Friday, March 31, 2006

when they say one man, they mean one man

Most visitors to Walt Disney World rush to get in line at popular rides like Soarin'. The hour long wait made me think that the ride would last a lot longer than it did. It was like sitting in a comfortable porch swing high over some beautiful California landscapes. As a former Burbanker, I had hoped to see some familiar scenery. Unfortunately the only shot of the Los Angeles area was a quick flyover of the 110 freeway through downtown at night.

For some reason, the attractions that interested me most had no waiting at all. In the Magic Kingdom, I breezed right into the revamped show in The Enchanted Tiki Room. I didn't mind that Iago and Zazu hijacked the show and "modernized" it with some disco-era tunes. However they should have closed the show with a little bit of the old "tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room" song.

At Disney/MGM Studios, I headed straight for One Man's Dream, an exhibit and film about Walt himself. As you can see, I had the best seat in the house.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

more Mason madness

There is no doubt that the national media has embraced George Mason University's Cinderella story in the NCAA Tournament. Tomorrow morning both "Good Morning America" and "Today" are scheduled to have live cameras on campus. One will be inside the Johnson Center, the other outside at the statue of George Mason. And of course, Kevin & Bean interviewed me this morning on KROQ.

Two of my friends are traveling to Indianapolis for the game(s). Coincidentally they both served time as the George Mason basketball mascot. My friend George was the Mason Maniak and was succeeded by my friend Mike, who was Gunston. I first met George while I was working at WAVA. At the time he was Prince Willie, the mascot for the (then) Prince William Yankees, a minor league baseball franchise now known as the Potomac Nationals. Since hanging up the giant mascot heads, George has been doing a weekly sports show on WGMU, the campus radio station. Oddly enough, I didn't meet Mike until he moved to Knoxville a couple of years ago. It would be fun to see the two of them compete in the Celebrity Mascot Games, which are held in Orlando but it would be more convenient for me if the games were held in nearby Mascot, Tennessee (get it?).

After last Friday's successful viewing party, the Mason alumni in the Knoxville area will once again gather at Bailey's Sports Grille to cheer for GMU. I'll be there right after the Einstein Simplified performance at The Comedy Zone. Who would have ever thought that the Patriots would still be playing basketball in April back when I committed to performing in the improv show? My wife has a Knoxville Choral Society performance that night too.

I've been exchanging emails with several college friends to share the Final Four excitement. We're all happy that our team has made it this far and rooting for them to win it all. Some of us are even praying for a GMU victory. Today's last words come from my favorite GMU professor, who was also my faculty advisor. He writes:

I did look through your site - you are a prolific bastard, I'll say that. I loved the sweatshirt story.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

worst episode ever

Is it just me or was last night's "American Idol" just plain atrocious? The biggest problem was the horrible song choices. There were only two or three songs that were familiar to most viewers. Why did Taylor and Mandisa perform extremely obscure songs that only they would enjoy? Speaking of Mandisa, did you see my friend Bean talking about her on CNN? It was a follow up to a story on

For the past few weeks I've been hoping that Ace or Bucky would get cut loose but Lisa's mangling of a Kelly Clarkson song could very well be her ticket home tonight.

The show's regular stylist must be on vacation. Maybe somebody thought it would be funny to dress Elliott like a homeless vet and to put Taylor in something that looked like a Members Only jacket over an ill-fitting t-shirt. I thought Paris had the best performance of the night but that it was ruined by the stylist who made her look like Gary Coleman in drag.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

another Cinderella story

Last night at the weekly Knoxville Choral Society rehearsal, our friend Mike mentioned to my wife that I've been writing about almost nothing but George Mason University in the blog lately. We'll take a short break from Patriot Fever to share some vacation photos with Mike (and you).

During our recent trip to Walt Disney World, I posed for a picture with one of Disney's "face characters." In this case it was Alice in Wonderland, who made a point of telling me to hold out my arm like a prince. I assume this was to avoid getting too chummy.

As the name implies, face characters are not completely covered by their costumes like the "fur characters." Many of the face characters portray Disney princesses and are very attractive, which gave me the idea to look for any websites created by their obsessive fans. Instead, I found two interesting essays about the less than magical process of auditioning to become a face character and a comedy piece about trying to hire face characters to show you around the park. Another website documented some guy's quest to get photos of his kids with all the princesses.

In addition to Alice, my face character photo safari captured Belle, Wendy Darling and Cruella De Vil.

