Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the other forensics

This is not usually a blog about politics but occasionally something political catches my interest. For example, a Catholic blogger posted a link to an NPR story which reports that Starbucks customers prefer Obama while Walmart shoppers prefer McCain.

Meanwhile my wife's Aunt Ginny and some of our other family members in St. Louis will be affected by street closures for Thursday's vice-presidential debate. People visiting the site of the debate can buy donkey or elephant shaped cookies as a way of showing their preference. The elephant cookies won in 2004, which makes perfect sense to me. You get more cookie for your $1.25 with a big elephant than with a little donkey.

My recent posts about St. Louis restaurants must have caught the attention of somebody important. That's the only way I can explain why I got a press release about St. Louis Fashion Week from the Convention & Visitors Commission.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

weekend roundup

Several unrelated stories came across the Frank Murphy Dot Com newsdesk over the weekend.

The annual "What The Fluff?" festival in Massachusetts was postponed from Saturday to Sunday. One of the activities was a Fluff Lick Off, in which contestants had to lick a large dollop of Marshmallow Fluff off a piece of clear plastic. One blogger has posted photos that say it all. By the way, the festival still has me misidentified as "Frank Miller" on their site.

They held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Body Farm in Texas on Friday. News footage from the Fox affiliate in Austin shows a guy who looks exactly like UT's Dr. Bill Bass as one of the ribbon cutters.

Perry Simon posted a link to a great ESPN.com article about the closing of Shea Stadium. Like all Mets fans, I'm disappointed that the old joint didn't get to host the playoffs and World Series one more time.

My wife says that her guilty pleasure today was to read the comments posted by irate Cowboys fans on various Dallas websites. She happily pointed out to me that Jim Zorn will be the only Redskins coach with a perfect regular season record at the soon-to-be-vacant Texas Stadium.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

replay booth

A packed agenda kept me from watching all the sporting events I wanted to see this weekend, although Friday night's game was only on the radio. My wife and I heard a post-game interview with Luke Smith of Knoxville Catholic High School as we drove home from a dinner party. The description of their game against Baylor and the overtime period made me wish that the contest had been covered by Wazoo Sports. Wazoo offers a live video stream of a high school game each week on their site, which is also picked up by VolunteerTV.com. Next Friday they will cover the KCHS at Anderson County matchup. I couldn't get it to work tonight but in the past, I've been able to click on an archived game to see some of Catholic's victory over Austin-East.

I was at work on Saturday and saw none of the Mets game. I caught a little bit of college football. I'm glad Notre Dame won and Florida lost but I feel bad for all the UT fans. The Vols should have won their game against Auburn.

Today I had a work thing downtown at the same time as the Mets game. I recorded the pregame show on TBS, hoping to see some of the "Shea Goodbye" festivities. Thanks to a brief rain delay, I saw none of it. I found out later that most of the stuff I wanted to see happened after the game. The Mets blew the opportunity to make the playoffs and ended their season today.

I've only just now finished watching the Redskins upset victory over the Cowboys. I had to record the game while I went to a table reading for the independent film I'll be in next weekend. I didn't know the score but had a hint that the Redskins had won from my wife's tone of voice. Meanwhile, I found out that the filmmakers still need a few extras for a party scene on Saturday. Send your headshot to info@fishbait-themovie.com

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

night crawlers

If all goes according to plan, next weekend I'll be having fun with my improv buddies on the set of an independent film. Quarterback-turned-actor Jeff Joslin asked us to be in the movie that he and Darby Totten are producing and directing. It's called "Fish Bait."

Jeff and Darby were excited this past week when their movie made it into Variety's listings of upcoming film projects. I will be excited if I can get my name on IMDB. Then I'll see if I can get them to also list my role as an uncredited extra in the cinematic masterpiece "It's Pat."

UPDATE: There's an opportunity for you to be an extra in "Fish Bait" during a party scene on Saturday. If you're interested and available, send a photo of yourself and your contact information to info@fishbait-themovie.com

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Friday, September 26, 2008

half dozen of another

Bringing cupcakes was my wife's idea. She and I were invited to have dinner tonight at the home of some friends we hadn't seen in a while. They are the same couple who first invited me to get LinkedIn and who we once saw at a Junior Brown concert.

I went to The Cupcakery in Bearden and chose six from among their ten available flavors. I picked Grasshopper, Community Cup, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter Cup, Orange and Confetti. Rather than each take a cupcake for ourselves, we shared. Our hostess was kind enough to pause while slicing the cupcakes so I could take pictures. The Orange cupcake had a marshmallow cream filling and the Community Cup had a raspberry filling. At this point, I'll let the photos do the talking. Enjoy...

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

grounded transportation

What happened to the shuttle that ran between Knoxville and Nashville International Airport? About a month ago I heard a news report that suggested it was already time to buy airline tickets for Thanksgiving weekend. I got online to purchase a round trip ticket for my son to come home from college for the holiday. As usual, there were no direct flights. He would have to change planes in Chicago or Dallas with either a very short or a very long layover. With flight delays and the memory of our last travel fiasco still in mind, I didn't like the idea of him having only 45 minutes to catch a connecting flight in Chicago in November weather.

