Monday, March 31, 2008

forecast is mostly McCloudy

Stacy McCloud got a nice birthday present today and I'm not talking about the gluten-free dessert Roman's Pizza gave her. Terry Morrow reports that Stacy was promoted to "prime anchor" on WVLT at 4:00, 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. The good news for me is that she will drop the morning shift, which I can never watch, and keep the noon newscast, which I try to watch every day.

I had heard this morning that some changes were afoot at WVLT. Not sure who was staying and who was going, I checked the staff page on their website and saw that Jessa Goddard's picture had already been removed. A former employee of the television station told me that Kim Bedford had left the company too. My source also said to watch for more "one-man band" reporters who have to do their own photography and editing. At least they'll always know which is their good side.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

where to stick it

Campaign buttons used to be free. When I was a kid, I would occasionally stop by the local Republican and Democratic headquarters to pick up a few pins for my collection. My interest waned as I grew older and came to realize that I would never have a complete set. The buttons I did collect are in a big jar at my mother's house. If I had stuck with it, I might be like Ken Gustafson of Yakima or Graylen Becker of Rochester whose collections got them in their local newspapers. Or like Jordan Wright, who wrote a book about his political memorabilia.

I saw two things at Weigel's that surprised me this morning. One, that campaign buttons and bumper stickers were available for $1.99 each. That's at least $2 more than they're worth. And two, that some candidates who had dropped out were still represented. If I were so inclined, I could have bought a Giuliani or Edwards button or a Huckabee sticker. To prove that these pictures aren't from January, I posed hostage-style with today's News Sentinel.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008


Two of my former hometowns are hosting exhibition baseball games today. One game is in a brand new stadium, the other in a throwback venue. The Nationals play their first game in Nationals Park while the Dodgers return to the L.A. Coliseum, where they played when they first moved to Los Angeles 50 years ago. Meanwhile my Mets are playing today in the Civil Rights Game in rainy Memphis. I'll watch the beginning of each game on TV. The Mets game came on ESPN at 5:00, the Nationals game started on MASN at 6:00 and the Dodgers game is on NESN at 10:00. The Nationals game is also available for free on MLB.TV. I clicked on to it just in case MASN was blacked out on my TV. The video is the same but the computer stream is using audio from the visitors' radio broadcast.

While the architects and environmentalists are gushing over the new stadium's design and eco-friendliness, I am most excited about the food choices inside Nationals Park. They will regularly have menu items like Milwaukee brats and Philadelphia cheese steaks that honor National League opponents. Some food items will only be available when the corresponding team is visiting, like knishes when the Mets are in town and California rolls when the Dodgers visit.

As a former Washingtonian, I think it is fantastic that local restaurants will have outlets inside the stadium. Who needs a brat when some Red Hot & Blue BBQ or a Five Guys burger is available? My wife will be able to reminisce over some Gifford's Ice Cream. She and her family used to get Gifford's on the way home from the airport.

My next scheduled trips to the D.C. area will be too short to take in a ballgame. When I finally do get to the new stadium, even I should be able to resist the temptation to bring in my own food.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

virtual refrigerator door

At any given time, my "drafts" file has a dozen or more ideas that could possibly be turned into blog entries. The paragraph below has been stuck in there for a while waiting for me to get back to the topic of fine art. I almost included it in a post that mentioned Jackson Pollock but I ended up taking that entry in a dessert direction.

In December my daughter spotted a Picasso-style doodle that resembled me. Soon after I posted the photo of it, she found the Mr. Picassohead site that lets anyone make an electronic drawing. She made one of me and another of three of my favorite movie stars, the Marx Brothers.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

you're it

A few of the blogs I regularly scan have been tagged with the same meme. I got tagged by missybw at The House of Flying Monkeys. Who can I tag? I think I've used up my quota on other memes. I either need to find some new targets or try something else. Here's my idea. Tag yourself. Go ahead and write your own responses in the comments here or post a link to your own blog.

Name one thing you do every day:
The obvious answer is that I post something on my blog. I also try to watch and delete something on the HD DVR or the TiVo.

Name five things/people that make you feel good:
dark chocolate
doing improv
reading my friend Bean's blog
a nice long nap
swimming in my backyard pool

Name four things you love to eat but rarely do:
Oreos dunked in milk until they stop bubbling
pulled pork BBQ

Name three things that remind you of childhood:
smell of my mother's Chanel N°5
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Name two things you wish you could learn:
to sing half as well as my wife
to deal with the anxiety that causes me to procrastinate (add link later)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ballroom brawl

Adam Carolla got some good news last night. He wasn't the first celebrity booted from the current season of "Dancing With the Stars." Although the judges gave him a low score, enough viewers voted to keep him on for another week. I suspect that more than a few of those votes came from fans of his dancing partner Julianne Hough, but it still counts.

