Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Dr. Bill Bass established the Anthropology Research Facility at the University of Tennessee in 1981. If he had his way, it would have been called the A.R.F. You have to figure that at some point, the place will get named after him, making it the B.A.R.F. When Patricia Cornwell wrote about the facility, she popularized its nickname, the Body Farm. Dr. Bass studies the way human bodies decay in various situations. The Body Farm is yet another thing about Knoxville that fascinates me. I'm not sure that I want to actually go there and smell the decomp but I do enjoy reading about it.

The new novel, "Carved In Bone," was written by Dr. Bass and Jon Jefferson using the pseudonym Jefferson Bass. The pair also collaborated on the 2003 nonfiction book "Death's Acre." I just finished reading the novel in preparation for a radio interview with Dr. Bass this coming Thursday.

Much of the action takes place in fictional Cooke County, which appears to be a thinly disguised version of Cocke County, with a little bit of Greene County mixed in. The book inspired me to look online for the history of corruption in Cocke County. The News Sentinel published a timeline that includes a "media label" sure to amaze my friend Bean, who collects media labels. The article refers to "nationally recognized cockfighting enthusiast Donald H. Poteat."

Some names are changed yet others remain the same. Instead of Dr. Bill Bass, the Body Farm in the novel is run by Dr. Bill Brockton. His friend and sidekick is Art Bohanan, the real name of KPD's fingerprint expert. The book does a great job of capturing the flavor of East Tennessee from describing the scenery along the Tennessee River to portraying local slang like "don't care to" and "you'uns." A reference to Cormac McCarthy has got me interested in picking up a copy of "Child of God" next time I'm at McKay's.

In the
book, Dr. Brockton is called upon to examine an adipocere-covered corpse in a Cooke County cave. As he unravels the mystery of the body's identity, each new question brings him back to out of the way locations, some of which are booby trapped while others are hidden in kudzu. Dr. Brockton discovers that some of the unsavory characters come from the same shallow gene pool and share a trait of missing lateral incisors. When I interviewed Dr. Bass a couple of years ago he told me that my missing lateral incisors were a sign of advanced evolution. Now I'm wondering if he was pulling my leg.

The action scenes could use a little work but overall I found "Carved In Bone" to be an extremely satisfying read. As you would expect, the forensic detail is much more realistic than in other books of this genre. Dr. Bass told The Daily Beacon that he and Jon Jefferson signed a contract to write three Body Farm novels. Maybe the next book can combine some of my favorite things about Knoxville. Dr. Brockton could dig up the bones of Cas Walker.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

raccoons and watermelons

If I had lived in Knoxville during the Cas Walker era, I probably would not have liked him. From what I've heard, he was against most kinds of progress and many of his decisions kept Knoxville entrenched in the past. But as it turns out, Cas was dead before I knew anything about East Tennessee. So to me, he's just a fascinating old coot, a cartoon character from a time gone by. I am not alone in this. I once saw Johnny Knoxville wearing a Cas Walker grocery t-shirt on a VH-1 clip show. If I could find one of those shirts I would wear it too. There's a chance the shirts are available at the Dollywood gift shop named after Cas, but I doubt it.

For his birthday last year, I bought a guitar for my son at the Ciderville Music Store. It's a down-home, good ol' boy type of place. We were there on soup day. Every Thursday, all customers are invited into the kitchen in the back of the store for soup and crackers. Out front by the entrance there's a rack with assorted music instruction books and CDs by local (extremely local, as in the guy playing banjo in the next room local) artists. The rack also had some Cas Walker VHS tapes. I would have bought one if they had been DVDs. I should have been impressed that they even had the VHS format instead of kinescopes.

WBIR-TV is celebrating its 50th anniversary with weekly looks back at their history of covering East Tennessee. Last week's retrospective was all about Cas Walker. You can see the story on their website as well as some bonus video of Walker speaking out against fluoridation of the water supply and another one where he's kicking a rock band off his show.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

makes Pavlov's dogs foam at the mouth

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! The year of the dog begins today. By coincidence I saw an endcap display of Disney's Old Yeller Dog Food at the supermarket this morning. Old Yeller? The dog that gets rabies and is shot by his owner? There has to be another Disney dog that would have been a more appropriate choice. What about Lady & the Tramp spaghetti and meatball flavored dog food? Old Yeller Dog Food makes as much sense as Bambi's Mother Salt Licks.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006


After providing America with 20 consecutive weekends of entertainment, the NFL takes it all away a week before their biggest game, Super Bowl XL. Remember back when the league first switched to a 17 week schedule? That year they eliminated the off week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. It was much better. Here's a modest proposal. Move the Pro Bowl to the weekend before the Super Bowl. We would have some football to watch tomorrow although without the players from the Steelers and Seahawks. Think back to past Pro Bowls. Did it make any difference if the players from the Super Bowl teams were there or not?

