Thursday, July 31, 2008

howdy pardners

Dr. Bill Bass founded the Body Farm because corpses in Tennessee are different from the ones he had examined in Kansas. In order to determine the time of death, he needed to study the decomposition process. Bodies decayed faster in summer than winter. The rate depends on the climate. The forensic anthropologists in Knoxville came up with a formula based on the average daily temperature. It works pretty well but to truly advance the science, more body farms must be opened in different climates. Dr. Bass has spoken about this in some of our radio interviews over the years. A new article on the How Stuff Works site also describes the dilemma a couple of pages in.

The second body farm after Knoxville's is at Western Carolina University. The climate there is almost identical to here. At least they made an effort. I think It would be more useful to have a body farm on the Carolina shore than in the mountains. Maybe their farm helped convince the next school to try one.

A new body farm is about to open at Texas State University. Their clever logo shows a skull wearing a cowboy hat. You may recall that the locals were concerned about buzzards when the plans were first announced. The Fox affiliate in Austin recently aired a report about the new place. The news anchor said that the San Marcos ranch will be the largest body farm in the world. Texans are always talking about size, aren't they?

Lastly, I came across a blog by someone who attended a summer class at the original Body Farm. It's worth a click if you have a minute.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

winz, losses and ties

Nicole Sandler and I know a lot of the same people. We were competitors when I was at KROQ and she was at KLOS. A couple of years later, I got Nicole's old job with Mark & Brian. Despite our common acquaintances, we had never met or spoken until today. Nicole emailed to see if she could call me on her Miami radio show to talk briefly about the tragic church shooting in Knoxville. A podcast of the show is available. I'm on at the end of hour 3.

The accused killer had books by Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity in his home. I said that I had heard Catherine Howell on WNOX wondering if the suspect was one of their listeners. Nicole supports a return to the Fairness Doctrine so that people like the shooter might be exposed to other points of view. I countered by telling how we talked about tolerance and freedom of religion on Monday morning on Star 102.1. I told the Miami listeners that East Tennessee is not all gun racks and confederate flags. We have many different houses of worship along Kingston Pike and plenty of well-educated people at UT and ORNL.

It was nice of Nicole to call. I'm not sure why she thought of me but my best guess would be that she saw one of the links I submitted to Perry Simon's Talk Topics column at All Access. When I find a local story that might interest Perry (like this one), I send it along. I've been doing that since he and I worked in neighboring trailers at the Comedy World Radio Network.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

you're soaking in it

Picking restaurants for our upcoming trip to Arkansas has been easier than choosing tourist attractions. In fact, neither of the two places I have booked so far are even in Arkansas. This week I arranged for tickets to take the Graceland tour in Memphis, Tennessee and to see the Jim Stafford Show in Branson, Missouri. I just found out that my wife loved Jim Stafford's TV show in the '70s. She is thrilled that we're going to see his stage show. Dolly Parton fans need to see the YouTube video of her duet with Jim on "I Don't Like Spiders & Snakes."

I'm wondering if it's worth the money for us to take a bath in Hot Springs. If so, how do you choose a bathhouse? Or is historic Buckstaff Bath House the only proper choice? Any advice would be appreciated as we make our plans.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

dear diary

The type of tragedy that always seems to happen someplace else happened here in Knoxville yesterday. A hate-filled shooter opened fire in a one of the many churches along Kingston Pike. The shooting alone was enough to make today one of the more memorable days in my personal broadcast history.

I don't usually write about work but in this case I must make an exception so that I can look back on this post years from now. Due to vacation schedules and the departure of another deejay, the boss asked me to do the midday show instead of the morning show both this week and last. Before we knew about the shooting on Sunday, I got a call from Kim Hansard. She said that Marc Anthony was ill and would miss work the next day. We came up with a plan to air rerun segments during the morning show on Monday. I drove over to the station to load the audio files into the "Google box," which is my name for our broadcast computer system. When I finally exited the soundproof studio, I learned of the shooting in an email from my friend Bean.

I felt that there was no way we could run repeats on a day when Knoxvillians would need to talk about the tragic event. We worked out a new plan that involved a double shift. I would still do the midday show from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and also come in early to do the morning show with Kim from 5:30 to 10:00 a.m. We took lots of calls and talked about heroes, hatred, tolerance, freedom of religion and the effect of violence on children. I commented that the Unitarian Universalist beliefs reminded me of the rights guaranteed by our founding fathers. The most powerful moment came when an eyewitness to the shooting called us. Here's the audio of the call:

To top it all off, we finally had a winner in the station's flyaway contest. For the past few weeks, listeners have been trying to guess an airplane seat number to win a trip to a John Mayer concert in Dallas. An hour later we started the contest for the second flyaway to see Linkin Park in St. Louis. Kim and I were stunned when our first contestant guessed the correct seat. It was even more shocking than my 10-9 victory in the daily Her vs. Him contest. I can't remember the last time the guys won on a day I was filling in for Marc.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

almost a chicken and waffle

It was only my third time inside a Waffle House yesterday. When I first moved here, I went to the Waffle House on Papermill Drive to record a segment about what belongs on top of grits. My radio partner thought it was sacrilege that I put sugar on my grits.

