Vicky Collins Online

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The Chinese Scam I Almost Fell For

It’s amazing the lengths people will go to to rip others off.  I recently was contacted by a Mr. Dehua from Henan Yu Xin International Co. Ltd. in Zhengzhou, China.  He emailed to say that his company was making a 20 episode series of 25 minute documentaries in HD for television broadcast.  The intention was to enlighten the Chinese audience about America’s history, economy, culture and tourism.  At first I was a bit skeptical.  How did he find me?  Was it because I did a documentary length piece on Chinese influence in the Caribbean for Dan Rather Reports?  Was it because I spent three months in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics?  Did I impress someone along the way who referred me?  I emailed him back.  He followed up with the project information.  It was in detail and he clearly understood the logistics of production.  He also informed me that they would pay $50,000 to $60,000 US per episode.  The project was a dream come true with a budget that would allow us to produce excellent television.  It kept me up at night thinking of ideas that I would bring to the Chinese and people I would collaborate with.  I worked out a production schedule and sent him off my ideas.  He said “I am so happy that we have a so good beginning.”  Today as I was looking for more information I came across this warning from a production company in Munich, Germany.

http://www.filmingholidays.com/2012/07/18/beware-b2b-scam-from-china/

Thanks to the internet and the experience of the production company in Munich I was saved from going any further down this scheming road.  I am now posting this as a cautionary tale to warn fellow producers and production companies.  The scam which first swept through Germany and Italy and other European countries has now reached American shores.  I guess if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.


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The Greening of Greensburg

Very early on the morning on May 5, 2007 I got a call from NBC News to hurry from Denver to Greensburg, Kansas.  There had been a huge tornado and the town was devastated.  Go! Go!  When I pulled into the town six hours later I was stunned to see wreckage so complete that even the bark had been pulled off the trees.  These skeleton sentinals stood over a community of people who were lost and dazed.  The EF-5 tornado had 205 mile per hour sustained winds.  Almost the entire town was in ruins.  It was apocalyptic.

The grain elevator was one of the few buildings left standing in Greensburg, Kansas after an EF-5 tornado destroyed the town on May 4, 2007.

It was hard to imagine coming back from that scene or even having the will to rebuild but Greensburg is a plucky town.  One of the residents, who is now the mayor, Bob Dixson, had a sign on his property within days.  It read “Future home of the Dixson family.  We are blessed.”   They were still optimistic.  I guess when you consider that 11 of their neighbors had died and many more were injured, they were among the lucky ones.  I took this photo when I was out there covering the disaster.  The powerful image made me feel hopeful.

The sign in the rubble of Bob Dixson's home in Greensburg, Kansas following the tornado. He and his wife were among the first who decided to rebuild.

The town decided to pull itself out of the rubble by capitalizing on the Green in Greensburg.  They would come back environmentally friendly and create a community that was truly sustainable.   Over the years I had pitched this story to various news outlets with little success but when Budget Travel magazine singled Greensburg out as one of the coolest small towns in America I had a newsworthy hook and HDNet’s Dan Rather Reports said let’s do the story.

Almost five years later I returned to Greensburg and what I saw was as stunning as that first post disaster morning.  The town is cleaned up and there are beautiful new buildings.  The school, the hospital, City Hall and the John Deere dealership are all built back to the highest environmental standard called LEED Platinum.  There is a pretty little Main Street with shops and even a business incubator sponsored by Sun Chips.  People are living in new eco-friendly homes and are saving up to 2/3 on their utility bills.  And there are wind turbines everywhere powering the community.  Imagine using the same wind that destroyed you to help resurrect yourself!

Bob Dixson's eco-friendly rebuilt home today.

Greensburg still has its work cut out for it.  The town has half as many people as it once did but they are determined to repopulate.  Like many of the small towns in rural America, Greensburg had been dying.  But even after the tornado the folks there said we are not dead yet.  So they set out to create a sustainable future, a vision for their tomorrow that would make Greensburg a place children would want to stay, that would be attractive to new families, invite companies to relocate, and create jobs and economic development.

What’s extraordinary here is that folks in Greensburg are very conservative.  These are not tree huggers but they realized that by going green they could build a community of the future.  Today they are an inspiration for other cities reeling from disasters like tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  In a time when huge disasters seem to come at us with alarming frequency, Greensburg is showing us how to rebuild and recover.  And the message they send is that green goes with their rural values.  It is just common sense.

