

Within moments, the helicopter flies directly overhead. Ecstatic waving and cheering. It's hard to believe, but they're really gone.



On the way home, my heat pads suddenly got so hot, I had to get them away from my skin.

It had only taken four hours.

But then again, if there was a moral to the day, from the early morning line to the President's speech to the helicopter departure, it was that good things take time.

So as I walked home I just tried to savor that moment of midwinter heat.

Blogging the Inauguration: The Address

Obama speaks. It begins far lighter on rhetoric than I expected. Starts with the now common refrain, things are going to be tough. Ugh. I know, but I could recite the section in my sleep. I wonder early on if this is going to sound more like a State of the Union, or something Clintonian. I hope not.


Obama begins talking about hope, and gains his footing. "We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history." Amen to that, brother.


A passage about the cynics who doubt that big things can be done sounds like a bit of a straw man to me. Not that they're not out there, but just doesn't seem to capture the moment right.

But the transition leads to some classic Obama redefinitions of oppositions -- it's not whether government is big or small but whether it works; it's not whether the market is good or bad but whether it helps people. "The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross National Product, but on the reach of our prosperity."

And last: "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." Oh, snap!


Because it's so cold, everyone has their gloves on. So instead of clapping, when people are happy you hear lots of very muffled thump-thump-thumps. Feels like I'm in a Monty Python sketch.


Obama's best section, and best received, addresses the world in its various forms, guided by the principle that our authority derives from "the justness of our cause, the force of our example."

Makes the remarkable comment that the corrupt and oppressive nations of the world are "on the wrong side of history" but says "we will extend our hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." Also manages to challenge terrorists without making it sound like we're gonna have a showdown tonight at the OK Corral. This is indeed a new era.


Last section. Obama seems to get more animated than usual. Feels like he's trying to rouse us from a deep sleep. Manages to describe the present as akin to "a deep winter", "icy currents" and a coming "storm", and yet energize the audience. How did he do that?


All in all, not his best rhetorical speech, but many significant passages that well capture many Americans' vision of our nation. In some ways as much a speech for the world as for our country.

Jon Stewart had a very funny comparison that night of Obama's speech with the language of Bush.

Blogging the Inauguration: Notes from the Ceremony

The view from my seat.

So, the seat is great. I'm probably 50 yards from Obama, et al. I couldn't actually make them out; even people who had a straight on view said they could only barely make them out. But it's very cool.


Various luminaries appear on the jumbotron. Colin Powell gets cheers. George H.W. Bush looks old. John McCain talks to a very tall man. Joe Lieberman is heartily jeered, and at some length. There is clearly no love lost for Joe.

Michelle Obama looks amazing.

The girls are beautiful. Dick Cheney is in a wheelchair. Someone mentions Dr. Strangelove.

And then they take him away -- all I can think of is oh my god, even now he's going to his secret hideout. Let it go already.


The presidential motorcade comes into view. The lady next to me comments, "Wow, it looks like just a row of hearses." I think about moving.

The motorcade coming into view behind us.


George W. Bush appears for the first time. A strained, mixed reaction. Quite a few boos, but that reaction is clearly not well received by the group. The preferred response seems to be a silent civility.

The crowds behind entertain themselves with rounds of "Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey-hey-hey, goodbye." I feel like I'm at a White Sox game.


The announcer asks the crowd to please be seated. Those standing jeer loudly. Everyone laughs.


Barack Obama appears onscreen, walking slowly out to meet us. At times he looks as though he is about to receive some very bad news. He stops on the stairs and takes a very deep breath before proceeding.

He emerges. Crowd goes wild.


The ceremony begins. Aretha Franklin reminds everyone why she is the Queen of Soul. Many tears.


Rick Warren gets really worked up. He also offers some nice prayers. My favorite: "Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity."


Vice Presidential oath of office. Biden punches "So help me God."


Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and some other guy play a song composed for the occasion by John Williams. It has a very poignant, almost funereal introduction -- touches something deep. Hints of the old American Shaker song, "Simple Gifts" emerge.

