Monday, December 31, 2007

meet Napoleon Bananaparte

The spoonful of reduced-fat peanut butter on my banana looked enough like a bicorne hat that we had to take a picture. Bonne année!

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

poly want a cracker?

The Apostrophe Abuse website has a never ending supply of plural words that are made possessive by the erroneous insertion of an apostrophe. I enjoyed looking at it back in October. On our recent walk through Gatlinburg, I spotted a sign for a shop called God's Corner. Given that it's in the Bible Belt, they probably meant for the sign to be possessive, not made plural by the omission of an apostrophe.

Earlier that day we went to a shop in Pigeon Forge called Country Clutter. They sold a line of Willow Tree figurines that were missing faces. I was reminded of the stained glass windows at All Saints Church, which have faceless figures to allow the observer to imagine themselves in the scene. You may recall that a columnist for the local Catholic paper didn't like the windows (or anything else). The figurines were okay but the creepy keepsake boxes looked like they belong in a columbarium.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

waxing with the stars

The Hollywood Wax Museum in Gatlinburg put their best, um, foot forward by positioning their Angelina Jolie love doll statue to be the first thing you see once you get inside. King Kong is the first thing you see before you go in. You may recall that I saw Kong over the summer while at a wedding reception next door.

Angelina Jolie looks like the real thing. A couple of others don't. For example, Elvis Presley, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. And Tobey Maguire.

Colin Farrell is posed in a tuxedo at a wedding chapel. I think women can pose in the wedding dress that was hanging nearby. Somebody must have thought they could literally take Colin's hand in marriage.

After a while you can't help but get into the campy spirit of the place. For example, the file name of this picture of the creature is "FrankAndStein.jpg"

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Friday, December 28, 2007

fork a stick in it

After the 4:00 p.m. dinner show at the Dixie Stampede on Wednesday, we were ushered out of the arena past a display of stick horses from WHOA, the Woodin-stick Horses of America. I have looked at their website and cannot figure out why they insist on misspelling it "woodin" instead of wooden.

The night was still plenty young, so we headed to Gatlinburg for more sightseeing. I saw a bunch of marshmallow treats in the window at Kilwin's. They had chocolate covered marshmallows on sticks as well as chocolate covered Rice Krispies Treats on sticks. The Poofy Ropes and Poofy Pops were bargain priced but I wasn't interested in strawberry-flavored marshmallow poof.

It was only 7:15 p.m. when I took a picture of the Gatlinburg Inn. All the lights were out. Because of the prominent placement of the AARP logo on their sign, I assumed that the residents had gone to bed for the night. It turns out that they are closed until April 1. It also turns out to be the place where the song "Rocky Top" was written in only ten minutes, presumably not in the winter.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

reason for the season

The North Pole defeated the South Pole in a surprising come-from-behind victory yesterday at the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The South Pole team took an early lead in several equestrian events. The North Pole team finally scored some points in the pig and ostrich races. Ultimately it was audience participation that made the difference. A North Pole fan tied the overall competition by decisively winning the toilet seat toss. With the game on the line, North Pole fans were able to pass several toy candy canes from person to person faster than their South Pole counterparts. The cane-passing standout Murphy family of Knoxville helped cinch the victory for the North.

Prior to the competition, the audience witnessed a short nativity play. Actors portraying Mary and Joseph were lowered from the ceiling on a small square ice rink. Once the platform touched down on the surface of the horse arena, a herd of goats and a few donkeys were shepherded around it. Three camels carrying three wise men completed the scene as a trained dove flew the length of the arena into the hands of a live angel suspended from the rafters.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

exchanges and returns

When relatives are separated by many miles, Christmas shopping is easier with the help of a wish list. My wife and I like to use them to send gifts that we know our siblings, nieces and nephews will truly enjoy. She and I each have wish lists of our own that our relatives can view. I also use mine to keep track of books, CDs and DVDs that interest me, often adding them to my list before the items are released. I recently got a gift certificate and will shop for myself from my own wish list. Unfortunately my wife no longer has the password to the wish list she made four years ago. She attempted to update it earlier this month. Instead of simply sending her the forgotten password, Amazon made her start a new list. She now has two wish lists linked to the same email address. When she logs in, she can only access the new list. You can probably guess that one of our generous relatives saw the old list before doing their shopping and sent my wife a couple of items that she already has. There must be a way for her to delete the outdated wish list. Any suggestions?


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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

as people make merry

Merry Christmas! Today is the day we celebrate even though Jesus was probably born on April 17. Here are some random holiday thoughts.

My friends Bean and Rich posted their responses to the Christmas meme they got tagged with by me. They're funny. Don't miss numbers 13, 16 and 21.

