Monday, July 31, 2006

year end clearance sale

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. Over the past twelve months, I've kept a list of ideas that might someday turn into blog entries. Of course many of the ideas will die on the vine. I often jot down websites that might be worth writing about. Since today is the last day of my first year of blogging, it's time for the year end clearance sale! Everything must go! Here are a bunch of the websites that I've been saving for a rainy day:

If any of the URLs above inspire you to write a paragraph or two, feel free to send it along. Later this week I'll post some photos that never made the cut.
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Sunday, July 30, 2006

with a name like Fercos...

The Fercos Brothers have been performing at Dollywood this summer. You may recall that I wrote about them when I first heard the news. On Friday, I realized that the Fercos Brothers will do their last Dollywood show on August 6th. If I wanted to see them, I needed to go today.

My daughter was willing to come along for the ride. Before reaching Dollywood, we stopped at the Sevierville Courthouse to see the Dolly Parton statue (as seen on

We rode the Tennessee Tornado roller coaster to kill some time before the "Big Cats and Magic" show. It's seven hours later and I'm still feeling disoriented from the ride. I think it messed with my equilibrium some.

My daughter and I got in line outside the Celebrity Theatre about an hour before showtime. As the line started to move, I thought I saw a familiar face ahead of us. Still dizzy from the rollercoaster, I wasn't 100% sure if it was one of our local news anchors or not. She had on shorts and a halter top. If you know me, you wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that I spoke to her. I asked her, "Do you look like Kay Watson because you are Kay Watson or is it just a coincidence?" She replied, "I'm Kay." We went into the theatre and found a seat two rows behind Kay and her beau.
I thought that asking her to pose for a picture might be awkward, so when she wasn't looking I snapped a photo of the back of her head. Regular reader Ed Munster will have to take my word for it that she looked good. If there is someone reading this who happens to know Kay, please invite her to submit one of her own photos from her day at Dollywood.

There were Fercos Brothers souvenirs for sale before the show began. I couldn't help but think that one of them looks like a Will Ferrell character.

The Fercos Brothers finally took the stage for the "Big Cats and Magic" show. It had all the camp value I hoped for but not enough big cats or magic. It seemed that there was more dancing by showgirls and more juggling by Tony Fercos than there were illusions. While Tony juggled five ping pong balls with his mouth, I felt like I was watching "America's Got Talent" instead of "Big Cats and Magic." Whenever they did a magic trick, it was great. After the Siegfried & Roy incident I should have expected it, but the big cats never left their small cages. We saw a male lion, a white tiger, an orange tiger and a panther. I would have liked to have seen more from the cats but I'm still glad I went, especially after getting the Fercos Brothers to pose for a photo:

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

greasy spoon tour

Between Food Network and Travel Channel, I can almost always find something worth watching. I especially like shows where they drive around looking for local taste treats. I am partial to the episodes about places I've been or will visit soon. It was on one of Rachael Ray's shows that I first heard of Fat Matt's Rib Shack. We ate there on a trip to Atlanta a few years ago. I loved it.

There are a lot of shows about road food. There's a fairly well known book called "Road Food" too. If I ever had a show on Food Network, I would want to do the same thing: travel and eat. It's the basic premise behind several shows including "$40 a Day," "Roker on the Road," "Taste of America" and a four-episode mini-series that debuted tonight, "Feasting on Asphalt."

Reading the interview with Alton Brown on convinced me to watch "Feasting on Asphalt" tonight. He mentioned in the interview that the show goes to North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. With that kind of itinerary, there's a good chance they passed somewhere close to Knoxville. A map on the show's web page seems to confirm my theory.

The episode that aired tonight (and repeats throughout the week) showed Alton and his crew in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. The tease for next Saturday's show promises a visit to the Smoky Mountains and to the site of Colonel Sanders' first restaurant in Kentucky.

About three years ago, my son and I went to London, Kentucky for the World Chicken Festival. We spotted ourselves in a crowd scene on the Food Network show "All American Festivals" that was filming there that day.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

it's a yum-yummy world

An email from the Marshmallow Peeps fan club arrived this week. It contained the phrase "Peeps on Vacation," which caught my eye. The Marshmallow Peeps website has places for fans to share their stories and photos.

A few years back, my mother and my sister gave me a trip to Alaska for my birthday, which happens to fall near the summer solstice. As a marshmallowaholic, I naturally brought along some Peeps. On my actual birthday, my sister and I took a flight from Talkeetna to a glacier near Mt. McKinley, or Denali as the locals call it.