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daily dribble

My sister just called from the GMU Bookstore where she's buying me a Final Four t-shirt. From the background noise, it sounded like a real (March) madhouse there. The Mason email servers are also bursting with school spirit:

Subject: Final Four Rally at the Johnson Center
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006
From: Office of the President

Join Coach Larranaga, students, faculty and staff tomorrow, Wednesday, March 29 at 11:30 a.m. for a Final Four Rally in the JC Food Court. Watch Mason beat UConn on the big screen, enjoy Final Four cake and cheer on the Patriots!

The following email from the Student Program Board is making the rounds among us GMU supporters:
Be on Good Morning America this Friday, March 31! If there was ever a time Mason needed you it is now...

Good Morning America wants to do a piece from our campus on Friday morning!! I need students to be here to talk to them and show off our awesome spirit!

What does this mean? Be at the JC food court at 7:00am, March 31!! Please, please, please, pass this on to your committees and anyone else you know. It's the chance to be on national TV, talk on TV, and scream your spirited head off!
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Monday, March 27, 2006


It's hard to explain how mind-boggling it has been for me to watch George Mason University's amazing journey to the Final Four. In past years I was usually able to catch one or two GMU basketball games way up the dial on channel 629. Yesterday I was watching regular, old-fashioned network television. The Patriots were on CBS, not CSNDC. Their game was actually available on every TV set in America. By the end of overtime yesterday, I was choked up with elation. I got the same feeling this morning as I read about last night's pep rally at the Patriot Center.

When I went to George Mason, the university was just beginning its efforts to lose the "commuter school" image. They've been building dormitories left and right since I was there but I think they still have many more commuters than resident students. The other day a GMU recruiter asked me to use this blog to point out something in a Washington Post article that would help counter the commuter school reputation. Of course, whatever I write here will be overshadowed by the many newspaper articles that refer to all five starters on the basketball team being raised within a 90-minute drive of Mason's Fairfax campus.

I've talked with some people who feel that George Mason's basketball team came out of nowhere to upset Connecticut (and Wichita State and North Carolina and Michigan State). Believe it or not, GMU's basketball program is not an overnight success nor a Johnny-come-lately. The university made a major commitment to the sport over twenty years ago when they built the Patriot Center. I read a post by a blogger who properly gives some credit to George Johnson, who was GMU president at the time. Johnson promised my graduating class that our commencement ceremony would be held in the brand new Patriot Center even if we had to wear hard hats. He kept his promise and wore a hard hat during his address to our class.

Last week I was impressed by all the national media attention my old school received. I posted links to several of the stories. Obviously there's a plethora of great "Cinderella men" stories in today's papers. (And some good audio on WTOP's site.) Instead of trying to link to all the mainstream media stories, I searched the blogosphere to see what else was being written about GMU. Here are some links worthy of a click (feel free to send along some more):

Did you hear that of over three million brackets that were filled out on, only four correctly picked the Final Four? I'm surprised there were that many. Who are these four psychics?

Because I've been so demonstrative in my excitement over George Mason, KROQ's Kevin & Bean are going to talk to me on their show Thursday morning around 7:05 a.m. PT.

My source on the inside sent me some photos that were taken during yesterday's viewing party in the Johnson Center:

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

do you believe in miracles?

Two words: FINAL FOUR!

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children of all ages

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is in town through today. Instead of the usual three-ring show, this year we got the one-ring "gold tour," which used to be called the "hometown edition." A marketing rep for the circus told me that Knoxville is one of the few markets that will get all three tours (red, blue and gold) of the circus on a rotating basis. As far as I could tell, the gold tour had only two clowns and two elephants in addition to the contortionists, tightrope walkers, teterboarders, trapeze artists, dancing horses and Frisbee catching dogs.

Former clown and former human cannonball Jon Weiss is now the "host" (not ringmaster?) of the gold tour. You might remember Jon and his friend Al as contestants on The Amazing Race 4. The circus performance I saw on Wednesday night started only a few hours after Jon returned from New York where he hosts "Finish Line," a weekly Internet talk show about the current race. Wouldn't it be a good idea if the Amazing Race contestants received a time penalty for overuse of the phrases "Go baby!" and "C'mon baby!" during roadblock challenges?

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

hail, hail Chelonia

The world's oldest tortoise died Wednesday. His age was estimated to be 250 or even 255 years old. Most of the articles about Adwaita include a photo of him from better days. However the BBC and The Times of London made sure to use a photo of his carcass. The BBC even has link to video coverage of the dead tortoise. Video? It just lays there. There's an interesting article and a podcast on the Slate Magazine site that explain why some species live so long.

I've always been fond of turtles and tortoises, especially box turtles and desert tortoises. Here's a photo of Mo, our pet tortoise, as we took a break from our cross-country drive in Hannibal, Missouri.

