Thursday, April 30, 2009

should you choose to accept it

If there is an encore performance of "Star 102.1's Dancing With the Knoxville Stars" and if I can make it, I will study the video of last Thursday's show in an effort to improve. The footage is now posted on YouTube and the station website. There is talk of having an encore show on a date I am currently holding for a potential corporate gig with Einstein Simplified.

After Abby Ham jokingly wrote on my Facebook wall, "Can I be your dance partner next year? :)," I wrote back, "Sure, if you want to do a plodding rumba with elements of comedy thrown in." As I watched myself "dance," I realized that my steps were even more plodding than I thought when I wrote that to Abby. During the performance, I thought I was being graceful. Ha!

Thank goodness for Emily Loyless. She deserves the credit for all 26 points we received from the judges. Our strategy was to go for overall entertainment value rather than technical merit. Of the nine dance teams, we were the only one to have a story line. It was based on Emily's "Mission: Impossible" to teach me the rumba. I think they call it a "show dance" in the business. Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Our efforts have so far raised $1890 for East Tennessee Children's Hospital. As you probably already know, the total take for the night was over $27,000. That amount will be presented on one of those giant checks at the upcoming Radiothon.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

hard to hide the kid inside

College students like my son are dealing with the stress of final exams this week and next. He told me something they did to loosen things up in his dorm. The story begins at the end of the fall semester when a girl on his floor ate an entire package of Oreos during exam week. She felt guilty about it and confessed to all her floormates.

When school resumed in January, my son and his friends began plotting. They used their extra meal plan points to buy packages of Oreos from the campus convenience store. At first they planned to leave a small pile of America's favorite cookies outside the girl's door. Momentum started to build and more students got involved in the plot. The idea changed from a pile to a pyramid. Each week, they bought more Oreos and hid them inside their empty suitcases. All the while they kept their purchases secret from the victim of their prank.

As the number of Oreo packages grew, tasks were assigned to each individual. When my son described it to me, I thought it sounded like the first season of "Prison Break." My son and another engineering student were to design a plan for stacking 144 packages. Someone else would be the lookout while somebody organized the transfer of cookies like a reverse bucket brigade.

A date was chosen for the denouement. The girl in question would soon return from track practice. While she was in the shower, the Oreos would not be stacked in a pyramid. Instead they decided to wall in her doorway. They figured out how to leave space for the door handle. When the girl opened her door and saw the blockade, she used that space to deliver a one-finger greeting to her friends.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

corpse out front should have told you

The Body Farm is not open to tourists. I found that out three years ago when I unsuccessfully tried to get a tour for my friend Bean. One of the most viewed headlines on today is "Body Farm bombarded with tourism requests."

The Anthropology Research Facility at UT made the list of Geek Getaways in Popular Science. I certainly understand why people want to see the Body Farm. There have been multiple documentaries about the unique outdoor laboratory. I also understand why the scientists need to conduct their experiments in a private and dignified manner.

Over the years, I have interviewed Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass numerous times. Most of our conversations are available as podcasts elsewhere on my site. The two co-authors met when Jon filmed a documentary about the Body Farm. In one of our interviews, we talked about how people often ask for tours. The video footage available on their website gives you everything but the smell. Jon said that for the full experience, all you need to do is put some roadkill in a trash can under your computer desk.

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Monday, April 27, 2009


There is a chance that my grandmother may end up in the news. My relatives have asked me to keep searching the Internet in case her story turns up. She was at the Cincinnati airport on Saturday to change planes with one of my aunts. Grandma was in a wheelchair. An airport or airline employee was taking her down some stairs when he lost his footing. The employee, Grandma and the wheelchair all tumbled down the steps. Please let me know if you see anything about this story online and please say a prayer for her comfort and recovery.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

very expressive

Several of my dance sponsors were at church this morning. They wanted to know how things went on Thursday night at "Star 102.1's Dancing With the Knoxville Stars." The event had sold out before any of them could get tickets. I promised to let them know when video is available online. I also told them that Richard Bull from Academy Ballroom has expressed an interest in possibly staging an encore performance next month, assuming the details can be worked out.

In the meantime, you can see some outstanding photos posted by Expressive Moments Photography on their blog. I am thinking about buying copies of a picture of me in black tie and a shot of Emily and me in the middle of our routine.

