Friday, February 29, 2008

those stories and Andy Rooney

Stan Brock gets his old timeslot back for one night this weekend. He used to be on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" before Jim Fowler. Many comedians have parodied the way Stan and Jim would wrestle the anaconda while Marlin Perkins watched from a safe distance. If I ever get back to the St. Louis Zoo, I need to find their Marlin Perkins statue. The path to it was obscured by construction on my previous visit.

After leaving show business, Brock settled in Knoxville and founded Remote Area Medical, an organization that brings doctors to people both in faraway places and right here at home. I have interviewed Stan a couple of times. Once for a "where are they now feature" on an oldies station and once for the public affairs show at my current job.

RAM sent me an email today announcing that Stan and the organization will be seen on "60 Minutes" this Sunday night. The newsmagazine brought their cameras to Knoxville in January to film a free clinic at Chilhowee Park. You might want to set your TiVo for 7:00 p.m. Sunday. Unless you're Bean. Then you would already have a Season Pass.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

call 656-kids

Hey, do me a favor. Phone in a pledge to the Children's Hospital Radiothon on Friday. As usual, several popular WBIR news anchors came by to support the annual two-day event today. Remember how Abby Ham showed up last year? Here's Beth Haynes, Russell Biven and Robin Wilhoit.

Better than calling, drive over to West Town Mall and say hi. Bill Williams, Moira Kaye and Michele Silva are coming tomorrow. Local news fan Byron Chesney should consider stopping by too if he wants to meet them.

One of Byron's recent posts had a comment from somebody who works with Stacy McCloud. By following the link in that person's profile, I ended up on a page full of pictures from the WVLT Christmas party when Stacy wore the purple dress that she auctioned off for charity. Byron might want to save a few of these glamour shots for his files.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

of ice and men

The two most interesting stories from Oscar night had nothing to do with the awards themselves. One happened before and one after.

On Sunday night I mentioned that I was looking to see Stuart Weitzman's million dollar shoes on the red carpet. It's become an annual tradition for him to adorn a pair with diamonds and let an actress or nominee wear them to the ceremony. Diablo Cody was fitted for the shoes but decided at the last minute that wearing them would ruin her street cred or something. I think it backfired on her. She looks more foolish now than if she had just worn the pumps. Maybe she'll offer a better explanation in her next Entertainment Weekly column. I cannot believe that a pop culture maven like Diablo never heard about the million dollar shoes. I've known about them for at least six years.

On Monday morning, a couple of the entertainment blogs and I were all about Jimmy Kimmel's star-studded music video with his new pal Ben Affleck. It aired on his post-Oscar special, which will be repeated Friday night. The rest of the world caught up last night and today. There are great articles about the making of the clip in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, People and on

On the same day that Jimmy's show is the most talked-about late-night program, Bill Carter writes in the New York Times that ABC is interested in hiring Jay Leno. Boo! Carter says that if ABC landed Leno, he would replace "Nightline." I guess that means Jimmy could be pushed to 12:30. Boo! Fortunately there are a couple of other deep-pocketed suitors also interested in hiring Jay when his NBC contract expires in January 2010. There is also enough time for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to continue gaining momentum and to solidify its place in the late-night lineup. By the time all is said and done, Carter will have enough material for a sequel to his book "The Late Shift."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

still have to go through Dallas

Nobody wants their frequent flyer miles to go to waste. Almost every week there are people searching the Internet who find my blog entries from 2005 about cashing in miles for unnecessary magazine subscriptions.

Last fall I realized that I finally had enough miles for a free trip. I tried to plan a trip to see my friend Bean in Seattle but there were no free tickets available on the date I could fly. I put it off and put it off until I was faced with the fact that my miles would expire at the end of February. The only way to save them was to have some activity on my account. Because I don't yet know when I can make the trip, I needed to do something other than book a flight.

I called American Airlines to explore my options. Fortunately, they had something that sounded great to me. I could extend the expiration date for the remainder of my miles by donating some of them to one of two charities. The Make-A-Wish Foundation does nice things for sick kids and would be a worthy recipient. However I chose to donate to the airline's own charity called Miles for Kids in Need. Instead of flying sick children off to their favorite theme park, my miles will help send a child to get needed medical treatment. Not as much fun for them but it made me feel better.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

egos checked at the door

As soon as the news leaked out that Jimmy Kimmel had booked Ben Affleck on his post-Oscar show, we could all guess that they would do a response to Sarah Silverman's hugely popular Matt Damon video. However nobody could have predicted exactly how fantastic Jimmy's Ben Affleck video turned out to be. It's the talk of the entertainment blogosphere this morning on sites like Best Week Ever and Pop Candy.