The foundation of a new Greensburg is in place.  It has been a gut wrenching process for people who lost everything to imagine something this big when it would have been so much easier to somewhere else.  As the town approaches the fifth anniversary of the tornado this May, they have an enormous amount to be proud about.  I personally would like to go back in five years and see how much farther they have come.  If you are traveling along Highway 54 pull off at Greensburg and see what’s been accomplished.  And if you can’t do that, watch tonight on HDNet’s Dan Rather Reports to see the hard work and ingenuity that brought Greensburg back.

Our Dan Rather Reports crew in Greensburg, Kansas during October 2011 covering the remarkable comeback of the town.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

For more of Vicky’s photographs visit Vicky Collins Photography.


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War and Remembrance 6

My conversation between Ben Coker, Jr. is getting more interesting as we dig deeper into issues. We come from very different points of view but we’re finding common ground.

Hi Ben,

I hope you and your family are doing well. Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I have been quite busy and wanted to give your note adequate thought. Your really impress me with your knowledge of history. Many of my beliefs are from the gut. As I read through your letter I notice we agree in degree on many points. But why must people destroy just so they can turn around and rebuild? It seems there have been times in recent memory where change came about without us devastating the infrastructure and crushing the people. The Berlin Wall came down without America rushing in. We are not sending troops to Israel or Palestine to settle differences there. We didn’t go into South Africa to end apartheid. We stayed calm when North Korea rattled its sabers. Just because there is a rogue leader or nation doesn’t mean soldiers need to march in and annihilate people and communities to influence and protect our interests. There are diplomatic solutions to tyrants and bad behavior. It may take more time but I believe it is time well spent. People may think by exercising patience we allow the extremists to organize or worse yet, kill those fighting for peace like Ahmad Shah Massoud, Yitzak Rabin and Benazir Bhutto. Perhaps, but I think America must be careful in the world and not shove our values down other throats. Granted some things like 9-11 and Pearl Harbor require swift and strong intervention, but war must be thought through. The world would be a better place if we didn’t beat our adversaries into submission. Wars are difficult to win.

I believe most people around the globe are good and want peace. I think we really need to be careful not to lump people together. I get very frustrated with people who assume all Muslims are bad because they refuse to distinguish an extremist from a woman who wears a headscarf. I am not defending behavior that threatens Americans. I loathe the terrorists and those who would do us harm. But I wonder how many people who denounce Muslims actually know one personally. I wonder how many people who think Muslims aren’t raging enough against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other extremists, have actually asked them what they think. I believe that most Muslims cringe over the behavior of the radicals even if they mind their own business. I agree with you that it would be wise for more moderate, peace loving Muslims to verbally condemn radical behavior, but I think people need to walk in their shoes before passing judgment. If I recall you did not speak out during Vietnam because of respect for your parents. Is it surprising that others hold their tongues instead of risk their reputation or draw unwanted attention to themselves and their family?

And on this next point you will probably want to throttle me. I agree with you that building a Mosque a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero is insensitive. But that said, is it inconceivable that a mosque could be used to build awareness, peace and understanding. Just because there is a mosque does that mean it is radicalizing people? It is a place of worship and a community center and from what I understand it is meant to bring people together in peace. We are a country that defends freedom of religion, yet people are trying to take that away. Isn’t that what we are fighting for? Our freedom? Our rights? I think people are getting kind of hysterical. It isn’t just at Ground Zero. Folks don’t want a mosque in Tennessee. They create laws so we don’t have Sharia Law in Oklahoma. America has always been this great melting pot but now people are getting extremely xenophobic. When did we get so afraid of everyone? I agree the media is whipping people into a frenzy. Looking forward to that discussion too. Hope you and your family are anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving flush with gratitude. Looking forward to hearing from you. Best, Vicky

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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War and Remembrance 3

My conversation with Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina continues following my Veterans Day post.

In response to your letter to me, I very respectfully offer the following:

I agree with you on the point you made about unity going into WWII. We had been seriously violated by Japan’s blatant and flagrant attack on us at Pearl Harbor. However before I discuss that issue, let’s examine the time at which these events occurred. In 1929 the Stock Market crashed and left a nation in disarray and financially devastated. My father was born in 1910, my mother 1917. They told us children of the difficulty they had suffered through the ensuing years to the conclusion of the war. The American people’s endurance of these traumatic years prepared them to face the difficult years of WWII. They were united and had resolved to defeat the tyrants who had inflicted so much devastation.

