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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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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Friday, October 09, 2009

maid of the misty eyes

Last night's episode of "The Office" got me choked up for the first time since the movie "Up." Like most viewers, I have become invested in the relationship between Pam and Jim. It was emotionally fulfilling when they found a way to steal back some privacy and romance from their annoying co-workers.

The suspense built as we waited for Michael Scott to be the first to put his foot in his mouth. They caught us off guard when it was Jim who did it instead. Of course Michael proceeded to ram it in up to the knee. Almost every episode makes me think of the quote that Steve Carell paraphrased from Ricky Gervais, "if you don't know a Michael Scott, you are a Michael Scott."

Entertainment Weekly reported that the rehearsal dinner scene was filmed at the Smokehouse in Burbank. My family and I went there with friends for a few celebratory dinners after various events with our kids at St. Finbar School. I also had a few business lunches there with radio executives from Emmis Communications and a nice dinner there with Billy Bush when he was first thinking about moving to Los Angeles.

I recognized the exterior of the hotel from my trip to Niagara Falls in 2007. In fact, I took a picture of the Red Coach Inn because it had the same name as a restaurant my parents used to take us to in Yonkers. It's right next to a totem-like building that could be partially seen on last night's show.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Going to the Starlight Bowl was one of my favorite things about living in Burbank. On summer Sunday nights, we would pack a picnic dinner and head up the hill to see a concert by a cover band such as Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries. Occasionally a nationally known act like Rockapella or an "oldies act" like Don McLean would appear.

I was impressed by the quality of this year's headliners, which include three artists whose success was more recent than the acts I remember seeing at the Starlight Bowl. Colin Hay from Men at Work performed last month. The season closes out when Gin Blossoms take the stage on August 16th. The concert I wish I could attend is booked for this coming Sunday. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will play the Starlight Bowl on August 9th.

My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on New Year's Eve 1999 in Pasadena. They were the opening act for Chicago at a Disney gala for "Fantasia 2000." Because of fear of Y2K, a lot of people who bought tickets to the black-tie event decided to stay home. As a result, some friends of ours were offered tickets and were able to get another pair for us.

According to the Starlight Bowl website, Sunday's show is called "100 Years of Cab Calloway featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy." I've been a fan of Calloway ever since I saw him in "The Blues Brothers." One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a great video of Cab singing "Jumpin' Jive" with a dance performance by the incredible, gravity-defying Nicholas Brothers. I am tempted to spend some time looking for Cab Calloway videos and Nicholas Brothers videos on YouTube. To bring it all full circle, I met Fayard Nicholas twice, once at Burbank on Parade and once at the Starlight Bowl.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

your mileage may vary

One of these days I hope to get back to Seattle to visit my friend Bean. For that reason, I've been trying to hang on to some frequent flyer miles that are in danger of expiring. I'll admit that I could have gone to the Emerald City by now if I hadn't been using all my vacation time for family trips. In 2007, we went on a 3,000 mile college search road trip. Last year's vacation was planned to coincide with freshman move-in. Earlier this year, my son and I went on Spring break together.

To keep from losing my accumulated miles, I need to have some sort of activity on my account every eighteen months. The last time I had this problem, I donated a few of the miles to charity. At that time, the American Airlines representative suggested I sign up for their dining rewards program to earn miles at participating restaurants. You would think that I would have no problem spending $25 at one of the eateries on the list. However, my year-to-date total is still zero.

I specifically looked for a restaurant in Florida where my son and I could eat, I could earn a few miles and more importantly have some activity that would save the 26,000 miles I am on the verge of losing. The decision was easy. We went to Cheeburger Cheeburger.

On Wednesday night I called the number for the rewards program to ask why my Cheeburger purchase hadn't shown up on my statement. In fact, my pork salad at La Costa should have earned me some activity too. The nice lady on the other end of the line explained that the credit card I had used had been taken off my rewards account. As it turns out, my wife had inadvertently assigned our joint credit card to another cause.

When we lived in Burbank, my wife was co-chair of the scrip program at St. Finbar School. She and another mom would sell gift cards from local grocery stores and other retailers. The school made a 3 to 5% profit on card sales. All Saints Church has a similar program with Food City and Kroger.

A few months ago my wife responded to a request from eScrip. She could donate a portion of certain credit card purchases. As a result, St. Finbar got 57¢ from my bill at Cheeburger Cheeburger. eScrip and the dining rewards program are operated by the same company. Any given credit card number can only participate in one program at a time. My wife logged in to her eScrip account and swapped our joint account number for some other cards in her purse. Meanwhile, I logged on to AAdvantage Dining and re-added the joint account number.

I'll start looking for restaurants we can patronize on our summer vacation in New England. Locally, I was glad to see that Pimento's Café has joined the program. I think I can talk our vegetarian friend into meeting us there for salad the next time we get together.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

popular culture

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt celebrated its grand opening in Knoxville this weekend. My wife and I stopped by the new Turkey Creek location for a taste on Saturday. Local franchisee Bruce Smythe introduced us to Danna Caldwell, who founded the company and her sister Shir Balas, who handles marketing. Danna (pronounced Donna) is the mensch who gave the store its name. Menchie is her husband's nickname for her.