The best place to find clips of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is on visiontellie2's YouTube page. He/she/they make it easy to see the whole progression of the Matt Damon feud, the Silverman video and the Affleck response.

Not surprisingly, visiontellie2 also has the most complete list I've found of all the celebrities making cameos in the new video, even catching some that Best Week Ever missed. It makes me wonder if visiontellie2 has some inside information. In addition to Ben and Jimmy, look for Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Joan Jett, Robin Williams, Don Cheadle, Meat Loaf, Pete Wentz, Dominic Monaghan, Macy Gray, Perry Farrell, Lance Bass, Huey Lewis, Josh Groban, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Joel Madden, Benji Madden, Dicky Barrett, Rebecca Romijn, Christina Applegate and Cameron Diaz.

When I needed help trying to post the video of Jimmy mentioning me, I wrote to visiontellie2 for advice. Better than advice, I got back a link to the video that he/she/they had uploaded for me!

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

thank the academy

The Oscars are always must-see TV at our house even though I've seen hardly any of the nominated movies this year. In the past, my wife and I have made an effort to see the films nominated for the major awards. With the price of gas and everything else going up and money getting tight, I am reluctant to shell out cash for movie tickets, much less the concessions.

Lately some movies I had wanted to see in the theater have been showing on a plethora of HD channels. In the past month I've seen "Children of Men," "Pride" and "The Astronaut Farmer." None of them won any Oscars but I enjoyed them nevertheless.

I won't attempt to live-blog the awards like they're doing at Best Week Ever and elsewhere. However, I noticed a few things worth mentioning. Did Steve Carell actually curse when pretending to be upset that he was presenting the animation award instead of the documentary award? One of his "shoots" sounded like the real deal to me.

During the dead celebrity tribute, I always feel embarrassed for the people who don't get applause. Some of the deceased get carryover applause by having their name announced right after a popular actor or actress. Shouldn't they mute the microphones during the annual montage?

I thought I saw Knoxville Catholic High School alumnus Cormac McCarthy in the audience when the Coen brothers won the adapted screenplay award. Yes, it was him. They pointed him out when "No Country For Old Men" won Best Picture.

All night long I've been trying to catch a glimpse of Diablo Cody's shoes. I read that she was going to wear the million dollar pair from Stuart Weitzman. Why do I care? One year, Stuart's publicist hired me to help out during Oscar week. According to her blog, Diablo has mixed feelings about wearing them. Oh yeah, she won an Oscar for "Juno," one of the few nominated movies that I saw.

Hey, the "I Drink Your Milkshake" guy won! I look forward to seeing that movie next year when it's on HBO or Showtime.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

feedback loop

Do big companies pay any attention to the suggestions we submit? A few years ago I wrote to TiVo about two little things that were bothering me. They have since fixed both issues. Maybe I had something to do with it or maybe it was just a coincidence.

On weeknights, I record "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on WATE. The next morning my TiVo should still be on that channel in case I want to hit rewind and see the visual of something that I heard on the audio simulcast on "World News Now." Sometimes I wouldn't turn on the TV until later when I wanted to see something on "The View" or the noon news. More than a couple of times a week, the TiVo would be tuned to the Discovery Channel instead. The TiVo had switched to it at 4:30 in the morning to record some movie trailers and car commercials that show up in the main menu. I wrote to complain that my TiVo should leave things the way it found them. I suggested that they insert a command to return to the previous channel after recording their infomercials. If there's a button on my remote to go back to the previous channel, they should be able to write a line of code for it. They must have agreed because it's no longer an issue.

On another occasion I wrote to TiVo asking them to make it easier to record future episodes of a show I had sampled. If I tried one episode of a show and liked it, I would have to search for it in the guide to find more. For shows that were still on the To Do List, they have a button marked View Upcoming Episodes. That button would go away once the show was finished recording. I suggested that they keep it around. Their solution wasn't perfect, you still have to look for it under More Options, but it is satisfactory.

I once asked the manager of a new movie theatre to lower the intensity of their hand dryers because the noise was deafening, especially when the bathroom was crowded and all the dryers were in use. They said they would.