I logged onto the "Peeps on Vacation" page and submitted one of my Alaska photos. It takes at least 48 hours for it to be reviewed by the Peeps staff and posted on the page if it's accepted. I wonder if they'll like the picture I sent:

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

uvama, mevama

A comment spammer hit this site several times last Wednesday. At first I was excited by the increase in the number of comments that day. Then I read them. They were easy to identify as spam messages. Each was two words followed by an exclamation point and a link to a URL I dared not click. The messages were "Great work!" and "Good design!" and "Nice site!" The URLs looked like a string of gibberish. As a result, I turned on the "word verification option" a week ago.

A couple of people have asked me about it and by a couple of people, I mean my wife and daughter. Most of the other blogs I read require some kind of verification in order to post a comment. I hope it doesn't deter you from sharing your thoughts on my thoughts. When you do post a comment, I would prefer that you choose an identity and not post anonymously. Go ahead and make up a fake name if you'd rather. It shows more creativity than being "anonymous."

Once in a while I'll need to do some comment maintenance. I've deleted one or two comments with profanity, usually from here or here. I'll also delete a duplicate comment if someone accidentally posts the same thing twice. Even when I'm logged in as the blog administrator, the software asks me for "word verification." Today I couldn't be sure if it was asking me for a word or insulting my writing:

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Try to imagine yourself sitting at a conference room table as the marketers of Crest Whitening Expressions toothpaste settle on the design of their packaging. Someone suggests putting a scratch and sniff label on the box so that consumers can get a whiff of the Extreme Herbal Mint flavor that is designed to appeal to Latinos. "Brilliant" says somebody and the idea progresses.

At some point there's another meeting in which somebody suggests selling twin packs of the toothpaste. "We'll move twice as much product," says somebody. "Brilliant," says somebody else. Are you the one who dares to speak up and ask how it is possible to scratch and sniff the scent if the package is covered in shrinkwrap? Brilliant.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

red hot because it works

A friend and former radio colleague now lives in Memphis. The other day on her blog she linked to a CNN article that paints a rosy picture of what it's like to work for the satellite radio companies. The employees talk about the great creative vibe in the halls and their frustration with the state of regular, free, over-the-air radio:
Lee Abrams, XM's chief creative officer and senior vice president, is naturally bullish on satellite's capabilities and impact.

"I read about this thing [satellite radio] in the early '90s, and I thought it could do to FM what FM did to AM in the '70s," he said in May in an interview at XM's Washington headquarters. "FM had gotten overly ad-driven and, on the music side, had taken its eye off the 8-ball. I thought satellite could be what America needed."
In the '70s, most people thought that FM radio had killed AM. But AM wouldn't die. Instead it reinvented and reinvigorated itself. Radio Daily News had a link to an article in this morning's Los Angeles Times worth quoting:
In a tech-driven world jammed with listening options, an AM radio station breaking out as a ratings powerhouse runs counter to commonly held perceptions about the medium. Rather than leading the pack, AM should be buried underneath a pile of iPods, TiVo machines, computer games and instant messages.

But it is not. In fact, in Los Angeles, KFI-AM (640) did something last week no other AM station in Southern California has done in two decades: finish first in the overall ratings.

KFI is hardly alone. In fact, it could be considered merely catching up to its AM brothers and sisters in Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego and a host of other major-market cities where an AM station is either ranked No. 1 or in the top five. Then there is KGO-AM in San Francisco, which has been the undisputed No. 1 station in that market for years.
Sure, KFI carries the syndicated Rush and Dr. Laura shows but its highly rated morning and afternoon drive shows are both local. Lee Abrams says that satellite radio could be what America needed. If satellite is the tool that forces FM to reinvent itself the same way that FM forced AM to reinvent itself, so be it. Let satellite bring about the death of the ten-songs-in-a-row-lite-rock-less-talk-official-listen-at-work-here's-Kenny-G stations. Put unique personalities on the air. Create content that can't be duplicated on an iPod. Rather than get stressed over satellite radio companies that charge people to listen, good old free terrestrial radio can pay attention to this:
"I don't think people really care about AM or FM," said Robin Bertolucci, KFI's program director for the last four years. "It's like network or cable on television. They just want to watch the show they want to watch. It's not the delivery, it's the program."
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Monday, July 24, 2006

big news hidden in last sentence

A survey released last week revealed that most bloggers write about their personal lives. Blogs about politics and entertainment are further down the list. I try to write about things that are interesting to me in a way that might also be interesting to you. Sometimes I write about entertainment and sometimes about my personal life. The big time entertainment blogs are on pop culture overload today with great stuff from Comic Con. There's news about "Lost," "Veronica Mars," "Snakes on a Plane" and more.