Had I known that yesterday was National Egg Nog Day, I wouldn't have waited until today for my first sip of the season. I would say the first sip of the year but I had some on August 17.

I thought of some additions to my list of favorite Christmas songs. I can't believe that I forgot "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." I like almost any version, especially the Darlene Love original and the U2 cover. Another favorite is "For Unto Us a Child Is Born," which we heard on the PBS broadcast of "Christmas at St. Olaf." The piece is from Handel's "Messiah." The lyrics are taken from the same Bible passage that I proclaimed at the 8:00 p.m. Mass last night.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

heard him explain

When Frank Jr. was three years old, he couldn't go to sleep at night without listening to a cassette tape of Wilford "Diabeetis" Brimley reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas." It was a read-along tape, that came with a companion pop-up book and an audible signal to turn the page. Frank Jr. unintentionally memorized the story by hearing it every night for almost a year. Two years ago I wrote about how we brought young Frank to the KROQ studios and recorded his rendition of the story. Audio production people far more skilled than me did some editing and brought in a talented keyboard player nicknamed "Iceman" to provide background music.

I have played the old tape on the air here in Knoxville for the past couple of Christmases. About ten days ago, Marc Anthony suggested that we take the tape of three-year-old Frank and mix in his current voice. My son is now in high school and has a deeper voice than me. I didn't know if it would be possible without it sounding terrible since I don't have the master tapes or separate audio tracks from the recording session. The only version I have is the final mixdown with voice, reverb and music combined onto one track. I would need to find somebody who could replicate the music track, allowing us to cross fade between the old and the new. My friend Mike Greiner was willing to do it even though his schedule was filled with his day job in the Knoxville Symphony office, his performances as a singer with the Knoxville Choral Society and his excellent piano and organ playing at All Saints Church. I put my wife's Casio keyboard in the car and met Mike at the radio station during his lunch hour. As expected, he nailed it. The next day, Frank Jr. had enough of a break in his midterm exam schedule that he could lay down the voice track.

I still needed an audio production wizard to put all the pieces together and make it sound seamless. Fortunately Gene Wooten has chosen to make his home in East Tennessee after years of working at WPLJ in New York City. He pushed an outdated version of Pro Tools to its limit as he synchronized the music and voices. He added reverb and ended up with the finished product that you can hear by clicking on the play button below. Merry Christmas Eve!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

stamp act

It's always popular this time of year to come out against holiday newsletters. Many newspaper columnists have filled lots of column inches berating the annual synopsis that usually comes tucked into a Christmas card.

MSNBC asked readers to submit examples of outrageous Christmas letters. A writer from Glendale, California, wrote a book full of them. In his Talk Topics column, Perry Simon pointed out that even the governor of South Carolina sends a Christmas letter.

No matter how corny the newsletters may be, I love them. For the few minutes it takes me to read the missives, it's as if my friends and relatives had blogs of their own. One married couple I know always includes a section about their successful radio show. Another couple who went to school with my wife let their children each write a paragraph about themselves:
T-----, 13, is in eighth grade. I like to play goalie in soccer. I still swim in the summer and winter. I also went to King's Dominion with my friend around Halloween (Fright Night). It was awesome.

S-------, 17, can see the light at the end of the dark, dank IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma) tunnel. He has continued his advance up the ranks of the quiz bowl team, and is now a steady member of the near-lossless A team. He still maintains his distaste for writing about himself in the third person.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

phone home

"Nightline" had a feature on Paul Potts the other night. He was the winner of "Britain's Got Talent." Potts likes his new found fame but hasn't quit his day job, just in case it all goes away. He is on a leave of absence from Carphone Warehouse. I just saw that store on the series finale of "Extras" when a character loses his showbiz job and goes back to work at Carphone Warehouse.

The same edition of "Nightline" also had a short piece on Josh Groban. Josh talked about how he and David Foster "broke down the rhythm" of "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear." My wife liked their arrangement of that song but didn't care for what they did to "Ave Maria." She heard both songs after receiving Groban's top selling Christmas CD "Noel" as as gift. Oprah chose the disc as one of her favorite things, don't you know. If I correctly understand what my wife said, Josh dropped the Latin word "et" in one of the lyrics and then moved the subsequent syllables onto the wrong notes. She also didn't like the way he omitted the second verse and repeated the first instead. Maybe Josh didn't want to ask Mary to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

We found an unexpected Christmas music treat while flipping around the dial last night. Our PBS HD station was running a Christmas concert by an a capella group called Tonic Sol-fa. They did a great version of "Ay, Ay, Ay It's Christmas," a song which I had previously only heard by Ricky Martin. The Tonic Sol-fa special is worth watching if they repeat it even though they spent a little too much time on filler between some of the songs.