There is a definite letdown after the Super Bowl. White Castle has created a fun website at DADay.com to suggest that the day after the Super Bowl be made a holiday, like the day after Thanksgiving. The site claims that 1.4 million Americans call in sick the day after the Super Bowl. It says we should play on Sunday and rest on Monday. Wouldn't it be easier to just move the Super Bowl to a Saturday?

Even if the game is bad, the commercials are usually good. SuperBowl-Ads.com features the best commercials of the past and previews this years ads.

Speaking of the NFL, did you see that they are adding a third game on Thanksgiving night? It's part of a new package of Thursday and Saturday games on the NFL Network. The league has taken a page from the Redskins playbook and will broadcast games on its own network. The press release doesn't say if they will set the game schedule in advance or leave it flexible like the Sunday night package on NBC. I don't think flexible scheduling would work for these games. It would be very tough on season ticket holders. How much advance notice would they get before finding out that their team's game got moved to a Saturday or a Thursday, especially Thanksgiving?

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Friday, January 27, 2006

towel on

Sometime in the last 48 hours signs were posted on the doors to the pool, the steam room and the sauna at a local fitness club. The signs remind members that it is a co-ed club and to wear proper attire. Do all health clubs have signs like this? Or must something have happened in the last two days to give the management reason to make these signs on their computer?

I wonder who was dressing or behaving inappropriately. Could it have been the guy who looks like George "The Animal" Steele wearing his too tight racing swimsuit? Maybe it was the guy with the combover that hangs down his neck while he swims in a tiny Speedo. Or the guy who goes back and forth from the sauna to the pool to rinse off his sweat. I'm sure it wasn't the cute woman reading "The Body Farm" while wearing a bikini in the hot tub. Nobody would complain about her.
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Thursday, January 26, 2006

hit those trailing consonants

By now you've heard about the disgraced South Korean scientist who claimed to have cloned human stem cells. I remember writing something about his cloned dog during the first week of this blog's existence.

Anyway, when the story was on World News Tonight a few weeks ago, I was tickled by the way Bob Woodruff pronounced the name of Professor Hwang Woo-Suk. I have an audio clip that lets you hear which syllable gets the emphasis, as if you couldn't guess.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

hello mohter, hello fahter...

EdFinancial is a company that offers access to student loans, giving more people the opportunity for higher education and advancing the cause of academia, learning and intelligence. While they are helping to slake the thirst for knowledge, something else must be in the water at their West Knoxville headquarters. The parking lot shows that they are preparing for a baby boomlet among their staff. There are two parking spaces reserved for expectant mothers and one space reserved for an "expectant mohter," whatever that is. There's also one space reserved for the employee of the month. I'm guessing it's not the person who signed off on the paint job.

(thanks to keen-eyed blog reader Jennifer B. for suggesting I visit that parking lot with my camera)
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Tuesday, January 24, 2006


There's a joke in my bio on the Einstein Simplified website. It says that I'm trying to quit second hand smoking but that it's not going well, especially on Tuesday nights. It's Tuesday again, which means I have to decide which clothes are going to get befouled with the stench of cigarette smoke at Patrick Sullivan's tonight. There are certain coats, sweatshirts and slacks that I will not wear to the bar because I don't want to be reminded of the smell. When I get home tonight, I will have to hang my jacket someplace to air out overnight. My shirt and pants go straight into the laundry.

It's the smell that offends me most about smokers. They have every right to fill their homes and bodies with poisonous gases but I don't want to have to smell their emissions in public. It seems that most smokers don't care what they smell like to others. (Do smokers wear deodorant? Why bother?) Maybe the only way to get them to quit is to appeal to their selfishness. Some New York TV stations are running a series of spots that show smokers what cigarettes do to their health. I read that these intense commercials were filmed in Australia. The one that really got my attention showed a medical examiner squeezing a big glob of fat out of a smoker's aorta. The dead smoker was only 32.
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Monday, January 23, 2006

pump up the volume

Somebody has been building a gigantic circular cement thing near I-40. I drive past it several times a week and my curiosity was killing me. During a 30 minute public affairs radio interview in November, I asked Mayor Mike Ragsdale if he knew what it was. Even he said he would have to research it, probably during a break from his podcasting.

I finally decided that I would take a picture of it with my new camera phone. The construction foreman saw me and answered a couple of my questions. He said it was a 3.25 million gallon wastewater tank. I said something about that being a lot of poo and he said that wastewater is usually storm drain runoff not sewage. I was relieved.