Frozen yogurt has become fashionable again in Southern California. Some chains, like Pinkberry, specialize in tart flavors. Menchie's offers both tart and sweet yogurt. The ratio varies by locale. Danna opened her first store in Valley Village. When we told her we had lived in Burbank, she happily described the location of her store there and her other San Fernando Valley locations.

The customers serve themselves at Menchies. You pick a flavor or a mixture of flavors and then add your own choice of toppings. The cashier puts your finished concoction on a scale by the register, where you pay 44 cents per ounce. Trying to be concise, I said on the air Friday that they charge you by weight. Oops.

I mixed dark chocolate and island banana yogurts in my cup. My wife said it might be a good idea for me to try mixing the dark chocolate with tart pomegranate next time. I had intended to top my frozen yogurt only with fruit however all the other choices proved irresistible. I was especially intrigued by some rice thingies called mochi that were like miniature marshmallows. Danna said they had no taste themselves but picked up the flavors surrounding them. Afterwards, we remembered hearing about mochi last summer on "I Survived a Japanese Game Show." The contestants tried to eat the most mochi balls while riding tricycles.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

it's fun to pray at the RCIA

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

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

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

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

the world is a stage

Why does the Tournament of Roses bother having a parade theme each year? Or why don't they do a better job of enforcing the use of the theme in all the floats? This year's theme was "Hats Off to Entertainment," apparently chosen because the current tournament president owns a restaurant called The Hat. There were some great floats that made use of the theme but there were others that made no sense to me. Knoxville native Jack Hanna rode on a float with realistic representations of wild animals. I didn't see anything about entertainment there. Hanna even kept his hat on. I also wonder why they still have so many equestrian units in the parade. I like parades with floats, bands and balloons. I don't need to see people riding horses unless they're doing something special, like the group that does rope tricks.

I thought there was a meeting each year for all the float sponsors to present their sketches to the committee. If any were too similar, changes would be made. The City of Burbank's self-built float represented a 3D sci-fi movie. A professionally built float for Trader Joe's also had movie monsters and 3D glasses. I have a feeling that this has happened to Burbank before but I can't remember exactly when. They might also want to make sure no two bands play the same song, like "That's Entertainment!" for example.

The City of Roseville had a float that looked like an old steam locomotive, spouting clouds of steam. It was funny that the float giving off the most steam exhaust won the trophy for best depiction of life in California. Jack in the Box entered the parade for the first time with two other firsts. According to the announcers, it was the first float with a disco theme and the first float with its own bathroom on board. The highly-touted, overrated Honda entry took forever to do its little trick and shoot confetti out of a hat. I think the rest of the parade had to pick up the pace to make up for the extra time Honda took.

I am curious to know how Stephanie Edwards got her old gig back as co-host of the Rose Parade coverage on KTLA. The station must have done some callout research. Bob Eubanks and Stephanie could also be seen nationwide on the Travel Channel. I could not find a high definition feed of KTLA's coverage like I did last year. Unfortunately the Travel Channel is still not in HD on DirecTV. The picture was blurry and unwatchable. On top of that, they ran an annoying crawl across the bottom third of the screen with text messages from viewers. In Los Angeles, the KTLA broadcast used to be commercial-free. The Travel Channel stuck advertisements for the Snuggie, the Twin Draft Guard and Mighty Mendit into the live broadcast, which made it feel like we missed seeing some parade entries. They should have timed the commercials to coincide with the equestrian units. KTLA has posted video of the entire parade on their website.

While the Travel Channel was unwatchable, the NBC coverage looked great but was unlistenable. Al Roker would not shut up. When some shirtless Hawaiians were on screen, he declared the new parade theme to be "pants off to entertainment." When the Penn State Blue Band performed, Roker said that it would take a long time for the band to "clear our cameras." When I flipped past, I almost always heard Roker talking over a band's performance. An interesting article in the Los Angeles Times says the Tournament of Roses gave NBC better camera positions to keep them from dropping their coverage.

Meanwhile on ABC, the parade hosts let the pictures do the talking. They let the bands be seen and heard. In the past, I have felt that ABC's coverage was lacking, that they only broadcast the parade as part of their obligation to get the rights to air the Rose Bowl. This year's telecast had a different feel. The hosts, Hannah Storm and Josh Elliott of ESPN seemed happy to be there, they did a good job of describing the floats and bands without getting in the way, they had good camera angles and interesting pre-taped features by John Naber about the building of the floats. It's as if the network stepped up and made their coverage the "official" broadcast of the parade. They had microphones on Cynthia Nixon and Cloris Leachman with the intention of interviewing both ladies as they rode past. Nixon's interview about breast cancer went well. Leachman's mic worked fine but she seemed clueless that Storm and Elliott were talking to her. Hannah Storm handled the mishap well. Because I was flipping channels, it took me a while to even realize that I was watching Hannah Storm. A couple of years ago I was critical of the terrible job she did on CBS' coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I've realized since her departure from CBS that it wasn't her fault. Her replacement made all the same mistakes, which indicates that the problems are with the writers, researchers and directors of the CBS coverage. CBS has stopped covering the Rose Parade. They should drop the Thanksgiving parade too.

