Friday, October 31, 2008

one trick, three treats

It would have been cool to celebrate Halloween by posting a copy of "The War of the Worlds," as requested by my friend Bean. I unsuccessfully dug through several drawers full of old CDs hoping that I might have the version we did on KLOS. Unfortunately the fan sites and Rare Footage Vault didn't have it either. Instead I found a CD of the 1938 version, which I was enjoying in the car as I drove around today.

Last weekend I saw something that would be great at a Halloween party. Here are some college students using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. It makes a mess.

Last night I judged a dessert cook-off that you'll be reading more about later. One of the contestants put Oreo Balls on a Halloween tray with some holiday sprinkles. They were similar to the Oreo Truffles my wife makes, except these had white chocolate (yuck) on the outside. I much prefer the dark chocolate coating.

Of all the Halloween costumes I saw tonight, only one made me reach for the camera. Here's a human Marshmallow Peep.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

pour some sugar on medulla

The most interesting Halloween candy I spotted this year had to be the marshmallow brains on the shelf at Walgreens. They come in a plastic skull that is reminiscent of the Dia de los Muertos decorations that are especially popular in California. I didn't buy any since I already have a realistic plastic skull in my home office.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

music that makes you feel good

The Christmas music playing in our car was there for a reason. We were driving through Kentucky and Illinois on our way to visit with several family members this past weekend. My wife was listening to the practice CD for a Christmas cantata called "Journey of Promises" by Joseph M. Martin. The choir at All Saints Catholic Church will perform the piece on January 16 and 18. My wife sings with the choir. I've been asked to read one of the spoken word parts.

When the CD ended, I scanned the FM dial for a station. The first one we heard was playing "The Chanukah Song" by Adam Sandler. It took a moment for this to register. It was October 23, two days shy of two months before the Jewish holiday. The next song was a Christmas standard. There were no deejays, just some sweepers identifying the station as Christmas 101.1 (although their website now calls it Holiday 101.1).

I eventually figured out that we were listening to WMVN, the former Movin 101.1 out of St. Louis. What was really surprising is that the station switched to the seasonal format back on October 10th. They're just biding their time until they go all-sports in January.

Sean Ross of Edison Media Research mentioned the format change in two postings. He writes that there have been far fewer stations making changes this fall than last. He also lists ten songs he heard the St. Louis station play on their online stream.

If you want Christmas music that goes beyond the same old versions of the same old songs, be sure to check out my friend Bean's site, Christmas Music Everyday.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

unequal time

Although the late-night comics would seem to favor the Democratic ticket, I think several of them must secretly hope for a Republican victory. They get much more material from the GOP. Their jokes about McCain and Palin outnumbered their jokes about Obama and Biden 475 to 69 according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. The Center's website keeps a tally of the people targeted by some of the TV comedians.

While out of town over the the weekend, I saw a political yard sign that attempted to make a joke about Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney. It shows Cheney with pit-bullish lipstick and says that Palin would be "more of the same." I disagree. Palin shot a moose, Cheney shot a lawyer.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

change is just around the corner

During the heated political campaigns of my youth, I would ride my bicycle down to the local Republican and Democrat headquarters to get free campaign buttons for my collection. Amidst all the Nixon, McGovern, Ford and Carter pins that I stored in a huge maraschino cherry jar from Baskin-Robbins were my two of my favorite buttons: "Wally Ballou for Mayor" and "Wintergreen for President." Both are fictional candidates. Wally Ballou was a creation of radio greats Bob & Ray. John P. Wintergreen is the lead character in a musical by George & Ira Gershwin and George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind.

"Of Thee I Sing"
is about a presidential candidate who knew he was unelectable based on the issues and decided to run on emotion instead. His advisers choose a one-word platform that, "everybody's interested in and that doesn't matter a damn!" John P. Wintergreen was swept into office on a platform of "love." The satirical show features songs such as "Love Is Sweeping the Country" and "Who Cares?"

My wife and I took in a student performance of the Gershwin musical while visiting with family members over the weekend. I knew I had seen a televised production of the play back in the '70s but could not recall any of the plot points or songs. As I watched the students sing and dance, I kept trying to remember who played those same parts in the TV version. The president was easy. I could picture Carroll O'Connor's face on my Wintergreen campaign button. However his running mate, Alexander Throttlebottom, and his First Lady, Mary Turner, stumped me. The young lady we saw playing Mary had a beautiful, operatic singing voice.

Thankfully IMDB came to my rescue. Throttlebottom was played by Jack Gilford, who I mainly remember from some old Cracker Jack commercials. During the play I kept thinking that Wintergreen's wife was played by another television star, maybe even O'Connor's "All in the Family" costar Jean Stapleton. However her off-key singing as Edith Bunker made me think it had to be someone else. Still, I was quite surprised to find out that the lovely Mary Turner was played by the same woman dancing across my TV tonight, Cloris Leachman.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

see you in the funny papers

Dagwood Bumstead is more like me than I thought. He said two things this week that could have come out of my own mouth instead.