It's been raining on and off for a few days but our weather is certainly not as bad as Seattle's recent string of rainy days. Three years ago several streets flooded after heavy rains. I guess
it's good to know our local utility company is getting ready, just in case.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

thrilling blog entry leaves Earl Dittman breathless

In case you're keeping track, each issue of my Daily Variety subscription still shows up about 10 days late. Some days I get two or three issues and other days none. It's pretty easy for them to pile up waiting to be read. This weekend I took a little time to get caught up on back issues. I found a fun column about the worst blurb-meisters of 2005. Blurb-meisters are the critics who get quoted in ads for bad movies.

I also found a headline that amuses me, even if it is outdated:

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

another money saving scheme foiled

The people at Best Buy saw a lot of me this week. By returning one of my Christmas gifts for store credit and using some Reward Zone dollars, I had enough to get a new DVD player for my son. I chose a Philips model that retails for $60. To save money, I bought some component video cables that had been returned and were marked "open item."

When my son and I used the cables to connect the DVD player to the TV, it was apparent that something was wrong. The picture was similar to an old black and white movie except that it was blue and white instead. We tried a few different discs to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Naturally, I assumed that the "open item" cables were bad. Best Buy let me exchange them for a brand new set. The new set didn't work either, which made me wonder if maybe the problem wasn't with the cables. We took the Philips DVD player upstairs, unplugged my Sony DVD player and used its cables to test the new machine. Same problem. It was clear that the red output on the Philips DVD player didn't work.

Best Buy let me exchange it for an identical model. We got the replacement machine home and connected it to the TV. Again, the picture was blue and white. Two separate Philips DVD players had non-working component outputs. Did they think nobody would notice? We went back to Best Buy. This time we exchanged the Philips DVD player for a Sony and paid the $20 price difference. It works just fine but I still feel like somebody owes me $20. Plus gas money.
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Friday, January 20, 2006

this guy walks into a talent agent's office...

The DVD of "The Aristocrats" will be released on Tuesday. The movie stars dozens of comedians including many favorites I have booked as radio guests over the years like Gilbert Gottfried, Richard Jeni and Kevin Pollak. I got to know two of the featured comics, Allan Havey and Bobby Slayton, when I worked at the Comedy World Radio Network.

I had hoped to see the movie when it briefly played at the Downtown West Cinema but I didn't get there. I think the communal experience of laughing with others at the same disgusting joke would have made me feel like less of a freak than watching the DVD alone. But as a student of comedy, I want to add the disc to my collection not only for the film but for the 2 hours of extras they've put on there.

The lengthy press release I received via email makes me want to see "The Aristocrats" all the more. Here's a small sampling
from the production notes:
"Everyone in the film wanted to be in the film, although some of them thought it was insane and were willing to tell us that on camera," recalls [Paul] Provenza. "For them, it was a chance to roll around in the mud and not care about making a mess. It's also a challenge to outdo one another. When we were shooting, some people just told the joke and then had to get on with their busy lives and we were done in 15 to 20 minutes. Others just kept going and going and enjoying themselves. Billy Connolly was going to squeeze us in for an hour before rushing off to make a flight. He ended up changing his flight and hanging out and laughing with us for hours and his lovely wife made us all lunch. We often forgot we were making a movie when we were shooting."

George Carlin, Drew Carey, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, Robin Williams, Eric Idle, Judy Gold, Bill Maher, Eddie Izzard, Jon Stewart, Bob Saget, Gilbert Gottfried... these are just a handful of the one hundred comedians who contribute their comic genius to THE ARISTOCRATS. Some, like Bob Saget, who is best known for playing the father on the squeaky-clean television series "Full House," reveal they have a surprising talent - and taste - for adult humor. Other performers deliver highly original renditions of the joke, including Billy the Mime, who wickedly pantomimes "The Aristocrats" while unsuspecting pedestrians walk by, and Eric Mead, who actually enacts the joke's sexual intricacies and assorted vulgarities with a deck of ordinary playing cards. Gilbert Gottfried delivers a classic rendering of "The Aristocrats" at a roast for Hugh Hefner, causing fellow comic Rob Schneider to laugh so hard he literally falls off his chair.

The comics were comfortable performing "The Aristocrats" for Provenza, [Penn] Jillette, and their non-threatening consumer video cameras because the film was not made in a conventional way. The filmmakers emphasized informality, recreating the intimate atmosphere they experienced after-hours, when they would gather with their fellow comics to trade jokes and talk about humor. "The tone of the movie is exactly right because it's just buddies of ours talking to us," says Jillette. "We've all done a ton of TV things and once a crew comes in and sets one light and powders someone down, it becomes work. This was a couple of goofballs with cameras, just turning them on laughing. One of the hardest parts of the final sound work was editing out Provenza and me laughing over every take."

