Monday, November 30, 2009

one word or two?

Throughout November, my friend Bean's Twitter feed has been sprinkled with occasional references to egg nog and pumpkin pie. I have been encouraging him by posting Twitpics of Flav-O-Rich pumpkin pie spice egg nog as well as egg nog taffy samples and pumpkin nut fudge at Dollywood. I've been an egg nog fan for years.

When Chef Walter made an egg nog cake on the noon news today, I was inspired to list as many current egg nog flavored menu items as I could find. Bean already mentioned that he was psyched about Holiday Hotcakes at IHOP. A reviewer at LAist disagrees. Bean's reference to a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks prompted me to try a combination egg nog and pumpkin spice latte after my wife's recent concert.

Baskin-Robbins has sold egg nog ice cream each year for as long as I can remember. I saw a sign for an Egg Nog MilkQuake at Krystal while on the way to Dollywood on Saturday. If there was a Jack in the Box near here, I might have seen a sign for their Egg Nog Ice Cream Shakes.

Can you add to the list? Use the comments section to tell me what you think of egg nog treats and where I can find them.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

felix sit annus novus

Fr. Ragan Schriver received a birthday gift from his new congregation at Holy Family Catholic Church last night. They gave him a set of what they called "pastor vestments." The purple chasuble and stole were similar to the ones he wore to celebrate the first Mass of Advent, but the new ones were adorned with the Chi Rho symbol that looks like PX to us. I took a blurry picture with my phone.

Cantor Karen Burry could barely contain her excitement about the gift. The presentation would occur at the end of Mass. She told my wife about it as soon as we walked in the door of the church. Karen, like my wife, is one of the better cantors in the diocese. I recognized her from some RCIA ceremonies at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

There was no organist at Mass last night but there was music. I noticed that Karen carried a remote control to the ambo before the processional hymn. When she hit the button, the organ played a song that the previous pastor had recorded onto a floppy disk. Karen sang some parts of the Mass a cappella and changed disks for the offertory, communion and recessional hymns. The Holy Holy Holy, the Memorial Acclamation and the Great Amen were all sung to the tune of "O Come O Come Emmanuel."

The Byzantine items and iconography that I wrote about in August have been removed from the sanctuary. Fr. Ragan was able to get an ever-so-slightly damaged statue set of the Holy Family at a great discount from the Paraclete. He said that one of Mary's fingers was broken off but stared blankly when I said "just like Daryl Hannah."

Next weekend Fr. Ragan will concelebrate all the Masses at All Saints. Following the 11:45 service, I will emcee a roast in the parish hall. All are welcome.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

losers weepers

Like many Americans, my children and I were at Sears at 4:00 a.m. on Friday to shop for door-buster deals. I took a couple of pictures of them with their purchases before I had to leave for work at 5:00 a.m.

A sudden change of plans had me going back to West Town Mall at 6:30 a.m. I paused at the trunk of my car to take off my coat and put on a hooded sweatshirt with the radio station logo. I thought I switched my camera from the coat pocket to the hoodie pocket but I must have dropped it during that transaction. I didn't notice that it was missing until a few hours later.

It might have gotten run over in the parking lot and smashed into a million pieces. It might have been turned over to lost & found. Or it might have been kept by the person who found it. There were no broken bits in the parking lot when I went back to look. Mall security said they didn't have it. I can only hope that before erasing the memory card, the finder sees the humor in sending a few photos to the "Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures" website.

Fortunately I already posted most of the pictures on the card to my blog. However there were still a few I hadn't gotten to yet. Without a "real" camera, I will have to rely on my LG enV3 to illustrate future posts. Here's where you regular readers can help.

I would not do this on the radio, but it is considered normal in the blogosphere to ask for a little money. Newscoma has a link for you to "buy the girl a beer." The Oatmeal asks you to buy them a cup of coffee. If all the visitors to my blog gave me a dollar or two, I would have enough for a new camera in no time. Think of it as an investment in your future enjoyment.

My beautiful, intelligent and successful daughter gave me the first dollar for the fund. It was marked with a rubber stamp from If you want to play along, you can track it yourself. Since I can't photograph myself with the bill, my daughter made a picture on her computer.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

okey dokey, lazy bones

As shoppers head to the stores early on Black Friday, I am reminded of a Saturday Night Live sketch. One of Kristen Wiig's more memorable characters is the Target Lady.

I think the character may have inspired the current advertising campaign for the actual store. Listen to this spot and tell me that the woman doesn't sound a lot like her.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

acid redux

For several years, I have enjoyed trashing CBS' attempted coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I assume the only reason they bother doing a telecast is so they can sell ads to Macy's competitors. The parade participants don't perform for the CBS cameras like they do for NBC's.

