Thursday, January 31, 2008

please, please, please don't go away

The TV in our living room stayed tuned to WATE all evening for "Lost" and the new show that followed. "Eli Stone" was pretty good and worth watching again next week. One of the stars is Natasha Henstridge, who first became famous in the movie "Species." I remember when she visited KLOS to promote "Species II." As I recall, she was pregnant at the time. A few months before I started my blog, I saw Natasha at the 2005 "American Idol" finale party. I would have liked to have had my picture taken with her but the opportunity didn't present itself. Instead I took a picture of Natasha posing with a fellow partygoer because she looked a bit like my Aunt Kitty McArdle. Not Natasha, the other lady. I've been hanging on to the picture all this time in case I ever had reason to write about either Natasha or Aunt Kitty even though she wasn't really a relative but a close family friend.

The 11 o'clock news on WATE had another story about the unusual advertising campaign for "Lost." My grandmother will probably be interested to know that Knoxville has one of only a very few Oceanic Air billboards. Maybe the placement of that billboard means Sawyer is one of the "Oceanic Six." I'll have to ask Grandma if she started watching "Lost" again. She had thought about giving up the show when it became too much about the Others.

Speaking of WATE, I will miss their noon newscast. Terry Morrow reports that the station will drop the broadcast after tomorrow. I was one of the people who watched it almost every day. Other stations owned by the same company have been canceling newscasts and making staff cutbacks. I was glad to see in Terry's report that Lori Tucker is staying put.

There's still one more show on WATE for me tonight. I will record "Jimmy Kimmel Live," as I always do and watch it later. Tonight he celebrates five years on the air. Happy anniversary Jimmy!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

poll vault

Internet traffic must have been busy tonight at I repeatedly got error messages when I tried to load the page during prime time. I finally got through but not until late in the evening. My son told me about the site as he and I were talking about next week's election and about his AP Government class, which I mentioned here two weeks ago.

Because I don't know how I'm going to vote, my son suggested that I answer a brief questionnaire to see which presidential candidate best matched my views. Since I couldn't connect to OnTheIssues, I sought out some similar sites. A Sacramento Bee article listed several.

The various quiz results weren't quite as helpful as I had hoped. USA Today's Candidate Match Game was perhaps too simple. With only eleven questions, it omitted some issues that are important to me. It told me that my best match was a candidate who has already dropped out. Glassbooth had me assign points to issues, which was an extra step I didn't want. As a result, it pointed me to a long-shot candidate. Once I was able to get to OnTheIssues, it was hard to find the link to their survey. The Sacramento Bee article said their quiz was actually hosted on, so I just went straight there. My match scores there were pretty low. I think it's because my views don't line up neatly with either political party. I would be considered to be liberal on some issues yet conservative on others. Too bad I can't vote in both primaries.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

what the chuck

Occasionally the Web Watch column in the News Sentinel describes a website that piques my interest. When that happens, I wonder why I haven't remembered to read the column every week. Then I click through the archives until I lose interest and the cycle begins again. Friday's column had two sites that I may spend some time exploring.

TV Series Finale is "devoted to the last chapter of your favorite shows." It will take me several visits to get through their list of shows.

Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
describes a phenomenon that drove me crazy when one of the kids on "Life With Bonnie" vanished without explanation.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

advanced molecular chemistry

The last thing I needed to do was add another series to my television viewing repertoire. But that's what happened after watching the first two episodes of "Breaking Bad." I almost let this one slip by. Fortunately, Terry Morrow's review persuaded me to give it a try. Now I'm giving it a TiVo Season Pass so I don't miss an episode. The first two episodes will be repeated on Super Bowl Sunday.

Part of my initial reluctance came from feeling that I had missed the boat on another of AMC's original series. "Breaking Bad" got many favorable reviews that also mentioned "Mad Men." I had sampled the first episode of "Mad Men," fully expecting to be enthralled. Something about it just didn't click. It seemed a little put on or forced to me. Also, instead of enjoying the story, all I could think about was whether the IBM Selectric II Typewriters in one scene were an anachronism or not. (They were.) I know I didn't give it a fair chance but I felt that they were more interested in making a social commentary about today than telling a story about a time, place and topic that interested me.

