Friday, November 30, 2007

right store, wrong color

Kroger had some bananas on clearance today for 29 cents a pound. The discounted fruit filled a shopping cart in the produce section. I chose a bunch that looked fine to me, with only a few small brown spots on the otherwise yellow fingers. Why the discount? Their website gives a clue:
If you select a bunch of bananas that are perfectly yellow, eat them all as soon as possible because the ethylene gas produced by bananas causes them to ripen, then spoil, quickly.
A Louisville business journal reports that Kroger has special banana rooms infused with ethygen 2 gas to partially ripen them. Another article on the Kroger website says:
Don't be afraid to buy green bananas. The fruit will ripen quickly once you get it home and leave it uncovered at room temperature (about 70 degrees). Growers pick bananas while green and keep them cool while shipping to keep them from ripening.
That might explain why the store had a basket of "golden ripe bananas" that were completely green. Another blogger noticed the same discrepancy at Ralphs, a subsidiary of The Kroger Co.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

green evergreen

The annual "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" special was on NBC last night. The show counts down to the lighting of the Christmas tree outside 30 Rock. Yet somehow they missed the shot of the lights going on. At the key moment, the camera was still on the people pushing the button. It would have been better to see the dark tree become illuminated, especially in HD. Poor Nick Lachey. He co-hosted the show alongside Ashley Tisdale and the perennial Al Roker. After Al said that the "High School Musical" DVDs would be on many Christmas wish lists this year, Nick suggested that 98 Degrees CDs would make excellent stocking stuffers. Yeah, if it were 1999.

Josh Groban sang "O Come All Ye Faithful," Carrie Underwood sang "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and Tony Bennett sang "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Ashley Tisdale did a fine job with "Last Christmas" but Taylor Swift did some damage to "Silent Night" with her twang. They put Celine Dion up in the Rainbow Room, perhaps as a way to disguise that her performance was probably pre-recorded. I thought she made weird facial expressions toward the camera while singing. I wanted to look away but couldn't. It was as if she was attempting to make sexy faces while singing "The Christmas Song." Ewww. New York audiences got to see an extra hour of the show starting at 7:00 p.m. They heard an additional song from many of the performers who were on the network show at 8 o'clock. The hour included Natasha Bedingfield singing "O Holy Night" and Josh Groban singing "Little Drummer Boy."

Al Roker was trying to sound eco-friendly when he actually said the words, "the owner of Rockefeller Center announced the first-ever green Christmas tree." Huh? Of course he meant that the lights are powered by solar energy panels on the roof and that the tree was cut with a hand-held saw. Maybe union writers could have phrased it better.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

weary world rejoices

In an effort to catch a five minute appearance by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, I recorded all four hours of the "Today" show yesterday. Ann Curry flubbed her line and said that Brian "Seltzer" would be on the show. She joked about it later by saying Setzer was bringing some seltzer to their morning. Although the set was decorated for Christmas, the band played "One More Night With You" from their "Wolfgang's Big Night Out" CD instead of a holiday tune. The BSO will return to "Today" on Christmas Day. Since the equipment was all set up, they must have recorded the Christmas segment before this morning's live performance. In fact, they might have shown part of it. As they came back from a local news break, I saw the Orchestra finishing up "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus." Ann Curry tried to explain that away by saying it was a rehearsal for the live segment that was still coming up.

Gifted tenor Carl Tanner was on the "Today" show a couple of years ago. A friend of mine knows Carl pretty well and has been doing what she can to help his career. She called me this afternoon to ask if I had any suggestions for getting Carl an appearance on WASH-FM, the all-Christmas station in his hometown. I think Carl could be a good guest on my friend Loo Katz's morning show. Meanwhile, I asked if I could get one of Carl's holiday CDs for myself and one for my friend Bean, who loves Christmas music even more than I do.

Mere weeks after launching his new blog, Bean has another new website called Christmas Music Everyday. Each day he will post a song from his extensive Christmas music collection. Bean's site promises to be even better than the enjoyable "Last Christmas" blog I heard about, uh, last Christmas.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Monday nights bring a plethora of TV choices. On my upstairs TiVo I record "How I Met Your Mother" and "Aliens in America." I have a large backlog of episodes of both series that will help tide me over during the writers strike.

On the HD DVR, I record four other series. My wife and I watch "Dancing With the Stars" together and sometimes vote for our favorites. To do that, we make sure to watch it on Monday nights as soon as she gets home from the weekly Knoxville Choral Society rehearsal. It's funny to see random celebrities in the audience. Florence Henderson has been there a lot. On tonight's final show, I saw Gloria Allred sitting in the front row. You don't think they'll turn up as dancers on a future season, do you?