Who knew that "Ay, Ay, Ay It's Christmas" is another one of those songs that people lip sync on YouTube for comedic effect?

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Friday, December 21, 2007

person pot pie

In the new movie, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," Benjamin Barker gets sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit by a judge who wants to steal Barker's pretty wife. Barker gets out of prison, changes his name to Sweeney Todd and re-opens his barber shop with the intention of getting revenge on the judge who sentenced him. After missing an opportunity to murder the judge, Sweeney decides to take out his anger on all his other customers. Somehow, he has a steady stream of victims to dispatch. Wouldn't someone notice that people go in and don't come out? Where do they go? Fortunately for Sweeney, his business is directly above Mrs. Lovett's meat pie shop.

The movie is chock full of blood, gore and music. Or as they might say on Broadway: Blood! Gore! Music! The only song from the stage musical that I ever heard is not in the movie. It's the one that goes "attend the tale of Sweeney Todd." It was part of a Broadway medley that my wife and the rest of the church choir once sang in a special benefit performance.

We went to an advance screening the other night. Even though the film hadn't opened yet, we saw some people dressed as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, which made me wonder why the movie is opening at Christmas instead of Halloween. Sweeney's motive for wanting to kill the judge was clear. He thought the rest of his victims deserved to die only because they were the vermin who live in "a hole in the world like a great black pit." Sweeney seemed a lot less discriminating about who he killed than than my favorite fictional serial killer with a conscience, Dexter Morgan.

Johnny Depp
looked a little like Edward Razorhands when he handled the tools of the barber trade. His character even says that the razor makes his arm complete. Sacha Baron Cohen got laughs as a flamboyant Italian barber. The audience members probably recognized him as Borat.

All in all, "Sweeney Todd" is a well-made film although definitely not a feel good movie. The colors are bleak and the story is tragic. It's the ultimate date movie for Goths.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

laugh hard

There will probably be dozens of newspaper reviews with the same headline as today's blog entry. I went with the obvious choice because I did enjoy "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." The film is a wild spoof of musical biopics like "Walk the Line" and "Ray." Everyone will be talking about the nude scene but the rest of the movie is plenty funny too. At the beginning, Dewey's brother keeps saying things like "nothing bad will happen to me today" and "I have my whole life ahead of me." We all knew what was coming but the details of the inevitable tragedy were surprising and funny.

Two of my favorite funny women from TV appear as Dewey's wives. Kristen Wiig of "Saturday Night Live" plays his 12-year-old bride Edith who eventually leaves after Dewey finds some success. Jenna Fischer of "The Office" is absolutely radiant as Dewey's duet partner and second wife, Darlene. They sing a double entendre filled song called "Let's Duet" and suggestively eat ice cream cones as the romantic tension between them builds. Jenna writes about that scene and warns people about the R-rating in her MySpace blog. I do wish that the singer who provided Darlene's singing voice was a closer match to Jenna's speaking voice. The difference was just enough to notice. Then again, maybe it was done on purpose for comedic effect.

The cast is stocked with actors who have appeared in other Judd Apatow films. Some of them are only on screen briefly but memorably, especially Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman as the Beatles. The movie hit all the rock star cliches I could think of: personal tragedy, drug abuse, trashing hotel rooms and the ultimate redemption. If you can take your comedy served deadpan with a dose of outrageousness and some naked junk, walk, or better yet run, to see "Walk Hard."

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the meme team

The Christmas meme I got the other day is being proliferated throughout the local blogosphere. Stacy McCloud and Barry Wallace have posted their memes after being tagged by me. I need to officially meet Barry. Apparently I've seen his band but we haven't been properly introduced. Les Jones and Doug McCaughan emailed me to say they are working on their Christmas memes. MissyB got tagged by someone else but referenced my frozen egg nog stash in question number five on her meme. Some bloggers got tagged more than once.

In response to question 14, I said that I would write more about my favorite Christmas songs. Every year hearing Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival" overture gets me in the holiday spirit. Thinking about that medley made me realize that "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" should top my list of seasonal favorites. The choir at our church has added a choral version of an Amy Grant song to their repertoire this year. I liked it enough to find the original song in my CD collection and listen to it in my car. As a result, I will add "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" to my list.

I think I've mentioned my secular favorites before. "Sleigh Ride" is another Leroy Anderson composition that I must hear for it to feel like Christmas. "Last Christmas" could almost be described as a guilty pleasure. "All I Want for Christmas Is You" also deserves inclusion. The last few bars of "Happy Holiday" continue to grow on me. At some point in the next few days I will listen to my Andy Williams CD and watch my Andy Williams DVD too.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

movers and shakers

The News Sentinel published a "40 Under 40" list of business and community leaders yesterday. Congratulations are certainly in order for all forty of them but especially for the following four. I didn't expect to recognize any of the names on the list and was pleasantly surprised to know ten percent of them.