"Breaking Bad," however, has hooked me on several levels. Bryan Cranston gives an outstanding, Emmy-worthy performance as Walter White, a desperate man who made a very bad choice. He's a chemistry teacher working a terrible second job at a car wash. He has a teenage son with cerebral palsy and a wife who is at least ten years younger and pregnant. The combination of going on a police ride-along to a drug bust and learning that he has terminal lung cancer give Walt the motive and opportunity to team up with a reluctant partner, a flunked student who cooks crystal meth.

Another level is the pairing of teacher and failed student. I loved the way Walt insists on applying proper lab technique to his meth making, over the objections of his drug-abusing accomplice, Jesse Pinkman. Lastly, there is the level that appeals to my interest in forensics as the two must dispose of a body. Jesse fails to follow Walt's instructions with disastrous results. The episode dovetailed nicely with the chapter I'm currently reading in "Dead Men Do Tell Tales."

The AMC webpage for the show pointed me to an Amazon Unbox free download of "The Making of Breaking Bad." In the short documentary, creator Vince Gilligan said, "The audience doesn't have to agree with anything Walt is doing but they have to understand why he's doing what he's doing. If you have sympathy for him as a human being you can hate his choice but maybe you can kind of understand how he would come to make that choice." He summed up the show by asking, "What if we take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface over the course of 40 or 50 episodes?" I can't wait to find out.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

dem bones

A sign at the entrance to the new forensic anthropology exhibit at the Frank H. McClung Museum (through May 7) warns visitors about the graphic images ahead. Another sign prohibits visitors from taking pictures.

To prepare for my next interview with Dr. Bill Bass, I had planned to go to the museum yesterday during a break between the preliminaries and finals of the city meet. Instead I went today, which makes it look like I got the idea from a great feature article in this morning's paper. The exhibit has displays of various skulls and other bones as well as a series of large color photographs of a body decomposing in the August heat.

As far as I could tell, taking photos in the gift shop was allowed. They had a table with autographed copies of the first two Body Farm novels and the most recent non-fiction book. Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bass will be there to sign copies of their new book, "The Devil's Bones," three weeks from today on February 17.

The forensic products for children amused me. Wannabe CSIs can get started with the Detective Science Fingerprint Kit or a "Human Anatomy Coloring Book." They also had a "Crime Scene Detective" book for kids and a mysterious product from China called Organ Slime.

I liked the way the red Human Remains Recovery School shirts caught the sunlight coming in through the window. Perhaps the best gift choices were the Forensic Anthropology Center patches and black t-shirts. I couldn't justify spending $22 on a t-shirt for myself or I would have gotten one.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008


The lady sitting next to me in the bleachers said today was the first time she had been to the city meet. I told her it was my last. At least for the winter season anyway. I think there will be one more summer city meet in my future. The term is a bit of a misnomer. Schools from Knox and several surrounding counties comprise the Knoxville-area Interscholastic Swim League.

The city meet was supposed to be held in the new Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. at the University of Tennessee. Construction delays put the meet back in the 40-year-old Student Aquatic Center instead. I'm sure I wasn't the only person who was a little disappointed about not seeing the new building. The gallery was so packed with parents that it was difficult at times to even see the pool.

From past years, I knew that it would be a hot, stuffy and uncomfortable experience in the stands. I made sure to bring a seat cushion and to wear a short sleeve shirt under my other layers. The people seated in front of me were complaining about the odor of chlorine in the air. I had no problem with the smell or the heat, it was the noise that got me. I wish I had brought the earplugs I got from that country music network.

The crowd noise wasn't a problem. It was the ear-splitting sound from the P.A. system that left me in pain. We had to stick our fingers in our ears as the announcer listed which teams would warm up in which lanes. The more enthusiastic he was, the louder he got. I thought my head would explode when he told the owner of a Mazda Miata that their headlights were on. One school's swim team tried covering a loudspeaker with a towel to no avail. Another announcer would occasionally read the results of the boys' events. He was loud too, but not as piercing.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

let the points soar

Every year I get frustrated by the NFL's momentum-killing bye week after the playoffs. I've even suggested that they excuse the Super Bowl players from the Pro Bowl and move the Hawaiian two-hand touch game to this weekend. Or stage a consolation bowl between the Packers and Chargers.

As I wait and hope that the Giants can be giant-killers, the NFL Network is giving me something to pass the time. Several times a day they have been replaying games in their entirety. Tonight they showed the Giants vs. Packers game from last Sunday. They've also been running some Super Bowls from the past.

The other day I flipped past and got immediately hooked in by a classic Redskins victory. My wife and son watched with me. We were just in time to see Doug Williams' first touchdown pass of Super Bowl XXII. The Redskins went on to score 42 unanswered points, winning the game 42 to 10.