This unity persisted throughout WWII; However Churchill had made repeated requests of President Roosevelt to enter the war as ally to England and France without fruition. Our leadership had taken the position that “We did not have a dog in the fight” which seems to be the attitude of most people about so many issues that so immensely impact our lives. Nevertheless, coming out of WWII our nation remained united and we enjoyed much growth and financial advancement during the fifties. Nonetheless, there was an effort by the Communist nations after WWII to spread communism throughout the world. Russia and China were asserting themselves in the effort to spread communism to other nations even if this had to be achieved through hostile action as it had been done in so many other instances.

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A Westerner Ponders Arranged Marriage

One of the most interesting things I read in the newspaper while in Delhi was the matrimonials in the Sunday Times of India.  The section consisted of page after page of personal classifieds by families unapologetically seeking the perfect made to order husband or wife for children whose time has come to make a love connection. Some of the ads were very specific.  They spelled out criteria of caste, looks, religion, region and education.  Some ads were placed by families that spent a fortune sending children to the finest colleges and universities in India and abroad.  On the market were Drs., MBAs, and Ph.Ds who studied in prestigious schools in the U.S.A. and U.K. and now were ready for a mate.  Some families who were shopping for love were less particular.  Caste no bar meant that a boy or girl would marry outside of the caste.  In several ads families were requesting “homely” girls.  “Why would anyone want a homely girl?” I asked.  “In America a homely girl is plain and unattractive.”  “No,” my friends informed me.  “A homely girl is one who wants to stay at home.  Not a career woman.”  Do people really meet their soul mates through these ads or is it just families marrying other families, putting medieval rituals ahead of the happiness of their children?  “It is a tradition,” a young man I met in Jodphur told me.  “Those are for people who are desperate,” one of my colleagues said.

Finding a mate in India is definitely a family affair and most marriages are still arranged.  It is easy to impose our western values on India and decry this practice, but India is a country where family comes first and that means who children spend their lives with seems to be everybody’s business.  So in a country with 1.2 billion people it might just be more practical to launch a marketing campaign, especially when you consider the drama involved when young people try to find Mr. or Mrs. Right or Singh or Patel themselves.  Names are not included here to protect the innocent.  Some of the people I spoke with are hiding things from their parents (and as I’ve found out people actually do find and read blogs.)

A young army captain I met on a train told me how he found his wife escorting a friend’s sister home on a bus from the south of India.  They fell in love and wanted to wed but her parents refused to have her marry a man in the military.  Mind you this was a charming, intelligent, handsome man who wrote poetry, for goodness sakes.  He decided to send her father letters every day to prove he was worthy.  Dad finally brought the case before the entire extended family (and it was a very large one) and the council of in-laws gave their consent.

Another couple I know went through alot of drama with parents as they tried to marry.  He pursued her for many months and could not get her off his mind.  She took a great deal of convincing and played very hard to get.  At one point he told his parents it was over.  When she popped up again in his life his parents refused to even consider her.  They eventually married but I am told there was tension at the wedding and there still is a cloud over their union today, mostly because they broke tradition by moving into her families house after the marriage rather than moving into his families house.  Parents have a say in this too, it seems.

As we walked through the old city of Jaisalmer, a man I met told me about the love of his life who got away.  She was a woman from California who was there for three years doing social work.  They lived together and he wanted to marry her.  His parents refused and when he honored their wishes, she left.  That was six years ago and he has lost track of her now, but still longs for the relationship.  He is unhappy in his arranged marriage.  He says his wife is very selfish and treats his children badly.  They are now separated.  He asked me “Do you think I made a mistake, giving her up for my family, or should I have given up my family for her?”  I told him I thought he would have had regrets either way.

My Muslim rickshaw driver in Jaipur told me that he was dating a Hindu woman for a couple of years.  They were having a great time and his family didn’t mind at all.  But her family did so mom and dad forced them to break it off.  He says he doesn’t care what faith someone is.  All people are the same and as long as they treat each other well and make each other happy nothing else should matter, but obviously her parents did not agree.

A colleague of mine has been dating a young man for six years and intends to marry him but her parents don’t even know him because they will not approve.  When a family friend told her parents he noticed her with this boy at a bus stop a few years back they tightened the screws.  Another colleague’s parents seldom let her out of the house alone after about 8:30 p.m. in the evening making it nearly impossible for this 19 year old to have a relationship.