I have some remorse about the way Adam and I first met. He was trying to get his foot in the door at KROQ while it was my job to try and keep the door shut. KROQ is constantly bombarded with people who want to get on the air. Every day the music director is asked to consider dozens of songs by both new and established artists. The Kevin & Bean show hears from people wanting airtime for their movie, TV show, book, restaurant or any type of event you can imagine. As one of the gatekeepers, I had to help keep the show from getting overrun.

Jimmy Kimmel
and I were both up for the morning show producer job at KROQ. I got the job and Jimmy was hired a couple of months later as our comedy writer. He developed an on-air character as Jimmy the Sports Guy and eventually got into a comedic dispute with another morning show regular. Michael the Maintenance Man and a KROQ van driver would go out to a different neighborhood each morning to give away prizes to listeners. Somehow Jimmy and Michael had a disagreement that they decided to settle with a boxing match. After it was announced, I got several messages from a guy named Ace offering to coach one of the fighters. Ace is Adam Carolla's nickname. I kept having to put him off until we could have a morning show meeting and figure out how we were going to proceed. Adam had experience as a boxer and as a carpenter and as a cast member at the Acme Comedy Theatre. Thanks to his talent and persistence, Adam became Jimmy's boxing coach. It was the beginning of their beautiful friendship.

The fight between Jimmy and Michael came to be known as the "Bleeda in Reseda." I booked some celebrity judges including Pat O'Brien and John Wayne Bobbitt. At the time, O'Brien refused to pose in a group photo with Bobbitt so as not to harm his reputation. Bobbitt shocked me by knowing who I was from my days at WAVA and from his days in Manassas before he became famous as a news story.

Boxing and Adam are back together again in his new movie, "The Hammer." it was recommended by both Not Siskel and Not Ebert on a recent edition of "At the Movies." I hope it plays at the Downtown West, otherwise I'll have to wait for the DVD.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

should have tried this sooner

DirecTV didn't offer any Knoxville channels in high definition when I first got my HD setup. At the time, I ordered a supplementary rooftop antenna, only to have my order canceled by the satellite company because they claimed that the Knoxville HD channels were coming in January 2007. It would be another year before they made good on the promise.

As of now, I still have not ordered my local channels from DirecTV. When my rooftop antenna order got canceled, the guys from Strickwood Communications stepped up and brought me an RCA Indoor Amplified Antenna as part of my endorsement deal. I've been using the HD rabbit ears ever since.

Everyone in the family had to learn not to walk in front of the antenna, unless we wanted the TV picture to freeze or disappear. Once I got an HD DVR, we would often find that a recorded show had been ruined by bad reception. I missed most of this year's Grammy Awards for that reason, although from what I read about the show it was no great loss. I started to write a blog entry about it that night but abandoned it because it was going nowhere. Here's how that post would have started:
Like any good disc jockey, I tuned in to the Grammy Awards tonight. Sadly, I found them to be unwatchable but only partly because of their pretentious nature. The problem is that my television gets terrible reception of WVLT.
Of all the local stations, I get the best HD signal from WKOP, the PBS affiliate. The worst signal is from WBXX, the CW affiliate. The quality of WATE, WBIR and WTNZ would depend on how the rabbit ears were positioned.

A week ago I was programming the DVR to record "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" and "The Riches" while I would be out at the Einstein Simplified show. I kept adjusting and readjusting the rabbit ears, trying to find a sweet spot that would work for both WTNZ and WATE. There is a dial on the base of the antenna that is supposed to help with fine tuning. Out of frustration I turned the dial all the way to the left until it clicked and the blue light went off. Had I turned off the power? Maybe I had turned my amplified TV antenna into a passive TV antenna. Here's the amazing part: for the past week, I have gotten the best reception ever on all the over-the-air channels except for WBXX. Their transmitter is out past Oliver Springs, unlike all the stations on Sharp's Ridge. I was real close to calling DirecTV and ordering the local channels via satellite. Now that the rabbit ears are working better, I can save the extra money and stick with the over-the-air signals.

I'm disappointed that the local broadcast stations aren't making good use of their digital subchannels. WVLT gets an A for effort even though I hardly ever watch channel 8.2. They fill the time with infomercials, syndicated shows, reruns and programming from myNetworkTV. WBIR runs NBC Weather Plus on channel 10.2. I wish they would put on 10News2 instead. WATE used to run weather on channel 6.2 and WTNZ used to run music videos on channel 43.2. Both of those subchannels are currently off the air. I hope they put on something because all I need is more TV in my life.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

with two you get eggroll

The White House may have had the Jonas Brothers perform today but we have our own Easter Monday tradition here on the blog. Last year and the year before, I showed off our family's decorated eggs. This year we take a look at how my son makes his annual Earth Egg. Using regular Paas dyes, he soaks one in blue until it reaches the desired hue. Then he uses a Q-tips cotton swab and a glass of water to erase the dye from the land masses. He dips another swab in green dye and paints on the continents. Obviously the North and South Poles are left white.

