Monday, December 29, 2008

The worst service in New Orleans

I'm sitting in Juan's Flying Burrito staring at my plate: a chicken quesadilla served on large plate...with nothing else. Half the plate is empty: the spot where maybe some salsa would be is empty. I ask the waiter if there's a possibility that something is supposed to go in this empty spot. He's bewildered, stammers, offers a bottle of hot sauce. Nevermind I say, repeating the words I've used throughout town this past week. Service in New Orleans suddenly sucks--which is unfortunate since it used to be one of the things the city was known for.

A few days ago I got a bowl of soup and a soda at a local place at the Food Court at Canal Place. The soda tasted like sewer water, and when I brought it to their attention they said, "That's because you aren't from here." "But I am," I said. And at that, they refused to take the drink back from me. I left it on their counter, where they worked around it for at least fifteen minutes.

But the prize must go to House of Blues, where I went to see Aaron Neville's Christmas show, and left after about twenty minutes because people were talking so loudly that it was difficult to hear the show. Much of this conversation was the staff talking to their friends in the crowd. We mentioned this to the woman working the ticket area, and she began to make a scene, accusing us of trying to get our money back, even though at that point we hadn't even decided to leave the show. So then we did leave, and turned to see that we were being followed by a constant stream of other people who had, like us, paid for tickets to a show that was being ruined by the staff of the venue.

And I'm sure I'll add a few more examples as the season progresses. Anyone else?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas in New Orleans

This is what is has looked like the past few mornings as the dogs and I have walked along the levee. Very atmospheric, don't you think? A cruise ship suddenly appeared through the fog, and Brando, Zephyr and Sula all sat down, waiting for the passengers gathered on the deck to wave hello. But I'm not sure they could see us.

The day before Christmas, I took each of the foster dogs at Canine Connection for a shopping excursion on Magazine Street. Here's our poor Gus, demonstrating how badly he wants a home for holidays. He's been at Canine Connection since May.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Political animals

I'm up early this morning, which isn't unusual, but in this case, I have to be functional. So at 4:50am, I'm not just typing a blog post. I've already walked and fed the dogs, and soon I'll be in the shower so that I can head out to Metairie for a 5:50am call to appear on the Hot Topics segment of the morning news on ABC 26. We'll be discussing the mayor's recent budget veto, and his insistence on slashing the budgets for the DA, the public defenders office, the school district's after school programs, the city's recreation office, and so on. Oh, and he wants to reduce the size of the police force, too. We'll also be discussing plans for a citywide "Strike Against Crime" on January 9th, to coincide with the two year anniversary of our march to city hall. You can read more about the "strike" at the website.

Then, later tonight, I'll be at Canine Culture for a winetasting and art sale, from 5-8pm. This is what the week has been like, alternating back and forth between the political and the animal. For example, Monday night I went to a 10:10 show of Milk (way past my bedtime, and actually not that great a film) and then, on my way home, found a beautiful female pit bull who had been struck by a hit and run driver. I sat with her, uncertain if she was dead, and then petted her head a few times before closing her eyes.

The next morning, I got a call from WWL-TV requesting an interview about the strike idea. So I jumped into the shower, got dressed, and grabbed a few garbage bags on the way out the door because I knew I'd be passing the dead dog again. I wrapped her up, lifted her carefully into the car and got to my interview just a few minutes late. When the journalist went to shake my hand I said, "You probably don't want to do that." They all thought I was joking, so I explained that I had just lifted a dead pit bull from the side of the road. "Someone had to do it," I explained as I went to wash my hands. Yes, they thought I was crazy.

That interview can be found here.

Then it was back to the car, to drop the poor unnamed dog off at a vet uptown. She was in heat, it was clear, and that obviously had something to do with why she was running in the street.

And then it was on to work.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another dog without a name

This is the only photo I have her.

A little over a week ago, this miniature pincher appeared in my neighborhood. I was on my way to work, and I spotted her on the sidewalk on Forstall Street. The appearance of my car set her running, and she ran faster when slowed down and rolled down the window. Over the next few days, I spotted her, sitting in front of various houses where I knew she didn't live, running in terror from people and cars. I had the horrible sense that she had never been outdoors before. She was frantic.

Once, I spotted her sitting patiently at the door of a gutted house that hadn't been occupied in over three years. She wanted to go inside, and this empty house was perfect, since there would be no strangers to frighten her.

I called animal control, not that they would be able to catch her.

On Wednesday morning, I could hear her frantic barks circling the area as the giant garbage trucks drove through. Later, when I put a tin of food out, she carried it away, very carefully, and I never saw her alive again.

The next day it snowed all morning. I was hoping she had stayed under a house somewhere, even though I knew she would be too cold.

The next day a friend told me she had seen the body, on St. Claude, across from the gas station. Later I drove back and looked for her. She was laying, still and quiet, seeming unharmed, at the bus stop. She seemed much bigger than I remembered.

The SPCA told me to put her in a black plastic bag and call sanitation.

I took her to one of my vets and arranged for her cremation.

She weighed twelve pounds.

Sometime later this week, they will call to tell me that I can take her home.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sula: "I'm running for office in 2012"

Saturday afternoon, I flew up to Michigan to give a reading as part of a Fur Ball for the Humane Society in Ann Arbor. But, actually, it was far more interesting than that. The whole event was the culmination of an art course at the university. Titled "Where the Wild Things Aren't" the course requires students to get to explore the role animals play in our lives. They have to spend time at the shelter, and they read my book, and they create art that is eventually sold at The Fur Ball. (I bought two pieces, along with a gift for my sister).

First, let me get this out of the way: It is very cold up there. In fact, it was snowing. Also, because I'm in the midst of teaching myself, I could only make it an overnight trip, which became an even more abbreviated trip due to my concerns about leaving my house unattended for any period of time (thanks to the continued indifference of the NOPD--but that's another story.)

The class is taught by Holly Hughes, and for a while I wondered at the coincidence of a Holly Hughes teaching in Michigan. There had been one in New York--and I say had because New York seems to exist entirely in the past tense for me. But of course it was the same Holly Hughes, and she was bursting with energy and enthusiasm for the work of her students and the evening itself.

Afterwards, a group of us went to get some food, and somehow Sarah Palin's wardrobe inserted itself in the conversation and like Palin herself, it didn't know when to leave. At one point, someone said that the whole debate about the money spent on clothes was unfair, because they all wear expensive clothes (true) and Palin doesn't have that kind of money. I pointed out that she is worth over 1 million (like most politicians) and everyone agreed...that I was wrong about that. And then I wondered if I was wrong, and if I was wrong, how was it that I got such a crazy idea in my head. I have, in fact, been wrong about things before, so it was entirely possible. But I looked it up, and indeed, she is worth 1.2 million. Which doesn't mean she has cash for clothes, but that isn't really the point.

All of which leads me to this dramatic announcement: after a quiet but thorough internal study, Sula has announced her intention to run for office in 2012. And she'll be doing without any wardrobe. Her net worth is rumored to be about $8, but it is possible she has some assets buried in the yard. Campaign slogan: "Put a real pit bull in the White House". (T-shirts will be available in the new year; she's getting started early.)

There are some possible controversies: Who will she choose as her running mate? Will people feel she is riding on the coattails of Brando's campaign to be Obama's VP? Will she name Zephyr as Secretary of State? Will her historic campaign inspire pit bulls to riot? Is it true that she supports legislation that would reverse breed specific legislation and make it illegal to own a dog that doesn't have at least some pit bull in its DNA?

Only time will tell...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

More on the calendar

Can you believe this shot didn't make it into the calendar? Don't worry, Digger and Anne still get to be Mr. and Mrs. November.

Meanwhile, The Pit Bulls of New Orleans Calendar is getting great reviews. It is an editor's pick from Bark magazine; was featured on Gambit's Blog of New Orleans; and yesterday was included in the Times-Picayune's gift guide.

In addition to being available directly from The Sula Foundation, you can find it at pet and book stores around New Orleans, and even on Amazon.