When our beloved pet passed away, I had him preserved forever. I wrote a little about it last year in an essay on my passion for radio. Here's the relevant excerpt:
When Mo died, I wasn't even going to say anything on the air. He was supposed to live longer than me and I felt somehow at fault for his respiratory infection. Thankfully my partner, Ashley Adams, saw the humor in the situation when I told her that I hadn't buried Mo but instead put him in the freezer next to the Turtle Tracks ice cream.

The saga of Mo played out over the next six months on our show. We called local taxidermists trying to find one who would preserve him. One refused to do reptiles. Another said that small animals were too difficult. A third refused to do pets. A listener called and reminded us that several months earlier we had interviewed a taxidermist who specialized in pets. We made a call to that taxidermist, Al Holmes of the Al Holmes Taxidermy Studio and Wildlife Museum in Wetumpka, Alabama. Al explained that he freeze-dries the smaller critters and would be happy to "fix Mo up" for me.

By a strange coincidence, my co-host had relatives in Wetumpka and was planning to bring her 2-month old son to visit them on Mother's Day weekend. Rather than pay shipping charges, I wanted to somehow convince her to take Mo's carcass along on the six hour drive. I waited until we were live on the air to spring the idea on her and asked listeners to help me convince her. After she reluctantly agreed, we asked Al Holmes how to pack Mo for the trip. He was already in a Ziploc bag in my freezer. I wrapped him (and the bag) in newspaper and put him in a Styrofoam cooler surrounded by some frozen bottles of Aquafina. I taped the cooler shut and brought it to work with me. It sat on the studio floor during our whole show that Friday. The next day Ashley delivered the cooler to Al Holmes. When he opened it, they drank the Aquafinas which had thawed but were still cool and refreshing. Creepy.

Speaking of tortoises, have you seen the funny TV commercials featuring The Slowskys, a family of tortoises who prefer DSL to cable? And speaking of turtles, a listener named Johanna sent along the following email:
I heard that you really like turtles. I do as well. Just thought I'd let you know about an amazing opportunity I had to work with them for a week one summer a few years ago. I was able to work as a volunteer with researchers with loggerhead turtles on Wassaw Island (a tiny island on the Georgia coast near Savannah). We patrolled the beaches waiting for turtles to make a run to lay eggs and we moved or protected nests if needed. It was really a neat experience and great to know that I helped in the conservation of this endangered species. I've included the link below if you want to check it out sometime.
Oh yeah, you know what other turtles I really like? These ones.
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Friday, March 24, 2006

somebody pinch me

The George Mason Patriots are in the Elite 8! They held a commanding lead throughout the game but those of us who watched the game at Bailey's tonight are still finding the whole thing a little hard to believe.

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brush with greatness

To honor my alma mater, I dug through the closet and found four different George Mason sweatshirts to wear to work this week. Now I have to decide which one to wear to Bailey's Sports Grille for the viewing party tonight as I root for GMU in the NCAA tournament. You're all invited, by the way. The sweatshirts reminded me of a favorite story from early in my radio career. During a period of unemployment last year, I started writing my memoirs. Today seems like a good day to share an excerpt with you. It's my ultimate GMU sweatshirt story.
My father used to play tennis with Bill Wendell before he was the announcer for “Late Night with David Letterman.” When my wife and I went to New York for our honeymoon, I called Mr. Wendell and asked him for tickets to the show. He got us VIP seats in the front row. We had been warned that Letterman likes the studio cold and to dress warmly. I wore my favorite George Mason University sweatshirt. Dave came into the audience before the show to take questions. He noticed my GMU sweatshirt and asked me if he could have it. The sweatshirt had cost me $45, so I said no!

That summer, Don Geronimo was doing the afternoon show at WAVA. He had started an on-air campaign to get David Letterman to say hi to Washington D.C. on TV. After repeated calls to Letterman's staff, Don decided that he would try to crash the Late Night show and invited me to come along. It was about a week or two after my honeymoon trip to NBC. We took a shuttle from National Airport, landed at LaGuardia and took a cab to Rockefeller Center.

I called Bill Wendell from a phone in the lobby. He said he didn’t have tickets for that night’s show but invited us up for a tour of the studio anyway. He took us to the control room where I recognized Pete Fatovich, the associate director. I grew up in a house about a block from Mr. Fatovich’s house. His son, Peter Jr., was in my class from first through sixth grades. Pete whispered something to Bill about us and then Bill Wendell took us out into the hall and told us exactly where to stand. It turns out that he put us in the right spot to be at the front of the standby ticket line when the audience arrived.