Those same dryers gave me the idea for my next suggestion. In the locker rooms at the UT Student Aquatic Center and at most fitness centers, they have hand dryers placed at two heights on the wall. One is for drying hands, the other for drying hair. My idea is to add a dryer lower on the wall for drying feet. I gave my idea to the front desk staff at one branch of a health club. Meanwhile, a friend and co-worker of mine is about to take a new job in marketing at The Rush, a fast-growing chain of fitness complexes based here in Knoxville. I will bug him with my idea until he talks his new bosses into doing it.

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Friday, February 22, 2008


A young couple with whom I share a GMU connection are having a blessed event. They sent me the good news via email with a screen grab attached. Here's what they wrote, with hyperlinks added by me:
Ok, so we’re having another baby in July and found out last week that it’s a boy. Woo hoo. So imagine my surprise when, while researching about the bris ceremony and trying to find a mohel in Knoxville, you show up in the search results. Go figure.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

party hat

How great is this? Jimmy Kimmel mentioned me on his show last night. It was a very pleasant surprise. If you read Saturday's post, you know that I emailed Jimmy about a funny photo in the obituary section of the Knoxville News Sentinel. He then had someone on his staff track down a copy of the paper. I figured he would use the picture but I didn't expect him to credit me. By the way, I got a spike in readership on Sunday thanks to a nice plug by Jack Lail on

I am trying to figure out how to make a YouTube clip of Jimmy's shout out to Knoxville. I don't think that I have the right software to convert the file on my TiVo to anything usable. I sent a message to visiontellie2, who posts a lot of Kimmel clips online, in the hope that he or she can help me.

As a radio guy, I know how to make an audio file off the TiVo. I had some great editing software on my old computer but I needed something for my current laptop. My friend Kathy (of the cream-filled cupcakes) sent me a link to a free program called Audacity. I downloaded it today and it worked great when recording and editing this mp3 file of Jimmy's comments:

The best way to actually see Jimmy display the News Sentinel is via the streaming video on Go about 8 minutes and 20 seconds into the second segment of the February 20th show.

Hearing my town talked about on late night television is something I was involved in once before. You might also want to read about the time David Letterman said hi to Washington.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

brings all the boys to the yard

Pop culture obsessions, although fleeting, are fun while they last. My current PCO is the "I drink your milkshake" scene from "There Will Be Blood" even though I haven't seen the Oscar-nominated movie yet.

My enthusiasm was fueled when a guy named Brandon Hardesty did his reenactment of the scene on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last week while wearing a Mr. Potato Head mustache. Then on Friday night, "Best Week Ever" had a segment on the catch phrase. I was sucked in, as if by a straw that reached across the room.

Hoping that others had seen Brandon's funny take, I referenced the scene during my opening remarks at last night's improv show (it was my turn to emcee). I quickly got the feeling that most of the people there had no idea what I was talking about. Oh well. Maybe I'll try again next week, after the Oscars.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

rats, race

USA Today came close to actually calling BS on the broadcast networks yesterday. As anybody with high definition TV can tell you, everything looks better in HD. I suspect that every HD viewer has watched a show for no other reason than that it was available in high def and looked so good. Once I even watched a few minutes of a NASCAR event before snapping out of my HD-induced trance.

I still watch some of my regular shows like "Access Hollywood" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" via the upstairs, standard definition TV and TiVo. Neither show is available to me in HD, so it doesn't matter. For shows that I watch together with my wife and son, it's more convenient to use the big screen TV in the living room. Most of the shows we watch are broadcast in glorious high def except for two glaring omissions.

As USA Today pointed out, neither "Survivor" nor "The Amazing Race" are shown in HD. The paper quotes an "Amazing Race" producer as saying that high def cameras couldn't stand up to the travel on their show. "Survivor's" EP says not now, but maybe someday they'll go HD. Both producers cited the additional cost of new equipment. Repairs could be a problem when in a remote locale too. I half expected them to start worrying about getting beach sand in the camera.

The USA Today writer then points out that several cable shows are high def including the very messy "Dirty Jobs." Best of all, the article points out that the fancy schmancy HD cameras went to the middle of the Bering Sea to film a season of "Deadliest Catch." If it's worth the risk to expose high def cameras to waves crashing over the side of the ship (and it is), they could certainly do something to make the "Race" truly amazing.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

survival of the fittest

The owner of a local restaurant says business is down by a third since the state enacted a partial smoking ban last October. Tennessee allows restaurants to choose whether to serve all ages in a smoke-free environment or to only serve patrons over 21 who are free to smoke at the table. In many other states, smoking is banned at all restaurants, period.