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's Foxy Brown

Two weeks ago I got a call from a Sula Foundation volunteer, who had been followed home by a female pit bull that her own dog was not interested in having as a guest. We arranged to have her vaccinated and boarded, but there was concern that she might have ringworm, so suddenly no one would board her. Off she went to Metairie Small Animal Hospital, where we stayed for a week before I got the call that there was nothing wrong with her. By then it was the day before Thanksgiving, so today I went to pick up "Lady Foster" and immediately changed her name to Foxy Brown. This photo doesn't do justice to her coloring, which is a faintly brindled copper shade. Unlike anything I've seen before.

Her bill so far is nearly $500--and she hasn't been spayed yet. And she's heartworm negative, thank goodness. If you want to help out, you can send a donation to the Sula Foundation, or buy our fancy calendar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Upcoming events

I've been too busy to begin posting all of my upcoming events, but there are a few that I wanted to announce before time sweeps them away.

This weekend I'll be signing copies of the pit bull calendar at Slim Goodies on Friday from 11-2; at Petco on the Westbank Saturday from 11-2; Belladonna Saturday from 3-5.

Saturday Dec. 6th I'll be in Ann Arbor for an event with students from the University of Michigan to benefit the Humane Society there. More details to come (but it starts at 8pm and includes a variety of performances.)

Saturday Dec. 13th I'll be at the Sankofa Marketplace in the Lower Ninth Ward followed by a signing at Barnes and Noble in Baton Rouge from 6-8pm.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another busy yesterday: Prospect 1 and a nasty wake-up call from Rush Radio

Yesterday morning about this time I checked my email to find that a local doggie daycare person (actually, a suburban doggie daycare) had just emailed me to say that 99.5, our local conservative talk radio station, was having a discussion of pit bulls. And they were out of control. The female half of the team was saying that she wanted to go to a cock fight. I forwarded the email to a producer that I know at the station and she said, "Call in!" So I did. Now, the odd thing about all this is that I used to be a guest on the station fairly regularly, back when it actually had local hosts devoted to local issues. But they recently fired all the hosts and began airing Rush Limbaugh round the clock, with a few new locals hosting in between. And by new locals, I mean, literally...they brought people in from out of town to be the local hosts. As part of this transition, I went to roundtable meeting with all of the hosts and mentioned several of the organizations I'm involved with locally, including The Sula Foundation. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone in the room agreed that pit bulls can be great dogs and that owners are the ones to be held accountable.

So I began by telling the host how surprising it was to hear her stirring up her listeners with this completely new point of view. This did not go over well. We then talked about a horrible incident in Slidell, where two pit bulls got into a man's yard and attacked his dog. He then shot and killed them. His dog will be fine, and although some news reports claimed that the man had also been attacked, he apparently needed no treatment of any kind. Of course, whoever owns the pit bulls needs to be held responsible. Yet, their being allowed to roam stray is not indicative of all pit bulls. And, as many of us know, dogs do get into fights. So while I don't doubt that the man was terrified, and technically within his rights to defend himself, it doesn't mean that this is typical in any way. Except perhaps in the hysteria created by the media. (I also wonder how often these two dogs may have behaved in this way in the past, and how many times it was ignored, either by the owner, or even by authorities who might have received complaints. Some of my high school students have said that the two men involved have been in conflict with each other for quite some time, and that they doubt the dogs had much to do with it at all.)

So why do we only hear about pit bulls attacking, I was asked. And I began to answer, giving examples of media over reporting pit bull attacks and under reporting incidents with other breeds. And...that's when they cut me off.

So, later in the day, I headed up to the CAC for a tour of the Prospect 1 exhibits led by Dan Cameron. Prospect 1 is the newly established biennial, with over 80 artists from around the world on display in galleries and found spaces throughout the city. It opened a few weeks ago to seemingly little fanfare. I've seen a few of the outdoor pieces in my neighborhood, including a really awful piece that consists of a friend's house (often identified as derelict by critics from out of town) spray painted orange by an artist who didn't even come to town--she sent others to do her work for her. So, perhaps my expectations were low. But it was a free event for members, with drinks and food from Bayona, so I went. The food turned out to be a giant bowl of salmon dip with a small cereal bowl of chips for everyone to share. And Cameron's comments mostly dealt with how amazing it was that he pulled it all together, how impressed everyone has been with it, how outside of New Orleans people are talking about the city for the first time because of this....Uh huh.

But the art itself, is pretty spectacular. Of course I didn't love everything, but I did find nearly all of it fascinating. There's a house designed by a man in solitary confinement at Angola; an interesting three screen movie that is...well, surprising; A series of tapestries made from small plastic toys woven together; a large installation addressing an infamous New Orleans bar fire...

And that's just a bit of it. I'm going to have to go back. But if anyone has been wondering if it is worth the trip...It is. It definitely is.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vote today for Ruby!

Milkbone is electing a spokesdog and there is a brindle pit bull in the competition. Today is the last day for voting, so please vote here now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Young Artists/Young Aspirations: 20 Years Old Today!

Tonight YAYA celebrates twenty years of working with young people in the arts in New Orleans. The gala will be held at 617 Piety Street, in one of the many gallery spaces that have popped up around Prospect 1, the new biennial art event in New Orleans. For more information on YAYA, or to make a contribution, you can click here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Pit Bulls of New Orleans 2009 Calendar

Here's a shot from our Sula Foundation pit bull calendar, which should be available by Thanksgiving. We've got pit bulls from all over town: Uptown, Treme, Holy Cross, Bywater, The French Quarter, and a surprising number to work behind the scenes at Magazine Street boutiques. Ask for it at your favorite New Orleans store, or order one now and we'll send it to you.

The calendar yours for a $20 donation, payable by check to The Sula Foundation, PO Box 3780, New Orleans, LA 70117. You can also order via paypal by directing your donation to Or try this link:

Price includes shipping

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Jinx is gone; is Comfortis to blame?

One of Brando's best dog friends was Jinx, a Doberman who moved to the neighborhood after Katrina. Sometimes, I would dogsit for Jinx, and even wrote about him in Dogs I Have Met. I found out this evening that he died last month, from complicatations following a dose of Comfortis, the new monthly oral flea treatment. Lilly, the drug company behind this new pill, paid for the autopsy, which was inconclusive but suggested that his death--from kidney failure and associated infections--was drug induced.

Of course, everyone who knew him is devestated. He was a good dog.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The morning after...

Last night I headed over to the children's music clinic at Sound Cafe, and then stayed to watch the early returns. When Fox News announced that Obama had won Ohio, I headed home to the dogs, spent some time in the yard and then piled into bed to hear the final speeches. I was impressed with what McCain had to say, and I wish he had conducted his campaign in a similar fashion. Then the image of the Obama family taking to the stage was all I needed--incredibly moving and exciting to seem them as our First Family.

Of course, not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I've heard from several people in the past few weeks who have let me know that they will never buy or read any of my books again. Because I supported Obama. Because I posted something about Cindy McCain's illegal actions while addicted. Etc. Of course, these same people forwarded character assassinations of the Obamas which were not based in fact at all. That is, apparently, a patriotic activity.

All of this made me consider the number of businesses I support that obviously don't share my views. I live in a red state. I make a point of shopping local businesses. Yet it has never occurred to me that I should threaten a boycott until they apologize or change their political views.

My favorite of these emails included a claim that I would be shocked when Michelle Obama's senior thesis was finally released after the election. Of course, it was released long ago, and is available for download by anyone who wants it. I pointed this out to the reader, and never heard from her again.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voted and Exit Polled

Both McCain and Bush have made a big deal about visiting my neighborhood as part of their effort to retain the White House, but their volunteers didn't see any reason to come down and post signs along the avenue; its Obama and Landrieu everywhere you turn.

Sula woke up this morning and ran through the house like it was Christmas. After running around the yard, I decided to put my vote in early, and Sula insisted on tagging along. We drove across the Canal to our polling location, but the lines were too long so I turned around to take Sula home. The campaign signs along the way made her nervous. Then I returned and stood in line with excited friends and neighbors, all anxious to cast their votes. On the way out, I was polled by AP regarding who I voted for, what my concerns are for the country, and how the hurricane affected me. At least one category didn't have an appropriate answer for me. "When did you decide who you were voting for?" There was no box that said "Four years ago."

Have we underestimated the pit bull vote?

A few weeks ago I posted something about Obama's position on pit bulls. He's against breed specific legislation (BSL) and in favor of laws that hold owners responsible for their dogs regardless of breed. When I posted it, I said that this obviously wasn't the most important issue in the campaign--but a politician's position on this issue often suggests how they work toward solutions. Do they try to find a way of addressing the problem, or do they prefer to feed the public's fears and then craft something that only works on paper?

