Thursday, November 22, 2007

Neopets Christmas Gallery

I have been collecting for many years, and if I do say so, I have one of the best Christmas collections in Neopia! I also take advantage of the season to send a message of peace to anyone who visits. My teenager says it's the "old hippy" in me. Guilty as charged.

(For residents of, my username is lrn_jbk945. Use IE for the full effect with graphics and music)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Abby Cadabby Debuts in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Photo: Macy's
I have to say, I am so tickled to see our "girly" muppet, Abby Cadabby, looking so gorgeous in this bigger than life version! As I'm fond of joking, I only lasted long enough at Sesame Street to create one muppet, but she's a hell of a muppet! As usual, the Muppet Wiki provides the most in-depth information about the character (including a quote from yours truly) Abby Cadabby - Muppet Wiki

I think the fact that I was an outsider who did not come up through the Henson shop was an asset in the creation of Abby. Early on, I was spending a day at the studio, hanging back at the puppet table with Jason, the muppet wrangler. Curious, I asked if Henson muppets must always have those signature, "ping pong ball" eyes. He said no, which really got me thinking. I've always felt that the eyes were the main reason the previous female Sesame muppets were less than attractive. The pop eyes are funny on a guy (Cookie!), but not so flattering on a girl. I asked them to try Abby with wide, flat eyes, and prominent eyelashes. The first day the prototype puppet was brought into rehearsal, Fran Brill (the puppeteer who performs both Prairie Dawn and Zoe) took one look at the beautiful new puppet, and groaned "Look at those eyes. Damn you, Liz Nealon!" Sorry, Fran. I plead guilty as charged - she's a beauty and little girls want to be Abby's friend. Now, let's hope they buy lots of products at Christmas and give Elmo a run for his money!

Memoirists Pageant Tonight in NYC

If your Thanksgiving weekend is slowing down and you don't have plans for Saturday night, here's an option. The Best Memoirists Pageant Ever

Monday, November 19, 2007

Come and Find Panwapa Island!

These are the irresistible avatars that kids are building to represent themselves on Panwapa Island! We tested these all over the world - the appeal is universal. This avatar was designed by Geoffrey Fowler, and he nailed it.

Click on the link below to hear the title song, which, as I've mentioned previously in this space, I think is a commercial, compelling sing-a-long, which is key because we embodied the Global Citizenship curriculum in the words. I will confess, though, that I almost didn't post this because of the terrible quality - they need to allocate more bandwidth to these streaming videos. We spent a lot of time and money creating these original muppet characters - it's a shame to have them look like this. Nonetheless, enjoy the song! SONG: Come and Find Panwapa Island

Just when we finally saw some Autumn colors...

It has been such a late autumn here (because we didn't have enough cold nights, below 40 degrees, to turn the leaves) that most of the leaves are still on the trees. Finally this weekend I was thinking that we had some reasonable colors! It's actually kind of pretty, the snow on the red Japanese maple......

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Best Memoirists Pageant Ever! 11/24 in NYC

Mark your calendars! On Saturday, November 24th at
3 PM The Bowery Poetry Club will host five writers reading excerpts from their memoirs-in-progress. As the flyer says: True stories! You'll laugh, you'll'll pay $5 at the door. Cash bar, refreshments for sale and great coffee.

Kim Brittingham (NYC)
Neil Cotter (Brick, NJ)
Chrys Buckley (Washington State)
Heather Maidat (Los Angeles)
Radmilla Suleymanova (NYC by way of Turkmenistan)

Kim Brittingham, who is organizing the evening, is in my writers' group, and I can testify to the fact that she is a wonderful writer who is working on a powerful memoir that fairly crackles with teen angst. If you are lucky, she'll read some of the material pertaining to her Duran Duran obsession - hilarioius!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Dangerous Lame Duck

There is a powerful piece of commentary about the Bush agenda today on 14 Months of Danger

If you prefer a progressive view on current affairs and don't know this site, you should check it out. They describe themselves thusly: is an online public affairs journal of progressive analysis and commentary. Every weekday, we go beyond the news to deliver well-informed, provocative and credible progressive perspectives on the pressing issues affecting the nation and the world. combines depth with immediacy to equip progressives to compete effectively in the 21st century’s marketplace of ideas. was founded in 1999 by John Moyers in conjunction with a series of hard-hitting opinion page ads in The New York Times. We take our inspiration from Thomas Paine—the revolutionary thinker and activist known for his incisive, biting commentaries.