Since the important entertainment news is only a click away, my entry today is all about me. Last year I wrote about the obsession I had with dark chocolate M&Ms. I liked them so much that I decided to never eat a boring old milk chocolate M&M again. Since the dark chocolate ones would only be available for a limited time, I stocked up. As it turns out, I didn't finish eating them before committing to a weight loss plan. A couple of months later I tried to figure out how many M&Ms I was allowed to eat on the plan. By my math, it worked out to 22 and a half pieces. After all that, I didn't want to use up one of my allotted starches on candy. A piece of bread or a bowl of cereal was more filling and therefore more appealing to me. I never got around to eating those M&Ms until now.

I am well into the maintenance phase of the program, which means I can eat a greater variety of foods while still controlling portion sizes. I'm also allowed to have one more serving of starch and fat than I did in the weight loss phase. I've recently used that extra fat allotment to enjoy some pork BBQ and some ribs. The other day I thought it would be nice to have something different as the starch and fat with my lunch. According to the food directory, a 1.7 ounce bag of M&Ms would count as two starches and two fats. I figured that half that amount of candy would count as only one starch and one fat. I started dropping candies onto our food scale until I had what looked like 0.85 ounces. There were 45 pieces in the tray, which made sense. If I counted 22 and a half M&Ms as just a starch, twice that amount could count as both a starch and a fat.

It took me about half an hour to eat all 45 candies one at a time. In the old days I would have eaten that many in half a minute. At that rate, my year-old dark chocolate M&Ms will last a while because I shouldn't have them more than once a week. I probably could have dug into the stash sooner. The company has announced that they have come out of their coma and that the best M&Ms ever are now available all the time.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

the Joe E. Bishop show

The comment of the week, no make that the comment of the month, came from reader Jennifer on Wednesday. I had written about some recent and unfortunate instances of people I know turning up in the news. Jennifer joked that maybe Abby Ham should keep her distance from me. It's fitting to mention on a Sunday that this weekend's newspapers had some good news about two people I know from church.

Knoxville Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz is one of eight top candidates for the bishop opening in Pittsburgh. Their bishop recently became archbishop of Washington, DC. On a side note, I accidentally caught a few seconds of "The Tonight Show" while looking for my remote control the other day. One of Jay Leno's "Headlines" was a photo of the outgoing Pittsburgh bishop's farewell Mass. As a deacon knelt for the consecration, the photo made it look like he was just a disembodied head on the altar. Anyway, I've met Bishop Kurtz several times. I'm not sure that he remembers me each time but he does always recall meeting my mother and grandmother when I mention it to him. On more than one occasion Bishop Kurtz remembered that they were from New York. It might have been their accents.

One year for Pentecost, I was given the responsibility of organizing some volunteers to translate the General Intercessions into various languages. One of the volunteers introduced me to his son, who has some developmental difficulties. Despite his problems, he is able to be an altar server at our church. Yesterday's paper had a heartwarming story about the boy at the big swim meet on Friday.
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Saturday, July 22, 2006

nature's taking over my one track mind

A thunderstorm kept me from swimming yesterday. I hate missing a day in the pool. It feels like I'm not getting my money's worth. But the storm came through right after I awoke from my nap so there wasn't a lot I could do about it. I used to wonder why thunder and lightning meant that I couldn't swim. You would think that something tall like a tree or a house would get struck before something low like a pool. It turns out that lightning can get conducted into the pool by the various pipes and wires connected to it.

I had hoped that the rain would at least provide some free water for the pool. The recent heat wave has caused me to lose a lot to evaporation. Unfortunately, the storm put more leaves into the pool than water. Today my daughter was kind enough to stitch up a hole that had ripped open in the bag for our automatic pool cleaner. That saved me a lot of time.

For all my griping about the leaves, we fared much better than a family a couple of miles from here. A big tree in their front yard had the bark knocked right off it during last night's storm. They weren't hurt but they said some wires in their house burned. There were piles of Fiberglas insulation in their yard that were singed by the burning wires. Take a look at their naked tree:

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Friday, July 21, 2006

try to detect it, it's not too late

For the past ten months we've been satisfying our sweet teeth with a dollop of frozen fat free whipped topping atop one of those little containers of Sugar Free JELL-O. While we avoid store brand gelatin, I've found that I actually prefer the taste (and price) of Kroger brand frozen fat free whipped topping to Cool Whip Free. As you can see by the photos, I'm not the only one who feels that way. The shelf for the 78 cent store brand is a lot emptier than the shelf for the $1.07 national brand.