Since that post, I've actually been getting a lot of traffic on my blog from people who are searching for Obama's position on pit bulls. In recent weeks, many of these voters are coming to my blog from the swing state of Ohio, where owning a pit bull--or any dog that looks like one--is illegal.

Meanwhile, here in New Orleans, there are bunch of pit bulls looking for homes. The beautiful boy in this photo is named Buddy. He's another Gustov refugee, and currently he's having a blast at a foster home with a pit bull/catahoula mix. But he'd prefer a place of his own.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Paws to Protect

Obama. Pit bulls. Palin. I promise this post contains none of these elements. Ooops, too late.

Sharon Sakson's new book, Paws to Protect, is due out in the next couple of weeks, and it features 18 stories of dog heroes throughout history, including Sgt. Stubby, a pit bull who was awarded more medals than any other dog in military history. He was even awarded the Purple Heart.

The book also features a brief foreword by Ken Foster--that's me.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Here's Nana. She was adopted a year ago from the LA-SPCA, but her owner developed health problems and lost his job. When he moved in with relatives they refused to allow Nana to come along. She's become quite a favorite at Zeus' Place, where she is staying until she finds a new home.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Today is National Pit Bull Awareness Day...

and I've been so aware of pit bulls lately that I almost didn't do anything for today. But then I wrote an editorial for the Times-Picayune, which appears today. It addresses some of the complex issues regarding the Boudreaux dogfighting case, which was dismissed by a judge last week, over three years after a bust that resulted in all of their dogs--over fifty pit bulls--being euthanized.

But, of course, the case is far more complicated than can be expressed in a 600 word editorial, and one of the things that fascinates me is that I find myself questioning each side of the case. A few other things that I couldn't fit in:

1. One of my friends owns a Boudreaux dog named Cornbread. He's fourteen years old and we just photographed him in the corner booth of a popular diner for our calendar.
2. Part of the evidence in this case involved dogfighting paraphernalia. If someone raided my home, they would find many of these same items: a break stick (packed away in a box somewhere); dogfighting literature (for research, really!); canine medical supplies; and even a pit bull who appears to have scarring on her face.
3. The Boudreaux family attended my pit bull friendly publication party last year--but never identified themselves to me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More puppies!

The population of unwanted pit bulls, even the the puppy form, shows no sign of slowing down. Meet Roseanne and her sister Lucinda, abandoned in a backyard at about seven weeks old. They're in the midst of getting their vaccinations and will eventually be up for adoption via The Sula Foundation. Speaking of Sula, I was in Whitney Bank yesterday, waiting in line to make a deposit into the Sula account to cover heartworm treatments for some of our rescued pits, and overheard the bank manager talking to the security guard in her glass-walled office. "I don't trust anyone's pit bull," she said. Of course, I immediately began to eavesdrop. The security guard noticed me eavesdropping and asked if I needed something, so I stuck my head in and said, "Did I hear someone say something about pit bulls?" The was a pause and then the manager said, "No." "Oh," I said, "I thought I heard someone say something about pit bulls." "No," she said, "we were just talking about animals in general." "Well, I work with pit bulls," I said, "so it got my attention." No one said anything else, and I excused myself, wondering if it was time to change banks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No lipstick required

Here's an amazing Bad Rap pit bull performing some yoga moves in what looks like the hallway of Oakland Animal Services.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Roseanne Cash announces she's running...for VP

I love Roseanne Cash. I love her music. And I love the conversation we had several years ago on the day we started this crazy war. She has a great, truly funny, smart, self-depricating essay in The Nation on why she is qualified to be VP.

Now I just need to get her to make good on her promise to come to New Orleans.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Does "Joe the Plumber" make over a quarter million a year?

The McCain campaign has latched onto Joe the Plumber, the poor working class man who will be unfairly punished by Barack Obama, just for being a hard-working plumber. But this conversation started with the plumber saying he's getting ready to purchase a business that makes over 250,000 a year. There aren't many of us that can say the same thing these days. And, more than that, a business that clears a quarter million doesn't get taxed until the books are balanced. So is he talking gross or net? And if he is clearing that figure, shouldn't he be paying more taxes than me rather than less?

UPDATE: Turns out Joe the Plumber doesn't have a plumbing license. And he owes back taxes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"A fact is a fact" says McCain, as he continues lying

In the final debate last night, McCain did a remarkable thing. He tried to distance himself from the negative campaign he's running while simultaneously forwarding the same inaccurate information that he's been criticized for in the past. In addition to the "2 million dollar projector" he focused on the William Ayers controversy and insisted that Ayers was a key part of the launch of Obama's career. The Chicago Tribune found the facts quite different:

*Obama's campaign really was launched when he got the backing of then state Sen. Alice Palmer (D-Chicago), who wanted him to replace her as she was planning a run for Congress. Palmer's backing gave him entrée into local influential political circles.

Obama and Palmer would later have a falling out that continues to this day. Palmer changed her mind and decided to run for re-election after all. Obama got Palmer and his other rivals knocked off the ballot. Palmer ended up backing Hillary Rodham Clinton's Democratic primary bid.

*Obama's formal kick-off to announce his run for state senate was at the Hyde Park Ramada Inn on Sept. 19, 1995. Obama was introduced by Palmer in a room filled with supporters at the Ramada, fronting Lake Michigan on South Lake Shore Drive, a stroll from the Museum of Science and Industry.

*Around this time, Obama started to attend a series of coffees in the Hyde Park community where he lived, standard operating procedure for political rookies running in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Chicago.

"I was certainly (hosting) one of the first," said Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, rabbi emeritus at Chicago's KAM Isaiah Israel--located across the street from the Obama home.

"There were several every week," he recalled on Tuesday night when we spoke. "I remember what I said to him: 'Someday you are going to be vice president of the United States.' He laughed and said, 'Why not president?'''

*The Ackermans, Sam and Martha, longtime Hyde Park activists in independent Democratic politics, also held an early event for Obama in their condo on E. Hyde Park Boulevard. (They have since divorced.)

Sam Ackerman told me Tuesday when we exchanged e-mails that "as I recall, the event at Bill Ayers' house (prior to ours) was a fund-raiser for Alice's congressional campaign at which she also introduced Barack as the successor she would like to see elected."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Judith Owen and Sally Mann, belatedly

I've been meaning to post about some of the great shows that have been going on around town, but I've been too busy to get any posts up, about anything. Except Sarah Palin, who has seemingly hacked into my blog to post embarrassing info about herself.

Back in September, Judith Owen played a show at the CAC. Judith is a great songwriter, pianist, and singer. Her style is bluesy, jazzy, folksy--a bit of a Joni Mitchell influence, but with a wicked sense of humor. She also happens to be married to Harry Shearer and loves dogs. Judith has said she'll do raise money for the Sula Foundation, but scheduling is impossible, so we'll see. In any case, the show was great. She played with a small string section, and reworked some songs from her new CD, Mopping Up Karma, which was actually supposed to be released by Capitol a decade ago as producer Glenn Ballard's followup to Alainis Morrissette. Of course, this is another reason I love Judith Owen--she introduces songs by telling the story of how everything has gone wrong, how foolish she's been. And she tells stories about how much she loves Harry. The highlight of the evening was a new song, "Manhole," which is about depression and it knocked everyone's socks off. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.

A few weeks later, at the Ogden, photographer Sally Mann held a discussion about her show there: "What Remains." I thought it would be interesting to hear her speak, but was a little aghast when I saw the show. The entire first gallery focuses on photos of her favorite greyhound after it died. Most of these are photos of the dog's bones, exhumed a year after its death and carefully arranged. These didn't bother me as much as the photos of the dog's skin hung like a cloak on a hook. I asked her about that "process" and she said, "Yes, that is different, isn't it?" The exhibit continues with photos of dead bodies in a "body farm"; a series taken on Mann's farm the day an escaped convict was cornered and killed himself in a grove of trees; a civil war battlefield; and extreme closeups of her now grown children. It was interesting to hear her talk about what she was going through while taking these photos, her thoughts on death and mortality. But I don't know that what she had to say really exists in the photos on display.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Twilight" mania at the New Orleans Film Festival

Last night I introduced "How To Be" at the New Orleans Film Festival. It is an odd little British comedy about a young British man who is, as I like to put it, an incredibly awkward loser. But he's played by Robert Pattinson, who will soon be playing the young vampire heartthrob in the film version of "Twilight," based on Stephanie Meyer's trilogy. He also appeared in the last couple of Harry Potters.

