Friday, November 02, 2007

FEMA Press Briefing

The Federal Emergency Management Agency staged a fake news conference this week, with agency staff officials, pretending to be reporters, peppering one of their own bosses with decidedly friendly questions about the response to the California fires, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged Friday.

—The Times

FEMA Press Briefing

Harvey E. Johnson, FEMA deputy director: Thank you all for coming this morning. As you know, FEMA has been working night and day to respond to the wildfires currently burning in parts of Southern California. I’m here to take your questions about our handling of this dangerous situation.

Reporter 1: Did you like your coffee this morning? I added a dollop of heavy cream.

Johnson: Er, yes, it was excellent.

Reporter 1: I’d like to say, and I think I speak for the entire news staff of my paper, that FEMA is doing a stupendous job of addressing a very difficult situation.

Johnson: Thank you very much. Was that your question?

Reporter 1: No. Is that a new haircut?

Johnson: Yes, yes it is. Thanks for noticing.

Reporter 2: Would you describe the fires as being “completely contained,” “pretty much out” or “just lots of smoke”?

Johnson: That’s a very good question.

Reporter 2: It’s the one you wrote on the index card.

Johnson: At this point, we believe the fires are pretty much out and there’s no reason for continued evacuations.

Reporter 1: But it is true that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right?

Johnson: I suppose you could say that.

Reporter 1: Would you characterize the firefighters as having performed a heckuva job? [Laughter]

Johnson: Well, you said it, I didn’t!

Reporter 3: There have been reports that the tens of thousands of evacuees living at Qualcomm stadium are actually staying in the luxury suites. Is that true?

Johnson: I believe so, but you’d have to check with stadium officials.

Reporter 3: Those are the ones with TVs and complimentary food and beverages, right?

Johnson: Yes.

Reporter 1: Sounds a lot nicer than trailers! Oh, did you get the phone messages I left on your desk this morning?

Johnson: I’ve been in the field all night.

Reporter 1: You sure seem to be working hard. It must be tiring.

Johnson: No, I’m fine.

Reporter 1: You sure? Maybe you’re working too many hours.

Reporter 2: He said he’s fine. Why don’t you stop badgering him?

Reporter 3: Yeah, you’re out of line, Mary. Mr. Johnson, I’d like to turn to FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina for a moment. In comparing the agency’s response to the wildfires to its handling of Katrina, would it be fair to say that FEMA has learned from the past and is applying those lessons to its handling of this crisis? Or would it be more accurate to say that FEMA is handling this crisis based on lessons learned in the past?

Johnson: Well, that’s a tough one. I’d say things are going very smoothly.

Reporter 3: But sir, you haven’t addressed my question. In fact, FEMA is handling this crisis based on lessons learned in the past, isn’t that accurate?

Johnson: I don’t want to get into comparing two very different types of natural disasters. Let’s just say that we’ve learned from the past and are handling this crisis accordingly.

Reporter 2: So, you’ve made mistakes. Is that what you’re saying? People make mistakes, and they learn from them. I believe you’re paraphrasing Santana, who said those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Is that correct?

Johnson: You mean Santayana.

Reporter 2: It says here “Santana.”

Johnson: That’s a misprint.

Reporter 2: I was wondering about that. Which one is the guitarist? [Laughter]

Reporter 1: That’s Santana.

Johnson: He has a new album out.

Reporter 1: Would you characterize it as “good” or “great”?

Johnson: It’s pretty good. [Laughter]

Reporter 1: You’re hedging, bo . . . er, Mr. Johnson.

Reporter 2: Can we discuss the federal aid that’s just pouring into the region? I mean, it’s like, what, a billion dollars? That sounds like a ton of money.

Johnson: We believe it’s the federal government’s responsibility to step in when a natural disaster overwhelms local and state resources.

Reporter 2: Gosh, it seems like the White House has really stepped up to the plate. You must be pleased with their response.

Johnson: Yes, I just got off the phone with the President. He’s on his way to California as we speak, to survey the damage himself.

Reporter 3: Wait, the President is coming here? Right now? Boy, he really does care. But he’s not stepping on your toes, right sir? He’s giving you the resources you need to battle these fires, but he’s letting you make the important decisions. The decisions your training has prepared you to make?

Johnson: I’d say that’s accurate.

Reporter 3: Shoot, can you repeat that? This tape recorder thingie wasn’t on.

Johnson: I’d say that’s accurate.

Reporter 3: Testing, testing. OK, got it working now.

Reporter 1: Bush is coming? But I thought you said we could go home early.

Johnson: This briefing is over.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More online stuff going on

First off, you can ignore that post about It's now an entertainment site and I guess I just wasn't damned entertaining enough So, kaput.