As I alluded in the first paragraph, a number of donations to Children's Hospital came from parishioners of All Saints Catholic Church. In addition to those I mentioned in earlier posts, thanks go to Mary K and Michael, Sandy and John and Susan Hoffman. Hank Stevens from the RCIA team at Sacred Heart Cathedral donated too.

Adrienne Thies Albers was editor of the Broadside when we were both at GMU. She read about my dancing and decided to sponsor me. So did my pal Stephanie, who donated as "Frank's publicist" after I let her come to the dress rehearsal.

The team of Frank & Emily (Framily? Emilank?) also received sponsorships from Jeff and Stacey of Garde Bien Spa Salon, Ryan of and Children's Hospital president Keith Goodwin who says he has two left feet too. My friend Maureen of Fox Chase Farm, made a generous contribution. This fall she is hosting a benefit for Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the Farm. One of the participants is Deb Lamberton of WETA-FM, whose fundraising page is here.

All these donations to East Tennessee Children's Hospital came through my page at My sincere thanks also go to Michelle Clark, Ken & Nancy Cross, Bob and Sylvia Goodyear, Carol Seip, Karen and Buford, Kristen, Liz L, Lori (from the radio station sales team), a very generous morning show listener and from Anonymous, who leaves all those blog comments.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

me gotta go

There was no "Underdog" moment for me in last night's Dogwood Arts Festival parade but I still enjoyed myself for the most part. The parade remained completely stopped for a long time while some performances were taking place for the lone working camera from WVLT. I later learned that a high school group did a scene from their production of "Guys and Dolls." You would think that the young thespians would then walk or ride down the rest of the parade route. They didn't. For those of us a block or two down the street, it was just awkward.

The parade feature two character balloons and two dogwood flower balloons. My wife thought they had too many petals to be true dogwoods, as did a blog reader last year. The colorful dragon might explain why I was craving Chinese food on the way home. My wife and I got some take-out from the new China Lee on Middlebrook Pike. It was very good.

While the dragon made it past us okay, the Garfield balloon got a flat tire. It appears to be the same one I saw two years ago and is starting to show its age.

The annual parade is obviously a kid-friendly event. The crowd went "ooh" to the flaming-baton twirler on Gay Street and "aah" to the cute little cowgirl with an amusing costumed horse.

WVLT anchor Lauren Davis rode past in the Channel 8 mobile. She was also at the secret Miley Cyrus event earlier this month. I didn't get a good look at the driver of the convertible but I thought it might have been Bob Yarbrough, who was at the goodbye party for Stacy McCloud.

Barney Fife impersonator Sammy Sawyer was being followed by a high def video camera. It made me wonder if they were making a reality show or documentary about him. Wouldn't you watch it?

It's not a Knoxville parade without Marshal Andy. Earlier this week he wished me well in "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars" competition. He said that he and his wife used to regularly win shag dancing contests in the Carolinas.

The Grand Marshal of the parade was Mary Costa from "Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty." Tired of waiting for the parade to come to me, I walked up the street. Mary's coach was stopped as young dancers performed to "Once Upon a Dream" while mouse-eared volunteers (or as they called them in Burbank, VoluntEARS) held flags and "Sleeping Beauty" signage celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film.

The Dogwood Arts Festival is 49 years old. Instead of their regular uniforms, the Powell High Panther Band wore 1950s attire like white t-shirts and jeans or poodle skirts. Three different high school bands each played "Louie Louie," a song technically from the '50s but made famous in 1963. Hearing it reminded me of the time I arranged for a marching band play that song accompanied by rock guitarist Slash in the KLOS parking lot.

My favorite float in this year's parade was from Laurel High School. It took me a moment to recognize the Sunsphere due to either the rat tail or graduation tassel hanging off the back.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

strive to excel

There's a regular part of the real "Dancing with the Stars" that I used to think was bogus. The pro dancer says something to the effect of "I thought it would be a good idea to go a rodeo to see Ty in his element and figure out how we could incorporate his bull riding into the waltz."

During the course of my dance lessons from Emily Loyless, she came to see me perform with Einstein Simplified a couple of times. She knew that the other competitors in "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars" would be better dancers than me. Emily realized that we could put some of my stage comedy into our rumba routine. We devised a story line based on my lack of rhythm and the difficult task she faced in teaching me. Emily's professional partner Jeremy Norris was also a tremendous help to me. He would demonstrate the parts I was trying to learn, especially a move where Emily is spinning and I had to catch her and drop her onto my knee.