My wife said she would be willing to drive to Nashville to pick him up, so we looked at flights in and out of the Music City. A nonstop flight cost about $100 less than the one-stop flights into Knoxville. Last week when the gas prices spiked at $5 a gallon, my boss suggested that we look into booking a seat on the K-Town Shuttle. He looked for it on his computer and I later looked on mine to no avail. Their phone number was disconnected too. Does anybody know why they closed up shop?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

they said you was high classed

Karen Lively at the Young-Williams Animal Center knew she could convince me to pose with the puppies by sending along photos of some favorite news anchors doing just that. Tearsa Smith and Stacy McCloud are among the many local media types who have helped draw attention to dogs and cats needing a good home.

On Saturday the center is holding its Furry Fall Festival with free goody bags for the first 50 visitors, some educational programs and ideally lots of pets getting adopted. This morning, I posed with several dogs, a couple of cats and a rabbit named Willow, all of which are available for adoption. The animals I met seemed fairly rambunctious. They were more interested in playing than posing for the camera. Check out the pictures of Charlie, Hufflepuff, Shadow and Willy Nilly. Karen also sent me some outtakes from today's photo session. As you can see below, both Fifel and Reuben found me to be delicious. I actually like these shots better than the photos chosen for the Young-Williams website.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

holy hurdles!

A couple of years ago Disney and Universal traded Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to settle a dispute. Universal had the rights to the cartoon character Walt created before Mickey Mouse. Disney got the rights to Oswald by allowing Al Michaels to move from Disney-owned ABC to Universal-owned NBC.

I was reminded of Oswald when my friend Bean sent me a link to an article at the Comic Book Resources site. He knew I would be interested in a potential bargaining chip that could help resolve a lawsuit between 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. over the upcoming movie "Watchmen." So, who might save the day? TV's Batman! According to the article, Fox wants to get some rights from Warner to finally release my favorite show on DVD. They might then drop their suit to block the release of "Watchmen."

Before I get my hopes too high and bust open my piggy bank, TV Shows on DVD reports that there are still many more issues that also need to be settled before the 120 episodes of campy fun can be put on disc. At least Adam West has started working on his own version of DVD extras that could be released separately from the series.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

the tribe has spoken

The highlights of last night's Primetime Emmy Awards for me were Josh Groban's medley of TV theme songs and Jimmy Kimmel's presentation of the award for best reality host. Groban showed a sense of humor about himself that was only hinted at in Jimmy's infamous Ben Affleck video. He used his operatic voice to sing "The Simpsons" and comedic voices to sing lyrics from "South Park" and other shows. Thankfully in this day and age, the video clip is only a click away.

I so wanted the five nominees for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program to be eliminated one by one. Jimmy made a joke along those lines by saying that they were each "in the bottom two." I thought I was going to wake my wife with my laughter when Jimmy said that the winner would be revealed "after the break." And then really did go to commercial. Because "Survivor" is the granddaddy of the genre, it made sense that Jeff Probst would win. Over the years, his questions during Tribal Council have become a more and more important part of the show. However it's still a little weird that he always says the exact same things when "immunity is back up for grabs" or when he'll "go tally the vote." Phil Keoghan deserved a nomination for "The Amazing Race," which has won the Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program six years in a row. Of the five nominees, I would have voted for Tom Bergeron. He consistently exhibits grace and wit under the pressure of a live show.

It sounded like they almost muted the sound of the audience during the "In Memoriam" segment. So often the photo montage of the deceased at awards shows becomes a referendum on their popularity based on the amount of applause they get. They probably should have eliminated the laughter and applause from the original clips too. Just play the sappy music while showing the faces and names of the departed. Do you think they showed George Carlin twice on purpose or by accident? He was both the first and last person in the montage.

Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and "30 Rock" all deserved their awards. Although as Fey pointed out, the wrong episode won the writing award. The voters chose to honor a script that mocked the government rather than a funnier script that poked fun at a '60s-era comedy writer. I guess they couldn't honor Tommy Smothers and drag out some "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" cast members and then give an award to an episode with Carrie Fisher as an out-of-it writer of a show just like those. By the way, how uncomfortable were you during the "tribute" to "Laugh In"? That should have been prerecorded and edited. And rewritten. Or omitted. There were enough other stars who griped about their bits being cut due to time. They should have cut that awkward moment instead.

As much as I like "Dexter," I was still delighted to see Bryan Cranston win for "Breaking Bad." His victory was a mostly unexpected surprise. As I wrote back in January, his performance is riveting.

I'll admit that the Emmys were mostly forgettable. Perhaps a better show would be the Tubey Awards from Television Without Pity. It's fun to see who they pick as their favorite and least favorite characters. They hit the nail on the head by saying that Maya from "Heroes" is both the most unwelcome new character and the character most in need of being killed off. I guess we'll see if that happens when "Heroes" returns to the NBC schedule tonight.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

of the faithful departed

The tragic story of Thomas Vander Woude's death brought my daughter to tears as I told her about it yesterday. Not because he drowned in a septic tank but because of the reason why.

If I had realized that Mr. Vander Woude lived in Prince William County, Virginia, I might have been quicker to read the details of his life. My wife and I lived there too when we bought a townhouse in Dale City. Like countless other deejays, I first read the news when I saw the following paragraph on Perry Simon's showprep page last week:
No, you may not laugh about this poor guy drowning in a septic tank, not after he died saving his son, who had fallen in before him. He was being heroic.
At the time, I didn't click on the link to read the full story. I wish I had. When the Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia picked it up, I saw the limitless scope of a father's love for his child. The blog quoted heavily from a very good Washington Post profile of the man.