My son was happy with the way his Asia turned out. Below, he's displaying India for the camera. The finished product takes its place among the rest of our 2008 Spring collection, with Europe and Africa visible. Last year we showed you the Western Hemisphere before it got peeled and eaten.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

heaven and earth are full of your glory

When Pope Benedict XVI visits Washington DC, security will be tight. One of my relatives who lives up that way told me today about some of the rules for the Papal Mass. It will be practically impossible to drive to the ceremony. Charter buses and handicapped drivers will have to park at RFK Stadium and catch a shuttle to Nationals Park. Everyone else is supposed to take the Metro. The WMATA needs to make another Peeps video for those going to the Mass.

Tickets are also in high demand to the April 20th Mass in New York. The Archdiocese of Louisville, headed by Knoxville's former bishop, gets a larger ticket allotment than others around the country because of its bicentennial. Archbishop Kurtz will be at the altar with the Pope in Yankee Stadium.

Tickets to both Masses are non-transferable. Everyone attending needs to bring a photo I.D. It sounds like there will be some sort of computer checkpoints to make sure the name on the I.D. matches the name of the registered ticket holder.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is using a blog format to post updates about the visit. The Washington Post has also started a Pope Watch blog which is where I read about some complaints over the liturgical music the Holy Father might hear in D.C.

The music in question is the "Mass of Creation" by Marty Haugen. It's used, some say overused, at parishes all over the country. The critics would prefer that liturgy organizers plan a Mass full of Gregorian chants and the same music used in Rome. What would be the point of that? Haugen's composition is not bad. I think the Pope should get to hear what Mass actually sounds like in America. If he doesn't like it, he can always make them change it in the future. However I wouldn't be surprised he turns out to be like Mikey in the Life cereal commercial. "He likes it! Hey Benedict!"

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

for peeps' sake

The amount of publicity that Marshmallow Peeps receive every Easter is mind boggling. Most of it seems to be fan-generated rather than coming from the company's press releases. As a lifelong Peeps lover myself, I can honestly say that I was a big fan before it was cool. For example, I once brought a package of purple Peeps to a glacier near Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

The Peeps will be featured tomorrow on CBS News Sunday Morning. Rita Braver's report will include a film I told you about in April 2007 and an artist that I told you about in March of last year.

Mary Constantine of the Knoxville News Sentinel posted a video showing how to use Peeps and chocolate chips to decorate a Peeps Sunflower Cake.

Meanwhile in Washington, the WMATA is using Peeps to get baseball fans to ride the Metro to the new Nationals Park.

Speaking of DC, the Washington Post got some tremendous entries in their second annual diorama contest. Out in Washington State, the readers of the Seattle Times created some great Peeps art.

When I showed my wife a cute picture of a Peeps costume for toddlers, she honestly asked if it came in my size.

When my daughter celebrates Easter tomorrow, she'll have a care package that my wife mailed to her. It contain some of the brand new Peeps Tulips.

A New Jersey columnist writes that he can't eat just one Peep. Can't say that I blame him.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

unflattering imitation

Like Jimmy Durante used to say, "everybody wants to get into the act." Since Marshmallow Peeps are the top selling non-chocolate Easter candy, it makes sense that other companies want to compete. I'll cover the copycats today and save the real deal for tomorrow.

A while back I wrote about a similar Christmas candy called Marshmallow Pals. They are also made in an Easter version. I saw more sugar coated marshmallow things at Wal-Mart this week. Palmer now makes a Marshmallow Baby Binks in addition to their chocolate bunny with the same name.

Nestled among the Peeps, I spotted some animal-shaped marshmallows made by Barton's Candy. Their Barn Yard Buddies looked more like Barn Yard Blobbies to me.The creatures pictured below are supposed to be cows, pigs and frogs.

The odd shapes reminded me of an old Bob & Ray bit about a warehouse that stored its chocolate Easter rabbits too close to some steam pipes. My radio idols did a fake commercial for Chocolate Wobblies. Each one was guaranteed to have a ribbon hidden somewhere inside it.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

one and done

"If it weren't for bad luck, there would be no luck at all." That's what one of the announcers said about GMU with sixteen minutes left in tonight's debacle in Denver. The George Mason Patriots couldn't keep pace with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Many of their shots found the rim but not the basket. The game was so lopsided that CBS bailed out and switched to the Cal State Fullerton game.

The NCAA is offering live streaming video of all the tournament games over the Internet. When I was researching the links for my March 10th post, I saw that fans had to register in advance for the video feed. Thinking that there was a pretty good chance Mason's games would be on regular TV, I had not registered for the stream. I stuck with CBS for a little while tonight, hoping they would switch back to the GMU game on my HD screen. Nope. By the look of the scoreboard at the top of the screen, they weren't going to be returning any time soon. At halftime, I checked the March Madness on Demand website to see if maybe I could still register. After all, I was ready to root for my alma mater, even though the game started so late. I took a nice long nap today and I put on my GMU sweatshirt.