My first experience with the House was in Tulsa many years ago. Don & Mike had planned on doing a live broadcast in front of Oral Roberts University on the day that Oral had set as a fund raising deadline. If he didn't get the cash, the Lord was going to call him home. Back in those days we would rent a big satellite truck for remotes from other cities. We were going to set up the truck in the parking lot of our hotel, right across the street from ORU. Our permission was revoked when the hotel manager figured out what we were planning. We were told that Oral also owned the hotel's land and virtually the whole neighborhood. Without a place to put the truck, we ended up calling in to the studio from various pay phones (remember those?) around Tulsa. I used a phone at a Waffle House for my live report.

My friend Sandy Weaver Carman and her husband were passing through town yesterday, so we arranged to meet for breakfast. Before heading out to our meeting, we tried to figure out how to make it sound like we were going to a fancy restaurant, similar to the way Target is often pronounced with a French accent. I asked my son how to say Waffle House in Spanish. He came up with "Casa de Indecisión."

It was great to see Sandy and her husband again. It's been a few years since we last visited her at a canine agility event near Atlanta. My wife and I were also happy to see her dog Billy who had come along for the ride. Once we were settled into the booth, we talked about Sandy's new voiceover business, my improv group, some former co-workers and radio in general. I would have liked to chat a lot longer but I stopped myself from bringing up new topics because I knew that they had to get on the road. Sandy's husband seemed very curious about improv. He has never seen "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" so I couldn't use that as a reference point. Maybe he can watch one of our YouTube videos.

For breakfast, I ordered one egg and split a waffle with my wife. I should have taken the extra calories and had the regular syrup. The sugar-free stuff tasted nasty to me. Sandy and her husband asked if I was sure I didn't want to eat anything more. After all, they said, it didn't look like I needed to lose any weight. I said that I was only trying to not gain it back. They must not remember how big I was three years ago, like in these before photos. Here's another one, taken while on a trip to Sandy's part of the world. That's me on the right, smart aleck.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

tin roof rusted

By the look of this rustic shack, you might think that I was in a rural part of Tennessee like Byron prefers. Instead I was on Dutchtown Road, very near the entrances to the upscale Christian Academy of Knoxville and Webb School of Knoxville.

I think it took me longer to find the shack on Google Street View than it took to drive to the Waffle House on Lovell Road. My wife and I were on our way there when we spotted the picturesque structure. We had breakfast with some old friends who were passing through town. I'll tell you all about that tomorrow.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

chicken or pork?

There are a couple of shows on Travel Channel that could be on Food Network and several shows on Food Network that could easily pass for Travel Channel shows. A recent episode of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" got me thinking about where to have lunch the next time I'm in Memphis. It will be tough to choose between Tom's Bar-B-Q and Leonard's Pit Barbecue. A place called Marlowes didn't look bad either.

For me, food and travel have always been linked. When I think of places I've been, I remember specific restaurants and their delicacies. Whenever possible, I try to avoid chain restaurants at our destinations. Chains are fine for a pit stop along the Interstate.

I've been researching things to see and places to eat during our upcoming road trip. I decided to save Iowa for a time when I can also get to Nebraska. Therefore, the next state I will add to my list is Arkansas. As of right now, there are more restaurants on my list than tourist attractions.

My daughter gave me a copy of "1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die" for my last birthday. And by last, I mean most recent, not final. The book recommends McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Hot Springs. I'm also intrigued by Gee Whillikers Soda Fountain and Eatery. My brother-in-law emailed to suggest a place called White Pig Inn in North Little Rock.

My plans for this trip also include a pass through Branson, Missouri. We won't have time to see or taste everything there. Any suggestions for the one or two best places to go?

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

uproar at four

People in Knoxville are passionate about their local TV news. I came to this obvious conclusion when I saw that the most commented upon story on the News Sentinel website today was "WBIR cancels 'Style.'" I also had a pretty good idea based on the number of people who click on my blog after searching for names like Abby Ham and Stacy McCloud. In addition to the news article, Terry Morrow wrote a blog entry analyzing the reasons behind the cancellation of "Style."

The reader comments turned into a venting session about WBIR, WATE and WVLT. Some guys are more interested in whether or not Stacy is wearing a wedding ring. Others have not gotten over the loss of former Knoxville anchors like Jessa Goddard or Kristen Hoke. A lot of readers seem obsessed with the Glitterville guy.

There are a few hidden nuggets of value buried amidst the snarkiness. Why not make "Style" a half hour show at 12:30 p.m. instead of running "The Beverly Hillbillies" reruns? Maybe there is a certain amount of repetition among beloved Ken Schwall's stories. And perhaps too much time is devoted to the weather segments on days when there is no severe weather.