Seeing the old coverage made me appreciate the advances in television since then. The 20-year-old graphics and camera angles seemed truly archaic. The announcers were Frank Gifford, Dan Dierdorf and an unrecognizable Al Michaels. His voice has changed dramatically over the years. Is it just me or does Michaels do the overwhelming majority of the talking on the Madden NFL video game?

It was great to see my son watch that game for the first time. He's a Redskins fan who is too young to remember the last time they were in the Super Bowl. For my wife and me, it was complete nostalgia. After each extra point, we shouted "Ali Haji-Sheikh," the name of a place kicker we had long since forgotten. The ABC cameras didn't always cut away, which let us hear this sound several times.

As Ricky Sanders caught touchdown after touchdown, I was reminded of his performance at the team's victory celebration back in D.C. This young broadcaster was there to witness Sanders catch a pass from President Ronald Reagan. My good friend Bean and I described it live on WAVA.

In the time leading up to the game, we did some anti-Broncos smack talking on the morning show. Management complained when we said "Denver Sucks" on the air so I came up with an alternative catch phrase by looking in the dictionary: "The Broncos draw liquids into their mouths by creating a partial vacuum with their lips, cheeks and tongues." A listener made us some "Denver Sucks" hats, which we ungraciously wore to the White House. I have a picture taken using some antique technology. As you can see, a flaw in this "film" makes it look like I have something coming out of my nose.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

for the mighty and the bold

Seeing the word Knoxville on the Engadget HD site caused me to do a double take today. They ran a blurb about DirecTV finally offering HD versions of our local channels. I thought about trying to write a whole blog entry about this but two things have distracted me. First of all, I can't find the price for the HD channels on the DirecTV website without placing an order.

Secondly, my wife is making a batch of Oreo truffles as her dessert contribution to the casino night at KCHS on Saturday. If you're going to the Luck of the Irish Party, be sure to sample one of these delicious treats.

The smell of Oreo in the air prompted me to start singing (if you can call it that) the DSRL theme from the new Double Stuf commercials. My wife thought I was trying to sing Dies Irae which is part of several famous requiems, like Mozart's for example.

Since I was so far off tune, I registered at the DSRL website just so I could download the theme song by the Lords of the Future. I even put a copy of it on my mp3 phone. I sent the link to both of my kids too with the warning that the tune was stuck in my head. Here's my daughter's response:
...thanks? now it's stuck in my head forever...grrr
so, what the deuce was that? it sounds like someone playing Guitar Hero on Nintendo Wii. pretty whack...and not just the regular type. no, that was wiggitty-whack

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

mired wagazine

It stung a little bit to see radio on Wired Magazine's new list of "Things That Suck." Obviously, I still enjoy radio and have hope for its future. However the Wired article does raise valid points. Radio does remain viable as a way for new songs to get mainstream exposure but it is unique content that will guarantee the medium's survival. With the technology available to us today, the main reasons for listening to long sets of music on the radio are convenience and price. We give up song selection and sit through a few songs we don't like because it's cheap and easy to listen to music on the radio. Ultimately we may get bored with the music on the air and switch to a CD or MP3. It's the talk and information that makes a radio station worth our time. It's hearing opinions with which we agree and disagree that will engage our minds. It's a community for us to call in and express our thoughts about a celebrity or a local news story. That's what makes radio great.

HD radio is supposed to rescue the industry from iPods and the Internet. It may very well do so but not for the reasons being pushed on us. The braintrust behind HD is mainly promoting the audio fidelity angle. The AM band does stand to benefit from a static free broadcast more than FM. I've read Mark Ramsey's 2005 essay about HD that points out consumers are choosing lower audio quality and greater selection. You've done this yourself if you've ever taken some CDs and compressed them into MP3 files to fit more songs onto a portable device. Therefore it may not be the better sound of HD radio that listeners want, it might be the additional channels of programming that it could offer. So far most stations that run a secondary channel of programming are filling it with music that true fans would already have on their iPods. It's time to open up the airwaves to stuff that can't be found elsewhere and that stuff is personality radio.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

too soon

Some audience members at the Einstein Simplified show tonight wanted us to joke about Heath Ledger's sad death. Fortunately we ignored their suggestions.

I heard the news about Heath from my daughter, who knew I would want to know as soon as she saw the breaking news on CNN and Fox News this afternoon. When she called, I was watching our local stations, which were reporting only on the winter weather.

