Friday, August 31, 2007

carved in stone

Here's a couple of leftover photos from last month's road trip. A chapel in upstate New York bore the inscription "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people" from the Book of Isaiah. The usage must have been correct at the time but it's weird to see the word "house" preceded by "an." The current New American Bible translation of Isaiah 56:7 reads "a house."

We passed a cemetery in Connecticut that was having some repair work done to its stone gateway. I thought that the scaffolding gave new meaning to the inscription from 1 Corinthians 15:52, "The dead shall be raised."

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

twist, lick, dunk, chop, blend, freeze, bake, fry

Something is happening with Oreos. They seem to be everywhere lately, morphing into different dessert items. I was recently asked to submit something for a local charity cookbook. They want the recipe for the Oreo Truffles that my wife made last Christmas.

I have yet to buy any of the Oreo Cakesters that caught my eye during our road trip last month. Back at home, I saw a great looking Oreo cake in the bakery department at my local Food City.

A few minutes ago I saw a TV commercial for the Oreo Sundaes at Baskin-Robbins. The commercial has received some online criticism. The sundaes are only a small part of a partnership between Oreos and Baskin-Robbins.

Perhaps the most unusual Oreo treat is the Oreo Dessert Pizza that debuted this week. It was featured in a Domino's flyer that arrived in my mail the other day. I wonder how many laps I would have to swim before I could try a slice. It looks like they make you buy a regular pizza before you can get the Oreo pizza.

Lastly, it's the time of year when deep fried Oreos are likely to be available at Boomsday or at the Tennessee Valley Fair. Of all the deep fried treats I tried in my heavier past, I remember that Oreos held up best to the deep frying. The Twinkie and the Snickers bar weren't as impressive.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

picky wiki

When the recap of last night's Einstein Simplified show gets posted on the bulletin board, it might make some people wish they had been there. Former members Bill, Todd, Wes and Brad came to watch the show. They were all persuaded to make guest appearances on stage too. Todd and Wes helped us with "Greatest Hits." Brad delivered the closing line in "Scenes from a Hat." The highlight for me was watching Bill and Todd play "Invader" just like they used to in the old days. They haven't lost a step at all.

Last week marked the thirteenth anniversary of the first performance of Einstein Simplified. The group has been performing regularly since August, 1994. As far as I'm concerned, we more than meet the requirements to be considered an "improvisational theatre company." We have a stage, an audience and a history of entertaining East Tennesseans. I have repeatedly attempted to add our name to a list of improvisational theatre companies on Wikipedia. Every time I add it, somebody else deletes it. I don't understand why. Could it be jealousy over our high ranking in the worldwide Improv Top 50? Could it be that we perform in Patrick Sullivan's and The Comedy Zone instead of fancy places like the Tennessee Theatre or the Bijou? C'mon Wikipedians, cut us a break!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

unintentional cross promotion

The local noon news is usually part of my daily routine. Except for the days that I feel like watching "Nothing But Trailers" on HDNet. Anyway, most of the time I watch WATE because Tearsa Smith and Bo Williams do a consistently good job and because I can listen to the beginning of their newscast on 87.7 FM if I'm still on the way home.

On Friday, I was in the mood to flip around the dial. Coincidentally, Tearsa had that day off. I was pleasantly surprised to see Stacy McCloud on WVLT. I don't know if she was just filling in or if the change is permanent. If so, it's something I had hoped for last December.

I tuned in to WVLT on Monday to see if Stacy was on again. She was. Four screens were visible behind Stacy and her co-anchor Bob Yarbrough. On one of them I could clearly see Abby Ham. I quickly flipped over to WBIR and sure enough, there was Abby. It was nice to see her. It always seems like Ben Senger is anchoring solo on the days I tune in.

Today I looked even closer at the monitors on the WVLT set. They are especially easy to see on my plasma screen. One monitor was tuned to WVLT, which makes sense. The second I couldn't identify. It might have been tuned to one of the cable news networks. The third monitor plainly showed Ben Senger. Tearsa Smith was as clear as day on the fourth TV. If I really want to watch both Tearsa and Stacy, it would be easier to catch the convenient replay of the WVLT newscast on WVLT-2 at 12:30.