I could only tolerate a few minutes of the CBS broadcast this year. I knew it would be bad when Maggie Rodriguez started off by referring to the new Spider-Man balloon as Superman. Really. Instead of watching the whole thing I did a Google search for "CBS Thanksgiving parade" followed by words like "awful" and "terrible." One of the searches brought me to the comments posted on Let me copy and paste a few for posterity in case Les Moonves deletes them.
by ayearwasted: CBS's supposed Macy's Parade coverage is merely celebrity snaps and gab. The token camera shots of the parade are so distant as to appear like an ant farm, and even those token images are blocked by a cheap computer overlay of fall leaves. Clearly CBS has no respect for the thousands of people who created the floats, no respect for those who practiced for years to march and perform, and no respect for we who do appreciate their extraordinary accomplishments. Shame, shame, shame!

by Alliterated: Disappointing coverage of the Macy's parade was highlighted by -not the parade- but a bunch of commercials and dance routines. Disgusting appearance by an alleged comedian, who denigrated his mother and father with references to his father looking like Hugh Hefner. Your rush to catch up with the crudeness of cable is alienating scores of boomers who still control the remotes, the majority of the buying power and so also the commercial dollars.

by tsummer99: We must say that this is the WORST coverage of a Thanksgiving Day parade we have ever seen. In fact, we don't think we are even watching a parade but in fact watching the hosts chat it up and commercials. COMMERCIALS EVERY FEW MINUTES IT SEEMS. We want to see a HOLIDAY PARADE. NOT A PARADE OF COMMERCIALS!!!! We have an exchange student here that we made get up just to watch this. She has since fallen back asleep because this coverage is so terrible. She was excited to see the marching bands, but has not seen a single one. Every time it looks like a band is coming up, the coverage cuts to commercials. A few balloons, a couple floats and some celebrities does not a parade make. We will never watch this parade again. Thanks for ruining a family holiday tradition CBS.
The fun for me this year came from reading and posting comments on Twitter during NBC's parade telecast. At a few commercial breaks, I flipped over to CBS in case I saw something silly.

As you would expect, the new balloons looked less wrinkled than the older ones. I thought it was an odd choice to put the new Mickey Mouse balloon on an inflatable boat anchor. My wife noticed that Poppin' Fresh had a blank blue circle on his toque instead of the Pillsbury logo.

Unfortunately for smart-alecks like me, there were no train-wreck moments in this year's line of march. Singers like Carly Simon and Cheyenne Jackson were barely memorable. Of the lot, I found Jimmy Fallon to be the most entertaining.

When I was a kid, my father took us into the city to see the parade in person each year. After we got home and had dinner, we would look at slides of the parade from previous years. Nowadays, I can read my blog posts from 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ginger snaps

Most people go to the Fantasy of Trees to see the trees, hence the title of the event. Volunteers from all over East Tennessee spend hours and hours decorating beautiful Christmas trees that are sold to benefit Children's Hospital. Having said that, I was more impressed by a display of gingerbread houses.

My wife and I attended a preview gala at the Knoxville Convention Center on Tuesday night. The building is right next to the real Sunsphere, which was represented in gingerbread. I also saw a house that looked like it was made of Pepto-Bismol and a structure that reminded me of the models of California missions that my kids had to build in the fourth grade at St. Finbar School.

Did you spot the entry from M&M Catering, a local BBQ favorite?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The great Knoxville-based website, had a link to an offer that was right up my alley. Before November 30, you can get a $3 credit toward the purchase of downloadable mp3s from Most songs cost only 99¢ each. I got three, which left me with 3¢.

Coupon Katie asked on Twitter which three songs I chose. A Twitter user named Dusty made a funny guess. I could have easily gotten bogged down trying to pick from among the probably millions of available tunes. Fortunately I came up with a plan. I went straight to the Amazon wish list that I have been maintaining for several years and chose one song each from three different CDs. One of the albums appears to be no longer available in its disc form.

Longtime readers may realize that I have been wanting these songs for some time. Two of the three catch my attention each year when I hear them on a local Christian station. A couple of years ago I even called the station to ask who was singing "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bells." The artists were Relient K and Denver & the Mile High Orchestra, respectively.

The third song I chose combined two of my favorite things: the "1812 Overture" and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Their "1812 Overdrive" is a rockin' version of a classical masterpiece on the "Wolfgang's Big Night Out" album. Did you know that the BSO will be at the historic Tennessee Theatre two weeks from tonight?