I arrived at the theater 45 minutes early and the teenage girls were already in line. Some had driven from Orlando; others from Oklahoma. Following the film, we were scheduled to be doing a Q and A with Rob, via telephone. In person, another young actor would appear, Mike Pearce. Before the audience was let in, we tested the phone hookup that would allow Rob to hear me speaking into a wireless mic, and allow us to hear him over the speakers of the theater. "How did you end up in this film?" A stand in for Rob offered that he had been out drinking and met a man who said he looked the part. "Do you get all your work while drinking in bars?" I asked. "Yes," the imposter offered.

The screening went well--even the older audience members enjoyed it--and then we went on to the interview session, with Mike and I at the front of the theater answering the first few questions while waiting for Rob to appear on the phone. Poor Mike seems like a nice guy, but he isn't really an actor apparently, and had only appeared in the film as a favor to the director. Eventually "Hello" boomed down from above us, and the girls all swooned, and I was running around the auditorium like a talk show host taking questions that always began with "I'm Tiffany" or some other lengthy introduction. But it was fun. Rob was calling from his car, trapped in traffic on a freeway in Los Angeles. Towards the end he said, "I don't even know where you all are." "New Orleans," I said, and he replied, "New Orleans! Why didn't I go to that one??"

The publicists shot each other a look at the back of the theater.

Afterwords, Mike went out into the lobby for a long autograph session and I went to get a glass of wine.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who is John McCain?

I was, I admit, a bit cranky when I posted the following. But after so many speeches and websites and viral emails asking "Who is Obama?" and suggesting erroneous connections to people who aren't close to him at all, I thought it would be worth pointing to some concerns I have about McCain's truly close associates. It is interesting how the "conservative" media ignores the following stories.

Who is John McCain? And what can we make of the people he chooses to associate with?

His wife used a nonprofit organization to fill prescription drugs for her own use--using the names of her employees.

His running mate was found guilty of abusing her position as Governor to settle a score with her sister's ex-husband. Oddly, most of the conservative press has completely overlooked this story.

His campaign has accepted money from anonymous and fictitious donors, and accusation he raises against his opponent.

One of his major campaign contributors also funded a project on which William Ayers served on the board. McCain now denounces Obama for a similar association.

A Senate ethics committee found McCain guilty of "bad judgement" for his relationship with a savings and loan goon.

The Busy Season: Sankofa Marketplace, New Orleans Film Festival take over the schedule

I'm bracing for an insanely busy weekend, beginning tonight with the opening of the New Orleans Film Festival. Tonight, I'll be introducing Mike Leigh's new film Happy Go Lucky at Canal Place; tomorrow night, I'll be introducing another British film, How to Be, followed by a Q and A with actor Robert Pattinson via phone and Mike Pearce in the flesh. On Monday at the Prytania, I'll be introducing War Eagle, Arkansas (which has some really great performances) and hosting a Q and A with the producer afterwards.

And tomorrow from 10-3pm, I'll be at the Sankofa Marketplace at St. Claude and Caffin, with fresh produce including shrimp, sweet potatoes and more. Also, great live music throughout the day, health screenings, arts and crafts, and so on.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Voter Registration deadline is TODAY

If you haven't yet registered to vote, today is your last chance. If you aren't sure if you are registered, today is your last chance. If you are sure that you are registered, confirm it today so that you aren't surprised in November.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A fellowship

I keep meaning to mention this, and then think I should wait, but now I'm thinking if I don't say something, I'll forget completely. The Louisiana Division of the Arts has kindly awarded me a Fellowship to support the completion of a collection of short stories. I got the news in late August; the awards ceremony is next week in Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vote for The Sula Foundation and help us win a grant

Some of you know that The Sula Foundation recently took in several dogs abandoned after Gustov, including three heartworm positive dogs. And many of you have sent donations to help cover their expenses. The good news is that several dogs now have new homes: Grover, Kaspar, Bandit, Bess, Sable and JP all have foster or permanent homes. Maude, the female bulldog, had to have a hernia repaired, but hopefully she and Harold will soon be in a foster home receiving their heartworm treatment. Even more exciting, we're talking with an organization that works with at-risk youth about teaming on some educational programs.

So, if you want to help out but don't have the cash, please vote for The Sula Foundation at The Animal Rescue Site's Shelter Challenge. You can vote everyday through December 14th, and they will be awarding $100,000 in grants based on the results. Just follow the link and type in The Sula Foundation and select LA for the state. Then follow the directions to vote.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bandit: Relaxed, or just very proud of his neuter surgery?

Bandit, the enormous white pit bull that I found a few weeks ago, has been doing quite well in boarding at Zeus' Place. Here he is taking a nap with Hubig Pie and a few toys. He'll be moving in with Hubig and beginning heartworm treatment shortly. Meanwhile, Grover is finally moving into a new home as well, and he too will begin treatment for heartworms. Harold and Maude, the English bulldogs, had their spay/neuter done on Monday, and the doctor discovered that Maude had a hernia. You would have never guessed it from the way she grabbed the steering wheel from me on the way to the clinic. The puppies, too, are slowly making their way into homes. For more info on these dogs, you can go to The Sula Foundation.

Pit Bulls for Obama

Readers of this blog know that Brando has long been a supporter of Barack Obama. But when a friend of mine came to town a few months ago with a button featuring a smiling pit bull and the words "Pit Bulls for Obama," I had to ask, "What is his position on pit bulls?" Actually, first I asked if she had a button for me.

Of course, a position on pit bulls isn't the most pressing issue of the day. Unless you actually are a pit bull. But I do think you can tell a lot about someone by how they make certain policy decisions. So my friend went on to tell me about her experience working with Obama on dangerous dog legislation in Illinois several years ago, before he became a US Senator. He was great, she said. He actually listened to people, and helped to create a law that addresses irresponsible owners and repeat offenders. My friend said it was unusual to meet with someone who was actually grateful for advice and feedback on a law that had already been drafted. She also went on to say that she did a little more research and found that Obama also supported another law, which outlaws breed specific legislation in Illinois.

Of course, there are those who insist that Obama has never been involved in creating a law. Those are the same people who think that Palin has foreign policy credentials. And don't get Brando started on that awful pit bull joke Palin loves to tell. "Lipstick?" Brando says. "But pit bulls don't wear lipstick!"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harold becomes art

Just weeks ago, Harold the English bulldog was wandering New Orleans with his friend Maude, wearing a dog tag stolen from a black lab that had been missing since Katrina. Now he's a work of art. Rescued by the Sula Foundation, a local pit bull group, Harold's photo made its way around the country via emails and websites and generated over $1000 in contributions toward heartworm treatment for Harold, Maude, and their friend Bandit, a white pit bull who was found alongside them. When artist Leigh Jackson saw him, she immediately asked permission to paint his portrait. The result is now available on her website, with a portion of the proceeds going toward Harold's heartworm treatment.

You can meet Harold, Maude, and Bandit this Saturday at The Sula Foundation's "Our Gang" adoption event at Canine Culture, 8110 Hampson Street, New Orleans, LA, from 11-3pm. The event will also feature adoptable dogs from The Sula Foundation and Dag's House, as well as Little Rascals movies and free lemonade. For more information, or to schedule an interview with the dogs, call Ken Foster at 504-613-7370.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some dog attacks you haven't heard about...