As a kid, I used to read the comics every day. Now I mostly read the newspaper online, only glancing at the comics when I have access to the dead-tree edition. Most comic strips are available online (including my current favorite, Bizarro) but who has time to visit each strip's website? It's not the same as scanning two whole pages of newsprint to see if something makes you laugh. I have long wondered if comic artists need to draw a new set of pictures for each strip or if they can use stock images and put new words in the speech and thought balloons, especially for heritage strips like Blondie.

On Thursday
, Dagwood was griping about the amount of money Jerry Seinfeld got to do those odd Microsoft commercials. I identified with his answer when Blondie asked him what products he could endorse. I also would gladly do commercials for pillows, recliners, homemade pies, mattresses, hamburgers, hot sauce, cakes, pizza, ice cream parlors and BBQ joints. It makes perfect sense, just like the time I endorsed a company that sells and installs high-def TVs.

I spotted another similarity with Dagwood yesterday. Like me, he's a fan of naps. Unlike me, he claims there's a difference between sleeping and napping. When I take a nap, I do it right, changing into sleepwear and crawling into bed, not to be disturbed for three hours.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

two chairs, no waiting

The stein collection that my grandmother gave me is visible in the background of a photo I posted here a year and a half ago when my wife and I showed off our new hairstyles. Grandma used to work at the Villeroy & Boch store in Southampton and would buy things that she thought her children and grandchildren would like. That's where the mugs came from. She also started me on a great collection of state quarters.

One of my wife's relatives showed us an impressive display of a different kind of mug recently. He has two sets of shelves full of authentic August Kern occupational shaving mugs. The August Kern Barber Supply Company of St. Louis made barber chairs and just about anything else needed to operate a barber shop. The man who showed us his collection is a direct descendant of Kern. Back in the late 19th century when men would go to the barber for a shave, it was considered unhealthy to share the mugs that the barber used to whip up the shaving cream. Yet I suspect they all shared the same razor. Each customer would get his own mug that he left in the barber shop. Sometimes their names were inscribed but the main way of differentiating the mugs was by the picture representing the owner's occupation. There are many examples online including mugs that belonged to a steam tractor operator, a telephone operator and a hunter. If the mugs pictured below are worth somewhere between $500 and $1,500 each, you could be looking at $10,000 to $30,000 right now. And that doesn't count the mugs we saw displayed on another wall.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

je me souviens

An article in last Sunday's paper served to remind me to seek out some souvenirs from the road trip we took in August. The New Sentinel's travel editor interviewed several Knoxvillians about the items they bring home from their various trips. Most of the people collect the kind of knickknacks that in turn collect dust in the family room at home.

Instead of tschotskes that take up counter space, my wife and I prefer to collect Christmas ornaments from our destinations. While the tree is on display, we can remember our travels from the previous years. Maybe this year I'll remember to post a few photos of our more interesting souvenirs.

This summer we picked up a not-too-cheesy guitar shaped ornament at Graceland but had trouble elsewhere. The only ornaments we saw in Branson were generic. We didn't find any at all during our limited time in Hot Springs. Between now and Christmas, my goal is to find places online where I can get souvenir ornaments from Branson and Hot Springs. Any suggestions would be welcomed and appreciated.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

never give up, never surrender

Today's guest blogger from beyond the grave is once again my father. When I visited my mother this Spring, she gave me copies of three letters he had written to various famous people. I posted the first two here and here. I think you'll agree that I saved the best for last.

I was reminded to look for this third letter one day last week when my mother wrote a comment on my blog entry about the B-17. She recognized the title of that post as an homage to my father. The phrase was a campaign slogan he came up with when a friend of his was running for city council.

As mentioned before, my father was a big fan of sports, especially of the New York Football Giants. They were a championship team when he was a young man but not so good during the twenty years he was a season ticket holder. Unfortunately he died before the Giants made their first Super Bowl appearance.

My father was set off by an article in the New York Times titled "Giants Shown Game Films; Csonka Is Ill." Coach Bill Arnsparger had decided to show game films to the team as a whole instead of dividing them into offensive and defensive squads. Here's the part that Dad highlighted:
The emphasis, said Jack Gregory, the defensive captain who had never before seen offensive films, was on the positive. "It accomplished what [Arnsparger] set out to do," said the defensive end. "I think he was trying to get us to have confidence in each other. He told us we're still his team, he hasn't given up on us and we shouldn't give up on ourselves.

"Let's face it. This is an ideal time for guys to start quitting."