One of the most entertaining parts of the WVLT news is Chef Walter's cooking segment. I don't know why but I find it funny that they cut to an interminable shot of the floral centerpiece while the meal is "cooking." Then they switch from the flowers to a group shot of the news team enjoying the dish.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

all toppings free

It's Burger Week on Food Network. I didn't know that yesterday when I suggested to the family that we go to Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries at Turkey Creek. The two episodes of "Unwrapped" that aired tonight were both about hamburgers. One was new, the other was from 2001. I watched the new episode, wondering if Marc Summers would mention Five Guys. Maybe next time.

The bathroom scale gave me some good news yesterday morning. There was enough wiggle room for a treat. Five Guys had been on my mind since the Sunday before when my son and I met local franchise co-owner Gibby Lepsig at church. One thing to remember is that the regular burgers have two patties. If you only want one patty, you have to order the "little" burger. One order of fries will easily serve three people.

The decor at Five Guys made me feel at home, or at one of my homes anyway. I had previously only eaten at the locations in Chantilly and Merrifield. Even in Knoxville, the walls are lined with Washingtonian magazine covers and articles. A large sign read "This place can't be beat." It was a quote from, a website considered to be one of Microsoft's rare failures. A small sign by the door asked customers to refrain from taking peanuts and peanut shells outside the restaurant "due to the possibility of severe allergic reaction in some neighborhood children." Above that was posted a photo of the Five Guys that will soon open on Emory Road.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

can I get an amen?

It wasn't that long ago that I would have expected to see Mike Piazza on the cover of publications like Us Weekly or Star Magazine. His wedding to model Alicia Rickter made a splash in People Magazine. She already had plenty of magazine exposure herself, if you know what I mean.

I haven't been keeping up with Piazza's career. It was a little bit of a surprise therefore to see him on the cover of the new issue of Catholic Digest. The article mentions his marriage to Alicia, the birth of their daughter Nicoletta and her baptism. No reference is made to Alicia's pictorial past. In the online supplement to the interview he talks about his participation in the "Champions of Faith" DVD. The print edition has a quote from Mike that spoke to me:
"It's so easy to criticize the Church. And we're not trying to preach to say we're perfect. That's one thing about being Catholic -- we realize we fall down. That's part of being human. But we pick ourselves up, and we go to confession, and God's always there for us. No one's claiming that everybody who's come through the Catholic Church is perfect and without fault. But at the end of the day it's a great institution. There's nothing else like it, and I'm proud to be part of it."

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

to geek or not to geek

An article in last week's Entertainment Weekly gave an update on the cast members of the under-appreciated "Freaks and Geeks.'' That show and other projects by Judd Apatow give a realistic portrayal of nerdy characters. "The 40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" all made big money at the box office. Nerds are hot right now.

A couple of new TV shows feature nerds in a leading role. "Chuck" on NBC and "Big Bang Theory" on CBS will both air during the 8pm hour on Mondays starting September 24. One show gets it right, the other gets it very wrong.

Chuck is a likable guy, working for a thinly disguised version of the Geek Squad at a thinly disguised version of Best Buy. His super-talented college roommate has gone on to become a secret agent. Chuck receives an email from his former roommate that turns him into a valuable resource for the CIA and NSA. A smokin' hottie shows up at the store and wants to get to know Chuck better. Turns out that she's a secret agent too, trying to find out what Chuck did with the email. The visual images from the email are now in Chuck's brain.

Meanwhile over on CBS, Leonard and Sheldon are a couple of Caltech scientists living together with their dueling dry-erase boards full of complicated mathematical formulas. When a smokin' hottie moves in across the hall, they attempt to convince her (and the viewers) that they are straight. It's not very convincing because Leonard and Sheldon are played too effeminately. Everything about the show seems wrong to me. Even the character's names. Calling the lead nerds Leonard and Sheldon is as much of a cliché as calling a gay character Bruce. The writers couldn't possibly be attempting an homage to the late Sheldon Leonard, could they? The old time movie tough guy would turn over in his grave. The whole time I was watching, I kept wondering why they canceled "The Class" for this.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

great googly moogly

It was the Trojans vs. the Fighting Irish in the heat tonight. No, not USC vs. Notre Dame. Instead Morristown West took on Knoxville Catholic High School in the first game of the football season. As we pulled into the parking lot, I heard the radio announcers on the pregame show say that this was Week 0 of the season and that next week would be Week 1. That makes no sense to me.