My wife and son watch "Chuck" and "Heroes" with me. We try to stay current with both shows, meaning we usually watch them within seven days. "Chuck" has been consistently enjoyable while "Heroes" has gotten better, except when Maya and her brother are on screen. When the others are out of the room, I get to watch "Journeyman," which I have previously described as a guilty pleasure.

During the past few episodes, I felt like I missed something on "Journeyman." It's as if they left out scenes in which Dan explains his time travel to his brother. I looked online for reviews that would explain the episodes and ended up finding yet another guilty pleasure. The reviewer on a site called "The Recapist" hates "Journeyman." Absolutely hates it. But that's why M. Wilson Burdorff's reviews are so much fun to read. He eviscerates the show, pointing out all the plot holes and timeline inconsistencies. The negative reviews give me all the more reason to tune in. I don't want to miss a single reference in the recap. On last night's show, Dan traveled back to 1980 after being shot. The emergency room doctor was intrigued by Dan's iPhone. The Recapist posted a photo of that scene with the clever caption: "Steven! It's your cousin, Marvin! Marvin Jobs!"

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Monday, November 26, 2007

progress report

A new McDonald's sign was delivered to the Pilot Food Mart last Monday. I went past the location again today and couldn't help but notice the newly naked pole in the sky. This could be good news. It's possible that the entire pole was stripped just to make it easier for the McDonald's sign on top to be switched. However I am now more hopeful that they also plan to replace the gas price sign with one that cannot be seen from space. A clerk inside the Pilot told me that the sign change was due to state regulations. I guess somebody else finally noticed that the sign was too big for a scenic route. I hate to say I told you so, but that's exactly what I said ten months ago.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

here they come a-caroling

If it were possible to be in two places at once, one of me would show up at George Mason University on December 8 to see Rockapella in concert. They will do two Christmas shows at the Center for the Arts that day. I received a flyer from my alma mater advertising the shows. The photo on the flyer was the first picture I had seen of the group since Elliott Kerman left. Elliott is the third member to retire in the time that I've been a fan.

The first Rockapella concert I ever saw was one of Sean Altman's last shows with the group. His replacement, Kevin Wright, had already been selected and was watching from the wings to learn everything he could. The most recent Rockapella concert I attended was three and a half years ago in Atlanta. George Baldi had recently replaced Barry Carl as the bass singer.

Sean, Barry and Elliott will reunite next August to sing under the name XRP (ex-Rockapella?) at an event called A Cappellastock in Ogden, Utah. I would love to be there, if only I could be in two places at once.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

use the Brannock Device

Knoxville has two all-Christmas music radio stations. The first one flips just after Halloween. The second station doesn't rate a button on my car radio until they make the switch to holiday music right after Thanksgiving. I hit the scan button to search for it on Friday around 10:40 a.m. Sure enough, they were playing the treacly song that I most associate with their station: "The Christmas Shoes." Ugh.

I have added three Christmas CDs to my collection so far this year. Publicist Alan Rommelfanger of Daybreak Entertainment once again sent out a promo disc with tracks from his various clients. Most of the tracks seem to be novelty songs rather than cover versions this year. It includes titles such as "Santa Has a Mullet" and "I'm Down to My Christmas Underwear."

Last Sunday night at West Town Mall's Evening of Giving, the Select Comfort store gave away free CDs to anyone willing to lay down and find out their sleep number. Naturally, I rushed right in. The music is a predictably sleep-inducing assortment of instrumental tunes.

Earlier that day, the Ladies of Charity had a mini rummage sale set up on a table in the parish hall. This was the same event as the parish bake sale I've told you about. I bought an unopened copy of last year's two-disc Bath & Body Works Christmas compilation for only $2.50. It was worth it just for the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy cover of "Mr. Heatmiser." Somebody took that version of the song, mashed it up with the animation from the original "The Year Without a Santa Claus" and put it on YouTube.

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Friday, November 23, 2007


Kathy's husband Keith told me that they've never seen "South Park." Although known for his good sense of humor, he was being completely serious. This means that Kathy truly had no idea that her chocolate-covered marshmallow men looked exactly like the Santa-hat-wearing character from the show. The fact that she didn't know makes the coincidence all the funnier. Weird Ralph must have agreed. He submitted the blog entry to

After reading the post, Kathy and Keith felt compelled to bring me some of her cream-filled cupcakes with ganache icing. It was absolutely delicious.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

will it float?

Maybe it was the amazing HD picture that helped me be less critical of NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade than in years past. This morning I decided that Meredith Vieira has a warmth and a sincerity in her voice that makes her better at reading the Macy's approved script than Katie Couric. In 2005, I was less than enthusiastic about the Katie and Matt Lauer combination. The cheese factor increased today once Al Roker joined Meredith and Matt at the table. Voiceover announcer Joel Godard's pronunciation of "Menudo" was oddly entertaining every time he attempted it.