An earlier piece in the Post described how the retired Mr. Vander Woude attended daily Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church and spent his days working around his property with his son Joseph, who has Down syndrome. When the cover to the septic tank collapsed under Joseph, Thomas jumped in and got under his son, pushing him up until rescuers could pull Joseph out. By the time they pulled Thomas out of the sewage, the father of seven was unconscious and could not be revived.

As Bishop Paul Loverde pointed out at the funeral, Mr. Vander Woude's sacrifice was "saintly." Rocco Palmo, the writer of Whispers in the Loggia, picked up on the fact that not only are people praying for the Vander Woude family but that an emailer to National Review found themselves praying to Thomas. Parents everywhere should be inspired by Mr. Vander Woude's example of selflessness.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

color, cut, clarity

Apparently the clues were out there if only I had the slightest idea to look for them. Instead I flipped past a locally produced show on WBIR tonight and did a double-take. Did my eyes deceive me or was "Heartland Tonight" on my screen in glorious high definition? The episode followed a barge up the Tennessee River to Knoxville. It almost didn't matter what the show was about, I couldn't stop watching.

I was under the impression that our local stations only aired HD programs that "passed through" from the networks. I didn't know any of them had bought the equipment to broadcast their own shows in HD. When I saw John Becker at Boomsday, I asked him when WBIR would go HD. I was thinking of their annual telecast of the fireworks as well as their news programming. John's quick retort was "do you have two million dollars?" Switching the local news to HD will require all new cameras, sets, lighting, etc. The prerecorded shows I saw tonight were shot on location with smaller, more affordable HD cameras.

What's that? Did I say show or shows? Yes, "Heartland Tonight" was followed by another local HD show. WBIR pre-empted a rerun of "Chuck" to air "Tennessee Shines," a bluegrass music program recorded at the Bijou Theatre. The same performances aired live on WDVX radio last month. The great-looking TV show is a feather in the cap of Doublejay Creative, a relatively new company founded by married couple Adrian and Larsen Jay. Another new project of theirs gives flowers to hospital patients.

While searching out links for this blog entry, I discovered the HD clues that were out there in cyberspace. The second paragraph of a press release from the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation mentions that "Tennessee Shines" would be in high def. Better still, the program listings on WBIR.com also announced the big news. I guess I expected a lot more hype for a major development in Knoxville television history.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

have a long talk with that boy

The good chicken is on sale this week at Food City. I told my wife that I would use it to cook dinner for a change. My mother had suggested an easy meal that I was ready to try. As soon as I finished lunch today, I chopped up an onion and put most of it in the bottom of the Rival Crock-Pot we had received as a wedding gift all those years ago. I put some water in with the onion, which was probably unnecessary. Then I trimmed off what little fat was left on the boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Sanderson Farms and dropped them into the Crock-Pot. All I really needed to do now, was pour in a bottle of barbecue sauce and let it cook.

The fine folks at Fischer & Wieser recently sent me samples of their Beverly Hillbillies sauces. I cracked open the bottle of Elly May's Wild Honey Mountain BBQ Sauce and put some in the pot. Before emptying the bottle, I decided to improvise a bit. I didn't have any Liquid Smoke, as some recipes suggest. I did add in a few of my favorite spices like garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and some of Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Salt Free Seasoning. I also poured in a couple of dollops of Roasted Blackberry Chipotle Sauce for additional sweet and heat. With the Crock-Pot set on high, I went to bed. After my afternoon nap but before my swim, I looked in on it and realized it needed a stir since some of the spices were still sitting on top. For future reference, do not stir hot liquids without a shirt. Even a tiny splatter will hurt. The chicken cooked for about five hours until it broke apart easily, which is what I was hoping for. My wife and I both thought it tasted great. There are plenty of leftovers to enjoy over the next few days.

To get in the proper spirit before cooking, I flipped on the daily repeat of "The Beverly Hillbillies" on WBIR. It was the one where the guy who played Dr. Bellows on "I Dream of Jeannie" was a chauffeur to a rich kid who was Jethro's friend. Max Baer, Jr., who played Jethro, partnered with Fischer & Wieser to create the Beverly Hillbillies sauces. I recall once hearing Max give a sales pitch for another of his pet projects, Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino. He had tried to get it built in six different Nevada locations before finally getting approval from Douglas County.

I thought of Jethro while on our road trip last month. All the difficulty he's had trying to build his casino made me wonder if he could have altered his plans and opened a non-gambling resort in Branson. After all, weren't the Clampetts from the Ozarks? Except for Granny, who was from the Smokies.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

road tasted

The real reason my wife and I made a stopover in Memphis was to visit our friend Jessica. While we were there we toured Graceland and had an amazing piece of Oreo Cream Cake. There are still a couple of notes on my scratchpad that didn't make it into a blog entry until now.

The first billboards we saw after crossing from Arkansas into Tennessee had the giant face of attorney Corey B. Trotz. I had assumed that his repetitive, low-budget television ads were on in Knoxville only. He's actually a Memphis lawyer.