When a restaurant suffers because of the smoking ban, I have to wonder what it was that drew in their clientèle in the first place. Obviously, restaurants that can survive on the quality of their food will do so. Others that rely on their atmosphere, albeit polluted, can continue to cater to smokers. Some of the comments posted on the News Sentinel article are worth reading (especially this one and this one), if you can ignore the ones from smokers who somehow feel that their "right" to blow smoke in our faces has been infringed upon by the ban.

At the end of the newspaper article, Scott Bryan from the Knox County Health Department says that some restaurants have seen their business double since the smoking ban. Yet that doesn't make the headlines. Meanwhile, the story about the restaurant switching back to allow smokers gets picked up by TV stations in Alabama and Kansas and who knows where else.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

on campus

Unafraid to jump on the bandwagon, we went to Mass today at John XXIII University Parish after seeing the article about Fr. Eric Andrews in yesterday's News Sentinel. Turns out that before the priesthood, he worked at the Jim Henson Company, original home of the Muppets. We were unsure where to park and ended up in a nearby faculty lot. The strong wind nearly knocked us down as we walked to the church. Fr. Eric was there to greet the congregation, however Fr. Paul Rospond celebrated the Mass. The newspaper article made me interested in hearing a homily from Fr. Eric too. Fortunately there is an assortment of both his and Fr. Paul's available online, where parking is no problem. I realized this morning that I had already heard Fr. Paul's sermon last night while I was looking up the Mass times. It was posted after he celebrated the 5:30 p.m. Mass.

We found seats about five minutes before Mass began. Similar to a movie theatre before the days of "The 2wenty," a series of slides promoting upcoming events at the parish were showing on a big screen behind the altar. My wife asked me to find her a hymnal. As I went out to the narthex to get one for her, I noticed that nobody else had one either. When Mass started, we saw the lyrics to the processional hymn projected on the screen. The page changed to reveal the next stanza at the exact right moment. I kept looking until I found a guy in the choir with his thumb on a handheld remote, controlling the PowerPoint presentation.

It was a perfect day for us to visit UT because the writing team of Jefferson Bass would be signing books at the Frank H. McClung Museum. Better still, they would be speaking to a capacity crowd in the lower level auditorium. I went down to get seats while my wife and son looked at the museum's Forensic Anthropology exhibit, which is only there until May 7.

Dr. Bill Bass showed slides from the real-life burned-body cases that inspired parts of "The Devil's Bones." During the Q&A session that followed, a question about plasticination prompted an anecdote about cultural differences in dealing with bodies. We heard about an American doctor who opened a medical school in China. He needed cadavers for the students to examine. The government sent him ten beheaded bodies. He thanked the officials but asked for ten more with their heads and necks still intact. They brought him ten live prisoners on a chain gang and told him that he could kill them any way he liked.

Jon Jefferson told of one of his first meetings with Dr. Bass over lunch at Calhoun's on Bearden Hill. As Jon was trying to understand the way a weapon's marks can be visible on a murder victim's ribs, Dr. Bass reached over and began stabbing the half-slab on Jon's plate. Other patrons turned to look and then relaxed once they realized the man with the knife was just good old Dr. Bass.

The audience members filed upstairs and got in line to get their books autographed by the authors. The line wrapped all the way around the circular museum lobby. Since my copy of the book was already signed, I took the opportunity to revisit the Forensic Anthropology exhibit myself. Jefferson and Bass have a busy week ahead. You have several opportunities to get a signed book. Or you could just buy one online.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

coed naked bar hopping?

Okay, here's what happened. On Thursday, one of my co-workers asked if I had seen the obituaries. I had not but there was a copy of the News Sentinel within reach. By coincidence, Terry Morrow, the paper's television columnist, was visiting. We opened the paper and saw the photo my co-worker had noticed. It showed a now-deceased man during happier times. He's wearing a hat that says "Coed Naked Bar Hopping."

Like anyone else would, we laughed about it. Our conversation was not on the air. I knew from past experience that my boss doesn't like me to joke about local deaths on the radio. I told Terry that someone in another market might be able to have fun with it even if I couldn't. We all know that comedy equals tragedy plus time. Sometimes comedy also equals tragedy plus distance. Because Terry and I both know Jimmy Kimmel, we thought it would be a good idea to send the obit to him.