In 2006, I focused on CBS's coverage. This year I am too frustrated to deal with them because Hannah Storm still doesn't know the difference between a parade float and a balloon. Hannah might have been a little embarrassed when Hannah Jr. used her whole palm to wipe her nose on live TV. Dave Price was definitely embarrassed when he said that Tom Osborne had coached Oklahoma and when he said "you're watching The Early Show... no you're not, you're watching the Thanksgiving Day parade!"

The Ooltewah High School Marching Band dressed in clown costumes and played a medley that included a little bit of music from "Big Top Pee-wee." They finished their performance and started playing "Rocky Top" as NBC moved on to the Ronald McDonald balloon. From the aerial view, Ronald's hair looked more like his brain. The Ooltewah band posted their itinerary online. The students had to wake up at 1:30 this morning, get on their bus by 2:30 and line up for rehearsal at 3:00 a.m.

One of the foot-juggling Huesca Brothers almost neutered his sibling on live TV. One brother was on his back, feet in the air. The other brother was supposed to plant his soles on his brother's. He missed.

Matt Lauer said that the girl on the Care Bears float was "one of rock's foremost vocalists, Kay Hanley." That impressive descriptor didn't help me at all. Besides, she looked too young. Matt might have mentioned that Kay was in the band Letters to Cleo and that she's 39.

You can vote for your favorite float or balloon at, assuming you know the difference.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

step in the right direction

A truck from T and T Signs was parked at a Pilot Food Mart on Middlebrook Pike on Monday. A new McDonald's sign had been placed against the base of the oversized signpost that I griped about wrote about in January. One of the workers from T and T told me that new sign was narrower and shorter than the golden arches atop the massive pole. The reason for the switch? The old McDonald's sign was too big to be along a scenic route. It wasn't the McDonald's sign or the Pilot sign that bothered me, it's the electronic gas price sign that seems too big and too bright.

My wife has been going to Pilot a lot more often to get her diet soda lately. They have been giving away free Grandma's Cookies with the purchase of any fountain drink or coffee. She gets the beverage, our son gets the cookies. One day while enjoying his chocolate chips, he commented that many East Tennesseans pronounce the word Pilot as if the vowels were reversed. Although it looks like it would sound the same the beginning of "politician," they stretch out the first syllable of "Polit" a bit more. Besides, according to my Cas Walker poster, the word is "polytician" around these parts.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

dressed up with someplace to go

When someone goes to the trouble to give me free tickets to a nice event, I like to be able to use them. Tonight my wife Jere and I felt lucky to attend the Fantasy of Trees Gala Preview Party even though it meant I would have to be a little late for my Einstein Simplified performance. The Fantasy of Trees opens tomorrow and benefits East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

The menu at the gala featured "holiday fare with a Southern flair." The jumbo shrimp was served with a delicious sweet hickory chili sauce that had a good kick to it. The New Orleans bread pudding was a fine dessert but it was a side dish that stole the show. I recently heard about the trend to have a mashed potato bar at catered events. Tonight we enjoyed the fixin's at a sweet potato bar instead. The servers used an ice cream scoop to put some mashed sweet potatoes in a plastic cup. We could then choose from candied pecans, cream cheese glaze, dried cranberry and ginger relish, cinnamon streusel, whipped honey butter, maple syrup and skewered marshmallows that had been lightly toasted with a torch. The potatoes were fine but I was tempted to fill my cup with nothing but toppings.

We spotted several familiar faces from WBIR throughout the crowd. Todd Howell and his wife were walking in to the Convention Center at the same time as Jere and me. As we waited in line for a drink, I asked the pretty woman standing behind us if she was Emily Stroud. She was. A few minutes later we briefly saw Michele Silva and Steve Phillips. We talked with Beth Haynes about one of her relatives who had great success on the same weight loss program as us. John Becker had some helpful advice for my wife's allergy problem.

Our longest conversation was with Ben Senger and his wife Alisha. They were sure they had seen my wife someplace before. Jere cracked us up by saying that she had a very common face. I kept questioning the Sengers until we determined that they had attended Fr. Chris Michelson's farewell Mass at All Saints Church. Jere was the cantor at that Mass.

