Thursday, August 31, 2006

if a tree falls in the forest

The Tennessee Volunteers open their football season against the California Golden Bears on Saturday night. They will have a tough time filling all the seats in Neyland Stadium since they have chosen to schedule the game at the same time as the monthly Einstein Simplified show at The Comedy Zone.

In reality, it will be a challenge for us to pull an audience for the improv show. If you know anybody who isn't obsessed with Jim Bob Cooter's team (he is still on the team, right?) please send them our way on Saturday evening.

This weekend's show also conflicts with Paul Simmons' annual trip to the Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Fortunately improv is a team sport which means the five of us who are not going to the football game or the sci-fi convention will provide you with 90 minutes of entertainment.

I thought that the celebrity guests at Dragon*Con would only include actors from science fiction movies and television shows. However this year's convention promises appearances by Mickey Rooney, Don Most and Rip Taylor!
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

weebles warble

The "American Idol" tour wrapped up the other night. A snarky review in the Los Angeles Times opened with these words about the song "Living In America":
It wasn't merely that moments before turning James Brown's goofy late-career hit into a lost song from "Rent," the group was singing Queen's "We Are the Champions," an anthem that should be kept as far away from funk as a Zippo lighter from a Jheri curl. It wasn't the visual clash between Kellie Pickler's corset-stretch jeans combo and Katharine McPhee's evening gown, or the blinding whiteness of Ace Young's teeth, or the nauseous, back-seat-of-a-speeding-car feeling caused by witnessing Taylor Hicks' crazy dance moves in the flesh. It was the complicated confusion of the whole spectacle.
The target audience for the concert obviously does not include music critics for major metropolitan newspapers. Instead the show is designed for people like my nine-year-old niece. Her parents took her backstage when the tour hit Washington, D.C. I scanned a copy of the publicity photo she got autographed by the Idols. See if you can decipher the signatures:

If you're really into the whole Idol scene, you've probably already been to the Pop-Tarts website to watch an exclusive tour webisode. If you haven't yet, feel free to use the secret code from the inside of my son's last box of Frosted Raspberry. It's FRRB456K. Here's another hint. If you do a Google search for that code, several others will be revealed to you also.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

real deal estate

Today's blog entry would have been posted earlier but I've been busy looking up all your addresses on The site tells me how much your house is worth now and how much you paid for it when you bought it. A graph shows how your home's value has changed over the last ten years. It's a little depressing to see that my old house in Burbank is now worth twice what I sold it for in 2002 and over three and a half times what I bought it for in 1997.

I'm also enjoying Zillow's bird's eye view of famous homes. That page features houses from shows like "The Brady Bunch" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." Fortunately, I know how to look up the street address of my all-time favorite TV mansion. It turns out that I only need $6,789,819 to buy Stately Wayne Manor.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

building brain power

The Emmy Awards got a couple of things right last night. "24" and "The Office" won for best drama and best comedy. However some of the acting awards went to people I wouldn't have picked. Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart were robbed, robbed I tell you. I would have given awards to Steve Carell, Jane Kaczmarek, Will Arnett and Jamie Pressly too, although Jeremy Piven was a good choice. I thought "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars" would beat "The Amazing Race" but I'm fine with the way it turned out.

The Los Angeles Times says that the best acceptance speech ever was given by Greg Garcia. I've told you before about Greg's past as a WAVA intern. The Washington Post showed Greg some love before the awards yesterday.

The success of "24" and "The Office" is explained in a book I just finished reading. In "Everything Bad is Good for You," author Steven Johnson writes that we're getting smarter because pop culture is getting more complicated. Shows used to air only one time and had to be kept simple. In the age of TiVo and DVD, shows are made to be watched and re-watched. The additional complexity of the plot makes us lean forward and think about what we're watching. Johnson also makes a great case for video games, which explains why my son is smarter than me.
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Sunday, August 27, 2006

take me out to the ballgame

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon for baseball. For the past two weeks I've been meaning to share my photos from RFK Stadium. We sat near the right field foul pole.

Mr. Met made the trip to D.C. You'll have to take my word for it but the President's helicopter (and a decoy) flew past the stadium on the way to the White House. Young kids received a free Screech bobblebelly.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

visiting history

Reading the book "Manhunt -- The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer" made me want to visit Ford's Theatre during my recent trip to Washington. I wonder how I would look if I trimmed my beard the same way as the men who tracked down John Wilkes Booth.