To my surprise, the website had a button that said I could watch without registering. The video player looked great on my computer. Unfortunately the Patriots did not. The second half was just as bad as the first. Game over, tournament over, 68-50. What did I expect on Holy Thursday?

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

all ears

The members of my extended family are planning and preparing for my grandmother's big birthday celebration this Spring. One of my cousins volunteered to assemble a DVD with pictures of Grandma throughout the years. I spent this afternoon going through photo albums and scanning images that I could email to him. In addition to a bunch of snapshots of Grandma sightseeing in Hollywood, I found two old photos that were solely for my own amusement.

When we lived in Virginia, we often visited Grandma on Long Island for the Fourth of July. I always enjoyed listening to WLNG while in the area. Whenever possible, I would seek out a Paul Sidney remote broadcast. Here we are at the Independence Day parade in Southampton, talking about radio on the radio.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey used to let deejays ride the elephants from the train to the venue in the various cities they visit. They don't anymore. When the circus was in town two weeks ago, I thought about the times that I was fortunate enough to have done so in the streets of Washington D.C.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


There are a few random thoughts still in my notebook from Walt Disney World. I'll unload them here.

I noticed a lot of areas around the theme parks set aside for the Disney Vacation Club time share pitch. At each place, a lonely cast member stood by with brochures while a video screen played an infomercial. I'm thankful that they hadn't moved the sales presentations into the ride queues where they would alienate a captive audience. I'll bet that somebody suggested it in a meeting though.

While trying to find an easier way to get from the Magic Kingdom to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I saw a sign at the Transportation Center for buses headed to Shades of Green. Being unfamiliar with the concept, I asked a waiting lady what it meant. I was pleased to hear that it's a military hotel known as an Armed Forces Recreation Center.

The only flaw in an otherwise perfect vacation was the long wait for Disney Transport. One of the other people at our convention thought that higher gas prices may have forced Disney to cut back on the frequency of the buses that take guests from the hotel to the theme parks and back. While we waited for a bus to Epcot, we saw at least three buses going to the Magic Kingdom. The next day when we were going to the Magic Kingdom, we saw at least three buses going to Epcot. Each time we waited over half an hour for our bus. Once we got one, it was packed full of passengers.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

the good, the bad and the ugly

While at Walt Disney World this weekend, my wife and I tried to visit some attractions we didn't see last year. We got home last night but the blog posts about the trip continue.

My wife was interested in the Test Track ride at Epcot. We saved a lot of time by using the single riders line. As long as you don't mind riding in separate cars, it's better than waiting in the long regular line. Because a light rain had started to fall, they made several announcements that the ride might have to close at any time. Since our line was moving fast, we didn't miss out.

When we went to the Magic Kingdom, I wanted to ride the Carousel of Progress, which was originally part of the 1964 World's Fair. The voice of the audio-animatronic father seemed familiar to me. It was Jean Shepherd, who I remember from childhood as a great storyteller on WOR-AM. Most people know his voice from "A Christmas Story." Last night my wife was complaining that the song "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" was stuck in her head. As much as I wanted to enjoy it, I had trouble keeping my eyes open during the show.

Two years ago I went on a face character photo safari. Instead of Disney princesses, this year I saw Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella. They seem to have a lot more fun teasing the guests than Cinderella ever could.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008


For Catholics, being at Walt Disney World on a Sunday used to mean going to Mass at the Polynesian Resort. The service was held in the outdoor luau venue. I went to Mass there on my first visit during high school and on my second visit when my family and I attended the press junket for the opening of Disney MGM Studios, which as of 2008 is known as Disney's Hollywood Studios. By the time my wife and I returned with the Kevin & Bean show in the 1990s, the Polynesian Resort Mass had been discontinued.

On our more recent trips to Orlando, we've gone to Mass at the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. Today was the second year in a row that my wife and I were there on Palm Sunday.

The woman sitting in front of me bent and tied her palm so that it resembled the PX symbol for Christ. The woman sitting next to me (she was from Michigan by the way) had a better angle to see the frond of the woman in front. My garrulous pew-mate then passed her palm frond up a row and asked the lady to please tie it the same way.

I was reminded of the palm artistry we used to see in Burbank every year on Palm Sunday. As the congregation gathered for the Spanish language Masses at St. Finbar Church some entrepreneurs would unfurl mats on the grass and sell palm fronds that had been woven into various religious shapes. My own kids were pretty good at making a cross from a frond or two.

A few moments of curiosity has revealed another subculture on the Internet that I never knew existed. There are enough websites about palm crafts to keep you busy until it's time to burn your palms for next Ash Wednesday.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

have to make it up

Faced with the choice of using my Park Hopper pass to visit any of the Walt Disney World theme parks or going to a convention seminar with only a vague description in the brochure, the answer seemed simple, I was theme park bound. Then I bumped into Charna Halpern in the hallway. She said that her team would be running the 2:30 session. I knew that's where I had to be yesterday afternoon instead.