By odd coincidence, my friend Bean posted a blog entry early this morning about the rash of celebrity deaths so far in 2008. My friend Lisa Burks has an entire blog about (mostly celebrity) deaths.

When I turned on my cell phone this morning, I had a voice mail from Terry Morrow. He said he wanted to ask me something about Brad Renfro. Terry wasn't there when I called back so I don't know for sure that he wanted to try and talk me into going to Brad's funeral, which was yesterday or his burial, which was today. But that's what I suspect.

The Associated Press made news with their decision to prepare an advance obituary for Britney Spears. The concept of updating the obit files was even the plot of a "Mary Tyler Moore Show" episode. Yet, the most recent deaths of the young and famous caught the wire services unprepared. Some writers feel they should only keep obituary files on older, more accomplished stars. With instant news on the Internet, readers now expect to see complete obituaries as soon as a celebrity dies. The news services will have a hard time keeping pace with Wikipedia.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

five squared

Yesterday's game between the Giants and Packers left me torn. As a football fan, I wanted to see Brett Favre do well after the great season he's had. But as the son of two Giants fans, I felt some loyalty to Big Blue.

I know that my mother was rooting for New York. She told me how much she enjoyed the game when I talked with her today. My late father was a big fan of the Giants. He had season tickets and everything. As a result, I got to see the Giants play at Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium. Still, I didn't become a real fan of football until later when I was working at WAVA and I met several of the Washington Redskins as they came in for interviews.

Today is the anniversary of Dad's passing. It's hard to believe that my sisters and I have lived longer since his death than we had before it. My mother has maintained a connection to my father's memory by keeping his Giants season tickets in the family. One of my New York cousins buys the tickets from her each year. The other day Mom got an email from the team with information about the Super Bowl ticket lottery. If she had gotten tickets, I wonder if I would have wanted to buy them from her. I've always thought that I would rather watch the Super Bowl on TV (especially in high definition) than go to the game.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

no time like the present

The news of Suzanne Pleshette's death wouldn't have caught me off guard today if I had read about her poor health last fall. Instead I was watching her in "The Birds." By coincidence, I just saw her interviewed in the profile of Bob Newhart on "American Masters" that I had recorded last month on PBS and finally watched on Friday night.

The obituaries described her as "husky-voiced' or "smoky-voiced." Listening to her speak, it wasn't much of a surprise that she succumbed to respiratory failure. The longtime smoker had been fighting lung cancer. There's a nice appreciation of Suzanne's work on USA Today's website.

As usual, I hope that when people hear the sad news they will decide to quit smoking.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

sales call agitates many

The guy on the phone said his name was Eddie Portland. He called me at home yesterday and claimed that my name had been drawn in a contest which I had no recollection of entering. Could he be telling the truth? I'm on the National Do Not Call Registry. He knew my name and phone number and mentioned what he thought was my annual income. I only wish he had been right about that amount.

Eddie said I had won one of four prizes: a choice between a Lincoln Navigator or $50,000; a cruise to the Bahamas for two; a $2,500 cashier's check or a 32-inch flat screen TV. Sounds good, right? To claim it, my wife and I would each have to bring two forms of I.D., preferably a driver's license and major credit card, to Gatlinburg this weekend. After attending a 90-minute presentation on a vacation resort, we would then have to pluck scratcher tickets out of a drum to see which prize we had won.

Feeling suspicious, I looked online. Others had posted about their experiences with the same company in other cities. I decided not to bother with it when I read about people who went to a presentation expecting to be there for only an hour and a half but were stuck for over three hours instead. Still more complained about the hard-sell techniques. I wish I could have found a post from someone who got their prize, didn't have to buy anything and was happy about the experience. No such luck.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

just to have a laugh

This week's episode of "Pioneers of Television" was about variety shows. The stuff about "The Ed Sullivan Show" was fascinating and all new to me. I don't remember my parents ever watching the Sullivan show during my early childhood.

I've been enjoying "Pioneers." When they focused on "The Carol Burnett Show," I heard something that reminded me of why I love performing with an improv group.
Narrator: One key to Burnett’s long success was her willingness to share the laughs with her co-stars.

Tim Conway: We were all participants. We were contributors. She accepted every contribution of a line, or a thought or a thing from everybody.