Another possible reason for my not immediately recognizing Hannah Storm could be her new look. She may have had some kind of fashion makeover. Whatever she did, it worked. Toward the beginning of the broadcast, Josh Elliott sat there staring at her while she was talking. He looked enamored. About 40 minutes into the broadcast, WATE came back from a local commercial and forgot to switch from SD to HD. I had just complained about this same thing during the public affairs show I did this past week. Naturally, I called WATE to inform them. The guy who answered the phone put me on hold and called master control. As he got back to me, the problem was fixed. I noticed that they were right on time with all of their other switches after local commercials.

At the same time I was flipping between ABC, NBC and the Travel Channel, I was recording the commercial-free HD broadcast on HGTV. If I could only watch one version of the parade, this would be it. The audio was excellent, the video was excellent and the hosts did a solid job. Jann Carl and Robb Weller did both say "toin coss" instead of "coin toss." But if it was the only channel I watched, I would have nothing to write about today except their inadvertent spoonerism.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

not done yet

"Enough already about the Pope," said the comment I received yesterday. That sentiment is mild compared to some of the remarks left on the News Sentinel's website (here and here). People who do not understand the Pope's role were quick to criticize him and his Catholic flock.

Pope Benedict's trip resonated with me for several reasons. I'm a cradle Catholic who grew up in the New York and Washington suburbs. When we moved to California, my wife and I missed our families. We were drawn to the church where we found comfort in the familiarity of our parish community. On this visit, the Pope is traveling to places that are significant to me. Yesterday he was in Yonkers, the city where I lived until college. Today he was at Yankee Stadium, where I've been several times, mostly for football games but for a few baseball games too. This morning he prayed at Ground Zero, where my cousin heroically perished.

I got an email yesterday from radio newsman Dave Schreiber, a former co-worker at WAVA. I haven't heard from Dave in ages but he was so moved by the Pope's visit to the Park East Synagogue that he had to tell somebody. I'm glad he thought of me.

While I watched the various Papal events, I thought of the people I knew who were in attendance. My daughter was at the White House on Wednesday. My mother and my sister were at Nationals Park on Thursday. Our friend Fr. Ragan Schriver was also at both D.C. ceremonies. Our parish youth minister led a group to New York for the Mass at Yankee Stadium. As I wrote on Friday, several priests we know represented Knoxville during the Pope's visit.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who provides commentary on EWTN, surprised me with his criticism of the Mass at Nationals Park. He expressed his displeasure over the multicultural exhibition, particularly in the selection of music. I was taught that the word catholic (with a small "c") meant universal. It seems xenophobic to expect a Mass of that magnitude to be all-English with only old-school hymns.

Fr. Neuhaus didn't care much for the music at Saturday's Youth Rally either. I have only seen bits and pieces of it on the Internet. I heard a version of "Ave Maria" sung by Kelly Clarkson; a song I remember from Burbank called "Pan de Vida" and a version of my favorite "Litany of the Saints."

The big Masses at St. Finbar Church were usually tri-lingual affairs. The parishioners who spoke Spanish and Vietnamese wanted to feel at home as much as I did. Aren't they entitled to the same feeling of comfort?

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Sunday, March 16, 2008


For Catholics, being at Walt Disney World on a Sunday used to mean going to Mass at the Polynesian Resort. The service was held in the outdoor luau venue. I went to Mass there on my first visit during high school and on my second visit when my family and I attended the press junket for the opening of Disney MGM Studios, which as of 2008 is known as Disney's Hollywood Studios. By the time my wife and I returned with the Kevin & Bean show in the 1990s, the Polynesian Resort Mass had been discontinued.

On our more recent trips to Orlando, we've gone to Mass at the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. Today was the second year in a row that my wife and I were there on Palm Sunday.

The woman sitting in front of me bent and tied her palm so that it resembled the PX symbol for Christ. The woman sitting next to me (she was from Michigan by the way) had a better angle to see the frond of the woman in front. My garrulous pew-mate then passed her palm frond up a row and asked the lady to please tie it the same way.

I was reminded of the palm artistry we used to see in Burbank every year on Palm Sunday. As the congregation gathered for the Spanish language Masses at St. Finbar Church some entrepreneurs would unfurl mats on the grass and sell palm fronds that had been woven into various religious shapes. My own kids were pretty good at making a cross from a frond or two.

A few moments of curiosity has revealed another subculture on the Internet that I never knew existed. There are enough websites about palm crafts to keep you busy until it's time to burn your palms for next Ash Wednesday.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

three (million) penny

One of the many things I liked about living in Burbank was driving past the television and movie studios and seeing the huge banners for their upcoming productions. Along W. Olive Avenue, a series of giant movie posters adorn the walls of Warner Bros. Studios.

