Sunday, February 28, 2010

come along, kiddie-winkies

Before the Oscars each year, my wife and I try to see as many of the nominated films as we can. Some years we see a lot, some years hardly any. We haven't made it to very many this year. Of the best three movies I saw in 2009, only two were nominated for best picture. I liked "Up," "The Blind Side" and "Star Trek." I'm not the only person who thinks "Star Trek" was robbed of a nomination, especially since the category was unnecessarily inflated to ten films. I thought "Julie & Julia" and "District 9" were good but not better than "Star Trek."

Last Sunday, we went to see "The Lovely Bones." Supporting actor nominee Stanley Tucci was beyond creepy as the perverted serial killer. However the movie itself is not good. As I wrote on Twitter, it would have been better with a little less "Lovely" and a little more "Bones" or "CSI" for that matter. The CGI sequences of the girl stuck between heaven and earth drag on and make the movie seem way longer than it is.

We intended to go to the movies again today. We checked Fandango and found that the films we most wanted to see had already left the theaters. It occurred to us that it would be cheaper to stay home and check the On Demand menu for an HD movie. Although I get a discount on my Comcast subscription, new movies like "Inglourious Basterds" cost me $5.99, same as anybody else. It was worth it. We would have spent more than that at the concession stand alone.

I don't get why Christoph Waltz is nominated for best supporting actor instead of lead actor. His character, Hans Landa, is central to the entire movie. He is the connecting link between the multiple story lines and gets plenty of screen time. They must have thought he couldn't beat the best actor nominees, which is a shame. Landa reminded me of a scary character from my youth. His evil ways had some similarity to the Child Catcher in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

blog blah blah

The response to this year's blogger night at the Knoxville Symphony was somewhat less than last year. The free tickets were limited to active bloggers. Stephanie Burdette and I speculated that the decrease may have been due to the rising popularity of Twitter. As you can imagine, "tweeting" during a concert at the Tennessee Theatre would be disruptive. Stephanie tells me that plans are in the works for a "twymphony" concert at an outdoor venue.

Former Knoxville news anchor Stacy McCloud is active on Facebook and Twitter. She often posts updates about the celebrities she meets through her new job as the entertainment reporter at Fox 17 in Nashville. Recently Stacy and I have been corresponding about her desire to write more than 140 characters on certain topics. I advised her to go ahead and do it. She decided to start a personal blog for her non-work-related thoughts at

Jane Reed, a blogger in Cuba, Missouri, emailed me today. She had written an entry about the World's Largest Rocking Chair and included links to my post about the chair. I wonder if I can persuade her to link to my posts about Oreo pancakes and Cuba's murals.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

taking action

At this month's meeting of the FBI Knoxville Citizens Academy Alumni Association, we voted to contact area middle schools and encourage the guidance counselors to instruct their students about the FBI-SOS Internet Challenge program. SOS stands for Safe Online Surfing.

In the program, kids learn how to be careful on the Internet by doing what they love, going online to find answers to scavenger hunt questions. Best of all the whole thing is free. Teachers and principals get started by following the instructions online. The site does not save the students' names, only the school administrators can match the child with their unique user name.

Each month, the school with the highest score in the country earns a trophy presented by the Special Agent in Charge of their local field office. Here's my question for you: Do you know any middle school employees or parents who would be willing to look at the FBI-SOS website and recommend it to their principal?

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

where there's a will

If Casey Kasem was around back in the heyday of classical music, and I'm not saying he wasn't, the orchestral pieces at the top of the pop chart would be my favorites. My tastes in the fine arts don't run very deep. I heard something I liked on WUOT the other day and wasn't the least bit surprised to discover that it was one of Beethoven's symphonies, I think they said it was the 4th. I also like stuff by Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

Tonight's performance by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra featured a couple of pieces that anybody would recognize, classical fan or not. The theme of the program was "Shakespeare in Love," with music inspired by the works of the bard. The KSO once again provided free tickets to bloggers willing to write about their experience at the show.

I was happy to see Einstein Simplified alumnus Todd Covert and his wife Donna in the audience. Todd will be guest-blogging for our mutual friend Jacene's site. Since Jacene missed tonight's show, my wife suggested that I invite her to come to the Knoxville Choral Society concert on Saturday.

A small group of sopranos and altos from the Choral Society sang during the second half of tonight's show. They provided the voice of the chorus during selections from Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I had no idea until tonight that the opus includes the famous "Wedding March" we've all heard countless times. Four actors from the Clarence Brown Theatre performed some lines from Shakespeare's play while wearing different hats to represent the multiple characters they portrayed. Of the four, I was especially impressed and amused by David Kortemeier. He was clean-shaven in his publicity photo but had a beard on stage. My guess is that he grew it in preparation for his upcoming role as Don Quixote.

