Saturday, February 28, 2009

body snatchers

Why would anyone steal a skull from the Body Farm? Or as the Orlando Homicide Report asks, "what kind of weirdo steals human skulls?" Especially since it's so easy to find a realistic plastic skull. A fallen tree may have made the theft possible. It landed on the two fences surrounding the facility. The bad guys probably crawled along the tree and into the enclosure where they grabbed the body parts. According to the News Sentinel, anthropology researchers at first assumed that an animal had carried the remains away. They got that right.

My ongoing search for Body Farm news resulted in three new items being added to my Amazon Wish List today. British author Simon Beckett has written three novels about a fictional forensic anthropologist named David Hunter who had trained at the famous Body Farm. The third book in the series, "Whispers of the Dead," finds Hunter traveling from his London home back to the Body Farm in Knoxville. While there, he is asked to help investigate a murder in Gatlinburg. I made the mistake of starting Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta novels with "The Body Farm," the fifth book in the series. I'll be sure to read Simon Beckett's books in order, starting with "The Chemistry of Death" and continuing with "Written in Bone." Beckett got the idea for his novels when he came to Knoxville to write an article about the National Forensic Academy for the Daily Telegraph Magazine.

This one last piece of Body Farm news shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. There is a Facebook group for fans of the place. As of tonight, it has 776 members.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

cod is good

On Fridays during Lent, many Catholic churches offer a meatless supper before or after the Stations of the Cross. My wife and I plan to partake of the meal at All Saints Church tonight although we don't know what is on the menu. Different parish groups take turns serving the Lenten suppers. Each week brings something different. In the past we've had pizza, fish sticks, soup, salad and a baked potato bar.

Sacred Heart Cathedral has a Friday fish fry during Lent. For the health-conscious, the cod can be had baked or fried. Side items include french fries, coleslaw and macaroni & cheese. Their event seems more like those in St. Louis, where the local newspaper maintains a list of churches hosting a fish fry on Fridays. A local radio station does a "Fish Fry World Tour" which includes a live broadcast from a different church each week. A TV station has an interactive Fish Fry Finder map that is easy to use. I unexpectedly discovered a Facebook group for St. Louisans who socialize at the events, regardless of whether they are Catholic or not. Considering that Knoxville's Bishop-elect Richard Stika is a St. Louis native, maybe we can eventually have a Fish Fry World Tour of our own.

Like a lot of Catholics, I'm giving up sweets again this year with the probable exception of a slice of celebratory cake after the bishop's ordination and installation. Maybe he'll give us all a dispensation and it will be a moot point. However just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean I can't look at the menu. Here's a photo of the delicious cakes that were served a couple of weeks ago at the World Marriage Day dinner at All Saints. I was told that they came from Rita's Bakery in Fountain City.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

fact check

When Dolly Parton was on the cover of the Metro Pulse last year, I grabbed an extra copy to mail to my friend Bean. Today I scooped up a few copies of the new issue to share with any out-of-town friends who might be interested in "The Cult of Dr. Bass." The table of contents asks: "How is it that a forensic anthropologist has trumped rock stars and college athletes to become, arguably, the most famous living Knoxvillian?"

Dr. Bill Bass "never set out to be a celebrity." As proof to their claim that he is one, the Metro Pulse story opens with a description of the overflow crowd at the cremation lecture I attended in January. The article includes interviews with Carol Bass and the members of the Jefferson Bass book signing team. They maintain a website called The paper also has a sidebar about Jon Jefferson.

On the whole, the article is rather good. Dr. Bass retells some of the Body Farm anecdotes that he has shared in our radio interviews over the years. I could imagine hearing his voice as I read them. However there was one passage I have to challenge. I think the the writer may have misunderstood Mrs. Bass. She is quoted as saying: "'Bones of Betrayal' is the last of the Dr. Brockton novels in the series, but there are three more series HarperCollins wants them to do."

In fact, Jefferson and Bass are thinking about a sequel to "Bones of Betrayal" that would follow the same characters. They told me so in our most recent interview. Just to be sure, I asked Jon Jefferson via email. He replied: "I'm not quite sure how that particular slip of the tongue or the pen occurred, but your understanding -- that the next three novels are part of the Body Farm series (and are therefore Dr. Brockton novels) is correct. As you know, I know firsthand how easy it is for errors to slip into print!"