The highlight of last year's Children's Miracle Network convention was the workshop run by Charna and the group from improvOlympic. I remember being amazed at the difficulty some radio guys from other markets had with telling a story one word at a time. Joe Bill, who led our small group, arranged us in a circle and came up with a story title. We had to make up the story but we could each only say one word. The key is to listen to what's been said so far and when it gets to be your turn, the next word just comes to you. Sometimes the next word needs to be "the" or "and." Other times you get to use a more exciting noun, verb or adjective. That's where many of the deejays fell apart. They tried to overthink it, perhaps wanting to get a laugh with their word. They unsuccessfully tried to anticipate where the story was going and decided on their word before it was their turn. When their word didn't fit the story, they looked foolish and were frustrated by the game. In this exercise, the group is more important than the individual. Don't try to control it, let it control you.

This year's training session was completely different and just as worthwhile. There wasn't as much interaction on our part. Instead the actors from I.O. used improv games to show the important elements of telling a story. They told a Conducted Story that was heavy on facts and another that was nothing but descriptive details. Neither story was compelling. The third attempt was a nice balance of facts and details. Later they did a scene in two minutes and asked the audience to identify the essential and extraneous parts. They redid the scene in one minute and again in thirty seconds, each time paring the story down to its most important elements.

Because my appetite for watching improv is seemingly insatiable, my wife and I had planned to get over to the Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island tonight like we did last year and the year before. We ended up having too much fun at the Magic Kingdom and at the recently re-named Disney's Hollywood Studios. As a result we didn't make it back out to Downtown Disney. However I did get to see some unexpected improv by a group of street performers dressed up in old-fashioned Hollywood costumes. Their characters were trying to be named the funniest person in Hollywood. They did an improv game I know as "185" although the number they used was 99. A director got nouns from the surrounding crowd and the comedians had to complete the joke that goes "99 (nouns) walk into a bar. The bartender says we can't serve 99 (nouns) in here and the 99 (nouns) say (punchline)." I picked up a trick from them that I may have to use some Tuesday night at an Einstein Simplified show. A couple of the Disney improvisers added a line by having the nouns ask "Why not?" and then having the bartender deliver the punchline. If I ever can afford to retire, I'll have to move someplace where I can watch improv everyday.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

who doesn't?

When they said the Osmonds would be on stage tonight, they really meant it. By the end of their concert, the stage was completely packed with Osmonds, performing and otherwise. They were the headline entertainment at the Children's Miracle Awards, part of the Children's Miracle Network Celebration going on this week at Walt Disney World.

My wife and I wanted to see the performance but we wanted to skip the black-tie dinner that preceded it for two reasons. First, we didn't bring any formal wear with us to Florida. Second, the entrée was filet mignon on a Lenten Friday. Instead we went to Epcot to get fish for dinner. And by fish, I mean sushi at Tokyo Dining.

After dinner we tried to hurry back to the Coronado Springs Resort. Because it took us a long time to find a bus going from the hotel to Epcot before dinner, we thought it might be faster to make our return trip via Monorail from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and then by bus back to the hotel. It wasn't. We worried that we might miss the Osmonds. Instead that fortunate mistake put us in the right place at the right time to have our pictures taken with Donny Osmond, who was crossing the hallway outside the ballroom about half an hour before showtime.

We used our ticket to the formal dinner to slip in to the back of the ballroom where we found a lone empty table just waiting for us. The award ceremony was almost over. Before long, the Osmonds (including Alan) came on and sang shortened versions of their hits. To mark their 50th anniversary in show business, the four original Osmond Brothers sang an old barbershop song about an auction. Donny & Marie came on to sing a medley of their most famous songs including "Little Bit Country / Rock and Roll," "Soldier of Love," "Paper Roses" and "Puppy Love." Marie stepped aside to let her brothers sing a medley. The only song of theirs that I recognized was "One Bad Apple." They had an odd song about horses and some loud pyrotechnics that took the crowd by surprise.

For their finale, the performing Osmonds brought on their two oldest brothers who are deaf. Jimmy was given the task of explaining how the performing Osmond Brothers got their start as a way to raise money for the education of the two deaf brothers. The serious mood was broken by a series of Wayne's corny jokes (wear two pair of pants when golfing in case you get a hole-in-one). Marie got choked up and got the crowd feeling the same way as she talked about what it must be like to be born deaf into a musical family. Then Donny invited all the other Osmonds in the audience to join them as they sang "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." The two eldest signed as the others sang.

I had a chance to chat separately with Donny and Marie during my remote broadcast on Star 102.1 this morning. It's been about four and a half years since I last saw Donny at a Morning Show Bootcamp convention and about ten years since I booked him as a guest on KLOS. Every time I see him, Donny remembers me from when he would visit the Don & Mike show at WAVA. We were one of the first stations to play "Soldier of Love." One memorable morning we had Donny ride through DC in a limo while standing in the sunroof opening and shouting to passersby "I'm Donny Osmond, don't you wish you were me?"