The Irish returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and soon scored two more when the same player ran a handoff 75 yards and later caught a pass in the end zone. At that point I told my wife and the priest sitting next to us that the score was Zach Vann 21, Morristown West 0. Catholic's remaining points came on a blocked punt. The final score was 28 - 6. By the way, the priest was Fr. Tony Dickerson, an alumnus of Morristown West who drove up to the game from his new assignment in Chattanooga.

Several announcements were made during the game thanking Morristown Ford for supplying a postgame meal for both teams. The auto dealership also displayed a large banner wishing "Gool Luck" to the players.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

the show must go on

The laughter at The Comedy Zone was interrupted tonight by a fire in a back building. According to WATE-TV, comic hypnotist Rich Guzzi (who looks nothing like the photos on his website) was on stage with ten audience members under his spell at the time. Once I heard that everyone was evacuated safely, I thought about our improv group's gig at the club on Saturday evening. They said on the news that The Comedy Zone will reopen tomorrow night for the hypnosis show. You are completely relaxed now. When I snap my fingers, you will awaken. When I snap my fingers, you will show up at The Comedy Zone on Saturday at 6pm. At least it'll be air-conditioned.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Comedian Frank Caliendo was a guest on the Kevin & Bean show on Friday. I downloaded several of their podcasts from last week and have been listening to them in my car. Caliendo's impressions always make me laugh. In the interview he talked about his upcoming TBS show. It features a sketch in which he plays all four of the main characters from "Seinfeld." He set the scene in the future to justify the added weight of the characters. The sketch is available online.

There's more funny stuff on the KROQ podcasts. I enjoyed the analysis of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" (especially chapter 13) and the interviews with some "Superbad" cast members.

Best of all was the segment with comedian Joe Rogan. He gave a great description of a National Geographic documentary on superlions that have learned to swim and hunt powerful water buffalo. Just when everything seemed fine, Joe goes crazy defending his suspicion that NASA faked the moon landings. He seemed to doubt that astronauts could have crossed the Van Allen radiation belt. Joe said it looked like the alleged moonwalkers were supported by wires to simulate lower gravity. So basically, he thinks it must be fake because it looked fake.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

what talent?

The opening number of tonight's "America's Got Talent" was nothing short of atrocious. They brought back the top ten finalists to butcher "Celebration." Last week I thought that a singer would win the top prize. Based on that song, I started thinking that ventriloquist Terry Fator had a real shot at the million. His puppets are better singers than any of the other performers.

Sean Kingston came on to sing "Beautiful Girls" with Butterscotch. Except that he didn't sing. He didn't even try to lip-sync. They played a track of his song while Sean and Butterscotch made random noises into their microphones. Kermit the Frog sang with Terry Fator and his puppet who looks like Tony Bennett but sounded like James Taylor. The next two finalists were completely forgettable. I don't think the professional country singer who performed with Julienne Irwin could have made the finals of this show as a contestant.

Is Hasselhoff in on the joke? Did he ask the producers if he could go on stage and embarrass himself with a song from "Jekyll & Hyde" or did they trick him into doing it, knowing it would create a moment of train wreck television? I can't wait for someone to post his song online. If he hit any of the right notes, it was by accident. The show hasn't ended yet on the West Coast so I won't reveal the results here. Check the comments if you must know.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

top of the food chain

Feast with the Beasts is one of my favorite annual events. Attendees sampled food from some of the area's best restaurants while strolling through the Knoxville Zoo this past Saturday night. The weather was warm but not unbearably hot like two years ago. And it didn't rain like last year.

I especially liked the shrimp grits from the Green Hills Grille. I can't remember which restaurant served fried alligator meat. I felt a little guilty about tasting it mere minutes after viewing the living rare white alligator in his tank. I didn't try everything but almost everything I did try was really good. The only food I should have skipped was something they called a "boneless hot wing" from Applebee's. It was just a chicken nugget.

The darker it got, the easier it was to forget you're at a zoo. I could barely see the silhouette of an African elephant by the time we got to that end of the zoo. I wondered if the elephant was bothered by the noise and the all the cigarette smoke. I wish smoking was prohibited at the zoo. Heck, I wish smoking was prohibited in all public places. My wife and I knew it was time to leave at the point in the evening when it seemed to change from an eating event to a drinking event. The food booths had started to run out of samples. I heard one guy tell his buddy that he hadn't gotten his $60 worth yet. The friend advised him to "keep drinking."