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

no accident

Some interesting stories have emerged from the recent plane crashes in New York. Two Blount County women have now met because they were both on the plane that crash landed in the Hudson River. The News Sentinel featured them on Sunday.

I was even more interested in the Florida family who avoided the fatal crash near Buffalo. A gate agent at Palm Beach International Airport rerouted them off Flight 3407 for two reasons. They missed the boarding call for their flight to Newark, where they would have gotten on the doomed plane. Rather than rush to catch their scheduled flight, the gate agent advised them to switch to a different airline. Turbulence and delays in Newark also factored into the decision.

My father used to say that he missed a deadly crash due to the Immaculate Reception. He regularly flew to Miami on business for Bacardi Rum. In 1972, he had plans to see the Dolphins in the AFC Championship game near the end of their undefeated season. Back then, the rules for which team hosted playoff games were different than today. Even with their record, the Dolphins were not guaranteed home field advantage. When Franco Harris made his improbable catch and helped the Steelers defeat the Raiders, it meant the Dolphins would have to travel to Pittsburgh the next week. The flight my father probably would have taken from New York to Miami, had the Dolphins hosted the Raiders, crashed into the Everglades on Friday, December 29, 1972.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

fat Tuesday

Comedian Pat Godwin wrote a note on my wall Sunday that asked "who is that thin guy in your profile photo?" It was a callback to our conversation at the old Comedy Zone a year and a half ago. I wrote back that I might dare to post a "before" photo that he would recognize. The inspiration to do so came during lunch today when I chose a sauce for my chicken.

When my wife and I went to the fancy Kroger this weekend, I noticed that they carry the delicious Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce that I love. They sell the 15.75 ounce bottles for $7.49, which is more than the $6.87 I used to pay for a 40 ounce bottle at Sam's Club.

The word chipotle caught my eye on another label I knew. Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q has a new Spicy Chipotle B-B-Q Sauce that I wanted to try. I bought a 16 ounce bottle for $2.99. It's noticeably spicier than their regular sauce, which I've used in the past.

The message from Pat and the bottle of sauce combined to make me flashback to a trip my family took to Atlanta in May, 2005. We ate at the Williamson Bros. restaurant in nearby Marietta. It was still four months before I started the weight loss program that changed my life.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

just to be nominated

The Oscars have been awarded and my score is five winners and five losers. I only saw ten of the nominated films, five of which won an award. Now that the pressure to see the nominees is off, I can probably wait until the other five films that interested me show up on one of the HD movie channels. I saw "The Visitor" on Starz the other day and thought it was pretty good.

Here are the five winners I saw:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Slumdog Millionaire

The five losers I saw:
Iron Man
Tropic Thunder
The Visitor

And the five still on my "to do list"
In Bruges
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Wrestler

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

second base

Six grown men huddled in a stairwell of the TRECS building only attracted a passing glance from the university employee passing through the space. It was about 7:30 yesterday morning and we were warming up for an Einstein Simplified performance at the UT Dance Marathon.

The sign by the door caught our eye. We were in an Area of Refuge, although the symbol they used makes it look more like an Area of Molestation.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

hella good

Chef Carol Scott was ecstatic that some of her less-than-shining moments were cut out of the side-of-beef episode of "Hell's Kitchen." My wife and I dropped in on our local contestant's viewing party at Peerless Restaurant on our way home from Side Splitters Comedy Club on Thursday night. We saw some people we knew from church including a family who, as it turns out, lives right across the street from Carol and her family. There were a lot of kids in the room, which seemed all the more noticeable every time Gordon Ramsay or one of the contestants had to be bleeped.

Carol went to culinary school in Las Vegas and worked at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. She and her husband Curtis moved to Knoxville because it's a better place for them to raise their two daughters. Carol Scott also used to work at Edison Park Steakhouse, the favorite restaurant of Bill and Carol Bass. I saw Mrs. Bass at Garde Bien recently and told her about Mrs. Scott's appearance on "Hell's Kitchen."