Gregory, echoing the official team line, said the Giants' main problem has been "lack of concentration."
The day after the article was in the paper, my father wrote to Jack Gregory. At the time, the Giants were at a low point in team history. They were near the beginning of a nine-game losing streak in the 1976 season that would end with a 3 - 11 record. They were 5 - 9 in 1975 and 2 -12 in 1974. The previous year wasn't much better. They were 2 -11 - 1 in 1973.
September 23, 1976

Mr. Jack Gregory
Defensive End
New York Football Giants
c/o Pace University
Pleasantville, NY

Dear Mr. Gregory,

I was greatly distressed this morning by a statement attributed to you. And I would only hope that you might consider and pass along to your teammates the corrosive effect such an attitude, as implied in your statement, could have, not only on your current year but on the future of pro football and the security of the future of the pension program for all players.

I do not begrudge professional athletes their above average salaries (the median family income for the U.S. is about $13,000 per annum), their generous pension programs which beat virtually everything other than very top management gets in industry, or the emoluments, opportunities, adulation and favors that flow your way.

What I do resent, is the hint at the possibility that short of gaining the playoffs, the professional athlete does not deliver his finest performance. There are a lot of us in life that never make the playoffs.

This hurts. Those of us who work in offices all week genuinely look forward to just getting out on a Sunday afternoon to see a football game and enjoying ourselves. We love the sport. We love the competition. We stand in respect bordering upon awe, for the outstanding performances that we pay to see. There isn't a single person in the stands who could take your place on the field, for if there were they probably would be there.

So, we come and pay to appreciate your skills, your energy and your perseverance in a difficult, demanding and exhilarating sport. Whether you win or lose frankly only affects us in a vicarious way. We brighten to your wins, we regret your losses, but we don't get to share in your playoff purse. It hardly matters -- unless we bet -- what the score is. The most we can hope for is the opportunity of buying a ticket to see in person the playoffs, or divisional championship if it happens that they are being held in the home city of the Eastern Division winner that year.

We buy tickets because we love the game. And that means we expect to see a good, fair, even competition whether the team has a shot for the Super Bowl or not. It's a Sunday afternoon's entertainment and on those cold days in December -- in snow or sleet or rain i.e. Giants-Vikings Yale Bowl Dec. 1973 (sleet); Giants-Eagles, Yale Bowl Dec. 1974 (snow/sleet/rain) for even in a "meaningless game" (whatever that is) the fan is entitled to a good game. To us, it is the entertainment we pay to see.

We'd rather see you win. But we deserve more than to see you quit. And frankly, the team has quit several times in recent years. I have to go no further than the two games mentioned above for two miserable performances or two equally miserable days.

I realize that you were attempting to say that the Giants were not going to quit even after two disheartening losses. But I say that the notion of quitting should not even be a part of your vocabulary.

As a Giant fan, I have spent about $1,962 for season tickets since seeing the Giants beat Pittsburgh to win the Eastern Divisional title in 1963. In the years 1964 through 1975 the Giants have played 84 "home" games including 12 at Yale Bowl and seven at Shea Stadium. In all of those games, I dare say, there were fewer than a dozen or so interesting ones. I'm not talking about Giant wins -- although I enjoy them more than losses -- I'm talking about good, well played, evenly matched competitive games. In other words -- games in which neither side quit, the Redskin game at Shea last year, for example.

At present, Giants tickets are $9 and $11 each, and we send our money off to buy these seats, including those games in cold, windy, weather-uncertain December, by June 1st. With four seats -- so I can take my wife, children or friends -- that comes to an annual outlay of $322. That's a lot of discretionary income to tie up all summer and most of the autumn, before getting any return.

The cost of going to a Giants game easily approaches $50 to $75 each Sunday. Add to the $46 ticket price, the cost of tolls, parking, program, tip, refreshments, gas and oil, extra clothing, and time, and you have a pretty expensive afternoon. That's the price of four rounds of golf, or rental of an indoor tennis court for 3 hour-long sessions or a good steak dinner for four at Gallagher's.

Tickets for the Metropolitan Opera or New York City Ballet or a Broadway show are cheaper and I don't hear any of those performers "quit," even if it is late in their season. Maybe it's because they just concentrate on offering the best that's within them and devote themselves to excellence in each performance. Maybe that's because they don't have to worry about making the playoffs. You seem to lose sight of the fact that the playoffs are merely the logical product of the season. It's the season that counts. It's the four months of excitement, excellent performance, unpredictable entertainment we pay to enjoy. The season came before the playoffs and that season consists of 14 games. Don't sell the product short.

I mentioned both salaries and pension at the outset. If the prevalent attitude becomes one of quitting because a game has no effect upon the standings -- or because a team has lost the first two games of the season, there is great danger that the fans might become disenchanted with what they get out of this considerable investment of money, time and interest in pro football. And unless the stadium is full, and people are clamoring for tickets -- the wherewithal to provide those salaries and pensions will evaporate -- and so will your economic security.

Giant fans have stuck with you guys through 12 lean years and haven't quit yet. I don't think it's appropriate for you to talk of quitting at this stage or any stage of the season.

With kind regards,

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

trials of job

This coming Sunday's episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will show the construction of a new house for the family of a boy with several ailments including leukemia, diabetes and asthma. Job McCully hadn't lived in his Arkansas home for years due to mold and mildew that set in while he and his family were away at hospitals in Houston and St. Louis for long-term care.