I'll have to strongly disagree with the commenter who thinks that Michele Silva was rude. I've been a guest on "Style" and I've seen Michele at many events. She's one of the nicest people in town.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

fluid ounces

The new Weigel's on Middlebrook Pike was open on Sunday but it wasn't "grand open" yet. My wife and I went there after church intending to buy a gallon of our preferred brand of milk. As I put the jug on the counter, I saw a notice that it would go on sale the next day when the grand opening celebration began. Why pay $3.99 when it would cost $2.99 in 24 hours? I put the milk back in the case. My son could pick up a discounted gallon on his way home from swim team practice on Monday. If we time it right, we should be able to get three gallons before the sale price expires this coming Sunday.

The grand opening flyer also promised discounted gasoline on Wednesday. My wife and I both topped off our tanks today for only $3.69 a gallon. While I was there I picked up another jug of milk too, even though we won't need it until tomorrow. A news photographer from WATE 6 approached several drivers as we filled up. He asked if I would answer a question on camera. To the surprise of absolutely no one, I agreed. My sound bite turned up on the 5:00 p.m. news. As he described the grand opening promotion, Gene Patterson said "Lots of people there taking advantage including a local radio personality from Star 102.1." Thanks Gene!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

pondering pachyderms

Something must be up with the elephants. My wife and son enjoyed seeing Tonka and the other elephants at the Knoxville Zoo on Saturday. My friend Bean sent me a photo of Batman on an elephant and Byron just sent me a link to see Abby Ham shoveling elephant manure at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Don't worry Ham fans, she still has her regular job on the Channel 3 News.

Abby's dung-filled day reminded me of something we did one spring at WAVA. When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town, I had the opportunity to ride an elephant through the streets of D.C. Before they left, the circus would offer free bags of elephant manure to anybody who wanted some for their garden. We got several bags of the stuff and spread them in the parking lot on top of an envelope, which we had sealed in a plastic bag. We invited listeners to come and dig through the manure in search of a buried prize. When one of the listeners finally found it, he ripped open the envelope and saw nothing but the words "April Fool!"

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Monday, July 21, 2008

it felt so wrong, it felt so right

First my local Sam's Club gets me hooked on Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce by offering free samples of it with cream cheese on a cracker. Then they run out of it and don't restock. Same with my bottled water. Now they have replaced the salad I eat every day with a more expensive gourmet version.

Because of all this, I have a confession to make. I cheated on my regular Sam's with the Sam's Club on the other side of town. We were over that way on Friday to see an ABBA/Batman double feature at the theatre inside Knoxville Center Mall. It didn't take long to discover that the other Sam's also carries Taylor Farms Garden Gourmet Salad (now with green leaf lettuce and radicchio) instead of the more affordable stuff I had hoped for. Things got better fast when I found plenty of Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Deer Park one liter bottles. I put three bottles of one and two cases of the other in my cart. The different Sam's had done well by me.

No sooner had I gotten home from stocking up on my current favorite condiment when an email arrived from Fischer & Wieser. They are offering one free bottle of their newest flavor, Roasted Blackberry Chipotle Sauce, with any online purchase until July 31. Maybe I can make a little more room in the pantry.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

björn again

A box office record was set this weekend by "Mamma Mia!" Huh? Oh sure, "The Dark Knight" broke all kinds of records but "Mamma Mia!" had the biggest opening for a musical. My wife was included in the 75% of the film's audience who are female, which makes me part of the other 25%. "Mamma Mia!" was okay. I only liked hearing the ABBA songs that I already knew, which was a little less than half of them. The unfamiliar tunes didn't do it for me. True ABBA fans would know all the songs.

I have seen enough clips on talk shows to know that Pierce Brosnan's singing voice is not in the same league as his co-stars. Meryl Streep's voice was believable as Donna, a former pop singer. Amanda Seyfried, the actress who played her daughter, sings well too. All through the movie, I kept trying to figure out how one of Donna's backup singers could possibly be Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter films too. Julie Walters disappears into both roles.

In the course of clicking around for "Mamma Mia!" information, I found a less than favorable movie review by Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News. I once did some work for her parents during Oscar week in Hollywood. Her dad is Stuart Weitzman, the famous shoe designer.

On Friday we met some friends at the Regal Knoxville Center 10. Our original plan to see "The Dark Knight" got modified when one of our friends suggested that we could see "Mamma Mia!" too. The show times allowed us to take a break for lunch in between. I got a salad at Chick-fil-A and somehow resisted the urge to get one of their delicious, hand-spun, 790-calorie milkshakes. In the end, we were all glad that ABBA was the opening act and that we made Batman the headliner. It wouldn't have been as enjoyable the other way around.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

rough riders

The embargo is lifted. I saw "The Dark Knight" yesterday and can now read articles and watch shows about the film. The movie is amazing. It's so full of action and plot that it's almost like two movies in one. I want to see it a second time just to enjoy a spectacular scene with the Batpod and an eighteen wheeler again. The action is great but my favorite scene was a superbly acted conversation between Batman and the Joker.

