Sunday, December 31, 2006

tune in tomorrow

Happy New Year! Just like last year on this date, I offer you an audio postcard to ring in the new year. It's another aircheck of me doing the deejay thing.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

pillars of society

The Redskins finished their season tonight. Even though it has been a very disappointing year, I was still looking forward to watching the game in hi-def on the new TV when I got home from work. It hadn't started raining here yet but my satellite-delivered HD picture was breaking up. I switched over to the channel with the standard def version of NFL Network. The signal was uninterrupted but I didn't like the way the picture was stretched to fill the screen. That cloud had a silver lining though. It motivated me to scroll through the satellite settings menu and change the "stretch" option to "pillars" which is sort of like watching a show in letterbox except that the black bars are on the sides rather than the top and bottom. By halftime the HD signal had cleared up enough for me to watch the rest of the Redskins game in hi-def. It seemed like every time a team prepared to punt, Bryant Gumbel said they were turning the ball over on downs. Does he know something the rest of us don't?

According to an article in USA Today last week, one in four HDTV owners is still watching regular programming and doesn't know it. My wife and I may have seen an example of that at a Christmas party this past week where the hosts had a Bowl game showing on their widescreen TV. The graphic along the bottom of the screen said we were watching ESPN-HD but the picture was stretched and distorted.

While looking for links to pepper throughout this blog entry, I found a site called Engadget HD. I am already hooked. They have 34 great reasons to make the switch to HD. Obviously I agree with their way of thinking.

My friend Pam called earlier today. We had a nice chat about our families and our careers. She has recently co-founded an advertising and marketing agency. I told her a little about my plasma screen and about the testimonial spots I do for Strickwood Communications. Rather than clog her email box over the holiday weekend, I'll post the audio of one of my spots for Pam to hear. You can listen too if you want.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

come on down

It's the fifth day of Christmas and I'm still catching up on some holiday viewing. I probably would have gotten to this sooner if I had been able to take some vacation time this week like I did at previous jobs. The week after Christmas doesn't quite feel the same to me when I still have to wake up for work in the morning. Anyway, on Christmas Eve, I recorded a show called "Santa Salutes the Stars," without knowing what it was. It turned out to be an incredibly cheesy Christmas parade in Orlando. I knew it would be spectacular as soon as "The Price Is Right's" Rich Fields read the following script to start the show:
From the family entertainment capital of the world, Orlando, Florida, the Real Yellow Pages from BellSouth presents "Santa Salutes the Stars" starring Hollywood entertainer and TV funnyman Alan Thicke; from TV's "Days of Our Lives," Patrika Darbo; with performances by "American Idol" sensation Kevin Covais; country performing artist Brian McComas; TV personality and singer Shawn King; The Gemz; CMA female vocalist of the year Janie Fricke; country great John Conlee; and featuring the one and only Gloria Gaynor; plus a special appearance by radio and TV talk legend Larry King; American Idol's Melissa McGhee; and Santa Claus!
The parade was telecast on Superstation WGN. I doubt it will ever be shown again but a paradegoer did post some home video on YouTube.

Larry King's special appearance consisted of standing next to his wife on a parade float as she sang about something in the oven and the whole "fandamily" comin' and how she's "Gotta Love the Holidays."
Covais warbled his way through "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" but the worst thing might have been the stilted, almost remedial way Patrika Darbo read from her script. Or maybe it was the middle school aged dancers lip syncing to TLC's version of "Sleigh Ride." Or the superstar appearance by the guy who played Paulie Gatto in "The Godfather." I can't decide.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

what's missing?

Your emails and comments are always welcome. A blog reader named Mike sent one that I've been thinking about for a few days:
Ok, so I'm one of the daily readers (and responders sometimes) to your blog. I am always impressed by the sheet number of reference links that you provide in your posts - kudos! But I do have a tip/request... see if you like the idea:

The problem with putting links in your blog posts is that when I, as the reader, clicks the link, then I'm taken away from your blog. So, I find myself getting to the linked site and sometimes poking around there... then I need some way to get back to your blog. Certainly, I can just do a right-click and open your link in a new window - this is no problem. But there's a way that you can add just a little extra and make it open in a new window anyway.

Honestly, I think Web design 'etiquette' says that if you are going to provide a link to somewhere outside your site, you really should be opening it in a new window (otherwise people will think you are the one who created that material).
When I first started my website in 2001, I made all the external links open in new windows. Before I added a blog to the site last year, I looked at a lot of other blogs to see how they operated. The blogs that influenced me the most kept all their links opening in the same window. I ultimately decided to do the same. Of course I wanted people to be able to find their way back to my site, so I put the blog in a frame on my home page with a navigation bar in a frame along the side. Those of you who type into your browser should know what I'm talking about. However a lot of you bypass the frames by going directly to the blog at (which is absolutely fine if that's what you prefer). When I'm websurfing, I'll sometimes force a link to open in a new tab and I'll sometimes let it open in the same tab. It depends on the circumstances. When I want to get back to where I started, I click the tiny little down arrow on my back button so that I can skip back multiple pages at once.

