Wednesday, April 30, 2008


We're only days away from the Third Annual Brooklyn Blogfest. Here's a 30-second promo from Blue Barn Pictures.

I've been working to help organize the event with some amazing bloggers. It's so rewarding to work as a team to pull this event off. Louise Crawford, the host of this event, must be proud to see her creation grow by leaps and bounds each year. This year, there's seating for 300 and I have a strong feeling it's gonna be a full house.

My buddy Pete Solomita is going to DJ. Petra Symister, a friend and someone I greatly respect, is going to be one of the speakers. Adrian Kinloch, Brit in Brooklyn, is organizing the technical crew. And the list goes on................

Hope to see ya there!


Like me, you might be a fan of email as a way to stay connected to people.

But guess what? Nothing beats good old fashion snail mail notes hand-written on attractive stationery. People are likely to keep a thoughtful note penned on good-looking paper in front of them way longer than they would an email. I go to visit people who still have thank you notes I wrote to them eons ago.I know because I see the letters posted above their desks.

In this high-speed world, people appreciate and remember the personal touch.

December is a traditional time to send cards. Here's the thing: people are often inundated with cards during that season. Why not pick another season - like Spring! - to reach out to friends, family, clients, patients, and colleagues to let them know you are thinking of them.

Whether you are a parent, an artist, community activist, small business owner or entrepreneur -- this piece of advice is for YOU!

I decided to do a Spring mailing this year to connect with clients, colleagues, readers, friends, and family members. Spring is a time of new beginnings, and fresh starts. I just ordered some great-looking personalized notecards from my favorite online source - Fabulous Stationery. Most of the stuff I find online is too precious, pastel-y, and delicate looking. Their graphics are bold, eye-catching, and often inspired by the 60s. (See above picture.)

I'm looking forward to getting a bunch of new wildflower postage stamps and sitting down to write notes to all the great people in my life!


Tim Young, who I interviewed for Creative Times last summer, is offering these great workshops for young people:


The Puppetry Arts Theatre and The Pottery Café are providing weekly hands on visual arts workshops featuring:Mosaics,Clay Hand Building,Ceramic Painting, and Professional Puppetry Building

Projects in each workshop are age appropriate. The puppetry workshops are especially great for older youth as it allows for them to build a professional- “Muppet Style” Puppet. This is a very unique activity for any summer youth program.

$350 per child/weekWeekly Camps are 10:30am-3:00pm
Kids bring a bag lunch
Week 1- July 7-11 ages 5-7
Week 2- July 14-18 ages 8-11
Week 3- July 21- 25 ages 12-17

Maximum of 25 youth per class
Overflow of booked weeks are as follows
Week 4- July 28- Aug 1 ages 5-7
Week 5- Aug 4- Aug 8 ages 8-11

At the end of each week we will host an ice cream party exhibiting the completed work by the students.

Weekly camps will be held at The Pottery Café at 129 6th Ave Park Slope, Brooklyn


The Puppetry Arts Theatre is offering private one on one workshops for youth ages 7-17 in Drawing and Puppet Building.

These workshops are $45 a class, for one hour

Workshops are available between 3pm and 6pm M-F July 7- Aug 8

Scheduling Classes and the number of workshops are arranged according to the desire/schedule of the student

For information or to book a workshop call The Puppetry Arts Theatre at
718-768 3703

Monday, April 28, 2008


"I have far fewer years ahead of me than I do behind me in my coaching career, and it has become increasingly important to me that the young women I coach feel empowered to go out and make a difference in the world. Lee Iacocca famously asked, 'Where have all the leaders gone?' The answer, of course, is that we're all leaders. Every one of us has the power to inspire the people around us and to change what has always been. [...]

I am not large in stature, but I have never doubted my ability to stand tall and to make a difference. That's what happened this year [*], and what a tremendously powerful thing it was! My young ladies stood up. They stood up for themselves and for what is right. And when they did, people all around the country stood up with us and for us.

-- From Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph, written by C. Vivian Stringer, Head Coach of the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights, with Laura Tucker

[* ] 2007, the year that radio personality Don Imus made racist and sexist comments about the women on the team.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I get a lot of flack for being a fan of the upbeat, grooving-on-life-, Go For Your Dreams-themed music and films aimed at teenagers. I'm not gonna back down, though! I need a regular shot of optimism and a break from the overall Life Sucks message of mainstream media.

