Wednesday, November 30, 2005

learning something every day

The guest speaker at the parent-teacher meeting the other night was W. Timothy Rogers, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Tennessee. He spoke about "millennials," the generation born since 1982, which means the oldest of them are now in college.

Dr. Rogers presented some information from the books "Millennials Rising" and "Millennials Go to College." He also gave us some handouts with articles from the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today and other newspapers.

Many of the characteristics of millennials are nicely summarized on this site. The millennials are true optimists. They know they can change the world for the better. They have good relationships with their parents. They respect authority and believe in following the rules. The millennials have been highly watched over by parents who put "Baby On Board" signs in their cars during the '80s. Many of those parents are overly protective. By hovering over their kids, they earned the nickname "helicopter parents."

Dr. Rogers said that many college students need a "parent-ectomy." He and his peers are referring to cell phones as the "longest umbilical cords." The overly involved parents make Dr. Rogers' job much more difficult.

As a parent of two millennials, the presentation hit close to home. I think that my wife and I have allowed our kids to grow without hovering too much.
The positive characteristics of millennials were things I could see in my own children. Of course, every parent believes their children are special but now I have proof.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

spread the word

Les Jones has created a website to help find the killer of Johnia Berry. The one year anniversary of her murder is coming up next week. Nancy Grace featured the case on her show last week.
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would have been a good yearbook quote

Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson said something to The Hollywood Reporter that I can totally relate to:
"This job has explained to me who I am -- I'm not kidding," Ferguson says. "I always knew I was an actor, but kind of not. I always knew I was a writer, but kind of not. I knew was a producer, but kind of not. It's really a peculiar confluence of skills and experiences that put you in the right position to do this job. But I know now what I am. I'm this. Whatever this is. Now that I know this it's really helped me in my life."
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quick hit Tuesday

Today we'll have three short posts on various subjects.

A radio station that fired me in February now runs the satellite delivered "Jack" format. During one of their frequent commercial breaks the other day, I heard my voice on a spot that I had recorded last year. The station that fired me is still using my voice on a commercial for... (wait for it...)
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Monday, November 28, 2005

fall out for elf practice

The season of Christmas specials on TV has started. "Rudolph" is on Wednesday night. "Charlie Brown" is on next week. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" has made it from cable exile back to the network lineup this year. Several TV columnists have done an excellent job of compiling lists of annual favorites. Take your choice from among Aaron Barnhart, Douglas Durden, Mike Hughes, or Mark Washburn.

"Rudolph" has possibly inspired the most fan mania. There's a website devoted to the show and for the past few years action figures of the characters have been big sellers. Last year, when it was the 40th anniversary of the special, my friend Tim gave me the number of Billie Mae Richards, who was the voice of Rudolph. I interviewed her for a "Where Are They Wednesday" segment on the radio here in Knoxville.

We all know which are the most popular Christmas specials. Which one do you think is the absolute worst of them?
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Sunday, November 27, 2005

get a sitter

Hey! What are you doing Saturday night? Here's a not too subtle reminder that Einstein Simplified will be doing a 6pm improv show at the Comedy Zone in West Knoxville.

We've been booked to do the early show on the first Saturdays of the next few months. If enough of you show up, we'll be able to extend the booking. Last month we had a decent turnout of 88 people. The overwhelming majority of people who called in reservations requested non-smoking, so we ended up doing a delightfully smoke-free show!

Click here to leave a comment and let me know which of our improv games you would like to see us play.

Tickets are only $5. There's also a $4 food or drink minimum. To make reservations, call (865) 692-ZONE.
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obsessive collecting

Today's paper has a review of some new Christmas (and Hanukkah) CDs. I looked online to see if music critics in other cities are also reviewing the holiday discs this weekend. I found a good sized list in the Albany paper. There's an article on the MSNBC site that mentions both new and old albums.

Every year I spend more money than I should on Christmas CDs. This year I've been a little more frugal. I haven't even gone to Target yet to get their annual exclusive "Sounds of the Season" disc. I'm starting to worry that they will be out of stock. Anybody know what's on it this year? The only new CD I've gotten so far this year is "Dig That Crazy Christmas" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, which was an early Christmas gift from my brother-in-law.