Reader Mike says that proper web etiquette would be to have all links open new windows. The author of "Dan's Web Tips" disagrees. He writes:
It's a growing, annoying trend in the Web these days for links to external sites not to take you there unconditionally (as Web links always have in the past), but rather put the new site within a frame, or pop up an additional browser window. I've even seen sites that pop up an additional browser window that has the linked-to site in a frame... complete with an ad banner in another frame that stays there no matter where you surf on. All of these techniques have the presumptuous rationale that the user can't or won't decide on his own where he wants to surf to, whether he wants to return to the original site, and whether he wants to pull up additional Web browser windows to surf two sites at once. A "New Browser Window" command exists in most Web browser software; let the users do this if they want. You shouldn't force it on them. If the user is low on memory, the extra window can cause a system crash. As for frames, they're even worse; they take up big chunks of the screen, they keep the user from seeing the URL of the site he's surfed to, and if the destination site has frames too, the available screen space shrinks some more.
You can read the rest of his essay at


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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

on deadline

The editors at USA Today chose today's paper to list the notable figures who died in 2006. Why couldn't they wait for the year to end? I seem to recall that they've done this before. This year it backfired on them more so than usual. The death of former president Gerald Ford was reported late last night, after USA Today had gone to press. Not only is his passing missing from the list of 2006 deaths, he's not mentioned anywhere in the paper.

There are some other celebrities who've died on the day after Christmas. One of the first celebrity deaths that I remember from childhood was the passing of former president Harry Truman. Jack Benny, Jason Robards and Reggie White also died on December 26th.

While reading the list of entertainers who died in 2006, I was reminded of my blog entry from February 6th. I wrote about the deaths of Al Lewis and Fayard Nicholas, both of whom I had the opportunity to meet. I've met two other stars who died this year. I booked Jack Palance to appear on the Mark & Brian show once or twice while I worked there. I would have met Steve Irwin too but I was on jury duty the day he visited KLOS. Because Steve was not yet well known in America, I had to persuade Mark & Brian to say yes when the booking was offered to us.

My other "brush with greatness" (or could I say "brush with late-ness"?) happened back when I worked in the box office at Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts. My boss asked two or three of us to accompany him to a late night performance at the Madeira School (yes, that Madeira School). We were to sell tickets to a Wolf Trap sponsored performance of some opera. The conductor was the larger-than-life Sarah Caldwell. I won't speak ill of the dead, so I'll just say that she was a little different. Okay, okay... She could have used a shower and she could have been nicer to the people working the event. How's that?

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

aroma therapy

It's Deco Week at the Float Barn. When we lived in California, the week between Christmas and New Year's meant that my family and I would spend some time volunteering to help decorate Burbank's entry in the Tournament of Roses parade. I wrote a little about it almost a year ago.

The 2007 Burbank float is called "Free Dog Wash." Look for it toward the rear of the parade again this year. It's number 76 out of 97 in the line of march. A lot of "Star Wars" fans may tune in this year to see the two themed floats and marching stormtroopers.

One difference this year is that I will be watching the parade on the Discovery HD channel.
The only reason for me to tune in to the abbreviated coverage on NBC would be to hear Nancy O'Dell and Billy Bush, both of whom I enjoy watching on "Access Hollywood." I may still set the TiVo to record the old fashioned broadcast on HGTV or the Travel Channel also.

Joseph Mailander of Martini Republic emailed to tell me that Stephanie Edwards will not be part of this year's coverage on KTLA and that the hosts are likely to mention her absence as they read from this year's script. You may recall that Joseph enjoyed the photo of Stephanie from my blog entry about the 2006 parade.

I think that the Travel Channel may once again simulcast KTLA's parade coverage. KTLA will offer a hi-def broadcast to viewers in the Los Angeles area. If the Travel Channel will simulcast KTLA's coverage and if the Travel Channel and the Discovery HD channel are part of the same company, does that mean the Discovery HD channel might simulcast KTLA's HD coverage of the parade? If so, I can watch the HD broadcast live (since I don't have an HD DVR) and record Nancy & Billy on the analog TiVo in my home office.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

happy holy days

Merry Christmas! I hope you've had a good one. My family and I went to church last night at 10:00 p.m. Today we exchanged gifts and ate some delicious food including the Oreo Truffles you've been reading about. There was another sweet treat for me under the tree. I am now all about the Pomegranate Fruit Slices from Nancy Adams Confections. Each year my wife loves to get the annual White House Christmas Ornament from her mother. This year was no exception.