That being said, I'm excited that this Tuesday marks the debut of Lil' Mama's new album, Voice of the Young People. It features her smash singles "Lip Gloss," "Shawty Get Loose," "G-Slide" as well as "L.I.F.E." and "What It Is (Strike a Pose)."


After taking a late afternoon Spring nap, I woke up and knew I wanted to clean out my files. Sounds crazy, right? But it's usual that, after a brief slumber, my mind comes up with the right next step to take. So I went through each file and tossed out obsolete stuff. I moved archival stuff, documents I don't need to access much, up to a higher shelf, and kept more relevant and current files within easy reach.

Then I created new files for projects, like Brooklyn Blogade and Brooklyn Blogfest 2008 and Mike's Artwork.

In the process of going through old files, I found some great visuals from to put around my desk area, as well as images and articles to inspire new blog entries. Finally, I came across some articles that I want to mail off to friends.

It felt great to bring big bags of paper down to the recycling can. A great way to make room for new, exciting things to come into my life.

I went through the same process with my bookshelf. I took all the books that I don't look at much anymore and put them out on our front steps in an Up for Grabs Box. The books were gone in a blink. Knowing that the future holds more good books and magazines, I wanted to make room for those new treasures.

Let Go Of the Old, Make Room for the New.

One new treasure I brought in was a big clipping from a cherry blossom tree (see pic) which I bought from a mom 'n' pop grocer in our neighborhood. I can lay for a long time just looking at those blossoms, feeling happy that it's Spring and excited for whatever is coming around the bend.


Barbara Elovic, my pilates teacher at the YMCA, is a serious poet and a contributor to the anthology I Speak of the City: Poems of New York (Columbia University Press).

Barbara will be reading from the anthology I Speak of the City this Tuesday night, April 29th, at 6:30 p.m. The reading will be held at the New York Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street, above Delancey.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Several years ago, I went to Makor for one of the first screenings of Debra Kirschner's movie The Tollbooth. It's a great movie and now it's out on DVD. The synopsis below is straight from the movie's website:


The Tollbooth comically explores a Jewish family from Brooklyn through the eyes of Sarabeth Cohen (Sokoloff) – a struggling painter in her first year out of art school. Sarabeth and her older sisters Becky (Stauber) and Raquel (Menzel) come of age and question the values of their traditional parents.

Sarabeth’s first revolutionary act is scoring a job as a waitress and moving across the river to Manhattan. Even though she is less than ten miles from her parents, and her bedroom is her sister’s walk-in closet, she feels like a pioneer – ready to take on the New York art community, and maybe even the world.

Though she would like to rebel, she is forced instead to learn from her family; Ruthie (Feldshuh)--her well-meaning but traditional-and-loud-about-it mother, Isaac (Guttman)--her holocaust-obsessed philosopher-quoting father, Becky (Stauber)--her lesbian medical-student sister, Raquel (Menzel)--her nurturing self-sacrificing sister and Howie (Bartok)--Raquel’s sweet but always misguided husband. She also learns some tough lessons from Simon (McElhenney)--her boyfriend from art school, who graduates and chooses the suburbs, a good job and an entertainment center over a life filled with uncertainty in New York City.

All the characters have a variety of difficult choices to make. The question is never whether or not to compromise, but how much -- before one loses the very essence of one's self. Isaac quotes Tevye by warning his family that "if you bend me too far, I might break;" as Ruthie administers the advice that when making decisions, "the choice that makes you less sick to your stomach is usually the right one."

This honest and funny story follows the characters through one poignant and pivotal year as the family learns, rebels, fights and finally embraces their differences in this highly entertaining ensemble film.


A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about Leyla Safai, the woman who founded the Heartschallenger truck. She and her partner, Ben, drive this truck all around, also making appearances at special events.

From the truck, Leyla and Ben sell candy and ice cream from around the world and also play music that they themselves produce. At the time I interviewed Leyla (see previous post about her history), she was living in Los Angeles and had a yen to come to New York.

Imagine my suprise when, last summer, I bumped into Leyla and her pink ice cream truck at an event in SoHo. She had followed her dream of moving to New York.

I just checked out Leyla's website again. She's selling some great stuff like glitter guns and these Choose Your Own Adventure eye chart t-shirts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


By the time Weston Long was five years old, he had watched so many Sesame Street television episodes and video specials that he knew how to count in multiple languages -- Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish included. A big reason for Weston’s loyalty to Sesame was his love for a particular character on the show. “He was enamored with Big Bird,” shared Weston’s mom, Jill.