I'm glad I waited until today to watch "Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight" on History. It included a lot of footage from both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" as experts discussed the mental states of Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent, Catwoman, the Joker and others. According to the show, director Christopher Nolan feels that Bruce Wayne is a lot like President Theodore Roosevelt. T.R.'s father was also a rich philanthropist. When the future president experienced great personal tragedy, he went off to the Dakota badlands, possibly with the intention of killing himself. Instead he came back a determined man. He became police commissioner of New York and rode a bicycle through the streets at night to deter crime.

The release of each new Batman movie brings the opportunity for some collateral publicity for the 1966 classic camp version. The best thing I've recently read about the old Adam West series was an article in Variety by Lorenzo Semple Jr. He describes the process of writing the show as well as some other backstage anecdotes. And the best thing I've seen about my childhood hero lately was a photo of Batman riding an elephant. Seriously.

Since "The Dark Knight" is a somber movie, I'll end this blog entry with some sad news about bats. Researchers are trying to determine the cause of a white nose syndrome that is killing off bats in the Northeast. It has nothing to do with Studio 54.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

meow mix

Susan Olsen wants your clicks. The actress who played Cindy on "The Brady Bunch" sent out an email tonight to a bunch group of her friends and family members with the news that she is in the cast of "Gimme My Reality Show," which will air on the Fox Reality Channel starting October 11. The show is filming now. As part of the competition, Susan needs as many of us as possible to click on a YouTube video she made. Whoever gets the most clicks over the weekend wins the challenge. It's a faux PSA called "Kittens In Peril" that could be analogous to the hazards faced by former child stars. Or maybe it's just about kittens.

Susan and I worked together at the defunct Comedy World Radio Network (which was way ahead of its time in online audio and video streaming). Previously she had a talk show at KLSX. Susan did a radio interview earlier this month in Colorado that made the news when she got sick. Rather than fabricate a story about having the flu or something, she knew from her past radio experience that it was best to be honest and tell the morning deejays that she was hungover from a few glasses of wine the night before. The altitude and an oncoming migraine didn't help either. The deejays were quick to get a video of the interview to CNN and other outlets, saying it was the weirdest thing that ever happened to them. Funny, it's happened to me plenty of times. Someday I should try to make a list of all the different celebrities who showed up hungover to morning radio interviews that I had booked.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

the tonightline show

Jay Leno slipped in a joke about moving to ABC on his show the other night. Nobody I know saw it but there was a write-up on the Internet that tells us all we need to know. Jimmy Kimmel responded by doing a funny bit at the network president's press conference the following day.

There's not much new to say about the rumors of a possible move by Leno since my last post on the subject. Except that Leno says he will definitely leave NBC and that Jimmy sent me an email to say thanks for the kind words.

If you clicked on the two links in the first paragraph, you saw lots of comments from people theorizing about whether Jimmy's show should be moved to 12:35 or whether he should bolt to Fox. Here's something for them to over-analyze: Jimmy read my last post and liked it. But which part? The suggestion that "Nightline" could be replaced by a 30 minute Leno show? Or that Jimmy himself should be allowed to compete at 11:35? Or that in the age of DVRs, it hardly matters what time he's on.

Oh yeah, Jimmy's ex got an Emmy nomination for her Matt Damon video.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

prey for Cas Walker

The dream of almost everyone who has done a commercial voiceover is to become a cartoon character. I've always been a fan of the voices behind the drawings. When I was casting the radio dramas we did at KLOS, I would be sure to get some talented voice actors to work alongside the more well-known celebrities. Jess Harnell was in all of my productions. At other times we had Nancy Cartwright, Christine Cavanaugh and the legendary June Foray. Mark Hamill was in several of our productions. He is known for his on-camera performance in "Star Wars" but truly shines for his voiceover work as the Joker in "Batman: The Animated Series" and other roles.

The topic of voiceovers came to mind when my friend Sandy Weaver Carman left a comment on my blog entry about downloading a Mark Twain audiobook. DC radio fans will certainly remember Sandy as one of the best deejays to ever grace the market with her work at Q107 and WAVA. She recently launched her own voiceover business and a blog that will help push her name to the top of the search results.

Sandy's blog inspired me to add some newer samples on my own voiceover page. I recently did a couple of radio commercials using character voices. Although I have yet to become the voice of an animated cartoon character, publicist Zane Hagy asked me to create a voice for Ronnie Raccoon, the spokesplushy for Saving Little Hearts, a charity for kids with congenital heart defects.

One day last week, there was a slight advertising emergency at the radio station. A local used car dealer wanted someone to do a superhero voice for their new commercial. The others who had tried it weren't "whitebread" enough. Strangely, I was asked to give it a try. Because of the circumstances, there was a rush to get it done. On my way to the studio, I saw that the script called for three voices. I thought it might be funny if I did all of them myself. If it didn't sound right, they could still get somebody else to be the announcer or the woman in distress. Gene Wooten added some reverb and the perfect music. Bottom line: the client loved the spot and wants to do more. Former radio PD Gishelle Diva Gish called the request line on Sunday to tell me that she too thought the spot was good. Click here to take a listen for yourself. C'mon it's only 30 seconds!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The guy being interviewed on "Nightline" Monday night was saying some of the things that I think every day. Except that he was doing a much better job of articulating it than I ever could. Maybe because he's British. Ben Schott collects facts. Schott says that we all take in far more information than we can comprehend. In the "Nightline" piece he said, "It would be a torture if we recalled everything and a torture if we recalled nothing. So somehow there's a balance of normality."