The best part of the concert came right before intermission. The orchestra played Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture." As promised by Maestro Lucas Richman, I could imagine both the swooning and the sword fights from the play. The program repeats Friday night at the historic Tennessee Theatre.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

not everybody loves Raymond

If the parade police wanted to cut a parade short this year, they should be looking at the Tournament of Roses Parade, not the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Unfortunately for me, it's the New York Police Department, not the parade police, who are making the demand.

The New York Daily News gets it right by calling police commissioner Ray Kelly "a turkey." His edict to shorten all New York parade routes by 25% doesn't go into effect until after Kelly serves as grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The Macy's parade is not the target of the cost-cutting move. My favorite parade is part of the collateral damage. With his five-hour time limit, Commissioner Kelly appears to be going after lengthy marches such as the West Indian American Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Thanksgiving is exactly nine months away. There's plenty of time to fix the mistake.

Maybe Commissioner Kelly can copy his predecessor Bill Bratton and move to California. He could help my second-favorite parade, the Rose Parade, by eliminating the equestrian units. The floats and marching bands are great but the people on horseback don't add much to the telecast. I realize that they are included as part of a 122-year old tradition. Maybe the horses could walk alongside a flower-covered float. Or better still, a team of horses could pull each float.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

nock nock jokes

The voice cast alone would have been enough to get me to watch the new adult cartoon "Archer." The outrageous comedy material has me hooked on the new FX series. I was happy to learn tonight that the show has been renewed for a second season.

I have been a fan of Aisha Tyler since she first showed up as a guest on the old Comedy World Radio Network. A year later, she went on to success as the host of "Talk Soup." I spent a memorable night barhopping in the French Quarter with Aisha and three of her fellow Morning Show Boot Camp panelists. Aisha provides the voice of curvaceous spy Lana Kane.

Two cast members of the late, great "Arrested Development" are regulars on "Archer." Jessica Walter plays Archer's mother Malory and Judy Greer plays Cheryl Carol. Jeffrey Tambor turned up as a guest star in at least one episode.

Chris Parnell plays Cyril. My wife and I saw him sing a song about Ohio at The Groundlings before he was ever on "Saturday Night Live."

I was late coming to the "Archer" party. A short item on Twitter last Thursday inspired me to sample the show and I'm glad I did. A couple of times I have thought about recommending the series to my son but then an offensive joke comes along and reminds me of my parental responsibility. So, I will not be advising my son to catch up with the episodes on Nor will I suggest that he watch the four-episode mini-marathon on Thursday night. He'll have to find the show on his own, without any help from me.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

sweeping into the house

The two biggest complaints about the Olympic telecasts this past weekend were that many of the events were tape-delayed and that the USA vs. Canada hockey game, while live, was not in high-definition. Of the two, I think the non-HD offense is worse. There is no excuse for NBC to have relegated the popular match-up to a standard-def channel.

Admittedly, I am an HD snob. I filter my on-screen guide to list only the HD channels. As a result, I didn't even know the hockey game was on until I saw the complaints on Twitter about the SD broadcast. Today I watched all eight goals in eight minutes, in HD and found I enjoyed it. Sure it was delayed but I didn't mind. It was similar to NFL Replay, but faster.

The HD highlights were only a couple of button pushes away via the On Demand menu on my Comcast Digital Cable. Quick disclaimer: I pay for Comcast service but I get it at the employee rate because ten months ago I started doing testimonial spots for them on the radio.

The only curling I've seen is On Demand. When a bonspiel is boiled down to a minute, the sport actually makes sense to me.They seem to get points for wearing outrageous pants while putting their rock in the circle and hitting the other team's rock out of the circle. Does it deserve to be an Olympic sport? I don't know. It looks like an amusing backyard game, along the lines of croquet or bocce.

I have tried watching NBC's prime time Olympic coverage and have lost interest almost every night. The On Demand choices give me enough to satisfy my curiosity about events such as ski cross and also the opportunity to go back and see the events that people are talking about, such as the hockey game and last night's ice dancing. I like some of the short clip packages too. I just watched a one-minute collection of snowboard crashes.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

sun of a niche

Cassie is a fellow blogger and Twitterer who often takes the time to post comments on my blog entries. I hope she takes advantage of the free symphony tickets available to bloggers this week. She was the first person to make an online donation to my camera replacement fund and recently gave me some old souvenirs that made me very happy.

Perhaps Cassie remembers a 2007 post of mine about some plastic cups I got at Patrick Sullivan's. Or maybe she has discerned over the years that I wish I had visited Knoxville during the summer of 1982. Instead, I spent that summer working for free at a bankrupt little AM station in Herndon, Virginia.