One day last week, right after school, I took my
son to do his Christmas shopping. He wanted to buy gifts for each member of the family with some of the money he had earned over the summer. However, his money was in the bank and we didn't have time to go there first. I offered to use my credit card and let him pay me back later. I helped him pick out presents for his mother and his sister. He already knew exactly what he wanted to get me. As we walked to the cash register, he kept my gift hidden in his pocket. I was a little stressed that it would look like we were trying to shoplift but it worked out fine when the checkout clerk was able to ring up the sale without me seeing what Frank Jr. had chosen for me. This morning I was surprised and delighted to find that he had given me a DVD of "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." I was especially happy because I would finally get to see the first 15 minutes of the movie. The deleted scenes are pretty entertaining too.

Today was the first day of Christmas. The twelve days of Christmas run through the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. An editorial in the Buffalo News accurately describes my feelings that Christmas music on the radio starts too early and ends too soon. Most of us are still celebrating Christmas through New Year's Day at least. If you are planning on hauling your tree to the curb tomorrow morning, you might have a little bit of the Grinch in you.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

the stars are brightly shining

On Christmas Eve, it's appropriate to do some of the same things we do every year on this night. In that regard, I invite you to revisit my blog post from December 24, 2005. Please enjoy the story (and the audio) of my son's version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

Speaking of the famous poem by Clement C. Moore, did you see that a handwritten copy of it sold for $280,000?
While you're listening to Frank Jr., feel free to browse through the December, 2005 archives for stories about Christmas music, presents, ornaments and food.

Blog reader Keith suggested I check out a site called "Jesus of the Week." This week they are featuring an inflatable nativity scene like the one I saw in a supermarket two weeks ago.

The other day I mentioned that I don't get the INHD channel, which will be showing a yule log tomorrow morning. The famous WPIX yule log will be shown on Superstation WGN but it's on tonight/tomorrow morning from 3:30 to 5:30 a.m. As I flipped through the channels on my new plasma screen, I discovered that Knoxville has its own hi-def yule log on WMAK. It's on from 4:00 p.m. today until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. I know it's local because I heard "Tennessee Christmas," as nicely sung by my former radio partner Ashley Adams. While I'm talking about other stations in the market, I'll go ahead and say that the little-known Earl FM has been playing a pretty good selection of Christmas music today with several cool artists you'll never hear on Bland 97.5.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

atta boy Clarence!

Why do we hear the same Christmas songs on the radio every year? An interesting article in the Arizona Republic says it's because stations prefer to play songs that remind listeners of their childhood. Perhaps this explains why "Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives has eclipsed Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" as the Christmas song receiving the most airplay. "Holly Jolly Christmas" is from the 1964 television special "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." Adults in their 40s have grown up with it. "White Christmas" comes from the 1942 film "Holiday Inn," meaning an older generation grew up with the classic Crosby tune. What about the next generation? Is there a song from the 1980s that was enormously popular? Please don't tell me that "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is destined to replace "Holly Jolly Christmas" as the most played holiday song.

"Last Christmas"
and "All I Want for Christmas Is You" are two of the many secular holiday songs I got to play on the radio this afternoon between current top hits. But I still had the Christmas spirit no matter what song I was playing. Take a listen to my intro of the Hinder song "Lips of an Angel."

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Friday, December 22, 2006

unanimous decision

Paul McCartney is having a rough year. His lame song "Wonderful Christmastime" has been chosen as the worst Christmas song of all time by retroCRUSH and as the most annoying Christmas song of all time by Giant Magazine. Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm on this bandwagon. Earlier this month I quoted from a Daily Beacon editorial that called "Wonderful Christmastime" the "most mediocre excuse for a pop song ever." A St. Petersburg Times writer is especially passionate about his disdain. Pop Candy's Whitney Matheson hates it too. Over a year ago I made a vague reference to my dislike for the song. Now I wish I had been more blunt. Meanwhile, Father Guido Sarducci is trying to deliberately write the worst Christmas song ever.

Giant Magazine is balancing their list of the most annoying songs with a list of the most underrated Christmas songs. The Chicago Sun-Times asked its readers to vote for the best Christmas song.

I've been soaking up some Christmas music in high definition. I think my new favorite channel might be PBS Digital. I like that I get it over the free airwaves (on channel 15-1). Tonight I watched two Christmas concerts, one from Concordia College and one from the Mormon Tabernacle. This evening they showed the 2003 concert with guest soloist Frederica von Stade. A couple of nights ago I saw the 2005 concert with guest soloist Renee Fleming.

My satellite provider doesn't offer the particular HD channel which will show a hi-def yule log with a Christmas music soundtrack on the 25th. Even though it's not in HD, I may still want to watch a little bit of the old school yule log on WGN. It's the same one that used to befuddle me as a child growing up in New York. We lived in a house that had its own fireplace, so we didn't need to watch the famous televised Yule Log. I am happy that he won on "Survivor" though.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

hear now the news

Three recent news stories resonated with me. They each provide an interesting follow up to a topic previously discussed on the blog. I try to do this every once in a while.