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

the sanctuary mystery

There's been a lot of Catholic stuff in the local news lately. The front page of the Fountain City Focus has a story about the grand opening of St. Mary's Medical Center North. This past Wednesday, our former bishop was installed as the Archbishop of Louisville. And the current issue of Knoxville Magazine has an interesting article about the construction of a $9 million church at St. John Neumann parish. The new church has an Old World design. The pastor, Fr. John Dowling, says in the article that most churches built in the last fifty years don't put enough emphasis on the relationship between the physical and spiritual. His comment reminded me of the small controversy at All Saints Church that I wrote about last December.

The big news at All Saints this summer is that Fr. Ragan Schriver was left in charge while all the other priests went on vacation. I suspect that whoever writes the jokes for next year's adult social will get some material out of that. In past years, there have always been plenty of laughs about Fr. Ragan's liberal use of holy water during Easter season. During Ordinary Time, he has been known to flick his wet fingers at the altar servers who hold the pitcher, bowl and towel for him to wash his hands during Mass. This morning, the server holding the pitcher poured the water for Fr. Ragan and then quickly got out of the way. I think the server saw me trying to hold back a chuckle after I saw him artfully dodge any spray.

When Fr. Ragan takes his vacation, he might want to consider a trip to the Philippines for the Feast of San Juan. In English, San Juan is St. John the Baptist. The people celebrate in the streets of Manila by spraying water on everyone they see. They use Super Soakers, hoses and even buckets to douse each other. I saw some footage from the festival on HDNet the other night. It was on a show called "Deadline," which is part of a block of shows they promote as "Guys Night In." They probably call it that because of the salty language used by the saucy host.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

what up

On any given Saturday, the roadsides and medians are full of signs pointing toward garage sales in every direction. This morning I saw a neatly hand-lettered sign along Middlebrook Pike advertising a "G-Sale." Of course we assume that the G stands for garage. What if it didn't? It might have been a garden sale, a garbage sale or a gun sale. My son suggested that it could have even been a gnome sale. If the sale were especially big, how would this family advertise a combination Garage And Yard Sale?

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Friday, August 17, 2007

places to go or people to see?

Wisconsin is the 39th state I've visited in my quest to get to all 50. Since I got back from Milwaukee, I've was planning to update my "states so far" map as soon as I could remember which website had the map making utility I last used in 2003. It had been that long since I crossed a border that was new to me. On our road trip in July, I added Ohio, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to my list.

A piece of mail that arrived today has me wondering if I can add one more state this year. I got a statement from American Airlines. The good news is that I have enough AAdvantage miles to get a free flight. The bad news is that all my miles will expire on December 15 under their new policy. I don't have any vacation time available but I usually get one weekend a month off from work. Rather than let the miles go to waste, maybe I could fly someplace on a Friday, explore it on a Saturday and fly home on a Sunday. But where? It appears that all of American's flights from Knoxville go through Dallas or Chicago. It would make sense to pick a destination for which the layover is on the way. Or I could just go someplace I've already been and visit friends or family.


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Thursday, August 16, 2007

the nature of my game

The new Oreo Cakesters looked like something I would enjoy. I spotted them about three weeks ago at a Waldbaum's in Southampton, New York. The temptation was strong but I chose to leave them on the shelf, figuring that I could get some when the product reaches Knoxville. Besides, I wasn't about to be deterred from finding the true object of my supermarket quest.

While in New York, I wanted to buy a box of Drake's Cakes. I chose a box of Reduced Fat Devil Dogs and put it in the freezer when I got home. I haven't eaten one yet. I limit my sweet treats so I don't gain back the weight I lost. I did see a suggestion on the Internet to try eating the Devil Dogs frozen for a cool summer treat.

It was very hot again today. Instead of having a frozen Devil Dog, I decided it was about time to thaw out the egg nog that has been in my freezer since December, 2005. The Christmas staple tastes great in August. It immediately put me in mind of colder weather. More dairy stores should sell it year round.