All of the BBQ joints I had thought about patronizing weren't convenient to Jessica's neighborhood. Because she knows I'm a fan of Food Network, Jessica asked if we wanted to try Neely's BBQ for dinner. The restaurant is owned by Pat and Gina Neely, hosts of "Down Home with the Neelys." It was not crowded that Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the service was bad. However the food was good. By the time our meals arrived, I was too hungry to remember to take a picture of the plate of Bar-B-Que spaghetti that my wife and I shared.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

lessons from blockquoting

The East Tennessee improv scene is expanding. For years Einstein Simplified was the only game in town. A group called Bullscript has begun performing occasionally in Gatlinburg. Last month the Sevier County News ran an article about the troupe's origin:
In true improv style, Bullscript was formed one night two years ago when the members, who were then actors in a murder mystery dinner theater production, had to literally improvise a show when a key actor in the murder mystery was involved in a car wreck just before a performance.

"For the life of us, we could not figure out how to write him out of that script in 15 minutes. So Justin Benoit, a member of our troupe, said, 'Let’s do an improv show.' Sure. No problem!" Rahe said, laughing at the memory.

The group quickly put together some improv games they’d seen on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," an improv show that ran on ABC-TV, and from Einstein Simplified, an improv troupe in Knoxville. Brad, another actor in the murder mystery, also is a member of Einstein Simplified.

"Brad quickly told us how (the games) worked and there we went. The audience loved it; just loved it. We pulled it off," Rahe said. "We said, 'This sure beats having to learn lines. Let’s go on with this,' so we formed this group."
A scheduling snafu kept us from seeing a performance by Bill Chott and The Improv Trick when my wife and I passed through St. Louis last month. Bill turned up in my Google News Alert for comedy improv today. He was interviewed in the Cherokee Street News.
Q. What are some of the things you teach your students that you apply to your own Hollywood roles?

A. I teach them to trust their instinct and focus on making the other person look good. If everybody’s looking to make everyone else look good, then you never have to focus on your own performance. I use those lessons every day on the set in Hollywood.

Q. What are some of the things you teach your students about comedy? What’s the difference between learning improv and learning to act?

A. I teach my students that the words “humanity” and “humor” both begin with the same three letters for a reason. We’re not trying to be funny. We try to explore the truth about the human experience and find the humor in that rather than making jokes or trying to get laughs. Laughter is something that happens naturally…a lot…at The Improv Trick. The difference between learning impov and learning acting is that you have to take the reverence you have for the words of an author and channel it into reverence for your fellow players and “the moment.” Just serving “the moment” the same way you serve a script.
Earlier this week I read an article in the Daily Lobo about the Duke City Improv Festival. One of the participating groups is called the Gryfinndorks.
[Doug] Montoya has a philosophy on improv: "The best scenes are the ones where people are supportive of one another."

He said a good improv team can create a connection to the audience that other types of theater lack. The comedy that results is made all the more funny by the fact that the audience gets to participate.
Multi-talented Wayne Brady has an album out. He's turned up on several daytime talk shows recently to promote it. I read an interview with him at Lee Bailey's EURweb.
The very persistent Brady continued that while he worked hard to hone his comedy skills, there is a bit of natural talent required in improv.

"There is a certain combination," Brady said of the improvisation formula. "When I teach improv class, I always say, 'I'm not going to teach you to be funny.' When I started learning improv, I think I brought something to the table. Not everyone can do improv, because it takes a certain level of intelligence. Coming from a background where I read everything I can get my hands on, I watch everything I can, I'm basically a receptacle of a lot of information, some of which is useless until I'm on stage. You have to be a learner to be able to do improv. It's not about, 'Hey, I just did a funny fart joke.' It's about the reference you can make while doing the fart joke. That's what I think improv boils down to. 'Whose Line' is really about a bunch of nerds being funny and trying to one-up each other with cultural references, a character, or some bit of trivia that we can stick into the scene."

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

more leftovers

The cracker crust makes St. Louis pizza unique. During our road trip last month, my wife and I went to Imo's Pizza to sample some. The crust was okay but I didn't love the creamy sauce under the cheese. Some contributors on Chowhound suggested that it's the Provel cheese I didn't like. They mentioned a place called Pi that I should try next time.

We had a better meal at the City Coffee House & Crêperie. We ordered both a savory crêpe and a sweet one to share. They used a small rake-like utensil to smooth the batter over the griddle. The crêpes get stuffed with almost anything you can imagine.

The Cardinals were playing a home game as we drove out of town. During the radio pregame show, I heard a testimonial commercial for Kutis Funeral Home. Who did they get to voice the spot? Jack Buck's widow.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

sofa king

England has its Stonehenge and Virginia has its Foamhenge. Although I'm no expert, I have a tiny bit of -henge experience. My daughter once gave me little toy Stonehenge for Christmas. I got it because I've been to Foamhenge twice and would go again if I were passing by with someone who hadn't seen it.

Over the past couple of weekends, I've noticed two things as I drove past a now-vacant Phillips 66 station on Middlebrook Pike. About two weeks ago I saw someone selling used clothes out of their SUV. It looked like they had set up a yard sale on the concrete. More recently I saw new furniture for sale on the site and declared it to be Couchhenge.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

deep in the heart

They do everything bigger in Texas, which is why they are moving forward with plans for not one but two body farms. An article in The Dallas Morning News today reports that in addition to the newly opened Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University in San Marcos, there's one coming soon to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Dr. Jerry Melbye, the director of TSU's facility has a license plate that reads DR4N6. I remember once seeing a license plate in California that was either NNNN6 or NNNNSICS.