All night long, I was introducing my wife to the people I knew from WBIR. When it was time for us to leave, she introduced me to some people she knew. A lovely woman named Joni had seen Jere first. They had already started talking as I caught up. Jere introduced me to Joni Punch, who then started to introduce her husband. I somehow already knew she was going to say his name was Jerry. She did the whole, "Jerry, meet Jere" thing that happens every time two people with the same name meet. Then I asked if he was a doctor. Remember, we were at a Children's Hospital function so I could pass it off as a reasonable question. As I suspected he was Dr. Jerry Punch but I still couldn't figure out how I knew that name. I asked my wife if she had mentioned Jerry's name to me recently. She was quite sure she hadn't. It wasn't until I got home and Googled the name that I realized he is a sportscaster and medical expert for ESPN. I don't remember seeing him on ESPN but I do recall seeing him interviewed recently on the local news. Sorry about that, Doc.

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Monday, November 19, 2007


It took some searching to find two articles about the test flight of the balloons that will make their debut in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday. WNBC's story includes video. The Herald News wrote about a New Jersey woman becoming a balloon handler.

While looking for news about the new balloons, I found a story about some of my favorite old balloons. The widow of a Goodyear balloon designer loaned photos of his creations for a display at the library in Akron. Naturally I liked the Underdog photo best.

Don't forget that "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is on ABC tomorrow night. I'll probably record it for my wife, just like I did last month with "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" even though she hasn't had time to watch it yet.

In addition to everything else she does, my wife had a Martha Stewart moment today. She made some turkey-shaped place card holders out of pipe cleaners and Ferrero Rondnoir dark chocolates.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

stick in the mud

Two years ago our friend Kathy made some cream filled cupcakes for the annual parish bake sale. I desperately wanted to try one but it was too early in my weight loss program to risk it. I saw Kathy after Mass today and asked if she had baked them again this year, now that I can afford to have one and count it as my starch and fat for the day. Kathy said that instead she had made something I would really enjoy: marshmallow snowmen. As soon as I saw them, I thought Kathy might be pulling my leg. The "snowmen" were covered in chocolate and were wearing Santa hats. My son compared them to the muddy snowman in "To Kill A Mockingbird." I thought of a not so literary reference. To me they looked like a character from "South Park." Not just any "South Park" character, but the one that triggers my gag reflex and keeps me from ever watching that show. Kathy feigned ignorance but I think she's too smart to not see the resemblance.

The unusual treats were well received at today's bake sale. My wife bought one for me while I snapped a picture of the remaining marshmallow men. They were all sold in a matter of minutes. Kathy called them snowmen but I'll call them Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santas on a Stick. To make them, she put three marshmallows on a lollipop stick and enrobed them in melted chocolate. She dipped the tips into white chocolate that had been dyed red and then piped white chocolate to make the whites of the eyes and the decorative squiggles. You can use a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off instead of a pastry bag. The mouth is made with the same red chocolate as the hat. A couple of chocolate chips complete the eyes. You might want to skip the Santa hat, add antlers and try to make chocolate reindeer instead.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Grendel's mom has got it goin' on

The family that lived next door to my boyhood home in Crestwood had a cat named Beowulf. That ancient memory came to light when my son said he wanted to see the new movie "Beowulf" to get some extra credit for his English class.

The film is available in regular or 3D. Even though it cost extra, we opted for the 3D version. The 3D technology comes from a company called RealD. Entertainment Weekly said that the glasses they give you are more like the sunglasses Tom Cruise wore in "Risky Business" than the old school paper framed red and blue glasses. I thought they were a little less Tom Cruise and a little more Drew Carey.

The last two previews before the feature were also in 3D. One was for "Coraline." The other was for a remake of "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Once you commit to a 3D screening, you have to keep the glasses on. Without them, the picture is blurry.

The characters are created with motion capture computer animation. The technology has improved a lot since it was used in "The Polar Express." The faces move realistically but, as my wife pointed out, the eyes still seem lifeless. I thought the movie got better as it went along, mostly because I didn't care for the way they designed Grendel. His speech, provided by Crispin Glover, was hard to decipher. The movie builds up to a spectacular fight scene between Beowulf and a dragon.

If the movie had come out a few weeks earlier, Jimmy Kimmel could have dressed his father in chain mail and included him in this year's "Half and Half Halloween Pageant." Mr. Kimmel would be perfect as Beowulf Blitzer.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

monkey, meet back

The high school football season ended tonight. Well, maybe not for everybody but it did for me. After getting chilled to the core in the stands tonight, my schedule is suddenly free next Friday. Knoxville Catholic High School, favorites to win the state championship, lost in the playoffs again this year. Four of their past five regular seasons have been perfect. Over the last five years, their regular season record is an incredible 49-1. Yet each year a playoff loss keeps them from reaching the championship game and winning the title they deserve.

I thought Jeffrey Faris would confuse the TV sportscasters by wearing Zach "Mini" Vann's jersey in a tribute to the injured player. WATE and WVLT were not fooled. Only WBIR misidentified Faris as Vann.