There was something else I noticed at Waldbaum's. They had Mallow Pizza and Mallow Hot Dogs. I thought this might be my only opportunity to capture these unusual items for my photo food safari. It wasn't. A couple of days after I got home, I saw Mallow Burgers and Mallow Fries at a Kenjo Market in Maryville.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

straight and twisted

Twizzlers or Red Vines? Your answer probably reveals whether you grew up near the East Coast or the West Coast. My favorite reward in the children's summer reading program at the Crestwood Library was a pack of Twizzlers. When I moved to Burbank, I acquired a taste for Red Vines. To me, they weren't as sweet as Twizzlers but enjoyable nonetheless. The Vines have devoted fans. There was a former KROQ program director who moved to New York to take a job at MTV. Every couple of months he had someone ship him a big tub of Red Vines from Smart & Final. If Easterners like Twizzlers and Westerners like Red Vines, what about people from the middle of the country? When we were in St. Louis, I noticed a supermarket display of a red licorice I had never heard of. Are Midwesterners just as loyal to Switzer's Licorice?

At the other side of Dierbergs Market, I saw a fairly impressive display of chocolate covered pretzels made by Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company. The pretzels were topped with bits of Butterfinger, Heath Bar, Reese's Pieces and other confections.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

while drinking water

The singing, impersonating ventriloquist is in the final eight on "America's Got Talent." Or at least that's what I've heard. At the beginning of the summer I decided not to watch "America's Got Talent" this year, mainly because it was scheduled for the same night of the week as my improv show and because recording space on my TiVo was scarce. I've seen enough clips on "Access Hollywood," "Best Week Ever" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to feel like I haven't missed it. Plus they would sometimes repeat an episode on Saturday nights, which I could leave on in the background while doing something else. I think the winner will probably be a singer, just like last year and just like on the British version. My wife is hoping that ventriloquist Terry Fator wins. She saw him perform at a Catholic school here in Knoxville earlier this year. If Terry does advance tonight, I'll know that he was the beneficiary of some extra prayers. By the way, who is the patron saint of ventriloquists?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

turn the whole thing upside down

It's hot. It's been hot and will continue to be hot for several more days. The weather is ideal for visiting your favorite ice cream stand. While we were in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago, we visited one of the more famous American ice cream stands, although technically it's a frozen custard stand. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is known for their "concretes," which is what my son ordered. The stand is along historic Route 66, like the sign says. You might have seen Ted Drewe's last year on "Feasting on Asphalt." Where do you like to get your ice cream or custard?

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

get'cha head in the game

The legendary Bob & Ray once used Herkimer as a comedy trigger word on an old Wally Ballou bit that I had on an LP. I was reminded of the recording when I saw the word on a sign at a travel plaza along the New York State Thruway recently. Sure enough, I was in Herkimer County. The rest stop had a Starbucks counter where my wife could get some caffeine. While I waited for her, another family came in. One of the teenagers in the group wore a t-shirt with the words Knoxville and Tennessee across the back. The shirt also said "Caught in a Brainstorm." It took me a couple of minutes to remember that I was in Herkimer, not Knoxville. The shirt was a souvenir from something called Destination ImagiNation. When I asked the family members about the shirt, the mom told me that the teenager had attended the Global Finals in Knoxville with his school's improv group.

Terry Morrow had an interview with Zac Efron in his column on Friday. It turns out that Zac too has traveled to Knoxville with his school's improv team. I assume he was here for a previous Destination ImagiNation. Thanks to the Internet, it only took me a second to verify my theory.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

nice day to start again

There's a chance that Drury P. Armstrong might recognize his historic old house on Kingston Pike. If he were alive, of course. He hasn't been there in over 150 years. The Armstrong-Lockett House is now used for wedding receptions, which is why my family and I were there today. The multi-level William P. Toms Memorial Gardens fill the space between the house and the Tennessee River. Across the water, the cows at the UT Ag Campus were visible.

As we explored the terraced garden, my son noticed signs of life in a puddle near a fountain. It hasn't rained here in a while. My guess is that the water accumulates when the sprinklers are running. I remember Sir David Attenborough saying on one of his TV shows that life will always find a way to burst forth in any available space. The puddle was teeming with tadpoles of assorted sizes. We suspected that more than one species of frog has used that water to procreate. I used my cell phone camera to take some picture and to shoot some video of the little swimmers.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

the hare only went 15 yards

The staff at Roanoke's Mill Mountain Zoo feared the worst. Had someone stolen their Burmese mountain tortoise to make soup? It was unlikely to have climbed out of the enclosure on its own. Fortunately a zoo visitor spotted the missing tortoise 20 yards away and all was well again. Zookeepers still think somebody lifted the creature over the wall.