Our performance opened with a spoof of one of my all-time favorite TV shows, "Mission: Impossible." The recorded voice said, "Good evening Emily. The man you are looking at is Frank Murphy from Star 102.1. He has no rhythm. He is only able to make fun of dancing while onstage with his improv group Einstein Simplified. Your mission Emily, should you choose to accept it, is to get Frank Murphy to take the rumba seriously. Should your or any of your AB Force be caught or killed, the Academy will disavow any knowledge of your action. This routine will self destruct in 90 seconds." We then danced to Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen's version of the "Theme from Mission: Impossible." As soon as video of our segment is available, I will post a link. The three judges gave us a 26, which included a 10 from Brian Corsetti, host of the upcoming DIY series "Garage Mahal." I guess that's my new favorite show. Be sure to watch it May 5th at 9:30 p.m!

Throughout the evening I imposed on various people to take a pictures of me with the other nine contestants. I also posed with Russell Biven, who wasn't dancing but was there to support his co-anchor Beth Haynes. In no particular order, here I am with Russell (whose first words to me were, "are you happy about the news?"), Beth, Carol Scott (who plans to continue dancing with Johnny Tang), Mark Nagi, Dee Dee Trotter, Terry Morrow, Mary Constantine (who withdrew due to vertigo), Kim Hansard, judges' favorite winner Gretchen Bartlett and top fundraiser Lori Tucker, whose total earned her the disco ball trophy. The event generated about $27,000 in donations to East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

settle down

Stacey Handel wanted to go even further when she gave me a makeover two years ago. After a long conversation with my wife and me, she discovered how much of a change we could tolerate at the time. On Tuesday night at the dress rehearsal for "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars." she pulled my wife aside for another discussion.

In the time since my makeover, I have been returning to Garde Bien Spa Salon every month for a haircut. During one of those sessions, Stacey told me about the new line of body art she was about to start offering to her female clients. Think of beads that stick to the skin and stay there for a week or so. The same product was soon to debut on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." I asked Stacey if she wanted to get involved in our Knoxville version of the show. Before long, she had signed on to do the hair and makeup of all the participants.

Because I trust Stacey and because I am already so far out of my comfort zone with the whole dancing thing, I told her to "go for it" when I arrived for my appointment on Wednesday. She got right to work, dyeing my hair and trimming my beard. While the color set, I walked across the parking lot to Walgreens and bought a razor and some shaving cream. Diana from Garde Bien came with me and took pictures. With the dye on my face, I thought I looked like a cartoon character, if not Azamat Jr.

From Garde Bien, it was off to Sun Tan City to get some color on the cheeks that haven't seen daylight since I was in college. The finished product will be unveiled tonight at Academy Ballroom. Tomorrow I start regrowing the beard for some upcoming "Fish Bait" reshoots.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Terry Morrow's phone call woke me from a deep sleep today. He wanted to make sure I knew that Abby Ham was returning to Knoxville. During my nap, my inbox had started to fill up with messages from people who had seen the bulletin on Blogger Frank Strovel wanted to know if he was the first to email me. He was.

While I was practicing my dance routine at Academy Ballroom again, several more messages came in via email, Facebook and comments on this morning's non-Ham blog post. A comment from Heather pointed out that my name was mentioned in the comments on Twice.

My hopes that I might be watching Abby on the noon news were quickly dashed by Terry's article. Instead she'll only be on in the morning, which is the newscast I can't watch because I'm already at work. In his interview with Abby, Terry asked why she would leave Cleveland for Knoxville. She said it puts her closer to her parents for when she's ready to start her own family. I jokingly told Terry that the real reason might be that she wants to participate in "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars" next year. Why not?

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one for you, one for me

One of the items on Rich and Lissa's wedding gift registry appealed to my wife and one appealed to me. We gave them a set of four little trifle dishes and an ice cream scoop. We threw in a jar of Mrs. Richardson's hot fudge and a package of Oreo crumbles.

My wife made a chocolate trifle for Father's Day last year. This year she wanted to make two fruit trifles for Easter, one for the choir at All Saints Church and one to have at home. That meant she needed another large trifle dish. We looked up Rich & Lissa's registry again so she could get the same style at Bed Bath & Beyond. She got both the large dish and a set of four smaller ones.