Today my wife and I took the items from Cassie back to their roots. It was a beautiful day for a visit to World's Fair Park, where I posed with a commemorative dish and snow globe from the 1982 World's Fair.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

obliging and dutiful

Richard Lambert, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Knoxville field office, was previously assigned to head up the investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001. The case was closed this past week, just three days after I had recorded a half hour interview with Mr. Lambert. We only briefly mentioned the case. I was more interested in asking about the window of opportunity to thwart the next terrorist attack on the United States. About halfway into the show, I segued into the topic of Internet crimes.

If you're interested in law enforcement, feel free to right click here and download the podcast of my interview with Rick Lambert or hit the play button below. If you're interested in a job with the FBI, skip ahead to 22 minutes into the program to hear about the Bureau's hiring spree.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

can't spell omega without omg

Darwin Day passed me by with no fanfare this year. I was aware that last Friday was the 201st birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln but had other things to do. In fact, my wife and I were sharing a table at the World Marriage Day dinner with Dr. Kelly Kearse and his wife. Dr. Kearse was my son's chemistry teacher in high school.

During the course of the evening, Dr. Kearse mentioned that he had downloaded and listened to my interview with Bishop Stika from last year. I told him about some of my other interviews online, including those with Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. By the way, the two will be coming in soon to record an interview about their new book, "The Bone Thief."

Dr. Kearse emailed me the other day to say thanks for a photo I sent him from that night. He also told me that he had downloaded seven more interviews from my site. He had just listened to the interview with the author of "Thank God for Evolution."

The conversation with Dr. Kearse, coupled with the start of Lent, inspired me to use my WiFi clock radio to listen to podcasts of some online homilies as I settle in for bed. One of the files turned out to be not a homily but a lecture by Fr. Don Goergen about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I've heard the first half-hour a couple of times as I drifted off to sleep. The whole podcast is an hour and 25 minutes long. I plugged in some headphones and have been listening to the rest of it tonight while watching the Olympics on TV.

It's pretty heady stuff about cosmogenesis, biogenesis, psychogenesis and Christogenesis. A few of Fr. Goergen's quotes stood out for me:
  • God creates the universe evolutably.
  • The world is evolving and that evolution is a manifestation of God's creative activity.
  • The world is moving in the direction of increased complexity and increased consciousness.
  • Darwinism doesn't necessarily mean atheism.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

is my soul prepared

Yesterday's Ash Wednesday post generated some reaction in my email box from a local mom:
I read on your blog about Beth's problem with the public school's attendance policy. I worked with a public school as the attendance secretary, which required entering the tardies, absences and excuses. I was told that the absence or tardy was black or white. You either were or you weren't. The excused or unexcused piece is where the religious holiday allowance would come. In other words, going to the orthodontist in the morning still makes you tardy but it is excused and not held against the child. Most perfect attendance awards do not take into account tardies. When my daughter took part in the Bishop's installation, all three of my children were excused from school -- but they were still absent.
After I had uploaded the blog entry, I watched the beginning of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and noticed that both Guillermo and Cleto Sr. were proudly wearing their ashes on national television. Too bad Joe Biden's priest merely put a thumbprint on the vice-president's forehead instead of a bold cross like Guillermo and Cleto got.

My Facebook friend count dropped by one on Wednesday. A friend from church had posted that she was giving up Facebook for Lent. I didn't realize she was going to deactivate her account.

Fr. Ragan Schriver did not give up Facebook for Lent. He is fairly new to the social networking site and has been adding friends rapidly. It's not surprising to me. Whenever we meet for dinner at Trio Café, it is impossible to walk across Market Square without meeting several people who know Fr. Ragan.

I saw a post on Fr. Ragan's wall that is worth sharing here even though it involves one of my least favorite songs of all time. When I was general manager of the student radio station at George Mason University, it was a running joke how much I hated "King of Pain" by the Police. It was overplayed by the volunteer deejays who picked their own songs.

Someone shared a link to a "King of Pain" parody called "This Time of Forty Days." Obviously the comedy stems from the line "There's a little black spot on your head today." I was amused and will look for more material online from Catholic comedian Nick Alexander. Had I known about it, I could have used his "YMCA" parody a year ago when I sponsored a friend into the church.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

sacramental health

Fr. Ragan Schriver calls me an "out-of-the-closet Catholic." It's not that I'm doing anything differently than when I lived in Burbank, it's just that there are fewer Catholics in Knoxville, so my beliefs stand out from the crowd. Blog readers and radio listeners are aware of my faith, so it's no surprise that I would get an email like the following from someone I'll call "Beth."
Dear Frank,

I wanted to see how you felt about an issue that I seem to be having with the county schools. With it being Ash Wednesday, I wanted to take my children to get their ashes at morning Mass. A friend suggested I call the school to make sure that it wouldn't count against them, making them tardy. I thought for sure that it wouldn't, due to the fact it is a religious holiday. Well, I was wrong!!