I don't know how well Carol does on "Hell's Kitchen," but I would not bet against her. She has the drive and determination to remain on the scene after the TV show is just a memory. Thanks to her great personality and on-camera presence, we will be undoubtedly be seeing more of her in the future. After all, you can take the girl out of Vegas but you can't take Vegas out of the (show)girl.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

the homecoming queen's got a gun

George Mason University's homecoming game was televised last Saturday. I watched it, in high definition no less, on Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic. So why has it taken almost a full week for me to find out that this year's homecoming queen is a dude? There was no mention of it during the telecast. The Washington Post finally had the story today. WTTG-TV and WRC-TV aired reports last night. I got all three links this morning when my daily Google Alert for GMU arrived. I suspect that the mainstream media got their news from Broadside, the weekly student paper.

Reann Ballslee, the queen in question, has previous royalty experience as a drag performer at Freddie's Beach Bar. When not in character, Reann is a popular student named Ryan Allen.

Oddly enough, this is not the first time I've mentioned GMU and drag queens in the same blog post. Please see the last paragraph of my May 18, 2006 entry. It tells you that I knew of the Queen Mary but not that I've also been backstage. The Queen Mary is the same club that Tobias Fünke referenced on the "Arrested Development" rerun I watched yesterday on HDNet.

Tobias would be jealous to know that Maximilliana had me hold his falsies as he dressed as a she. Max has posted video from that night on YouTube. It was part of the infamous Mark & Brian Show football bet punishments.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

out in the hall his whole life

Comedian Billy Gardell had the crowd in hysterics tonight at the new Side Splitters Comedy Club. I had only seen him as an actor on "yes, dear" and "My Name Is Earl" and not as a comic. His stand-up act is extremely funny. He mostly riffs on marriage and parenthood, telling stories that my wife and I could easily relate to. We didn't mind his salty language although we know people who might be better off watching an edited version of his routine on TV. Billy has four more shows this weekend, two on Friday night and two on Saturday night.

One of Billy's bits is about wanting to kill whoever came up with the idea for the DIY Network. After the show, I had chance to tell him that the network's headquarters was just a stone's throw from the comedy club. We also talked briefly about former WAVA intern Greg Garcia.

Promoter John Hodge had invited us to check out the new Side Splitters. It is a definite improvement over the old Comedy Zone. The evening started with an announcement of upcoming performers including a couple of my favorites, Leanne Morgan (April 30 - May 1) and Ralphie May (July 16 - 18). Club owner Bobby Jewell did a set before Gardell. Afterward he told me that he had been using one of his jokes for twenty years. The punchline is even painted on the wall in the lounge area: "If you're gonna drink and drive, don't take our matches." Since Side Splitters is delightfully smoke free, it might be time to update the line.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

long walks on the beach in the rain

Rather than exploring the Internet tonight, I chose to finish reading "Meeting Mr. Wrong," a book written by blogger turned author Stephanie Snowe. She is one of the bloggers I met at the Knoxville Symphony last month. At the time I only knew her online name, "That Chick Over There," and her website, "Jason. For the Love of God..."

"Meeting Mr. Wrong" is getting some press and favorable reviews. The book is a funny series of anecdotes about the losers Stephanie dated before meeting her husband Jason. Her first husband was another loser who left while she was pregnant with their twins. I am always amazed at the way jerks can get dates while nice guys are stuck home alone. I was also astounded at the supreme selfishness and stupidity of the men Stephanie met along the way. Fortunately, she is able to convey the humor of those situations. If the book were a sitcom, it might be called "How I Met Your Stepfather." Each guy gets his own episode chapter. It won't ruin anything for me to tell you that the ending sets up another book all about Jason. Lucky him!

Stephanie came by for an enjoyable radio interview last week. Her publisher posted the audio online in case you missed it.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

the writing on the wall

Facebook has been getting a lot of media attention in the past few weeks. The "25 Things" meme was featured in USA Today and several other mainstream outlets. More recently, coverage has centered on the revelation that Facebook owns all the content you upload to it. I also found several articles about the sudden surge of older members like, uh, me.