If we were having people over, another MSNBC article tells me how to properly make a mix disc of holiday tunes. I have written previously that some of my favorite Christmas recordings are cross-genre covers. Whether or not I follow the article's advice, I should probably make myself a disc for the car. I've been flipping between three local stations that are playing Christmas music, two on FM (EZ88 & B97.5) and one on AM (Studio 1040) but they are unlikely to play any holiday songs by the Dandy Warhols, Richard Cheese, Poe, the Blenders, Gary Hoey, El Vez, Dexter Freebish and Augie Rios.
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Saturday, November 26, 2005

you read it here first

Like most people, I didn't have to work on Thanksgiving. After writing my about pre-parade excitement on Wednesday, I had thought I would take a day off from blogging and save my Thanksgiving Parade review for Friday. But NBC's lack of coverage of the balloon accident made me want to post on Thursday.

One of today's AP headlines is "NBC Didn't Report Accident During Parade." The New York Times had a well written article about it
yesterday. The New York Daily News covered it today saying that NBC left Katie and Matt to twist in the wind.

None of the stories I read gave CBS any credit for covering the accident during their parade telecast. Even WCBS-TV didn't acknowledge the "scoop" in the stories posted to their website Friday and Saturday. I guess there really was no one other than me watching the "CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade" and we all know whose fault that was.
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Friday, November 25, 2005

is that a scarab in your pocket...?

Here's something to do with the relatives who are in town for the holiday weekend. Take them to the Frank H. McClung Museum and show them a real mummy named Djed-Khons-Iwef-Ankh in the Ancient Egypt exhibit.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

reviewing stand

If you were watching the official coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC this morning, you heard nothing about the two people who were injured when the M&Ms balloon knocked down part of a lamppost. To their credit, CBS acknowledged the accident and trained their cameras on the scene during their "unofficial coverage" of the parade. Part of the reason was that the accident occurred near the CBS cameras and several blocks away from the NBC cameras. But NBC pretended nothing was wrong by showing a videotape of the M&Ms balloon flying in last year's parade. They also made the mistake of having Katie, Matt and Al read from their corny script which, in light of what happened, was inappropriately worded. The script had them say that the red and yellow M&Ms were in some sort of peril as the characters try to hang on to a helium-filled replica of a hot air balloon.

The best news coverage of the parade accident is on the New York Times site. They also have the best photos. WCBS-TV has a video report from the scene. WINS radio had a reporter nearby when the balloon hit the lamppost. One of the photos shows the deflated balloon on the street. It looks as if the M&Ms have melted.

Much like the NBC parade broadcast, the online coverage from NBC News tries to ignore what happened. They will probably update their site soon but as of 3pm, their story doesn't mention the accident until the 11th paragraph! The network-owned station in New York, WNBC-TV has posted some Associated Press coverage on their site.

Other than ignoring the M&M's accident, NBC's coverage was adequate. They still spend too much time with Broadway performances in Herald Square while waiting for the parade to arrive. Katie and Matt seem to never tire of asking each other to guess a statistic about a parade entry. Then the other pretends to know the answer off the top of their head. Then the first one mentions that the answer was in their script. Ha ha ha.

I flipped over to CBS during NBC's commercial breaks. It seemed that CBS had wisely reduced the role of comedian Gary Valentine. In addition to Valentine, they had a puppet from "Avenue Q" also doing man-on-the-street segments. The puppet got more TV time than Valentine this year. CBS did a better job than NBC of showing the huge hole in the side of the Barney balloon. However the CBS parade anchors (Hannah Storm and Dave Price) need to learn the difference between a parade float and a balloon. Referring to a balloon as a float is almost as bad as calling the event the "Macy's Day Parade" and leaving out the word "Thanksgiving."

As you read yesterday, I enjoy watching the parade and looking for new balloon photos online. The Los Angeles Times has already posted a good slideshow. For the past few years, I have enjoyed seeing the Super Grover balloon. Like my all-time favorite, Underdog, it looks like it's supposed to be flying.

Most of the stars on the floats were there to plug a new CD or other project. I could not figure out why one of the "Queer Eye" guys was on the Tutenstein float singing the Steve Martin classic "King Tut." On closer inspection, it looked like his backup singers were all drag queens of the Nile.

We watched the parade with my brother-in-law who lives in Atlanta. When the new Disney singing group Cheetah Girls performed, he told us that in Atlanta the term refers to girls who dance at an upscale gentleman's club called the Cheetah Lounge. Who knew?
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

happy Thanksgiving, Eve

The day before Thanksgiving was full of great anticipation during my childhood in the New York suburbs. We would wait for my father to get home from work with a copy of the New York Times, which had a full page Macy's ad featuring the line of march for the Thanksgiving Day parade. The list of bands, floats and balloons was printed in two text boxes approximately 4 by 6 inches each. We would cut out the list and paste it on the front and back of a piece of cardboard. The next day, while my mother started cooking, my father would take my sisters and me downtown to watch the parade. After he parked the car, we would walk through Central Park and get a good viewing spot near the start of the parade somewhere around 74th Street.