Those days out West came to mind the other day when I drove past the Scripps Networks headquarters in Knoxville. They had put up something new since the last time I was there. I went back today with a camera. A giant banner for "Nailed at 9" is visible from I-40. An enormous three-dimensional nail sticking out from the wall catches the eye from multiple angles to promote the different home improvement shows that air on DIY at 9:00 p.m.

Personally I'm looking forward to a day when Food Network might get the chance to display some colossal food porn along the interstate.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

you've got to rearrange

When my friend Anja Reinke was elected to the Burbank City Council, it was a big deal to me. However she isn't the first of my friends to get involved in politics. One of my classmates from George Mason University has served on the Fredericksburg City Council for four years.

Debby Girvan recently announced that she is running for mayor of Fredericksburg against the incumbent. Her campaign must be making some waves. Debby jokingly says her "worst fear" came true today. She became a political cartoon.

The newspaper may have missed an earlier opportunity for a caricature of Debby and the mayor. About two years ago, he playfully dunked her at the opening of a city swimming pool. Here's hoping that she figuratively dunks him when the polls close on May 6th.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

metal mettle

While looking online to see which Super Tuesday candidates were endorsed by our local newspapers, I was distracted by the front page of the Metro Pulse. The cover story is about guitarist Randy Rhoads, who is one of three famous musicians who died shortly after being in Knoxville. The other two are Hank Williams and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

I was not familiar with Randy's music while he was alive. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that I first heard of him. I was invited to a year-end presentation of video projects by the students in a media class at Providence High School in Burbank. One of the upperclassmen appeared in a documentary about his late uncle, Randy Rhoads. I recognized Randy's sister Kathy in the film. My wife and I knew her as one of the other room mothers at St. Finbar School.

Kathy's husband Richard is a talented cabinetmaker. He made a gorgeous wooden ambo for St. Finbar Church as well as other altar furniture. When I looked online, I discovered that he is now in the wine business too. Kathy and Richard's daughter Jenna was a classmate of our son for seven years until we moved to Knoxville. Jenna turned up in some red carpet photos as the date of a young actor named Daniel Hansen.

My wife took an extra copy of the paper from the stack on the bar at Patrick Sullivan's last night after my Einstein Simplified show. Now we need to find an old parish directory with Kathy's address in order to mail her a copy of the Metro Pulse. As she read the article, my wife saw that Randy's last name was misspelled on the plaque when he was inducted to the Hollywood RockWalk in 2004. Kathy and her mom are in the photos from the ceremony. They eventually fixed the plaque.

Knoxville has a statue honoring Rachmaninoff and an annual festival for Hank. Perhaps it's time to think of a way to commemorate Randy here too. And spell his name correctly.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

don't let the Quaffle in

Someone placed flyers on all the windshields in the parking lot during last night's high school football game. The papers advertised a website that sells clothing from hundreds, if not thousands of high schools, middle schools and grammar schools all over the country. Myschooljersey.com has a database of school colors and mascot names. If your school is not listed, the site lets you log in to add it. Once you find your school, you can order shirts, pants, hats, and accessories emblazoned with the school name and the sport or activity that you prefer. I had fun looking for the schools I attended and the schools my kids attended. Then I dropped in various interests like school newspaper (for me) and chemistry (for my son) to create pictures of items that never existed until now. The one that amused me most was the St. Finbar Quidditch Team sweatshirt.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

auction ends Sunday

The same guy who is building his own Batmobile asked if I had an extra $44,000 laying around. I had met him last June in Morristown and was very interested to hear how he had stripped down a Lincoln Continental and was using it to hold a fiberglass Batmobile body. His finished product will look very similar to the real deal that I saw in 1993.

Since I will never build my own Batmobile, the guy from Morristown wanted to let me know that I could buy one on eBay for a mere $44,000. Unlike the original, this car has a back seat for the Batkids. The auction listing says that the car has been in many parades and that it is currently housed in Burbank. I wonder if I've ever seen it.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

with steam coming out of his ears

The news that Jimmy Kimmel will do double duty next week didn't surprise me. If anybody can do it, it's him. Jimmy is tireless when it comes to promoting his late night show, even if it means flying cross-country to fill in for Regis Philbin every morning next week and then returning to Hollywood each night to host his own program. I'm sure he would be more comfortable on a private plane but he could probably get some good material for the shows by flying commercial. Jimmy must have thought about a radio deejay named Tom Joyner who became famous as the "fly jock" when he did a morning show in Dallas and an afternoon show in Chicago, flying between the two cities daily.

When I flipped over to ESPN to check the score of the Giants game on Monday night, I heard the announcer promote that Jimmy would be there after a break. I had to stop and think for a moment since the game was in Atlanta, not New York. Sure enough, Jimmy was at the game. I wondered if he had gone to Atlanta just for the game or if he was busy promoting his show in a city that only recently began airing it. Jimmy cracked a few jokes about the announcers and I didn't think anything else of it until I read the ridiculous news that ESPN has banned Jimmy from "Monday Night Football." Is that any way to treat the guy who hosted the ESPY awards? He's as confused as anyone.