But, there' s a lively online discussion going on about THE ESCAPE ARTISTS on The Well. You can view and post, no membership required. Check it out. It'll be up and active for two weeks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

New column on careers

I've just started writing a new column, aimed at college students, on work and careers. Check it out at

It's fun to write, amusing to read, and some clueless college kid somewhere might actually benefit. Ha ha. Just kidding, clueless college kid. Anyway you're probably on YouTube right now anyway . . .

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Interview on Peter Clayton's Total Picture Radio

[Updated July 23]

I recently discussed alternative career tracks on Total Picture Radio, a Web radio station. The interview is up now. If you're the first to post a comment you get a free signed copy of THE ESCAPE ARTISTS. So, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Listen to Australian Radio online for an ESCAPE ARTISTS discussion

I'll be on the program "Life Matters" on Australian National Radio having a bloody long discussion about THE ESCAPE ARTISTS--whilst drinking a pint of Fosters and grilling shrimp on the barbie--on Tuesday, June 26th at 8:30 pm (Eastern time, which is like five days later in Australia or something.)

Think all Aussies are animal trackers and just like Brits, but with tans? Well, listen in and find out what they think about alternative careers down under. I promise to ask if their toilets flush the other way round.

Link: Listen live to Life Matters on ABC (Australian National Radio)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Great review of THE ESCAPE ARTISTS

There's a great write-up of ESCAPE in The Library Journal, recommending the book to all public libraries. While, granted, I don't get a royalty when people "rent" my book from a library, it's still pretty cool. Here's the text of the review, and a link:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to turn your hobby into a career, to get paid to do what you would do for free? Piven (The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook) profiles ten individuals who have done just that. From the dangerous (e.g., Navy SEAL; drug enforcement agent) to the humorous (stand-up comedian; clown), these jobs all have one thing in common: they are great escapes from the 9-5 world. Instead of a cubicle or corner office, these intrepid individuals report to raging river rapids, remote African villages, or the top of Mount Elbrus, the highest point in all of Europe. This book does not supply a 12-step plan to finding the ideal job; however, it does offer insight into the lives of individuals who have created jobs for themselves in unique and interesting ways. None of these individuals gets rich, but all are richly rewarded. In the tradition of Studs Turkel's Working, this book gives readers a voyeuristic view of the life and work of well-delineated individuals. Recommended for all public libraries.—Jennifer Zarr, NYPL

Library Journal
(review is halfway down the page)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Discussion of THE ESCAPE ARTISTS on Sirius Radio

Good Morningggggggg Vietnaaaaam! I mean, to those of you who reside in Vietnam. To the few others, good morning to you, too.

I'm scheduled to be on the Sirius radio show Happy Dammit! on Friday June 15th at 8:15am, discussing ESCAPE. The show is all about, well, being happy (dammit) and is hosted by Karen Salmansohn. Follow the link for details.

This'll be my first time on satellite radio--I'm more of a terrestrial, not extra-terrestrial, kind of guy--so please listen, if only for the profanity . . .

If your car doesn't have satellite radio, well, have you considered car pooling?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

THE ESCAPE ARTISTS: now available

Good morning, bloggee! (If someone who writes a blog is a "blogger," then it stands to reason that someone who reads one is a "bloggee." Right? So what if I made that up. But I digress . . .)

My newest book, THE ESCAPE ARTISTS, has just arrived in bookstores!

The book is the first ever to explore, narratively, how and why people choose to "escape the cubicle" and follow their passions into alternative career tracks.

What's it like to chase drug dealers, pursue huge waves, throw a baseball 95mph, build Phasers for Star Trek "cons," and try to make people laugh for a living? What's it like to quit Wall Street and join the Navy SEALs, or run whitewater rivers all over the world, or quit your job as a Harvard physician and move to a deserted isle to learn about self-sufficiency for developing nations? (Hint: it's difficult.)

You'll find out in THE ESCAPE ARTISTS, my fun, interesting, very non-business-y take on a very hot topic right now, i.e. non-traditional careers (call them "odd jobs").

* Visit (which has a sample chapter)

The book's already gotten some very nice press in Time, NY Newsday, on Fox & Friends, and various radio stations, and I hope you'll be hearing more about it in the coming weeks and months.

Oh, also I have another blog, this one's at Amazon. Take a look. But this one's where all the really cool info is. (Of course, that's what I say over at that one, too.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Hi, thanks for visiting.

This is my new blog page. It's tremendously exciting. Except at the moment I don't have anything to say. Shortly I'll be posting excerpts from some news books, as well as interactive stuff, and a chapter or two from my novel.

I know, it's lame. But leave a comment if you want. Like how you think it's really lame.