Some of my former co-workers and I have been exchanging messages via the Inbox on Facebook. Much of it was about the WAVA Alumni group I set up. There was no use of "regular" email, just Facebook messages to book another radio interview with "Hell's Kitchen" contestant Carol Scott. As I read and replied to those emails, I was reminded of my early days online. Back then, Prodigy users could only send email to other Prodigy users. The same held true for America Online and CompuServe. Facebook feels a little bit like a return to those days. You have to be on Facebook to reach other Facebookers. Here's hoping the site figures out how to overcome the problems of its popularity.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

force of habit

In an effort to see at least some of the Oscar nominees before the awards ceremony, my wife and I watched "Doubt" this afternoon. The story takes place in 1964, before people became aware of the failings of an organization which is built on the forgiveness of sins but exists in a society that requires justice and demands vengeance.

The film is set at a fictional parish in the Bronx within walking distance of the Parkchester neighborhood where my mother grew up. Most impressive was Meryl Streep's perfect accent. She sounded exactly like my Aunt Marion, with maybe a dash of Aunt Grace thrown in. The parish school is run by the Sisters of Charity, an actual order which has put information about the movie on their website.

The first time Father Flynn did the sign of the cross during Mass, I absentmindedly crossed myself along with the onscreen congregation. In that scene, Sister Aloysius hits a disruptive child on the back of the head. I wanted to her to do the same thing to a disruptive audience member at the Regal Downtown West Cinema 8.

My wife said that they used the modern arrangement of "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" instead of the old-school version of the tune. Also, they had the priest deliver his sermons following a hymn instead of right after the gospel proclamation. Several scenes are so theatrical that you can't help but be reminded that the film was adapted from a stage play. There were also a couple of times when the camera is tilted on an angle, just like when a villain's lair was shown on the old "Batman" series.

I hope Viola Davis wins for Best Supporting Actress. There was one emotional scene that should clinch it for her. It's the one where her nose starts running. I may feel differently after I see "The Wrestler," but for now I'm pulling for Viola.

I came out of the theater whistling "Blame it on the Bossa Nova," which is featured during a small scene in the film. It reminded me of an interview I did with Emily Procter when I had a show on the Comedy World Radio Network. At the time, she had a part on "The West Wing." I was rather smitten with her Ainsley Hayes character because of a well-known bathrobe bossa nova scene. I tracked down a copy of the song, which wasn't quite as easy then as it is now, and played it for her during the interview.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009


An article in the Washington Post yesterday described how the government messed up the conversion to digital TV, which was supposed to happen on Tuesday. A big part of the problem was that the responsibility for the changeover was split between the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It probably would have been better to let the "bad cop" FCC handle the whole thing. I think that most of the viewers who wouldn't be ready on February 17th won't be ready on June 12th either.

The article concludes by saying that over 400 stations still plan to turn off their analog signals on Tuesday. Stations that wait until the new June deadline face about $10,000 a month in additional electric bills. Here in Knoxville, WATE plans to keep their analog signal on until June 12th. Considering that their parent company just filed for bankruptcy, they might be forced to rethink that decision.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009


It has been a big week for Jeff Joslin. First, he gets cast as an assistant D.A. on an episode of "All My Children." Then he and his crew finish a trailer for "Fish Bait," the partially improvised movie featuring most of the members of Einstein Simplified. I was complimented that they used several of my scenes in the trailer. The three-minute preview sets up the premise. We think we have reservations at the beautiful Flat Hollow Marina but are in fact booked into the decrepit Fear Hollow Marina. And there are giant catfish in the water.

"Fish Bait" trailer

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Friday, February 13, 2009

or else it gets the hose again

The security crew at the promotional screening of "The International" made it very clear that no cameras or cell phones with cameras were allowed into the theatre. They looked into purses of female filmgoers and once the movie started, they used night-vision goggles to scan the crowd in search of anyone recording it.

If someone were trying to pirate "The International" last night, their copy would be easy to spot. The first few minutes of the film on were out of frame, similar to a television with a vertical hold problem. The bottom of the picture was on the top of the screen and the top was on the bottom. The problem got fixed but then returned at the start of the second reel. Two weeks ago, at a promo screening of "New in Town," the first few minutes were out of focus and the pre-show music continued playing in the auditorium. Could these problems be Hollywood's latest anti-piracy measure?