Of course the original Body Farm is at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Given that Sam Houston used to live in East Tennessee, it's apropos that his namesake college would get a body farm too. Last month UT opened a new training center at the National Forensic Academy in Oak Ridge with a bang.

Since my last Body Farm update, I've noticed that some kids at Bronxville High School in New York are reading "Death's Acre" and posting their book reports on their forensics class blog. I found this interesting because I used to scoop ice cream at the Baskin-Robbins that was in Bronxville.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

three from the mailbag

A friend from RIVR Media sent word that they are looking for garages to trick out. The Knoxville-based company produces shows for several networks including DIY and HGTV. This particular show is called "Garage Mahal" (as in Taj Mahal). They are looking for homeowners willing to let the TV show do an extreme transformation on a disorganized garage that could theoretically hold two or more cars. It also must have a ceiling height of eight feet or greater. The homeowners have to be available for filming for a span of three days in October or early November. They are looking to cast couples in their late twenties to mid-forties. The email didn't say but I think they plan to film the show in and around Knoxville. However if you look and sound like you "ain't from around here," that can be a plus. I think it helped them choose my house and me to be on an episode of the show "Ed the Plumber" a few years and pounds ago.

Stan Gibert from the American Heart Association asked me to give a plug to their upcoming Greater Knoxville Start! Heart Walk on November 15 in Market Square. The press release says that adults gain two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise. Stan must have missed the recent blog entry about how I would rather swim a mile than walk a mile.

Sarah Lewis from Jag Star got an email from her aunt with a link to a blog entry I wrote about the band almost a year ago when I noticed her "JAGSTAR" license plate. Sarah emailed me to say that the vanity plate was a gift from her dad. I'm not the only one who recognized them. Sarah said people in Knoxville would honk at her and leave notes on the windshield. She and her husband have since moved to Nashville and are expecting a baby girl named Sofie in December. Congratulations!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

it swings, it jives

The "canned food curse" almost struck again. For the past several years, Webb School of Knoxville collected more donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank but lost the annual football game to archrival Knoxville Catholic High School. At halftime of tonight's game, Lori Tucker and I announced that Catholic had finally won the High School Football Challenge. Moments earlier, Webb kicked a field goal as time ran out in the first half to take a 9-7 lead. They went up 16-7 in the third quarter. Several people in the stands worried aloud about Catholic's chances. However the Fighting Irish came back to win 20-16.

Lori and I were chatting about our respective kids as we waited for halftime. We each have a college freshman this year. While we were standing there, blogger Missybw of The House of Flying Monkeys came up and introduced herself to us. It was nice to finally meet her after all the nice comments she has posted on my site.

As riveting as our check presentation must have been, the true highlight of halftime was a performance by majorette Sarah Harris. Normally I don't care for baton twirling but Sarah won me over with her musical choice and excellent skills. She performed to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" as covered by Michael Bublé. I know purists will find it ridiculous that "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is my favorite Queen song, yet it is.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

touching the lives of others

On the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks, both presidential candidates visited Ground Zero in New York. Earlier this year, the Pope prayed at the site.

In case you missed it six months ago, let me point you to a blog entry about a 9/11 memorial at the Garland Fire Department in Texas. Also, an article from the Christian Science Monitor turned up in my email inbox. It describes some people who have dedicated their lives to good deeds since the attacks.

Another email came from a listener who wanted to express his feelings about my cousin, FDNY Captain Terry Hatton, who gave his life at the World Trade Center. He chose to run into a building that was already on fire and told one of his firefighting brothers that they may never see each other again. Here is the message from listener Michael:
I have listened to your morning show ever since I moved here from Los Angeles in 2004. Every morning as I drive to work, I tune in. I have never called in, and I more than likely never will. However, I heard you mention this morning that your cousin was a firefighter who lost his life on 9/11. First off, I must say I am sorry for your loss. With that being said, your cousin is truly an American hero. For someone to give their life helping people -- not only people, but people he didn't know -- is amazing. His family should be very, very proud. He was truly an unselfish man. So many people have him to thank. They may not know his name, or what he looked like, or his family but they had to have known his character, heart and his unwillingness to give up in adversity. Again, he is the true American hero. Not the celebrities that give donations, but never lift a finger to help. Or politicians that promise to make the world a better place, then back off when it becomes too hard to make a difference. But your cousin. I am not one to call in with my opinion but I wanted to let you know that even though I was not a victim of 9/11, nor was any of my family, I am still very grateful. Thank you to your cousin.
My wife and I turned on the radio tonight and happened across some music that was appropriate for today. It was a performance of the Berlioz "Requiem" by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Choral Society, recorded at the Tennessee Theatre during one of the concerts I wrote about last April.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

meant what I said

It's too early to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas. However a press release NBC sent yesterday got me doing just that. The release runs down the network's holiday programming for 2008. Maybe the timing is understandable. While at KROQ, I would experience a bit of a Christmas rush in September. I suspect that part of the reason my friend Bean put his blog on hiatus is because of the workload for the annual Kevin & Bean Christmas CD, which probably needs to be turned in soon.

NBC will broadcast the 82nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I remember reading over the summer that this year's parade would feature a new Horton (as in "Horton Hears a Who") balloon. I'm still waiting to hear what other characters will make their helium-filled debut in November.

