Saturday, July 21, 2007

The BBC's "World Have Your Say" in New Orleans

On Thursday I was lured to a French Quarter hotel to participate in an episode of the BBC's "World Have Your Say." I'd never listed to the show before, but it struck me as awfully similar to Vox Populi from the old, brilliant satire "Network." So they had forty important New Orleanians in the room, and they asked the world "Should anyone care what happens to New Orleans?" And phone calls and emails poured in from Afghanastan, India and all over, and most people seemed to think the answer was "No." Meanwhile, a team of producers came running through the room asking people to explain why people should care. They picked a lot of the wrong people and kept going back to them. When a caller from Portland suggested that nothing should be allowed to be built in such a geographically dangerous setting as New Orleans, I waved my hand in the air, wanting to talk about earthquakes and volcanoes, which the Portlander apparently doesn't regard as a threat. But they didn't bring the mic to me. And I sat through the show getting redder and redder, according the person next to me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What's my line?

Yesterday I went to City Council Chambers to hear them grill Eddie Jordan, our ineffective DA, with hard-hitting questions. It reminded me of the old game show, What's My Line, except that the council members weren't blindfolded. But their questions were frequently embarrassing. "Someone called me and said they've applied for a job in your office but never got called for an interview. What could they do to get your attention?" Equally silly answer: "We'll give you a number she can call to contact us." Many of the questions were very much along the lines of "Can you tel us what you do?" And the answers, like a clever contestant, skirted around specifics, or focused on the same recurring card of statistics. Shelly Midura's voice even sounded like Peggy Cass. And Jordan printed up a brand new flyer of his accomplishments, including "Stiff Sentences". That list included ten people, half of whom plead guilty. It was hard to follow the numbers, but it seems like they have about 3,000 cases so far this year, and they've had 177 convictions, of which 25 are for violent crimes.

Later in the day I went to an open house at the Cottage Living Idea House on Camp Street. This is a PRC project: a modular home that was constructed in about two days, but is completely historic in style. It is two stories, with some really amazing design elements, including a pantry with an old metal vault door, and a kitchen wall that doubles as a chalk board for to do lists. Three bedrooms, three baths. Listed at 595,000, and the proceeds go to restore homes in Holy Cross. This is the kind of thing people say can't be done.

And finally, I stopped into the CAC to catch the New Orleans Film Society's screening of Crazy Love, the documentary about Linda Riss and her crazy husband. It was actually quite funny.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Because I'm a pushover for a good pit bull story...

Abused Pottsville pit bull lands a role in ‘Oliver!’

TIMES • shamrock writer

KINGSTON — The injuries that once made potential adopters cringe vaulted a dog named Thanos into local stardom Monday.
Thanos, a purebred 4-year-old pit bull from Pottsville, landed the role of villain Bill Sykes’ dog in the Performing Arts Institute’s production of “Oliver!”, outshining eight other tailed thespians in auditions held at the Wyoming Seminary Upper School campus on North Sprague Avenue on Monday.

The play will be presented at 8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre.

From the moment director Bill Roudebush saw Thanos, he knew the dark brown dog that still bears the scars of past abuse fit the character perfectly. “It wasn’t even close,” Roudebush said. “From the minute he walked on campus, he had the part.” Because the actor who plays Sykes, 16-year-old Mike Radzwilla, Hanover Township, harbors a certain uneasiness around dogs, Roudebush needed to find a dog that looked the part of a ruffian junkyard canine but still had a sweet temperament.

Thanos proved he was a softy, licking those who petted him and gingerly taking treats or cheese from their hands. The lone sign of animosity came when Thanos uttered a soft growl when an approaching cameraman accidentally startled him. But at first glance, Thanos appears to be a dog suited to guard Alcatraz. Scars still linger where past owners lopped off the tips of his ears when he was a puppy and stemmed the bleeding from the infected wounds with fishing line, said Amy Eckert, of Pottsville, Thanos’ owner.

Before he was rescued from a cramped rabbit hutch four years ago and taken to the Hillside Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Pottsville, Eckert believes Thanos’ previous owners were breeding him to fight other dogs. The tips of his ears were cut off “to make him look meaner,” said Eckert, who works as a cruelty officer and owns Brierwood Boarding Kennels and Cattery in Pottsville. Those scars, Eckert said, made potential adopters pass by Thanos. Even now when other people pass Eckert and Thanos on the street, they avoid the dog, she said. “People wanted nothing to do with him,” Eckert said. But that wasn’t the case Monday, as people milled about Thanos; other dogs that Thanos had beaten even walked up to give him a good sniff or two.

“When I first saw him,” Radzwilla said, “I was kind of shaky toward him because he looks intimidating.” But after a few minutes with Thanos, Radzwilla looked comfortable feeding Thanos treats and scratching behind his ears.

Earlier in his life, Thanos was fearful of people touching his ears, but after training he has since learned that most people don’t want to hurt him, Eckert said. Now, Thanos spends time at SPCA events and nursing homes, working as a therapy dog. A last-minute decision brought Thanos to Kingston. Originally, Eckert just wanted to watch the auditions, but her friend, Sandee Ford of Mountaintop, convinced her to bring Thanos along. The rest was some Hollywood magic in Kingston.

As Thanos enjoyed the limelight — his new entourage pampering him like a star with a paw print on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — Ford couldn’t help but comment that Thanos’ life has certainly shifted for the better. “This is a fitting ending,” she said. Eckert looked on, as more bystanders indulged Thanos with treats. “Now,” Eckert said, “he’ll be a star.”

Fall tour in the works

Brando on the cover, originally uploaded by kfoz.

I'm putting together a fall tour beginning in October...and ending in November. Because of my work commitments, I've had to chop it down quite a bit for now:

Oct. 4: Octavia Books, New Orleans
Oct. 12: Booksmith, San Francisco
Oct. 13: Book Passage, Corte Madera
Oct. 14: Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola
Oct. 15: Powell's, Portland
Oct. 18: Wisconsin Library Association
Oct. 19: Chicago, TBA
Oct. 25: Astor Place Barnes and Noble, NYC
Oct. 26: NYC
Nov. 15: Prairie Lights, Iowa City
Nov. 16: St. Louis International Film Festival

I'm exhausted already. But I'm sure more dates are coming...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Orleanians Struck Down by Pain-in-Neck Epidemic

This sounds like a joke, but I've been feeling under the weather for the past few days and one of the main symptoms is a pain in the neck. It has taken me some time to realize that it may be the result of a swollen gland. And meanwhile, everyone else seems to be suffering from the same thing. "Does your neck hurt?" someone emailed today.

And that's the perfect segue to this next bit. A group of people are planning a demonstration at the Cabildo tomorrow in Jackson Square, where GMA will be filming a closed-door town hall with John Edwards and a pre-selected representation of our town.

From the press release: New Orleans citizens, fed up with the resurgence of violent crime in their city, will stage a peaceful protest in front of the Cabildo on Jackson Square on Monday, July 16 at 6 a.m. to demand the resignation of District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

If you want more info, you can email