He puts the interesting tidbits in a series of books. "Schott's Original Miscellany" has examples of Famous Last Words, Shakespearean Insults, Cockney Rhyming Slang, Patron Saints and Notable Belgians. "Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany" has a list of unusual meats and what they supposedly taste like among other things. "Schott's Sporting, Gaming & Idling Miscellany" is filled with things like a list of the Wacky Racers and the number of calories burned by various activities.

"Nightline" focused on Schott's ongoing gathering of stuff that interests him, which is how he writes "Schott's Almanac" each year. Of all the things Ben Schott said in the interview, I most identified with his interest in the accumulation, not the retention of facts. Schott said, "I write it down so I can forget about it." That's the same reason I write this blog.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

life lesson

A high school teacher in Oklahoma writes a blog called Chalk Dust Makes Me Sneeze. He refers to himself as Mr. W. and he's in or near Muskogee. I only know of him because he turned up on my blogging radar when he wrote that his parents planned to donate their bodies to the Body Farm here in Knoxville. As I scrolled through some other entries, I learned that his parents' minds were still sharp but that their bodies were failing. After his father passed away, the teacher wrote about the odd feeling of there being no funeral.

Of all the entries I found, the best was the one that describes how to make a marriage last. The teacher came to Tennessee to be with his father, who was too weak to do anything. The dying man was more concerned about his bedridden wife than himself. And the teacher's mother thought more about her husband than herself. Here are the exact words:
People wonder how to make marriage last. Simple. Put your partner’s needs first, even when you’re both literally days from death.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008


First of all, "WALL-E" is a very good movie, despite what happened. We went to see it yesterday to escape the heat at the Smoky Mountain Invitational swim meet, just like last year when we saw "Ratatouille." If this weren't our fourth and final year going to the meet, we could have started our own Pixar tradition.

Our son had to be at the Springbrook Pool in time for team warm ups at 7:30 a.m. While he hit the water, my wife bought a heat sheet and checked his schedule. With 33 teams and a ton of swimmers participating, there would be a lot of time between his four events. He was due to swim at 9:49 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 6:44 p.m. and 8:46 p.m. The five and a half hour window between his second and third races gave us the perfect opportunity to get away for a while. The well-run meet had gotten 25 minutes ahead of schedule by 11:45 a.m. but that time vanished when everything stopped for half an hour.

Although it's an older theater, all the screens at the Carmike Foothills 12 offer digital projection. I now find it hard to watch movies without DLP. The beginning sequence of "WALL-E" is as good as all the critics said it was. I especially got a kick out of hearing a song from "Hello, Dolly!" that mentioned my old hometown of Yonkers in the first few seconds. Maybe it was the hours we had already spent in the sun or perhaps the cool air in the dark theatre or maybe it was the scarcity of dialogue in the story that made my eyelids start getting heavy toward the middle of the movie. I'll have to watch the whole thing again when it's on satellite next year.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

here's another nice mess

The bravest lifeguards in East Tennessee waded carefully into the Springbrook Pool today. Moments earlier the pool had been evacuated and the events of the Smoky Mountain Invitational meet had been halted. The announcer said the delay would last at least thirty minutes. The races are at the deep end of the pool while the shallow part near the slide is open to anyone who buys a wristband and wants to cool off. It was one of the recreational swimmers who caused the shutdown for exactly the reason you're thinking. The lifeguards had to pull on their rubber gloves and collect the specimen. A round of "eewws" could be heard from those watching as the guards scooped each piece into an old chlorine bucket.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

won't harm a balloon

The electronic sign at Walgreens flashed the news that they have Ped Eggs in stock as I was driving past the other day. The first I heard of the Ped Egg was last weekend when my wife paused the TiVo and called me into the room. She was watching The Weather Channel and thought she recognized the couple in a Ped Egg commercial.

My wife and I have been fans of "The Amazing Race" since day one. However I can only recall a handful of the contestants. I don't know how my wife does it. She took one look at the Ped Egg couple and knew that they had been on the Race. But what were their names? That's why she asked for my help.

Not only did The Smoking Gun verify that the two on-screen were Kelly and Jon from season 4 but it also revealed that they are suing Ped Egg for putting their commercial on TV. Apparently they thought it was going to be an Internet-only deal. Best of all is their claim that a makeup artist added some grossness to Kelly's feet for the "before" shot. I wouldn't be surprised if Ped Egg's defense lawyers make use of a sentence from Kelly's "Amazing Race" biography: "Kelly admits to being high-strung and obsessive, 'athletic, bossy and silly.'"