In addition to the return of some traditional holiday specials, the NBC release lists several new shows. They will crank out three countdowns that sound similar to the stuff you see on Vh1 and elsewhere. I will watch at least one, maybe two of these:
"Greatest Holiday TV Specials and Movies" features clips from the most-loved holiday TV specials and films. From animated TV classics to the must see holiday films of the past and present, we'll rank the greatest holiday moments that ever graced the screen.

"Greatest Holiday Songs" will count down the best performances of both classic and contemporary Christmas songs. From timeless tunes from the great crooners to recent essentials from the more modern pop stars, we will recount the greatest songs of the season.

"Greatest Holiday Home Videos" goes home for the holidays as we count down the most hilarious and entertaining holiday moments sent in from families' home videos across the country. This special will be an hour of non-stop family fun where we choose from thousands of submissions, and rank the best America has to offer from holiday mishaps to memorable moments to classic Christmas season chaos.
Of the three, I'm most interested in "Greatest Holiday Songs" although it would be funnier to make a countdown show of the worst Christmas songs. I've mentioned several of my favorite Christmas songs in the past. Maybe I'll arrange them in a numbered list before the NBC special airs. I doubt our lists will be very similar. Except for "Last Christmas." Everybody loves that one. If you also enjoy Christmas songs, you should know that the aforementioned Bean posts some Christmas Music Everyday.

There was no mention in the NBC press release of "Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican." However the Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia revealed today that Cardinal John Foley will return as "the voice of Christmas." Foley had indicated that maybe it was time for him to step down but higher ups in the Church and at the network urged him to stay.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

waste of money

One of the arcade games at the Tennessee Valley Fair gave me an "oh yeah" moment on Friday. During our recent road trip I saw what I thought of as an "Arkansas Slot Machine." I knew I had seen it someplace before but couldn't place it until I saw a bunch of them at the Fair. We had stopped to get gas in the Natural State. A female sales clerk in the convenience store was urging a male customer to keep trying to win a Razorback keytag for her. The device ate quarters just as fast as a slot machine in Vegas. If the quarters landed just right, they would push prizes and other quarters off the ledge into a drawer. The winnings encouraged the guy to keep playing. He won the keytag and some two-dollar bills, which the sales clerk bought from him.

I think that same store was making an effort to reach out to its Spanish speaking customers but with a Southern twang. A sign directed them to the banyo instead of el baño. Or maybe it was telling us all to go find a bathroom in Banyo, Australia.

At a convenience store in Corbin, Kentucky, I took a picture of some huge cans of energy drinks. Somebody told me that each of those large cans had more caffeine than any one person should consume but that the manufacturers get around it by printing on the label that each can contains two or three servings. As I snapped the photo, a local man pointed to one of the drinks and said "that'll crank your tractor!"

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Monday, September 08, 2008

fair spares

In addition to the usual carnival rides, there are a few sideshow type attractions in the midway at the Tennessee Valley Fair. Before the Village People concert, my wife and I went to see some of them. The sign for the "world's tiniest woman" made her look like a human Barbie doll. We went to look and then felt awkward about it. She had a sign explaining that she only spoke Haitian and a basket for tips. She didn't look anything like the woman on the sign. Instead she looked like any other person with dwarfism.

Another midway attraction promised live alligators. When he saw my camera, the barker did the gator chomp with his arms. The alligators were fairly small and barely visible through a metal mesh fence and foggy Plexiglas.

A better deal is the Live Shark Experience. There's no extra charge to see some guy go into the tank and hug the various sharks. They did try to trick the kids into thinking that they would all get a free shark's tooth. Once all the kids raised their hand to indicate that they wanted one, the barker announced that the teeth could be purchased in the little gift shop area. This is the first year they have been booked in Knoxville. I wouldn't be surprised if they come back for several years to come.

Mixed in with all the trailers selling corn dogs and funnel cakes was one selling basic toiletries and over-the-counter medications. Do people really stay at the fair so long that they need to buy deodorant and shampoo? On the other hand, the antacids made perfect sense to me. Several businesses had displays inside the Jacobs Building. My wife and I thought it weird that someone getting their hair cut at the Great Clips booth would have the view of a casket in the mirror.

These last two pictures didn't turn out all that well. I'm including them anyway for my friend Bean who is mourning the loss of his cow, Betsy. This comes only six months after the passing of his steer, Hey. At the fair, I asked the girl in the picture why she was cutting her cow's hair. All she knew was that it was required by the rules. Can anyone explain that to me?

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

son of glitch

Here's a suggestion for the NFL and DirecTV. Next year, add some preseason games to your fabulous NFL Sunday Ticket subscription package. It's not that I particularly need to see second and third-string squads battling for a place on the roster. Every year the first Sunday of the football season means that it's time to work out some technical problems before being able to watch a game. Why not let us fans get our bugs fixed during the preseason?

The DirecTV Supercast came in handy last year. I often watched games online while at work on Sundays. My first several attempts to log in today failed. The error message told me that the Supercast was only available between noon and 8:15 p.m. There was no way for me to tell it to check its watch and see that it was just after 1:00 p.m. This year, the Supercast uses its own streaming video player powered by Adobe AIR technology. They say it's still possible to watch the feed through a web browser with the latest version of Macromedia Adobe Flash. Unfortunately the computers at work don't have the right software and I don't have the administrative privileges to do anything about it. Once I got home from work today, I gave the Supercast player a test drive and was duly impressed. There was no delay between the video on my television and the video on my computer. The picture quality was very good in the small player, not so much when expanded to full screen. I could easily click between games and the Red Zone Channel. At least next week my son will be able to use my password to watch the Redskins game in his dorm room. During our practice run today, neither he nor I had any trouble viewing the games that were also being shown on broadcast TV in our respective areas.

