Monday, July 30, 2007

This Alison's Aim Is True, Too: Striving To Reduce Animal Abuse By Providing Significant Info About it

There are countless heroes and heroines in the animal welfare world, but arguably few are doing more heavy lifting--emotionally speakng-than those dealing daily with animal abuse.

People like Alison Gianotto.

The guest on the July 11 edition of "Talking Animals," Alison Gianotto is a nationally-recognized expert on animal abuse and cruelty who also happens to be a computer whiz (and, yes, I realize everyone seems to be a computer whiz these days, but not everyone has written books on computer programming, as Alison has--alright, Bub?).

About six years ago, combing both areas of expertise, she created, a sprawling web site and online resource that seeks to reduce animal abuse through providing information and education. Moreover, the database--currently featuring more than 11,000 cases--has become a major tool relied on by law enforcement, prosecutors and others across the country. provides details, updated daily, about neglect/abuse/cruelty court cases taking place across this country (and sometimes other countries), and a slew of other info, services and resources.

I urge you to visit

And I urge you to hear Alison Gianotto speak--not necessarily on "Talking Animals" (although our conversation is archived and available as an iTunes podcast via the show website,, but perhaps at one of the many talks she delivers at conferences, college campuses and other events throughout the nation.

She's whip-smart, wildly articulate, and while the topic can be dark and depressing, she's not.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Jeremiah Was A Tree Frog?

There are many, many things that I love about our house in Jupiter Farms--even allowing for the fact that it's a three hour drive to WMNF, the radio station in Tampa where I hold forth on "Talking Animals"--and chief among those things is the tremendous amount of wildlife we share our digs with.

In subsequent posts, I'll surely address the sweeping array of fauna that live here, or periodically hang here. There's probably at least a post or two in just rhapsodizing about all the wonderful creatures that reside in--or visit--our pond.

But today I just want to mention our little tree frog friend, who perches near our front door, very close to the lights, which when illuminated in the darkness of night, attract all sorts of flying insects--sort of an All You Can Eat Buffet for our sticky-fingered (and tongued) friend.

He seems to have a good, comfortable life, and while awaiting nightfall, he can be an amusing feller. A picture may or may not be worth a thousand words, but perhaps this shot suggests a pretty relaxed character?

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Prized Show--& Ultra Surprised Host

So, not quite two Saturdays ago, WMNF held its annual Volunteer Banquet, a gathering of about 250 folks, including the small number of station staffers and the huge number of volunteers--some of whom one can hear on air, most of whom work tirelessly behind the scenes at the station, at the concerts and other events presented by WMNF, and in assorted other capacities.

Having only been on the air at WMNF for a year and a half, this was my first such banquet, and I was struck by the warm, friendly atmosphere as people socialized, enjoyed a meal, then settled in for the presentation of the awards. That is, I was struck by this while remaining focused on the non-stop activities of my three-and-half-year-old son, Mike, who--along with my wife, Colleen--accompanied me to the banquet. (He's pictured at the banquet, mid-shenanigans, in a picture above, taken by WMNF's Dawn Morgan.)

I had been encouraged to bring Mike by a handful of longtime WMNFers, who noted the event was informal and that other young kids would also likely be there. Still, it didn't work out that great--partly 'cause we'd attended not long after making the three-hour drive to Tampa from our home in Jupiter Farms, partly 'cause it was "just one of those days," and partly because (did I mention?) Mike is three and half years old.

On the huge plus side, to my utter shock and amazement, I won an award--named the station's News & Public Affairs Programmer Of The Year. The Mike Factor and winning this award made for an unusual juxtaposition, if not collision.

At this point, in fact, this situation may be best addressed by providing a copy of the e-mail I sent the next day to WMNF's Assistant News & Public Affairs Director Mitch Perry, who presented me the award. The "Rob" I allude to is News & Public Affairs Director Rob Lorei, who gave me the opportunity to broadcast "Talking Animals" on WMNF when I was looking for a new home for the show after my family and I relocated from California to Florida. Here's the e-mail:
Hi Mitch,

Thanks so much for the award. As may have been all too apparent, I was stunned in every sense of the word. For starters, in the wake of urging from Carrie & polling other MNFers--mostly with kids--I brought my 3 and-a-half-year-old lunatic, Mike, to the banquet, which through nobody's fault (but mine) turned out to be a bad call. So my wife & I (& our tablemates) braved his hijinks til around 5, at which point my wife took him out for good (not in the assassination sense, though that was tempting), and I walked out with them.

I was kinda frazzled from the Mike misadventures & attendant distractions, so as I re-entered Maestro's, I looked forward to grabbing a beer, chilling out and watching the awards ceremony unfold. As I step to the bar, I half hear you mention Nellie McKay & Bob Barker, then like some cartoon, I whip my head around & hear you say something about Emmylou Harris.

Like some sort of drug experience (well, what I've heard about those), my sense of time & space became all distorted. I don't know what the heck's happening, but I head to my seat--at which point I think I hear you announce my name. I'm still not sure what's happening--in addition to being out of sorts from young Mike Strauss, this is my first MNF banquet, & the first award of the day--so I lean over & ask Miss Julie, who's temporarily roosted at my table, if I'm supposed to go up there, or what?

So this is the backdrop for what I was like when I got to the podium--shocked at winning the award, somewhat disoriented overall & more than a little uncertain what to say or do next; I was like an awards ceremony double-buffoon: In the bathroom (or at least away from the awards room) when about to receive an award, AND the dipshit who forgets to thank people--in my case, that certainly should've included Rob, among others.

What's done is done--I mean, I don't think I said anything abysmal, or urinated all over myself or anything. I just wish I'd been in the room, a little more calm & collected, and had heard what you said. My wife (who regrets having left the room mere minutes before, to whisk our loon away) wondered if you might have a copy of any written remarks you might have made before announcing my award, or if anyone was recording the ceremony? If not, no prob.

And, lemme extend my huge & heartfelt thanks to you & other members of the MNF juggernaut--even if those thanks were woefully MIA yesterday.

So, obviously, I was ultra surprised.

I was also thrilled, flattered and honored.

And, heck, maybe in all his nuttiness, Mike was a good luck charm.