I really like the monologue on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." They make great use of video clips from the news and from that evening's prime time shows. Although the network won't let them do the show live anymore, they tape it around 8:00 p.m. PT (11:00 p.m. ET), which is about three hours later than Leno tapes and about six hours later than Letterman tapes.

I would hate it if ABC hired Jay Leno for a late night show that would bump Jimmy to a later time slot. There's talk of Leno going to Fox or ABC when his NBC contract expires. The mistake NBC made by hiring Leno over David Letterman is coming back to haunt them again as they try to plan for a smooth transition to "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." If Leno didn't want to leave, he could have told them before they announced the plan for him to step down. NBC is sticking with the plan. Last week they announced that they would renovate a stage at Universal Studios to be Conan's new theater as part of their plan to abandon my beloved Burbank.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


Burbank has been on my mind this week. I've been feeling bad for the Media City since I got a press release from NBC announcing their plans to move much of their operation a few miles from Burbank to Universal City. I moved to Burbank three months before Johnny Carson retired from "The Tonight Show." At the time I thought it would be funny to ask someone from a particular business across the street if Ed McMahon's departure would affect them. An article in today's Burbank Leader does that exact thing. The owner of A&O Studio Liquors says they may have to close down without all the TV executives who keep their register ringing. Here's the quote:
Businesses in the area gave mixed reviews.

"It's unfortunate to lose the consistent NBC workers," said Vince Oganesyan, a general manager at the Mobil across the street. "But our main business is not 'The Tonight Show,' so it won’t make a drastic difference."

Beatriz Martinez, owner of A&O Liquor, also across the street from NBC, was not as positive about her store's future.

"It will definitely affect us," she said. "We rely on 'The Tonight Show' for maybe 50% of our business. We might consider selling the store when they leave."

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

wondered whatever became of

Many average Americans found their ticket to fame on so-called "reality" shows. I prefer the term "unscripted" because there's not much that's real about them. It wasn't long before the semi-famous and formerly famous jumped on the bandwagon as a means of extending their own celebrity. "Back to the Grind," a new unscripted show on TV Land puts actors and actresses in the actual jobs their TV characters portrayed. I read about the show in a post on TV Squad, which provided links to some clips from it. I watched a ten minute segment in which Loni Anderson, who played the receptionist on "WKRP in Cincinnati," spends a day working at real radio stations.

In the show, Loni visited three Los Angeles stations. It was nice to see some studios I knew, but I think it would have made for better television if the producers had sent her to Ohio. Coincidentally, a station there has a name similar to WKRP. Imagine the hilarity of Loni Anderson answering the phones at WKRC in Cincinnati.

The episode must have been filmed at least a year ago. Loni started her day at KZLA, which changed its name and format last summer. In one scene, she brought coffee to a meeting between then-program director R.J. Curtis and and his staff, including morning host Peter Tilden. Peter is now back at KABC, hosting "America's Earliest Morning Show." Later, Loni went across the hall to Power 106 to learn some hip-hop lingo. While Loni reported on traffic conditions, a camera in front of the radio station's building was pointed down W. Olive Avenue and clearly showed St. Finbar church, my former parish. In the evening, Loni reported for duty at KROQ to screen calls for the long-running syndicated program "Loveline." She was greeted by producer Ann Wilkins, who looked like she was doing well. I'm glad the experience of having to share an office with me all those years ago didn't affect Ann adversely.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

buenas noches

"Back To You" is the new Fox show that I mentioned yesterday. The graphics during the upfront presentation made it look like the title might actually be "Back 2 You." The funniest clips showed the two anchors at the desk, bickering while waiting to go on the air.

A friend from Burbank emailed recently to tell me about this year's St. Finbar Fiesta. He also suggested I take a look at an Internet sitcom called "Goodnight Burbank." It's a spoof of a nightly newscast which focuses on the anchors bickering while waiting to go on the air. I especially enjoyed the names of two of the characters. Like some real reporters in L.A., forecaster Trisha Sakamoto dug into her background to find an ethnic last name to use on the air. It's even funnier when anchor Kelly Jones insists that her last name is pronounced "ho-ness."

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

personal milestone

Five years ago today I boarded a plane in Burbank. After changing planes in Dallas, I landed in Knoxville, ready to start a new job and a new chapter of my life.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

by a wide margin

The big news out of Burbank is the election of my friend Anja Reinke to city council. There were four people running for two open seats. Anja and a local restaurant owner each got about 6300 votes. Anja will become one of many St. Finbar parishioners who have served on the council. She should get to take a turn as vice-mayor and then mayor eventually.

The other two candidates, who happened to be a married couple, got about 3300 votes each. Their unsuccessful campaign was endorsed by a soap opera actress whose reading skills I coincidentally featured in my blog last December. At least George Takei loves her.