It's good stuff.

An afternoon of discovery at MoMA

I was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York yesterday to see the powerful collection Georges Seurat’s drawings (MoMA: Georges Seurat - The Drawings. The exhibition runs through January, 2008, and it is definitely worth the trip). He was a master of this form. Working with simply a conté crayon on paper, it is extraordinary to see the nuanced images, particularly the subtle play of light, that he was able to achieve. The Errant Æsthete, a self-described "blog for culturally curious," has an in-depth article about this memorable exhibit. If you are interested in art and culture, you'll probably want to bookmark this blog.

While we were there, we stumbled on an exhibit of sculptures by the African American artist Martin Puryear, and his work is simply wonderful. The sculptures are whimsical and irresistible - I was drawn from one to the next to the next with exclamations of delight!

In fact, there are signs everywhere instructing parents that they must hold their children's hands at all times while in the Puryear exhibit. How many installations are so compelling that the curator has to worry about children not being able to control themselves while in the space? It is that wonderful.

Ladder for Booker T. Washington
Martin Puryear, 1996.
Wood (Ash and maple. 432" x 22.75", narrowing to 1.25" at the top).

Some of the sculptures soar so high into space, I had to wonder where the heck this guy works, that he can produce on this kind of scale? I found it to be a joyful, uplifting experience simply being in the same room as his work.

MoMA has a virtual tour of the exhibition on their website - click this link | Exhibitions |Martin Puryear. Check it out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Word of the Day on Panwapa? ORIGAMI!

I have been spending more time this week on the Panwapa Island site, which is Sesame Workshop's new broadband site, designed to teach global citizenship. I've written about it previously in this space Check out Panwapa Island

It has been a very gratifying week as I've heard from a number of former Sesame colleagues who want to know what I think, or who are hoping I'm happy with the site. As one person put - "I am eager to know what you think about it because there's so much of you in it."

Raising children as global citizens who are aware of the broader world and who accept their responsibilities as citizens of that world is indeed a passion of mine. I feel so privileged to have been able to work on a project as rich and full of promise as this one. And, our team worked long and hard to create Panwapa across three types of media (video, broadband, and print) It was not easy, but they persisted, and the outcome reflects their effort and dedication.

And on the subject of what I think? I like it very much. My one regret is that we wrote very catchy, compelling songs for this project. They are irresistibly singable, in my view, and the lyrics embody the curriculum that we were trying to teach. Any virtual world is somewhat daunting when you first try to enter - whether you're a kid visiting Panwapa or an adult first encountering Second Life. And, since this is a rich media site and there is often loading time when children need to wait. I wish that the songs were present from the moment you click on the world, and there for you to sing while you are waiting for data to load. It's a missed opportunity, but there is plenty of time to fix it. This is a five-year project, and it will continue to expand, develop and roll out in additional territories. I have no doubt it will get better as it goes.

Teachers and caregivers - there are materials available if you are interested in using this media. Like the website itself, everything has been produced in five languages - Arabic, English, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish. Click on the "For Caregivers" button on the Panwapa site to learn how to use this highly engaging content with your children.

Calder-Eye View of Autumn

My camera and I have been on the road this week, most recently photographing at the Storm King Arts Center (which, if you haven't seen it, is a magnificent, world-class, outdoor sculpture park that we're so lucky to have right here in Cornwall). The installations are so artfully conceived that the contrast of man-made with the natural environment often creates a third, "enhanced-natural" reality. I love this place.

Black Flag, 1976, Alexander Calder

As I wandered amidst the towering sculptures, I started photographing autumn as framed by these whimsical, sheet metal "windows."

I like this symmetrical stand of trees, framed by one of the ovals in Gui, a 1976 Calder sculpture.

Every autumn, when the Storm King Arts Center closes for the winter I feel a pang of guilt, knowing I haven't taken advantage of it as I might have in the previous year. Will take another shot at it in the Spring.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

On the subject of Photography.....

One of the photographs that I exhibited this Fall was called "Claymation Scraps," an image that I shot in Florence, Italy, where Sesame Street is producing a new series of Bert and Ernie stories, realized in claymation.