While finding the links for the previous paragraphs, I stumbled across another free deal on Amazon. You can download a Christmas album called Sampler Claus free of charge! The seven tracks are from my father's era including a preeminent communion song performed by the late, great Robert Goulet.

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Monday, November 23, 2009


The most appealing items to me at the church bake sale on Sunday were some cupcakes that were brownie on the bottom and white cake on top. The fudge frosting held up to handling better than butter cream (or even But-R-Creme) would have. Whoever made them wisely broke one open to reveal their chocolaty goodness. My wife and I split one of those and one of something that would best be described as a graham cracker praline. The cupcakes were so good, they made me wish I had bought more.

The sale is part of the annual Harvest of Blessings at All Saints Church. In addition to the food, they sell religious items from the Paraclete, some handmade crafts, Boy Scout popcorn and the like.

There were two marshmallow treats that I was able to resist. The chocolate-peanut butter mallow bars were sold by the plate, not individually. The marshmallow snowmen were cute but the little fellas looked squished from all the handling required to assemble them. Even if the chef wore gloves, I would still prefer a gentler touch.

We also saw some kid-friendly sugar cookies decorated as turkeys and some actual pralines labeled with the important disclaimer that they contain pecans. Oh really?

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

help myself in a royal way

Like us, Maestro Brian Salesky was stocking up for Thanksgiving and enjoying the many free samples at Sam's Club when my wife and I bumped into him on Saturday. I was even able to get some Dunkin' Donuts coffee at the Holiday Taste of Sam's Club event. A lady offering tastes of a dried fruit and dark chocolate-covered almond mixture called Bar Harbor Blend shamed me into buying a bag when she caught me coming back for seconds. It reminded me of some very expensive trail mix I had in October.

The Maestro was still very excited that David Keith will play the Pirate King when the Knoxville Opera stages "The Pirates of Penzance" on March 12 and 14. They have already started rehearsals with Keith working on pronouncing every trailing consonant as he sings.

My father was a big fan of Gilbert & Sullivan. I remember him listening to records of D'Oyly Carte Opera Company when he wasn't listening to "regular" opera or Gregorian chants. I think I will try to score some tickets for the Tennessee Theatre in Dad's memory.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009


For the second year in a row I bought a Christmas ornament sight unseen. My wife and I didn't get a souvenir from Lake Winnipesaukee during our trip there in July. We buy ornaments when we find ones we like but we don't go too far out of our way to look.

Last year I persuaded a sales clerk in Branson to describe some ornaments to me. I picked one and had it shipped here. Earlier this week I called The Christmas Loft and asked if they had what I wanted. The clerk described a porcelain piece made by Barlow Designs that sounded just about perfect. It arrived yesterday with plenty of time to spare before we begin decorating.

In other Lake Winnipesaukee news, I may finally get around to watching "What About Bob?" Although filmed in Virginia, the story is set at the New Hampshire lake. It will be shown on Starz Comedy this coming Friday. My DVR is set.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

friar consent

There was a high-level showbiz lunch meeting at Aubrey's today as Fr. Michael Woods and I started planning a "roast" of Fr. Ragan Schriver. The comedic tribute will take place at All Saints Catholic Church after the last Mass on December 6. Fr. Ragan has been appointed pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church after many years in residence at All Saints.

When I saw Kristin Farley at a charity event a couple of weeks ago, she asked if she and her daughter could attend. I said yes, because my jokes would be G-rated. That's not what she meant. She wanted to know if the event was open to everyone. Yes, as the hymn says, all are welcome.

Both Fr. Michael and I have several anecdotes about Fr. Ragan. I plan to contact Fr. Ragan's sister and his friend John Becker to see if they have any funny stories to share. Another likely source of material will be Fr. Ragan's mentor, Fr. Gary Braun. Let me know if you have any zingers about one of the most popular priests in the diocese.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

dessert storm

As Thanksgiving approaches, a couple of thoughtful readers sent me some tempting recipes from the Internet. The do-it-yourself marshmallow peeps on Twig & Thistle look much better than the blobs I once made with the Peeps maker that now resides on my office shelf. I'm guessing that my friend Kathy would have better results with the homemade peeps than I would. She made some great marshmallows last Christmas and last Easter. Hmm... the annual church bake sale is this Sunday.

Another recipe that may be too much for me is Paula Deen's eggnog. It's not that it's too complicated, it's just that it makes ten times more than I need. I emailed the link to my wife. She was grossed out and made it clear I would be the only one drinking it. On top of that, I still have some Weigel's eggnog in the freezer that I didn't drink last year.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

no mo in

The Thursday before Thanksgiving is always the Great American Smokeout. If there are any smokers reading this, I truly hope you are able to break the sinister hold that nicotine addiction has on you. Why not try quitting tomorrow? Maybe you can keep it going the next day and the next day and so on.