Western women would certainly never put up with all this meddling from parents, but the good news is even as fundamental traditions have stayed the same, the practice has evolved and women say arranged marriage can work.  A young mother and IT professional I met on the train back from Jaipur to Delhi was telling me her marriage was arranged.  Her parents placed an advertisement in the matrimonial section of the Times of India and that’s how she met her husband.  But instead of being passive in the process she was highly involved and could have walked away from the arrangement at any time.  Her husband could have walked away too.  They didn’t, and after a brief courtship, she is now happily married and living with her husband and first born child in the United States.  Arranged marriages are still the way most people hook up in India (even the Prince, grandson of the Maharajah of Jodphur, will have an arranged marriage when he weds.) Matrimonial websites like http://bharatmatrimony.com and http://shaadi.com are booming, but in this day and age, more young people are asserting themselves in their love life, especially those who are educated and don’t need to settle for less.

If someone hasn’t already thought of this, I think a great idea for a Bollywood musical would be an Indian adaptation of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  If you recall Reb Tevye had three daughters and as each one chose a husband they made choices that made their father progressively more uncomfortable.  Each daughter followed her heart and Tevye had to adapt.  I think that really sums up what’s going on in India today as many young people work around their parents or at the very least, alongside them to find partners.  Of course, arranged marriages can turn out badly.  If the wrong partners are found people can be miserable or abused.  That happens when we self select our partners too.  Still, choosing a spouse continues to be a family affair in India and for what it’s worth maybe having mom and dad involved can be helpful.  Maybe working backwards, marriage then love, can be possible.  Just look at the statistics.  Although divorce is starting to be a bit more prevalent among the upper classes of India, on the list of countries with the highest rates of failed marriages (America is #1) India isn’t even on the radar.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Oh Canada

Walking down Granville Street in Vancouver tonight I saw something you hardly ever see  in the United States.  Twenty something girls playfully singing and strutting to their national anthem.  They were on the crosswalk and at the top of their lungs they were singing “Oh, Canada, our home and native land…”  Of course patriotism and spirit are running high at the Olympics but the Canadians also have a very singable anthem with an extremely catchy melody.  So catchy in fact, that John Furlong, the head of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, chose the English lyrics “With Glowing Hearts” and “Des plus brillants exploits” from the French version as trademarked slogans for the 2010 Olympics.  On the other hand, our Star Spangled Banner, composed when Francis Scott Key was watching the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, is set to the tune of a British drinking song and at one and a half octaves is more difficult to get right.  We sing it with all due respect at sporting events but always wonder if the vocalist will get through it without becoming pitchy or butchering it with some bizarre rendition.  The Canadian anthem, on the other hand, rolls off the tongue especially if you’re 20 something and maybe have had a couple drinks.  Purists thought young Nicky Yanofsky, who sang it at the Opening Ceremony, took too many liberties with the melody but I think it’s pretty no matter how you sing it.  So when Americans aren’t on the podium and Canadians are, you might be tempted to sing along.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Enlightened Canada

I walked out of my hotel room this morning carrying a plastic bottle of water and by the time I was at the front desk it was empty.  I handed it to the concierge and asked if he could throw it out.  Before I could correct myself a hotel manager did it for me.  Recycle!  From what I can tell, Canada is an enlightened country.  There are as many recycle bins as trash cans.  Cops ride bicycles.  Gay people can marry.  Citizens care about the homeless and even accomodate them.  There is universal health care.  And most impressive, Canadians seem very proud of their diversity.  Vancouver is a city full of languages and color.  I ride the bus with a man from Mozambique.  A Sikh guards the gate.  The city is full of Asians and French speakers.  Foreign accents are everywhere.  I’ve always been impressed with the way Canadians embrace their diversity.  People intermarry.  Not a big deal.  My cousin from the Czech Republic married a black woman from the Caribbean.  Just like America, this is a nation of immigrants, but Canadians are not caught up in discussions of race.  That is so yesterday.  Canada is a true melting pot and it’s moving forward in an enlightened way. 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com


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The Faith Club

I’ve spent the last two days in temple celebrating Rosh Hashanah but for some reason this year I’m not feeling it.  Perhaps it’s because I only show up for the high holidays and each year it’s the same story of Isaac and Abraham and Hannah and Peninah.  My Jewish experience is so limited.  Rabbi Mo is at the top of his game with sermons about living in the moment and about coming home to family.  I hoped my 15 year old grasped his lesson about how everything you do affects those around you.  But still the year 5770 is not stirring me like Days of Awe in the last few years.  So I decided to do something different.  My friend Kathy, suggested I read the book “The Faith Club” so during these 1o days I’m reading it and really thinking about how I feel about religion.  My friend Susan MacCaulay who has a website called “Amazing Women Rock(http://amazingwomenrock.com) out of Dubai said she’d link to my musings. 