After the shooting, they brought Abraham Lincoln across the street to Petersen House, which is easy to spot right next to the Lincoln Souvenir Outlet. I didn't see many Lincoln souvenirs but I did find some tacky First Lady bobbleheads.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

putting the CO in convenience

It's Friday night and you want to stop by the convenience store for some cold beer or soda and some chips. It may not be the "Coldest Beer in USA," but it's right on the way and the selection is good.

You don't get out of the car when you go to the new Pit Stop Drive-Thru convenience store on John Sevier Highway. And by drive-thru, I don't mean drive up to a little window. You literally drive right through the front door. Brien Owens told me that he based his new store on some places he knew in Ohio.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

Tonight's ABC World News had a follow up story from investigative reporter Brian Ross. Thanks to one of his earlier reports, federal air marshals no longer have to adhere to an easy-to-spot dress code while flying. I was reminded of a time when I spotted some air marshals before they leapt into action.

It was October, 2001. I was on my way to New York for my cousin's funeral. As I waited to board the plane, I saw two guys who looked like air marshals check in and board first. Here's the paragraph I included in my Christmas newsletter that year:
On my first plane trip after September 11th, I saw two people boarding the plane who could have been plain-clothes police officers or air marshals or something. As the plane is taxiing to take off on our cross-country flight (actually Phoenix to Baltimore), a man in the seat in front of me gets up and desperately heads to the bathroom at the back of the plane. One of the flight attendants, who reminded me of Chris Tucker, starts screaming at the guy to return to his seat. Turns out, the guy doesn't speak English but really needs to get to the bathroom. So the flight attendant starts yelling, "the cabin is not secure, the cabin is not secure!" The two people who I thought were air marshals jump up and run to the back of the plane. They grab the guy and drag him back to the seat in front of me and start yelling at him in Spanish. The guy is still not responsive, so they drag him to their seats near the front of the plane. Oh by the way, the plane is taxiing this whole time. The air marshals get the guy into a seat just as the plane starts accelerating for take-off. An hour later, one of the marshals brought the guy back to the bathroom and then to the seat in front of me. The flight attendant who sounded like Chris Tucker comes up and says slowly and loudly to the guy, "I don't have anything for diarrhea, but I do have Alka-Seltzer. Do you know how to do this? 'Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is?'" Meanwhile the Hindu guy next to me says, "usually I'm the one who gets hassled" and gives me the beef stick from the snack the airline served.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

feeling flushed

It was time for lunch during my day of sightseeing in Washington last week. My daughter and I found a place called Manhattan Deli right next to the U.S. Navy Memorial. It seemed to be popular with the locals, which is always a good sign. We sat at an outdoor table and noticed the unusual hue of the water in the memorial's fountains. I snapped a photo looking across the street toward the National Archives.

The day after we saw the fountain, I wrote a blog entry about Express, the free commuter daily from The Washington Post. While skimming through that day's stories on the Express website, I found a mention of the blue water at the Navy Memorial. Sure, it was a funny coincidence but I was even more amazed to learn that the blue coloring is not there just to make the fountain look like something you would find in a theme park. It's cleaning fluid, not unlike what you would use in your toilet.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

what would Mel Gibson order?

The 12th annual Feast with the Beasts happened Saturday night at the Knoxville Zoo. My wife and I went to the event despite a light rain. Because of the weather, I didn't take as many pictures as last year. I did pose for an "after photo" with KC Beaver, the mascot for Kid's Cove. See if you can tell which photo is from this year and which one is from last year.

People who didn't bring cameras could still get a photo with the beaver. Volunteers from ORNL Federal Credit Union took digital photos and posted them on their website today. If you have nothing else to do, you can scroll through the pictures looking for blondes or unfortunate poses.

The annual event gives local restaurants the opportunity to serve food samples and win over new fans. Moe's Southwest Grill also distributed menus and $5 coupons to attract future business. Many of the menu items are named after pop culture names and phrases. I recognized most but not all of them. For example, I knew Ruprict (which I thought would be spelled Ruprecht) but not Billy Barou. Fortunately Wikipedia has cross-referenced all the terms on the menu for our convenience. The funniest names might be on the adult beverage menu. How about a nice Blabbermouth Soup or maybe a Village Idiot?
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Monday, August 21, 2006

strangers with camera

Our nation's capital offers a lot of stuff for tourists to do. I lived in the Washington suburbs for several years and didn't see it all. Last Tuesday my daughter and I spent the day sightseeing in DC. As we walked past the White House, we stopped to take photos of each other. A family of four was walking in the opposite direction. They offered to take a picture of us both and we returned the favor.