Jillette and Provenza shot THE ARISTOCRATS over a period of about two years, working at various times in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, London, and other places. "We wanted it to be honest and convey the real nature of the shoots - in hallways, hotel rooms, dressing rooms, people's homes, coffee shops, wherever," Provenza explains. "If the sound is tough to hear because of planes or noisy nightclub activity in the background, well - that was part of the experience. I think this flexibility contributes to the looseness and unselfconsciousness of so many of the performances." Many of the comics are caught backstage; Jon Stewart in his dressing room, getting ready for a show; Drew Carey on a set. They're warmed up and in top form, ready to tell "The Aristocrats" as it has never been told before.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

kernel of truth

ABC's overnight news program, "World News Now," is like a Cliff Notes version of their other news programs. They give you excerpts from "World News Tonight," "20/20," "Nightline," etc. Early this morning they ran a clip from the previous day's "Good Morning America" which featured Dr. Mehmet Oz, the guy who got Oprah to talk about the sound of her poop.

Dr. Oz offered a few simple tips to help us live longer. One of the tips is to avoid products with high-fructose corn syrup, especially soda. I knew that they put corn syrup in a lot of products like ketchup and BBQ sauce, so I did a little looking around on the Internet. I found a New York Times article from 2003 that makes the connection between our corn fed nation and the obesity epidemic. One paragraph really sums it up:

Cheap corn, the dubious legacy of Earl Butz, is truly the building block of the ''fast-food nation.'' Cheap corn, transformed into high-fructose corn syrup, is what allowed Coca-Cola to move from the svelte 8-ounce bottle of soda ubiquitous in the 70's to the chubby 20-ounce bottle of today. Cheap corn, transformed into cheap beef, is what allowed McDonald's to supersize its burgers and still sell many of them for no more than a dollar. Cheap corn gave us a whole raft of new highly processed foods, including the world-beating chicken nugget, which, if you study its ingredients, you discover is really a most ingenious transubstantiation of corn, from the cornfed chicken it contains to the bulking and binding agents that hold it together.
I heard a brief news story this week that said gasoline prices are expected to rise again. There has to be a way to change our corn fed nation into a corn fueled nation. Ethanol may or may not be the answer. I would think that we have enough corn to make our own but an editorial in the Los Angeles Times suggests we import it from Brazil.

It seems to me that we would solve two problems if we could stop eating and drinking corn syrup and instead use it to power our cars. Imagine pouring a Super Big Gulp into your car just like Doc Brown putting trash into his Mr. Fusion Home Engery Reactor.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

link letters

Because I missed my nap, I think I'll just share the links to the best stuff I saw today:
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu

Yesterday my son told me that he and my daughter sometimes get embarrassed by my behavior at retail stores and restaurants. Apparently they were mortified a couple of weeks ago when I interrogated a sales clerk to make sure I was getting the best deal on a new cell phone. They say it's actually worse at restaurants.

The topic came up on the way home from celebrating my son's birthday. My wife and I had received restaurant gift certificates for our wedding anniversary, for my birthday and for Christmas. We let our son choose a restaurant where we could use a gift certificate for his birthday meal. He wanted sushi (like any normal 16 year old) and chose to go to Wasabi. Since my wife and I are both losing weight, we needed to find a way to order only 4 ounces of fish, 1/3 cup of rice and one cup of salad each.

Is it more embarrassing for my family that I brought our food scale to the sushi restaurant or that I made them use the new camera phone to take a photo of me weighing my sashimi?

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Monday, January 16, 2006

pride (in the name of love)

The Fox Broadcasting Company celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday by presenting the two night premiere of "24." Part one aired last night on Dr. King's actual birthday. Part two will be on tonight, the national holiday in his honor.

As usual with my favorite shows, I read too much information before watching. Several TV critics had mentioned that the show starts off with a bang. Terry Morrow wrote in his review and on his blog that there were two surprising murders within the first fifteen minutes. When they put the words "Special Guest Star Reiko Aylesworth" on screen during the opening credits, I realized that Reiko's character, Michelle Dessler, would be one of the ones killed. That was followed by "Special Guest Appearance by Dennis Haysbert."

I knew that Haysbert already had another job (besides the Allstate commercials) in an upcoming series called "The Unit," so the words "special guest appearance" didn't immediately make me think that his character, former president David Palmer, would be killed. Moments later Palmer was gunned down by a sniper. The image of his brother crouching by his body was reminiscent of the famous tragic photograph of a Memphis motel balcony in April, 1968.
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Sunday, January 15, 2006


All four NFL teams that I was rooting for this weekend lost their games. My favorite team, the Redskins, had us screaming at the TV as it looked like they might make a comeback against the Seahawks. I didn't think I would care that much about the Patriots and Broncos game but I found myself disappointed by the Patriots' loss. Today I was hoping the Bears would reward their loyal fans by advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