Meanwhile in Knoxville, a less rare species was out on the town for a supervised visit. I was excited to see a Western Box Turtle from the Knoxville Zoo at the Mayor's First Day Festival yesterday. The first turtles I ever knew were the Eastern Box Turtles I would see at my grandparents' summer cottage in Noyac. Both varieties of box turtle have the distinctive hinged plastron that creates a tight seal. However the Easterns have much more colorful shells and skin. It was an Eastern Box Turtle that I saved from my pool almost two years ago.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007


The movie company will get a good report from tonight's word-of-mouth screening of "Superbad." The fans sitting next to me got their tickets to the sneak preview through a local comic book store. The turnout was strong. Some ticketholders who arrived five minutes before showtime were turned away because the theatre was full. As usual, the house had been overbooked. Betsy Pickle was there to review it for the News Sentinel.

The movie is a gross-out comedy with a premise similar to "American Pie" in that some high school friends each hope to get lucky with girls before graduation. They try to use a fake i.d. to buy alcohol for a party. Things go awry from there. The laughs are almost non-stop. Seth Rogen wrote the film and named the lead character after himself. The actor playing Seth has a mop of curly hair similar to Rogen's hairdo in "Knocked Up."

One of the girls in the movie was also in the short-lived Fox series, "Drive." I remember thinking at the time that I must have seen Emma Stone in other shows. Thanks to IMDB, I finally realized that the other show was "In Search of the Partridge Family" on Vh1.

"Superbad" comes out swinging, earning its R rating in the first few minutes. Michael Cera from "Arrested Development" excels with his low-key, deadpan delivery. Parts of it may be vulgar, but all of it is funny.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

chasing waterfalls

The road trip that my family and I planned would have us pass through Buffalo on I-90. This would probably be the one and only time I would be that close to Niagara Falls, which is about 20 miles from Buffalo. How could we not go? We had driven farther out of our way to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine when we passed through Kansas five years ago.

After a long day of driving, we finally reached New York State late at night and found a cheap motel. The next morning we drove into the City of Niagara Falls and saw lots of campaign signs for somebody named "Babe" Rotella. At that hour it wasn't too hard to find a parking spot near the Red Coach Inn. I wonder if this Red Coach is related to a place my parents used to take us when we were kids. On family birthdays we often went to the Red Coach at the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers for a lobster dinner. Our parking space was also near a tethered balloon ride and a building that looked like a totem.

Seeing the falls was fantastic. A rainbow was visible near Horseshoe Falls and over the Maid of the Mist. Our time was tight or we would have bought ponchos and sandals to wear down to the Hurricane Deck. One of the members of our little group spotted the people wearing ponchos and mistook them for Hare Krishna. I won't say who because I value my marriage.

The next morning we woke up in a motel in Worcester, Massachusetts. We flipped on the TV and saw that Dave Price from The Early Show was reporting live from Niagara Falls. Too bad he wasn't there a day earlier.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

drop and give me twenty

Morning radio personalities from all over the United States (and often a few from England and Australia) will be traveling to Chicago tomorrow for the annual Morning Show Boot Camp convention. I was fortunate enough to be sent there by my various employers each year between 1999 and 2003. The last two of those years I had negotiated to have the registration fee and travel expenses included in my contract, a tactic I recommend to any deejays who might be reading this. Three of the five Boot Camps I attended were in New Orleans. The other two were in Las Vegas and Atlanta.

The New Orleans gatherings were a lot of fun. Obviously I was there pre-Katrina. I hope to return someday with my wife. I always felt a little guilty telling her about the delicious Bananas Foster I ate at Brennan's or the about time I went to an incredible six or seven course chef's choice dinner with Billy Bush at Emeril's. I remember that one of the courses was quail. Billy was still in radio at the time. The rest of the evening deserves its own chapter in my memoirs, if I ever write them.

