Wednesday, May 31, 2006

no egg, no cream

Today's Page Six column in the New York Post included 25 Things Every New Yorker Should Know. The item at the top of the list grabbed my attention. Here's how to make an authentic egg cream:
It's all about the syrup: Fox's U-Bet, which is used by the finest of establishments, including Tom's Restaurant in Prospect Heights and Gem Spa in the East Village. Fox's is harder to find these days (no longer available at Junior's Cheesecake) but try in the kosher section of larger supermarkets. It's worth the search.
  • Step 1: Chill milk to almost freezing.
  • Step 2: Pour about one-third cup of whole milk into a glass.
  • Step 3: Fill the glass with seltzer until the head rises.
  • Step 4: Drizzle in Fox's U-Bet syrup.
  • Step 5: Stir at the bottom - only the bottom! - with a long spoon for half a minute.
  • Step 6: Drink slowly. Use spoon for choice dollops of foam.
A while back I saw some Fox's U-Bet on the Kosher shelf in a Kroger store in West Knoxville. I snapped a couple of pictures with my camera phone at the time. The camera gives each photo a file name with the date and time until I change it to something more manageable. According to the file names, I took these photos on January 22 and saved them in my phone these past four months.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

ham for breakfast

Terry Morrow's column on Monday broke the big news. Abby Ham has been promoted from weekend evening anchor to weekday morning anchor. Terry quotes WBIR news director Bill Shory, who said:
"Abby Ham is someone who has only been with us a short time but we have gotten tremendous viewer feedback about her. We want to take this opportunity to move her into a higher-profile role."
Of course this means that I won't be able to watch Ms. Ham anymore, since I'm at work during those early hours. It's the reason I never get to watch Stacy McCloud either. I guess I might occasionally see Abby if she takes a turn anchoring the noon newscast, which is on as I'm tuning in for "The Beverly Hillbillies." I usually see a male anchor on at noon. He's okay at reading the teleprompter but bad at interviewing. His recent interview with a strawberry farmer was a lot like the famous Bob & Ray komodo dragon comedy bit.

Two women at last Tuesday's Einstein Simplified show were teasing me about the many mentions Abby Ham gets in this blog. What made their comments all the more interesting is that they both work at a competing television station. Becky is a news producer at WVLT and Whitney Daniel is a reporter who coincidentally competed against Abby in West Virginia too. While Becky and Whitney have been nice enough to attend several of our improv shows, they've never sent a TV camera like Abby did once. Somebody did have a camera phone though. My "long-suffering wife" took the picture.

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Monday, May 29, 2006


Today is Memorial Day, a great day for grilling, swimming and driving. The holiday began as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers and was originally known as Decoration Day.

My wife and kids drove home today after a weekend spent with family in Northern Virginia. As they approached an exit for Culpeper, they called to ask me how to get to the Culpeper National Cemetery. I have three family members buried there, one of whom is my father. A few months before his death, he buried a relative of his mother's in Culpeper. I remember him being impressed by the history behind that Union cemetery in the South.

To help us remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, I'll share a few photos my daughter took this morning. My favorite is the one with the wall.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

there's no need to fear

"Underdog" has always been a favorite cartoon of mine. I'm not particularly looking forward to the upcoming live action and CGI film, although I admit that casting Peter Dinklage as Simon Barsinister is clever.

Today I was getting caught up on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" shows from the past week. Monday's show featured a woman named Suzanne Muldowney on "Future Talent Showcase." She wore an Underdog-inspired dance costume as she performed her talent, which she calls "figure jogging." It vaguely resembles figure skating but without the skates. She hopes to have it accepted as an Olympic sport.

Jimmy interviewed Suzanne after her dance. We learned that she is the subject of a documentary film to be shown at the Atlanta Film Festival in June. At the end of the interview, Suzanne said that she had a website but could not mention it on the air. That's what Google is for, right? I found her blog, her autobiography and a trailer for the documentary. The film is being made by the appropriately named production company, Art of Madness.

Watching Suzanne perform her "figure jogging," I couldn't help but wonder: what if something similar did somehow make it into the Olympics? Someday when Bob Costas introduces a piece about the origin of that sport, it would have to include footage of Suzanne on the Kimmel show.
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Saturday, May 27, 2006

barter sauce

Jennifer B. read about my need for smaller t-shirts and responded quickly. While in Los Angeles for the LA Marathon, she had received a free Asics t-shirt with the purchase of some underwear. Maybe finishing the race gave her one of those runner's highs that affected her judgment. She didn't want the shirt and it happened to be the right size for me. I appreciate her thoughtfulness and generosity.

Working at a radio station has helped me score two more free t-shirts. I was given one of the Flavor Decision '06 shirts that the Mayfield Dairy people dropped off after a morning show interview. The program director of Star 102.1 contributed to my wardrobe by giving me a 102 Days of Summer shirt.

