Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fund Drives Fund Stations--And Shows

Tomorrow--Thursday, Oct. 1--the WMNF Fall Fund Drive gets underway.

What does that mean?

Viewed by some as the necessary evil of public radio (or public television), fund drives are those weeklong periods during which much of a station's regular programming is suspended while on air hosts, DJs and sometimes others try to urge the audience to pledge its financial support via the telephone or the Internet.

And the coin of the realm in these transactions is the premium. In this case, premium is another term for "thank you gift for your donation"...you probably know how this works: For a pledge of $50, you get this...for a pledge of $300, you'll receive this" and so on.

To sort of purposely get ahead of myself, allow me to mention some of the premiums I'll be offering on my Fund Drive show (to support "Talking Animals," the Wednesday Sonic Detour, WMNF and me):

* A two-person, four-night package for whale watching at The San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California--this is regular ol' whale watching, but communing with the so-called "friendly whales": California grey whale moms and their babies that approach you while you're in small skiffs and allow you to touch and even pet them! We devoted the May 13 edition of "Talking Animals" to this, and there are details about the package on the program website.

* One week stay in condo on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, in Poipu Beach. More details here.

* Rare Tom Waits items, signed exclusively for us by Waits!

* And lots more, from amazing concert tickets to signed CDs & books and more (details here)--exclusive to the "Talking Animals"/Sonic Detour fund drive show we'll be hosting Wednesday Oct. 7, 4-6 pm ET.

There are also lots of non-exclusive premiums, from WMNF t-shirts to HD radios, to the newly remastered Beatles' "Abbey Road" CD, and more.

For most public radio stations, including WMNF, these Fund Drives account for upwards of 70-80% of the annual budget--so, clearly, they're immensely important to the ongoing health and well-being of the shows, and station, you love and listen to.

So, I hope you'll mark your calendar for Oct. 7, and in the period between 4pm and 6pm ET, either call in a pledge (the number: 813-238-8001), or you can make a secure pledge on the WMNF website.

And we totally understand that these days many people are tightening their belts, but no pledge is too small--$35 or $50 is great!--and at the same time, WMNF has experienced some budget shortfalls and fairly grim belt-tightening of its own, so if you can spare $100, $250 or even $500, that would help us enormously.

And would get you one or more of those fabulous premiums.

In the cliche business, we call that a win-win.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie...

Here's our new puppy, Daisy, after a long walk and a nice lunch...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cop--Or Should I Say Pig?--Eludes Prosecution On Sex With Cows Charges

There are so many things wrong with this story, it's difficult to know where to begin.

This is a mugshot of Robert Melia, a New Jersey (Moorestown, to be precise) police officer, who was accused of committing a sex act with young cows, according to a New York Daily News account.

The judge in this case, Judge Morely, dismissed the animal cruelty charges--Melia allegedly engaged in in oral sex acts with five calves in 2006.

Judge Moreley opined that it was questionable that Melia's activity with the calves--though "disgusting"--qualified as animal cruelty. The prosecutor vehemently disagreed, noting "I think any reasonable juror could infer that a man's penis in the mouth of a calf is torment."

Oh, geez.

And this story actually manages to find a way to get worse: Turns out Officer Melia and his girlfriend were arrested last year for sexually assaulting three young girls.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fresh As A Daisy

As of last night, we have a new member of the family: Daisy, a four-month-old golden Labrador retriever (or mix), who's low-key, sweet and--at the risk of stating the obvious--darn cute.

Technically, we adopted Daisy from Florida All Retriever Rescue (FARR), which describes itself as "a non-profit, all volunteer, rescue organization dedicated to saving the lives of unwanted and neglected dogs throughout Florida, with a special focus on retriever breeds."

But I brought Daisy to our home from the home of Lee Courtney and Lauren Beardsley, who were fostering Daisy for FARR. Lee is also known as "Flee," the Music Director at WMNF, the Tampa radio station where I do "Talking Animals" (and a weekly music show).