We took tons of photos but they were all developed as slides. They still sit in a Kodak carousel in my mother's basement. Someday when I have the money, I would like to have those photos turned into digital images. I've made it a new annual tradition to spend some time today searching the Internet for photos of the giant balloons. I found some good ones on WNBC-TV's site and the NYCTourist site.

Tonight WNBC will air a half hour show about the balloon inflation. The people at Macy's insist that you say "inflate" rather than "blow up." I will channel surf tonight looking for any coverage I can find on the news networks. This year's lineup features several new balloons and some old favorites.

Tomorrow morning I will flip between the coverage on NBC and CBS. NBC usually features corny scripted comments from the Today Show crew. CBS will once again have some ad-libbing by comedian Gary Valentine. I don't understand why they are using him again
. For the past two years his man-on-the-street interviews have been terrible. He was on the Tony Danza Show today and wasn't funny there either.

What is your all-time favorite parade balloon? Mine is Underdog and it has been since long before that "Friends" episode.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

nog to hide

The Christmas holidays seem to start earlier each year. On October 28, I spotted signs at Weigel's announcing the arrival of their famous egg nog. This picture shows that at least one of their employees doesn't know how to spell the name on their paycheck.

The sign in the photo had been on display for three weeks when I finally got around to photographing it. As far as I know, it's still there.

Poor spelling aside, Weigel's egg nog is excellent. A year ago I did a blind taste test between Weigel's and another great local egg nog made by Mayfield. Both were good but I preferred the slightly sweeter taste of Weigel's.

Last year several listeners (and Scottie Mayfield himself) told me that they freeze some egg nog to enjoy over the summer. Scottie saves his for the Fourth of July. Because my wife and I are currently on a weight-loss program, I may freeze some egg nog to have when I meet my goal. I guess I can use it to wash down the dark chocolate M&M's.
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Monday, November 21, 2005

travel traffic traditions

Every year on the day before Thanksgiving, I think back to the days when morning deejays Elliott & Woodside used to inform their listeners (in a somewhat cheesy, pukey voice) that it was "traditionally the heaviest travel day of the year." This year is no different. Experts say we should expect big crowds at on the roads and at the airports on Wednesday and Sunday.

Over the summer I was waiting for a plane at Dulles Airport. As I sat there watching people, I made up a little "Airport Bingo" game. I wrote down a list of things people wear and checked them off as I spotted someone wearing it. Then I expanded the idea slightly. Here's my Airport Bingo list for your Thanksgiving travel enjoyment:

Someone wearing:
  • sunglasses
  • baseball cap
  • sports jersey
  • 'do rag
  • Hard Rock Cafe shirt
  • huge earrings
  • college sweatshirt
  • rock concert t-shirt
  • Mickey Mouse ears
  • short shorts
  • sagging shorts
  • "comfortable shoes"
Someone who is:
  • getting a ride on a golf cart
  • talking on a cell phone
  • carrying an out of town newspaper
  • having a bad hair day
  • heavily tattooed
  • heavily pierced
  • showing a "plumber's crack"
  • traveling with a pet
  • possibly drunk
  • listening to an iPod
  • playing Free Cell
  • charging their phone
  • slightly famous
Any other suggestions?
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Sunday, November 20, 2005

date night

This weekend's opening of the new Harry Potter movie posed a dilemma for my wife and me. Do we wait until our kids are available to see the movie, which will be next weekend? Or do we go see it this weekend, without the kids? And if we do go, do we break my rule about only paying matinee prices for movie tickets?

We analyzed the times for my work schedule, my wife's church singing schedule, our eating-every-three-hours schedule and our son's plans to attend a high school football game, a poker-themed birthday party and his team's swim meet. Instead of staying home alone Saturday night, my wife and I decided that Harry Potter was worth paying full price ($8 each) for our tickets. The kids can go to a matinee over Thanksgiving weekend.

The parking lot at the movie theatre was packed. I dropped my wife off at the box office around 8:15 and parked in the next shopping center over. When she tried to buy tickets to the 8:45 show, they told her it was sold out but that there were two tickets left for the 8:20 show. She bought them, went inside, put her coat over two seats and came back outside to wait for me. We bypassed the concession stand since we had brought LA Weight Loss snacks with us. The previews were still showing when we sat down.