Former News Sentinel
critic Betsy Pickle sat in front of me at both screenings. She told me that her reviews are now available on the Alliance of Women Film Journalists website.

I asked Betsy if she had attended the memorial service for photographer Clay Owen this week. It was held at St. Mary's Hospital in the room that St. Albert the Great parish uses for Sunday Mass while their church is being built. She was there and described to me the priest who spoke. It could only have been Fr. Ragan Schriver, which made sense. I recently found a Fr. Ragan fan club on Facebook and was touched to see that Clay had joined the group before his death.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

bicentennial minute

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin should each get two jars of Smuckers as they both turn 200 years old today. How amazing is it that two men born on February 12, 1809 would have such an effect on world history?

Thanks to the HD DVR, I have been working my way through the fascinating "Looking for Lincoln" that PBS aired last night. It was hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The show repeats Sunday night (Monday morning) at 3am or you can watch it online.

While the PBS show makes a compelling case for visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, the fun website Roadside America has compiled a list of more unusual Lincoln-related tourist attractions. One is a tribute to the girl who urged Abe to grow a beard. Another is too gross to be true.

Three years ago I wrote a blog entry about the annual Darwin Day celebration. A couple of months back, I posted an interesting interview with the author of "Thank God for Evolution." This morning, I heard most of a Robert Krulwich report on NPR that examined why Darwin waited so long to publish his theory. Fortunately NPR, as usual, made the text and audio of the report available online.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

radio ga ga

The message I got yesterday from David Edgar said, "Well, you know we always have some sort of contact around February 12th!" He is referring to the anniversary of WAVA's last day as a Top 40 station. I'll be sure to make time tomorrow to listen to the final hour that David produced in 1992.

Two years ago I wrote about WAVA on the 15th anniversary of the end. In the time since then I've kept in touch with some former co-workers, made contact with some and lost contact with some others. Knoxville readers know that I work with another WAVA alumni, Marc Anthony. It's also obvious to regular readers that I keep in touch with Bean, who was known on WAVA as "Flash Phillips."

Sandy Weaver met me at a Waffle House on her way through Knoxville last year. Loo Katz sent a nice holiday card with a photo of his kids. Mark St. John comes to Knoxville a couple of times a year in his capacity as the consultant to the cluster of stations where I work. By coincidence, Mike Beach turned up on today's installment of Knoxville Radio History 101.

Last year I got several invitations to join Facebook, including one from Don Geronimo. I signed up and have also connected with Janet From Another Planet and Susan Raider. The message I got from David Edgar was through Facebook too. I will try creating a WAVA alumni group and I already made an event listing for the anniversary. The social networking site has helped me communicate with some co-workers from KPWR, KROQ and KLOS too. However I have been ignoring friend requests from about ten people I don't know. No offense, of course.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


If my website were in England, it might be called "Frank Murphy Dot Co Dot UK." Is there such a site? Why yes, there is. That means there's another Frank Murphy to add to my list. And this guy has a blog!

Yesterday the British Frank Murphy posted an old joke that still got a laugh from me. I scrolled through his older posts and found one labeled "Psychopath Test." Expecting another joke, I read on. It posed a simple question with an obvious answer, or so I thought.
A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a man she did not know. She thought he was amazing. She believed him to be her dream partner so much, that she fell in love with him right there but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister. Question: What was her motive for killing her sister?
According to Brit Frank, I'm psychopath because I knew the right answer. Thanks, bloke but I think I'll check with to make sure I'm not crazy like that.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

not Sonic or Fiona

It took years for me to figure out that I was a hare who needed to learn the ways of the tortoise. Fortunately my children heeded the lesson and made it a habit to start working on their school assignments right away rather than procrastinate like I did at their age.

Today I read about another animal analogy that has me pondering whether I am a fox or a hedgehog. The concept comes from a quote attributed to ancient Greek poet Archilochus: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

Jim Collins writes about the positive aspects of "The Hedgehog Concept." The fox is cunning but the hedgehog is focused and able to ignore what is not essential. Most of the articles I've seen today conclude that recent Republican presidents are hedgehogs while recent Democrats are foxes.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

mixed marriage

The George Mason at James Madison basketball game seemed like a good thing to put on the TV while my wife and I were relaxing at home yesterday, that is until the Dukes narrowly won in an upset. At least my wife, the JMU alumna, was happy about our schools' rivalry for the first time in five years.