I am debating whether to record the episode on my TiVo or HD DVR or to save the disc space and just watch it online next week. Why? My wife and I visited the construction site in August during our trip through Arkansas. Our friend Tim Puttre has been working as a production assistant on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" this season. He travels from L.A. to the various locations where families are surprised by Ty Pennington and crew. He's recently been to St. Louis, Lansing, Pittsburgh and Columbus, where he met Knoxville native (and frequent Letterman guest) Jack Hanna.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

mother-flunking shame

Fluffernutters were the topic of conversation when our friend Mary called from California the other day. She thought of me as she and her son were spreading Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter onto graham crackers. I told her that I put a piece of paper in the suggestion box at The Cupcakery on Friday with my requests for Fluffernutter, S'mores and Rocky Road cupcakes.

While on the topic of sweets, Mary asked if I had heard the sad news about Mother's Cookies going out of business. I told her yes, and that I had also heard about their sister brand Archway Cookies biting the dust. I was a big fan of their soft oatmeal cookies before my weight loss. Unfortunately for one fan, the company's closing has made her Halloween costume obsolete.

My wife had forwarded a Slashfood post about Mother's Cookies to me with a note wondering what snack parents would send to school with their kids. She served as Head Room Mother for several years while our kids were at St. Finbar School and remembered that most events with refreshments involved a big platter of the circus animal cookies that Mother's made.

Maybe fans of the frosted animal cookies need not despair. I saw a bag of a similar product made by Keebler while at Food City yesterday.

When I told our friend what my wife had said about Mother's Cookies, she informed me how things have changed since we moved away from Burbank. Mary and her family recently moved from Orange County to Riverside County. In both jurisdictions, the school system prohibits parents from sending in any cookies, cakes or cupcakes to share with the class for student birthdays. No wonder Mother's went out of business! Instead parents may send granola bars or non-food items like pencils. That will last until someone gets hurt. Be careful, you'll put an eye out kid!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

brown bread

The good people of Great Britain were introduced to the Body Farm last night. Television presenter Stephen Fry toured the South and visited Knoxville's famous forensic anthropology facility in an episode of "Stephen Fry in America" on BBC One.

What I've read makes me hope the show turns up on BBC America soon. While filming the series, Fry will achieve my personal goal of visiting all 50 states. Without having seen it, the reviews remind me a little of Graham Norton's funny visit to Dollywood and the Dixie Stampede that aired on these shores a few years back.

According to a review on TV Scoop, Fry described a decaying corpse as "a great seething, living... appalling smelling thing... it's as if it's clawing inside you to try and scoop out every living part of you and turn it into death... it's unspeakably horrible!"

One British blogger wonders if there are any Body Farms in England that he should avoid. A crime scene reconstruction involving a body in a trash bin made another blogger contemplate the stark difference between life and death. An American expat runs down all the states visited in the episode and mentions that Stephen Fry was so impressed by the Body Farm that he might consider donating his own body to science. Not everyone loved it. One major Fry fan had nightmares that she was buried alive under a black plastic tarp at the Body Farm. By the way, the plastic tarps are not there for modesty. Maggots will eat a body more completely in the shade.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

you betcha

The real Sarah Palin was on "Saturday Night Live" last night showing a good sense of humor about herself. Although both of her sketches turned out okay, they started with similar unfunny premises. In the show open, Palin was backstage with Lorne Michaels while Tina Fey reprised her impersonation of the candidate in a press conference setting. Palin finds out that she will not get to perform the "30 Rock" spoof she had supposedly written. It finally got funny when Alec Baldwin showed up and repeatedly addressed Palin as Tina.

During the Weekend Update segment, Palin said she didn't want to do the bit they had rehearsed because it might reflect poorly on the campaign. Seth Meyers asked Amy Poehler if she "remembered" what Palin was supposed to do. Poehler then rapped a song about Alaska, McCain, Obama and the like while Palin bobbed her head in rhythm.

In the first sketch, Palin's thunder was stolen by Mark Wahlberg, who showed up to complain about Andy Samberg's portrayal of him on the October 4th show. They could have had Palin and Wahlberg show up simultaneously and skipped the part about Palin writing a "30 Rock" skit. In her second appearance, I would have preferred for Palin to have been given some way to introduce the rap song other than pretending that she was originally going to perform it. How about a simple sketch where she was auditioning rappers to help her reach a younger audience?

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

four out of five bullet points

Posting a blog entry about eating a cupcake yesterday helped me extend the experience long after the actual cupcake was gone. I like to write about the special treats, not about the vast majority of my meals, which are in keeping with the weight loss plan I started following over three years ago. I can afford a caloric splurge every now and again because of my normal vigilance.