I'm thinking of going to Oak Ridge for lunch on my next birthday. I've heard that Big Ed's Pizza gives customers a free t-shirt on their birthday. Is that true? My old shirt from there is size XXL. Speaking of East Tennessee traditions, I still wish I knew were to find one of those Cas Walker shirts like Johnny Knoxville wore on TV.

You can get a plug for your company by sending me a free size L t-shirt. The same rules still apply. After all the mentions on this blog, don't you think a certain news anchor should have sent me a free shirt by now?
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Friday, May 26, 2006

repetitive motion

Sisyphus had his rock, I have my pool.

As I've mentioned before, because of the work it takes to maintain them, pools add virtually nothing to the cost of a house. It's worth it to me because I like to swim every day I can.
However the weather has not been cooperative. The water temperature finally reached 70 degrees this week. I waded in waist deep today but I would like the water to be a little warmer before I start swimming laps.

Depending on the time of year, my pool collects pollen, pine needles, oak leaves or all of the above. I start my daily cleaning routine by using a net to rake the floating debris off the surface. By the time I've emptied the skimmer baskets, a few more leaves and catkins have landed on the pool. Naturally, I grab the net and start over again. What is the definition of insanity? Einstein said it is "the belief that one can get different results by doing the same thing."

I'm not sure how it reflects on my sanity, but I do get a great deal of happiness from emptying the basement dehumidifier into the pool. It makes me feel like I'm saving money. I like it even better when my son remembers to do it.
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

get lost

While millions of you were watching Clay Aiken show up wearing a Paul Reubens hairstyle on the "American Idol" finale last night, my daughter was attending a "Lost" finale viewing party. She and her friends ate mango, just like the castaways. They made a cake decorated with the Dharma logo.

One of my daughter's friends won second place in a t-shirt design contest on a "Lost" fansite. The front of the shirt he designed references my favorite line from the season one finale. It says, "Yes, I realize I have some Arzt on me." On the back there's some blood spatter.

My grandmother loves watching "Lost" too. I combined two of her favorite things by using an educational website to make a "Lost" word search for her.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

birthday tribute

Perry Simon had another great idea. A month ago, on his father's birthday he wrote a nice couple of paragraphs about his dad.

Today would have been my father's birthday. He was only 50 when he died. A year or two ago, I reached the point when my father had been dead more than half my life. There have been so many things that have happened since his death that I would have liked for him to have seen.
I wish I had gotten to know him better. I wish he had gotten to meet my children.

My father went to Fordham University and then to journalism school at Columbia. He joined the Air Force and flew jets over Montana for a couple of peacetime years. After that, he worked as a newspaper reporter and eventually became a correspondent for UPI, covering the New York State Legislature. That led to a job as an assistant press secretary for Governor Nelson Rockefeller. After that he joined the public relations firm of Ivy Lee & T.J. Ross, later known as T.J. Ross & Associates. He did work for several big companies including Pan Am and Chrysler. His biggest account was Bacardi Rum. He often traveled to Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda for Bacardi. He brought the family along to Miami a couple of times and to Bermuda once. About three years before he died, he took a job with the American Petroleum Institute and moved our family from the New York suburbs to the Washington suburbs.

My dad was a huge fan of the New York Football Giants. He had season tickets and took me to see the Giants play at Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Yale Bowl and Giants Stadium. I took him to see them play once at RFK Stadium about two months before his unexpected death. Dad also loved the baseball Giants before they broke his heart and moved to San Francisco. He raised me to be a New York Mets fan. He taught me that the orange on the Mets' caps came from the Giants and that the blue came from the Dodgers.

Like each of us, Dad impacted more lives than he probably realized. He wrote a campaign slogan that helped his friend Andrew O'Rourke get elected to city council. He played an important part in keeping the Crestwood Library from closing by getting a rookie reporter named Chris Wallace to show up with a camera crew.

My father sang with the Glee Club of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. We buried him in the tuxedo he wore on stage with them. He was a member of the NYAC and often played tennis with Bill Wendell, which impressed me. He loved opera and Gregorian chants. He took my mother to see musicals on Broadway.

I'm sure there was more to him than what I've written. I should have asked my sisters and cousins to share some memories too. If your father is still alive, take the opportunity to have a conversation with him today.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass once told me that the mouths of human beings are evolving. Because of all the processed food in our diet, our mouths, teeth and jaws have less work to do than the mouths of our ancestors. With less to do, we don't need as many teeth. When I told Dr. Bass that my daughter and I were missing our lateral incisors, he said that we are evolutionarily advanced.

Radio personality Marc Anthony is a big fan of the show "Lost." He noticed that Dominic Monaghan (Charlie) is missing the same teeth as me and suggested it would make a good blog topic. During last week's episode, Charlie flashed a grin that proved Marc right.