In 2000, I spent a night on Bourbon Street with Kevin Ryder from KROQ, New Orleans-based comedian Tim Coston (who also acted as our Big Easy tour guide), Tim Harrod from The Onion and Aisha Tyler, who was not yet well known. They had all appeared on a convention panel about comedy earlier that day with my then-boss, Tamara Rawitt.

This year's Boot Camp attendees will be treated to a session called "Truth in Comedy," led by Charna Halpern. I wish I could be there for it but at least I got to participate in a very similar session Charna did at the Children Miracle Network convention in April. I'm happy for all the deejays who will be able to see the close connection between radio and improv.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

reach the unreachable star

This isn't going to turn into MetsBlog, I promise. In fact, my plan was to not write about baseball again until the end of the regular season. Perhaps I was still in the afterglow of my trip to see the Mets win two in Milwaukee when I eagerly clicked over to the Daily News website to read about Tom Glavine's 300th win. Another Mets story caught my eye first.

Shea Stadium's days are numbered as the new Citi Field nears its 2009 opening. Some dedicated Mets fans want the team to keep the same big red apple that pops up after a Mets home run. They started an online petition at Personally, I hope the Mets ditch the apple. A commenter on one of the blogs I read today described it perfectly with the word "janky." The sketches of the new ballpark do show a new big apple in the outfield. That's not good enough for the Save The Apple guys. They insist that the same beat up old apple be relocated to Citi Field. I think the move is a good time to begin some new home run traditions. Or at least refresh the old ones. I'm sure the fact that my earliest Mets memories are from before the apple was installed has a lot to do with why I wouldn't miss it. What are some other home run traditions that you've seen?

41-year-old Tom Glavine's milestone victory last night reminded me of a story about an incredible achievement by another 40-year-old athlete. On Saturday, Dara Torres set a new American record in the 50-meter freestyle at the USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis. Oh yeah, she took first place in the 100-meter freestyle too. Dara is now on track to compete in her fifth Olympics. The Indianapolis Star also had an interview with the owner of the world's easiest job: lifeguard at the national swim meet.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

test results

No one scored 100% on the photo quiz I posted a week ago. Some of you came very close however. You were asked to identify five of the landmarks (with city and state) that my family visited on our 3,000 mile road trip. The correct answers are:

1) Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
I like the way the photo on the left has an optical illusion quality.

2) World's Largest Rubber Stamp, Cleveland, Ohio
Its official name is just "Free Stamp." Here's a different angle featuring one of the GuitarMania public art displays. If you look closely at last week's photo, you can see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the background.

3) Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls, New York
More about our visit to Niagara Falls later this week.

4) The Big Duck, Flanders, New York
I remember two things about the Big Duck from childhood. Seeing it meant we were getting close to Grandma's house and we could always smell the adjacent duck farm before we saw it.

5) Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
As seen in the movie "National Treasure," except that the filmmakers used the replica of the Hall at Knott's Berry Farm.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

let's go to the Mets

The Mets are having another good season (despite today's nationally televised loss). I'm no fair weather fan. I've stuck with the Mets during the bad seasons too. They were my hometown team when I was growing up in New York. After moving to Virginia, I went on a few baseball road trips to see the Mets in Philadelphia, Chicago and at Shea Stadium. I remember going to a baseball game at Candlestick Park with my friend Bean but I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't recall if the Giants were playing the Mets that day. I'm also embarrassed to admit that since moving to Knoxville I haven't gone to see the Mets play in nearby Atlanta. At least I went to see the Mets last year while I was in DC and of course I went to several Mets vs. Dodgers games when I lived in Burbank.

I didn't bring a camera on my trip to Milwaukee the other day. Mine is broken and I had already returned the camera I borrowed from my daughter for our family road trip the week before. Fortunately the other Mets fan on the trip, brought his camera and was willing to share the photos from his MySpace page. Here's T the R.O.P and me in front of the Hank Aaron statue:

The picture of Bernie's Dugout gave me an idea. It would be interesting if the Brewers had two identical Bernie Brewer mascots at each game. One would only be visible in Bernie's Dugout when the Brewers are at bat. The other would only be visible in the stands or near the field when the visitors are at bat. If they timed it right, it would look like Bernie could travel really fast from the field back to his perch, similar to the way Mickey Mouse gets around in "Fantasmic." Any of the other teams' mascots can feel free to use my idea too.