The recipe is simple. She layered angel food cake with thawed-out frozen berries and topped it with a mix of cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. It sat in the refrigerator overnight to allow the cake to soak up the juice. She's talking about making it again when we have to bring a dish to a reception with the Bishop after the Rite of Missioning at Sacred Heart Cathedral. It's part of my responsibility as an RCIA sponsor.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

salad days

A trip downtown on Friday turned into a nice date for my wife and me. After seeing Julia Nunes perform and getting a free cupcake, we used another coupon to get a discount on lunch at La Costa on Market Square.

Because I planned to eat my free cupcake for dessert, I wanted to order a salad rather than a sandwich. However the very tempting daily special was a pulled pork sandwich with mango BBQ sauce. My wife ordered a delicious Ancho Chicken Salad Wrap and had them add some enticing Benton's bacon bits.

There was a smoked duck breast salad on the menu which sounded okay except for the duck. I asked the waiter if the chef would be offended by me asking him to create a salad with the pulled pork. He reported back that the chef was excited by the challenge. I said that I wanted them to name the dish after me if it was good enough to get on the menu in the future. The waiter said it depended on whether or not I had a cool name. I said, "fortunately for you, my name is Pork Salad."

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Monday, April 20, 2009

dance like no one is watching

Carol Scott from "Hell's Kitchen" is determined to be the top fundraiser in "Dancing with the Knoxville Stars." Over the weekend, she sent me the following message on Facebook: "ooh, that Lori Tucker just passed me! Time to make more phone calls." Before long, Carol's total had zoomed past Lori's thanks to contributions from her relatives, including her Uncle Nutzy.

Each dollar I raise counts as one vote for my dancing. Sadly, I am lagging behind the TV women (and Terry Morrow). They have all received multiple donations in the three figures. While contributions of $100 and up are awesome (thank you, blog reader Tonya Estep!), we could catch up if each of my daily readers only donated $10. Of course not everyone can, but some can do $20.

As promised, I will continue to mention those who donate to Children's Hospital through my fundraising page. Thanks to Ice Bears fan Lori Ingram and her family, active All Saints parishioners Vicki and Bill Christensen as well as their daughter Shiona, former "Door Girl" Jennifer Bohlken, a nice person named Kristen, my partner Emily's parents and my own lovely daughter.

You can click here to contribute. So how am I doing on the dance floor? Here's a new video to watch while you reach for your credit card. Thanks to BJ Mora for putting it together.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

rain delay

This coming Friday marks the seventh anniversary of my move to Tennessee. One of the first things I got from my new boss was a yellow raincoat with the radio station logo on it. Even though 100.3 The River changed ownership and formats years ago, I still wear the coat whenever it rains. It's the only raincoat I have. On the way home from church today I noticed something that has escaped me these past seven years. The buttons of the slicker contain what should have been a premonition about the short-lived format: River's End.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009


The only cover song my wife and I heard during Julia Nunes' set on Friday afternoon was "Bye Bye Bye." She introduced it by saying that she could never write such angry lyrics. Although I would have liked to hear more covers, it made perfect sense that she would emphasize her original songs while on the radio. Julia was the lead-off performer at the WDVX Blue Plate Special. Her banter with the show's host was enjoyable and reminiscent of the monologues on her YouTube videos.

When Julia had finished her set, I started to tell her that Richard Cheese had emailed me about her. Before I could say anything else, she asked, "are you Frank?" Obviously Richard had told her that I might show up at The Square Room. To me, the picture that my wife took offers proof that I had been to Sun Tan City the night before as I continue to prepare for "Dancing with the Knoxville Stars."

One wall of The Square Room is actually a giant window. Diners at Café 4 can see and hear the concert from the other side of the glass. Months before either place opened, I got a coupon for a free cupcake from the café. The end of Lent presented the perfect opportunity to redeem it. The "Happy Happy Joy Joy" cupcakes looked good but I ruled those out because my wife can't eat coconut. Instead we took home a "Chocolate on Chocolate" to split later. The icing was great. However the cake itself was a tad too dry and crumbly for my taste.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

fungus tingly duck sheets

Richard Cheese knows that I enjoy cover songs. He usually sends me a copy of his CDs, like he did with "Viva La Vodka." RC took a moment after his sold-out show in DC to send me a message about the artist who will be opening for him on Saturday in New York because she'll be in Knoxville on Friday.