Tomorrow's season finale of "Lost" overlaps with the "American Idol" season finale. "Idol" also tried to get in on missing lateral incisor mania with Elliott Yamin, the smokin' hit machine, but America voted him off. Fortunately my smile resembles Dominic's more than Elliott's.

While we're on the topic of season finales, wasn't last night's episode of "24" terrific? Everyone I spoke to about it agrees that Jean Smart deserves an Emmy just for the smirk on her face as Gregory Itzin realizes what has happened. I think Itzin also deserves an Emmy for his work on any of the episodes since we realized he was on the dark side.
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Monday, May 22, 2006

big night at the chuckle hut

The Comedy Zone was the scene of an all-star show last night. The headline-caliber comedians were in town for a charity golf tournament. While all the comics were good, my wife and I especially enjoyed the college tuition analysis of Tom Parks, the lip sync routines of Scotty K. and the wordplay of Tim Northern. My wife identified a little too closely with Leanne Morgan's complaints about her husband. The show was running a trifle long. Gary Valentine was onstage when we, uh, had to go. He's the same Gary Valentine from the Thanksgiving parade coverage on CBS.

Parking for the event was at a nearby Holiday Inn with limousine shuttles to the comedy club. On our way back to the hotel, Scotty K. rode in the car with us. We complimented him on his boy band moves and he made us laugh even more by showing us which moves came from which bands. When I was able to help him come up with names like
New Kids on the Block and Ashley Parker Angel, Scotty told my wife that I must spend time watching MTV while she's asleep. I confessed that she didn't need to be asleep.
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Sunday, May 21, 2006

pulpit vs. fiction

"The Da Vinci Code" drew large crowds to movie theaters on Friday and Saturday. This morning, preachers all over the world had the opportunity for rebuttal. At my church, Fr. Ragan Schriver's homily was about "The Da Vinci Code." He concluded by saying that the best way to "protest" the movie would be to demonstrate our Christian beliefs by the way we lead our own lives.

After Mass, Fr. Ragan told us he spotted several film flubs that only a theologian or historian would notice. I can't remember all of them. One involved the timeline of events surrounding the Council of Nicaea and another had to do with whether something was originally written in Aramaic or another language.

WVLT-TV bought the movie tickets for Fr. Ragan and some other local religious leaders. The clergymen were interviewed after they saw the film on Friday. (The video is available online.) WBIR-TV interviewed Fr. Ragan too. WATE-TV interviewed a different priest, Fr. Vann Johnston.

If you have about 30 minutes and an appreciation for parody, you might enjoy "The Norman Rockwell Code." The online film starts with a similar murder and then veers off in a completely different direction. I didn't count but it may have more references to "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Splash" than it does to Dan Brown's novel.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

degrees of separation

The star of a reality show is getting married today. His name is Duane Chapman and his show is "Dog The Bounty Hunter." The guest list includes some people who have or have had their own reality shows. I hope that Hulk Hogan, Danny Bonaduce and Ozzy & Sharon Osbourne bring along their camera crews for the ultimate celebreality crossover episode. The tantalizing possibility of the same wedding turning up on multiple reality shows made me want to find that website that tracks crossover episodes in scripted series. I may spend the rest of the evening reading it.
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Friday, May 19, 2006

controversy builds crowds

There was an overflow crowd at the promotional screening of "The Da Vinci Code" last night. Tickets had been given away by two radio stations, a television station and a newspaper. The woman standing in line ahead of me was wearing a shirt that read "so dark the con of man." I asked where she got it and she told me that the movie company had sent a package of freebies and movie screening tickets to her workplace. Where does she work? At the Knoxville Museum of Art. As we waited, theater personnel announced that no camera phones would be allowed into the screening. Hired guards from National Security Company looked in my wife's purse and passed a wand over us. In addition to their star-shaped sheriff-like badges, they wore laminated ID tags that said they were on the anti-piracy squad.

Unlike the mostly unknown actors in "United 93," seeing big stars like Tom Hanks, Alfred Molina and Ian McKellan made it easy to remember that "The Da Vinci Code" is only a movie.
I found the film enjoyable and because I had read the novel so long ago, I was able to understand what was going on yet not worry about which parts of the book were cut out or altered. The character of Leigh Teabing seemed more anti-Christian than I remembered from the book. That might have been because his scenes, like everything else, had to be condensed. The Robert Langdon character tried to balance out some of Teabing's bias but could have done more so.

I spoke with blogger Rich Hailey the other day. He reminded me that "The Da Vinci Code" appears to overlook a basic tenet I was taught in 12 years of Catholic school. I got the impression that the Leigh Teabing character was saying if Jesus is mortal, then he cannot be divine. Whereas I was taught to believe that Jesus was simultaneously fully mortal and fully divine. Rich pointed out that as a man, Jesus ate, drank and experienced the same bodily functions we do. Does that make Him any less divine?
As both God and man, would it matter whether He was single or married?