On the drive from Knoxville to the Nashville airport, T and I listened to a sports radio host talking about how the Florida Marlins and their stadium are so pathetic. T had heard about a great solution. The Marlins should be moved to Portland (home of the Triple-A Beavers) and transferred to the American League West. It would create a natural rivalry with the Seattle Mariners and even out the number of teams at 15 per league. Moving the Pittsburgh Pirates from the NL Central to the NL East would then leave all the divisions neatly arranged with 5 teams each. For the idea to work, there would always be one team per league with the day off except during interleague play.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

stadia mania

Several sports facilities have passed before my eyes in the last two weeks. During our vacation road trip we drove past LP Field, Busch Stadium, Edward Jones Dome, Jacobs Field, Cleveland Browns Stadium, Fenway Park, Shea Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium.

Before heading to Miller Park yesterday, I saw a little bit of "The Today Show." By coincidence, they had a feature about going to a baseball game. Tiki Barber would try to enjoy a game at Fenway for less than $50. Although Tiki advised viewers to buy a $12 bleacher seat, the camera plainly showed him sitting in an expensive seat near the dugout. His budget also did not include the bottled water that could be seen tucked under his arm. I wonder if things are more expensive in Boston than Milwaukee. A 20 ounce bottle of Aquafina cost me $3.50 at Miller Park. I saw many amazing desserts available in the Club level. Bernie Brewer would be a lot thicker around the middle if he ate those sweets. And if he were real, of course.

I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet treat offered by Midwest Airlines as we flew in and out of Milwaukee. Warm chocolate chip cookies are served on every flight. The airline claims that they are baked on board. They looked too perfect for that. I suspect they are at least partially cooked on the ground. I heard some people worrying that the cookies might be a casualty if Midwest is acquired by AirTran.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

national pastimes

Baseball and gambling don't mix. Just ask Pete Rose. Because of him, I used to think that baseball avoided even the most remote hint of gambling similar to the way a college with a religious affiliation might refuse to accept lottery scholarship money. As we entered Miller Park today for the Mets vs. Brewers game, we were handed a "Baseball Bingo" card from the Potawatomi Casino. The 25 squares on the bingo card had the scorecard designations for various offensive and defensive plays. Fans can win prizes if their card matches enough of the plays that occur in the game. I also noticed a small Wisconsin Lottery logo painted on top of both dugouts. This reminded me of something I saw during my recent road trip. At one supermarket I saw a Missouri Lottery machine selling St. Louis Cardinals themed lottery tickets.

Baseball has gambling controversies in its past and steroid controversies in its present. Somebody might want to mention that to the Brewers. Their costumed mascot looks ordinary enough in person but not in the animated version that appears on the scoreboard. At the start of each game, a computerized Bernie Brewer slugs long balls and shows off his unnaturally buff physique. I know he's just a cartoon but he still looks like he's been getting binary injections in his digitally generated rear end. Based on the number of t-shirts I saw, Bernie is nowhere near as popular as the famous Klement's Racing Sausages.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

schlemeel, schlemazel

Baseball purists often say that low-scoring pitchers' duels are the best games to watch. Maybe I would agree if a New York Mets pitcher had ever thrown a no-hitter in the 45 year history of the team. I like to see the Mets score lots of runs to win. Tonight the Mets beat the Brewers in a very enjoyable 13 run game. The convertible roof at Miller Park was open on a perfect night for baseball. We saw home runs, fielding errors, bunts and more. I'm in Milwaukee on a baseball field trip with a fellow Mets fan who works at another station in the cluster. The company that owns both of our radio stations is headquartered here. We were able to get two tickets in the company's block of seats on the club level for tonight's game and for the rubber game of the series tomorrow afternoon. That section of the stadium features a waitstaff and a menu of food options. The fans sitting right behind us had a five dollar bet on the outcome of the Klement's Sausage Race. One of the Brewer fans was convinced that "the hot dog was due" but sadly for him that's not how it turned out. The Mets gave up three runs in the first inning on a massive Prince Fielder home run but came back to score four right away in the next inning. The Brewers took the lead again but the Mets responded and stayed on top. My traveling companion plans to be a sports broadcaster someday. He recorded some video of himself at the game tonight and will eventually post it on his MySpace page. I hope he got some good footage of the irate fans yelling at him for wearing his Mets gear.

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