I wanted the Colts to make it to the Super Bowl after their great season. If it weren't for the whole beating the Redskins thing, I would have enjoyed a Colts / Seahawks Super Bowl since they had the best records. One of the local Knoxville sports anchors must be especially crushed by the Colts' loss. For the past couple of months, WATE's brillo-haired Jim Wogan has been traveling to Indianapolis and filing reports about Peyton Manning's every breath.
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Saturday, January 14, 2006

waiting for showtime

While my wife was watching figure skating on TV tonight, I realized it doesn't bother me that Fox has scheduled the season finale of "Arrested Development" to air during the first night of the Winter Olympics. I will skip the Olympics and watch "Arrested Development," especially now that I've seen publicity photos from the last episodes posted by Just Jared.
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dry hands

The bathrooms at the Regal Cinemas Pinnacle 18 have super powered hand dryers. As you are using them, it looks like they will blow the skin right off your hand. When the theatre first opened in July, I complained to the management that the dryers were too loud, especially when a group of kids found it entertaining to get all the machines going at once. The noise rivaled that of a jumbo jet taking off. They say they have somehow turned down the noise since then. These recent photos show that you can still pretend you are melting under the dryer. By the way, I waited until the bathroom was empty before taking my digital camera out of my coat pocket.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

wackadoodle comedienne

Bonnie Hunt deserves to be on TV every day. Naturally I was delighted to read that ABC has ordered a pilot for a new Bonnie Hunt series. I am especially encouraged by the news that it will be a single-camera show, like my most of my current favorites.

At the beginning of the NFL season, Marc & Kim did a fantasy draft spoof, where we could choose celebrities to be our family members. I selected Bonnie as my first choice. I wish I could call her "my TV crush" but a blogger named Joel Keller beat me to it with a beautifully written essay about her.

Joel points out that Bonnie is one of the all-time best talk show guests, which reminded of a photo I had saved from the Jimmy Kimmel Live web page. It shows Bonnie with Sam Meneshian, the Armenian Comedian. During the show, Bonnie seemed as amused by Sam as I am. He used to appear regularly on the Kevin & Bean show at KROQ when I worked there. I believe that Sam is a real life version of a character Andy Kaufman would have created. Maybe Bonnie can find a small role for him on her new show.
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Thursday, January 12, 2006

good reception

Don't tell the folks at "Arrested Development" but "The Office" is fast becoming my favorite TV comedy (only partly due to the fact that it's actually on the air regularly). Today's Insider column on the TV Guide website is a blog entry from Jenna Fischer who plays Pam. From what she writes, tonight's episode sounds great:
Steve Carell's bit at the top of this episode, where Michael explains how he burned his foot on his George Foreman Grill, is the greatest interview of the entire series. I think his performance is brilliant. Seriously, brilliant. I've already watched it seven times.
Clicking the links in Jenna's blog brought me to an old blog entry by B.J. Novak who wrote that several of the actors had created MySpace pages for their characters. I found Pam Beesley's page.
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fun lovin' degrees

Either the thermometer at Judy's is broken or there really is something to the whole global warming thing.

photo taken at 11:30 a.m. on January 12, 2006
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

sad news

The proprietor of my favorite BBQ place died Sunday. Robert Martin owned M&M Catering on Middlebrook Pike. His body was found in the woods near Douglas Dam. My prayers and sympathy go to his family at this difficult time.

If a man is measured by his work, then Robert was a tremendous success. His food made a lot of people very happy. I liked the food so much that I wrote about it on the second day of this blog's existence. My wife and I made sure to buy some pulled chicken in December before M&M closed for the season. I hope to be one of the first customers when they reopen in the Spring.
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a moment of weakness

The promo was just too good. I must confess that I TiVo-ed "The View" today. I had gotten tired of the ladies' constant crosstalk but yesterday's promo promised a show with three things I couldn't resist: 1) Albert Brooks 2) a segment about sleep and 3) a segment about favorite food flavors without the calories.

Albert Brooks was as good as I expected. He was promoting his new movie "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World." The sleep segment was not that great. They mostly talked about new sleeping pills, which I don't need because I have no trouble sleeping at any time of the day I want. Star mentioned which sleeping pill she takes, which is information that will probably show up in a tabloid soon. I wonder how many Al takes.

I am going to have to try the David Burke Flavor Sprays that Star and Joy sampled. They have no fat, no carbs and no calories. The flavors include Memphis BBQ, smoked bacon and marshmallow. Mmm... marshmallow...
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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

thumpin' good

Way back in the early part of this century, several reality TV shows featured East Tennesseans in their casts. There was Tina Wesson of "Survivor 2," Kent Blackwelder of "Big Brother 2" and Hope & Norm Davis of "The Amazing Race 2." Watching them made me realize that people from Appalachia are really good on unscripted television. Except for Tanya Vance of "Survivor 5," I can't think of any local contestants from the past two or three years.

Things may be changing. The cast of the upcoming "Survivor 12" includes a Sevierville woman named Melinda Hyder. The latest installment of the tired, played-out "Bachelor" series has a UT alumna named Sarah Stone. The recently concluded "The Biggest Loser 2" featured a Jefferson City woman named Ryan Kelley.