I agreed with the fans who were very vocal in their criticism of the referees. Maybe Saturday's newspaper will be able to explain what I thought were questionable calls against Catholic. The Irish scored four touchdowns but made only one extra point. Austin-East also scored four touchdowns but made two of their extra points. As a result, Catholic lost 26-25.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

banter wait

A couple of my favorite topics turned up in the entertainment news today. Matt Lauer reassured reporters that the writers strike will not affect NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, he and Meredith Vieira are saddled with a hackneyed script. They say it will be written by non-union writers. They could have just as easily arranged for the script to have been written months ago, well before the strike began.

Jimmy Kimmel ends his show each night with a tongue-in-cheek apology to Matt Damon. Now that Matt has been chosen as the Sexiest Man Alive, People Magazine asked Jimmy what he would have done had he been chosen instead. I'll bet the magazine is second guessing their decision.

I also read that NBC will be auctioning off some props from "The Office" and "30 Rock," both of which were very funny tonight. Let me know if "The Office" was just as funny for those of you who haven't already given several depositions.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars

Doing whatever you can to achieve fame and then doing whatever you can to protect your privacy after achieving fame are two sides of the same coin. That's the thought that went through my head today as I drove behind a VW with the vanity license plate "JAGSTAR" (and they're not even from Virginia).

At first I thought, that the driver must be a big fan of the locally based rock group. Then it occurred to me that the car might belong to a member of the band. One of my co-workers at The River used to play bass in Jag Star. Last I heard, he had moved to California. I pulled up alongside the Jag Car in one of the two left turn lanes from Cedar Bluff onto Peters Road. I could see J and Sarah Lewis inside. I waved at them before driving forward as far as the stopped traffic would allow. A moment later, J pulled up alongside me and rolled down his window so he and his wife could say hi. We had a few seconds of small talk about how things were going before the light turned green.

At this point in their careers, it makes sense for the band to use their license plate to promote themselves. If things continue to go right for them, they'll need to get anonymous plates and tinted windows to keep the public at bay. If your curiosity is piqued, you can download a free song by Jag Star through the News Sentinel's site.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

comfort food

Mashed potatoes are as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey in my family. It's usually my job to do the mashing while adding milk, butter, salt and pepper. In more recent years, I would add garlic too. This past summer, my daughter made me some mashed cauliflower as a lower calorie replacement for potatoes. The taste was good enough to definitely try again but probably not on Thanksgiving.

At a recent family wedding, my wife saw an example of a hot new trend in catering, the mashed potato bar. The spuds are served in martini glasses with an array of meats, cheese and vegetables available as toppings for each guest to customize their own. Since I wasn't there, she took some pictures for me to see:

Other bloggers have also encountered mashed potato bars. They described the excitement they felt and the other toppings they would have liked. It makes me wish I had gone to the wedding.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

music whiz

The new Richard Cheese CD comes out tomorrow. And by "comes out tomorrow," I mean that it gets released the old-fashioned way to most retail stores. It's already been available at Hot Topic and online through iTunes (with three bonus tracks). On past discs, Richard has tackled rock songs, hip hop songs and Christmas songs. This time around he takes on one of my all time favorite genres, TV theme songs. We got a foreshadowing of this back in May when Richard did the "Spider-Man" theme. Check out Richard's YouTube channel for some of the theme songs matched with video from the original shows. Richard mailed me a CD the other day. My wife laughed out loud at the slow hand clap during the "Friends" theme. I loved the "Imperial March," even though it's from a movie, not a TV show.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I used my cassette recorder to tape the opening themes of every TV show I could. I would bring the tapes to the summer pool club, where the other kids would try to identify each show by its theme. If only I was somehow smart enough to turn my hobby into the successful "Television's Greatest Hits" album collection.

While I was looking for one of the links in the first paragraph, I stumbled across something called The Covers Project. They are building a database of cover songs, cross referenced by title and artist.

I'm not usually a fan of the music on "Dancing With the Stars." I have to admit that tonight the band did a cover of the Depeche Mode song "Personal Jesus"
that wasn't bad at all. Later, while Marie Osmond was dancing to "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under," I imagined someone waking up from a coma and being shocked to find that the "Donny & Marie" show was still on the air 30 years later.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

hi-tech peekaboo

Videoconferencing brought our nuclear family together for a chat this evening. After a lengthy internal debate, I signed up for a Skype account and then arranged for my daughter to do the same from her dorm room. It was great to see her during our conversation. We experimented with a few visual effects like "fish eye" that had us laughing. Once in a while the image would freeze for a few seconds and then go back to normal. During one freeze, the three of us on this end ducked out of view of the camera so that when the video stream resumed it looked like we had disappeared. Another time, we replaced ourselves with a pair of CPR dummies that my son had borrowed for a demonstration speech at school. My daughter almost fell off her chair when the dummies appeared on her screen. Now I need to convince some of my friends in faraway places to Skype with me. I promise not to repeat the dummy gag.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

goodbye to you

Terry Morrow wanted to know if I would cancel whatever plans I may have had for last night. He had finagled an invitation to Abby Ham's goodbye party and was bringing me as his guest. Abby and her friends were going to see The Breakfast Club, an '80s cover band. Before the concert we gathered at Patrick Sullivan's. A few WBIR folk were already there including the general manager and the news director.