Someday in the future when cigarettes have been eradicated, "No Smoking" signs will be obsolete. An exit door at the Knoxville Convention Center offers a suggestion for the signs that could have come from the overlooked and underrated "Idiocracy."

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ober reaction

Comedian Ken Ober, best known as host of "Remote Control," was found dead Sunday. I had the good fortune of knowing Ken when he worked at the Comedy World Radio Network.

In the mid '90s, Ken co-hosted a show on KLSX with Susan Olsen. A few years later, they both worked at Comedy World although on different shows. While most of the programs needed time to find their legs, "The Ken Ober Radio Hour" sounded good from day one. He surrounded himself with funny people like Lou DiMaggio and Charles Zucker.

When news of Ken's passing first started popping up on the Internet, some debunked it as a hoax. Sadly it turned out to be true. My friend Susan was distressed by the conflicting reports. After the death was confirmed she wrote several things on Facebook, including: "Most agree it seems Ken Ober was in a good place in his life before passing. There's some consolation in that. He was a great guy to work with, I'm so glad I saw him recently." A little later she posted: "Well maybe Kenny is having a cocktail with Ed McMahon and busting his chops for introducing him on Star Search as 'Can Opener.'"

On the day of the O.J. Simpson verdict, Susan brought a camera to work. She put together a 9½ minute video of what went on in the KLSX studios and hallways. Like most of us, Ken's reaction was pure outrage. His language on the tape is definitely NSFW. In our current times, it is amazing to see that so many people once worked at a single radio station. You might recognize the Regular Guys, Kato Kaelin and Mother Love.

There are many comments on the web about how Ken was as nice as he was talented. I can tell you from first hand experience that it was a genuine pleasure to be around him.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

o brother, where art thou?

Flat Stanley had a busy day in East Tennessee. My sister emailed him to me in a PDF file and asked me to take some photos of him for my niece's second grade class. Any Tennessean worth his or her salt should be able to identify all the locations Flat Stanley and I visited on Saturday. I will send a prize to the first person to do so. All guesses must be entered in the comments section on my blog. The more specific, the better. I have posted my contest rules there. Don't delay, the second grade needs to know where these pictures were taken.

What's the prize, you ask? Actually you get to choose one of three. "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" gives away Carl Kasell's voice for your answering machine. I can do that too. Or you could choose to have my lovely wife sing the National Anthem at your Knoxville-area event. Or I will mail you a bag of bacon-flavored sunflower seeds that I got for free.

PS: It appears that Flat Stanley is as big a fan of the Brian Setzer Orchestra as I am.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

a cheerful giver

Today's blog entry has been, in a manner of speaking, donated to charity. I received a couple of emails asking for help. One gives you a chance to get some exercise before eating your Thanksgiving dinner. The other lets you spend big money on a one-of-a-kind item.

I remember your post about Bible Across America and I wanted to give you a heads up, Zondervan is auctioning off one of the Bible Across America handwritten originals.

The Bible Zondervan is auctioning is actually in three volumes. Each is leather-bound, and cumulatively contain 2,200 pages at 11x17 inches. It is the actual Bible that people wrote into and includes the handwriting of more than 31,000 Americans from all ages and walks of life during the course of the nine month campaign.

The auction is currently open on eBay at the following link: It will end on November 22, 2009 at 11:11 AM EST.

All proceeds of the auction will benefit Colorado Springs-based Biblica, the translation sponsor of the New International Version (NIV) translation, the translation used for Bible Across America.

I was hoping you could check out the auction, make a bid if you want to, and give a shout out on your blog. If you have any questions I'm happy to answer them.

Brian Burch
Here's another one.
Hey Frank,

If you think it's appropriate, would you consider mentioning something about the Hot to Trot race on your blog? Proceeds benefit Catholic Charities and Sister Martha's Food Pantry. Great way to get active on Thanksgiving Day, while giving back to the community.

If you can't, no big deal. I'm just trying to get the word out.

Gretchen Crawley

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

end of his soap

The 2009 class of Knoxville's FBI Citizens Academy held its graduation ceremony on Thursday night. I found the 9 sessions to be an amazing experience. Next month I will attend my first meeting of the FBIKCAAA. Use your detective skills to figure out what the initials mean.