Thanks to Bill Wendell and Pete Fatovich, Don and I got in to the show. We were seated near the back of the audience. David Letterman came out to do his nightly warm up as Don tried to get his attention. We were too far back. I had an idea that just might work. I held my GMU sweatshirt high above my head. Letterman spotted it and asked “haven’t you been here before?” I said yes and Dave asked “are you prepared to part with your sweatshirt this time?” I hesitated; once again thinking about the $45 it cost me. Don elbowed me in the ribs and emphatically said, “I’ll buy you a new one!” As Letterman walked up the stairs toward us to get the shirt, Don said “we’ll give you the shirt, but you have to say hi to Washington on the air.” Letterman agreed but went through almost the whole show without saying anything about DC. At the very end as Dave was thanking his guests, Geronimo shouted out, “Say hi to Washington!” Letterman said, “Oh yeah, hi to the folks in Washington! Good night everybody!”

Nine years later, I was working at KROQ when David Letterman brought the "Late Show" to Los Angeles for a week. I tried everything to get him on the air with Kevin & Bean despite the fact that Dave rarely does interviews. I called CBS in New York and LA. I wrote letters. I tried to figure out where he was staying. Eventually one of my inquiries paid off. I was talking to a friend in the TV business about my quest. She said that she had seen Letterman in the elevator of an expensive hotel on the beach. I called the hotel and asked for Letterman’s room. They put me through but after several rings the hotel voice mail system answered. I left a message for Dave explaining that I worked for the Kevin & Bean show and wanted him to call in. I even said that I had given Dave my GMU sweatshirt years earlier in New York. I never got a call from Dave but the next day a CBS courier showed up at KROQ with a delivery for me. It was a brand new “Late Show with David Letterman” sweatshirt. So I guess we’re even.
Copyright © 2006 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, March 23, 2006

patriot party

George Mason University's Sweet 16 game tomorrow night won't be shown on WVLT-TV here in Knoxville. It's because Mason's game against Wichita State will be played at the same time as the Villanova vs. Boston College game. I guess it makes sense that the major conference teams would get more TV coverage than a couple of mid-majors. Fortunately Mike Ickowitz, who used to wear the Gunston mascot costume at GMU basketball games, now lives in K-town. He and his lovely wife Tanya have organized a viewing party at Bailey's Sports Grille. (Is it a bad sign that Bailey's parent company is headquartered in Wichita?) Speaking of his lovely wife, she sent me a link to a Washington Post article that includes a photo of a GMU student named Kevin Lamparter who is from Knoxville and therefore not a commuter student like I was back in the day.

Broadside, the GMU student newspaper, wasn't scheduled to publish an issue this week because of Spring break. It looks like they put together a special edition that you can print on the nice color printer at your job. Here are a few more news stories to get you caught up on Mason Mania before you head out to Bailey's to watch the game with us:
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

welcome aboard

Ever since my first trip to a Disney theme park, my favorite ride has always been the Jungle Cruise. Like the TV show "Batman," the ride works on two levels: adventure for the kids and comedy for the adults. Of course, it's the corny jokes that I love best. There are several web pages devoted to the Jungle Cruise, including those I found at, and

I vaguely recall hearing once that the tour guides used to have more freedom to improvise than they do nowadays. Of all the scripted jokes, my absolute favorite is not the famous "backside of water" gag, but instead it's a line that I've only heard once: "I don't recognize those animals over there. They must be gnu."

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

salt of the earth

This past weekend, I had the good fortune to travel to Walt Disney World with Marc & Kim for a Children's Miracle Network conference. Several other morning radio deejays were there including married couple Gene & Julie, whom I always find to be generous with their time and encouraging words. CMN spokesman and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young was there too.

Traveling forced my wife and me to plan some meals in advance because of the weight loss plan we're on. We brought some fruit, vegetables and reduced-fat peanut butter along on the trip. We also brought some Morton's Lite Salt, which we are supposed to use every day. Unfortunately we left the salt in our suitcase for most of the trip. On the plane ride home, we realized that the TSA never questioned the baggie of white powder they saw in our carry on luggage.