As usual, I stayed to watch the credits all the way through. I noticed that one of the pieces of music in the film had been written and performed by a Dan Brown. I think it was called "Phiano" or something like that. I assume it's the same Dan Brown. If they made a blockbuster movie out of your bestselling novel wouldn't you insist that they use one of your musical compositions on the soundtrack?
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

not over yet

The article in USA Today is huge. It fills most of page 1C and most of page 2C. Why am I so excited? Almost two months after the jubilation over the Final Four has died down, Erik Brady's cover story is all about George Mason basketball. In case you forgot, George Mason University is my alma mater. A few selections from the article got my attention. Let's start with this one:
The madness of March has given way to mid-May, but Final Four glory still simmers on a front burner here. When the Class of 2006 settles into their seats at Patriot Center for Saturday's commencement, GMU president Alan G. Merten plans to tell graduates they have lived through the most exciting year in school history.
And then this one:
[Coach Jim] Larranaga says he has long wanted to break into the speaking circuit.

"So every year I would call the Washington Speakers Bureau to see if there was any interest. They always politely said no." But this time, during March madness, "they called me."
Naturally I wondered if Coach L would get the gig as this year's GMU commencement speaker. Nope. According to the Mason Gazette, this year's speaker is Tulane University president Scott Cowen. I guess you can't argue with that choice. At least the School of Public Policy booked the coach to speak at their convocation ceremony tomorrow evening.

While browsing the Mason Gazette site, I saw that the latest "Picture This" featured photo was about the special "Mason Station" postal cancellation created for Patriot Pride. The photo shows Coach L and President Merten receiving a plaque from the Fairfax postmaster. My sister lives in Northern Virginia and sent me an envelope with the special cancellation on it:

A few years back, I got a call from the GMU Office of Alumni Affairs. President Merten was coming to Southern California and would be hosting a dinner for GMU alumni in the area. My wife and I were invited to attend. They told me that the dinner would be held at the Queen Mary in Los Angeles. Being a nitpicker, I had to ask if they were absolutely positive about the location. I asked, "Do you mean the Queen Mary in Los Angeles or the Queen Mary in Long Beach?" I think I might have even emailed them the websites for both Queen Mary locations. It turns out that the dinner was aboard the historic ship in Long Beach. At the time, there was also a bar called The Queen Mary in the Studio City section of Los Angeles. It was home to the most famous drag show in town. President Merten feigned disappointment when I told him about it over dinner.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

upfronts updates

NBC and ABC have already announced their plans for the fall season. CBS takes their turn today. Fox and The CW go tomorrow. Like last year, The New York Times has an upfronts blog full of interesting details. I found a site (via TVBarn) with a grid showing how the network's schedules stack up against one another. The new CBS show with the most appealing premise to me is "Shark," in which a former defense attorney (think O.J.'s dream team) switches sides to become a prosecutor. He now uses all his former tricks to convict the bad guys.

The schedule change that affects me most is the move of "The Amazing Race" to Sunday nights. It will cause some TiVo gymnastics on nights that CBS has a football overrun in the Fall. Speaking of TiVo gymnastics, tonight I've got to decide which two channels to record and which one to watch live. I will probably record "The Amazing Race" season finale and the episodes of "Alias" and "Lost," which leaves "American Idol" for me to watch live. Of course "American Idol" is the one show I will most want to fast-forward through. However I will want to pause and rewind during all the other shows.

Some contestants from past seasons of "The Amazing Race," "Survivor" and other reality shows will be in Nashville for the Reality TV Convention on June 3 and 4. Thanks to reader Sean for the email reminding me about it.

A past winner of "The Amazing Race" made the celebrity gossip pages. Reichen Lehmkuhl was in New York's Central Park on Monday with Shannon Elizabeth, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Lance Bass. According to, Shannon Elizabeth grabbed a photographer's camera. Why would she do that? Maybe because a Canadian gossip column is suggesting that Reichen is dating one of the other three in the group.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

commence the comments

A lot more comments have been posted since Marc & Kim talked about this blog on the radio. Thanks to all who made my day by posting something!