The same thing happened when we got to the National Academy of Sciences at 21st and Constitution. A father was taking pictures of his son climbing on the Albert Einstein statue, which is allowed and encouraged. Climbing is definitely not allowed at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden where we saw a foreign tourist being ejected for climbing on a Four-Sided Pyramid. Anyway, we took a picture of the father and son at the Einstein statue and gave them our camera so we could have a photo of the two of us at the statue:

Since I was going to miss that night's improv show, I thought it would be a good day to visit the Einstein statue. The photos below might look good on my bio page on the Einstein Simplified website. My daughter was having fun snapping pictures while I was still getting ready.

As it turns out, the show I missed was reviewed by Sara Schwabe on the website Knoxville 520. It reminded me of the time a few years ago when I freaked out a reviewer from by suggesting he see at least two of our shows before writing his review.
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Sunday, August 20, 2006

key is the key

The promos for "Treasure Hunters" made it look like a show that I might like. It promised a mixture of "The Amazing Race" and "National Treasure" with a little bit of "The Da Vinci Code" mixed in. The show doesn't have the thrills of "The Amazing Race." In fact, the traveling is mostly edited out. One episode began with a contestant saying, "We get back to New York from France..." as all the remaining teams piled into the same limo. They do a little bit of racing to find the next clue but it then takes the teams some time to solve the puzzles.

My wife told me that the show was getting more interesting so I caught up with several episodes on the TiVo. The show's host is Laird Macintosh. Something about Laird bothers me. It could be his stilted delivery. It could be that he seems to already know the answers to the ancient riddles that the contestants must solve, making the whole treasure hunt moot. I might like Laird better if he were able to use some of his comedic skills from the "Planet of the Apes" parody group he's in. There were too many contestants at the beginning of "Treasure Hunters." As teams get eliminated, it's easier to keep track of who's left in the game and to root for (or against) a specific team. The final episode is on tomorrow night. It includes a live broadcast from Washington, DC. At the end of last week's episode, the teams were finding a supposedly ancient chamber under Baltimore. The room looked like the show's set designers had barely finished painting it.

The winners will receive a prize worth millions from Genworth Financial. The value of the prize will be revealed during the finale. The Genworth press release made me think that the prize might be a retirement account rather than cash. Perhaps the value depends on the ages of the winners. Had you ever heard of Genworth before? Apparently the company spun off from GE, the parent company of NBC.

As my daughter and I were sightseeing on Tuesday, we came upon a cameraman on the National Mall. He told us that he was shooting footage for the finale of the online portion of "Treasure Hunters." We looked in the direction his camera was pointing and we saw a camera crew walking backwards to film a contestant. They repeated the process with another participant while the remaining contestants waited. If you've been following the game, maybe you'll recognize some of the "Treasure Challenge Finalists" in these photos.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

foam sweet foam

The Virginia State Police were cracking down on speeders yesterday and today. Fortunately for me, I drove 300-plus miles worth of I-81 on Thursday, the day before phase two of "Operation Air, Land and Speed." I heard about it on a WINC-AM newscast as I started heading south from Winchester.

Long distance driving wears me out. At least I had AM talk radio to keep me entertained most of the time. After a while I got restless and started looking for an exit to take. I chose exit 180 because of a sign for the Natural Bridge, "an ancient natural wonder in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley." It turns out that they wanted $12 to see it plus I would have had to hike from the visitor center. Obviously I blew that off. I didn't want to spend any money to see the Natural Bridge Wax Museum either, although the brochure photos of the factory tour were tempting. Thanks to the Internet, I have a pretty good idea of what I would have seen.

There's a much better offbeat attraction between the Interstate and the Natural Bridge. It's Foamhenge, a replica of Stonehenge made of foam instead of stone -- hence the name Foamhenge. One of the articles I read online said that Foamhenge was built to celebrate April Fool's Day in 2004.

I started smiling as soon as I saw the sign by the road. A marker at the bottom of the hill explains how Foamhenge was built. It's purpose is solely to make people happy. My favorite photo is the one showing Foamhenge appearing on the horizon as I walked up the hill.

As I got closer, it was possible to see that Foamhenge really is made of Styrofoam. The view looking away from Foamhenge is also fairly spectacular.

You can see that at least one chunk of foam has fallen off. Once I figured out how to operate the timer function on my camera, I was able to attempt some ridiculous poses just like everyone who goes there.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

what's the buzz

A local radio station is broadcasting a high school football game tonight. The program is called the "Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic Game of the Week." Can you think of a more appropriate title sponsor?