Despite a two and a half hour running time, the movie felt rushed. I had read that a lot of material from the book was left out of the movie but there were still plenty of plot points to cover. The movie seemed to skip over Harry's anxiety about each of the tasks in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. In the book he had to practice the "accio" charm once he had figured out his strategy for the first task.

I liked the movie very much but I thought that there were some references that could have used a little more explanation. For example, the filmmakers assume that you will remember the ingredients and effects of polyjuice potion. I guess that everybody who sees the new Potter movie will have already seen the previous ones. Do you know of anyone who will see "Goblet of Fire" without having watched the earlier films?
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crisis averted

While on the way to my son's swim meet today, I realized that I had not set the TiVo for the Redskins game. I called a computer savvy relative in Northern Virginia and talked him through logging on to the TiVo website and instructing my machine to record the game. We're about to start watching it. Please do not call and tell us the score.
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Saturday, November 19, 2005

modesty or vanity?

Forensic science is very popular in Knoxville thanks to Dr. William Bass and his "Body Farm." He's written a book about it and so has Patricia Cornwell. (By the way, a Knoxville firm designed Cornwell's new website.)

This week's Metro Pulse has an interview with Cornwell as she promotes her new book, "Predator." The premise of the book sounds interesting. It explores the possibility that brain scans reveal information about serial killers.

The first time I interviewed Dr. Bass, I asked him if he would donate his own body to his famous research facility. He said it's up to his survivors. At the end of the Metro Pulse article, the interviewer asks Cornwell if she might end up there:
She's even a little bashful. When asked whether she'd donate her body to the Body Farm, she says, "I don't think I'm a good candidate for that. They'd have to build the fences a little higher and add some locks."
Is she really being bashful? Or does she imagine that her body will attract more attention than the hundreds who have already decomposed there?

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Friday, November 18, 2005

dribble, dribble

After three and a half years in Knoxville, today was my first time inside the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The reason for my visit was a ceremony to mark the start of this year's Salvation Army bell ringer campaign. While there, I got to meet the lovely Stacy McCloud from WVLT-TV, who broadcast live from the event.

The ceremonial first coins were dropped into the Salvation Army kettles by the UT Lady Vols and Mayor Bill Haslam. Lady Vols basketball is a big deal here, almost as big as college football. Come to think of it, the way the Vols are playing football lately, women's basketball may be a bigger deal this year.

With the local popularity of the Lady Vols, it always surprised me to hear that the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame doesn't attract as many visitors as hoped. Before the event today, I took a quick look around. Maybe the people who run the Hall don't want to seem like homers but I didn't see all that much Lady Vols stuff in there. It looked like there was a lot more space devoted to Moore's All American Red Heads than the Lady Vols.

Next spring the coach of the archrival UConn Huskies will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He's as popular around here as Steve Spurrier. I don't know how many locals will be flocking to see the Geno Auriemma exhibit.

Perhaps the Hall of Fame could attract more fans by putting up a statue of the WNBA's biggest fan, Rosie O'Donnell. There might be a precedent. One of the sculpture figures I saw today bore a suspicious resemblance to Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation CEO Gloria Ray.
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

here and there

Newspapers all over the country are embracing the Internet as a way to reach the next generation of readers. Recently the newspapers in my current and previous hometowns both added new web features. I was struck by the coincidence of the timing and by the difference in the content.

The Knoxville News Sentinel's new page is called YourHub. It allows users to post announcements from their own community. The Los Angeles Times has a new page called The Envelope. It covers the award season in the entertainment industry.

At The Envelope, today's headlines reveal which films are in the running for an animated feature Oscar nomination. Meanwhile at YourHub, someone has submitted a story about a great Crappie day, which sounds like a possible title for the next Wallace & Gromit movie.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

pop (culture) quiz

Here's a fairly easy Harry Potter quiz I wrote for this morning's radio show. I used the book synopses on the Harry Potter Lexicon site to check my facts. The two listeners who competed ended the game in a 9 - 9 tie, which means there were 12 questions neither could answer. Look under the "invisibility cloak" for the answers. Post your final score in the comments section.