I wonder if my theory about Appalachians being good on unscripted television is confirmed or disproved by the likes of Johnny Knoxville and Cas Walker?
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Monday, January 09, 2006

mmm... Bordeaux eggs...

Last month there were a lot of complaints about the phrase "Happy Holidays" replacing "Merry Christmas" in our society. In light of that, I had to laugh when See's Candies sent me two flyers for their fund raising programs. One flyer was for Valentine's Day and the other was for the "Spring Holidays." By the look of it, the Spring Holidays refer to Easter and maybe Passover (if chocolate bunnies and eggs are eaten at Seder).

Rabbits, chicks and eggs have nothing to do with the central mystery of Christianity. Perhaps it is accurate to ascribe these fertility symbols to the "Spring Holidays" instead of Easter. The word Easter comes from the name of a pagan fertility goddess who had a month named after her. If eggs and bunnies represent fertility, then maybe Easter should be represented by empty tombs and discarded shrouds. Actually that sounds more like Halloween.

If See's is trying to remove religion from its candy sales, they should realize that Valentine is a Catholic saint and martyr. Leaving the "St." off the front of "St. Valentine's Day" doesn't sound as awkward as leaving the "St." off the front of "St. Patrick's Day." Which might explain why last March I saw some green napkins for sale at Kroger that were printed with the words "Happy Shamrock Day."
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Sunday, January 08, 2006

proofreading the Internet

Yesterday I discovered an error on both the CBS News and WebMD sites but I didn't know how to save copies before it gets corrected. Help has arrived! My friend Jennifer B. in Knoxville sent instructions on how to save screen captures of web pages. Here's one I made of the WebMD site:

New reader Christine in Los Angeles sent along a GIF file that shows more of the screen than I could grab on my laptop:

Thanks for the help! I will pay it forward by sharing the instructions Jennifer sent:
  • Pull up the web page you want to screen shot.
  • Scroll so that the part you want to see is on the screen.
  • Hit [alt] and [print screen/prt sc] at the same time.
  • Print Screen is usually near the insert button on a laptop keyboard and next to [F12] on a full size keyboard (best I can remember). If it is sharing the button with something else, you may also have to hit [shift] at the same time to get the print screen function.
  • Print Screen works like copy except that it selects what is on the screen and performs the copy at the same time.
  • Holding Alt at the same time tells it to only copy the window with focus (the one with a blue bar across the top - in standard Windows colors - is the one with focus). Do it both ways and the difference you should see will be the task bar at the bottom of the screen showing up.
  • Open paint (Start, All Programs, Accessories, Paint).
  • Edit, Paste; you should see your screen shot now.
  • Save as whatever you want it to be.
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Saturday, January 07, 2006

oh no they didn't

A story on the CBS News website has got me wondering if I'm the only one who caught the error. The headline is "Why People Go on American Idol." The story itself is from WebMD. The first paragraph reads:
Your knees are still shaking, you are clinging to Ruben Studdard's cheery encouragement, when you meet Simon Cowell's steely gaze. Uh-oh, maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
Ruben Studdard? Could they possibly mean Randy Jackson? Or do the words "cheery encouragement" mean they have confused Ruben Studdard with Paula Abdul?

This mistake isn't as bad as the one Wal-Mart made with the Planet of the Apes DVD earlier this week. But I still hope someone saves a screen capture of the CBS or WebMd pages before an editor realizes the error and fixes it. I would do it myself if I knew how.
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Friday, January 06, 2006

no love from the Italian judge

Enough people voted for Master P to keep him from being eliminated on tonight's "Dancing With the Stars." The judges had put the rapper and his partner in last place after a horrible performance. I know Jimmy Kimmel appealed to his audience last night to keep P on the show but I thought it was Kenny Mayne who provided the show's best comedy (besides the British announcer, of course). Kenny even did a little bit of the Batusi and still got sent home after urging citizens in his home town to remain calm if he lost.

During last season's American Idol there was an Internet campaign to keep the worst singers on the show. Is there a similar online campaign to keep Master P dancing? Or should I say standing there while his partner dances around him?

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thanks for the meme-ories

Les Jones tagged me with a meme about weird habits and I tagged five others. So far we've learned that Frank Strovel rides grocery carts, Perry Simon has got the Purell thing going and Ken Levine loves Joanie Sommers.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

pod squad

Here's what I'm thinking. If I can't use the mp3 files on my new cell phone as ringtones, maybe I could download some podcasts and listen to them when I have some time to kill.

I read something about a Woody Allen podcast that's supposed to be fairly interesting. However Woody's comments appear to only be only available through iTunes. Can you recommend any podcasts in the mp3 format?