When I got home, I dashed off a fast email to Jimmy. I complimented him on the Matt Damon video and sent a link to the death notice. His one-word reply was "Hilarious!" Quick tangent: I can't wait to see the next volley in the Kimmel/Damon "feud" which reportedly includes Ben Affleck.

Anyway, as I was scanning the Knoxville Blog Network tonight, I saw a link to a post titled "Knoxville on Jimmy Kimmel Live!" As soon as I clicked, I saw the man in the CNBH hat on "The Sunsphere Is Not a Wigshop." The writer explains:
a friend of mine that is a production assistant on the jimmy kimmel live show called me and told me i was the only knoxville connection that anyone on the crew had and they needed a copy of thursday's knoxville news-sentinel.
He spent $30 to FedEx the newspaper to California and says it may turn up on Tuesday night's show (Mondays are usually reruns). Jimmy must have known I would be too cheap to spend the money.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

rumbly in my tumbly

The original plan for Wednesday's post was to list the various dessert items that have been tempting me since the start of Lent. It turned into an all-cupcake missive. As a result, a few other sweets got left out until now.

Hurley is my favorite character on "Lost." When I learned that Jorge Garcia is a blogger, I eagerly read through his archived posts. He was impressed by a Milwaukee restaurant that served extra soda alongside his root beer float. I too, enjoy root beer floats although mine are made with diet root beer and fat-free whipped topping. His fondness for Oreo Cakesters also rang true with me. Over the summer I shared a three-pack with my son. Thanks to Jorge, I'm craving them again.

The folks at Slashfood continued to make me salivate with some red velvet layer cake and chocolate almond cakes. The latter led me to a site called Dessert First, which featured a molten chocolate cake on Wednesday. I occasionally get Google hits on a mention I made of chocolate lava cakes a year ago. Still haven't tried one though.

Chef Walter got ready for Valentine's Day by making a Butterfinger cake on Monday. I especially enjoyed his reference to Jackson Pollock as he poured on the chocolate sauce. I wonder how many people watching had no idea what he meant.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

in the Netherlands

For Valentine's Day, I surprised my wife with her favorite flowers. I would have rather waited until her birthday but that plan failed last year. Sam's Club had sold out by then.

I avoided the lovestruck crowds at the florist by purchasing tulips last Friday. My challenge was to keep them hidden and alive until today. Of all the plants for sale, I chose the one with the greenest, tightest buds, hoping that they wouldn't bloom for six days or more. Once I got them home, I worried that the heat and light in the house would prompt the flowers to open. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I hid them in the coolest, darkest part of the basement. Last night I brought them upstairs and left them where she would find them first thing this morning. As you can see, the timing was pretty good. They will probably open fully by tomorrow.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

lead us not into temptation

Only a week into Lent and I'm feeling the pressure. The culprit is cupcakes. They are everywhere lately. Last night some showed up at the Einstein Simplified show for Dave Snow's birthday. Although I didn't eat any myself because of Lent, I did persuade several of my fellow improvisers to twist the tops off to make cupcake sandwiches. Or icing sandwiches, if you prefer to call them that.

A few days back I spotted some turtle cupcakes at Food City. As a fan of both turtles and cupcakes, I had to take a picture. I saw a different take on turtle cupcakes at a store in Pigeon Forge recently. They sell a soft plastic mold for a pull apart cake, which is one step better than the cupcake cakes I saw at Wal-Mart last year.

While I was adding the links to Saturday's post, I saw a picture of a New York Giants cupcake on The accompanying story had a link to Clever Cupcakes, the Montreal bakery that made it. Slashfood gave us a homemade chocolate cupcake over the weekend too. Following a series of links that started on that site eventually brought me to a blog called Cupcake Project.

On top of all that, today's News Sentinel is all about the cupcake. The food section has a great picture that will make you hungry, which therefore qualifies the photo as "food porn," the snarky blogosphere term for glamour shots of anything edible. The pictured cupcakes are from VG's Bakery in Farragut.