My daughter suggested that we try adding some frozen fat free whipped topping to a tall glass of frosty Diet A&W Root Beer. Wow! It's fantastic. It's a flavor sensation that my daughter has named the "whip float." As the photo shows, a straw is mandatory equipment.
A budgeting website suggests that you can also put the frozen fat free whipped topping between a couple of chocolate graham crackers to make a faux ice cream sandwich.

I had tried making a diet root beer float with no sugar added fat free ice cream. It was okay, but the frozen fat free whipped topping makes a much better float. Plus the frozen fat free whipped topping is a whole lot easier to find in a supermarket than no sugar added fat free ice cream. Next time you're at the store and you need to send your spouse on a wild goose chase, tell them to try to find a container of no sugar added fat free ice cream. It will give you some time to shop without distraction while they are lost in a sea of confusing ice cream labels.
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

one giant leap

Today is not a national holiday but it should be. 37 years ago tonight men walked on the moon. The momentous event is hardly commemorated at all. Not even by the annual Mooning of Amtrak. The least they could do is to hold their moon-a-thon a week later and claim a tie-in. But they don't.

If you're of a certain age, the lunar landing is probably one of your happiest memories. It certainly is one of mine. Between the flight of Apollo 11 and the unlikely success of the Miracle Mets, the summer of 1969 was amazin'. In a way, I am still the little kid who learned the names of all the Apollo astronauts and all the New York Mets that summer.

My family was on vacation in Noyac when the Eagle landed. We stayed up late to watch the coverage on an old black & white TV in my grandparents' summer cottage. The only channel we could get was WTNH out of New Haven, Connecticut. While most people think of Walter Cronkite's moon coverage, my memory is of Frank Reynolds, Howard K. Smith and science editor Jules Bergman.

Later that summer, my parents took us downtown to see the ticker-tape parade welcoming the astronauts home. Neil Armstrong has kept a fairly low profile since making history but he was interviewed on "60 Minutes" last year.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

it's not what you know

How often do you see someone you know on the news? Not that often, right? Especially when it's bad news. In the 50 weeks since I started this blog, it has happened to me five times. I have written previously about the tragic stories of the oldies deejay, the BBQ shack owner and the improv audience member. I also know a school bus driver who got into some trouble with the law.

The big story in Knoxville this week is the raid on several Market Square businesses by the DEA and other federal agencies. The local blogosphere broke the story Sunday morning. The married couple who own those businesses turned themselves in to the authorities and are out on bail. The husband has had meetings with our improv group and booked us to perform at the World Grotto. We had a show there this past Friday night. He's fairly well known around town so I'm not the only one who recognized him on the news. But it still makes me wonder which of my acquaintances will turn up on the news next.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

and everything that's in it

Knoxville is playing host to a big Christian conference for teens this week. The organizers decided to hire a local improv group (and by that I mean the only local improv group) to entertain. We did two shows on Sunday afternoon and one on Monday evening. We will do another one on Thursday evening. Because the audience consists of high school students celebrating Jesus, we have to keep our shows clean, unlike our usual Tuesday night barprov gigs. While getting in the right mindset, I found an article by John Kinde that touts the benefits of clean comedy.

Between our two shows on Sunday, we tried some roaming improv. My favorite piece was a fake photo scavenger hunt. Well, the photos are real. It was the scavenger hunt that was fake. We split into two teams and went in search of conference attendees. When we spotted someone wearing a red Washington Nationals cap (which looks exactly the same as a Senators cap), we started pointing and yelling excitedly as if it were an item on our non-existent list. We asked a group of guys if any of them had an out-of-state drivers license. When one did, we then claimed we would get double points for also photographing his duct tape wallet. We asked a group of girls to pose like ballerinas and another group to form the letters YMCA, with macho men on either side.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

blue heavens

There was a strange woman on "The Price Is Right" today. She wore a wig and a pair of huge Dame Edna glasses. I wonder if she was in the witness protection program.
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Sunday, July 16, 2006

the more you know

Fans of campy Christmas specials have been wondering all week who will play Heat Miser and Snow Miser in the upcoming live-action remake of "The Year Without a Santa Claus." The local media in Shreveport and Natchitoches have made a big fuss over the filming of the TV movie.