Vicki Lawrence: I remember Harvey saying, “You have no idea because most stars are very selfish. They’ll have things rewritten to where they get the joke lines and they will not be supportive of you.” I think one of the most important things that I learned from Carol is that you are as good as the people that surround you.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

it'll last longer

Admission to the Knoxville Museum of Art is free on Tuesdays. When they had another free day on a recent Sunday, my wife suggested that we go take a look. I don't know anything about art, which was probably proven when I liked the exhibit from local high school students better than the works of the professionals. I also liked the photography exhibition better than the paintings.

Among the photos, my favorites were "Ladies Man" by Sarah Hobbs and "Stadium Light" by David S. Allee. "Ladies Man" shows hundreds of corks, each labeled with the first name of the romantic conquest who shared the bottle of wine. A photo called "Knoxville Summer" looked like it could be an ad for Krystal.

I think the last time I went to an art museum might have been many years ago when my sister took me to an exhibition of either abstract impressionism or abstract expressionism. That was all I could think of when I noticed that the Knoxville museum is protected by Abstract Security.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

strange bedfellows

There are plenty of reasons for me to be proud of my son. He works hard on his school assignments and tries to improve his time at each swim meet. Without taking anything away from his academic or athletic accomplishments, I have to say that his sense of humor gives me the most gratification. I love it when he makes me laugh. The other day he told me that he and his classmates in AP Government were wishing that Ralph Nader could somehow be chosen as Barack Obama's running mate. It's got nothing to do with politics. They just want to see an "Obama-Nader" bumper sticker.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

jell-o shots and pillows

Tonight was the first Einstein Simplified show of the year. A larger-than-usual crowd showed up to watch us knock off the cobwebs after a month-long Christmas hiatus. We have to get the audience back in the habit of voting for us in the Improv Top 50. A high school group from Huntington Beach has been challenging our number one position lately.

One of the bigger tables at tonight's performance was occupied by a singles group who had organized their night out on Two of the singles told me they would get the group to come to our show again.

When I'm downtown, I'm more likely to get recognized from the improv stage than from the radio. It happened about a month ago at Regas Restaurant when we had a waiter who used to work at Patrick Sullivan's. That's not to say I don't sometimes get recognized from being on the air. On the day after Christmas, a sales clerk at the Eddie Bauer outlet in Pigeon Forge told my wife that she knew it was me from my voice. She listens enough to know my wife's name too. My favorite story about being recognized happened the other day at Sam's Club. Neither my job nor my hobby meant anything to the lady who serves fresh fruit samples. She just knew that I was a regular shopper and sampler.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

flavor fave

As popular as "American Idol" is, I shouldn't have been so surprised to see the familiar logo filling an ice cream case at my local Wal-Mart. The punsters at Edy's / Dreyer's must have worked overtime to come up with five new flavor names: One Split Wonder, Mint Karaoke Cookie, Cookies 'n Dreamz, Cheesecake Diva and one that Vols fans will love, Most Orange-inal.

For the uninitiated, Edy's is the brand name they use in the East. It's known as Dreyer's out West. Kind of like Hellmann's mayonnaise, which is called Best Foods west of the Rockies.

My extensive research shows that Dreyer's did this last year too, with five different flavors that had names not quite as clever as this year's. Did you try Take the Cake, Choc 'n Roll Caramel, Hollywood Cheesecake, Soulful Sundae Cone or Triple Talent?

Season 6 Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle and another guy I barely remember host a website where you can vote for your favorite new slow-churned flavor. I wonder who was on the Edy's website last year? Melissa McGhee and Kevin Covais? How about Scott Savol?

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

now batting, number 16...

The Washington Nationals will be in New York to play the Mets on Thursday, April 17. That morning the new Nationals Park will open its doors at 6:30 a.m. to 45,000 fans who are not expecting to see any baseball. Instead, the Pope will be in center field on the day after his 81st birthday.

Yesterday my brother-in-law sent out an email urging everyone in our extended family not to buy tickets to the Papal Mass. They're supposed to be free. He may have seen a recent Washington Post article about the event. Here's a quote from it:
Plans for distributing tickets have not been completed. In the past, tickets to major Catholic events have been distributed through parishes and Catholic organizations.

The archdiocese has been asked whether non-Catholics can attend (yes) and whether the Mass is part of the Nationals baseball ticket package (no).

The archdiocese is trying to keep the free tickets from popping up on eBay and falling into the hands of scalpers.

The Mass "is for the faithful who want to be with the Holy Father," [Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan] Gibbs said. "It shouldn't be an opportunity for people to make money."