Kudos especially to reader Pam Mc. On Saturday she posted comments on 14 different blog entries as she spent the day catching up on my rambling thoughts:
Ok, now that I've finally caught up with everything you've posted, I want to say that I really have enjoyed your blog and I will continue to read it. Keep up the wonderful work and take care. I'll be "commenting" to ya soon. :) Oh do you find the time to do EVERYTHING you do???
Reader Amy W. reacted strongly to the mention of Penn & Teller on Saturday:
[in] the Episode of Penn & Teller's Bull--- on P.E.T.A, they GROSSLY misrepresented P.E.T.A. Now, I realize that SOME people who support P.E.T.A are fanatics and give people like myself who support animal rights and are actively involved in animal rescue a bad name. Not everyone who supports animals' rights are psychos that throw paint on furs.
My thoughts on "United 93" and "Mission: Impossible" inspired a reader named Ray to write:
I went to see United 93 this past weekend because I agree with the individual who commented that it is too soon to forget this tragedy. I was impressed with the movie, however I agree that recognizing a few of the actors distracted from the overall feel of the movie...
While I was enjoying this movie, the rest of the group I was with was in the movie theater next to me, taking in MI:3...I refused to watch it. While I agree that JJ Abrams is amazing, Tom Cruise and the past two movies are not...and did we really need a third one??
While I wrote that the first two "Mission: Impossible" movies crapped on everything I loved about the original TV series, an article in The Hollywood Reporter says it more politely:
From the start though, the "Mission" series rejected mythology. The first movie killed off the character of Jim Phelps, the one link to the 1960s TV series. On the big screen, the franchise chose to bet primarily on its star Tom Cruise, surrounded by spectacular explosions.

Part of the appeal of the old TV series was that it established a team of covert operatives -- Martin Landau's master of disguise, Barbara Bain's femme fatal, Greg Morris' tech expert and Peter Lupus' strong man. Then each week, it combined their expertise in different combinations in jigsaw puzzle plots. On the big screen, though, each of the films essentially has erased all memory of its predecessor -- only Ving Rhames has teamed with Cruise in all three movies. In effect, each of the movies has been a stand-alone entertainment.
"Mission: Impossible" is a show that needs to be on DVD.
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Monday, May 15, 2006

only four months to wait

As an avid TV watcher, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Starting this afternoon, the broadcast networks will reveal their fall lineups. We find out which shows have been renewed and which new shows are being added to the schedule. The presentations are known as the "upfronts" because advertisers are being enticed to buy time upfront rather than wait to see which shows get the highest ratings. The presentations take place in New York City and are shown via satellite to network employees in Los Angeles and to affiliate stations across the country. One year while I worked at KLOS, I watched the ABC presentation at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences theatre in North Hollywood. Another year, I watched the Fox presentation at WTNZ, their Knoxville affiliate, during a fierce afternoon thunderstorm.

I especially like the chess game aspect as the networks position their shows against each other to capture the largest audience. Sometimes obvious moves fail and risky moves pay off, like when "Smallville" was scheduled against some heavy hitters on Thursday nights. The morning before each upfront presentation, Bill Carter prints most of the details in The New York Times. First thing tomorrow, I will check USA Today to see a grid of which shows gets which timeslots. From the early reports describing today's NBC upfront, I plan to watch the new series from Tina Fey as well as the new show starring Andy Richter when they debut in the fall.
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

have a nice day

Did they ever find the Nun Bun? It was a cinnamon roll that was stolen from a Nashville coffee shop on Christmas morning. I was reminded of the Nun Bun yesterday while looking at the website for Penn & Teller's series on Showtime. During their third season, they did an episode about holy images that turn up on grilled cheese sandwiches and the like.

It's not quite as good as seeing a holy image on toast but I did have a vision of a '70s icon the other day. In 1972, the smiley face was so popular it was even made into a balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Most people today know it from Wal-Mart, which is trying to trademark the image. I saw the smiley face looking back at me when I opened a jar of Polaner Sugar Free Blackberry Preserves. I snapped a photo to "preserve" image before it sloughed off.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

sweet land of liberty

Others will disagree but John Stossel's "new" way of thinking appeals to me. In fact, I'm going to try to get caught up on reading the archive of his newspaper columns. Recently I've heard Stossel say in interviews that he has changed how he feels about several issues, including secondhand smoke. Last night on 20/20, he tackled ten myths from his new book "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity."

While I will always be an anti-smoker, I agree with Stossel that using the public health argument against secondhand smoke is tenuous. I am against secondhand smoke because it smells bad, makes me cough and makes my eyes sting, not because it might give me cancer if I inhale enough of it. Secondhand smoke ruins the taste of my meal at a restaurant, so I choose to spend my money at smoke-free establishments like Connors Steak & Seafood. Smokers can be very rude when they insist that their right to smoke trumps my right to avoid their stench.

The best parts of last night's "20/20" dealt with economics. Stossel says price-gouging is good and he convinced me to change my mind. He made me feel bad for an entrepreneur who tried to sell generators to hurricane victims. The man was jailed and his generators were impounded. The people who wanted to buy his generators, even at a higher price, were unable to get what they needed. Stossel's piece on oil supplies was also an eye-opener. The most moving segment may have been the one about foreign aid being stolen by corrupt third world governments.

A few weeks ago, Stossel devoted a whole show to "Freakonomics," the brilliant book that uses economic theory to explain why things are the way they are. I am excited about reading my daughter's copy of the book as soon as she gets home from college. Way back when I took an economics class in college, I really enjoyed the lectures from my libertarian professor who often quoted Arthur Laffer. Speaking of my alma mater, I found a provocative essay about the GMU economics department on a blog called MaxSpeak.