As a fan of turtles and tortoises, I was interested in a story that says turtles don't die of old age. The internal organs of 100 year old turtles are virtually indistinguishable from those of teenage turtles. If they don't get crushed by a car or succumb to a disease, they could theoretically live forever.

On ABC's "Primetime" last night, two groups were challenged to lose weight. One group relied on teamwork and positive reinforcement. The other group faced a credible threat. If they didn't lose 15 pounds in two months, their photo would be shown on the scoreboard of a baseball stadium. Oh yeah, they were photographed at their heaviest while wearing only a skimpy bathing suit. The results were close. Both methods helped the subjects lose weight. My wife and I are proof of that. We had each other for support and we also had the public pressure of announcing our weight loss progress in a new radio commercial each week. In case you hadn't heard, my wife lost over 70 pounds and I lost over 60 pounds on LA Weight Loss.

Laughter is contagious. A study of facial muscles shows that people start to smile when they hear laughter. This explains why lame sitcoms have to add a laugh track to trick you into thinking the show is funny. Does it also explain why my favorite comedies do not have a laugh track?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

bad surprise

Fan's of the now-defunct Bean's Blog will be interested in the update I received from him yesterday. His house and car were damaged in the storms that hit Seattle. His telephone service and electricity are still out. Fortunately he and his wife have someplace else they can stay until the power comes back on.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

throw the bone

A preview screening of "Night at the Museum" was held tonight for radio listeners and some other lucky ticketholders. On the whole, the movie is very enjoyable even if it takes a little too long to get to the good parts. Ben Stiller's comedy monologues got laughs from the rest of the audience but not so much from me. Instead, I laughed every time Ricky Gervais started to speak. And I say "started" because he never really finished. Watch for the funny cameo from Ben Stiller's mother, Anne Meara.

The movie is set in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. That's the museum I used to visit as a kid. Carla Gugino plays a lovely museum docent. I kept thinking that her character
reminded me of somebody I knew. It came to me as the closing credits rolled. In this movie, Carla looked like WBIR's Beth Haynes.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

name change

About nine months ago, my wife and I shared a single "Beamer Ball" at the swim team banquet. It's no coincidence that Beamer Balls got added to our Christmas cookie list around the same time that my wife reached her weight loss goal. Of course the new versions of us have learned the importance of portion control. Even if the right portion seems so tiny sometimes.

More than a few people have asked me for the link to the recipe. It's not that hard to find. A Google search for the "beamer balls" recipe points you right to my blog entry from March. I expected to see more written about these tasty treats. The name "beamer balls" was printed on the recipe that we received at the swim banquet. I tried different search terms and found that some others have posted similar recipes with the more descriptive names "Oreo Balls" or "Oreo Truffles."

As my wife rolled the Oreo and cream cheese mixture into balls, I thought a good name for them could be "reindeer droppings." That name is already taken by some interesting cookies and by somebody else making Oreo Balls with milk chocolate coating.

Most of the other online recipes use almond bark instead of the Ghirardelli baking chips that we used to coat the mixture. After we finished making ours, I found a recipe that says you can also add shortening to the ingredients we already knew about. That might be too rich for my blood.

As it turns out, my wife gave away most of the Oreo Truffles pictured below. That's the name she's sticking with, by the way. Yesterday she told a friend to expect a few on the plate of assorted cookies we planned to give as a Christmas gift. The friend said that they sounded delicious and would be great for the dinner party she was hosting tonight for some of the staff from the Knoxville Symphony. She asked if we could just give her a serving plate full of the truffles. I hope the friend (or her husband) will post a comment here to let us know how it went.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

she had a bad prayer day

A small controversy has developed at our parish. While it has one of the largest congregations of any church in the area, there are those who don't like the place. The local Catholic newspaper printed a column very critical of the way All Saints Church is designed and decorated. Many missed the original column but did see a letter to the editor in the following issue that defended All Saints.

In the original piece, a columnist wrote that she found it difficult to concentrate in a church without lots of iconography. For example, she prefers to see a crucifix when she prays. The processional cross at All Saints had been carried to the back of the building in the minutes before the Mass she attended began. She writes that she was "searching fruitlessly for some tiny reminder of Christ to direct my gaze toward while praying."

I'm no theologian. All I know is what I learned in Catholic school. We were told to look for Christ in the faces of those around us, which is hard to do. We were also taught to pray anywhere and everywhere. Is the columnist limited to praying only in rooms with a crucifix or other religious icon? Some of my best praying happens with my eyes closed. Am I wrong to do that? Should I be staring at a statue instead?