There's a website I won't name that devotes itself to an obsessive reporting (and misreporting) of pit bull bites. They also present, out of context, a CDC study that even the CDC refutes as being biased. So, are pit bulls really the only dogs that attack. Yesterday I spent ten minutes pulling up reports from just the past week. Here are just a few examples:

A beagle and a kelpie are blamed for a recent attack which left 20 sheep, in full superfine wool, dead and others mauled.---Albany and Great Southern Weekender, 4/9/2008

BRAVE dog attack survivor Princess Goodwin will find out what made her pet snap when she meets a famous animal psychiatrist live on GMTV. Mum-of-three and former model Princess was left needing major reconstructive surgery after her own hound savaged her in the middle of the night.And Princess, of Jewel Walk, Bewbush – who said she thought someone had 'smashed her in the face' when her greyhound ripped of part of her nose and cheek – reckoned knowing what had caused her dog's blood lust would help her sleep at night.--Crawley Observer, 9/16/08

A man has been attacked by three Boxer dogs in a Londonderry park as he tried to protect his puppy from harm.---BBC 9/9/08

HOPATCONG, N.J. - A 6-day-old Hopatcong girl attacked in her crib by the family dog has died from her injuries. Sussex County Prosecutor David Weaver said Alexis Hennessy was bitten Saturday afternoon by Shadow, a 3-year-old Husky. The infant was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. --Newsday, 9/7/08

...Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the attack. Police said that, contrary to previous information they had released, the dog involved in the incident was an English bull terrier - not a pit-bull terrier as reported. Unlike pit bulls, English bull terriers are not subject to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which gives clear instruction to owners about how they must treat certain breeds.--This is Lancashire, 9/16/08

No charges will be filed against the owners of three dogs that attacked a Clay County deputy sheriff last week in Moorhead while serving civil papers, an official said Friday. The Sept. 4 incident at 223 12th St. S. occurred at the door when Deputy Mike Honek was filing papers. Three dogs attacked the deputy and bit him in the leg...
The dogs were Catahoulas, a dog that varies from 50 pounds to 90 pounds. The breed is known to be protective of its territory and family, which it regards as its pack.--In Forum, ND 9/12/08

Police in Medford say a mixed-breed dog that charged a Medford utility worker, then chased and bit a 9-year-old boy, will be put to death.--KAJO, 9/12/08

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Kaspar Hauser

This morning as I walked my own dogs through the lower Ninth, I came across a young man on a stoop with a blue pit bull puppy. "Do you want another one?" he asked. And then he proceeded to tell me the mysterious story of the dog we now call Kaspar Hauser. Since the power is still out, this man slept with his door ajar--and when he woke in the morning he found Kaspar curled up next to him in bed. He said he wanted to keep the dog, but knew he wouldn't be able to take proper care of him. He said he'd already had someone offer to buy him. I told him I'd take good care of the dog, but when I returned to fetch him, but the dog and the man were gone. I left a note offering a reward, and a few hours later he called me.

You can read about the real Kasper Hauser here.

If anyone would like to help with this influx of dogs, even small contributions are meaningful. More details at

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another Gustov stray

Bandit, named after Vicki Hearne's dog, was among the pack that included Harold and Maude. After vetting them and dropping them off for boarding, I returned to the lower ninth ward and found Bandit waiting for me. I put food down on the street and after eating, he ran over and buried his head in my lap. Like Harold and Maude, he is heartworm positive. If anyone can help toward their treatment, please make a contribution to The Sula Foundation.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dogs roaming the streets of New Orleans

While the storm wasn't as bad as we feared, there are still lots of dogs running loose in New Orleans. This morning I picked up a black female Old English (I think?) bulldog and with her a white male bulldog. The female was in particularly bad shape, with bite marks on one side of her face. The male was wearing a tag that belonged to a black lab that was lost during Katrina. They are both heartworm positive--and incredibly friendly.

I'm still electricity my posts will be infrequent.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


We're home, but there's no electricity in Holy Cross. Still, the dogs are happy to be home and so am I. Power lines are down all over our area, with no sign of anyone picking them up, let alone reconnecting them to the grid.

Meanwhile, you can entertain yourselves with this interview from NPR, which showed up on my doorstep Sunday as I loaded the dogs into the car.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Waiting is the hardest part...

The St. Louis Beacon asked me to write about what it is like the second time around. Here it is.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The latest on Gustav and the pit bulls left behind

Just a quick update, via a borrowed computer. The dogs and I left yesterday around 1pm. As I loaded them into the car, an NPR reporter pulled up to interview us, including recording some thoughts from Brando on the whole ordeal. They asked what it was I wanted to save from possible flood waters, and I mentioned a painting of a pit bull by Sandy Chism. I couldn't decide if it would be safer downstairs, where it might flood, or in the attic, where the roof might blow off. It ended up in the car, with the real pit bulls.

Our initial plan was to head to north Alabama. But it took eight hours to get just 100 miles away. So we ended up in Tylertown, Mississippi, along with Dag and Grover and a bunch of other dogs. The storm hit this morning, with tornado warnings in every direction, so here we stay.

The night before we left, I tracked an abandoned female pit through the lower ninth, trying to catch her, not knowing where I would put her if I did. I also got email with a photo of two pits abandoned on a balcony. But the most shocking, disappointing, distressing news was an email from SAWA and the SPCA of Texas, announcing they'd already resuced 300 animals and assuring potentional adoptors that none were pit bulls. In bold.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evacuating New Orleans, again

I just boarded up my house and I have the food and clothes packed. But since I know from experience that it may be some time before we return, I keep finding little errands to distract me from the main event.

It looks like Gustav will hitting Louisiana hard, although this time the West Bank is the target. Still, the heavy rains will no doubt produce some flooding. The city is pretty quiet, as people have been packing and taking off for days. The fact that it is Labor Day weekend helped, since many already had plans to go somewhere.

I had no plans to go anywhere for a very long time, so I'm having a hard time with this.

Friday night I lent a crate to some people down the street who needed a way to get T Bone on the bus. They had recently moved from Michigan and had no experience with hurricanes. Yesterday I helped to distribute pet carriers around town. That's when I started feeling immobilized with anxiety.

I had reservations to the west and to the east. The west is no good now, and the days are booked are too soon to get us through the whole storm, so the dogs and I will now leave and perhaps stay a night in Tylertown before heading to a park in Alabama where we have a reservation in a cabin on the lake.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go '08

Three years ago, I posted an entry on my blog wondering if I should evacuate New Orleans. I left the morning of the 28th, and when I finally got to a working computer a week later, I discovered dozens of messages left for me from friends and strangers, all saying, "Go!"

Tomorrow marks the anniversary, three years in recovery. And once again, we are facing evacuation. This time, I planned ahead, booking a room to the west, and another to the north. Unfortunately I only booked the rooms for Sunday and Monday, hoping that I'd be back for Tuesday, which is once again my birthday. Now it looks like the storm is coming Tuesday, and there isn't a room to be had in any of the surrounding states.

And, I don't want to leave. I can't helping thinking that the very simple act of driving out of town will inspire a sort of time warp that will bring me back through all the events of that last storm and its aftermath. I'd just rather not.

So I'm left with a lot of what ifs. What if the storm doesn't come? What if my house gets looted? What if it floods again? What if Brando and Zephyr aren't as good as Sula climbing the ladder into the attic? What if the power goes out and I loose all that food? What if the food goes so bad that I loose my refrigerator? What if we leave town and can't find a place to stay? What if we stay and the house blows down?

So, I've been playing it safe, buying a cooler, making extra ice, storing water, filling the gas tank. Even if we come through this okay, it'll cost hundreds of dollars. What I'm hoping for, is no storm at all, and a quite Labor Day weekend with all the events canceled.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A little editorial on excellence

Just after I was walked out of the Ritz-Carlton last week, I emailed an editor at the Times Picayune. The subject line: "Tossed from the party." The message: "Can I write about it?" The answer: "Yes!"

But, of course, Chris Rose was in attendance as well, and he wrote about it. After hearing no response from the paper on my own piece--the only report that actually was from someone on the street and in the party--I emailed them again. The answer: Nice work, can't run it, Katrina Anniversary, Democratic convention, Chris Rose, etc.

So, you can now read it here instead.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tossed from Nagin's party by the NOPD

As many of you know, Mayor Nagin's friends threw him a party this evening, to honor him with an award for Excellence in Recovery, a phrase I generally associate with Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Spears. When people began to express their outrage, the awards committee (a photographer named Bernardo) specified that the party was really intended to honor everyday survivors. The owner of the Penthouse (in the Ritz Carlton) where the party was to take place announced that he considered it public space. I guess I missed the day when he handed out keys.