The game was on DirecTV channel 642, which is Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic. The technicians had some trouble deciding whether or not the broadcast was supposed to be in HD. They switched several times from widescreen to pillars and back. I was hoping to hear the "Mason Nation" jingle during the game. I have read about it but not heard it yet.

The GMU Patriots will be televised again on Thursday night when their away game against the Delaware Blue Hens is on ESPNU. Fans at the game will be entertained by multiple mascots, which might be lucky enough to get some nominal TV coverage. No word if Two Face will be there or not.

Apparently the University of Delaware is a mascot factory. Who knew? In addition to the current YoUDee, the court will be filled with former UD mascot team members who are now working as mascots for professional sports teams. The list includes Screech from the Washington Nationals, Slapshot from the Washington Capitals, Poe from the Baltimore Ravens, Wool E. Bull from the Durham Bulls and Swoop from the Philadelphia Eagles. They should ask Jennaphr Frederick to show up and dance with the mascots like she did a few years ago.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

trashing my scene

The big story in entertainment news this week was the angry rant by Christian Bale which was recorded on the set of an upcoming "Terminator" movie. Yesterday Bale, without the help of his publicist, made more headlines by calling the Kevin & Bean show on KROQ to publicly apologize. You can hear the call on the KROQ website. I think they'll let me embed it here too:

Both Kevin and my friend Bean thought they were being punked. Earlier in the week, Ralph Garman had done an excellent imitation of Bale. On Friday, Ralph had to insist that he had the real Bale on the phone. To put the apology in context, you can listen to Ralph's comedy bits that Bale said made him laugh. It sounded like the real thing when the fake Bale called to apologize but then launched into another tirade. It's at the beginning of Tuesday's Cinco De La Tarde podcast.

At the request of a listener, Ralph did the voices of both Christian Bale and TV's Batman Adam West. That happens about 20 minutes and 40 seconds into Thursday's morning show podcast.

In a similar vein, the NPR program "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" mixed Bale's rant with audio of Tom Daschle's apology. You can hear it about 4 minutes into the "Who's Carl this Time?" segment of today's show.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

a long, long time ago

"The Day the Music Died" was commemorated at the Surf Ballroom on Monday night. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of rock and roll knows that the phrase refers to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Most people also know it as a lyric from "American Pie," a song by the most famous alumnus of my high school, Don McLean.

When I saw the movie "La Bamba," some girls in the theatre were shocked to tears by the film's ending. I guess they didn't know it was a true story. Los Lobos, the group that provided Ritchie Valens' music for the soundtrack, performed at the Surf Ballroom on Monday as part of the "50 Winters Later" concert. Reading about the tribute show has me interested in watching the possible TV special, should it get made.

A Minneapolis TV station did a story about a woman who recently found her photos from the February 2, 1959 concert. The Des Moines Register has tons of material online about the 50th anniversary of the crash, including something with a Body Farm connection.

In a couple of our interviews, Dr. Bill Bass has described his participation in the exhumation of the Big Bopper. He and Jon Jefferson allowed the Register to reprint a lengthy excerpt about the case from their non-fiction book "Beyond the Body Farm."

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

cut short

The News Sentinel lost a great photographer yesterday. Clay Owen died unexpectedly at 47. Fred Brown and Saul Young have written tributes to their fallen comrade.

Clay's photos enhanced two fascinating articles that were in the paper recently. One was a somewhat grisly tale about cold-weather hog butchering and the other was a touching story about a friendship that developed over doughnuts.

Last fall, Clay came to Patrick Sullivan's to take my picture before an Einstein Simplified show. I was fortunate enough to have made it into the paper's East Tennessee's Best section. In our brief encounter I could easily see why Clay's friends and colleagues liked and respected him so much.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

it's fun to pray at the RCIA

The concept of Wednesday nights as church nights is something I didn't learn about until after I moved to Tennessee. Many of the Baptists I know attend some sort of meeting on Wednesdays, often after a nice dinner. As a Catholic, I don't have to go to church on Wednesdays, however that is when my wife goes to choir practice at All Saints Church.