My friend Steve attended the opening of the show, and he was particularly drawn to this image. Steve is an actor who had a successful career on a popular soap opera.....until he was about 45. Then they wrote him out in favor of a new "young stud" whom they assumed would be more attractive to their female viewing audience.

Steve paused in front of the Bert & Ernie photograph, and then said "I know exactly how they feel."

Autumn in the Hudson Highlands

I've done a lot of hiking this Fall, and although it has definitely been a muted Autumn (Global Warming and all that.....), there were still some beautiful sights. Check out my new portolio at Autumn in the Hudson Highlands

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More on FEMA's Fake Press Conference

This is the San Francisco Chronicle's take on the fake FEMA press conference during last week's California wildfires, writing that this was a doozy even by the standards of an administration that has created a culture of contempt for the role of the press in the workings of democracy. S.F. Chronicle: FEMA follies

The Great Beyond: Robot takes over nursery

This is a fascinating story about a robot placed in a preschool class. After a "breaking in" period, the toddlers related to the robot as if it were one of themselves. The Great Beyond: Robot takes over nursery

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Review of my Review

A couple of days ago I posted a review of Lois Hicks-Wozniak's premiere performance of John Mackey's CONCERTO FOR SOPRANO SAX AND WIND ENSEMBLE. I am tickled that the composer not only read the review, he linked to it posted his own comments in his blog.

Read Mackey's Blog Here

I particularly like the part where he writes: I’m linking to it because a) it’s well-written and she makes good points, b) even though it’s a blog-based review, her take is no less-valid than it would be had it run in the Star-Ledger or another big paper.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Last Chance to register for my Executive Producing Seminar

This Tuesday, November 6, I'll be teaching a 3-hour seminar on The Art of Executive Producing at mediabistro in New York. Check it out (and refer your friends) at How to Become an Executive Producer - Courses and Seminars

This is a subject I'm truly passionate about. The transition from producing or writing shows yourself to becoming an Executive Producer - that is, assembling a highly qualified, skilled group of people and rallying their hearts and minds around a concept that is yet not fully known - is a huge one. In my experience, very few companies offer much support or training in how to become a successful production executive. Done well, magic happens and the concept comes to life as envisioned, or better. In this seminar I will give many practical examples from my years with MTV, Disney Channel, Sesame Street, VH-1, etc, and delve deeply into what skills are required, how to acquire those skills, and the best habits and practices of successful EPs.

This seminar is specifically designed for the East Coast market (news, sports, soaps, children’s or cable/reality programming) where budgets are lower and politics are slightly less fraught. Commensurately, the opportunities for originality and creativity are higher. I'm looking forward to teaching it, and from what I last heard, there are still a few seats available.

Saxophonist Lois Hicks-Wozniak Dazzles in Concerto Premiere

John Mackey's latest composition, the CONCERTO FOR SOPRANO SAX AND WIND ENSEMBLE, lives up to his reputation for rhythmically challenging, jazz/dance influenced, audience-pleasing pieces for wind ensemble, and then some. Local saxophonist Lois Hicks-Wozniak rose to the challenge, playing the premiere performance of this powerful work with passion, fire and virtuosity.

Lois Hicks-Wozniak is a member of the excellent Ridgewood Concert Band, which joined with consortium of 27 bands ranging from the U.S. Navy Band to the Dallas Wind Symphony, as well as a whole slew of universities, to commission the work. Dallas had the World Premiere with the composer in attendance several weeks ago, but each commissioning ensemble gets its own "premiere," as well. On Friday night Lois did the honors for Ridgewood, with a performance so electrifying that she may well have recorded the definitive performance of this memorable new work.

Lois and I have been friends for a number of years (and in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that on occasion I sing with her in a vocal trio ensemble). One of the things I love about her as a saxophonist is the range of tone and styles that she handles with ease, ranging from classical to jazz and beyond. The Mackey piece enabled her to exhibit the full extent of her formidable technique.

The Concerto is in five movements, and between the Prelude and the Finale are three movements whose elemental titles suggest that we might be in a Zen monastery rather than an acoustically-optimized church sanctuary in Ridgewood, New Jersey: (II) Felt, (III) Metal, and (IV) Wood. To my ear, the Prelude was the least successful of all the movements, with Mackey writing a dense wall of sound for the wind ensemble that obscured the sound of the soprano sax. It was evident, looking at Lois, that she was playing a series of complex, powerful runs on the saxophone, but it was impossible to hear. She told me later that she said ruefully to the composer, “John, you can’t write quadruple Forte for a wind band — that’s like throwing meat to the lions.”