So, people gathered at the hotel, with signs, and with a box of fake Oscar statuettes, which I somehow ended up giving out. I gave them to bloggers, to women with strollers, to people who are actually trying to find reasons to continue contributing to New Orleans. With one award left, a party guest traded his engraved invitation for a statue. Go up, he said, adding, I'm just going for fun. In fact, the small sample of people I talked to admitted they were only attending for free food and drinks.

I went around the crowd, trying to get others to use the invite, which specified no dress code, no rsvp, and admitted two. No one wanted to go. I ended up in the elevator with Chris Rose, a local columnist, his date, a friend and a random couple, who, like most, admitted they were in it for the drinks.

We rode up the elevator taking bets on who would be tossed first. I flashed my invite, walked in, looked around and then was notified by an NOPD officer that my friend had gone to the bathroom. I've been at many functions, both high and low, and never had the cops tell me with my companion was peeing. So I went out to look for her and then began to wonder if something had happened to her. When she reappeared, so did the cops, who told us we needed to leave immediately. Who instructed them, I asked. Bernardo, I was told.

So, I guess the fact that I teach high school, and college, and volunteer on several nonprofits, and recently bought property, and frequently encourage the support of outside agencies and volunteers...etc--all that is just proof that I'm impeding the recovery. Meanwhile Nagin's bogus award is somehow a sign of progress. I guess there must still be some NOAH designated federal funds to squander. Good luck guys!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

There will be puppies

Tonight at Canine Culture, 8110 Hampson Street, New Orleans, from 6-8pm, you can meet Jean-Pierre (pictured here) and his two sisters, all of whom are looking for homes.

Also, dog baths for $10, and beer!

Honoring Ray Nagin at the Ritz

Many of you may know that on Friday at 7pm, Ray Nagin will be honored at the Ritz Carlton with an award for "Excellence in Recovery." And, if you didn't already know that, I'll give you a few minutes to recover.

How did this happen? Well, some wealthy friends got together, created a committee and an award, and then planned a big party to match. Why? Because they are all out of touch, and maybe because there are a few favors Nagin can still do for them before the uprising...well, I was going to make a reference to the French Revolution here, but I don't want to get too specific. Because certainly a sarcastic comment on a blog could inspire legal action, even while people openly dealing drugs, running people down on the street, and killing each other is greeted with a collective shrug from law enforcement.

Do I sound cranky? I am.

So, just for fun, it appears that a group of people will be gathering at 6pm. Just for fun, mind you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An unusual cameo appearance in the film "Marley and Me"

A couple of months ago I received a release form from Fox 2000 requesting permission to use my work. What was most exciting was they wanted permission to use my collection of short stories, The Kind I'm Likely to Get. Did someone actually want to adapt my stories for the screen? No. They wanted to use it as a prop. And so, in the scene in which Jennifer Aniston finally agrees to let Marley sleep in the house, she is seen curled up in bed reading my non-dog stories in The Kind I'm Likely to Get. I've been told that the scene is so pivotal there is little chance of it being cut. (Wouldn't it have been even cooler if she'd been reading The Dogs Who Found Me?)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My favorite gadfly

You know how New Orleans is the perfect environment for insects:The New York Times has a story on that crazy gadfly from the other side of town, Karen Gadbois. And when I say crazy gadfly, I mean heroic friend, of course. Karen was one of the speakers when we marched to city hall in January 2007. And she and I were trapped on an Ed Blakely bus tour of the non-recovery plan later that year. And...well, I could go on, but just go read the story, which actually does call her a gadfly.

UPDATE: I decided to look up the word in the Miriam-Webster dictionary...and this doesn't sound so good--


1 : any of various flies (as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock 2 : a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Best American Nonrequired Readers interpret "Feral Children"

As far as I know, my story "Feral Children" will not be appearing in the 2008 edition of Best American Nonrequired Reading, which is edited by high school students at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. However, earlier this year, I discovered this transcription of their consideration of the story, and it remains listed in their Top Ten (whatever that means).

But what I loved about their discussion was how their interpretations were all over the place--and yet never far from the mark. It is a strange story. And for those who are interested, you can dig it up in an old issue of Fence.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A crazy mayor, an oil spill, and one wacky summer

On Monday, NOCCA starts up again for the year. This has thrown me into a panic, since I haven't come close to finishing the work I thought I'd get done in my summer "off." In fact, I've been so focused on teaching, writing a couple of freelance pieces, and juggling strange emergencies, even this blog has been ignored. So now we'll try to catch up.

1. Our mayor is crazier than ever. WWL recently broke a story about a city contracted agency--NOAH--that spent several million in federal money remediating houses that don't exist. Although a number of people have been researching the story for months, and made numerous inquiries for information from the Mayor's office, Nagin called a press conference to accuse the media of being mean and trying to stand in the way of recovery. That's funny, because most people would think that misappropriating federal money (and hiring relatives in the process) would be something that would stall recovery. So here's a link to that press conference. In it, Nagin also says they had the wrong list of properties, that he gave them the right list and they ignored it. So, after reviewing Nagin's list, they found even more discrepencies. Nagin's response: "I don't know what list your using...I never gave you a list."

2. Last week I woke up to the smell of oil. In my house. Was someone burning something? Was someone using diesel as weed killer? No, it was 400,000 gallons of oil drifting by my house. Outside, a neighbor warned me not to walk the dogs to the levee--another neighbors dogs had jumped in and emerged covered in oil. Of course, this hasn't been national news at all. What is surprising is it barely registered locally for the first few days, except for the economic impact of closing the river to traffic. Yesterday, another 2500 gallons were released from the damaged barge, which is apparently sitting at the bottom of the river. This morning the dogs and I walked the levee and saw a team of people preparing to clean the oil that has collected along the banks.

3. Speaking of dogs, a few weeks ago, Zephyr got bit on the ass by another dog in the neighborhood. This seemed almost funny, until we realized she was actually injured. In fact, the laceration was so close to her anus, it required putting her fully under in order to suture and staple it. And then she had to wear a cone for two weeks, which traumatized everyone, particularly Sula, who thought it was thundering every time Z ran into the door with her cone.

4. Speaking of other dogs, last week at the Sula Foundation's lecture on dangerous dog laws, Jefferson Animal control arrived with a litter of pit bull puppies that would be put to sleep if they didn't find foster homes immediately. The parish has a policy of euthanizing any pit bulls that arrive in the shelter. So, one puppy flew to NYC with an ASPCA lawyer; she is settling into life on the UWS. Two others are being fostered at Canine Connection. And the fourth is in a private home (with Suzie, the missing pit bull who was found!). They all cried like crazy when they were separated.

5. I have a feature piece in the Books section of Time Out New York. It's an interview with Jack Pendarvis, and to be honest, I originally submitted it as a Q & A, because Jack is so interesting and funny. But apparently that isn't allowed. So its in a dryer profile format. I'll post the original version next week.

6. In addition to NOCCA, I'll be teaching in the MFA program at UNO this fall. I am really excited to be asked to fill in while one of the regular teachers is on tour.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Best Friends Webinar this weekend

I'll be doing a series of webinars with Best Friends this weekend. The first of them, on Friday, is for BF volunteers only. But Sunday's session is open to anyone, and it is free. For details, go to the Best Friends Network.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Could New Orleans lose it's only multi-screen cinema?

Apparently, the answer is absolutely not. An over eager employee posted a notice asking people to email the main office as a preemptive measure. But I just received word that there is no fear of any closing in their future.

Just for the record, here is my original post:

I just noticed a post on another site, in which a Canal Place employee asks "we'd like you to help us in making a preemptive strike in saving Canal Place Cinema. Please take a moment of your time to contact our home office and tell them how much you love us." Canal Place is the only multiplex in New Orleans and the only theater to show foreign and indie films. The only other movie theater in the city is the Prytania, an old fashioned single screen theater with an organ waiting off to the side of the stage. The rest of the theaters have shut down over the years, so for the most part, you need to get a car and drive to the suburbs.

The email address to write is

July 24th: Ledy Van Kavage speaks on pit bulls and dangerous dogs

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"A Little Vicious" now available on DVD

Immy Humes' documentary "A Little Vicious" follows the case of Bandit, a pit bull type dog who was saved from "death row" by Vicki Hearne. The case was complex: the dog's bit was a response to bad behavior from his owner, a man who simply didn't know any better. But Mr. Redd, the owner, also had the disadvantage of being poor and black, so a judge awarded custody to Hearne, who then hoped to prove Bandit was sound and return him to his owner. The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1992.