1. What family does Harry live with during the summers? The Dursleys
2. Name the street where Harry lives during the summers. Privet Drive
3. What did Professors Quirrell, Lockhart and Lupin all teach? Defense Against the Dark Arts
4. Name the Unforgivable Curses. killing (avada kedavra); cruciatus (crucio); imperius (imperio)
5. What is the name of Ron Weasley's little sister? Ginny
6. Wizards can travel by grabbing an object that has been turned into what? A portkey
7. What type of creatures are Winky and Dobby? House elves
8. What is the newspaper of the wizarding world? The Daily Prophet
9. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot & Prongs created what useful document? The Marauders Map
10. What are the names of Malfoy's two henchmen? Crabbe & Goyle
11. Someone who can speak to snakes is called what? A parselmouth
12. What is Gringotts? The wizard bank
13. What is the town that the students are sometimes allowed to visit? Hogsmeade
14. What course does Hagrid teach? Care of Magical Creatures
15. Harry gave extra Dark Arts defense lessons to a group called what? Dumbledore'’s Army
16. Famous wizard trading cards come in packages of what? Chocolate frogs
17. Who is Harry'’s godfather? Sirius Black
18. What are the Chudley Cannons? A quidditch team
19. What position does Harry play on his quidditch team? Seeker
20. Name the four houses of Hogwarts. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff
21. Cornelius Fudge held what high ranking job? Minister of Magic
22. Fred & George Weasley open what type of business? A joke shop
23. What are the candies that can taste like earwax? Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans
24. What is the drink Harry likes to order at the Hog'’s Head? Butterbeer
25. Who is Thomas Marvolo Riddle? Lord Voldemort
26. What are the first names of Harry's parents? James and Lilly
27. What magazine does Luna Lovegood'’s father own? The Quibbler
28. What rock band performs at the Yule Ball? The Weird Sisters
29. What is the name of Hermione's cat? Crookshanks
30. When is Harry Potter's birthday? July 31
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

what would Regis do?

Sometimes Regis Philbin has a chocolate drink on his desk during his TV show. I only get to watch the show occasionally and I've never seen him take a sip of it. Does anybody know what it is? You can see the drink in the clear glass behind his coffee mug in a publicity shot of Regis and Kelly that I found online. Maybe it's some sort of product placement for one of those "old person drinks." Or maybe Regis has had a daily Ovaltine ever since he first listened to "Little Orphan Annie."

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Monday, November 14, 2005


Local doomsayer John Gilmore made national news this past week. Marc & Kim and I spoke with him on the air Friday and again today. John predicted that November 11 would bring financial ruin for New York, Washington, Atlanta, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

The news stories don't fully explain John's views.
His emails to the Knoxville News Sentinel contain much more detail. I can understand why he believes that evils in our society will result in punishment from God. I cannot understand why he thinks that the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 were part of a government conspiracy. He told us on the radio that no plane crashed into the Pentagon and that the twin towers were professionally imploded like an old stadium or casino. I lost a cousin in the World Trade Center and I took offense to his theory.

John is hung up on the number 11. He says that the Illuminati used it as a signal to each other. He implies that the secret society Skull & Bones is somehow connected to the Illuminati. I wonder if John read all the Dan Brown novels.

John's views got him fired from his job as general manager of my cable, phone and Internet provider. He was also in the news last month when a vintage plane knocked out our service for a weekend. After he was on the air with us, I realized that it was too late to complain to him about the way Knology charged me for the weekend they were offline (I worked my way through their difficult-to-navigate phone menu and eventually got a $7.50 credit). I wish I could have told him that a Knoxville cable system should show the local feed of the CSS High School Game of the Week instead of the Atlanta feed.
It's too bad I didn't meet John before he lost his job and before I called him a nut on the radio.
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Sunday, November 13, 2005

parenting choices

This weekend Star 102.1 is giving away tickets to a midnight screening of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." During my weekend deejay shift yesterday, I had a contest winner who told me she planned to take her children to the movie. I asked the ages of the kids and she said they were five and seven. I reminded her that A) the screening is at midnight and B) the movie is rated PG-13. Neither fact seemed to bother her. She said that her kids had enjoyed the previous Harry Potter movies. Apparently she had not read or heard that "Goblet of Fire" is the scariest Potter movie so far. It's definitely not a movie for kids that young. She seemed to appreciate it when I told her a little bit about the violence in the story. I hope she leaves the kids home rather than take them to a screening that will end at 2:37 a.m.

I finally got around to reading all six Harry Potter books this past summer. As a parent of kids who love the books, I probably should have read them sooner. They're all very good but "Goblet of Fire" is probably the best of them. The early buzz makes it sound like the new movie will be the best one so far too.