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

to the Batcave

Perhaps the best place for me to be this week is in an honest-to-goodness cave. Where else can I go to avoid the hype surrounding the new Batman movie? With all the publicity I've seen so far, until yesterday I really thought "The Dark Knight" was opening tomorrow (or tonight at midnight). There's actually another week to wait. Or more if it's sold out on opening day.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger were on the cover of the Entertainment Weekly that came in the mail last Saturday. There's a review of the movie in the Time magazine with Mark Twain on the cover. I had to take my wife's advice and stop reading it when it started to reveal more about the film than I want to know. She knows how I can be. When I'm really looking forward to a movie, I'll watch and read too much about it. "Get Smart" was a disappointment for me because I had seen all the best jokes in the trailers.

To a certain extent, I can't help it. Batman stuff is everywhere. Today on the Knoxville Blog Network, I saw an interesting entry from The Screening Log about the Bat Signal in Manhattan. In my on-screen satellite guide I saw a listing for a show on History called "Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight." I set it up to record.

The aforementioned Entertainment Weekly had a Batman reference that didn't spoil anything. Under the heading "Even the Darkest of Knights Shines Brightly on Blu-ray" was a near-silhouette of Adam West as Batman standing on a Gotham rooftop. It was an ad for the Blu-ray edition of "Batman: The Movie." I enjoyed the connection between the old and the new. By the way, when Adam West appeared on the "Today" show recently, it was to promote that same Blu-ray disc.

It's clear that Christian Bale is the best Batman since Adam West. Oh alright, Bale is the best Batman since Kevin Conroy, who was the best Batman since Adam West.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

foghorn langhorne

The face on the cover of Time magazine is usually that of a current newsmaker. Although he's been dead for nearly a hundred years, the man on this week's issue is still relevant today. My wife picked up a copy of the annual "Making of America" issue for me because of my distant relation to the cover subject. Mark Twain is my first cousin, four generations removed. My great-great-grandmother was a first cousin of Samuel Clemens. Her mother and his father were siblings. I called my grandmother tonight to make sure I had remembered it correctly.

Instead of automatically opening up my laptop after dinner, I picked up the magazine and read about Mark Twain. A long essay by Roy Blount Jr. makes it easy to draw parallels between then and now. It is only one of four pieces about Twain in the magazine. I like knowing that Twain kept a deadpan facial expression when telling funny stories. A world map illustrates the many countries on five continents that he visited. My favorite line in the whole feature is on the same page as the map. Twain once said that a life of travel was "fatal to prejudice."

During our cross-country drive in 2002, my family and I visited Mark Twain's boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. Here's a photo of our late pet tortoise Mo in Hannibal, with the Mississippi river and a big riverboat in the background.

After the enjoyable experience we had with the Harry Potter book last summer, I recently started looking for an audiobook to entertain us on our next road trip. If my wife doesn't mind, I think I'll download a free Mark Twain title that's in the public domain and give it a try. Any recommendations?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

f-a-t-u-r-d-a-y night

This uplifting news came out just before the holiday weekend: dieters eat more on Saturdays. I thought about mentioning it last week but didn't want to ruin your (and my) celebration. If you've ever tried to lose weight, you probably won't be surprised that researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that their test subjects lost weight during the week but not on weekends. Fatty foods are the culprit. Participants ate about as much fat on the weekends as on the five weekdays combined. Hmm... were they allowed to visit Ted Drewes? The study results will be published in the journal Obesity.

For many of us, the pounds start to pile on during our college years. Last year, a Newsweek article spelled out the undergrad weight gain. A current Newsweek article points out the importance of keeping a food diary when trying to shed pounds.

I can relate. I kept a food diary during my weight loss in 2005 and 2006. To maintain my weight, I still weigh and measure my food portions when eating at home. This past Saturday I saved my starch allotment to have cake at a wedding reception. However I didn't plan for the mashed potato bar. It seems like every weekend lately there's been some cake or trifle or even a doughnut. At least it's swimming season and I can burn off some of those extra calories.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

what would Simon say?

"American Idol" finalist Ace Young got slammed on for performing in Pigeon Forge on the Fourth of July at StarJam 2008 while some of his castmates played nationally televised gigs. The fun would be spoiled for Harvey Levin and his crew if they knew that the crowd at StarJam numbered somewhere around 75,000. The fans were pressed in so tightly that the fire department had to hose them down. Oh yeah, Paris Hilton was there too.

As Terry Morrow mentioned in his blog, he and I talked with Ace in his tour bus. He had heard about the dig on TMZ but didn't mind because it meant that he was "on their radar."

During our conversation, the satellite TV in the bus was tuned to the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on NBC. We saw Katharine McPhee singing "Save the Last Dance for Me" under an umbrella in Brooklyn. The fireworks were visible behind her. Earlier in the telecast Jordin Sparks sang her next single, "One Step at a Time." It was fairly obvious that Jordin's performance at Times Square was recorded on a night without rain.