First when I called the school, they had no idea what Ash Wednesday was, and didn't know how to handle my phone call. Then they passed me to the Assistant Superintendent. Well, she was no help either, asking what was Ash Wednesday and why couldn't we just go to a later Mass. I tried to tell her that the whole point was to wear your ashes all day. It isn't something you get and then go home, shower and go to bed. Then she tried to tell me it wasn't even on the calendar!!

Finally, without being able to give me an answer, she went to ask the Superintendent. When she got back, she said there was no way he would allow it. It would be marked as a tardy. At this, I was angry. How prejudiced toward us Catholics; how unfair that my children who have never been tardy this year are going to have it count against them, all because we are going to attend Mass.

I was furious. She told me that there was nothing in the county policy about excused tardiness due to a religious event. Then she told me she was sorry, you know the majority down here is Baptist not Catholic! I know that we could go to an evening Mass but that's not the point. You are SUPPOSED to get ashes in the morning and have them on your head all day as a symbol. I know that you are Catholic and I was wondering what your thoughts on this were. We are going to church at 9:00 a.m. and the kids will have to go to school late and just have it count against them.
I applaud Beth for standing up for her beliefs. I might have done the same thing if I had been in her position. In fact, I have opted out of an upcoming work-related event that conflicts with the Easter Triduum. Beth's email made me glad that my wife and I made some sacrifices to send our children to Catholic school from kindergarten through high school.

On the other hand, Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation. It is actually more important for a Catholic to attend Sunday Mass. At All Saints, they must have realized that public school kids could not attend Mass until later in the day. The children's choir sang at the 5:00 p.m. service tonight. I think the public school could treat Beth's decision to take her children to Mass on Ash Wednesday the same as if they had an orthodontist appointment. They could count it as an excused absence.

Beth's email was on my mind as I attended the noon Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. I was struck by the seeming contradiction of today's gospel passage that instructed "wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden."

I got my ashes and wore them to my next appointments. I was reminded of my first day on the job at Comedy World, which also happened to fall on Ash Wednesday. I showed up with ashes on my head and laughed at the comments from Bobby Slayton and others.

Beth emailed me again this afternoon to say that her child's teacher tried to wipe off the ashes because she didn't know what they were. The child was smart enough and comfortable enough to stop the teacher and explain. Obviously she learned that from her mother.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

48 farthings

More free coffee found its way into my world over the weekend. After I had brewed a pot with a sample packet of Folgers that I had picked up along the way, my wife's brother went out to his car and got the remnants of a bag of Allegro Coffee that he had purchased in Northern Virginia. The blend was labeled "extra darker," which means it's super special, right?

As I scooped the grounds into the filter, he suggested that I sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the coffee before brewing. It tasted good but I didn't have anything with which to compare it. He let me keep what was left in the bag. Tonight I brewed a little more of the Allegro to have with dinner. However, I still didn't experience the pure taste of "extra darker." Because it was Fat Tuesday, it was my last chance before Lent to use a chocolate-covered spoon that my wife had received for Christmas.

None of us noticed it on Sunday morning, but as I look at the photo now, I realize that my jar of Schilling Cinnamon is at least seven years old. My wife thinks we might have bought it in Burbank.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

horse and carriage

The celebration of World Marriage Day at All Saints Church is a good deal. If a couple will mark a significant anniversary (1, 5, 10, 15, etc.) during the year, they are invited to a nice, sit-down dinner in the parish hall. My wife and I like it so much that we volunteer to be servers on the four years between our 0s and 5s. This year's event was held on Friday night.

The evening starts in the church with a blessing from the pastor. Fr. Michael Woods likes to ask the couples where they met. My wife and I got a few chuckles when we described our meeting in a night club called the Wax Museum under the figure of Neil Armstrong.

Photo proofs from this year's dinner are now online at The cakes shown in the first few shots were made by our friend Chris Kite. My wife and I were fortunate to end up sitting at the same table as Dr. Kelly Kearse and his wife Kathy. Dr. Kearse was my son's high school chemistry teacher and helped inspire his love of science. Before the night was through, I talked a little politics with Gary Loe, who has announced his candidacy for the state House seat being vacated by the headline-grabbing Stacey Campfield.

