[VIDEO] Sri Lankans on Immigration and the 2012 Election

Immigrants are an important part of the United States economy. Yet no political party has discussed immigrant issues this election. The Sri Lankan community has strong opinions on what they think should be done about immigration and why it should be an election issue.

Reporter: Dhiya Kuriakose
Producer: Jay Devineni

[PHOTO] Blessing of the Animals

On a rainy Sunday morning in October, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan saw some unusual additions to its congregation. And many of them had four legs.

A camel towered over everyone in the church. A 25-year-old tortoise lay still in his hold as he was rolled down the aisle. A gorilla clung to her handler’s neck. A kangaroo jumped all the way to the church altar. A llama stopped midway and stretched her long neck. And these were just the more exotic animals. Dogs, cats, a couple of donkeys and even a pig walked down the aisle of the Cathedral on October 7th.

“I have to say although the camel was the most impressive in size; I found some of the smaller animals really fascinating,” said Dean Fogel, who was there with Daisy, his French mastiff. “A couple of the animals I’ve never seen before. I couldn’t even tell you what they were. The kangaroo was definitely impressive, so you know it was great.”

To commemorate the patron saint for animals, St. Francis of Assisi, the Cathedral of St. John has the tradition of opening its large iron doors on the first Sunday in October to bless any animals. Members of the congregation can bring their own pets and many do. The event is incredibly popular and the cathedral sells tickets for seats to the service.

The more exotic animals in the congregation came from Dawn Animal Agency for the event.

“This is an annual event that we participate in,” said Diane Katz, office coordinator at the Dawn Animal Agency. “Some of them are working animals; some of them are brand new babies. We had baby chicks today and a baby pig too.”

The Dawn Animal Agency is a talent agency that runs Sanctuary for Animals in upstate New York. They house over 1,000 rescued and abandoned animals. The animals participate in this procession every year and have for the last few years.

“Each animal has its own story,” Katz said. “We love having them in the procession.”

The yearly event brings thousands of people to the church, many with their own animals. The service is far from what would be considered a traditional Christian service. The music in parts of the service is specially adapted to be in tune with animal ears. The great arches of the cathedral resonated with what sounded like piercing wails to the human ear.

“It’s actually very calming to the animals,” Katz said.

Aside from the animals and the music that catered to them, there were dancers in the service.  And African musicians with huge drums and dancers in bright tunics and jewelry.

Ten-year-old Weston, a student at the Cathedral school, has been walking down the blessing procession for the past five years. His star is Rosie, a bearded dragon.

“I think Rosie had fun today.” Weston said. “She is cold because of the rain but she seems happy.”

Dwight Sole, a handler for Dawn Animal Agency, joked that the creatures seemed right at home inside the church. “You know a lot of people think that animals are people too,” said Sole. “And there’s nothing wrong with it, so why not celebrate it in church?”

[PHOTO] Harlem Week

I spent my first photo journalism assignment at Harlem week. I had the most incredible time there and here are the pictures.


Theatre Review – The Travelling Circus

The Travelling Circus is performed in a style created through improvisation as opposed to conventional interpretation. The telling manages to keep audiences mesmerised through its one hour performance with poignancy laced with humour. The possibly controversial subject portrays the reality of war and its human consequences. The production shows the plight of the displaced and destitute in Sri Lanka; a political issue shown through a social context. The play uses an interesting device in the Question Tree to remind the audience that there is never a reason to stop asking questions. Sets were minimal and stark forcing the audience to pay attention to the actors . With characters representing internally displaced people in Sri Lanka, bureaucracy and the media, the play offers two conclusions . One a likely reality and the other emphasising the message that hope will survive even through the worst situations and that the nation will survive. The music entwined with the performance drew tunes and lyrics from various popular musicals adding diversity. . Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the politics of war and human displacement would have been moved by this production.


Theatre Review – The Real Inspector Hound

‘The Real Inspector Hound’ has a fabulous script that was backed by some terrific acting. The fact that it was a play within a play was interesting with the stage creating a mirror image of the audience and their reactions to the play. The absurdist play parodies the pomposity of critics as well as the clichés of whodunits. The play is entertaining with a fourth wall being created between the characters on stage and broken down, dragging the critics into the play. What should have been a fairly straightforward (boring?) cliché turned into an incredible destruction of exactly that.


Theatre Review – Chasing My Mamet Duck

‘Chasing My Mamet Duck’ came through as a play that appealed on so many levels and yet left much of the audience wondering what the point was. With representations on various levels, the play, if you could call it that, seemed to question various points of life and its meaning with no evident connection. Interesting clips from children on the meaning of life and clips on what the human race could be understood as 200 years from now. The contrast between life as we know it and what life seems like to someone untainted with the cynicism of everyday existence was interesting. The play involved contemporary devices that are natural in everyday life, from online chats to You Tube videos that speak of absolutely nothing. The play tried to involve the audience with live auctions and requests to text a certain number. Theatre unlike anything I’ve seen, ‘Chasing the Mamet Duck’ certainly was an interesting indulgence.