That is the same word USA Today used to describe dietary success: "Food vigilance is key to keeping weight off," said the headline in Thursday's issue. I can follow all but one of the bullet points from the National Weight Control Registry. The people in the group lost an average 66 pounds and kept off at least 30. See if you can guess which of the following tips is the one that's too strict for me:
  • Limit their calories to 1,800 a day
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Weigh themselves at least once a week
  • Walk about an hour a day (11,000 steps) or burn the equivalent calories
  • Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week

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Friday, October 17, 2008

cupcake, gonna have a cupcake

In celebration of my major award, I went only partially Elvis today. First, I stopped by Pilot to get a free copy of the News Sentinel to send to my mother. The print edition of the East Tennessee's Best section has a nice portrait photo of me next to the Best Local Blogger description.

At lunchtime I found myself driving past a BBQ joint I have been wanting to try. Pup's Pit is a small building tucked into the corner of a used car lot on Walker Springs Road. I ordered a pulled chicken sandwich with a mixture of mild and hot sauce. The combination gave me the perfect level of spicy heat, however the flavor was too ketchupy. Before eating the sandwich, I ate a little piece of chicken without any sauce. It had a good smoky taste. Next time I will have them leave off the sauce and put on my own when I get home.

As promised yesterday, my celebratory dessert was a Graceland cupcake from The Cupcakery. The banana cake was topped with peanut butter icing and a slice of dried banana partially dipped in chocolate. It was fine, however I would have liked it better if it had banana icing too. The clerk told me that the Pumpkin Harvest cupcakes in the same case had a cinnamon icing and a piece of ginger snap on top. Generally speaking, the Cupcakery's cupcakes look perfect but could benefit from more icing. I like icing.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

thankyou, thankyouverymuch

Does your Friday morning routine include a stop at a convenience store? Maybe you can pick up an extra copy of the News Sentinel for me. I want to send copies to my mother, my grandmother and some other relatives. Remember that local Pilot stores give away the paper for free on Fridays during high school football season. Although I'm sure they would enjoy reading a preview of the Catholic at Fulton game, I actually want Mom and Grandma to see Clay Owen's photo of yours truly that will be included with the results of the News Sentinel's annual readers poll.

If you voted for me in the East Tennessee's Best survey, I sincerely thank you. Your votes in the Best Local Blogger category were enough to give me the edge over hundreds of talented local bloggers including the next two top vote getters, Richard Allen and Dave Foulk.

A year ago, I was very surprised to make the top three. You may recall that I placed second, behind Barbie Cummings. "Local Blogger" was a new category last year and I thought that some of the other bloggers might rally their readers to vote in the new poll. I'm all the more complimented that I won without having to ask. The blurb that accompanies the results is really, really nice:
There isn’t much Frank Murphy hasn’t done. You’ve probably heard him on radio station Star 102.1 as one-third of the popular Marc & Kim and Frank Show. He and his wife have done radio commercials for LA Weight Loss. He’s a member of Einstein Simplified, a comedy improv group that performs weekly in Knoxville. He was a judge on “Warehouse Warriors” on the DIY Network. He also likes to nap. A lot.

When he’s not doing all that, Frank writes on his blog. He’s been doing so since August of 2005. He writes about life, love, the Tennessee Valley Fair, swimming, Knoxville-turned-Nashville band Jag Star, body farms, fireworks displays, going to the movies, his love of the world’s largest things, shopping for tuna and fat-free salad dressing at Food City, and the latest on his quest to visit all 50 states. You know, all your favorite stuff.

It’s rare if a day goes by when Frank doesn’t update his blog. It’s also rare if a day goes by when East Tennessee isn’t reading it.
It's appropriate to acknowledge Jack Lail for sending a lot of hits my way earlier this year by linking to my post about Coed Naked Bar Hopping. That entry also got several clicks from the gang at The Sunsphere is Not a Wigshop (who reviewed this week's Einstein Simplified show, by the way). The follow-up post was linked to by Michael Silence.

Speaking of Michael's excellent blog, I got a laugh when the newspaper's photo department emailed me to arrange a meeting, they wrote:
Hey Frank,
KNS readers have voted you ET's Best blogger. Michael Silence was robbed. Can we get a photo of you in action sometime soon?
I think I just might celebrate my victory with a Graceland cupcake. The peanut butter icing and banana cake treat is the featured flavor this week at The Cupcakery.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

pig pun

Half the fun of going to a BBQ competition is seeing the names of the teams. Some are ordinary, others are funny and some are outrageous. At the Tennessee State Bar-B-Q Championship on Saturday my wife and I saw Pearls Before Swine, Cookin' Possums, Q the Pig and my personal favorite, Grills Gone Wild.

An online database helps novice BBQ-ers check to see if their idea of a team name has already been taken. A quick glance brought a smile to my face when I saw Jack the Ribber on the list. The Commercial Appeal had a list of teams that participated in the Memphis In May competition, including one called The Church of Swinetology.