The agents made good use of PowerPoint and video during their presentations each week. On the final night, the video was startling to me. Many times we saw actual news footage of a crime to be discussed. On Thursday, Russell Biven's face filled the screen but he used a different name for the dramatization of a terrorist attack. Former WBIR reporter Robin Murdoch also used a fake name while pretending to cover the story. Our class assimilated information from the video and from imaginary agents in the field. We had to decide on a course of action for them to follow.

Some other videos were memorable too. I've already mentioned the Roy Lynn Oakley arrest tape we saw during our third meeting. Just over a week ago, we saw some incredible surveillance footage of Billy Long. The former Hamilton County sheriff was busted with the help of an outrageous personality named C. Eugene Overstreet. The preacher and funeral director convinced Long that they were hiding money and drugs in cremation urns and a child's casket. On one memorable day, Overstreet met with Long while wearing a suit jacket with a slit in the back. We assumed it was intended for a future client.

Next year, I think they should show the class this video I found on YouTube. It's "The Ballad of Billy Long."

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Friday, November 13, 2009

(404) not found

When Emily Loyless texted to tell me that she was headed to Atlanta this weekend for a local version of "Dancing with the Stars," I eagerly clicked on the link hoping to recognize a news anchor or radio host among the participants. The contestants include a TV weatherman, a magazine editor and the head of a local convention and visitors bureau.

To my mild disappointment, there was no Ted Hall or Bert Weiss in the competition. The event did get me thinking, however. Which local celebrities should be invited by East Tennessee Children's Hospital to participate in the next edition of Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars? Leave your suggestions in the comment section by clicking here. I'll give you a big hint about who would get my vote:

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

live like you were Mayan

The preposterous new movie "2012" has some good parts. However I am baffled about why they put the worst scenes in the trailer. Surely you've seen the limo racing just ahead of crumbling streets or the plane dodging falling buildings and the 10 Freeway. Those sequences reminded me of the old "Back to the Future" ride at Universal Studios.

Willing suspension of disbelief is required for an audience to accept a work of fiction. I was fine with the big picture stuff about the inside of our planet melting and the earth's crust shifting. I liked their take on the government's secret mission for the survival of the species. It would have been nice to see more of their plans to save civilization. All I got were brief cameos by famous artworks and some zoo animals.

What almost ruined the movie completely were the many, many narrow escapes by John Cusack's character. He launches a limo through a collapsing building, among other implausible events. Some small details are equally irksome. Although the movie is set three years in the future and even has the year 2012 as its title, the filmmakers forgot about the digital TV transition of 2009. There are several shots of televisions with the type of analog static that was eliminated by the switch.

I wondered if the producers have a real problem with two of my former homes, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. As the trailer shows, they destroy both cities on film. They also show the Vatican demolished in a way that must have made the crew of "Angels & Demons" jealous.

As for the good, Woody Harrelson steals every scene he is in. He plays the crazy host of a conspiracy-theory radio show who has all the answers about the world's impending doom. I wish the syndicated overnight show on the local talk station was 1% as interesting as Woody.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

red swirlie

Without question the Brussels Sprouts I had on Saturday were the best I've ever had in my life. In fact, they were the first I've had as an adult. Unlike the gross boiled Brussels Sprouts of my childhood (sorry, Mom), these were roasted at a high temperature. My wife and I enjoyed the unpopular vegetable while we were at a friend's house for dinner.

Our host prepared the main courses. My wife and I brought dessert. Last year when I was writing one of several blog entries about Fischer & Wieser sauces, I found a recipe that seemed simple, yet exotic. It called for a whorl of Roasted Blackberry Chipotle Sauce in a pan of regular brownie mix.

We finally got around to making the sweet and spicy treats but used Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce instead. The magical condiment gets swirled into half of the brownie mix. The rest of the mix goes on top. The chipotle taste was subtle but definitely present. I might be tempted to use more than ½ cup of sauce the next time.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

bass boat

One of the most frequent requests in my email on a regular basis is "please let me know when Dr. Bill Bass will make a public appearance near me." The founder of the Body Farm and co-author of several best-selling mystery novels is arguably the most famous person in Knoxville.

A team of enthusiastic volunteers organizes the crowd whenever Dr. Bass has a book-signing event. They even have their own website at The group is helping to raise $900,000 for the construction of the Dr. William M. Bass III Forensic Anthropology Building with an upcoming event.

For $46.95 plus tax, you can cruise past the Body Farm on the Volunteer Princess with Dr. Bass on Monday, December 7 at 6:00 p.m. He will speak about his career and answer questions from the audience. The admission price includes a boxed dinner. True fans will show that they can eat while watching the decomposition slide show. If you bring cash or a check to buy a book, you can get it signed while on board. You can bring the Jefferson Bass books you already own and get them signed too.