The popemobile -- a specially designed automobile used by the pope during public appearances -- will be used to transport the pope into and around the stadium.
Although I can't make it, I've heard that some local Catholics are planning a bus trip to D.C. for the day. Back when I was in college, I went to a Papal Mass celebrated by John Paul II in Philadelphia. Afterward, we stood outside St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and waited for the Pope's motorcade to arrive so we could get a closer look at him.

My friend Bean went to the Vatican in September. While he was there, he bought me a couple of very thoughtful Christmas presents. I am now the proud owner of a Papa Benedetto XVI candle and a 14 episode DVD set titled "Discovering the Vatican," produced by Telewizja Polska. Fortunately for me, the discs have an English audio track in addition to German, Italian and Polish.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

read of the dead

The stack of books on my nightstand has several new additions as of late. Perhaps this could be a good time to accept my friend Jessica's invitation to join Goodreads, a social networking site that lets you see what your friends are reading and lets them see what you're reading. Before I go rushing into an online commitment, I want to know a little more about it. Have any of you joined? PC Magazine picked it as one of its Top 100 Undiscovered Web Sites and as its Site of the Week last July.

If I do join Goodreads, Jessica will see that the next three books on my reading list share a common theme. For Christmas, I received "The Book of the Dead" by Patricia Cornwell and "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" by Dr. William Maples. I had just started on the Maples book earlier this week when I was interrupted by an overnight package from HarperCollins.

The publicity department sent me an uncorrected proof copy of "The Devil's Bones," the new Jefferson Bass novel. Like the last proof they sent, I need to finish it before my next interview with the authors, Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. Right now, I'm in the middle of chapter 8 where the main character, Dr. Bill Brockton, is gathering information at a local crematorium. He just learned about the special steps that must be taken to cremate an obese person. They burn hotter. The chapter reminded me of a link to a newspaper story I saw last week in Perry Simon's Talk Topics column on The article says that larger dead people require bigger autopsy tables, morgue drawers and other equipment. I'll have to bring it up in the interview.

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Friday, January 11, 2008


As a fellow blogger, Stacy McCloud understands how much we appreciate getting comments. She has posted two here recently. This morning she got a laugh from my entry about her reflection on Chef Walter's saucepan. Here's a post-haircut photo of Stacy for your enjoyment.

If you don't keep up with the comments you may have missed a good radio story about Mark "Sparky" Thompson in response to yesterday's post. And earlier in the week I posted a comment myself to tell you that Abby Ham finally sent the picture from her goodbye party at The Breakfast Club concert in November.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

oodles of noodles

Unlike some viewers, I am not suffering from "TiVorexia" because of the writers strike. There are still plenty of shows for me to watch on my assorted DVRs. Here's my advice for those people with nothing to watch: lower your standards. I've started recording some movies on HBO, Cinemax and Starz now that they are broadcast in HD. I haven't watched them yet because I haven't run out of regular shows.

In addition to a backlog of shows like "Smallville" and "Reaper" recorded this fall, I can once again choose to watch every new "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show. The other night Jay Thomas was the guest. I will always be thankful to Jay for casting me as an extra on one episode of his sitcom, "Love & War." He started the segment by saying that he and Jimmy had never met before. It was a little surreal for me. I mean it's not everyday that you see co-workers from two different jobs having a conversation on national television about a third person you know. I worked with Jay at KPWR and with Jimmy at KROQ. Most of the segment centered on Jay's story about going "noodling" for catfish in Oklahoma with my friend Rodney Lee Conover. Rodney now works with Jay at Sirius and also worked at KPWR when I was there.

Jimmy got Jay to name all the cities where he had worked in radio. Knoxville was on the list. I either didn't know or had forgotten that Jay passed through here. I knew that Mark Thompson, a co-worker of mine from KLOS, had Knoxville on his résumé. I think Mark was on the air at WRJZ. Anybody know what station Jay Thomas was on? Sounds like a good question for Knoxville Radio History 101.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

key club 2: welcome to the lockbox

The sequel arrived today. As I suspected, Fox sent me a promotional lockbox to generate interest in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

The box came with a note from both Fox Affiliate Marketing in Los Angeles and WTNZ in Knoxville. They must not realize I'm one of the deejays who saved the key they sent yesterday. I was disappointed to see that they taped another one to the outside of the lockbox. C'mon! Where's the fun in that? Of course, I used yesterday's key to open the box, just on principle.