Abby arrived straight from the airport. She had been on the air in Cleveland only two days so far. As usual, the Knoxville Trivia Blog was on top of it, posting links on Thursday to video clips of her debut that morning. Having seen the link, I knew that WKYC broadcasts the news in HD. Abby said she hasn't watched herself in high definition yet.

Our group filled the seats at the big table in the front window and spilled over to a smaller table nearby. At various times I found myself sitting next to Abby, her fiance, the news director and some people I didn't know. At one point the news director was reading the headlines on his PDA. I asked if he could check the Catholic High football score for me. He said that might be the one thing he couldn't get. What about texting Dan Farkas, I asked. He did and that's how I found out that Catholic won their first round playoff game.

A few of the faces around the table were recognizable from TV. In addition to Abby, I saw Robin Murdoch, Kay Watson (again) and Mike Witcher. The staff presented Abby with a nice digital camera as a going away gift. She promised to use it to have her picture made while standing next to the World's Largest Rubber Stamp. She's already seen the stamp because her new TV station is nearby.

Two of WBIR's producers, Erin and Lee Ann, walked down the street to Blue Cats with Terry and me. Abby and the rest would catch up later. A fairly long line had already formed for the Breakfast Club concert. When I first walked in, I thought a deejay was playing "Footloose" but it was actually the band. Their covers are dead on. We met up with Abby and her friends upstairs on the balcony overlooking the stage. Abby told me that she has seen the same band in Chattanooga recently. She and her friends went there to dance and carry on without being recognized. It didn't work. Somebody spotted Abby right away. Let's say that you and your co-workers wanted to go out for the evening to dance and maybe have a drink. You would just go. Now let's say that you and your co-workers all have recognizable faces from being on the TV. What would you do then?

Before I went home for the night, I had a chance to chat with Abby about her time in Knoxville. She agreed that the morning and noon newscasts in our town were particularly competitive because of the strong anchor teams on WATE and WVLT. Abby especially appreciated all the buzz generated by local bloggers. She feels it helped her career, even though she had to grow a thicker skin to deal with the negative comments posted by some readers. By the way, the fanboys reading this should know that Abby's fiance is a good guy and that they make a great couple. I wish them all the happiness in the world. Do you think they might invite me to the wedding? (No, I don't either.)

I tried to make my exit a couple of times. During one attempt, Abby wanted to get a picture with Terry and me. I will go ahead and post an empty space below where the photo will be once Abby emails it to me. Meanwhile, Terry and the others wanted me to stay until 12:45 a.m. That's when the band would return from intermission and when the lead singer was supposed to make a surprise announcement from the stage about Abby's departure. During the break, I saw two of my improv brothers from Einstein Simplified and a few of our regular audience members. Hey Lance and Marshall, if you want to send me the photos we posed for out in the courtyard, I'll post those too. Anyway, I never heard the big announcement so I left during the second or third song. As I walked back to my car, all I could think about was how surprised my friends were to see me out that late.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

two simple words in the English language

It was too dark to take a picture of the network sports banners hanging near the ceiling at Big Ed's Pizza the other night. They have banners from CBS Sports, ABC Sports and NBC Sports. The NBC banner features the 1970s era logo with the N shaped like two trapezoids. I forgot that Big Ed's son Dave told me that the banners had been given to the pizza joint by former UT players who had gone on to the NFL. Dave had heard that the NBC banner was collected by Hacksaw Reynolds after a game in San Diego. Speaking of pizza, TV hottie Stacy McCloud posted a comment about gluten-free pizza at Roman's.

After writing my All Souls Day entry about "The Undertaking," I found a link to an article about the Body Farm. As an unofficial clearing house of Body Farm information, I debated going back and adding an update to my post. I guess I forgot.

When I wrote about my conversation with Pat Godwin, I forgot to mention that I've been seeing another former Comedy World employee on TV a lot lately. Lou DiMaggio is on a commercial for Bristol-Myers Squibb talking about his heart attack. Fortunately he's doing well now.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

methods of inflation

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! Over the years the things I have loved most about the holiday are: watching the parade, eating and having the next day off. I get two out of three again this year.