Things have changed for me, at least until Easter. Tonight I attended my second meeting for the RCIA at Sacred Heart Cathedral. A former co-worker asked me to be his sponsor as he joins the church. The meetings are on Wednesday nights. The lively discussion tonight focused on the death penalty, abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia. Last week I had a previous commitment and missed the conversation about sins so heinous that they result in automatic excommunication. When my candidate contacted me with questions, I had to research the topic, which was only recently revealed by the Vatican.

I was asked to be a sponsor in the RCIA program twice while living in St. Finbar parish. One of the guys I sponsored in Burbank recently wrote to tell me that he was still active in the music ministry at the church. He's also writing pop songs using the words of Jesus from the Gospel of John. I can't wait to hear them and maybe even share some samples if possible.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

what's wrong with this picture?

There is something fishy going on at Dollar General. I thought that the chocolate fish they are selling for Valentine's Day were unusual enough to put on the blog. I mean, what kind of message are you sending to your loved one by giving him or her a foil-wrapped chocolate fish? Why would anyone come up with the idea to mold some chocolate into that shape? Is it supposed to be a trout or a bass or some other species of fish?

I had spotted some chocolate fish at Walgreens recently and taken a picture of one with my cell phone camera. When I saw the same type of fish at Dollar General today, I remembered that I had my digital camera in my coat pocket and could therefore take a higher quality photo. However a Dollar General employee asked me not to take any pictures inside the store. He said it's their company policy. What are they are trying to hide? Could it be that they are selling the fish for only $2 while Walgreens charges $2.99? I would think that they'd want to promote that. So instead of filling web space about the silly chocolate fish that come in boxes marked "You're a Keeper" and "Hooked on You," I'm left wondering what deep, dark secret Dollar General is afraid would be revealed by a photograph.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

this site won't harm your computer

The news that Google accidentally broke the Internet came as a great relief. I was glad it was them and not me. I was one of the many people using the search engine around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Everything I searched for came back with a warning that clicking the links would hurt my computer. The stumble by the mighty Google surprised me so much that I didn't even try another search engine. I might have thought to save a few screen grabs if I weren't worried that I had been infected with a virus or spyware or whatever the next bad thing will be called. Or that maybe Google had been hacked. Fortunately others did save their weird results. Depending on your political views, you can choose to be amused by the idea of a dangerous Pentagon website or a harmful New York Times homepage.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

extended dance mix

When Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson come in for an interview to promote their Body Farm books, I don't want the conversation to end. As the show we taped on Tuesday neared the half-hour mark, I decided to just keep going, knowing I could edit it later. The program that aired this morning was exactly thirty minutes long however the version I'm posting here is fifty-five forensic-filled minutes of fun.

The focus of the first half-hour is the science behind the new book "Bones of Betrayal." We talked about DMORT disaster drills, radiation sickness and Big Ed's Pizza. We also discussed Dr. Arpad Vass and his decomposition sniffer, which I called an electronic cadaver dog. Vass was featured in a very interesting News Sentinel article in mid-December.

When the conversation turns to the Incorruptibles, you'll know that you are hearing web-only content. A recap of the Big Bopper case led to talk of exhumation. If there is any question about the circumstances of my death, I want my body to be exhumed as many times as necessary, unlike the recent case of a former district attorney general, whose exhumation was denied. When we talked about dismembered hands, I related the story of my search for the relic of Fr. Damien of Molokai who will soon be canonized as a saint.

Jefferson and Bass begin a month-long promotional tour on Tuesday with a benefit event at the Y-12 New Hope Center. Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door. Advance sale tickets can be purchased by calling Knox Heritage at 865-523-8008 or by sending an email to They'll make the rounds of local retailers too. You can get a book signed at Borders Books on Wednesday, Sam's Club and Hastings Books on Saturday, Books-A-Million in Oak Ridge on Sunday and Hargreaves Books next Monday.

As usual, you can right click here and save the mp3 file to your computer or click the play button below.

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