Tonight's game is Knoxville Catholic at Smith County High School in Carthage, Tennessee. The sports station is trying something different on their FM signal. Instead of rotating among different schools, this season they are going to broadcast all of Knoxville Catholic's games.

During the halftime recap by the announcers, I could hear the marching band in the background. What songs did Smith County select to entertain their guests from Catholic High? A medley of tunes from "Jesus Christ Superstar."

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

the medium apple

What do radio people do when they're on vacation? They take a tour of a radio station in another city, of course. Today I stopped by WINC in Winchester, Virginia to visit my friend Paula Kidwell who is the midday deejay there. Paula and I were classmates at The Final Four's George Mason University. If you were watching the WINC webcam shortly before 2pm today, you would have seen me getting the tour.

One of my big questions was answered when I saw their top of the hour liner. A liner is a sentence that all the deejays read at the appropriate times. The staff pronounces WINC like the word wink. They mention the names of business that are listening at work, or as they say "winking at work." My daughter wondered if winking at work could be considered a form of harassment, but that's beside the point right now. I was curious if they wrote "WINCing at work" on the liners because it might only be a matter of time before some deejay said "wincing" instead of "winking." They avoid the possible danger by spelling it with a K on the liners.

Paula introduced me to some of her co-workers from WINC and their sister station, WWRT. Kym, one of the deejays from the classic rock station said that her father looked exactly like me when he was my age. Not sure whether to be complimented or insulted, I asked how old she thought I was. I was definitely complimented when she guessed I was ten years younger than I am.

The current music on WINC-FM is terrific. It was just about the only station I listened to while in Northern Virginia. It must have been WINC-AM that gave Patsy Cline her first big break. The "Patsy Cline microphone" is on display
in the radio station lobby. It looked like an old AM mic. Tourists flock to Winchester to see places where Patsy lived and worked. Naturally, I wanted to have my picture made with my friend Paula in front of the famous microphone.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

short on facts

Major newspapers have been taking drastic measures to attract younger readers. The Washington Post is one of the big city papers distributing a free, smaller version called Express. The articles are shorter, without being continued on another page. The paper itself is tabloid size, which is easier to read on the Metro than a broadsheet. All the distribution boxes I saw were outside Metrorail stations. In some places the papers are referred to as "commuter dailies." I picked up a copy of Express yesterday while my daughter and I were sightseeing in D.C.

I've always liked tabloid size papers. As a kid, I liked reading the New York Daily News. As an adult, I would vacation in the Hamptons and drive into town each morning to get a copy of the New York Post before they sold out.

One of the things I liked best about Express is the way the headlines are written. A story about a couple in England who won $18,000 by answering trivia questions on quiz machines in hundreds of pubs was headlined "If Ken Jennings Were an Alcoholic." A story about Boy George's community service also had a photo of him wearing a reflective vest and was headlined "Does Orange Go With My Eyeliner?" Yesterday's story about Kate Hudson's separation from Chris Robinson was headlined "Cute Actress Finally Dumps Scruffy Rocker." I wonder what they wrote today about the rumors of her romance with Owen Wilson.

Yesterday's Express contained one short article which had a headline that bothered me. The headline read "Ordained Woman Leads Roman Catholic Service." I think it would be more accurate to say "Woman Leads Religious Service." I recall seeing a TV news report that took a similar angle. What makes the stories titillating is the idea that some women have been ordained as Roman Catholic priests and that they celebrated Mass. Of course that is untrue. The Roman Catholic Church does not sanction the ordination of women. Apparently the Los Angeles Times made the same mistake. Some papers ran longer versions of the article which did a better job of explaining the Church's position. By going through with their ceremony, the women are in effect forming their own Christian denomination and leaving the Roman Catholic Church. That's not really newsworthy though, is it?
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

withdrawal symptoms

It's Tuesday night and I didn't go to my usual bar. Instead I was in a completely different bar, hundreds of miles away. Almost every week you can find me at Patrick Sullivan's, performing comedy improv. This week I'm on vacation in the DC area, visiting with some college classmates. Tonight I met up with Donna, Meryl and Cindy at a sports bar across from The Final Four's George Mason University. I asked a lot of questions about their lives and families. They wanted to hear about my wife and kids and about some radio guys I used to work with. The evening was going by fast and there was still a lot of ground to cover. Rather than spend any more time describing my current interests, I suggested they read the blog to get caught up. With over a year's worth of posts, my college friends can't read them all. Here's my question to you regular blog readers: which posts should they absolutely not miss?