Here's your chance to use the comments section to report any funny BBQ team names you've seen on Food Network or in-person.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

lower third

WVLT seemed to be channeling "Jimmy Kimmel Live" during the noon news today. One of the guests in the interview segment was Jennifer Wenger, who moved from Union County to Hollywood where she dresses as Wonder Woman and poses with the tourists on Hollywood Boulevard. She was here to promote her appearance as Wonder Woman at the Union County Heritage Festival this weekend.

Jimmy often features costumed superheroes on his show to perform stunts or reenact scenes from other shows. There's also a documentary about these particular street performers called "Confessions of a Superhero." From the photo below you might think that Channel 8 was trying to emulate Jimmy's "This Week in Unnecessary Censorship" instead.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

they flew the frontiers of freedom

A small group of World War II veterans flew over East Tennessee this afternoon in a B-17 Flying Fortress. They were accompanied by a few members of the local media. The Experimental Aircraft Association operates the bomber, raising funds by charging for flights all over the country. There will be five Knoxville flights per day on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving between 10:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Ground tours will be available after the flights. If you go, maybe you will also be amused by the image of a stick figure getting crushed by the gate outside the Tac Air terminal.

The plane has several gun turrets, the most interesting of which is a ball turret on the underside. Once we were airborne, we could explore the inside of the B-17 and peek into the cockpit.

My favorite part of the trip was crawling down into the nose turret, where bombardiers once sighted their targets. From there I could clearly see the propellers on either side. I happened to look straight down just as we were passing over Neyland Stadium.

It was an honor to share today's experience with members of the Greatest Generation. The flight was especially memorable for the cameraman from WVLT-TV. It was his first airplane flight ever.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

the dead zone

Has laughter fallen victim to the economy? Knoxville's only stand-up comedy club appears to have closed. The big sign on the front of The Comedy Zone has been taken down. Their schedule shows nothing after October 4th, although I think the sign may have actually come down before then. Their phone has been disconnected and their website now redirects you to their parent company in Charlotte, North Carolina. Before it occurred to me to try calling the phone number myself, I searched unsuccessfully online for verification of the closing from the News Sentinel's Bottom Line blog or any other website. I did find that they were behind on their city business taxes. Maybe the reason they closed is because I'm the only one who even remotely cares.

Einstein Simplified used to perform at The Comedy Zone once a month. Even though we had a bad timeslot, we would draw a decent crowd when the manager included us in their weekly Metro Pulse ad. Unfortunately for us, that manager got promoted and moved to another city. His replacements were not as diligent about advertising our shows. When the staff seemed surprised to see us show up for our monthly gig, we knew it was time to end our arrangement.

Nevertheless, I thought the Comedy Zone was a good room. About a year ago, my wife and I went to see Pat Godwin there. We had previously been there to see Ralphie May and a benefit show full of headliners. When a small fire broke out at the club, I thought it was hysterical that it happened to be during a hypnotist's show.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

smoking section

An old blog entry helped me finally accomplish something that I wanted to do two years ago. Last night, my wife and I went to the St. Joseph School Fall Festival. As I finished writing about it, I checked my archives to see if I had mentioned the festival last year or the year before. I had, in a 2006 post which told of my dashed hopes to visit the Tennessee State Bar-B-Q Championship in Lenoir City.

I enjoy watching BBQ competitions on Food Network and had a great time at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue a few years ago. A couple of clicks revealed that St. Joseph's festival and the Tennessee state championship were on the same weekend for at least the third year in a row. This year the cook-off moved out of Lenoir City Park to be combined with an antique car show and street festival on Broadway and Depot Streets.

Because of my work schedule, my wife and I got to Lenoir City around 10:30 a.m. and left around noon. We hadn't been there but a few minutes when we encountered Tammy Hudson, the official photographer for the event. I told her that I had recently looked at her photos from last year. She said she would get today's pictures posted as soon as her slow upload would allow.

The only vehicle in the car show that intrigued me was the Doubleheader Volkswagen Beetle. My wife said it was just like the pushmi-pullyu. Unfortunately it has one engine and only drives from one end. She also photographed a radio relic. And a piece of antique cabinetry.

What looked like an eighteen wheeler turned out to be a Peterbilt conversion RV. Just across the way, a friendly contestant told us about the chocolate cherry cobbler he was making. He cooked it in a dutch oven using a Boy Scout recipe.

We found three booths selling BBQ on one of the side streets between Broadway and Depot. One was serving Cades Cove BBQ, which had been cooked in a nearby factory. I opted to get a plate from the Smokin' Rednecks, who were cooking on site. I avoided their "Sissy Sauce" and used a combination of their medium and hot. Before we left, I followed a contestant from 4 Little Pigs BBQ as he turned in his chicken entry at noon.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

in the pie hole

Which is better, cake or pie? It's an age-old dilemma that pits brother against brother. Or in my case, co-worker against co-worker. During my KROQ days, the morning show staff used to travel to New York for the MTV Video Music Awards. One year Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla posed the cake or pie question to the rest of us. The friendly argument continued during the award show as all the people sitting near us in the Radio City Music Hall balcony weighed in.