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Monday, March 20, 2006


Basketball is not my favorite sport but this year I had to get excited about my alma mater, George Mason University. For the first time in school history they received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and then won their first-round game. Yesterday morning on ESPN, some college basketball analyst said that North Carolina had a clear path to the Final Four as long as they could "get past pesky George Mason" in the second round. Well, my pesky Patriots beat the Tarheels by 5 points and made headlines all over the country. Won't you join with me as I savor the Sweet 16 excitement?
My favorite tidbit from the articles is that Coach Jim Larranaga inspired the Patriots by telling them that their jerseys were the same color as kryptonite.
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Sunday, March 19, 2006

maybe next year

Losing 48 pounds (so far) has gotten in the way of my marshmallow addiction. I almost missed noticing that red Marshmallow Peeps are being sold exclusively at Target. As you can see, the red and yellow Peeps are selling much faster than the blue and purple ones. I surprised myself by resisting the urge to buy any. What colors would be sold exclusively at other stores? Orange Peeps could be sold at every store in East Tennessee. A few years ago, they made orange Peeps and brought some along with the Peeps Fun Bus to an Einstein Simplified show. Yes, I'm the one who got them to add an extra stop to their schedule.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

upset special

Yesterday afternoon, I had time to flip through the channels on the TV in my hotel room. On "Pardon The Interruption," Tony Kornheiser said there were not likely to be any upsets in the remaining first-round games of the NCAA tournament. He asked the guy next to him (no idea who it was other than that it wasn't Michael Wilbon) to agree but the guy predicted that the Skinn-less Patriots of George Mason would upset Michigan State. Maybe it was some St. Patrick's Day luck combined with their green and gold uniforms but 11th seeded GMU beat 6th seeded MSU by ten points last night! Winning without their best player could give the team a boost of confidence while at the same time giving Tony Skinn a lesson in humiltiy. I hope it works because the Patriots don't have much time to enjoy the at-large and in-charge feeling. They play 3rd seeded North Carolina at 2:20 p.m. tomorrow. Now I really wish I had brought a GMU alumni t-shirt with me on my trip.
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Friday, March 17, 2006

kiss me

Happy St. Patrick's Day! As an Irishman, it's a holiday for me. Let's take a minute to check out the IrishAbroad website, including their list of Irish pubs across the world. If you would rather stay put, try the Leprechaun Watch webcam and hope you get lucky!
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Thursday, March 16, 2006

try a mixture of the hot and mild sauces

After being closed for the Winter, today is opening day for M&M Catering on Middlebrook Pike. As promised, I went there to buy some chicken for tonight's dinner. I got there only minutes after they opened this morning. As I tried to pay, the staff realized that their credit card machine was not hooked up yet. I must have an honest face because they told me to take the food and bring back some cash later. They said they don't accept checks so I didn't bother telling them that my wife always has the checkbook anyway. I'll be traveling tonight. While the rest of the people on the plane are waiting for a bag of peanuts, I'll be enjoying the best BBQ in town.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills...

Last night it was my turn to emcee the Einstein Simplified improv show. The show went well but I'm glad it won't be my turn again for six weeks or so. It's the emcee's job to host the show and to decide which improv games the other players will perform. I describe it as all set up and no punchline. Or you could say all foreplay and no happy ending. We had an unusually large turnout and almost every game got big laughs. I know it sounds a little paranoid but last night's success leaves me to wonder if the show was good because of my emcee skills or if the show was good because I wasn't performing in any of the scenes.

My wife came to the show and sat at a table with Jennifer, who is the sister of another group member. Jennifer told us that she is a big fan of "Survivor" and that she is now using a photo of Big Tom, Ethan, Jenna and me (which I had posted on Saturday) as her computer wallpaper. I offered to send her a different photo of just the three reality stars but she graciously declined.
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

hydrogenated goodness

The awards banquet for my son's swim team was held the other day. Next to the standard congratulatory sheet cake was a tray of round chocolate desserts. My son tried one and loved it so much that my wife and I both wanted a taste. We each tried a bite smaller than a marble and knew immediately that we would have to make some after we reach our weight loss goals. Other people must react the same way because there was a stack of recipes on the table. They taste so good that they've got to be really bad for you. Here is the recipe for "Beamer Balls." Proceed at your own risk.

1 package (18 oz) of regular Oreos
1 package (8 oz) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

Crush Oreos in a blender or food processor
Place crushed Oreos in a bowl and add softened cream cheese
Use a mixer to combine cookie crumbs and cream cheese
Use a melon baller or tablespoon to form dough into one inch balls
Place on a cookie sheet and chill for 30 minutes
Melt chocolate chips in a small bowl in microwave on medium power
Dip each ball in chocolate and place on cookie sheet
Chill for 30 minutes before devouring entire batch
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Monday, March 13, 2006

who's the hottie?

