Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., (www.intermat.tv)
a television company which executive produces programs and consults
with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc.
is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television
in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the
Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery
Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery
Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted
Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation
Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
| Musings From the Road
September 12, 2005
Frustrated From Afar
Like many in the television business, NATPE was a convention
I made efforts not to miss. NATPE stands for: National Association
of Television Programming Executives. For many years, it alternated
between Las Vegas and New Orleans, the two cities in the U.S.
where people go to be bad.
NATPE was where you went to see almost anyone else who was
working in television. It had the feel, I always thought,
of a high school reunion coupled with the promise of making
Since the dotcom crash and the consolidation of many media
companies into ever fewer, larger companies the Convention
has become a shadow of itself, down about seventy percent
in attendance. Last year, it removed itself from New Orleans
and ensconced itself in Las Vegas.
Prescient timing, given what we have witnessed the last week.
It appears New Orleans will be ready for occupancy sometime
again in the next decade, if then. Katrina, a scourge of biblical
proportions blew itself through the Gulf of Mexico and waged
total war on the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, while saving
its worst for hapless Louisiana and its wicked city, "The
Big Easy," New Orleans, without a doubt one of America's
most historic cities. Famous for its Mardi Gras and laissez
faire French attitude to all sorts of consensual sin, it was
also one of the poorest and most violent cities in the country,
if not on the planet. Port - Au - Prince without the pigs,
Tripp once commented.
According to certain columnists of the Far Christian right,
New Orleans has been struck by God in the manner of a Sodom
and Gomorrah. Indeed, were we living in a less digitally oriented
age, New Orleans might well disappear with the mythic weight
of those cities.
As it stands, it may well mark the moment when the U.S. has
to re-evaluate both its strengths and weaknesses and perhaps
surrender the cloak of infallibility we seem to have draped
ourselves in the last few years.
I watched this all unfold in the comfort of the Oberoi in
Delhi and I write this sitting in Singapore [the Writer's
Bar of Raffles Hotel, to be exact]. The days have been spent
attempting to sort out what I have witnessed and seen reported
upon from afar.
My incredulity has become absolute. A catastrophe unfolded
while government officials fiddled. The head of FEMA didn't
know thousands were trapped at the Superdome? I knew watching
CNN in Delhi. The President declared no one expected the levees
to break? Obviously no one shared with him the reports filed
five years and more ago warning they couldn't stand a Category
3 hurricane much less a Katrina.
The levee work was postponed while money disappeared into
tax cuts, the war on terrorism and Iraq . A $2 billion dollar
expenditure postponed will cost us a $100 billion plus to
put right, if it can be put right.
Correctly or not, the world has the perception that New Orleans
suffered mightily because it was "the dark underbelly
of America ." Dark, in this case seems to refer not just
to the soul of New Orleans but to the color of its inhabitants.
The front page of the Singapore Strait Times led one article
with a tourist's report of being told by a policeman when
she asked for help to "Go to hell! It's every man for
It is no wonder Frank Rich of the New York Times compared
New Orleans to the Titanic disaster. On that ill-fated liner,
which plowed into an iceberg on the wings of hubris, the poor
were left to their own devices, often locked beneath decks
while first class women and children were sent off in half
Perhaps New Orleans will be the story of our time that will
match the Titanic, a contemporary parable for class inequalities
against a desperate landscape.
What is inescapable for Mr. Bush is that he has now found
himself at the center of a perfect storm -- of his own creation.
What is left to see if he and the Republican Party can weather
the snake pit of infrastructure failure, reduced resources
as a result of tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq, Katrina, and a potential