John Stossel's myth busting reminds me of another of my favorite shows. Now in it's fourth season, "Penn & Teller's Bull----!" pulls back the curtain on the "conventional wisdom" of many topics. I find that I agree with the opinionated magicians often but not all the time. They seem to have a strong anti-religion slant which I am willing to let slide when they expose the flaws of P.E.T.A., the death penalty and yes, even secondhand smoke.
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Friday, May 12, 2006


Several things in my life changed four years ago when I moved to Tennessee. I was finally on the air full time, I joined an improv group and I started wearing t-shirts under my regular shirts. The t-shirts make it a little more comfortable on both humid summer days and cold winter days. Go figure. I also wear them at the pool while saving turtles. Over the years, I have collected dozens of free t-shirts from radio stations, charity events, restaurants, etc. After losing almost 60 pounds on LA Weight Loss, all my XL t-shirts are too big.

Earlier this week I mentioned some of the free stuff my friend Bean gets from influential readers of his blog. Here's my modest proposal: send me a promotional t-shirt in exchange for a mention (with hyperlink) of your business on the blog! If you send me a collared shirt with your logo on it, I will also post a photo of myself wearing it. Just to make sure we're clear, this is a blog promotion only. No radio mentions are included. (Who do you think I am, Star Jones?) Of course, I reserve the right to decline shirts from places of ill repute. Send me an email so we can work out the details of the "dead drop."
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

free for all

The moving electric billboard that wraps around the outside of One Vision Plaza caught my eye. It said something about free admission one day soon. I looked it up on when I got home and found out that this Saturday is "Discover Your Knoxville" day. The Star of Knoxville has a free cruise at 3:00 p.m. and the Three Rivers Rambler has a free trip at 5:00 p.m. which means you could do both. Several attractions offer free admission for part of the day.

The plethora of freebies got me thinking that I hadn't heard anything about Free Scoop Night at Baskin-Robbins which was usually in May. According to, there hasn't been one since 2004. Ben & Jerry's still do Free Cone Day, but it was last month. And Free Comic Book Day was last weekend. So that doesn't really help you either.

However you can see They Might Be Giants for free at tonight's Sundown in the City concert. And Junior Brown is scheduled for June 1.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

curiouser and curiouser

Things got a little weirder today. Yesterday, I wrote about the unexpected experience of seeing Abby Ham on Bean's Blog and how he gets tons of reader comments while I get few. I received a flurry of comments today and a good suggestion that I should post more comments on other people's blogs as a way to get more comments here.

Here's the weird part. I got an email asking if I had seen myself mentioned on the website of a public relations firm in Dallas, Texas. The headline reads "Blogger Uses Blog to Hit on Hot News Anchor -- and It Works." I wrote back to the person who emailed me and asked how she had found the p.r. firm's site. She responded that she works for the city and part of her duties are to scour the Internet for mentions of Knoxville. She found the link about me using the Knoxville area of The weirdness continued when I told my "long suffering wife" about the Dallas site and she posted the first comment there.

Also today, a reader used the comment section of my April 7 post to announce the debut of their WBIR News Divas Fan Club.

Another email arrived from a self-described "novice blogger" (and pagan minister) named Dia. She wanted me to read what she had written about my public griping over the dearth of reader comments. She wants me to post a comment on her page but it looks like I have to join MySpace to do so. I had been invited to join MySpace by my friend Jennifer but I still have the same reservations I had on April 19.

The question remains, how did the Dallas p.r. firm learn about my blog? I suspect that they read what Bean wrote while they were trying to think of what free stuff to send him. Or maybe there is someone else behind this whole brouhaha. Someone who stands to benefit. Someone playing me like a deck of cards. Could there be a puppetmaster? Or should I say puppetmistress? If she is the one behind this, I hope she doesn't stop.

On a totally unrelated topic, has anyone else noticed a new reporter on WVLT named Allison Hunt?
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

combing greater Knoxville for a shallow grave

My friend Bean claims that my daily blogging inspired him to do the same. I've managed to post something here every day since last August 1. Bean began blogging on January 1 and quickly eclipsed me. He makes it seem effortless as he consistently comes up with three or four times more great material than I do each day. He wrote all about his trip to Tennessee back in March. Bean gets a ton of reader comments on every post and sometimes receives free stuff because of what he writes! For example, Coca-Cola sent him a case of its new Blak product. Authors and bands have emailed him after getting a mention in his blog.

Thanks to Bean's Blog, a local Knoxville personality has been exposed to a larger audience. Yesterday afternoon he posted a photo of Abby Ham and used it to lead into a mention of a hot French newscaster he favors. Imagine my surprise when I went to read Bean's daily thoughts and saw Abby.