NBC's "Sunday Night Football Extra" player was less impressive. The bells and whistles are a great idea. It's cool to be able to switch camera angles at will. However the stream was choppy and the picture was a little blurry. During commercial breaks, the NBC feed was replaced with other game highlights presented by studio hosts from the NFL Network. Those hosts and highlights had a much better picture quality than the live game. After a while, the video player tried to cut me off. I had to click "yes" to continue watching. On top of all that, the Internet feed was sometimes delayed from the broadcast by up to ten seconds. I was hoping that NBC would give us picture quality as good as we saw online during the Olympics. Instead I was left wondering if some network executive gave the order to keep the online stream inferior for fear of losing his television viewers to the Internet.

An online promo for Notre Dame football reminded me of something I heard during yesterday's NBC telecast from South Bend. Knoxville Catholic High School standout Harrison Smith is a red-shirt freshman for the Irish. You might remember reading my blog entry when he was being recruited by both Charlie Weis and Philip Fulmer two years ago. When Harrison made a good tackle in yesterday's game, the announcers revealed that the other players call him "Hayseed."

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

next year's goal

In hindsight, another six laps (or lengths if you want to nitpick) might have been possible. I jumped in the pool at the UT Student Aquatic Center this morning during the first Swim For Life event despite my dislike for going shirtless in public. There were many other swimmers, most of whom were under 18.

The lanes were designated from slow to fast, with members of the Atomic City Aquatic Club filling the very fast lanes. I chose a lane in the middle that had only two other swimmers at the time. My first goal was to swim 500 yards, the same length as a race my son would occasionally swim at his high school meets. As I counted off the twenty laps in my head, I thought about my plan to take a break and then swim some more. I also thought about the people who made donations to the American Cancer Society on my behalf. You can still donate, by the way.

The first eighteen laps were pretty easy. I started slow and kept a steady pace until I sprinted through laps nineteen and twenty. Instead of taking a break, I thought I should do a couple of warm down laps, which put me at twenty-two. Still feeling good, I kept going until I reached forty laps, which is 1000 yards. This time I sprinted through laps thirty-seven and thirty-eight and swam at a warm down pace for thirty nine and forty. Then I got out of the pool and rested for a while. I chatted with the staff from the American Cancer Society and met Laurel Chaney, the top fundraiser for the event.

When I got back in the water, I intended to swim another ten laps. I actually swam twenty more before stopping, bringing my total to 1500 yards. My arms were starting to feel like rubber bands and there was a tiny hint of a cramp coming on in my calf. I was pretty happy with myself until I checked the Internet this evening and learned my sixty were only six laps short of a mile.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

no need to feel down

Carbo-loading for tomorrow morning's Swim for Life is the excuse I'm using for eating fair food tonight. It was media night at the Tennessee Valley Fair. The organizers set up a buffet for all us media moochers. I sampled a few things including a corn dog and part of a funnel cake.

The featured attraction tonight was Village People. While we waited for the concert, my wife and I saw someone who looked exactly like David Keith going in the same stage door from which the singing group would eventually make their entrance. Maybe he wanted to say hi to them. I drew a red circle around him in the photo below:

This week's Metro Pulse has a couple of paragraphs by Jack Neely that perfectly explain what people like me thought when Village People hit the scene. I wasn't the only one who was too young or too naive to see the subtext at the time.
The Village People confused America more successfully than any other band in history. In 1977, some may recall, heterosexual men wore blow-dried hair styles, chartreuse pants suits, heels and jewelry. Old-fashioned institutions like the YMCA, the U.S. Navy, and machismo in general were withering, the rough equivalent of the Temperance League. Then, suddenly, all over TV, here came these guys dressed in unfashionably, boldly masculine costumes, as a cop, an Indian chief, a cowboy, a biker, an infantryman, a construction worker in a hard hat. And they sang, in commanding masculine tones over a driving disco beat, songs extolling the Y and the Navy, the old things our grandparents were always trying to talk us into. And even in the fruity '70s, these men boldly emphasized the necessity of being macho.

Good hippies cringed at what looked like a giant step backward into gender stereotypes. Conservatives rejoiced. Then America slowly realized that most of these guys were gay. What were we to think? We still haven't quite figured it out, even as we stand up to do the Y-M-C-A dance at baseball games.
At the end of tonight's concert, the Veepers (as they call themselves) taught us how to properly do the Y-M-C-A hand motions. To do the M, your hands should be in front of your sternum, pointing down, not atop your head. But I'm getting ahead of myself. "YMCA" was the obvious encore. The group sang their other well-known songs mixed in with a couple of cover songs and a part-medley, part-mashup thing called "Trash Disco." After pretending to end the show with "In the Navy," they came back on stage and said they would take a risk by letting the audience request their final song. Of course everyone screamed for "YMCA."

They had plenty of processing on their microphones but I was still left thinking that the members of Village People are very good singers whose voices blend well together. During their cover of "Iko Iko," it occurred to me that without their costumes and backing tracks, they would be indistinguishable from an experienced and talented a capella group. All they would need is a mouth percussionist.