The columnist also finds fault with the simple wooden chalices at All Saints. Do you think she would have been one of the unfortunate souls who had "chosen poorly" when trying to select the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"?

Fortunately, the newspaper columnist has plenty of places to go besides All Saints. Immaculate Conception Church has been around since 1855 and has lots of statues for her to look at. It's a beautiful old parish, as is Holy Ghost Church with all its religious art. But not every parish needs to be full of Italian marble. I remember that shortly before we moved away from Burbank, a gorgeous new wooden ambo was installed at St. Finbar Church. It rivaled the beauty of the adjacent marble altar. The wooden furniture at All Saints makes me think about the time and effort a carpenter spent building it. As a matter of fact, I thought our religion was particularly fond of carpenters.

It's a shame that the columnist had such a bad experience at my parish. Whenever I visit another parish, I enjoy the differences yet am always impressed by the things that remain the same. If All Saints is too modern for the columnist from "The East Tennessee Catholic," she could always turn back the clock about 40 or 50 years to attend Mass in Latin. If the photos I've seen are any indication, she'll have no problem finding a seat.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

one to watch

Ten years from now, young Logan Murrell could be as famous as LeAnn Rimes. Logan is performing this weekend with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Clayton Holiday Concert. She sang a very good countrified version of "O Holy Night" and an excellent rendition of "I'll Be Home for Christmas." It would have been great to hear her sing even more.

Reviewer Harold Duckett summed it up in a sentence:
If there was a star of the evening besides Santa Claus, it had to have been 10-year-old Logan Murrell, who has a 20-year-old's voice and the presence of a veteran performer.
On Wednesday I mentioned that "America's Got Talent" winner Bianca Ryan had a style similar to Logan. Let me modify that. Logan is way better than Bianca. Logan can sing the right note and hold it while Bianca jumps around the scale trying to impress. Somebody needs to notify Simon Cowell.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

live in the newsroom

A new comment was posted today on my May 10th blog entry. It directed me to an online poll to choose a favorite local female news personality. The poll is part of the very interesting Knoxville Trivia Blog, which I am considering adding to my daily blogroll.

The poll's author, Byron Chesney, assumes that I would cast my vote for Abby Ham. While I'm sure she still does a good job, I haven't watched her since she moved to the early morning shift. Instead, I listen to Tearsa Smith while getting ready for work. That reminds me. I haven't looked at Tearsa's MySpace page in a while.

The poll omits some of the WATE women. Where are Amelia Daniels and Melissa DiPane? They let me take their photo at a United Way event this September.

Byron is partial to Beth Haynes of WBIR. I've always liked Beth too. She appeared as a radio guest on a couple of the shows I've worked on. Plus, I've appeared with Beth on "Live at Five." I can't ignore Michele Silva either. She was probably the first local TV anchor I met after moving here, which means she knew me 60 pounds ago. When casting your vote, also remember that Kay Watson can get casual at Dollywood and that Robin Wilhoit,
the most professional anchor in town, needs nothing more than a simple tuxedo shirt to look great.

WVLT has Stacy McCloud and Alison Hunt going for it. It would be nice if Stacy got promoted to a timeslot I could watch. Instead I usually see Jessa Goddard, who is perfectly fine but keeps referring to the current year as "twenty-oh-six." I am waiting for "twenty-ten" or maybe even "twenty-eleven" before dropping "two thousand and" whatever.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

holiday happenings

Reader Pam Mc said she thought of my recent blog entry as she drove home and spotted an inflatable nativity scene. She emailed me a photo to share with you:

I already mentioned that I was disappointed by the remake of "The Year Without a Santa Claus." They released it on DVD the morning after it was broadcast. Another TV movie I watched was much better.
Jenny McCarthy's "Santa Baby" is on again Saturday afternoon.

The Atlanta tree lighting that I told you about will be rebroadcast in Knoxville on December 23rd at noon. I also mentioned the Brian Setzer Orchestra's upcoming appearance on the "Rachael Ray Show." It is now scheduled for Tuesday, December 19th.

One more thing.
Don't forget to check back at ThaBombShelter and Last Christmas for some different versions of holiday favorites.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

don't mean to be rude

Christmas music is in and on the air. I am very much looking forward to attending this weekend's 20th Annual Clayton Holiday Concert by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Choral Society. I had a good time last year. My wife sings with the KCS. She got home from their rehearsal tonight in time to watch an HDTV Christmas concert with me. As I type this, we're watching "Christmas in Washington 2006" on TNT in HD.

Simon Cowell's
influence was apparent on this year's broadcast. "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks (coming to Knoxville on March 3rd by the way) opened the show. "America's Got Talent" winner Bianca Ryan belted out a couple of tunes. My wife described her voice as country twang crossed with Mariah Carey's note jumping. She also said that there is a young singer with a similar style on this weekend's KSO program. Simon's creation, Il Divo sang "White Christmas." Three of the four Divos sound okay but the warbling goat standing on the far right was horrible.