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

yuck boo yum

Supermarket shelves are currently stocked with a variety of Easter candy, including a couple of items that I hadn't seen before. Sam's Club had a big stack of Edible Easter Grass made by Galerie au Chocolat. If you've ever ended up with plastic grass stuck to your jelly bean, edible grass seems like a fine idea. However if it's made of white chocolate, it could end up as a melted mess in the bottom of your basket. Yuck.

Milk chocolate fans usually want their bunny, whether hollow or solid. The package for Palmer's Too Tall Bunny amused me while I was at Food City the other day. You see, his ears are so big, they don't fit in the box. My enthusiasm quickly waned when I saw some guy with annoying sound effects prove on YouTube that the bunny is not too tall at all. The box has a false bottom. Boo!

I'm more of a dark chocolate and marshmallow fan. The folks at Candy Blog have described a Lindor Truffle Egg that sounds pretty good. I couldn't find any of them but I did see a different holiday treat at the Food City on Morrell Road. Until now, I had always thought that people who keep Kosher were denied the pleasure of eating marshmallows. That includes Marshmallow Peeps which are not Kosher
even if they are "always in season" nowadays. It's because marshmallows are made with gelatin and gelatin is made from animal bones and connective tissues, hence the non-Kosherness. Anyway, this store has a pretty big selection of Passover products. Wedged in among the Manischewitz were packages of Granny's Toasted Marshmallows by Rokeach. So how does a bag of marshmallows get a Pareve insignia on the label? Turns out that these coconut-covered treats are made from "kosher fish gelatine." Yum?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

eyes are smiling

The annual Women Today Expo happens this weekend at the Knoxville Convention Center. Wow. That means it has already been a year since my wife and I showed off our makeovers in the fashion show at that event. To promote this year's expo, the News Sentinel has a slideshow on their website. Look for me in photos 8 through 13. Those are the ladies from Garde Bien Spa Salon fussing over me in the first few pictures.

I think more than a few people will show up this weekend expecting to go to the Food City Food Show, which had been a part of the Women Today Expo for years. The line to get in to the Food Show was always so long, it made me think that more people came to it than to the main event. The Food Show's popularity has allowed it to be spun off into a separate event to be held in September. I guess that means Chef Walter has this weekend off for a change.

Food City sponsors Chef Walter's daily cooking segment on WVLT. Today he made an Irish Soda Bread that looked spectacular. It made me want a piece of my mother's soda bread, slathered in butter. I called Mom today to tell her about it and to ask if she would mind me putting the family recipe on my blog. Here it is, in time for the early celebration of St. Patrick's Day in some Catholic dioceses around the world.
My Great-Grandmother's Irish Soda Bread
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 to 3 cups buttermilk
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter, dough becomes like pebbles. Coat caraway seeds and raisins with flour and add to mix.

Mix baking soda into 1 cup of buttermilk. Slowly add to flour mix, a little at a time. Continue adding buttermilk slowly, until the dough is moist and forms a ball (or pulls away from bowl). The amount of buttermilk needed depends on the weather.

Put a tablespoon of flour on a board and coat hands with flour. Knead dough a little and shape it into a loaf. Cut an X into the top.

Bake in two greased and floured 8 inch pans (or as one loaf on a cookie sheet) at 375° for 45 to 50 minutes, again depending on the weather. Test with a cake tester. Cool on a rack. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

six years six months

For the first five years after 9/11, firefighter Aron Safell marked the anniversary by erecting 343 crosses on the lawn outside his firehouse in Garland, Texas. He displayed the crosses for the final time in 2006 and sent me several photos which I posted on my blog. Each cross had the name of a firefighter, including my cousin Terry Hatton, who died at the World Trade Center. Aron has kindly offered to send nameplate photos to the families of any of the firefighters lost in the line of duty that day.

In November, the Garland Fire Department opened a new administration and training facility. Let me have Aron continue the story by quoting his email:
The chief asked for any memorabilia to go into the display area. I wanted the "Cross for a Brother" memorial to somehow fit into this. I removed all the nameplates from the crosses and pitched a few ideas to the chiefs. An office Captain and I came up with an idea and sent it off to a trophy company. What a memorial! They used all the original nameplates and created the Twin Towers memorial for the front area of the FD administration offices.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

final sixty-four

The George Mason Patriots earned their way back to the NCAA men's basketball tournament with a 68-59 victory over the William and Mary Tribe tonight. The win came in the championship game of the CAA Tournament in Richmond. This means that I will now be interested in the Selection Sunday seeds and that I will be watching GMU play in the tournament. Not that I'm superstitious but I think I will wear the same GMU sweatshirt that I wore to watch the CAA tournament during that first round NCAA game. Since I have three different ones, let me remind myself that it was the green one with the gold stitched lettering. I'm not the only one in eager anticipation. One of the fans in the stands at tonight's game held up a sign that read: "George Mason is this year's George Mason!"