Today we received a See's Candies holiday catalog in the mail that barely mentioned Christmas. Instead it was pushing Thanksgiving chocolates. As I ate my salad at dinner, I pored over that catalog like other men look at a Playboy centerfold. I was fascinated by the two page spread with cross sections of the various confections. I saw some old favorites like the Scotchmallow and some that were new to me like the Apple Pie truffle.

It's about the time each year when I start to wonder which new balloons will fly in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The information was a little harder to find than I had anticipated. My friend Bean will be happy to know that Hello Kitty will be taking flight. The other new helium-filled characters are Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street and Shrek. There will also be a balloon version of a modern art sculpture called Rabbit by Jeff Koons. The original sculpture looks like a Mylar balloon. It might be considered a sequel to an earlier metal sculpture called Balloon Dog.

I wonder if either NBC or CBS shows the parade in HD. If so, it gives me yet another reason to love Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

cheese and oxygen

The best known pizza place in East Tennessee used to be off limits to me. I had been to Big Ed's Pizza in Oak Ridge when I was new to the area but found the place filled with cigarette smoke. Despite my love of pizza, I knew I could never return. Fortunately the smoking ban that went into effect last month has opened some doors for me. The giant caricature of Big Ed in the window is probably inviting to most, however it was the no-smoking sign on the door that said "welcome" to me.

I asked our waitress if I could order a salad. "We only sell pizza," was her response. Without any acrid smoke to interfere with the taste, I could finally understand why everyone loves Big Ed's. The pizza was really good, especially the crust. They make their own dough at Big Ed's and it shows. The tiny paper plates and super thin napkins make eating a little more challenging than at most restaurants.

On my first trip to Big Ed's, I got one of their famous t-shirts. At the time I needed size XXL, which is now way too big for me. The thought of the smoke kept me from going back to get a free shirt on my last birthday. Now that the air is smoke-free, I can make plans to pick up a size L shirt next year.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

this season's guilty pleasure

As the regular crowd gathers every Tuesday night in the Old City for the Einstein Simplified show, parking spaces can be at a premium, especially on nights when there's a show at Blue Cats. You probably know that I've been a member of the comedy improv group since 2002. Tonight, for the second week in a row, my wife and I were thrilled to find some TVP outside Patrick Sullivan's. TVP, or TV parking, is a term my friend Rodney Lee Conover would use to describe a parking space as close to your destination as the spaces where characters on television regularly park. Of course it would slow down the show if the characters had to waste time walking back to their car. There's a famous "Seinfeld" episode which is the exception to prove that rule.

I noticed a TVP apologist in prime time last week. The October 29th episode of "Journeyman" actually included some dialogue to explain away the too-good-to-be-true parking. As brothers Dan and Jack left a building, Dan asks Jack, "You parked in a bus stop?" Jack, a cop, replies, "Who's going to give me a ticket?" I guess the writers felt the need to include a nanosecond of realism in a show about time travel.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

closed circuit to bloggers

The blog template has been giving me fits. The slightest error while cutting and pasting HTML can ruin everything. In the past few days, I have updated the sidebar to add a few bells and whistles like the "Recent Comments" list. I thought it might encourage more of you to post comments. As always, I prefer non-anonymous comments. Part of the problem I'm having is that several of the sidebar elements disappear on the post pages and/or archive pages. Another part of the problem is that the changes I made looked fine in my Firefox browser at home but were messed up in my Internet Explorer at work. I think that I made my Google search box too wide, causing the sidebar to appear below all the blog posts. Changing the size of the search box was easy enough. The hard part has come trying to upload the new template to my server. I keep getting a message telling me that the upload is taking longer than expected. It usually stalls after uploading 12% or less of the files. Also, this very blog post has been resisting my repeated efforts to upload it. At this point I would be surprised if anyone ever gets to read it.

I know that some of you will suggest I switch to different blogging software. In fact, I got an email from a reader over the weekend inviting me to try WordPress. When my friend Bean relaunched his blog, he switched to TypePad. I'm not ready to think about that right now. I have written 922 posts using Blogger without any major problems. My current difficulty is probably a minor hiccup.

Something else came to light in my sidebar updates. I put in a newer Technorati widget, which announces to the whole world that my "authority" number is 9. How lame. Unless, as my friend Chris suggested today, Technorati numbers are like golf scores. Most of the other blogs I read have much higher numbers. For example, Left of the Dial has a 28, Knoxville Trivia Blog has a 42, Reality Me has a 54 and The Kat House has a 581. I don't even know where to begin to up my number.