The wait is over. On Friday, NBC issued an updated press release titled: "Delta Burke, Chris Elliott and Michael McKean Join Cast of NBC's "The Year Without a Santa Claus." Elliott will play Heat Miser and McKean will be Snow Miser.
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

backstroke, breaststroke, sunstroke

Today was a long day. We spent 12 hours at the Smoky Mountain Invitational Swim Meet. It's held at the Springbrook pool in Alcoa, the town named after the aluminum company. My son swam in his first event around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. His next races were not until after 3:30 p.m. During the long wait, my wife, my daughter and I would periodically go to the locker rooms and take cold showers in an attempt to beat the heat. We could have paid $1 each for wristbands to use the slide in the shallow end of the pool for an hour but the showers were free.

As usual, I did a little people watching. I saw a dad with a very creepy ponytail. I saw swimmers using a Sharpie to write their event and heat numbers on their hands and legs. I saw a poker game being played by a group of shirtless 12-year-old boy swimmers with figures like Bobby Bacala.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

sleep in heavenly peace

Once upon a time, a mattress shop bought a radio remote package. In addition to their regular commercials, the store got an two hour appearance by the radio station van, a remote tech and a deejay. I was happy to be assigned as the deejay. It's a good store and the extra cash is very welcome. This particular business is surrounded on three sides by a funeral home and adjoining cemetery. Fortunately the remote tech and I drove up to the mattress store on the fourth side. I never saw the cemetery until we were leaving as were driving through the funeral home parking lot. Had I known about the graveyard, I might not have been able to resist saying things like "come on out to the eternal sleep center" or "these prices are six feet under the competition" or "you'll be so comfortable on your new mattress that your friends will look at you and say: 'mm, mm, mm don't he look natural?'"
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

can't fight the feeling

"The Office" is the best sitcom currently on television. In my opinion, it eclipsed the great "Arrested Development" last fall. Today countless blogs are reminding their readers to view the exclusive webisodes debuting today on the NBC website. All day I've been debating whether to add my voice to the chorus or to write about something completely different. Tonight NBC repeated the show's brilliantly uncomfortable pilot episode and I knew what I had to do.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

never wanna know a day that's under 60 degrees

NBC has announced that a live action version of the animated classic, "The Year Without a Santa Claus," is being filmed this week in Shreveport and in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Locals can dress in holiday attire and volunteer as extras.

The news
reminded me of the time we put a cover of the Heat Miser and Snow Miser songs on the Kevin & Bean Christmas cassette. I like unusual cover songs and was greatly amused by the Heat Miser/Snow Miser medley submitted by a Russian band called Limpopo. More recently, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy covered the songs on their Christmas disc.

Here's the important part of the NBC press release:
When his devious head elf, Sparky (Chris Kattan), tells him that he must "keep up with the times" -- no matter how materialistic -- Santa Claus (John Goodman) resists, fearing that the holiday has become far too commercial. Convinced that no one believes in him anymore and that people have forgotten the real meaning of Christmas, Santa decides to take the year off and not deliver any gifts, much to the dismay of his two closest elves, Jingle (Ethan Suplee) and Jangle (Eddie Griffin). When Santa tells them that he doesn't think there are any children left who still care about the true spirit of Christmas, the two elves decide to prove him wrong.
Carol Kane will play Mother Nature but it doesn't say who will take the roles of her boys, Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Who should play the step-brothers?
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

have a croak and a smile

A lonely frog came home for a visit yesterday. It could have been one of the frogs whose mating calls we heard in the late winter and early spring. Or could it be a tadpole that is all grown up and looking for its birthplace? My son and I had decided that the mating calls we heard were those of the Mountain Chorus Frog. Yesterday's frog had yellow pigment on the concealed surface of its hind legs, which should be enough to prove us right.

When I decided to snap a picture of the frog for my blog, I didn't know that the News Sentinel would run a puff piece on the frog mascot of a competing radio station today. I would have liked the article better if they had included more than a passing mention of the bumblebee mascot from another competing radio station. That way the story would have been good for radio in general instead of just good for the one station that already dominates the market. The article does ring true when it describes the way listeners demand free t-shirts:
It's 87 degrees out. After 20 minutes, Weeks is ready for a break in the air-conditioned truck. He's just taken the frog head off when there's a rap on the window. An apparently intoxicated man points to a little boy standing next to him and demands a T-shirt. Weeks tells the man to go across the lot and wait.