When we got home from Pigeon Forge, my wife and I watched "A Capitol Fourth" on our HD-DVR. Taylor Hicks looked more like one of the congressmen in the audience than one of the performers. We cringed when he mugged into the camera like a cheesy lounge singer during a song called "Soul Thing." When he wasn't looking at the camera, we caught him looking at himself on the jumbotron several times. It got worse when he messed up the lyrics to "Dancing in the Dark" and went into the audience to select a dance partner in a pale imitation of Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox.

Of the four performances by Idol contestants that I saw on the Fourth, Ace's was easily the best. He won over the crowed with his original songs like "Addicted" and with one or two covers including a great version of "Dream On." Ace stuck around to meet his fans and sign autographs long after the post-concert fireworks. He is doing it the hard way by financing his own CD. I hope this nice guy finishes first, especially after what they wrote on

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

light 'em up

Like previous years, my TiVo and my HD-DVR got a workout on the Fourth of July as I tried to record as many fireworks shows as possible. I couldn't find any coverage of Nashville's display but there were plenty of other choices. Nashville, Knoxville and Washington DC used Pyro Shows of LaFollette to light up their skies.

The best part of Boston's fireworks came during the song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys (no relation). The music and the green explosions were a perfect match. But c'mon CBS, that show needs to be in high definition like "A Capitol Fourth" on PBS.

The musical highlight of the DC show was the "1812 Overture" although it was also pretty cool to have the explosions start while Jerry Lee Lewis was on stage singing "Great Balls of Fire." The worst part was when they cut away from the fireworks to show Jimmy Smits standing at a podium. Why not just let him do his part as a voiceover? Plus the Clark Gable mustache isn't working for him.

Our local Knoxville fireworks were televised after a weather delay. Did it actually rain on World's Fair Park or was the wind enough to put the festivities on hold? The highlight of the telecast for my wife and me was seeing our friend Mike sit in with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. They had him play his accordion during a selection from the "Kit Kittredge" soundtrack. Mike plays keyboards at our church and has a day job in the symphony's business office. As nice as it is to have coverage of our local symphony, there's very little point in televising fireworks without the benefit of HD. I think the viewing audience would have been better served if WBIR had broadcast NBC's HD coverage of Macy's 4th of July Fireworks from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. They could have shown a tape of the KSO from 10:00 to 11:00 or even 11:30. As it turned out, the Knoxville fireworks didn't begin until 10:20 or so.

The music accompanying the New York fireworks had a very Broadway feel to it, whether the songs were early rock 'n' roll or from the big band era. On the song "Give My Regards to Broadway," they made a point of zooming in on an illuminated Macy's logo every time the instrumental version of the tune got to the point where the lyrics would have said "remember me to Herald Square." Okay, we get it. Macy's flagship store is in Herald Square. And there was a "Miracle on 34th Street," we know. Parts of the patriotic medley, they called it "The Nation's Overture," reminded me more of "Fantasmic" than anything else. Although the "Tennessee Waltz" put me in mind of Knoxville, the highlight for me was "Sing Sing Sing." It seemed the best fit for fireworks being shot in triplicate from three barges.

HDNet ran some hi-def fireworks on the Fourth. Except that they were from the Kentucky Derby Festival in May. To make things worse, they didn't bother to pick up the synchronized music soundtrack. Instead we heard the boom of the shells, a hint of the music in the distance and the same crazy woman whooping after every burst. Travel Channel had live coverage of the fireworks in Washington but they had no music and no HD (on DirecTV). What's the point of showing that? At least the spectators near their microphone did some normal oohing and aahing instead of all that overzealous whooping on HDNet.

For me, fireworks are made better by the addition of the right soundtrack. WENS in Indianapolis used to sponsor a fireworks show perfectly named SkyConcert. Friday's telecasts gave me two ideas that, by writing this, I will drop in the cyber suggestion box known as the Internet. The instrumental parts of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" would make a great addition to the Boomsday soundtrack. Secondly, HDNet should bring their fancy cameras to Knoxville on August 31 to record both the audio and video of Boomsday in hi-def.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

that's hot

Some guy at Good Charlotte's record label assured Terry Morrow that Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie would not be accompanying their boyfriends to StarJam 2008 at Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge. And we all know what happens when you assure, you make an ass out of you and re.

One of my co-workers picked up the band at McGhee Tyson Airport on Friday afternoon and was surprised to see that Paris was traveling with Benji Madden. His brother Joel was without Nicole. On the way to Pigeon Forge, they all got out of the van and bought a bunch of fireworks at a stand on Wears Valley Road.

When I had a little bit of a break later, it occurred to me to call Terry Morrow and to tell him that I had met Paris. He loves to tell people about the party he attended at her house. Naturally, Terry was surprised to hear that she was in Tennessee. He couldn't get off the phone fast enough so he could start driving to Pigeon Forge. As a result of his efforts, he was able to phone in a story for this morning's paper and post a few more details on his blog.

Here are the photos I took from my vantage point backstage. You may not use any of these photos on your own site without my permission, but you may go ahead and link back to this blog entry freely.