Over the weekend I spotted a new local news anchor on WBIR-TV. Abby Ham has quickly found herself a spot on my short list of favorites. She recently left WTAP-TV in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to come to Knoxville, where her parents live. Abby is a natural at the anchor desk. Based on the enthusiam of her Parkersburg fans, it looks like K-town is lucky to have her before a bigger market grabs her. Abby's bio is not yet on the WBIR staff page, but she can be seen on the video stream of a report she filed on the 6pm news Friday. Rather than wait for her official photo to show up on the WBIR website, I took a picture of her on my TV for you to see:

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

good news, bad news

Jim Nantz made it clear on tonight's Selection Show that he didn't agree, but the NCAA invited the George Mason Patriots to the big dance anyway! GMU will play Michigan State in the first round. Unfortunately the Patriots' best player has been suspended by the coach for one game. It's probably foolish to look ahead but Mason could theoretically end up playing against Tennessee in the third round.
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take a penny, leave a penny

While sightseeing with Bean on Monday, I stumbled across a Geocache. It was in plain sight near the information desk at One Vision Plaza. This was my first encounter with a Geocache of any kind, or so I thought. When I looked up this particular cache on the Internet, I discovered that I had been close to a hidden cache at the Alex Haley statue a day earlier.

Now that I know where to find my first cache, I may have to register at the Geocaching website and put something in the box at One Vision Plaza. My next trip there might be to buy something that would make a good wedding present. The gift shop had some nice drinking glasses with drawings of Patrick Sullivan's and other local buildings. It's a good thing the bride and groom don't read my blog or their surprise will be ruined. You'll have to keep the secret too.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

reality check

Ethan Zohn, Jenna Morasca and Big Tom Buchanan from "Survivor: All Stars" were at the Women Today Expo this afternoon. They were nice enough to pose for a photo and chat with me on the radio. Ethan and Jenna are still dating but not engaged. She told me she checks her finger for a ring every day. The two millionaires flew to Knoxville. Big Tom drove here from his goat farm in Virginia.

The lovely and pleasant Ryan Kelley from "The Biggest Loser" was also at the Expo. She told me how she filled out an application and found out yesterday that she had been awarded the title of Mrs. Tennessee. Ryan now needs to raise $1,300 to participate in the Mrs. United States Pageant in Las Vegas. She lost 78 pounds on the TV show and wants to lose 27 more in order to weigh a mere 120 pounds for the pageant.

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acid test

The doors didn't open until 9:00 a.m. but a line started forming at 6:30 this morning for the Women Today Expo, an annual event sponsored by the News Sentinel. Belk had a large display area, much of which was devoted to a new line of products from Paris Hilton. They seem to feel there is a market for people who want to smell like Paris. A Paris Hilton Value Set cost $39. You could also buy the appropriately named "Paris Hilton For Men."

I didn't see anyone actually buy the stuff but if I had waited around, I might have seen someone get a plush toy chihuahua or a baseball cap as a gift with purchase. The cap features Ms. Hilton's logo, which consists of her initials. Oddly enough, I found a table offering free pH tests just a few yards away.

The pH test might be something Ms. Hilton could incorporate into her growing empire. According to the brochure, you dip the test strip into your urine, a procedure with which she may be familiar.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

based on a true story

My friend Tedd and I worked together at two different radio stations in Los Angeles. After the second station fired everybody and switched formats to Spanish, he moved into television. Tedd did casting for reality shows and now has his own production company. I don't want to jinx it, but he sent an email that I need to share:

I must say that I truly do enjoy your blogs. Almost as much as Bean's. I actually called in to rag on Bean for heading out to the Body Farm while he was in town visiting you. Good stuff.

My screenplay is nearing completion and I've registered several of my shows with the WGA. Now it's time to put a presentation together and sell the main project/creation. It's an improvisational loosely scripted comedy so you may be receiving a call from me if it goes. You should also know that one of the characters is VERY much based on you my friend.

So I can actually wonder, who should play me in the movie?
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Thursday, March 09, 2006

stand on guard for thee

A regular reader in Northern Virginia noticed the recent post about my alma mater and forwarded this message about an issue facing the students and staff at George Mason University:
-----Original Message-----
From: Office of Housing and Residence Life
Sent: Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Subject: Canadian Geese Management Program

Over the past several months the Canadian geese population at George Mason Fairfax campus has increased dramatically. The result has been a greater health risk for the university community and increasing traffic problems. As a result, Mason has secured the services of Windchazer, Inc., a Virginia-based firm that specializes in geese management and in helping organizations deal with this type of situation.

Beginning Friday, March 10, faculty, staff and students can expect to see the beginning of a process that could ultimately take a full year to rid the campus of the geese. Windchazer is bringing in a team of border collies trained to chase the birds off campus in a way that is not harmful. The dogs will be brought back to campus in the days, weeks and months to come until the geese population has been removed.