Fortunately, the Prelude was brief, and then we were into “Felt,” a jazzy movement that allowed Hicks-Wozniak to showcase the smoky, sultry edge that she can bring to her tone. This movement was also striking in its technical demands, as she appeared to be grabbing big handfuls of notes that covered the full range of the instrument in a single run. It ended with an abrupt, ascending run by the sax and the wind section that was almost a throwaway — seemingly casual, perfectly executed…and then silence. If there is an award for sheer numbers of notes on the page, Mackey may have garnered it for this movement, and the quality of the playing by this ensemble was flawless throughout this very difficult piece.

I suppose “Metal” received its title because it opens in classic Mackey fashion with percussion in the dominant position, in this case metallic instruments such as chimes and xylophone. However, “Metal” is an odd name for a movement that opens up into a hauntingly beautiful, heartbreakingly lyrical series of musical “conversations” between the sax and several soloists in the orchestra. The thematic statements were powerfully emotional, but never sentimental. Particularly moving were the exchanges between First Clarinetist Richard Summers and Hicks-Wozniak’s plaintive soprano sax.

As I listened to “Metal,” I began to feel that we were experiencing a breakthrough for composer John Mackey. He is still quite young — just 34 — and when music historians look back, I suspect this Concerto for Soprano Sax may be a turning point. I heard significant differences from his previous, signature work (award-winning, popular pieces such as Redline Tango and Turbine). Mackey’s earlier work is characterized by intricately difficult rhythms and huge, percussion-driven walls of sound, but to me, they are somewhat lacking in lyricism….bereft of memorable themes or melodies. That is no longer an issue. Listening to these memorable, affecting themes, I felt as though we were hearing a maturing Mackey.

“Wood” opens with a hushed, sultry exchange between the soprano sax and marimba, and it is simply an extraordinary tango. Listening, it was easy to imagine that Mackey was born and raised in Buenos Aires, rather than in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Hicks-Wozniak played the sensual melodies with relish, seeming at times to dance with her instrument. She laughed later, telling me that “For a minute, I considered bringing a rose with me onstage, to hold between my teeth.” The illusion was there, rose or no rose. And again, rather than typical Mackey fireworks, this movement ends quietly, with the marimba and double bass restating the theme a final time. Hicks-Wozniak would like to see this movement published as a reduction for piano and soprano sax. “It will get played, over and over.” She’s right.

Like the second movement, the Finale was an exercise in virtuosity, with huge cascades of notes for the entire ensemble. It appeared that balance would again be an issue, but conductor Dr. Christian Wilhjelm did a masterful job, his sensitive conducting enabling the soprano sax to be heard over the signature Mackey wall of sound. It was at times humorous to watch him — with one hand urging the ensemble into a crescendo, while the other hand, palm outstretched, gingerly pushed them back. It was an exercise in “come here/go away” that was ultimately quite successful in fine-tuning the sound.

The cadenza was brilliantly played, and in a surprising moment, ended quietly, on a half-tone dissonance held by the sax & a single, E-Flat Clarinet — a dissonance so exquisite that I felt as though I had bees buzzing in my ears as the sound gradually died away. The concerto ended with a huge, saucy blast of sound from the entire ensemble.

As the audience erupted in applause, Hicks-Wozniak turned to the band, her arms thrust above her head in triumph, acknowledging each section by pumping her fists in the air. Her instinct to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishment of her bandmates before accepting her own accolades from the audience was spontaneous and touching.

Geocaching - The sport where YOU are the search engine!

This past Friday, I taught a seminar called "Introduction to Geocaching" at the 40th Annual Conference of the New York State Outdoor Education Association. NYSOEA Conference

For those of you not familiar with geocaching, think of it as a HIGH TECH TREASURE HUNT….a hide-and-seek game where you get clues from websites like and then go out and search for caches using a handheld GPS. It is variously described as a sport, a game, or a hobby - it really depends on the interests of the user. No matter what you call it, this is an activity in which you not only enjoy the outdoors, you learn navigation skills, follow encrypted clues and use your wits! When you find the cache and open it, you sign the logbook, if you take something you leave something (there are all sorts of little treasures), and then you go back to the web and log your visit.