When I was at Power 106, the station booked Village People to perform at a retro dance party for listeners. I was assigned the task of arranging for some celebrities to attend and appear on stage. The three stars I got were Susan Olsen, Hervé Villechaize and Norman Fell. It was the first time I met Susan. Who knew we would work together several years later?

The Veepers got to L.A. a couple of days before the concert. They came in for an interview on the morning show and had some free time on their hands. Meanwhile the station had a preview screening of a new movie that week. I will always remember that I saw "Jurassic Park" seated directly in front of the world famous Village People. The group will soon head back to California to perform at the L.A. County Fair and to receive their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Meanwhile back in Knoxville, my David Keith sighting was confirmed later tonight in the midway section of the fair. My wife and I were waiting in line for the Giant Wheel when I saw David getting into one of the cars. He gave a thumbs up for my camera:

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

sorry Charlie

Doug McCaughan used to have a picture on his site of a t-shirt that said "Don't Make Me Blog You." That was exactly my thought today when I was buying a can of tuna fish at Food City.

The shopping trip had started out well. I saw the Tennessee Traveler vehicle parked out front of the supermarket and knew that Alan Williams must be inside. He was just getting in the checkout line and paused to say hi. He said it had been a while since he had seen me. I mentioned that I had recently seen him on stage at the Tennessee Theatre when WVLT did their local upfront presentation. On the way home, I thought about the time I invited Alan, Gene Patterson and Ted Hall to judge a turkey cooking contest. I was with a now-defunct oldies station at the time. Each anchorman judged a different day of the three-day competition leading up to Thanksgiving.

I had driven over to Bearden to patronize one of the few Food City stores that still carries my favorite fat-free salad dressing. During my weight loss, I also switched brands of chicken and tuna. I only buy cans of StarKist that are marked not just "Low Sodium" but "Very Low Sodium." Tuna was a good choice for me on days I felt especially hungry. My serving size for chicken is five ounces. For turkey and most types of fresh fish, it's four ounces. For beef, it's only three ounces. However, I am allowed to eat a whole six-ounce can of low sodium tuna. That's why I got so mad at StarKist today when I took a can off the shelf and realized it had been downsized to four-and-a-half ounces. Boo StarKist! Now I have to look for a store that carries the very low sodium variety of Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea in six-ounce cans.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

the water's fine

The broadcast networks are pitching in to fight cancer on Friday. ABC, CBS and NBC will all air "Stand Up to Cancer" at 8:00 p.m. that night. Dozens of celebrities will answer phones and take pledges.

I will do my small part to help on Saturday morning. I have long eschewed participating in any walkathons or fun runs because that sort of exercise makes me tired, sweaty and uncomfortable. However when Amy Fields of the American Cancer Society asked me to participate in a new event called Swim for Life, I said yes. It's an offshoot of their famous Relay for Life walking event. Swim for Life runs from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday at the UT Student Aquatic Center. I can't swim for four hours but I will swim as many laps as I can. Do you think I could get away with eating the same foods as Michael Phelps for a day? Probably not.

If you are so inclined, please make a pledge to support my efforts. I have a page on the ACS site where you can make a donation online or print off a form to mail in with a check.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

in a world

Movies were on my mind this morning even before I heard the sad news about Don LaFontaine's death. Don was, of course, the ultimate movie trailer voiceover announcer. YouTube has some great footage including a short documentary about "the voice" and routine by comedian Pablo Francisco. I especially enjoyed seeing "5 Guys in a Limo," which featured Don and four other voiceover guys in a skit for an industry function.

I was lucky enough to get Don to appear in one of the live radio dramas I directed at KLOS. As you would expect, he was the consummate professional, eagerly taking direction from me and waiting for me to point at him before he delivered his lines. It's no accident that I chose to stand next to Don in the cast photo.

A Christmas Carol radio play - December 11, 1998 - (left to right): Frank Murphy, Don LaFontaine, Christine Cavanaugh, Jess Harnell, Jenna Elfman, Mark Hamill, Brian Phelps, Roxann Dawson, Robert Urich, Henry Winkler, Mark Thompson

My original plan for today's entry was to gripe about the summer box office reports. With Don's passing, I've lost some of my vitriol on the topic. Hollywood touts the amount of money movies bring in but rarely mentions the number of tickets sold. A news story I heard on ABC this morning said that the movies collected $4.2 billion this summer, up slightly from last year's $4.18 billion. This came despite a four percent drop in attendance. The increase was due to higher ticket prices. I just want to hear the Hollywood studios publicly acknowledge that attendance is down because ticket prices are up. Every time they raise prices, they increase the divide between the blockbusters and the bombs. If tickets cost less, the average person would be willing to take a risk on seeing more movies in the theater rather than waiting for them to turn up on DVD or HBO. Don't even get me started on the concessions.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

hide and reek

Happy Labor Day. In honor of the holiday, I won't work too hard tonight. Instead I'll share with you a few leftover pictures from my vacation. This won't be the last of them.

At the time, something struck me as funny about the sign for "Taxidermy Drop Off and Archery Range." It's at the Fanning 66 Outpost, better known as home of the World's Largest Rocker.

Here's a store in St. Louis that apparently sells Lit Cigars. Imagine how tough it must be to keep those in stock.

We parked next to a car in Hot Springs that belongs to someone who must watch the same late-night talk show as me. I should ask Jimmy Kimmel where I can get one of his "I'm a Friend of Jimmy K." bumper stickers.

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