The Frog emerges from the truck and heads into the dealership, scooping up a bumper sticker and a bag of popcorn, which he takes to the shy youngster outside.

The intoxicated man is not shy.

"You ain't got no T-shirts? No socks? Nothing?" he says, incredulously.

Wivick, who follows the cardinal mascot code of no speech, points to Dollywood coupons on the back of the sticker, which mollifies the man somewhat. "We're going next week," says his female companion as they leave.

It irritates Weeks when people send their children over to collect T-shirts and other giveaways for them. He angrily relates watching a mother send her little boy, wearing a beach towel, across four lanes of traffic on Clinton Highway -- for a T-shirt.
But to me, the most interesting paragraph was this one:
While in the frog suit, Weeks has had his share of unprintable adult propositions, and he often gets "flashed" by passing women. But every modern mascot knows to take care to avoid any accusation of impropriety with kids: "I wrap my arm around them, like this," he demonstrates, "and then I pat my arm. I never pat the kid."
The deejays at our local Frog station use regular names, which is a disappointment. If you're going to go to all the trouble to operate a Frog station, why not use the appropriate silly deejay names like Tad Pole, Ann Phibian, Polly Wogg and Jimmy Hoppa?
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Monday, July 10, 2006

omitting names

People always want to tell me about other radio stations. Since I've been on LA Weight Loss, people want to tell me about Kathy Kersting. She does the LA Weight Loss commercials on a competing radio station. Kathy has lost over 100 pounds, which makes the 60 pounds my wife and I have each lost seem like nothing.

Last week's issue of a local newspaper featured a cover story titled "I See Fat People." The article was about the obesity epidemic and mentioned a phrase that amuses me: "the stroke belt."
Kathy and her husband Jay were interviewed for the article and were shown in before and after pictures. The following paragraph struck me as a little odd:
When Jay suggested they try a commercial weight loss system being touted on the air at his radio station, she agreed. The couple became a test case for the system, which is mostly predicated on controlling portion sizes and making smarter food choices, and their results have been monitored regularly in a series of radio advertisements.
Is there some journalistic high standard keeping the paper from mentioning which weight loss system the Kerstings used? Would they feel differently if LA Weight Loss was one of their advertisers? For the sake of balance, couldn't they find somebody who lost weight on Weight Watchers or the South Beach Diet?
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Sunday, July 09, 2006

we pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot

Forget "Aquaman." The biggest box office opening of all time is "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." My family and I bought four of the 20 million tickets sold this weekend. I don't usually bother reading box office results because they are always measured in dollars. With ticket prices steadily rising, the figures don't mean anything to me. However the AP story about the record sales for "Pirates" actually mentioned the number of tickets sold:
Even factoring in higher admission prices since 2002, "Dead Man's Chest" still set a record of just under 20 million tickets sold, about 200,000 more than "Spider-Man."
Wouldn't it be more interesting if they always reported the number of tickets sold? We would know where "Pirates" really stacks up against movies like "Jaws" and "The Empire Strikes Back."
Plus we could compare how many people go to movies with how many people watch TV or listen to the radio each week. With raw numbers like that staring them in the face, the folks at "Entertainment Weekly" might feel compelled to write an article about radio every now and again.
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Saturday, July 08, 2006

falling off the bone

Vegetarian readers might want to skip today's entry. That means you Bean, Paul and Fr. Ragan. Why? Because we fired up the Pitmaster Deluxe again. Today was the first time we cooked ribs since last September, shortly before my wife and I joined LA Weight Loss. The big difference is that this time I only ate three ounces of rib meat. Like she did for the pork shoulder on Father's Day, my wife made a dry rub using Splenda Brown Sugar and Morton Lite Salt. After about four hours of smoking, we wrapped the ribs in foil to keep them moist and to prevent charring during the remainder of the cooking time. We burned pieces of apple wood that I had been drying since last year. You might recall my blog entry about the wood coming from the same tree as some apples that fed a neighbor's pet pig. I promise you that the ribs were not from Phoebe Marie.

If you have ever skimmed through this blog's archives, you can tell that BBQ is one of my favorite things. In my defense, I will say that I have grown to love Amy's Texas Veggie Burgers while dropping the pounds. We will continue to have them on a regular basis. Since I find myself writing about the weight loss plan again, I may as well post a radio commercial that ran last week. My wife does a great job in all of them but she especially shines in this spot about the church social:

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Friday, July 07, 2006

ham and cheese

And now, with apologies to Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story: WBIR's Abby Ham saw me taking her photo from a distance on Tuesday. She waved me over and recognized me as she did. You might recall that she once sent a camera to an Einstein Simplified show. I said hi and immediately introduced my long-suffering wife to Abby and Bill Williams. Abby started the conversation by complimenting our improv group's recent appearance on "Live at Five." I responded by telling her about her number one ranking in the search results on Bean's Blog. We chatted for a few more seconds before she and Bill had to begin their broadcast. I said something about hoping she understood the attempted humor in my many blog entries about her.