I had an opportunity to resurrect the debate in Knoxville at one of the now-defunct stations where I worked. Although I don't dislike pie, I argued convincingly for cake. I mean, who has birthday pie or wedding pie? I also opined that a cheesecake is actually a pie. I used to have an aircheck of the bit visible on my website but now it's stuck in a little-used subdirectory.

Last year I was asked to judge a cake decorating contest. I found out after I got there that there would be no tasting the cakes. Tonight it was pie's turn. When I was invited to judge a contest at the St. Joseph School Fall Festival, I made sure to ask in advance whether or not the judges would get to taste the pies.

St. Albert the Great pastor Fr. Chris Michelson, school booster Jim Humphries and I tasted small pieces of seven different pies. A very light pumpkin mousse pie barely edged out an excellent pecan pie as the winner. For third place, we had a very difficult time choosing between a chocolate chess pie and a Ritz mock apple pie that completely fooled us. After dessert, we had some of the festival's famous BBQ. I chose the chicken dinner over the ribs. Chopped pork gets added to the menu on Saturday.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole

The directors of "Fish Bait" must be on the lookout for fish stories. Today Jeff Joslin sent along news of the Goonch, a giant catfish believed to be feeding on corpses in India. Sky News has fish photos. Bodies are regularly set adrift on funeral pyres in the Great Kali River. The locals now think that the Goonch have started attacking live swimmers because they are not satisfied with eating the partially burned remains.

All this sudden publicity for the Goonch comes because biologist Jeremy Wade will host a documentary called "Nature Shock: Flesh Eating River Monster" on Britain's Channel Five later this month. On this side of the ocean, an American fisherman, Larry Dahlberg, has a DVD of his adventures with giant catfish in Venezuela. Larry has given Jeff permission to use some of his footage in "Fish Bait."

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

disturbance in the force

Soft-serve fans in New York and elsewhere are mourning the loss of the original Carvel Ice Cream store. It closed on Sunday so the franchisee can build a Japanese restaurant on his property instead. The local paper interviewed several of the last-day customers and posted a series of photos.

My friend Bean sent me the news, just like he did last year when there was talk of exhuming Tom Carvel's body. Meanwhile the legal battle over Mr. Carvel's estate continues as do the suspicions that he was murdered by his secretary.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

horse and chariot

While the Pope and others have been reading the Bible aloud on Italian television, the Bible Across America vehicle stopped at the Cedar Springs Christian Store in Knoxville today. 31,173 volunteers will each write a single verse to help create a handwritten Bible. Actually, we wrote our verses twice to make two handwritten Bibles.

The people who showed up at noon were given a choice between Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus. Obviously we had to write the next verse in order. Three podiums were set up under a white tent. I was thinking of the movie "The Ten Commandments" when I got in the line for Exodus. The verse I got was "The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name." (Ex. 15:3) Had I chosen Leviticus I would have gotten a verse about infectious skin disease.

I'm hopeful that some of my friends and relatives will be able to write their own verse when the vehicle hits their towns. One of the Bible Across America team members told me that they will reschedule their Washington DC visit to a time when Congress is in session. They will try to get several lawmakers to participate.

To see some much better photos of Knoxvillians writing Bible passages, check the News Sentinel for the pictures taken by J. Miles Cary. He's the same guy who photographed my makeover a year and a half ago.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

new beast of the east

Some of the cast and crew of "Fish Bait" slept aboard the luxury houseboat at Flat Hollow Marina & Resort. Those of us who arrived later in the week were given rooms on land in the gorgeous A-frame chalets overlooking the water. I was one of four people in the Pinewood Chalet.

One of the producers, Andrew Rogers, arranged the shooting schedule so that I didn't have any scenes to film while my wife and I went to church on Sunday. After Mass, we still had enough time to watch the first half of the Redskins game. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chalet not only had DirecTV but the NFL Sunday Ticket also. Just because I could, I flipped around to other games briefly during commercial breaks. However the Redskins game was actually on regular TV in our area this week.

The picture froze a few times during the game. I assumed that someone or something had gotten in the way of the chalet's satellite dish. I wasn't too concerned because I was recording the game in HD back at home. I was called to the set at halftime and avoided hearing the score until I got home last night and could watch the second half. Unfortunately my reception at home was poor too. Instead of glorious HD, WTNZ switched to SD for most of the game, which makes me think the problem was on their end, not mine.

Last night, while I was uploading my photos from the weekend, I finished watching the game and then flipped around the dial hoping to at least see some highlights in HD. Instead, I saw every play on NFL Sunday Ticket SuperFan's Short Cuts. A normal football game takes over three hours to watch. NFL Replay fits the game into an hour and a half. Short Cuts gives you the whole game in only half an hour. You get every play and none of the in-between stuff. However the audio is a little disconcerting. While re-enjoying the Redskins victories over the Cowboys and Eagles, I got used to ignoring the sentence fragments from the color commentator and focusing on the play-by-play announcer. For example, Troy Aikman would be in the middle of one of his favorite Jay Novacek stories when Joe Buck would interrupt to bring us back to 2008.