In other Jefferson Bass news, Susan from tells me that the next novel, "The Bone Thief" will be released on March 23, 2010. Their site has the first image of the book's cover that I've seen. I asked Susan if I could submit a photo of my own for inclusion on

British comedian Stephen Fry visited the Body Farm while filming an episode of a series for the BBC. He appeared on the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" to promote his book about his exploration of the U.S.A. and talked about the Body Farm. posted the funny clip yesterday, which is how I found out about it.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

shouted out with glee

Before getting dressed for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, I had a thought. What if I accidentally wore the exact same thing as I did at last year's event? I happened to be on the phone with my daughter at the time. She went to my blog entry from 2008 and described the red tie and striped shirt I had on. I knew to wear the blue tie and a solid shirt this year.

Once again, the delicious food made it a night to remember. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't possibly taste everything that was offered. My wife and I got there early enough to see the elaborate Cabot Cheese and fruit tray before anyone disturbed it.

I got to chat with talented young singer Logan Murrell and her parents before the ballroom doors opened. Logan did a great job performing during dinner. She sang four or five songs including "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" and "Over the Rainbow." Julie Murrell emailed me recently to say they had seen some of my previous blog mentions of her daughter. She gave me a copy of Logan's Christmas CD to review.

No offense to Logan or to energetic auctioneer Bear Stephenson, but the main attraction at the Signature Chefs Auction is the food. 19 chefs from different businesses set up shop at tables around the perimeter of the ballroom in the Knoxville Convention Center. I found it funny that The Inn at Christmas Place was serving goose (seared foie gras over roasted corn polenta with port veal broth) while The Crown & Goose was serving reindeer (seared porcini dusted venison on top of pumpkin mash with candied pecans with apple cider spice glaze). The venison dish was my favorite entrée of the night. Not all the food was hoity-toity. The pork BBQ from Chandler's Deli had a delicious seasoning that I liked but couldn't identify.

Dessert was no slouch either. There was a long line for ice cream from Marble Slab Creamery. They brought a portable slab and offered two flavors. Their Double Dark Chocolate with Fudge was as good as it sounds. Rosa's Catering Service provided an End of the Rainbow cake with different flavors of icing.

My favorite overall dish was also a dessert. The Bananas Foster from Club Le Conte was so good I went back for seconds.

As in past years, I was there as a volunteer. My contact at the March of Dimes asked me to solicit donations from three tables. My wife made a small contribution when she heard that it would be doubled if we used our MasterCard. I also worked as a spotter at the live auction again this year. I saw some local celebrities in the room. WVLT anchor Alan Williams was as gracious as always. The event emcee was WATE anchor Kristin Farley who was representing Fox 43, where she does the 10:00 p.m. news. Kristin asked my wife if she could ham it up for the camera.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

forgive them, Father

The parishioners of All Saints Catholic Church received some disturbing news this weekend. Dozens of consecrated hosts were found stuck to the underside of the pews last Sunday. Fr. Michael Woods celebrated all the Masses this weekend so he could deliver a homily explaining that desecration of the hosts is punishable by excommunication from the church. The same message was conveyed to the students of Knoxville Catholic High School on Thursday morning during their Mass at All Saints.

There are some Christians who take the beginning of the Bible literally. They believe that creation happened in seven days, just like the book of Genesis says. As a Catholic, I was taught that the creation story was a nice way of explaining the world to early humans and that the process took considerably longer than a week. I summarize my belief in three words: "God created evolution."

There are also some Christians who take the words of Jesus figuratively, especially at the Last Supper. As a Catholic, I believe that Jesus meant what he said and said what he meant when he took bread and said, "this is my body. Do this in memory of me." To this day, Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass become the body and blood of Jesus. Just because I can't see the difference doesn't mean it hasn't changed. I once heard a priest draw an analogy between the transubstantiation and the exposure of an item to radiation. It looks the same as before but is now very different.

One of the people I sponsored in the RCIA program at St. Finbar Catholic Church asked me why Jesus would want us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. I responded that the Lord wants us to be one with him, to be in communion, on a cellular level. He becomes food that nourishes us spiritually. I believe that Jesus has the power to take any form he wishes, including that which appears to be bread and wine.

Because Catholics believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the consecrated hosts and wine must be treated with the utmost respect. Those that are not consumed at Mass are kept in a tabernacle. During hours of adoration, a host may be displayed in a monstrance. The desecrated hosts at All Saints had to be disposed of in a sacrarium.