The article also mentions MagPies Cakes in the Old City. Despite the pie in their name, they sell celebration cakes and cupcakes. The photos they posted on Picasa certainly could be called "food porn" too. As I looked at the pictures, I wondered why I've never succumbed to their enticement. After all, I've been going to the Old City on Tuesday nights for almost six years. I've also been in that part of town on several Sunday afternoons for practice sessions with people auditioning to join our improv group. MagPies' operating hours give me the answer. They're closed at 4:00 on Tuesdays and all day on Sundays, which means I've never seen them open.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

couldn't make this stuff up

This is an actual record album that I saw today. It's called "Spring City Baptist Favorites" by Guy Tester. His name is Guy Tester!

From the liner notes:
Guy Tester is one of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee's most dedicated Christian men in the field of music today.

Guy has been used by scores of ministers and many funeral homes during the past years to bring comfort and blessings to thousands of broken hearted people and sorrowing families. One of the outstanding things about Guy Tester's singing is the fact that God's Hand is on him and his ministry in music through these years. We feel this is all because Guy never sought to become professional in the field of music, but was careful to remain among God's people where the Spirit of God is continually on him and his singing.
The track list for Side B is as follows:
1. There's Nothing Like A Friend
2. Ship Ahoy
3. Your Home To Stay
4. His Hand In Mine
5. Now I Have Everything
I wonder if Guy is any relation to Tommy Tester. Hope not.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

gimme a ticket for an aeroplane

Tickets for Paleyfest went on sale over the weekend. That's the new, hip name for the 25th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival. The yearly event is presented by the Los Angeles branch of the Paley Center for Media, formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio. The festival has always been too big for the museum's auditorium. This year it moves from the Directors Guild of America complex to the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. The format is simple. An episode of a television show is screened, followed by a panel discussion with the cast and creators.

Each year I look at the lineup and fondly remember the times I attended in the past. Two of my favorite new shows being honored this time around are "Chuck" and "Pushing Daisies." Although no panelists have been announced for the March 17th gathering yet, "The Comedy World of Judd Apatow & Friends" looks promising. It might also be fun to go to the "Dancing With the Stars" discussion if for no other reason than because Tom Bergeron is one of the best live hosts in the business. My guess is that the biggest demand will be for tickets to the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" reunion. What show would you like to see celebrated at Paleyfest?

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

check out those horns

When my first alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m., I tune my clock radio to 87.7 to hear the audio of ABC World News Now. I sometimes drift back to sleep until the second and third alarms go off. For the past week or so I have been startled awake by a disco-ish song with the lyrics "only you can make me feel so true."

I thought that maybe the overnight newscast was using the tune as bumper music or as a bed while they showed the weather map. One morning I heard it twice within half an hour, which made me think that it was being used as something else. I jumped up, ran down the hall to my office and turned on the television. The music was the audio track to a Vermont Teddy Bear Company commercial for Valentine's Day.

With the song hopelessly stuck in my head, I looked on the Internet for more information. I know from experience that people do it all the time. I still get hits from computer users around the globe searching for details about a song they heard on "C.S.I."

The teddy bear song is "Only You" by a Europop group called Captain Jack. The marketers must know it will make people curious. The commercial is currently showing on their website. A search for the song's lyrics showed me that they wisely chose to edit out the part of the song that says "all the hootchie mamas throw your hands up."

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

three (million) penny

One of the many things I liked about living in Burbank was driving past the television and movie studios and seeing the huge banners for their upcoming productions. Along W. Olive Avenue, a series of giant movie posters adorn the walls of Warner Bros. Studios.

Those days out West came to mind the other day when I drove past the Scripps Networks headquarters in Knoxville. They had put up something new since the last time I was there. I went back today with a camera. A giant banner for "Nailed at 9" is visible from I-40. An enormous three-dimensional nail sticking out from the wall catches the eye from multiple angles to promote the different home improvement shows that air on DIY at 9:00 p.m.

Personally I'm looking forward to a day when Food Network might get the chance to display some colossal food porn along the interstate.

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Friday, February 08, 2008


Did you vote on Super Tuesday? Did you eat anything that day? Apparently IHOP thought we couldn't do both. In addition to voting, I went to work, posted a blog entry, went to a business lunch at a client's, bought some salad at Sam's Club, picked up my son from school, took a nap and performed with Einstein Simplified. Who's to say I couldn't have eaten a short stack as well?