And then suddenly the song collapses into merry rounds of the Shaker song. All I can think is "Dance, dance, wherever you may be." Seems to kill the mood.


Watching the oath. (Click to see the bigger view.)

Presidential Oath. Obama stutters at one point: apparently, the Chief Justice has the text wrong. [He has actually corrected the grammar of the piece -- where it said "to faithfully execute", splitting the infinitive, he has moved "faithfully" to the end of the sentence.] I wonder if it's still valid, or whether it could be grounds for annulment later. I've had too much exposure to canon law.

At this of all times, the mind wanders. Wouldn't it be nice if you could annul a president?

The cynic within reminds me, it's called a general election. 2004, everybody, where were you?

[Note: Two days later, Roberts and Obama redid the oath of office in a private ceremony. The prior had been completely valid, but they did it to quell any anxieties. Obama said after, "You know, the problem is, now we have to have 12 more inaugural balls."]

Blogging the Inauguration: In Line for the Inauguration

Outside Union Station, 7:30am

6am, I'm late getting started, as usual. I don the tight lycra, heat-holding undergarments my aunt bought me. Looking in the mirror I see a fat Sandy Duncan. It's not a good moment.


On the red line from Dupont Circle to Union Station. Our third stop, Metro Center, looks like a scene from the sack of Rome. We flee.


Outside Union Station, 7:30am. A line of port-a-potties; all but two are locked. But toilet paper in abundance.

Hawkers on the street sell buttons, hats, T-shirts. The best line: "It's cold outside, but these buttons are HOT!"


The ticket lines must look like a swarming ant hill from above. Yeah, that's right, the ticket line. I can hardly believe it even now, but I had a ticket to the event. And a seat, courtesy of a friend from college who is way too generous. I just about dislocated my jaw, it fell so far when he gave me my ticket.

So, back to the line that morning: the yellow line stretches so far from back from its gate that it has begun to merge with the purple line. Not a cop or event organizer to be seen. The group around me clings to a tall figure wearing a stovetop hat, whom we begin to refer to as Abraham Lincoln. We proceed with good humor and patience.

Ok, so not everyone proceeded with good humor. It was REALLY crowded.


Ten minutes later it is almost impossible to move in the area at all. People won't let a wheelchair through. For a few minutes things are so tight it feels a little scary. Line cohesion begins to dissolve. A quick decision -- obey the rules or acknowledge the chaos around us and bolt?

To really see how crowded it was, click on this photo.

See you later, Honest Abe.


8am, the line still not moving and people merging from everywhere. I text a friend, "I don't think I'm getting in."

He texts back: Yes you can.

Believe it or not, the line starts to move.

The line is actually a line now, and we've moved quite a bit forward. Click on this to get a great sense of the number of people behind us.


Upon reaching the gate, the temperature begins to drop precipitously. Everyone begins opening up little teabag-like packets that heat upon exposure to the air. Warning labels indicate you should not place them directly against your skin, your eyes (?) or in your mouth, because of the amount of heat they generate. Most of us find them lukewarm. I regret I haven't worn another layer. For some reason the thought triggers the memory of me in the mirror. Another unpleasant moment.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blogging the Inauguration: Overheard #2

A 30-something African-American man standing outside the U.S. Capitol, talking to his wife: From slavery to this...


Guard: I'm sorry, you can't check books out of the Library of Congress.

Visitor: But I brought my library card.

Guard: It's not that kind of library.


Joe Biden once hit on my best friend.


I read that since Obama won Bush has started drinking again.

Yeah, Dad, but that was in the same magazine as the three-headed alien, so it may not be too reliable.


Wouldn't it be great to see those photographs that Malia has been taking?


On the phone: Yeah, we got into the concert. It was great.... No, I couldn't see anything.


This is really Delaware's year.


Most frequent: What time are you getting in line?

Blogging the Inauguration: Lines and Receptions

Barack Obama and many Americans spent today trying to follow the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by doing some kind of service work for our fellow human beings.

Many in Washington, D.C., including this correspondent, spent the day in lines and receptions. Everywhere you went today, there were lines -- lines to get into museums, lines to get into receptions, outdoor lines to get tickets to the Inauguration, indoor lines at each Senator's office, lines to get food, lines to get on the Metro. It was like Disneyworld without "It's a Small World" echoing in the background.