Tasha Blakney is someone I would often see at Todd Covert's parties. She's a lawyer like Todd. These are the same parties where I used to see Jon Jefferson, co-author of the Body Farm books.

Jacene England is an architect who works for Mike Michael Brady, Inc. When Einstein Simplified participated in Canstruction to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank, Jacene figured out how to stack some canned food to look like SpongeBob SquarePants or a big nose with glasses. She's also the person who invited me to join LinkedIn and once sent me her Junior Brown photos.

Larsen Jay was working for RIVR Media when he scouted my house for an episode of "Ed the Plumber" on DIY. He also produced "Warehouse Warriors" and had me appear as a judge on one episode. He now has his own company.

Robin Wilhoit anchors the news on WBIR. Everybody knows her. I've been on enough telethons and other Channel 10 shows that she knows me too.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

long answers to short questions

Here's the Christmas meme I got from Jack Lail of the News Sentinel. Rules for the game include:
  1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
  3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
  4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags? If I can't get my daughter to do the wrapping for me, I will resort to gift bags.

2. Real or artificial tree? It used to be real until we moved to Tennessee and made the switch to artificial. We wanted to put the tree up earlier and were afraid of it drying out by the time we finally took it down in January.

3. When do you put up the tree? I don't. My wife does, God bless her, in late November or more likely in early December.

4. When do you take the tree down? It stays up until after the Epiphany.

5. Do you like egg nog? Yes, Weigel's brand with nutmeg on top.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Probably my magic set or my hand puppets but I also loved getting Hot Wheels cars and accessories.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. We have a simple ceramic set made by my mother's second husband. My mother has a classic Anri carved wood set that I have always admired.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I got some horrible "adult" gifts from coworkers at WAVA and Comedy World.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards? I like sending email cards but receiving paper cards.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie? "Miracle on 34th Street" is a strong contender.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? My wife does the bulk of the shopping. This year she went to a 4:00 a.m. sale on Black Friday. I bought a gift for her about two weeks ago and a gift for a friend of mine on the West Coast last week. It seems to get a little earlier each year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Some pfeffernusse and a glass of egg nog.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Currently clear but we are discussing adding colored lights next year.

14. Favorite Christmas song? After this weekend's Knoxville Symphony concert, I would have to say Leroy Anderson's "Christmas Festival Overture". That choice is a little bit of a cop out since it's a medley. I need to make a whole list of my favorites and turn it into its own blog entry later this week.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home. I have a rule that we wake up in our own beds on Christmas morning. That may change once our kids move out.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Sure, can't you?

17. Angel on the tree top or a star? Neither. We have a big red bow. On our first Christmas together, my wife and I couldn't afford a tree topper. We happened to go to a department store called Hecht's on Christmas Eve just as they were dismantling their decorations. We asked how much they were charging for the treetop bows. They said they were going to throw them away and gave us one for free. When that bow wore out, my wife made a new one with different design but the same sentiment.

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? Christmas morning. When I was a kid, we would get up early and open all the presents in our pajamas. Then we would have to stop playing with our toys to get dressed and go to church. When my wife and I became parents, we decided to teach our kids that presents didn't get opened until after church.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Repetitious airplay of the same old secular holiday songs.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? We collect ornaments from all the places we visit. We also have all the official White House ornaments.

21. What do you leave for Santa? Homemade Christmas cookies and store bought egg nog.

22. Least favorite holiday song? There are several including "The Christmas Shoes." Quickly moving up (or is it down?) the list is the Crazy Frog version of "Jingle Bells." Stresiand's version of "Jingle Bells" is horrible too. I don't like "Wonderful Christmastime" either but it's not as bad as the other songs I've already mentioned.

23. Favorite ornament? Most of our ornaments are souvenirs of places we've been. I'm especially fond of the St. Louis Cathedral ornament that I got in New Orleans. It has a hole in the back for a light to be inserted.

The questionnaire I received ends here. No self-respecting Christmas survey should end at question number 23. I will add two questions to make it 25.

24. Family tradition? Whoever finds the pickle ornament on the tree gets to open the first present.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass? Yes, but only once or twice. When our kids were very young, we went to church on Christmas morning. As they got old enough to participate in the children's choir, we started going to the late afternoon Mass on Christmas Eve. Now we go to the 8:00 or 10:30 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve. Our parish doesn't have a Midnight service.