Anja supports a ban on smoking in places like public parks and restaurant patios. The losing candidates gave an overly wordy answer to the same yes/no question. Maybe someday Knoxville will become more breathable for the non-smoking majority via a sales tax increase or a ban on public smoking. WATE had a town hall meeting on the topic tonight.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

free Masons

Last year at this time, America was crazy about George Mason University, my alma mater. I had a pretty severe case of Final Four Fever myself. Blogger Frank Strovel was kind enough to send me the link to an interesting four-part article titled "George Mason: One Year Later." It tells what happened to GMU's three best players after they graduated. Meanwhile, Jim Larranaga is coaching an all-star game in Atlanta tonight as part of Final Four weekend.

This year's Final Four includes one of the other DC area Georges, Georgetown University. I guess I could root for them, seeing as they're a Catholic school and all. I'm not sure but I think the only Georgetown alum I ever knew is Joe Kelliher, who is now some medium-to-big-shot in the government.

After living in Burbank for ten years, it would make sense that I know a couple of people who graduated from UCLA. One of them, former Burbank mayor Michael Hastings, is on my list of LinkedIn connections.

If anyone happens to see me tomorrow, I'll be wearing my Final Four t-shirt from last year.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

five unrelated paragraphs

Like me, the writers at Entertainment Weekly noticed the extra seven minutes worth of "American Idol" that we'll get on Tuesday. At least I got it posted the day before they did.

Scott Weiland trashed a room at Burbank's nicest hotel, The Graciela. I stayed there once. The service was top notch. The staff gave me some free deodorant to replace the antiperspirant gel that the TSA wouldn't let me carry on the plane at the time. Staying at The Graciela was a rare treat. Usually I stay at the Safari Inn, which has been used as a filming location in several "C.S.I." episodes including one that aired only a few weeks ago.

A long time ago I mentioned something about radio stations named Froggy or K-Frog, etc. Froggy 101 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is now capitalizing on the use of their bumper sticker on "The Office."

My post about the Seattle Times Peeps Contest prompted my sister's husband to send me an article about the Washington Post's Peeps Diorama Contest. It may be the beginning of a trend. The St. Paul Pioneer Press is having a Peeps Diorama Contest too.

Michael Crawley emailed me to ask for a plug for the Detroit Dave benefit concert this Thursday night at the World Grotto. Michael says:
The lineup includes Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere, The Labron Lazenby Trio, Scott Miller, Dave Landeo, Karen Reynolds, The Macdaddies, RB Morris and Hector Qirko, Matt Woods, Tall Paul and The Bearded. Also slated is a special reunion of Crawdaddy, with the four original members: Rick Wolfe on bass; Steve Brown on drums; Michael Crawley and “Detroit” Dave himself, hopefully. All proceeds go to help Detroit Dave with medical bills and daily living expenses.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

a comedy tragedy

Sometimes a death can bring people together. At every funeral I've been to, somebody says that it's great to see you again but that they're sorry it has to be under these circumstances. Somebody else will say that the only time we ever get together anymore is at funerals and weddings. I hadn't talked with my friend Charlie Reinke in a long time. The sad news of Richard Jeni's death prompted me to call Charlie today.

Charlie is a comedy writer in Burbank. We met because our daughters went to grammar school together. As our families became good friends, our wives would often make plans for the four of us. Charlie and I would occasionally go to TV show tapings using tickets that either he or I had gotten through a business contact. I've mentioned before that Charlie's wife, Anja, is running for city council.

I called Charlie to talk about Richard Jeni. We had taken our wives to see Richard perform at the Ice House and had gone backstage to say hi. Charlie and I were in the audience for a taping of Richard's UPN sitcom, "Platypus Man." Charlie told me tonight how Richard would sometimes make a guest appearance in the comedy writing class that Charlie took when he was getting started in the business. Two of the first three jokes he sold were to a TV show called "Caroline's Comedy Hour" and were delivered by Richard Jeni.

I am a fan of Richard's comedy. I've watched his HBO specials and I booked him to appear on KLOS several times. The program director once asked me to find a comedian to entertain between sets at a classic rock concert the station was hosting at the Glen Helen Pavilion in San Bernardino. I arranged for Richard Jeni to do it but it didn't go well. The road crew for the next band refused to stop soundchecking the drums during Jeni's performance. As Richard valiantly tried to get laughs, you could hear the roadie slowly pounding on each drum in the kit and monotonously saying "one, one, one" then "two, two, two" and so on into a microphone.

Charlie hopes to go to memorial service for Richard. He suggested that I check a blog entry from the wife of comedy writer T. Sean Shannon on her MySpace page. On "The View" this morning, the women mentioned a blog posting about Richard written by Elayne Boosler. It will be the last thing I read before bed tonight.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

fromage homage

There's no such thing as bad pizza but some pizza is better than others. If I still lived in New York, I would always get my pizza from Roma Restaurant in Tuckahoe. Instead, I try new places hoping to find one that reminds me of my childhood favorite.