Of course, I mention all of this in my Bark story on Hearne and her work. But now the director has made DVD's available on her website. You can order "A Little Vicious" by clicking here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Have you seen this dog?

Suzie ran away during fireworks on the Fourth, from a yard in the 1400 block of N. Prieur. She is a friendly, young, spayed female, popular in her clicker obedience class, and her people are desperate to find her. You can email or call 504 376 4777

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Remembering Vicki Hearne in the August issue of Bark

For the new "Summer Reading" issue of Bark, I contributed a feature on the work of Vicki Hearne, the poet-philospher-dogtrainer-author of Adam's Task, Bandit and Animal Happiness, all of which have recently been reissued by Skyhorse Publishing. Hearne is one of those names that follows me around, and I first heard of her many years ago, when Rene Steinke told me that she and her husband had considered sending their dog Coco to Vicki for boot camp. But they couldn't stand the idea of being apart from him. Later, it was Amy Hempel who mentioned her. Then, later again, Katharine Weber, who was so friendly with Hearne that she allowed Bandit, the "dangerous" pit bull, to come swimming with her kids. Donald McCaig was a long-time friend of Hearne as well. And Richard Maxwell too. There wasn't enough room to include everyone in the feature. But you can pick up a copy to read all about it--and a lot of other great summer dog features.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another round of essay writing at Mediabistro

My latest section of advanced personal essay opens up tonight online; the chat doesn't really begin til next Wednesday, so I think there may be time to sign up.

Meanwhile, I'm in classes myself this week with a team of people from The Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt design museum. The project is called "A City of Neighborhoods" and we're looking at design as a solution to all kinds of problems as well as its applications in the classroom. More on all that later...

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Sula fundraiser, now even more FUN!

The Sula Foundation ( will hold its first major fundraiser on June 19th from 6-8pm at Canine Culture, 8110 Hampson Street, New Orleans. Dedicated to fostering responsible pit bull ownership, The Sula Foundation was created by local author Ken Foster and named after his pit bull Sula, featured in the bestselling book, The Dogs Who Found Me.

The June 19th "Pitching for Pit Bulls" party will feature raffle prizes and silent auction items from a wide variety of local businesses who support the cause, including the New Orleans Zephyrs, George Rodrigue, Louisiana Music Factory, Crescent City Farmers Market, Maple Street Bookshop, New Orleans Film Society, Salon d'Malta, dba, The Joint, Gnome, and many others. In addition, items have been donated from across the US, from independent bookseller, novelist Cathleen Schine, photographer Traer Scott, Harry Abrams Publishers, Skyhorse Books, Bark Magazine and more. The event will also feature live music from The Hot 8 Brass Band, food, drinks and a baseball-themed costume contest for dogs. Area shelters will also be on hand with adoptable dogs invited to join the party.

Proceeds from the event will fund the Sula Foundation's ongoing low-cost pit bull vaccination clinics and free spay/neuter program. Upcoming clinics include:
Tuesday June 17th from 5:30-7pm, in the 5100 block of Burgundy Street and
Tuesday June 24th 5:30-7pm at Freret and Cadiz.
The clinics offer rabies, distemper and bordetella vaccinations for $5 each, as well as training information and other resources.

"Pit bulls have historically been family dogs," Foster says. "The Sula Foundation's programs are designed to create a dialogue between dedicated pit bull owners and to educate people about the responsibilities associated with caring for a dog of any breed. It is great to see so many local businesses offering their support to this project."

For more information, call 504-324-9233 or go to

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hillary's speech

Yesterday Hillary Clinton gave a great speech about moving forward. Unfortunately, it seems that many of her supporters were not listening. To them, Barack Obama stole the election. Why? Because he wouldn't allow the votes in Michigan and Florida to be counted. Of course, there isn't an ounce of truth to this. The reason the votes were not counted is that all of the candidates, including Hillary Clinton, agreed to a set of rules that included eliminating the delegates from any state that held primaries earlier than they were officially scheduled. Clinton only decided this was a bad idea when it was clear she needed those votes. Suddenly she was fighting for these people whose voices could only be heard through her. Her rhetoric shifted to suggest that people (ie, Obama's supporters) were disrespecting her supporters and trying to silence them. What is curious is that during this entire time, Obama said virtually nothing to dismiss Clinton or her supporters. During this time, Clinton herself did a number of things to fan the divisive flames of the party: suggesting the Obama might be Muslim (as if that matters), suggesting that his supporters were elitist (and therefore, apparently, not worthy of being heard), feeding the idea that Obama's supporters were against women (but, oddly, not that Clinton supporters were against that idea of a darker-skinned president), etc.

So, it was great to hear Clinton speak about the real issues before us. And it was great to hear her unwavering endorsement of Obama. For a while, it seemed as if the campaign had become too personal for her, but in her speech yesterday, she made clear to anyone listening that what matters is not who wins, but how we move forward as a country.

Still, many of her supporters are still clinging to the ideas that Clinton's campaign feed them for all these months. It would help if Clinton could come forward and explain that she, really, was equally responsible for the delegates being stripped from those two states. But it seems to be something she's still incapable of doing.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Sula Foundation, June Clinics and Fundraiser

On June 19th, Canine Culture, at 8110 Hampson Street, will host a fundraising event for The Sula Foundation. I'll post more details as they are confirmed. But raffle and auction items are arriving daily, including items from novelist Cathleen Schine, photographer Traer Scott, The New Orleans Film Society, Salon d'Malta, Skyhorse Publishing, Stewart Tabori and Chang, Gnome, dba, The Joint, NOLAFugees,, Maple Street Bookshop, and more.

We'll also be hosting pit bull vaccination clinics on June 17th in the Lower Ninth Ward, and June 24th at Freret and Cadiz.

And, on one final Sula note, here's our latest dog; his name is Gus, and he's looking for a permanent home.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Will Hillary ever explain herself?

Apparently the Democrat party has reached an agreement regarding the delegates from Florida and Michigan, where Clinton and all the other candidates had agreed not to campaign due the the state party officials violating the rules in scheduling their primaries. Yet Hillary and her supporters are still disappointed. The question I have is: Has Clinton ever explained why she was once FOR stripping those states of their delegates? If the issue is, as she claims, one of voters rights, equality, etc., then why did she sign on to the plan to begin with? And what, aside from her need for those votes, changed her mind?

She has really devolved into a hideous, selfish figure. At least she knows how to hold her liquor.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pit bull ban in Ohio

I had been under the impression that Ohio was experiencing hard economic times, and perhaps even some crime issues. Apparently I've been misled, because the State Legislature there is planning to spend the taxpayers money on a pit bull ban rather than any kind of economic stimulus package. I'll be posting more details of the legislation and who to write to, but I want to make sure I've got all the information in place. If the ban takes effect, the dogs will be exterminated within 90 days and police will have the right to search the house of anyone who they suspect might have a pit bull. Aside from the insane diversion of the police force, the state will need to be ready to defend themselves in countless lawsuits. And no one will be any safer.

Assassination threats are hilarious on Fox News

In this clip, Liz Trotta giggles as she suggests it would be great if "we" could assassinate both Osama and Obama. In case you are wondering who she is and why she's even on the news, she does indeed work for Fox after previously working for the Washington Times, the conservative, Moonie-financed paper. You can contact her current bosses: Teri Everett,; also Petition:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Old photos from The Dogs Who Found Me

When I first threw together a website for The Dogs Who Found Me, it was in response to the bio on the back of the book, which had been revised without my knowledge, replacing my email contact with the then non-existant As I participated in more events and interviews, the original posts there got lost. I've recently uncovered them. So if you want to see some photos of the dog characters from that book, you can now find them again here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Costa Rican Artist controversy

Last year I received a petition regarding the work of a Costa Rican artist who supposedly used a dying street dog as part of an exhibition in Nicaragua. The dog was tied up as part of the exhibit and may have died while on exhibit. Or maybe not. No one seems to know for sure. But the petition insisted that the artist should be punished and suggested that he had been invited to participate in the Central American biennale due to this exhibit. Some versions of the petition even suggested that he planned to repeat the exhibition of a dying dog, which is an oddly specific claim considering that no one was able to even document that the original exhibition had occurred. I emailed friends in Costa Rica and they concluded that a sick dog had been taken off the street as part of the show, but that no one knew what became of the dog, and that it was possible the dog had died, but there was no evidence that this was anyone's intention. The gallery owner insisted that the dog had been fed while there and was only tied up for a few hours during the exhibition.