When Weston was five, he started writing letters to Big Bird. He wrote up to two letters a day, and his mom confessed that she mailed a few but put most of them in the garbage. After all, she didn’t want to inundate Big Bird - aka Caroll Spinney – with mail.

But unbeknownst to Mom, her son was salvaging those letters and putting them into the mailbox himself. When Weston was six, he received a personal invitation from Mr. Spinney to come visit him on the set of Sesame Street. That visit was followed by subsequent ones and was interspersed with a few visits to Caroll’s home. “Caroll also sends him old photographs and other publicity materials from the early days of Big Bird,” said Jill.

Weston, who is now 12, has been mentored by Mr. Spinney for six years. “Caroll said that he saw a lot of himself in Weston,” said Jill. Caroll, like Weston, took an interest in puppets and theater at a very early age. Caroll confirmed this fact when he approached me, Weston, and Jill after completing his first shoot of the day on the set of Sesame out in Astoria, Queens. Caroll, totally fit and energized at the age of 75, told me that he was five then he first started doing puppet shows. His mom, an artist, sewed the puppets he used.

It was obvious that Weston knew Caroll well. As Caroll proceeded to talk about his history as a performer, Weston would sometimes complete Caroll’s sentences. Both Weston and his mom were obviously happy to have Caroll as a mentor. Jill let me know that Weston came from a family of athletes, including herself, her husband, and her three other children. Weston, however, had always been interested in puppetry, theater, and dancing. Bringing her son to the set of Sesame and supporting his friendship with Caroll is one of the ways she had figured out to nurture Weston’s interests.

Big Bird, Caroll Spinney, is one of television’s biggest stars. He has reached hundreds of millions of adults and children over these past 40 years. I like the fact that he has taken time out over these last six years to nurture the dreams of a single young person who shares his love of performing. With Caroll’s support, Weston has a good shot at sustaining and realizing his dream of a career in theater.

It was just another day on Sesame Street and I'm glad I got to drop by.

Monday, April 21, 2008




An invitational exhibition featuring over thirty storefront installations between North 3rd and North 9th on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. A marriage of ART + COMMERCE creating a bridge to a Williamsburg neighborhood in transition from a new generation of store owners to an artist community over twenty five years old.

Over thirty Brooklyn-based artists have created storefront installations, often in collaboration with respective store owners. The curators are LARRY WALCZAK and DONNA KESSINGER.

For more information go to


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Saturday, April 19, 2008


I just finished putting this poster in storefronts all along Smith Street. Other bloggers will be doing the same in their respective neighborhoods.

This is the official poster for the Third Annual Brooklyn Blogfest, a gathering of Brooklyn bloggers who write about their neighborhoods and anything else that matters to them. It's also for aspiring bloggers and for anyone who loves Brooklyn! It was founded and is organized by Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

Every year, the number of participants in the Blogfest doubles; this year will prove to be no exception. The Brooklyn Lyceum, home to this year's big event, has a 300 person capacity.

CLICK HERE to a link to New York Times coverage of last year's Blogfest.


This in from Boston Medical News - White Coat Notes -

Edward Lorenz (left), an MIT meteorologist whose meticulous attempt to predict the weather through an early computer unraveled into a spectacular failure that he turned into the chaos theory, died at his home in Cambridge yesterday. He was 90. At a meeting of scientists in 1972, he gave a talk with a title that captured the essence of his ideas: "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" The phrase "butterfly effect" has become part of the lexicon of both pop science and pop culture.


I first saw news of Lorenz' death in The New York Times this Thursday. I had heard about "the butterfly effect" here and there and never knew that it had specific origins. I like thinking about the idea that the tiniest thing -- a word or a gesture -- could have a huge ripple effect that I couldnever imagine. The idea goes up against the place where I feel insignificant or powerless.

It's reassuring to know that the butterfly effect has its origins in a scientific experiment. It's not just a feel-good phrase; it's got its roots in something deep.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Mike Sorgatz is selling some of his illustrations, photography, and paintings on ETSY, including this here print of a squirrely.

To see more of his stuff on ETSY


To see more of his paintings



After a few years of living together, Mike and I realized that too many of our conversations revolved around household to-do lists. We realized that we needed to have more fun together, so we started to have Date Nights.

Friday night seemed like a good night for Date Night because it set a tone of fun and adventure for the whole weekend. (You might be familiar with the alternative: coming home at the end of the work week, and collapsing in front of the television.)