Still, a pleasant and easy camaraderie prevailed. Everyone seemed to be enjoying one another's company; we've never met, but we're all old friends. And not terribly fixated on politics, either; I heard few or none talk about Democrats or Republicans, even Bush. One guy wearing a "Arrest Cheney First" headpiece -- yes, you read that right -- was greeted with a polite silence. Undoubtedly most people here voted for Obama, but still, if the day had a theme song it was not "We are the Champions" but "We are Family", with every last drop of kitsch that might involve.

In between lines, I found myself at a number of receptions. The first, a reception for people visiting from Illinois, was hosted in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Just being in the building was reason enough to attend; the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It receives ten thousand new books every day. (The Copyright office receives twenty thousand.) Its underground storage facility is something like 20 football fields long. And -- a surprising fact -- each year it has to raise something like $100 million privately in order to make up the difference between its operating costs and its government allotment.

Not being a regular at political suarees, I spent my time in the finely ornamented hallways and reading rooms of our reception sipping cold water and taking note of those around me. The event seemed to consist of a number of unique groups, including many ordinary folks in golf shirts or long-sleeved plaids, sneakers, sweaters and blue jeans, who knew no one there but came because what the heck, they were invited, and who knows, maybe Sen. Burris or Durbin will show up? (Both did.)

The vast majority in attendance, though, were what we might call the peacocks, here to be seen in their suits and ties "making connections" and "doing deals". Perhaps they are the hogbutchers of, if not the world, Oak Park, come from Chicagoland or Springfield and strutting as a sort of coping mechanism in the face of the political world of Washington which is paying attention to bigger realities. Or perhaps they are the politerati of DC, simply wishing to make their presence known. Either way, it was difficult to tell whether I was supposed to know who they were, or just supposed to wonder whether I knew who they were.

With them came their children, the glazed-eye tweens exhausted with boredom already before the reception began. They've come to town to see Obama preach, not their dads preen, and they spend their imprisonment texting one another and snorting with disgust.

Other groups wander in and out: baby faced journalists (or were they college students) with news pads; photographers; hostesses for the night's parties, and the occasional mayor, distinguished from the peacocks by the fullback's height and breadth of shoulder, Mike Ditka-moustache and beefy royal demeanor. All in all, it's an state family reunion, a gathering of all the old friends and enemies, crazy aunts and black sheep cousins together under one roof.

Later in the day I wandered over to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American, the newest of the Smithsonian museums and also the one with the best food. As part of the inauguration festivities the museum hosted "Out of Many", a 3-day program featuring American musicians and storytellers from all races and walks of life. Seeing the lines were too long for lunch, even at 2:15pm, I wandered into a dazzling performance by a deaf dance troupe known as "The Wild Zappers". Based in Saint George's County, Maryland, the Zappers perform jazz, funk and hip hop and other forms of dance to contemporary song. Their styles were energetic and heartfelt, and as the crowd silently applauded, waving their hands in the air in the American Sign Language fashion, I have to say I was glad I came.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blogging the Inauguration: Photographs from the Concert

Part I: Trying to Get In

Apparently I'm not the only one who thought of stopping to get some supplies before facing the line.

Approaching the staging areas.

Initial assessment: long but manageable.

Quiet apprehensions.

Stopping our entry, that's right -- the U.S. Border Patrol.

The center does not hold.

Mob scene at the Washington Monument.

A tight fit.

A better view? (Not really.)

The closest we're going to get to the Lincoln Memorial.

Part II: We are One

Part III: Meanwhile...

Chief Justice Denzel Washington

Spontaneous nose itch.

Mary J. Blige serenades Abraham Lincoln statue, asks to take it home with her.

Jamie Foxx asks Chicago to stand up.

Jamie Foxx asks Chicago to stand up again.

Dude, let it go.

Joe Biden freaking Malia out.

Jack Black at the Inaugur--wait, what?

It's been a long time coming...

Part IV: Obama


To remember....