Speaking of the past, last week I also watched Brett Favre's record-setting performance in those weird Jets throwback uniforms against the Cardinals.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

the good kind of tired

The other cast and crew members who I met this weekend on the set of "Fish Bait" are probably posting their personal snapshots to various social networking sites tonight. I will add a few minutes to my own personal sleep deprivation and put mine online here. Co-directors Jeff Joslin and Darby Totten filmed the movie on location at the very nice Flat Hollow Marina & Resort on Norris Lake.

Cinematographers Pierce Cook and Wes Halula used a Panasonic DVCPro HD camera to capture the action. They transferred the footage directly on to a computer and did some rough cut editing each day.

Former pro wrestler Kodiak Joe made a cameo appearance during a party scene filmed last night. He's also a former college football player who is now better known as Fr. Joe Campbell, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in nearby LaFollette. My wife and I went there for Mass this morning.

I had a great time as three of my fellow Einstein Simplified members and I played a group of fishing buddies. We did our fishing boat scene very late Friday night as the fog rolled in. Those shots were finished somewhere around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. Earlier today I spotted a pile of movie props that may or may not have anything to do with our characters' fates. You'll have to see the movie to find out. If you know any independent theater owners who might be interested in showing it, we wouldn't mind one bit.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

come out to socialize

The antique hearse out front reminded me of a display outside the Haunted Mansion. However I wasn't back at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I was at Stevens Mortuary in Knoxville. The hearse is inside a gazebo-like structure with glass walls and doors.

The Internet has many more photos of horse-drawn hearses still in use today. One site states that Roy Rogers was a collector of horse-drawn hearses. Too bad Trigger predeceased him.

Inside the mortuary I picked up a magnet commemorating Stevens' 50th anniversary. The magnet got me thinking about other promotional products for funeral homes. I found places online that sell euchre score cards, hand fans, tote bags and other miscellaneous items.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

big girls don't cry

There's a lot more to the plot of "The Duchess" but I couldn't help but be reminded of TV's most famous blended family. Feel free to sing along: Here's the story of a lovely Duchess, who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them were not male heirs, like their mother, the eldest wasn't even hers. Here's the story of a lovely Lady, busy with three boys of her own. They got separated, thanks to the father, which we cannot condone. Till the one day when this Lady met this Duchess and they became fast friends from the start. Then the Duke got busy with the Lady and they truly broke the skinny Duchess' heart.

Keira Knightley plays the Duchess of Devonshire, a character more than a little like her descendant, the late Princess Diana. Her husband is older and only wants her to produce a male heir. Somehow it's okay for him to have mistresses but not for her to be with her true love. The Duchess becomes hugely popular for her sense of fashion. She uses her fame to help political causes that she supports. Throughout the movie, the Duchess bears four children and never retains an ounce of baby weight after each pregnancy.

During a party scene and a theater scene, artists drew pictures of the Duchess and those around her. At one point they captured an image of an unhappy Duke watching his marriage being satirized in the play "The School for Scandal." I imagined the Duke to be cursing the dreaded sketch-arazzi.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

in the course of human events

Should any of us be surprised that Neal E. Boyd won "America's Got Talent" last night? His audition segment seemed to be lifted, almost shot for shot, from that of the winner of "Britain's Got Talent." Earlier in the summer, I saw a promo for AGT that was practically identical to the clip of Paul Potts that I linked to last year. Because I didn't watch the show often enough to hear him sing anything beside "Nessum Dorma," my opinion is probably slanted. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for Neal and glad that he won, even if his prize is less than you think. I'm just a bit cynical about the similarities between the two operatic amateurs.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

trampling out the vintage

To what lengths would you go for a free book? I burned almost a whole gallon of gas and paid a dollar for parking to get one today at the Knox County Public Library's kickoff event for The Big Read, "the largest reading program in American history."

This year's chosen book is "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Unlike my daughter, I didn't have to read it in high school. As much as I like the idea of getting a $16 book for free, I also like the idea of many people reading the same book because they want to, not because they have to. I figure I might be able to read a few chapters on the movie set this weekend.

Thanks to an ad in the newspaper, I knew that the free books were available for the first 75 people. I got to Market Square just after noon and immediately stood in the book line. There were still plenty of copies left. The lady at the table later told me they actually gave away 80 books. Mayor Haslam was among those who made brief remarks before a folk group came on to sing Woody Guthrie songs.

In addition to the book, they gave away free study guides. I chose the print version over the audio CD. The library's website has several audio files I can download, including one with comments by the author's son, Thom Steinbeck, that they especially recommend.

Don't despair over missing out on the kickoff event. You can still get a copy from the library or buy your own.

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