In Monday's entry, Bean jokes that I must be ready to dump my wife (literally) for Abby. I have to think that his joke was inspired by the lyrics to the Louvin Brothers' song "Knoxville Girl," which he had sent me only the day before. That song also inspired a popular local t-shirt from Yee-Haw Industries. I guess Yee-Haw will now send free stuff to Bean.
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Monday, May 08, 2006

are you going to eat that?

A recent episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" combined with a trip to the store yesterday gave me an idea for a TV show. Oprah featured clips from a Discovery Health Channel show in which Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen made a surprise visit to a woman's home. They went through all the items in her pantry and refrigerator sorting the food into good and bad piles. Most of it was bad for her and for her family. The store I visited was one of America's biggest retailers, if not the biggest. Several shoppers had carts (or buggies as they're known in the South) full of junk food. Based on the size of the people, there truly is something to the adage "you are what you eat."

Here's the pitch: a camera crew approaches shoppers as they wheel their grocery carts to their cars. If they agree to be on TV, the host identifies the most fattening foods in the cart and tries to get the shopper to part with the treats. They could try to get the shopper to taste some healthier foods and then destroy their beloved junk food in a variety of entertaining ways. Dunk it in liquid nitrogen and watch it break like glass. Melt it in a kiln, run it over with a steamroller, drop it off the roof. Think Letterman style stunts. I guess you could call it "Meal or No Meal," which is better than my original idea for a title: "Why Are You So Flippin' Fat?"
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Sunday, May 07, 2006


Every weekend, The Comedy Zone plays host to stand-up comedians from all over the country. Once a month they allow our improv group to perform an early show, two hours before they normally open. I usually send out a few emails reminding friends to come see us on the first Saturday of the month but I try to avoid bothering the same people two months in a row. In addition to friends from church and work, I sometimes aim high. It paid off when the lovely Amelia Graham of WATE-TV came to see the show in December.

The lights had come down and the show was about to begin last night when a cameraman from WBIR-TV approached the box office. I went out front to investigate. The ticket clerk was telling the cameraman that he was at least two hours early because their headline comedian didn't go on until 8 o'clock. Surely, he must be here for the touring comic, right? The cameraman seemed puzzled. His instructions were to get there at 6 o'clock. I asked the cameraman if he had been sent by WBIR's blogger and producer Katie Granju. I had emailed Katie hoping for a plug on her entertainment blog. The cameraman said no, he had been sent by Abby Ham.

Abby Ham! The same Abby Ham I wrote about on March 13 and again on April 7. The same Abby Ham who emailed me on April 8. The same Abby Ham whose bio is finally on the WBIR website (thank you, by the way, to all those who wrote to me last week to make sure I had seen Abby's new bio page). The same Abby Ham I emailed on Friday inviting her to the show just in case her 6:00 p.m. newscast would be pre-empted by Kentucky Derby coverage (it was only delayed, not pre-empted).

Realizing that the cameraman was there to see us, I rushed him into the showroom and then ran backstage with a moment to spare before taking the stage with the rest of the group. He stayed long enough to videotape our first few games of the night: Sound Effects; First In Last Out and Hitchhiker. Abby used the footage as her kicker story at the end of the 11:00 p.m. newscast, right before "Saturday Night Live."

Although Abby couldn't be there in person, at least she got to see me playing Hitchhiker with Bill Slayden and Lance Harwell. And she had a big smile as she introduced the tape.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

top five and top seven

Money and Forbes magazines both think you should come to Knoxville. Money ranks K-town in their top seven summer destinations that won't break the bank. Forbes ranked us fifth on their list of the best places for business and career. Viva KnoxVegas!

Money says that Knoxville is "full of cultural and family fun attractions." Forbes used "an arts and leisure index that tracks things like museums, theaters, golf courses and sports teams." The index was developed by Bertrand Sperling, a consultant in Portland, Oregon. You can experience the vibrant Knoxville cultural scene by attending tonight's Einstein Simplified comedy improv show at The Comedy Zone. How's that for a smooth segue into the plug? Showtime is 6:00 p.m.
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Friday, May 05, 2006

do not read this if you are my mother

After a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I wondered if there were any websites devoted to the face characters of the Disney parks. A press release that came out yesterday leads me to believe that there will soon be plenty of sites about a former Snow White, Cinderella, Alice and Ariel named Kara Monaco. She has been named Playboy's 2006 Playmate of the Year.

Playboy's public relations rep, Bill Farley, was always very kind to radio people. Thanks to Bill, I went to a couple of luncheons at the Playboy Mansion. One was to announce the Playmate of the Year, the other was to promote a celebrity cover. Not only did my wife let me go, she encouraged me to bring along my friend Charlie Reinke, another happily married father of two. It was an outdoor daytime event, so we saw nothing more revealing than a simple sundress.