The movie's website has some cool features and games. There's even a page where you can upload a photo and outfit yourself in dress robes for the Yule Ball. Speaking of websites, two Harry Potter fan sites are worth a visit: MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron.

MuggleNet is where I read about the upcoming Harry Potter special on A&E Television. I wonder if the contest winner from yesterday will let her young kids watch the special. It airs at 10 p.m. on Thursday.
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

she loves chewing gum

Who is caffeinated cheerleader Ashley Hall? She's a character in a cell phone commercial and has a voice that makes me laugh, as I mentioned last Sunday. I found the audio of her non-stop yammering so you can be amused too.
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Friday, November 11, 2005

development has been arrested

Some shows are too good for regular television. "Arrested Development" is one of those shows. Somehow it has lasted longer than expected, yet the signs of its impending cancellation are still depressing.

Several of my favorite entertainment websites have been posting all day about the news that the episode order has been cut back and that the show was pulled from the November sweeps schedule. USA Today suggests checking last year's website for possible updates.
One of the comments on Entertainment Weekly's website makes the unusual suggestion that the producers continue filming shows and release the episodes direct to DVD. I'm hooked on the show and I would buy the discs. E! Online has a quote from Jason Bateman that says they still have five episodes to wrap up some story arcs.

Many bloggers (and TV critics) love "Arrested Development." A writer in Canada has some excellent observations including
"Arrested was a dense show. It moved fast and furiously, it didn't circle back and include you in."
"Arrested demanded that you follow, and that you know things, and that you were quick."
There's at least one online petition to save the show but I don't think it will make a difference. Fans have been venting their frustrations at the official Fox site message boards and the Balboa Observer-Picayune fan site boards.

In 1982, a show called "Police Squad" died a quick death on network TV. The show had no laugh track and many sight gags. If you watched the show passively, it made no sense. Regular sitcoms are still little more than radio with pictures that can be on in the background while you're doing something else. Somebody was smart enough to turn "Police Squad" into the very successful series of "Naked Gun" movies. The same sight gags and lack of a laugh track fit perfectly into the theatrical environment.

Would "Arrested Development" succeed as a movie? Or as an HBO original series? Or should we just be thankful for the episodes we have already received?
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

the legend lives on

For some reason, I love cover songs that cross genre lines. A perfect example would be the Broadway show tunes done punk rock style by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Another example would be Paul Anka singing swing versions of alternative rock songs, although I liked it better when Richard Cheese did the same thing 5 years ago.

Today is a big day for my friend Bean. As you undoubtedly already know, it's the anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Bean sent an email that said:
there had better be a touching tribute in your blog entry tomorrow, being thirty years and all!
He included a link to an mp3 file called "The Wreck Of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which I assumed would play Gordon Lightfoot's dreary song when I clicked on it. To my pleasant surprise, it was actually a cover version of the song done in surf music style by a band called The Sin-Tones. Their website lets you hear their "surfabilly" versions of the themes to "Batman," "Spider-man" and a couple of other shows.

My fondness of cross-genre covers probably explains my interest in collecting Christmas music. That's why I prefer to hear "Last Christmas" done by Dexter Freebish or Jimmy Eat World rather than Wham. I like Gary Hoey's rock instrumentals and a capella versions of holiday classics by Rockapella and by The Blenders. The Christmas CD I want the most this year is the new one by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

A while back I wrote about Bowling For Soup's cross-genre cover of a Britney Spears song. Next week they're going to release a whole CD of songs they've done for movies and television. The disc will include their cover versions of "Gilligan's Island Theme" and "I Melt With You" among others. How long must I wait for a Bowling For Soup Christmas disc?
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

magazines for miles and miles

A notice came in the mail that said 12,943 of my Delta SkyMiles were about to expire. I was given the option of cashing them in for free magazine subscriptions. Northwest Airlines sent a similar notice that didn't mention anything about expiring miles but just said I could cash in my unused miles for magazines. Meanwhile my wife got a notice from US Airways about trading her unused miles for magazines.

We studied the list of available subscriptions. We had never heard of some of the magazines like "Lucky" or "Cookie" or "Rev."

How many magazines can we possibly read? I guess we'll find out when our 14 new subscriptions start arriving in the mail. Yes, 14. My wife signed up for 6 and I took 8.