Near the beginning of the game, our home phone rang. Of course, not everyone reads my blog and would know that I was watching the game. Since the DirecTV box is connected to a phone line, they can offer a caller ID feature. The name and number of incoming callers is displayed on my TV screen. As we watched Mason take an early lead, the caller ID said "incoming call from Geo Mason Univ." and gave a (703) number. Huh? The voice on the phone said they were calling from the university's Phonathon. I remember volunteering for the annual fundraiser when I was a GMU student myself, calling unsuspecting alumni at their homes. I told the young lady that I was trying to watch the basketball game. She asked who was winning. I told her that Mason had scored the first two baskets. At that point she said her good-byes and hung up. It was the most painless solicitation call ever. We didn't even get to the part where I have to say no.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008


There are rules prohibiting me from clicking on the ads on my own site. However if one of them should pique my interest, I can easily open a new tab and navigate my way to the site mentioned in the ad. That's the path that brought me to some good looking pictures of Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows. They make several specialty flavors including Simply S'mores. In the Los Angeles area, you can hire the Plush Puffs crew to set up a s'mores bar at your next party. I need to keep that in mind when I visit.

Last weekend my wife and I bought a s'mores dessert at Mimi's Cafe. Rather than eat it in the restaurant, we took it home for another day. Our waiter had the kitchen staff put it in a to-go box without heating it. They also gave us little containers of chocolate and caramel topping. The next day I put the dessert on some foil and stuck it under the broiler.

My wife drizzled the toppings over the warm s'more, trying to emulate the photo on the menu at Mimi's. We were happy with the results even if it didn't look quite as fancy as it would have at the restaurant.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

knowing what the world is about

The book I'm currently reading put me in the mood to watch some college basketball today. Specifically, I wanted to see the CAA tournament game between George Mason and Northeastern. In case you didn't know, GMU is my alma mater. The book is called "Cinderella: Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball." It's mostly about the 2005-2006 CAA season and Mason's trip to the Final Four. I'm working on getting an interview with the author for an upcoming podcast.

Prior to the game, I was a little worried for the Patriots because of their recent loss to the Huskies in the regular season. Northeastern had to beat my wife's school (JMU) last night in order to face my school tonight. There was no need for concern. Mason held a comfortable lead throughout the game, winning 63-52. They play UNC Wilmington tomorrow at approximately 5:30 p.m. The winner of that game gets to play in the CAA championship game on Monday night.

In the time since Mason's Final Four appearance, the pep band has evolved into the Green Machine, led by Doc Nix. I read in the alumni magazine that the band's string section started as a joke. The violins got a fair amount of TV time on CN8, which the announcers predictably referred to as "the ocho."

The pregame hosts interviewed Lakers scout Kevin Grevey who said he was also there to look for players for the minor league Defenders. They let him get in a plug for his restaurant in Falls Church too. The play-by-play announcers said there was "lots of ball pressure," whatever that means. I'm sure they meant in the game, not at the restaurant.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

palate pleasing pallet place

Internet surfers frequently find their way to my site when searching for the best BBQ or pizza in Knoxville. I've written about both, although I have to admit that my BBQ postings are a bit outdated. At least two new joints have opened around my end of town since I last visited the topic. There's one on Walker Springs and one on Middlebrook Pike that I would like to try when I can afford both the cash and the calories. Plus I don't eat meat on Fridays in Lent.

This time last year I wrote
about having cheese pizza as a Lenten meal. A couple of Fridays this Lent, I timed a salad-buying trip to Sam's Club to coincide with lunch. A slice of their pizza is pretty good, inexpensive and about the size of two slices elsewhere. I got one today and put it in my shopping cart before sitting down at one of their little tables.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

lines of code of Harry

Video games have never been my thing. I was too cheap to ever put my quarters into an arcade game and too interested in other aspects of my TV and computer to get involved in gaming at home. The computer games I owned were titles like "Jeopardy" and "You Don't Know Jack." Even though I'm not a gamer, I still think I want to see the documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," which is about a champion Donkey Kong player. I've heard many good things about it.

Like any normal boy his age, my son enjoys video games. He plays "Madden '08" at home and is going to a "Mario Kart" party tomorrow night. Today I jokingly told him that there was a new game coming out that may finally get me interested in picking up a controller and exercising my thumbs. The game will be based on one of my favorite TV shows, "Dexter." I've previously written about the Showtime series, which is currently being shown on CBS. Are any of you watching it on regular TV? I wonder what a "Dexter" video game will be like. Maybe you'll control the main character as he goes to the store to stock up on cellophane, duct tape and syringes before going about his bloody business.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

under the medium top

The Boom A Ring edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is a fun night out although much smaller than the circus I remember from childhood. My parents took my sisters and me to the circus at Madison Square Garden every year. My wife and I took our kids to the circus at the DC Armory and the Long Beach Arena. Instead of a dozen or so elephants, the show visiting Knoxville this week has two. Two is a lot better than none, which partly explains why I hated Cirque du Soleil.