I thought I had found a new pizza place at Turkey Creek last night but the manager said that Mangia Pizza & More has been there for five years. I guess I don't get to Turkey Creek that often. The restaurant is delightfully smoke-free, an instant improvement over Big Ed's in Oak Ridge. The pizza was so good that I asked the manager if he or the owner were from New York. Turns out they are both Tennesseeans with an appreciation for thin crusts, good sauce and good cheese. They gladly put some extra oregano on my pizza, unlike most places. Whether because of Valentines Day or Wednesday church services, my wife and I were the only customers between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. The manager told us that they are busiest on Friday nights.

While we were eating our pizza at Mangia, my wife told me about the "Desperate Housewives" episode she had watched earlier that day. Pizzeria Scavo is about to open and my wife remembered that Doug Savant, who plays Tom, used to work at Dino's Pizza in Burbank. He was already a regular on "Melrose Place" by the time we became regulars at Dino's

The next time they come to visit, m
y sister and her husband might want to include a stop at the new restaurant opening soon right next door to Mangia. It appears to be the first Tennessee location for Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries. The Five Guys in Centreville, Virginia is one of their family's favorite places. I ate there with them just before starting my weight loss program seventeen months ago.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007


Saddened and disappointed are the words that come to mind upon hearing of Anna Nicole Smith's passing. Her death caps off a series of recent tragic events. I first heard of Anna Nicole in the early '90s from my friend Bean, who was a fan of her work as a Guess model before she was in Playboy. I think she may have eventually appeared on his radio show while promoting her series on the E! Network. I never met Anna Nicole myself but my daughter met her son Daniel when he briefly attended the same school in Burbank. I don't think money would have solved her problems but I do think that Anna Nicole deserved to get a large sum after J. Howard Marshall died. Not all his money, but a lot of it.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

from beautiful downtown

The time has gotten away from me tonight. I've been reading several entries on a Burbank-based blog written by Lisa Burks. I used to bug poor Lisa for guest bookings when I was a radio producer and she was a network television publicist. Like me, Lisa moved to Burbank in 1992 and fell in love with the place. She sometimes writes about her grave hunting hobby, which I've only done a little of myself. Somehow Lisa found my blog and added it to her blogroll, which then showed up in my Technorati links. I've added Lisa to my blogroll too.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

a tale of three cities

Dr. Bill Bass was on "Live at Five" this afternoon. It shouldn't surprise you that I recorded the show and watched it when I got home tonight. The Big Bopper Jr. joined Dr. Bass by phone in the first segment and fingerprint expert Art Bohanan was in studio for the second segment. If you missed it or if you're reading this outside Knoxville, you can watch the interview online.

Do we have any readers in Burbank today? If so, you should know that my friend Anja Reinke is running for city council. Go Anja!

Remember the 1982 World's Fair shirt that I sent to Bean for Christmas? He wore it in Los Angeles the other day. Don't you think it looks better than the shirt the Fixx guy wore on TV last June? Check it out.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

could sell paper to a tree

Tonight's episode of "The Office" was brilliant, as usual. I really enjoyed seeing the way the sales staff closed their deals. It's good to remember that while Michael Scott is a terrible manager, he is an excellent salesman. We learned more about the Dwight/Jim dynamic too. They have a tag team approach to sales. One of the best laughs came from how a makeover helped Phyllis and Karen.

As a former California resident, I got an extra kick out of the episode. I watched it in HD which made it easier to focus on the exterior backgrounds as the characters drove to their sales calls. Although the show is set in Scranton, it's filmed in and around Los Angeles. I spotted some palm trees, one of which was visible from the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot. It felt like Michael and Andy were driving around in my old neighborhood. I had the same feeling last night while watching the characters on "In Case of Emergency" drive around in the Valley.

When I first moved to California, I immediately felt at home in Burbank even though I had never been in the city before. It has to be because I grew up watching so many TV shows and movies that were filmed there.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

sting like a bee

Choosing which Rose Parade coverage to watch this morning was easy. I went with the high-def, commercial free telecast on Discovery HD Theater. It turned out to be (as I had suspected it might) a simulcast of KTLA's coverage. I would have thrown my support behind Knoxville-based HGTV's coverage if it had been available to me in HD (hint, hint for next year, HGTV). The difference in visual quality was enough to keep me from changing channels even if it meant getting irritated at a couple of things about the way KTLA covered the parade.

My blog got a lot more hits than usual today from about 148 people looking for information about Stephanie Edwards' absence from KTLA. Given all the interest, one of the other networks should have hired her for the day (hint, hint again, HGTV). Many will disagree but I thought that Stephanie's replacement, Michaela Pereira, did a very good job. As I listened to her speak after one of Bob Eubanks' comments, the word that kept coming to mind was "perseverance" because it certainly wasn't "chemistry." At the end of the parade, Eubanks announced that his contract was up and that he didn't know if he would be back next year. Now that Stephanie is gone, they may as well replace Bob too. Didn't Bob and Stephanie used to also host KTLA's telecast of the Hollywood Christmas Parade before being replaced?