The lockbox contained a DVD with the first two episodes and a shiny 125 MB flash drive. The drive held an electronic press kit with some short MPG promos and PDF files of cast bios and other production notes. I'm still thinking that it would have been cool if they had sent the key a few weeks earlier and challenged me to find it in the clutter on my desk once the lockbox arrived.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

welcome to the key club

To get me to watch "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," Fox sent me an interesting promotional item today. It was a key in a shiny fake chrome case along with a note that read: "Dear Frank Murphy, Very soon, the future is coming to Knoxville. You'll need this key." The case is imprinted with Take Back the Future .com.

What I like about the key as a promo item is the risk of it failing. I know plenty of deejays who would probably open the case, look at the key and then throw it away. I will save mine on the assumption that another piece of mail will eventually arrive with a lock that the key opens. I did a little Googling to see if I'm right. Someone at TVgasm got the same key but a different note. Meanwhile someone at SF Universe got a lockbox but didn't mention what was inside. My guess is that it will be a DVD of the pilot episode. I hope they go with something more futuristic. For the short-lived show "Drive," they sent the pilot on a 1GB flash drive, which I still use all the time. I could always use another one.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

local news anchor on pot

Chef Walter made a chicken and macaroni bake on the noon news today. As best as I can recall, the main ingredients were butter, cheese, heavy cream and more butter. At the end he threw in some chunks of chicken and some frozen peas and carrots. He topped it with bread crumbs and (of course) butter. When the camera zoomed in for a close-up of the stove, I saw something move where I didn't expect it. It was the reflection of a cameraman or maybe the floor director walking off to the right. Then I noticed Stacy McCloud on the left of the pot, watching from the wings.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

drummers drumming

Merry Christmas, still. Today is the feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas. I once interviewed the Armenian Comedian on this day. He wore a grungy Santa suit to celebrate Armenian Christmas. If you never saw him on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," please watch the clip on YouTube.

A few years back I was traveling on Epiphany weekend and went to Mass at St. Mark Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia. After Mass everyone went over to the parish hall to see a display of nativity scenes brought in by parishioners. Their creche exhibit is an annual event worth copying at local churches. I think they may have served cookies too.

The other day I heard somebody on ABC News mention a USA Today story about retailers promoting Three Kings Day as a way of extending the holiday shopping season. Stores such as Wal-Mart are using the holiday to appeal to Latino customers.

Since we're still celebrating Christmas, here are a couple of pictures I took last week in the West Hills neighborhood. Both of these were winners in a mailbox decorating contest.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

margin of defeat

The football season ended today for Redskins fans. We were hoping for a win against a team that got to the postseason by playing a much softer schedule than the Redskins did. Instead the Seahawks and their noisy 12th man showed that they deserved to be in the playoffs.

My family and I thought the refs blew a couple of spots today that should have given Washington a first down. The most exciting play of the day turned out to be a bust. With 12:38 left in the game, a Redskins kickoff sailed over the head of the Seattle returner and landed near the 20 yard line. The Redskins recovered the ball and ran it in for what appeared to be a score. The NBC graphics even briefly flashed "touchdown." It was like a really long onside kick. The touchdown didn't count since they can't advance the ball but the Redskins did get great field position at the spot where they recovered the kick. After all that, they couldn't get a touchdown and then missed a field goal. Speaking of NBC, I thought Cris Collinsworth did a good job in the booth. I wish he were there more often.

The Redskins had been on a winning streak since the funeral of number 21, Sean Taylor. Last week much was made about the Redskins beating the Cowboys by 21 points to reach the playoffs. I don't think there will be as much attention to the fact that they lost by 21 points today.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

the adventures of ottoman

Fortunately the negative review by Tom Shales didn't discourage me from watching "Pioneers of Television" on PBS the other night. The episode about sitcoms has been airing throughout this week. I took it at face value and found it to be enjoyable.

The clips from "I Love Lucy" and "The Andy Griffith Show" were okay. The scenes from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" made me want to watch more often, like I did with "The Beverly Hillbillies" a couple of years ago. According to my TiVo listings, nobody is showing the reruns at this time. The clips showed Laura Petrie to be the perfect wife, fun and flirty. By coincidence, the scenes were from two episodes that my perfect wife received on a cheapo DVD for Christmas. Those will have to do unless I want to either invest in the boxed set or download individual episodes at $1.99 each.