Corinne Bailey Rae
is everywhere. While introducing her, Dr. Phil's wife mistakenly said that tonight's Christmas show was Corinne's prime time American TV debut. I had first heard of the British singer last spring when my daughter told me about a CD she bought after listening to it on the headphones at a music store. In the past two months, Corinne has turned up on many shows that I watch including "Saturday Night Live," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." I guess we know which prime time show Robin McGraw doesn't watch.

It might have been Il Divo that I heard on the radio the other day when I flipped past a station airing a so-bad-its-good version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." It was done in their faux-operatic style. Somehow I got the feeling that the singers I heard were taking themselves a little too seriously. Several years ago I bought a CD called "What if Mozart Wrote 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.'" As I recall from the liner notes, the musicians on that disc were in on the joke.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

hug it out

A distinctive cow print box from Stew Leonard's arrived today. Once again, my agent had sent a holiday gift for my sweet tooth. This year it's a big bowl full of caramel corn. Of course I can't eat the whole thing. I should invite my agent to visit Tennessee. We can share the popcorn while he watches his ten percent of my new TV.


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Monday, December 11, 2006

hi def jam

The guy from the satellite company called to say he was on the way to my house an hour earlier than scheduled. It was going to be a good day. He swapped the dish on my roof for one that can receive HD channels but told me that my order for an over-the-air antenna for local channels had been canceled. He said it was because the company is supposed to start offering the Knoxville stations in HD via satellite in January. I would have to wait until then to see the broadcast networks in high definition. Fortunately, one of the guys from Strickwood Communications called to say he would be coming by to program my universal remote once the satellite box was installed. I told him about the canceled rooftop antenna. He said he had some HD rabbit ears, which he would bring with him. They do the job just fine.

Perry Simon sent along a very helpful email.
Coincidentally, I was thinking of Perry and his post about Mr. Magoo when I played my DVD of "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" and posted a photo of it the other night. Perry wrote:
Saw your post about the home theater system. While you're rewiring the house for HD (a very good thing -- we have a basic 42 inch Panny plasma and you end up unable to stomach "regular" standard def TV again), be aware that the TiVo Series 3 is cable or OTA only, not satellite. It does take Cablecard, which isn't necessarily a reliable option.
Tomorrow I will call the satellite company to get on their waiting list for one of their DVRs. Even though I have gotten into the habit of recording everything, I watched some "live" TV tonight in HD. Like Perry says, the difference is amazing. "How I Met Your Mother" looked so good it was, wait for it, leg-en-dary. During commercials, my son and I flipped over to ESPNHD. Hi-def is made for football fans. However HD could do nothing to improve the quality of "The Year Without a Santa Claus" remake. At one point I was actually looking forward to it.

Earlier today I watched some of the "Monday Night Kickoff" edition of SportsCenter. I saw a sideline reporter whose dye job looked horrible in HD. Her hair (except for the roots) was that reddish color that a lot of women I know started using in the mid-90s. As I watched, I wondered if maybe she didn't realize she was being televised in such great detail. Yet she must have known because she was holding a microphone with an ESPNHD mic flag right on it. I didn't catch her name. Whoever she is, she should go back to her natural hair color. It has to look better.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

away in a manger

Holiday inflatables continue to amuse me even though I would never put one on my property. Because I like the ones that look like recognizable cartoon characters, I assumed that all the inflatables would be secular in nature. I realized that I was wrong when I saw the Airblown Archway Nativity Scene sitting on the shelf at Kroger. Let me know if you've seen the puffed up Holy Family on a lawn in your neighborhood. If it's close enough, I might drive by to take a photo. That reminds me. Reader Keith says I need to see the "Griswold house" in his subdivision.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

holy digital technology Batman!

Endorsement commercials give an advertiser some extra bang for the buck. Listeners are more likely to respond to testimonials voiced by the radio personalities they know and trust. I will only endorse products or services that I use and believe in. Since moving to Knoxville, I have had the good fortune to do testimonials for the Campbell Cunningham Laser Center, Hosenfeld Chiropractic and LA Weight Loss. As a result, I lost my glasses, my back pain and 60 unwanted pounds.

This week I picked up a new client that suits me very well. Strickwood Communications sells and installs audio and video systems. The team from Strickwood has been to my house and transformed the living room, which we never used, into my favorite room in the house.

Strickwood started as a company that puts wires and cables in homes and businesses. As a result, their installations are top-notch. They mounted an NEC plasma screen on the wall and cut holes to install five Infinity speakers. All the wires and cables are inside the walls.