In the past month or so, the petition has been making the rounds again, with even more hyperbolic claims. In one version, it took place in Buenas Aires. In another, some other South American country. The focus of the petition is always to punish the artist and have him withdrawn from the biennale. This seems misguided to me. There are starving dogs on the streets all over Nicaragua and Costa Rica. And the United States, for that matter. It is always strange when people take up the cause of a single dog while ignoring the larger issue, which is all of the starving dogs that were not on display that night. More troubling is the number of inaccuracies in the petition's claim. Several times I have emailed the person who has sent the petition along and suggested that it is misleading and therefore should not be signed. This, of course, gets a nasty response.

But why is it that suddenly, a year later, the world cares about this dog? Not surprisingly, a number of the organizations who have latched onto this cause are less sympathetic about animals in their own backyards. In particular, I have noticed that several of these organizations are also those who endorse euthanizing all pit bulls. They are also known for latching on to any cause that can lend them some attention and financial contributions.

That said, Animal People has an interesting update on how this incident has inspired discussion of introducing a humane law to Nicaragua. You can read the story, reprinted at Ed Bok's blog for Los Angeles Animal Services.

Animal People, based in Washington State, bills itself as "news for people who care about animals." But not pit bulls. They hate pit bulls and frequently misreport statistics to support their claims. Maybe they don't think pit bulls are animals?

Also, if you want to help animals in Costa Rica (and other Central American countries), I recommend The McKee Project, which is featured in my book Dogs I Have Met.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Turkish edition arrives

Here's what it looks like in Turkey; unfortunately, my American publisher still hasn't been able to find the fee they collected for the rights.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meet Grover

Under nourished, severe ear infection, heartworm positive and recovering from a botched neuter surgery. But still the friendliest dog in the world.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hillary Clinton on Obama

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

Toni Morrison On Obama

"I thought about voting for Hillary at the beginning. I don't care that she is a woman. I need more than that. Neither his race, his gender, her race or her gender was enough. I needed something else, and the something else was his wisdom." Toni Morrison, in Time Magazine

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Brando/Obama surge at the polls

The presidential campaign has been exhausting, and no one knows that more than Brando Foster. In fact, in the past few weeks, he's rolled over on his back and moved on to other concerns. He's just a dog after all, and he has other things to think about.

After last night, however, he's put his party hat back on! And he invites all his former dogsitters and other concerned citizens to kick in a few bucks for Obama.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Current headlines on, in order of appearance

Murder trial begins for teenager who got gun from mom: Mother still in jail awaiting her own trial

LEAP and GEE scores released today

Man gunned down in eastern New Orleans

Warm weather continues today

Ex-janitor arrested in theft of drugs, guns, cash from court

Tom Benson announces purchase of WVUE-TV

Monday, May 05, 2008

David Bonds, Part Five

I'd been meaning to pick up where I left off, and actually had some observations to share regarding the prosecution's performance in the courtroom. But I'll have to wait on that.

Yesterday I got a call from someone who said that they had heard David Bonds was shot on Canal Street sometime earlier in the weekend. I called around. I looked online. Not only was there nothing to find regarding David Bonds, there was nothing regarding a shooting of any kind.

This afternoon, the NOPD announced that they are looking for David Bonds again. Two witnesses identified him as the man who shot someone after an argument at Canal and St. Charles. This incident occurred at 5am Sunday morning, but apparently they didn't release the information because they didn't want anyone to panic on the last day of Jazz Fest.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Booksigning at Jazz Fest on Sunday May 4th

I'll be signing copies of The Dogs Who Found Me, Dogs I Have Met, and The Dog Who Loved Cheerios on Sunday May 4th from 3-4pm at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Proceeds go to a New Orleans literacy program. And I'll have some of the Sula Foundation's Pit Bull All Star posters to give away!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tonight at Sound Cafe: Dr. Michael White, Hot 8 Brass Band, and Shamarr Allen

Tonight at 7pm, SilenceIsViolence and Putumayo present Dr. Michael White, The Hot 8 Brass Band and Shamarr Allen. Free! This should be completely over the top and a great way to kick off the second weekend of Jazz Fest.

Sound Cafe is at 2700 Chartres (at Port Street).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pit Bull All Stars poster now on sale

The Sula Foundation's Pit Bull All Star poster is now on sale. For a ten dollar donation, you get one poster, postage paid. Additional posters are just $5. posted a nice little piece on the poster Sunday, while we were all braving bad weather at the Zephyrs baseball game.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bill Clinton on "the Katrina area of New Orleans"

I've been withholding my thoughts on Senator Clinton's "victory" in Pennsylvania last week. She had been, rather recently, expected to lead the state by something like 20% over Obama. Just before the vote, it was said that anything less than double digits would be a defeat. Initial press reports trumpeted her victory by a huge 10%. Actual numbers, more quietly reported, were 8.6%. This is a woman who has been in the public eye on a national level for 16 years and who claims 35 years of experience. Shouldn't she be able to do a little better in my home state?

But I wasn't going to get into all of this. Until...I saw in The New Yorker that hubby Bill gave a last minute campaign speech in Lock Haven, the small town of 9,000 that was the big town we drove to in order to get anything done when I was growing up. I was a little embarrassed, but not altogether surprised to see that Clinton took Clinton County by a wide margin. Yet Obama won neighboring Centre County, home of Penn State University.

The New Yorker article is pretty amusing. And also somewhat alarming. It makes clear how Clinton (Mr. Clinton, that is) makes people feel as if he is talking about them, even while he is talking about himself. But nothing demonstrates how out of touch he really is more than this claim: "I am working on rebuilding the Katrina area in New Orleans."

Which area is that?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Notes from the David Bonds trial, Part Four

Last night, as I pulled up to my very dark house, my phone rang and I answered it. I'd been having dinner with a friend, and the phone was ringing off the hook, so I'd been ignoring it until now.

"Can you confirm what we've been hearing?" It was a reporter. A twenty year old was gunned down uptown at 5pm. The rumer was that it was a boy who had testified at the trial last week.

"It was Guy, wasn't it?" I asked. I couldn't comment. I didn't really have any information other than what they had just told me. But reporters kept calling. And I kept not commenting. What could I say?

Guy was in the car when Dinerral Shavers was killed. He was a friend of Dinerral's step son. He testified at the trial, but couldn't identify the shooter, because the shots came from behind his head. But he did testify to the location and other details that built the case.

When he was called as a witness, William Boggs, the Public Defender, made a big noisy announcement that Guy had recently been picked up on a drug charge. He also announced that if Guy testified, the Public Defender's Office would not represent him on his drug charge. It was one of many bizarre moments in the trial. The idea, on one level, was that if the PD was representing a witness in the trial, it might be a conflict of interest. But the way in which Boggs voiced this, it sounded more like an offer or a threat, ie. "If you don't testify, we WILL defend you."

Last night, exactly a week after David Bonds was released, Guy was gunned down by two men in a stolen van. The van was later recovered after being set on fire.

One of the things I've been meaning to say in all of these posts is that I totally support the idea of Public Defenders. They are necessary. They help any number of innocent people regain their freedom. They help assure that sentences for those found guilty are reasonable. Yet, watching the trial last week, I couldn't help thinking that they must know that there are people they have defended who are, in fact, guilty.

William Boggs had an additional lawyer working with him. We go to the same gym and the same cafes, and we try to exchange pleasant greetings when we see each other. I sat in the courtroom thinking about the fact that all of these people...are people, with jobs to do. And they were doing it as best they could.

And I thought about how each of the witnesses was putting their life on the line.

And I thought about how David Bonds faced two possible fates: a guilty verdict or life on the streets, where he will likely be killed.

When the verdict came in, the PD staff celebrated with giddy grins and kisses all around. David Bonds and his lawyers stood frozen, staring at the floor for a while, as if they couldn't understand what they had just heard.

I wonder what they are all thinking this morning. One thing is for sure: Boggs doesn't need to worry about defending Guy any more.