Copyright © 2008 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2008 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2008 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2008 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2008 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2008 Frank Murphy. All rights reserved.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

now conceals, now discloses

That flag billboard has a rodent on it, said my wife as we drove west on I-40. The rest of us in the car weren't looking the same way and didn't see it. Perhaps it was a patriotic message from Brown Squirrel Furniture, I suggested. The billboard is west of Cedar Bluff Road but east of Brown Squirrel's location. No, it didn't have a bushy tail, she said.

On our next trip past it, I too saw the rodent shape. It almost could have been a hidden Ratatouille, similar to the hidden Mickey Mouse images around the Disney theme parks. Upon closer inspection, it's merely a shadow on the billowing flag to give the photograph some depth, not a political commentary from Lamar Advertising. Happy Independence Day!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

take your mark

There are a lot more people in the stands at the Olympic swimming trials in Omaha than could possibly fit in the brand new Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center at UT, which is hosting the Olympic diving selection camp this week. It's because the Omaha event is being held at the Qwest Center, a building that normally hosts basketball games, hockey games and rock concerts.

The past few nights I've been watching the swimming events in HD on the USA Network while searching the Internet for information on how they got such a huge pool into the arena. First, they put up some yellow tape to give people an idea of where the temporary pool would go. It's technically an above-ground pool, sitting on top of twelve truckloads of sand. Then they brought in the walls in segments, added a vinyl liner and had the fire department spray in enough water to cover the bottom and stretch out the liner. The Omaha World-Herald created a full-page graphic to show the pool's features. Eight rows of seats had to be removed for the pool deck, which covers all the pipes for the filtration system. When the swimming trials are over, local firefighters will drain the pool as part of a training exercise.

The news that Lady Vol swimmer Christine Magnuson made the Olympic team in the 100m butterfly event was on all the local channels. Another Knoxville swimmer competed in the 200m individual medley. Jace Howanitz is the current Tennessee state high school champion in that event. Next year she will swim for Virginia Tech as an H2Okie. This year her time was 9.75 seconds behind the winner, which she will undoubtedly improve upon in 2012. I just wanted an excuse to type H2Okie.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

wherehouse store

Based on the big crowds at Sam's Club today you would have thought that a blizzard was coming. Despite the economy, people were stocking up for the Fourth of July. I was there just to get my regular groceries. They didn't have any of the one liter bottles of Deer Park water. The clerks told me they haven't had them for a while and probably never will again. Boo! I always take one of the bottles with me to the Einstein Simplified show on Tuesday nights.

It was no surprise that Sam's had run out of Jennie-O ground turkey again. That happens all the time. However the lack of Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce was a big disappointment. I hope it gets restocked soon. The sauce recently appeared out of nowhere to become my new favorite condiment. I wrote about it here when I bought my first bottle back in April. I just finished my second bottle of it this afternoon before heading out to Sam's.

My friend Bean gets some great responses to his blogs. For example, novelty singer Dr. Elmo recently posted a comment on Christmas Music Everyday and the son of novelty singer Dickie Goodman sent Bean an email. That's all well and good but I got a pretty good email response to my blog entry about the raspberry chipotle sauce. The company that makes it wrote to invite me to sample some of their other products!

My wife and son fooled me into thinking that I had gotten one extra present on Father's Day. They brought forth a large gift bag for me to open. In it was a box from Fischer & Wieser with the three free samples they had sent. I got a jar of Mom's Pasta Sauce, a bottle of Guacamole Starter and a bottle of Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce, which obviously is the first one I opened. Pomegranate and chipotle are two of my favorite tastes. The sauce is very good although I would have preferred a little more pomegranate and a little less mango.

In the accompanying press kit, I learned that the company also makes "The Beverly Hillbillies" brand of sauces. I think Jethro needs to send me a bottle since I'm such a fan.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

when Hamptons wasn't cool

The Penny Candy Shop has gone out of business, reports my sister. She was visiting one of my favorite places on Earth, the east end of Long Island and saw the sign in the window. According to the real estate listings, the former Penny Candy Shop is for sale. The price? 200 million pennies.

The P.C.S. now joins Kathleen's Bakeshop on my list of former favorites in the Hamptons. Kathleen's sold the famous Crutchley's Cruller hearts (doughnut holes), which you would drop into a bag of powdered sugar and shake. Like the original Crutchley's Bakery, Kathleen's is closed now, as we discovered when we were in the area last summer. I saw online that Kathleen lost the rights to her own name. She has a new business called Tate's Bake Shop but there's no mention of whether she still sells the hearts.

One of my parents' favorite restaurants in the Hamptons was Herb McCarthy's. It closed in the '80s. The microbrewery now in that location named a beer after Old Herb. It was the least they could do.

As far as I can tell, the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton and Sip 'n Soda in Southampton are still open and doing fine, even after the recent death of one of Sip 'n Soda's owners. And so is our local choice for pizza, La Parmigiana in Southampton.

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