Next week's "Pioneers" is about late-night talk shows. I found a couple of web-only clips on YouTube featuring Dick Cavett and Betty White each reminiscing about Johnny Carson. The remaining two episodes are about variety shows and game shows. Sounds like must-see to me.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

our top story tonight

Stacy McCloud got a haircut. In her updated blog entry she describes it as a cross between Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Katie Holmes. I haven't seen it yet but I'm sure it looks nice. Maybe Byron Chesney will be able to post some photos in the morning.

Yesterday Byron posted a link to an article about the ratings increase at WKYC since Abby Ham joined the station. I had emailed Abby on New Year's Eve to wish her well and to bug her about the two photos I am hoping to get from her to post on the blog. Here's the reply she sent me today:

So good to hear from you. Things are going great. We just moved into our new house so it has been a little crazy, but we are finally settling in.

I miss Knoxville so much. I have my days when I get really sad that I don’t live there anymore. It all happened so fast. It’s hard to believe that I am in a whole new place. I really like Cleveland, though, and the new station. I guess I always miss the places I leave behind.

I went to the Rock Hall before Christmas and was going to stop and take a picture in front of the stamp, but the wind was blowing so hard. I think I would have lost my new camera. I still have to download the pictures from The Breakfast Club night. I will get those to you very soon.

Hope all is well and you had a great holiday. Tell Marc and Kim and the gang (Tearsa included) hello for me.


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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

top 10 from the home office

When the year is new there is comfort in repeating the old. My New Year's Day traditions are watching the Rose Parade and reading The List in the Washington Post. Unfortunately this year's in and out list didn't entertain me as much as last year's.

A lot of people make top ten lists to commemorate the year gone by. Byron Chesney posted an interesting list of his top ten stories about local TV news. It's not surprising that Abby Ham topped his list. Nor is it surprising that Abby topped Terry Morrow's list of the best on local TV in 2007.

I emailed Abby the other day to remind her about the pictures I want her to send. While we're thinking about her, I compiled a list of the top ten search terms that brought people to my blog in 2007. I understand all of them except for numbers 4 and 8.
  1. Abby Ham
  2. Jessica Simpson naked
  3. Regis & Kelly
  4. product placement
  5. Frank Murphy
  6. magazines for miles
  7. puffy shirt
  8. cigarette girl
  9. calories
  10. Stacy McCloud
Did you know that Stacy enjoys a banana with peanut butter every morning for breakfast? She mentioned it in a comment on Monday's entry as she contemplates whether or not to cut her hair.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

big rose, small thorn

Four networks offered high definition broadcasts of the Rose Parade this morning. Two of those were commercial free. In Los Angeles, almost everyone watches the parade on KTLA with Bob Eubanks and Michaela Pereira. The rest of us could watch KTLA's coverage on either the HD Theater channel or in SD on the Travel Channel but with commercials.

Last year I wrote that I wouldn't be disappointed if Eubanks retired from covering the parade. He seemed a little better this year than last but I didn't care for the way he used his deep announcer voice to drag out the last syllable of many words. It sounded like "Wells Fargoooo" and "pinata dot commmm." As the Trader Joe's float passed by, Bob said, "I'm always amazed how these designers come up with these new ideas year after year after year." Of course he is. He can barely come up with new sentences year after year. I got a strong feeling of déjà vu while Bob was talking about the equestrian units.

Every time I flipped over to ABC, I heard the announcers remind each other that every part of the floats are covered with organic material. Yeah, we get it. Other than that, their coverage was pretty good. They had a decent camera position and their HD broadcast looked fine. NBC's picture looked nice too. I liked their coverage better last year when Billy Bush filled in for Al Roker.

The best of all the broadcasts turned out to be on HGTV. They had the first camera position along the parade route. Their picture quality was superior. I heard surround sound and stereo separation as the marching bands played. The announcing team of Robb Weller, Paul James and Jann Carl did a good job, without being annoying. My one frustration with HGTV was when they put the marching bands into a small box while most of the screen was filled with a promo for an upcoming show. The band sound was turned down during the promo too, which was a waste of their excellent microphone placement. If they need to run their promos again next year, they should only air them when an equestrian unit passes by.

Did you watch the parade? On which channel? Did you see the City of Burbank float? Isn't Emeril Lagasse starting to look like Jackie Gleason? Aren't you glad the Stanley Cup was exempt from being covered in organic material? Did you see any of that outdoor hockey game in Buffalo today? Oh c'mon. I know you were watching the Vols. I recorded the parade so I could flip over to the game.

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