Julia Nunes (rhymes with tunes), plays ukulele and sings cover songs on YouTube. She does originals too but I haven't gotten to any of those yet. I've watched and re-watched her amusing videos for "Build Me Up Buttercup," "Baby Now That I've Found You" and "Baby It's Cold Outside." After the songs end, Julia often talks to the camera. Her comments are as much fun to watch as the singing.

If time allows, I will try to catch Julia's performance on the WDVX Blue Plate Special at noon. I assume that she will open for Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere rather than the other way around. Obviously I can listen on the radio, however I hope to get there in person. Besides, I have a coupon for a free cupcake at the adjoining Café 4.

Attending the Blue Plate Special means two trips downtown for me the same day. I already have tickets to see the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the historic Tennessee Theatre on Friday night. Since my wife will be on stage singing with the Knoxville Choral Society, I'll have an empty seat next to me. Know anybody who might want to go hear the Polovtzian Dances on short notice?

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

tax deductible

Next Thursday's "Dancing with the Knoxville Stars" event requires more preparation than just dance lessons. Today my partner and I went to Walker's Formal Wear to order a tuxedo and then to A Joyous Occasion for Emily to try on dresses.

Next week it's back to Garde Bien Spa Salon for a touch up to my makeover. Like two years ago, the paintbrush will be involved. I also plan to get a couple of VersaSpa treatments at Sun Tan City. Plus I'll be on the dance floor every day from Sunday to Thursday. That includes three lessons, a dress rehearsal and the performance.

Thanks to those who've contributed since my last appeal for donations to Children's Hospital: Karen Lively (from the Young-Williams Animal Shelter); Connie and Dr. Jim Brace (from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine) and Jackie and Charlie Goodreau (from Comcast Cable). I met Jackie and Charlie on Tuesday night when they came to see Einstein Simplified with my dance partner Emily and her professional partner Jeremy Norris.

With only a week to go, the push is on for more donations. Cassie Kiestler helped the cause by posting a blog entry about the contest. Can you contribute even a small amount?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

wow, the clarity

ABC showed some love to "Jimmy Kimmel Live" by finally making the switch to high definition with Tuesday night's show. There wasn't much advance publicity about the upgrade. I had missed an article on the TV Week website from two weeks ago. On Tuesday afternoon, I was scrolling through the onscreen guide and noticed that the magical HD logo had been added to the listing for Jimmy's show. I shot him a quick congratulatory email and asked if the program grid was correct. His reply was "that is the plan."

During the monologue, Jimmy pointed out that they were finally going hi-def after almost six-and-a-half years on the air. They did a fake countdown to the switch, at which point Jimmy was replaced by "handsome devil" John Stamos. Panel guest Jorge Garcia amusingly referenced the higher quality at the beginning of his interview.

A while back I had written to Jimmy and mentioned that I thought it sounded like the "Nightline" anchors were turning the transmitter off for the night when they ended the show. Since then, the newscasters have changed their closing. They now mention that "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is on next. It's great to see his show getting some respect. Even Jay Leno had nice things to say in a new GQ interview.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

dollar dance

The rumbas on "Dancing With the Stars" don't have much in common with the rumba I was practicing on Monday night. I felt a bit of kinship with Steve-O, who was trying to fake romance with his partner Lacey. I logged on to to throw them a sympathy vote.

The votes for "Dancing With the Knoxville Stars" come in the form of donations to East Tennessee Children's Hospital. As of this writing, Emily Loyless and I are tied with Terry Morrow and Rhonda Becker for seventh place. Both he and I have raised $225. Only two teams have raised less. Terry wrote a funny column about his dancing progress so far.

Obviously, I need to drum up more support. I hereby ask my friends in the blogosphere to consider putting a link to my fundraising page on their sites. Here's the URL: The idea was inspired by reader Crystal Myers, who made a donation and sent an email in response to last Tuesday's blog post:
Just wondering, my friend Mike Nicely made your blog by donating to your "DANCING" fund. We talk about you guys all the time and he convinced me to donate to you and get you boosted up. But what I am wondering is, will it make my name BLOG WORTHY? I mean, think of the donations you would get if people knew they were bloggable! You should throw that out there. Usually when they do radiothons, folks get a shout out. So think about it and watch the Benjamins roll in or, in these tough economic times, Washingtons! But hey, it's all for an awesome cause!
I'll do it! Thanks go to my friends Keith & Kathy (the candy maker) and Marcee & Chris (of Maverick Advertising) and Greg (of Integrated Management Resources). They all made donations as did somebody named John (of no last name).