My wife chose the following magazines:
Budget Living (700 miles)
Budget Travel (500 miles)
Self (400 miles)
Food & Wine (1200 miles)
Town & Country and Town & Country Travel (2100 miles)
Rolling Stone (500 miles)

I decided to subscribe to these:
Daily Variety (5000 miles)
The Hollywood Reporter Weekly (3000 miles)
Giant (300 miles)
Maxim (400 miles)
Time (1500 miles)
Newsweek (700 miles)
Smithsonian (600 miles)
Travel & Leisure (1400 miles)

How will I have time to read all these periodicals? Maybe I'll just look at the pictures.
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

dear diary

Guess who sent me a postcard? Arbitron, the company that does the ratings for radio stations, that's who! They want to survey my family about our listening habits. Of course as a "radio professional," I will decline to participate. It still struck me as funny that they would try to contact me even though they had no way of knowing I am ineligible.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

kicking butts

ABC World News Tonight is running a month long feature about smoking called "Quit to Live." If you've missed any installments so far, you can catch up at their website. The facts and figures are troubling. There are still 50 million smokers in America. Each day 2000 teenagers pick up the disgusting habit.

I heard a comedian say that anyone who smokes nowadays is either stubborn, stupid or French. It's understandable that there are people over the age of 40 unable to kick the addiction. They probably started smoking when it was permitted in high schools. But why on earth would anyone in their teens or twenties start down the path to lung cancer?

Each November, the American Cancer Society promotes the Great American Smokeout. It's always on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. If you know a smoker, urge them to try giving up the smokes for just that day.

Although I would describe myself as not just a non-smoker but an anti-smoker, I do believe that smokers should have the right to smoke themselves silly in the privacy of their own homes. But I also believe that I have the right to go out in public and not smell their fetid smoke while I'm trying to eat. That's why I prefer smoke-free restaurants like Connors Steak & Seafood. (Speaking of smoke-free restaurants, UCSF publishes a great website about the techniques used by the tobacco industry to fight smoking bans.)

The putrid stench contains some of the same foul-smelling chemicals as rat poison and nail polish remover. The smoke wouldn't bother me so much if it smelled better. Why can't they make cigarettes with the aroma of hickory or mesquite BBQ?

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Sunday, November 06, 2005


Larry King wrote his final "dot-dot-dot" column for USA Today over four years ago. While looking for the right terminology to describe Larry's style, I found a parody site offering some "lost" Larry King columns worth a perusal.

In the spirit of Larry and all the dot-dot-dotters before him, here are my random thoughts for today:

The caffeinated cheerleader on the T-Mobile commercials has a voice that makes me laugh, especially when she says that she loves chewing gum... pineapples are twice as sweet as when I was a kid... do parents know that their 12 year old daughters are calling radio stations to request "My Humps"?... as a Redskins fan, I'm glad Terrell Owens got suspended before tonight's game... if someone made deviled eggs with wasabi instead of mustard, I would eat them... "The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XVI" should have been on closer to Halloween, instead of waiting for November sweeps... speaking of Fox, "Arrested Development" returns tomorrow night, so watch it... some people think it's weird that I bite into a whole kiwi just like an apple or a peach... Star Jones needs to realize why people like to knock her off her high horse... baseball season could start earlier and end earlier by making some spring training games count for real... it won't be long before somebody posts screen captures of Pamela Anderson from today's Fox NFL Sunday... I fast forward through most commercials except the ones for the new Harry Potter movie... thanks to Patrick Holland's Buzz List, I've been looking at photos from film found in antique cameras... sometimes I wish I was related to Bonnie Hunt because she seems fun to be around... if you're going to let your kids get addicted to a video game, you could do a lot worse than "Madden 2005"... don't let me forget to say thanks to everyone who came to last night's Einstein Simplified show at The Comedy Zone!
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

thanks for the memories

Rather than complain about how the Christmas season now starts the day after Halloween, I would like to propose that we re-emphasize Thanksgiving. Everybody loves Thanksgiving. There's no reason why America's best holiday should be steamrolled by the Christmas marketing machine.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas. I wish that it continued into January instead of being thrown to the curb on December 26. But our premature celebration of it overshadows the great Thanksgiving.

Let's get excited about the new balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (although we need to talk about "Healthy Mr. Potato Head"). Let's send silly disco turkey e-cards to each other. Let's watch the Thanksgiving themed shows on Food Network. Let's remember the "First Thanksgiving" school play. Let's display a cornucopia and other Thanksgiving decorations. And let's not forget good old Charlie Brown.