Two former Playmates of the Year were back in the public eye this week. The Supreme Court agrees that Anna Nicole Smith deserves something for marrying that old man. Maybe not the whole fortune but at least give the girl a few million. Also, Jenny McCarthy was a guest on "The Tony Danza Show" on Wednesday.
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

world news tonight

The filmmakers of "United 93" used mostly unknown actors so the audience wouldn't get distracted by a famous face. I, however, was distracted by Denny Dillon of "Saturday Night Live" and by that lady who was on "Wings." Is it too soon for this movie? No. A movie called "American 11" would be too soon, but not "United 93"... By the way, I'm glad that Moussaoui will remain a failed martyr for his cause... Paris Bennett should have stayed on "American Idol" longer than Elliott Yamin. Funnyman Mario Cantone says Yamin looks like a gelfling from "The Dark Crystal" but I prefer Entertainment Weekly's observation that he looks like Mr. Tumnus from "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"... At first I thought I had never before heard that great song that Katharine McPhee sang on Tuesday night but then I realized that I had watched KT Tunstall perform "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"... There's no purpose in putting a "Yield" point on a non-elimination leg of "The Amazing Race." Lame... Even though the great J.J. Abrams directed it, I can't bring myself to see "Mission: Impossible III" after the way the first two films crapped on everything I loved about the original TV series. Instead I'll spend the time reading about the funny missions accomplished by Improv Everywhere... Here's a good meme idea: who are the 100 most influential people in your life?
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

that doctor show gets a mountain named after it

Last week one of my improv brothers sent me a photo of a slug to post on the blog. The topic of the slug photo came up during our post-show discussion last night. Lance, another member of the group, offered to send along a cool photo from his recent hike up House Mountain. Lance thinks that my wife and I should try the three hour hike ourselves. I'm not a big fan of sweating but I did go to the trouble of looking online for a description of somebody else's hike. I found one on the Appalachian Irishman's blog. Lance's photo shows a ray of sunlight shining on downtown Knoxville. Come meet Lance and the rest of the group during our 6pm Saturday show at The Comedy Zone.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

we still have 40 seconds to fill

For the past 28 weeks my wife and I have been writing and recording weekly radio commercials for LA Weight Loss. Toward the end of February I posted two of the commercials that demonstrated my wife's rapidly improving voiceover work. In this week's spot, she does all the "heavy lifting." In other words, she handles the mentions of the website, the phone number and the current special. I am hopeful that our out-of-town family and friends will click on the play button to hear my wife's fine work in this week's ad.

In next week's spot we'll learn that my wife has lost the same amount as one of the bags of dog food I showed you on January 29. Oh, by the way, I have finally reached my own weight loss goooooooooooal!
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Monday, May 01, 2006

mayday, mayday

Technology continues to improve our media consuming experience. TiVo has made it easier to watch television. Satellite and digital cable have given us more channels to watch. Similarly there are more choices in radio via satellite and the Internet. Regular old terrestrial radio is changing with the times too. FM stations all over the country are installing new HD Digital Radio transmitters which allow multiple channels of audio to fit in the same amount of bandwidth formerly occupied by just the one stereo signal. You won't notice a difference until you buy a new HD receiver (or buy a car with one) that can pick up the new audio channels.

Perry Michael Simon went to the NAB convention where a major radio company unveiled plans to sell pre-packaged formats to stations needing something to fill their extra subchannels of audio. Please take a moment to read his blog entry about a flaw in the big company's plan. Perry also touched on the topic in his weekly newsletter that goes to registered users of the News/Talk/Sports section of Here's an excerpt from the newsletter:
Our industry has taken a look at the new media landscape and satellite and streaming competition, and the grand plan appears to be this: more music channels. Yes, with the bonus afforded by HD Radio subchannels, the radio industry plans to offer, um, more music. Never mind that of all the stuff radio has to offer, music is the most easily duplicated. One company unveiled seventy five -- seventy five! -- new formats this week for those HD channels and seventy four of them are music channels. (The other's comedy, but just recorded bits)

It reminded me that radio still doesn't treat talk radio as part of its future. You'd think that since talk hosts and morning show talents are among the most obvious things radio can offer that can't be duplicated by anyone with iTunes, they'd be embraced by the industry as one of its greatest assets. There's only one you. (Let's leave cloning out of this for now) Nobody can create your show without you. A dozen stations in your market can play the same song, but they can't all get you. I know that there are exceptions among the HD formats -- I saw one HD-2 station's planning an all-morning show format, and another's going to do female-targeted talk -- but it's mostly seeming like a missed opportunity. Let's hope that when people start to actually buy receivers and listen to HD Radio channels, there'll be more talk offerings.

Maybe the problem is that you're not a computer. If you're planning a new format and you have to sell the bosses on it, you COULD go in and pitch a talk format, and they'll ask you about salaries and producers and call screeners. Or you could pitch Active Rock Plus Amish Folk Tunes ("Abner-FM: We Play What You Can't Listen To Because You Don't Own A Radio") and that it'll cost practically nothing and take just the time to load it into the AudioVAULT. Guess which wins?
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