Will I stay on my feet during the performance at Academy Ballroom on April 23? If you want to see the event for yourself, call Seth Linkous at Children's Hospital to buy tickets over the phone. They are going fast and will probably sell out this week. Seth's number is (865) 541-8441.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

eight days a week

The eggs that my wife and I colored on Saturday will last us for the entire Octave of Easter, assuming that we each eat one a day. I picked out a dozen and arranged them on the egg plate that I gave her as a birthday gift a few years ago. Before you ask, I bought it at Cracker Barrel. Since our son is away at college, my wife took it upon herself to replicate his annual Earth egg.

There was an Easter surprise in our basket this morning. My wife found some of the elusive Peeps Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Bunnies that I wanted. She also got me some Sunsweet Chocolate Plum Sweets. I guess they're like Raisinets, except these would be Prunettes.

The same friends who gave me homemade marshmallows for Christmas have done it again. In addition to the marshmallows, Kathy made some chocolate peanut butter eggs and peanut brittle. She has a true gift for candy making. Maybe she could turn it into a business someday.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

alleluia time

This year's Lenten season was especially meaningful to me. In January, I was asked by a friend to be his sponsor in the RCIA program at Sacred Heart Cathedral. As a child he had been baptized into a Protestant denomination. The Catholic Church recognizes that as a valid Christian baptism. After completing the necessary classes, he was ready to be received into the Church and to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion.

Even though my wife was singing at All Saints on Thursday and Friday, I chose to attend all three parts of the Triduum at Sacred Heart. Bishop Richard F. Stika was the main celebrant each night. My wife joined me at the Cathedral on Saturday evening. She even walked through the rehearsal as my proxy on Saturday morning because I had to work.

The Easter Vigil starts outside the church with the blessing of the new fire and the lighting of the paschal candle. Bishop Stika and the other priests and deacons waited under the dogwoods by the rectory while Fr. Al Humbrecht lit the fire. Unfortunately it didn't take right away. One of the parishioners stuffed a couple of newspaper pages into the woodpile and the second attempt worked fine.

One eager sponsor, who reminded me of Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean character, tried to light his handheld candle from the bonfire. He was told to stop. The Bishop used a brass candle lighter to transfer a flame from the fire to the paschal candle. Once the candle was carried into the cathedral, the flame was passed to each of us.

The bilingual service reminded me of trilingual masses I would attend at St. Finbar Church. As I stood with my hand on my friend's shoulder and the Bishop anointed him with chrism, I was also reminded of the two times I served as an RCIA sponsor in Burbank. The Easter Vigil usually runs about three hours. We had already passed the three-and-a-half-hour mark when I thought that the Bishop saw me check my watch. I must not have been the only one. As he ended the Mass, Bishop Stika said that he had seen people checking their watches to see not what time it was but what day it was.

Afterwards they had cake! I gave myself a little bit of a sugar buzz from the icing, which made me feel like I needed some protein. We took my friend and his wife out to IHOP at midnight for a very early Easter breakfast. My wife and I almost ordered omelettes until we remembered that we have 16 hard boiled Easter eggs waiting for us at home. I'll show you some of those tomorrow.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

cyrus circus

Friday's unannounced appearance by Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus gave me a chance to chat with other members of the media and to fraternize with a couple of my dancing competitors. Oh and I also talked with the stars of "Hannah Montana The Movie," who were in Knoxville briefly as part of Walt Disney Pictures Opening Weekend Surprise. Marc & Kim and I were asked to "interrupt" the noon showing of the film, give away t-shirts and then bring out Miley and Billy Ray. I tried to take a picture but found myself on the wrong side of them. There are more photos on the Star 102.1 website and at

The local media were there in full force. All three news stations sent their own crews, as did the News Sentinel. Terry Morrow and Lauren Spuhler represented the paper and its website. Terry felt it necessary to strike a pose when I took a picture of Lauren Davis from WVLT and Beth Haynes from WBIR. While we were all waiting for Miley to arrive, I talked with Terry and Beth about our upcoming dance performances. Lauren Davis wanted to hear about it too. In the course of the conversation about me facing my fear of dancing, I showed her a couple of "before" photos that were on my Walkman.