Since I was going to miss tonight's Einstein Simplified show, I got my Einstein fix by getting my picture made with the statue of Albert Einstein outside the National Academy of Sciences. I will post all my photos when I get home but I was able to use my mother's dial up connection to upload a short video to YouTube. Last I heard from my wife, she was planning to attend tonight's improv show without me. All these years I thought it was me she was coming to see.
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Monday, August 14, 2006

girl, Eli's a-comin', you better hide

The New York Football Giants merchandise catalog has all the stuff you would expect to find in it and more. Sure, you can buy t-shirts and hats but how about a cookie jar shaped like a heavyset chef with a mustache? Some of the items look like they were inspired by the products you can buy from CafePress. What woman doesn't want a Giants Hand Off Panty or a Giants Polka Dot Princess Thong?

Suppose for a moment that you are Eli Manning or Jeremy Shockey. You're complimented that replicas of your jersey are big sellers and are featured in the catalog. Fans can buy copies of your jersey in blue, white or red. But how do you feel about a jersey with your name and number on it that is fitted for women fans? That's probably okay as long as it's still blue, white or red, right? The Giants are selling ladies cut Manning and Shockey jerseys in pink.
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Sunday, August 13, 2006

fifteen game lead

The Mets won today's game against the Nationals at RFK Stadium. The game had something for everyone. Some innings were scoreless pitchers' duels yet there were a couple of home runs and some errors and really bad base-running that made the game a lot more interesting. Plus the Mets utilized the double switch, the managerial move that will forever make the National League superior to the American with their wussy non-batting pitchers.

My daughter and I had seats behind the foul pole in right field. Thanks to rollback pricing, we paid only $5 each (plus service charges) for the normally $11 tickets. Smaller kids got free Screech bobbleheads. Before you get a mental image of Dustin Diamond's oversized head, you should know that Screech is the bald eagle mascot of the Nationals. The bobblehead was more like a bobbletorso. Between innings Screech was joined by two of his bird buddies, the Baltimore Oriole and the Toronto Blue Jay. Mr. Met was there too. They took turns firing t-shirts into the crowd and dancing atop the dugouts.

The mascots weren't the only ones throwing things into the stands. Every foul ball scooped up by the ball girl got tossed into the crowd. So did the ball used to make the third out of an inning. And the ball thrown back and forth by the outfielders between innings. Before the eighth inning, one of the outfielders tossed a warm-up ball into the 400 level seats near us. A father caught it and gave it to his son. The boy promptly threw the ball back onto the field. He looked at his dad and said, "I wasn't supposed to do that, was I?"

The weather was perfect for the 37,732 people in attendance. The guy sitting next to me was a season ticket holder with a heavy Maryland accent. Everytime the scoreboard suggested a cheer he insisted on changing it slightly. There was one cheer that he changed completely. When the scoreboard said "Let's Go Nats," my neighbor shouted "hep hep hep."
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

loyal fan by definition

Greetings from the Old Dominion state. My daughter and I drove from East Tennessee to Northern Virginia today. We didn't stop at any roadside attractions because we wanted to get here in time for a show at The Comedy Spot in Arlington. I had ordered tickets to the 7:30 performance of ComedySportz, the family-friendly improv show. We picked up my mother at her house and made it to the theatre with several minutes to spare. Mom had never seen an improv show and wanted to experience one. I had originally thought about staying for the 10:00 p.m. show because tickets are half price for those who also attend the early show. The flyer for the later performance warns "Please do not bring your children, your mother or livestock to the The Blue Show" and there I was with one of my children and my mother. I decided not to subject Mom to the potentially offensive material.

ComedySportz can be found all over the country. In a typical performance, two teams of improvisers compete for points. Tonight's show had only four players and a referee. Two of the players were team captains and the other two players switched back and forth between teams.

They did a couple of guessing games (Blitzkrieg and Five Things) with clues in gibberish, much like the Chain Murder Mystery game that we recently started playing at Einstein Simplified shows in Knoxville. They played a game called Left!, which is the same as Actors in a Box but with only three players instead of four. I guess you could call it Actors in a Triangle. Two of their better games were Story and Parallel Universe. Their game Story is much like our Conducted Story except that the referee conducts the story and it's an elimination game. At the end, the ref had the last two players talking simultaneously. In Parallel Universe, the scene shifted between completely different time periods but the improvisers had to justify whatever position they were in when the whistle sounded. The three time periods suggested tonight were the Renaissance, the Ice Age and modern day England.