This has spawned a whole range of specialized types of caches - I particularly enjoy finding the ones known as "hitchhikers." These are items designed to travel. When you find one in a cache, you take it and move it to another cache site, logging the journey both in the logbooks and online. For teachers, this presents a digital "Flat Stanley" opportunity, where a class could stash an item, give instructions and background about what they are trying to do (e.g. see if an item can touch down in all 50 states), and then follow the progress online. There are currently 479,630 active caches worldwide - so the range of possibilities is truly endless.

We're all struggling with how to get kids outdoors - they are locked to their computers, TV, IM, cell phones. Gecaching brings it all together, fueled by the thrill of a game/search /treasure hunt. Along the way, you can teach about respect for nature ("Cache in, Trash Out" is the geocacher's motto), and have fun outdoors. I have worked for many years in educational kids' media, and this kind of multisensory engagement around natural sciences, mathematics, and decoding of clues (the underpinning of early Literacy) is a powerful learning tool (to say nothing of being totally addictive!).

Following the seminar on Friday, I took five people out to Rip Van Winkle Lake, where I had pre-scouted two good caches - scenic location, not too far from each other, both with hitchhikers (one a registered "Travel Bug"). They all handled the GPS and found both caches without any help from me - it was very satisfying. And, it was delightful to be in the woods with these professional naturalists. They identified everything - plants, leaves, berries, tracks, scat (droppings). I learned at least as much in an hour in the woods with them as they learned from me about geocaching.

The New Sanctuary Movement

I write a monthly column for my church newsletter, and I thought this month's topic was suitable for more general consumption.

In 2007 we have been exploring the promises in our St. John’s Vision Statement and how they relate to the decisions we each make in our daily lives. This month I would like to look at two powerful statements, specifically:

We are a sanctuary, a haven where people can come, knowing their needs will be met and they will be safe.


We are a School for Christian Education, where we use our resources to study, learn, and understand the word of God and the Holy Scriptures…to challenge ourselves and seek the answers to the great questions of our time. More importantly, we provide our children the moral foundation to know the peace of God’s love, a faith that will guide them throughout their lives.

The idea of church as sanctuary has taken on new meaning in recent months, as Americans have followed the case of Elvira Arellano, an illegal Mexican immigrant who holed up in a Chicago Methodist church for nearly a year before being deported this past August. She had sought sanctuary in the church because she was being called to a deportation hearing and did not want to be separated from her seven-year-old son, an American citizen. The legalities of the case are clear. Arellano had twice entered the country illegally, had already been deported once before, and the traditional belief that people are protected from arrest in a church is not recognized under U.S. law.

The morality of her situation is less cut and dry, and poses a dilemma for all of us who call ourselves Christians as our nation struggles to re-define its immigration policies. Pastor Walter Coleman said his congregation offered Arellano (an active parishioner) refuge after praying about her plight, saying he did not believe Arellano should have to choose between leaving her son behind or removing him from his home (to take him with her to Mexico). "She represents the voice of the undocumented, and we think it's our obligation, our responsibility, to make a stage for that voice to be heard," he said.

We are unlikely to be called on to shelter an illegal alien here at St. John’s, but our delegates will be called to vote on a resolution at the annual Diocesan convention in New York next week. The resolution, submitted by Rev. Richard Witt of the Rural & Migrant Ministry, reads as follows:

Pledge Of Support For The New Sanctuary Movement

Resolved, That the Episcopal Diocese of New York acknowledge that the large-scale immigration of workers and their families to the United States is a complex historical, global and economic phenomenon that has many causes and does not lend itself to simplistic or purely reactive public policy solutions.

That we stand together in our faith that everyone, regardless of national origin, has basic common rights, including but not limited to: 1) livelihood; 2) family unity; and 3) physical and emotional safety. We witness the violation of these rights under current immigration policy, particularly in the separation of children from their parents due to unjust deportations, and in the exploitation of immigrant workers. We are deeply grieved by the violence done to families through immigration raids. We cannot in good conscience ignore such suffering and injustice.

Resolved, That we in the Episcopal Diocese of New York commit ourselves to:
1. Support the New Sanctuary Movement and;
2. Promote the New Sanctuary Movement within our denomination and congregations and among our other allies.