My wife and I had walked to World's Fair Park from the parking garage with our camp chairs slung over our shoulders. When I asked Abby and Bill if my wife could take a photo of me with them, I did not know that the strap from the chair had made the collar of my patriotic flag shirt look so stupid. I thought about going back to ask Abby and Bill for a re-shoot but decided against it. They were so nice they probably would have said yes.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

does that make me crazy? possibly

Most of my radio career has consisted of behind-the-scenes jobs on morning shows. I was bitten hard by the on-air bug when I had a talk show on the short-lived Comedy World Radio Network. I've done a lot of different things in radio but I hadn't done many deejay shifts until lately. In addition to being on the morning show, I now get to play deejay on some weekends and holidays. I was feeling goofy and had a lot of fun talking up the intros on July 4th. Plus I got paid time and a half. Here's an mp3 of my three favorite intros from the midday shift on Tuesday:

On Tuesday evening, my family and I went to the Festival on the 4th at World's Fair Park. The concert by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the fireworks that followed were broadcast live by WBIR-TV. (Hey, speaking of WBIR, they announced the replacement for Ted Hall today. It's John Becker from KGW in Portland.)

The Independence Day telecast was hosted by longtime anchorman Bill Williams and newcomer Abby Ham. Yesterday, I told you how I saw Abby and Bill from a distance. They spotted me taking their picture and gestured that I could come closer. What happened next? What did Abby say to me? Find out tomorrow.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Luke, I am your founding father

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra put on a good show last night at World's Fair Park. They finished with their traditional performances of the "1812 Overture" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever." I love the "1812 Overture" but I'm still puzzled why a song about the Russians and the French would be played in the USA every year on the Fourth of July. I credit (or blame) Arthur Fiedler for popularizing the tradition. I guess if it was good enough for Fiedler, it's good enough for me because "Evening at Pops" was regular viewing at our house when I was growing up.

Maybe Maestro Lucas Richman can get some ideas by watching a replay of the Nashville Symphony's performance during their fireworks last night. I'm watching it on my TiVo right now. They started with the themes from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Star Wars," then played the "National Emblem March," "Ride of the Valkyries" and "Semper Fidelis." Never mind. Now they're playing the finale from the "1812 Overture" followed by "The Stars and Stripes Forever." It turns out that the National Symphony Orchestra played the "1812" finale in DC too.

I used my modest digital camera to record the fireworks at the end of the "1812 Overture" in Knoxville last night. I wish I had cleared just a few more seconds of space on my memory card beforehand. You'll see what I mean if you watch it on YouTube. It's cool that our local fireworks are from the same Tennessee company that has put on huge shows in DC and Nashville for years.

The only thing wrong with last night's concert was the unfortunate choice of a piece called "I Bought Me A Cat." We were embarrassed for Katy Wolfe Zahn, a talented singer forced to make unpleasant animal sounds throughout the song.

Before the show, I snapped a photo of our friends Karen and Ihsan onstage. In addition to performing with the KSO, they have a business called Sequoyah Strings.

Oh wait, who's that over there with local TV legend Bill Williams? Is that Abby Ham? I think it is. Do I dare walk closer? Find out tomorrow.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The image in my mind right now is that of a birthday cake with candles in the shape of a 2, a 3 and a 0 on top. Naturally, the icing is red, white and blue. It's America's birthday, a day for celebration. Our family loves to watch fireworks. Not the illegal, amateur kind but the big professional displays. Again this year we will head downtown for the Festival on the 4th at World's Fair Park. The fireworks will be presented by Pyro Shows, who are also putting on big shows in Nashville and Washington, DC.

When we lived in Burbank, we would go to the Starlight Bowl every July 4th. They'll have a concert tonight followed by a nice display of pyrotechnics. If you sit high enough up on the lawn, you can also see the Universal Studios fireworks in the distance. There were a few years when we didn't know enough to get tickets in advance for the Starlight Bowl and we ended up watching the fireworks from the top level of the parking garage at the Media City Center (now known as the Burbank Town Center) or from the railroad tracks that they turned into a bike path along Chandler Boulevard.