We opted for a few Free Fridays at New York museums like the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was fun to be around lots of other people who were also celebrating the end of the workweek and taking advantage of the free aspect of the experience.We'd start the evening with a meal at the museum cafe and then stroll around to look at the art (and the people).

Our most recent Date Night was actually a Date Afternoon. We went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to look at the cherry blossom trees in bloom. Mike had a membership so the only bucks I spent were a few on a hot dog and lemonade.

I realized that Date Night is a lot like Julia Cameron's idea of The Artist Date. The Artist Date is where you, the artist, take yourself on a field trip to some place that inspires you - could be a garden, could be a toy store. Date Night involves two people, though, and the adventures serves to fuel the sense of fun and adventure in a couple's weekly life. I figure we're more likely to remember the fun and interesting times we spent on these outings then the chats about bills, housecleaning, and such.

What are some of your ideas for Date Nights?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Come one, come all to The Third Annual Brooklyn Blogfest!

Thursday, May 8th @ 8 pm

The Brooklyn Lyceum (4th Ave @ Union St.)

Organized by Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

This is a great event to see how bloggers are shaping the world we live in and also to learn
how you can start your own blog!

$10 admission, $5 for students

Here's a link to New York Times coverage of last year's Blogfest:


Here’s two great things about living in The Big Apple: (1) New York is Book Country. More accurately, New York is Media Country. Through our phenomenal library system, bookstores, and plethora of news-stands, we have access to information and inspiration 24/7. (2) The mass transit system means you don’t have to have a car. These two things together (granted that I get a seat on the subway) mean I have at least an hour a day to bury my nose in the The New York Times, the arts section of The New York Sun, or some great book I found on the shelves of The Housing Works Book Café in SoHo.

I spend some of the best moments each day with books, newspapers, and magazines. They are my companions when I start the day at the bagel shop, when I ride the subway, and before I go to sleep at night. I feel blessed to have Good Book Karma. I create it by leaving books and magazines out on our front stoop when I am done reading them and by giving them as gifts at birthdays and holidays. I always find inspiring books in second hand book stores, on front stoops, and in laundry rooms.

Here are nine books that I have been loving lately:

The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to A Mindful Year, by Jennifer Louden
Slam!, by Walter Dean Myers
We B*Girlz, written by Nika Kramer & photographed by Martha Cooper
The Five Senses, by Herve Tullet
Ken Done: The Art of Design, by Powerhouse Museum
The Greatest! Of! Marlys!, written & illustrated by Lynda Barry
Friends, a picture book by Helme Heine
This is New York! By M. Sasek
Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph, by C.Vivian Stringer (Head Coach of the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights) with Laura Tucker

Sunday, April 06, 2008


How I Got to Frank

I’m about to finish conducting my interview with Kevin Clash, longtime Muppeteer of Elmo and a Co-Producer of Sesame Street. “You know who you should interview next?” Kevin says. “Franky. Frank Biondo. He’s the cameraman on Sesame Street and even though he’s behind the scenes, he shapes the mood and the feeling on the set.”

So I call Frank and he tells me he’s filming a show, not Sesame Street, but a special offshoot, When Parents Are Deployed. He’s going to be at the Unitel Building on West 57th Street. Could I come up there while he’s filming to watch and to talk? “Sure thing,” I say. How could I pass up a chance to see Frank and Muppeteers in action? I’ve only dreamed of this moment since I was six years old.

I get to the Unitel Building and wind my way back to where they’re filming. Kevin Clash is there, directing and also playing Elmo, and Fran Brill is playing Elmo’s mom. Costume folks are stitching up Muppets and their outfits, and other folks are painting and repairing sets. Frank’s filming and within minutes of our first interaction, I can see why he is known as The Mayor. He greets me warmly, and, in between takes, he comes to the back of the stage where I am standing to chat with me about his work and personal history. He is warm, funny, engaging, talkative, totally unpretentious. He starts in right away with the beginning…..

How Frank Got to Sesame Street
Once upon a time, cameraman Frank Biondo was used to filming big names in show business – Barbara Streisand and Merv Griffin, to name a few. Imagine his shock when he found himself filming, in his own words, “A freakin’ eight-foot bird” and “an orange Muppet in a garbage can.” It was the late 60s and Frank had been brought on set to film the pilot of a new television show after the original filming company had gone on strike.