Pancakes were traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday as people used up the fresh ingredients that would go to waste during Lent. Because several states had their primaries on Shrove Tuesday this year, IHOP moved their celebration of National Pancake Day to February 12. Too bad the voters in Virginia, Maryland and DC will be too busy to enjoy free pancakes that day.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

you've got to rearrange

When my friend Anja Reinke was elected to the Burbank City Council, it was a big deal to me. However she isn't the first of my friends to get involved in politics. One of my classmates from George Mason University has served on the Fredericksburg City Council for four years.

Debby Girvan recently announced that she is running for mayor of Fredericksburg against the incumbent. Her campaign must be making some waves. Debby jokingly says her "worst fear" came true today. She became a political cartoon.

The newspaper may have missed an earlier opportunity for a caricature of Debby and the mayor. About two years ago, he playfully dunked her at the opening of a city swimming pool. Here's hoping that she figuratively dunks him when the polls close on May 6th.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

metal mettle

While looking online to see which Super Tuesday candidates were endorsed by our local newspapers, I was distracted by the front page of the Metro Pulse. The cover story is about guitarist Randy Rhoads, who is one of three famous musicians who died shortly after being in Knoxville. The other two are Hank Williams and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

I was not familiar with Randy's music while he was alive. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that I first heard of him. I was invited to a year-end presentation of video projects by the students in a media class at Providence High School in Burbank. One of the upperclassmen appeared in a documentary about his late uncle, Randy Rhoads. I recognized Randy's sister Kathy in the film. My wife and I knew her as one of the other room mothers at St. Finbar School.

Kathy's husband Richard is a talented cabinetmaker. He made a gorgeous wooden ambo for St. Finbar Church as well as other altar furniture. When I looked online, I discovered that he is now in the wine business too. Kathy and Richard's daughter Jenna was a classmate of our son for seven years until we moved to Knoxville. Jenna turned up in some red carpet photos as the date of a young actor named Daniel Hansen.

My wife took an extra copy of the paper from the stack on the bar at Patrick Sullivan's last night after my Einstein Simplified show. Now we need to find an old parish directory with Kathy's address in order to mail her a copy of the Metro Pulse. As she read the article, my wife saw that Randy's last name was misspelled on the plaque when he was inducted to the Hollywood RockWalk in 2004. Kathy and her mom are in the photos from the ceremony. They eventually fixed the plaque.

Knoxville has a statue honoring Rachmaninoff and an annual festival for Hank. Perhaps it's time to think of a way to commemorate Randy here too. And spell his name correctly.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

super fat Tuesday

Because February 3rd fell on a Sunday, the Catholic church didn't observe the feast of St. Blaise this year. On the church calendar, Sundays trump the lesser celebrations of the saints. After Mass, I told Fr. Michael Woods how as a kid I liked the annual throat blessing on that day. He said he might offer the blessing at daily Mass the next day. When I said that I would be at work, Fr. Michael invited my family and me to follow him to a small room off the narthex. He asked my son, who was the tallest person in the room, to reach up and grab a box stored atop some cabinets. The box held a fancy candle for the traditional throat blessing. Actually it was more like two candles intertwined to form a handle. Fr. Michael used it to give the blessing to my wife, my son and me.

As I used my camera phone to take a picture for the blog, Fr. Michael was reminded of a recent conversation he had with another parishioner. I have mentioned here a couple of times that the twelve days of Christmas start on December 25th and end on January 6th. Fr. Michael has mentioned the same thing in his homilies and the parish newsletter. The other parishioner wanted to know if Fr. Michael was getting his material from me or vice versa. It was probably neither considering that we were both drawing from the same source material.

I told Fr. Michael that I did intend to pass along something he mentioned in the latest All Saints newsletter. Easter 2008 is March 23rd, which is as early as it can be. It basically occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. As an Irishman, Fr. Michael is well aware that this means no St. Patrick's Day this year. On the church calendar, that is. Much like the way the feast of St. Blaise got pre-empted by the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, March 17th of this year is Monday of Holy Week. Fr. Michael says that he will be wearing green under his purple Lenten vestments.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

in this world the headlines read

The Giants were trailing 7-3 in the Super Bowl last night. Their defense was playing well but the offense had only managed one field goal. As I said I would the other day, I got into a New York state of mind by enjoying a Mallomar during the game. Shortly thereafter the Giants scored a touchdown. New England came back to take the lead again and it looked like they might actually achieve the 19-0 record we've heard so much about. When Eli Manning avoided that sack and threw the ball to David Tyree, it occurred to me to have a second Mallomar. Sure enough, the Giants responded with the game winning touchdown.