Now I get to tag some other bloggers. This meme calls for seven tags, which seems like a lot. But I'll do it. Merry Christmas to Bean, Rich, Les, Kimmy, Doug, Barry and Stacy. Once you've posted your answers, leave a comment here so my readers can find your responses.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

thanks for the meme-ories

Byron Chesney tagged me with a meme the other day. I've needed time to think about my response because it digs a little deeper than my comfort level allows. I had better respond now that Jack Lail has tagged me with a different meme. I'll get to Jack's tomorrow. Byron's meme asks me to name three things I can't give up, one physical, one mental and one emotional.

Physical - I have a real hard time disposing of anything. In fact, I get a little anxiety each time I delete something from my TiVo. It's even worse when the TiVo gets full and starts deleting stuff on its own. Rather than dwell on the stuff I know I should get rid of, I'll focus on two things I'm glad I kept since childhood. I still have a locker full of baseball cards that I got the hard way, buying them in wax paper wrapped packages with bubble gum and by trading away my duplicates to classmates in exchange for cards I wanted. I also still have my Corgi Batmobile.

Mental - My mind has retained a lot of trivia about "Batman" and the Amazin' Mets. I haven't tested myself in years but I used to know who played each of the guest villains and which Met wore which jersey number.

Emotional - I would prefer to keep the happy emotions but it's the bad feelings that come back to haunt me. When I get really sad it's often because I have remembered the painful feelings from the times that one or the other of our kids was sick enough to need hospitalization. Because of those times, I can get great joy from the fact that they got through it and are now both happy and healthy.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

too many nogs, not enough time

They were offering samples of egg nog in tiny Dixie cups at Sam's Club today. It was not thick enough or sweet enough for my taste. Instead I stopped off at Weigel's on the way home and bought two small containers of their egg nog, which went directly into my freezer.

This past August, I finally drank the Weigel's egg nog I had frozen in 2005. At four ounces per serving, it took me four days to finish the pint. It still tasted great, which is why I decided to freeze two pints this year. Like two years ago, I wanted to find bottles with an expiration date of 12-25. They only had 12-20, 12-22 and 12-29. I almost didn't buy any. Fortunately I got over my little obsessive moment and bought the 12-29 since it would be freshest.

I know that I will have to watch my calories for the rest of my life. It's tough this time of year because of the abundance of treats to tempt my sweet tooth. I would love to have a scoop of egg nog ice cream at Baskin-Robbins but I'm not sure if I'll get around to it. My starchy dance card has been filled lately with things like the slice of pie I had at the company Christmas party tonight, the piece of cake I had after Tuesday's improv show or the Christmas cookies our family will bake in the week ahead.

Another treat I'm curious to try but probably won't is boiled custard. I'm not exactly sure what it would taste like, although I did find a recipe on a blog that described it as egg nog without the nog. Does that mean it tastes like just egg? I saw some boiled custard at Kroger the other day, alongside some pumpkin egg nog. That's something else I would like to try but I won't buy a half gallon container. I might be tempted to drink the whole thing.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

joyful and triumphant

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra presented the first of four Clayton Holiday Concerts tonight. The remaining shows are Saturday at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. The concert has become an annual tradition for our family. My wife sings on stage with the Knoxville Choral Society. As usual, the opening number was the "Christmas Festival Overture." I love the feeling I get during it, especially as the music and voices swell at the "O Come All Ye Faithful" part near the end of the medley.

The Choral Society was in fine voice even without the members who are performing in the Holy Land this month. Their second song, "
Welcome All Wonders," had that modern dissonant sound that I don't love. My wife says the song takes some getting used to. My son, who has heard her sing along with the practice CD in her car, agrees that it get better after you've heard it a few times.

Perhaps it's because I've been going for several years in a row but the 21st Annual Clayton Holiday Concert had a very comfortable feel to me. Past years' shows felt a bit more ambitious. For example, a few years back they presented parts of a play that Maestro Lucas Richman had written. Those pieces needed more room than is available with a full orchestra and choir already on stage. "A Christmas Wish" deserves its own staging rather than being shoehorned into an annual tradition. Last year and the year before the program included featured soloists, some better than others. In addition to the Choral Society, this year's show had return appearances by the Appalachian Ballet Company and the best singing Santa you'll ever hear. Mr. Claus was featured on "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silent Night." Santa and Maestro Richman always get laughs with their playful banter.

Even the new performers felt familiar to me.
Thanks to Katy Wolfe Zahn's affiliation with the Symphony, the members of Sound Company get to perform at bigger events now. My daughter was in the Oak Ridge based children's show choir during her senior year in high school. I recognized their red sequined vests instantly. The kids sang on five songs including "Must Be Santa" and "Grown-up Christmas List."

At the end of the first half, my son asked why we all stood during the "Hallelujah Chorus." He wondered if it was a Southern thing. I told him to look at my blog entry from two years ago.