At St. Finbar, ushers were positioned to watch the communion lines. They made sure that the communicants consumed the hosts and did not take them outside. At the time, there was a rumor that Satanists were stealing the Body of Christ from local churches and desecrating it on their altars of evil. Somehow that is easier to understand than whatever compelled someone to stick the hosts to the underside of a pew.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

swine tasting

To get a little publicity for their product or service, companies will sometimes send a free sample to media types like me. Last year I got some different flavors of Fischer & Wieser condiments after I professed my love for their Original Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.

I recently got another condiment in the mail. The name "Baconnaise" made me think it would be too rich for my diet. The nutritional information for Baconnaise Lite convinced me otherwise. It compared favorably to the Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise that I am allowed to have. Hellmann's actually has 5 more calories and 25 more milligrams of sodium.

I found the taste very enjoyable. I sometimes put a dollop of Baconnaise on the chicken I have for breakfast or lunch. It's not an everyday thing but a nice alternative to the cheapo barbecue sauce I get at Food City and the super-expensive raspberry chipotle sauce, which is sold at Earth Fare and Kroger Marketplace.

Along with the Baconnaise, the company sent a sample of their Bacon Salt. While my blood pressure should rise just by saying the name aloud, the product is actually low in sodium. Perhaps most surprising is that Bacon Salt is kosher. The inventors were inspired to share the taste of bacon with some Jewish friends who are prohibited from eating it.

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Friday, November 06, 2009


There was no Thanksgiving music during the light show at Smokies Park. In fact, the soundtrack was unabashedly Christmas. Tonight my wife and I attended a media preview of Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland in the parking lot of the baseball stadium in Kodak.

They had a small reception with hot cocoa, hot cider and Christmas cookies just before sunset. As it got dark, Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley and Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters cut a ceremonial ribbon held by members of the Glover family, who own and operate Shadrack Watersports. We all headed to our cars and drove through the maze-like course in the parking lot.

The lights formed secular shapes like snowflakes and trees, but the songs that accompanied the display were mostly religious. I heard "Christmas with a Capital C" and "Joy to the World" by Go Fish as well as "Stille Nacht" by Mannheim Steamroller. The music is broadcast on a low-power FM station, which sounded great on our car radio. The various colors appear to dance to the beat. A computer program synchronizes the lights to the music. It's reminiscent of both fireworks and water fountains.

Smokies Park is just off I-40 at exit 407. This is the third light display by Shadrack. In 2007, they started the tradition at their store in Bristol. In 2008, they began doing it at their location in West Knoxville, just off the Watt Road exit. The light shows start again in Bristol on November 13 and in Knoxville on November 19. All three displays will operate nightly from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. until January 2. It costs $15 per car on weekends and $10 per car on Monday through Thursday nights. The rates are higher for buses, limos and activity vans.

We were told to keep our headlights off as we drove through the mile-long course. As you can see in the photo below, there was a car behind us who left their lights on. Mikki Noel Glover (who is now married and has a different last name) told us that many owners of newer cars have no idea how to turn off their headlights. For some, it involves either the parking brake or the gear shift. By the end of last year, the Glovers had figured out how several different auto models work. They plan to research the information on the Internet and give themselves a refresher course for this year.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

cement pond

Every autumn when the workmen pull the cover over my backyard pool and close it for the cold weather, I get a sad feeling. Conversely, the reopening of the pool each spring makes me happy. Today I saw something even sadder. The swimming pool at the former University Club, now the UT Visitors' Center, has been filled with concrete.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

with my little eye

People outside East Tennessee are often surprised when I tell them about the nationally known companies that are headquartered here. One such company held a corporate retreat today. They hired an Atlanta-based group called Laughing Matters to come in and run a two-hour team-building exercise. I got involved via an interesting email that arrived the other day:
Hi Frank, I have an uncle in Atlanta who is an improv comic. He is looking for several improv comics here in Knoxville because he is planning some sort of event. I thought I would pass your contact information along to him if you think you and some of your fellow comedians would be interested.
Laughing Matters performed at the Morning Show Bootcamp convention I attended in 2003, so I was somewhat familiar with what they do. I directed the emailer to the right page on the Einstein Simplified website. As it turned out, I was the only member of the troupe who was available for the gig. The other four slots went to local actors who perform in Oak Ridge and elsewhere.

Our job was to execute a very organized program called "School for Spies." After some improv warm-up games, the other facilitators and I each manned a different station. The six teams of co-workers had fun tasks to perform using children's toys such as Mr. Potato Head, Nerf pistols and a Twister board. They also had to solve some logic puzzles, word searches and other problems.