How many other holidays come with a built-in four day weekend? Every few years Christmas and Independence Day fall on the right day of the week but Thanksgiving is there for us every year. Christmas can wait. Thanksgiving time is here.
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Friday, November 04, 2005

good evening

This weekend, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is playing music from some Alfred Hitchcock movies while scenes from the films are shown on a screen over the musicians' heads. My wife volunteered to sing at the symphony's upcoming Christmas concert. She and the other members of the chorale were offered free tickets to the Hitchcock performances. I have posted about my fondness of film scores, and was delighted to be able to go with her tonight.

The program included footage from "To Catch a Thief," "Strangers on a Train," "Dial M for Murder" and "North by Northwest." The scenes from "Dial M for Murder" made me question why anyone would want to kill Grace Kelly's character. She was incredibly beautiful.
Maestro Lucas Richman took some time between selections to explain how difficult it is to keep the live orchestra in synch with the film.

At intermission, we overheard the people sitting in front of us talking. They were reading the program and did not recognize the title of the first piece in the second half. Every true Hitchcock fan should know that "Funeral March of a Marionette" is the music used as the themesong of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

Some of the most famous Hitchcock movie music did not make the cut. John Goberman, the producer and narrator for the show, explained why to the Knoxville News Sentinel:
Herrmann was also responsible for the all-strings crescendo in Hitchcock's "Psycho," but Goberman says the music was used more as a sound effect and lasts only 30 seconds or so, eliminating it from being a possibility for the program.
In the early '80s, my father gave me his tickets to some sort of reception at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I think it was the opening night of an exhibit sponsored by an oil company. I couldn't get a date so I got one of my buddies to come with me. After we saw a brief video presentation, the crowd slowly started moving to the main hall for hors d'oeuvres and beverages. My friend and I made a beeline for the food and were among the first to arrive in the hall. There was a string quartet over near the buffet table. They had been standing around waiting for the crowd to arrive and looked bored. I thought it would be fun to show off something I had learned during Mr. Naversen's film class in high school so I challenged the musicians to play something by Bernard Herrmann from "Psycho." The quartet laughed and thought about it for a second. Then they launched into the familiar screeching violins from the shower scene just as the VIPs started walking into the main hall.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

put the pedal to the metal and burn rubber

Some friends of mine produce local commercials for Charter Cable TV. They will occasionally ask me to do a rapid fire voiceover for them, which is what I assumed they wanted when Justin Benoit called the other day. Much to my surprise, he wanted me to appear on-camera in a spot for Mr. Tire. Justin wrote and directed the commercial. He cast me because he remembered seeing me make a "cheesy eyebrow motion" that he wanted to use.

We shot it yesterday. I showed up at the studio but Justin said that we would be going to his house to use his couch. As Justin and his colleague Joyce were draping bed sheets over the windows and filtering the light through a laundry basket, the words "low budget porn" kept going through my mind. Fortunately, they knew what they were doing and the commercial turned out fine. The laundry basket didn't turn out as well. It started to melt.

In the spot, I sweet talk a pile of tires before making the eyebrow motion, which Justin synchronized to music. Click on the play button to see for yourself.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

for the record

My friend Bean busted me on a grammatical error I made in a post last week. Here's his email:
you know i always enjoy your blog but am writing to correct your usage of the term "daylight savings time".

it is properly named "daylight saving time" which might sound odd to your ears until you consider other comparable phrases like 'time-saving' and 'money-saving'.

you are not alone. please enjoy this letter to the editor i wrote to my local paper last week:
Keeping in mind that the Beachcomber puts out a pretty good paper every week with a very small staff, I still can't help but comment on an extraordinary proofreading oversight on the front page of this week's issue (October 26).

"Daylight Savings (sic) Time starts Saturday". Five words, three errors!

1) It is actually named "saving" time, never "savings".

2) This weekend marks the end of Daylight Saving Time and the start of Standard Time.

3) The time change always happens on Sunday morning at 2 o'clock, never Saturday.

Gene Baxter
I consulted with my "blogfather" to see if I should go back and change the original post or not. He said that I should, so I did.

Here's another email from Bean that arrived right after the last one:
did i send you me as weird al? i dug your grimley.....
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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

putting the "fun" back in funeral

Dia de los Muertos doesn't get much attention here in Tennessee. But there's something about a Maryville mortuary may be appropriate for today. Funeral homes are not known for having a sense of humor. It's great to happen upon the rare instance when one does.

Almost everything at a Knoxville Ice Bears hockey game is sponsored. You can cheer for the US Cellular Stars of the Game or try to win a prize with the Moe's Southwest Grill Chuck-a-Puck contest. Players who are fighting or high sticking have to spend time in the Memorial Funeral Home Penalty Box.
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