The second half began with Lucas Richman's Hanukkah Festival Orchestra. I enjoyed the upbeat music, especially the recognizable "Dreidel Song." Am I wrong to have wished he had included a few bars of Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song" in the medley too?

A photo montage was shown on two large screens during the Choral Society's excellent performance of "White Christmas." The performers were invited to submit holiday pictures from their families. We saw ourselves thanks to my wife, who emailed them a picture from last Christmas. We all stood again for the Christmas sing along. Overall, the show felt relaxed and the performers made it look easy. At the end of two hours, I was left wanting more.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

which is better, cake or pie?

The finance department employees at Scripps Networks invited me to be a judge for their cake decorating contest today. When I arrived at the headquarters, I was excited to see that the control room was visible from the lobby.

The contest was inspired by "Ace of Cakes." In fact the first cake I saw looked like Duff Goldman. One of the other judges took off several points because of the unsightly stick propping up Duff's head. Tough room.

The following three cakes tied for first place. A Christmas tree scored points for being completely edible. They used Fruit Rollups for the ribbon and jelly beans for the ornaments. Several of the other cakes had internal supports or plastic decorations.

The Snoopy cake deserved its prize for the working Christmas lights and the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I'm not entirely sure about the actual Milk Bones though.

I was also impressed by the cake designed to look like a glass of milk, served with a plate of cookies for Santa. If you look closely, you can see that there is a real glass of milk in the center of the cake.

The contestants and judges each received some small parting gifts from each of the Scripps Networks. We got an apron from Food Network, a folding ruler from DIY and a key fob vial from GAC. What was inside the little waterproof container with the country music network logo on it? Earplugs.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the spirits up

Whitney Matheson of USA Today doesn't miss an opportunity to point out the lameness of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." Yesterday she linked to another clever list of the worst Christmas songs ever which ranked "WC" at only number eleven. They put "Do They Know It's Christmas?" as their number one. By the way, Whitney has a Knoxville connection. She graduated from UT.

Meanwhile, my friend Bean seems to be on board too. On his Christmas Music Everyday blog, he posted a cover version of "Wonderful Christmastime" by Jars of Clay. He writes that "the only listenable Paul McCartney songs of the 21st century can not be sung by Paul McCartney." Hey, it looks like Jars of Clay will be performing in Pigeon Forge on January 26 and Gatlinburg on February 1. They probably won't play any of their Christmas songs though.

As I type this, I'm watching "Christmas in Washington" on TNT in HD. Dr. Phil and his wife returned as hosts for the annual event. Robin McGraw's reading of the teleprompter was very stiff and almost too uncomfortable to watch. Both Katherine McPhee and Ne-Yo sounded good. Colbie Caillat looked nervous in what they said was her national TV debut. Vanessa Hudgens sounded weak, especially when attempting the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" part of "Angels We Have Heard on High." Then Heather Headley came on to show them how it's done.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

have yourself a meery little Christmas

How can you get a five dollar discount on a delicious sheet cake at the supermarket bakery? I found out tonight at the last Einstein Simplified show of the year (we're now off until January 15). Loyal audience member Tom brought the cake to share with us after the performance. He had inadvertently placed the order with an employee whose English wasn't quite as good as that of the rest of the staff. Or maybe she's just a huge fan of Meerkat Manor.

Joann Dunkle used to come to the Einstein Simplified shows and expressed an interest in joining the group before she moved to Chicago. Now that she's living in the improv Mecca, she's taking a class at ComedySportz. I got an email from her this morning with a link to a local news story about the class. She wrote that you can see her briefly near the end of the story playing two games with reporter Mark Saxenmeyer.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

alpha and omega man

Is it possible for me to boycott a movie I was never going to see? The Catholic League and other Christian groups are urging supporters to avoid "The Golden Compass." Okay. Nothing about the story interested me anyway. They're saying that the controversy did put a dent in the box office returns.

As movie ticket prices rise, I've gotten pickier about which films I pay to see. I did pay a little extra to see "Beowulf" in 3D and I might pay a little extra to see "I Am Legend" on the new IMAX screen that opens this week at the Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18. If you want to see the new theater and save some money, you can catch a $2 IMAX screening of "Spider-Man 3" or "300" on Wednesday and Thursday. The money goes to the Empty Stocking Fund.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

where's Brookshier?