Kristyn Caddell from WATE joked that we always seem to see each other at the "fun" stories. She also covered the new Bishop's press conference and the Christmas penguin. I asked Kristyn to turn around for a picture because at the time, I could see Miley over her shoulder. But then Miley moved on to the next interview along the press line.

The behind the scenes passageways inside the Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18 would have allowed Miley and Billy Ray to walk unseen from the theatre to the interviews in an upstairs conference room. However Miley found her way to a balcony where she could wave to the fans who didn't get in to the noon show.

The next stop for the Cyruses was Salt Lake City where they repeated the surprise. The Salt Lake Tribune says Miley received some Marshmallow Peeps, which are her favorite.

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Friday, April 10, 2009


To close out the series of Lenten Friday Forbidden Treats, here is a slice of German Chocolate Upside-Down Cake from Connor's Steak & Seafood at Turkey Creek. My favorite bit of trivia about German Chocolate Cake is that it's named after Mr. Samuel German, not the European country. But you probably already knew that.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009


Once again, Paley Fest has made me a bit homesick for Los Angeles. Every year the organization formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio puts on a series of seminars with the casts and creators of quality television programs. This year's festival starts Friday.

If I were still living in the Southland, I would try to get tickets to see Tuesday's presentation on "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and next Friday's panel on "The Mentalist." My kids got me to watch "Dr. Horrible" while they were here for the holidays. "The Mentalist" is a show that truly entertains me. In fact, I'm watching the most recent episode as I type this. Coincidentally, the plot centers on an investigation at a Hollywood studio.

During week two of Paley Fest, I would want to see "Fringe" and the unaired "Pushing Daisies" episodes. I got hooked on "Fringe" while watching for "Fish Bait's" Darby Totten. She appeared as an FBI agent in several episodes. "Pushing Daisies" was chock full of clever dialogue that often made us hit the replay button. It looks like I will be able to see the last three "Daisies" from the comfort of my own home. ABC plans to burn them off on Saturday nights in May and June.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

the emptiness inside

One of my wife's friends gave her an unusual gift at church on Sunday. The friend's husband makes Easter Bunnies out of balloons, yarn and starch. It looks like there's some glitter thrown in for good measure. I tried looking on the Internet to see how he does it but only found instructions for simpler items like eggs or nests.

The starch-soaked yarn solidifies around the balloons, creating a hollow center. The same basic idea is used when making Resurrection Rolls. A listener e-mailed me the recipe, which I had never heard of before. Instead of a balloon, a melted marshmallow leaves the empty space, which represents the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. I wonder if it would work with a Marshmallow Peep instead of a standard marshmallow.

While we're on the topic of putting candy inside things, Chef Walter made a leftover Easter candy cake on Tuesday. He mixed two cups of chopped up chocolate candies into a standard cake batter. I enjoyed watching it even though he said that he hates Peeps. Sacrilege!

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

quick quick slow

While trying to think about topics for the blog this week, I realized my mind is so occupied with dancing, that it is impossible to write about anything else. I got my second contribution for Children's Hospital (thanks to Mike and Tiffany Nicely) and I had my fourth lesson from Emily Loyless on Monday. She had me write down the steps in our routine, which filled three and a half pages in my little notepad. Then it repeats.

Mary Constantine of the News Sentinel was practicing at the Academy Ballroom when I arrived. She thought it appropriate that the salsa had been assigned to the food writer. Beth Haynes had her first samba lesson earlier in the day. She says we can expect to see some of it on "Live at Five at Four" on Tuesday.

Is it weird that my feet hurt while watching "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC? Not during the talking, only during the dancing. I used to watch and think "there's stuff I can't do." Now I think "there's stuff I can't do but at least I know what it is." For example, near the start of Monday's show, I noticed that lucky Chuck Wicks didn't raise his arm high enough. Julianne Hough had to duck to turn under it. I empathize.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

chicka boom

The first person to make a donation toward my fundraising-by-dancing efforts was my good friend Bean. He is also responsible for today's blog post.

After his wife's recent trip to Japan, Bean sent me this photo with the question, "Japanese peeps?" She had brought the Hiyoko box home as a souvenir.