It's too bad the floats couldn't have been driven a little more slowly. After the last parade entry rode past, Michaela and Bob still had to fill about 25 minutes of airtime. With a two-and-a-half hour time window and no commercials, we should have had plenty of time to see each of the 45 floats and to hear each of the 21 bands. I felt that KTLA spent way too much time instead on the 23 equestrian units. Make that 22 equestrian units plus one llama unit, which was actually somewhat interesting. During one of his overly verbose descriptions of yet another one of the horse entries, Bob described a rider as one of the most famous charros in America. At this point I was thinking that Bob should have just gone ahead and declared him the most famous charro. I mean, can you think of another, more famous charro?

My biggest disappointment was the minimal camera time given to the Grambling State University marching band. The band members were dressed as imperial officers from the "Star Wars" films. The KTLA cameras focused on Darth Vader and the marching stormtroopers and mostly missed the fancy moves of the Grambling band.

KTLA dropped the (audio) ball during Katharine McPhee's performance and during the appearance of their very own Stan Chambers. I understand the difficulty of creating live television but if there is one person on a float that the KTLA audience should have been able to hear, it was Stan Chambers. The audio mistake with McPhee was frustrating but perhaps KTLA can take some consolation in the fact that NBC had a similar audio problem with another "Idol" reject, Lisa Tucker.

I recorded NBC's coverage of the parade and listened to it this evening. I say "listened" for two reasons. First, it was a standard def telecast recorded in medium quality on my old Series2 TiVo, so the floats didn't look anywhere near as good as on the live, HD telecast. And second, I only recorded NBC to hear the banter between Nancy O'Dell and Billy Bush, who did a fine job of being both entertaining and informative. They are comfortable enough to ad-lib with each other and smart enough to revert to the script at the appropriate times. I heard them say their telecast was available in HD. I would have watched them live on my plasma screen if they had been commercial free and if they hadn't gone off the air after only 90 minutes. Best of all, they seemed to spend less time on the equestrian units, except for the llamas, which were somewhat interesting.

For a while I thought that Oklahoma had invaded California and taken over control of the parade. All the famous Oklahomans were riding on the state's two floats. Nothing says Oklahoma to me more than Nadia Comaneci. Too many of the floats featured butterflies and hummingbirds. I especially enjoyed the float from the City of Palmdale. It depicted a family of desert tortoises, much like my late great pet Mo. Unfortunately, Burbank's float didn't win anything this year. The best float was the one with the fire-breathing dragons from Honda.

Here's a final suggestion for KTLA. Stan's grandson, Jaime Chambers was really good on the parade pre-show. Maybe you should test his booth chemistry with Michaela. Or with Lu Parker.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

aroma therapy

It's Deco Week at the Float Barn. When we lived in California, the week between Christmas and New Year's meant that my family and I would spend some time volunteering to help decorate Burbank's entry in the Tournament of Roses parade. I wrote a little about it almost a year ago.

The 2007 Burbank float is called "Free Dog Wash." Look for it toward the rear of the parade again this year. It's number 76 out of 97 in the line of march. A lot of "Star Wars" fans may tune in this year to see the two themed floats and marching stormtroopers.

One difference this year is that I will be watching the parade on the Discovery HD channel.
The only reason for me to tune in to the abbreviated coverage on NBC would be to hear Nancy O'Dell and Billy Bush, both of whom I enjoy watching on "Access Hollywood." I may still set the TiVo to record the old fashioned broadcast on HGTV or the Travel Channel also.

Joseph Mailander of Martini Republic emailed to tell me that Stephanie Edwards will not be part of this year's coverage on KTLA and that the hosts are likely to mention her absence as they read from this year's script. You may recall that Joseph enjoyed the photo of Stephanie from my blog entry about the 2006 parade.

I think that the Travel Channel may once again simulcast KTLA's parade coverage. KTLA will offer a hi-def broadcast to viewers in the Los Angeles area. If the Travel Channel will simulcast KTLA's coverage and if the Travel Channel and the Discovery HD channel are part of the same company, does that mean the Discovery HD channel might simulcast KTLA's HD coverage of the parade? If so, I can watch the HD broadcast live (since I don't have an HD DVR) and record Nancy & Billy on the analog TiVo in my home office.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

while supplies last

The sign in front of the Krispy Kreme said "Hot Light Ornaments For Sale." My curiosity was piqued so I pulled into the parking lot. My wife and I have collected Christmas ornaments for the past several years. When we traveled, we would try to find a souvenir ornament no matter what time of year it was. A tight budget has kept us closer to home lately. Each Christmas, we remember the places we've been by looking at our decorated tree.

I've never been a Krispy Kreme addict but I used to eat them now and again before losing weight. I can't overlook the fact that my family and I attended the grand opening party at the Burbank location a few years ago.

The Hot Light Ornaments cost $1 if you also buy a dozen doughnuts. To maintain my current weight I could maybe eat half of a glazed chocolate cake doughnut every few days. The time when I would buy a dozen for the family is gone. Nor could I bring myself to pay $3 to get the plastic light-up ornament without the doughnuts. Maybe I would have if the design were printed on both sides instead of just one. Plus I kept thinking that the ornament was exactly the type of thing that used to be sent to me for free in press kits when I worked at radio stations in D.C. and L.A.

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