Andrew Siciliano sounded almost as surprised as I was to hear Pat Summerall calling today's Rams at Bengals game. I thought he had retired two or three times by now. Because the Redskins had already played this week, I was free to enjoy Andrew's amazing expertise on the Red Zone Channel on DirecTV today. Well, technically I watched it on because I was away from home during football time. A couple of times Siciliano switched to the game in Cincinnati when things got slow in all the other games. I think it was just to listen to Summerall. They don't normally flip to a game just as the announcer wraps up the first half and tosses it to commercial.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

shave and a haircut, two bits

A couple of new mini shopping centers on Middlebrook Pike are nearing completion. Snap Fitness Club will go in to one that is still under construction near the Pilot with the new, smaller sign. Nixon's Deli will be in the other one, which I wrote about in July. Nixon's neighbor will be Gentlemen's Top Cuts. I have seen their huge billboard along I-40 while driving back from Farragut. They promise to hire stylists who will wear "eye-pleasing outfits."

I started going to barber shops with only female barbers when I moved to California. Shear Pleasure in Toluca Lake catered to several older Hollywood types like Jonathan Winters and honorary mayor Johnny Grant. The matronly stylists always offered customers a soda from the mini-fridge. During the Christmas season, they often had the hard stuff available too. I moved to Tennessee and soon found Mr. George's, which I liked because the haircuts were only $6 at the time. Now they charge $7. Mr. George was the only man who worked there. He had some health issues and his all-female staff has taken over. They dress in normal barber attire. Mr. George's is literally just around the corner from the spot where Gentlemen's Top Cuts will be. Since my makeover, I've been going back to Stacey Handel at Garde Bien every month for a haircut. In fact, I'm scheduled for one on Wednesday.

The prices at Gentlemen's Top Cuts are steep. Who will pay $100 for the "King Treatment?" A $20 regular haircut there is called the "Wimpy Cut." Is it named after Popeye's friend? Probably not. The "Top Cut" will be $45 and will include a neck massage and a shampoo to wash away all those annoying little hairs. The neck massage was also a feature at Shear Pleasure. It was okay but what has really spoiled me are the post-haircut shampoos at Garde Bien. I no longer have to wear my "special haircut shirt," which has an eyeball bending black and white design that would hide both the dark and the not-so-dark hairs that fell on my shoulders.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

dinner dance

The first annual All Saints parish Christmas party was held tonight in the gym at Knoxville Catholic High School. The place was packed. My wife heard that nearly 900 people had RSVP-ed. Over 700 of them showed up. The parish provided the meat, the beer and the wine (and the soft drinks). The parishioners brought salads, side dishes and desserts. After the party, the excess was taken to Samaritan Place. I had my first ever taste of Strawberry Pretzel Salad and really loved it. There weren't any leftovers of that. Before dinner, Fr. Michael Woods grabbed the microphone to make an announcement and to say grace. As he tried to get everyone to be quiet, he quipped that this was why they didn't serve wine at the beginning of Mass.

At the other end of the building, the drama students were putting on a play in the Megan Birkel Performing Arts Center. As we left the party, we saw a car in the high school parking lot with something written on the windows. My wife pointed out that teenagers are really getting carried away with their text messaging nowadays.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

north polarizing

The most loved Christmas song on Edison Media Research's 2007 survey is "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. I believe it, based on the number of times I have heard its first few notes and changed the station. I don't hate the song but it is burned out to me, like chestnuts left on an open fire for 50 years.

The Edison results are reported by Sean Ross, who I think might be the same Sean Ross I knew at my first radio job at WVBK in Herndon, Virginia. Sean points out that the newest song on the most loved list is 36 years old. I know I've covered this topic before but it's still something that interests me.

My friend Bean has some insight about why we still hear the same old Christmas songs over and over. He picks Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" as a song that will stand the test of time.

I'm thinking that Wham's "Last Christmas" is becoming a classic, especially now that there are more cover versions of it. In the past few years I have heard covers of it by Dexter Frebish, Jimmy Eat World, Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Swift. Even the Wham original is easier to find than it was about six or seven years ago when I tried to catalog my collection of Christmas music. As I made a spreadsheet of the songs on my CDs, I realized that I didn't have a copy of the Wham tune. I searched for it online and in record stores to no avail. My wife finally found it at the Virgin Megastore on an expensive British import compilation two-disc set. It was my favorite gift that year.

The Knoxville Blog Network tipped me to a list of Jim Miller's personal top ten Christmas songs. I like that he picked "Last Christmas" as his number one but I must disagree with his choice of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." This is not a surprise to longtime readers of mine.

Edison's most hated list contains no surprises. Although I would have liked to see the McCartney song on there, I was pleased to find Barbra Streisand's version of "Jingle Bells" at number 5. I don't remember ever hearing the song until I worked at a local oldies station but I do remember instantly disliking it. While I still loathe the song, I had to laugh at the guys who lip sync it on YouTube, whether in their bedroom or in a drag club.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

horse sense

Eight big celebrities are in town this week. My wife spotted them at Food City and called to suggest I drive over to see them too.