One of the couples in attendance will celebrate their 70th anniversary in 2010. Fr. Michael had them cut the cake and got the husband to sing a little bit of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." When it was time to get the dancing started, a Glenn Miller song came on and Fr. Michael grabbed my wife's hand and spun her around the floor a few times. Later, she and I danced some and tried to teach others the proper hand motions for "YMCA."

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

don't lose your head

It's important to back up your words with actions. That's why my wife and I did our part to support the transition of Taylor Swift from singer to actress. We braved the crowds at the Regal West Town Mall 9 to see "Valentine's Day" on Valentine's Day. It turns out that a lot of the people who were there came to watch the Daytona 500 on a theater screen while enjoying pizza and beer.

The movie wasn't as bad as I feared. I had heard that it was basically a two-hour "Love Boat" episode. It finished stronger than it started, which will help generate positive word-of-mouth. The biggest disappointment was the story line involving Julia Roberts. I felt like something got edited out, such as a plausible explanation for her quick trip to Los Angeles. I expected her to at least be on her way to a wedding or funeral. My favorite story threads were those with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel and yes, Taylor Swift.

When the movie let out, we walked through the mall in search of a kiosk offering free samples of jAVERDE flavored coffee. My friend Lissa has suggested several times that I try it. Of the four I tasted, Shell Shock was the best. The clerk told me that they plan to open a store across from Food City on Middlebrook Pike in a space vacated by Bear Creek Coffee.

What's Valentine's Day without chocolate? Earlier in the day, my wife surprised me with a heart-shaped box of hand-dipped truffles that she bought from Belle's Sweet Boutique. The proprietor, Ann Douglas, is an acquaintance of hers. The candies are truffle-licious.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

tell me ma

Fr. Michael Woods mentioned both Amy Brace and Ashley Reisser in his homily at the 5:00 p.m. Mass tonight. He told a beautiful story about Ashley's mother, who told him she hopes they never find the men who ran from the car that dragged her daughter. She imagines that they are probably scared and praying for Ashley's continued recovery.

Although we had originally planned on eating at home, my wife and I ended up going out to dinner after Mass. We went with my wife's mother and brother, who had stopped off on their way from Virginia to Georgia. They were here on Valentine's weekend last year too and we waited a long time to be seated at Mimi's Café.

This year, I chose a place where the tables would turn over fairly quickly. We went to Hard Knox Pizzeria and used a gift certificate that I had purchased for half price (plus service charge) from the radio station's website. It's a place I've wanted to try since I first heard of it last year.

Fr. Michael was able to join us for dinner before having to head back to All Saints to give a blessing at the Mardi Gras dance which benefits Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. I asked him about Vols coach Derek Dooley, whose parents were parishioners of Fr. Michael's during his days in Athens. He said he had received a response from the coach, who indicated he would bring his parents by the church when they visit Knoxville. As the conversation turned to other topics, Fr. Michael mentioned that there is an old YouTube video of him singing at a biker bar. Why? It was to raise money for the Ulster Project.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

three quarter time

The memory chip in the camera I borrowed had a few stray pictures on it that I needed to clear off before going to a dinner dance at church tonight. This one is from a road trip to Northern Virginia at the beginning of January.

My family and I had stopped at a Quarles convenience store in Front Royal, Virginia. I spotted an offer that seemed too good to pass up. Anything with Oreo in its name will catch my eye and the Oreo Brownie was no exception. The counter display had a pad of 75¢ coupons on it. I asked the clerk how much the brownie cost. It was $1 before the coupon, meaning I could get one for 25¢. I have long thought that most snack cakes are overpriced. It's rare to see a coupon worth more than half the price of an item.

I told my son that I would pay the quarter and he could have the free part. We put the treat in a bag in the car and forgot about it for the time being. A few days later when we were back home, my son found the brownie and cut it into two pieces. I knew without looking that my piece would be exactly 25% of the total mass because that's how he is.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

school shooting

The talk at church tonight, as it has been all throughout Knoxville today, was yesterday's shooting of the principal and assistant principal of Inskip Elementary School. The members of All Saints Church were especially concerned since assistant principal Amy Brace is the daughter of fellow parishioners Jim and Connie Brace. Dr. Jim Brace is the associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.

One of the choir members prepared special "prayer blankets" for the two victims. The blanket is a symbol of the prayers being offered by church members. The people on the prayer chain at All Saints had heard some possible details of the attack. Assuming their information is accurate, it sounds like Amy Brace is lucky to be alive. They report that she has a through-and-through gunshot wound on her forearm and that a bullet grazed her scalp without penetrating her skull. One parishioner wondered if Amy's arm slowed or deflected the bullet enough to keep it out of her brain.