I did find a site called Podcast Alley that has some good choices. I may try listening to the MuggleCast (for Harry Potter fans) or perhaps to the ImprovCast (about the Toronto improv scene). Hey, I should get the rest of the guys in Einstein Simplified to record a podcast with me.
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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

egg nogs and ringtones

They made me an offer I couldn't refuse. We went to the cell phone store to get a replacement phone for my daughter and somehow ended up getting a new one for me too. They had a buy one get one free deal with rebates that made both phones virtually free (except for the sales tax).

When I took a job in Knoxville, the radio station provided cell phones for me and several other staff members. After the station went belly-up in 2003, I no longer had a phone and have gotten along fine without one since. Before leaving Burbank, I had given my old phone to my wife and my wife gave her old phone to our daughter. A new phone for me would cost only another $10 a month on our family share plan.

I feebly tried to resist the sales pitch but they waived the activation fee since it was the last day of the year and they wanted to meet some sales goal. Then they said would take 50% off whatever accessories I needed. What really closed the deal though was the phone itself. It's got a 1.3 megapixel camera and an mp3 player built in. I caved.

The camera will prove useful for my blog. The first thing I photographed was a sign I saw posted on the door at Weigel's on January 1st.
It's a good thing that I already have some egg nog in the freezer.

As nice as the camera is, I was probably more excited about the mp3 player. I am almost positive the guy at the Verizon store said I could take mp3s from my computer and use them as ringtones. I excitedly took the little mini SD memory card out of the phone, connected it to my laptop and transferred some mp3s that I thought would sound good. I used "Hail to the Redskins," "Ma 'Tit Fille" by Buckwheat Zydeco, the "think music" from "Match Game" 70-something and a few others. I had no trouble listening to my mp3s on the phone but I couldn't figure out how to set them as ringtones. Well, it turns out that it can't be done. I took my son to browse at Best Buy today and noticed that they sold the same model of phone. I asked a salesman about the mp3s and he confirmed that they can't be set as ringtones. How lame! He did say that there was some third party software I could buy for $80 that could convert mp3s to ringtones. I'll pass.

As I type this, I realize I'm getting worked up over ringtones for nothing because:
a) I don't really want anyone to call me and use up my minutes;
b) I plan to leave the phone turned off when I'm at home and
c) I think I'll leave the phone on vibrate when I'm out in public.
Besides, how would I explain why the "Main Street Electrical Parade" theme is blasting from my belt clip?

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

well, this sucks

Independence Air is shutting down. I supported the low fare carrier with my business. In fact, I recently bought a ticket for my daughter to get back to college for the Spring semester. Now her flight is canceled and I'm out $99.20. The notice on their website says I should get a refund once they get approval from the bankruptcy court. Great. How long will that take?

One of the reasons Las Vegas holds no appeal for me is that I hate losing money. I will stress over that $99.20 every day until the refund shows up.

As soon as we heard the news about Independence Air, my wife was able to search for tickets on other airlines before prices go up. My daughter now has a ticket on United that cost $109.30.

In the 18 months that they served Knoxville, I must have made at least half a dozen round trips on Independence Air. I liked the comfortable seats, the online check-in and the easy plane-side baggage check. On each flight they would play an audio tape of a celebrity reading the safety announcements. On what turns out to have been my final trip on Independence Air, the flight attendant said we would be hearing the safety announcements from Allison Janney. I had heard that one a few times and knew that she makes a lame joke about using your cell phone after a "water landing." I raised my hand and asked if there were any other choices. The flight attendant said she also had tapes from "The Fly I Guy" (heard it) and from Richard Lewis. I requested the tape from Lewis and she played it. Afterwards she said that she might play that one more often because it was funnier than she remembered.

While reminiscing, I thought about last year's Earth Day when my Independence Air flight was delayed by Air Force One:

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on the 13th day of Christmas...

The first Einstein Simplified show of 2006 will be at the Comedy Zone in West Knoxville on Saturday, January 7. Showtime is 6:00 p.m. which is right smack dab in the middle of the Redskins' first playoff game since 1999. I have already programmed my TiVo to record the game. When you come to the improv show, please don't tell me the halftime score or anything about the game at all. Hail to the Redskins, hail victory...
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Monday, January 02, 2006

float, float on

As it turns out, I may have chosen poorly when deciding which network's coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade to record on my TiVo. I was counting on the traditional cheesy interaction between Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards. It seemed like KTLA had demoted Stephanie. She had to sit out in the rain with a hand held microphone that she didn't know how to use. Several bloggers spent the day writing about the KTLA drama. Take a look at Martini Republic, 2Cents, Memo To: and LA Observed.

Why would anyone buy a souvenir DVD of this year's parade from KTLA? Maybe the parents of the band members would want one. Why do all the characters on Raul Rodriguez designed floats look like they're related?