Maybe posting a link to my RSS and Atom feeds will help. Shortly after the Knoxville Symphony's Blogger Night, Tish from the aforementioned Kat House pointed out that my RSS feed wasn't listed on my site. That's because I didn't know how to do it. I've been occasionally skimming through the help topics, trying to figure it out. Now I think all you do is post a link to right?

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

stampede of dollars

The local chapter of the March of Dimes asked me to be a spotter for the Signature Chefs Auction tonight. I pointed out bidders in the crowd to auctioneer Robbie Franklin. The food at the event reminded me of Feast with the Beasts except more civilized. Several top restaurants served their best fare in a ballroom at the Knoxville Convention Center. Unlike the event at the zoo, everyone in the crowd was dressed up and the delicacies were served on china plates.

As much as I wanted to sample every dish being offered, I don't think it would have been physically possible even with the small portion sizes. Nama took first prize for their delicious seared tuna roll. I also liked the braised veal cheek from Northshore Brasserie and the pumpkin cheesecake served with gingersnaps in a champagne glass from Hunter's Bakery & Cafe.

A number of local celebrities were in attendance. I had a chance to converse with many of them. John Becker was the emcee for the evening. He and I mostly talked about our mutual friend Fr. Ragan Schriver. John and I recently did some volunteer work on a project for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. I told John that I believe that Fr. Ragan could be a superstar on the national charitable scene if he wanted to. After all, he already has TV experience as a contestant on "Warehouse Warriors."

Kay Watson was sitting at the WBIR table. When I said hi to Kay tonight, I told her that we had once met at Dollywood. She responded by saying, "oh yeah, you were sitting behind us." By doing so, she as much as acknowledged that she has seen the picture of the back of her head that I posted here last summer. I mentioned the photo and she confirmed that she had heard about it and then looked at it online. Fortunately for me, she saw the humor in it.

Chef Walter Lambert was still on a high from meeting Betty White, who was in town on Friday. After her live interview with Stacy McCloud, Betty was ushered onto Chef Walter's kitchen set to taste his bran muffins.

Maestro Lucas Richman listened patiently as I requested he schedule a program of classical music that we would recognize from cartoons. His lovely wife Debbie remembered meeting me on the Knoxville Symphony's recent Blogger Night.

Diana Morgan, the recently retired host of the Scholars' Bowl on East Tennessee Public Television, talked to me about the value of participating in academic competitions when it comes to filling out college applications.

Scott Branscom from " Weekly" was stunned by my appearance. Aside from the weight loss and makeover, the fact that I was wearing a suit and tie tonight made the difference from the last time he saw me all the more noticeable. Scott was one of the master carpenters on "Warehouse Warriors" when I was a guest judge on the show about four years ago. Coincidentally, the episode I did will be repeated this Thursday at 5:00 a.m. Set your TiVo.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

wham bam, thank you Ham

Thanks to Doug McCaughan for the kind words he wrote about me yesterday. He wisely chose to invoke the name of Abby Ham in hopes of increasing his page views. Meanwhile, Abby fans should keep an eye on Terry Morrow's blog and on the Knoxville Trivia Blog, which has become your number one source for Ham info. For those of you following along, Abby did agree to pose with the World's Largest Rubber Stamp and to send me a photo for the blog. The last line of her email to me speaks to all of us: "I know I said this, but thank you for being so nice to me when I first arrived. I appreciate it more than you know!"

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Friday, November 02, 2007

not for the squeamish

As the clock winds down on this All Souls Day, I am watching an episode of the PBS series "Frontline" entitled "The Undertaking." It was broadcast in HD on Tuesday night. You can still see it online if you so choose. The show is about a funeral home in a small Michigan town. What makes this funeral home unique is that one of the proprietors is an author and poet. From the excerpts I heard him read on the show, he's quite good. His book, "The Undertaking" was a source for Alan Ball when he was doing research for "Six Feet Under."

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

you better believe it's big

A careful look at my sidebar reveals that I added three sites to my blogroll today. Two were long overdue. Welcome to Reality Me and House of Wachs.

The big news is that my best friend Bean has returned to blogging after a one year absence. He unveiled his new effort today at Strongly Worded Letter. For the past month he's been writing a secret blog that no one knows. It will take me a day or so to get caught up with his archive.

If you were to go back and read the 918 entries that I have posted in the 27 months since I started my blog, you might notice the way Bean's Blog influenced me during the ten months of its existence. I linked to it quite a bit. I also liked the way he avoided blogging about his day job. Besides, he's got people who do that for him. Now he says that I influenced him. On his new blog, Bean plans to limit his posts to one main topic per day. He used to write lengthy posts on a multitude of topics that were consistently entertaining but took up too much of his time. I really missed reading his thoughts over the past year. As I told him on the phone tonight, I would have preferred that he post infrequently rather than not at all. Welcome back!


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