The Diocese has long welcomed immigrants and championed their just treatment. Many of our congregations have worked hard to ensure that the humanity and dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters are upheld. The New Sanctuary Movement is a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and participating congregations, called by our faith to respond actively and publicly to the suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters residing in the United States. The New Sanctuary Movement pledge outlines three goals including taking a public, moral stand on behalf of immigrant families and workers; opening the American people’s eyes to the suffering of immigrant workers and families under current policies; and protecting immigrants against hate, workplace discrimination and unjust deportation. The Movement aims to enlist millions of people of faith through signing of the New Sanctuary Movement pledge and other moral and material support.
(end of Resolution)

One of the things I love about St. John’s is our commitment to Adult Christian Education, where both scripture and cultural issues are discussed and prayed about. This issue of sanctuary is likely to be on the table for some time to come, and I look forward to our discussions of what we believe Christ calls us to do.

And, as our nation grapples with these issues, we here at St. John’s can and will be true to our Vision Statement, challenging ourselves to seek answers to the great questions of our time.

Respectfully submitted,
Liz Nealon

Thanks, Thinks!

Andi, writing in her blog called "The Thinks I Think" (very Seussical) recommended my blog as a good example of one she found using Google's "Next Blog" feature.

Thanks, Andi!

The Thinks I Think: Next Blog

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Check out Panwapa Island

One of the most exciting projects that I worked on when I was with Sesame Street was a new project called "Panwapa" - a sprawling undertaking for 4- to 7-year-olds, introducing them to the idea of worldwide citizenship (not an easy concept for this age group). Because the target audience was older than Sesame Street's audience, we created a whole new cast of muppets, an older-skewing illustration style, and interactive broadband experience, all designed to appeal to older children. The original music is appealing and catchy, carrying the message of the curriculum right in the lyrics. And to pump up the degree of difficulty, the whole thing was created in five languages across all these media - Arabic, English, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish! it was extremely challenging, but our intrepid, multimedia Panwapa team persisted, and the outcome is quite wonderful.

I particularly like the "create your own avatar" feature. These little characters are absolutely irresistible....this is the little "me" that I made when I was on the project. Jump online and create one yourself!

Panwapa Island

Merrill Lynch funded the whole project and were hands on throughout the process - this is a topic they are passionate about. Merrill Lynch Global Philanthropy - Whoopi Goldberg and Elmo Help Unveil Panwapa Program in New York

And by the way, "Panwapa" means "here on this Earth" in Tshiluba, the national language of the Democratic Republic of Congo. A perfect name for the project!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

FEMA spokesman's new job on hold

The continuing of the arrogance of this administration, and their blatant dishonesty with the public, is simply breathtaking.

FEMA spokesman's new job on hold - The White House -

The day after the full extent of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was apparent, we called an emergency meeting at Sesame Workshop, pulling department heads from Production, Interactive & Wireless, Educational Content, Research, Outreach, and Foundation Funding. Sesame Street is hardly a "first responder" in a natural disaster, but in fact, the organization makes a very meaningful contribution in the "second wave" of response, when children and families are affected. Sesame can get into a disaster site with books, videos, support materials for parents & caregivers....many, many resources to help adults get preschoolers back to a feeling of routine and safety. And, the wonderful Sesame puppeteers volunteered weeks of their time in the aftermath of Katrina, visiting shelters and cheering up children (as well as their discouraged parents).

What does this all have to do with FEMA? That day when we called all our Sesame department heads together, we challenged ourselves to get into the field with a response within 24 hours, since tens of thousands of preschoolers were homeless & frightened, and millions more around the country were being traumatized by seeing all the coverage on television. We went around the table, asking questions of various department heads. "Production - don't you have a short, edited version of Big Bird's "Hurricane" story?" "Interactive - can we get that short story up on Verizon wireless V-CAST right away?" (a better solution than video in the immediate aftermath, since no one in the affected area had electricity). Then I asked, "Who's talking to FEMA?"


I asked it again. "What is FEMA saying about how we can help?" The answer was disheartening. "We haven't been able to develop a new contact at FEMA since it was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security. We talk to someone, and then they are gone the next time we call back." My heart sank. "Oh my God, FEMA is broken," was all that I could think....a realization that within a matter of days was apparent to the whole world.

Two years later, we are still obsessed with spin and manipulation of the facts, rather than with getting this absolutely critical agency to work well again. It is a crucial component of our national readiness in this time of heightened vulnerability. What are they thinking?