The university and Windchazer are working closely with animal rights organizations to ensure the safety of the birds and dogs in this effort.
I've had a soft spot in my heart for Canadian Geese ever since I was a kid and my great-uncle Billy told me that the geese were calling my name. Instead of "honk honk," Uncle Billy said the geese were saying "Fronk Fronk."
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

early frog gets the mate

The frogs in my backyard have decided that Spring is here to stay. My son and I listened to the mating calls of all the various species on the official Frogs and Toads of Tennessee website. We think we have Mountain Chorus Frogs in our yard. Their genus is Pseudacris, which sounds like a "faux version" of rapper Ludacris. Each year the frogs lay their eggs in the rainwater that accumulates on our pool cover. Unfortunately all that water will be gone before their little tadpoles grow up. Last year we were able to scoop out some of the tadpoles and move them into a bucket before the pool cover was removed. Two survived into froghood. Maybe this year we can do better.

In an effort to share the sounds of the amorous frogs with you, I recorded a 15 second video on my cell phone. The phone saved the video in the 3GPP2 file format, which my computer didn't recognize. Before giving up on the idea, I checked the phone's owner manual and saw that I should try downloading the newest version of QuickTime. Presto! We have frog sounds.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

show your support

One of the best BBQ joints in Knoxville closes for the winter every year. This past January, I got worried about the future of M&M Catering after the tragic death of its owner, Robert Martin. I was even more pessimistic when I saw a car with a "For Sale" sign parked in front of the shack. The car is a Volvo, much like the one that was found less than a mile from Mr. Martin's body. It may very well be the same car. Yesterday I was thrilled to see the sign announcing that M&M will re-open for the season next week. I think I'll scrounge up a few bucks and get myself five ounces of smoked chicken breast on March 16. Who's with me?

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almost a good idea

Of all the people you know, who is probably most excited about the news that TiVo will soon let subscribers use their Verizon phones to remotely set up a recording that they forgot? Still not sure? Please click on Exhibit A and Exhibit B. It's me! Or at least I thought it was until I heard that they will probably charge $5 a month for the added service. C'mon! $60 a year for the one or two times I forget to set up the TiVo? There has to be a better way.
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Monday, March 06, 2006

on your left is the backside of water

Being a tour guide is fun for me. It's one of the rare opportunities when my regurgitation of arcane knowledge is not as annoying as usual. I showed my friend Bean around town yesterday and today. We made it to several of the sights on the list I wrote about last week. Bean has been writing about it on his blog too (be sure to look for his day 2 update on Tuesday morning). Yesterday we saw the banjo exhibit at the Frank McClung museum, the War Dog Memorial and the Alex Haley statue (see photos below). Today we went to Ciderville Music, the WDVX Blue Plate Special (where we saw Christa DeCicco and Kyle Campbell) and Yee-Haw Industries.

Over the weekend, I happened to run into Dr. Jim Brace of the College of Veterinary Medicine. This was a day or so after Bean had implied that our local version of the War Dog Memorial was a rip off. I had this in mind when I asked Dr. Brace for driving directions to the memorial. I told him that my friend wanted to see it even though it was a replica. Dr. Brace finished my sentence by saying "of the one on Guam!" I realized that he probably thought this was a good thing and that I should stop talking before I made a bigger fool of myself.

As it started to rain Sunday, I tried to finish the day's tour by driving past the entrance to the Body Farm. I had hoped we could pose for a photo in front of the sign I had seen in the book "Death's Acre." I drove around the outskirts of the UT Medical Center for a while. At one point, we found ourselves on a one-lane road between some horse-filled stables. We must have been near the Ag Campus. That's when I had to turn the car around because we were being followed by a university police officer. We told the cop that we had made a wrong turn and headed to another parking lot where we saw razor-wire atop a privacy fence, but no gate. I knew we were close to the corpses but I couldn't find a way to prove it. I don't know if Bean noticed, but I did roll down my car window. All I could smell was the rain.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

hoops la-la

Isaac Mizrahi returns to the red carpet tonight. He managed to overshadow Ryan Seacrest, Joan Rivers and all the others at the Golden Globes by asking actresses about their underwear instead of their gowns. I heard a theory that he was just trying to establish a TV career for himself. Maybe he's tired of selling his appropriately named Queen Fitted Sheets at Target.

Today promises to be a busy day. My friend Bean landed in Nashville last night and will arrive in Knoxville shortly. We plan to do some sightseeing and still get home in time to watch Mizrahi and some of the others like Sam Rubin, Roger Ebert and even Joan Rivers before the actual Oscars. (I don't care what Martin Short says, I'm convinced that Jiminy Glick is partly based on Sam Rubin.) If there's a dull moment, I will be tempted to flip between all the red carpet shows and the basketball game on ESPNU.