The satellite company is supposed to come on Monday to upgrade my dish and install an HDTV receiver. I'm also getting an over-the-air antenna to receive the digital local channels. Unfortunately the satellite company doesn't have any DVRs available right now. I'll have to wait until I can get one of theirs or until TiVo lowers the price of their Series 3 box.

The guys from Strickwood hooked up an Onkyo DVD changer, which I tried right away. What better way is there to test the limits of a 42 inch plasma screen than with a 1962 made for television cartoon? Yes, I popped in "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" for a little while. Before long, I wanted to really hear what the surround sound system could do, so I played my Brian Setzer Orchestra "Christmas Extravaganza" DVD. It sounded so good that it almost made up for missing their Nashville concert on Thursday.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

rush party

TiVo alert! This week's episode of a popular network TV series is set in Knoxville! And I'm not talking about a rerun of that famous episode of "The Simpsons." On Sunday night, the detectives of "Cold Case" head south to "delve into the country music world." (If you do actually set your TiVo, pad it with an extra hour in the Eastern and Central time zones to allow for the overrun of the Broncos/Chargers and/or the Bills/Jets games.) The TiVo listing says that the character of Scotty is reluctant to visit here. It doesn't say anything about Lilly being reluctant, so let's assume that she is eager to see all that K-town has to offer. At first, I thought there must be a mistake in the listings. It seemed unlikely that the detectives would investigate country music in Knoxville, unless the story took place back in days before the country music industry migrated west to Nashville. The TV Guide listing makes a little more sense. It says that the episode's murder happened in 2000 and that the detectives go to both Knoxville and Nashville. I don't recall hearing about "Cold Case" filming on location in Knoxville but I can hope that they at least use some stock footage of the Sunsphere, which is not a wig shop.

TiVo alert #2: "Hardball with Chris Matthews" will be recording a show from the campus of The Final Four's George Mason University on December 14. The program is not about basketball however. Instead Robert DeNiro will be there to discuss his new movie about the CIA, "The Good Shepherd."

TiVo alert #3: The Brian Setzer Orchestra will be on the "Rachael Ray Show" on December 18 or 19. Speaking of the BSO, did anybody make it to their concert in Nashville last night? I just watched a brief video of the Orchestra playing the "Peter Gunn Theme" with special guest Duane Eddy at the Ryman.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

great scott

"The Office" wasn't on tonight. At least NBC didn't leave us high and dry. We got an hour's worth of "My Name Is Earl" instead. Next week, we'll get an hour long "Office" episode. I think I might be more excited about "The Office" Christmas party than I am about my own office Christmas party.

Thanks to Perry Simon's AllAccess column, I stumbled across a TV industry blog on the LA Times site that I may have otherwise overlooked. Help curb your "Office" withdrawal symptoms by reading about the show's writers who have found themselves acting on the show. Terry Morrow's recent interview with Rainn Wilson is worth a read. I may also spend a little time blogrolling some "Office" sites.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

give it to someone special

The bottom of the pool at UT made for some interesting reading over the weekend. When I was done with that, I perused The Daily Beacon. I've been waiting all week for last Friday's issue to appear online but it hasn't yet. I wanted to share a link to a well written commentary on the editorial page that made me laugh, even if I totally disagree with it. The unnamed writer trashed "All I Want for Christmas Is You," a song that I recently referred to as a pop classic. Here's what they wrote:
If you ever doubted that Christmas was a lusty, pagan solstice festival appropriated by the Church to lure Germanic tribes and, later, integrated into a Santa-industrial complex to generate much-needed end-of-the-year revenues for multinational corporations, this decidedly unchristian song should convince you. In it, [Mariah] Carey repetitively wails that what the millionaire chanteuse wants for Christmas is not world peace, an end to African famines (think "Do They Know It's Christmas") or even federal aid for farmers. O no, she selfishly wants to sate her sentimental and carnal desires. Worse yet, this song is about fifteen times better than Wham!'s "Last Christmas" and the most mediocre excuse for a pop song ever, Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime."
The Beacon staff may be right about the lame McCartney tune but how dare they dis "Last Christmas." And there's a lot of that going around. A writer named Rick Ellis put Jimmy Eat World's version of "Last Christmas" ahead of the dreadful McCartney song on his list of the ten most annoying Christmas songs of all time. I praised the Jimmy Eat World song last November.

This morning, Whitney Matheson mentioned that the McCartney dreck is also her least favorite Christmas song. Rather than also slam "Last Christmas," she pointed us to a new blog devoted to the song and its many cover versions. I like cover songs, don't you?