The show was Sesame Street, and no one knew just how big the show was going to be, including Frank. According to Mr. Biando, the early incarnations of Sesame Street characters were not so great-looking. “Big bird looked a lot different then. His head was whacked out.” Frank was filming these funky-looking characters, wondering “Who in the world is going to watch this stuff?” Thirty-nine years later, working for a show that is televised in 120- plus countries, he has his answer.

How Frank Got Elected to MayorFrank has met a lot of creative people in the course of his 39 years of work on the most famous street in the world. He’s interacted and cooperated with thousands of production people, directors, actors, and Muppeteers. But to Frank, those thousands are not just a sea of nameless faces; they are faces with stories and Frank loves to tell their stories. And that’s why Frank is Mayor of Sesame Street: because he uses story-telling to keep the history of the show alive, to weave the moments and the people from past and present together.

Frank is Mayor, too, because he is the one that comes up with the “crazy ideas” that keep people on the set connected to one another. One time, he got cast and crew to bring in baby pictures and guess who was who. He has organized wrap parties where the cast members got to show off their various
talents. He created Frankly, Frankly Have I Got a Deal for You – a newsletter for people who work
on the show. Frankly was a home-grown publication that included recipes, classified ads, jokes of the week, and letters from the show’s Executive Director. Frank also helped start a nonprofit organization called Make a Kid Smile. With Elmo dolls in tow, he and his family members visit and brighten the days of children hospitalized with serious illnesses.

Where Did Frank Come From?

Having spent his youth surrounded by lots of relatives, it’s not surprising that Frank knows how to create a sense of family among a sizable group of people. He was the eldest of 16 grandchildren and named after a grandfather who came to the U.S. from Sicily. Frank remembers that his grandpa -- a father of nine -- smoked cigars, used a spittoon, made his own wine, and always paid home visits to grandchildren when they were sick. Frank’s grandmother made Sicilian pizza every Sunday night for the entire family.

Frank remembers another part of growing up: dancing. He’d go to church dances, where he did the Cha Cha, the Mambo, and the Lindy. After joining the US Navy at 17, he taught dance classes in the USO in exchange for meals. In his present day life, Frank liked to dance out in Long Island. He describes himself as “a 50s dancer who dances to live band music.” If there’s a dance he doesn’t know, Frank makes a point of learning it. Not long ago, he went and took lessons to learn how to do the Hustle.

It’s A Wrap
After the shoot is done, Frank invites me to have lunch with him and the crew. He and some of his co-workers start telling funny stories about their years together on set and teasing each other good-naturedly about challenging times they’ve gone through. Chuck, one of Frank’s longest-time buddies there, remembers when the two of them set off together to film the Daytona 500, each being assigned to catch the race from a different angle.

After they've reminisced for a while, I say to Chuck and Frank: “You two have seen a lot.” Frank’s reply? “If we died now, we wouldn’t have missed much.” It’s so clear that Frank’s a man who feels full, full and grateful for all the people and stories and Muppets and children and actors whose lives he has been part of over the last four decades. And I realize that Sesame Street would be a very different place without him.


My friend Pete Solomita, who runs Little Buddy Biscuit Company, just informed me that his baked goods are now being carried at is a new cafe called Root Hill at 262 4th Avenue (at Carroll Street). Pete sez: "It's a really cool looking place with a nice staff, so if you're in their hood stop by and get a cup of something and a Big Buddy cookie. All the owners are from Brooklyn and if you've lived here long enough you'd have to say it's a great sign that 4th Avenue is starting have places like this."

Thursday, April 03, 2008


The Georgia Review has just been named as a finalist for a 2008 National Magazine Award in the General Excellence category. This is your chance to see some of the writers who have contributed to that success. The winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony at Lincoln
Center, New York, on May 1st.

For further information, contact David Ingle at or 800-542-3481, or visit or


A (Peach) Tree Grows in Brooklyn:
Four Writers from the Pages of The Georgia Review
Featuring D. Foy, René Houtrides, Anna Solomon, and Craig Teicher
Music by Brian Connell
Tuesday, April 29th, 8pm
Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn
Free and open to the public

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Are you the kind of person who knows you would exercise more if you had a workout buddy? That describes me, too. Here's what I am looking for:

Female Brooklynites who are members at the Dodge (Atlantic Avenue) YMCA who would like to meet up a few times a week to work out or go to classes together.


One person or a group of people who would like to walk together in Prospect Park.

I am open to other organized exercise activities, as well.
Interested folks, email me at