The performance space is a renovated Victoria's Secret storefront in the Ballston Common Mall. It looks great. Placards on the wall list suggestions that have been retired from overuse. I recognized several of the celebrity names, food items and fairy tales from our shows in Knoxville. During the performance, only one "brown bag penalty" was issued. It went to an audience member who suggested a same-sex relationship between two characters. And I think she was there with her children and her mother.
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Friday, August 11, 2006

square pegs and coffin nails

There is no good reason to allow smoking in restaurants. The offensive stench of cigarettes ruins the taste of food for the unfortunate people sitting in the same room as a smoker. New York enacted a ban on restaurant smoking despite the warnings that business would suffer. Well, it didn't. An article in the New York Post says that the ban may have helped increase business instead.

Why do people start smoking? Yesterday's New York Daily News cites a health department study that says a lot of teenage girls think smoking makes them look sophisticated, like the characters on "Sex and the City." Congratulations to Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael Patrick King and the rest of them for introducing a generation of young girls to a deadly nicotine addiction. Who needs Joe Camel when you've got Carrie Bradshaw as a role model?
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

step right up and greet the Mets

The Mets have always been my favorite baseball team. My father had adopted them as his team after the New York Baseball Giants deserted him. He would bring me to Shea Stadium at least once a year when I was in grammar school. Now that I think about it, we would often go to a game when the team that had jilted him was visiting from San Francisco. I consider myself a true Mets fan because I liked them when they were still the worst team in baseball. My loyalties were cemented when they won the World Series. My father gave me record album with Lindsey Nelson's play by play highlights of their "amazin'" season. Only after moving here did I learn that Lindsey Nelson is a UT alumnus and that while he worked for the Mets, he lived in the same neighborhood as my family. Much like the way I knew the names of all the Apollo astronauts, I also knew the names of all the New York Mets. When you say shortstop, I think Bud Harrelson. Number 21? Cleon Jones. My favorite player? Ron Swoboda. I interviewed him a couple of years ago during a "Where Are They Wednesday" segment.

Today I went online and bought tickets to see the Mets play the Nationals at RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The last time I went to a baseball game was about a year and a half ago. I saw the Mets and the Nationals play a spring training game in Florida. My interest in baseball was badly damaged by a strike several years ago. I still watch a couple of games on TV at the start of the season but not that many during the summer. I would wait to see which teams were going to make the playoffs before deciding how much of the postseason to watch.

Perry Simon wrote an interesting piece about baseball cards last week. Because my mother and grandmother didn't throw them away, I still have my collection of cards from the year after the Mets first won the World Series. Like Perry, I bought my cards in wax paper packages that came with a flat piece of gum. I traded my duplicates with classmates to get the cards I was missing. I don't have a complete set but I have enough to bring back plenty of memories. My cards are stored in a red plastic case, organized by team. Some of the teams have long since moved and changed names. The cards serve as a reminder of the Seattle Pilots, Washington Senators and Montreal Expos. Technically the California Angels have changed names a couple of times too.

The News Sentinel Extra is a free supplement that gets delivered to our house once a week. The top story this week is about Major League Baseball players who have retired to East Tennessee because they love the area. The biggest name in the article is former Yankee Graig Nettles. My baseball cards are so old that he's in my collection as a Cleveland Indian.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

thin crust, no toppings

There are two types of pizza: good pizza and great pizza. When a new pizza place opens nearby, you have to try it to find out if it's just good or if it's great. Before the Einstein Simplified show two weeks ago, I spotted a new pizza place in the Old City called Da Vinci's Pizzeria & Calzones. The lettering in the window promised "New Jersey Style" pizza by the slice. Since last night was a show night, my daughter suggested that we get pizza before the improv show. My wife and I planned our meals so that we could have a slice and a salad for dinner. Once you get it in your head that you're going to have pizza, nothing else will satisfy. We arrived downtown about half an hour earlier than usual and saw something disappointing. Da Vinci's was closed. The way restaurants open and close around here I worried that the place had already gone out of business. Fortunately the sign on the door says they will re-open tomorrow once an electrical problem gets fixed. But that didn't help my pizza craving last night.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

moose out front should've told you

There's a road trip in my future. I'm going to the DC area on Saturday and staying for a few days. The timing of the trip is only partially based on the fact that the Mets will be in town to play the Nationals this weekend. I hope to go to the day game on Sunday.

Whenever I travel, I try to take in an improv show. Seeing other troupes helps me develop my own skills. Plus, I can bring back a list of different games to try at an Einstein Simplified show. If I can make good time on I-81, I'll go to a ComedySportz show in Arlington on Saturday night.

During the week, I want to visit Ford's Theatre because I just finished reading "Manhunt -- The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer." The book has made me want to see the artifacts on display at the scene of the crime.