“The Faith Club” is a book written by three women, Ranya Idliby who is Muslim, Suzanne Oliver who is Christian and Priscilla Warner who is Jewish.  It is a very honest recount of their meetings over time and their exploration of what unites and divides them.  I love this book for its candor.  The women are fearless in their desire to confront each other and grow in interfaith friendship and understanding.  They beat down stereotypes and shared controversial points of view.  We are told never to talk about religion but they did and it was transcendent.  As I write this I’m only on page 80.  I have lots to read but I’m inspired to write and search for greater understanding. 

On the way back from temple today my son Kyle and I were arguing.  Why was I wasting his time making him go?  Why can’t we go to the temple by our house where his friends go?  For that matter why can’t he just be Christian?  I feel a great connection to Israel and the Jewish culture but I’m finding it difficult to pass it along to my children.  I was never raised Jewish because my father suffered too much during the Holocaust.  His parents were killed in the concentration camps.  I came back to my heritage and to Judaism when I became a mother.  I didn’t want my children to grow up in a vacuum.  My father tried to talk me out of it because he felt I would be persecuted.  My parents went a long ways to spare me the pain of being Jewish in what they perceived was an anti-semitic world.  They sent me to an Episcopal School and I sang in a Catholic choir.  To this day I love the traditions of the Catholic Church and in some ways I envy born again Christians for the way their faith fills them and for their one way certainty.  At the same time my Jesus envy ends when my kids say “come Lord Jesus be our guest” at the dinner table every time my Lutheran in-laws come to visit or when there is so much hate and dogmatic thinking in the name of religion.  What would Jesus do?  Certainly not kill doctors at abortion clinics.  I don’t believe there is just one way and all religious zealots make me want to scream.  Why can’t we all just get along?

I will continue to blog on this subject as I read the book.  It is my project during these Jewish holidays.  I wish I had a faith club to help me process this so perhaps if anyone reads my blog we can dialogue and learn more about each other’s faiths.  I wish for the courage the women in “The Faith Club” have to speak openly and honestly and I would love to find like minded people who would enjoy sharing their journeys as well.  I’m just getting to the portion of the book where Ranya speaks of the difficulties in being Muslim in America.  Tonight in Denver, Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed, were arrested as part of an ongoing terror investigation.  I’m sure it’s making a moderate Muslim like Ranya cringe.  Fear and misunderstanding.  As all faiths go through the year we need more to unite us rather than divide us. 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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How People Live

During April I’ve had a photo exhibit running in Studio 13 Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District.  It’s called “How People Live” and is a collection of photographs from the streets and slums around the world that illuminate the diversity of people and the condition of the poor.  Photos were taken in Uganda, China, Thailand, India, Brazil, Mexico, and various places in America.  Most of the photos were gathered while I was on television production assignments.  “How People Live” was a fundraiser for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and I want to thank all the people who supported this effort.  I’ve posted the photos to Facebook and Flickr and wanted to share them with a broader audience.  Hope you find them compelling and enlightening. 

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1106444740&ref=profile

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vickycollins

For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Patriotism

I wish my dad had lived to see this day.  Edward Jan Collins was the child of Jewish parents who died in the Holocaust, the brother of siblings scattered by war, the father of children born in America to a better life.  As we prepare to inaugurate a new President, our first African American President, he would have been amazed at how far this country has come.  My father was born in Poland.  He came here through Ellis Island.  He loved the country he adopted.  He was very proud to be an American citizen.  He even flew the flag on Independence Day and Presidents Day.  I must say I never really felt his zeal.  I even remarked when I eulogized him in 1995 that he was far more patriotic than I was.  But then I didn’t escape a childhood of tyranny and oppression.   Perhaps I have taken America and all that it gives me for granted.

On Sunday, while listening to Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger singing “This Land Is Your Land” on HBO, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt a welling of patriotism that I can’t ever recall.  I felt hopeful and inspired.  I was proud to be an American and so excited about the possibilities and opportunites that lie ahead.  I can’t even imagine how this time in history feels for all the people who’ve felt disenfranchised over the years by the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation or their disabilities.  It was so gratifying to see America in all its rich diversity come together to celebrate this pivotal moment.  All singing with one voice, all under the gaze of Abraham Lincoln and the beaming smile of Barack Obama, all taking in the lessons of the past while looking forward to a brighter future.  My dad would have been blown away.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com