I only went to the fireworks in DC a couple of times. One year before I was married, a friend named Joe hosted a party in his apartment just off Maine Avenue with an amazing view of the Mall. My future wife was at the party with her date, who is now a lawyer in Las Vegas. My date for the evening is now a Fredericksburg City Council Member. Joe, our host, was soon to start a job working for Congressman Joe Barton. I haven't talked to him in years, so I Googled him a moment ago. Turns out he's chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Chairman Joe Kelliher. Imagine that!

Another year, WAVA sponsored a Beach Boys concert at the foot of the Washington Monument. It was their return to the Mall after the James Watt controversy. The other acts on the bill were Joan Jett, Jimmy Page and some others I can't remember (New Edition maybe?). The concert ran long and the fireworks started before the music ended.
The only way we could see the fireworks from the stage was by looking straight up in the air. Mr. T and John Stamos were both playing drums with the Beach Boys but Mr. T's drum kit was stuffed with towels to muffle the sound. There were more backup singers and musicians than there were Beach Boys on stage. Only the guy running the sound board knows for sure which microphones were turned on and which were turned off, although I have my suspicions. After the fireworks, Bean and I were told to go out on stage and ask the crowd to disperse peacefully and to put their trash in the garbage cans. The crowd pressed against the snow fencing and chanted at Bean and me: "F*** you, we want Page!"

Most years we got vacation time around the Fourth. Instead of staying in the DC area, we liked to drive up to the Hamptons. We would go to the parade in Southampton and seek out Paul Sidney of WLNG, who was broadcasting live from the red and white mobile bus.

My TiVo is set to record as many of the holiday specials as I can tonight. "A Capitol Fourth" is on PBS; "The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" is on CBS; "The Macy's 4th of July Spectacular" is on NBC and "The Music City Spectacular" is on GAC.

As I type this, my family is enjoying our annual viewing of "1776," the greatest musical ever about the Declaration of Independence. What is your tradition?
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Monday, July 03, 2006

connect four

My friend Jessica forwarded an article about Marshmallow Blasters from Daily Candy Boston. The blasters (and ammo) are sold at, a site I will have to add to my "marshmallowaholic" page. The blasters would have come in handy during the now-banned marshmallow fights that would erupt among the fans waiting overnight for the Tournament of Roses Parade.

There's a great improv game called "Marshmallow Madness" (also known as "Marshmallow Mania") that I haven't played since joining LA Weight Loss. I did have a S'mores flavored LA Nutritional Bar tonight though. It's even better after ten seconds in the microwave.

I did a quick search for blogs about improv and found one called Humor Power. I especially liked the postings titled "Business and Personal Benefits of Improv" and "Finding an Improv Troupe or Starting Your Own." Can anyone recommend other improv blogs?

You'll probably always remember where you where when you heard the news that "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is finally coming to DVD. I read the news on Frank Strovel's blog today. Thanks Frank!
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Sunday, July 02, 2006

train of thought

My friend Bean and I had a phone conversation about our blogs on Wednesday. He suggested that I add a hit counter to see how many people visit my site and where they are coming from. My hosting service will provide all that information but they send it in the form of a huge Word document. Bean said he found a site that easily provided the information and that he would post the link to it in his blog entry on Saturday. In the posting, he lists the top terms used by people who find his blog through a search engine. Number one was "Abby Ham." I kid you not.

I wanted to start counting visitors on the first of the month
(I began my blog on the first day of the month last August) so I looked around for some sites on my own. I chose to go with one that I found on Frank Strovel's blog. It's called Blogflux MapStats. According to it, there's still a lot of people who find there way here after searching for the cheerleader in the T-Mobile commercial.

Speaking of Frank Strovel's blog, every Sunday he posts an entry called "Sunday Paper." In that spirit, here are two things of interest that I found in this morning's News Sentinel:
Speaking of July 2, a local church had a nice little fireworks show tonight. They hired Pyro Shows, the same group that does Boomsday and other huge shows. My family and I went to see it. I recorded a brief video on my camera phone and posted it on YouTube.
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Saturday, July 01, 2006

don't eat it all at once

Remember the ads that said "if u cn rd ths msg u cn bcm a secy n gt a gd jb?" Thanks to modern technology, anyone who has ever received a text message can understand the sentence. The people pushing the candy sale at Phillips 66 must be trgtg the txtg crd, I mean targeting the texting crowd as this sign attests:

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