While the Hiyoko confections look a lot like Marshmallow Peeps, they are actually bean cakes. The Engrish English translation of the page explains exactly how the little treats are deliberately mushed:
The secret of Hiyoko's daintiness is the carefully selected ingredients. The savory bun is made of flour from Kyushu to give a distinctive flavor. Mildly sweet yellow filling is made of fine choice of haricot beans. We select well-grown beans only and mush them deliberately. After our experienced confectioner puts the bun and filling together and bakes it in an oven until it becomes moist, melting texture, a delicious "Hiyoko" is ready for you!

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

hosanna hey sanna

The theme of my interview with newly ordained Bishop Richard Stika was, "what is the mission of the church outside of the church?" I wanted to know how the Bishop saw his role in the community at large. In the program, which airs Sunday morning, we discuss the interfaith community in East Tennessee, the homeless, last year's church shooting and other local issues.

Obviously there is plenty of church chat too. We talked about Bishop Stika's ordination and the brand new cathedra that made its debut at that Mass. I also wanted to know what the Bishop thought of the fancy new building at St. John Neumann parish, which was the subject of a recent cover story in the Metro Pulse. So, would he consider making that building his cathedral? Probably not. Bishop Stika said he likes the location of Sacred Heart Cathedral and drops a subtle hint that he might someday be open to a new building on that site.

To celebrate Palm Sunday, I have posted a podcast of the half-hour interview. I think cradle Catholics and converts alike will enjoy the lightning round at the end of the interview when I ask the Bishop, "bells at the consecration, yes or no?"

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

dance dance revolution

The whole point of "Dancing with the Knoxville Stars" is to raise money for East Tennessee Children's Hospital. I have been updating my fundraising page so people (like you) can donate online. While the dancing is important, the winner of the contest is actually the team that collects the most dollars. As of this writing, Lori Tucker has taken an early lead.

So far I've had two lessons, the first on Monday and the second on Thursday. On Friday evening my wife and I went to Academy Ballroom for their weekly dance party. Carol Scott, the most recently ousted chef from "Hell's Kitchen", had urged us to go so she would know somebody there. Both Carol and I thought we could squeeze in some practice with our pro partners during the social event however we also spent a fair amount of time chatting with instructors Richard Bull and Jeremy Norris. It seemed like all the guys, pros and students alike, wanted to dance with Carol and her friend Crystin.

My partner, Emily Loyless, made the rounds and danced with several of her students. Just for fun, she taught me the most basic of foxtrot steps. When a rumba came on, I practiced a simple box step with my wife. While the whole experience is still a bit daunting for me, my wife is trying to contain her excitement about finally getting me onto the dance floor. She's happy that Emily has the patience and the know-how to get me started.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

what brings us together today

Because my wife's birthday always falls during Lent, the loophole in our Lenten observance is celebratory cake. This year we expected to find cake at the Bishop's ordination but did not. However there was plenty of cake his past Saturday at the marriage of Shots Across the Bow and Oh... Really? er, I mean Rich and Lissa.

Our Lenten Friday Forbidden Treat consists of both the German chocolate wedding cake and the red velvet groom's cake. The former was beautifully covered in fondant, the latter was decorated with the banners of the lovebird bloggers. Both were homemade. Before the cake was cut, Rich responded to his best man's toast by quoting an Impressive Clergyman.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

no more McCloudy days

Channel 8 wasted no time in removing Stacy McCloud's bio from the staff page of their website. Her blog posts are still online as of now. Wednesday was Stacy's last day at the station. They made a brief mention of it at the end of the noon newscast and ran a retrospective video at the end of the six o'clock show.

Stacy gathered with several of her co-workers and friends for a goodbye party at Soccer Taco. I stopped by on my way home from an RCIA meeting. We talked a little about her Celiac disease and a little about "American Idol." Now that she will be working for a Fox affiliate, Stacy will be closely following the show.

I snapped a photo of Stacy with her "work husband" Bob Yarbrough and his real-life wife, Kiley. Bob is a former radio guy and still has an interest in the medium.

As I said my goodbyes, I promised to ask "Access Hollywood" co-anchor Billy Bush (another radio guy) if I could share his contact information with Stacy. She's interested in seeking his advice on interviewing celebrities. I'm sure she'll do just fine.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

april fail

After the fun I had making my own pseudo Fail Blog entry, my son has now made one too. He found a card promoting some restaurants in St. Louis that don't understand the concept of a designated driver.

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