I've made the same trip several times before. Do you have any suggestions for something different I could see or do while on the way back home? Perhaps you can recommend a place for road food or a world's largest something.

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mascots like to move it, move it

Where do I begin to describe the euphoria I'm feeling right now? The excellent site had an item that piqued my interest. It was about a local morning news show in Philadelphia that features dancing mascots every Monday. I clicked through to a YouTube page and watched so many of the Mascot Monday videos that I gave myself a headache from laughing. I love the pure silliness of it.

I've previously written about some friends of mine who wore the mascot costume at George Mason University. More recently I wrote about the guy who no longer wears the mascot costume for a local radio station. Despite my obvious appreciation for the art of mascotting, it's actually the Fox 29 "face character" who has grabbed my attention. Her name is Jennaphr Frederick. I kept watching one Mascot Monday video after another to hear her say stuff like "this is a news-oriented program" or "I smell an Emmy" while dancing with a costumed character called "Stressball Sally." In these very short clips, Jen's personality seems absolutely perfect for morning television. She is 100% committed to the bit and her earnest dance moves crack me up. Jen somehow manages to be not at all self-conscious while still fully self-aware. I wonder if the choppiness of the YouTube stream improves the whole experience by giving a strobe-like effect to the dancing.

Mascot Monday is an idea worth stealing by one of our local stations. I would certainly set my TiVo to watch Tearsa Smith, Abby Ham or Stacy McCloud dance with local mascots like Smokey, Diamond & Slugger and Discount Dave.
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

good ideas at the time

On Monday, I promised that I would post some leftover photos that didn't make the cut during my first year of blogging. A lot of the photos were taken with my camera phone while at the supermarket.

There was something funny on the back of the Mr. Sprinkles label. I wanted to write about it but the photo of the clown's backside was too blurry to read. I can no longer remember what it said. My sweet tooth must have been jonesing the day I spotted the Jon Donaire Mudd Pie. Another time, I was struck by the excess of a "candy decorated fruit snack made with real fruit."

I wasn't daring enough to buy an Ugli Fruit. I did however enjoy eating a mutant strawberry. Now that I'm done losing weight, I can go back to the store and buy some Apple Butter BBQ Sauce.

They installed new gas pumps at Sam's Club in late January. I photographed them before they had stuck on any of the warning labels. It shows ads while you pump.

These next three are just random. My wife and I rode a limo from a hotel parking lot to The Comedy Zone for their big show in May. Before GMU Final Four Fever swept the nation, Bruce Pearl was the talk of the NCAA as the t-shirt below shows. I've written a lot about frogs but never found a way to work in this photo of frog legs.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

early hibernation

While blogging about a recent News Sentinel profile of a man in a frog costume, I got the impression that Howie Weeks really loves his job at a competing radio station. That's why I was all the more surprised to learn yesterday that after six years, he is "no longer with the company." I met Howie once but I don't know him well enough to contact him and ask why he and the station parted ways.

The best part of the article was the honest description of what it's like to deal with listeners demanding t-shirts. The newspaper reporter accompanied Howie to a remote from a car dealership. There were no t-shirts that day. Although listeners think radio people have an infinite supply of t-shirts, the reality is that we don't. I've come to think that the cost of giveaway items should be added to the price the client pays for a remote broadcast. The client could choose from a menu of different priced options like t-shirts, concert tickets, keytags, etc.

Why would the station mascot leave his job so soon after the article was published? The news comes at a time when the station should be celebrating the ridiculously large margin by which they topped the Arbitron ratings and the ridiculously large margin by which their program director was re-elected to the Knox County Commission.

The job posting for a new mascot contains a possible clue (italics are mine):
Mascot etiquette: WIVICK the Frog does not talk. When in the Frog suit it is the duty of WIVICK to entertain -- be animated and get into character based on the event/remote/appearance booked. There should never be any skin showing while in the Frog Suit. It is a secret to the public as to whether WIVICK is a male or female. WIVICK is not allowed to do interviews with the local or national media unless approved by the station's General Manager. The Mascot should be creative with apparel. While Citadel provides a furry green suit, one should be creative with the look of the Frog. The Mascot does not have to wear the furry suit at all times. If WIVICK is booked for Splash Country for example, the apparel could be the Frog head/hands/feet with a Hawaiian or surfer shirt and shorts, green leggings and arms.
The former frog had redesigned his own costume over the years. About a year and a half ago he was featured in the Seymour Herald for getting married in the Wal-Mart parking lot where he first met his listener bride. She showed up at many of the frog's remote broadcasts to win tickets to the Tennessee Valley Fair. I wonder what the general manager thought of the Seymour Herald article.
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Friday, August 04, 2006