Ringling's one-ring version tours smaller towns while the big shows go to the major markets. Audience reaction prompted them to add a tiger act to the show we got, making it automatically better than the last circus performance I saw. There was no scrimping in the tiger department, with six of the big cats in the ring.

They gave me seats near Doug Mason, who was taking notes and recording video, perhaps for his News Sentinel blog. I was also near WBIR's LaSaundra Brown and Russell Biven. Since today was Ben Senger's last day at Channel 10, I asked Russell if he had to start working the morning shift tomorrow. If so, he was already up too late. Fortunately he gets a few days off before his alarm clock rings unbelievably early on Monday.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

hope your day is snappy

The rule of three compels me to write about "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" today. The show, which was a childhood favorite of mine, turned up on my pop culture radar three times in the past few days. Jimmy Kimmel celebrated the 40th anniversary of the classic PBS program with some of his famous Unnecessary Censorship.

Then I saw a news story that Speedy Deliveryman Mr. McFeely is on YouTube urging us to wear a sweater on March 20 because it would have been Fred Rogers' 80th birthday. Mr. McFeely is played by David Newell, another of the people I interviewed for "Where Are They Wednesday?" on the oldies station. Did you know that McFeely was actually Fred Rogers' middle name? It was also the last name of his grandfather. TV's Mr. McFeely says we can send photos or videos of ourselves wearing sweaters via email (the speediest delivery) to

I saw yet another reminder of Mister Rogers while shopping at Food City. They're having a sweater drive that ends this Friday. David Newell was in Knoxville last month to promote it. I missed him on "Live at Five" but thanks to the Internet, I can still see the interview.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

beware the Ides of March

The hat worn by the Wicked Witch and the whip used by Indiana Jones are getting most of the publicity of all the items in next week's huge pop culture auction in Vegas. In my opinion, any memorabilia collection worth its salt must include some "Batman" props. This one does. It didn't take too many clicks to find one of the ultimate collectibles from the show. If I had as much money as Bruce Wayne, I would take $50,000 to $100,000 and buy the William Shakespeare bust that held the hidden switch to access the Batcave. If you don't know where the switch is, you'll never get past the front page of the great website The Bat Pages.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

out with the crowd

Parishes all over the Eastern U.S. may experience a priest shortage from April 15 to 20. I'm no Faith Popcorn but I'll predict this trend based on a conversation after Mass this morning. Fr. Ragan Schriver said he will go to Washington on Catholic Charities business that week. Not coincidentally, he will attend Pope Benedict's Mass at "some baseball stadium" on April 17. I told him that the Pope will be one of the first people to play the new Nationals Park. The others in the group were amused by my choice of theatrical verbs. Fr. Augustine Idra then said that he too was going to a Papal Mass at "some baseball stadium" but in New York. I then mentioned that Benedict XVI would be one of the last to play the old Yankee Stadium.

Here's more proof why the Internet is great. Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote a silly blog entry about a church hymn that reminded me of the Taylor Dayne song "Tell It to My Heart." On February 21, Ms. Dayne sang that very song on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." On Monday the church song came back into my life when I got an email with a large attachment. The sender’s name was immediately recognizable to me even though we've never met. It was from singer/songwriter Tom Franzak. Best of all, the attachment was a copy of the song I had written about. Tom's message was: "I arrived, somehow, at your post where you mention my song, 'Come And Follow Me.' Thought you might enjoy this." I wrote back thanking him. Now I need to figure out a way to get John D. Becker to send me a copy of his "Litany of Saints."

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

reaches across the room

The time of our arrival at the local art house cinema would determine which Oscar-winning movie we saw today. If we could get there before 4:30, we would see "No Country for Old Men." As it turned out we saw "There Will Be Blood," which will always be known as the "I drink your milkshake" movie. I found it easier to stop trying to figure out the unexplained plot details and just concentrate on the character study of crazy Daniel Plainview.

Afterward we went to Mimi's Cafe for dinner. While we were placing our order, some other servers brought an array of huge desserts to the family sitting at the next table. We asked our waiter to tell us what five different things they had ordered. The Triple Chocolate Brownie and the Bananas Foster Mud Pie were especially large.

We behaved ourselves by each ordering a salad and splitting one entree between us. When we got our check we saw that the total was five dollars less than the amount of the gift certificate we had. On an impulse we ordered a dessert from the special, seasonal menu, choosing the one thing the family at the next table had skipped. My decision was pretty much based on the photo alone. Although the description of Mimi's S'mores sounded good too: "Layers of toasted marshmallow cream, chocolate crunch and a cinnamon graham crust. Served warm and topped with caramel and chocolate sauces."

We told our waiter that we were going to save it for another day. He had them put it in a carryout box without heating it up. They put the chocolate and caramel sauces in little containers on the side. Now we have to decide whether to freeze it until after Easter or to eat it tomorrow on the grounds that technically Sundays don't count as part of Lent. Either way, we'll need to toast the top of it and drizzle on the sauce to make it look like the picture.

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