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

wash me

The outdoor swimming pool at the University of Tennessee seems to collect a lot of dirt or algae on the bottom during the fall and winter. I think the pool might be kept open all year for some competitive local swimmers to practice. Somebody with a sense of humor swam to the bottom of the diving well and left a message in the dirt. Take a look:

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Monday, December 04, 2006

you've got me wanting you

Coke and Pepsi are the big dogs in the supermarket soda aisle. Usually one or the other is on sale each week. Unfortunately for my wallet, my favorite soda is Diet A&W Root Beer. It is rarely discounted as deeply as Coke and Pepsi products. I drink it with some frozen fat free whipped topping to make a terrific root beer float that satisfies my sweet tooth without adding too many calories.

Pepsi makes Mug Root Beer but I've never seen the diet version of it in my local stores. Coke makes Barq's Root Beer but I've avoided it because it contains caffeine. We were running low on A&W last week but it was the Coke products that were on sale again. Out of curiosity I checked the label on both Barq's and diet Barq's. I was surprised that regular Barq's has caffeine but diet Barq's does not. I bought a twelve pack and tried some today with a scoop of frozen fat free whipped topping. The topping made it palatable but Barq's will always remain a distant second to A&W. The next time A&W is deeply discounted, my wife and I should buy more than the four twelve-packs we bought last time. Because it goes on sale more often, I might try making a Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper float someday.

Diet candies have also helped me along the way. Although I've learned that too many at once can cause stomach rumblings or even cramps. I like the Jelly Belly Sugar-Free Fruit Slices and the Sugar Free Life Savers Sorbets. My wife loves both flavors of Mentos Sugarfree.

There was only a little bit left in my bottle of Walden Farms calorie free chocolate syrup. It wasn't enough for a glass of chocolate milk. Instead, I drizzled the remaining sauce over some fresh raspberries. It barely covered a couple of berries. I wanted more but the rest of the syrup was stuck to the sides of the bottle. The obvious move was to take some of the berries and drop them in. I gently shook the bottle and rolled it around some. The raspberries came out choco-coated and delicious. I will be trying that again.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

previous topics revisited

At Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the face characters usually represent the leading ladies from the Disney animated films. There has to be some others but the only male face characters I can think of right now are Peter Pan and Aladdin. The female characters have plenty of fans. One guy made a list of his top ten favorites.

If she were a cartoon (and who says she isn't?) Jenny McCarthy would have earned a place on that top ten list. It might be corny but I plan to watch her ABC Family movie, "Santa Baby." It's on next Sunday night.

Another made-for-TV Christmas movie will be on NBC the following night. "The Year Without a Santa Claus" was something that piqued my curiosity when it was being filmed this past summer.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

peach tops apple

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit this past Wednesday. NBC broadcast the festivities again this year. The telecast was just okay. Hall & Oates served as the "house band" this year, playing as the show resumed after each commercial break. Last year and at least one other year before that, the Brian Setzer Orchestra filled that role. I preferred Setzer's uptempo arrangements to the slower Hall & Oates holiday songs. At least they closed the show with "Jingle Bell Rock." For the actual tree lighting, they showed some celebrities counting down and pushing a button.

I caught the last twenty minutes of another tree lighting ceremony while channel surfing this afternoon. One of our local stations replayed the lighting of the Great Tree at Macy's in Atlanta, which took place on Thanksgiving night. The tree was an understudy after the original snapped in two. The musical performances that I saw were very good, especially LeAnn Rimes. She was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar on "All I Want for Christmas." It's not the same song as Mariah Carey's pop classic "All I Want for Christmas Is You." LeAnn's song is more of a emotional ballad. The sentiment of the song was felt even stronger when the cameras from WSB-TV showed a woman in the audience who had just received a videotaped marriage proposal from her serviceman boyfriend in Iraq. At the end of the show, LeAnn did an excellent job on "O Holy Night," which, when done right, is one of my favorite carols. As LeAnn hit the high note on the words "o night divine," the tree lights came on and some fireworks shot up. It was so much better than the countdown and button push at Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately the genius who posted a video of the moment on YouTube did his own countdown into his camcorder's microphone.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

not exactly heroin chic

The theme restaurant in Pigeon Forge was mostly filled with tourists. It's one of those places where everybody is served the same thing. Dinner consisted of only protein and starches. The servers brought each of us a small chicken, a potato, corn on the cob and a biscuit. Vegetables had to be special ordered. My wife got the vegetarian plate, which had steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots alongside the potato, corn and biscuit. The portion sizes were large enough that I could share my chicken with her and she could share her vegetables with me.

Before we started our weight loss plan, my wife and I would have eaten whatever they put in front of us. Looking around the room, we were reminded of our heavier selves. Most of the other people there had also helped themselves to a bucket of popcorn as an appetizer. There's nothing wrong with an occasional treat but I got the feeling that many of these people make unhealthy food choices all the time. This particular establishment must know their clientele fairly well. In the men's rest room they had something I had never seen in a restaurant before. It was a disposal box for used syringes. I half expected Wilford Brimley to walk in at any moment.

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