Principal Elisa Luna's injuries are more serious. Countless prayers are being offered for her recovery too.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

meta league broadcasting

My friend Bean suggested I add a podcast to the playlist on my WiFi clock radio. He is a fan of Luke Burbank, who does a show called "Too Beautiful to Live." I tried one this afternoon and liked it.

Burbank used to be on the air at KIRO-FM. When his talk show was canceled, he began podcasting from his house. As his podcast became more popular and his severance pay ran out, Burbank decided to try a pledge drive, just like on non-commercial public radio and television. I'm sure he had more success than the $18 I've raised so far in my camera drive.

Bean thought that the February 1 show would be a good one for me to hear first. It happened to be the first day of pledge week. Bean knew I would be interested in the guests, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of Radiolab.

It's too soon to tell if I will become, in the TBTL terminology, one of "the 10s" of regular listeners or if I will remain among "the Elevens." I'll try a few more podcasts from the past couple of weeks, which means they would consider me to be a "Time Bandit."

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

you're through

This year, 181 contestants on "American Idol" get reduced to 24 people in the lightning round known as Hollywood week. It's one of my favorite parts of America's favorite karaoke contest. I especially like the episode when the contestants are made to form groups and sing together.

I don't understand why they race through Hollywood week so quickly. Perhaps they are trying to minimize the amount of time that the identities of the 24 finalists must be kept secret. I would rather that they speed through the tedious audition episodes and spare us the frauds who know they can't sing.

On tonight's show, Andrew Garcia of Moreno Valley did a brilliant cover version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." His performance is already heating up the blogosphere with comments at, and

They had a camera on Vanessa Wolfe of Vonore as she headed toward the security checkpoint at McGhee Tyson Airport. Unfortunately she sounded nervous on stage in Hollywood and was eliminated. I hope she tries again next year.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

on fire!

David Letterman and Jay Leno get all the attention but the best gig in television may actually belong to Regis Philbin. The hours aren't bad and he gets to work with a great co-host, Kelly Ripa. Philbin was born a year before my father and has been on the air since before I was born. Like my parents, he is from The Bronx. In fact, he went to the same high school as two of my uncles.

This morning I got to live out a little bit of my Regis fantasy right here in Knoxville. Two months ago when I was a guest on "Eleven O'clock Rock," the producers at Knoxivi told me that co-host Brent Thompson would be taking a few days off when his wife delivered their baby. They offered me the opportunity to fill in as one of their guest co-hosts. I got the call last week that today would be the day.

It was an absolute pleasure to work with Lauren Lazarus, who made things very easy for me. She was willing to go along with my idea for a cold open that referenced couple of yesterday's Super Bowl ads, especially the commercial for Snickers.

The show streams live each weekday at 11:00 a.m. To view today's episode in the archives, go to and click on Monday and then on 02/08/2010. You can also get information about the show on Facebook and Twitter.

The musical guest was Davis Mitchell from the band Dishwater Blonde. He performed some of his solo material, which had a nice Christian feel to it. Mitchell is a music minister at Knoxlife Church, which usually meets at Remedy Coffee in the Old City.

During the show, I got to interview Jeff Joslin, who directed the movie I was in last year. We talked about how Jeff got "Fish Bait" off the ground and how he is writing a sequel. Before the show ended, Jeff texted me and offered up a special link for viewers to buy the DVD and soundtrack for only ten bucks.

Jeff told me that he and his New York-based pals plan to make another spoof music video soon. He recently posted an amusing parody of Jordin Sparks' "No Air" on YouTube. It's about a follically challenged man and it's called (you guessed it) "No Hair."

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

blizzard treats

For the most part, this weekend was spent waiting for the Super Bowl and experiencing the DC area snowstorm via social media. Since Friday, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been filled with photos of the Snowtorious B.I.G.

Aspiring TV writer Mike Nelson is currently working as a production assistant on "The Real World Washington DC." He posted pictures on TwitPic of his car before and after digging it out of the snow.

My wife enjoys weather maps and forecasts. She has been going to the websites for the Washington television stations to get the latest. Thanks to her efforts, we saw lots of great viewer pictures, details of the Facebook-organized snowball fight and the amusing tale of "Sandwich Girl." WRC-TV reporter Pat Collins spoke with a young woman who had decided to walk three miles to a Giant supermarket because she wanted to redeem her coupon for a free sandwich. No wonder I like her story.

View more news videos at:

View more news videos at:

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

go or geaux?

Although it really doesn't matter to me who wins the Super Bowl, I do want to pick a team and root for them tomorrow. I like both the Colts and the Saints and will have to dig a little deeper to find a preference.