The Friday of Labor Day Weekend, Flee sent an e-mail to all WMNF programmers that Daisy--then called Ashley--would be available for adoption soon. And he included pictures

The other parts of the description--including good with cats--sounded right up our alley. The next time I was in Tampa, Flee was kind enough to accommodate a visit to his house, so I could meet this pooch.

She was dreamy.

Fast forward to the next Wednesday--that is, yesterday--and I was back at Flee and Lauren's house to pay the FARR adoption fee, get the lowdown on this nice girl, including instructions for her post-spay care, and receive a Daisy briefing before embarking on the three-plus hour drive.

Now, she's met my wife, Colleen, and our son Mike (not quite six)--who both adore Daisy--and she's met our three cats, who don't. Yet...

More of the Daisy Chronicles in the coming days.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pacelle Discusses Leadership, Legislation--And Vick

We were pleased to host Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of The Humane Society of The United States--the country's largest animal protection organization--on the Sept. 9 edition of "Talking Animals," at roughly the five-year mark of his being top dog of HSUS.

With upwards of 11 million members, the HSUS is a elephantine, sprawling entity, and therefore an interview with Pacelle about his organization runs the risk of being quite sprawling, too.

So I partly tried to frame the conversation around the notion of leadership.

Which means we touched on topics ranging from what he views as the three most important hallmarks of his tenure as CEO, to his decision to have HSUS team with Michael Vick for educational efforts on dogfighting--and how that decision (and reaction to it) speaks to the intricacies and challenges of leadership at that level--to the increasing premium he has placed on cultivating and passing legislation as a more profoundly effective way to alter the animal welfare landscape, and more.

It felt like a good, substantive, lively conversation, and the calls and e-mails I've received afterward underscore that impression--including one listener who called the studio mere seconds after we'd finished the broadcast, wondering where she could hear the Pacelle interview again.

Uh, right here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ric O' Barry Elaborates On His Tale Of Redemption--And Dolphins

In "The Cove," the award-winning, revolutionary documentary about--among other things--the annual dolphin slaughter that takes place in the cove of a small Japanese town called Taiji--Ric O' Barry looks deeply weary, but is also a riveting, heroic presence, emerging as the nominal star of film.

As soon as I saw "The Cove," I knew I wanted to interview O' Barry on "Talking Animals."

For one thing, I'm fascinated by people who undergo a wholesale transformation, and O' Barry's arc extended from dolphin trainer in the 1960s--most notably, training the five dolphins who portrayed the titular star of "Flipper"--to shortly after that experience, becoming, arguably, dolphins' chief protector/rescuer/advocate.

This has meant everything from trying to generate attention toward the tightly-guarded carnage that takes place at Taiji, to emerging as a staunch opponent of any form of dolphin captivity.

Interestingly, going through proper channels to seek the interview with O'Barry, I got jerked around in myriad, puzzling ways--I can only conclude, counter-intuitively, that the studio and others affiliated with "The Cove" do not want to encourage O'Barry-centered publicity.

Maybe their mandate is to place director Louie Psihoyos at the center of such efforts. At any rate, with a clock ticking ever more loudly before I knew O'Barry was flying back to Japan, I finally recognized that the folks ostensibly helping me coordinate the interview couldn't/weren't going to get it done, I started trying to track O'Barry down on my own.

I did so Friday Aug. 28, as he was racing around handling final preparations to depart first thing the next morning for Japan, and we recorded this interview, which aired on the Sept. 2 edition of "Talking Animals."

We touched on everything from his surprise that he ended up being the focus of "The Cove," to what triggered his transformation (Cathy, the main dolphin portraying "Flipper," was so despondent in captivity after the series concluded that she committed suicide in his arms), to his ensuing efforts on behalf of dolphins and attendant tale of redemption.

Which led to some intriguing comments on the prospect of Michael Vick experiencing his own tale of redemption.

Even with the audio challenges (in recording this interview, there were some ghosts in the machine), it was a powerful conversation, laced with O'Barry-derived insights and surprises.

And then we said goodbye, so he could resume preparations for his return to Japan. Clearly, as this L.A. Times piece made clear, when he arrived in Taiji, he hit the ground running.

Indeed, he's got dolphins to save.