My mother and her siblings all grew up in the Bronx. They were exchanging emails all weekend as they make plans for Grandma's birthday party this Spring. All of their messages ended with the words "Go Giants!" The biggest Giants fan in our family was my dad. He even sent me to the same Catholic school as some of the Mara kids. Wellington Mara is buried in the same cemetery as several of my relatives. Within minutes of the game's end, people had posted congratulatory notes on Mara's page at

Meanwhile my wife and the rest of the Redskins fans in our family happily recall that both previous Super Bowl wins by the Giants were followed by Redskins wins.

My favorite Super Bowl commercial has been getting favorable reviews. It featured computer generated images of balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The greatest balloon of all time, Underdog fought for a Coca-Cola bottle with Stewie from "Family Guy." To my knowledge, there has never been a Stewie balloon in the parade. Do you think there will be one in the future? I'm not sure that I want to see him there. Although Underdog clearly deserved the soda, Charlie Brown rises up over Central Park and gets the bottle instead. Good grief!

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

dr. bass-o-matic

The guests on this morning's "East Tennessee Report" were Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson, also known as the writing team of Jefferson Bass. They were kind enough to grant me the first interview on the publicity tour for their new book, "The Devil's Bones," which goes on sale this Tuesday. We recorded the show last night, shortly after Jon got to town. Of course, Dr. Bass is well known as the founder of the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee.

As is my custom with Body Farm interviews, I have posted a podcast of the program. This time around we talk about cremation and the notorious Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia. We also discuss the new Forensic Anthropology exhibit at the Frank H. McClung Museum that I wrote about last week.

Jefferson and Bass are contracted for at least two more Body Farm novels. They told me that the next one will be set in Oak Ridge with a subplot from the Manhattan Project era.

I truly enjoy my conversations with Jon and Dr. Bass. We could have talked for hours but it's only a thirty minute show. Right-click here to download the mp3 file. Please enjoy.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

domo arigato

When Rockapella performed at George Mason University in December, I wanted to go but couldn't. My sister did and used the opportunity to buy a Christmas gift for my wife and me. She got us the group's "Live in Japan" CD and had it autographed. I called her today to get some help deciphering the inscriptions.

I had thought that one of the singers had written "L.T.N.J." What could that mean? N.J. is the abbreviation for New Jersey but what about L.T.? Lawrence Taylor? Are they Giants fans? I looked up a list of cities in New Jersey. Perhaps it was an unexplained reference to Liberty Township. My sister said I was way off track. What I thought was a J is actually an S and the message was "Long Time No See." I might have known that if I wasn't too cheap to pay for text messages.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

nosh bridges

It seems like every newspaper had a story and every local TV news show had a cooking segment about snacks over the past two weeks. Super Bowl Sunday has become an eating holiday to rival Thanksgiving. Finally, here's an opportunity for me to post some photos of snack foods that have been stuck in my camera phone for months.

A simple trip down the snack aisle at Wal-Mart reminded me of when I was a kid and my parents took us to Colonial Williamsburg. While there, I saw a lecture on archeology. The speaker said they were trying to determine the age of various glass bottles they had uncovered in what was probably a colonial trash pile. He lamented that the people of that era didn't write about changes in their drinking containers. He said it would be akin to someone writing "Dear Diary, they changed the shape of my Coke bottle today." Obviously the archaeologist didn't foresee a future full of blogs in which we do exactly that. And now you know why I was compelled to take a picture of some Planters jars that are cleverly shaped like Mr. Peanut.

I spotted this bag of Rap Snacks when someone brought it to an Einstein Simplified show some time ago. The lighting was poor but you can still read that they are YoungBloodz Southern Crunk Barbeque flavored chips. Crunk chips might have been more appropriate for the last time that the Super Bowl was played in the ATL.

Salty snacks are okay but my weakness is sweets. With Lent starting on Wednesday, I may use the Super Bowl as an excuse to enjoy a popular New York treat, namely the Mallomars that have been Ziploc-ed in the pantry since October. Makes sense if I'm rooting for the Giants this year.

My camera phone still had the image of a Kosher cake I captured at Kroger. I photographed this Strawberry Flavored Angel Food Roll, not because I craved the taste of it but because I loved the name of the bakery that made it. The label from Fancy Schmancy Desserts says it's "so good Bubbe will take 2 pieces home... in her purse."

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