ABC made more of an effort this year by having Teri Hatcher and James Denton co-host their parade coverage. Unfortunately both NBC and ABC ended their coverage before the Burbank float arrived. I thought HGTV would ignore the Media City but they were just stalling while a tow truck was summoned. Burbank's float broke down and won the Bob Hope Humor Trophy. Actually they won the trophy before breaking down. The tow truck only added to the comedy.

The weather in Knoxville was almost as bad as the weather in Pasadena. I lost DirecTV reception for a few minutes during a thunderstorm. Several of the floats looked like they were melting in the rain. If they had broken from tradition and held the parade on Sunday, what would the weather have been like?
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never on Sunday

It didn't quite feel like New Year's Day yesterday without the Tournament of Roses Parade. The parade always moves to January 2 when the new year begins on a Sunday. Normally I would plant myself in front of the TV for several hours today but I will be at work during the parade. Rather than flip between channels, I will have to choose one network to record on my TiVo.

Knoxville-based HGTV will do a good job with their two hours and fifteen minutes of commercial-free coverage. The lovely Nancy O'Dell will co-host NBC's coverage but they will only be on for an hour and a half. ABC's coverage will last two hours but they only air the parade as a contractual obligation (to get the football game) and they don't seem happy about it. Univision covers the parade with some great camera positions but I don't understand enough Spanish to enjoy it. In the past, I would tune in for a minute or two until they said I word I recognized.

This year, CBS bailed out of covering the parade at all. I had always wondered why so many networks carried the Rose Parade. During the time I lived in L.A., KTTV threw in the Rose towel and conceded to KTLA, which would repeat their parade broadcast all day and get the best ratings for it.

As a former Southern Californian, I think I will record the KTLA broadcast, which is simulcast on the Travel Channel. There's something delightfully cheesy about the way Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards describe the parade each year. Ken Levine said it best the other day when he wrote:
If you are from anywhere other than Los Angeles, a New Year's tradition is saying "who is Stephanie Edwards"?
My family and I went to watch the parade in person one year when KROQ's Jed the Fish invited us to a New Year's Eve party at his home in Pasadena. Around 2 or 3 a.m. we walked along the street where the floats were lining up. The best part of seeing the floats up close is the smell. We had to remove our shoes when we got back to Jed's house because the fans camped out along the parade route were tossing marshmallows at each other and they got the street all sticky. After a couple of hours of sleep we watched the parade from atop stepladders provided by our host.

The City of Burbank has one of the last self-built floats in the parade
(most of the floats are built by companies like Phoenix Decorating or Fiesta Parade Floats). For a few years, our family volunteered to help decorate the Burbank float during the week between Christmas and New Year's. We worked on "Grandma's Attic," "To The Future... At Full Throttle" and "The All American Barbershop Quartet." We spent a few hours each day gluing silverleaf or dry materials onto the float, unpacking flowers shipped in from Hawaii, or prepping roses and putting them into little vials of water.

One year we were stripping thorns off roses when the old lady in charge sent a new volunteer to help us. We showed the newbie how to use a tool to strip the thorns and how to fill the little vials from a bucket of cold water with a floral preservative added. The young woman told us she couldn't do any of those tasks because she was a hand model.

This year, Burbank's float will be number 79 in the line of march. We'll be watching for it and rooting for them to win a decent trophy this year.
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Sunday, January 01, 2006

don't take no rhythm, don't take no style

The new year brings us a new blogger! I am very much looking forward to reading my friend Bean's comments on a regular basis. If he had started his blog a day earlier, I could have tagged him with that meme thing from yesterday.

Bean's first post is about Dick Clark's return to television last night. I recorded Dick Clark on the TiVo while I flipped between Regis Philbin and Carson Daly. A Google search uncovered several blog entries about Dick Clark's performance. Some are nice, some not so nice.

It may have been the lateness of the hour but I'm thinking NBC and Carson did the best job of it with their Mary J. Blige performance and Melissa Stark's street coverage. It was a solid show with no obvious mistakes.

Dick Clark's impaired speech took some getting used to, yet he was much easier to understand than Kirk Douglas. I wonder if they considered pre-taping Dick's segments. He missed a few numbers while counting down from 15, which made me feel sympathy for him. Or maybe he actually was on tape since I never saw him and Ryan Seacrest on camera together. Seacrest neither added nor detracted from the show but Hilary Duff and her teeth were a waste of time and space, especially when she sang. As Ken Levine pointed out, ABC also had Mariah Carey in her ill-fitting costume.

Poor Regis. He was stuck on Fox. The best they could come up with for him to open the show was a phone interview with Carrie Underwood. A phone interview? He's Regis! They followed that with another phone interview, this time with Donald Trump. By the time I flipped back to Fox, Regis was talking football with former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, who at least had the decency to show up in person. Oh yeah, Jillian Barberie was there too.
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