The Budweiser Clydesdales made an appearance at the grocery store and with Erin Donovan on today's "Live At Five" today. They'll be in the Gatlinburg Christmas Parade on Friday evening and in the Maryville/Alcoa Jaycees Christmas Parade on Saturday morning.

The Clydesdales are famous for their feather, which is what you call the white hair on their ankles. Their horseshoes made some marks on the parking lot asphalt that I thought might look like a night sky full of stars to my camera phone. I couldn't leave out the official Clydesdales shovel, which apparently has its own golf cart.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

it's surreal thing

The face at the restaurant looked familiar to my daughter this past weekend. She wrote, "Look! It's you! I saw this at Macaroni Grill." I'd somehow been Picasso-ized by a stranger with a crayon at a restaurant 400 miles from here.

Maybe somebody should start up a website that lets you convert a photo of yourself into a Picasso masterpiece. Over the summer, my daughter ran my photo through the SimpsonizeMe website and tweaked it to come out with a fairly accurate result.

While we're on an artistic bent, you might recall the time I posted a doodle drawn by my daughter.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

whose whine is it anyway?

Todd Covert was surprised to hear that he wouldn't be seeing me at the Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood show. The famous improvisers performed in Knoxville last night. Even with the five dollar online discount offered to Einstein Simplified fans, the tickets were too expensive for me. With service charges It would have been about $100 for a pair. Before you get mad, yes I know that I'm spoiled by the free concert tickets I sometimes get. I freely admit it.

I thought there might be a slim chance of getting two of those free tickets by doing a phone interview with one of the stars and posting it on my blog. I sent in a request to record a podcast with Brad last week but didn't hear back. The Daily Beacon talked with Colin while the News Sentinel interviewed Brad. I had to chuckle when Doug Mason misidentified Wayne Brady in the sixth paragraph. He called him Greg Brady.

After the high school swim meet yesterday, one of the other parents approached me. "I heard you'd like to go to the show tonight," she said. My wife was sitting next to me as I replied, "Are you asking me out on a date?" "No," said the other woman, "I'm trying to sell you my extra ticket!" She had purchased tickets to the show and then ended up getting another pair in a silent auction at the Turkey Trot 5K. I asked if the spare was a $45 or $55 ticket. She wanted to sell it for the $45 face value. I declined her kind offer. On the way home, I briefly considered driving down to the Tennessee Theatre at showtime to see if any scalpers were selling tickets for half price or less.

Since I was too cheap to go to the show, I looked online today for any reviews by bloggers who may have been there. The only thing I have found so far are the fan reactions posted on the Colin & Brad site. Apparently Ooltewah was one of the suggestions in a guessing game. If you did get to the show, please tell me about it in the comments.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

bury, bury good

How could a movie from the 1950s be in hi-def, my son wanted to know. I was about to watch "The Trouble with Harry," which I had never seen. It was on at three o'clock this morning during an Alfred Hitchcock marathon on HDNet Movies. The answer came shortly after I hit the DVR's play button the VistaVision logo filled our plasma screen. The movie opened with images of Vermont in its autumnal glory. My wife jokingly asked if I was actually watching "Planet Earth," the renowned HD nature series. The movie looked so good that my wife and son ended up watching it with me.

Last night I caught the end of "Psycho," which, even in black and white, was spectacular. I turned it on just in time to see Arbogast arrive at the Bates Motel. My "Psycho" DVD may not be working, but I still know the movie pretty well. While we were out today, I recorded the HD broadcasts of "Rear Window" and "The Birds." One is for my wife, the other is for my son. We'll have to save the Bodega Bay travelogue for a time when she's out of the house.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


The first of the month is when I try to do a little bit of blog maintenance. If I add a new bell or whistle, it usually shows up on the first. For example, I added a few things to the sidebar on November 1. Today I put a widget called AddThis on each entry. It makes it easier for you to submit me to Digg or StumbleUpon or several other networking sites. Let me know how well it works for you.

I joined the blogosphere on August 1, 2005. It's an enjoyable hobby which I plan to continue for the foreseeable future. When I write here, I often think of it as a letter to my friends and relatives outside Knoxville, even though very few of them actually read it. I try to keep the topics here separate from those that I bring up on the radio. Sometimes I have to delete reader comments that are too much about the morning show and not enough about the subject at hand. Again, this blog is my hobby, the radio show is my job.

Earlier this week, the radio station webmaster asked all the Star 102.1 deejays to start blogging on the station's official website. I wrote and posted my first entry while I was at work today. My intention is to use that blog to expand upon some things we discuss on the morning show. I will post there a couple of times a week while I'm at work. I'll continue my daily posting here from home. I invite you to click over and read my work blog occasionally. It would make my bosses happy if you did.

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