popozao and the space-time continuum

A younger Britney Spears appears in a home video that showed up on the Internet this week. She seems a little, shall we say "tired" as she talks about wanting to go to the movies to see the 1997 film "Spawn" or maybe its 1999 sequel. The cameraman tells her that the film is already on DVD and that there might even be a copy on her tour bus. She later calls the cameraman "Kevin" and asks him if the time travel in "Back to the Future" could really happen. Kevin denies the possibility of time travel but I have a theory about him. What if he was covering up the fact that he himself traveled back from the future to hook up with an almost unsuspecting Britney? Maybe he's like Biff, ready to take the cash and get the girl who got away in an alternate timeline.
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

follow through

Reader Becki accepted yesterday's challenge and created a funny Photoshop image of Lindsay Lohan and Fred Clark, an actor who played Harry Morton on the Burns & Allen show. Who else wants to try one?

Harvey Fierstein has replaced Chris Elliott in the live-action remake of "The Year Without A Santa Claus."

The photo I submitted to the Marshmallow Peeps website has turned up on their "Peeps on Vacation" page. After reading that marshmallow related post, my friend Wes sent a link to the Marshmallow Shooter press release and my friend Jessica sent a link to a great story about Circus Peanuts. I love those supersweet orange things and I need to find out what my LA Weight Loss serving size will be. Jessica also sent along an interesting article about the Shooter last month.

I finally opened the new packages of toothpaste and figured out why they had been shrinkwrapped in the first place. I scratched and sniffed the labels and scratched and sniffed again but smelled nothing. I even tried scratching with a nail file and still sniffed nothing. No wonder they're unloading them in twin packs.

The creator of took time from his busy day to send an email thanking me for posting a link to his site.

I haven't plugged it since June 1st, so here's a reminder that Einstein Simplified performs at The Comedy Zone on the first Saturday of the month. You should make plans to come see us this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. I think we're going to do my new favorite game, "Chain Murder Mystery."

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

say goodnight, Lindsay

Lindsay Lohan has been in the tabloid press and gossip blogs a lot lately what with getting reprimanded for her partying ways and the dehydration that followed. Many of the articles mention her current boyfriend, Harry Morton of the Hard Rock Mortons. Almost everybody I know is either too old or too young to understand why I find this funny.

When I hear about Lindsay being out with Harry Morton, I picture her dating the neighbor on "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show." The character of Harry Morton was played by several different actors. The face that comes to my mind first is that of Fred Clark. He always remains black & white in my imagination. If you like playing with Photoshop, maybe you can put Lindsay together with the other Harry Morton and we can all have a laugh.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

happy blogiversary

It's been a full year since I decided to unleash my excess thoughts onto the Internet. A month ago I added a feature that lets you see how many people are visiting the blog and what they were searching for. During July we had between 100 and 200 people here each day, which is more than I thought there would be. Of course most of them found their way here after doing a Google search for the caffeinated cheerleader in the T-Mobile commercials. It figures that one of my dumbest, shortest posts gets the most page views. To those of you who actually read the fresh blog posts daily, thank you!

I've heard from a couple of people who can't post comments because the word verification feature that I added doesn't work on their computer. I don't know why it doesn't work for everyone. Since it's the first day of a new blog year, let's try dropping the word verification and switching to comment moderation, which means that the comments won't show up until after I've read through them.

As my anniversary gift to myself, I registered with Technorati today. I've been wanting to do it for a while but the mental patient in me made me wait until the first of the month. In theory, more people will now find their way here. We'll see how that goes. I like the Technorati tags I see on some of the other blogs I read daily. Over the next month I hope to figure out how to add tags to all the posts I've written in the past year. While I'm at it, maybe a more experienced blogger can tell me what to do about links I posted in the past that no longer work. It's usually happens to news stories that are no longer available on a newspaper or television site.

My best-laid plans almost failed today when I kept getting the same "Sorry" message from Technorati over and over and over again:

I finally was able to "claim my blog" just before I had to head downtown for tonight's improv show. I was in a rush to think of twenty words or phrases to use to describe this blog in my Technorati profile. Let me know if you can think of anything better than the tags I came up with: BBQ, Burbank, Catholic, Celebrity, Comedy, Deejay, Entertainment, Family, Food, Frank Murphy, Improv, Knoxville, Local News, Marshmallow, Morning Radio, Pop Culture, Radio, Television, Tennessee, Weight Loss

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