Earlier in the week I had programmed the upstairs TiVo to record tonight's CAA tournament semifinal game in the hope that the George Mason Patriots would win last night. They did, so I'm going to go ahead and program the TiVo to record tomorrow night's game in the hope that they win again tonight against a team that whupped 'em ten days ago.
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Saturday, March 04, 2006

for your consideration

The current issue of Metro Pulse has the first ballot for this year's Best of Knoxville poll. You can fill one out online. When you get to the Arts & Entertainment section of the ballot and are struggling to think of something to write for "local theatre group," don't overlook Knoxville's number one (and only) comedy improv group, Einstein Simplified. Hey! You should come see our improv show tonight at The Comedy Zone or Tuesday night at Patrick Sullivan's.
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march madness

Knoxville is abuzz with excitement about the UT men's basketball team and coach Bruce Pearl sweating through his suit recently. My alma mater is also having a good basketball season. The mighty Patriots of George Mason University play their first game in the CAA tournament tonight at 6:00 p.m. If they win, they play again tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Another win puts them in the CAA championship game Monday at 7:00 p.m. As best as I can tell, tonight's game is not on TV, but tomorrow's game is on ESPNU and Monday's game is on ESPN. Go Pats!
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Friday, March 03, 2006

chicken noodle ganache

It shouldn't shock me to find out that one company is a subsidiary of a much larger company. Yet, I was surprised to learn today that the fancy, upscale Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. is actually owned by the plain old Campbell Soup Company of Camden, New Jersey. The information is easy to find on the Campbell's website, but impossible to find on the Godiva website. It's not as if the word Campbell was left off the Godiva site accidentally. Nor is it a recent development. A review on says that Campbell's bought the U.S. distribution rights to Godiva in 1966 and bought the company outright in 1972, long before the websites were designed. How did I discover this amazing revelation? It's posted on the employee bulletin board in the back room of the store.
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Thursday, March 02, 2006

guest commentary

My good friend Mary O sent the following email, which must be shared.
Hey FM! I know you’ve been watching AI so it’s time for me to vent. What is UP with Chicken Little? Are Paula and Randy TOTALLY DEAF??? Ring, ring, clue phone. HellOOO, HE CAN’T SING. And what’s up with that lisp?? Do you know ANY famous singers with a lisp? Why isn’t Simon all over him for THAT? Sheesh. Nice stage presence too. NOT. He doesn’t belong anywhere NEAR this competition. Same with I-wanna-be-Frank-Sinatra-Jr-but-I-suck. What’s with the nanny-goat vibrato? He’s stiff as a board too. And, we can’t forget Tattoo’s older brother Sway. Yikes. He sure had guts trying a Stevie Wonder tune. Even so, he SUCKED. Oye.
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that's what she said

According to a wire service article, the people of Scranton love the attention their town gets from the NBC comedy, "The Office." If you've read my blog before, you might know I must be psyched that the show is on tonight at 9:30 after an Olympic hiatus. On TV, one of the stars, Jenna Fischer, writes that tonight's episode will be another good one. The AP article mentions that a blogger tracks the show's Scranton references on his website, Life In The Office. It's an excellent site devoted to an excellent show. There are several other "Office" sites you might want to see. So far, I've skimmed through The Office vs. The Office, The Office Quotes , Office Tally and Northern Attack. What are your favorite websites devoted to specific TV shows?
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

too many options

When out-of-town guests come to visit, it's a perfect opportunity to get out and see some sights yourself. I've been working on a list of places to take my friend Bean when he visits next week. I posted the first draft of my list a few weeks ago. Since then I have found a few more places that he might enjoy.

An article in this week's Metro Pulse mentions things that "Keep Knoxville Weird" including some that were already on my list -- like the Body Farm and WDVX -- as well as some that were not -- like King Tut's and the Corner Lounge. By the way, I have not yet heard back from Dr. Jantz at the Body Farm, making it unlikely that we will get a tour.

It's probably safe to assume that Bean would like to have his photo taken with the gigantic Alex Haley statue in East Knoxville. It may be too late for Black History Month but because Bean is the world's biggest fan of the post office, he might enjoy an exhibit of stamps depicting black Americans.

He likes roots music, which is why I plan to take him to the WDVX Blue Plate Special. On the day he's here, The Drunk Uncles are scheduled to perform. We may also need to make time for the banjo exhibit at the Frank H. McClung Museum.

I have to make sure that Bean gets to hear a radio show called "Tha Big Deal" which airs on a station calling itself "Southern Roots Radio." I heard it for the first time this week and I may be hooked. Go ahead and listen to a show in their archives.

The more I click around the Internet, the more things I find for Bean to see. I need to get some sleep but not before I mention the War Dog Memorial. Who knew?
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