The Colts are especially popular in Knoxville because of Peyton Manning. My friends outside Tennessee might not realize that he is a former UT Volunteer. In addition to all his national endorsements, he turns up on local TV in commercials for Mercy Health Partners. I am impressed with the star quarterback's ability, even if he is a little OCPD.

The City of Indianapolis also has something going for it in my book. One of the boxes in my basement contains the key to the city. Don & Mike and I each received a key when we did a remote broadcast from Indy at the invitation of then-mayor William Hudnut.

Although it has been many years, the Colts lose some points for the way they abandoned Baltimore. They should have left their name and colors behind like the Browns did when they ditched Cleveland. Instead of becoming the Ravens, the old Browns should now be the Colts.

The storyline of the Saints is appealing to me. I like that they were one of the last five teams to have never reached a Super Bowl. Their dedicated fans have been waiting a long time to win a championship. It's almost like the Red Sox or Cubs winning the World Series.

I've been to New Orleans a few times for the Morning Show Boot Camp convention and absolutely loved it. I like going to the Acme Oyster House and getting on their webcam. I love the Bananas Foster at Brennan's and just about anything étouffée at just about any restaurant in the French quarter.

So who's it going to be? Do I cheer for Peyton, whose work ethic and incredible ability I respect and admire? Or do I go with the feel-good story of New Orleans? Maybe I'll think about it tomorrow morning while I'm waiting for Mass to begin at All Saints Church. Hmmm... maybe I just decided.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

tell me why

Congratulations to Brent Thompson and his wife who had their baby yesterday. Brent is co-host of Eleven O'clock Rock, the daily streaming video show that emanates from Market Square.

The baby's birth didn't sneak up on them. When I was a guest on the show in December, Brent and co-host Lauren Lazarus said I could fill in for him one day while he was on paternity leave. Turns out they weren't just being nice. I got the call from Jessie Greene, one of the directors, asking if I could be the guest co-host on Monday.

They were still in the process of booking guest for the show. In addition to a musical performer, they wanted somebody for the "Movie Monday" segment. I unabashedly offered up "Fish Bait" director Jeff Joslin, who will join us via Skype at 11:27 a.m.

If you can arrange your schedule to be downtown between 11 a.m. and 12 noon on Monday, c'mon by and get some food at The Lunchbox, which shares space with the studio. Otherwise you can watch "Eleven O'clock Rock" at

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

ever and anon

A potential blogger emailed me early this morning. She introduced herself as a friend of a college friend of mine. She immediately flattered me by saying that my name had come up in their conversations several times over the years. Here is the main part of her email:
Two great passions of mine are the arts and travel. While getting laid off from the travel industry has put a hold on any travel desires, living in New York gives me the solace of the arts, especially the performing arts; almost as necessary to me as the air I breathe. (Which, thankfully, there are inexpensive ways of enjoying.) A musician friend, whose talent and taste I hold in great esteem, has been urging me for months to start a blog of my impressions of performances, art exhibits, and other arts-related notes. Hopefully, travel will come back into my life and those observations can be added as well.

Amongst all the other decisions - name, colors, graphics, fonts - is the question of whether to use my real name or not. Although my musician friend says he wouldn't compose anonymously, this is slightly different. As I am applying to job postings from arts organizations it gives me pause. Part of me says I am being ridiculous. First of all, who says any of these people are going to even find, much less read my blog and, secondly, it's not as though I would be insulting to anyone. But, caution plays a part because of my jobless situation, although another friend of mine who is always cautious, thinks my writing could wind up generating interest that could benefit my career. (But, playing devil's advocate, anyone could respond via the e-mail link if they want to contact me.)
I am not a fan of anonymous blogs. They seem cowardly to me. Within the past year I exchanged emails with an anonymous blogger who ended up deleting her blog because people were starting to figure out that she lived in Knoxville.

I think she has to assume that her blog will eventually be discovered. Is she willing to deal with the consequences when that happens? What does she have to say that she would be ashamed to attach her name to? And if she is ashamed to say it publicly, should she really be saying it in the first place?

I do believe in blogs as a way to promote your personal brand. Put yourself in the position of someone who is hiring in 2010. Which candidate do they hire, the person with no online presence or the person who has figured out how to use blogs, Twitter and Facebook?

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

orange barrels

Many of the web designers, I.T. guys and better bloggers I've known over the past few years have advised me to use different software on my website. Specifically they wanted me to dump However I thought of the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Back in the olden days, my choice of web hosting service was based on whether or not they could handle Microsoft FrontPage extensions. The computer guru at KLOS helped me get started. I still use FrontPage to upload photos to my site, even though Microsoft discontinued the product about three years ago.