The event was held at the Capitol Theatre in Maryville, a fine venue with a neat little coffee shop. I was able to ogle their impressive dessert case and taste their coffee before exercises began. I'm interested in going back on my own time for a dance or a show.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

shiver me timbers

"60 Minutes" had an interesting story on movie piracy on Sunday night. The report shows how the bad guys sneak video cameras into movie theatres, often hiding them in strollers or diaper bags and using their families to help avoid suspicion. Even here in Knoxville, a security team at advance promotional screenings prohibits audience members from bringing cell phones with cameras into the theatre.

The video pirates sit in the back row where their cameras pick up crowd noises and the silhouettes of people in front. Leslie Stahl asked why anyone would buy a DVD with such poor quality. An expert responded that buyers are not quality-conscious and that they want to pay very little for their entertainment.

In addition to bad DVDs, the pirates are distributing movies online via BitTorrent. The Internet file-sharing brings to mind the problems the music industry faced when Napster first came on the scene. Back then, they would overcharge consumers for albums on CD when the fans actually wanted singles. iTunes came along and dropped the price of a hit song to 99¢ and people gladly paid.

For a time, the movie studios got it right. While a music CD had filler songs we didn't want, DVDs were packed with fancy extras that added value. Plus, the price of a cool DVD was about the same as the price of a lame CD. Now they are trying to get us to buy the same movies we already have in a new, Blu-ray Disc format. They also jerk us around by adding or changing the extra features and releasing new "collector's editions" or "director's cuts."

I suspect that the studios and theatres will use piracy as an excuse to raise ticket prices yet again. What would happen if the studios dropped the price of admission to be the same or less than the cost of a pirated DVD? It would put the pirates out of business and have movie fans lined up at the multiplex.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

just say November

Never let it be said that I rush straight from Halloween into Christmas. Each year I write several blog posts about Thanksgiving. It bugs me to see stores displaying Christmas decorations in October. However, I did go online today and order my tickets for the Living Christmas Tree.

I went to the show at Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time last year and enjoyed it tremendously. Three of this year's shows conflict with the Knoxville Symphony's Clayton Holiday Concerts. I picked one of the two that do not, since my wife will be singing at all four Clayton shows.

Another Christmas reminder popped up in my email today. Dave & Melanie, the couple who operate the seasonal See's Candies kiosk at West Town Mall, wrote to tell me that they will reopen for business on November 12. They were kind enough to include some fun photos from their summer Workamping adventures.

On top of all that, the radio industry news had a few reports of stations flipping to an all-Christmas format over the weekend, including one in St. Louis and two in Kansas City. Despite being on the verge of a Christmas avalanche. I found two reasons to be hopeful for Thanksgiving.

On our way home from Missouri this summer, my wife and I stopped at Broadbent's in Cadiz, Kentucky. The Christmas-themed gift shop was across a parking lot from a radio station with a drive-through window. (Huh?) Amidst all the Christmas items in the store was a small display of three Thanksgiving (and one Halloween) decorations.

Perhaps most encouraging was the decent selection of Thanksgiving cards at Dollar General Market. My cell phone battery died just as I thought about taking a picture of the display. Instead I spent 50¢ to take home the card that reminded me of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

caffeine quest

Every once in a while, one of those "every day for a year" blogs gets some publicity. I've seen articles about travel blogs and food blogs along those lines. Perhaps the most famous would be "The Julie/Julia Project" which became a book and a movie.

Earlier today I had the idea to do a "how I got free coffee for a year" blog but talked myself out of it. After all, six days a week I would only write: "Brewed a pot of delicious Javarama at work." Most people who work in offices have access to coffee paid for by their employer.

The short-lived inspiration struck me while I was redeeming a coupon at Starbucks. The coupons I received during the Via taste test will expire on November 16. I also used a Starbucks coupon on Thursday night before seeing the Body Farm slide show at the FBI Citizens Academy. I didn't want to be drowsy for that.

I saw a sign offering free coffee at Food City with the purchase of a breakfast at their deli counter. I could afford the $1.99 for the food but not all the calories of the biscuit, gravy, sausage and eggs. I skipped that deal and went to the aforementioned Starbucks after buying my groceries.

Later this month, my wife and I are going to a party in Gatlinburg. The party hosts have arranged for a group rate at one of the nearby hotels so that nobody has to drive home. I'm assuming that not every couple has a designated driver like my wife usually does. I called the hotel today to ask about coffee and other amenities. They don't serve it in the lobby however they do have coffee makers in the rooms, so I'm covered that day. I hope it tastes better than the swill I got at a hotel in Norfolk.

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