Come to the Casbah with Me

Yesterday, after finishing my presentation at the first conference for Arab Science journalists, I walked from my hotel to the old Jewish quarter of Fez, Morocco, with its Andalusian architecture and medieval casbah, or market.

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Rainy Morocco

It’s been raining in Morocco since I arrived on Wednesday morning. The dark skies and heavy rains (unseasonable, I’m told, and I’m being blamed by my fixer for bringing the bad weather with me from North America), have hampered my work here.

Above and below, the huge mosque in Casablanca stands steady in the mist and sea spray.

I’m now in Fez, where I’m speaking at a conference tomorrow. The sun has begun to peek out from the clouds here, and I’m heading to the old part of town to meet traders in the markets. I wonder how their stock portfolios are doing?

Caught in the Act (of working)…

At the presidential debates at Hofstra University in Long Island last Wednesday, I worked alongside TIME National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty. We roamed the press filing area and the famed Budweiser Tent — where reporters and politicos rub elbows — to produce a video segment for TIME.com.

James Estrin, a great soul and a top notch photographer for The New York Times, snapped this photo of us during an interview with Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and one-time candidate in the Republican presidential primaries. Romney — a wealthy entrepreneur who also headed up the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City — had this advice for our 401K retirement plans: “If you’re on a roller coast, the only way to get hurt is jumping off.”

Other folks we chatted with included: Governor Bill Richardson; Howard Dean (D) and Mike Duncan (R), the chairmen of the two parties’ national committees; Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Chicago; and we caught a glimpse of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (masquerading as Joe the Plumber).

The Questions Americans Asked…

Last night, while watching the debate and furiously taking notes so I could put together a three-minute version of the event for TIME.com, it occurred to me that I found the questions more compelling than the answers. Because this was a town hall style debate (though, since the campaigns had tied it up with a bunch of rules, it wasn’t as free-form and open as a normal town hall), the questions came from audience members — some 80 undecided voters from the Nashville area — and a selection of ones from the Internet. Debate moderator Tom Brokaw chose the questions from among thousands.

As I ate delicious home-cooked food and watched with my debate pal “kal,” we determined that the questions from these voters gave us more hope for America than the practiced speechifying of either candidate.

Here were thoughtful queries from people legitimately worried about the country and its direction.

I decided I should see what would happen if we strung the questions together in one piece. Kal said it could be put to some piece of rock Americana, like Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp. “It’s guaranteed to go viral,” she said.

This morning, I asked producer Vanessa Kaneshiro to put the piece together. It’s not set to music, but it does carry a tune. The results are here. Ain’t that America? Somethin’ to see, baby.