At first, I used my website to host my résumé, some sound files and some photos of my trip to Alaska. All that changed in 2005 when I decided to start writing a daily blog. Rich Hailey, my "blogfather," told me about the software he used at the time, which I think was Movable Type. I downloaded it and looked it over but ultimately went with a beginner-level choice. I've been using ever since.

Most people who use Blogger have a URL that ends with "" It means that their content is hosted for free by Google. Because I already had my own domain, I decided to reinforce my personal brand by keeping the blog at Blogger had a simple option for that. I upload each new entry from Blogger's interface to using their FTP service.

Yesterday I got an email from Blogger that made me feel like they were breaking up with me. Apparently I have one of only .5% of active blogs that are published via FTP.
Dear FTP user:
You are receiving this e-mail because one or more of your blogs at are set up to publish via FTP. We recently announced a planned shut-down of FTP support on Blogger Buzz (the official Blogger blog), and wanted to make sure you saw the announcement. We will be following up with more information via e-mail in the weeks ahead, and regularly updating a blog dedicated to this service shut-down here:
There are about seven weeks before my FTP blog gets kicked to the curb. I have a lot of reading to do before I will fully understand my Internet options. At first glance it looks like I could let Google become my hosting service. Because I want my blog to be a large part of my site but not all of it, that may not be the best option for me.

Chris Townsend, the talented web designer who started Maverick Advertising, has suggested several times that I migrate my blog to WordPress. Migrating makes me nervous because I worry that something will be lost in translation. I dread the possible abundance of broken links. Nevertheless, I have set March 1 as a target date to make some kind of switch. The road ahead may be a little bumpy but I hope you'll stick with me.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

put down your weapon

On the show "24," Jack Bauer has a reputation for beating confessions out of people. I am unbloodied and unbruised but I have a confession for Mr. Bauer nevertheless. I've been watching your show and enjoying it... from 2009.

As my DVR automatically started recording the new season 8 of "24," I began feeling bad that I hadn't seen season 7. Like many shows, I was saving the episodes to watch together with my wife. Our son viewed the whole season online while at college and raved about how good it was. Last week, after I had gotten caught up on some recent episodes of "Fringe," my wife gave me the go-ahead to watch and delete season 7 of "24" without her.

If I were doing a marathon viewing of "24" on DVD, it would be no big deal. Why does keeping it on a DVR for a year seem weird? Could it be the commercials and promos? In one of the first few episodes, I saw a news tease about the Pope's appointment of Bishop Stika.

I've also seen a lot of promos for the debut of season 8 of "American Idol." They show face after face of contestants headed to Hollywood. I recognized none of them. So far I haven't seen anyone who remotely resembles Adam Lambert or Kris Allen or Danny Gokey or Anoop Desai. It makes me think that the televised audition process is truly a waste of time. They may as well start the show with Hollywood week.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

bowled over

That wasn't so bad, was it? Something I have been hoping for since 2006 happened last night. The Pro Bowl filled the football void on the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

I can't be the only one who liked the change. Ratings for the game were way up and I heard on NFL Network that the highest ratings for the game were in football-crazy New Orleans, which had no players on the field. Some people, like WATE's Mark Nagi, objected to the lack of Saints and Colts players in the Pro Bowl. I wonder how many Super Bowl players skipped the Pro Bowl in past years because they were too banged up to play again so soon.

I also wonder if those who didn't like the change were expecting a real football game. The Super Bowl players weren't the only ones missing. The AFC had to go deep into their roster to find a starting quarterback. It didn't matter, the game was fun to watch and AFC quarterback Matt Schaub turned out to be the MVP. Because of the physical nature of the sport, a football all-star game is probably less intense than a baseball all-star game. Well alright, let's say less intense than a basketball all-star game. No matter, the Pro Bowl is glorified two-hand touch anyhow.

As a Redskins fan, I thought I wanted the NFC to win. Yet, I was unhappy when an Eagles quarterback connected with an Eagles receiver for a touchdown. When a Cowboys quarterback was intercepted, ending any hope of an NFC comeback, I was pleasantly amused.

My gripe is that the NFL scheduled the game opposite the Grammy Awards. I would have preferred to watch the Pro Bowl before the Grammys. If I still lived on the West Coast, I guess I could have done so. However tape-delayed award shows are another pet peeve of mine. Some of us equate major award shows with major sporting events. The audiences for the Grammys and the Pro Bowl are not mutually exclusive. The Grammy ratings showed an increase too.

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played in Hawaii, which probably means another evening start in the Eastern time zone. Let's hope that the higher ratings last night keep the pre-Super Bowl void filled with football. I still like my idea for a Consolation Bowl between the teams that lose the conference championship games. Anyone else?

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